Disclaimer::  Okay let's see, this is a first for me.  It's the first time I've attempted to write Scott in a flattering light…and you know what? I fell in love with the guy…I think the worlds ending…yet another character to torture!  Hum there's bad language in here. It's not me! Okay so it was…Logan was influencing me at the time! It's all his fault heh heh.  Um let's see we have slash, we have the death, we have blood and guts and sex (nothing too graphic just _what_ do you think I am! Don't answer that.) And angst and sappy parts and and we have minor Jean bashing (in my eyes anyway) And we have Logan *gets starry eyed* what more could a girl ask for? I don't own any of the characters in this story, *salivates-eyes turn into dollar signs*, but I can wish! *See characters huddling in corner praising God for good owners like Marvel (the irony!)*  Don't sue!  I'm a sick little monkey (according to Kender *Grin*…and quite proud of it!) that is continually broke and doesn't taste good cooked and eaten so don't do it, and I make lawyers turn green on sight…occasionally blue even!!   Also I apologize for the corny title, but just looking at it I have this sinking feeling that once again I have a series on my hands WHY CAN'T IT ALL EVER END!  OH THE HUMANITY!! YE GODS WHAT HAVE I DONE!!! MAKE IT END MAKE IT ALL END!!!!!! WWWAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!  Okay, at any rate it isn't over in the least *grin*  Oh yeah *clears throat*  RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICOOOOOOOOOOOOOLAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Sorry but I've had one to many cough drops *EG*

Reaper's Oblivion: Logan's Fate

I am…dying. 

I know it in my mind; I feel it in my very soul.  The fact sings me to sleep and screams me awake.  It's the thought that pushes me to be the best I can be in everythin' I do even as it throws me to the ground in utter blindin' defeat.  The Grim Reaper is smilin' down on me, that bony hand is reachin' fer my heart and there's not a thing in tha world I can do to stop it.

This isn't how it should be.  I've lived so long, and yet all those years've been filled with nothin'.  My whole life dedicated to…nothin'.  But if it _was_ nothing, why did it feel like somethin'?  Why did it feel so important?  And even though the questions still plagues me, now, as the end approaches, I can see that I wasted all that time. That precious time… No time… 

This _isn't_ how it should end! I have seen so many battles, so much death. Why can't I die like that? In action, beside 'em, the ones I love.  I can see my death, the one I dreamed of for so long, the one I should have.  The one I earned, with my pain and the suffering of everyone close to me. 

I dream of the battlefield painted scarlet with tha blood of friend and foe.  Bodies lying twisted, enemies lying atop each other in death like macabre lovers.   And as I look on, picking out the bodies of those I had known among the wreckage, red hair here, green gloved hand there, angel-white feathers drifting at my feet- the guilt would overwhelm me even as anger clawed my mind.  I would berate myself, ask myself…Why couldn't I have saved 'em? They are worthier, more deserving of life than I'll ever be. 

And yet I'm still standing when everyone else is down, dead or injured and I'm always still standin'.

Alone.

At the bitter end…I'm alone.  The thoughts are broken as pain burns through my brain.  Some weapon has struck me, be it arrow, sword, or some mutant power, it doesn't matter anymore.  Just the pain, white-hot, cleansing…honorable.  It burns through me and then it's over, all over and my body lies beside theirs, as it should be.

But that ain't how it's gonna end. I know how this'll end.  It'll be slow, dull pain continually growing worse day by day.  Muscles that used ta take the worst beating imaginable bruise at the slightest excuse, useless with neglect.  My mind will go too, memories fading.  As if enough of my life isn't already forgotten.  I might not know who I am, or who I was, or even… I don't want to finish this thought but I will.  I may even…forget them.  Forget Scott, Jean, Kurt, Kitty, Ro, Japeth, Jubilee, hell even Creed.  I can't even find it in me to feel the usual burst of rage and burning hatred at that last name.  Just an aching hollowness at the knowledge I have been ignoring for months.

I can't…I _won't_ tell anyone.  It's kind of ironic that someone as strong as I'm supposed to be can be so weak when it comes to something this simple.   But I know I couldn't handle it if they knew.  The first thing would be a trip to Hank.  Maybe the good doctor could even cure me.  That raises slight hope in my mind that is quickly quelled by common sense.  I can feel it in my bones…this is my death.  One no amount of technology or medicine can save me from, this is my fate.  And once Hank discovered I couldn't be cured, then the mourning bull would begin.  The pitying looks, the indulging, everyone crowdin' near to get their last respects said.  Or to get the last word in before it's too late. 

Like fuckin' vultures, I don't want to remember em' like that my last days.

Maybe I'm just afraid they'd shrug and walk on like I hadn't said anything important.  I feel torn; my mind split between telling 'em just to see if they'd react, or keeping it inside so they will always remember me as I am now.   But still…is it cruel to 'em to just leave and never come back? 

This is one of the few times that I'm actually glad I don't have anyone.  Telling this to friends would be hard enough, but to tell a lover or…  That's one thing I don't wanna have to go through.  And I won't have too, my mind is set, I'll just slip out the door like I have so many times before.  And this time I just won't come back. By the time they realize I'm gone for good I'll be dead and gone in the Canadian mountains.     

