Disclaimer:  I don't own the X-men.  My checkbook balance is ample proof of that…

Text in stars denotes mental thoughts or communication

Italicized text is either background information or something that took place in the past

Storm's Night Out

It had been a rough couple of months…back to back missions, sometimes 3 in a day.  For the most part, the X-men had been split into two groups, one headed by Cyclops and the other by Storm.  They fought mutants and humans alike; had several run-ins with sentinels, and even more with the Friends of Humanity.  Things had finally calmed down, and with the X-Men way overdue for a break; many left the mansion on extended weekends.  An abundant supply of X-jets made that easy.  The ever-dutiful field commanders however, chose to stick close by for their R & R – even though they were probably the ones that needed a break the most.

"Gonna paint the town red, eh Storm?" Wolverine said without looking up from the basketball game – or his beer.  Storm was passing by the Rec Room when Logan made his inquiry.  He knew she was headed out.  His mutant senses coupled with living in a mansion full of women gave him more than enough information to figure that out:  the extra dash of perfume, ungodly amounts of hair spray, smell of mascara, and scent of a new dress were undeniable signs of night out.

"Yes Logan, I thought I would go out for awhile…spend some time away from the mansion and live a little." 

"Have fun Darlin'" he said, turning around to face her.  "Don't do anything I wouldn't…JESUS RO!  WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WEARIN'?!" he yelled as he jumped to his feet. 

"This?  I bought it a couple months ago – been waiting for a chance to wear it.  Do you like it?"

Her question forced him to raise his eyes from her dress up to her face, but only for a second.  He quickly refocused on her dress – or in his mind, her 'lack of' dress'.  It wasn't something he was accustomed to seeing her wear – a tight fitting silk dress which for all intensive purposes, had no sides; just a few well-placed strands of silk that connected what little material there was in a few key locations while showing off quite a bit of skin…skin that was giving Logan some rather animalistic thoughts.  He stood there with his mouth open trying to formulate words that matched his very stunned expression.

**SNIKT**

He was just as surprised as she was to see his claws pop out.  It was purely an involuntary action; and just as fast as they popped out, he regained his composure and withdrew them.

"REALLY Logan – that is NOT necessary." She snickered. "The dress will hardly hurt you. I guess you DO like it…I've never seen you do that before, but it does answer a question some of the women have had for awhile – on what other occasions your claws pop out beside anger."

"Can it Storm!" he snapped – slightly taken back by her comment.  He had come to expect more 'decorum' from her and considered this out of character.  "I was...I was just thinking about our last mission – that's all, it had nuttin to do with you! Nuttin at all!"  At this point it was hard to tell if his face was red from anger or embarrassment – or perhaps both.  "You're wearin' THAT dress out?" he inquired – quick to draw attention away from himself.  "I know you're a big girl Storm, and you can take care of yourself; but you gotta be careful.  Some guys out there are real animals and can get the wrong idea and…" 

"Pop 10 inch adamantium claws out of their hands?" she giggled.  "I appreciate your concern Logan; but you're right, I can take care of myself.  After all, I am second in command of the X-Men.  However, if you're really concerned, you can come along and protect me…keep me company so to speak."

His first reaction was to spout off a list of objections to such activities.  He wasn't a big fan of going "out on the town" and up until now, hadn't given it a single thought.  Beer and basketball were the only two activities in his foreseeable future.  Just as he started to reject her offer, he noticed something different about her – something he hadn't seen before…something hidden behind her eyes.  Her offer for companionship wasn't a courtesy - she really wanted him to accompany her.  He finally started putting the pieces of the puzzle together – this was no ordinary night out for Storm.  It was a much-needed break to remind her that she was still a person – a woman; and a beautiful one at that.  The dress, her quick and uncharacteristic remark about his claws popping out, the slightly sarcastic way she said "After all, I am second in command of the X-Men," and finally her eyes – trying unsuccessfully not to betray her usually calm demeanor and reveal her true desires.  He knew what was going on.  After all, look what being field commander of the X-Men did to Cyclops.  To say he was a little stiff was an understatement.  It'd probably take all the strength in Rogue's body to pry the stick outta his ass.  It'd definitely be a shame to see that happen to Storm and she was trying hard not to let it.  She was reaching out to him; what would he do?

The availability of free men in the mansion was low, but Wolverine could have easily named 2 or 3 others that would have been more suitable to the task, but still…she asked him.  That was more than enough to peak his interest.  It would also give him the chance to get to know her better…outside the X-Men environment.

"Sure Darlin, give me about 20 minutes." 

