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Family Reunion

by Janet F. Caires-Lesgold

     Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 12:16 PM
     Title:  Family Reunion
     (A Spider-Man/X-Men Movies crossover story)
     Author:  Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
     Feedback to:  jfc013@merle.it.northwestern.edu
     Archive:  Mailing list archives only--others please ask
     permission!
     Category:  Story, angst, smut (sequel to "Brethren")
     Timeframe:  A few months after "X2/X-Men United" and the
     first "Spider-Man" film
     Rating:  NC-17 for language and m/m sexual interaction
     Pairing:  Peter/Logan, Logan/Scott, Peter/Harry Osborne
     (implied)
     Summary:  A weekend visit
     DISCLAIMER:  The characters you recognize do not belong to
     me, but are parts of the Marvel Comics Universe.  Spider-Man
     was created by Stan Lee with Steve Ditko, and appears in the
     2002 Columbia Pictures film of the same name, screenplay by
     David Koepp and directed by Sam Raimi.  The X-Men were
     created by Stan Lee, and appear in the 2003 20th Century Fox
     film "X2/X-Men United", screenplay by Michael Dougherty and
     Daniel P. Harris from a story by David Hayter, Zak Penn, and
     Bryan Singer, and directed by Bryan Singer. This story is
     just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself,
     not for any profit.
     DEDICATION:  For the nudgers who wanted a sequel to
     "Brethren", and the guys grinning over in the corner.
     AUTHOR'S NOTE:  The previous story, "Brethren", can be found
     on my webpage at http://jfc.freeshell.org/stories.html -
     enjoy!
     COPYRIGHT:  (C) Janet F. Caires-Lesgold June 24, 2003
     jfc013@merle.it.northwestern.edu Please don't redistribute
     or alter this story in any way without the express
     permission of the author.  Thank you very much.

I needed to see him again.

The phone number of "The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning" was surprisingly easy to find online through a little digging, so I made a few calls and planned a visit not long after I met Logan. I even got an official letter of invitation from Professor Xavier himself, as if I were applying to be a student. Maybe that meant that Logan had put in a good word for me.

I wasn't quite sure what I was seeking on my tour. Maybe it was just more of that connection I'd felt on the night I spent with Logan. Somehow just talking to someone like him made me feel a little less alone in the world. True, I didn't intend to stay at the school, to study whatever they chose to teach me, but coming into contact with a few other people who'd found themselves set apart from the rest of humanity sounded like it might give me an education in itself. If nothing else, it would give me the chance to take care of the unfinished-business aspect of my one-night stand...

The school, tucked far up on a snow-covered hill surrounded by thick pines, looked a little like an old castle in the late afternoon December dusk. The sentry shed at the front gate, however, looked nearly brand-new and very military. Luckily, my name was on the guest list, and I was allowed entrance and issued a visitor's parking pass and a map.

In honor of the season, there was a Christmas tree full of tiny lights in the center of the drive, in a roundabout that looked like it held a fountain in warmer weather. A snowman wearing a knit green scarf stood in the yard near my parking place next to an ice sculpture in the shape of a snowman. The figures made me smile to myself as I dug my suitcase out of the trunk of the old beater and walked to the entrance of the main building.

A Nigerian fellow with an inexplicable German accent met me at the front door and ushered me into the dim front hall. "You must be Herr Parker," he hissed politely, showing very sharp, very white teeth. "The Doctor Professor will be waiting for you."

I followed him along the corridor, fascinated by my surroundings until I noticed that from a slit in my guide's coat emerged a very mobile tail. During the rest of our walk, I couldn't take my eyes from his thin, sharply-tipped appendage.

At last we came to a pair of double doors, upon the surface of which my escort knocked, being welcomed inside almost immediately. In the brighter illumination of the study, I turned to thank the man, startling at the fact that he wasn't black at all, but navy blue. My mouth hung open in shock as a voice behind me said, "Thank you, Kurt. Could you go let Logan know that his guest is here?"

The blue fellow nodded and left by the door, so I turned to find the owner of the deep, British voice that had addressed him. There, by a huge old desk, was a dapper bald man in a wheelchair with the kindest smile I had seen on anyone except perhaps my Aunt May. Quickly, I dug in my pocket for his letter to prove that I was there on legitimate business.

Before I could pull out the folded paper, he addressed me. "Welcome, Peter," he said, though the thing with the tail hadn't mentioned my name. "I am Charles Xavier. It's good to have you here."

Feeling suddenly shy, I nodded a greeting and looked away from his eminence. It was then I noticed a young woman on a nearby settee. She smiled sweetly and flashed eyes as dark as onyx at me.

"This is Miss Ororo Munroe," Xavier introduced. She and I exchanged a quick tip of the head. "If you need anything during your stay and you are unable to find me, please call upon Miss Munroe to help you."

"Thank you," I was finally able to say.

The woman uncrossed shapely legs encased in smooth fabric and stood as if to leave. "I should go check on study hall," she announced. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Peter," she added, smiling even more charmingly than before as she strode out of the room.

When the door had shut behind her, Xavier gestured to her recently-vacated spot on the settee. "Won't you have a seat, Peter?" he invited cordially, so I did. "I hope that you will be comfortable here at the Institute. We try to offer opportunities for people of all kinds of backgrounds here, so I'm sure that you will find many things of interest to you."

Sheepishly, I started to explain that I wasn't looking to enroll anytime soon. "I'm sorry, but you must have misunderstood my intentions. I've been out of school for a little while, and--"

Effortlessly, he stepped in to finish my sentence. "And you don't really want to go back. Yes, I know that."

"How...?" I stammered awkwardly.

His smile got warmer and a little conspiratorial. "I understand mutants, Peter--even you. I perceived that you meant us no harm and could find contact with us to be useful, so I made the phone number available to you and sent you that letter." For a moment, a shadow passed over his eyes. "Recently, we have had some setbacks, so we have had to increase security a bit. I needed to couch that letter in terms of your applying to the Institute to ensure your safe passage to our facility. There is no harm from your observing what we do here--in fact, it may lead you to change your mind in the future and come work with us. In the meantime, perhaps you will discover whatever it is that you really came here to find..."

Just then, we were interrupted by a knock on the door. Xavier called out, "Come in," and the door opened to reveal Logan, of all people. I couldn't resist shooting a little glance at my host, but he gave no indication that he'd actually timed his words to herald that entrance.

Logan's face brightened in a lovely, open smile when he laid eyes on me. "Pete! You made it!"

He made no move toward me, but I didn't care--I got up and went to give him a friendly hug. Since the Professor apparently could read our minds anyway, I saw no point to hiding what I really wanted to do. Logan felt good in my arms--strong and smoky as before, but with a tinge of something wrong. Maybe he'd tell me what was going on before I left.

"Why don't you find Peter some guest quarters and get him settled in before dinner?" Xavier suggested when we broke apart. They shared a few quiet words before we were dismissed, whereupon I hefted my bag and followed Logan into the hall.

I was too dazzled by the opulence of the decor to make much conversation as we trekked through the hallways to the residential quarters. At last we came to a door that looked like every door in that corridor, except for the empty nameplate on its frame. Logan opened the door and showed me inside like a proper hotel bellboy. "Hope this is comfortable for you!" he said as I tossed my suitcase onto the bed and found a nameplate card and a pen on the nightstand. "You'll want to label your door so you can find it again," he advised simply, adding, "I'll come get you for dinner in about twenty minutes."

Before he could turn to leave me alone, I stopped him. "Thank you for whatever you said to Professor Xavier about me. He seems to like me."

A completely chimerical grin crossed his face as he answered, "I didn't tell him a single thing about you. He figured it all out on his own, if you catch my drift."

This statement left me entirely nonplussed, and a little concerned. "Does he scare you a little?" I asked quietly.

His smile shifted to genuine amusement, and he replied, "Yeah, but in a good way." Checking the hall, he pushed the door closed and moved to face me. "I'm glad you're here," he admitted, taking my shoulders in his hands and giving me a gentle kiss. "Maybe we can spend some time together later..." he offered before releasing me and heading for the door.

"I'd like that a lot," I nodded as he left, leaving out the fact that the main reason I'd come was to do just that. Turning to the square of cardstock on the bedside table, I quickly jotted my name on it neatly and, taking my cue from some of the other students' namecards, drew a tiny spider in the corner. After placing the card in the holder just outside my door, I went back in to unpack a little. My camera was the first thing on the bed, but I wondered if the increased security at the school would mean that my photo opportunities would be limited. I stuck my jeans and shirts in the drawers of the empty bureau in my room, and my suit, shoes, and mask under the bed. The private bathroom adjoining my room held all the comforts of home, as well as a few temperature and spray settings in the shower that I'd never heard of before.

Soon Logan returned with a polite knock on my door, and walked me downstairs to a large dining hall without much fanfare. Along one wall was laid out a bountiful buffet, including meat entrees and some vegetarian fare, as well as salads and desserts. I got in line with my escort behind a row of students of every shape and size I'd ever seen before, and a couple I hadn't. Helping myself to some stew and bread, I noticed a pretty girl eyeing me hungrily.

