Silver Lining

By Minarya


DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of these characters. Marvel does. Try not to go into shock.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is movieverse, blended with comic elements. Storm has blue eyes, darn it!

* We were born with our eyes wide open
So alive with wild hope
Now can you tell me why
Time after time
They drag you down
Down in the darkness deep
Fools in their madness all around
Know that the light don't sleep *
- from David Gray's Silver Lining

The sun already had slipped below the horizon, but steely gray tendrils of light still snaked across the sky, tangling with the myriad blues of the fading day. Comforting warmth slowly gave way to the cool crispness of a typical fall night in New York.

Ororo rested her arms on the railing of her small balcony, the stone still radiating some sun-warmed heat. She tilted her face into the soft breezes, relishing how they whispered across her bare skin and crept through her curled white hair, sending it dancing slightly across her shoulders and back. She breathed deeply, letting the clean air cleanse her lungs, her body, her soul ... Leaning over her folded arms, she gazed at the mansion grounds spread out beneath her. It was so blissfully quiet out here, as no one had ventured beyond the front lawn. She could still hear the sounds of celebration below ... low, laughing voices underscored by the steady beat of easy dance music as the stragglers enjoyed the waning moments of the reception, Jean and Scott long gone.

This peace and quiet ... this is what she sought by coming up here. She couldn't be happier for her dearest friends, and the wedding had been perfection, to no one's surprise, but it had been an endless day, capping an endless weekend. Everyone had come - former and occasional team members, Jean's family, even some political associates of the professor's - and the constant press of people made her feel suffocated. A few times she had had to resist the urge to toss away her bouquet and dash out the front door, take to the skies.

But it was a childish urge, born of old fear but fueled by unexpected shades of loneliness and melancholy. She prided herself on being well-schooled in controlling her emotions, and she did just that - the perfect maid of honor.

Ororo stretched her hands out before her, working out the slight ache in her forearms. The bouquets Jean had chosen were stylish, unique ... and unbelievably heavy! Tight balls of soil overflowing with orchids and roses, hanging from thick satin ropes ... Ororo had carried hers for hours, then held onto Jean's and Marie's as the two danced and mingled. Her job this day was to pay attention to detail, everything from keeping the kids in line to making sure every curl was perfectly placed on Jean's head. Nothing would mar this day for her best friend.

And keeping her hands full of flowers also had given her an excuse not to approach Forge. She shouldn't have expected him to stay away, but it had been a shock nevertheless to see him walk across that threshold so brazenly, as if nothing had ever happened.

Ororo closed her eyes against the image of him ... how could he still be so handsome, after all this time? Shouldn't she be unable to stand the sight of him? But there he was ... tall, dark, meticulously dressed ... his black hair pulled tight at his neck. His dark eyes glittered as he regarded her across the room. She could hear his deep, quiet laughter at something the Professor said. She caught a whiff of his cologne as he moved past her once, stealing a dance from the bride. Once or twice, when she sensed he might approach her, she deftly would find something to occupy herself with on the other side of the room. She was mildly disgusted at her cowardice, but how was she supposed to react? With calm indifference? Coldness? Anger?

So she stayed busy. Too busy, too busy to wonder what it would have been like to have been in Jean's shoes, holding Forge's strong, warm hand in her own, feeling his undying love for her. Too happy to dwell on the loving, devoted way Scott held Jean on the dance floor, whispering in her ear and making her smile from ear to ear ... the way Rogue danced herself to exhaustion, bouncing between John and Bobby with a teenager's boundless energy. Too surrounded by love to notice the way Jean's mother embraced her, the way the kids drank themselves silly on champagne, only to fall asleep on soft couches, and imagine what that safety and love might have felt like ...

Ororo sighed, releasing that strange melancholy that had crept up on her again, and pulled the pale green ribbon out of her hair. Twining it around her fingers, she watched the ends of it float on the breezes. Green, green, green ... everything at the wedding was some shade of green. Ororo smiled. Everyone here seemed to have a signature color, something that helped define them. She wondered what hers was ... white, for her hair and eyes? Was that even a color? Maybe brown ... the brown of the earth, of Africa, of the building she was in when her parents were killed. Or maybe blue. Yes, blue was much more uplifting. It spoke of skies, of freedom ...

