Chapter 1: Chapter 1
A Warlords Folly
Crossover fic between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and X-Men, the Movie
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters known from the TV Show and Movie, nor the world of the X-Men Movie in which the story takes place.
Leaning back into the comfortable chair in his office, Magneto watched as first Toad, then Sabretooth and lastly Mystique, his second in command, walked into the room. Nearly six months had gone by since his plan of mutating the politicians on Ellis Island had been thwarted by the X-Men.
Five of those months had been spent plotting and executing his escape from the imprisonment that had been the consequence for him and Sabretooth and, in Toad's case, the highly guarded intensive care unit he had been confined to after his fight with Storm.
After that had been taken care of and Toad was back on his feet, though with the addition of multiple burn scars all over his body, Magneto and his followers had made use of an abandoned factory and turned it into their new base of operations.
Mystique's unique talents, as well as Toad's computer skills had come in handy with official ownership of the place and reconnecting the gas, water and electrical supply lines.
Magneto had used the time since their failure rigorously to not only evaluate and see the errors in his last scheme, but also to come up with a plan that would guarantee their success on a far greater scale. Noticing that Sabretooth was already losing what could only laughingly be called his patience, Magneto turned his attention to the three mutants under his command and began to share his vision.
"My friends, now that we have finally left the repercussions of the last missions failure behind us, it is time to reengage our plan for a better future."
Mystique took a graceful step forward. "The machine was destroyed, but we can rebuild it easily."
Her input was followed by Sabretooths grunts. "You want us to grab the girl again?"
Toad, who had become obsessed with picking the dead skin off his burned flesh, stopped doing that long enough to ask his own question.
"So who's gonna be the target?"
Magneto smiled, confident that his next words would highly confuse his followers.
"Although I welcome your enthusiasm, I do not believe it is wise to repeat the foolish actions that led to our defeat."
Mystique was quick to object. "But that was only because of-"
Magneto cut her off. "No. Even if Xavier and his merry band of heroes had not interfered in our plans, it would not have been a lasting victory."
And just as he had expected earlier, hiscohortswere regarding him with confused and curious looks. He decided not to keep them in suspense any longer.
"During these last six months, five of which I spent enjoying the State's hospitality, I have had ample time to think about my endeavour. And I have come to the conclusion that mutating the people on Ellis Island would not have brought us the results we hoped to achieve.
After all, Delegates and Politicians can simply be replaced. No, what we need is something on a far greater scale. Something that people can't easily dismiss or change."
Again, Toad deemed it important enough to avert his attention from his skin and focus on the matter at hand. "So if we don't turn anyone into Mutants, what then?"
Magneto chuckled lightly. "Oh, I didn't say that now, did I? We will still make use of the mutation process, but instead of bestowing that honour on the undeserving pawns of the government, we will set our sights on the public."
Confused, the shape-shifting mutant of the group crossed her arms over her chest.
"If turning politicians won't get us any ground for standing, why should it be different if we change a few common people?"
It was the kind of question Magneto had expected from her. She wasn't his second in command for nothing.
"Not just a few, my Dear. Thousands."
The aging Mutant waited a little for the first wave of shock to disappear from the faces of his followers, before he stood up from his seat, the excitement about divulging the further particulars of his plan making him restless.
"If we can accomplish to mutate half of this countries populace, there would no longer be a possibility for people to ignore our existence. Everybody would be affected, if not personally, then by a family member, a close friend, or even simply an associate. No longer would we be a mere minority, but finally rise to be acknowledged as the superior race that we are.
Debates such as mutant registration would be things of the past, as we lead our brothers and sisters into a new, glory era, free from the useless humans."
The longer he thought about it, the stronger the anticipation grew in him. What a glorious new world it would be.
To no longer be repressed by the limitations normal humans forced them to abide to, but to live by their own rules.
Finally he would be able to fulfil the promise he had made to himself when he was a mere child and the Nazi's had ripped him away from everything he had held dear. No one would ever be able to control him, or his future, again.
