Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Eighteen


It was late the next morning by the time Logan sauntered down the main stairwell in search of food and the location of the item he'd been deeded in Xavier's will. As with most things in the house of Xavier, he had no idea where to begin looking.

The contents of box X-113 were his, if he could find it. He had a little money, too; hazard pay for field operations plus incidental 'substitute instructor' money Xavier had pressed on him at more than one occasion.

Other than that, nothing. He was dependent on the good graces of the mansion for everything else.

For once, Logan had found himself waking with inexplicable good cheer. As he ran a hand down the banister he found himself actually whistling, and couldn't manage to summon up the self-disgust to stop. He had his priorities sorted; he'd grab some food from the kitchen first, sneaking in as if it were a snatch and grab operation, then he would find Storm or McCoy and ask if they had any clue where he could begin looking for his bequest. Hell, he didn't have any clue if that deposit box was on the grounds. It could have something to do with the Xavier Foundation.

The kitchen was filled with the bounce of morning sunlight off gleaming tile and stainless steel surfaces. Logan hovered at the doorway for a beat, cautious as usual when entering a room before he'd sussed out every corner, and gave a nod to the hulking figure of Rasputin, who stood by the kitchen island forking up a bite of pancakes that were running over with melting butter and syrup.

"Anything good to eat in the fridge?" Logan asked, soft-footing it around the corner and eyeing the stacks of dishes piled beside the sink. Someone was delinquent for dish-duty. He was glad he didnít have to keep track of that sort of thing.

"You missed breakfast," Peter said indistinctly around a mouthful of pancake.

"That's all right, the group meal deal isn't exactly my thing," Logan replied. He glanced at the fridge. He wasn't fond of cold cereal and cooking up sausage links was too much trouble.

Peter's head lifted, and he set his plate on the kitchen island with a clatter. "I have to get to class," he grunted. He looked an inquiry Logan's way. "Want to finish this?"

Logan's brow rose. "Sure," he said with a shrug, releasing the fridge and going for the pancakes. He wasn't too proud to eat someone else's leftovers, especially when they were still buttery-warm and sweet with syrup and he didn't have to cook them himself.

After making short work of the pancakes, he idled at the sink for a long moment while considering whether to do the nice thing, and clear out someone's neglected chore for them, or do the expedient thing and balance his sticky plate atop the rest awaiting cleaning. It took maybe a half-second of thought. Logan left the plate behind and licked his fingers as he strolled out into the hallway, ears and nose telling him the students were all stowed away in classes.

He turned in the direction of the wide, open-roofed atrium where Storm held most of her classes and paused. There was a whisper at the edge of his range, enough to almost make out but too low for his hearing to pin down the words or who spoke them. Logan scowled at the opposite end of the hallway, recalling the first day he'd stood here with Xavier's insistent whispers ghosting through his brain.

There was someone in Xavier's office right that moment.

His hindbrain made the decision a split second after his feet started moving. He didn't know how he knew it, he just knew. Logan wasn't superstitious and he didn't believe in ghosts, but he didn't bother to ponder how he knew someone was in the office even despite the distance. He was too used to having his senses tell him something his brain figured out later for that to bother him.

School was in session, so it should have come as no surprise as to who he found, but Logan hovered in the doorway to Xavier's study for a long moment. Scott looked tired, beyond weary, leaning on his cane beside the desk. Moreover, there was a slump that Logan wasn't accustomed to seeing in the man with his Boy Scout-proud posture.

"You okay?" It popped out before he really thought about it. Logan stood in the doorway and surveyed Scott with a touch more awareness than he would have applied, before...before everything.

"Why do you care?" It wasn't an adversarial question, insofar as that went.

Logan could smell hostility or sarcasm at far more than ten paces and Scott didn't have enough energy for that. The question he'd flung back at Logan was curiosity seeped through despair, though he struggled for the steel-clad tone of days - months - past.

I don't, really, was the answer that hovered on his tongue. That was the old Logan talking - the man he'd been before getting dropped into this band-of-brothers culture that Xavier had gotten going. Logan sorted and discarded several answers for being too raw or revealing. "Does it matter? I'm asking." What hung unsaid between them was the coda, I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to know.

Scott propped himself against the edge of Xavier's desk and appeared to give the question some serious thought.

"Oh, that ain't good, Slim," Logan said, breaking the silence. He strode forth into the room, hooking his thumbs into the belt-loops of jeans that hovered near his hips. Hell, maybe he'd lost some weight in the past few weeks, too. "If you have to think about it that long, the answer is no."

"Then why ask?" Scott replied with a shrug, crossing his arms over his chest. A half-hearted smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

"'Cause it has to come from you," Logan said.

They stood for a moment, neither of them moving. Then, "Did you want something?" Scott asked, gesturing to his cane. "I'm hardly fit for duty yet, so..."

