Disclaimer: If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended. That you did but slumber'd here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme is no more yielding then a dream. Gentles, do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend (Shakespeare). I don't own any characters recognizable from X-Men. Marvel, et al, owns all characters. No copyright infringement intended.

Foreword: I did a challenge on livejournal called 1sentence. The challenge consisted of 50 word prompts; for each word, I was supposed to write one (yes, you read it—one!) sentence. The first time I did it I chose Wolverine and Storm as my poison of choice, and once it was over, some sentences begged to be explored, specifically two (one of which I plan to explore in this short story). I've posted the sentence as a "prologue" sort of to the story. The prompt was the word "kiss." Some of the lesser prompts made it into the story (a revised version of the sentence, anyway). And yes, I realize that's one long ass sentence. Trust me when I say MS Word never let me forget. This doesn't really follow any specific continuity, so you picture it wherever you think best. One of my psych30 prompts (approach-avoidance conflict) also inspired this.

Dedication: This is for everyone who read "Snapshots" and encouraged me to expand on some of the sentences. I'm glad you all enjoyed the sentences, even though they weren't really much more than teasers. Hopefully, this will make up for all that teasing, though. ;)

The Spider and the Fly
by Tempest

Intermezzo: The Kiss
She pulls him to her for a kiss; not the sweet, subdued kiss that was worthy of her ilk of woman, but hard kisses that were rough enough to draw blood from her already bruised lips; he pulls back from her momentarily, running a tongue over her throbbing bottom lip; "Logan never kisses me like this," she says, as he pulls her into another kiss; this one harder than the first; betrayal never hurt so good.

Movement I: 45ºN. 180ºW.

"Yer fuckin' around, ain't ya?"

That was how the conversation started with a seething accusation spit from his lips.

It hadn't come out quite right, though, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been. He practiced what he was going to say to her moments before while pacing the garage. He'd told himself that he would handle this situation calmly and rationally. She'd have a reasonable explanation for her recent behavior, she'd probably yell at him for thinking she'd do such a thing, and they'd make up, as only they knew how.

With each step he took toward the greenhouse, he thought about how many balmy nights they'd spent just being together there. He'd listen patiently while she went on and on about low-growing juniper, kangaroo paws, silver-gray ivy, and Japanese maple. He'd bury his nose in her hair, running his fingertips across her skin, as she explained how the contrasting color of her plants—the stark blues, the muted greens, the burnished russets, and the brilliant chartreuses—created a textured harmony.

Thinking about the shared intimacy of those moments made his anger boiled, churning hotly in his veins like a volatile chemical. He hid those moments deep inside, far from where they could be touched. He knew all to well the pain behind forgotten memories, but no matter what may or may not happen to him in the future, nothing would ever take away his love for her.

When he entered the greenhouse, Ororo was sitting on the ground, legs slightly gaped, back hunched as she worked at a steady pace, her feet buried deep in the dirt. She said she loved the cool feel of the earth between her toes. She'd folded the bottom of the mottled blue-gray shirt she wore under, knotting it in the back to keep it in place, revealing tight stomach muscles. The shirt was a souvenir from a spontaneous trip to Mexico she'd taken with Yukio sometime back.

If she turned around, he would see the words "¿Dónde están mis pantalones?" while the letters spelling out Mexico splayed across a fading sunrise. She thought it was funny; he thought it was campy. The shirt was an inside joke between Yukio and Ororo—something about one too many vodka chasers and the actual disappearance of the pants she'd happened to be wearing. He hadn't asked for the fine details.

Though he made little sound when he moved, she turned her face toward his direction as if sensing he was near. She said that she did; she said something about it being a feeling she got in her stomach when he was in proximity. She turned back to her task without acknowledging him, but he'd seen the brief look of dread dim her face before she turned. And that's when he asked her if she was cheating on him.

Ororo stood from her place on the ground casually, using one hand to dust the dirt from her denim shorts when she finally reached her full height. His eyes traveled up wraparound legs (called that 'cause they were the kinda legs made to wrap around a man's hips all night long) that were much too long for the barely-there jean shorts she wore. Not that he was complaining or anything because it would be a lot of fun to see how fast she could get out of them after they settled this business.