For the first time in so long my mind is at ease, death doesn't seem so bad when no one's around to see it.  My hand caresses the keys in my pocket and my stride strengthens as I leave my pacing and head out the door.

***

A slight sigh escapes my lips; that's the only sign I give them as I think through the program I just designed.  My team is standing before me, waiting for me to give my instructions.  A reminder of just how much is in my hands, if I don't give the instructions good enough they might get hurt, or lose the practice.  If I don't give orders good enough they might lose their lives.

I turn from that line of thinking immediately. The only thing that will do is freeze you up at the crucial moment and then no one gets a chance. I have to remind myself of that nearly every day. 

A brief summary of what they need to know and they're spreading out awaiting the program to begin.  I start it and turn to watch them.  Their fluid movement as they train is the only thing that enables me to block out everything and just study them.  This is the time when all the troubles fade into kick, block, roll, dodge.  Grunts and flippant backtalk punctuated by explosions and thuds.  And they are doing perfectly, Gambit rolling out of the way of a Sentinel while Iceman covers him. Storm flying up to finish it off ending the program in record time. The hole made by Wolverine's month long absence is easily covered, but I know the exercise would have been finished in half the time with him.

They file out panting, covered in sweat.  Good-natured grumbling and horseplay reaches my ears as they go.  Then I'm alone in the control booth staring at the empty room below wishing I could join in the laughter that comes to them so easily.  Instead I stay as all my worries come crashing back. 

My life is like that room down there.  Empty, devoid of anything that would make it whole.  I have a beautiful wife, something many envy me for, but there is no love between us.  Friendship yes, but not love.  We rushed into marriage without thinking it through and here we are, bound by our vows and both of us feeling strangled.  No…not exactly rushed, we took our time.  We thought we were in love but we never truly knew each other.  And by the time we realized we were wrong for each other we had already spoken our vows.  Now it's too late…'til death do us part.  What a price to pay for a single mistake, a mistake that will shape our lives forever.

A part of me wants to argue that we had to know each other.  After all we did-do have a mind link…surely that strengthened the relationship.  But as many wise men have discovered in the past, without a good foundation, it only takes one good wind before all those strong walls are down around your ears.  And a good foundation was definitely something we lacked.  Instead of a healthy relationship built on real love, and knowing the other person we leaned on the mind link as a crutch.  All the challenges that would have sealed that love, made it tangible were null when every nuance, every fight and make-up were done through the link.  Done with the immediate knowledge of what the right thoughts/words were, none of the guesswork that makes life worth living. 

You get out what you put into something.  We were never forced to put any effort into a smooth relationship, and in the end that's what we got back out, nothing.  So now I have a marriage that is the true ball and chain, mind-linked to a woman I don't love, yet I know everything about her.  Thank god she can block it a lot of the time or we both might have been driven mad before now.

I have the respect and friendship of my team, but I can't get too close to them. I can't truly enjoy being with them.  They could die at any moment and I have to be able to make hard decisions for the team as a whole, I can't afford any bias based on close friendship.  At least that's what I tell myself, maybe I just don't want the pain of watching someone I'm close to die.  Maybe that's why I don't love my wife, she could die and if I loved her like I should, my soul would die with her.  I shake myself, this is just as bad as worrying over killing my team, and it brings the same results.  How stupid of me to let myself wade in self-pity. 

A slim hand on my shoulder shakes me out of my downward spiraling thoughts and I turn to look at my wife…my friend.  Her hair, which I am told is flame red, is shaded nearly hot pink, blending into rose tinted skin and clothes.  Sometimes I try to remember just what colors looked like without the ever present tinting of rose, and I draw a blank.  It saddens me somewhat, but I wouldn't redo a thing.

She always knows when I'm getting too emotional it seems, and always shows up to shake me out of it. I immediately chide myself for that thought, not all emotions, just the negative ones.  And for some reason lately it's been those that I sink in and cannot drag myself out of on my own.  I clear my thoughts and force a smile, I don't quite make it, and the result is a tight-lipped half-smile which I really don't mean. How can you lead if you can't even control your own expression?  The smile widens and turns almost sincere…almost.

Jean sees through it, she is a psi after all.  "Scott, are you okay? Do you want to talk?"  She knows I do, and also that I won't.  Makes it one of those safe questions, yet another advantage of a mind-link, you know what the uncomfortable questions are. "That's okay Jean, I'm fine, really. Just thinking, planning for tomorrow."  She gives me that look, that 'I can see right through you so why bother?' look.  She should get it patented.

"Um-hum.  I need to talk to you about someone.  About Logan."  My wife's would-be lover my mind viciously supplies.  We may not love each other, but sometimes I can still get pettily jealous.  I fight it down, "He's been gone this long and longer before…" She shakes her head and I can see worry in her green/rose eyes, "Something's different this time.  I don't know what, but something tells me he needs someone right now." 

I perk up at that, my teammate needs help.  The practical side of my mind is already running through everything from where he could be to what each person would need to pack if they went and what he could have possibly gotten himself into this time that he'd need help. "Scott, he needs _you_."  Hurt shines through her voice though she tries to mask it.  And I know this is coming through her telepathy, and that she wishes it were her he needed. 

