Lair of the Stealth Bunnies | home
History Chapter Six
He sighed. “Yeah, Red?”
“Am I bothering you?”
“Would it stop ya?”
Jean laughed softly. “Probably not.” She leaned over the bike and held out a plate of food. “Peace offering?”
He looked at her over the saddle of the bike, then shook his head in amusement. “Yeah, awright.” He wiped his hands on a rag until they were tolerably grease-free and took the plate from her.
Jean sat on the grass next to him, her legs curled underneath her. “Will you have it ready in time?” she asked, nodding at the bike.
“I’d get it done a lot faster if it weren’t f’r all the interruptions.”
Jean’s words had been apologetic, but her body language and voice weren’t. “Jubilee’s really looking forward to it.”
“S’pose so.” He focused on the plate of food, trying to outlast her steady gaze on him. He finally gave up. “’Kay, Red. Spit it out.”
“It’s nice to have Evie back, isn’t it?” she asked pleasantly.
Logan shot her a glare. Jean beamed back at him. “Jeannie, you’re determined ta meddle, so’s you might as well get ta the point, so’s I can get back to work. Now, did she come rantin’ ta ya ‘bout somethin’ or what?”
Jean’s face was genuinely confused. “Should she have?”
_Damn._ He put the plate aside. “How do ya do it, Jeannie?”
“Do what, Logan?”
“Get stuff outta me when you’re not even readin’ my mind?”
She laughed. “Women’s intuition?”
“What’s going on, Logan?”
“Aw...” To give his hands something to do, he picked up a wrench and passed it back and forth from one hand to the other. “She won’t talk ta me. Won’t tell me why she left. Won’t tell me why she won’t let Hank test her for the x-gene. An’ whenever I tell her ta do somethin’, she goes and does the exact opposite, and this ain’t funny, Jean!”
She was laughing too hard for sound, her eyes watering. She waved a helpless hand at him and went off on another peal.
He glared at her. “Most of the women around here couldn’t shut up in their lives depended on it, but Eve just does that silence thing. An’ you’re _not_ helpin’ my mood none.”
“I’m sorry,” she gasped out. “Oh, dear. I’m truly sorry, Logan. It’s just that we’ve been saying the same things about you for years.”
“Hmph.” He thought about it. “Guess you’re right at that.”
“And it’s wonderful to see you get some of the same medicine.”
“Thanks,” he grunted.
She laughed again, but had it under control this time.
“So how do ya deal with me?”
“Oh, usually we just let you charge off and we try to pick up the pieces you leave behind. It’s not like we can really stop you.”
He smiled. “No, you couldn’t. So I should let Evie do the same thing?”
Jean’s smile faltered a little. “I think you’re talking about the same reactions to different situations.”
He tilted his head at her. “Come again?”
“She’s acting out of self defense. And not just because she’s been on the run for so long. “You’re such a strong personality, Logan, that you can bulldoze over someone without even realizing it. She’s already had to hide so much of herself. Do you expect her to trust so much so easily? Would you?”
“Nah,” he said. “Guess I wouldn’t.”
“Logan...” and he looked at her, at the smile in her voice. “She _did_ come back.”
He realized he was grinning. “Yeah. She did, didn’t she?”
She returned his grin. “And now, the real reason why I came out here was to ask if Eve really should be riding horseback yet?”
Logan tossed the wrench in the general direction of the tool box in disgust. “Ya see? I told her she should be restin’.” He broke off at another laugh from Jean. “Now, what?”
“Oh, it is _such_ a treat to see someone else putting _you_ through it,” she said in delight.
“Y’r a big help,” he growled and stomped off to the stables.
He really intended on storming up in a full roar to pull Eve off the horse and bully her first to Hank for more of whatever he had slipped her before, then bundle her back to the cabin, even if he had to carry her over one shoulder kicking and screaming. But as he drew closer, he heard her and Jubilee talking, and he slowed. He hadn’t expected Jubilee to seek out Eve on her own.
“Nah, I was never interested in ‘em,” Jubilee was saying. “I’m a mall-rat, y’know. Not a barn rat.”