He saw as the realization of the merits of his plan came first to Toad's, then Sabretooth's mind, as they smiled sinisterly. Mystique though seemed less than pleased.
"We have the chance to lead our brothers and sisters into a better future, yet you seem unhappy my dear. Why is that?"
"Mutation is a gift selected only for those worthy of it, those that are superior. You were the one that would always say that. It was one thing to change a bunch of politicians, but half the state? What have those people done to deserve such a privilege?"
Magneto nodded gravely and took the few steps that separated him from her. After gently caressing her arms, he let his hands rest on her shoulders.
"I understand your concerns, believe me, I had them myself. In fact, it was this very thought that let me dismiss my plan for weeks. But during those countless days, I came to the conclusion that sometimes, in order to gain something great, you have to give up, or in our case, share something very precious. We may have to make a sacrifice now, but our reward will last for eternity."
Looking convincingly into her beautiful eyes, he saw her smiling back at him and proudly squeezed her shoulders.
"So, if you don't want to use the machine and the girl again, how are we going to create this new world?"
Eric smiled. He had known that as soon as Mystique embraced his idea, she would ask the important questions.
"When I was 25 years old, I made the acquaintance of a gifted young man. His name was Ivan Deggins and he was working on his dissertation about the origins of the mutation process at the time.
He was the first and last human I ever encountered that I respected despite his inferior status. In fact it was his early work, that gave me the idea to use my magnetic powers to affect the human organism and force a mutation to develop.
But as this method is too draining for me, regardless if I use the girl or not, as well as having proven to decimate the human life span, we cannot use it to achieve our objective. Fortunately I know for certain that during the years Ivan spent on studying everything that related to his thesis, he simply must have come across a way to replicate a mutation in a normal human.
It was the sub-thesis to his work and if anyone could have figured out a way, it was him."
He stopped shortly, sighing in resignation.
"Unfortunately he met with an accident that cost his life a few years ago and his doctoral thesis has been lost when the university that awarded him his PhD burned down before the dissertation could be processed in the system and stored away like all the others."
Magneto saw that Sabertooth was, again, on the verge of losing his non-existent patience because of his encompassing explanation and before the large man could interrupt him to demand he 'got on with it', he continued with the story.
"Though the work he handed in to get his degree is lost, his notes must still be there. Ivan used to carry around a kind of diary. It was an unusually big notebook, that he would take with him everywhere he went.
He wrote down everything of significance for his thesis in the book. He would certainly have included what I'm searching for in this very book."
Mystique nodded, beginning to understand. "So we need the book."
"Exactly my dear. But first we have to find it. There are three possible locations for this book. His last place of work, a university in London. Mystique, I think you would be best suited to take a look around there."
She nodded, already planning the right cover for this mission.
"His private place of residence in Brighton. As I understand it, it has not been sold. Toad, your talents for entering premises and buildings that should be off limits would be needed there."
Toad smirked at that, looking forward to make use of his burglary skills once again.
"Last, his family home in Saint Sebastian, a secluded little town near Bennington. I believe Sabretooth should be able to 'convince' the people there to part with any information they have about the books whereabouts."
Said Mutant didn't wait any longer to receive more possible instructions. He had been itching for a good fight for weeks now, forbidden to seek out the damn Wolf to use to sharpen his claws on. Oh how he hoped the people in town would give him some trouble. He smirked as he left the room.
Toad and Mystique were about to follow their comrades direction, intending to complete their own missions, when Magneto called the shape-shifter back.
"My dear, maybe you could take our young man along. It would give him some field experience."
Scott Summers, to many also known as Cyclops, concentrated hard on finding a place to land the X-Jet, while talking to Professor Charles Xavier via the video screen.
"I just don't get it Professor. Why would Sabretooth come to a little town in the middle of nowhere only two weeks after he escaped from the state prison with Mystique's help?"
A light touch on his arm made the young man look at his fiancee, sitting beside him in the cockpit. Jean Grey, just as curious to hear the Professors answer as her lover, had spotted a wide enough space near the town to land their aircraft.
