“How long has that been going on?” Alex Summers asked.
Logan continued to walk. “What?”
“This shit about not getting paid for the work.”
“Six months. Didn’t Cyclops tell you about it when you signed up?”
“Yeah, he told me. I thought it would be over by now, that’s all.”
“They pay you much at your last place?” Logan had stopped and turned to face Alex, ironic smirk on his face.
“You wouldn’t sneer about it if you knew what it’s like being inside.”
“Guess what? I do know, and I still sneer.”
Neither of them said anything for a minute.
“What’s with this codename shit? I’m supposed to choose one?”
Logan shrugged. “You don’t have to. Most do. Up to you.”
“The whole thing’s so cheesy. Iceman, Northstar, Storm, Shadowcat. Where do they get this shit? How’d you ever come up with Wolverine?”
“I don’t know. I had it a long time. Before the X-Men.”
“What animal do you think I should be?” Logan didn’t answer. He turned and started to walk further up the hill, but stopped when Alex called after him. “Hey, I hear you’re my brother’s bitch.”
It happened so fast Alex didn’t get a chance to defend himself. Logan had pushed him up against a tree, Alex’s body immobilized by the weight and the force of the adamantium in him, unable to move enough to use his powers. Claws sprang out of Logan’s hand and pierced Alex’s right shoulder, extending into the tree. He gasped with the pain.
“Stop your yowling. It’s just a flesh wound.” Logan’s face was right up against his. “I could kill you right here, you know. I’m not gonna – not this time. Not unless you use your powers on me when I let you go.”
“Let me go now! Or at least take those fucking claws out. It hurts like hell.”
“A little pain is good for you. Focuses the mind.” He glared at him. “Focus your mind on this, boy. What goes on between your brother and me ain’t none of your business. Don’t like it? Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. But if you do think about it – if you do talk about it – it’s gonna be with respect. You got that?”
Alex didn’t answer at first. Logan twisted his left hand a little, intensifying the shooting pains in Alex’s shoulder. Alex nodded.
Logan continued, ignoring Alex’s expression of pain. “Cyclops thinks you’ve got potential. Me, I’m not impressed. I guess we’ll see over time who’s right. But if you’re here to cause trouble, pack your bags and leave now. I told Scott when he said he wanted to offer you a spot on the team that you could wreak havoc with the X-Men. I’m not gonna let you do that.”
Logan stepped back and released his hold on Alex, watching to see if he’d try to attack. They looked at each other warily, but nothing happened. He pulled the claws out of Alex’s shoulder but left them extended, blood dripping from them, brandishing them in front of the younger man’s face. Alex clutched his wounded shoulder, saying nothing. They looked at each other for a minute, then Logan turned and strode back to the mansion. He could feel Alex watching him the whole way.
When Jean-Paul “Northstar” Beaubier left the team meeting he headed in the opposite direction, toward the living quarters he shared with his lover and son. A two-room suite overlooking the east garden, it was much better accommodations than Northstar had ever had during the years he worked for Alpha Flight, when he often visited Xavier’s or was seconded to the X-Men. It was also a much better living situation than the room he’d first had when he signed on as a full time member of the X-Men. That had been a single room, quarters for Jean-Paul full time and for little Ezra half time, when Jean-Paul and Adam had been separated. They’d reconciled a few months ago and Adam had moved to Xavier’s. Jean-Paul had asked Rogue if he could upgrade his room assignment when Adam moved in, and he was very happy that she’d obliged and found them this suite. Two big rooms, a private bath, and a kitchenette made it somewhere between a suite and an apartment of their own. It had ample room for the three of them and considerably more privacy than was the norm at Xavier’s. It had made the adjustment to communal living a little easier for Adam than it would have been otherwise, and the adjustment to living together again easier for them both.
As Jean-Paul walked to their suite, he thought gratefully of Rogue’s find. They’d needed the privacy, and the space. Months of separation had intensified hurt feelings on both their sides, but never really severed the connection between them. Jean-Paul had wanted desperately to be back with Adam, and often cursed how much he thought about him. A succession of meaningless sexual encounters with men he met in bars hadn’t eased his longing for the man he’d loved, but Jean-Paul’s hopes for a renewal of their relationship diminished as Adam seemed resolved to make the separation permanent. Even after Adam had stopped seeing Jake Patterson, he appeared to want only to be Jean-Paul’s co-parent and friend. Jean-Paul had reconciled himself to the fact of the end of the relationship, but hadn’t been able to turn off the feelings of love. Night after sleepless night, he turned over and over in his mind the events that had led to their breakup, keeping his drooping eyelids open wide as he struggled to accept the breakup.
Then things changed, although Jean-Paul wasn’t quite sure how or why. The drama with that reporter from the Washington Times had been part of it, and part of it just seemed to be Adam’s renewed wish to try again, a wish that had never left Jean-Paul as much as he’d tried to root it out. So they’d agreed to move in together, for both their sakes and for Ezra’s. Adam had given up his job in DC and found one in New York, so they could live together in Westchester. They’d both pledged not to have sex with other partners and Adam had said that he would disclose any contact he had with the man he’d been seeing during their separation. They’d reaffirmed their love for each other, reaffirmed their desire to repair the damage to their relationship and accepted that they were both responsible for what had happened. There was plenty of good will and plenty of resolve on both parts. Jean-Paul was careful not to be overtaken by jealousy and suspicion; Adam was extremely specific about all his activities and whereabouts lest it appear that he was hiding something.
