Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Twenty-seven

If Xavier were alive and capable of extracting half the crazed musings swirling through his head, he'd have been booted from the mansion for sure, Logan thought as he stalked through the downstairs hallways. He was pressed to his limit now, grappling with Slim morning and night. Now that he'd reawakened to desire -- sharp as the nick of a razor's edge over his senses -- he couldn't stuff it back into a compartmentalized box so easy. Not so easy as Slim seemed able to, came the next thought. Logan's lip curled. He was despicable, thinking of pushing a man that way when Scott was already stretched thin enough to snap. Yeah, Xavier would be right to make him leave, make him finish the job he couldn't complete himself. And that was aside from what Jean would think--

He clenched his fists and took an abrupt corner, turning up a section of hallway he hadn't intended to go. A physical distraction, turning a corner, was the fastest way to distract himself mentally too. He couldn't think on her anymore; he didn't have the right. What was dead was done, and he barely had enough time for the living.

It wasn't right, the thought had echoed in his head more than once. He was accustomed to taking what he wanted when and where he wanted it. So what held him up this time?

Maybe after going this far, it was simply that he didn't want to lose whatever measure of respect he'd earned here. With Slim, with everyone. If he messed up now, he'd never trust himself again. Not with anyone. Had he wound himself up like this over someone before? He couldn't remember. He didn't have that much of his past.

Slim wanted it. That was the most confusing side to the whole mess. Of that much, Logan was sure even without the hoarse, guilty corroboration Scott had muttered after crashing his fool self. Hell, was he ashamed of it? He'd been married, so-- That was another thought that Logan encased in a dead end, locked away, left behind him. Fact was he could scent it on Slim when they worked out, and two out of three sessions a day were hand to hand now in preparation for the big duel. Scott didn't acknowledge it, but it was there. He thought maybe they both knew.

Logan wasn't going to blink and say it first, though. That much he'd decided. This was Scott's hang-up to deal with, not his.

Damn if he didn't wish he could see the man's eyes. Imagining he could wasn't the same at all.

He paused in the middle of the wood-paneled corridor. This hallway looked about the same as five others and the mansion was still big enough to get lost in so far as he was concerned. His brow furrowed as the bell rung. Great, he'd been hoping to avoid the horde.

Chattering kids streamed from doors on both sides of the hallway as Logan picked a direction and grimly stuck to it, not sure if it would get him out to the patio or not. It had been a while since he'd polluted fresh air and Hank had strictly forbidden him to smoke in the mansion, citing new studies of second-hand smoke that made Logan give up the fight without a rejoinder. He was the only one that couldn't kill himself with cancer-sticks, anyhow.

Although the hallway was packed now with kids headed in both directions, somehow he managed to get to a crossroads without getting bumped from any direction. They still avoided him, their eyes skipping over him without meeting his, and they twisted away from him in close quarters to keep from brushing against him, but he didn't smell fear anymore. There was wariness, which didn't bother him, and a certain amount of respect. Maybe S--probably someone had said something.

No skin off his back if the kids didn't play nice with him. He didn't mind the older kids, especially Rogue and Peter, but the younger they were the less he had to say to them.

Logan squinted in one direction, then the next, and recognized the glint at the end of the left-hand hallway. That one led to Xavier's study, which meant he should keep going to get to the patio.

He took a single step forward and blinding pain filled his head, wracked his bones. "Aagh!" the harsh cry escaped him, and abruptly his body was ungainly, too heavy, everything on fire. He sank to his knees, eyes wide. What little breath there was came too short; he gasped on it, struggling for more.

"Mr. Logan?" said a tiny, sandy-haired boy in alarm, stopping beside Logan and bending to peer into his eyes. It was the kid he'd met the night Stryker assaulted the mansion - the one who didn't sleep.

"Get help," Logan gritted, wondering if he'd used up all his air on those last two words, and he clutched at his sides as the pain squeezed him from the inside out like something deep in his bones was trying to tear its way from his body. The kid got to his feet and sprinted away, yelling at the top of his lungs. Logan couldn't even summon up the breath to groan as he toppled over onto his side with a heavy thud.