"I'm afraid I am as confused about his need to visit Saint Sebastian as you are Scott. But according to Remy, that is the destination he overheard Sabertooth give the cab driver."
A rude snort from behind the cockpit nearly distracted Scott from making a soft landing on the ground.
"And why exactly do we believe Gambit's information? For all we know, the damn swamp rat could be sending us on a wild goose chase because he thinks it's entertaining."
The Professors disembodied voice spoke again, while the occupants of the Jet got ready to disembark.
"Though I believe I can understand your concerns Logan, I very much doubt that Remy would choose to lead us wrong just to satisfy his amusement. I know it is hard for you to trust him, but considering that he is now a part of our team and has already proven himself to be a honorable, if slightly misguided man, maybe it is time for you to reach out to him."
Another snort. "The only thing I'm gonna reach out to him are my claws."
Beside him Storm resignedly shook her head. Wolverine and Gambit had had a very unfavourable first meeting, before Remy had made the acquaintance of any of the other X-Men, approximately four months ago.
They had gotten a location on Mystique, the only one of Magneto's cronies that had been able to escape justice so far, due to her mutation powers. Logan had been on his way back from his journey to find out more about his past and, still in possession of Cyclops motorcycle, had intercepted the radio call to all X-Vehicles with the exact coordinates. Eager to put the Shapeshifter away for a long time, he had turned the motorcycle around to hunt her down.
He hadn't been far from Vegas, where the Professor had, after weeks of failed attempts, located Mystique's energy with Cerebro.
Arriving in the city that never sleeps, it hadn't taken Wolverine long at all to find the blue skinned woman. Mystique must have felt safe so far away from the Xavier institute, to not hide herself beneath the cover of a normal human. According to Logan, the two had quickly broken out into a vicious fight, that Logan started to gain the upper hand of, when out of nowhere, Gambit appeared. The French gambler had used his explosive powers to attack Wolverine and given Mystique enough time to flee.
In all honesty Storm couldn't fault Remy for what he had done. Not knowing all the facts, it must have looked like Logan was the bad guy, attacking a weaker female mutant for whatever reason.
And though Logan had been furious that the woman had escaped him once again, he probably would have been able to forgive Remy's wrong judgement in time, had the gamble happy mutant not tried to give him up to the police officers that had been hot on his tail, as the head of a big hustling organization that had blackmailed him to cheat the biggest Casino in the city out of a few millions.
When the other X-Men, meaning Cyclops, Jean and Storm, had finally arrived in Vegas, they had had to bail out one pissed off Logan, who had, ironically enough, not been imprisoned for blackmailing people to cheat the Casinos out of their money, but for first pounding Gambit, and then two of the officers on the scene, into the ground.
After the misunderstanding had been cleared and Remy was able to walk without a limp again, the black and red eyed Mutant had offered his help in their search for the elusive shapeshifter and joined their team. Much to Logan's displeasure.
"Give him a chance, Logan. Remy isn't that bad. Who knows, you might even come to like him."
The look that Logan gave Storm for her input would have been comical, had it not been for the flexing of his fingers repeatedly. A clear sign that Wolverine was controlling his urge to let his adamantium claws out to play a little. And everyone knew, Wolverine wasn't very good at controlling his urges.
"You would sooner find me sitting in a field of pink flowers, cuddling up to Mr Universe here, than making friends with the fucking con-artist."
That drew a light giggle from the red haired telepath and a rather crooked smile from Scott.
"Gee Logan, I think I feel flattered."
"Don't get your hopes up sissy boy."
The Professor, not the least bit perturbed that he had apparently been forgotten by the four Mutants, quickly directed their attention back to himself, before Scott and Logan had the chance to engage in one of their regular arguments.
"Now, before you all go out and look for Sabretooth, I would like to remind you all that you should proceed with discretion. Although no matter how much I hate to acknowledge it, there are still many people that don't take kindly to others with mutant powers, especially those living in a closed society.