"Logan!  You never cease to amaze me.  I never thought you'd be interested in…" 

"What?  'Spendin' time with a gorgeous lady wearin' a dress like that.  You'd probably get a rise outta Chuck himself.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out – um game!" There was a little more to it than that though – He was feeling a bit down himself.  Beer and ballgames often put him in a better mood, but they had limited appeal; and his usual thrash in the Danger Room reminded him way too much of work.  A night out with a gorgeous woman that wanted nothing to do with saving all of mankind for a couple of hours might do him a bit of good – at the very least, it would take his mind off things.

Ten minutes and a hot shower later, Logan found himself fumbling through his closet looking for something appropriate to wear – something to match his date.  "Plaid shirt, plaid shirt, jeans, jeans, jeans – I really have to update my wardrobe – there's nuttin in here for me ta wear."  Just then he remembered an item he'd put far back in his closet – a suit made for just this type of occasion. 

"C'mon Wolvie, this suit is screaming for you." Jubilee pestered as he grudgingly bought it on one of their many mall excursions.  "This may come as a surprise to you, but women aren't turned on by plaid shirts and blue jeans." she clamored. 

He hated to admit it, but she was right, the suit did look good on him and was a nice compliment to Storm's ensemble. 

Jubilee was the only X-Man to ever do things with him outside his norm – things like clothes shopping for example.  From what he could recall, she was the only one that ever stood up to him and his claws without fear of retribution.  Once she got past the claws, he was pretty much puddy in her hands.  Though he hated it, whenever she convinced him to buy or do something new, she was usually right - and this was no exception.  He'd have to thank her later for her foresight. 

"Be right there Storm!" he yelled as he pulled out his never-before-worn patent leather shoes – another Jubilee excursion.  "Almost Ready…"

"Almost ready for what Wolvie?" Jubilee asked as she poked her head into his room.  "Whoa!  Check out the Wolvster!  I told you that you'd look good in that suit." 

"Yeah Jubes, you were right.   Thanks Darlin'." 

"You and Storm goin' out huh?  I gotta getta picture of this!  I'll be right back!"

"Better hurry, we're leavin' in just a bit."

Jubilee sprinted down the hall as Logan headed toward the Rec. Room.  He was half way down the hall when he overheard Storm and Jean talking. 

"Scott and I are going out for dinner and a movie an were wondering if you…"

*NO Jeannie!!!!!* he yelled with all his mental strength.  It worked; Jean stopped mid sentence to question his abrupt interruption. 

*What is it Logan?  What did I do?* 

*You were about to ask 'Ro to go out with you.  The two of us are goin' out tonight – alone.  She needs ta get out…away from the mansion and away from being an X-Man for awhile.  It's something I think she really needs Jeannie.* 

*Something you need as well Logan* she said, noting the eagerness in his thoughts.  *The way you almost jumped down my throat, I'd say you're looking forward to this as much as she is.*

"What was that Jean?" Storm interrupted, wondering why she had stopped mid sentence. 

"Oh, I was just wondering if you could recommend a movie for me and Scott to see." 

"What?!"  Scott said with a puzzled look.  "I thought you were going to…" 

*I'll tell you later Scott, just play along for now* 

"Oh…yeah – that's right…you know of any good movies Storm?" 

"I'm sorry Scott, Jean, I haven't really kept up with movies lately – I'm sure Rogue and Jubilee know much more." 

"That's okay Storm, thanks" Jean smirked.  "It looks like you have plans."

"Yes, Logan and I are going out to…"

"Ready to go Darlin?" Logan asked, walking into the Rec. Room. 

"Whoa, look at you" all 3 X-Men said as he approached. 

"I didn't even know you HAD a suit" Scott said laughingly.  "I thought you only had blue jeans and plaid shirts."

**SNIKT**

"I'm just kidding Logan, you actually look very nice…" His quick recovery prompted Logan to withdraw his claws and focus on Storm. 

"Whaddya think Darlin?"  He asked as he modeled off his relaxed fit black-specked suit complete with dress shoes and silk shirt. 

"Very nice Logan" she said as she ran the back of her hand down his chest feeling the smoothness of his silk shirt.  "Very VERY nice – if I had claws, I'd pop them out.  Rowrrr."  Scott and Jean stood there confused; having missed the crucial element that explained her comment.

"Very funny Ro…ready ta go?"

"Not before I get a picture!"  Jubilee yelled running into the Rec. Room.  "Whoa Storm – check out that dress!  You're gonna have to fight the men off tonight."

"Not likely Darlin'.  That dress comes complete with the Adamantium Alarm System" Logan boasted while holding his left hand out, popping one claw out at a time and withdrawing them in the same fashion. 

Twenty minutes and 2 rolls of film later, Logan and Ororo were finally permitted to leave.  "Scott, can we trade cars tonight?  My HMMWV (pronounced humvee) doesn't quite fit the bill for the evening."

"What, the hardened gun point doesn't go with Storm's hair?"