"Hi," she said, a southern drawl evident in her accent. "You're new..."

A sleeve brushing mine heralded Logan close by my side. "Marie? This is my friend, Pete."

"Hi," I greeted her, extending a hand to shake.

"Welcome, Pete," she went on, tucking her gloved fingers briefly into my palm then removing them almost immediately. "I hope you like it here. It's pretty homey."

A nice-looking young fellow in front of her in line turned back when he heard our voices. "Hey, who's this?"

"Bobby, this is Pete," Marie introduced me. His smile was warm, but his hand was quite chilly.

"You guys got a place to sit yet?" he asked easily.

I looked to Logan, who answered, "No, but we'd be glad to join you."

"Great," replied Marie with sincere enthusiasm, before she followed Bobby off to a soda dispenser.

Watching my companion closely, I tried to sense his mood about the couple who'd just left us. "You wanted me to meet them, didn't you?"

"Yeah. Closer to your age and all..."

"Wait," I said softly. "That's 'Jailbait', isn't it?"

"What?" he asked, genuinely confused.

Whispering into his ear, I explained, "You told me you'd been having trouble with jailbait. That's her."

He looked like he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "You're good," he observed with a wry grin. "But she's got Bobby now. She's safe."

"And so are you," I answered with a snicker of my own.

Once we had loaded up our trays, we went to find the young couple at a long table and took seats across from each other. This placed me next to Marie, who seemed very young indeed, despite the white streaks running through her hair. I also wondered at the gloves she wore and didn't even remove to cram a dinner roll into her mouth. However, I got the distinct impression that dinner was not the place to discuss individual mutations, so I kept my questions about them to myself.

Instead, I regaled the group with stories of New York City, goaded on by Marie's fascinated questions. Oddly, it seemed that she had been to the top of the Statue of Liberty once, but nowhere else in the entire city limits.

While I spoke, I noticed a man in tinted glasses drift behind Logan's chair, causing my companion to look up and pull out a chair for him. I immediately sensed some kind of connection between the two of them, even beyond the fingers the new guy traced along Logan's shoulders and elbow as he sat too close to him for my comfort.

"Scott Summers," announced the stranger, thrusting his hand across the table to me.

"Peter Parker," I responded, shaking the offered hand carefully. It was very disconcerting to realize that the shade of the glass in his spectacles completely prevented me from seeing his eyes. His lack of a tray also caught my attention. "Aren't you having dinner? The stew is very good..."

"Mmmmm... not that hungry," he murmured. "May get some ice cream. Rogue, you want some?"

Not sure who he was addressing, I looked at our party quizzically. Fortunately, Marie popped out of her seat at once. "Sure! I'll come with you! Come on, Bobby!" The boy rolled his eyes at us, but let himself be dragged off to the freezer without protest.

Unsettled by Scott's familiarity, I turned to Logan. "Who's that?"

"You mean Cyclops? He's harmless, as long as he doesn't take off those sunglasses."

Realization dawned on me. "Oh, yeah--He's 'the boyfriend' you told me about, isn't he?"

This drew all of Logan's focus to me. "Boyfriend?" he intoned, almost as if it were a threat.

"Yeah, you know--the gorgeous psychic's boyfriend."

His eyes dropped away from my face as if I'd dumped him. "Fiance."

"What?"

"The gorgeous psychic's fiance."

"Boyfriend, fiance, whatever. Say, where is the psychic, anyway? I really want to meet her," I asked, scanning around the room intently.

Once again his gaze hit me, this time as sharply as his blades would have. "Shut up, Pete."

"Huh?" I fumbled, obviously missing some clue as to what was going on.

"I'll tell you later," he hushed me sternly, just in time for us to be rejoined by our three fellow diners bearing messy ice cream sundaes. The conversation remained friendly and inconsequential for the rest of dinner, though my mind spun with possible explanations for Logan's discomfort at my questions.

My younger dinner companions vanished along with our trays when we were finished ("kitchen duty", explained Logan), so we "grownups" retired to a pleasant recreation room. Another decorated tree twinkled in the corner across from a crackling fire in the hearth, and that blue guy, Kurt, serenaded us with an assortment of Christmas carols while the professor accompanied him on the piano.

I found a chessboard set up and challenged Logan to a game, which he accepted eagerly. We sat in wordless repose, listening to the music and studying the arrangements of the pieces before us, as our silence gave the lie to the hundreds of questions I wanted to ask.

At last, a round of polite applause signaled the end of the concert, and Xavier turned to address the room. "Thank you, my friends," he began warmly. "It has been a blessedly uneventful week here at the Institute, and I want to commend all of you for doing your parts to see to it that it was just that. Let me also take this opportunity to welcome Mr. Peter Parker, visiting us from New York City for the weekend."

This direct reference startled me, but Logan encouraged me to stand up and be recognized. I even earned a little applause of my own.

Xavier went on. "As usual, tomorrow's physical training will commence at nine a.m. with a break for lunch at twelve-thirty, then will continue until four-thirty. Scott?" he addressed Logan's friend, who nodded in response. "I'm sure that Mr. Parker would be welcome to join your class tomorrow, isn't that so?"

"Of course," he purred, a grin crossing his face that I hoped wasn't quite as wicked as I first assumed.

Just when I had started to feel very comfortable among these people, Logan leaned across the table toward me, as Xavier concluded his remarks and began speaking to a smaller group near the piano. "You think you can handle Scott?" Logan asked, a tease evident in his eyes.

Whispering almost soundlessly, I answered, "I can handle sleeping with you, can't I?"

At that, he looked flustered but flattered all at once, and I'd have wished for better lighting to see if he'd actually blushed.

When the huge old clock in the room chimed ten, the assembled adults in the room rose from their seats and began wandering off. "What's up now?" I said.

"Bedtime," he replied easily.

"This early?" I nearly whined, my nocturnal clock protesting along with me.

Quietly, he shushed me. "Don't panic. It's a new rule for security purposes. We have bedcheck around ten-thirty, but they don't keep tabs on us after that, in case we have more pressing matters on our schedules. The kids are the only ones they expect to be asleep at that hour."

I nodded my understanding of the concept, then followed him out into the corridor and back to my guest quarters. The students to either side of my door filed into their respective rooms and shut themselves in, leaving Logan and me alone in the hallway for a moment. With no one in sight, I reached out and took his hand in mine. "It's good to see you," I murmured, bending in to kiss him softly.

He kissed me back, but pulled away before things got too involved. "Probably wise not to start that right now," he warned kindly.

"Okay," I agreed. "So, where are you?" I inquired, gesturing to the row of doors.

Turning his head, he counted visibly to himself. "I'm the seventh one down from yours," he answered with a tiny lick to his upper lip as if to find my flavor still there. "I'll make sure you're awake in time for breakfast," he added mysteriously. "Good night, Pete."

"But..." I fumbled.

With a cock of his head up the hall, he reminded me, "Bedcheck soon. Good night," he repeated, starting down to his own room.

Confused and aroused, I muttered after him, "Good night," then let myself into my own door, which I noticed latched simply from the inside, but didn't lock at all from the outside. I wasn't quite sure what to make of Logan's signals, so decided to sit down and go over my camera before heading to bed, or anywhere else the night took me.

Several minutes later, I was completely absorbed in my nightly check of my lenses when a knock came on my door. "It's open," I called out.

Ms. Munroe opened the door and peeked inside. "Hi, Peter," she greeted me.

"Oh, Ms. Munroe! Please, come in!"

"Thank you, but please: call me Ororo!" she insisted as she entered my room. As she approached my bed, she looked at my photographic equipment cautiously. "So, Peter," she continued, "are you a spy?"

This drew my attention away from the lenses in my lap. "What?"

Her answering giggle tinkled like ice crystals on weeping willow branches. "I'm just teasing," she asserted. "Are you a professional photographer?"

"Yeah," I replied, hoping it didn't sound like I was bragging. "I work for the Bugle in New York City. I probably can't take any pictures around here, though, can I?" I went on when the name of my paper brought no reaction from her.

"It's not recommended, no," she confirmed sadly. "You take very good care of your camera, though..." she offered like a consolation.

"Thank you," I accepted the compliment she meant it to be.

"Is there anything else you need before I go?"

"No--I'm fine. Thanks."

"Good night, then," she said, moving toward the door.

"Good night, Ororo," I answered, earning another pretty smile before she left and shut my door.

I went on polishing the chrome parts of my camera for a few minutes, listening for Ororo's voice as it echoed down the hall while she made her rounds. When all was quiet at last, I got up and ran a comb through my hair, then took a deep breath and opened my door to go out.


Carefully and silently, I slipped along the old tile, glancing out the windows that lined the opposite wall of the corridor at the snowy garden outside. Counting in my own head, I moved past the doors until I reached the seventh one. There in the namecard holder was a white square of paper that had been pierced through with three sharp blades. Under that distinctive mark was written "Wolverine" in angular letters. There was no way that this door could belong to anyone else but Logan, so I knocked on it lightly.

