Title:Big Bad Wolf
Big Bad Wolf
June had arrived warm and sunny, and at Xavier’s School, the academic season was winding down into its welcome summer lull of fun projects and outdoor activities. Almost everyone was in a good mood. In the next three months or so, there was a lot to look forward to—starting with a picnic and swimming at a nearby lake.
Then little Kristen Mayhew came down with a cold.
One of the youngest students at the school, Kristen was small even for a seven-year-old, and illnesses as an infant left her prone to catching any sniffle or fever within a ten-mile radius. She had already spent much of the winter in bed, being nursed by Jean and Ororo, while the other kids enjoyed snowball wars outside. Now it looked as though she would miss out on the start of summer’s fun as well. Jean felt terrible about it, and would have rescheduled the trip if she possibly could have, but it had already been planned for weeks. Although she promised Kristen they would go again when she was well, the sad, wistful look on the child’s face still made her heart ache.
The morning of the outing dawned bright and hot, and as the students wolfed down their breakfast, Jean went into the kitchen to load the picnic baskets. Stepping into the room, she immediately noticed the empty paper towel holder—and after her years of living with Scott’s fastidiousness, it was something she just couldn’t ignore, no matter how much of a hurry she was in. With an irritated sigh, she bent over to search for a new roll in the cabinet under the sink.
If she hadn’t been busy mentally grumbling about people who used the last paper towel and didn’t replace the roll, she might have sensed Logan in the doorway behind her. As it was, her first clue to his presence was a long, low wolf whistle.
Jean straightened and spun around, planting her hands on her hips—which happened to be clad in a very short pair of cutoff denim shorts. Of course, Logan now had a view of the bikini top under her unbuttoned blue silk shirt, so the odds were good he found the front angle as appealing as the back.
"Need some help?" he asked innocently, scratching his chin.
His eyebrows were hiked up in amusement, but the question was sincere enough, and it saved him from a sharp scolding. In spite of herself, Jean felt her moment of temper subside. Logan always had that effect on her. In fact, he always had both of those effects on her: making her angry, and then making her forget her anger completely.
"Yeah, you can fill up that cooler with sodas from the fridge," she sighed, pointing to a cooler on the table, which Bobby had already helpfully lined with ice.
Shrugging, Logan ambled forward and did as he was told. Jean watched him—telling herself that she just wanted to make sure he was throwing in a proper balance of Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew. In spite of the warm weather, she noticed he was dressed as usual in well-worn jeans and at least two layers of shirts. She wondered if he ever wore… less.
Okay, so maybe that was not a good direction for her thoughts.
"You’re not going to wear that to the lake, are you?" she asked abruptly, wrenching her mind away from the gutter—at least, for the most part.
Logan shouldered the refrigerator door shut and glanced up at her, his arms laden with cold soda cans. "I’m not going."
This was news to Jean, and she frowned. "Why not? I thought you’d like a chance to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors."
As he piled the drinks into the cooler, he shrugged, and there was something evasive about the gesture. "A glorified retention pond full of squealing, splashing kids ain’t exactly my idea of the outdoors. Got things to do, anyway."
"Oh," Jean said simply. Had she said anything more complex than that, he would have been sure to hear the disappointment in her voice.
He looked up at her again, opening his mouth to say something. However, at that moment Ororo stepped into the kitchen, wearing a dark red wraparound skirt over her white one-piece bathing suit. With a quick, knowing smile at both of them, she took a carafe of cold water from the refrigerator and proceeded to fill a glass.
"I’m going to give Kristen her medicine now," she informed Jean. "Think she’ll be alright for the day?"
Reminded unhappily of their sick student, Jean sighed. "Yeah, I think so. Anyway, I was planning to come back in a few hours and check on her. It won’t take me long."
Ororo nodded and breezed out of the room, leaving Jean alone once more with Logan. He put the lid on the cooler and leaned his elbows on it, looking at her earnestly.
"Need any help taking all this stuff out to the garage?"
"No, Scott and Kurt are going to help with that. Thanks."
"Well… have fun." Logan straightened, gave her a very slight smile, and went out of the kitchen.
Jean stood blankly for a moment, then frowned. What was I doing again?
Oh, yeah. Paper towels.
At the lake, Jean went for a brief swim with Scott, but she preferred to spend most of the time sunbathing with Ororo. She laid on her beach towel with her eyes closed, listening to the happy sounds of the students splashing and shrieking in the water—yet the thought of lonely little Kristen at home continued to weigh on her mind. Finally, after lunch, she asked Scott for the keys, and set out to drive the few miles back to the school and check on her patient.
With Professor Xavier in Washington, and everyone else away except Kristen and Logan, the mansion was almost morbidly quiet. Jean slowly climbed the stairs, enjoying the air conditioning on skin that was still hot from her bask in the midday sun. She reached the landing and turned to the left, headed for the private room where Kristen was convalescing.
Then a deep, snarling, altogether fearsome voice rang loudly down the hall.
"I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in!"
…Which threat was followed by the delighted giggles of a little girl.
Thunderstruck, Jean silently crept to the door of Kristen’s room. A very different voice continued to speak, and this time she recognized it as Logan’s—but it was nothing at all like the low, terse tones she knew. She had never heard or even imagined such gentleness and warmth in his voice.
Very, very slowly, she peeked around the doorjamb.
The bed was empty, but a wingback chair had been turned toward the window opposite the door. She could see Logan’s elbow leaning on the armrest. There was an open book in his outstretched hand, and a head of soft blonde hair lay in the crook of his arm, while a little girl’s bare feet and nightgown ruffles hung lazily over the other side of the chair.
Jean would have given anything for a full view of that priceless picture. The big bad Wolverine, holding a sick child on his lap and reading her The Three Little Pigs—complete with voices.
Logan suddenly paused in his narrative, and Jean heard him sniff the air. Her heart skipped a beat, and she ducked out of the doorway, retreating down the hall as quietly as she could.
After a moment, the reading continued.
For a long while, Jean just stood there and listened, treasuring that precious secret in her heart. She always knew there were incredible depths of tenderness beneath Logan’s gruff façade… but to actually see it made manifest was a privilege that moved her to the core of her being.
When it hid such grace in such unlikely places, the world was really quite wonderful.
Wrapping her arms around herself, Jean smiled and slowly moved toward the staircase. She would never betray that moment to another living soul.
And she would never hear The Three Little Pigs in quite the same way again.
© 2004 Jordanna Morgan -send feedback