"You're really pushing it," Alex Summers was saying to someone out of sight around the door jamb, his low quiet voice half-angry, half-amused. "You should sit down if you're going to stay out of bed that long."
"I can't play the invalid forever," Scott's equally low, earnest voice replied.
Logan froze in his tracks, that tone tugging something in his gut to respond and he was a hair away from changing direction, fleeing the scene - though he'd already been prepared for that, given the occasion.
"Oh, come on," Storm said, exasperated, linking her arm with his and urging him forward with her own momentum. He was heavier than her and knew he could dig his heels in and command a dead stop. He rolled a panicky-eyed glance over his shoulder, ready to bolt, but Beast flanked them from behind and the blue guy was bigger than he was. Much. "Maybe you'll be lucky and find he left you nothing."
"I don't have a right to be here," he muttered, grateful she'd misinterpreted his reasons for wanting to be anywhere but here. Then they were through the door and there was Alex, pursing his lips thoughtfully and looking around the room at no one in particular, and Scott standing beside it as if he were the bouncer or attendance-taker, leaning on a cane and putting on his best stone-face.
"You've got just as much right as half the people in this room," Storm murmured, releasing his arm and crossing the room. She headed for the nearest window that opened onto greenery as if it were a homing instinct.
That left him standing right there, facing him.
"Scott," Logan said, wary as a prowling beast testing the wind. It was weird to address him directly, here in this sun-lit room with Xavier's kids old and young all around them but it would be even weirder standing right in front of him to say nothing, after not seeing him for several days. Or would it? Their status had been shifting, undefined, even before this whole rescue cock-up. Weren't exactly friends, sure as hell weren't edgy over mutual hostilities anymore.
"This time you saved my life," Scott said by way of greeting, lifting his chin slightly. It wasn't thank you or even much of a hello, but it would do.
Logan remembered the days of preppy shirts and blazers and layers of buttoned-up shirts and it was an adjustment, whomever dressed him that way isn't picking out his clothes anymore, and now confused appreciation rose in him at the sight of skin-tight jeans that hugged Scott's legs and the simple, emerald-green V-neck shirt. He looked good. Logan was supposed to say something now. Should we shake hands or fuck? He remembered the first time Scott had offered him a hand. Maybe he should have given that answer back then and things woulda turned out different.
"Expect me to say we're even?" he said instead of any of that, slightly hoarse.
Scott shot back, "I don't expect anything from you, Logan," in a tone so rigid and neutral, his jaw squaring off, that it would have sent almost anyone else reeling back looking for their displaced arm.
"Right," was all Logan said in return. There was a soft, wordless noise beside Scott and Logan's eyes flicked over Scott's opaque red lenses to the younger brother that stood next to him.
Alex topped his older brother in height by a few inches. He was edged protectively close, his fists clenched as if he were set to throw a punch, or more. The buzz from the kids in Xavier's house pegged Alex's powers as some kind of energy blast that could cut through anything. If Scott's eyes were a shield, then Alex's were a dagger, bearing clear intent for mayhem. He looked as though he were more than eager to see if his energy was the unstoppable force, or Logan's adamantium the immovable object.
Logan frowned at the kid, a snide "Problem?" ready to rise up at the non-verbal baiting that rose in waves off Alex when a sleek full-figured body brushed past him, bringing with it a newly-familiar scent.
"Alex," Lorna Dane said, standing near the man but folding her arms, body angled away. "We need to go, we're not on the list."
Alex broke eye contact with Logan to direct his attention to Lorna with a frown, and Logan took advantage of that to move out of range, taking another look around the room. Another time, maybe, he'd happy to take the kid up on it, but today something stayed his hand. Respect, maybe, but for whom - that he couldn't say.
There weren't that many people present, though the room was wide and long enough for plenty. He recognized most of those in attendance, though there were a few he didn't know. There was a tall, lean man with hawkish Native American features leaning against the wood paneling of a bay window beside Storm, arms crossed. There were one or two others. Somehow, given all those lives he knew Xavier had touched, he'd expected more. Behind him, he heard McCoy murmuring something conciliatory to Scott. Logan shoved his hands in his pockets and joined Bobby Drake by the window.
"What list was she talking about, Drake?" Logan asked after a moment.
Bobby glanced at him, eyebrows rounding in surprise. "Oh - anyone present at the reading of the will has to be named specifically in the will, that's the way it was written," Bobby explained.
"Rogue wasn't named?" Logan asked, giving a nod to indicate the absence of the girlfriend who'd been a near-constant presence at his side since her return from California.
"Guess not," Bobby said, wry. "I was one of his first students. Well, his second generation of students. J-Jean was the first." He stumbled over her name.
Logan didn't even blink, so he figured it must be a good day in spite of the solemn ceremony. He nodded again as if to indicate, go on, when all he really cared about was the distraction. He glanced over his shoulder in response to the fierce itch between his shoulder blades and met Alex Summers' hard stare. The man was leaving the room with the repeated verbal prods of Lorna, but he was tracking Logan the whole way.
With a deliberate, slow shrug, Logan turned his back on the man.