She took a few steps to the small wooden table a few feet away, placing her pruning shears on the table. Pulling her hands from the thick, gardening gloves, she flexed her fingers. She slapped both gloves down on the table, and he couldn't help looking at them. You had your pruning shears, a scattered assortment of seeds, and those high-tech, fancy-ass, non-leather gardening gloves. She wouldn't use anything else. However, he wasn't there to gawk at her stupid gloves. He was there for some answers, answers she wasn't giving him.

She never looked at him—didn't speak a blessed word—as she did everything with a slow deliberation, fanning the flames of his anger. If she was trying to piss him off, she was succeeding. She finally turned to look at him, placing one hand against the table. She pursed her lips, raising one eyebrow, as if waiting patiently for the inevitable fallout. He couldn't read much of anything in her clear, blue eyes. And goddamnit, why didn't she just say something already?

The silence between them stretched for miles like wide-open, never-ending highways leading to unknown destinations. All she had to do was say "no" and they could move forward with their life instead of backwards. He knew he'd have to do some ego petting and maybe endure a chick flick or two before she'd decide he was in her good graces again. But what was a little groveling compared to the warm feeling of relief—to knowing he was wrong? He'd rather watch Ghost a million times than have her tell him that she was in fact cheating.

They'd suffered the premature deaths of those they loved and the bitter sting of defeat, stolen kisses and endless what ifs, broken hearts and fragmented memories of past loves. For every step forward they'd taken in their relationship, they'd taken two back. They had only gotten to this point through persistence and patience. They hadn't gotten to this point to throw it all away for nothing. But he didn't know if their relationship could endure this.

He didn't know how he would react if she told him that she was sleeping with someone else. He hadn't really prepared himself for that answer because he'd been sure she would deny the accusation until the words were lost in her throat. He knew that thought contradicted his gut feeling, but a man was entitled to lie to himself sometime especially when it came to his woman.

He tried to detect any subtle changes in her smell especially the one that he likened to guilt, but it wasn't there. Maybe he was wrong, or maybe she didn't feel guilty about anything she'd done. "Is this a conversation we really need to have right now?" she asked, neither confirming nor denying whether she was sleeping with someone else.

Well, damn.

Where was that moral anger he expected from her—that he wanted from her? She was just so calm, so cool, with a hint of annoyance. Oh no, she wasn't the one who got to be aggravated. She had no right, but her every action indicated that she did feel entitled to be annoyed—from the way she swatted her hair out of her eyes to the way she shifted her weight from one foot to the other in an agitated tempo.

"Hell yeah, it is," he managed without raising his voice… much.

"And why is that?" she asked, standing up straight again and crossing her arms antipathetically. Her voice betrayed nothing but cool indifference, though her eyes sang a different tune. "It seems that you have already made up your mind about my fidelity."

"Yer not understandin' me."

"No, I understand quite well when someone calls me a whore," a verbal riot of words causing the tone of her voice to swell an octave.

"I ain't say that."

"No, but you implied it when you asked if I was fucking around," she said angrily, a loud CRACK! adding the exclamation point to her reproachful statement. Her eyes flashed on and off like hazard lights. It was her warning to him; one she should know would never work with him. That only told him that he'd hit a raw nerve.

It was unbelievable how quickly she turned it all around on him, how quickly she made him the bad guy in this situation. When she really didn't want to talk about something, she'd twist his words until sometimes he wasn't sure what he'd said himself. "Yer not gonna do this ta me. We're too old ta play games," he said firmly. She'd do this all day if he let her.

She'd broach the subject carefully, as if she really did want a resolution, and just when he'd believed an answer was forthcoming, she'd back away from it, closing herself in a protective mental safeguard. She'd answer questions with a question or give him ambiguous answers that sounded nice but didn't truly have anything to do with anything once he let it settle in his mind. She'd snap at him, if he kept pushing, or suddenly find something more important to do.