"That and it's hard as heck ta park."

"Let me get this straight…you want me to drive my wife around in your surplus army truck while you cruise the town in my Lexus?"

"Yeah that about sums it up One-eye.  Whaddya say?"

"I say…"

"Ahem" Jean interrupted.  *He's asking you for a favor – this is you chance to be nice to him for a change.* 

*What???  Me be nice to HIM for a change?  You owe me BIG for this one Jean.* "I say…sure Logan – no problem.  We'll take Jean's car and you and Storm can use mine."

He thanked Scott and winked at Jean – knowing full well what she had done for him.

*Any idea where I should take her Jeannie?  We've never been out together – I don't even know any of her favorite grub clubs*

*Try Paganini's down on the waterfront.  I heard her talking about it once.  It's a very nice…uh…grub club.*

*Thanks Jeannie, you're a doll!*

*Oh – Logan, don't forget the flowers.  She likes…*

*Got that covered Red…thanks though*

"So Logan, where are we headed?" Storm asked as she put her overcoat on.

"Southbound with 4 on the floor.  We gotta make a stop though."

"Where?"

"You'll see."

Ten minutes later they pulled up in front of a flower shop and Logan quickly sprinted in yelling "Be right back 'Ro."  True to his word, he was in and out in less than 30 seconds – prompting curiosity from Storm.

"Hereya go" he said while handing her a large bouquet of red roses, carnations and daffodils.

"There beautiful.  They're all my favorites – how did you know?"

"I know things about you Darlin…seen ya in the rose garden watering all the flowers, seen how you smile when you smell the roses and daffodils."  She was very surprised and didn't know quite how to react.  She wasn't sure if she should be happy that he noticed tiny details like the flowers she liked or concerned that he was observing her without her knowledge.  Just what was he observing?  Surely he wasn't looking at the flowers.  Judging by his reaction to her dress, could he have been secretly admiring her?  Was there more than just a friendly tone in his voice?  She knew he had been in love with Jean before, but as far as anyone could tell, he was still very much stuck on her and no other woman could hold his fancy.

"Whatcha thinkin' 'bout Ro?" 

"Hmm?  Oh.  I was just admiring these beautiful flowers.  Thank you Logan.  This was very kind of you"

"No problem…" He smiled and handed her a clear plastic box with a corsage in it.  "Here ya go"

"I didn't know you were such a romantic guy Logan.  It's been a long time since I was treated this well."

"Thatsa shame Darlin'…beautiful woman like you, makes me really appreciate bein' a man"

She was very surprised by his remark, but it seemed to be exactly what she needed to hear.  The smile it brought to her face was nearly uncontrollable.  "Thank you Logan."  It wasn't the smoothest compliment she ever heard, but Wolverine wasn't really known for being smooth.  He was however known for getting to the point of things – often literally.  He was actually very good at it – sensing what people needed and giving it to them point blank.  Perhaps it was his mutant senses, or just years of experience buried subconsciously in his repressed memories.  Whatever it was, his directness was often appreciated.

"Sumpn's missin…"

"What Logan?"

"Don't know…hmmm.   I got it – hold on a sec."

**Snikt**

Logan popped out one of his claws and with precision swiftness, surgically cut one of the red roses from the bouquet – deep from inside so she couldn't see the stem sticking out.  He then trimmed it down and stuck it in her hair just above her left ear; lightly caressing her hair as he set it in place.  "A single red rose, the one thing on this planet that can compare to your beauty." He told this to her while remembering a very similar scene in 'Police Academy 2' and praying she hadn't seen the movie - or at least not remembered that particular line.  It may not have been an original idea, but he did mean it.  The rose did compliment her beauty very well and though she tried to hide her exuberance, the smile on her face told him how much it was appreciated.

With the crank of the engine they were on their way again.  She still didn't know where they were headed, but at this point she didn't care.  She had no particular plans when she decided to go out except getting away from the mansion for awhile.  She briefly thought of dinner and a dance club but didn't really care.  Logan seemed to have a plan, and it was nice to sit back and enjoy the ride for a change.

"How did you get these flowers so quickly?" she asked as they hit the 95 ramp.  "You were only in there a couple of seconds."

