I was seeing him almost every night lately. He’d show up in my room late, or we’d meet in the Danger Room or at the pool. For sex, for companionship. For love? No, I don’t think so. Not on his part, anyway. He made that clear. I tried once more to tell him that I loved him but he stopped me. “I don’t want to hear that shit,” he said. “That’s not what me and you are about.” He set the boundaries, and I followed them, at least with my actions, if not with my thoughts or my feelings. I wanted what I could have with him. For now, anyway, this was it.
But sometimes, just once in a while, he’d say my name in a way that seemed to mean something. Once in a while he’d come into the classroom during one of my classes and sit there and listen, as if he just wanted to be near me. Sometimes when he’d stroke my hair while I was sucking him his touch would feel loaded with intent. Those were the times I’d think there was more to this than just sex. Once in a while I’d think he really needed me. But then I’d talk myself out of that, realize I was most likely projecting my own feelings on him.
It was so much better than it had been, anyway. It was a relief to have broken the tension between us, to feel like we were together - as effective teammates, friends, and occasional bedmates – if not truly as lovers.
Charles noticed the difference. He didn’t ask what had happened and I don’t think he’d read my mind, but he assumed I’d brokered the peace between us and he thanked me for it. “We really do need Logan,” he’d said to me when he and I were alone after a team meeting. “I realize he’s not the easiest man to get along with. It looks like you worked things out. I’m glad.”
“I’m glad to be his friend again,” I’d replied.
Ironically, it was after Logan and I had achieved some sort of détente that Cassandra warned me about him. She’d been hesitant to say anything, it was clear. She’d made an appointment to speak with me privately but avoided talking about what was on her mind, going on at length about the school and the team and her plans for the future. I waited it out, knowing she’d speak when she was ready. “I’ve had a vision,” she said finally. “I think you need to know.” She looked away and continued. “It’s blurry. That means it won’t happen for a while. Days, weeks – I don’t know. But you’re in it, and you’re in danger. You need to know,” she said again.
“Yes. Tell me.”
“You’re with a woman. I can’t see who she is – you’re in the way so I can’t see her face. Your arms are around her, though. Kissing her. And then he comes in – Logan.” She had this faraway look in her eyes, as if she were seeing what she was describing. “I can’t see his face – too blurry – but it’s him. Claws extended. He’s in a rage, angry in a way I’ve never seen. I can tell by how he’s moving and he’s... like roaring. These noises – more like an animal than a man. And then...” She trailed off.
“He stabs you in the back.”
I’m not saying hearing that from Cassandra didn’t give me pause. And had it happened before the zoo mission, I would have been really worried. But things had changed between us and I just couldn’t believe that Logan would ever use his claws on me. Plus, I couldn’t see any circumstances where I’d be with a woman like that. I didn’t know what it could mean that she saw Logan attacking me. I’d heard Charles and Ethan say her visions always came true; I’d heard her describe the vision of the cable car and then seen it happen, just as she foretold. Still, it didn’t seem possible that this vision was prophetic.
I don’t even know what made the difference for Logan, but his attitude towards me had pretty thoroughly changed. Changed enough that I knew that Cassandra’s vision must have been wrong. Maybe working together helped, even if the mission wasn’t a complete success. Maybe having sex helped. Maybe he believed me when I told him it was over between Jean and me. It’s hard to say. He wasn’t telling me what he’s feeling and I wasn’t even really sure of why he’d been mad at me in the first place. I’d thought he’d been jealous, worried that Jean and I would get back together, but it might not have been anything like that.
He’s hard to read a lot of the time. He doesn’t talk much, but we’d been spending a lot of time together up until Vermont. Logan had shared more with me, I think, than he has with anyone else, talked to me like he didn’t with anyone else. He wasn’t talking to me now the way he used to, but I’d learned to understand a lot more than the words he says. Most of the time, anyway. So, when he said “Do what you want – I got no claim on you” I knew that it meant something more, something he didn’t say: “And you’ve got none on me.”
I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one he was fucking. He went out a lot at night, into town. There was a barmaid at this dive he used to go to, Maddie. He talked about her at odd times, once even when we were having sex. I’d spent enough time with him that I had learned to read between the lines. When he said “Maddie said to say ‘hi’ to you” while I’m sitting on his cock, well it was pretty clear what he meant: “I’m doing this with her when I’m not with you.”
It hurt to realize he was doing it with someone else but I tried to accept that. I had to accept it. It wasn’t up to me what he did; I really did have no claim on him. I likely never would.
I wasn’t going to ask for some sort of exclusive relationship with him. I knew full well that if I did ask he’d turn me down. It wasn’t like him to be with only one person. And I’m not even sure it’s a reasonable thing to ask of someone like him. He’s not like me. He’d told me pretty clearly when we’d first started having sex that he has always been more attracted to women than to men. How could I expect him to give that up when I hadn’t been able to turn off my attraction to men?