What'cha thinkin' about, darlin'? Ororo jumped as the gravelly voice behind her broke her out of her reverie. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw him leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed across his broad chest, mostly hidden by the shadows. She thought it was instinctual on his part, the hiding. Most of the time, if not for the gray cloud of smoke that usually followed him everywhere, she would have no idea where he was.

It crossed her mind to chastise Logan for breaking into her attic room, but Ororo dismissed it. It would be pointless, anyway. Logan did what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it. And besides, she had noticed he had not lit one of his cigars up here. That in itself earned him a reprieve.

Turning back toward the skies she felt him move, silently, to stand to her right. He leaned his arms on the railing next to hers, hands clasped in front of him. The long green ribbon tickled his knuckles as if in greeting as she marveled again at his natural grace ... not something one would expect from a man with an adamantium-laced skeleton. Nothing, really, she murmured in response. I hope no one thought me rude, I just ... it was getting ...

Logan cast her a sidelong glance. he offered.

Surprised at his perceptiveness, Ororo's eyes met his. Dark and glittering, but in a different way than Forge's. There was always a little wildness flirting at the edges of Logan's deep brown eyes, making them almost seem to sparkle with mischief. Forge's eyes seemed deeper, darker ... more calculating and knowing. Her voice came out as little more than a whisper, and she turned toward the sky once more, his presence more of a comfort than she cared to admit.

Logan kept his gaze on her profile awhile longer. She was absolutely stunning, that was obvious to anyone with eyes. In her sweats, in her uniform, or in this pale green silk dress, she was stunning.

But more than that, she was his friend. Truth be told, he didn't have many of them. And he liked it that way. Just about everyone had an ulterior motive, and sooner or later that motive was revealed, but in the year since he returned to the mansion, everything was still as blessedly simple between him and Ororo as it had ever been.

He hadn't been sure he was going to come to this thing today. Despite what Chuck, Scooter - and hell, even Jeannie sometimes - thought, he was not hopelessly in love with the redheaded doctor. He wasn't even sure if he was capable of that kind of emotion anymore.

But he was deeply attracted to her. Or at least had been, at first. Maybe she reminded him of a lost love, for all he knew ... And she had responded. Just a little, but enough to give his tortured mind something pleasant to dream about. To maybe hope for, just a little. He respected her decision, but watching her get married, promise herself to another man, would be watching one more chance at happiness slip through his fingers.

So his decision to show up, in the end, had been impulsive. And done out of respect for Chuck and his teammates. Plus, Marie had begged him to come, wanting to see him in a suit, and he had a hard time telling that kid no to anything. But he hadn't expected it to be easy.

For the last six months, he had been splitting his time between the mansion and a small apartment he had found in the city. No one knew about it except Chuck and Ro, and no one had seen it. It was his sanctuary, when this place or the kids got to be too much, or he needed to work something out in his head, in peace. And that's where he'd come from this morning, jumping on his bike and riding like a bat out of hell, not giving himself the chance to change his mind.

He had hoped to go unnoticed, maybe slink out after he gave Jeannie his congrats at the reception. Logan wasn't much for socializing in the best of circumstances, but especially with people he didn't know. So he parked his bike about a mile from the mansion and hung at the back of the crowd in the mansion's ballroom - masquerading as a makeshift chapel - watching quietly from corners and doorways.

And suddenly found himself completely fixated on the weather witch.

People bothered him. Most of them were loud, fake. Unnatural. And the whole day had been full of them ... squealing and giggling, plastered smiles and garish clothes. Emotions ranged from giddiness to despair. He
found himself scowling, searching the room for an out ... and his eyes had fallen on her.