"Called ahead – told 'em I'd be there in a few minutes and I wanted my flowers ready.  'Slammed the money on the counter and walked out with 'em…I really hate ta wait"

"So it seems" she said, thinking much more into it.  She knew that nearly every action made by someone told a great deal about their personality.  Being impatient wasn't a reason to call ahead and make sure an arrangement was ready.  She'd seen him wait longer in line to get bad food at Taco Hell.  There was much more to it than that.  *He wanted to make sure they had exactly what he was looking for.  He wanted me to know that these flowers were specifically for me.  How sweet.* 

*This romantic side of Logan is very intriguing…he's obviously done this before, but nobody at the mansion has ever seen him with flowers, or ANYTHING romantic for that matter – not even Jean.*  To say she was confused was quite an understatement.  She had witnessed Wolverine's berserker rages on several occasions and couldn't believe that the same man that tore through enemy flesh without a second thought also had the gentleness to touch her heart in such a way that involved a real understanding of her.  Her thoughts; coupled with the smell of the flowers and soft music playing on the radio were enough to keep her occupied for the next 15 minutes.  Wolverine smirked the entire way – knowing the perplexing look on her face was due entirely to him. 

It wasn't until they exited the freeway and were headed toward the waterfront that she realized where they were going.  "Are we going to Paganini's?  That's one of my favorite restaurants…I haven't been there in months!"

"Yeah, I heard the grub there was pretty good…thought it might be a good place ta take ya."

"It is rather…upscale Logan, are you sure you want to eat there?"

He sensed what she was getting at and appreciated her concern but it was unwarranted.  This evening was about her, not him.

"So I eat the salad with the small fork, and hold my pinky out when I drink…not a problem.  They DO sell beer there right?"

"It is also rather expensive…really Logan, if you prefer another place, we can dine elsewhere."  The compassion in her voice didn't match the desire in her eyes and he knew it.  Since he had passed the point of no return back when he allowed the other X-Men to see him in a suit, he had no choice but to follow through and deliver an evening she'd never forget.

"What, take a gorgeous lady like you ta one of my hangouts?  I'd be bustin' heads all night."

"Thank you Logan."  Finally convinced, she gave him a pleasant smile.  "I think you will enjoy Paganini's…it has a very nice menu, and the chef is top rated."

They pulled into Paganini's parking lot and he quickly jumped out and opened the door for her.  They then walked past several luxury cars, reassuring him of his decision to trade with Scott.

"The name on the reservation sir?" the maitre d' asked as the couple walked up to the reservation desk.

"Reservation?!  I didn't know we needed one?"

"But of course, Paganini's is the elite, catering to the elite - we are VERY popular sir."

The look of disappointment on Storm's face said it all – which really hurt Logan.  He remembered how excited she was when she discovered their destination; and to be turned away at the door was a little too much for him to bear.  Though his plans were very 'spur-of-the-moment,' they were plans none-the-less and he hated the fact that he didn't think far enough ahead to check for reservations.  He walked around the podium, put his arm around the maitre d' and escorted him out of hearing range of Storm.  She thought she heard the maitre d' laughing, but wasn't sure.  A couple seconds later, they returned – Logan with a smile and the maitre d' with an unusual look of concern fostered by a slight smile.

"Right this way Mr. Logan…your table is ready.  A very pleasant location next to the waterfront window."

"Logan, what did you say to him to get us a table so quickly?"

"Nuttin Darlin' – at least nuttin you need to be concerned with."

As they entered the restaurant the unusual couple received a few odd glances.  Those that were bold enough to look were met with an even more disturbing glare from Logan.  Ororo Munroe was obviously in her element; but even in his suit, Wolverine still looked out of place.  "Heh, Beauty and the friggin' Beast…" he grumbled under his voice as they walked to their table.

"What was that Logan?" Storm asked, not noticing the look on his face or the glances from the lookiloos.  She was too caught up in the moment to be concerned with anything unpleasant and by the time he had vented his last glare, everyone else had returned to their business.

"Nothin Ro – nice table huh?"

"Very nice indeed." 

The restaurant was very upscale, with nothing out of place.  The architecture was reminiscent of the restaurants of yesteryear, complete with a ballroom dancing area – which to Logan's surprise was actively in use.

As they sat down, they ordered drinks and appetizers and settled into the evening.  By the time the main course came, they were deep into conversation – so much so that they still hadn't finished their meals late into the night.

"Logan, we've known each other for a long time and been through a lot together, more battles than I can remember.  I know we work well as teammates, but we've never really sat down and talked as friends have we?"

"No, ta be honest, I thought you were outta my league."

"Dating?"

"No, just didn't think you'd be interested in my type o' life.  You're pretty upscale…with your double doctorates and classy style..."

"You think I'm classy?"

"C'mon 'Ro, you know you're the classiest woman in the mansion…got the rest of us beat hands down – even Chuck.  With yer hair and wardrobe and fancy speak, none of us even compare.  Guess that's why I never tried…"

"You don't think I'm a snob do you?"

"Never thought that 'Ro, worked with ya long enough ta know that wasn't true…just thought we were a different breed.  Ya gotta admit, beer and cigars clash with your perfume…and I'm not known fer being a class act.  Heck, if it weren't fer you, Ida just rode on by this fancy restaurant on the way ta Cattlemans or sumpn."

