Color Of Ashes, Color Of Fire
by Stellamaru

It's cold. She can't breathe; it feels like an enormous weight is crushing her lungs. If only she had a second, a single tick of the clock, on the surface to fill her lungs with fresh air, she knows she could stand it.

She is drowning, looking up at the sky from below the surface. The light from the sun ripples and coils through the lens of the water. She stretches out her hand, reaching for air, but she is too far away.


The cigarette was good. She hadn't smoked since right before medical school; somehow it didn't seem appropriate, then.

It was certainly appropriate now. Post-coital cigarette number two. Jean glanced down at her sleeping bedmate, sprawled out on the dingy bed like he owned it, one muscular arm flung over her legs. She sat on the bed, back against the headboard, cigarette in hand. A plume of smoke rose from the tip like a carcinogenic ghost. She sucked down another drag. The burn in her throat spread through her body, infusing every cell with the delicious bite of nicotine. It was like she'd never quit; it felt like her body had gone into a long dormancy, brought back to life only when she inhaled the hot smoke.

It was the second time they'd met like this, the third time they'd had sex. Three times she'd betrayed the man she loved with her body.

She did love Scott, deeply. And he loved her. Yet here she was, in a cheap highway motel, cheating on him with Logan. Love had nothing to do with it. In her more reflective moments, she wondered if she had a self-destructive streak running through her. Did she want to get caught? Did she somehow want to sabotage everything she had with Scott? Why was she doing this?

She never smoked after having sex with Scott.


After Alkali, Scott and Logan had worked together to increase the mansion security. They blustered and postured, making a show of masculine territoriality, but Jean knew--hell, everyone knew--they were both shaken by what had happened. Scott kept rubbing his neck, and spent hours in the lab making sure the drug was flushed out of his system. It didn't help that Jean herself was having difficulty remembering exactly what had happened. No one discussed it much at all.

Logan was as taciturn as ever. He'd flirt with her, but went out of his way to avoid talking to the Professor. Rogue and Bobby were the only people he seemed to get along with in a reasonably friendly manner.

One evening Jean came upon the three of them in the rec room. Logan was teaching them how to play pool. Or, more precisely, he was teaching them how to hustle pool.

Jean knew Rogue had tried to get Scott to teach them, back when it had been her, Bobby, and John, but they'd found it too frustrating. "He just says, 'line it up here, like this--don't you see?'" Rogue had said. "Like it's completely obvious."

Logan was standing by the table, directing their shots. "Lean down and line it up if you have to," he said. "Use the granny-stick if it helps. Eventually you'll see it faster." He pointed at the ball Rogue was lining up. "If you hit it here, on the side, it'll spin off that way. Get as close as you need to see it."

Rogue lined up her shot and bit her tongue, her eyes wrinkled in concentration. With a tap she sent the cue ball on its course, where it smacked the ball into the pocket. "I did it!" she said, high-fiving Bobby.

Logan smirked. "Remember all the faces you're makin' now," he said. "You'll rake in a bundle if you play the first game like that."

"I was not making faces," Rogue said with a sniff. Bobby and Logan exchanged a look.

"Promoting gambling now, Logan?" Jean said from the doorway.

"Yeah. I didn't think they had enough risk in their lives," Logan said, smiling that crooked grin of his. He walked over to her and stood against the wall, watching Bobby and Rogue play out their game. He stood, like he always did, just a little too close.

He can sense it, she thought. He could tell if her skin rippled from his nearness, if her heart fluttered, if her gaze rested for too long on his face. So why was she here, and not upstairs with Scott? How could she respond this strongly to Logan when she was so in love with Scott it made her ache to think about it? Things weren't supposed to be like this.

She watched him watch them play. She remembered what it felt like to kiss him, his mouth harder than Scott's, and his face coarser. "Got an eyeful, Red?" he said, still watching the game. "Anytime you want a longer... look, you know where to find me."

"Logan... we talked about this. I--"

"Right. I got it the first time, darlin'." His mouth compressed into a thin curve and he turned to go. Jean followed him into the hallway.

"Wait, Logan. Don't be mad."

"Ain't mad."

"Well, I wish you wouldn't act like it."

He stopped and faced her. "You know what I wish?" he said, stepping close to her. She backed up. "I wish I knew why you're talking to me right now--Scott's upstairs, isn't he? I wish I knew why you're always walking around in front of me, smelling like you do. If you don't want anything to happen, you sure ain't acting like it."

Anger ignited within her. "I see. It's my fault. I'm the one perpetuating this-- this scenario. It doesn't matter that we have to live under the same roof, that we have to work together. I wish-- I just want to forget it, okay? Can't we forget it and start over?"