So, maybe it wasn’t what I really wanted with him, but I was determined to take what I could get. To be grateful for what we did have. I needed him in a lot of ways, and not just sexual. I’d come to rely on Logan as a teammate, and more. My sounding board, advisor, consultant. And there was a lot to consult about.
We didn’t know what Magneto was up to with the baby gorilla he’d snatched. And we didn’t know where he’d gone with it, either. Finding Lehnsherr had to be the first step to finding what was going on. Charles thought Pyro was the key to that, but I wasn’t so sure. John had fought ferociously when we captured him, with his mutant powers and with fists once he was disarmed. Logan overpowered him easily, but Pyro certainly seemed clear that he considered himself our enemy.
Then we brought him back and Charles said he’d take over, that he felt John could be rehabilitated with understanding and care, now that he was away from Magneto. And, indeed, he did seem to win John over very quickly. Too quickly, as far as I was concerned. How could he be a loyal member of the Brotherhood that day at the zoo and mere weeks later be helping us to locate Magneto? Charles was quite certain that John was back on our side, but it seemed too fast for me. I wanted to talk about it with someone other than Charles, someone I could trust with my doubts, someone I could trust to give me his honest opinion without worrying how I’d receive it. I was glad to have Logan back in my life.
“It’s too fast with Pyro,” I told him, lying in my bed next to him, spent and sweaty. “I’m worried. It’s like one minute he’s with us, the next with Magneto, now he’s back. Adolescents are changeable, but they’re not *that* changeable.”
He pulled me closer. “Do you think he’s faking it?”
“How could he be? Charles has read his mind. He’d know.”
“What does the professor say about Pyro’s brain? About his time with Magneto? What’s his take on what happened?”
“That Magneto made promises about a grand life, told him he’d be a ‘god among insects.’ And then Johnny found out that being a bad guy wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” Logan chuckled at that and I continued. “Mostly boring, apparently. Magneto’s cruel to them when things don’t go his way, and the gang fights among themselves. Squalid quarters – they’ve been moving around a lot and staying in cheap motels. Johnny always did like his creature comforts. And no kids his age there – Charles says he was lonely and homesick and once it was clear that nobody was going to hold his time with Magneto against him, he was glad to be back. Plus he’s an X-Man now – that’s part of what he thought he was getting with Magneto, being treated like an adult, like one of the team. Well, it didn’t work out that way – he was more of a gofer.”
“Makes sense, doesn’t it? Unless you think he could be hiding his real thoughts? Using mental shields? You and me keep stuff from the telepaths around here. Why not him?”
I turned over, throwing an arm over Logan’s chest. “No, he couldn’t keep anything from Charles that Charles wants to know. Neither could you or I, by the way. Charles can penetrate mental shields. He doesn’t generally; he’s very respectful of my privacy and I’m sure of yours, too, but he’s very powerful – more powerful than any shields. He wouldn’t hesitate to penetrate Pyro’s shields, if he had any.”
“Can Jean do that?”
“Penetrate mental shields? I don’t know. She couldn’t, not before the Phoenix. She’s nowhere near as powerful a telepath as Charles. But lately…” I wondered why he was asking about Jean’s telepathic ability and felt a twinge of guilt that I still had not told her about Logan and me. I shoved the feeling to the back of my mind and got back to the subject at hand. “No, I’m not worried that Pyro is managing to fool Charles. Just the capriciousness, the unpredictability. If he was won over by Magneto, then by Charles, well why not Magneto again? Lehnsherr can be pretty damn persuasive when he wants to. And the double agent thing? It looks like that’s where we’re headed with him and I don’t like it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know he gave us what he thought was Magneto’s location. Like I said, they’ve been moving around a lot, but this one seemed like it might be for the long term. We sent Northstar up there. I’m glad Mac Hudson is willing to lend him to us for all this time. Who else can get in and out so quickly? Magneto was long gone by the time Jean-Paul got there. So, John’s given us a few other possibilities, and Northstar’s tried them all, and reported back. No luck.”
“Oh, is that what he’s been doing with you? Reporting in?” I could feel Logan’s body tense up.
“Yeah, what did you think?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I see you and him together sometimes.”
“Well, he’s been trying all the leads we’ve got. Charles is sure that John’s telling the truth, trying his best to help us locate Magneto, but he’s two steps ahead of us. This isn’t getting us anywhere. Charles thinks if we sent John to find him, make him look like he’d escaped and was still loyal to Magneto, well then he’d let himself be found.”
“And you don’t like the idea?”