Saint Sebastian seems to be just that, a very secluded little village with only a few hundred denizens. Although I really wish that I am wrong in my suspicions and the residents of this town are open minded enough to not fall prey to fear and prejudice, finding Sabretooth and discovering what Magneto's plans are takes priority over testing the mindset of the locals.
So, if possible, try not to make your talents known while you acquire about Sabretooths whereabouts."
Logan wasn't really listening to the Professors words, as they were nothing new. They had had this same conversation before boarding the Jet back at the school. It was the reason the four of them were in their normal clothes, instead of their usual battle gear.
No, the Canadians thoughts were on quite a different matter.
"And why isn't the fucking Gambler here with us, if he was the one to 'overhear' Sabretooth?"
The Professor smiled patiently at Logan, while the other three occupants silently rolled their eyes. This was another conversation they had already had.
"Remy is still working on fully controlling his talents, as you well know, Logan. He has been getting steadily better over the last few weeks, but there is still a little work ahead of him."
Although Gambits abilities had aided him very well in his fight against Wolverine back in Las Vegas, he had later confessed to the rest of the team that this had been a case of pure luck. Apparently Remy had come 'online', as some of the teenagers in school liked to refer to it, at age 27, which was pretty rare.
Most mutants came into their powers long before adulthood, with the age of 18 considered as late bloomers.
It seemed the older one was before their mutation awakened, the harder a time they had in controlling said mutation. And without any kind of guidance, it wasn't surprising that Remy still needed training to ensure his powers wouldn't endanger others as well as himself.
Storm grimaced slightly as she remembered all the things that had fallen victim to Remy's 'charged' fingers when he had touched them. Thank god his powers seemed to only affect things and not people.
Even though Logan knew all this, he still wanted to argue the point a little more, if only for the sake of arguing. But Scott anticipated that and quickly took charge before Logan could say any more.
"Okay then let's get going team. Professor, we will contact you as soon as we either have Sabretooth in custody, or have been able to uncover anything about Magnetos intentions."
"Very well Scott. Good luck and be careful."
With that they severed the connection and the foursome disembarked from the jet.
Outside Logan, still a little steamed that he hadn't been able to make his displeasure about the whole Gambit thing more vocal, took a short moment to look over the scenery of the small grass field some feet away from the village and took a deep breath.
It was times like these when he missed his home in the Canadian mountains.
The air out here was just so much cleaner than in the polluted and crowded city.
Especially to someone with such a sensitive nose as him.
He had been the first one out of the jet, his team mates just now walking up to him, so he used the opportunity to take another deep breath, trying to take in the fresh and musky scents of the large forest he could see near the village ahead of them.
Though it was still a fair distance away, he could clearly smell the pine trees, the light scent of freshly fallen rain in the air and... something else.
What is that?
Logan closed his eyes, trying toconcentrate on this one strange scent that seemed out of place, but still belonged to the forest somehow.
It was like nothing he had ever smelled before.
It was light, but also deep in a way. Flowery, but not. Like something exotic that was at the same time also familiar.
He got the sure feeling he should know this scent, that it somehow related to his very being, but he knew, even though a large part of his memory was still a mystery to him, that he had never in his life encountered this scent before.
He shook his head.
This didn't make any sense at all. How could such a scent even exist and why did it feel like, on a subconscious level, without even forming a single thought, that it belonged to him?
It was slightly disconcerting, he couldn't even describe it to himself, but with the same absolute certainty that every living creature knew that it needed to drink, eat and breathe to survive, Logan knew that whatever this strange, yet alluring scent was, it belonged to him.
He shook his head once more, maybe all the fresh air was playing with his mind.
He started a little when Storm came up to him.
"Did you smell any trace of Sabretooth?"
Right, the mission. Grateful for something to concentrate on beside the mystery of this unique scent, Logan turned to the white haired weather mutant, shaking his head.
"We're too far away for me to get a specific scent between everything else."
By this time Scott and Jean had also caught up to them.