Inside, I could hear a grunt, which I wasn't sure was an invitation to come in. However, I noted that the door was slightly ajar, so I assumed that he must have been expecting me and went right inside.

What do they say you do when you assume: that you make an ass out of you and me? That's about how I felt when I saw what was going on in Logan's bed. Logan was there, all right, but so was Scott, lying on top of him, naked but for his tinted shades, and humping him like a dog in heat.

For a second I couldn't move, I couldn't think, I couldn't even breathe. Once I determined that I was in fact seeing what I'd first thought I was seeing, I backed quickly out the door and pulled it shut quietly behind me.

Moving back to my own door, I contemplated my options. I could have cried. I could have thrown up. I could have locked myself in the bathroom and jerked off till I was raw. I could have found a total stranger and held him until I fell asleep. Bad idea. I could have called Mary Jane, but then I'd have had to explain where I was, and what I was doing there, and what I did in my spare time. Worse idea. I could have even packed up the car and headed back home, but even to me, that sounded like giving up. At last, I decided just to take a walk through the parts of the school I recognized.

The dining hall was empty and dark, and I didn't feel like prowling around the kitchen, as I wasn't particularly hungry. Besides, the aroma of fresh paint and newly-mounted cabinet doors lingered just under the threshold of awareness for a normal person, making me feel a little more ill than I did already.

Sticking my head in the recreation room, I found that someone had left the lights glowing on the Christmas tree. Unsure as to the wisdom of this oversight, I went in to poke around and find the off switch.

I walked quickly toward the tree and dropped into a crouch to look under the bottom branches, where I found a power strip filled with green plastic plugs. Reaching for its button, I was stopped by a small female voice.

"Don't do that," it drawled. "I'll turn them off when I leave, okay?"

"Marie," I said to the small shape on the floor watching me with shining eyes. "What are you doing here?"

"I had dish duty tonight, so I didn't get to enjoy the lights before. I sneak in here at night sometimes when I can't sleep. What's the matter, Peter? Can't you sleep, either?"

"Haven't tried yet," I admitted sheepishly. I tried to think: how old was this girl, anyway? Would it horrify her for me to admit that I'd driven all the way here just hoping to have sex with her friend?

Luckily, she filled in the conversational gap quickly. "You known Logan a long time?"

"No," I confessed. "Not quite a year."

"He's sweet, no matter how gruff he tries to seem, don't you think?"

That made me smile a little sadly. "Yeah, he is."

"It's nice that he and Scott have made friends now that Jean's gone."

I was about to say something sarcastic about just what kind of "friends" Logan and Scott were until I realized what she'd said. "Jean?"

She blathered on like a typical teenage girl. "Yeah, Scott's fiancee. I know it hurt them both really bad when she was killed."

"Scott's fiancee is dead?" I inquired, sitting on the floor next to her, itching with curiosity.

"She was killed trying to save some of us. Man, she was brave..." she added wistfully.

"You miss her..."

"Not as much as Scott, I'm sure. That's why I'm glad Logan is there for him."

Suddenly I saw the scene in Logan's bed in an entirely different light. Marie might not have been aware of the actual nature of Logan and Scott's "friendship", but it made me feel a little better that they'd found some comfort in one another's arms.

I must have looked pretty shaken, for I found Marie's gloved hand tucked inside one of mine. "You okay, Pete?"

"I will be," I sighed, squeezing her fingers lightly, and wishing I knew her a little better. Well, what else was there to do? "What's this for?" I asked, holding up her hand and gesturing toward the glove.

Self-consciously, she shrugged out of my grasp and folded her hands together tightly in her lap. "I sort of absorb things..."

"Excuse me?"

"If I touch another mutant, I can borrow his powers. If it's a human, I sort of suck out his life force. It's not very pretty..."

Right then, she looked like she could have used some comfort, but I didn't want to risk testing her abilities. Cautiously, I rubbed her shoulder, careful to keep my hand on the fabric of her robe.

After a moment, she raised her eyes and regarded me seriously. "So which are you?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Mutant or human?"

This made me chuckle a little. "I got bitten by a radioactive spider. Now I can climb really well."

Her eyes reflected hundreds of little white Christmas tree lights. "Do you spin webs, too?"

"As a matter of fact..." I turned the inside of my wrist to her, and she stared fascinated at the gland in my arm. When she brushed over the opening with her covered thumb, a marvelous little thrill ran through me. For a minute, I thought twice about keeping my secret from Mary Jane any longer.

"That's really cool. I want to watch you train tomorrow. Can I do that?"

"Yeah. I'd like that." Just then the large clock chimed once for half-past eleven. "Man, it's late. If I want to get up in time to train with the others, I should be getting to sleep. How about you?"

She gave me a smile that nearly equaled the sensation of her fingers on my wrist. "I'll be along soon. Don't worry about me."

I started to leave, but hesitated before I could get up from the floor. "Um, Marie?"

"What, Pete?"

Feeling about fifteen years old myself, I mumbled, "If I'm really careful, can I hug you good night?"

"Sure," she answered brightly, adding, "just as long as you don't tell Bobby!" With a grin, she hopped up on her knees and very, very cautiously slid her arms around me, using my shirt as a barrier between us.

Squeezing her softly, I whispered, "Good night," into her ear.

As she released me, the smile never left her eyes. "Sweet dreams--see you in the morning!"

Feeling much better than I had when I'd come in, I left to find my bed and crash for the night.

I was awakened by streams of sharp December sun through my window blinds, and the sensation of a hand on my chest, even though I was pretty sure I had gone to bed alone. Off to one side of my mattress sat Logan, smiling broadly and taking his hand away once I met his eyes. "Good morning," he said quietly.

"Hi," I answered, sitting up slowly. "I've gotta..." I trailed off, leaning my head toward the bathroom.

"Hey, don't let me stop you!" he replied, grinning, as I got up and shut the door of the small room behind me.

A hundred clever opening lines got scrambled in my head while I relieved myself and washed my hands. When I finally emerged, he still sat with his feet up on my bed, looking like he wanted to have me for breakfast. "What time is it?" I asked simply, ignoring the watch on my arm.

"Seven-thirty," he stated. "Did you sleep well?"

"Pretty well," I nodded, then decided to cut through the pleasantries. "I didn't know about Scott..."

Immediately a defensive shield went up around him. "What about Scott?" he asked circumspectly.

Rather than challenging him further, I chose to show my hand. "I saw you last night, Logan."

"What?"

"I came to your room to spend some time with you, but I discovered that someone had beaten me to it."

"Crap," he muttered, lunging up off of my bed and as far as possible from me. "It's not what it looked like," he started to explain with his shoulders leaning uncomfortably on my closet door.

"It looked like two friends blowing off some steam together, or was it something else?" I asked from my position behind the bed.

"We... huh?" he interrupted himself.

After propping my pillow against the headboard, I sat with my back against it and got comfy, putting myself at a lower level to appear less aggressive. "Look--I talked to Marie. I know about Jean."

"Excuse me?"

In a hushed tone, I explained gently, never taking my eyes from his. "You both loved her, and she's gone. It's okay if you let your mutual affection for her bring you together. I'll stay out of your way, if that's what you want," I added sincerely.

Slowly he moved back to the opposite edge of the mattress and sat against the footboard. "It isn't, Pete--not really. I hadn't been expecting him last night: he just drops in sometimes, and I don't send him away... 'Blowing off steam'? That's a good term for it. We're not lovers--er, we don't fuck. We just..."

"Make each other come when you need to?" I offered, finishing his sentence for him.

He gave me a sheepish half-grin. "Yeah, that's about it. Does that bother you?"

"Naaah," I replied, reaching out and taking his hand, "it's what Harry and I used to do. But is it okay if I came here looking for something more than that?"

Using my hand as a fulcrum, he dragged us together on the surface of the bed and, cupping the back of my head, pulled my mouth to his for a deep, probing kiss. "Definitely okay," he responded once we broke apart, apparently aping Scott's terse manner. "It's almost time for breakfast--maybe do you want to spend the night together tonight? I'll latch the door, which is more than Scott managed to do..."

"Yeah, I'd like that. I won't even chicken out this time," I teased, reminding him of our previous encounter.

He stopped smiling only long enough to kiss me again, then moved to the door. "I'll save you a spot in the dining hall. How do you like your eggs?"

"Cooked," I joked, retreating for a quick shower to prepare for the day as he let himself out.

An hour or so later, fed and dressed in my maskless suit, as I preferred it to the offered workout clothes, I stood in a small gymnastics studio with a group of the other mutants of the Xavier Institute. A muscular guy with the remnants of a Russian accent took the spot to my left in the front row of the group, while Logan stood stretching in shabby grey sweats to my right. Marie nursed a cup of coffee in the corner, but eventually put down her thermal mug and shrugged off her robe, revealing a pair of tap pants and a baby tee that made me look immediately away for fear of staring. When we'd all taken our places, Scott, in wraparound shades, came in with a boombox and a stack of CDs.