“It makes me uneasy. What if Pyro finds Magneto and gets won over again? You know, with his magnetic personality.” Logan feigned punching me in the mouth over the stupid pun. I took his hand, sucked on his thumb for a minute, then continued. “If that happens, we’re dealing with a triple agent. Plus, even if he doesn’t switch over again, I don’t like the idea of him doing this. I don’t want to send someone his age on a dangerous mission, particularly by himself. It’s all well and good for Charles to say he’s ready to be an X-Man. I know it was key to winning him over, but I don’t like it. Johnny just turned 17. He shouldn’t be sent into harm’s way.”
“You were in a lot of ‘harm’s way’ when you were 17, right?”
“Yeah. We don’t do that anymore.”
“They’re lucky to have you, Cyclops.” I felt warmed by his approval. “So, maybe he doesn’t go alone,” he added.
“What do you mean?”
“You send someone with him. I’ll go. That way you’ve got a good explanation for his escape – someone helped him get out – and you’ve got someone to watch his back. Make sure he doesn’t flip, keep him out of trouble.”
It was a good idea, and I said so. “But not you.”
“Magneto won’t believe it. He saw you at Alkali Lake. And he knows you’ve been with us all this time. He’s not going to accept you’re defecting to his side.” I thought about it some more. “Plus, you’re too vulnerable to him.” He bristled a bit at that, but I forged on. “Come on, you know it’s true. You’re full of metal. You’re the best fighter I’ve got, Logan, but not against Magneto. It’s a great idea, but not you.”
Jean-Paul was the obvious choice. Magneto knew nothing about him, so there wouldn’t be the disbelief at his defection that he’d have with someone he knew to be loyal to our team. Northstar wasn’t even an X-Man, and his current absence from Alpha Flight could be explained as quitting that team rather than being on loan to us. Mac Hudson would go along with that, if Magneto sent out reconnaissance. It was easy to paint a picture of a disaffected Alpha Flight operative who quits, joins the X-Men, and decides this isn’t what he wants, either, that cooperation with homo sapiens isn’t his vision of a mutant future.
I brought the idea up at the next cabinet meeting. Just Charles and Hank and me, since Jean was not back to full duty.
“I like it,” Charles said. “I had some unease about sending John alone. This is a good way to make sure he stays loyal.”
“And keep him safe,” I added. “I wish we could keep in touch while they’re gone, though.”
“I think we should,” Hank weighed in.
“Calling in is too dangerous,” I countered. “They get found out and that’s the end of the mission, and maybe the end of them.”
“Let me figure something out,” Hank had said. “If not to keep in touch, at least to keep track of where they are. Some sort of positioning system, a homing device. Maybe with a kind of panic button, so we can go in and get them if necessary.”
“A great idea, except that Magneto’s bound to know they’ve got it,” I pointed out. “How will they explain it?”
“Maybe it doesn’t have to be made of metal.” He got that brooding look he has when he’s working on a thorny technical problem. “Hard not to have any metal. Could I do it totally out of plastic? I’m not sure. Let me work on it for a day or two.”
Charles stepped in. “Scott, you talk to Jean-Paul and give him his assignment. Let’s keep it quiet – no one but Jean-Paul, Pyro, and the three of us in on the plan. And Hank, I need you to figure out the homing device issue right away. A day or two is fine, but no more. This mission needs to move ahead. We’ve lost too much time already. Whatever Magneto’s planning may well be under way by now.”
It turned out plastic wasn’t the answer, as I found out that evening. I’d spoken to Jean-Paul right after the cabinet meeting and he’d eagerly agreed. I’d impressed upon him the fact that we were keeping the mission secret, so I wasn’t surprised when he showed up in my room that night to give me an update.
“Hank solved the homing device problem,” was the first thing he said.
“He managed to make it out of plastic?”
Jean-Paul shook his head. “No way, copain. Electronics like that – even with our blue genius – it can’t be done. You need some metal.”
“But if it’s metal, how do we stop Magneto from knowing it’s there?”
“He’ll know it’s there, bien sur. He just won’t know what it is.” He pulled his shirt off and I could see a shining silver ring in his right nipple.
He nodded. “Amazing, hein? All that complicated machinery in this little thing.” He took my hand. “Here, touch it. You’ll see – there’s no way to know it’s anything other than what it seems.”
He put my hand to his chest. I fingered the ring. It did feel just like jewelry, like there was nothing to it but what it appeared to be.
We looked at each other and I felt suddenly uncomfortable, realizing that touching the chest of a half-naked man wasn’t my usual way of doing a pre-mission briefing. Jean-Paul smiled at me. He looked like he wasn’t at all discomfited by the unorthodox situation we were in.
And then it happened. The door opened and Logan walked in. The look on his face made me feel like Cassandra’s warning wasn’t all that far-fetched after all.
This series begins at http://mofic.livejournal.com/31235.h
Summers in a Sea of Glory is a sequel to Returning Spring, which in turn was a sequel to After the Fall.