And through the grief and pain, I’m half insane
I give an inch you take a mile
You throw away the key, ignore my plea
You cut me down without a trial
You throw a length of rope, I grab, you hope,
It’s just enough to hang myself
I make a fatal slip, I lose my grip
There’s no one left to call for help
Hanging by a thread
Leaving me for dead
I’m not finished yet
I’m still hanging by a thread
~ Hanging by a Thread (Mike & the Mechanics)
Author’s Note: This section goes back a few minutes to show Jean’s part of the end of the fight. – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)
Jean rushed to the slight, pale form half buried in the snow, dropping to her knees beside her. The bit of blonde hair she had spotted blowing in the wind was clinging to the wasted skull in clumps and patches. The eyes, closed and still, were sunken in their sockets, but she could feel a spark of life hiding in the soul of the sad child’s body.
A breath away, two horrific beasts fought to the death and she knew which one would win – if she didn’t stop him.
I have to break your hold on this made-up reality, Hellena, but I can’t help you if you’re dead. Rising, she swallowed hard and moved closer to the bloody battle.
Watching Logan fight, especially in a feral rage, had always terrified her. His brutality and killing skill were frightening enough, but it was hard, too, to see the hideous wounds open and close in his flesh.
One of the id’s three bear-dog heads opened its mouth and sank double rows of long needle teeth into his torso. The head shook, making terrible rents in her friend’s body, showing ribs moments before the flesh knit back together again.
His feral mind did not seem to grasp that he was injured, but why should it? The wounds healed so fast that they never had a chance to slow him down.
God, I don’t want to walk into that.
With a twist of revulsion, she made a decision and entered his mind. Pressing into the feral non-thoughts of the beast, she tried to free the mind of the man once more. His resistance shocked her, his mental strength, even in that state, so intense that she could barely get a grip on the mind at all.
Doubling her efforts, she bent more of her telepathic force into his psyche, knowing it might not be enough, yet afraid of what could happen if she pushed too hard. The ease with which the Phoenix Force had done this both terrified and angered her, knowing it could have simply been intending to kill her friend.
He was only moments away from killing the id – the creature that was currently housing the young mutant’s soul. Biting her lower lip, Jean rushed forward and when the combatants broke apart for a breath of time, she moved to stand between them.
Aloud, she cried out, “Logan, stop, I’ve found her. Come back to me!”
The beast Logan had become snarled, roared, and leapt at her. Jean screamed, only to realize that he was going to jump over her, not at her. The jump was low, going for vitals on the id creature, and his shoulder struck her in the chest, knocking her onto her back in the snow.
Wrenching her head around to look, she cried out at the sight of all six claws stabbing in under the creature’s ribs, until Logan’s hands were buried by its fur. His roar of triumph echoed in the morning air as it fell into the snow beside her, spraying her with frost. Yet when he lowered his mouth to the throat, intending to tear it out, the monstrous id disappeared.
Logan’s body was splayed in a hunter’s crouch, his fists against a battered young girl’s ribs.
Jean rolled to her stomach, hid her face in her arms, and wept.
~ ~ ~
The sound woke her from a faint of exhaustion. Lifting her head, Jean watched as the snow began to melt away.
No, not melting – disappearing.
Rising to a sitting position, she held herself and shivered, though it wasn’t cold anymore. The snow retreated like a tide turning as grass, leaves, and trees sprouted up in its wake.
The huge black mountain shrank, its normal modern topography rising to absorb it, until it was nothing more than a wide, dark opening in the distance through the trees. A remote sound startled her, and then she realized it was a car driving down a road somewhere through the woods.
Turning, she saw Logan standing over the body of the mutant girl. He was nude, but didn’t seem to care. His clenched fists were still smeared with Hellena’s blood.
Jean stayed where she was, sitting on the grass dressed only in her boots and socks. She drew up her legs and wrapped her arms around her knees. Staring at the girl she’d tried to save, she let her tears fall.
They both startled when footsteps ran toward them. Recognizing the two men they’d left in the caverns, park ranger Andy and tourist George, Logan relaxed from his tense fighting stance. They were naked, horrified, and possibly stunned by shock. Without a word, they sat in the grass like she had and kept their eyes on their bare feet.