Ororo was like an oasis. Hell, she even looked the part. He first saw her when she entered the chapel behind Rogue, as Jean's maid of honor. Nothing but serenity behind her soft smile. Quiet beauty. Her long, white hair was piled atop her head like a cloud, twined with that green ribbon and rhinestones that seemed to catch the silver of her hair, and loose curls fell like a waterfall around her face. The matching green dress was sleeveless, and flared out behind her like a wave. She carried some kind of ball of flowers in front of her, the pale colors combining with the creamy brown of her skin to make her look for all the world like nature incarnate.

The rest of the day, he couldn't take his eyes off her. And after awhile, he started to look a little closer. He could see the slight sadness in her usually bright blue eyes, the tension in her posture, even as she trailed behind Jean fixing her dress or broke away to check on something with the caterer or the DJ. At one point he had even considered asking her to dance, but she seemed to want to stay out of the fray as much as he did. No one else seemed to notice, but when she finally slipped away, he found himself following her.

It could not have been easy for you.

It took a moment for her words to sink in, and she nodded sympathetically, apparently misunderstanding his silence. I admit I am surprised you came. But I know Jean appreciated it.

Logan winced at his brilliant response. Jean had been the last thing on his mind at the moment.

Ororo laughed a little, and reached out to lay her hand on top of his, patting it gently. Her skin was incredibly soft and warm against his, dry from the wind on his ride up from the city. It is all right, you know, Logan. I know you love her. That does not change simply because she has chosen another.

Logan watched the green ribbon, which had been pulled free of the hand that now rested on top of his, flutter precariously from the index finger of her left hand as the breeze shifted. He had a strange urge to yank it to safety.

Crap, Ro, not you, too.

Me, too, what?

You really think I'm moonin' over Jeannie? He caught her gaze and faltered a little. He hadn't expected the lingering sunlight to make her eyes shine so brightly.

No, I do not think that, Logan. She pulled her hand back to herself, resting it on the railing once again as she shifted her body toward him. But this sort of thing is not simple. You do care for her, yes? And you have not been around this week, so I assume you were off dealing with some issues.

How did she always make him feel like he was a child sulking in a corner when she said things like that? I coulda been off learnin' how to tango so I wouldn't make an ass out of myself at the reception, for all you know.

Were you?

Dammit. No. But that ain't the point.

The corner of her mouth quirked up a little as she regarded him, her eyes dancing in amusement. I only meant to say I think it was very noble of you to come, and offer her your congratulations, Logan.

Yeah, well. Whatever. Logan was eager to change the topic. He hated talking about himself. What about you? You didn't seem to be doing backflips of happiness back there, either.

Ororo straightened slightly, narrowing her eyes. What do you mean?

It's just that ya didn't seem terribly thrilled to see your best buddy gettin' hitched ... what, you have a little thing for Scooter once? Logan couldn't help teasing her sometimes. It was so easy ...

Oh, for Goddess' sake, Logan, really ...

No? Maybe the Prof ... You were smilin' at him an awful lot when he gave Jeannie away ...

You are incorrigible!

Logan was on a roll now, laughing lightly as she blushed furiously under her silvery hair. Oh, no, wait! I know ... Forge, right? The Cheyenne? I saw him givin' you the once-over, Ro. Somethin' ya wanna share?

Her smile wilted a little as she took a half-step back. As if he'd physically pushed her.


Aw, Ro. I'm sorry. You know me ... show me the line, and I cross it by leaps and bounds ... Logan's mind replayed the afternoon. He'd only just met the brooding man, but he had seen him leering at Ororo throughout the ceremony and reception. She hadn't seemed to notice ... but now that he thought about it, maybe it had been more of a careful avoidance. And now that he *really* thought about it, he seemed to remember Jean casually mentioning that an ex of Ro's might be at the wedding.


But he watched her swallow hard, and force the levity back into her face. Damn, this woman was a master of her emotions.

I do not have a thing' for Forge, and I can assure you he does not for me, Logan. Her demeanor was calm and voice soothing, as always, but she didn't fool Logan.

Really, I'm sorry. It's none of my business, if you have a history with this guy. Just me and my big mouth. You don't hafta explain. He was curious - the man really hadn't seemed her type - but he'd already pushed her too far tonight.

