Deliberate Steps

by Ramos

Rating: R (No kidding, we're talking kinda steamy here, but no smut).

Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Marvel, who made the mistake of leaving the back door unlocked. Be sure to put everything back when you're done.

For me, the start of a mission usually goes the same way. We all scramble into our uniforms, go to the briefing, then head for the jet. The last thing I do, always, is to grab my ray-bans and spit out my gum. The gum spitting part didn't use to be part of the ritual until somebody surprised me one night and I almost choked to death when the gum went the wrong way. It's a good thing the slam to the floor worked as a make-shift Heimlich, or it could have gone down in history as being the most embarrassing way ever for an X-man to buy the farm.

I won't even try to describe a typical mission, except to say the only thing they have in common is that they have very little in common. Tonight, for instance, we were treated to a sixties flashback, if you go for the bad parts of the civil rights era. This very nice mutant neighborhood had a bunch of rednecks terrorizing them. One idiot was even wearing a white sheet, though I think the Klan would have been embarrassed to claim him. The good news was that none of them could shoot straight, which is why I've got a nasty burn on my neck. Hank put some goop on it as we headed home.

"Fear not, Jubilee. The carbon particles will eventually work their way out of your skin."

"Like a blackhead?" I asked, totally grossed out. Blue just gave me that 'being patient with the patient' look, and told me to keep putting the salve on it.

The ends of the mission are the truly illuminating bit. Depending on how we get home, or if we get home, that usually tells the tale of how things went. Or, to paraphrase the clich?, any mission you walk away from is a good one. If it was a really good one, we might order a pizza fest. Bad ones are when the team ends up hanging out in the Med Lab, with lots of angst and tears. This one was a middling ending, so we all just went our own way. I hit the shower and got most of that greasy stuff washed off, and got rid of the smell of gunpowder in my hair.

By the time I got dressed again it was only ten, much too early for any self-respecting single chick under the age of thirty to go to bed. I wandered around, checked the fridge. Damn. No cookie dough. The media room was all mine, but even after three flips through the channels (and we get LOTS of channels) I couldn't find anything to watch.

Bobby and Hank were sharing a six-pack of domestic on the back patio, but I took the hint after they both glared at me. I only suggested juggling the beer, I wouldn't have actually done it. I don't even know how to juggle.

I finally gave in to my impulse and went looking for Logan. He'd been acting growly for a couple of days, and even if I was his ˇ¦ whatever I was, I knew better than to bug him when he's that way. But sometimes, knowing better and actually acting that way are two different things. I found him in the kitchen, coming in from the garage, and he was wearing his leather jacket. Crap. Jacket meant going out. Solo, on the bike, Rebel Without a Cause time, not that I've ever seen the movie, but I've heard it's good. I gave him a brilliant smile, cause I didn't really care that he was going to go off on his own and leave me to die of boredom. Really. Don't care.

He just said "hey," under his breath and started putzing around in the junk drawer. We keep twist ties and spare screwdrivers and other priceless nonsense in there. God only knows what he was looking for.

I grabbed a soda out of the fridge like that was what I was after to begin with and hopped on the counter while I watched him. Actually, watching Logan move is always good entertainment, if a little on the frustrating side. He's built, and I mean nearly as wide as he is tall above the waist, but below the waistˇ¦ Down, girl. Down! Early on, when Logan and I first started this thing, I made a vow to myself not to push him. Every step we've taken, I've been following his lead. It's been slow and often frustrating, but watching Logan's determination not to rush things has shown me facets of him that I've never seen before. I'm kinda curious to see how things go, because I want to be able to look back on this time and savor the memories.

At least, that's what I tell myself at times like this, because what I really want is to launch myself at him and see if the kitchen table is as sturdy as I think it is. I mean, really, that cold shower crap is just shit. Who came up that, anyway? You're still horny, but now you're just cold and wet and horny.

I must not be doing something right.

A deck of cards landed on the counter next to me, along with a handful of other junk. I picked them up and flipped the edges with my thumb. The rubber band around them was disintegrating. I started to make a joke about playing strip poker, then thought better of it -- don't die of shock.

"Wanna play some cut-throat Gin? I'll spot you twenty points."

"I'm headin' down to Hardcase's place," he muttered, still digging for something in the drawer.

"Oh. Okay." Solitaire. Yippee.

He slammed the drawer shut.

"You comin?"

"Why not?" I tossed off.