My voice has been unemotional throughout the entire exchange, but now it comes out strangled with unidentifiable emotion "Why me?"  She shakes her head helplessly, "I don't know, but I do know that time is running out."  Arguments against going and the responses flash through my mind, the main one…how can I leave my X-men alone without leadership?  But I chide myself again.  Storm is good enough to take my place, and if they can't survive without me for a little while what have I been training them for?  And all at once before it's thought through I do something so rare for me.  I nod and turn to leave.  Spontaneity was never my strong suit and now it's even more surprising for I am known to clash with Wolverine more than anyone else except maybe Gambit. 

I turn before I quite make it out of the door, and look at my wife again.  "Thank you Jean."  She nods, blinking rapidly.  I continue out the door towards our room with the separate beds before I can tell if it's tears making my wife's eyes shine. I suspect it is, and the guilt attempts to return with a vengeance only to be pushed back. I have things to prepare for; the guilt can wait.  It always does.

***

The wind is blowing strong enough to carry off most things not held down, throwin ice cold fall rain into my face with enough force to sting like needles.  A storm's comin' and lightening streaks the sky with more and more regularity.  The scents hit me full-force, animals scattering for cover, pine/maple trees wet with rain, the air bitingly cold, water-logged…fresh.  Very few things could make this any better. I'm reminded of one as the coughing fit hits me, takes me down to my knees faster than any enemy I've ever had, refusing to stop until blood covers my bottom lip. 

I hate this weakness.  I know that standing in a storm isn't the smartest thing in the world for a dyin' man to be doin.  But I just can't imagine dyin' without experiencing this as many times as I can.  I slip into the forest to hunt.

The dark night is darker than before, my senses are dulling, but they're still good enough to beat most people.  The hunt is stopped midway by the sounds of man.  Someone is hiking to my cabin; a feral snarl twists my lips.  Only thoughts of ownership ring through my mind until I process the scent.  A scent of light cologne mixed with sweat, piney from a days hike, ozone, and home.  Scott Summers, the fearless leader is hiking to my cabin alone.  The punchline of a joke half-forgotten, and definitely older than the man it was pointed at flitted through my mind 'And the Mother country falls to her knees.'  Like I said definitely older than the man in question. 

The rabbit I had trailed is in its den by now, and the storm is waning.  I turn for the cabin with my too-harsh breath scratchin' at my ears, and something semi-warm in my heart. I stop just out of his line of sight; he's already made the cabin.  He's sittin' on the porch up against the open door huddled in his poncho trying to avoid the rain and mostly managing it. He could have gone right in, but he's staying outside until I tell him can.  I appreciate the gesture.  

Shrugging I step out of the trees, and glide from shadow to shadow 'til I make the porch.  I can't help the satisfaction I get when his head jerks up and he jumps, startled but quickly regaining his usual calm. I know I must look bad standin' drippin' wet on the step that had been empty only moments before, highlighted by the light pouring from the open door.  The only clothin' I have on is the ratty jean shorts that cling wetly to my skin.  I must have a half-wild look on my face; the red bloodlust of the hunt hasn't totally left me. My hair is wet, drippin' in my face, windblown to hell and still the stubborn shit refuses to lie down.  But that isn't all, maybe he sees the way my skin is pale under the tan with a slight gray cast. Or maybe he don't, bet the visor stops that from bein' obvious, I hope so.  I know he notices the weight loss, I tried my best but I'm still loosin' weight like crazy. 

Without a word he stands and I think I see somethin'…different about him.  Somethin' that doesn't quite ring true to Cyclops, and yet is completely him.  I nod at him and stride into the house.  He can take it as an invitation or not, I really don't care. 

***

Comfortable silence invades the cabin, broken only by the sounds of water boiling. I'm learning to enjoy the small things again.  I haven't cooked something for myself in god knows how long.  I feel his eyes on my back as I try to keep the noodles from spilling out of the pot and get the carrots diced in time.  A smile plays over my lips as I barely make it.

I had to hike back down to the small village almost immediately to get food.  When I got here the kitchen was bare, not even crumbs for the roaches. He'd been living up here a month off raw meat.  I can't help but wonder if that's how he always lives when he comes up here.  Considering the wildness I saw in him at first, the beast unfettered that showed in his every movement, and still does to some extent, I can believe he did.  Since I've been here he's calmed some, but there still a desperate frantic feral undertone in everything he does.  

Out of the food I attempted to cook, only the potatoes aren't salvageable.  I frown a bit at myself, but I can't keep it.  Maybe as Cyclops I could, but now just Scott is left. Scott who couldn't even cook simple potatoes to save his life. I chuckle a bit at myself the sound breaking the silence for a moment.  Most would find it a bit unnerving to be the only person making any noise...I find it relaxing.  Logan hasn't said a word to me the entire week I've been here.  Every move he makes is silent; I envy that a bit.  It reminds me of the games I used to play during those few happy days of my childhood.  When Alex and I would play cowboy and indians.   I was always the indian trying to sneak up on the unsuspecting white man.  Never could get close enough to scalp my bratty younger brother, but it was fun trying.   

I turn and put a full plate in front of him, sliding the beer to the side, then sit on the only other chair.  He stares at it like someone would garbage.  He's loosing his appetite, yet another symptom I tack on to the multitude of others. 