Stubborn bastard, Logan thought, but didn't bother saying it. "As it happens, yeah. When you read the will, you mentioned box X-113. I - could ask McCoy, or Storm." He rubbed a thumb along the denim edge of a belt-loop, inclining his body away from Slim toward one of the wide windows. Too many ghosts here, he thought suddenly, and maybe his presence was raising them for Scott. He held back a snort. As if every aspect of living in the mansion didn't do that for the man.

"No, I'll get it for you," Scott said, breaking the silence. "That's part of the reason I'm here, after all. I have to carry out my duties as the executor."

"You don't have to do everything, you know," Logan couldn't keep himself from saying. "You can share it out, y'know. To the people around you."

Scott's face was oriented toward his, in the position one would be if he were looking directly into Logan's eyes. "No, I'll handle this one personally."

A beat, then Logan said, "All right, then." Since that was his preference, he could hardly say anything against it. He kept his eyes on Scott, and gestured for the door. "After you."

It wasn't a kindness, he told himself, letting the other man precede him to set the pace. It was expedient. Scott walked straight-backed and slow, no hint of a limp creeping into his step but his posture was stiff, controlled. Logan didn't need to ask if he'd been taking painkillers because he couldn't smell them.

They left the study and Scott led him to the concealed elevator that led to the basement levels only accessible to a select group within the mansion - the X-Men, the teachers. Any kids on that level had to be chaperoned. Logan walked beside him, noting that in spite of his stubborn nature Slim wasn't walking faster than his body's needs demanded. A dozen questions formed and died on his tongue - how are you, feeling any better, settling back into the swing of classes, and they were all trivialities so he left them unsaid. He'd already asked if Scott was okay, after all, and there hadn't been any kind of answer.

He could guess, sure, but that wasn't feeling it from the inside.

"Hunh," Logan uttered a soft grunt of surprise as Scott turned not the direction he was expecting, toward the strategic planning room and a host of other functions of which he probably had no clue, but left -- toward Cerebro. Scott's head turned his direction, a brow raising, but he said nothing as he led Logan to a stretch of smooth, metallic wall - and stopped.

"Scott Summers," Slim said in his clear, firm voice, lifting his hand to a non-specific point of the corridor that had no particularly distinguishing characteristics that Logan could see.

A patch of wall flipped open at hip-height to a man, a simple square about the size of a memo pad or very large calculator. It was a type-pad faced with numbers. Scott reached down and typed a long string into the type-pad, his fingers blurring-fast.

An entire panel of wall depressed, sliding inward on soundless hydraulics. As Logan watched with interest, it slid aside to reveal row after row of gleaming silver-tinted deposit boxes, similar to those one would find at any bank. He wasn't the only one who'd been named for a box in the will - but his was the only number that he'd noted.

"This why you wanted to handle it personally?" Logan asked, deliberately misconstruing. He was baiting Scott, kind of. He wanted to see what the man would say.

Hesitation, then, "Well, not particularly," Scott muttered, keeping his eyes on the row upon row of boxes before him. "Storm, Hank, and...and Jean all had access, too, in case anything happened to Xavier and me both."

"Ah," Logan said, arching a brow, but left it at that.

" X-113...Here it is," Scott said, locating a box in a chest-height row and gripping the handle on the front. He slid it toward them until it came loose from the wall at nearly half a meter. It was a long, shallow tray. Scott held it up in both hands, offering it to Logan.

It was surprisingly light. As Logan hefted it, he noted the weight came mostly from the metal, so the contents had to be paper or film, something small and light. There was something shifting inside, leaves of paper by the sound of it. He stepped back and Scott waved a hand over that hidden sensor.

"Perfruor," Slim said, and the wall closed with a nearly inaudible shuff. "You want to take this back to the tactics room?"

"Sure," Logan replied, somewhat at a loss now that he had it. --to Logan, also known as Wolverine, I deed the contents of deposit box X-113. This could be anything. He almost didn't want to find out.

As they reached the elevator, Slim stopped, his mirrored eyes aimed in Logan's direction. "You probably want some privacy with that," he said, but a question hovered behind his words of which the man himself might not be aware.

"Nah," Logan said, jerking his head in the direction of the tactical planning room. It struck him as amusing for a fleeting instant that he was here in the hidden level of a mansion whose purpose he'd questioned when he first set foot here, in the company of a man toward whom he'd evidenced every manner of disrespect, even dislike. Now Scott was offering to leave him alone with these secrets and he was saying no. "Nah, there's enough secrets in my life. I don't want to bother with being their sole proprietor anymore."

"That's a big word," Scott said, but the corners of his lips were struggling not to turn up.

"Hey," Logan said, crooking a bemused look over his shoulder, "don't knock it." Without waiting to see if Scott would follow him, he hefted the slight weight of the deposit box in one hand and strode up the hall for the tactics room. After a moment, the sound of the cane hitting floor followed him and he crooked a grin at the corridor in front of him.