“Stay here, stay t’gether,” Logan spoke up, making the other two flinch. Jean only sighed. “I’ll go educate some poor slob an’ flag down help.”
“We won’t say anything,” Andy reassured her. “Not about what happened, or how it was … stopped.”
“Who would believe us?” George added. “We’re better off not saying a word; I intend to tell them I was mugged and got lost in the damn woods. It would explain our birthday suits.”
Logan grunted. “Good excuse as any – fer people that don’t know me.” Jean shuddered as she watched him wipe the blood on his knuckles over his furry thighs. “Ya awright here fer a bit?” he asked her.
“Yes, we’ll be fine.”
“What about her?” Andy asked, glancing over at the girl’s corpse with pity in his eyes.
They were silent and still as the last of the snow melted from the still face and slipped down the waxen cheeks like tears.
~ ~ ~
Jean watched as the covered body of Hellena was being placed in the back of a coroner’s van. The ambulance that had come first had left again carrying the crushed body of Reece and another vehicle was pulling up to take his wife to the city morgue in Bowling Green. She supposed one of them must have taken the corpse of Kendall, too, after Andy showed them the cairns.
The four survivors had been questioned extensively, singly and as a group, but none of them had said anything about the alternate world they had been lost in. George had turned out to be a gifted inventor of cover stories and no one had questioned it. Then they learned that the park had their own cover up for Wendy’s disappearance. Somewhere between the two, the truth would probably never be known except by those who had escaped it.
Andy and George stood near Jean, wrapped in blankets like she was, but their thoughts told her they were eager to depart.
“I guess we’ll never know much about Hellena,” Jean muttered. Standing from her perch on a fallen tree trunk, she looked down at Logan.
He had squatted on his heels at her feet. Silent and moody, he passed a pine cone back and forth from hand to hand. The startled family that had stopped their camper to help when he flagged them down had given him a blue windbreaker jacket. He’d tied the sleeves around his hips to spare their two kids and hadn’t bothered with blankets brought later by the rangers and police. He certainly looked odd, but his state of mind was what worried her.
“I … need to go … and find my wife,” George said. “Thank you, both of you, for saving our lives.”
Andy actually embraced her, whispering his thanks, before he followed the other man to the knot of rangers and police waiting nearby.
Into the limited silence, broken by civilization not far away, Jean said, “We’re cleared to go by the locals. I’ve called Ororo, she’s gathering some clothes. They’ll bring the Blackbird for us.”
“Not fer me,” Logan answered as he stood, tossing the pine cone away. “Ask Stormy t’ stick my scoot in tha hold, would ya? I’ll get home on my own.”
“Logan…” She tried to touch his shoulder, but he moved away.
“Got nothin’ left t’ say fer now, Jeannie – need t’ clear my head. I’ll see ya when they get here.”
“Know who’s gonna be pilotin’ tha birdie? Yer insignificant other. Don’t much feel like chattin’ with Slim right now, darlin’. Whistle fer me when they drop off tha scoot, huh? I’m gonna take a walk.”
Jean watched him go, too numb to even think for a moment. The police and park rangers had left when she told them that they had friends coming to pick them up. She’d added to her guilt just a little by nudging them to hike back to the road and drive away.
As for the weird snowy phenomenon, no one on the outside had seen it. Park officials had stepped in, quick to distract everyone with their extravagant explanation of what had happened to the poor people who got lost in the caverns and woods that day, muggers aside.
They’re calling it, ‘gases released in the caverns’ and saying the victims had hallucinated. Reece killed his wife, and he, Hellena, and Kendall were mauled by ‘an unidentified animal, perhaps a bear’. It’s all so pat and neat, with the caverns closed pending an investigation. I wonder if they’ll really investigate anything.
Logan had only been gone a short time when her scans picked up the arrival of the plane. It came cloaked and in stealth mode, landing in a vertical drop in a meadow, and not one policeman or nearby ranger was aware of it.