He looks up at me through the cigar smoke wreathing him, dark eyes opaque, revealing nothing.  I give him my best 'do-it-or-die' glare, a mix of his own worst and Jean's mothering one.  It works as he unwillingly picks up the fork and starts pushing it around, taking a few bites here and there.  I study him while I eat looking for anything else that has changed about him,

I find plenty.  He's changed drastically from the Wolverine I knew from the team.  The tan that once seemed a part of him is faded.  Turning a sickly color even to my eyes.  His clothes hang loose off a body that has lost so much weight that if it keeps up I think he'll be featherlight and see through in no time.  Sometimes he goes through spells where his hands tremble, a wheeze mark every breath, and he couldn't stand to save his life.  And I can't do anything to help him when he goes through it, he sits wherever he falls and glares so fiercely that I know even looking at him will damage his teetering pride. They keep getting more frequent as the days pass, it's so difficult to ignore him when it happens and pretend everything's normal.  He goes outside every once in awhile and stays out there for a half-hour.  I know he's not hunting, but what exactly he _is_ doing I don't know.  

It's frustrating to watch him go downhill and know there's no chance of him making it out of this. He's dying, and we both know it. 

"Scott?  I have need to talk with you of something dire."  Hank's glasses slip farther down the bridge of his nose, while his clawed hand and foot taps out some complicated tune on the wall. The very picture of a blue bundle of nervous energy. "Yes?" 

"It's about our dear comrade in arms.  I was perusing the medical charts, updating them actually.  I ran across something…worrisome in Logan's."

He pauses uncertain, then continues, "He has…a disease of some sort.  I have never seen the like of in all my extensive studies, but from what I could conclude from earlier blood samples it is not contagious.  Unfortunately it's incurable…it will kill him.  The healing factor won't be able to keep up with its rapid growth.  He'll just slowly deteriorate until something simple such as pneumonia finishes him."

I blink in response, "How long does he have?" 

"At most I estimate a month from now, but I seriously doubt he'll make it that long.  He's had it a long time, but it's been dormant.  I think the recent stress we've been under may have triggered it."  I blink again.

It's incredible that after all the things he's been through.  All the near brushes with death, that now he will succumb.  He was never the most dependable, but you could always count on him to live.  To be the one on his feet when everyone was down.  The one that would fight 'til the death and still manage to cheat the Reaper in the end.  I guess it's payback time. 

Suddenly the humor I'd regained disappears, and I retreat to Cyclops.  At least as him I can't be hurt, don't show weakness.  He looks up again, studying me now, and I know he sees through it.  Then he pushes the half-empty plate away, puts out the cigar and silently walks out the door.

Curiosity-no. _Duty_ takes me and after a few minutes I follow him, making it outside just in time to see him disappear into the forest.  By the time I reach the spot he's gone, but I notice tracks. Signs of his passing, this is not good. 

I follow it with some difficulty in a few places, even when he isn't trying to cover his tracks; he still manages to do it to some extent.  In the end though it isn't the tracks that lead me to him, it's the sounds.  Rough, deep, watery coughs that reverberate through the air.  The kind of coughs that makes me think of someone trying to remove their lungs manually. 

I come to a clearing, and find him on his knees in the center. One weak shaky hand braces him off the ground without much success, the other clutches at his throat.  His eyes are wild and unseeing, blood trails down his chin and slowly drips to the ground and the few wheezing breaths he can manage between coughs causes it to bubble at his lips. 

That's when it hits home.  I knew he was dying, but I didn't know he was. I didn't really believe it, but now I do.  Instead of sadness, or numb disbelief I'm filled with determination.  Without another thought I walk to him, help him sit up.  I know if he had the strength he'd push me away, even now he lifts his head slowly and gives me a shaky glare before the coughing force his head down again. 

He left because he didn't want me to see this, but he needs my help, my support right now.  After all that is why I hiked up.  So that's what he'll get whether he likes it or not. 

After fifteen minutes the coughs slack away to nothing leaving only wet rattling in his lungs, and enough blood to coat both our hands.  He won't look at me, instead trying to wipe his hands off, a challenge since they're shaking so badly.  He's too weak to do anything other than lean back against me and gather his strength.  I still don't know how the position changed to him nearly sitting in my lap.  But with my arms around his waist, hands resting on his chest, supporting him, I can feel for myself how much weight he's lost.  He's down to nearly nothing.  I curse those infernal flannel shirts; they somehow manage to hide just about everything.  At least I now I know why he sneaks out, and I'll be damned if he's going to keep it up. 

The shaking finally stops, and he still won't look at me as he waves my hands away and stands.  He stumbles and catches himself before I can do much more than rise to my feet.  We stare at each other a moment before he abruptly turns and ambles back towards the cabin, all the confidence that used to be in his stride is gone.  Somehow that hurts worse than seeing him so sick.  He's being broken by this illness.  Something that a million men in this world would give anything to be able to do. 

I shake my head and follow him back with a final glance around the clearing.  I notice before it fades from sight that the grass in the center is painted red.  Enough dry blood that I know without a doubt he has come out here and done this every time. 

***

Food, food, and more food.  If he don't quit shoving the shit down my throat I'll gut him.  He actually thinks that eatin' will put the weight back.  And I thought the fucker was smart.

I push the plate across the table and lean back in my chair.  He pushes it back moments later and gives me that damn glare again.  Why in the hell do I let the asshole tell me what to do? I never did before.  Pansy-ass.