"You don'tt like this restaurant?"

"Never said that either – just probably wouldn't have stopped by on my own."

"Speaking of which, what did you tell the maitre d' to get us a table?"

"Nuttin much – just slipped him a fifty."

"And that did it?  I would have thought…"

"hah – he laughed in my face…told me 2 C-notes was the goin rate."

"What did you say then?"

"Told em he could either take the fifty, or I'd be 'goin' by his car as we left (winking at her and pointing at his 3 little hidden 'negotiators').  I knew which one was his…remembered the scent on it as we walked by and recognized it when we came in.  After that he was gracious enough to accept my offer."

"Logan, you're the worst – but thank you."

"No prob Darlin.  After seein' that look on your face, I knew I had ta do somethin'!

"Can I ask you something of a more personal nature?"

"Shoot"

"Why is it that you get along better with me as field commander than you do with Scott?  Is it because you just don't like him?"

"Heck no 'Ro!  I thought you knew me better than that."  She could see the disappointment stirring in his face.

"Logan, I know you respect me; but Scott is a good commander too.  He's done a great job."

"Not as well as you."

"Do you really mean that?"

"Yeah, One-eye ain't bad, but he leads with a manual – like there's only one way to do things…and his personality is so stiff you could iron a shirt on it."

Storm giggled.  "He has to have a certain degree of control Logan…after all, he has so much responsibility…"

"So you do you Storm.  You've commanded almost as many missions as he has…an' I've seen what happens when you lose control.  It ain't a pretty sight"  Her face started to sink.

"Even with that, you don't command with an iron fist and a manual.  You look at every situation differently and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the plan, then you proceed.  I don't volunteer for missions with you because you're cute.  Well…at least not most of the time.  I volunteer because I know you can handle any situation – even me when I blow my top.  If you give an order, I know it's because you have a firm grip on what's goin on.  Ol' Cike is one of the best I've seen when it comes to combat – and believe me, I've seen a lot.  But his inflexible personality clashes with too many people.  That's why Chuck sends you on missions that require more than pure combat skills?"

"You think so?  I thought it was because Professor Xavier thought he was a better combat leader than I.  I had no idea…"

"Haven't you noticed how people respond to you?  People are always comin' to you for advice.   They don't come just because of your wisdom, it's also the way you care and can relate to them on their level.  Look at what a difference you've made in Jubilee's life.  She considers you a second mom…almost heard her call you that once."

"What?!"

"Yeah, back when she started her high-school years, she was talkin to one o' her mallrat friends about one o' them embarrassing 'women' moments…think it had somethin' ta do with her first…well, you know.  Her friend asked how she got through it and she said "Oh, my moth…uhh, Storm helped me get through it.  She knows EVERYTHING about what people are goin through".  That's probably why you're the most popular teacher at the school"

A tear almost formed in Storm's eye.  This was the stuff she wished people would share with her – the stuff that would take the edge off all the fighting.  She'd received excellent evaluations on all of her fitness reports, but evaluations were so impersonal…she wanted to know if she made a difference in the lives around her.

"Thank you Logan.  You know, you're a very dear friend.  I just never took the time to find out."

"That's okay – most people don't.  They steer clear o' me…must be my charmin' personality"

"Jubilee doesn't.  She probably knows you better than Professor Xavier"

"That's different."

"How so?"

"She's seen me at my lowest – been there through some pretty bad times.  Our experiences together really allow me to open up to her when I need someone ta talk to.  Besides that, we need each other."

"Is that so?  In what sense?  I can't really picture you needing anybody Logan."

"We all need somebody Ro.  Life ain't worth livin' if ya don't.  Jubilee and I found each other at low points in both of our lives.  She was there for me and I was there for her.  After that, I realized she needed guidance - a father figure and she realized I needed balance - a daughter figure.  I taught her what I knew and she kept me grounded.  It's worked out well for both o' us."

"That's definitely true, I've seen you do things for her that you'd NEVER do for others."

"Like what?"

"Like going to see Knotting Hill and other girl-type movies, taking her to the mall, putting up with all of her teenage friends, and encouraging her to try new things – even when it caused you pain.  Do you remember the chocolate chip cookie incident?  She put in a cup of sugar AND a cup of salt and you still ate every single one of those god-awful things."

"First of all, I LIKED Knotting Hill…AND most of the other movies we went to – but that's just between you and me, see?.  Secondly, nobody else has ever TRIED to get me to go shopping with them – or much of anything else for that matter.  Most of the time, the reason Jubilee was successful at getting me to do things with her was because she asked.  Though I will admit, it can be pretty hard to look her in those baby blues and say no.  And as for the cookies, what could I do?  She was SO excited about baking for the first time and it just broke my heart when she bit into that first cookie and realized her mistake.  I couldn't let her crash and burn on her first attempt.  It could've turned her away from baking forever."

