|Thu, 18 Mar 1999
"Shades of Red" 3/? [PG-13]
They're Marvel's. No money. Don't sue.
There's no point in you reading this if you haven't read "Seeing Red" and the earlier chapters (c'mon, there're only two ;) of "Shades of Red." In fact, you'll bug the crap outta me if you do. So go read those at http://thundercrack.interspeed.net/cyke.htm (that's the Itty Bitty Cyke Archive, if you haven't been paying attention), and then read this. And THEN, of course, you must feedback me. Oh yes. Particularly if you expect me to hold back the flying monkeys.
Special thanks to Dex for encouragement (I WROTE the damned thing a'ready, gejashiku!) and most especially for the ideas for this chapter.
Comments (send 'em or be darned all to heck) to Kaylee@subreality.com. ::checks mailbox:: They're not here yet. C'mon. Ain't got all night. Sheesh...
Shades of Red 3/?
The beer stung his taste buds with its bitter aftertaste. No matter how much of the stuff he drank, he just couldn't seem to get rid of that initial grimace-response it brought out in him.
But he drank it, because it tasted terrible and it numbed him.
Not that he wasn't already numb.
Just not numb enough.
Out of habit, he looked up when the door to the outside opened. Standing there dully illuminated in shades of red stood Logan, eyes searching for and finding him instantly, face still and unreadable.
Scott's stomach turned over, slowly, once.
Logan made his way over, stopping at the bar to get himself a tall, foaming glass of beer. Scott had looked down after the smaller man broke eye contact, and now he stared with great focus into his beer. He'd known this would come. Invited it, really, with his casual use of credit instead of cash to pay his way. But it still hit hard, seeing the man. Seeing him and hearing only _her_ voice crying out to him. To _him._
The man stopped by his booth. Scott didn't look up. For a moment there was nothing -- no silent understanding, no fumbling for words. Just an instant of absorbing the reality of it all; Logan standing over Scott, taller than the seated man, victorious...
Then, as if relinquishing that claim, Logan slid into the booth across from him.
"Either you were careless, or ya wanted to be found. Used your credit card to rent the car and pay gas." Scott said nothing. Logan took a lengthy swig of his beer. "Easy to find ya."
And then he waited. Scott swallowed beer. Didn't look at him.
"I wasn't running, Logan," he said at last, levelly. "I was leaving."
A moment of nothing. Logan lit a cigarette, then grunted acknowledgment. "Got some people worried about ya. Back home."
"Well you can head back and tell them I'm fine."
"Tell 'em yourself."
"Don't think I'll do that."
"An' why not?"
No answer. Scott drank his beer and watched the weak light from above turn the amber color to flame in his vision.
"'Ro's lookin' to hear from ya," Logan commented after a moment. Scott nodded, once. A brief scowl crossed the Canadian's face, then was chased away. "Might wanna give her a call. Woman's pretty stressed, havin' the whole team dumped on her shoulders like that."
"She can handle it."
The faintest rumble of an irritated growl, barely audible. Then an intentionally callused voice: "Jeannie'll be lookin' to hear from you, too."
Scott took another swallow and watched moisture bead on the side of the glass like watered down blood.
"'S that what you're gonna do, Cyke? Gonna just ignore everything?"
"If I was ignoring everything you wouldn't have a reason to be here," came the answer in a level, inflectionless voice. "Consider your message delivered." <And leave. Leave before I snap, Logan. Leave before I lose it completely.>
Logan's glass thumped down on the table hard enough to rattle it. "Goddamnit, Cyke," he growled. "Don't gimme this shit. Be a fuckin' _person._ Get _mad._"
Very, very slowly, Scott raised his ruby-shielded eyes to look directly into narrowed dark eyes.
"Oh," he said in a strangely soft voice. "I am."
Logan's gruff tone lowered to match his volume, but the rumble was there, just beneath the surface. "Then why don't ya _do_ somethin' about it?"
"Do something?" Scott let the words settle a moment before his mind fully caught up to them. "_Do something?_ What would you have me do, Logan? Hit you? Or better yet, blast you?" A slight headshake. Scott was amazed at how calm he sounded, because underneath those level words was a raging torrent of something that... frightened him. A lot. "Pound on you 'til the sun goes down? Lemme guess... this is all to make me feel _better._" Logan's face didn't change, but his eyes narrowed more. What was visible of Scott's face was expressionless. "Is that what makes a _man_ in your eyes?" Now just a trace of disgust crept into voice and face, curling Scott's lips faintly as if he'd tasted something particularly vile. "I've seen your version of being a 'man,' Logan. And you know... I can't think of anyone I'd rather be _less_ like than you."
Logan's hands fisted on the table, though he made no move to raise them or to make any threatening moves. "An' you're so much better? You walk out on your whole life 'cause your wife cheats on ya. You forget all your responsibilities 'cause ya _can't handle it._"
"_Don't,_" Scott said sharply, then smoothed the tone as he continued, visibly fighting for control, "lecture me. Don't even _think_ you have the right to do that."
Logan's lips were drawn back in a half-conscious snarl, teeth grinding together. "You know how I feel 'bout her."
Breath rattled harshly into Scott's lungs, drawn past his own bared teeth. "Get out of here, Logan."
"It wasn't about _you._ She was _scared._"
<Oh god,> Scott realized as that torrent inside rose, rose. <I'm going to kill him. Right here, right now. I'm going to blast him into a smear on the damned pavement outside...>
Somehow he found voice. "Get _out_ of here before I forget why I hate killing."
