Chapter Two – Time Changes All
A/N – A second chapter was never planned but then Steph made me think I should have a better ending for our favorite couple. Thinking about it before I went to bed I had a vision of Ororo taking things into her own hands but in a rather untypical fashion. Typing it up today I cannot say I wasn't perhaps subconsciously inspired by one of Caliente's recent Dani Moonstar stories, she writes such wonderful stories.
Living a lie has a way of changing people, that and time. Ororo had changed a great deal during the months Logan had been gone. She was the happiest anyone had ever seen her – a lie she maintained each and every day. But there were no more nights out with her friends. She often went out alone now, like tonight where she was sitting at a table in a bar she knew she shouldn't be in – a hub of the FOH she'd discovered not quite accidentally.
She couldn't help but stand out. Her brown skin, white hair and blue eyes readily branded her "mutant". But she'd gone there for that exact reason. When two men came up to her table and started to give her grief she smiled, grabbed her bottle of beer and smashed it over the smaller one's head. Upturning the table as she leapt up she kicked it at the man she'd hit then jammed her elbow into the taller man's throat just enough to take him out. Two down, the rest of the bar to go, she thought and grinned as she settled into a fighting stance Logan had taught her long ago. Another night of fun.
"I'm worried about Ororo," Jean told Logan over the phone.
"She's a grown woman, she'll be fine, she always is," Logan said.
"She's been coming back bloody and beaten, Logan, that's not normal!"
"You mean after working out in the danger room?"
"No, that would be wonderful if she were; she's out at all hours of the night doing who knows what. She mentioned some bar the FOH hang out at! She's been acting so peculiar I wouldn't put it past her to do something crazy but she just keeps evading my questions, Logan. I wish you'd check in with her."
"She doesn't wanna hear from me."
"Just because she hasn't called you doesn't mean she doesn't want you to call her."
"Not going to do that, Jeanie."
"You're a lousy friend, Logan, I expected better from you," Jean said and hung up.
Ever since Jean had mentioned that it had been raining nonstop ever since Logan took off Ororo had been trying her best to keep her pain and anger in check. She'd even tried Logan's old trick of exorcising his demons in the danger room but that had reminded her too much of him. Then one night she and Jean went out to a new bar and were harassed. Already on edge Ororo didn't take it quietly and they ended up having to fight their way out. It had been exhilarating. Bare knuckles, no powers aside from a little bit of mind control on Jean's part. She hadn't thought of Logan once during the fight. It was almost as good as she thought it would be to bash Logan's head in so she'd gone back to the club by herself then tried different bars until she'd found this one. It looked as if it might turn out to be her favorite.
When Logan heard a ruckus break out behind him he spun around on the bar stool he was perched on and stared in shock as Ororo took out first the shorter guy and then the taller one. Logan briefly admired her stance but thought she should raise her left a little higher as the mayhem began. If Logan was anything he was a loyal and good friend so he'd taken Jean's words to heart and sought out the nearest FOH bar in the Salem Center area. Besides, Ororo going to a bar in FOH country didn't make sense. Seeing her in the middle of a fight like this made even less sense.
He hadn't seen her when she'd arrived but now he saw she was clearly outnumbered. What she hoped to achieve was anyone's guess although he had a nagging feeling that it might have something to do with him. So he jumped over the railing that separated the bar from the tables, grabbed a chair as he hit the ground and swung it into the back of the man who was coming up behind her. She looked up, eyes full of surprise but instead of preparing for the next opponent she stood there staring at him. She looked as surprised as he felt.
Duck," he said and she did, just missing getting hit with a pool stick from behind. And then as if nothing had ever changed between the two they turned their backs to each other and made their stand.
"What the hell are you doin', 'Ro?"
"Fighting. And you?"
"Looks like I'm helping."
She laughed. He glanced at her, saw she looked as if she were enjoying this. After they took a few more men out he grabbed her hand and weaved through the growing crowd. They were laughing when they burst out of the bar and laughing as they ran hand in hand through the parking lot and down the street.
"So, what's a beautiful woman like you doing in a seedy neighborhood like this?" he asked when they finally stopped running.
"Working," she said as she pulled her hand free.
He looked at her curiously but she didn't give him anything more.
"It's something I do."
He frowned despite himself. "How're you doing, 'Ro?"
"Good. And you?"
"Doin' all right."
Ororo looked away from Logan, forced herself to stay calm. All this time away and he was doing all right. Which meant he'd never cared. Not even a little.
"Run!" Logan yelled suddenly.
"There they are!" someone shouted behind them.
"Who are these characters?" Logan asked as they took off down the street.
"Figured that, thing is they've got no powers right?"
"So why're we running?"
"It's fun, gives them a little excitement."
Logan almost missed a step when he heard that. "You've changed, darlin'."
"Don't we all?"
They ducked into an alley then found another alley that was cut off by a chain link fence. He gave her a boost, enjoying the feel of her body, and she, enjoying the feel of his arms, declined to use her winds to aid her. But the moment was brief and she was up and over the fence in seconds and he quickly followed. Soon they were on the outskirts of town. Certain they weren't being followed any more they walked to the convenience store that the X-Men often frequented since it wasn't too far from the school.
"Why didn't you have back up?" he panted.
"I'm on my own tonight, just having a little fun."
"What is the expression? Serious as a heart attack I believe."
"I'm . . . bored."
He looked at her but she looked away and said, "I think they've given up, time for me to go home."
"You wanna tell me what you're really doing?"
