He can turn himself into a stranger
Well they broke a lot of canes on his hide
he was born away in a cornfield
A fever beats in his head like a drum inside
There are those who say beneath his coat
there are wings
Some say they fear him
Others admire him
Because he steals his promise
One look in his eye
Ever having met him
~ Black Wings, (Tom Waits)
Logan, please hear me… Her fingers hesitated to touch his shoulder.
Crouched at the edge of the caverns, he glared out into the swirling blizzard that had enveloped them with shocking speed from the clear autumn sky. His low thrumming growl mixed with the sound of the storm.
Logan’s behavior had stunned her, but touching his thoughts was frightening. In moments, as the world changed, he had been turned into an inhuman beast. The deadly adamantium claws were extended and ready, and no civilized mind controlled them.
What can I do? She turned and startled again. The massive front cavern behind her had changed, too.
All evidence of human settlement, tourism, anything – had disappeared. No picnic tables, no gift shop, no concession stand. Not one sign marked the walls or the entrances of the main tunnels. As the snow began to drift across the stone floor, she saw that all the refuse of the day, including bits of litter she’d noted ten minutes ago around the place where she stood, was gone. The area the locals called Broadway looked pristine, uncharted – almost prehistoric.
If Wendy was outside this cave when she was turned into – a beast – then what changed her has to be the same thing that attacked Logan. This place is identical to what I saw in her mind, too, but I’m not inside anyone’s mind now – this is real. Could it be someone with abilities like Ororo? Manipulating the weather doesn’t make forests disappear, though, or turn people into animals – and I’m not changed. Why?
Jean tried to calm herself and think things through. When Logan turned from the entrance, he stood straight slowly and approached her. The growl stopped. Yet Jean’s hope died when he bent his head to stroke her shoulder briefly, dog-like, before moving back into the cave, sniffing as he went.
Logan, damn it, I need you. She would have to try to bring him back like Wendy, but the prospect wasn’t pleasant. There was a lot of dangerous and confusing stuff in his head, unlike the mind of the innocent six-year-old. Desperate needs and desperate measures, Dr. Grey – you have no choice. At least he seems to recognize me as a friend. Maybe I can root around in his head without getting skewered.
She walked up to him and screamed when he turned on her, claws bristling, but his maddened blue eyes were focused beyond her. Turning quickly out of his way, she saw it – dark gray with black guard hairs and brindle stripes, the bear-dog was slinking up to the cave. Jaws dripping saliva, it snarled at them.
Beside her, Logan’s growl erupted again. She jumped back as he shot forward, straight into a rolling tussle with the ugly creature. The snow was stained red in an instant.
Jean rushed to the entrance to watch them, horrified. It can’t hurt him, she tried to reassure herself, his healing factor will see to that – but what does it take to kill a bear-dog?
The noise of the fight was hideous. The thing gibbered and roared as it tore the black leather uniform Logan wore into strips – but he was carving the bear-dog’s flesh just as effectively.
Jean winced to see massive wounds gouged into her friend’s body, but they healed before she could look away.
Is it just one? In Wendy’s mind, it called for others. She scanned the white-gray snowstorm outside for other animal minds, but sensed none. Well, can I help Logan with this one?
As she turned to look at the combatants, she realized that he didn’t need it. His face lit with a fierce hatred, Logan reared back with his arms held open wide. The bear-dog took what it thought was an opening, and lunged to gash his abdomen with its razor-cluster of needle teeth.
Logan brought his arms together again, hands in fists, claws dripping blood. He crossed them over his chest as the claws went through the bulk of the animal’s body. It fell at his feet in two large halves and a splatter of gore.
His wrists forming an X under his chin, breath panting, his eyes lifted to stare at Jean. There was no humanity in them.
The rival was dead, the den safe. He watched his mate for a moment, and then turned to face the storm. He tilted his head back and howled his victory into the wind. Other voices lifted in the distance, answering him. Assenting that the den and female were his? Or would another attempt a challenge?
He watched the storm, scenting the air, until night began to fall; a moment afterward, the scent of his mate came closer, her footfalls soft.