Without much fanfare, he put a disk into the machine, and rhythmic music began pounding out of its speakers. Feeling a little out of my element, I watched Scott like a hawk as he led the group through some basic calisthenics that started slow but picked up as they progressed. I didn't have much trouble performing the same routine as the rest of the class, but the combinations kept getting more elaborate as the pace increased. Mixed in with the floor exercises were moves I recognized from step classes I'd sat in on, a couple of Tae-Bo videotapes, and at least one lunge I'd seen Mary Jane do while watching second-hand "Sweatin' to the Oldies" videotapes.

As the workout got harder, I got the distinct sense that Scott was watching me. I tried to brush it off as professional curiosity, but it started to irk me, especially given that I could see his eyes even less clearly through the heavy-framed glasses than I could when he'd been wearing ordinary sunglasses the night before. He didn't even turn his face to me as he led the class in step after step, but I could feel him looking at me. Everyone seemed interested in security around the place, so I wondered if he just didn't trust the new guy, the outsider.

However, it was then that I noticed Logan move a hair's breadth closer to me, and I suddenly realized what was going on. Scott was sizing me up, and Logan was defending his boundaries without making more than a slight shift on the floor. If Scott considered me a threat, it was to his more-than-friendly relationship with Logan, and that made me feel that I had the advantage.

Scott's challenge went unvoiced, though, beyond a switch to an even more up-tempo recording on the player and a subtle repositioning to a spot right in front of me. I could tell that the session was becoming fiercer than usual when Marie started making frustrated, wordless little barks as she exhaled, then finally plopped down in an exhausted huff on the floor. A quick glance at Logan revealed tendons standing taut in his neck, but his tiny nod as he caught my eye told me that he was watching us both, just in case.

By the time two hours had passed, the only ones still moving in the room were the Russian, Logan, Scott, and me. The others either stayed put where they'd fallen, or had crawled off to prop themselves unceremoniously against the wall to watch us. Logan and I shot concerned looks at each other, but neither of us stumbled under the force of Scott's routine. At last the music stopped, and Logan bent at the waist, leaning his hands hard against his thighs as he caught his breath, watching me intently. Scott cracked his shoulders a little and slung a towel around his neck, sourly pacing the front of the room as if he were angry. The strongman beside me seemed totally unfazed by the morning's activities, but everyone else in the room regarded me as if I might either collapse or explode.

Doing a quick status check, I found myself sweaty and a bit winded, but every single muscle sang of victory. Scott may have been pushing my limits to test me, but I was up to his challenge.

"Kid," Logan panted softly, "you okay?"

"Great," I answered, unsmiling in case Scott was watching, but holding my friend's gaze firmly. "Now what?"

I could see his grey sweats had darkened with perspiration as he stood up with a proud smile. "You're okay, Pete!" he crowed quietly, seeming to wish to avoid Scott's attention as much as I did. "Now we run, to get the kinks out. Does that work for you?"

"It's not my forte. Are we being clocked?" I asked as we started to move out of the studio and into the larger gymnasium.

"Nope. This is mostly for endurance. Stop if you have to, but pass anybody you can. They keep track."

A larger group lined up on the rubberized running track, then took their marks and started at the sound of a whistle. I began with an easy jog until I felt out the prevailing speed of the other runners. We soon fell into our preferred paces: Logan stayed just in front of me to my left, and the more agile folks lit out ahead of the pack once they could break away.

Marie and Bobby ran a few lanes over from us, not pushing themselves, but instead keeping a steady stride like they were on a long beach. Ororo, who hadn't been in our class but looked a bit worse for wear just the same, her hair falling out of a loose white bun, kept a fingertip on the pulse in her neck as she alternately bolted forward, then hung back as if to regroup.

Then, far ahead of me, I spotted Scott. He ran easily but fast, so I decided that I had to try to pass him. With a quick glance at Logan, I pulled ahead and started to bear down on my quarry.

When I was about five yards behind the man in the red glasses, he must have sensed me coming, because very gradually, he started to speed up. I put on some more steam, but he remained about eight strides ahead of my position. I don't know if he had seen me, or could hear me, or--hell--even smell me, but he never reacted as if he was actually aware of me as he held steady just out of my reach.

About then, I started to get angry. I couldn't tell if he was really showing off out of jealousy for his fuckbuddy or just trying to insult me, but I was getting pretty pissed off at his grandstanding. It was time to play dirty.

I wasn't sure how the rest of the residents of the facility would take it, but I took my best shot and aimed a strand of web at his nearest ankle. It would have been great to nail him with a loop around his entire leg, but I settled for a sticky strand against his calf muscle. As soon as the leading bulb of the stuff smacked him in the Achilles tendon, I reached for the string with my hand and pulled.

As I had predicted, Scott's leg was jerked behind him, and he most unceremoniously tripped, rolling ass over teakettle across the track and landing flat on his back. Luckily, no one had been very close to him, or they would have fallen right over his body as it lay on the floor.

All the runners turned to look, and the ones behind me slowed down or stopped as they approached. Logan shot me a glance, smiling crookedly, so I knew he'd pretend to scold me if I were challenged. However, Marie came up behind me, practically giggling.

"You got him!" she cackled merrily. "He is such a mean coach! You saw what he was doing to us today! I think he deserved that!"

Ororo trotted up, looking concerned, but noticing that Scott had sat up and was shaking out his extremities, apparently without injury, eyed me with nothing more than an exasperated frown. "Do I want to know what that was about?" she asked sternly.

Before anyone else could speak up for or against me, I snapped to attention and explained succinctly, "Pissing contest, ma'am."

"I see," she answered warily, then went to check on Scott.

Logan sidled up to me and whispered, "Nice shot," but backed off when Scott, half angry and half contrite, came up to us a moment later.

His cheeks flaring, he poked at the emblem on my chest with an index finger. "Look, spider-boy..." he began.

"Uh, Spider-Man," I corrected, without even the humility to swallow my half-grin.

"Okay, Spider-fuck," he sneered. "I don't know what you were trying to do, but you could have killed me with a stunt like that!"

Logan started to say something, but I jumped right in. "Did I?"

"What?" he blustered mid-rant.

"Did I kill you? Are you dead?" At least I was able to keep a straight face when I said it.

"No!" he snapped, otherwise speechless.

"Well, you didn't kill me with your workout routine, either, no matter how hard you tried. I think we're even."

A metal whistle tweeted behind Scott. Ororo approached us as she dropped the instrument on its string back down her chest. "I think it's time for lunch, fellas, unless, of course, you want to whip 'em out and measure 'em in front of the whole group?"

We both mumbled "no" at her, Scott looking sheepish while I exchanged a small triumphant glance with Logan, and the tension broke as we shuffled off to the showers.


Lunch found me and Logan across from Marie and Bobby once again, the girl chattering on in excruciating detail to her young man about the torment of Scott's workout and my swift justice, even though he'd been right there to see it.

I was nearly done scarfing down my chicken salad when Scott suddenly appeared beside our table, casting a hush over everyone in an expanding radius of the tables except for Marie, who didn't notice him at first. When she realized that she was the only one speaking in the room, she covered her mouth with her gloved hand, turning slightly pink.

Every eye turned to Scott, who looked like he'd been doing some thinking. "I'm sorry," he muttered just loud enough for me and Logan to hear it. "I was being a jerk in class and on the track this morning. You were completely justified in what you did. Truce?" he asked, thrusting his hand out like he had when I'd met him the night before.

"Truce," I nodded, shaking his hand and smiling as I heard the relieved exhalations of everyone around us. Logan squeezed my knee under the table and winked at me as soon as he'd left, but the rest of lunch continued as if nothing had happened.

After our meal, we reassembled in the large gym. "So what's on the agenda for the afternoon?" I asked Logan.

"You up for speed challenges?"

"What's that?" I asked "Wind sprints?"

"Not quite," he replied, pointing to the area near the wall to one side of the running track. There, between the rubberized oval and the institutional green paint, was an obstacle course made up of ladders, ramps, the standard tires laid out on the floor, and some aerial equipment.

"I think I can handle that," I grinned at him as we assembled with the rest of the competitors. The younger kids had been dismissed for free recreation, so all that were left was the adult squad, though I could see Marie and Bobby perched on the very top of some folded bleachers. He looked bored as he tried to read a paperback book when she wasn't paying attention, but she watched us avidly, waving like a cheerleader when I spotted her.

Xavier himself, dressed down for once in a maroon pullover and grey slacks, sat near Ororo, who jotted things on an electronic pad with a stylus. Logan's name was called first, and he sighed a little as he went over to run his time trial. I gave him a thumb's up before the whistle blew, and he was off, running through the obstacles as well as he could. The leaders compared notes with him when he finished to polite applause, and he was smiling when he rejoined me.

"Topped last week's time," he bragged quietly, though his emotions were obvious from his broad grin.

"So, what's the deal?" I quizzed him when he'd caught his breath. "You just run through the obstacles as fast as possible, right?"