“I won’t take offense at that.” Eve’s voice was amused.
“How do you stay on without one of those saddle-thingies?”
“It just a matter of balance. And knowing how.”
“Isn’t it easier to fall off that way?”
“Perhaps. But it’s easier to tell what the horse is doing, too, with less layers between us. I can feel his muscles better, can tell which way he might move.”
“So you’re not actually steering?”
“Yes, I am, but with knee pressure. Also I can tell him directions by my hands on his neck. He just might decide not to listen.”
“Is that something someone taught you.”
“No,” but Eve’s voice was uncertain. “I never asked anyone else about it. I just always knew. It’s... it’s just body language.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Sure you do,” Eve said, and Logan stopped walking just out of sight of them, curious. She had never explained any of this before. “Look,” she said, “part of being able to fight is being able to tell what your opponent is going to do, by their body language, by the movements of their eyes. It’s the same with animals.”
“Wolvie says you charm them.”
“No,” Eve said slowly, as if thinking it through. “I just notice them. Like... like when someone loses their hearing or sight, and their other senses compensate by increasing. Okay, animals don’t speak with words, but they do by other ways of communication. I just know what to look for. Like right now. See Terr? She’s thinking real hard about chasing that squirrel. See the way her ears area straight forward? But she’s not going to, because she’s so comfortable in the sunshine. Her tail’s all relaxed. See, she just laid her head down again.”
“That’s just because she’s your dog. You know her well.”
“All right, look at that brown horse. She’s pawing at the ground. She’s about to roll in the dirt there.”
“Hey! Hey, she did it! Can you teach me?”
Logan could hear the shrug in Eve’s voice. “It’s just a matter of watching. And you can come out, Logan.”
He shook his head in amusement and went over to stand next to Jubilee, who was perched on the top rail of the fence surrounding the paddock. “Hey!” Jubilee squawked. “How’d you know he was there?”
Eve grinned and leaned over to ruffled the horse’s mane affectionately. “His ears kept twitching towards the path, so I knew someone was there. And we would have heard anyone else but Logan.”
“That’s pretty cool!”
“So, you want to learn how to ride?”
Jubilee pursed her lips doubtfully. “I don’t know.... I mean, I kinda like something with an emergency brake, y’know?”
“Says the suicidal roller-blader,” Logan couldn’t help but saying.
Jubilee punched his shoulder, then shook her smarting fingers.
“I’ve warned ya ‘bout that,” he murmured to her.
“It was worth it,” she shot back.
“If you say so.” He raised his voice. “Evie...”
“I know,” she sighed and slid off the horse. He saw her ankle buckle and the way she caught her fingers in the horse’s mane to keep herself from falling... but only because he had been watching for it. She pressed her face against the horse’s neck for a moment, then pushed herself away with a friendly slap on the horse’s shoulder and limped over to them. “Ya gonna yell?” she asked warily.
“Nope.” His exasperation had faded. “I’m just gonna break the ankle. Save you the trouble.”
Eve slipped through the bars of the fence.
“Look, Evie, I ain’t gonna lecture, ‘cause I’m not really one ta talk. But I will tell ya that it’s gonna be pretty hard to protect you if you’re determined to hurt yourself worse. We’re all willing ta help ya, but the best thing for ya to do when all hell breaks loose is to run and let us take the fighting. An’ ya ain’t gonna be able to do that with your ankle the way it is.”
“Yeah, that’s all I’m good for, isn’t it?” she spat out so bitterly that Jubilee nearly fell off from her precarious perch on the fence.
“What’re ya talkin’ about?”
“Running. It’s what I’m best at, isn’t it?” She turned on her good heel and walked away.
“What th’hell is that s’posed to mean?” Logan caught up to her in a couple of quick strides.
“Nothing.” Her voice had calmed again, evened out without a hint of the previous venom, but her jaws were clenched and her eyes blazed.
“Don’t look like nuthin’ ta me.”
She shook her head. “No, Logan. It’s just -- it’s just frustrating. You all are jumping to protect me, and I can’t do anything but run. It makes me pretty worthless around here, doesn’t it?”