“Logan? Can you understand me at all?”
He turned to look at her. She shuddered in the cold. The sounds she made couldn’t tell him what she needed, but her body language spoke clearly. Warmth. Shelter.
Leaving the carcass at the entrance as a warning, he stalked away to one of the dark tunnels that led to shelter. He retracted his claws as he went, licking the blood of the enemy from the skin where they had been.
The female didn’t follow immediately. He growled a short warning to her once before she approached. Her inability to see in the tunnel was obvious in the heightened fear-scent she exuded. He moved slowly, making soft sounds as he went to allow her to follow more easily.
The scent of others was old, and he found an abandoned inner den quickly. It wasn’t far from the open air, but deep enough to be out of the wind.
At the back of the cave, he found the pile of furs he’d smelled from the tunnel. Giving them a quick sniff up close, he burrowed into them.
“Where are you? Logan?”
The female groped in the darkness. He rose up and pulled her into the furs at his side. She had cried out as she fell, but lay quietly now, and a little stiffly. He didn’t need that to tell him she wasn’t in season yet, but she was cold.
He used his own body heat and the furs to warm her, nuzzling at her neck to reassure her. When he grew still, she began to relax against him and the fear scent subsided.
Jean remained quiet and still, lying in the dark beside Logan. He appeared to be asleep, but no human thoughts were detectable in his surface mind. Her pride stinging, she used her telepathy to reach out to the X-Men, telling herself there was no shame in asking for help.
After a moment or two, she realized that she was sensing nothing, even at a vast distance. Switching to seeking out the telepathic X-Man Emma Frost yielded no response, either.
Charles, then, she thought. One Omega-level telepath to another, they should be able to contact each other no matter how far apart they were physically. Charles, where are you? Only silence answered her, a void of emptiness seeming to stretch around her mind in all directions. What is wrong with me? Focus, hone it, push it to the limits; they’re out there somewhere!
She began to sweat with the effort, a headache blooming to muddle her efforts. Gasping, she felt something else move inside her mind, her soul – horribly familiar, and terrifying.
The Phoenix Force! Yet it feels … wrong, fractured … or is it just growing more powerful than I’ve ever felt before? Memories and nightmares leered at her from her shifting thoughts. Oh, God, no … what if the Dark Phoenix is attempting to take over my mind again? Steeped in fear, she broke off her attempt to communicate with the others.
At her side, pressed close, the beast Wolverine stirred, perhaps sensing her fear. Forcing her breathing to slow, she waited until her pulse calmed and her mind cleared. Logan settled closer, and with a snort of breath, went still once more.
Okay, if asking for outside help isn’t an option right now, I’ll get some inner help by working Logan’s mind back to me. Acutely aware that she had always left this sort of probing to Charles in the past out of fear, even when she followed his lead and tried to learn, she had little choice but to do it alone now. Taking a deep breath, she tried to bolster her nerve for what she had to do. Carefully, Dr. Grey. You don’t know if his mind will perceive you as an enemy or not – but now is obviously the time. Now or never, in fact, before he wakes up and starts getting frisky again.
She entered Logan’s mind as delicately as she could. Prepared to find a strange mental landscape, as it always had been, she was surprised to find herself in the same snow-bound world she had entered before in the child’s psyche, with the black mountain at her shoulder.
Logan’s astral image was ahead of her some distance across the white plain. His movements were bestial, and he didn’t acknowledge her presence.
Why doesn’t he know I’m here?
Then she frowned as she realized she was standing in a dream he was experiencing as he slept. She’d have to find her way out of it to enter the pathways of his mind and try to bring his humanity back to her.
His name won’t help me, though. I suspect it’s not as integral to his psyche as he’d like to believe. He’d hate this, too – having a telepath stomping through the deep end of his private mind. How different is it from what the bastards at the Weapon X project did to him? Well, I won’t change, alter, or suppress memories. I just want to find the man I know and help him out of this feral regression. Maybe it will count for something that it’s me…
She searched for a way to slice through the fabric of the dream, but the misgivings that Logan would oppose her actions persisted.
