Frankly, it's all I can do not to laugh out loud. But I manage it. I've had a lot of practice putting on the Stern Leader face. And that's one of the things this constant eye-wear is good for; hiding unseemly mirth behind. Still, I'm lucky Logan doesn't know me at all, or he'd hear my amusement clearly in my voice, the way I roll the vowels.
"Well, if I had to do that, she wouldn't be my girl."
He was just raring for this, I can tell by the way he bounces on his toes. The way he almost stalks across the room. "Well then, I guess you've got nothin' to worry about, do you, Cyclops." Condescension heavy in the stressed sibilants of my codename, but he doesn't really think it's that childish or inane. He's just poking. Just trying to get a rise so that he can relieve... whatever. Leftover adrenaline from the tussle we pulled him out of, maybe. Perhaps it's a feeling of helplessness from giving in, staying here, being penned in by the walls. I don't know.
Frankly, I don't care one bit for his equanimity, physically or mentally. I don't like him, and I'll be perfectly honest about that. Just one of those things, like a splinter that got immediately under my skin. I'd just prefer to live without him, and I knew that after barely half an hour. Would have known it even without that wonderful start he got off to scaring the hell out of Jean and just about choking her. But regardless of all that, we need him to be here, and slightly pliable, for a while at least. So if that means I have to play up to his Alpha-Male posturing, then I'll do it. Lounge a little more smug and insolently against the doorframe. Smirk a little, but not too much. Otherwise I'll let it all out, and that won't do at all.
Because inside, I'm laughing about this. For more than one reason.
"Must just burn you up," I note, "that a boy like me saved your life, huh? Better be careful, I might not be there next time." It's enough for now. Except for just one parting shot: "Oh, and Logan? Stay away from my girl." I give him a tight smile that, as soon as the door is safely shut behind me, broadens into one of genuine amusement. It sticks with me all the way down the corridor.
"What are you smirking about?" Jean asks, sitting in front of the mirror and brushing her hair. She's in her nightgown, ready for bed.
I come up behind her and rest my chin on the top of her head, looking at her in the mirror. "Nothing much," I reply. I trace a finger down the side of her neck, trailing lightly over the bruises that Logan left her with. Just starting to show now, they'll be stunning in the morning. The neck's a bad place for bruising. The hickie she gave me a couple of months ago backed that little theoretical lesson up for me. "I recommend something high-necked tomorrow."
She bats my hand away, setting down her brush. "Did you have a good game of 'Whose Is Bigger' with Logan?" Amusement in her eyes goes from mirrored to head-on as she stands and turns to face me, sliding her arms around my neck.
"We just about knocked down walls with the sheer masculinity of it all. I'm sorry you missed it."
Jean just laughs, and kisses me, nipping at the stretched line of my mouth until I stop smiling and start paying attention to business. With just the flimsy nightgown between my hands and her skin, it's enough to make me more than merely interested. But I know she's tired - an experiment gone wrong before Ororo and I went to Canada, on top of everything since then - so I don't push it. Like she doesn't push it when I'm in the grip of a migraine. Saying that we're 'comfortable' makes it sound boring, dull, but it's not. And the fire's still there, every time. It just doesn't have to be 'now', because we've got 'always'.
So I kiss her again, short and hard, and step away. She brushes past me, pulling down the covers and climbing into bed. A quiet chuckle pulls me up just as I'm heading into the bathroom, and I look back to her, snuggled down under the covers.
"So, did you tell him to stay away from your girl?"
I grin. "Of course I did." Her laughter follows me into the bathroom.
As if it mattered. As if she would be tempted if he were near her, if he made an effort. As if I had any insecurity about her faithfulness.
The thought of Jean and Logan together was what had made me want to laugh before, and it did make me laugh now.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm in denial, or something. That I'm just talking myself into believing these things, or refusing to face facts, because I know, deep down, that Jean's got to be attracted to him. At least on a primitive level, right? He's like pure testosterone rendered in human (hairy) form, and all that. So male, so intensely and without even thinking. And Jean is the most beautiful woman in the world (or so I think, though I may be a little bit prejudiced on this one). It's more than that, though, it's her confidence. Her quiet certainty. It's damn sexy, right there in your face. He had to see it, had to want her.
In the face of all this, how can I possibly be so sure?
Jean's already dozing when I come out of the bathroom, but she wakes enough as I slip beneath the covers to slide over a little, snuggling back in beside me again.
"So what do you think of our new arrivals?" she asks as she lifts her head drowsily to let me slip my arm underneath her neck.
"Logan's going to be a problem," I state blandly.
She murmurs agreement sleepily, and then her lips curve into a smile that's pure wickedness. "Rogue's cute, though."
At my laughter, her eyes open in surprise, head rising slightly off my shoulder. "What? She is!"
"Yes," I agree, kissing the top of her head. "She is."
That's why I'm so sure. Because Logan, with all his manly, gruff sexuality is exactly what my girl doesn't want.
If you want a gross simplification, she's technically bisexual, I guess. But if I've learned one thing in the past five years, it's that people - any aspect of them - can't be easily compartmentalised. Take Logan for example...
Actually, forget it. I don't even want to go there.
I said 'technically bisexual', because we're getting married as soon as our lives calm down, but she freely admits that until me, she was more or less a lesbian.
And boy, is that the sort of declaration that can inflate a guy's ego. Let's face it: it's a racially-entrenched fantasy, that of 'curing' a woman of her lesbian tendencies by nothing other than your own charms and skills. But that fantasy usually involves you, the man, being so much of a man that she couldn't possibly deny her need for your masculinity any longer. Jean always takes care to deflate me whenever she thinks I'm getting too puffed up by reminding me that it was my feminine aspects that attracted her to me.