Even Scott couldn't resist the lure of the unknown.

The room was cavernously dark, but the moment Logan crossed the threshold an overhead illumination flicked on. There was a single low, octagonal table composed of a sleek, obsidian black substance dominating the room. It was surrounded by chairs that had been left in disarray, some pushed up to the table, some half-pulled out, some at an angle. The last time the X-Men had left this room it had been in a hurry, and none had been back since.

Logan dumped the metal box unceremoniously on the table, eyeing its brushed non-reflective surface for a moment. He waited until he sensed Scott at his elbow, then pulled the lid off, flipping it back.

There were three items inside. At first glance, he absorbed them all at once: a cigar box made of cardboard, a thick black file folder bound together with a cord that looped around and secured the open end by a disc that functioned like a button for the far side of the loop, and a note folded in half, then into quarters.

"Oh, Xavier," Logan murmured, picking up the cigar box first. "You shouldn't have." At his elbow, Slim stirred at the ironic tone, but remained silent. Logan pried up the edge of the cigar box, and found - what a shocker - a case full of cigars.

He lifted one up, sniffed the end, and grunted with satisfaction.

"That may be the best thing he left me," Logan said, wary of the rest. He wasn't sure he was thrilled by what the file folder implied. It was a plain black folder on the surface, no clues as to the origin, where it came from, government or personal.

"Try not to smoke them around the kids, if I can make a request," Scott put in, his tone subdued. He moved stiffly by Logan's elbow, dropping into a chair that had been left aslant of the table.

"You can," Logan allowed, setting the box aside and figuring it couldn't hurt to imply he'd honor it. He reached for the note.

It was a thin piece of paper torn from a memo pad, no stationary. It wasn't addressed and when he unfolded it, it was a mere scrawl - See if Logan responds better to a woman's touch. There was a name, Emma Frost, an address and a phone number. Below those details, another brief note, Use extreme caution.

Wordless, Logan showed it to Scott.

"That's Xavier's handwriting," Scott commented, handing it back.

"You know her?" Logan asked.

Scott considered it for a long moment, his dark brown brows knitting together. "No, the name doesn't sound familiar."

Logan shrugged and tossed the note atop the cigar box.

At last he reached for the folder, slipping the loop of cord free of the circular button-closure, setting the folder onto the table surface and paging it open.

Weapon X Operations, the cover page proclaimed. Below that at the page footer level, smaller type face spelled out William Stryker and a few other names. Logan scowled and flipped through the next few pages.

The file covered a gamut of operations at the Alkali Lake base but was sparse and vague on the particulars. Logan turned another page and found pictures of his own face, slack, unconscious, staring back out at him. He had the surgical-pen markings on his face and exposed, marked-up skin that he recalled from fragmented flashbacks, pieces of unhelpful nightmare and dream. The next page had diagrams, notes on adamantium, and several lines of what looked to be chemical or physics formulas. Logan tore through the rest of the file but there was nothing more specific, nothing about the test subject - himself - who was referred to simply as "Codename Wolverine."

He scanned front to back, but there was no accompanying note to let him know when Xavier had found the information, or if he'd ever intended to share it with Logan. He shoved the file over in Summers' direction, spilling a few pages loose with the force of that push.

"Did you know about this?" he demanded, voice hard.

Scott leafed through it, his brow creasing again as he examined the information the file spelled out, or rather, lack of it. "No," he said slowly, then his face oriented in Logan's direction. "Wait, you think I..." He trailed off, the slant of his brows shifting from confusion to the hard line of anger.

"No," Logan interrupted Scott's mood shift, waving it off impatiently. "No, I just - do you know when he might've gotten it?"

Scott shook his head, jaw muscles leaping. "Xavier had a range of government contacts that he didn't share completely even with me," he replied. "He could've gotten it any time in the past couple of years. Though maybe..." He trailed off, mouth dropping open.

"What?" Logan prompted.

Scott shook his head again. "Well, I know Kitty stole a number of files from Stryker's office before we dropped in on the president in the White House, but I can't believe..."

"He'd hang onto it that long?" Logan supplied, his own jaw working. He gathered up the file, yanking the cord around it and securing it closed. "Over a year? Believe it, Slim. I don't think he just 'forgot' to give it to me."

Scott shrugged, slack mouth and pinched brows transmitting confusion.

Logan tossed the file off to the side and picked up the note again. Emma Frost, he read in Xavier's hand, and considered it. Some associate of Xavier's? If he found out that Xavier had been talking around about him, he really would get pissed and there was nowhere to direct rage at a dead man but within.

Scott examined Logan's statue-silence. "Are you going to contact her?"

Logan replied after a long moment, his tone granite. "I don't know."



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