Hola. I’m not a professional writer, and not associated with Marvel Comics in any way. The following is a work of fan fiction. Unless otherwise noted, everyone used in this story belongs to Marvel. I’m making no money from this at all. Don’t sue me.
Jack, Kai, Zach, and Three Eyes - as well as anything mentioned regarding that organization - are mine. Don’t touch without permission. I have a trained attack ferret and I’m not afraid to use him.
Okay, I figured I could compile a bunch of lengthy stories I wrote into one messy clump, or I could give you a brief little blurb of Jack’s history now. Guess which I opted for? Jack is a mutant psychic vampire without much in the way of control. He hooked up with the X-Men briefly some time back before being shunted over to Gen X for a short stay. During his time with the X-Men, Logan advised him to make controlling his powers a test of will. Jack took the advice, and found that he couldn’t sustain himself without the energy he drained from other living beings. He still fought the psivamp hunger, though, and steadily grew weaker during his stay with Gen X, until Sean Cassidy brought him to Muir Island to see if Moira MacTaggert could help him. Jubilee and Jack are close. That’s all that matters of his history right there.
This story takes place shortly after "Kai and Sabretooth: In the Woods." Pay attention to Jack: He’s gonna have a big impact on the whole Vic Creed situation soon.
Once again, this story ain’t for kids. A little bit of language, reference to violence, and sexual situations. (Nothing explicit, you naughty person, you. There’s a page for that somewhere. Go find it.) If you have a problem with same-sex pairings, either deal with it or don’t read this.
Kai and Logan: Muir Island
Moira held the syringe carefully, eyeing the young man perched on the table in front of her. Jack’s tremors were getting worse. The boy couldn’t walk very steadily or hold his hand still. He’d lost even more weight, causing him to look gaunt and pale; like some sort of tormented, earth-bound wraith. Emerald eyes were haunted, as if he’d seen far too much life of late.
When in fact he’d seen far too little.
He’s only getting worse, she told herself sadly. I have nae done a damned thing for him.
He didn’t seem to have the energy to complain. The tests were endured with stoic silence, and when they weren’t working on his problem he spent an inordinate amount of time resting. He had to force himself to eat, and quite often, she knew, he forgot. Day by day he faded noticeably, and Moira battled with despair. She was losing the war, and she knew it. Worse, so did he.
My purpose is tae help mutants, but all I ever seem tae do is watch them slip away.
The syringe held a concoction she hoped would replace some of the nutrients his body produced from energy drained away from other living beings. She had little idea what effect it would have, but time was running out…she had to try something.
He extended his arm. She had to grasp it to hold it steady. He didn’t even wince when she injected him. The expression on his face was apathetic, indifferent.
Moira drew back and eyed him cautiously. "Do ye feel anythin’, lad?"
He worked the arm a little. Shook his head. These days, he tended to be sparing with words.
"Well," she sighed. "Let’s get ye tae the lab an’ run some more tests."
With a sudden jerk, Jack threw his head back. Tendons stood out stiffly in his neck. Green eyes bulged. His mouth worked. "Ah…ah…" Hands clenched spasmodically.
"Jack! Easy, lad, easy!"
His head rolled from side to side. He lurched to his feet…couldn’t keep his balance. Moira caught him and eased him to the floor. Nothing he can hit himself with but tha’ chair… She shoved it away, then knelt at his side, resolutely pushing panic away and observing the effects with clinical detachment. Even in failure, sometimes truths could be gleaned. Ripples traveled through his lean body as he convulsed.
"…hurts…," he managed weakly.
"Easy, lad, don’t try tae talk," she soothed. "I want ye tae keep yuir eyes on me, Jack. Keep lookin’ tae me, all right? I need ye tae focus, lad."
Eyes blinked rapidly, but he looked at her. His teeth were gritted tightly. "Don’t think," he hissed between them, "that it’s…working." He tried to add a laugh to the end of that, but it turned into a groan instead. His head rocked back again. Moira shoved a cushion beneath it to keep him from bashing his skull against the ground; telling him over and over to stop talking, to look at her, to try to stay calm.
And then, abruptly, it stopped. For a moment, he was so still her heart started to pound. Then he sucked in a shuddering breath.