Yet resolve and careful dealings with each other were not all they needed. In fact, the very deliberate way they treated each other was cause for concern, at least in Jean-Paul’s mind. They had been so careful with each other, so tentative, in the early days of their reconciliation, that he’d wondered if the rapprochement would stick. Their relationship seemed to have lost the playful quality that they’d both enjoyed, those first few weeks they were back together. When Adam joked that Jean-Paul had only gotten reconciled with him to upgrade his living quarters, Jean-Paul felt that they were really on the mend. That bit of kidding around had been one step in reclaiming the easy comfort they’d once had with each other, before Jake Patterson had come into their lives.
As Jean-Paul approached his suite, he was surprised to see the door slightly ajar. He walked in and found his lover sitting on the couch, talking on the phone.
Adam was just finishing his conversation – which sounded like it was with his editor. He smiled at Jean-Paul and motioned to him to sit with him.
“What are you doing here?” Jean-Paul asked, sitting beside Adam now, as soon as Adam got off the phone. “I thought we were meeting at Miriam’s place. Shouldn’t you be at work?”
Adam pushed Jean-Paul into the couch, kissing him hard before he answered. “I got as much done as I need to today,” he said, straddling Jean-Paul. “I was feeling horny.” He kissed him again. “And since we’re spending the night in Brooklyn...”
“You’re not your mother’s little boy anymore, Adam. When are you going to get over this block against having sex in her apartment?”
“Love me, love my neuroses. Portnoy had nothing on me.” Jean-Paul laughed and Adam continued. “I’m sorry, but I can’t quite see sucking your cock under my framed high school graduation picture and with my mother in the next room. Besides, it’s kind of a moot point, isn’t it? We’re not going to be spending any more nights in Brooklyn after tonight. That’s the whole point of this expedition, isn’t it? To figure out what we want to keep of my old stuff and clear it out of there.”
“Do you think it’s unreasonable of Miriam? You are 32 years old. You can’t expect her to keep your old room as some sort of shrine.”
“Well, maybe not a shrine. Just a semi-sacred place.” Jean-Paul laughed again. “I think it’s the least she can do in return for me not having sex there.” He kissed his lover again. “Can we stop talking about my mother? She’s kind of an anaphrodisiac topic of conversation.” Stroking now, and then unzipping Jean-Paul, Adam got off of him and down on the floor. “I really want to suck your cock. What do you say?”
“What’s up?” Warren asked as soon as the last of the X-Men had left and he, Jean, and Scott were alone in the large office suite that had for so long been Charles Xavier’s.
“I found something,” Cyclops replied, “and I don’t know what to do about it.” He looked at his friends and went on. “Something of Charles’s. A wall safe.”
Jean and Warren both looked across the room, at a framed photograph of the four original X-Men in the uniforms they wore in their teens. “Found it?” Jean asked. “You knew it was there – we all did. Us three and Hank. Charles made sure we all knew the combination. I was with you when you opened it after his death.”
Scott shook his head. “Not that one.” He gestured to the wall near his desk, where a formal portrait of Charles Xavier’s father, financier Edmund Xavier, hung. “I’ve always hated that picture,” he said – walking over to it. “I basically didn’t touch anything in this office when I moved in – except to put a chair behind the desk and in that spot by the couch.” He took the painting off the wall. “But then I thought about it and it’s my office now – why should I look at a painting I can’t stand? So I took it off, thinking I’d put something else up here, and found this.” Without the painting there, a safe with a combination lock was revealed.
“Is it the same combo as the other one?” Warren asked.
Scott shook his head. “No, I tried that. And a few others he used sometimes. Didn’t work. First I was focused on the problem of getting it unlocked, but then I thought about it some more and wasn’t sure whether or not I should even be trying to open it.”
“You’re his heir,” Warren contributed. “It’s yours as much as the rest of the house. Anything that wasn’t specifically left to someone is yours.”
“I don’t know if he meant for me to have it, though. I don’t know if he meant for me to see what was inside.”
“Don’t you think he would have done something with whatever’s in there if he didn’t want you to have it?” Jean asked. “He never said anything about it?”
Scott shook his head. “Maybe he forgot about it. I was sort of hoping he’d told one of you, and you had some idea what to do.” They both shook their heads. “I could blast it open, but that didn’t seem right somehow.”
“We could get a locksmith.”
“Not necessary, Jean. I found the combination in his address book. Under ‘c’.”
“For combination?” Warren laughed.
“No, it said CSS and then the numbers. I’d seen it before but didn’t realize what it meant.” Scott was turning the dial as he spoke.
“Your initials?” Jean asked. He nodded. “Then he meant for you to open it, don’t you think?”
“I did think that. Until I saw what was in it.” He opened the safe so they could see, too.
This is chapter 2 of a 10-part series. I'm posting one story a day. The entire series will be available here when I'm done posting.