I glare back, a contest of wills starts and mine's crumblin'.  I don't believe in this.  Just a few months ago this shit of his wouldn't even phase me.  A voice in my head tells me matter-of-factly that just a few months ago I wasn't so close to dying.  I tell it to take a long hike before I rip out its throat with a dull spoon. It shuts up.

Before I can break and start eating a casual swipe of my arm sends the plate flying to shatter against the wall with a satisfying crash.  I feel the helpless frustration boiling into anger and before I know what I'm doin I'm flying for his throat.  And the stupid motherfucker just stands there.  We hit the floor hard and he doesn't move so much as a muscle as I crouch on top of him.  Just looks at me.  I wish I could rip his throat out.  Feel blood sluicing over my claws one more time but something stops me. 

So I just sit on his stomach, knowing that a month ago my weight alone could have held him down.  Now he could easily unseat me, but he won't.  Maybe he thinks I'm too fragile.  That I'll break if he throws me to the ground.  I want him to do something anything.  Scream, holler, talk, hit me, glare.  Just anything other than look at me like that.  It's driving me insane. 

I pop my claws and place 'em against his throat with enough force to draw blood and his expression doesn't change a hair.  I retract 'em and slap him across the face hard bloodying his nose.  His heads rocks from the force of the blow then he's looking at me again.

I know somewhere that I'm being unreasonable, that the pain from this fucking illness is the cause of the anger.  But I have to take it out on somethin', might as well be him. I don't know why the fuck he came up here, but he'll probably leave after this, after all I'm not being the perfect dyin' man.  I must disgust him, well the fucker will just have to live with it and maybe another smile cut out of his throat. 

But I know I can't kill him, somethin' tells me I could torture him and he would still be looking at me.  What can I do to make him quit?  A wicked grin lights my face, and I lean down inches from his face.  I can scent him now.  He's a bit worried, but not too much, must think I'm going to bite him. 

Maybe I should, but instead I find myself kissing him.  Nothing fancy, nothin' open-mouthed.  But boy does that look change.  He finally pushes me away and scrambles up wiping his mouth and staring at me.  Shocked.  I just grin at him, damn it takes an awful fuckin' lot to get under his skin anymore. 

I keep watching him as the shock changes into somethin' else, but before I can place it he turns away and starts cleanin' up the broken plate.  I lick my lips and stand heading for the bedroom; suddenly I'm awful tired. 

***

He's in the bedroom sleeping.  When I opened the door to look at him, he didn't even twitch.  Before…hell two weeks ago when I first came here he would have nailed me to the floor the moment the board outside his door squeaked. 

Two whole weeks, according to Hank half of the time left to him is gone. And yet I would have thought that this close to the end he'd look worse. Hope flares slightly; maybe he's just stubborn enough to survive this too.  I can't help it, I pray to a God I haven't truly believed in since childhood that he does.

My mind turns back to two days ago as I fill the sink with water to clean the dinner dishes.  I still can't figure out what happened there.  I had just made dinner and gave him his share when he refused to eat it, nothing unusual these days.  If he had his way he wouldn't be eating anything. 

With a flick of his wrist the plate was flying at the wall and then I was flat on my back on the floor with him on top of me.  One very sick, very pissed off Logan on top of me with his claws out cutting into my throat enough that I could feel my own blood dripping down to the floor, slapping me across the face.  And I could only look at him. Anything else I did was likely to end in one of us getting hurt worse, or me dead. There's no doubt in my mind that weak as he is, Logan still has a damn good chance of being able to kill me in a fair fight.  Especially since I don't want to hurt him.

So I did nothing but look at him, and next thing I knew something shone in his eyes and his lips were on mine.  Pressing down with bruising force.  And without thinking about it I shoved him off and scrambled back.  Men aren't supposed to kiss each other. I mean…goddamnit.

And…and that wasn't the worst part.  The worst part was it was better than kissing Jean. Hell I had to shove him away before I started turning it into more than it already was. The feelings that it had triggered.  Hell that was what it was supposed to feel like when you kissed your soulmate.  Oh no, god.  Logan?? I mean…

I take a deep breath calming all the automatic reactions the very memory is threatening to trigger.  A branding-iron hot hand comes to rest lightly on my arm and I jump.  My eyes meet his and for the first time since I came here I read laughter in his deep blue eyes instead of that mix of self pity/hatred/frustration/despair they've held for the longest.  Laughter? I come back to reality and realize I've been standing in front of the window washing the same plate for a good fifteen minutes.  I grin at him a bit nervously and the hand disappears from my arm.  I can still feel the electric tingle it caused.

Now I am tuned in to exactly where he is in the room.  The hair on the back of my neck is standing up and I keep getting the urge to look at him.  Instead I do the dishes first, then I turn.  He's sitting at the table; the same spot he was in the day he…I just need to quit thinking about that.

I smile at him and start searching the cabinets for the cleaner I bought last week.  Someone has to keep this place tidy and it certainly isn't going to be him.  I hear an annoyed grunt from the table and turn to see him handing it to me.  It takes a massive effort of will to reach out and take it from him.  Must have put it on the table and forgot about it.  Our eyes meet hands brush and for a moment time is suspended, I break first and turn away quickly.