He’ll hear it, he always does. Swallowing hard, but not bothering to call to Logan, her fists held her blanket securely closed as she walked to the plane with her head held high. Maybe Ororo won’t notice that anything is wrong? I know Scott won’t.
She was just a kid – maybe fourteen. If I’d had my brains, Jean coulda stopped ‘er an’ saved ‘er life, too. Then they’d probly have taken ‘er back with ‘em t’ Westchester an’ rehabilitated ‘er int’ a good li’l mutant. Wonder if she woulda wanted that?
The trees were not silent, but the light breeze made a peaceful rustling music through them as it went on its way to anywhere or nowhere.
So where am I goin’?
As his mutant gifts of heightened senses tracked the arrival of the Blackbird, he knew where he wasn’t going, no matter what they said to try to change his mind.
Jeannie ain’t callin’, neither – so much fer that. Hope Stormy didn’t forget tha scoot.
He veered through the trees to meet the plane in the nearby meadow. The first person to emerge and greet Jean was Storm. After her, he spotted the White Queen of all people, bringing his red Harley down the ramp.
What tha hell’s Emma doin’ on a run like this? School’s on, ain’t it? He moved around to emerge from the woods behind them. When the blonde telepath put the kickstand down on a fallen branch and straightened, Logan spoke gruffly at her shoulder, satisfied when she startled. “Teacher’s playin’ hooky?”
“Hardly. Professor Xavier is taking over for me today so we could come out and fetch you two, among other vital missions.”
“Huh.” Something about her body language was guarded, secretive – almost guilty. He met her gaze, half warning glare and half appeal, and shrugged. “Thanks fer cartin’ down tha scoot.”
Nodding, she smiled. “My pleasure. Ororo has clothes and boots for you.”
Storm handed a backpack to Jean before she came up to him holding a bundle wrapped in black leather. She hugged him. “It is good to find you both safe. I, at least, was worried. Are you sure you don’t want to come with us now?”
“Need a break, darlin’ – won’t be too long.”
“Then you’ll need these,” she answered. Releasing him, she produced one of his steel cigar cases from his room out of the middle of the bundle. “There is a matchbook inside as well.”
“This is why yer called a life saver, ‘Ro. Thanks!”
“Thank me by never wearing such an unsuitable nylon toga again – your reputation is at stake.”
Grinning at her teasing, Logan laughed. “Repurposed tourist duds are more ‘suitable’ than what I was wearin’ – pure Tarzan sheik; ya ladies mighta blushed.”
“They might have,” Emma said with a smirk. Her long white coat hid most of her typically risqué clothing.
Raising an eyebrow at the blonde, Storm clicked her tongue. “I’ve seen you at your best and your worst; unlike some, I can tell the difference between the two.”
“Slim on tha joystick in there? Bet he’s pissed I got tha missus mixed up in my clusterfuck ‘mission’.” Logan ignored the startled look Jean gave him, while noting that Emma paid too much attention to it.
Storm sighed. “You’ve both been gone longer than expected, but we didn’t have time to discover if you needed assistance. Scott said if you did, Jean would send a message. Belatedly, we learned that had been impossible. We’ve come to pick you up on the way to another emergency as it is. It’s in New York City, but could be troublesome – two telepaths may be better than one.”
“Better scamper, then. See ya, Red.” He didn’t wait for Jean to respond before turning away.
Emma led Jean off. “I need to brief you on the mission.”
“Talk with me a moment, my friend?” Storm asked.
With a shrug and nod, he followed Storm into the trees away from them. He smirked when she dug out a pair of his boxers first and held them out. He’d already dropped the windbreaker. After the old days at the swimming hole in Australia, modesty between them was pointless. Still, her silent respectful admiration soothed his singed feelings some.
Socks, jeans, belt, boots and a white undershirt later, he felt a little better. Taking the leather jacket last, he smiled. “Not an X in sight – ya know me well, darlin’.”
“If you want to talk about anything, I’ll likely be home before you are. Don’t be away too long? We need you and are quite addicted to your company.”
“Ya wouldn’t enjoy my comp’ny just now, ‘Ro. Well, ya might, but others wouldn’t. One bit o’ lip from Slim t’day an’ I’d be tempted t’ split one o’ ‘is.”