"Yes, but to sit there and eat EVERY SINGLE ONE with a smile on your face telling everyone how good they were – that must have been difficult."

"Darlin, you'll never know!"

"And you saved us all by snatching up our share and gobbling them down."

"Well, there was no need in all of us suffering.  Besides, her second batch really tasted good.  And since nunna you other bums would have anything to do with them, I got ta eat 'em all myself!"

"You know Logan, the others may not believe this, but I think you have more heart than any of us.  You come off as rough and tough; but beneath that raspy voice, those sideburns, claws, and all that hair, you're all heart."

"Yeah right Storm, you've seen me in my berserker rages…I'm hardly that – sometimes I can't even distinguish between good and evil."

"That's not true – not true at all."

"What are you talkin' bout?"

"Do you remember that mission to Panama when the sentinels were keeping mutants in that jungle prison.  We had taken out 8 of them and were in the middle of freeing all the mutants when reinforcements arrived.  One of them hit you with an energy blast, sending you into one of your berserker rages.  When it was all over we had destroyed well over 30 sentinels and not one single mutant was harmed by you.  I remember tapping you on your shoulder.  You spun around with a crazed look on your face and I thought for sure you were going to try to kill me, but all you did was give me an exhausted look of relief and say 'it's Miller time.' You were in complete control then – and you were madder than I've ever seen you before.  Also, when that lady was to weak to walk from the prison, you carried her back to the Blackbird all the while, holding her daughter's hand and telling her that everything was going to be okay.  I saw you in the back of the Blackbird…you played with her the entire flight home – pattycake. I knew then that you weren't the animal everyone thought you were.  Seeing you go from your berserker rages to playing with children…sometimes I think you have more control than any of us – including Scott; and I know you have a big heart"

"Hah!  I remember that night – what a hoot that was!  That little girl wouldn't leave me alone and Pattycake was the only kid song I knew.  Well, let that be our li'l secret too 'kay?"

"Sure.  You know something else I've noticed about you?"

"Whuzzat?"

"You really seem to know what people need, and give it to them in a way that helps them become more self reliant."

"Whaddya mean?"

"You remember when we went to rescue Scott and Jean in the Morlock tunnels?  Because of my claustrophobia, I had a terrible time getting through; but you refused to help me.  At first, I was mad because you seemed uncaring and willing to leave me behind…"

"That wasn't the case at all 'Ro, I…"

"I realized that…I was angry, but then I saw that you treated me no differently than you did before.  You treated me like you knew I could do it…like it was expected of me.  Knowing your expectations and confidence in me helped me get through it.  While everyone else tried to coddle my feelings, you ignored them.  You never once treated me as if I COULDN'T do it.  I realized that on several other missions that involved tight places as well.  I don't think you ever knew this but whenever I felt the pressures of my claustrophobia closing in on me, I looked at you and the confidence you had in me.  Eventually, I overcame my fears – due in large to you.  Professor Xavier worked very hard to try to cure my claustrophobia.  He tried hypnosis, put up memory blocks, even tried to rewrite the memories that caused it.  In the end, you accomplished with minimal effort what he tried feverishly to do.  It almost seemed like you had as much confidence in me as you did in Professor Xavier"

"I do Storm.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses – even Chuck.  He may have brought us all together, but there's no way it woulda worked without you."

Storm smiled again.

"Besides that, the best leg-up is yer own.  I may be a team player now, but there were times in my life when I couldn't depend on anybody.  I learned real quick to solve my own problems and conquer my own fears."

"It's hard to picture you having fears Logan.  I know everyone has them; but I've never seen you back down from anything.  Even when Magneto ripped the adamantium out of your body, you faced the future with dignity and bravery.  Sure you left for a while, but not because you were afraid…because you thought you would hinder the rest of the team.  As soon as you regained your mutant healing factor, you came back.  I've never seen you back down – not even in the face of death to more powerful mutants"

"Hey – I thought we weren't going to talk shop here…you wanna dance?"

"Are you serious?  I've NEVER seen you dance before?"

"You never seen me take a leak before either, but I do it."

Storm laughed loudly.  Seeing Logan open up to her in this way made her feel very comfortable.  She herself had begun to let her hair down so to speak and was really enjoying the evening.  He led her to the dance floor and held her close as they started to dance.  Etta James was playing, and being one of Storm's favorites, she very quickly lost herself in the music.  Much to her surprise, Logan was very light on his feet. 

"You've obviously done this before."

"Never trust a man who can't dance Darlin'."

"Words to live by?"

"You betcha"

"It's been so long since I've been dancing Logan, and going with a friend really takes the edge off.  When you're on a date, it seems so much like you are out to impress them…and you never know what their true motivations are.  Often, a man's thoughts are on far more than dancing."

