Within the Straits
by Azurine

Title:Within the Straits
Author: Azurine
Email: intentionallynaughty@yahoo.com
Series: The Three Weeks, Part Two. Sequel to "The 17th of Tammuz."
Rating: PG-13 for adult themes
Pairing:: Logan/Remy. Logan POV. Comicverse.
Summary: Logan's view of events surrounding "The 17th of Tammuz."
Disclaimer: Marvel owns them. No harm intended. No profit made.
Feedback: Gladly accepted.
Archive: Yes to those who have my last story. Others please ask.
Warning: Makes reference to character death.
Thanks: To Blu and Cass for the betas and pep talks. To Devil Doll for proofreading it one last time, two minutes before I posted it.
Note: In Judaism, the 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of a national period of mourning known as "The Three Weeks." This mourning period, which ends on the Ninth of Av, is referred to as the period "within the straits."

This feeling in his gut is starting to drive him crazy.

It's been there for days, this sick throb in the pit of his stomach. If he thinks about it too much, he feels like he can't breathe. He feels like maybe it's a living thing in there, dark and twisted and laughing at him. At those times he wants nothing more than to simply be rid of it, to excise it from his body, to watch it squirm and die.

He tries to forget that he has the means to do just that. That he carries it in his forearms.

They stood over the graves for less than a minute. Five mourners for three mounds of dirt. Silent, exhausted. On their third day of no sleep, too little food and too much pain.

That night, after he'd had a few hours to get sufficiently drunk, Gambit went after Bishop with a fury that was shocking in its viciousness. There was no love lost between the two of them to begin with, and for a minute Logan was sure physical violence was inevitable. Was sure that Gambit, with a bad arm and a belly full of whiskey, would probably get the worst end of it.

But the Cajun, drunk and reckless as he was, still had enough sense to know he couldn't take Bishop. Just when it started to get truly ugly, he simply walked away.

Logan followed him outside, leaned up against the garage as he watched the kid smash every window in Ororo's greenhouse.

He's in an odd position. He grieves for Jean as more than a friend, and everyone knows it. Even her husband. But he feels he has no right to, that it is wrong. That he can't let Scott see it.

Jean died right in front of him and he was unable to even touch her or say goodbye, because it was not his place. It was Scott's. Instead, he'd had a few stolen moments with her stiffening corpse, an empty kiss on dead lips while Scott was unconscious in the next room.

And the honor of digging the hole they buried her in.

Another blow to his already aching heart.

The one part of him that never seems to heal.

During the day he's busy, filling his time with dozens of small chores. Repairing, gluing, tightening, replacing. For a few days he told himself that he wanted to make sure everything was taken care of before he got the hell out of here. Before he abandoned them.

Now he knows he is just stalling. As badly as he wants to run, he cannot bring himself to actually do it. He changes his mind every hour, flip-flopping as he moves from odd job to odd job.

Replacing the cracked mirror in Bobby's bathroom: leaving.

Fixing the leaky showerhead in the locker room: staying.

Planing the closet door in the foyer: leaving.

Putting a new light bulb in Hank's reading lamp: staying.

Tightening the handles on the kitchen cabinets: leaving.

Then night falls, and he discovers he has stayed for another whole day.

Then he goes to find Gambit.

If Gambit has noticed that Logan is stalking him, he doesn't seem to care.

Logan doesn't care either, as long as no one tries to stop him.

But so far no one has. In fact, no one has even asked him why he's doing it.

He'd tell them, if they asked. He'd tell them that he can't stand to lose one more, that it's become almost an obsession with him. That he's afraid if he doesn't pay attention he'll find himself out behind the house with a shovel in his hand and tears on his face. Again.

But that's not the whole truth. That's not the only reason he's taken to shadowing the Cajun.

He just wants to be near him. Look at him. Watch him.

In another place and time, that might worry him.

In this place and time, he clings to it like a life raft.

He's watched Gambit drink himself into oblivion for six nights in a row. Logan himself does not have the luxury, so he simply does not sleep.

He spends his nights moving through the house like a shadow. He has a set pattern now. Kitchen, garage, gym, living room, TV room, porch.

It was in the TV room that he came across Gambit the first night. Now he seeks him out there every night. Lingers. Stands near the window seat and stares out onto the lake, half-watches the blue reflection of the television change rhythmically as Gambit flips through the channels over and over.

The mindless rhythm of the kid's thumb never slows, not even when he fishes for and lights yet another cigarette. Not even when he sloppily fills his glass. Those spooky eyes never stray from the flickering screen. Rarely blink. He doesn't really care what's on the TV, as long as it isn't Storm's face.

Eventually, Gambit falls asleep on the couch and Logan turns from the window. Watches the kid sleep. Crouches in the corner of the room. A voyeur. Hunkered down in the dark like a dog.