She smiled and embraced him again. “It could perhaps do him some good. Be safe, my dear friend.”
Because he knew she would allow it, he kissed her. For the walk back, she had her arm over his shoulders. She smelled like rain and flowers even in her uniform and her warmth felt like home.
“Watch out fer Jean, huh? She’s had a rough time o’ it.”
“I bounce back faster.” She released him at the bike and stood out of the way. “See ya, darlin’.”
Putting the kickstand up, he straddled the motorcycle and cranked it, letting its roar drown out the farewells of the others. Snapping fallen twigs, he drove off without speeding, half hoping Jean would send him a mental hail. When she didn’t, he frowned, but did not stop or look back.
Behind him, the Blackbird rose within moments of its ramp door being secured. He listened as it went up and then streaked away.
Jean spent the flight back to New York sitting silently in her chair next to Ororo, grateful to be suited up in a black leather team uniform once more.
Emma Frost was in the co-pilot seat. Scott had managed to nod to Jean when she had settled behind him before take-off. Hands gripping the arms of her chair, she tried to calm herself.
Nothing has changed, has it? Nothing except that I know now what it’s like to have what I want, in some way … in a different way. Why can’t I take what Logan and I shared and have that with my husband? I can’t just walk away from all we’ve been through, since we were teens.
She twitched when Ororo’s slender fingers covered the whitened knuckles of her hand. Turning her head to look at her friend, she fought the tears that tried to rise.
“Little is resolved for you, I know,” Ororo said, her tone soft and private. “If you want or need anything, I am here for you.”
“I know.” Grateful for her offer, yet eager to change the subject, she asked, “So what have I missed? At the school, I mean? I told you what we’ve been dealing with.”
“The short version, perhaps. Well, Charles has a new idea – some call it brilliant, others think he’s wrong to try it – but he is proposing opening the school up to non-mutant students. It’s just an idea as of yet, but he’d like to organize an ‘Open Day’ when prospective students and their parents could come and visit the school. The goal, in theory, is integration to turn the tide of persecution, eventually. So – what do you think?”
Leaning back in the chair as her fingers wove with Ororo’s to hold her hand, Jean closed her eyes. “I’m too tired to think right now, about anything.”
~ ~ ~
Scott had taught her many things over the years and now he was teaching her something new – how to ignore one’s spouse. Just as she had started to excel at it, he turned the tables and abruptly wanted to speak with her about their problems, but not with words.
Pacing in the sitting room of their suite in the mansion, Scott finally stopped and turned to face her. “Why won’t you do this for me?”
Privately, she thought, Open up and share with you telepathically – for what? Knowing her reluctance was multi-faceted, she shifted on her chair. I can’t let him see… “You’ve ignored me for months unless you were giving orders. I think Apocalypse changed you more than you thought. Now you’ve decided we have to ‘share’ and I should just jump?”
“You’re holding that against me. Are you disgusted with me, that I can’t bounce back as unscathed as Logan? He doesn’t even know who he is, or if that’s really his name! Why is it fair to compare me to him?”
Because he’s better than you, at everything that matters, and because he knows who I am, whether he knows himself or not. “I think you need to remember who you are and who I am, before I submit to any more demands from you.”
She rose and went to the door without looking back. “Figure that out, Scott Summers, before you try talking to me again. Either that, or remember what I am to you and start acting like I matter to you. Until then, we have nothing more to say to each other.”
“The Dark Phoenix force is rising in you again and you know it; Professor Xavier has been concerned about it, too. We have to –”
“You have to sort out your problems, Scott. Do not presume that you are capable of sorting out mine.”
She left him standing there speechless and went out. A short walk down the hall, in the men’s dormitories section of the residential wing, she entered Logan’s closed door without stopping to consider why.
Downstairs and sideways in the house, she could sense several people in the kitchen, both students and staff – but no one else was in the rooms close to her.
Closing the door behind her, she turned and leaned her back against it. Logan lived simply and he had never wanted one of the opulent suites with different rooms to himself. His private area consisted of a bedroom with one large window, a walk-in closet full of clothes, and a bathroom.