Logan never wears a helmet. I'm not sure how much of that is the fact that he hates to have his ears covered and how much is the fact that deep down, he doesn't want to look like a dork. But he always tries to make me wear one when we go out on his scoot. Usually I comply, but tonight I was not in the mood. He tossed me the thing, and the smell of the various people on the rotting rubber just didn't do anything for me. Smells have become more important to me since I started dating a man who's got a better sniffer than a customs dog.

"Look, Logan. I just got shot at by a bunch of no-neck morons. I'm feeling a little indestructible. So forget it."

"Yer funeral."

"Only if you're driving." I smiled when I said it, but he got a funny look on his face. Hey, it was a joke. I kissed him on the cheek as I climbed on behind him. "At least you'll be there, if it is."

We've only gone to Hardcase's once or twice since our odd courtship began, but the regular crowd pretty much ignores you unless you're wearing a do-me-now leather. My Yankees shirt and jeans didn't even register.

A beer appeared on the bar as soon as Harry saw us walk through the door. I've tried to develop a taste for that stuff, but all it does for me is leave a taste in my mouth like I've been eating raw bread dough. Ugh. I ordered a seven & seven, and Harry didn't even card me --whether that was because I was with Logan, or the fact that Harry didn't care, I don't know. I do know it's not because I'm finally starting to look my age, because I have to trot out my driver's license everywhere else even though I've been legal for a few years now.

Logan went off to snag us a pool table, and I wandered over to the pinball machines in the corner. I'd like to try playing one, but I've got bad luck with electronic games. I get pissed, and the next thing I know the buttons are starting to melt, and I'm heading back to the store for another Nintendo. The guy playing it looked up at me and gave me what he probably thought was a devastating smile. Unfortunately, I ended up grinning back at him, not because I was interested but because it was such a blatant come-on it was funny. I turned away before he could ask me to bear his children, and saw Logan pulling down a couple of cues from the rack. He racked up the balls, let me break, and we were off.

We ran the table without much discussion, but it was therapeutic in a controlled violence and booze kind of way. Logan likes to play pool the way he drinks: minimum movement and very little conversation. I've thought about trying to talk the Professor into buying a pool table, but we'd probably need new intake manifolds on the Blackbird or something. A couple of biker types moved in when we finished our second game, and some bills hit the side of the table. Logan just grunted, and peeled out some cash.

One of them turned out to be the guy from the pinball game, and he gave me a look that started at my feet and wandered - slowly - up to my face. He was handsome enough if you liked the soap opera villain type. I preferred my men a little more worn around the edges. Wolvie was acting like he wasn't paying any attention, but I knew better. If this guy were any smarter, he would have known better too.

"You with someone, babydoll?"

Babydoll? Get real. I jerked a thumb towards short, dark, and hairy.

"I'm with him."

Handsome actually looked at Logan, then shrugged and stepped up to me. "So?"

I laughed. "You don't come here very often, do you?"

"If I'd known you were here, I'd've been around a lot earlier."

"Smooth talker," I accused him lightly, and walked past him to take my shot.

Another drink showed up at my elbow as I was sinking out last ball. We'd won, but it had been close, and Handsome's buddy shelled out some more cash and set up the table again. Logan broke this time, but nothing sank. The other guy ran several shots while I watched, leaning on my pool cue and trying to ignore the less than subtle imposition on my personal space as Handsome tried to sneak up behind me.

When my turn came, he didn't back off. I lined up my shot based on the body heat behind me and the sound of his breathing, and drew back my cue a lot further than necessary. The sound of his breath sucking in went nicely with the thwack of the balls being knocked around. Across the pool table, I mean.

His buddy laughed out loud, and Logan gave that infinitesimal smirk of his, so I went around the table and kissed him before my next shot. I got a bad bank after sinking the next ball, and then Handsome moved in like he was a hot shot. Okay, he was pretty good on the pool table, but I'm sure he was not nearly as good as he thought he was in other areas. But, to give him a little credit, he certainly had the smoldering intense stare down.

We lost the game, not only because the bud got a good couple of shots in, but also because Logan seemed distracted. And not because he was worried about some jerk coming on to his girl. He would have already introduced Mr. Personality to the floor if he were in the mood for a bar fight. I could tell he was getting annoyed, though, because Handsome apparently thought I was a challenge. I could see Logan shift his cigar in his mouth, and it's a bit ominous when he starts rubbing his knuckles. Frankly I was getting tired of this guy not catching a hint.