"Uh, anyhow, I guess there's not many of us who get to be here when the will is read," Bobby continued.
"And I'm one of 'em," Logan said quietly, none too pleased by that. "I suppose it means I'm a beneficiary?"
"Not necessarily," Bobby corrected him. "I've been to a will-reading before, for my grandma. She had a few people named who could be at the will-reading, because at the time she wrote it she wanted them to hear a few things, like acknowledgments, things like that. A kind of closure, I guess."
Closure. Logan snorted. What kind of closure could the deceased get from a will that was read after they'd departed? He wouldn't know; he wasn't a worldly kind of fellow, and when he died, he expected there'd be nothing to leave behind. Behind them, someone cleared their throat once, then again more loudly, and he turned.
Slim stood in the middle of the room, leaning on the handle of the cane, other hand tucked behind his back. "Thanks for coming, everyone," he said in a low tone that carried. "Is Doctor McTaggart here? I expected -- well, she's one of those named, but I didn't see..." He trailed off, looking around. McCoy was shaking his head.
"Okay." Slim took a deep breath. "I guess we should get started, then." He made an awkward half-turn, found a chair someone had discreetly slid near enough to sink into, and hesitated.
Logan could practically scent out the battle of pride versus his body's limitations that was taking place in Scott's head. He caught Storm's eye, and took an impromptu seat on the arm of the couch beside him. She lifted her chin, understanding flashing over her face, and sat down on the ledge of the bay window, drawing the craggy Native American onto the seating beside her. Logan didn't even have to catch McCoy's eyes; by the time he glanced that direction, the big guy was already sitting. Bobby Drake, bright boy that he was, took the couch without any prompting. It set off a wave, until everyone in the room was seated.
Scott's head turned his direction, incrementally, and then the man sank down into the chair beside him as if it were only polite. There was the faintest twitch at the corner of his mouth that only someone watching intently might catch.
He pulled out a sheaf of papers, and began to read. It opened with a brief greeting from Xavier, then there was a number of quotes at first, narrative passages and some poetry. Ramblings, Logan thought, but pretty ramblings.
"...This day before dawn I ascended a hill and looked at the crowded heaven, And I said to my spirit, When we become the enfolders of those orbs and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we be filled and satisfied then? And my spirit said No, we level that lift to pass and continue beyond. You are also asking me questions, and I hear you; I answer that I cannot answer...and you must find out for yourself."
Slim's strong, rich voice lifted, sending the phrases rolling over those quietly assembled. Logan frowned as he considered the words Xavier had picked for the opening of his will. It was as though the man himself were still alive, whispering into his ear. Challenging, prodding him to unlock his own answers from within.
It is not chaos or death...it is form and union and plan...it is eternal life...it is happiness.
Do I contradict myself?
I too am not a bit tamed...I too am untranslatable,
The last scud of the day holds back for me,
I depart as air...I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from under the grass I love,
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Slim's voice, steady as a pendulum as it lulled them into the reverie knit by the words, faltered on the last verse. When he finished, it cast a silence over the room. Logan heard the convulsing of throats swallowing and the thudding diverse metronomes of heartbeats throughout the room - for him, there was rarely true silence.
After letting that pause linger almost beyond the point of comfort, Scott spoke up at last. "Thank you, friends and family, for your indulgence." Xavier's dry humor reverberated through the words, softening Scott's rigidly-controlled tone. "As follows is the disposition of the worldly assets of the Xavier holdings."
It went on for quite some time. The first item Slim read out was the appointment of trustees for something called the Xavier Foundation. Scott's name was first and came as a surprise to no one, and then McCoy was read, and Ororo. There was no mention of Jean, which Logan took to mean this copy of Xavier's will had been revised and signed after her death.
The first one, at any rate.
He leaned over and muttered to Bobby, "So, that poetry - what was it? Not the Bible."
A flash of startled Husky-blue eye angled in his direction. "Uh, Whitman," Bobby answered quietly, as Slim continued reading out the will. It was covering some passage on investments in the Foundation, almost certainly boring to everyone but those named as trustees. "Walt Whitman, 'Song of Myself.'"
"Huh." Logan lapsed back onto the couch. He settled into a state somewhere between a trance and a doze, not listening to the meaning of Slim's words so much as the cadence, the rise and fall of his intonations. He heard but didn't process, was washed along the tide of bequest and disposition, a litany of giving that comprised a man's life. He was slipping into a state of semi-lucidity where he watched Slim's face, the words coming from his mouth, and parsed no sense from them, only sound until he wondered if Bobby would nudge him if he snored. Then mention of his name snapped him out of it.
"--to Logan, also known as Wolverine, I deed the contents of deposit box X-113." Scott looked down at the heavy parchment in his hands and frowned, looking across the intervening space.
Logan lifted one brow, disconcerted.
Slim continued as if there had been no pause. He moved onto another: to Peter Rasputin, a seat as art teacher of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, should he choose to take it, if not, his choice of the contents of the art room. Logan passed with no further mention. His was the briefest item in the will.