“What a minute.” He caught her arm and spun her around to face him. “No one has ever said you were worthless.”
“They don’t have to.” The snarl was back in her voice. “I’m the resident pet human that has to be protected.”
“The hell with that, Evie. Ya don’t even know if ya really are human. Ya won’t let Hank do his tests.”
“And what, find out I really am a mutant? For God’s sake, Logan, that only makes it worse!”
“Why?” he asked, quiet and deadly.
“Because I would be the weakest mutant of you all. I’d have the gene, and I’d still be no better than a human.” She was crying now, trying not to, but tears streaked down her face. They didn’t touch her voice, though. “I still couldn’t take care of myself.”
Logan had been prepared for a lot of different answers, but that had not been one of them. “Christ, Evie, what that why you left?”
She was glaring at him, defiant in spite of the tears. “Either way, I don’t belong here.”
“Dammit, girl!” He raked his fingers through his hair in frustration. _Well, ya wanted her to talk._ He had rehearsed responses to everything he had thought of her saying, except for hit. He looked at her helplessly for a moment, then gathered her into his arms. “Darlin’, you belong anywhere ya wanna be. And there’s not a single person here who isn’t glad ta have you back. And if there is, then I’ll just go an’ have a little one on one discussion w’them.”
Eve had let him hold her and stroke her hair comfortingly, but she pulled back at his last remark so quickly that she nearly fell. “Goddamnit, Logan! That’s just what I meant. I don’t want to have to rely on you to pave the way for me. When I’m here, I just live in your shadow. I’m the little pet you come home to,and I just watch you go off on your missions and wait for you to come home, because I’m too useless to help. And I’m always wondering it that’ll be the last time I see you, the last time you leave, because someday the odds are gonna be too high, and you won’t come back.”
“So you left,” he said softly.
“Yeah.” She let out a long breath, sagging as if the out-burst had taken the last of her energy. “I left.”
She sank to the ground and buried her head in her hands. He sat beside her. “Christ, Evie,” he finally said. “Why couldn’t it be somethin’ easy, like you were jealous of Jeannie or somethin’?”
Even laughed into her hands. It had the flavor of tears, but at least it was a laugh. It wasn’t unfixable.
Jubilee plopped down on Eve’s other side. Eve looked up, startled. For once, Jubilee had been so quiet, she had forgotten she was still around. “Sorry, Jubilee,” she said with a weak smile. “Didn’t mean to unload like that.”
“Aw, that’s okay.” Jubilee began shredding bark off of a twig. “Everyone needs to, sooner or later. An’ it’s better to have someone around when ya do. Besides, I don’t care if you are or aren’t a mutant. Your genes make you _what_ you are, not _who_ you are. _Who_ you are, that’s what’s important, ain’t it?” She caught Logan staring at her and bristled defensively. “What?”
He spread his hand out soothingly in front of him. “Just another a’those times ya do real good, kid.”
“Oh.” She looked down at the naked twig and began snapping it into pieces. “Well, it also seems to me, that if ya wanna stop runnin’, ya stop runnin’, And this is as good a place as any to stop.”
“Damn. She is good,” Eve muttered.
“An; just because ya ain’t a mutant doesn’t mean ya can’t take care of y’self,” Logan pointed out.
“Yeah. I’ve done a really good job of it so far.”
“You’re alive, ain’tcha?”
She looked at him, and he could see her surprise. She hadn’t thought of it that way. She had only seen the failures and not the successes. He shrugged. “Hey, whatever works,” he reminded her.
“Whatever works,” she agreed faintly.
They left the other topic alone, about him not coming back someday. There wasn’t anything that could be done about it. Not now, not ever.
“But ya ain’t gonna be any use to anyone, if ya don’t take care of yourself.” Jubilee bounced to her feet, brushing her shorts off and taking control. “C’mon. Let’s get some more food into you.” She gave Eve a sharp nod. “I like you, Evie. I wasn’t so sure, at first, y’know. I’m kinda protective over the big lug over there, ‘cause if ya hadn’t noticed, he tends ta get inta trouble if he’s not watched. But you’re cool, and ya gotta cute dog. And I think ya got about as much sense as Wolvie does, so I guess I’m gonna hafta watch over you, too.”