I finally had had enough when I was lining up a tricky shot and didn't notice he was pushing his luck until I felt a hand run up the inside of my leg. He made a nice squeaking noise when I grabbed his paw and applied just a little more pressure than necessary to the nerve cluster in the meat between his thumb and hand. He went to his knees when I grabbed his thumb and bent it in a direction it wasn't meant to go.

"You know, if you got your hand broken or something, you'd have to forfeit the game. You don't want to forfeit, do ya?"

Handsome shook his head and I let him go. When I looked up at Logan after I missed my shot, the corner of his mouth twitched, so I went over to him and let him drape his arm around me while I nuzzled his sideburns. For a guy with that much testosterone, Logan has incredible self-control. Especially when I stole his cigar and puffed on it myself. Hey, when there's that much smoke in a place, smoking your own is the only form of self-defense you've got.

"Anybody else did that, I'd gut 'em," he said mildly.

"Yeah, well, there are advantages to being your girlfriend." I was asking for it, and got it when he used a move he'd never taught me to twist me into his arms and reclaim his cigar, all in a tenth of a second. Maybe less. The display was not lost on Handsome, so when we resumed the game, he always managed to be on the other side of the table from me.

I think we were both bored of pool by the time we lost the last game, so Logan settled up while I retrieved his jacket from the coat rack. I was surprised, however, when he draped it over my shoulders and told me to drive.

Teaching me the art of riding his Harley has been an ongoing project for a couple of weeks, and even though I've got it down pretty good, it's always fun to feel him behind me while I try to master a clutch lever with one hand and shift gears with my toe. Distracting, but fun.

There's a long stretch of road near home that's actually bordering on the mansion grounds. I leaned back into Logan's warm chest, because while it was a mild evening, zipping along at even a relatively sedate forty miles an hour was a little breezy, and I'd neglected to zip up the jacket. Logan's hands were warm on my waist and, dummy me, it took a moment to register the fact that his fingers were stroking the bare skin of my stomach under my shirt.

It was nice and friendly, but when his hands rose until he was brushing the underside of my breasts with the back of his hands, I had to bite my lip. I concentrated desperately on the road ahead as ever so slowly he stroked my sides, while his mouth wet and hot on my neck. I gasped as he finally cupped my aching breasts in his hands.

It was hard to hear him in the wind passage as he whispered a question in my ear. "Too much?" His voice was rough, and sent a shiver down my back. It was the first time he'd ever touched me like this. I shook my head, intoxicated by the feel of my hair and his sideburn meshing.

"Not nearly enough," I replied, truthfully.

His hands left, and I cussed inwardly, knowing I shouldn't have pushed. He snarled something, I didn't quite understand what, but his hands were suddenly out from under my shirt and shoving mine off the handlebars, his thighs hard under mine as he toed my feet off the pegs. I had to clutch at the gas tank as he slowed the bike, then geared down sharply and turned off the road into the woods, diving down what appeared to be a deer trail. We bounced over the rough ground, and when he cut the engine I fell back against him at the same time he reached for me and pulled me off it with a fierce economy of effort.

Logan knows these woods thoroughly, he's spent days wandering through the grounds and surrounding countryside when life indoors gets to be too much for him. I wasn't surprised when a small grassy clearing opened, and I sure wasn't complaining when he yanked me into his arms and started kissing me.

I forget sometimes how incredibly strong his arms are, arms that pulled me up against him as he plundered my mouth, his hands roaming everywhere. I was just as greedy, delighting in the feel of his hard chest under my palms. His mouth was hot on my collarbone and down the line of my throat as I felt the buttons of my shirt coming undone. I arched my neck, giving him access to anything he might want.

Since I was old enough to figure out what all the giggling was about in school, I've wanted this man. Oh, I know I was too young, but every girl dreams of her ideal, and Logan has always been that dream. And I know Logan feels that sex is far too casual, and that's why he's insisted on taking the time to let me be sure of what we're feeling before we make a mistake. More than once he'd refused to rush, regardless of how eager I was. I've felt like we've been doing some elaborate dance, one with which he's familiar but I'm not. Maybe it's because he really does come from an era where men led and women followed, and so I've tried hard to let him lead. Even when it drove me crazy.

All that craziness was coming back, and it was a good thing my hands were busy exploring, because otherwise I'd have been shooting fireworks into the sky, I was so happy.

A small laugh found it's way out of my chest.

"What," he murmured against the lace of my bra.

"If I'd known getting a moron to come on to me would have had this result, I'd have tried to make you jealous a long time ago."