The furniture was minimal, too, as were the personal possessions. A queen-size bed with a simple black iron frame, a worn armchair, and a bookcase full of eclectic volumes were the only American pieces in the room. A low wooden Japanese altar stood against the opposite wall, with a plain katana hanging on the wall over it. The altar held a few odd bits of this and that from many strange travels, but the dominant features were a bowl for burning incense and a framed photograph of a refined Japanese woman.
Holding herself lightly, she moved into the room to look at the photograph.
“Mariko Yashida. You were beautiful and I wish I had met you. You met Madelyn Prior, the night before you were going to marry Logan. That was before everything fell apart, too, for all of us … but you loved him, maybe you understood him? Whether you did or not, you chose him. I wish I could.”
On impulse, she knelt before the woman’s image and opened the little side cabinet of the altar. Taking out a cone of incense and a matchbook, she placed the cone in the small ornate bowl and lit it. She breathed in the pungent smoke as she put the matches back and closed the cabinet.
“It’s cherry, like the blossoms in your country – a place he still loves. I’m so sorry for you both.”
Rising, she moved to the bed and laid down on it where she could see the photo and watch the smoke curl up to the curved blade.
That’s not the same sword that used to hang there. He gave it back to them, didn’t he? Probably to make a deal with them, something to do with honor, no doubt – something to honor you? He’s so much more than the beast within, I know that, but I want the man, not the beast. I wonder if you felt the same.
As the smoke lulled her ragged nerves and lonesome spirit, she closed her eyes and tried to relax, knowing Logan did this himself, quite often. Yet peace would not come to her – only the longing to touch him, to have him give her everything she ever wanted … if only for a little while.
With a start, she opened her eyes again, her breath coming faster. Scott was right. The Phoenix Force is restless, manifesting more often in strange ways, dark ways. Is that why Hellena could manipulate me into such a callous creature so easily? “Logan,” she whispered, “you aren’t the only one with an inner beast. Wherever you are, don’t stay away long – please come home to me. I’m … afraid … of myself.”
Bowling Green had obliged him with a decent diner and a liquor store. Now, with Kentucky far behind him, he headed north into Indiana up Interstate 65, and then over on Interstate 90 into Illinois.
Chicago, tha Windy City: always good fer a tussle an’ a brew. Left ‘nother hapless mutant waif here, too, not so long ago – after she decided Chuck’s rules soured ‘er stomach. Growling to himself, he muttered into the wind as he drove on into the city. “‘Nother hapless mutant waif I failed t’ help – more’n once.”
~ ~ ~
After a day or two of hunting, Logan finally got his first whiff of the young mutant called Rooke. The scent was a flash and it was full of fear. She was on foot, too, running through a storm that the city seemed to dredge up just to persecute her. Leaving his motorcycle under cover at the motel he had adopted in the bad part of town, he took to the rooftops to pursue his mark.
He had always been faster than she was, and before long he spotted her visually through the rain and wind. The fact that the girl was naked, her cybernetic bits damaged and sparking as they repaired themselves, wasn’t all that surprising. Rooke’s unofficial mutant talent was for getting herself into trouble – deep.
She mixed up her directions, probably not paying attention to the junk Spiral had put in her head to avoid this sort of thing, and ended up stuck down a dead end alley. Going to ground between the meager shelter of a metal dumpster and a brick wall, she crouched: wet, miserable, and terrified.
Not wanting to shock her by jumping down from the roof over her head, Logan went around the long way, leaping off onto the main street near the corner. In the spirit of being ready for anything, he popped the claws on his right hand before entering the alley and heading for the dumpster. He moved warily, on the lookout for whatever menace the girl was running from.
He discovered that she was aware of his presence when he felt her weak probe reach to identify his mind. Comparing the touch of Jean’s mind to this child was laughable, but he knew most telepaths had trouble reading him.
Brains are too scrambled fer ‘er t’ get through ‘em, he thought, not sure if she’d pick the words out or not. He saw her risk a peek and then shrink back out of sight again, her fear scent growing stronger. Aw, hell, tha pup’s got no idea it’s me. Shit. Annoyed at himself, he retracted his claws with an echoing ~snakt~.