Whenever she touched people in daily life with this gift, she remained in the area she considered the “surface mind”. All manner of thoughts and emotions were easily picked up there, but no deeper secrets were compromised.
Xavier had taught her the trick when she was a child, given her a valuable sense of others’ privacy and a reluctance to violate it. It was the only way to live in harmony with people who knew you were a telepath, and the only way to gain their trust, too.
Also, many people, mutant or otherwise, could feel the trespass of a telepath. Some just reacted badly, others took violent offense. The ones who didn’t know how to attack you mentally might still punch you when they got the chance.
Did Logan always know when she was scanning his surface thoughts? Or did he just assume she would, and didn’t fret much about what she might find there, whether he sensed her touch or not? Either way, he’d never seemed to mind. This wasn’t going to be that simple, of course – if she could escape the dream.
Movement in the distance distracted her. Distance. That’s not distance, Dr. Grey, this is a dream. You can’t get out of it if you start believing it’s real. Real or not, the image of Logan coming at her, fast and vicious, was hard to dismiss as a figment of a dream. Oh, God, what should I do? Why is he charging at me? Why is he nude! She shook her head and stood her ground. It’s a dream. He sees something else, and I’m in the same line of sight. He’ll pass through me like a ghost and keep after it, whatever it is.
The silence was broken by a single menacing ~snikt~ sound. She watched his claws pop, saw the silver glints in the snow reflected in blades that could carve steel. His expression wasn’t the hateful mask he wore when attacking an enemy – it was the hunger and hunting lust of a beast after prey.
It’s not solid, it’s a dream image. He’ll pass through me.
Her body began to tremble as she tried to stand firm, but when a deafening roar exploded from him, she bolted and ran before she even knew she’d moved.
Logan, it’s Jean! Stop!
She dodged once, like a rabbit, but he turned faster than she could run and was on her heels again. The claws, swiping at her, left a shorn lock of red hair drifting on the snow in their wake.
Trying to gain enough space to dodge again, she turned in time to see him leap at her. Jean screamed. His weight hit her hard and they tumbled into the snow. The claws blocked out the sky – and then he went still, staring at her through the blades.
Thank God… Logan … it’s me. It’s Jean.
With a loud ~snakt~, the claws disappeared. He leaned in close, sniffed at her hair, and let his growl die. She was about to speak again when he shocked her, his hand abruptly stroking her between the legs, over the leather uniform pants. No gentle touch, it was more like the unnerving sniffing than anything human.
Unless she used telekinesis against him, there was no stopping it but she found herself slow to resist, and in the next moment she was responding ardently. Her hands ran down his forearms, and then moved to touch his chest.
He rose up off of her and rolled her onto her stomach with one hand like a wolf batting its kill. His weight came down against her back, and she felt him scenting her hair again.
Reason tried to reclaim her. Logan, I can’t… He didn’t notice her change of mood, and he wasn’t releasing her. She’d always believed he would stop, even if her own stupid crossed signals turned him inside out. Logan … please … let me up.
Jean felt his hips thrust tentatively, pressing a stunning hardness against the unyielding leather of her clothing. His hands gripped her arms, almost tight enough to hurt. She felt her panic start to rise. Her telekinetic gift lashed inside her, ready to throw him bodily from her, to crush him if she had to.
No! I can’t hurt him! She made herself focus and calm down. You’re in his mind, you fool. Stop playing along with rampant wet dreams and communicate with him, bring him back! She pressed, frantically and more forcefully than she intended, beyond the superficies of his surface mind. The action did not break the dream, but a new connection with his mind was abruptly there.
Logan! Yet the mental signature was too primitive. Who or what was she talking to?
For what? I don’t understand you.
Ready … mate. He sniffed at her shoulder, drawing in a deep breath.
Oh my God. This is definitely not the time for mixed signals…
She didn’t attempt to answer him, or to struggle. She unplugged her astral self from his mind, broke the telepathic connection, and escaped the dream.
“I have to stop doing that,” she whispered.