He cupped my face in one hand. "Ain't about jealousy." His deep dark eyes bored into mine. I frowned slightly, thrown by his intensity.

"Then, what?" I was genuinely puzzled.

"Got more to do with this," he replied. His gaze fell to my neck, and when one blunt finger traced the burn on my neck. He bent forward and kissed the raw skin, his lingering caress equal parts pain and pleasure.

Our uniforms have kevlar layers in them now. Catching the edges of a shotgun blast on my reinforced chest or back probably wouldn't have hurt me too bad, but the powder burn on my neck had been an extremely close call, and still gave me the willies when I thought about it.

"I don't want to lose you," he whispered quietly against my skin.

I wasn't sure what to say; it's not like I can promise I'll never get hurt. Life as an X-man doesn't work that way; that's why Scott and Jean don't usually go out on the same mission together. They don't want to take the chance of their kids losing both parents at the same time.

"I don't want to be lost," is all I could come up with. It seemed to be enough.

Slower, more deliberately, his jacket and my shirt were pulled off my shoulders as we stared at each other. I felt both helpless and powerful as his finger found the front latch between my breasts and hooked it open, and I shivered as my bra cups fell from me and exposed my upper body to the faint starlight and Logan's enhanced sight.

I had to close my eyes; the reverent light in his eyes as he touched me was exquisite. Somehow I managed to get his t-shirt off and the brush of his chest against mine was enough to make me moan, the hard planes of his muscles and the whispering counterpoint of all that hair.

The jerk of my jeans being unbuttoned sent a jolt through me to make weak in the knees. And then he was lowering me to the ground and I really was weak and mindless and oh my god, having trouble forming a coherent thought.

And then I quit trying to think at all.


It seemed like a very long time before I could focus on the fact that Logan was still kneeling between my knees, a feral darkness shrouding his eyes. I sat up slowly and reached for his belt buckle, and was bitterly not surprised when he grabbed my hands and kept them away from him.

"No, darlin', not yet," he murmured.

"I couldˇ¦" I started to offer, but he shook his head, refusing to allow me to do to him what he'd just done to me. Looking down at his hands clenched around mine, I asked him for something for the first time since we'd started this.

"Let me see you," I whispered. I thought he might refuse, but finally he reached for the belt buckle, unhooked it, and unbuttoned the brass button.

I watched as he stood and peeled the denim off his lean hips, saw the man in his full stature for the first time. The smell of aroused male reached me as he knelt again and I swear, some of the beast within him was within me as I reached down to my thighs to gather my own fluid and daub it onto my belly. The slightest touch of my hands on his chest drew him down, his nostrils flaring at my scent on the fingers close to his neck, and he moved over me, his manhood firm and hard in the skin below my navel as I lay back and held onto his biceps as he thrust against the wet skin I'd prepared for him.

The sense of power I'd felt earlier was back as I experienced the desire he had for me, felt him shudder and lose control with a subsonic growl that vibrated through our bones as he bit down on my neck hard enough to leave a bruise just opposite the burn.

After a moment he grabbed the t-shirt I'd pulled off of him earlier and tucked it between us.

"Sorry about the mess," he murmured, almost embarrassed sounding. He pulled back a moment later, and I knew the man was annoyed at the primal instincts that had just been displayed. He went to clean my stomach, trying to wipe away the evidence of his passion, and something inside me snapped.

I grabbed his hand, hard, and when his eyes met mine, I deliberately drew the fabric down between my thighs, marking myself with his thick essence. Our scents were mingled, and in his eyes the beast flared with fierce approval. I was his mate, and anything with a sense of smell would know it. After a long moment, Logan sighed and closed his eyes.

Feeling shut out, I found my clothing and silently put it on, wondering if I'd screwed everything up. Using the beast against the man may have just been an unforgivable offense, and I felt the cool night air for the first time. It felt lonely as hell, especially when he faced away from me to pull his jeans on.

He still hadn't said a word by the time I'd found my shoes and got my shirt buttoned properly, so I turned back towards the bike without a word, leaving his jacket on the ground. I'd made it only two steps when his hand shot out and pulled me into his arms.

We held each other tightly for a very long time, until finally he cleared his throat. "Come away with me this weekend," he rasped.

I swallowed, my throat suddenly tight. "Where to?"

"I don't know. Anywhere."

I knew what he was really saying. "Yes."

He let out a shuddering breath. "No turning back, Jube. No more chances."

About fucking time, I thought.