He sighed. She leaned against the brick wall of the store under the overhang and tried to stop the rain she could feel coming.
"I'm not gonna pretend I understand any of this but if you're in trouble . . ."
She laughed. "You'd be useless then. When I was in trouble you deserted me."
"Ow," he muttered feeling as if he'd been punched in the stomach.
"So, you see, I don't need your help."
He looked down at the pavement feeling the sting of her words.
"I'm quite bored now, I have to go," she said.
"No," he said, blocking her way. She squirmed slightly but didn't move as he stood in front of her. He placed one hand against the wall within inches of her shoulder then pressed his other hand by her other shoulder trapping her. "I need you to understand why I left," he said.
"I no longer care."
Another blow. "But I do," he said.
"That's too bad for you, now let me go."
"No." He moved in closer to her as if daring her to try something or either wanting to feel her body against his. He wasn't sure which it was, maybe it was both. Their bodies almost touched before he backed off and dropped his arms. He couldn't play games with her like this.
She grinned, however, as if accepting his unspoken challenge though she was furious that the close contact had made her heart race even more than when he'd held her hand and when he'd given her the boost over the fence.
"You have no business trying to detain me, Logan, either move or I will make you move." Thunder roared in the sky punctuating her statement.
He laughed. He laughed so hard his shoulders shook up and down as if he were having a seizure. For a moment Ororo thought he was going to fall over. She smacked him across the face.
"Hey! What was that for?"
"To knock some much needed sense into you. Ow. Your head is as hard as a brick."
"Let me see that," he said, taking her hand in his.
She didn't resist though she flinched. Her knuckles were cut and bleeding from the fight, her palm red from the slap she'd given him. It pained him to see this and he covered her hand gently with both of his.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," he whispered.
"Then why are you so upset with me, darlin'?"
She tried to pull her hand away but he held onto it stubbornly albeit gently. His touch hurt her more than the pain of hitting his adamantium laced jaw and despite her efforts to hold it back the rain came.
"You left me, Logan. Not one word from you until now, what did you expect?"
"I had to go, darlin'. If I'd stayed . . ." he paused then frowned before continuing, "I tried to tell myself when I left it wouldn't matter, that you'd be safer even better off without me but every day the lie's been harder and harder to live with."
The look she gave him was such a mixture of emotions he wasn't sure what to make of it.
"And yet you continued to live a lie," she said, not telling him that she too had been lying to herself and everyone else since he'd left.
He sighed, said, "I just didn't want you hurt. You know what's happened to the women I've loved, 'Ro. I didn't want the same for you."
"But that is my choice to make!"
His face lit up. "You want to make that decision now, darlin'?"
Her mouth opened slightly and she looked at him, uncertain of his meaning, uncertain of her response.
"Or am I too late?" he asked.
"You're very late, Logan," she replied and this time when she tried to remove her hand from his he didn't resist.
"You once told me you loved me, 'Ro and I should've told you I loved you right back because I did and I still do. I'm sorry if I hurt you. It wasn't what I'd intended."
"You did more than hurt me, Logan, you annihilated me."
Logan's shoulders slumped. He shook his head slowly. "I thought you were okay, you were out dancing."
"How did you know that?"
"Jeanie told me."
"She never told me she spoke to you."
"She called my place in the city, wanted to know if I was okay. When I asked how you were she told me you were having the time of your life."
"But it was nothing but a lie, a face I showed the others so they wouldn't know," Ororo whispered.
Her words broke his heart. "I'm sorry, darlin'."
"You've already said that."
"An' I'll keep sayin' it till you believe it." He took hold of her hand again, lifted it to his lips and lightly kissed the torn knuckles. When he looked up at her he saw her eyes were tearing and she did nothing to hide it.
"Then, you think we should start over," she murmured as if thinking out loud.
"If you'll give me a chance."
"And you will not leave me in the middle of the night?"
"I'm not afraid anymore, 'Ro. I figure we'll face the worse together."
"I can handle myself and you know this. How many battles have we fought side by side?"
"You handled yourself pretty good in that fight just then."
"Haven't I always?"
"Well, not always, darlin'."
"But you were always there to pick me up when I fell."
"I gotta admit that's not always been the case. Guess I dropped the ball this time but, 'Roro it won't happen again. If you stay with me we're in this together and that's a promise but if there's any sign of trouble, someone coming after me, you've gotta promise to go, to get outta the way so they don't target you."
"I can't do that, Logan. I love you, that hasn't changed and I don't think it ever will; if we're together your burdens are my burdens."
"Can't ask you to do that."
"You aren't, it's something I accept just as you must accept my burdens as yours. You are not the only one evil has its sights on."
"You talkin' about Remy?" Logan joked.
"You would have to ward off more than Remy if you take up with me, Logan – kings and despots are the bane of my existence."
The shared a laugh, so many memories coming back to them.
"No more bar brawls then?"
She chuckled. "No, no more bar brawls. I'm not a warrior like you, Logan no matter how freeing it may have been in the moment. But you better remember that I am fit to be a warrior's woman."
He threw his head back and let out a loud guffaw. "That's my 'Ro. I've missed you, darlin'," he said. "I don't want to be without you anymore, never wanna go through something like this again."
"To send me away if there's trouble derives the same result. Perhaps the solution is to accept that we cannot change the future but we can enjoy the moment. No one knows how long they have, is it not enough that we have today after all this time apart?"
He pulled her into his arms and drew her close. "No more lies," he whispered before he kissed her and as she gave into his embrace, his kisses, their love, the rain passed.