Jean drew her breath in sharply, her body stiffening at that sound. They lay in the dark of the underground cave on a pile of furs warmed by their own body heat – but their positions were exactly as they had been in his dream.
She heard leather tear behind her. Before she could react, she felt a single adamantium blade slice the back of her pants open, barely missing her flesh. In the act of calling up her telekinesis in a panic, she felt his hard cock impale her from behind.
Jean lay there in shock, breathless and frozen, her defenses forgotten. Her hands knotted into fists on the furs in front of her face, but she couldn’t see them. A hot, shamed flush bloomed on her face as Logan thrust easily and powerfully in her body’s slick and eager response.
No! No … Scott… God, Scott – I’m so sorry… Mercilessly, the realization hit her, Logan is going to remember this when I can pull his humanity back into place. The pain and torment she knew he’d feel, with remorse equal to hers, would wound him beyond healing. It’s my fault, Logan – you’re ruled by your senses in this state, and my body told you I wanted this. Tears slipped down her cheeks in the darkness. God help me, I did – and I do.
The surprise of her heat pleased him. He had accepted that she could be strange, and that she sometimes feared him, but the release of the mating bonded them again. The scent of deer haunted his senses, and he buried his muzzle in her mane to breathe in her essence. Before morning, he would hunt meat for her.
Small sounds she made were almost like the whimpers of a pup. He knew she was young. When she started to shift, he closed his mouth on the nape of her neck to still her. Gentle as a sire to a pup, he kept his fangs from piercing her.
The thrusting ecstasy grew, and soon, she began to make low noises of pleasure. The hints of her pheromones earlier came on stronger, and the heady scent of it intoxicated him more than the blood of a kill. When it was over and they were still, he released her neck and settled at her side again.
“Logan? Are you still… Logan, I need to get some air.”
She started to leave the furs, but he reached out and held her down. Blind in the dark caverns, she could fall prey to the others if she wandered alone. He would have to watch her carefully until she became too heavy to leave the den. Settling enough of his weight on her to hold her, he surrendered to sleep.
~ ~ ~
He’d been dreaming of snow again, and of Jean. The cave he smelled around them now wasn’t cold, and the smooth loose leather at her hip was warm under his hand. Self-conscious before he could even fully wake up, he moved the hand to her shoulder.
Gropin’ tha lady in ‘er sleep – not tha best way t’ earn ‘er trust in a survival situation, bub. A sensory memory made him stiffen. Loose leather. Uniform pants are tight – someone’s idea o’ a Vogue joke. She didn’t shuck ‘er britches? He shifted his weight slightly and then froze. I know I didn’t shuck mine. What gives? Tentative fingers found his pants open – one inch to the left of the zipper, clean as a claw cut. Fuck. What tha hell did I do?
He got up swiftly and settled again across the small cave from his teammate, unsure if she was asleep or not. Two facts were disturbingly obvious – the slice in his mutant-issue crotch was engineered perfectly for only one function, and the lingering scent of Jean’s pheromones was all over him.
Memory was as stubborn as always. He wracked his mind for events, but nothing came clear. The flotsam remains were enough to make him wince.
An impulse to wake her and make sure she was unhurt fought with a strong desire to leave her alone. If the pieces of recollection added up the way he feared, she might not want to look at him any time soon.
Logan fished one of the smaller furs from the edge of the pile and popped a single claw from his right hand. A few moments of cutting skill and he had a handful of thick rawhide strips. Piercing holes along the rent with the claw, he used two of the strips to tie his pants closed.
He didn’t bother trying to patch or lace the rest of the damage, which was obviously made by something else – bear-dog, judging by the other smell that clung to him. The leathers and his skin were stained with dried blood. Plenty of it had dried stiff in the dark thick hair of his torso, arms, and shoulders. The jacket and shirt were rags, barely held by their seams, but the pants would serve, for now.
Leaving the other strips at the foot of the bedding pile where Jean could find them, he stood and turned to leave the cave.
“Don’t go,” Jean whispered.
“Gotta get some air, darlin’.”