“Just make sure she gets someone else to fix your food,” Logan said with amusement. “She’s a terrible cook.”
Jubilee stuck her tongue out at him. She propelled Eve down the path toward the mansion. “Now, from what you and Wolvie have said, it sounds like you can really handle your own against the occasional human or two, which is about as much as anyone can ask from a person. You’re just comparing yourself to the big guns on the X-teams, and you need to stop doin’ that. And since a human would have to be pretty stupid to try and take us all on, so you’re safe from them. The only ones who are likely to attack here are mutants, and none of them are after you, right? So you just take this time to rest and let yourself heal. And we’ll figure out what comes next when next comes around. Hey, will Terr play fetch with me later on?”
“She’ll chase the ball. She may not bring it back to you.”
Logan watched them go, then went back to his bike, shaking his head. _why do I feel like the pair of them just tripled my problems?_
He worked on the bike in blessed peace until it grew too dark to really be productive. And then he worked on it for an hour more, just because he could. It was full dark before he had gathered his tools and wheeled the bike into the garage.
Eve was sitting in his recliner, feet up, looking like she had been asleep seconds before. “That girl,” she said, “is worse than you are.”
“Yeah?” He rummaged through the fridge. “How so?”
“She stuffed me with food, dragged me back here and watched over me to make sure I didn’t move.”
“I guess she’s not bored any more.” He looked over the fridge door at her. “When was your last pain med?”
“About an hour ago. Jubilee forced one down me before she left.”
“No beer for you then.”
“Jubilee made me eat more in one sitting that I’ve been eating in a day.” She frowned. “She kidnapped my dog, too.”
“She’ll give her back, ‘s soon as that mutt chews something of hers up.”
“You’re still sore about those boots? Honestly, Logan, that was forever ago.”
He grumbled something into his beer, but he glinted his eyes at her to let her know he wasn’t very serious about it. “So,” he said, coming to lean over her shoulder. “We have no Jubilee. No dog. You’ve eaten. Slept.”
Eve laced her fingers through his, slim and delicate in contrast to his. “Thank you can come up with something to do?”
He nuzzled the top of her head, enjoying the smell of her hair. “I’ve got a few ideas.”
“Only a few? You’re slowing down in your old age.”
He barked a laugh. “I’ll show you slow, darlin’.”
There was a knock on the door. “Logan? It’s Ororo. I was wondering if I could soak --”
“No! Go away!” they both shouted in unison.
There was a very un-Ororo-like “Eep!” from the other side of the door, and footsteps beat a hasty retreat.
“However,” Logan said, as if they hadn’t been interrupted. He scooped her up out of the recliner. “She’s got an idea. That tub’s more than big enough for the two of us, and I haven’t had the chance to share it yet.”
Eve threw her arms around his neck. “Well, I think we should try that out, shouldn’t we?”
“Sounds like a plan t’me.”
Her nightmare woke him up. She was still tangled in his arms, but went from whimpers to screaming about fire before he could wake her up. Even so, he didn’t think she really did wake, Her arms tightened around him and she eased into an easier dream, as if his presence and voice had been enough to save her.
He stayed awake for the rest of the night, watching her sleep.
The bike was ready in time, as Eve had predicted. Logan strapped Jubilee’s dufflebag to the back while the girl lectured Eve. “And just in case ya think ya aren’t bein’ looked after, I got Jean watchin’ ya.”
“Ain’t too late ta change your mind, Evie, if ya wanna come,” Logan called.
“Not a good idea,” Eve said. “I’ll be fine.”
“Of course you will,” Jubilee said decisively. “The only thing that might be able to get in here is a mutant, and there ain’t any mutants after you. So you’ll be fine.
She gave the dog a pat on the head and bounced over to Logan. She scrambled up behind him on the bike.
“We’ll be back on Sunday,” Logan said.
“I’ll be here.” Eve bent to pick up the dog.
And that was how he saw her, in the rear view mirror, standing on the cabin steps, the dog in her arms, waving at them. Then they went around the curve of the road, and he lost sight of her behind the trees.