It is all right, Logan. You did not know. Not much of a story, really. Ororo turned to lean with her back against the railing now, twisting the green ribbon through her fingers for a long moment. With a sigh, she dropped her hands down in front of her, clasping them together and squeezing. Logan had seen her do this a few times, mostly when they were going over strategy, or hearing some sort of bad news. Her eyes drifted down to stare at her folded hands. When she spoke, though, her voice was still soft and light.

We were ... together. Years ago. For a long while. I ... loved him, as best I could. He was my first, well, my only love. She paused, offering a self-conscious laugh, and Logan saw her knuckles turn white as she continued squeezing. He felt a little sick to his stomach, for bringing this up in the first place. He asked me to marry him, then took it back. End of
story. She tried a careless laugh and a smile, but both failed miserably. Logan closed his eyes, balling his fists and letting her pain wash over him. When he looked at her again, he caught her lip trembling slightly, then she regained control. Tonight ... this was the first time I had seen him since he broke it off. Obviously, I am not handling it well.

Slowly, Logan stretched his hand out to cover hers, stilling their movement. Gonna break your hand doin' that, he said softly. She relaxed the grip a bit, but didn't let go. Do ya still love him?

Oh, no. This time, the laugh was a little more real. I do not believe I understood what love really meant at the time. It felt like love. When he left, it hurt like it was love. But in the end, I think he was right.

Logan was almost positive he didn't want to hear this. His blood was already starting to boil as he watched her lift her face to the skies, her voice wistful, as if speaking at the moon instead of him. Right bout what?

She turned her crystal blue eyes to his, and shrugged. I did not want to leave the X-Men. They are the only family I have, and I feel needed here. Like I am making a difference. But he said that if I loved him, I would leave with him. I must not have loved him as much as I thought I did, because I could not bring myself to walk away from this place.

A silence grew between them. Her eyes were wide, and honest. It was one of the reasons Logan had come to care for her so much ... there was no artifice lurking behind her words. It was a gift, when she shared part of her heart, an offer of trust. He sometimes felt as if his soul was laid bare before her untainted eyes, but the thing that was easy to miss, the thing it had taken him so long to notice, was that if one looked hard enough, her soul was laid just as bare.

And right now, he saw a girl who had been hurt, who wasn't sure how to feel or act. That bastard had put that doubt, that pain in her eyes.

It damn near broke his heart.

Words failed him, as they sometimes did, so he fell back on instinct. Tugging at her hands until she released the death grip, he slowly, gently, pulled her to him. Placing her hands on his waist, he raised his palms so they rested on either side of her face, drawing her in close enough so she couldn't escape what he was going to say. So close ... his senses were suddenly flooded with her. Darlin' ... ain't nuthin' wrong with your love. If that asshole walked away, it's his loss, and his problem. Not yours.

Ororo sighed deeply, letting herself believe his words, at least for the moment. She knew he only spoke the truth. That was one of the biggest reasons she cared for him so much. But he didn't know the whole truth.
Didn't know how guilty she felt about not saying yes right away to Forge, about how she let the depression eat away at her after Forge left, not letting any of it out. All for the damn control ... no one knew, at the time, how empty she had felt, watching Forge walk away ... as if her entire future, her chance at happiness, left with him ...

She leaned toward Logan until their foreheads touched, and brought her hands up to rest on his forearms as his fingers inched their way into her hair. She relished the closeness of another human being. Ororo could feel the surprising softness of his skin as her fingertips edged under the rolled-up cuffs of his white dress shirt. The taut muscles flexed as his fingers moved. The warmth of his body seemed to melt into her. Thank you, Logan, she whispered.

Logan closed his eyes, tightening his grip slightly and allowing his other senses to take over. He couldn't speak. She always smelled lightly of vanilla, but now it mingled with some floral scent from her shampoo and hair spray. Her silky hair rested against his fingers, and he had to resist the urge to bury his face in it. When had she become so tempting? This friend, this woman he respected and trusted like no other? The two of them suddenly seemed to be suspended in time, their slow breathing the only sound breaking the stillness. All he had to do was tilt her face up, just a centimeter or two, and his lips would be on hers. He would be able to taste her, to touch her ...