A finger twitched. "I’m…alive." He pulled himself gingerly away from her and sat up a painful inch at a time.
"Any change in th’ hunger?"
He shook his head, black bangs falling into his face. "Just…dizzy. And sore."
She put a hand to his sweat soaked forehead. "I’m sorry, Jack. I had nae idea ‘twould affect ye tha’ way."
"'S okay," he murmured, closing his eyes. Her heart ached in a familiar way. This young man fought so gamely against himself, and she, once again, felt helpless to give him any sort of assistance. Memories of others she couldn’t help paraded across her mind, tightening a hand in her chest.
"If ye could just drain a lab rat or something…something I could observe an’ test…," she began, one of the arguments she’d been having with him since he arrived. He shook his head flatly.
"No. I can’t give in," he said stubbornly. "Don’t you understand that?"
"I understand that I want tae help ye. I understand that yuir dyin’ slowly."
"Maybe that’s for the best."
"Don’t talk like that! I won’t have ye takin’ that defeatist attitude in here!"
He sighed. Stood and almost fell, but caught himself on the table. It no longer embarrassed him to be so wobbly. He just didn’t have the energy to care. "Are we through for now, Moira?"
She’d have liked to run some more tests, but one look at his exhausted face changed her mind. As he paced slowly away, she damned her helplessness and his stubbornness in the same breath. The thought of losing this kid churned her stomach. It wasn’t fair. He hadn’t had a break in his life.
But she was doing all she could. Now there was little to hope for other than a miracle.
Jack lay on top of the bedcovers, sweating despite the Scottish chill in the air. Times like this, all he could do was stare at the ceiling and struggle every heartbeat to hold back the hunger. He didn’t sleep nearly as much as the others thought. The hunger wouldn’t let him.
Some of the X-Men had arrived a few minutes ago. The roar of the Blackbird had been a welcome distraction from the turmoil in his own mind and body. He considered going down to meet them, but didn’t really want to see their expressions when they saw how emaciated he was. Besides, it wasn’t like he was friends with any of them.
Someone knocked at the door. The hunger tried to reach for whoever it was, but he fought it down with a practiced struggle. Sitting up, he tugged his T-shirt and jeans into a semblance of order. "Come in." Stared as the door opened. "Logan!"
"Hiya, kid. Moira said you’d be up here." The man’s eyes widened involuntarily at Jack’s condition, but he managed to keep his tone light. "You’ve looked better."
"Maybe the weather doesn’t agree with me." Jack sized up the robust older man. Still in dynamite shape. Still healthy and strong. "How are things? Did you straighten everything out with that woman?"
Logan scowled at him. "I didn’t come to talk about my love life."
"Then why are you here?"
He moved into the room and took a seat on a stool. "Moira called me. Said you were feelin’ pretty low. I thought ya might wanna talk about it."
Jack’s mouth quirked in a wry expression. "You don’t really seem the sort to go outta your way to give advice to a seventeen year old kid."
"An’ you ain’t the kind to take advice. Or that’s what I thought. But ya proved me wrong, didn’t you? Moira tells me you’re killin’ yourself by following some advice I gave ya a while back."
Jack swung his legs over the side of the bed. The jeans were loose and baggy where once they’d been snug. "I made it a test of will." The boy’s thin arms encompassed his skinny frame. "Looks like maybe I needed that energy a little more than I thought."
"She said she wants ya to drain test animals. It’ll keep you alive an’ allow her to learn more."
The young man shook his head regretfully. "You might see a starving man seated in the middle of a banquet without eating, but you’ll never see a starving man seated in the middle of a banquet taking a taste here and there, not really filling up. I’m kinda proud of how long I’ve managed to hold out. I’m not gonna let all this work go to shit. I don’t think I could keep myself in check if I allowed a taste. I’d probably take Moira and anyone else in the room, and then everyone I could before someone killed me. Do you think that’s worth it?"
Logan’s eyes hinted at his dismay. "No. You’re right. But there’s gotta be somethin’ we can do."