He advanced, walking normally, and knelt to look at her where she was huddled against the dumpster. The rain drummed down on them both, making a hideous racket on the top of her metal shelter.
She was sitting naked in the dirty rainwater, arms around her legs, forehead on knees and shuddering as she tried to shrink away from him. She winced when she knew he was there but didn’t try to escape.
Does she think I’m what’s chasin’ ‘er or I’m somethin’ new come t’ mess with ‘er? “Gotta admit, darlin’ – expected ya t’ do a bit better’n this with what we taught ya.”
“Wolvie?” She uncurled immediately and reached out for him but by the time he picked her up, she had fainted.
Setting her down again briefly, he stripped off his sodden leather jacket and put it on her. She was taller than he was, so it didn’t cover her much but it would do for the short trip back to his room.
~ ~ ~
He knew Jean wouldn’t have approved but at that moment, the welfare of the girl was more important than worries about propriety. Besides, he knew Rooke wouldn’t care that he had bathed her before tucking her into bed. She’d tried for more than a bath before, anyway.
After going out to fetch clothes for her and whiskey for him, he settled in to guard her as she slept, wondering what or who she’d managed to annoy enough to put her in the state he’d found her in.
His jacket was dripping again, hung on a hook on the back of the door. He’d managed to keep her new clothes dry but had sacrificed the Jack Daniels label. His thumb toyed with the ragged paper as he sat at the table not far from the bed, boots on the next chair. He didn’t watch her sleep – her tossing and turning through unknown nightmares only reminded him that his life had become one.
Logan heard her sniff when she woke. She’d been crying in her sleep. He kept his eyes on the bottle, breathing in the slight scent of mold and dust in the room. One corner of the ceiling by the bathroom doorway boasted a spreading water stain and the heating unit rattled loudly – but at least it worked. He felt uncomfortably warm himself, even stripped down to his white undershirt, but the temperature had been chosen for her.
Rooke sat up Indian-style, held herself to stave off either cold or nightmares, and called softly, “Hi, Wolvie. Thanks for the rescue. Again.”
He tried to smile for her as he turned his head to look at her. “All in a night’s work, pun’kin.” He took a long pull on the bottle. “Anyone in particular chase ya down that alley? Needs a lesson in manners an’ I’m more’n willin’ t’ ‘blige ‘em.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I got time.”
Rooke smiled but her eyes told him she would be evasive. “I – put my ass in a sling myself. Don’t act surprised just to make me feel better.”
“Wasn’t plannin’ t’.” He took his boots off of the chair to turn and face her. “Got me curious, though. Scents on ya yesterday painted quite a picture.”
“Been sleepin’ ‘round tha clock, darlin’; it’s after six, next evenin’.”
“Oh.” She sighed and looked like she might cry again. “I don’t suppose you’d be up to keeping me company? Help a girl chase away the blues?”
“I am keepin’ ya comp’ny, from over here.”
“I could spin something entertaining –”
“Don’t start.” He stood and peered out between the closed curtains, moving them with the neck of the bottle. “Just relax an’ lemme play Uncle Logan. When ya turn eighteen ya can try again.”
“If I do – if I even can. Do I look a day older than last time?”
“Nope.” Facing her, he was silent a moment before pointing to the bathroom. “Got ya some clothes this mornin’.”
“Thanks, Uncle Logan.” She patted the bed beside her. “I’ll be good, I promise.”
Without offering his opinion of her promises, he moved to her side. Leaning against the headboard, he crossed his ankles on the bed and let her snuggle up. When she reached for the whiskey, he surrendered it without a word.
“Who’d ya run int’ sportin’ Adamantium? It’s a select club.”
“If I tell you, will you rush off and fuck him up to defend my honor?”
“Maybe, dependin’ on ‘is crime – but I know ya well ‘nuff t’ know ya mighta earned tha boot. Don’t approve o’ tha method, that’s all.”
“Being sans clothes was my fault, too. I was dream spinning, with permission, but he – didn’t like my take on our boundaries.”