***

He's looking at me again.  Shit.  He's been glancin' my way every five minutes for the past hour. I don't know why the hell he's still here.  I thought for sure if nothing else chased him off that damn kiss would.  That damn unforgettable kiss.  I have to almost physically stop myself from glancing at him every five minutes.  This is gettin' real pitiful. 

A sudden coughing fit breaks my thoughts, and my limbs turn to water.  I almost slide to the floor but he's there to catch me.  Fits are gettin' worse, I used ta know when one was comin' now they just hit.  I can feel the blood dripping off my chin, and I try to wipe it away with a limp hand.  What's sad is this almost seems normal.  Like somethin' that's just a typical part of the day…like takin' a bath.  Feels like someone stuck a hot poker down my throat; short bursts of searing pain throb through my lungs.  Just as sudden as it came it's gone and I'm left weak and bloody on the floor in his arms.

He drags me to my feet helping me stumble to the couch, a feat I couldn't have managed alone for at least another ten minutes if that.  He starts wiping off my bloody hand with his shirttail even though I could at the least slice him up pretty bad for doin' it when I get my breath back.  There's something…erotic about it.  I'd laugh at myself if I could breathe.  Hell I'm gettin' turned on bein' nursemaided like some damn weaklin'.  I must be one sick motherfucker. 

Still, I don't want him to stop touching me.  I need someone to touch me, let me know I'm alive.  These days I sure as hell can't tell on my own.  And not just that…I want him to touch me. Somethin' tells me that I'd feel the same way even if I wasn't dyin', that's confusin' to say the least.  I never went after men, always was pretty straight. 

All these thoughts make a train wreck stop as our eyes meet.  We've been doing that a lot lately.  He smiles shyly and starts wiping my chin with his shirtsleeve.  And just then I realize exactly what the difference is in him, the change I noticed the first day he came.  This is Scott I'm seein', painfully shy 'n vulnerable not stick-up-his-ass Cyclops.  And I'm fallin' for him… 

***

It's a tender moment, one that I wouldn't change for the world.  His chin is cleaned of blood, but I can't seem to stop sliding my sleeve…my fingers over his stubborn chin, feeling the sweaty stubbled skin.  Part of me is repulsed; the rest of me is caught in a giddy whirlwind of conflicting feelings. 

His eyes slowly focus on me, the glaze of pain receding as strength returns.  I wish I could take that from him, it must be bad if he can't hide it.  I wait for him to knock my hand away, but he just looks at me as if he's never seen me before.  Stares for so long I start to worry that maybe this illness is affecting his mind.  Only the light in his eyes keeps me from panicking, but the worry still gnaws away.  Then his expression changes to one of disbelief and…something else.  

The one thing about Logan that always got under my skin was whenever I get near the man I start doing things that I'd never even consider on my own.  That's probably why I had such strong dislike towards him before, it isn't good for the leader to stop thinking at crucial moments.  But now, here alone with him in this cabin, I can enjoy the effect he has on me.  Not that I'm really thinking about anything other than the moment as I lean forward and gently kiss his neck and then his lips. 

He stiffens; it's his turn to be surprised now, but he doesn't pull away. In fact he does quite the opposite.  Arms with only a ghost of the strength they once held come up around me and pull me closer to him, teeth nip at my lips and he deepens the kiss.  And I welcome all of it, need it.  Need it because he's going to leave me, and if I don't get this from him now I'll never have another chance.  Never have this to remember him by.  Not a single regret raises its voice even when his hand reaches for the zipper of my jeans. 

***

I stay awake long after he drifts to sleep sated and completely exhausted. The air seems much calmer now; I hadn't even realized how much tension there had been between us.  Sweat beads on my forehead but I bear the heat for him.  He's cold, unnaturally cold, and while I could move out from under the heavy blankets I want to be near him.  His arms are still tight around me, his body pressing me against the back of the couch.  I pull an arm free so I can caress his face while he sleeps; it's pitch black at night here, moonless, so I'm not missing anything with my eyes closed.  I can't help but wonder how things would have been different if he wasn't leaving me.  The thought doesn't bring the soul-numbing sadness I would have expected, just determination…and detachment.  It still doesn't feel quite real. 

He's leaving me…I sigh. I can't really be upset with him over it.  After all I knew beforehand that he was dying; it's no one's fault but my own that I'm going to be hurt.  And now I'm going to die with him, well part of me will without a doubt.  At least he's helped me realize that what I had with Jean was infatuation and nothing more, at its height it can't hold a candle to this. 

I shove those thoughts away instead concentrating on him...my lover.  Never thought he'd fit into that category.  My fingertips brush lightly over his face, even in sleep his face is lined with pain, but he's smiling faintly. I wonder if I'm the cause of it, the possibility sends shivers down my spine.  

He's still cold, I shift so I can reach the other blanket, wincing and blushing in the dark as the movement causes places that have never been sore before to protest.  Suddenly the fatigue I'd been holding back comes crashing down on me, partially from the heat of the blankets and his body.

I snuggle down into his arms even more and tenderly kiss his lips.  Before I can chicken out I lean closer and break the unspoken promise of silence we've kept the whole time by whispering three words to him.  Three words that I'll probably never say again, "I love you." Then sleep drags me under even as the doubts hit following me down into unconsciousness, the half-memories of the relationship he and Jean had been having behind my back, the knowledge that a drifter like him couldn't love boring me…

Later…In the dark of the cabin a shape moves, pulling the larger one next to it closer.  The calm of the night is broken once more, "Love you too."  Then nothing.