"Then let's get going. The sooner we find and apprehend Sabretooth, the better."
Righting his leather jacket, more out of habit than necessity, Logan followed two steps behind Scott and Jean, heading to Saint Sebastian.
Beside him Storm started a conversation about Marie's progress in class, as well how much more comfortable the troubled teen seemed to be at the school now compared to when she and Logan first arrived.
Logan listened avidly to her words, glad that the girl he had kind of adopted as a little sister was doing so well. But all the way to the village, this strange, wonderful, elusive, enticing scent wouldn't leave his mind, nor his nostrils.
In fact, it only got stronger the closer they got to the village.
Silently seething, Sabretooth made his way back from the Family home of the late
Professor, heading for the nearby town. Not only was the house a good ten minute walk away from the rest of the town, but it had also been empty.
Sabretooth couldn't for sure say that the house had been abandoned, but although it was fully furnished and had some things like books, cooking utensils and other necessary items lying around, the cupboards had been empty of groceries, as well as the refrigerator.
The absence of anyone that could be intimidated into answering his questions had angered the violence loving mutant, but to have to search through the house himself and still come up empty handed had positively enraged him.
And now there was no one for him to take his anger out on until he arrived in this miserable little village.
Oh, he really hoped the locals would give him some trouble when he called himself a taxi to take him back to Magneto's new hideout.
Not that he needed a reason to toss some humans around, but he had found they put up more of a fight if they had the nerve to get into his face beforehand.
How he wished the mutt was here. Fighting little Wolverine was always fun. At least he could take a punch and wasn't out for the count before the real action even begun.
The thought of fighting the lone Wolf turned X-Man lifted Sabretooth's spirits immensely and he decided right then that, even if Magneto had a hissy fit about it, he would track down the damn mutt as soon as he was back and have himself a nice little sparring session.
In his enthusiasm about his oncoming match, he nearly didn't catch that sweet, arousing scent in the air. He stopped in his tracks, sniffing deeply. He may have wanted to get out of there to engage in some brutal and bloody fight with Wolverine as soon as possible, but now that he had caught a whiff of this scent, his plans changed drastically.
He turned to his right and started walking to the great trees that made up the front row of the large forest that surrounded Saint Sebastian.
He took another sniff as he walked.
No, a woman.
His claws were flexing, muscles tense, ready for the hunt.
He started running after the scent trail he had picked up on.
Logan was distracted.
Though he tried to get a trail on Sabertooth, all he could think about was this delicious scent he had picked up when getting off the jet.
The group had since then arrived in the town of Saint Sebastian. It reminded him a little of those towns you saw in old TV shows. Nice little houses with nice little gardens and white picket fences. A church in the centre of the town and little convenience stores for those that didn't want to travel to the next city to buy their groceries.
They had come across a small park as well, where some families had set up picnics and children were playing together. It was all so damn picture perfect it nearly seemed unreal to him.
And through it all, he was still able to detect this damn scent.
Since arriving in the town, he had been able to conclude that the scent didn't originate from the town itself, but rather from the woods around the town. He felt drawn to the forest and hadn't it been for the mission and his companions, he would probably already be on his way to try and track down the origin of the scent.
Something Logan was pretty sure he would do in the very near future, even at the risk of annoying his team mates with the delay of returning home. Just as soon as they knew where Sabretooth was and he had a chance to rearrange said mutants teeth a little.
But that meant they had to find the so far elusive Mutant first.
He turned to the rest of the group.
"I'm not getting any kind of scent trail on Sabretooth. I doubt he has come through here. So now what?"
Jean nodded slowly.
"There are no traces of fear surrounding any of the people here, nothing that indicates that Sabertooth has had any contact with the villagers at all."
"Nothing seems to be destroyed, or even damaged. And the presence of someone like Sabretooth would certainly unsettle anyone enough to not be outside and have a picnic."
Scott sighed in frustration.