"I don't think you want to forget it," he said. "Your scent--"

"Is only biology. It doesn't have anything to do with what I really want."

His expression tightened and he moved closer to her, backing her against the wall. "I think you're lying. I think you like it. I think you want it but you don't know what to do about it." He pressed his body into hers, flush against the wall, and kissed her. It was harsher and more desperate than at Alkali. She opened her mouth and let him kiss her that way. It was better than she remembered, the way it made her stomach drop and her thighs tremble. The stubble on his chin rubbed her face and she wanted to feel it all over her skin, burning her with its roughness.

When he moved his hand from the wall to her breast, she choked abruptly. "No," she said, shoving him back with her hands and her mind. "I won't. I won't do this."


Jean stubbed her cigarette out in the ashtray beside the bed. She'd felt so ashamed that afternoon. She was ashamed that she'd let him kiss her, and ashamed that she'd run off without looking back.

Logan squirmed on the bed beside her, tugging her closer to him in his sleep. She floated her pack of cigarettes and matches to her and took out another smoke. Hell, she had a whole pack--couldn't let them go to waste.

When she lit the cigarette, the smoke tasted like brackish water and she coughed. She spit, but the taste wouldn't go away.


The second time they kissed after Alkali, she'd gone down to the kitchen after waking up at 2:00 AM with a craving for double chocolate fudge ice cream. He was there, nursing a beer. Where he kept them was the stuff of mansion legend; many kids had tried to find his stash, but none had succeeded.

"Logan," she said, acknowledging his presence. She wasn't going to let him ruin her double chocolate fudge experience. Besides, the idea of running away rankled her. She was an X-Woman, for Pete's sake.

"Jean." A nod and a long pull on his beer. She opened the freezer and dug out the pint of ice cream and when she turned around he was standing there. All it took was a tilt of her head and he was kissing her again, no warning, and no words. Her fingers curled around the frozen pint and her neck felt cold from the open freezer door, but it didn't matter. It didn't matter that he tasted like smoke and beer, or that she had sour night-breath, either. He flinched when his stomach touched the pint of ice cream she was holding; it was enough for her to pull away.

She backed up till she was pressed against the fridge, noting a tremble in her hands. "Please. Please stop," she said, embarrassed by her pleading tone.

"You don't want me to stop." He touched her bare arm, rubbing it with his thumb. Her flesh was goose pimpled from the cold and his fingers felt hot.

"I do. I can't- I can't stand this. I love Scott."

"But you want me."

"I want a cigarette, too, but I'm not gonna have one."

He smiled, that slow lazy smile of his that made her muscles clench. "Didn't take you for a smoker, Doctor Grey."

"I smoked when I first came here, and through college. I quit before medical school because I knew it was a bad habit that could kill me from the inside out."

His grin got wider. "And how long did you know that before you quit?"

Suddenly she didn't feel like ice cream. Suddenly, she knew if she tasted some it would be like chalk. Suddenly all she wanted was to be away from him; it seemed like the most important thing in the world.

She put her hand out to push past him and instead found herself pulling him to her, dropping the ice cream on the floor. She kissed him and nipped at his mouth, not sure if she wanted to really bite him or not.

Logan broke the kiss and rubbed his cheek against hers. His sideburns were softer than they looked. "Come with me," he said, running his index finger down her spine. "Outside?"

"I- I won't. I won't do this here." She looked down at the floor, at the pint of brown ice cream oozing out on the cold black tile.

"Then meet me. Meet me, Jean. I'll take care of everything."

She touched her forehead to his chest. With a tiny jerk she nodded her head against him.

"I'll take care of everything," he repeated, nuzzling her hair.


She walked back upstairs on the verge of hyperventilating. She just wouldn't do it, she thought. She'd tell Logan in the morning. She wouldn't do it.

Scott was still curled up around her side of the bed, the space she'd occupied only a short while ago still visible, a Jean-shaped mess of blankets and sheets.

He shifted when she sat down, pulling her in to spoon. "Ice cream attack?" he murmured in the back of her neck.

She closed her eyes. "I love you," she whispered. "I love you. I love you."


Jean held her third cigarette between her fingertips, surprised at how natural it felt. She took a drag, watching the white ash grow long and the red flame approach her lips. The smoke almost masked the taste of mud and algae in her mouth.

"Baby," Logan mumbled, turning and rubbing his forehead on her hip.


Logan slipped a pack of Camel straights in her lab coat two days later. Inside the cellophane, right over the exotic oasis scene, he'd slipped a book of matches from the Rest-Inn with the word "Tuesday" written in his messy scrawl.

Scott was spending that day with the Professor. When she left--saying she was going into the city for some shopping--Xavier raised an eyebrow. She supposed he must know something was going on, but she knew he wouldn't say anything to Scott.

