Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Thirty

It had only been a day but already Scott moved as though a weight had been lifted from his chest. In one sense it had, he thought wryly, recalling Hank's stupefied expression when Scott had brought down a load of Xavier Foundation paperwork and asked him to take care of it in a tone that wouldn't take no for an answer. After the initial shock, though, Hank had seemed bemused, perhaps even approving.

Now it was an hour after dinner and Scott stood in the locker room, adjusting his heavy black gauntlets and flexing his hands and wrists. He was ready. On more than one level, he knew that he could do this.

The door irised open and Wolverine stepped through, distinctive double-peaked crest bristling, his thin nostrils flaring as he looked around with the wary evaluating glance of the hunter. His shoulders relaxed minutely as he set eyes on Scott. "You ready?" he asked, unknowingly echoing Scott's self-assessment.

"Yeah," Scott said with a lift of his head, again marveling over the fundamental change in their dynamic as Logan favored him with the twitch of his mouth that hinted at a half-smile. "Simulation today?" He was expecting that Logan had set something up, considering that the fight was tomorrow.

"No," Logan replied, raising a dark brow. "Straight-up fight today, only two conditions - no face shots, no crotch shots. Other than that anything goes - first to pin wins. No second chances. One round and we're done."

"Seriously?" Scott said, both brows coming up in response. In the condition they were both in, one round could last five minutes - or it could last a couple of hours.

"No dicking around," Logan returned with a shrug. "You're not gonna get any second chances tomorrow, Slim. So play for keeps." He turned and headed for the inner door of the Danger Room.

"I always do," Scott muttered, following. It was why it took him so long to make a decision sometimes. Once he was committed, he didn't back out. This wasn't going to be like last week, when he'd panicked and let himself lose to an easy hold. He was pretty sure he had everything in order now.

Inside, the chamber had been left to default settings, an echoingly huge chamber made up of matte-black material that was actually millions upon millions of holographic projection sensors, demarcated by gray lines that formed a grid-like layout. Each gray line was the edge of a big block of sensors. A couple of mats had been laid out on the floor within a large white circle that was large enough for two men to circle and pace while they kept their eyes on their opponent.

"No powers," Scott stated the obvious, not really needing the confirmation that came in the form of an assenting grunt. "But tomorrow I'm going to get to use my powers against Storm."

"Are you?" Logan inquired in a sardonic tone, bending a pointed glance on Scott. "Thought that was decided by the judges, with the two of you indicating your preference. That's why we've trained with and without."

Scott considered that. "I thought for sure Storm would vote for full use of powers. I mean, why wouldn't she? The Danger Room's big enough for her to call up some weather."

"Don't underestimate her wariness of your own power," Logan cautioned, striding to the far end of the circle and taking up a stance there. "Like I said, though, that's why we've trained both ways. The more you go into this not expecting one or the other, the better prepared you'll be." Logan rolled his head from one side to the other, his neck popping loose a couple of gunshot cracks that made Scott stand to attention.

Still outside the circle, Scott began to bend and stretch, warming up his limbs for an opening kata. After a moment he was aware of Logan's movements to one side of his visor, and they both spent several minutes readying their limbs in prelude to more vigorous activity. It was like foreplay, the thought inadvertently crossed Scott's mind; it was the act of building anticipation toward the main event. He turned his head and Logan had stilled, dark eyes on him, a slight furrow between his brow.

"You ready?" Logan asked peremptorily.

By way of answer, Scott entered the circle to take up a position opposite Logan, falling into a defensive crouch with both fists at the ready. Logan nodded and took up his own stance again, which looked like either karate or kempo. If it was kempo, Scott knew he was in trouble because Logan meant business -- as if his own words hadn't confirmed it -- and he'd have to carefully choose the form to meet it.

"Then...GO!" Logan barked.

They remained locked in place for long moments, sizing one another up for potential weaknesses, each waiting for the other to make that crucial, telling first move. In this, Scott had the advantage - Logan couldn't see his eyes though surely the man was compensated in the enhanced state of his other senses. Without seeing the direction of his eyes, though, it was harder to intuit the angle from which the first attack would come.

Scott ran through a couple of likely moves in his repertoire and from his experience with Logan's fighting style all would be easily blocked by the time he closed the distance. Sweeps were harder when Logan had a firm stance because trying to take him out was like trying to sweep a steel piton. Trying to outwait him wouldn't do any good because Logan had gotten wary of his defensive-style judo moves.

