Logan and any other mentioned X-types are Marvel's. No money. Don't sue.
Kai's mine. ::thinks for a moment:: Y'know, I'm really tired. What say we just consider the obligatory threat already given? And if you disobey and try to use my gal without permission, you're required to stick your head in a sewer drain. Preferably the one from Stephen King's "It."
Linked with "Boredom" and "The Past Be Not Forgotten." Yes, this trio is very Kai-centric. We're working on an issue. Will Kai get up the guts to learn about her past?
Here's a dedication to one of the sweetest women I've had the pleasure of meeting online: DuAnn Cowart. Not only is she the writer of the excellent "Just Lucky I Guess," the pioneer Domino and Cable story, but she's also a considerate reader who takes the time to make other writers feel appreciated. This one's for you, Duey. :)
Many thanks to Matt Nute and Redhawk, who suffered through the rough version of this, and Celendra and BJ, who were a willing test audience for the almost-but-not-quite-finished version.
Comments toKaylee1109@aol.com. Hit "Reply" and type something. Simple, see? :)
Kai & Logan: Yesterday and Tomorrow
The first tracings of dawn were etching themselves across the sky when I stood without a word to him and walked off. Given that we'd only recently concluded a couple of rounds of enthusiastic exercise -- and I was pretty sure he'd been kinda thinking of more along the same vein -- my abrupt departure wasn't greeted with much in the way of understanding.
"Whatcha doin'?" came the irritated query.
"It's almost dawn," I told him, eyes turned towards the sky that prepared for the awakening sun. My feet stopped a yard from the short cliff face that dropped sharply beneath us, covered in green and dirt and stone. I heard him sit up and look after me. He's not the most sensitive man in the world -- and coming from me, that says a good bit -- but he knows enough to recognize a mood when he sees it, so he didn't challenge my abrupt departure as was his wont.
He'd returned from his "private time" -- probably spent wandering rather aimlessly about Manhattan, working off the edge of energy that hadn't been spent in action in too long. And when he'd sauntered his casual way into the apartment with no more than a "hey" and a greeting kiss, I'd met him with a trace of anger and the tension that'd been wreaking havoc on me since a visit -- and an unwelcome delivery -- shortly after his departure. I'd never seek to cage him; not my place, and not my way. But damnit, I'd wanted him there for me earlier...some part of me even almost said the word "needed." It'd been my hope that the feelings would fade after I'd had some time to reflect on all I'd learned from the unsolicited material Darius had made it his place to send me. Too uncomfortable, those pieces of the past I couldn't remember. Too...invasive.
But they hadn't. The first night after learning what I had, I'd spent hours walking the streets. Chanced across Candy and JoJo making their rounds, and didn't even find the courtesy to do more than nod at them before I changed directions. And when I'd glanced skyward as I so often do, looking for something to calm my mind and soul, I'd found only...
Only something inside that whispered of the man who was my father -- the man I'd never know or remember -- and brought despised tears to my eyes.
Damn you, Darius, I thought again, listlessly this time. Why couldn't you leave well enough alone?
At Logan's first opportunity he'd gotten me to the mansion, then out in the amazingly temperate night to play and sleep beneath the stars. Guess that was his way of trying to cheer me up, even though he didn't understand what was wrong. Surprisingly enough, it had even helped a bit...until the restlessness came back.
The almost-memories. The pain. The need to hear laughter and shouts and warm parental voices in those places that were so...empty...in my mind.
Temperate or not, it was still the season for coolness, but for once I didn't feel like bitching about the cold. Even so I shivered slightly, and he rose and walked to stand behind me, sliding arms about my bare waist and pulling my body against his heat. I leaned back to him and lightly ran hands along his arms. Fingers traced corded muscle over and over again.
"Whatcha thinkin' about?"
My eyes were directed upward towards the last few stars visible in the growing light. The image from the photograph invited itself into my mind again. First words that jumped to my mouth were-- "You must've been a cute kid."
It surprised a snort from him. "You're kidding."
A slight shrug, skin sliding against his and reminding me distantly of the night's activities. "Dunno. You asked." He said nothing. Started rubbing his hands lightly up and down my waist, warming me. "I can see you as a kid, y'know? Some little hellion racing around like a wild thing. Grubby as hell and with your hair all a mess and having the time of your life."