"If running's what you do," he answered. "I don't have too many extra skills in this area, myself. But if you have other talents, feel free to use them."

Just then, a very agile mutant whizzed over the ramps and ladders, bounding into a handstand on the top of the poles from the hanging rings, then somersaulting off, spinning several times and landing perfectly on her toes.

"Wow!" I exclaimed, bursting into frenzied applause to find few joining me and none matching my enthusiasm. Cautiously, I whispered to Logan, "What was wrong with that?"

"She did eight revolutions last week. That was only five and a half."

"Oh..." Thus chastened, I limited my applause, listening carefully to the tenor of the rest of the group before I added my own. As I watched the mutants run the course, and to clear my head before I was called to take a turn, I recalled something Logan had said. "So, in what area do your extra skills lie, anyway?"

"Fruit salad," he replied with a totally straight face, then made a "snikt" sound with his tongue and waved his knuckles at me very subtly, his eye twinkling, making me snort at having been taken in by his joke.

The Professor himself called my name when it was my turn, adding to my nerves at trying to make a respectable showing. Ororo's whistle tweeted, and I took off at a run. Up the ladder I went, forgoing the rings in favor of scrabbling along the top of the metal poles from which they dangled, then leapt to the floor and sprang to the tires for a standard jog through them. I easily crawled up a wooden fence without the help of the rope supplied for that purpose, and sprinted down the angled line strung taut on the other side. Next, I found a trough of water before me, a rope swinging from above the intended path for surmounting it. Instead, I aimed high into the rafters and shot off some web, flinging myself into the air over the water hazard as well as the small maze following it, swinging from wrist to wrist and coming to a perfect landing at the end. My heart wasn't even pounding as I turned to acknowledge the applause around me.

Logan clapped me on the back proudly when I returned to his side, though the attention of most of the group soon turned to Kurt as he skittered along the walls of the maze. "Good show, there, kid!" he congratulated me, while out of the corner of my eye, I noted that Scott was regarding me with what seemed like new respect.

Later Kurt, having observed my obstacle course run, challenged me to a race--to the ceiling of the gym. Goaded on by the observers, we agreed on a path, and to keep in contact with the building surfaces at all times after he showed me his disappearing-in-a-puff-of-grey-dust trick, so we wouldn't cheat. After an amused toot on Ororo's whistle, we bolted up opposite walls of the room, scurrying over pillars and beams, depending upon our orientation in space. When we met at the top of the room, we exchanged a high-five, then scrambled back down and hit the floor almost simultaneously to riotous applause and a rhythmic chant of our names from the kids, who now filled the top row of the bleachers.

An hour of physical training remained, so I glanced around to see what was next. Suddenly Scott was there, smiling enigmatically at me.

"Mr. Summers," I said formally, "what have you got in mind?"

"You've got some serious accuracy there, Mr. Parker," he began, his leg crossed over his knee in mid-air and obviously rubbing at the red mark I'd made on his calf. "Can I interest you in a little target practice?"

Immediately, I could see Logan through the crowd, shaking his head "no" violently. As he pushed through the bodies surrounding Kurt to get to me, I answered, "Maybe... maybe..."

"Great," Scott replied. "Meet me over there by the black door," he suggested, gesturing across the room before heading off in that direction.

"What did you agree to do?" Logan asked frantically when he got within earshot.

"Target practice. Should be harmless," I opined as I dusted off the whiskers on my palms. The trouble with walking on ceilings is that nobody ever cleans them.

He grabbed me roughly by the arm. "You don't know his strength, Pete. Don't do it."

"Why? What harm could it do?"

Putting his mouth close to my ear, he went on in a whisper. "For God's sake, don't ever look at his eyes while he's shooting. And if he ever takes off his glasses, get your ass outta there yesterday. At least the gallery doesn't have too many breakables in it..."

I clutched his shoulders reassuringly and whispered back to him, "I can take care of myself. I'll be careful."

"You'd better," he chided even more softly. "I wanna fuck you tonight, so it would be nice if you were still around then, okay?" he added, his eyes flashing with equal parts passion and terror.

Reaching up to stroke his woolly cheek with my thumb, I murmured, "Don't worry. I won't let anything spoil our evening. I'll see you at dinner."

He turned his head surreptitiously and pressed a kiss to my palm before letting me go. "I'll save you a seat," he promised, though his expression promised much more.

Leaving the boisterous group behind, I moved to the black door on the far wall where Scott waited for me. The set of his lips implied that he'd seen my parting from Logan, even if he hadn't heard the words we had exchanged. However, all he said when I reached his side was, "Ready?" I nodded my assent and followed him into the long, narrow room.

The gallery was divided into three lanes, each with a keypad on a counter at the near end. Scott selected a lane and gestured for me to take the one beside him. Reaching around the partition between sections of counter, he pushed a few buttons on my keypad, changing the LED readout to "controlled by instructor". Wordlessly, he reached for his own display and keyed in some kind of code.

At once, gentle whirring came to my ears from the far end of the room, and a window opened at the ends of both of our lanes to reveal triangular stacks of six paper cubes each. "Knock those down one at a time," Scott ordered simply.

After a moment of strategizing, I shot a web at the top cube, which of course stuck to its surface. Yanking it out of position without disturbing the others, then releasing it to the floor, I went to work on the rest of the pile, first with my left hand, then with my right, gently lifting each one with a strand of web and dropping it off the edge.

When all six of my boxes had been pushed from the platform, I turned to watch him perform the same skill. Scott lifted his hand to a switch on his wraparound glasses and pushed it slightly. Remembering Logan's warnings, I kept my eyes on the target so I wouldn't glance at his eyes. Amazingly, a red laser beam shot down the length of the room and gently tapped each of the boxes off of the stack one by one.

"Impressive," I murmured, glancing at him quickly to catch the small smile playing on his lips, then looking away again.

"Watch this," he gloated in response, targeting the box I'd dropped in front of my platform and pressing his switch a little harder. His narrow beam caught the cube broadside and shoved it back against the pedestal, slowly crushing it absolutely flat, then letting it fall to the floor like a small envelope.

For the first time since we had finished our calisthenics, my heart sped up in my chest, now from just a hint of fear rather than exertion. However, I refused to let him see my apprehension at his power. "Not bad," I nodded. "What else have you got for me?"

Another code keyed into the pad, and the whirring window opened, displaying an array of cylinders made of glass, or likely some unbreakable clear material. "There," purred Scott. "Take them out as quickly as you can."

A quick assessment of my target showed me that the entire structure was balanced on one central unit, so with a flick of my wrist, I yanked it out from the middle of the stack, causing the rest to tumble noisily off the platform onto the concrete floor below.

"Good response time," Scott muttered. Without further discussion, he adjusted the fingers at his temple and aimed his beam at one of the toppled tubes. With a slowly-rising screech, the side of the cylinder caved in until it touched the opposite side and bent the whole object at nearly a right angle. I tried not to imagine what effect his blast could have on my windpipe.

When he was done with his current display of physical prowess, I glanced away, then back at the red glow, which now traced a path back up my lane and headed directly for me. Motionless and trying very hard not to panic, I watched the light track the floor toward me until it stopped not three feet away from the front of my counter, where I could still see it. Terrified to take my eyes off of the end of the light beam, I assume that Scott adjusted his focus, as the brightness intensified and there was a miniature explosion before me, leaving a tiny hole in the concrete floor. "Bug," he said calmly, as if explaining what he'd shot, but I had sensed no insect in the room with us. As if everything were normal, he went on. "Now--"

"Hold it," I cut him off. The earlier tension between us was back, and in addition to considering him to be a jerk, I was starting to think of him as a genuine menace, particularly with Logan's cautions. Swallowing to compose myself, I continued, "What did I do to you?"

"I beg your pardon?" he asked, taking his hand off the switch of his glasses, which put my mind a little more at ease, at least. He stepped back from the counter to face me directly rather than use the partition as a shield, so I moved to address him the same way.

"Are you threatened by my friendship with Logan?" I asked at last. "I've tried to be nice, only to have you challenge me unnecessarily and play dangerous games with me. He seems to think you're only good friends, whatever else you may do behind 'closed' doors." At that, his lips pursed with annoyance as he realized what I must have witnessed the night before. "He assures me that your relationship has no bearing on ours, but it seems like you feel differently. This morning, I offered to back off when I broached the topic to him, but he said there was no need. Let me make the same offer to you: Does my being here cause problems for the two of you? Are you trying to make me leave? Because I will if that's what you really want..."

He didn't look like the kind of man who would blush, but he bore an extremely cowed expression when I looked at him. Licking his lips nervously, he haltingly replied, "I'm sorry, Peter. I may have started pushing you to see if you were cut out to join our squad, but you're right: it did get personal before I was done. There are no promises between Logan and me--sometimes he's just a convenient outlet--"

"Like I'm a convenient outlet for your passive aggression? Maybe you'd better reconsider that lack of promises: it sounds like you need either to make some or to admit to the ones you already have."