Jack’s laugh was bitter. "Another injection?" He thrust out slim arms, showing needle marks tracking along his veins. "More energy waves shot into me? I almost died the last time. Hypnosis? I tried to take the psychiatrist. Or telepathic suggestion? Emma couldn’t stay in my mind long enough to say ‘boomerang’. No. I was born to be this…thing…and if I’m not gonna be it, my body’s gonna kill me. I just wish it would hurry up. I can’t keep this up much longer."
"You’re talkin’ like someone who’s given up," Logan told him fiercely. "Like a victim."
Jack was silent. His sunken, haunted eyes spoke volumes.
"Ya might be surprised how many people are pullin’ for ya, kid. Jubilee, for one, sends her very best."
A smile tugged the young man’s mouth. "Lee’s a good gal. The best."
"Ya wanna get outside? Get a little sun? What there is of it, anyway."
"I…don’t know. I don’t really feel up to spending much energy right now," he admitted reluctantly.
Logan stood and went to him, taking a hold of one arm and helping him to his feet. "Come on. I’ll give ya a hand."
Logan stayed on at Muir, and reluctantly Jack found himself looking forward to his daily outings with the man. Logan made him eat, forced him to exercise to the limits of his abilities, and generally reminded him that there was a world past the unending hunger. Often some of the members of Excalibur, the team in residence, would accompany them. Kitty Pryde -- sunny disposition and intelligent humor -- and her boyfriend, Pete Wisdom -- sarcastic wit and reassuring candor -- were frequent companions. Occasionally the blue skinned, demonic-looking Kurt Wagner would join them, spending most of the time in surprisingly successful attempts at cheering Jack’s spirits. Other times, it would just be Logan and Jack. Almost always, it was enjoyable.
He wrote to Jubilee. She responded so promptly that she must have just been waiting for a letter. That sparked off a correspondence that he began to care about very much.
Moira watched his test results get worse and worse, and in unguarded moments when the Legacy virus had worn down her reserves, she cried.
One day Jack didn’t show up for their morning session. She went to his room, her heart in her throat, and found him lying on his bed, completely unresponsive to stimuli. She rushed him to the medlab and did what she could, but she didn’t know how much longer he’d survive. There didn’t seem to be any hope of a miraculous recovery in the wings. Word was sent out to those who had reason to come. Jubilee was flown in, along with the rest of the Generation X team Jack had so briefly stayed with.
And then, while they all waited almost breathlessly for him to die, hope arrived from an unanticipated source.
The ship wasn’t scheduled to dock, Moira mused muzzily over her coffee. What did that fool captain mean, waking her at four AM to inform her--
"We got passengers for ye, Doctor MacTaggert. A lady an’ a gent, say they got business on th’ island, an’ right important business at that."
"Who are they, Captain?"
"Lady say’s her name is Kai. Fellow calls himself Zach. Ye wants I should take ‘em back?"
Kai? Here? What in god’s name… "No, Captain. Go ahead an’ dock. I’ll meet them at th’ shore."
She scrambled to pull herself together, thankful for the temporary reprieve the Legacy virus was allowing her. The coat she tugged on was warm even for the Scots weather, but she needed the heat. It was very cold by the sea. Moira had only met Kai once before, when the woman had accompanied the X-Men during a brief supply stop at Muir. She couldn’t imagine why she would choose now to show up here.
Kai strode up the wooden dock towards Moira, her ponytail whipping around her neck. As always, she looked strong, athletic, confident. A man walked a half pace behind her, handsome and blonde. Zach, presumably. Before Moira could open her mouth the ask what was going on, Kai spoke.
"Dr. MacTaggert, I know this is no time for a visit. I called the mansion to talk to Logan. Hank told me where he was, and why. To keep this short and sweet…Zach here may be able to help the boy."
"What?!" Moira turned and strode rapidly towards the complex, motioning for them to follow. "How?"
Zach kept up easily. His voice was rich and smooth. "The boy is a psivamp, correct? Lives largely off energy drained from other living beings?"
She nodded. "In this case he’s dying for lack of it, but yes."
"Well, so am I. A psivamp, that is. Not dying."
"Yuir what?" She faltered. "How can ye be so under control? As far as we knew, only when one is satiated can the hunger be…" She broke off, faint suspicion dawning in her eyes. He gave her a slight, knowing smile.