"I don't remember bein' a kid."
"Yeah." My voice sounded hoarse and strained to me. "Sucks, dunnit?" My right hand raised over a shoulder to run through his hair and down his neck. He pressed in closer, the flavor of musk rekindled in his scent with the contact. Damn, but it doesn't take much to arouse him.
"What's this about kids?" he asked, surprising me that his thoughts were at least tangentially on something other than sex. "Thinkin' now ya might want some?"
"Wouldn't matter if I did."
"It'd matter. Don't hafta carry a baby t' make it yours."
A long pause. The sky lightened to violet-indigo.
"I don't want kids," I said finally. "Don't like them. They don't like me. What kinda mother would I make?"
He chuckled low in his chest. "What kinda father would I make?"
"A damn good one," I responded promptly. "Just look at the kids you've already taken a hand in raising."
"A few years playin' drill sergeant an' watching t' see they don't burn their tails don't mean a whole lot in the big picture. I don't have it in me to stick it through for the long haul. You know that."
My left hand's fingers linked with his over my waist. "You could if you wanted to."
"Doubt it." He caught the hand behind his neck...brought it around to lightly kiss the palm. "If this ain't about you wantin' kids, what is it?"
"Beautiful sunrise, isn't it?"
He nuzzled my ear. "If you don't wanna talk about it, just say so."
Another long pause. Breath quickened slightly when his lips found an earlobe, then his teeth, ever-so-lightly.
I pulled my head forward a bit. "Don't."
"Because I'm thinking, and that's damn hard to do when you're trying to get me turned on."
Another chuckle rumbled from his chest to mine. "'Trying' to?"
I turned in his arms with an exasperated sigh. Arrogant man. Even if it was true. "Sometimes I wish your enhanced senses would just take a hike for a while."
"No ya don't," he answered smugly, knowing he was right. Those senses -- that heightened awareness -- well, all in all they were things I had to respect on many levels. As a lover, as a partner, as an equal.
Even so, a ready response found its way to my mind...and stopped there as the flash of mischief faded back into earlier emotions.
Gonna have to go reserve my spot on the roof again, I told myself bitterly. But I was too caught up in the questions inside to even spend a moment sparring with my caustic mind.
"Would you wanna know?" I asked suddenly. "If you could find out, I mean. Would you wanna know what your childhood was like?"
He probably didn't wanna think much about childhood at the moment. Not when there was nothing between his bare skin and mine. He humored me, though, in that way that alternately irritated and flattered me. "I guess so. Might be nice to fill in some o' these holes."
"I mean it," I told him sternly, feeling a little wild. "Think about it. Would you?"
He shook his head impatiently. "Why're you askin' this?" Looked more closely at my eyes...the unease that I knew was showing there. "This ain't about me."
I shook my head just a little. "No."
"What's goin' on, Kai? What're you tryin' t' tell me?"
"I'm just trying to figure it out, Logan."
"Figure what out?"
"What to do."
He grimaced impatiently. "About...?"
I took a breath. "Kaitlin Francis Harper."
Another breath. "Me."
He stared silently, absorbing this. I knew that his thoughts gathered details swiftly and put them together. Harper. Francis Harper. Mama Francis.
"She said she didn't have any kids," he pointed out after a moment.
"She said 'I'm sorry.' What I didn't ask was what she was sorry for. I delved a little deeper, Logan -- actually, Darius did, and I may have to eviscerate him for that -- and she did have a daughter: Kaitlin. Kaitlin was abducted when she was a kid, and later a body turned up. They ID'd it as hers. It wasn't."
"How do you know?"
"Because a man who knew told me."
Uncharacteristically, I dropped my eyes and leaned my forehead against his shoulder. I still hadn't told him...told anyone about that. I'd wanted to -- badly -- but whenever I'd started to say something the words got all tangled up in my throat. There was a fine line between sharing and allowing privacy to be invaded. I wasn't sure how close to walk it. "His name was... No. That doesn't matter. I called him Nest." I felt myself shiver again despite his warmth. He rubbed his hands up and down my spine repeatedly. "He knew me before. Sorta. I mean, he was there when..."