A bead of sweat made its way through the hair at his temple, already prickling with moisture, and a thought flashed through his mind, the merit of a move launched without a chain of intention trailing behind it. Logan's way was to react, not to over-think things. Scott threw himself forward with a sharp cry and Logan, growling an answering challenge, sprang forward to meet him.

Scott had blundered forward in such a beginner's move that Logan, not stopping to ponder it, had thrown himself to meet it with the posture of an angry sensei moving to cuff him for his mistake. He ducked under Logan's arm and hooked him with an arm and a well-placed kick to the back of the knee.

They went down, and Scott twined around him to ride him into the mat. Logan's own weight worked against him past the point of no return, and Scott pinned him down with all his might and a strategically placed arm. Logan's eyes were shut as the back of his skull hit the mat, then once their combined weight had settled they snapped open to glare at him.

Scott burst into a full-out grin.

"Well," Logan said with consideration, breath huffing forth in rough gusts over Scott. "It worked, Slim, but that kinda dirty trick is only gonna work once."

"Once is all it has to work," Scott replied, fighting to contain the grin that still tugged at his mouth.

"Good move," Logan said mildly, going utterly still beneath him. "Was that judo?"

"Aikido," Scott replied, and the world contracted down to a single instant. By freezing in place, Logan had called his attention most keenly to the body beneath him. Their heartbeats had quickened to the same pace, a line Scott could feel along both their bodies. Sooner or later, the weight of the words he didn't say would crush him, until nothing was left but regret and the absence of what he wouldn't ask for.

He pressed his mouth to Logan's.

For the thundering compression of another heartbeat, there was nothing. Then Logan's response came, and it was violent.

Gloved hands exploded up from their position on the mat, so fast Scott was moving defensively even as Logan's mouth moved to devour him. A hand snared him at the back of his neck, and Logan was pushing against his hip, rolling him like a shark as he responded with lips and a knee between his thighs and seared away any remaining space between them in blistering heat.

This time Scott's head thudded to the mat and Logan bit down on his lip. He sucked in a breath at the wound, deliberately inflicted or not, but any protest he might have made was swallowed up as Logan captured the injured lip, sucked on it, licked it as if he'd eat Scott alive. Scott squirmed under Logan's weight and pushed, modifying a wrestling move to force another shift in their positions. They were on their sides, and good God his tongue was down Wolverine's throat, and the man's fist was in the small of his back grinding them together and he was perfectly happy right where he was.

They pulled away when Scott made a small noise of pain as Logan nibbled down a little too hard on his injured lip. Rough foreplay would never be a problem here, Scott could tell, if Logan's enthusiasm was anything to go by. They were both breathing harder than their earlier exercise had roused them.

"No crotch shots?" Scott cast that phrasing back in his teeth, aware even through two layers of leather that his opponent was very definitely engaged.

Logan's face was flushed. The look that he shot him was heated but angry. He hauled Scott closer, if that was possible, with fists creaking at the neck of Scott's leather uniform; it cut into his neck but he almost welcomed the pain for its distraction. "You really want this, Slim?"

"Yeah," Scott rasped, angry at Logan just for stopping.

"All right," Logan said, deceptively soft. "Then, you win tomorrow." He shoved Scott away from him and climbed to his feet lithe as a panther. That image was spoiled somewhat as he moved toward the door, adjusting his crotch.

"You're not really leaving," Scott stated, pushing up from the ground and getting to his feet without the same ease.

"G'night, Slim. Sleep well," Logan replied, lifting one arm. At the portal of the Danger Room he cast a brief, wicked look over his shoulder, giving Scott a deliberate once-over, then winked and disappeared.

"You ASSHOLE!" Scott wanted to open his visor and blast a beam through the door to the Danger Room. The only thing stopping him was not the cost of repairs - astronomical, for custom hydraulics and a good, discreet contractor - but for the thought that one of the kids might in the line of fire if Logan dodged as fast as Scott knew he could.

It was later, stripping down, that he stopped belaboring his timing. Logan had a point, it would be pretty damned stupid and horndog-teenager of him to wear himself out the night before the much-anticipated duel. After all, for what reason had he spent all this time training?

That sure didn't mean he was happy to sleep alone.