That explained a lot, once I found out about it. It explained something that happened when we first met. When she came into the Professor's office where I sat, eyes clenched as tight as they'd been for two months. She brought with her my new hope; the first of a series of increasingly improved glasses. She keeps such tight control over everything, but she was young too, and new to the whole telepath thing. When my hand touched hers, in the process of the glasses-transfer, I caught the hint of a whispered thought, that sounded vaguely like: "...pretty as a girl."
I forgot all about it in the suddenness of having my sight returned to me, which was just as well. At that stage I was very aware of the fact these fine features of mine have something of the effeminate about them. Kids are quick and blunt to point out those sorts of things. I'd taken care all through school to avoid anything that might be considered ambiguous, gender-orientation-wise. That didn't help my early pursuit of Jean. Playing the macho male rates about zero with her.
She could have got rid of me easily. What better way to stop me pestering her than to tell me I was too young and, what's more, of the wrong gender? She didn't take the easy path, though, and it wasn't just because of my pretty face. Because I was running a cunning, multi-faceted campaign; we were becoming friends. It wasn't so much that we had a lot in common, but we just seemed to complement each other. We fit together so very well that I think it scared her a little. If I'd been thinking about it, it probably would have scared me, but I didn't think about it. Not until I was well and truly in love, and then it just made me smile.
So I troubled Jean Grey's assurance in the sexual orientation she'd taken years to get used to, but had been comfortable in. It was worse than a straight woman wondering if she was gay, she told me later, because she had to wonder if maybe this wasn't a subconscious desire to conform to the norms of society, to have a heterosexual relationship. Didn't know if she was really being honest with herself. I didn't know any of this at the time. All I knew was that where there had previously just been a flat 'no', there was now the teeterings of a 'maybe'.
Of course, I was going to have to find out some time. And the longer it went, the more awkward it became to tell me. It eventually came out on the night of what I'd considered our first real date. I was back from college and wearing smart clothes and a mask of fake assurance. She was wearing perfume that completely scrambled my wits. I'm sure we were both as nervous as the other, and dinner was a little stilted until eventually Jean just grabbed my wrist and practically dragged me out of the restaurant. Not even all the way out of the restaurant, because it was in the foyer, as our coats were being fetched, that she took my face firmly between her hands and kissed me. Not the friendly pecks I'd contented myself with previously, but a real, honest-to-God kiss.
I'd barely been able to move when our coats were held out with a discreet cough.
That had broken the tension a lot, and we walked through the park, talking like we usually did. Except we didn't usually hold hands, and that simple fact was disrupting my thought processes a lot. Finally, she stopped, took a deep breath, and told me. That she was a lesbian. That she'd been amused by her attraction to me, and then confused, but now she just accepted it. She wanted me. A careful, prepared speech. The only reason she got it all in was because I was too shocked to speak.
That passed, unfortunately. I proceeded to put both feet in my mouth. The evening, which had been so perfect, degenerated into a bit of a nightmare. It would be easy to blame most of it on that temper Jean tries so hard to hide, but there were two people screaming at each other that night, and it certainly wasn't her who kicked the trashcan. She did uproot the bush, though. Telekinetically. And afterwards, she took off with the car in a blinding rage, leaving me to walk all the way back to the Mansion.
It was far enough that I'd thought everything through by the time I arrived back. And the conclusion I'd reached was one that stressed quite heavily my own stupidity in the whole thing. I went straight to her room, and poured out an apology. Then we talked. Talked like we never had before, on and on with sentences that barely made sense by the end of it, but somehow still communicated. That was the first night she fell asleep in my arms, and I watched the sun rise through a curtain of her hair. I couldn't have slept, because somehow my prayers had been answered twice in one night.
It wasn't all sweetness and light from there, of course. I didn't become an enlightened male overnight, and Jean had her own personal issues to deal with. There were a lot more screaming arguments. We both did a lot more apologising. But most of all we talked. Things became smoother, easier. I stopped flinching at references to anything feminine about myself. She began to trust me, and herself. She started teasing me about being in touch with my feminine side. I started teasing her about choosing me as the socially acceptable option. We watched movies together, comparing notes on the attributes of the female stars. And, occasionally, the male ones. She has a soft spot for Alan Cumming. I knew she would. If there's one thing we've figured out, together, it's what Jean likes and doesn't like.
Which is why Logan can prowl, and growl, and be as indelibly, undeniably male as he likes. And he can do it as close to her as he pleases. Hell, he can show up naked and gift-wrapped in her lab, for all I care. The only problem I can see is that it could get damn annoying. I'll be there if she needs me. Always. But my girl doesn't need to be guarded. Not from that.
I remember all this a few days and a million events later. Sitting quietly for the first time in what seems like weeks, our kids scattered around us. The squabbling over the television is the most relaxing thing I've heard in forever. When Rogue growls and stalks out, slamming the door behind her, Jean and I just laugh.
"Still think she's cute?" I ask, settling myself more comfortably. One arm around her, the newspaper folded open to the cryptic crossword balanced on my leg. She's reading some dense scientific text. Or pretending to, at least. She hasn't turned the page in a good fifteen minutes.
Jean giggles. "Interesting, isn't it, how his traits show in her. A little girl acting so masculine."
"Yeah, well," I reply, bracing my leg to fill in an answer. "Male, female... It all mixes together, right?"
Cause for more laughter, and she sets aside her book. "Speaking of which, I should go and check on Logan again." She stretches as she stands up, groaning a little. "He's going to wake up and he's going to try and flirt again. Think I should just tell him I'd prefer him in a skirt?" With a wink, she heads out of the room, leaving me to spread out on the sofa, grinning to myself.
Yep, that's my girl.