I drew back and cleared my throat, forcing myself to look him dead in the eye. "He was one of the ones who played a part in my conditioning."
He processed these additional pieces quickly. "'Was'?"
"Yeah." Though not the way he thought...
A sudden suspicious look sprang into his eyes, making them narrow. "When?"
"Not so long ago," I told him warily.
Anger mingled with that suspicion. "When, Kai? When did ya take off by your lonesome to go put yourself in a situation where you hadda kill a man? You do that often? Goin' off alone an' not tellin' anyone what's up?"
Now my eyes narrowed. "You do it all the time. I have as much right."
"As much right to get yourself killed for bein' a cocky idiot?"
Just like that, I was out of his arms and backing away three swift, angry strides. "I can handle myself."
The words probably escaped before his brain caught up to censor them; the core of his worry and thus, his anger. I knew he'd thought it before, but he'd never said it like this... "Like ya did with Creed?"
Narrowed eyes widened. Tightened jaw dropped in shock. I stared at him, raw pain and fury mingling freely across my face at the sheer surprise of his words.
Give him this; when he strikes, he strikes for blood.
"Don't look at me like that," he muttered, holding my gaze. "It's ugly, but it's the truth."
With effort I kept my voice deceptively low and controlled. "You don't know what the truth is about that." Rat bastard sonuvabitch.
He almost snarled. "I know you took off alone 'cause ya thought you could handle it. I know he beat ya toe to toe, an' you fuckin' know I know what he did after that."
Still softly, heart beating too fast-- "Don't touch it, Logan. It's not your place."
"Then whose goddamn place is it?!"
"You say that after I found you...after I hadda watch you try to put yourself back together again?? Tensing up if I touched you wrong! And me knowin' it was a guy that I shoulda killed a hundred times over!"
I was shaking my head emphatically, too furious myself for his rising anger to faze me. Feet took the earth in three return strides until I was right at his chest, jamming a finger ungently against him. "Weapon X," I hissed. "I know -- I know some of what happened to you there. I'm the one who wakes you up at night when you're back there, remember? I'm the one who sees that look in your eyes, damnit! Does that give me the right to hammer at you...to make you deal with it? Does it??"
He glared coldly. "It's not the same, Kai."
Oh it's not? Then let's fucking find something that is. "Then since I'm 'involved' in the 'Creed situation,' does that mean I can make you talk about Silver Fox and how you feel about having watched him kill her?"
It hit just where my thoughtless attack was meant to-- low and hard and deep. A growl erupted from his throat; air-tearing, savage, full of pain. Breath caught in my throat as I heard my own words a second too late. I closed my eyes sharply.
"Tell me," I began in an unsteady voice. "Tell me that I didn't just say that aloud."
He didn't answer, eyes furious, breath catching on a rumble.
"Fuck," I breathed, opening eyes, generally feeling like shit. "Too far. Logan...goddamnit, I didn't mean to say that."
He only shook his head silently, vehemently.
He backed a step. Coarsely-- "Don't." It sounded like a warning.
I'm a bitch I'm a bitch I'm a bitch... And I was still an angry bitch. "You pushed," I said unsteadily. "And I--"
"You made your point." His voice was too low and rough. He was on edge...needing release...needing something I didn't know how to give him...something like the night we'd run together hunting boar in Canada, only maybe without me this time. Even through the haze of my lingering anger I remembered a day a while back when he'd been something like this in a Danger Room session. On that day he'd nearly killed Remy.
And yet, fool that I am, I still didn't have the sense to feel fear. Only guilt and shame and frustrated anger with nowhere to go. "I didn't mean to. Not like that."
"Done is done." He turned and stalked over to his scattered clothing, bending to grab sweats and drawing them on rapidly.
Since that was obvious, he didn't bother answering. I stared, stomach churning, feeling helpless and irritated and furious and confused and--
How the hell had this all started? What had sparked it off?
Harper. Kaitlin Harper. Me, and not me, and something that had me more torn up than I'd been in a long while.
I wanted his advice. A little time hadn't changed that. I wanted to tell him what I was feeling and see if he had any answers.
But damnit, I didn't know how.
"Wait," I said, a little desperately. I wouldn't, no matter how much I thought I needed this, add the word 'please.' There's a thing called pride that I wasn't willing to let go of even for this.