We stood staring at each other for several seconds while Scott chewed on his lip, and I stared into the red glass, hoping I was aiming somewhere near his eyes. Finally his gaze dropped along with his shoulders. "She's gone," he breathed.

"Jean, right?" I confirmed, adding, "I know," when he looked up, abashed.

"Yeah," he answered with a noise more like a swallow than speech.

"Logan misses her, too. In fact, he admitted that he was fond of her the day I met him. That's why the two of you don't kill each other, isn't it?"

A mirthless chuckle escaped him. "Man, you are good..."

Not quite wanting to touch him yet, I stepped closer to suggest my desire to be supportive. "Grief does weird things to people. In your case, it made you seek out Logan for comfort, because he understands. That's good. I can tell you need it, and he's willing to give it. I don't intend to come between you on that level--can you appreciate that?" He nodded but made no sound. "He and I are friends, maybe more, but it's not serious. I've got other things in my life, and so does he. Maybe you can still be one of them." He was watching the floor intently, but I could tell he was listening to every word I said. "Look--let us have tonight: we've made plans for this weekend. But I'll be leaving tomorrow. If you want to make something permanent with Logan, I won't stand in your way. After I'm gone, he's all yours..."

The smile he gave me was so bitter I could almost taste it. "Thank you, Pete," he said at last. "I'll think about what you've said, and I'll back off. I never meant to harm you, but I'm sorry I lost control of myself. Go--have fun with Logan. He deserves it." With another conciliatory handshake, he left the room, and I heaved a sigh of relief before doing likewise.

There was no one in the gym when I emerged from the shooting gallery, or so I thought until I spotted Logan sitting alone in a folding chair not far from the door, his elbows propped on splayed knees and his head down. Soundlessly, I came up to where he sat. "You okay?" I asked, intended to startle him out of his torpor.

His head snapped up, a whole spectrum of emotions playing across his face. "Fine. You?"

"Couldn't be better. Actually, you had said something about dinner? Specifically, that you were going to save me a seat," I teased.

With a self-conscious grin, he admitted, "To be honest, I was waiting for you. Did Scott behave himself?"

"Yeah," I chuckled, patting him on the back as he stood to lead me to the dining hall. "We had a good session--worked on a few things. I think he liked what I had to offer."

This stopped him in his tracks as he shot me a suspicious sidelong glance. "Excuse me?" he growled, his eyebrows threatening to merge into one on his forehead.

"To the squad, dumbass--to the squad!" I amended with a hearty laugh at his misperceptions.

He had to laugh at himself, as well, shaking his head amusedly as we left the gym for the day.

Dinner was uneventful, just the two of us exhausted adults in street clothes again, sitting across the end of a long table watching the boisterous kids making a tableau that reminded me of my high school days. We almost didn't speak, just making eye contact now and then in the midst of the din, connecting silently while all heck broke loose around us.

When we'd finished our repast, we slipped out of the hall and retired to my room, where it was much quieter. Logan propped himself up against the headboard of the bed as I washed the day's grime out of my suit and hung it up over the shower curtain rod to dry. "So," he asked, "how do you like it here?"

Drying my hands, I emerged from the bathroom and plopped down on the end of the bed so I could answer him to his face. "You've got a helluva facility at your disposal here. I must say that I envy you a bit, having all of these resources, and so many people who understand a little of what your life is like."

He smiled brightly, his eyes shining. "You could have this, too, Pete. All you have to do is say the word."

I didn't reply for a few moments, thinking of the best way I could say what needed to be said.

In the meantime, he interrupted my thoughts to goad me into speech. "So? What's the word?"

It wasn't easy, but I made myself look him in the eye to say, "No."

"Huh?"

"The word is no. I'm sorry, Logan..."

"Why not?" He didn't look disappointed, exactly, but it was as if I'd let a little of the air out of him.

"This isn't for me. What I do and what you do are two entirely different things. I work best alone, skating above the busy streets of the big city, dealing with the unwholesome element on an individual basis. You guys work best as a team to defeat much larger foes. I am really impressed by your dedication to the squad here--how everything promotes brotherhood and devotion to the cause. That's not what I'm about..."

He sat and thought about this awhile, then asked quietly, "This doesn't have anything to do with Scott, does it?"

After the day I'd had, his name stung a little, but I hoped it didn't show on my face. "No. I think I'd enjoy having the opportunity to work with him day to day, to benefit from his devotion and drive, but I really don't operate well in groups. Besides, I'll bet it would get a little weird between the three of us..."

I couldn't think of another way to come out and ask Logan how he felt about Scott, so I let him stew over that for a moment. "Yeah," he said at last. "He can be a little intimidating, but I've become friends with him. I'm sure he'd accept you if you joined up."

Looking him square in his deep brown eyes, I dug a little deeper. "Would I have to share you in bed?"

With a frustrated frown, he shrugged slightly. "I don't know what would happen. You... mean a lot to me, Pete. I had been pretty closed off when I met you, and you encouraged me to open up like I hadn't done for awhile. But you're right: it wouldn't be fair to you to bring you up here to be with me, then have you be stuck here if something further did develop between Scott and me. Inviting you here for the weekend was a gamble--I had no way of knowing if you'd want to relocate and become part of this group. But when you asked to see me, all I knew was that I needed to try. I'm really glad you came."

Sliding across my bedspread, I moved close to Logan and crawled against him, letting him wrap his arms around me. "Me, too," I whispered, kissing him shyly and letting him respond in his own time. When we broke apart, I went on, "I care about you, Logan. This weekend was for me to spend more time with you, and I'm glad that it has been just that. It would have been great if I'd felt from the moment I walked in the front door that this was where I belonged, but I didn't. Not now, anyway. Maybe someday. Who knows?"


He kissed me once again, slowly and carefully, then spoke some more. "I'm not Jean--I can't read people. I don't know the future. I might have one with you, but could you handle it if it were only long-distance? Whatever is going on with Scott might intensify, or it might burn out as quickly as it began. But I'd hope that you'd always feel that you could come here and visit--I don't want to lose you as a friend, or anything else."

"You could come to New York sometime, too. I'd love to have you there--to show you the big city. I could even..." Completely ridiculous images came to my mind, which I tamped down as soon as they sprang up.

"Even what?"

I could not avoid his probing, amused stare. "I was going to say I'd like to introduce you to Mary Jane--"

"The girl you mentioned before?"

"Yeah--but that would be awkward. She doesn't know about me..."

"That you're bisexual?" he said with a warm snicker just under the surface.

"Yeah, that," I chuckled in reply. Holding him at arm's length for a moment, I regarded his rugged handsomeness, his thinly-veiled undercurrent of danger coupled with his basic goodness. "Thank you, Logan. I appreciate having found somebody who gets all of this without my having to explain. It makes me feel better having you somewhere in my life."

At that, he beamed. "You're welcome," he murmured. "It's my pleasure."

An idea occurred to me, so I decided to broach the subject. "Got a question for you..."

"Yeah?" he answered, still smiling pleasantly.

"Do you photograph?"

"Huh?"

"Would you mind if I took your picture? I wouldn't share it with anyone--I just want a photo of you so I remember this weekend."

"Are you sure? What if I'm lousy in the sack? Do you really want something to remind you of that?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with good humor.

"I'll take my chances," I grinned. "Besides, if you really stink, I'll have the negatives--I can always burn them and tear up the prints."

"Deal," he agreed, looking satisfied with himself. "Where do you want me?"

I looked around the room, spotting the windowseat where the full moon shone in brightly. "Over there," I pointed. "And take off your shirt."

"Ah... skin pics. I can handle that," he tossed off blithely as he shed his shirt, while I selected a lens and fitted it to my camera.

Without further encouragement, he sat on the bench with one foot on its seat, propping his elbow on his knee. "Glamour shot?" he teased.

"Sure--why not?" I shrugged, getting off a few snaps quickly. "Now stand up and lean your hand against the windowsill, and the other against the crank. I like your back..." He did as I asked without question, posing and moving according to my instructions. The images I was taking captured his physicality and persona, but something was missing. "Talk to me, Logan."

"What should I say?"

"What do you want to do to me later?" I figured there was no harm in combining my two main interests here.

He turned and fixed me with a wry gaze, his eyes barely visible under his brows, the corner of his mouth quirking up slightly. "I want to get you naked and fuck you--you're not a virgin, are you?"

"Not... no," I lied, still snapping away.

Something sparked in his eyes, like he'd heard what I'd dare not say, but he continued unabated in a sultry voice. "I'd extend my blades--you'll excuse me if I don't do that right now, I imagine..." I shook my head in the affirmative, and he went on. "I'd press the metal into your throat, into your belly, into your balls, not breaking the skin--just teasing you with the edges. Would that frighten you a little, Peter?"

"Mm-hmmmm," I hummed, my voice cracking against my will.

Licking his lips unselfconsciously, he looked into my lens and asked, "Does it make you hard, too?"

"Yeah," I breathed, unable to do more than press the shutter release button. If he had touched me right then, I may very well have come in my pants.

Instead, something else startled me out of my aroused fugue state: a buzzer sounded on a loudspeaker in the hall.