            ***

I wake with sunlight needling my closed eyes, and grope for my sunglasses.  With the sleeping goggles gone and the sunglasses firmly settled, I open my eyes to the blinding sunshine pouring in through the main room window.  Slowly I stretch out, catlike, enjoying the feel of every cramped muscle, every new pain from a bite or…other things, easing.  A smile rises unbidden, and lazily I collapse back on the couch and close my eyes for just a moment.  They snap open at the sound of a low amused grunt, Logan grins at me, a cup of coffee held haphazardly in a shaky hand.  Just the sight of him brings back last night, what I told him while he was asleep…the niggling doubts that haunted my dreams. 

His countenance snaps me out of my musing. He looks paler than yesterday, gaunt, and drawn. Do his eyes have a feverish glaze to them?

Worried I jump up and look for my jeans, find them behind the couch of all places.  His grin has only widened as he watches, and I smile self-consciously before my practical side takes control and I reach out to touch his forehead.  Yes, definitely a fever.  He narrows his eyes automatically; a weak echo of his earlier glares, but it barely gets through to me.  I know what this means, it's the beginning of the end. 

He puts the coffee down with exaggerated care and still manages to slosh most of it onto the table.  I urge him to his feet, he's going to bed, and goddamnit he's getting better.  If not for me, then for Jean.  Halfway there he collapses into unconsciousness and I have to drag him the rest of the way.  Settled into the heavy blankets on his bed, I hadn't realized just how many he keeps in here, he looks almost fragile.  As fragile as Logan can ever look, even dying he still seems invincible somehow.  I grab a chair and sit down to wait.

            ***

The throbbin' in my head forces me awake.  Slowly I open eyes that feel like two-ton bricks, it takes more'n a minute for 'em to focus.  But until they do I recognize the blur of my room.  I feel the weight of all tha blankets on top of me and I'm still cold everywhere except my hand.  Turning my head I can see Scott hanging onto it with both hands, sorta desperate lookin'.  He's asleep in a chair, with his head and shoulders resting on the edge of the bed.  He seems a hell'uva lot younger that way with his hair falling over his face. Idly I wonder what he'd look like if he tried growin' it out. 

I need to sit up, but I can already tell I don't have the strength to.  So I live with it, instead studyin' him through slitted eyes.  His chin, which is usually meticulously shaved every morning, is covered in days-old stubble.  The dark shadows under his eyes testify to many sleepless nights, and he's wearing the same clothes I can remember when I passed out.  He looks like shit.

I wonder how long I was out, has to be a couple a'days at least-then I notice somethin' that shakes all those thoughts away.  My arm, shit I was loosin' weight but shit!  I'm down to nuthin'.  The panic gives me enough strength to sit up and look down at myself.  It's worse than I'd imagined it would be, I can clearly mark every rib, see every vein.  The only clothing I've got on is a pair o' pants that used'ta be too tight, now th' drawstrings pulled as tight as it'll go and they're still loose.  I've completely lost the tan; instead my skin's a sickly gray. 

The poundin' in my head gets worse, and I feel a strange slosh in my lungs every time I move, and....  And I know this is all gonna to get worse.  But I have to know how bad it is.  Determined I shake my hand out of his grip and struggle to my feet.  Have to hang on to the wall for dear life, but in the end I'm standin', shakin' like a leaf in a tornado,  breathin' like a marathon runner, but standin'.  I sit back down, all the strength I had gone and I know I'm defeated, I'm done for finally. 

I'm just going to waste away, and he's gonna have to watch.  I know this is hurtin' him, hell I don't doubt for a second he meant it when he told me he loved me, he ain't the type to lie about shit like that whether he thinks anyone's listenin' or not.  He believed it with Jean and he believes it with me, only I'm not gonna live long enough for him to figger out he's messed up somewhere along the line like Jean did. 

I can't stay here, and I can't let anyone see me like this.  I'm grateful to him, but he didn't have to do it, I didn't want his help then and I don't want it now.  The whole time I sat here thinkin' he's still layin' on the edge of tha bed, dead to the world.  You'd think he'd have learned from the X-men to take care of himself no matter what, the idiot.  It's touchin' in a way, someone cares enough to do that for me, even when I ain't gonna be alive to pay em back in the end. 

Before I can loose my nerve I make my shaky way out the door.  I reach the door. It's down to instinct and habit…and death.  The cold hits me like a live thing as I stumble out, almost forces me to my knees.  But I don't let it, just keep goin'.  Don't have enough strength to think, just keep stumbling from handhold to handhold.  Have to make the trees. 

Time passes in a haze of pain and burning muscles.  I stop to rest along the way, I don't know where or for how long, hating myself every wasted moment, always was a weaklin'.  I don't even realize I'm in the woods until after a good long time of stumblin' through 'em.  But when I do I drop to my knees and lean back against a tree exhausted.

I'll just rest awhile, then I'll do it.  My mind is stumbling around in hysterical circles.  Sure do wish I had my sword, make this go a bit smoother.  But I know that even if I did have it, I couldn't have carried it out here with me, and I couldn't have lifted it properly, or held it steady long enough…but hopefully my claws will do.  With a thought they pop through skin with the same ease they always have.  Kinda funny all the years I spent tryin' to live an honorable life, and I'm gonna end it in suicide; still the cowards way, seppuku or not.