"Heh, can't blame a guy fer that…a few thoughts have crossed my mine once or twice."

She laughed…remembering some of the comments she made to him that night.  "Logan…really."

Though it wasn't quite Wolverine's favorite music, he still enjoyed it – especially when he felt Storm relax and pull him closer.  He knew she never really relaxed, and this was a tell-tale sign that she was enjoying his company.

What a site.  Storm in her heels stood nearly a foot taller than Logan; and though in everyone's eyes, she was the essence of class while he - the essence of pretty much everything else; they fit together perfectly.  With his arms around her waist and hers around his neck, they danced the rest of the evening away – slowly making their way to the promenade.  Though hardly a word was said, the look in their eyes spoke volumes.

As the evening moved on, they realized something unexpected was happening.  It seemed that the very things they both sought in life were right in front of them.  Could it have been that easy?  The years of pain and anguish that came before seemed to all disappear.  Clearly a new chapter in both of their lives was starting. 

Logan heard the clock strike 1:30, and even though Paganini's was in the process of closing, they continued to dance.   Storm wasn't sure if she imagined it, but she could have sworn she heard him humming in her ear.  She rested her chin calmly on his head while he laid the side of his face softly on her chest; mesmerized by her heartbeat. 

As the loudness of chairs clumsily being turned up on tables made its way into Wolverine's ears, he softly lifted his head and took a step back.

"What the flamin…!"

**THUD**

Storm opened her eyes to see what the commotion was, only to realize she was floating about 3 feet off the ground and had taken Wolverine with her.  When he stepped back, he realized there was nothing under his feet and promptly fell.

"What the heck did ya do that fer?  I thought you were enjoying yerself!"

She giggled as she gracefully descended…staring down at Logan who was now standing and rubbing his slightly aching backside.

"I don't think that's funny…here I am openin up to ya and you go and play a trick like that on me."

"You don't understand Logan, it was purely unintentional.  My God, I haven't felt this good in years."

"Well I'm glad SOMEONE feels good about it…laughing at the expense o' my achin' ass!"

"It's not what you think...let me explain.  You know how when I lose control of my emotions, the weather around me is affected?"

"Yah"

"Well something similar happens when I am very happy."

"Whaddya mean?  I don't see any strange weather"

"It was one of my first powers to surface – back when I was in Egypt and in love for the very first time.  I would go to sleep dreaming of how good it felt to be in love only to awaken and find myself floating over my bed."

"I thought you flew on gusts of wind."

"I do, but when I'm in this euphoric state something different happens.  Professor Xavier says I somehow manipulate the actual air molecules and make them stronger – almost solid; thus lifting objects without large gusts of wind.  I haven't done that in so many years, and I never thought I could do it with another person. Professor Xavier thinks it is the next step in my training – once I've gained complete control of my emotions."

Seeing the happiness in her eyes, he knew this was a good thing; and with the pain gone and the memory quickly fading, he began to giggle as well.

"Ya know, there are easier ways to get me on the ground Darlin'."

"Why Logan…is that an offer?  Be careful what you wish for." *wink*

"No...uh, I…uh…what I meant..."  For the second time that night he was taken back by her comment and for the second time that night, he started to blush.

"It looks like they're closing" she said – giving him a chance to pull his foot out of his mouth.  "Tis a pity; I was so enjoying the evening." 

"The restaurant's just closin' Darlin', the night ain't over yet."

"Whatever did you have in mind?"

"Well, the waterfront is pretty keen this time o' night.  What say you and I take a walk?"

"A splendid idea."

With that, they collected their coats and were off.  The smile on her face and look of peace on his set the tone for what could only be a pleasant event.

The view along the waterfront was marvelous and both were very pleased.

"Why can't it always be like this?" she asked, not really expecting a response.

"Waterfront ain't goin anywhere.  We can come down here anytime ya like."

"That's not what I mean..."

"I know what ya mean Darlin'.  Normal people live like this every day…not worrying about mutants or aliens takin' over the world or anything like that."

"Yes, why can't I have a normal life?"

"Truth is - anytime you want, you can go to any one o' these universities and get a nice respectable job teachin'.  You can work normal hours, have normal friends, and eat at Paganini's every night o' the week.  But it ain't in ya…just like it ain't in me.  You've got a gift that the world needs and you know it.  Ever wonder why YOU were given your mutant powers and not someone else?  It's because you're strong enough ta handle the job that comes with 'em."

"I never thought of it that way." 

He grabbed her hand, stopping her from walking then looked into her eyes.