"Fuck!" Logan exclaimed, slamming his fists down on the cushioned bench beneath him. "Damned bedcheck!"

My heart thrummed nervously in my chest, and I willed my hands not to shake as I put down the camera. "Do you have to go?" I whimpered, sounding far too young and far too turned on all at once.

"Yeah," he muttered, throwing his shirt back on. Before he turned for the door, he scooped my head into his hand and kissed me hard, thrusting his tongue into my mouth. "Come to my room after they check on you. I'll latch the door, so you'd better knock. And don't make yourself come--that's my job tonight..."

I caught his wicked grin before he slipped out, whereupon I sat down abruptly on my bed, my eyes tightly shut as if to freeze everything in place for half an hour, so I wouldn't lose my erection or my nerve to let him take his pleasure inside my body. Sure, I had fooled around a lot with Harry in the old days, and necked a little with Mary Jane once in awhile, but I had never had the opportunity to be taken up the ass. Truth be told, the mere thought of that scared me almost more than the idea of being cut by Logan's blades, but my desire for him outweighed any fear of the unknown.

Some time later, the light rap of a woman's knuckles on my wooden door stirred me out of my Wolverine-induced reverie, so I invited Ororo in. "So, Peter," she began after the basic pleasantries, "will you be applying for membership now that you've had a more thorough introduction to our place of learning?"

"No. You can save your sigh of relief until you get back out in the hall, if you would be so kind."

"Don't be ridiculous. We can always use individuals with spirit and fire around here. We're always going to get personality clashes--it's one of the constants at Xavier. I hope you're not leaving us because of Scott!"

I smiled at her, not getting up from the bed. "Not at all. I'm not really a team player--more of a lone wolf in the city, I guess..."

Returning my smile, she replied, "Then I see why you get on so well with Logan. It's nice to see him have a soulmate. A lot of our students lose contact with friends and family from back home when they choose to come here, so they form alliances within the school. He's been a little slow to form lasting bonds with anyone here, so I'm glad he has a friend like you on the outside." Digging at a fingernail, I tried neither to blush nor let on what kind of relationship we had. "I understand your reasons for wanting to work on your own, but our door is open to you should you change your mind later. I know that Logan would appreciate it if you did," she assured me, patting me gently on the shoulder.

"Thank you, Ororo. I learned a lot today."

"I'm glad. I'm sure you can use some rest--we'll leave you two alone in a few minutes." With that, she was gone, and I was stunned to realize that she had intuited our intentions even though we'd kept hands off in public all day. Her knock and voice moved gradually away from my door, and I tried not to press my ear up against it to listen for her departure from our hall.

Eventually, I couldn't stand it anymore, so yanked the door open and let my eyes sweep the hallway, which was blessedly empty. Stepping outside and shutting my door carefully, I started counting the namecards again, stopping in front of the one with the three blade-holes in it. Closing my eyes to shut out the memory of the previous night's tableau, I knocked solidly on his door and waited.

In a few seconds, I could hear the latch being released, and the door swung open to reveal Logan's smiling face. "Hi," he greeted me, reaching out to grab the front of my shirt and drag me inside. Pushing my back up against the closed door, he fell against me and devoured my mouth in kisses. He might not have been using his blades on my arms, but his fingertips clung hard enough to pin me nearly as effectively as would they.

Taking his tongue out of my mouth at last, he slid down my body and fell to his knees before me, letting free his grip on my arms to reaffix it on my hips. My erection had of course faded since he'd left my room, but the desperate gleam in his eye glinting in the low light brought it back with a vengeance. I wasn't sure where to put my hands, since the pockets of my jeans were not an option. Settling for splaying my fingers out to my sides, I braced myself for whatever Logan decided to do next.

Not having worn a belt ended up being a good idea, for just then, he leaned in to my crotch and gave it a good, hard sniff, then reached up to the button at my waist and bit it. My spine shivered at the visual, probably because my knees were shaking by this point. I watched with hooded eyes as he pressed his tongue hard against the button and pivoted his head to capture the corner of the fabric behind his top teeth and tugged. A little pre-ejaculate spurted from my hard cock as the button popped free of its opening, and I could see his tongue waggling through the buttonhole before he let go of my waistband.

With a small growl deep in his throat, he lunged for my zipper pull and grasped it firmly between his incisors, poking a sharp tooth through the hole in the metal and bending his head down slowly, unzipping my pants millimeter by millimeter. When my jeans lay open completely, he gave me a triumphant grin and snarled, "Move 'em."

The tilt of his head indicated that he was talking about my underwear, so, since I was still held fast to the door, I reached in and dragged the elastic down to reveal my genitals, which trembled in arousal under his hot breath. The corners of his mouth quirked up hungrily, and he leaned in close again to run the very tip of his tongue from the root of my organ to the edge of the glans, pressing against my circumcision scar just firmly enough to make me see stars. By then my eyes had slammed shut, so I couldn't watch him, but instead felt his lips slide around the tip of me and push down to where my hand still held my briefs out of the way, as his tongue slid along the underside and pressed me against the roof of his mouth.

The strangled sound I made was less like a moan and more like a sob as he sucked my cock steadily down his throat. As he swallowed to let me all the way in, his squeezing spasms did the trick, and without even being able to thrust, I came hot and wet into his mouth. His hands still propped me up, which was good, because without his assistance, I surely would have crumpled onto the floor.

Logan licked me clean as he pulled off, his grin back on his face. "Needed that, huh?" he chuckled as soon as his mouth was clear.

I wanted to beg him to fuck me, but my voice could produce nothing but a weak whimper. Luckily, he seemed to understand me anyway, for he balanced one boot under himself and pushed off the floor, using my hips for leverage and rising once again to my level. At last, his hands rose to my head, probably leaving bruises behind on my hipbones, and he kissed me, painting my own flavor on my tongue in broad strokes.

His fingers fiddled with something next to my ear, which I realized was the latch of the door, whereupon he skimmed his fingers down my arm again and took my hand in his. "Can you walk?" he asked.

After a moment of post-orgasmic confusion, I finally nodded my answer, and he hauled me bodily behind him over to the bed. When I stood beside the piece of sturdy furniture, he gave me a small shove between my shoulderblades, and I obligingly sprawled face-first into his pillow. With a passing concern about his leaving my trousers intact, I could feel him grab my jeans and underwear together and yank them down to my shoes. Before I could offer to untie my sneakers, they were wrenched carefully from my feet one at a time, one sock staying put and the other going along for the ride. Once I was naked from the waist down, Logan took advantage of my still-limp state to drag my shirt up past my shoulders and pop the collar over my head, then moved out of sight.

Despite the sensitivity of my penis, I found myself humping the mattress lazily as I waited for his hands to return to my body. To my surprise, the first thing he touched when he came back was the roundness of my butt, squeezing a cheek in each hand, then coaxing them apart with his thumbs. I groaned in protest when my hole was teased with a steady puff of air, but swallowed all sound when something that was too wet and soft to be a finger touched me there. His strong hands were pressing me down firmly or I might have crawled right over the headboard to get away from his fervent attack--that is, I might have until I decided that I liked it.

Wriggling away like a very determined worm, Logan's tongue pushed inside my puckered opening, making me writhe beneath his hands and cry out in spite of myself. Even as he poked at me, he chuckled at my reactions and hummed reassuringly, breaking down all of my emotional barriers as surely as he breached my physical one. I may not have been ready to come again, but I was definitely already hard, and my squirms against his sheets gave me small relief as I wanted more inside me than he was currently putting there.

I thought I was babbling nonsense, but I realized that I could hear myself whining "Please please please please" over and over.

With a sense of abject loss, my ass suddenly was empty of the invading muscle, and Logan asked me clearly, "Please what?"

"Please fuck me," I begged breathily, afraid to open my eyes and clutching hard at the pillow under my head. "Please fuck me now."

"What will you do if I don't?" he teased, his tone too light to be a real threat.

"I'll die," I promised, based on the pounding of my heart and my inability to catch my breath.

"Can't have that," he agreed evenly, then stood up to rummage through a drawer in some piece of furniture behind him. I couldn't identify the small noises made by the things he got out, but they combined in my head with the roaring in my ears to drown out any thoughts that might have remained there.

Through this miasma, one sound hit my ears that made my stomach drop and my heart rate skyrocket: a ringing metallic "snikt". Mental images of being gored or even emasculated by one of Logan's blades crowded my imagination, and my mouth went dry in a weird combination of terror and sexual excitement. Though I was in genuine fear for my life, I could not move, frozen in place waiting to see what he would do next.

"Damned condom wrapper," he muttered under his breath, whereupon I nearly fainted in relief. To emphasize the lack of danger, he put a warm, meaty hand on my shoulder and squeezed, whispering, "I'm ready; are you?"

"Oh, god, yes," I exhaled, startled to hear the laugh in my voice. In fact, the tension flowed out of me as I started chuckling, and I couldn't stop as he pushed something warm and slippery inside my ass.