“Goin’ t’ play ‘I gotta secret’, huh? Yer call – but if ya need tha ol’ Canucklehead t’ weigh in, give tha word.”
She laid her head on his chest and sighed. “I wish I could – but not this one.”
“Really screwed up this time, pun’kin? Pissed off a man ya wanna keep?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Ya sound like me. Not used t’ ya givin’ a damn ‘nuff t’ be wistful.”
“I’ll ask about the latest X tragedy if you want me too.”
“No, darlin’ – don’t wanna jaw ‘bout that. Same shit, diff’rent day, right?”
Rooke smiled. “Jean should pull her head out of her ass. You beat Cyke hands down, even if you are short.”
“Leave it,” he whispered, without heat. Physical and emotional exhaustion crowded in at the mere thought of Jean. “So someone cracked yer ribcage open an’ found a heart, huh? Stole it on tha spot? Then ya pushed it an’ got pitched ass over tea kettle int’ tha storm.”
“Sort of. Reader’s Digest version, I guess … but he’s not interested in me. He just wanted me to play his dead wife in his dreams. He used my telepathy to suck me in – but he didn’t realize he was doing it. Mr. Shy and Private would rather I couldn’t see the dreams at all. After a while, I got sick of phantom sex and snuck downstairs.” She sniffed. “He was so angry. He called me a rapist…”
Logan winced, his stomach lurching just at the thought of it. Even with everything else they had gone through and everything he had done, too – the memory of Jean pushing a telepathic compulsion on him to ‘service her’ still sickened and enraged him. He knew the young woman didn’t understand what she had done – but she needed to.
“So he was pissed when he woke up an’ found ya in ‘is saddle? Can’t blame ‘im. That is rape. Ya didn’t hear ‘im say, ‘yeah, fuck me, Rooke’ while he was awake, did ya?”
He sighed. “Maybe ya shouldn’t take up with someone who doesn’t want ya fer who ya are. Ya def can’t be tryin’ t’ screw a guy who doesn’t want ya, period … ‘is reasons why he don’t – that ain’t even yer biz.”
She huffed out a breath. “No one ever made me feel like that. I didn’t know sex could be that way.”
“If yer jacked int’ ‘is need fer someone he lost, yer gettin’ some other woman’s fun, darlin’. If ya could talk ‘im int’ bed with ya legit, it’d be a diff’rent sorta sack romp – unless he loved ya.”
“I was hoping I could –”
“Ya can’t.” He couldn’t stifle a low growl as frustration sparked anger. “Rooke, ya gotta understand this. Learn it. Some people love certain people. Ya can’t change how they feel no matter what ya feel or what ya want … an’ ya shouldn’t try. They got as much right t’ how they feel as ya do an’ forcin’ ‘em ain’t right – it’s … sickenin’.”
“But she’s dead, Wolvie! What’s the point? He can’t dig her up. Move on, damn it!” She drew in a sharp breath and he knew she felt the stab of pain her words had caused leak from his closed mind. He started to dislodge her and rise but she clung to him tightly. “I’m sorry! I forgot!” The tears came in an instant. When he relented and held her gently, they turned into sobs.
“Hate t’ see ya in pain, pun’kin,” he whispered, kissing her hair, “but some o’ us feel too strongly, love too much. Losin’ ‘em – ‘specially if it’s a shock or violence, it feels unfinished an’ it haunts ya … sometimes forever. Don’t waste yer time gettin’ hurt by a man who’s married t’ death; find a lover who’s in love with ya.”
“I didn’t mean to say that… I loved hearing about Mariko. You had … you both…”
“What Mi’ko-chan an’ I had can never be replaced.” He put a fingertip under her chin and made her look up at him. “Thing is, sometimes ya can find somethin’ new, that’s diff’rent ‘nuff … an’ it can be as good.” He looked down at her with a sad smile. “Just try not t’ fall fer someone new who’s also married.”
~ ~ ~
They stood in silence as the rain turned into random drops around them, making the puddles on the asphalt shimmer in the weak morning light.
When he asked her to return with him to Westchester again, he knew she wouldn’t do it. She seemed to honestly consider it for a moment and that was something at least, but it wasn’t the life she wanted and they both knew it.