Suddenly Ororo jerked away from him, her eyes scrunched up and her hands flying up to grab his wrists. The hair, the hair ... you have no idea how many pins are in there!

With a snort of laughter, he carefully tried to extricate his hands. Now that he looked closely, her head did sort of look like a pin cushion. He finally got his hands free, but she was left trying to remove the pin he inadvertently had been pulling on, and the noises of frustration she was making told him she was only making it worse.

OK, OK, cut it out! He swatted her hands away. Sit down and I'll help ya get these torture devices out.

They moved the couple of feet over to the wrought-iron bench and she sat with her back to him, sighing contentedly as he started working each pin out of her hair, slowly and carefully. Oh, Logan, that is heaven, she murmured as he worked the first few free.

He worked in silence for a while, the table beside them filling with tiny pins, as he studied the woman before him. He had returned about a year ago, bitter and defeated at finding nothing, no clue to his past, in the Canadian ruins. He had taken eight months to scour the site, determined not to miss anything, but still came up with nothing. He had taken another four months to try and figure out what his next step would be - he wasn't at all sure returning to this place was what he wanted to do, despite his promise to Marie.

But in the end, his options were bleak. At least he'd be of some use here.

Growing close to Ororo had been an unexpected bonus. It didn't take long to see she was the heart and soul of the mansion - she was a surrogate mother of sorts to the kids, a best friend to Jeannie and Scooter, a daughter to Charles - but at the same time she also seemed to exist outside of all the chaos. Logan found himself wanting to know more about her, what made her tick ... so he took to watching her - or stalking her, as she later called it. He discovered how she would retreat to her greenhouse, sometimes for hours on end. How she would sit up on the roof, basking in the sun or the rain. How she would hum quietly to herself as she sat in her classroom grading papers, or when she'd curl up on the windowseat of the library when she couldn't sleep, thinking she was alone.

When she had come to him, asking him to train her in hand-to-hand combat, everything started to change for them. Their sessions increased from a couple times a week to every other day. Logan found himself making up excuses to be around her - even helping out in her classes once or twice, of all things. He was confiding things to her about his past, his feelings - something he still had a hard time believing he could do. She would always look at him the same way, those clear blue eyes open and welcoming, drawing him in and making him confess everything without a word from her mouth ...

On the surface they seemed different as night and day - she was lethal in battle, sure, but her strength was in her spirit. It sustained those around her and made her seem regal, self-assured. He was brash, and carried his strength around like a badge, ramming it down people's throats. But somehow ... underneath all that ... Logan found their motivations were the same. Honor, loyalty, justice, self-sacrifice. They answered the same calls, and out here, with the moon watching them and the leaves quietly cheering them on, he felt it even more strongly.

Running his fingers through her freed hair, getting out the last of the tangles, he gathered up a handful and silently leaned forward to bury his nose into it, finally. There was that mix of floral scents from the hair spray and shampoo he noticed earlier, but beneath it ... damn ... she smelled of rain, of sun.

Like heaven.

She choose that moment to turn around, as he sat with his face buried in handfuls of her hair, his eyes closed. When he opened them again, he was staring into the face of an angel, with her hair fluffed up all about her head.

Ororo was startled to see Logan sniffing her hair, but she stifled the giggle and the smart comment that had leapt to her tongue. She had never seen him like this, eyes closed, hands gentle, face peaceful. He looked almost ... innocent. She wondered if this is the way he looked, before all the testing and torture overwhelmed his life. Once or twice she had watched him fall asleep, after they had shared a long talk in the library or living room in the middle of the night, and even in sleep he had never looked that calm.

A weapon. They, these nameless faces, had tried to steal his humanity, make him a living, breathing means of destruction ... and they had partly succeeded. But Ororo had watched as Logan comforted Marie this past Christmas, when she was homesick for the parents and old friends from whom she was estranged. She saw his panic and concern in the danger room a while back, when Jean was practicing moving herself through the air with her telekinesis and fell when her concentration broke. Ororo witnessed the patience he showed her, when she had a difficult time learning a move he had gone over a hundred times already.