"There are different ways to tap energy. Ways to reserve the hunger until the right time for its use. I was forced to learn these ways in a somewhat…uncomfortable manner…but I think I can teach this young man less traumatically. Once I get him stabilized, that is."
"How will ye do that?"
"I’ll force his body to take my energy."
"But if his hunger gets out of control, like he fears…"
"I should be able to contain him. If not…" He looked significantly at Kai. She nodded.
"If he goes on a killing spree, we take him out. It’s the only choice, Doctor."
Moira woke everyone with the news, realizing that there was a chance this would be the last time they’d have the opportunity to say goodbye if this went wrong. A long look passed between Logan and Kai when they caught sight of each other, unconscious tension springing into the set of both shoulders. She gave him a brief nod, but both knew this wasn’t any time to talk. Zach was running the show. He sat by the side of the comatose young man and firmly told everyone to shut up or get out.
The blonde man’s blue eyes held that same bright, peculiar intensity Jack’s had so often shown. He didn’t touch the boy. He didn’t speak aloud…but he was heard. The monitor displaying Jack’s brainwaves jumped. Jubilee gasped, then held her breath.
Zach put a hand on Jack’s slim chest. The fingers almost seemed to vibrate. Some of the more sensitive observers felt the subtle buzz of energy in the air.
Jack’s body bucked suddenly. The monitor went wild. The kid’s mouth snapped open, shut, open, shut. Everett put an arm around the trembling Jubilee.
"Come on, kid," Kai muttered. "Here’s your chance."
Jack’s chest rose and fell rapidly. His eyes cracked open. A moan bled out between clenched teeth. It rose almost to a wail, bone-chilling. His back arched, grinding his shoulders into the bed. The wail went on and on until Logan, Kai, and Sean Cassidy all clamped hands over their more sensitive ears. Some of the people in the room faded back, faces pale.
Like a shockwave, something spread through the room; an echo of the intense, aching hunger Jack had been fighting for weeks. Angelo fell to his knees, retching. Pale faces blanched white. Everyone was affected…everyone except Zach, who already knew well the feeling.
Then, with a suddenness that was startling, it was abruptly over. Jack went utterly limp and still, his breath rattling harshly, rapidly. Zach opened his eyes and looked wearily down at the young man. His own breath came a little ragged. "Jack. Open your eyes."
Emerald green glinted. Jack stared blindly up at him.
"How are you feeling?" Zach asked him softly.
Jack’s mouth worked for a moment before any sound came out. "The…hunger…"
"What about the hunger, Jack?"
He blinked dazedly. "It’s…better."
"Still there, but not so…" He sighed and closed his eyes again, tension bleeding away from his face. It was the first time in weeks he’d been without the constant pressure of holding back. His face, thin and shadowed as it was, was nevertheless transformed.
Jubilee came forward hesitantly. "Jack…?" He opened his eyes tiredly; smiled when he saw her.
"Hey, Lee…," he murmured. "Didn’t know…if I’d see you again."
She was nearly crying. A huge grin creased her face. "In your last letter ya promised you’d tell me that story about the moon. I hadda make sure you’d keep that promise."
His smile widened. He reached a slightly unsteady hand for hers, clasping it loosely. Sighed again and let his eyes close.
"He needs sleep," Zach said firmly. "Probably hasn’t slept decently in ages. Everyone out."
"Can I stay with him?" Jubilee asked hopefully. "Please?"
"I don’t know…"
Jack cracked his eyes once more. "I’d like her…to stay."
The handsome blond’s face softened. "All right, then. She can stay. But you’d better sleep, Jack. We have a lot to talk about later."
Jack murmured agreement as he drifted off, still holding Jubilee’s hand.
Outside of the medlab, Zach sagged against a wall, dragging in deep breaths. He met Kai’s gaze and grinned. "Well, Spunky…we did it."
"You did it, Sparks." She smiled warmly. "I knew there was a hero in there somewhere."
"Heh. Just make sure you clear this ‘vacation’ time with Darius."
"You got it. Now get some sleep. That’s an order."
When Zach was bedded down in a guest room, Kai wished him a good night and closed his door softly. She turned from the door, still faintly smiling, and came face to face with Logan.