Now and then when their paths crossed, he would offer a safe place to land if she needed it, but the X-Men would expect her to tow the line if she went back.
They don’t approve o’ ‘er revenge gig, neither; I’m tha only one o’ tha whole bunch who respects ‘er reasons fer hatin’ Magneto.
He’d brought her leather pants and boots, a Stevie Ray Vaughn t-shirt, and a black leather trench coat. Every bit of it fit perfectly, including the underthings. It was a simple trick – she wore the same sizes as Jean.
“Very Matrix – I like.”
He shrugged and grinned as he lit a cigar. “Any woman taller than me looks good in leather.”
“I’m as tall as Jean. We’d weigh about the same, too. If you change your mind…”
“Never mind tha seventy extra pounds o’ lead in yer butt, pun’kin.”
“Pot calling the kettle black, ‘Weapon X’?”
He just smiled. “Ya change yer mind, ya know where I hang my hat. Between tha two o’ us, we’d drive Chuck int’ a nuthouse in a week. Could be fun.”
“Would be – but I can’t.” Rooke hugged him close, tucking her chin over his shoulder. “Thanks for everything, Wolvie.”
“Anytime. What are ya plannin’ on doin’ now?” He pulled back to look up at her.
“Something daring, adventurous, and a little insane.”
“That’s my girl.” Then he eyed her with suspicion. “Not tryin’ fer Mags again, I hope? Hell, I put ‘im in a wheelchair in Genosha not long ago. With any luck, he’s still in it but make no mistake – tha man can still paste ya. That’s just one o’ tha drawbacks t’ bein’ stuffed full o’ metal.”
“A wheelchair? Way to steal my thunder but I guess I could call it an all-too-fair advantage – a ‘glass half full’ sort of thing. No, I’m not making a play for him again – not just yet. There’s a tougher nut I need to crack first.”
“Loverboy?” he asked with a sigh. When she nodded, he added, “Well, it’s yer life. Just remember ya deserve better’n table scraps, pun’kin. Don’t ever let any man make ya ‘is dog – or ‘is punchin’ bag. Just cuz we heal fast don’t mean it can’t still hurt on tha inside, right?”
“Try t’ lay off puttin’ a sex whammy on tha unwillin’ while yer at it, huh? That shit ain’t tha way t’ make friends o’ any stripe. Tellin’ ya this t’ spare ya pain an’ trouble, got it?”
“I got it.” She hugged him again impulsively. “I love you, Uncle Logan – and I’m just starting to figure out what that really means.”
“Then tha fight’s half won, darlin’.”
He walked away to the red Harley in the motel parking lot. It roared to life, the racket of the motor splitting the morning. Tossing her a salute as he turned into the road, he drove away, heading for home. He hadn’t gone far when she hailed him mentally, having discovered the new wallet in the pocket of her coat, with $500 tucked inside it, just in case.
You are the best, Wolvie. Thank you.
Not bothering to respond, he left her far behind him, satisfied for once that he’d been able to help her get back onto her feet again. He knew she could handle herself – beyond hoping she’d contact him if she couldn’t, he’d leave her to her battles.
Got my own t’ fight, after all. Don’t think I’m gonna win this one but no harm in wadin’ in there an’ givin’ it a shot. At least I gotta chance t’ work off some o’ tha more violent feelin’s on tha trip here – might be able t’ resist just stabbin’ Cyke on first sight.
Author’s Note: This last section of chapter ten is actually Wolverine’s point of view on a scene that takes place in my Doc Ock story, “Of Dreams and Dust” (it’s in chapter six of that tale). If Rooke intrigues you, I invite you to go find her story as she tries to carve out a place for herself at Doctor Octavius’s side. Wolverine will be making more cameo appearances in her story, as well, before it’s finished.
Also, I admit that I’m ignoring canon with regard to Magneto. In my fan fiction stories, he’s alive and well. I have no time to research his situation during my current timeline, or to completely rework my stories just because Marvel Comics likes to kill off Magneto almost as often as they do Jean Grey. Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)