"Ro, you're one o' the smartest people I know.  You're also one o' the strongest.  Think o' all the fights you've been in where you were almost killed.  Not only did you win; but you always came back fer more.  Not everybody can do that.  I may not have said much to ya over the years, but you gotta know that I've always respected you for your inner strength and wisdom…for your leadership.  There were times when I'd be mad enough ta kill, and you'd calm me down with just a few well-chosen words and a soft touch.  You KNOW there are few people on this planet that can do that."

"Thank you for sharing that with me Logan.  I really needed to hear it."

"We're a special breed – the X-Men.  We want to make this rock a better place ta live and won't stop until we do…or until it kills us."

"That's a grim thought…" she said to him.

"No, what's grim is what life would be like if there weren't people like us around."

"Who would have thought you'd have such a philosophical side?"

"There's more to me than just cigars and claws." he boasted.

"I know Logan.  Believe me, I know."

He held her hand as they continued to walk.  Though she was surprised by his actions, she didn't resist.  It had been a long time since someone held her hand that way and it felt good.  They walked out to the peer and stood looking at the nearly full moon.  Just when things couldn't become any more perfect; he turned to her, cupped her face in his hand and kissed her.  The kiss lasted only a second – just long enough for her to register a slight look of surprise, then a very inviting smile. 

"Are you sure you want to start this Logan?"

"Darn right Darlin…sumpn' tells me this shoulda happened a loooong time ago."

"If we start this and it doesn't work, it will…hunh?"  He kissed her again, stopping her in mid sentence; this time not choosing to test the waters.  It was either sink or swim and the gamble paid off – she fully embraced him in an extremely passionate kiss, letting all of her emotions flow forward.  He could have sworn he felt a slight tinge of electricity flow through his body…just before he realized they were rising off the ground.

They returned to the car a little after 3am – both excited about the future, but trying hard (and very unsuccessfully) not to let it show.  Neither of them were good at showing their emotions, or to be more precise…were very good at hiding them; but smiles were seeping through both of their faces.  The fact that they could see it in each other was a catalyst for bringing on more smiles…smiles that carried them all the way home. 

"Boom Boom Boom Boom

Bang Bang Bang Bang"

Storm looked at Logan like he was crazy.  "You are singing?!  I've never heard you sing!"

Big Head Todd and the Monsters played their trademark song 'Boom Boom' on the radio (which most of you probably know as the theme to the TGI Friday's commercials).

Being one of his favorite songs (coupled with the fact that it fit the evening's events perfectly); it put him in a very jocular mood as he continued singing…

"I love the way you walk

I love the way you talk

The way you walk that walk

The way you talk that talk

You knock me out

Out offa my feet"

Boom Boom Boom Boom

Bang Bang Bang Bang"

Logan winked at her as they pulled into the garage.  She was still giggling at being serenaded.  She closed the car-door and leaned up against it folding her arms and letting out a sigh. 

"Whatsa matter Darlin?  You didn't have a good time?"

"I had a wonderful time…so much so that I don't want it to end."

 "It doesn't have ta.  Wanna go fer a ride on my scoot?" he asked, looking over at his Harley parked just a few feet away.

"It's nearly 4am?!"

"Yeah, what say we go check out the sunrise and get some breakfast?  I know a restaurant that's got excellent pancakes and the best syrup you'll ever find…in Vermont."

"Vermont?  We couldn't possibly…"

"What…yer calendar filled up?"

"No, but Vermont?…My God Logan – what would Professor Xavier say?  Taking off without telling anyone where we're going…"

"I never say anything when I leave.  All he needs ta hear is the sound o' my pipes pullin outta the garage and he knows I'm going out for awhile…what other message is necessary?"

"I'm not you Logan!  We couldn't…could we?"  He could see the smile forming on her face. 

"C'mon Storm, you'll like it."

"I'll leave a note in the kitchen."

Ten minutes and a quick wardrobe change later the entire west wing shook to the roar of Logan's scoot - a Harley Davidson Softail Classic - noisily pulling out of the garage. 

"That damn Logan…" Scott grogily said while putting his glasses on and looking at the clock.  "Will we ever have any peace and quiet around here?"  Before Jean could respond, Logan sent her a message - *Sorry bout wakin' ya up Jeannie…northbound with 2 on the ground – takin' Storm with me.  Gonna check out the sunrise and get some grub.* The message made her laugh – much to Scott's chagrin.

"What's so funny Jean?!"

"Logan and Storm are taking a ride together."

"You're kidding…the two of them…together on his motorcycle?  What?  Did she lose a bet or somethin'?"

"No – and she's loving every minute of it.  I think they finally found their fairy tale ending"

"Yeah – Beauty and the noisy Beast"

"You know, it's been a long time since we took a ride on YOUR motorcycle Scott.  Let's go check out the sunrise…maybe grab some grub…in Vermont…"

***THE END***