"It would be easier if we knew his objective, at least then we would have a clue as to where to look for him. The people here don't seem to have seen a ravaging Mutant in their midst, so asking around is pretty much useless. If we want to follow the Professors request for discretion, we can't exactly arouse suspicion and fear in the locals.
And if Logan can't pick up on his scent, we are pretty much walking blind here."
Jean looked questioningly at her fiancee.
"So, how are we going to find one rampaging Mutant who apparantly isn't rampaging at all?"
Scott had just been about to discuss a possible plan of action with the rest of his team, when a young boys voice cut into their conversation.
"You are looking for the Forest Nymph?"
Confused the four adults turned to the small, brown haired boy, Logan silently cursing himself for not having noticed someone close enough to eavesdrop on their conversation.
"What was that boy?"
The boy seemed slightly intimidated by the deep voice and overall statue of Logan, but then gathered his courage to answer the question.
"You said you are looking for a Mutant, right? So you must be looking for the one who lives in the forest. And because she lives in the forest, we call her the Forest Nymph."
The boy, he couldn't be much older than five or six, seemed mighty pleased with the information he had just given them, but he also kept looking about himself, as if trying not to get caught. Was that because he wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, or because he had said something he wasn't supposed to?
Storm was the first to pick up on the boys obvious indecision of whether being pleased with himself because he knew something that they didn't, or being scared of being caught. She knelt down to the boys level.
"Are you saying there is a woman living in this forest around the town?"
The boy nodded eagerly.
"Uh-huh. She has been living there for EVER and ever. For as long as I know. But she is not that old. I saw her once."
Then the little boy quickly clapped his hands over his mouth, eyes wide. So him seeing this 'Forest Nymph' apparently was the equivalent of being caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Ororo smiled softly, hoping to reassure the boy enough to tell them more about his encounter with this unknown Mutant.
"I'm Ororo. Would you tell me your name?"
This seemed to relax the little boy enough to take the hands away from his mouth again.
"I'm Toby. And I'm almost six!"
He held up seven of his fingers, eliciting a smile from Storm.
"Almost six. I guess you are a big boy then. So Toby, would you tell me something more about this Forest Nymph?"
Preening with pride over being called a big boy, Toby didn't seem all that worried about sharing his wisdom anymore.
"She has been living in the forest for a looooong time.
We call her the Forest Nymph, but she is really a Mutant. My parents said not to talk about her and to never go into the forest, because Mutants are dangerous. But a few days ago, when I was outside playing, I saw this really big bird. It was really really big, you know? It was sitting on our porch.
But when I tried to get a little closer, it flew away. Our house is really close to the forest, you know? And the big bird flew right into the forest. I know I wasn't supposed to go into the forest, because of the Mutant, but I wanted to get a closer look of the bird, so I ran after it. I should have looked where I was running to, but I didn't because I was looking at where the bird was flying.
And because I wasn't looking where I was going, I fell down a little slope. It hurt and I scraped my knee."
At this point of his story, he hitched up his right pant leg to show the surrounding adults the almost healed scratch on his kneecap, with the pride all children take in displaying various ouchies like they were war wounds.
"It was huge and it was bleeding a LOT, you know?"
Logan rolled his eyes at that, impatiently waiting for the exaggerating little brat to get to the point.
"I couldn't climb back up and I hadn't ever been in the forest before, so I didn't know where I was and I was a little scared that the Forest Nymph would find me because all the adults always say that Mutants are not nice things and eat little children."
The eyes of the four X-Men darkened a little, keeping tight control over their feelings of outrage over hearing what the townspeople obviously told their kids about the nature of Mutants.
"And, well, I was crying a little, but it's not like I'm a baby like my big brother always says to me, I was just a little scared, you know? And the Forest Nymph must have heard me because suddenly, she was there right before me.
At first I was really scared, because I thought she was going to eat me, and I tried to crawl away from her, but I couldn't because there was the wall of the slope I fell down from right behind me.
So I screwed my eyes shut really tight and told her not to eat me, because I wouldn't taste good at all, because my parents made me eat all those brussell sprouts that are really yuck!