Something glinted in the other man's eyes... satisfaction? At what? At bringing just a trace of that anger to the surface? "We can settle this here and now, Cyke. Right here in this goddamned bar, easy as sin."
"Easy as _sin,_" Scott echoed in a strangled voice. "You _want_ me to fight you. You want me to think it's for my own good." Neck was tight, muscles across his chest tensing. "But it's not for _me_ you want that, is it? You don't care about what I think. This is for _you._" His chest hurt in a distant way, reminding him of too-recent surgery, of pain, of that deep-rooted certainty that he would die and lose everything he cared about. Logan had been there -- had played a vital part in saving his life. His claw had cut right into Scott's chest and dug down to the threatened heart.
Just like now, really.
<God, no, please don't let me kill him, don't let me lose it, don't let me snap...>
"You don't know whatcher talkin' about," came Logan's disgusted answer. Scott ignored it as firmly as that rising voice of alarm somewhere just below consciousness.
"Would it make you feel better, Logan? That's always been your way, hasn't it? Get hurt inside... go out and get yourself hurt outside to match it. Do you handle guilt the same way? Does it help to get your tail handed to you?"
Very low, very quiet-- "I'd like to see ya try."
Scott forcibly swallowed more beer, nearly choking on the liquid and the emotion that constricted his throat. "I'll just bet you would." Another rapid swig, fighting for distraction, for any way to keep his mind from--
("I need you to... make me feel _alive_ again.")
- --all that had changed. "Leave, Logan."
"I ain't ashamed o' what I did."
<Just look at the beer... focus on the beer...> "Good for you. Then there's no reason for you to stay."
"You're makin' a mistake, Cyke. Walkin' away from everything like this." A pause, then the voice continued more coarsely: "Walkin' away from her."
The ice cracked.
His head raised slowly. Deep inside, beneath the fracturing surface, burned the thing that would shatter it, would shatter him, would shatter the man sitting across from him and pound every bone in his body to slush and destroy everything that would steal what was his and take his life and take his _wife_ and take his goddamned _soul_ away from him...
And Logan saw it. Logan wanted it. For him or for Logan or for some twisted sense of balancing the scales, he _wanted_ this.
It was only that realization -- nothing else -- that allowed Scott to shove it all back down, down, down beneath the failing ice. Down to where it couldn't push him to murder. Down and...
... lower, and...
Until the pain nestled in its accustomed home and the explosion was locked behind iron doors that would never hold it once it truly cut loose.
Scott finished his beer with a long swallow. "Tell Ororo that I think Kurt would be a good choice to replace me as Blue Team's leader." He went on, eyes cold, voice steady, not giving Logan a chance to cut in. "I'll be traveling, and I can't be sure of where I'll be or when. If 'Ro needs to reach me, she can call my grandparents in Alaska. I'll be checking in with them periodically."
"Cyke, the team needs ya."
Scott stood and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. "Excalibur's returning. There's plenty of manpower."
"Your _wife_ needs ya, you dumb shit."
Money in hand, Scott froze. Gradually dragged his eyes to meet the other man's again.
"Jean got exactly what she needed," he said quietly.
Then threw money on the table and pulled keys from a pocket. "End of the credit card trail. Cash from here on out. Don't come after me again." <Because if you do I won't be able to control myself, god, I know it, don't make me do this, don't make me be a fucking animal like you.> Still calm, still frozen. "Tell Ororo I'll be in touch."
Logan didn't rise. His cigarette was burned nearly to the butt. "Slim..."
"No," Scott said suddenly, looking him dead in the eye, probing at the pain with bitter, masochistic fascination. "I'm gone, Logan. Free road for you with... with her. She's--" Oh god, his throat was strangling him. "--made her choice." Just say it... just get it out... "You won't even have to bother hiding in the hangar bay now."
"It ain't _like_ that, Cyke!" He crushed out his cigarette furiously. "It never happened before." A strange look; conflicted and hurt and distant all at once. "And it ain't happenin' again."
"That's your business."
"I came to bring you back."
"I'm not going back."
"This ain't the answer."
A short, bitter laugh. "There is one?"
Scott turned. Claws in his chest. Claws in his heart. Ice cracking, lines spreading like a network of fine cobwebs across the shield of protective numbness that cupped his emotions. Saving him and killing him.
"You're makin' a mistake, Scott." And for the first time yet this conversation, there was nothing but conviction in the other man's voice.
Scott didn't even pause on his way out the door. The road was calling him west. Away from the mansion and the only life he knew.
Away from the man who came too damned close to making him a murderer.
Logan's eyes stayed on him -- he could feel them even as the door swung shut behind him -- but the man didn't come after him, didn't call out.
And somehow Scott hated him as much for that lack of action as for all the rest combined.
Notes from Kaylee: Once again, the (sigh) mandatory disclaimer. I make no judgments about these characters. How they are portrayed feeling about this situation is not necessarily how I feel about it, about the moral stuff being dealt with here, or about this situation specifically. I place no blame on anyone, and even if I did it wouldn't show up in this story. This is (hopefully) about individuals reacting to something -- not about great pedestals of morality or the like. So if you have a problem with how 'Ro acts or Logan acts or Scott acts, DO NOT accuse me of disliking this or that character.
Suggestions are still welcome for where to go with this, but don't be upset or offended if the story doesn't go the way you'd like it to. As I've said before -- can't please everyone, so I'll please myself. Stand in line to file a complaint if you don't like that. ;-)
For proof that I love Logan AND Scott, check out the IBAs.