Everything weighed more now, the thought swam through his pain-filled brain; he was at the bottom of the ocean and the pressure was bringing him down.

"Professor Summers!" the distant youthful shriek reached him. "Professor Summers, Mr. Logan needs help!"

It probably wasn't the most humiliating thing that had ever been yelled about him. That crossed his mind as he struggled for breath and his heart thundered in his ears fast enough to break him and he knew if whatever it was didn't stop soon, he was going to die for real. The pain alone was worse than being ripped apart by invisible knives, carving up his insides and crushing his bones... His bones! He was dying under the weight of his own bones.

He tried to gasp, and couldn't even do that anymore. He rolled his eyes and Scott was there, crashing to his knees beside him, a hand checking his pulse and the other gripping his side, keeping him there immobile.

"Kitty," Scott barked, "find Jimmy right now and take him to Storm's classroom."

There was a flurry of movement and the sound of someone bumping hard into one of the walls. Logan reeled, eyes rolling back into his head, sucking in what air he could. His ribcage was crushing him, he knew now. His bones were killing him as his body lost the power to repair itself.

"Kitty," Scott added, not unkindly but every bit as crisp as his first order, "If Jimmy's within range to affect Logan, you can't use your powers, either. Hurry."

"Yes sir!" she said breathlessly, and the sound of her footfalls rushed off around the corner.

A hand squeezed Logan's shoulder. "Hold on, Logan," Scott told him, resolute.

Logan's eyes fluttered open and even that far gone he managed to wheeze out something approximating a laugh. Didn't know you cared. Scott knelt beside him, his opaque glasses fixed -- no, his eyes, definitely his eyes -- on Logan. The moment the hideous laugh left him, Scott's hand sought his and gripped it, hard.

"Don't you dare," Scott ordered him, low, and it sure sounded as if the man meant it. "You hold on, this'll only take a minute -- if you can get yourself power-drained by Rogue you can survive this."

That happened so fast I passed out, Logan was incapable of doing anything but thinking. Scott's hand squeezed down on his and it was something to hang onto through the pain. Logan dug in and squeezed back, then his lungs inflated like a bellows and he sucked in a great heaving gasp of air, his eyes snapping wide open. Air. The kid was out of range. As quick as the tail-end of that thought the pain melted away, leaving only the ghost of agony in his lungs.

He wasn't sure what happened first - Scott snatching his fingers out of range, or Logan himself pulling his hand away as if it had been burned. Scott's choice, he reminded himself. Be damned if he was going to break first.

Logan rolled onto his back. "You got," he rasped, and took another deep, refreshing gulp of air. "You've got to put a bell on that kid." He managed to hold onto enough of himself not to break into inappropriately hysterical guffaws. It wasn't that funny.

A grin was tugging at Scott's mouth nonetheless. "I think we can work something out," he said, and though he was smiling the words were serious. "We've been lucky so far. He never got close enough for us to find out what would happen, but this...this kind of accident isn't acceptable."

Logan closed his eyes and laid there in the hall for a moment, grateful for the chance to breathe. After a moment he heaved himself up into sitting position and grunted, more for the memory of pain than out of any remaining twinges. There were a few kids hanging around in the background looking anxious, and he caught sight of Rogue's pale face and her staring, anxious eyes. He lifted a hand to wave her off.

"You okay?" Scott questioned him, a steadying hand on his shoulder, ducking his face as if to peer into his eyes with a direct, searching gaze that Logan could sense but never see.

"Yeah," Logan husked, closing his eyes briefly. He looked over at the man who'd saved his life - again - and cracked a humorless smile. "Careful, Slim, you keep looking out for me and someone's gonna think you like me, or something."

Both of Scott's brows rose swiftly. "You think?" was all he said and then he pulled away, climbing to his feet.

Logan chuckled though he hadn't really meant it as a joke, and a hand entered his field of vision. "You sure you're strong enough?" he challenged, and frowned right after he'd said it. Phrased that way he could've been talking about something else.

"I am," came the low, confident response.

Logan grasped the offered hand and spared a thought for how unlike their former selves it was, both the gesture and acceptance. Together they hauled Logan to his feet.