No, Logan couldn't see it, but in so many ways his enemies had failed, miserably. As she watched him now, so still and quiet, lost in thought after watching the woman he loved marry another man and then being considerate enough to save Ororo from painful bobby pins, she felt an overwhelming need to pull him into her arms as if he were a wounded animal. Promise to take care of him, to love ...

Love him?

When he looked at her, his dark eyes regarded her more openly than he ever had before. As if in a dream, she lifted her hand to touch his cheek. A flash of embarrassment, but he didn't pull away. Neither did she. She didn't think she could, even if she wanted to.

Slowly, she trailed her fingertips down the stubble on the side of his face, then back up his cheekbone. When his face leaned slightly into her hand, she felt a warmth spread through her body. Her hand moved up to run once through his soft black hair, then, with the barest of touches, she brushed her fingers across his lips.

Logan was fighting. Fighting not to grab her and lose himself in her. Not to open his mouth and say something inane. Not to move, and break this spell, or whatever it was, that was compelling this creature to touch him like this. she breathed. She couldn't be talking about him, but her eyes had not left his, her skin still caressed his.

Then, swiftly, she replaced her fingers with her lips. Just touching, for a moment.

Ororo stopped breathing, as lightning suddenly seemed to course through her veins. She had no idea what made her touch him, all she knew is she could not stop herself. And now ... she could feel the tremble of his mouth as he exhaled, his breath filling her nose. Smoke, of course, and wood. Earth. She felt as if she were dreaming ... Slowly, cautiously, she moved her lips against his, still innocent. She closed her eyes, focusing everything she had on this dance.

Logan had to touch her, make sure she was real. His hand drifted up to cup her face gently, as she held his, afraid he might scare her off with any sudden movements. That she would realize who she was with, what they were doing. But she didn't pull away. She pressed herself a little closer, the tip of her tongue darting out to taste him. Instinctively he moaned, and he felt her fingers grip him a little more strongly. He answered her, meeting her tongue with his, but just barely. Passion burned, but behind the wonder of this. He craved the connection, needed her to need him as much as he found himself needing her.

Logan ...

It was a plea, a sigh. And it stirred something deep inside him.

Pulling away a fraction, they stared at each other, both panting softly. He expected to see shock or confusion in her eyes, but they were soft, and smiling.

What is this, Logan? Her voice was so quiet, as if afraid of breaking something.

I - I dunno, Ororo. Surprised to hear his voice just as quiet.

A long silence fell between them. After a while, she moved a little closer to him and brought her other hand up to sink both into his dark hair. She wrapped her fingers around the ends of it, fisting it at his neck, and shifted her gaze downward. I am sorry if this is not what you want. I cannot explain my actions.

Jesus, Ro, ya don't hafta explain anything. Logan mimicked her actions, tugging at her hair until her eyes met his. The yearning in them made his heart soar, and he had to swallow hard before speaking again. I don't know what's goin' on here, exactly, but I know ... I just know this is right.

Ororo felt a thrill rush through her body at his words. What had they found here, on her balcony, under the new moonlight?

But ... did she even want there to be anything? She thought of Logan as her best friend now, though she had never told him. He seemed to understand her better than the others did, as much as she loved them, and Goddess knows she did not want to lose that - could not - especially to something as trivial as a rebound relationship. Their hearts had both been broken ... she had hidden from feeling much of anything after Forge, never wanting to go through that pain again. And even though the love and commitment between Jean and Scott was too great for Logan to break, he had pursued her, unable to completely contain his feelings for the redhead.

Maybe, when his eyes were closed just now, he was imagining Jean in her place ... the thought stabbed through her body, but logically Ororo realized that was the most likely explanation, and she could not blame him. After all, she was the one who kissed him.

She moved completely away from him then, hooking her unruly hair behind her ears and clearing her throat. Thank you, Logan, for helping me with the pins. Ororo waved a hand in the direction of the small metal pile - wondering briefly where Marie had learned to style hair. But it has been a long night, and I believe we are both quite tired.