His eyes held hers easily. "Can we go for a walk?"
"It’s five AM, Logan." But she saw his expression and relented. "All right. A short walk."
They strolled along the cliffs, neither unduly hampered by the darkness. Kai was bundled thickly against the cold: It was one of her few weaknesses, and purely psychological in nature. For a while they were silent, not being people of excess words even at normal times.
Eventually, Logan cleared his throat. "How’ve ya been?"
She looked at him sidelong. "We’ve talked on the phone. You know what I’ve been doing."
Working for Three Eyes, yes. She’d given him details of the jobs she did, telling him about the new specwar units she’d been helping form. Oh yeah, he knew what she’d been doing…but not what she’d been feeling.
"Not what I meant. We both know why ya took off. You said you needed to come to terms with it."
She stopped, staring out over the dark water and listening to waves lap against the cliffs far below. With a sigh, she stepped near the edge and sat down, gazing at nothingness. After a moment, he took a seat beside her.
"Did you tell them?" she asked eventually. "The X-Men?"
He shook his head, staring as she did at open water that glinted here and there with fitful moonlight. "No one’s business." She stayed silent, pensive. "This guy Zach…he a friend o’ yours?"
"Yeah. Good guy, though he doesn’t realize it most of the time."
He shifted uncomfortably. "How well do ya know him?"
Her gaze shifted to him. Even in this dim light, he could faintly make out the russet hue of her eyes. "Pretty well. We’ve been friends for years. He’s trustworthy, if that’s what you’re worried about. I wouldn’t bring someone in who wasn’t."
"That wasn’t…" He stopped, scowling at himself. "What I meant to say was…"
She smiled gently. "No, Logan. He’s just a friend, nothing more."
His sigh of relief was muted, but eloquent. She bumped a shoulder against him in a companionable way, then once again turned her eyes out towards the sea. Breath fogged in the air. She shivered slightly, but he hesitated to put an arm around her, remembering how she’d flinched away from contact the last time he saw her.
"I’m coming to terms with it," she said suddenly. "It’s taken some time, but I’m getting my head straightened out."
He was carefully still, not wanting to damage the tender channel of openness she was allowing. "How're you feelin’ about it?"
Her eyes snapped sharply to him. "You mean am I ashamed?" Before he could answer, she sped on. "I have nothing to be ashamed of. I fought him. I didn’t give in. He didn’t break me. He didn’t…" She cut off the words, seeing the stricken look on his face. Her eyes closed briefly, tightly. She took a deep breath; pushed it out. "I’m sorry. I don’t wanna rant at you."
Slowly, he reached for her hand. She turned the palm up to him, lacing her fingers through his. His voice was hoarse. "I wouldn’t ever say you should feel ashamed, darlin’. You’re the strongest, bravest person I know." His tone thickened with remembered fury. "You kept yourself in one piece, even after what that bastard did to ya. You oughtta be proud o’ that."
Auburn eyes gleamed. She smiled faintly and squeezed his hand. "I don’t wanna lose you, Logan."
His heartbeat quickened. With an effort, he kept his voice level. "Didn’t know that was an option." A chill breeze tossed her ponytail aside, and this time he allowed himself to slip an arm around her to warm her. She leaned her head down against his muscled shoulder, letting eyes close again.
"Give me a little while longer, Logan. Just a little while."
He felt the warmth of her compact body. Caught her faintly herbal scent. "I’ll give ya whatever time you need."
They sat in silence and watched the cold moon sink towards the horizon to ready for the sun’s approach.
"No!" Zach slammed his fist against the table in frustration. "You’re doing it again. You keep looking for the obvious, blazing energy sources. You’re ignoring the underlying lines of power."
"I can’t see them!" Jack exploded. "All I feel is…is you and the other people and animals on this island. That’s it!"
Zach rubbed at his eyes, fighting for calm. "You’ve got to train a whole new sense, Jack. It’s like learning to see with an eye you didn’t know you had. I’ve already explained all this."
Jack held up a faintly trembling hand. "I haven’t been able to draw enough energy to get rid of the shakes. The hunger’s growing again. Maybe you just should have left me."
