Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Twenty-five

The beer was all gone and there was no one else to blame.

This fact was only the first sliver of many lodged in the skin of his discontent, further aggravating a mood brewed from the unsatisfying conclusion to the practice session. The den was full of kids laughing and jostling elbows, flipping channels between music videos and some movie packed with a cast full of ridiculously good-looking young things. The fleeting thought that Slim wouldn't be out of place in that cast, though precious few others in the mansion could claim that, deepened his bad mood and he stalked toward the kitchen hoping for some peace and quiet. Maybe a Coke and a discreet cigar by the open window.

The greatest irritant of all was the knowledge that he'd done this to himself. No one had asked him to put himself in close proximity to Slim every day, breathe in his earthy-astringent skin and pretend not to notice when Scott pulled or shoved him away in disgust. He'd frigging volunteered for the job. All that because a string of words popped out that couldn't be unsaid, issued in response to a challenge that hadn't even been thrown at him.

So he stayed. But who was to say the kid couldn't bolster himself up just as good by himself? The wounded, haunted self was gone, banished in a way by Jeannie's death. The kid wasn't a kid, he was a man.

Inevitable as his inability to leave, he'd made the offer that had set this in motion. It took two, though. Scott had accepted.

Logan stood before the wood-paneled door to the kitchen. "Jean," he whispered, ragged. "What the hell did you do?"

No answers were forthcoming, especially not from the door. It swung open wide under his impatient touch.

He was greeted by the immediate sight of a firm, round feminine ass clad in cut-off jean shorts, attached to a pair of long, bare legs and topped off by one Lorna Dane. As she straightened from the counter and shook her long green ponytail over one shoulder, turning to check out the newcomer, she brought into view the rest of her voluptuous self strained into a tee shirt tied off to bare the bellybutton. Beside her on the kitchen island were a couple of two-liter bottles of Mug root beer, one of them mostly empty, and some tankard mugs piled with scoops of pale ice cream. A few of the tankards were bubbling already with root beer and a healthy head of foam.

"What is this, a chemistry experiment?" Logan asked, jerking his eyes up from ogling this, that and the other like some horny teenager and meeting a pair of knowing green eyes. He tilted his head to the side a fraction and muttered, "You're fixing to secure the hearts of the entire male population, at this rate."

"Their hearts?" Lorna returned with amusement.

Logan crossed his arms. "You know what I mean, darlin'." When she turned back to the counter, he couldn't keep his eyes from skipping back down to the expanses of creamy skin - cleavage, midriff, illegally long legs. He extracted a cigar from his pocket and placed it, unlit, between his teeth, chomping down reflectively. "Good thing this school doesn't have a dress code or you'd have the other Summers on your ass."

A dismissive hand swatted the air. "He doesn't want my ass," Lorna said definitively, grasping one of the already-full tankards by the handle and crossing the tile on bare feet. "Want one? You can be my taste-tester."

It was on the tip of his tongue to refuse in response to her sheer aggressiveness, but Logan found himself shrugging. "Sure, why not?" He tucked the cigar back in his pocket.

That was the question, he thought as he accepted the chilled mug from her hands and their eyes remained on one another. Why not, indeed? So far as he knew, Lorna didn't have anything tied down with Alex and she'd been more than friendly to him. Logan wasn't committed and he sure wasn't dead. Two adults, both willing... He put the mug to his lips and drank.

It was that alchemic fusion of cold crisp root beer and creamy-rich vanilla ice cream that yielded an entirely new entity: the taste of summer flooded his mouth, long sticky nights and drive-up stands, sarsaparilla and vanilla entwined, liquid dessert melting and fizzing on the tongue all at once. He blinked and put aside the sensory memory for the here and now, Lorna's expectant green eyes peering at him. They were almost of a height, the girl was tall. "Delicious," he pronounced. He set it down.

Her eyes crinkled and she flashed a dimple, there and gone. She leaned into him. "You left a...there..." Her finger traced along his upper lip, swiping along the curve of his mouth with a studied thoroughness, green gaze locked on him unsmiling. When she lifted her finger, heavy with foam, she focused on that instead with a considering expression.