"I care about ya, 'Ro. Ya know that. Don't play stupid, but if ya care about me at all…" If she cared about him at all, she'd be honest with him.

Her face shifted from hard lines and accusing angles to understanding softness. Her mouth curved downward, begging him to wrap his lips around hers, as a glimmer of concern started to surface. She'd never been able to keep up the "hard" façade long with him, especially not when it came to how he felt about her. All he wanted to do was take her into his arms. For a moment, he forgot this was the same woman whose face hardened when he walked into the room, the same woman who lowered her lids and glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes instead of looking him in his face.

"What makes you think I am cheating on you?" she asked quietly, crossing her arms across herself. Did she really want to know? Or would she stop him before he could really make her understand? Would she want to hear the watered down version of how he'd come to his conclusion? Or would she want him to give it to her raw and real—her feelings be damned?

Maybe she wanted to hear that there was something different about the way she treated him. The warmth and love that often coiled around him when he was around her was replaced by a forced, cold, impersonal feeling—a cruel taste of winter. Her fingers no longer lingered when they touched. Her tone was just a little sharper, a little more disapproving, when he'd done something she didn't approve of, and he didn't have to do much to set her off these days. She avoided him with sorry excuses of need to do "this" or "that." And there was always that small voice in his head that said, "She don't want ya no more," after she spurned his advances.

Or maybe she wanted to hear how their lovemaking—something that he'd always considered beautiful and sacred between them—had turned into something dirty and urgent. It was nothing more the carnal act of flesh against flesh, tongues colliding, fingers groping almost painfully, and mental pleas of "gimmie, gimmie, gimmie it all." Down on their knees, his hand wrapped in her hair while she pleaded for more, they'd fuck like two animals in heat. It was an act so dirty, so primal, that it appealed, wholly, to the animal in him—who wanted to take her right there in the greenhouse in front of God and everyone else just at the thought of it.

Despite it all, he believed she still cared about him and maybe she still loved him. "There's somethin' pullin' ya away from me and pushin' me away from ya. Not somethin' but somebody," he said, knowing those really weren't the words he was looking for.

"There's a difference?" she asked.

"There is fer me."

If there were just a wedge between them it would've snuck up on them quietly and easy, slowly tearing them apart, leaving them in a state of "what happened?" When someone else was involved, it was a forceful intrusion that couldn't be missed, turning everything on its ear from the moment this person entered their lives. One day, you were thinking about marriage and kids; the next, you were praying she wouldn't call out the other man's name during sex.

"Maybe we have just grown apart," she said, sending him a heartrending smile. It was far from a confession, but she admitted that there was a noticeable lull in their relationship. Sometimes, she liked to deny that anything was wrong when things started falling apart at the seams, but she didn't deny this. "We have just been so stressed lately. I'm sure—"

"Yer sure what? That once we get once we get all the crazies off the street this'll all go away?" he snorted. "Ya know that ain't ever gonna change, darlin'. We signed up fer the long haul, an' whatever life we plan ta have will always be tried by everythin' this world has ta throw at us. We either try let that turn us inta someone who avoids all relationships or we do the best we can. An' I thought we were doin' okay until…"

She took a small step backward, as if the force of his words had physically pushed her. He stepped closer to her, closing the gap between them a little, and she shook her head at him. "Stop," she said holding her hand in the air. He paused not sure if she wanted him to stop talking, stop walking toward her, or both. He wasn't trying to scare her away, but he could see things were progressing to just that end.

"No, I won't stop. Yer gonna listen ta what I gotta say," he said firmly, watching as defiance hardened her features once again.

"I will not," she said, turning sharply on her heels. She didn't outright run. Nah, she was too dignified for that. Instead she walked not-too-slow-not-too-fast, hiding her nervousness at the situation behind a steel spine. She even had the nerve to look back at him over her shoulder, goading him through her actions. Stop me if you dare, her chilly look said.