It's rapidly becoming the only thing he looks forward to.

Logan stays there for minutes, hours, whatever. It's never long enough. Before long, Gambit is yanked from his drunken slumber by the same bad dream. He has the dream every night, no matter how much alcohol he's soaked his brain in. He jerks awake and rubs his face and heads for his room, groggy and reeking of tears.

On the second night the dream was really bad, or maybe he just wasn't used to it yet. His body twitched and his head tossed from side to side and he let out a sigh. A shuddery sob. And Logan ached for the kid. So young, so pretty, so eager to enjoy life. So sad, so hopeless, so tormented.

It was on the third night that Logan began to think maybe he was starting to get into something he shouldn't be.

Gambit turned on his side and burrowed into the cushions, pushed one flushed cheek against the soft pillow and then settled, quiet. And damned if from out of nowhere Logan hadn't suddenly had the urge to see the kid do that same exact thing against his own bare chest.

It was a pleasant thought. One of the few--hell, the only--he could remember having recently. And so he had turned it over in his mind for a moment or two. Wondered what the odds were that he could make it happen.

Wondered if he could make it happen before that feeling in his stomach drove him insane.

Everyone thinks he's about to snap.

And he might, but not in the way they're expecting. The animal in him is quiet, for the first time he can remember.

He's angry, yes. Outraged at the end Fate has chosen for those he loved. But it's nowhere near the blinding rage the others assume it to be. In fact, he can't remember a time when rage has felt so far away.

The animal has retreated somewhere deep inside to lick its wounds. Gone down so far that no one can hurt it. Left him to his own devices. He feels strangely human.

And that's what bothers him most about the throb in his belly. For once, it is not animalistic fury demanding to be unleashed.

He is beginning to suspect it is hunger.

And the only thing that will satisfy it lies sleeping on the couch, clutching an empty whiskey bottle.

Every night, after Gambit stumbles to his room, Logan goes out onto the porch. Smokes and stares and resists the urge to go back inside and put his bare hands on the couch cushions, where they'll still be warm from the Cajun's body heat.

Later, he goes to his own room. Opens the window, sits on the sill, and swears he can hear the kid's heartbeat, every soft breath, from two rooms away. Tries not to think about how good he must smell when he's sleepy-warm and boneless and curled up like a puppy on a soft blanket.

But tonight Gambit was out on the porch and that changed things. Because the short-lived pattern was blown all to hell and it made him start thinking about changing it a little more. It made him start thinking that tonight, when Gambit went upstairs, he might go with him.

Hank takes that decision out of his hands. Logan goes to the lab instead.

The lab feels colder than the porch.

It's a place he's never been comfortable, and the current situation is only making it worse.

The smell is intolerable. The blood and the chemicals and the sterile bandages and the over-bleached sheets and the sanitized equipment and the underlying stink of despair.

It sticks to his skin and follows him up into the house. He snorts, shakes his head, can't get a cigar out of his pocket fast enough as he heads for the porch and fresh air.

He never makes it.

Because another scent, faint but tantalizing, catches his attention just as he flips his lighter open. He doesn't hesitate, doesn't slow at all, simply alters his course for the TV room and sinks down into the couch that smells a million times better than that nightmare room under the mansion.

He holds the unlit cigar between teeth that are just a little too sharp to be human, and lets the kid's scent flow over him. It makes him feel both better and worse at the same time.

He ponders the evening's prior events, tries to sort out what it all means. In the end, he decides he's always known.

It's the admitting he knows that's taken some time.

He thinks about Gambit. That's easy to do, and he has no problem at all admitting that.

Gambit is silky and graceful and eloquent--everything Logan is not. He has a beauty that transcends gender. Both men and women think he's gorgeous. Tall, lithe, supple. He seems to flow rather than move.

He is a fascinating creature. Exotic. Addictive.

Logan thinks about Gambit, about his mysterious life and his scoundrel attitude and his outrageous physical beauty.

He thinks about what it might be like to have all that for his own.

He knows he wants that. He wants to have the kid around him all the time, wants to drink him in and have his fill and never go hungry for him again.

He wants to pet him like a cat, see if he can make him purr.

That leaves only the matter of what Gambit wants.

And is it something Logan can give? Is willing to give?

Logan is no innocent, he has a pretty solid idea of what it will entail, but the specifics are lost to him. Imagining and doing are two different things, and he has no hands-on experience with the things he's been imagining lately.

He knows what is at stake, and he knows that he wants to make the right decision here. The rightest decision of his long, long life.

And then, quite suddenly, he knows that there is no need to agonize over this. He knows that if Gambit asks, he'll let the kid do whatever he wants to him.

He heads for the stairs, wondering just what he is supposed to do next.

He does not have to wait long for the answer to that question.

Gambit's door is open.

Logan closes it behind him.

The End

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