The motel parking lot was practically deserted when Jean pulled in. The Rest-Inn was across the street from a cemetery, she noticed. Logan probably thought it was funny. It was a wet gray day and she felt raindrops spatter on her face as she walked from the car to the door.

She turned the knob telekinetically; she didn't want to touch it with her hands.

Logan was waiting for her and, as soon as she shut the door, he pinned her to the wall and kissed her. It was like he didn't want to give her a chance to change her mind. She let him kiss her, let him put his tongue in her mouth, let him touch her breasts and between her legs.

She let him do everything he wanted. He touched her and she saw it happening almost as if she were watching a play from the front row--close, yet removed.


After, she showered in the yellow and white motel bathroom. There was a small tear in the shower curtain and she idly stuck her finger in it, stretching it. She scrubbed her body clean with the tiny motel soap. It was harsh and made her skin red.

When she left, Logan kissed her again and caressed her face with a surprising gentleness. "When?"

"Soon." She touched her lips to his softly.

She smoked a cigarette on the drive home, with all of the windows rolled down. Rain on the seats would be better than the reek of smoke. The act of smoking seemed almost more clandestine than what she had just done with Logan.


Back at the mansion, she went straight to her and Scott's rooms. She slipped into their bed and breathed in the familiar scent.

Sleep enveloped her and she dreamed she was drowning, looking up at the sky from just below the surface of the ocean. The light from the sun rippled and coiled through the lens of the water. She stretched out her hand, reaching for the surface, but it was too far away.

Scott woke her a few hours later. "Hey, this is a nice surprise," he said, putting his hand on her waist. "Tired?"

"Mmm. I was dreaming," she said. "I was in some kind of a forest. Only... it was strange. Alien, maybe. It was almost like the whole forest was under water, and the branches were waving in the currents, instead of the wind...."

"Was I there?" Scott said, moving his hand to her stomach.

Jean smiled. "No. It was very lonely. That's why I'm glad to be awake. I love you so much," she said, blinking the sleep from her eyes.

"Good to know," Scott said, smiling. "'Cause I love you." He kissed her and slid his hands under her sweater. "Do you want to--?"

"Yes," she said, "I want to." She lifted her hips and took her panties off. "Now-- fast."

He shook his head. "A little slow at first," he said, sliding his fingers down to touch her. His hands were rough and he had a hangnail. How odd it was, she thought, that Logan would have such smooth, callous-free hands, while Scott's hands showed every piece of work he did. It probably pissed Logan off to have such soft hands.

The hangnail scratched her, but he moved his fingers until she was slippery and the scratching only seemed to magnify the good feelings. "Now, Scott," she said.

"Yes, now," he said. He bit his lip right before entering her. It was something he always did, but she noticed it like it was the first time. She wanted to know if he closed his eyes at that moment, or if he kept them open, watching her face.

"Scott," she said. "Oh, God...."


"Yes, please, Scott!" she said. She braced herself on the headboard and writhed up to him. When she yelled his name, she wondered exactly how far heightened hearing extended.


Jean stubbed out her cigarette. Now here she was, meeting him for the second time. This time it was the Motor Pagoda off a different stretch of highway. Logan was careful about covering their tracks.

He had heard her with Scott, she knew. She expected him to grab and pull at her, to be rough and try to pound Scott out of her with sheer force. Instead, he held her and kissed her until she made small noises in her throat, like a hungry fledgling just out of the nest.

Slowly, languidly, he touched her and opened her to him until she couldn't stand it anymore. "Please," she said, whispering against his neck, licking him like a deer tastes a salt lick. And he did what she wanted.

The bathroom in the Pagoda was blue and white and it had a sliding door instead of a shower curtain. "Come in with me," she said, and she scrubbed his back when he complied.

"It's not getting any easier. Wanting you," he said.

"I know." It wasn't. She wanted to take him in and bite him and eat him and never let him go. She settled for grasping his shoulders and scratching his skin and running her tongue over where the welts would be if they didn't heal before her eyes.

This time it was rough and hard. She did bite him, enough to taste his blood, but the wound closed over before she could see it.

He toweled her off and carried her to the bed. "Stay a while?" he said, his eyes heavy with sleep.


Jean looked at the ashtray and contemplated smoking another cigarette, but instead slid down into Logan's drowsy embrace. She'd stay a little while longer.


The light from the sun ripples and coils through the lens of the water. She stretches out her hand, reaching for air, but she is too far away.

It's cold. She can't breathe; it feels like an enormous weight is crushing her lungs. If only she had a second, a single tick of the clock, on the surface to fill her lungs with fresh air, she knows she could stand it. But the clock never advances; it is not time.

She cannot begin her ascent.


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