"Stop that! I’ve been where you are, Jack. I’ve felt what you’re feeling. I came through it…so can you." He caught hold of the younger man’s trembling hand and gazed into his eyes, sending energy pulsing through their link. No one outside of this connection could understand this feeling; this sharing and accepting of vital essence. It was intense, giddy, thrilling. Even sex didn’t match the high Zach got from this.
Jack let out a shuddering breath, feeling the hunger pangs ease. That inner voice of stubbornness wasn’t too happy with this arrangement, but Zach was slowly bringing him to realize that the energy was a necessary part of his life…not a drug. He just had to learn another way to tap it.
Easier said than done. "Not that I don’t appreciate…that…but how am I going to learn how to tap another source of energy if you’re always spoon-feeding me?
Zach snorted wry amusement. "If I let you get out of control, you won’t learn a damned thing. You know why? ‘Cause you’ll be dead. Kai may seem like a nice woman, but if she thinks she needs to, she’ll take you out quicker than you can blink. I plan to keep that from happening."
Jack stood and paced restlessly. He’d put on a little weight already, but still had a ways to go before hollowed cheeks filled out and bones didn’t stare so obviously. "This was so much easier when I didn’t give a damn about people."
"It’s always easiest for the hunter to not identify with his prey."
"How’d you do it? How’d you gain control in the first place?"
Zach’s frame tightened slightly. "I had to. The people I was involved with didn’t allow me a choice."
"It’s a long story, Jack. Not one I particularly want to talk about."
Jack sat down in front of him, his interest piqued. "I have no choice but to share my emotions with you every time we link…now you’re hiding yours from me? That doesn’t seem fair."
Zach sat back and gave him a cold stare. "Leave it, Jack. I know how hard it is for you to share yourself, but I can’t give you the same openness. Just accept that."
The young man looked into the sapphire blue eyes and wondered what pain they hid. Without thinking, he allowed his mind to reach for Zach’s, wanting to feel his emotional state. His probe just brushed the edge of the older man’s thoughts when he felt Zach clamp a mental hand on it and freeze it in place. The iron grip was harsh.
"Don’t. Ever. Do that."
Jack felt paralyzed, but he could still speak. "I just wanted to see…"
"Not my mind. Stay out."
"I didn’t mean any harm."
"That’s why you’re alive, Jack." The mental grip eased a bit. Zach was strangely reluctant to let go. It was almost like a handclasp…lending a hint of knowledge and partnership. He was finding it hard to keep his defenses up around this young man, despite years of practice. That intrigued him almost as much as it disturbed him.
"I’m curious," Jack explained hesitantly. "About what sort of experience could teach you such control while hurting you so much. I’m curious about you."
"Don’t be. I’m just here to get you on your feet. Then I’m gone." He felt Jack’s mind move in the grasp of his, turning until the kid had a grip on him. The older man couldn’t believe the audacity of the younger. Reluctant respect tugged his mouth into a smile. Jack had guts, no doubting that.
"What is it you’re really asking for, Jack?"
In answer, the young man let emotions run down the link between them. Hesitant, scared emotions that he only dared send because of some of what he’d picked up just now from Zach. The man’s face went blank with surprise. He let the feelings wash over him in a warm wave, catching in his chest and pounding there.
"That," Jack said firmly, crimson with embarrassment.
Zach cleared his throat nervously. "You’re…young."
"Yeah. But you’re only twenty-four."
The blonde head shook slowly. "You see me as the guy who saved your life. It’s bound to create some confusion…"
"Are you trying to convince me or yourself?"
"Stop that, Jack. Believe me, I wouldn’t need much convincing…ah…I mean – damn! Look…I’m not about to take advantage of an innocent kid with a case of hero worship. It’d be plain wrong."
"I’m willing to take that chance…if you’ll let me."
Zach sighed forcefully. "You’re putting me in quite a spot, here."
"I don’t see the problem."
"The problem? Everyone will think I seduced you!"
An eloquent shrug. "So? Who cares what people think?"
"Some of those people happen to be very dangerous. Or hadn’t you noticed the conspicuously clawed gentleman who feels somewhat protective of you?"
"I’m not worried about that."
"You’re not the one he’d eviscerate," Zach pointed out.
