Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Twenty-nine

The television den was dim and quiet the way Logan preferred when he slipped into the room on bare feet, a Coke in one hand and an unlit cigar between his teeth. He kept an ear cocked for kids, but the closest to hand that qualified by his standards were Rasputin and Drake, engaged in a battle royale at the foosball table. The television and its remote were a hard niche to score and Logan settled on the couch warily, remaining alert for someone to come along and cry foul. He was sure that someone with a prior claim would come by at any moment. The television had been left on CSPAN, but when moments ticked by and no one came to snatch it up, Logan took the remote for himself and started channel-surfing. The clock on one news channel informed him it was nearing eleven o'clock, so an empty television den was about right.

His nape prickled. The brief raising of sensitive hairs was his only alert that he wasn't alone anymore. "Aren't you s'posed to be doing bed-checks or something?" he inquired without turning his head.

The couch dipped beside him with the weight of another. To Logan's intense surprise, Scott was settling on the cushion next to him, not the empty Ottoman or the loveseat beside the open window.

"Not tonight. I passed it off to Lorna and Alex and I took the night off," Scott replied, his tone subdued but somehow pleased, too. His scent was sour as though he'd been grappling bots in the Danger Room for hours -- which Logan knew he hadn't been, not tonight, because as always he was in charge of Scott's exercise program. Unconsciously Logan sniffed, confirming the sourness of Scott's scent but there was an underlying note he couldn't pin down; it was purely "Scott" and the first thing that connected with Logan's sense-associations was relief, freedom.

"Oh," Logan said, raising a brow. He kept a white-knuckled grip on the remote as he continued, "I suppose you want to go back to CSPAN."

Scott wriggled, settling deeper into the cushion beside Logan. "This is fine," he answered, even though 'this' referred to the flicker of channels from one station to the next as Logan's trigger finger clicked past one inane show after another, cutting each one off before it could get more than a few seconds of play.

"Huh," Logan responded, and kept flipping channels. Sooner or later he had to find something that didn't merit instant shutdown, right? After a few minutes he conceded the field with a snarl of frustration, tossing the remote to the couch. "What the hell good is having a thousand channels on your television if you can't find something decent when you sit down in front of it?"

"I don't know," Scott said after a beat of hesitation, and he sounded a little lost, if not forlorn. "I don't really sit down in front of the television unless I'm trying to catch something and I know it'll be on, in advance."

"Not much for unplanned fun?" Logan couldn't resist slipping a gibe in.

A faint smile tugged the corner of Scott's mouth. "It's been a while," he allowed. "Let me check my schedule, I'll see if I can fit some in."

Logan cocked his head. "Slim, you just make a joke?"

"Maybe." More wriggling ensued beside him on the couch -- not squirming, but stretching this time, rocking his neck from side to side and eliciting a couple of sharp cracks. Scott sighed in relief. "It's been a while."

Logan frowned at the television. Taking the evening off, making jokes, and he smelled different. "You okay?" he asked with deliberation. He'd asked that before, and it had taken awhile -- too long -- to get an answer.

Scott's head angled in his direction. His lips twitched, then he replied after the slightest of pauses, "Getting there."

Logan settled back into his cushion, satisfied. He splayed his legs out before him, stretched out but not quite risking the feet on the table approach. "That's good," he muttered, not really thinking about what he was saying, eyes focused forward. He'd stopped on some kind of detective show with a crew of good-looking folks in suits set on the Strip in Vegas, if the wide-panning aerial shots were any indication.

"Why, Logan, I didn't know you cared," Scott drawled in a dry, humorous tone and Logan responded instinctively to the implied flirt, rolling onto one elbow and twisting in Scott's direction.

"You know, if I didn't--" he rasped, and cut himself short. I wouldn't ask. Scott was much closer than he'd thought and that sudden movement had put him within easy reach of the man's mouth. Amongst other things. What had happened to the nominal space between them? Like the remote control, it had likely been swallowed up by the crack in the couch.

The curve of Scott's mouth was an assent and that was justification enough for the animal in Logan; he was leaning in when some higher function checked his action. His lips formed the question. "Scott?"

Scott's reply was a single exhalation, "Logan," and the ragged edge of it was his answer.

"Hey, Scott" -- a familiar voice intruded, and everything froze -- "I finished up my wing but Artie's crying and Storm can't calm him down, she seemed to think Logan could but I can't find--WHOA!"

Scott pushed himself bolt upright on the middle cushion, head swiveling fast in his brother Alex's direction. "Alex?" he snapped out, businesslike as ever but Logan heard the crack beneath.

Logan remained sprawled where he was on the couch, keeping one glaring eye pinned on the younger Summers.

"What...the hell..." Alex trailed off uncertainly, standing on the verge of the living room area. He visibly gave himself a shake and set his hands on narrow hips. "Logan, we were hoping to get your help with Artie."

Brow furrowing, Logan rolled off the couch and got to his feet, stalking past Slim. Those long legs retracted before he could brush past them in the limited space between couch and coffee table. "See what I can do," he grunted, but this didn't come as a complete surprise. Since their escape from the dam on Alkali Lake, Artie had woken from night terrors a few times and Logan had been the only one who seemed to reassure him. Something to do with how Logan had been the one to carry him out of danger that time, Xavier had once told him.

Logan paused, looking between one brother to the other. One met his eyes with a glare and the other was doing a damn fine imitation of a statue. "I don't know where Artie's room is," he said into the crackling silence.

"Age before beauty," Alex managed a flip comment, gesturing broadly for Logan to precede him, glancing over his shoulder at the immobile figure of his brother on the couch, who had both arms wrapped obdurately around himself as he faced the television.

"Whaddya think you're doing?" Alex hissed as Logan drew even with him. Alex's eyes were flat and beyond hostile.

Logan ignored him, knowing from the quickening of Slim's pulse that he was aware of -- even across the room -- that the man could still hear them.

"Trying to sabotage him before his match with Storm? Look, I'm not sure I know what I saw in there, but--"

"You don't know the first thing about it," Logan interjected, putting enough steel into it to hopefully convince Alex to drop it. He stalked down the hallway and Alex lengthened his strides to keep up until Logan was sure they were out of range.

"Yeah, that's what you said about the thing with Lorna, and--"

"And you were wrong about that, too," Logan interrupted before the kid could build enough steam to gather a tirade.

"If you hurt my brother--"

"Save it, kid," Logan said with no small amusement. "You really think I couldn't break you in half if it came to that? Scott's a big boy. He can do what he wants. Only I think right now, maybe he doesn't know what he wants."

"You gonna let me finish a sentence?" Alex stopped, putting a presumptuous hand to Logan's shoulder as if to force him to turn and face the music.

Logan squared off, fists already clenching. He jerked his chin.

"I don't know what's going on between you and my brother, and I'm not even sure if it's what I think it is, but he's been through a lot and it's not over yet," Alex said, his green eyes cold as deep-frozen ice. "So whether it's as a friend or whatever, if you're not serious, then back off."

"I would venture to say you don't know what's best for your brother," Logan challenged.

"Yeah?" Alex snorted. "As if you do. Come on, man, Artie's been crying for at least ten minutes. Step up the pace." He set off as if the brief interruption had never been his idea to begin with.

Logan snarled at his backside. The kid had a point. Problem was, Logan didn't know his past but he did have an idea that he'd always had trouble holding onto anything worth keeping.