Maybe it's worse than riding this thing out to the end when you weigh it out in the end, but I can't take this slow degeneration.  I have to end it now, my way or the part of me that's still me will be dead without a hope when the Reaper gets his ass on the move.

My eyes focus on the treetops, swaying in the slight wind. I know the scent would be pine here, probably mixed with deer musk and the coming snows.  Now I scent nothing, and soon I'll see nothin'.  I struggle to my heels in seiza, have to lean back against a tree to do it.  Damn I hate this, but I'd rather lean then fall over.  I contemplate the claws once more.  This is supposed to be done with a sword, fat chance on that.  Seppuku, ritual suicide.  Supposed to gut yourself with a sword and a friend beheads you.  A rough explanation of a complicated and honorable rite, but pain's starting to work up my lungs and burn away the few thoughts I can hold. 

I take one last look at the sky, then I do it.  Don't even feel the pain as my bone claws slide through flesh once more; I can feel the blood pouring down soaking my pants.  Then the pain hits, infinitely worse than what I had been going through, and in its own way just as slow.  The healin' factor's tryin' to stop it but it's too much for it to handle.  I grit my teeth, as I slip out of seiza to the ground, my whole body is on fire.  Pain dancin' along every nerve, twistin' my mind, but I have clarity for once.  Thought without the haze of frustration or panic.  I force my hands to my sides, away from instinctively tryin' to hold back the blood. 

I feel the little vibrancy that was left to me slip away and I'm so tired, and it _hurts_.  Good, more honorable this way.  My life doesn't flash before my eyes, only the unfinished parts.  All the people my death'll hurt flash before my eyes, Scott, Jubes, Kitty.  Some part of me wants too stay through all the shit…for them, and I know I could survive long enough for Scott to find me on will alone.  But I just don't want to anymore, I'm so damn tired of this world.  Then heavy darkness comes crashing down, pain still follows me down into it, and I sigh my last farewell to this life I led, and the man in the cabin behind me.

***

I wake with the knowledge that something is not right.  The first thing I notice is the empty bed, and I move my hand to the indentation where his body laid for the past days.  Cold.  I know that he's up and he's about to make a stupid mistake.  I rise to my feet leaving the chair to crash behind me and run to the door.  The only reason he'd be out of that bed on his feet in his condition would be- NO! He is not dying on me! Not like that..

How could I have fallen asleep? Stupid stupid stupid.  The stumbling tracks show up clearly in the fresh snow that had fallen last night.  Panic slowly seeps through me as I dash toward the woods.  I knew he'd try something like this, I just knew it and yet I still fall asleep, real good of you Scott.  Might as well have just slit his throat to begin with and saved time.  My eyes sting suspiciously, my mouth is a tight slash across my face, and my mind has turned into a gibbering berating wreck.  I burst into the woods, knowing full well that he can't be far.  And then I see it.  Startling bright red that stands out beckoning me on.  Red on pink…blood on snow. 

Shit.  He did it already.  I find him, skin paled to what must be white, at least it blends almost perfectly with the snow.  His eyes are closed and a completely peaceful expression is on his face.  I stumble to my knees, searching frantically for a pulse…no…no…no…THERE!

For the first time in a month my mind is crystal clear.  Weak but there, shit, God no.  I field dress the gut wound quite efficiently with my shirt, God knows I've prepared for disasters like this enough on my solo practices.  It won't be enough, he needs a doctor.  Wouldn't need a doctor for this if I'd stayed awake like I should have. Then I carefully gather him to me and stand, walking back to the cabin as fast as I dare.  I don't want to risk running, a fall in the snow isn't going to help him. 

Inside I bundle him in blankets, get him as close to the fire as I can, his lips are blue.  A combination of blood loss and hypothermia no doubt.  I leave him only for a moment to get my duffle bag, the side pocket has enough medication and bandages to cover almost any situation.  I set myself to rewrapping his stomach and trying to stop the bleeding, he doesn't have enough to lose.  There's blood all over my hands, _his_ blood all over my hands.  In more ways than one, how could I have fallen asleep, what kind of an idiot am I?

Before I can reach for the phone in my bag to call Hank, his hand weakly grasps mine, and his body stiffens.  Oh no, shit.  It's a gut wound he should have more time! But I know he'd probably been out there quite a while before I woke, and he probably was already suffering from hypothermia by the time he made the woods. 

His blue eyes catch me in a heart-stopping look, and beneath my fingers I can feel that already weak pulse slipping.  "I love you too." The words are almost to low for me to hear, then he's gone.  And I don't feel a damn thing.  Nothing, just dead inside.  I don't bother with hysterics, he's well and truly gone this time. 

The phone in my bag starts to buzz annoyingly but I ignore it, ignore everything but the slowly stiffening body beneath my hands.  He's gone.  The thought echoes through a numb mind, part of which is even now planning out the funeral.  Gone and never coming back. 

Slowly I lean forward, resting my head on his still chest and allow myself to let it out.  Tears soak a chest that will never move again, a heart that will never beat again, hands that will never hold me again…just like I will never be whole again.  He took me with him.

I'm alone again.