"You’re not really worried about that, either," Jack said with dawning understanding. "You’re really as nervous as I am."
"That’s ridiculous!" Zach growled, face flushing. But the kid only smiled.
"I’m right, aren’t I? The little I get from you through the link tells me that."
"You’re…uh…you’re mistaking friendship for…um…" Jack touched his hand and he yelped.
"Why keep pretending like this, Zach? I can feel it now. You do want…that. So why don’t you cut the crap and…and just kiss me?" He moved closer as he said it, holding the blue eyes with his green. A tentative hand started to reach for the blonde man’s muscled chest. Zach caught it firmly in his own.
"Do you really feel like you know what you’re doing, Jack? No games, no doubts?"
The young man nodded solemnly. Zach searched his face, then matched the nod slowly. "All right, then," he murmured, drawing the captured hand to brush against his lips, hearing Jack’s breath suddenly quicken. "But I warn you…I tend to be a hopeless romantic."
Kai almost opened the door before the sounds from the other side registered to her keen hearing. She paused, listening suspiciously. Soft murmurs. Heavy breathing. The brush of flesh on flesh.
So. Zach and the kid were lovers, now. That was a small surprise. She’d known, of course, that Zach was bisexual. He’d never made an effort to hide it, and she’d never cared on way or the other. But from the way young Jack had clung to Jubilee, she’d had him pegged as purely hetero.
Hmph. Learn something new every day. Well, she’d better hang around and prevent anyone from walking in on them. She didn’t know how the others would feel about a same-sex pairing, and she’d already had to pull Zach’s fat from the fire once before on the subject. She wasn't looking for a repeat performance with people who were supposed to be, at the very least, her allies.
The soft noises tormented her unmercifully, reminding her of all she desperately wanted to do with Logan. She sighed soundlessly. She’d left to find her balance again…to know that she could pull herself together without his help after what had happened…in the woods. With Creed. She knew that she was a singularly stubborn and independent woman. If she’d allowed herself to fall into Logan’s arms and sob helplessly, she’d never have recovered that edge of strength that was so important to her.
But now…was she ready to come back? Could she be sure enough of her stability to let herself accept his comfort and support?
Get your mind on something else, idiot. But that was hard to do while hearing sounds of passion so close. There was a familiar stirring deep inside her, and she felt that usually pleasurable sensitivity in key places that made it very hard to think of anything different.
"Hurry up, you two," she muttered in annoyance.
Footsteps around the corner straightened her. She willed the person away, but he either didn’t hear her mental command or ignored it. She almost rolled her eyes when she saw who it was…certainly the last person she needed to see just then. Logan heard the sounds sooner than she had. His hearing was superior even to hers. He stopped in his tracks, putting two and two together rapidly.
"I take it they’re not practicing anymore," he commented in a low voice. She answered in kind.
"Not with powers, anyway."
"You standin’ guard, then?"
"I figure we don’t need an issue made over this."
He nodded, then cocked his head at a particularly loud gasp from the room. "They’ll appreciate havin’ no interruptions."
She nodded, hoping he’d decide to leave with that. Instead, he leaned against a wall and looked as if he might stay. "Don’t you have somewhere to be, Logan?" she asked with a faint scowl.
He grinned. "Not really. I was gonna invite the kid out for a little hike, but that can wait."
Someone in the room moaned. Kai shifted her weight restlessly. "Are you trying to drive me insane?"
His smile vanished. "Maybe. I’m feelin’ kinda crazy right now, myself." They stared at each other in heavy silence, the tension between them a tangible thing.
"Logan," she started, even as he began, "Kai--" He waved her on to speak. She cleared her throat; still softly, so as not to disturb the two in the room. "Maybe…I’ve had long enough. Maybe I’ve just been staying away lately ‘cause I’m a stubborn bitch who doesn’t know when to say enough is enough."
He took a step towards her. Paused. "It’s…your decision, darlin’. I won’t ask for somethin’ you don’t wanna give."
She closed her eyes sharply, and he cursed himself for reminding her. Before he could find words to retract the statement, to ease her remembered pain, she opened her eyes and looked at him with a hollow gaze.
