|Tue, 25 May 1999
Shades of Red 4/?
Previous chapters can be found on the IBAs, Fonts of Wisdom, Northlight's Page, Ro's Treasury, and a few other places...
They're Marvel's. No money. Don't sue.
Continuation of the horrible, horrible story in which a confused and scared Jean seeks comfort with Logan, only to have poor, poor Scotty overhear. Scott's not in this part himself, but another Summers is... ;)
Much thanks to Alicia and Duey for the betas. :)
Comments to Kaylee@subreality.com. Send 'em or I'll sic the alpha-wolf-twins here on ya.
Shades of Red 4/?
The phone hadn't stopped ringing for three days.
Ororo swallowed down the knot of tension in her throat and wished for a miracle -- for something to undo everything that had changed. It couldn't be happening this way. The X-Men were a team... a _family._ They were there to support each other... to keep resolve strong against the animosity of the world.
Like any family, they'd always had a cheerful element of gossip running through them. It carried as readily to the other teams, linking them, keeping that undercurrent of deep connection strong. Even when she'd heard others complaining over some little tidbit they found 'outrageous,' that spirit of affability hadn't left. The bitterness hadn't run so heavily in the words.
Until now. The conversations she walked in on. The tense, uneasy expressions set on more than a few faces. The silence where there should have been irritated shouts or raucous banter. It drove home what she'd instinctively realized from the moment Jean's halting, tear-soaked words had touched her ears:
Other women could lie. Other women could cheat. Other women could be unfaithful.
But not Jean Grey. No matter what words the gossip put to it... this was _different._
The phone calls. The damned _phone calls_...
There were other names she was called by, but the one she was most comfortable with was simply 'Domino.' It described her personality, her powers... even her appearance. She was willing to put up with the inevitable nicknames: Dom, 'Mina... even Dominatrix from one brave man who'd proven to be a very loud screamer.
Nicknames aside, if there was one thing she understood it was the domino effect. It was a cumulative sequence produced when one event initiated a succession of similar events. Set up a line of carefully ordered pieces... find that fretful balance, that delicate steadiness, that reassuring solidity...
And the moment the lead piece fell, watch the whole structure come tumbling down.
X-Force had been only tangentially associated with its parent team for a while now, but there were still friendships maintained between the children and their predecessors, and individuals still kept in contact with the extended family that came with wearing an 'X.' She'd always considered that a good thing, actually -- the camaraderie there, the assurance that if it all came down to brass tacks they wouldn't have to face the dark _alone_... definitely a good thing.
Until she'd overheard a stunned-sounding Tabitha whispering to Roberto late one afternoon, saying something that struck a cold chord in even Domino, one of the most detached members of this family:
"Sam told me... god, I can't believe it... but Jean slept with _Wolverine._ And Cyclops is _gone._"
Swearing a bloody streak that would've made a sailor blush, Domino called the team together as soon as they were all in residence. Her words were simple, direct, and delivered in a voice that brooked no argument: "Nate is _not_ to hear about this from any of you if he calls."
There was a quiet hush. Shocked faces and dropped jaws as the uninformed absorbed her prior words.
And then an uncomfortable shuffle of feet as Tabitha dropped guilt-filled eyes to the floor. "I thought... I thought he already knew... he acted like he already _knew_..."
Dom's eyes closed tightly for only a moment, then snapped open as her face set in a blank, carefully guarded expression. She could feel it now, almost as if she was a telepath herself and sensitive to such things. The lead domino tipped, wavered, and fell crashing into the next.
Without another word, she went for the phone.
"Never mind, I recognize you, Drake. I need to talk to Storm or Xavier. Now."
"He's still on Muir, and she's outside... can it wait? I'll have her call you..."
"No it cannot fucking _wait._ I've spent the past hour trying to reach Nate, and he's _not_ making it easy."
"What does that have to do with Storm?"
"It has to do with her getting really goddamn creative really fast if she expects to find that hairball of yours before Nate does, that's what. And I can pretty much promise that he's not going after Logan for idle chitchat, Drake."
"... I'm getting her now..."
Nathan Summers. More comfortably known as Nate.
Logan had always called him Cable. An extra bit of distance, there. A way to depersonalize him -- make him less of the man behind the mission and more a soldier who was very dedicated to irritating the hell out of him. Cable had been the recipient of a careful combination of respect and disgust from Logan over the years, and that mix had only gotten more muddled since he'd ended up shepherding Xavier's hope for the future and turning them into a respectable and not- particularly-ethical strike force.
And if that wasn't enough, then it turned out that Cable was the son of a man he'd always seen as a rival and a woman he'd wanted from the moment he'd laid eyes on her.
Sort of her son. Sort of not.
But Scott's son... that he was. Down to the Summers' stubbornness that hardened his square jaw into a mirror of his certainty that he would make decisions, and that they would be followed.
Scott's son was very, very angry. It showed in the way he carried his tense shoulders. It stared at him in the form of tendons standing out sharply on a muscled neck. It shouted at him from narrowed, furious eyes and the mouth that was set in a carefully still line.
And Cable's sweat poured the scent of adrenaline and rage into the air like the heady musk of a stag preparing for battle.
Logan had debated avoiding him. Word was out that he still hadn't recovered his telepathy, and without that, no matter _how_ good he was, he didn't stand a chance of tracking a man who'd made sneaking around wild things an art form.
But it went against his nature to hide from the consequences of his actions. He tended to go _looking_ for those consequences, more often than not.
And he sure as hell wasn't hiding from _this_ man. That wasn't something he'd even consider.