"This isn't funny," he snarled jokingly, as what must have been lubed fingers moved inside me, relaxing me further and opening up my tight sphincter. "I don't fuck virgins all the time."

"Guess this is my lucky day," I snickered, only to have my voice cut short by the force of something much different from and larger than a finger pressed very slowly against, then inside the ring of muscle where all of my attention was suddenly focused.

My ass hurt more than a little to be violated by his hard cock, but I was willing to ignore it because of the sense of connection the feeling gave me. I couldn't justify using such earthshattering words with regard to him, but I suddenly understood why this intimate linkage was sometimes called "making love". In and out he went, holding my hips firmly in his strong hands, and it got a little easier for me as he progressed.

The fingers of his right hand slid around to my belly, then found my dick and wrapped around it snugly. "You okay?" he murmured over my shoulder.

"Yeah," I sighed back at him, letting the pain that was left fall aside in favor of the hot pulsing in my gut.

"You gonna come for me?" he asked, breathing hot into my ear.

"Not yet. I..."

My sentence was cut off by his grabbing me around the collarbone and yanking me to my knees. This completely changed his angle of attack, whereupon his organ started rubbing against something that was just wrong and startling and perfect inside me. The sensations in my body were almost impossible to describe--not quite nausea, not quite needing to empty my bowels, neither suffocation nor wanting to break down and cry. It felt wonderful.

"Oh, God," I groaned, making him pull harder on my erection, which felt like it might explode from pleasure. Still, however, I didn't come.

"Breathe, Pete. Breathe," he exhorted me, so I inhaled as deeply as I could.

Just then, Logan thrust hard against that place, and I opened my eyes wide just in time to see my cock spurt out another stream of ejaculate. Moaning like I had a stomachache, I rode out my orgasm and felt the body behind me come to a solid stop, then shudder deep in my backside and throb in rhythm several times.

"Jesus Christ!" he exclaimed, clutching my back tight to his chest and making us shake together. When we were both finished, he let us both flop down carefully onto the bed without letting go. All either of us could do for a few minutes was pant hard, our hearts pounding in tandem.

When I could finally speak again, I called Logan's name to make sure he hadn't passed out. Weakly, he grasped my arm and petted it up and down to indicate that he was conscious. "Was that okay?" I asked stupidly.

"'Okay' would be the understatement of the year," he grumbled throatily. "Good for you?"

"Very. Thank you."

"My pleasure," he chuckled softly. "Whaddya wanna do now?"

"Ten laps around the track are probably out of the question, right?"

"Nope, nope," he answered, never lifting his head from where it had landed on the pillow. "Gimme about five years and I'll meet you there."

Since I was marginally more coherent, I decided to take care of a few things before calling it a night. "Hold onto the condom, okay?" I suggested, easing myself off of his softening cock once I felt his hand do as I'd asked. Disregarding the spasms in my ass once it was empty, I got up and went after some tissue in the bathroom to gather up the used rubber. Kissing Logan softly, I slipped the thing off of him, then wrapped it loosely and carried it to the toilet. A few minutes and some soap and water later, I came back out and cleaned up my partner, who watched me sleepily.

"Are you about done?" he muttered.

After I tossed my damp washcloth back onto the sink, I crawled into bed next to him and tucked the covers up around us, snuggling into his arms. "Done," I stated with a nod of my head. "Good night, Logan."

At last, he raised his head and kissed me. "Good night. Sweet dreams," he added, making me smile happily as I fell sound asleep.

The next morning looked a lot like the day before had, with sun sneaking through the blinds, and Logan's hands on me. This time, however, I was in his room, and we were both naked. I hurt a lot more than the day before, as well, both from the heavy workout of the previous day and the other kind of workout from the previous night.

I turned on the pillow and watched Logan sleep for a few moments, wondering at the term "soulmate" Ororo had used to describe the kind of relationship she thought he and I had. He himself had said that I allowed him to open up more than he was used to doing, and that pleased me beyond measure. Unfortunately, I knew that he and I weren't meant to be together as more than friends, or maybe occasional bed partners. Our chance meeting had been pure accident, but forcing a relationship out of it would have been a huge mistake. I had things to do and people who counted on me back in the big city, just as he had obligations to the people here at Xavier. I guess I had in fact learned a lot at the school...

My luggage was back in my room, so I decided to shower there so I could put on clean clothes. I crept out of Logan's grip, but he didn't make a sound as I got out of his bed. Leaving a quick "in my room" note on his nightstand, I left my companion sleeping and went to pack my stuff and prepare for the trip home.

When I emerged from the shower, toweling my hair, I found Logan wide awake, wearing jeans, and perched on my obviously still-made bed. "Any chance last night made you change your mind about coming here to stay?" he said the second he saw me. Before I could come up with an honest but careful answer, he smiled wanly. "It's okay if it didn't. I didn't expect it to have that kind of effect, but you never know..."

Dropping the towel to lie around my neck, I reached for his hand, which he offered easily. "I'd like to say yes, but I can't. I'm sorry."

"Me, too."

With that, I tugged him to his feet and we fell into a comfortable hug. Pulling back to kiss him, I then continued, "You'll let me know how things work out with Scott, won't you?"

"Of course. Good luck with Mary Jane, and the newspaper. Someday I'll come surprise you in the city, and we can go scare the bad guys for a couple of days. Whaddya say?"

"I'll look forward to it." I gave him what was likely to be our goodbye kiss, so I made it count, which he returned emphatically. Pulling apart reluctantly, I licked my lips, my eyes hanging onto his longingly. Something in my chest made me need to say something, without using the words that would ruin everything. Eventually, I murmured, "I will miss you," hoping that he would understand.

A sad but warm smile washed over his whole face. "Good," he replied, "that makes two of us." One last embrace, and he strode to the door. "See you at breakfast?" he asked over his shoulder.

"I've got a long drive. I'll pick up something on the road."

"Drive safely," he chided, and then he was gone.

Dressing quickly and packing my bag gave me something to do other than think. When I was ready, I let myself out of my room and shut the door behind me. I gave one last look to the namecard I'd written, and noticed that it now bore a single sliced hole. It reminded me that there was now a blade-shaped gap somewhere in my psyche that would never be filled, and that would always make me think of him. I slipped the card out of its holder and tucked it into my pocket before going to say my other goodbyes.

Heading back down towards the front of the house, I knocked on Professor Xavier's door. Sure enough, he was up already and welcomed me inside. As always, since he'd intuited what I wanted to say, his conversation began mid-stream. "It's a shame to see you go, Peter. You will be keeping in touch with Logan, I'm sure, so if you decide you need to come back, you can find us," he said, shaking my hand firmly.

"Thank you, sir. It has been a very fulfilling weekend."

"Good luck, Peter," he replied with a warm smile.

Kurt was waiting at the outer door once again when I got there. "Safe trip, Mr. Parker. Merry Christmas," he said as he let me out into the real world again.

In the yard, Marie and Bobby were playing in the snow. Even though none fell from the sky, a small eddy of glittering flakes floated around her head as she spun in place, giggling brightly. I left them to their recreation and put my bag back in my car trunk.

"Peter! You're leaving?" Marie called across the white lawn, trudging in my direction with Bobby trailing along behind her.

"Yep--gotta go back to the city. It was nice meeting you."

"You promise you'll send me a postcard of the Empire State Building, won't you?" she wailed adorably.

"Promise." I gave her a quick hug, then turned to her boyfriend, who had joined us. "Take care of her," I admonished him, shaking him by the frosty hand and biting my tongue before I chided him for coming outside without his mittens.

"I will," he swore, ignoring the cute roll of her eyes.

"Should I tell Logan you said goodbye?" she asked, scanning the upstairs windows.

My eyes followed hers, stopping on a window where two figures peered back out at us. One of them wasn't wearing a shirt, and the other, upon closer inspection, had on tinted glasses. "Took care of that already," I answered, not letting my heart break more than a minuscule crack, but feeling a little less lost to have her worry about me.

"Are you going to come see him sometime next year?"

"Hope so. Can I come see you, too?"

"Sure," she piped up immediately, but adding when Bobby punched her arm gently through her heavy coat, "if Bobby thinks it okay."

I could tell he wasn't nearly as jealous as Marie liked to pretend he was, but I played along for her benefit. "I'll check with him first."

"Yaaaaay!" she cheered delightedly, making me grin as I opened my door and started to get behind the wheel. "Bye, Pete! Have a good Christmas!"

"You, too. Bye!" I sang out as I closed the door and revved up the old, crappy engine. I backed out of my parking place, smiling back at her waving on the curb. One glance at the upstairs window, where Logan now watched alone, and I was ready to hit the road for home. The Xavier Institute may not have been the place for me, but at least I knew now that I would be welcomed if I ever needed to see him again.

THE END


Feedback is greatly appreciated!

Janet F. Caires-Lesgold jfc013@merle.it.northwestern.edu Speaker-to-Toys http://jfc.freeshell.org

"I brought marshmallows. Occasionally, I'm callous and strange." -- Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "The Zeppo"


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Janet F. Caires-Lesgold

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