He didn't wait. Pants on, he started to shrug into his shirt even as he strode back towards the trees.
Frustration exploded. "Goddamnit Logan, I need your help!"
No I didn't just say that...
And he...froze? Shirt half-on, feet stilled in mid-step. My heart pounded loud enough, I was sure, for him to hear. Breath came short around my constricted throat.
He turned slowly, shirt sliding down into place. I felt curiously exposed: Standing there nude while he was clothed was one thing, but standing there after just admitting I was dealing with something I couldn't handle was another thing entirely.
His voice was still rough, but somewhat less so. "Whaddid you say?"
Again I went silent. Don't make me say it again. I can't say it again. If eyes could send messages, I thought mine must have been pretty damn desperate. A hand went half-consciously to the silver locket around my throat. His eyes snapped to the motion, and I dropped my palm away sharply.
He shook his head again; slightly this time, as if to clear his ears. "You need my help."
I wanted to back off and deny the vulnerability. Opened my mouth to do just that--
Totally wrong words poured out instead. "I can't handle this...I don't know how...and I've never had to deal with anything like this before. I just..." It sounded delusional, even to me. I struggled to regain my composure. The image of myself as a child beside my biological father and his damn telescope surfaced. I sighed heavily. "I'm sorry. I'm...on edge." He was watching me silently, not doing the best job of hiding his confusion. I swallowed. "You hit low, Logan. I hit lower. And damnit, I didn't mean to, but it's this goddamn temper... And I'm so fucking confused, Logan..."
His face was still, and I wondered if he was battling with that rage, and what I'd do if he was. I didn't worry for myself-- I'm just cocky enough to think I can hold my own if we ever seriously get into it.
You lost to Creed, my mind whispered traitorously, just as Logan'd reminded me so pointedly.
But one battle does not the war make.
"I was wrong," he said out of nowhere. Only that. About what he didn't clarify.
I forced a faint smile. "Now we've both said it. Does that make everything right?"
He shook his head. "When I went after you back when Cooper called here..." I stiffened, knowing where this was going and hating it, but not willing to stop him now. "I thought I'd find you like I found-- like I remember findin' Fox. Cold an' dead an' gone."
My face went carefully still. "I'm alive."
"Ya might not've been. I don't know how you came outta that in one piece, Kai. He's a murdering sadistic bastard who doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything but himself. He coulda killed you easy as left ya alive." A cold, bitter chuckle. "Easier."
I didn't want to admit that anyone'd had that power over me. "That doesn't matter. I'm not dead."
"Every time ya go off I wonder if you're gonna come back."
I frowned. "Because of Creed?"
"That, and..." He shook his head with a scowl. "...and all the other shit that could happen. How d'ya know one o' these runs that boss-guy...Darius...sends ya on isn't gonna go sour?"
I very nearly ruined the growing peace by laughing. 'Gonna go sour'? I was suddenly extremely glad that I'd never told him about Alaska and the virus and the damn snow fucking up my symbiont. No telling what he'd say to that. "It's part of the work. Just like being X-Men puts our lives in danger on a regular basis."
"You ain't even a part o' that group anymore."
"I owe Darius."
"Too much to tell." There was a word he would understand...did I dare use it? Yeah. It applied. "Giri, Logan."
He shook his head slowly as he walked towards me. My skin was covered in chill-bumps. The weather had been unseasonably warm -- enough so that Scott had actually asked Ororo if it was her doing, which she'd denied -- but it was still a cool night, and I'm a bit more sensitive to cold than most. He stopped just in front of me, hands going out to roughly chafe my arms for warmth. "D'ya even know what that means? Really know?"
"I think I do." Then I admitted with a wry twist to my mouth-- "It's not something I have a lot of experience with, though."
He looked into my eyes as if searching for something. I didn't know what it was, so I only gazed back and wrestled with all the emotions raging out of control inside. We were obviously damn good at hurting each other. Could we help each other, too?
"I think you should find out," he said abruptly. "This's gonna gnaw at ya 'til you do."
"What?" I caught up before he clarified. "You mean about Kaitlin."
I shook my head. "I don't know who she was, Logan. I don't remember her. She's not me." Is she?