“Logan, you’re you! You’re back!” She sat up with a look of relief on her face. He could see her in the dark cavern with his mutant eyes’ enhanced vision, and saw her hopeful expression change to shame as she looked away from him, feeling his gaze and knowing he could see her.
“Jean – Jeannie – please tell me I didn’t hurt ya.”
“But I remember –”
“I know. I mean – I knew you would, but you were out of your head. It’s okay.”
“Tha hell it is!” His hands clenched into fists. Agony for what he’d done to her washed through him, burning him with shame and horror. “Don’t take that on yer shoulders like it’s yer fault. That’s bullshit.”
“It was. I did – what I always do, at least since Scott started pretending I don’t exist. I led you into it. I didn’t mean to, but I … did.”
“No, Jeannie. There’s no excuse. Only a mindless animal –”
“You were a mindless animal.” She bowed her head. “I’m sorry, but that’s – why it happened. I was in your mind, trying to help you back like that little girl, but I got stuck in your dream and couldn’t … keep my – whatever that is – in check. I made you want to, and it’s my fault.”
He couldn’t speak. Had he been dreaming of it? The imagery of Jean beneath him, letting him touch her, responding to him, drifted into his mind. He didn’t know which emotion was stronger, anger or disgust, but they were both directed at himself. She had asked him to stop. He remembered that abruptly, and all too clearly. He started to go again, unable to face her.
“Don’t leave, Logan, please.”
“Can’t stay – can’t… I’ll be back. Just gonna get some distance.”
“It’s not safe.”
“I can take anythin’ this place can throw, furry or not.”
“You’ll go feral again. Something has to be out there, making you regress like that. I guess your healing factor brought you back, but I need you coherent and sane. We have to figure this out, bring it down. We can’t do it with you – like that.”
Logan hung his head. The abrupt silence between them strangled him, but she was right – he couldn’t risk that again. He returned to the spot across from her and sat quietly, leaning his back against the rough stone wall. Time crawled by. He laid his head against the limestone and closed his eyes.
“I can’t reach anyone, either, not even Charles. I still have a headache from trying. Are you cold?” she whispered.
“Don’t feel it tha same; ‘sides, I’m furry. Don’t worry ‘bout me.”
“I do. I can’t help it.”
“We’d better beat this baddie quick, Red, or we’ll have worse problems.”
“Hard to imagine.” She sighed. “Like what?”
“Like water an’ food. I can get us both, but tha market’s outside.” He lifted his head and stared toward the cave mouth. “What’s more, I think we got comp’ny.”
“More of those monstrous brutes?”
“Don’t feel qualified t’ make that judgment just yet, but they ain’t bear-dogs. They’re talkin’.”
He heard her move, but he still twitched when she touched his knee. “Maybe I could shield your mind, if the regression isn’t too strong. We have to check out the newcomers, anyway. Friend or foe, they could be in need of help.”
“Back t’ tha ‘help those who hate an’ fear us’ rap?”
“We are still on the clock. Uh, first though, I need to do something about…”
“I made leather strips – piled at tha foot o’ tha furs. Makes a decent lace up.”
“Maybe I’ll go for the loincloth look, but I can’t see a thing.”
“My stogies an’ matches are topside, somewhere.”
“No lighter? Any good mutant Boy Scout shouldn’t be caught without one.”
“Messes up tha flavor.” Logan stood and went to the entrance. Keeping his back to her, he leaned against their gritty doorway.
“I don’t mean to be flippant,” she whispered. “Can’t we just pretend it didn’t happen?”
“Lots o’ my memories are skittish, Red; that one’s workin’ on stickin’ ‘round.”
“Me, too, darlin’.” He took a deep breath. “When yer ready, we’ll go upstairs an’ meet tha new neighbors; ‘til then, I’m gonna go wait fer ya in tha tunnel.”
“We can’t change it, Jeannie – but I’d rather not discuss it, neither.” He sighed. “When ya come out, put yer hand on tha wall at yer right an’ it’ll lead ya t’ me.”
She was silent and he walked away from her without another word.