Before she could lick it off Logan jerked his hands up, gripping her by the arms and forcing distance between them the length of his reach. Her eyes returned to his, widening, her brows slanting a question up at him.

"Listen," he said roughly, resisting the urge to reel her back in. Easy enough to do but wrong in so many ways. "I--" Canít, he thought, and his mouth shaped a soundless word then pursed shut. He was worked up and she was convenient but it wasn't her that had gotten him this way.

The door swung open. "Lorna, we're out of--" Alex Summers strode into the kitchen, words falling into the same Arctic latitude that had blown over his expression. His gaze traveled from Lorna to Logan and back again.

Logan released his grip on Lorna's arms and took a step back, wary. Lorna gave a shrug and wiped her finger off on her jeans, cocking one hand at her hip and facing Alex. "Yes? Out of what?"

Alex's tone was low, controlled, and no less angry for that. "What's going on here?"

"I found myself a taste-tester," Lorna replied, keeping her voice low and easy. She took a step for the kitchen island, hesitated, and stayed where she was.

"I can see that," Alex shot back, the words twisting into accusation. He shifted his attention from her to Logan again. "Don't think I don't see what you're doing here, trying to get friendly with Lorna like this."

"Oh, for crying--" Lorna started, impatient, but Logan cut her off with his own louder retort, "And what exactly do you think I'm doing?" He held himself back from adding 'boy' more for the thought that the kids would probably whine if there was no breakfast to be had when the kitchen got blown up.

Alex's fists were clenched at his side and he stood at attention, balanced on the balls of his feet. His narrowed eyes were focused entirely on Logan. "Same thing you tried on Jean," he gritted, pulse beating visibly harder in his throat, his temple. "I've heard about that. And I am not going to put up with you doing the same thing you did to my brother--"

"You don't know the first thing about it!" Logan barked, affronted more at this point for Jean's sake than his own. He knew he'd done wrong, and he didn't care. She hadn't, and that was what mattered. What had happened after Scott's supposed death was another story... "You don't know the situation, what happened, or least of all how anyone felt including Jean! And, hell, if macking on Jean was the only thing kept me here, that sure ain't the case now."

Alex's head jerked in a quick negative. "Face it, Logan, your past history doesn't give a lot of basis for anyone else to trust you, does it?" he challenged, taking a step forward into the kitchen.

Logan uncrossed his arms, clenching his own fists beside him but struggling not to release the claws at Alex's obvious threat. If the kid pointed a finger at him, though, he wasn't going to apologize if he couldn't keep a lid on his instincts. "Whoever asked you to trust me?" he growled.

"If you try anything," Alex blew up, "if you think you're getting anywhere with Lorna then it's going to be over my smoking corpse!"

Grinning, Logan tensed to step forward. He drew back, though, when someone else stepped in front of him -- Lorna, arms akimbo, shoulders stiff. Her ponytail lashed as she shook her head.

"You're an idiot!" Lorna yelled.

It was worth being there, right then, to see the dumfounded look on Alex Summers' face. Logan knew he'd dwell on it later with satisfaction when he got over his mad. He crossed his arms again, trying to make himself as unobtrusive as a man his bulk could make it.

"I was coming onto Logan, you jerk!" she exclaimed, dashing her hair out of her face and balling up her hand. Her posture was so rigid, she looked about ready to hit Summers herself. "When I wasn't just being friendly, which is, you know, still possible in most states without being a felony. You get to do whatever -- or whomever -- you like whenever you want to and it's okay, but when I turn around and flirt with someone it's over your smoking corpse?"

With that same poleaxed expression, Alex attempted to interject, "Lorna, I didn't--"

Lorna continued over him, "Great double standard, Alex! Since when do you care?"

Logan began edging for the kitchen door. This was made difficult by the fact that he was, after all, over six feet and Alex was more or less in the way. In spite of these obstacles he was pretty sure they wouldn't be too mindful of when he left.

"Wait a minute, Lorna, I--"

"So I was coming onto Logan! So what!? If I'd really thought it mattered to you--"

"It matters," Alex interposed earnestly, quiet but firm.

With a quiet sigh, Logan slipped around him and through the door. Probably for the best that Lorna had only been flirting but, more than that, he hoped to hell they would make up so both of them would quit bothering him.