It glinted in his eyes -- anger over the chance I had and would reject; a chance I imagined he'd give his right arm for. "You can find out. Your mother's alive, Kai."
I looked away and took a moment to gather thoughts while staring at the lightening sky.
Then-- "What would she think of me?" Said quietly, but it sounded loud in my ears. "Logan, the things I've done..."
"She's your mother," he countered simply.
"Would you do it?"
"What I'd do ain't the issue."
"She wouldn't believe me."
"She won't have the chance to decide if ya don't tell her."
"I don't have any real proof."
"You're reachin' for excuses."
There. There, I'd said it. Just opened my mouth and said it. A small step, yeah, but we must value these minuscule advances, damnit.
"Since when've you turned away from something 'cause o' fear?"
I looked back to meet his eyes. Was this a joke? He couldn't really be this slow on the uptake, could he? "Longer than you realize. I'm a fucking coward, Logan. A coward." You know this. Goddamnit, you know this. I told you about Sensei...
Absently, he caught a finger in the silver chain around my neck and traced it down to the locket. Such a corny little thing, really. A woman like me wearing something so...feminine...felt odd. But this was the way I told him those things he wanted me to say...as close as I'd been able to come to admitting and accepting that whatever we had between us was more than great sex and some laughs.
"What're you afraid of?" he asked. Something told me he wasn't just talking about my past.
I didn't look away. A few rays were sneaking over the horizon to brush his skin with copper, catching his eyes and making the dark irises glimmer almost with my own auburn color.
What was I afraid of?
The answer was simple. Yesterday and tomorrow. It was only today where I was comfortable.
But I couldn't tell him that. He wouldn't understand.
When I didn't speak, he answered it in his own way. "You're young, Kai."
My head shook. "I'm sixty-two," I told him in a hollow voice. I hadn't known that before. I wasn't too sure I approved of it.
If he was surprised, he didn't show it. "Your body's sixty-two. You are young."
Another head-shake; silent negation. "I was old when I was 'born.'"
"You don't got the life experience that goes with age. Don't look at me like that...I'm not sayin' you're green. But you've only ever told me about one person you let yourself care about, an' when he died-- don't look away-- when he died ya shut yourself off. Ya got burned and you didn't wanna chance the fire again. Tell me I'm wrong."
"Okay, you're wrong."
He snorted. "Am I?"
"... No..." I glared suddenly and forcibly pushed awareness of this damned vulnerability down, down, down. "Where do you get off playing the 'wise-old-sage' with me, huh? When I need your advice I'll--"
"Ask me for it?"
Damn the man. "I was feeling sappy. I get that way after sex."
"I do. I just never tell you." I stepped away, feeling a tug as his finger briefly snagged in the chain. "It's late...or maybe early...and it's cold, and I could use a bed."
Of course, he took it as an invitation. Predictable. "Well I could use a--"
He finished it eloquently with a leer, to which I responded by finally finding a grin as I strode past him to grab up clothing. It wasn't my best grin, but it was enough to help bury the lingering uneasiness beneath a protective layer of comfortable arrogance. Having bared this much of my fears had me feeling almost more edgy than I'd been when everything started. Bad enough to feel this way in the first place. Worse to show someone -- to show Logan -- my complete lack of anything resembling emotional courage.
And you even said it! You said that you're a coward!
"You're beautiful," he told me; something he seems to enjoy saying in order to get a rise outta me. Sometimes I think he believes that friendly bickering is the best way to get over a fight. Sometimes I think he's probably right.
"You're an asshole," I countered automatically with half my attention, finishing tugging up sweatpants and raising the shirt to slip it over my head.
"You're not a coward."
I froze, sweatshirt half on, staring away from him into the trees.
You're not a coward.
Goddamnit. Why am I suddenly sure that's another of those lines that'll keep coming back to me over and over again 'til I make it true?
I stayed motionless only for the space of a few of the heartbeats I woulda been having if my heart hadn't stopped. Then -- once the bloodpump remembered its job and reassuringly got back to business -- I pulled the shirt down slowly and turned back him.
The sun broke fully over the horizon to surround him with luminescent morning fire. I could just make out the steady, calm surety in his eyes.
Not a coward.
I blinked against the dawn and let arrogance fall aside for another moment. "Maybe some day I'll prove that to both of us."