So he stepped out and leaned against the corner of the bar he'd been imbibing in, watching and waiting for the man to step back out of the establishment and see him. Cable had walked in with all the quiet readiness of a gunfighter in the old West preparing to face an enemy. His expression and bearing left no doubt in Logan's mind as to his intentions.
Calm on the surface, he lit a cigarette and bided his time with every appearance of patience.
He didn't have to wait long. Cable must've questioned the bartender in record time and gotten the story: Logan and Scott meeting there yesterday, Scott's abrupt departure, Logan's staying on in town and coming back again today... What was he thinking of his discovery so far? Did he realize that Logan couldn't decide which way to jump? That he didn't know if he could face going back to the team and seeing the light dim further in those emerald eyes when Jean realized that he'd failed to turn Scott around?
Did he care one way or the other?
Defunct telepathy or no, it didn't take the man long to see him when he stepped off the little wooden porch and scanned the street with his sunglass-shielded eyes. The moment the unreadable gaze settled on him Logan nodded once, slightly, keeping himself relaxed and ready. Cable didn't move for what seemed a long time. The anger was still obvious, but more obvious was the control he was calling on, the reservation that was part and parcel of having survived numerous years of mercenary work.
When a door slammed somewhere down the road Cable blinked once, then walked forward slowly. Logan didn't budge. An unexpected gust of wind skimmed down the street and stirred up loose dust over the hard-packed dirt street, whispering a quiet, anticipatory howl.
~All we need now is a damned tumbleweed,~ Logan thought with a trace of sardonic amusement, welcoming the momentary distraction of the thought. ~Couple o' six- shooters, maybe...~
Cable stopped a few strides away. His hands were empty. He looked almost casual, so far as dress went; brown hiking boots, blue jeans, a white T-shirt, leather jacket, matching gloves... but it didn't hide what he was to Logan's eyes. Clothes couldn't cover up what made a man a soldier.
Neither spoke. The silence wasn't heavy -- it was electric. Dangerous. Living and angry.
He was so much like his father... and yet so very different in many ways...
Logan smoked the cigarette and longed distantly for a Havana cigar. The warm, heavy air didn't disperse the smoke very quickly, letting it sit in an oppressive blanket in the air around them. Cigar smoke would've smelled better. Not so sharp and bitter.
Cable watched him as the cigarette burned lower and lower. His left hand -- the metal hand, Logan knew -- flexed slightly in the glove, making leather creak. It was the loudest sound between them for the length of a minute, maybe longer.
Logan tossed the cigarette. "He's gone," he said simply, gruffly. "West."
Cable's jaw clenched and loosened. His chin dropped slightly until his mismatched eyes could be seen over the top of the shades, staring coldly from beneath lowered brows. "When?"
"Yesterday. Late afternoon."
"You spoke with him."
Logan's eyes flickered across the gray and gold gaze. "He... ain't ready to come back."
Cable's nostrils flared slightly. The anger in his scent was more prominent, the adrenaline thicker. "_You,_" he said heavily, the word sounding choked. "_You_ did this."
Since that was obvious, Logan only narrowed his eyes and waited. Some part of him was already stirring in preparation. He knew it was his fault, he knew it was his responsibility, and goddamnit, he _knew_ that the reckoning would come when he had to account for all of this... but it sure as hell wasn't _Cable's_ place to judge him. Frustration, confusion, seething, half-smothered rage... they all boiled low in his gut and waited for the opportunity to funnel the explosion towards a ready target.
But somehow he held back, reminding himself with all his willpower that he'd already done enough damage. He had no ground to stand on, here.
"As if you hadn't done _enough,_" Cable growled, seeming to echo his thoughts and making him wonder for a brief moment if the telepathy really _was_ out of action. That gloved hand flexed again, curving as if mentally he held something -- a weapon, probably. "You..." For once, the man seemed unable to find words to express his fury. He stopped. Shook his head once, sharply. His eye flashed as if filling in the sudden silence.
~Control,~ Logan reminded himself, feeling his heartbeat kick up a notch. "This ain't between you an' me, Cable. It's got nothin' to do with you."
"Stab your eyes, Logan..." Low and grating. "These are my flonqing _parents._" Colder still-- "_Rachel's_ parents."
The words weren't reaching into his mind anymore... Logan was growing increasingly aware of the tone, the body language, the scent and the sound of quickened respiration and the glimmer of sweat on the other man's brow. It'd always been this way between them -- two alpha wolves walking a fine line between treading on each other's territory.
And that territory had been irreversibly breached, now. Even Logan at his most obtuse couldn't deny that.
He made a last effort to stave off his rising temper, shifting back a half-step, trying to keep his voice level. "How'd you find me?" If Cable would just willingly accept the redirection... if he'd work with him to keep this to words instead of fists... If he'd just... if only... "What _fucking_ business is it of _yours_?!" Logan snarled suddenly, losing that tenuous internal balance, throat tightening and making the words rumble. "Stay the fuck _out_ o' this, Nate, before one of us pushes too goddamn far and--"
A step forward; just one. A brighter flash from that golden eye and a glint of teeth as Cable's lips drew back in something nothing like a smile. "It's already there, Logan," he hissed in a strangely soft voice. "It's already been pushed too far."
The light dimmed as the sun sank. This supernally quiet town quieted even more. Logan felt that bare rumble rise to something stronger in his chest.
Cable was right. It'd gone too far. The conflict inside him focused on one detail of crystalline clarity:
Control be damned. The beast inside him was ready to cut loose.
And Cable's not-smile broadened in invitation.