She was crazy if she thought she could just ride out of there on her high horse, if she thought she could just end the conversation because she didn't want to hear it. Well, she was going to hear it whether she wanted to or not. He'd agonized night and day over her, spent countless nights wanting nothing more than to rip somebody's fucking face off. He worried that there was something wrong with him, something she saw in him that repelled her. No more, though. He was going to tell her exactly what it was like.

And he was after her, overtaking her stride with little effort. Grabbing her arms, he stopped her in her tracks. And he could see the outrage in her eyes, but he was beyond caring. "Logan, what are you doing?" Her voice was low and furious, lingual nettles pricking his skin.

"Why are ya so afraid of hearin' what I gotta say?" he asked, ignoring her demand.

"I don't want to hear this." Pleading cushioned her words.

Didn't she understand that he wasn't saying these things to hurt her or to drive her away? He was confused and hurting, and he just needed her to tell him he was wrong. He needed to know that he wasn't impeding. He needed to hear that she still loved him.

"Well, yer gonna. Why won't ya listen ta me?"

"You do not understand, Logan." Shifting gears, her voice was no longer frozen fury. She was trying to reason with him, to cajole him. She'd speak to him as if he were a child, sweet and artful, inveigling him until he gave in. He hated it when she did that.

"No, it's you who don't understand, 'Ro. Ya don't know what it's like ta open yer eyes everyday an' wonder if this is gonna be the day the person ya loves tells ya it's over."

"Logan, I—"

"An' ya don't know what it's like ta loathe someone so much that ya feel like ya could hurt 'em. Most days, I can barely stand ta look at ya."

"Stop." He heard her pull a sharp breath between her teeth.

"But I know I can't hurt ya 'cause I love ya too much." He swallowed hard as he relived the emotions he felt every day through his own account. And he knew they couldn't continue this tangled dance, but he found it difficult to decide what he needed to do when even his heart couldn't decide what was right.

"Please, stop it!" she said quietly, pulling her arms away from him gently. She cupped his face between her hands. His first impulse was to turn his head slightly and kiss the inside of her hand. "I know I have been… preoccupied. I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you." Her face was only a baby's breath away from his, her words whisking across his lips enticingly, a soft tongue following in its wake. His resolve was spiraling down the drain right before his eyes. Put a fork in me. I'm done, he said to himself.

Sweetly she kissed him as if nothing had transpired, as if he'd never accused her of cheating, as if their relationship had never nosedived at all. It wasn't the burning, lusty, unfeeling kisses he'd become accustomed as of late. No, it was the kind of kiss that had once sealed their silent vows to each other. And just like second nature his hands reconnoitered delicious, cultured curves. And God, why couldn't things stay like this?

She still hadn't admitted to her deception, and it was becoming more of a "non-matter" as she guided his hands to the clasp of her shorts, a present waiting to be unwrapped. Her need filled the greenhouse like sweet ambrosia. He was helpless to the dangerous web she weaved. "Somebody'll see," he said, conveniently overlooking the fact that not too long ago he'd wanted to take her and damn who saw them.

Ororo gave him an impish grin as she grabbed his shirt, pulling him deeper into the private labyrinths of the greenhouse, the foliage closing around them like a protective shield. "'Step into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly."

"Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider to the fly. "Tis the prettiest little parlor that you ever may spy. The way into my parlor is up a winding stair. And I have many curious things to show you there."

"Oh no, no," said the little fly. To ask me is in vain. For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

He could hear the tale of the spider and the fly unfolding softly in his head. And she was clouding his mind not unlike the spider did the fly. Was he to share a similar fate? As she lured him into her folds, he decided he didn't care.


Author's Notes: I've been in the mood for a lot of pathos lately, and that's showing in my writing. I actually wrote this to be a one-shot. Too bad I couldn't leave the story like this. After re-reading it, I realize I still have more left to write. The story is continuously unfolding in my mind. It won't be long, though; maybe four or five parts at the most. Just pray I can take a break away from watching LOST (catching up on the eps I missed from season one) to not neglect it. I also have three challenge ficlets to finish for the "rare couples" challenge by the 18th, so I'll be slightly delayed.