"Last, but assuredly not in the least, to my son in every aspect but birth" -- here Slim's voice cracked, and he paused long enough that Logan could see McCoy wondering if intervention was needed -- "my son, Scott Christopher Summers, I deed the mansion and grounds, the sum total of my private assets as not defined by the Foundation and other dispensation granted by this will and trust, and the position of headmaster of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, a seat he has filled with capability and assurance in all but name these past three years."
Another long pause followed, and Ororo half-rose from her seat. Logan glanced at her. Her blue eyes were wide, filled with a crackling tension the likes of which he hadn't seen since battle fury. Fortunately she was beyond Slim's line of sight.
Slim took a deep breath, clearly overwhelmed. "To Scott, I also leave the command of field operations of the group formed under my stewardship, known as the 'X-Men.'"
"No!" Storm cried, leaping to her feet. The man beside her put a cautionary hand on her arm, which she shook off.
The room had already begun to stir with the natural movement and fidgeting of a crowd that had been immured in one place long enough, and sensed the end of their gathered event was coming to a close. There wasn't anything left to give after parceling out the school, the private fortune, and the X-Men, after all. At Storm's outcry, though, everything froze solid as a still painting.
Scott looked up, the movement of his head slow as if he, too, were incredulous over the interjection. "Storm?" he questioned, but there was coldness in his voice.
The same coldness was racing through Logan's guts. He shook off the sensation and got to his feet, noticing as he did that even McCoy seemed too shocked to intervene.
"I said no," Storm repeated, pacing from the bay window toward the center of the amply-appointed room. "He may have left you command of the X-Men in writing, but he meant for me to have it."
There was a naked glimpse of betrayal on Slim's face, there and gone in an eyeblink or perhaps only suspended there long enough for Logan to notice. "It's too late--" Scott began, his expression hard and uncompromising as granite.
"No, I was here with him, I was at his side every day for a year, running the school, planning and carrying out missions," Storm burst out, her blue eyes wide, eyebrows slanted sharp in anger. "The day you left here, he was talking to me about taking over the school from him."
Scott inhaled, short and edgy. "I'm back now," he said, tone gentle but unyielding.
"You can have the school." Storm waved a hand. "Your administrative talents are not in dispute, and they are unparalleled. But command of field operations - that is mine. It's been mine, because you gave it up."
"Storm," Logan ground out, the name underlaid with a sub-vocal growl. "Enough." If no one else was going to say it, he would.
"We can talk about this later," Scott said, squaring his shoulders. He had taken hold of his cane like a sword, and now he used it to lever himself up from the chair with a slow and painful movement.
"No, I'm not going to give you the chance to sweep this one under the rug!" Storm denied, planting herself before him as he struggled out of his chair. "I challenge you, Cyclops. I challenge you for leadership of the X-Men."
The entire room was still mired in the grip of the train-wreck onlooker's silence that had descended at Storm's first interjection. They watched, each set of eyes, switching from one face to the next in a horrified fascination to see what would come next. Logan stared at Scott and the stubborn set of his jaw and knew with a certainty that lived inside his own skin that Scott wouldn't turn down the fight, even out of condition and still recovering from concussion, malnutrition and worse.
"Enough," Logan barked, shoving off the arm of the couch and striding forward. "I'm not going to let you do this, Ororo."
Storm's head whipped around and her blue eyes bored into his, glaring something fierce. "Stay out of this, Logan, this is none of your business!" she shot at him.
"Oh, but it is!" Logan blasted back, before he thought twice. He towered beside her, bristling with alpha-male anger, though mentally he was already backpedaling and trying to unravel exactly what part of any of this was his business. Besides the wickedly unfair fight, and Slim was--
"His condition is nowhere near capable of supporting the challenge you propose," Hank McCoy snapped, surging to his feet. His citron-yellow eyes were every bit as angry as Logan's own riled-up emotion.
Scott's head was still oriented on Storm, and there was a stillness to him. Logan recognized the stiff set of his spine, the incensed jut of his jaw, indicators to the seething fire that was no doubt burning him up. "I'll meet your challenge," he snapped, and was answered by a few gasps and shocked intakes of breath around the room.
"What?" Hank growled.
Storm blinked, taken aback. "What?" she echoed.
"I'll meet your challenge ten days after I've been released for reconditioning," Scott said, squaring his shoulders. The defiance in voice and the set of his head were belied by the way he leaned on his cane. If it weren't for that support, he might sink back into the chair. "If I can't beat you in a fair fight after ten days of getting back into fighting trim, I'm not fit to lead the X-Men."
"And I'll help him," Logan growled out, still worked up mad over Storm's absurdly unfair proposition.
This time it was Scott who gaped.
"Logan," Storm began, her brows contracting in a scowl.
"What? The man needs a sparring partner," Logan said, crossing his arms. "It's still Cyclops who's going to fight you. You got some reason to object?"
Storm stared at him for a long moment, then cast her hands up. She walked out of the room, pausing beside Scott long enough to murmur, "I'm sorry, Scott. I do think it's for the best."
Logan turned for the window again. He didn't want to see Slim's expression this time. He was sure there wouldn't be anything to reveal any overt emotion again.