"I know you won’t," she murmured. "I know." She stretched a hand towards him. He stepped forward to take it in his broad palm. She drew him nearer, until they were standing very close, eyes inches from each other. He searched hers for answers to unasked questions. Still no tears, not from her. She wouldn’t allow them. Wouldn’t give Creed that victory. He couldn’t help smiling a little, being this close to her after too long apart without knowing if she'd ever really come back. She saw it. Matched it. Brushed a hand along his forehead and swept a stubborn lock of dark hair back from his face. "I don’t deserve you," she reflected quietly.
His mouth quirked. Usually, from her, that comment would be weighted with heavy humor. She wasn’t one for soft words or statements of commitment. "That a compliment or an insult?"
She kissed him, answering simply and directly. His eyes closed as he felt her body against his. He let arms rise to wrap around her; felt her own hands on his back. That peculiar blending of physical and emotional compatibility with her rose in his mind again with painful intensity.
They broke the kiss, still holding each other tightly. One of his hands stroked her hair, over and over. "God, I missed you."
She was silent for a moment. Then he felt her breath on his ear as she whispered, "Then why don’t you show me how much?"
Shuddering cries from the room told them that the "boys" were finished. Kai let Logan guide her to the guest room he’d been given, where it didn’t take long for them to rediscover what they’d had before.
"…so I think it would be best for Jack to come with me, where I can make sure he learns how to maintain control at all times."
Sean Cassidy’s frown was eloquent. "Ye work with Kai, don’t ye? With that agency she won’t say anything about."
"Not exactly. We work…have worked…for the same organization, but she’s been overseeing the Cells. I’ve been bumped to general administration."
"What does that mean?"
Zach smiled patiently. "It means that while she goes into the field with the big boys, I sit behind a desk. Jack won’t be put into any danger. He’ll probably be safer with me than with your baby X-Men."
Sean was still doubtful. "I don’t know…"
"It’s not like I’m a thirteen year old kid with worried parents somewhere," Jack chimed in, carrying a box of his belongings into the room. "I’m not a child, Sean. I’ve been taking care of myself for years. Zach’s just gonna help me keep my powers under control, which is more than you and Emma would be able to do."
That hit home. Sean sighed in defeat. "I guess I can’t stop ye, lad. Ye’ll do what ye want, no matter what I say."
The door opened again. Kai stepped out and tossed a small wrapped package at Zach. "Going away present, Sparks. Don’t bother opening it. It’s the soundtrack from Grosse Pointe Blank." She plopped down on a box and hiked a leg up to examine a rapidly fading bruise. "Boat here, yet?"
Zach tucked the wrapped CD in a coat pocket. "Docking now. Are you going to be heading back any time soon?"
"I’ll be checking in on things from time to time, but for now I’m going back to New York with Logan. Darius says the Cells are working well…there’s nothing I’m really needed for there."
"Any messages for me from the boss?"
Teeth flashed. "Yeah. He said to get your butt back pronto. His paperwork is piling up."
"Ha ha, Spunky. I’m amused."
Jubilee caught up with them before they reached the dock. She pulled Jack aside and said her good-bye in private. Kai stood next to Zach, watching without expression.
"She doesn’t know?"
He shook his head slightly. "I told him not to go declaring us all over the place. He cares about her a lot…more than he realizes. Once he gets used to having someone around he can be open with, he’ll be glad he left the doors open for her."
"You promised not to take him into any action…"
"And I won’t. Quit worrying, Spunky. I like the kid. He reminds me of me."
"Stop it, Sparks. You’re scaring me."
Jack gave Jubilee a hug that, to Kai’s eyes, looked at least somewhat interested. She thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so long before Jack and Jubilee found something more than friends in each other…if he didn’t decide to go and fall in love with Zach. She glanced sidelong at her friend, and saw something in his eyes that surprised her. He tried to put up a calm, confident front, but it looked to her like he was far more affected by Jack than he wanted to admit.
I’ll be damned, Sparks…looks like someone just may find a way into that closed off heart of yours.
She knew a little something more now about people working their way into isolated emotions than she used to.
I’ll be damned, Kai, she told herself in amusement. Looks like someone already wormed his way into yours.
No matter how she tried to make it, the thought didn’t disturb her in the least.