Ororo stood, absently brushing the wrinkles out of the green silk. She would need to get this dry cleaned before storing it. Jean had mentioned restyling them into party dresses, but Ororo had never been a maid of honor before, and she wanted the keepsake. The little green ribbon slid off her lap and onto the white tile.

Ororo could sense Logan shift behind her, and she squeezed her eyes shut. Part of her wanted to let him continue to think of her as Jean, if it meant not being alone tonight. If it meant waking up in someone's arms in the morning ...

But of course, she would never allow that to happen, even if he could.

Logan didn't need his acute senses to know the mood had suddenly shifted. Confused, he watched her stand, her back to him, busying her hands with her hair, her dress ...

What're you doin'? he asked as he stood up, bending to sweep up the long green ribbon that lay abandoned at her feet. He wound it around his own fingers as he hovered behind her, close but not touching. Did I do something wrong?

No, Logan, you did nothing wrong. Her voice floated to him over her shoulder. But this ... situation is wrong. And I would not be a good friend if I allowed it to continue.

What the hell are you talkin' about, Logan was becoming irritated at his confusion, and he grabbed her elbow to pull her back toward him. I thought I just told you ... Didn't we just say this was what we both wanted?

Her eyes were heavy but her expression was as solemn as ever. Maybe it seems like that now, but today has not been easy for either of us. I will not taint our friendship with regrets.

Logan just stared at her. Such composure, such will ... if he was honest with himself, with her, he'd admit that he'd been drawn to her since the beginning, but she kept herself out of reach, and he had been so thoroughly distracted by the brightness of Jean. Ororo was a challenge, and the more he got to know her, the more he realized she connected with something deep in his soul.

That was dangerous. That was difficult. Far, far easier to keep her at arm's length.

But now, in the stillness of this night, surrounded by her scent, with the memory of her touch and her smile fresh in his mind, he also knew he was scared. Maybe they both were.

Logan closed his hands over her upper arms, feeling her tense slightly, and slowly pulled her close to him. He captured her eyes with his own and held them. Listen to me, Ro. I don't have a name for whatever this is. Least, not yet. But I can tell you for damn sure it ain't got nuthin' to do with Jeannie, or Forge, or even the flamin' X-Men, for that matter. Somewhere along the line here, you've moved to the top of my list of favorite people - even though ya know that's a very short list - and I'm not gonna screw it up.

She smiled at him then, just a little, and the goddess persona slipped as her eyes twinkled under the stars. You have a list of favorite people?

Yeah, well, maybe it's more like a list of people I don't hate as much as everyone else.

And who, exactly, did I have to beat out for the top spot?

Ya wanna get knocked out of the top spot? By now she was grinning widely, and it was infectious.

No, no, it takes quite a lot to get up there ... I will not relinquish it without a fight.

Well, good. Some of her hair had blown free in the soft breezes, and Logan pushed it away from her face, tying it into a ponytail with the green ribbon still tangled around his fingers. Let's just take this slow, okay? No regrets.

No regrets. Ororo tilted her head and bit her lower lip, her tone teasing. I do not believe I would regret doing this, though. She slid her arms around him, pulling him to her tightly as she sighed contentedly against his shoulder.

Logan definitely didn't mind that move ... he quickly returned the embrace, dropping a lingering kiss to the top of her head before resting his cheek against it, gazing out into the dark sky.

Thanks, darlin', he murmured after a few minutes.

Ororo smiled as his voice rumbled in his chest, against her cheek. She didn't want to think about how perfect that made everything seem ... Thanks for what?

I dunno ... makin' this a home for me, I guess.

You made it a home, Logan. I just ... rolled out the welcome mat.

Her whispered words were muffled in his shirt, but he heard them clearly. She laughed lightly, which made him smile ... and called up old ghosts of pain and doubt. Logan closed his eyes and pushed down the fear, that voice that told him this could only lead to disaster, and focused on this night. Whatever happened next, this was right.

And for the first time in his memory, he allowed himself the hope.