But she didn't try to eat me at all! And then, when I looked at her, she was smiling really nicely. She didn't even look like an evil Mutant that eats little children.
She looked really pretty, like one of the fairies in the book we have in kindergarten. She had really long hair and it was red. And she wasn't very tall. Well, she was taller than me, but I don't think she was as tall as my mother.
And I really liked her eyes, because green is my favourite colour.
But she was wearing really weird clothes and I think she might have been a little sick, because she was very pale, you know?
And then she told me that I didn't need to be afraid, because she wouldn't eat me. I believed her because I don't think that children eating Mutants have such a nice voice, you know?
Then she told me to close my eyes for a moment and I did and then there was this funny feeling on my knee that was hurting so much, but after the funny feeling was gone, my knee didn't really hurt anymore.
And then she gave me her hand and led me out of the forest. I asked her to meet my parents, so that they can see that the Mutant in the forest isn't evil and eats children all the time, but she shook her head and ran back into the forest.
I told my parents, but they didn't believe me and told me to never go into the forest again and not to talk about the dirty Mutant. I don't think it was very nice that they called her dirty, because they wouldn't be clean either if they lived in a forest, I think. And she wasn't all that dirty and didn't stink. In fact she smelled really nice.
Do you think my parents are right and she really is evil like all the other Mutants?"
The way children could talk so fast and without pause astounded Storm every time anew. But when she managed to order the load of information Toby had just given them, she smiled at him.
"No, I don't think she is evil at all. And I will tell you something really important now, so you have to listen very carefully, ok?"
Eyes wide, the boy nodded quickly, eager to learn of whatever was so important. It sounded very exciting.
"There are many, many Mutants that are really nice. Just like normal people. And I have never seen even one Mutant that ate little children."
The boys eyes widened even more.
Ororo nodded with a very serious look on her face.
"Wow. I don't think my Mum and Dad will believe me if I tell them though..."
The weather controlling Mutant sighed sadly, knowing the truth in the childs words.
"No, they probably won't. But maybe some of your friends will. And if not, it will be our secret, ok?"
She knew how much children loved secrets. They could rarely keep them, but they still loved trying.
The boy wanted to say something more, but a woman's voice a little ways away cut him off.
"Toby, stop bothering other people and come back here, or we will start eating without you!"
Toby cringed slightly, hastily looking at Storm and the others.
"That's my mom. Don't tell her I told you about the Forest Nymph, ok? Oh, and when you meet her, can you say thank you for me for helping me? I forgot to that time. Bye!"
And with that the boy was off, running toward his parents and brother who were sitting on a large blanket, many snacks and dishes spread around them.
With the boy gone, the four mutants finally felt free to give voice to their thoughts.
Jean went first.
"So the Professor was right about being discreet. I can't believe those people!"
Scott nodded gravely. "And if 'all the adults' here go around telling their children stuff like 'mutants are evil and eat little children', we can pretty much guess how this woman came to live in the forest."
Ororo had come to the same conclusions. "If it even is a woman. Toby said she didn't look old, so we could as well be dealing with a teenager here.
But you are right, it's very likely that she grew up in this village and was then shunned by her parents and the people here when her mutation emerged. Depending on how old she was at that time, she may not have known any better than to look for shelter in the forest around her hometown."
Logan was clenching and unclenching his fists repeatedly, growing angrier by the second. This reminded him too much of Marie, who hadn't been welcome in her home anymore when her powers manifested.
But Marie had been 15 at the time, and living in a town much bigger and far less secluded than Saint Sebastian. Which meant she had had the knowledge and means to get away and find a place for herself. Although that hadn't been easy and Logan was once again glad that he had been there at the time to pick her up.
What must it have been like for this girl… woman? How old was she and how long had she been forced to live in this forest?
While he was pondering this, Scott had come to a decision.
"I think under these circumstances, we should put our search for Sabretooth on hold. We have no clue where to look for him anyway and after what we learned about the denizens mindsets here, I feel even more disinclined to ask any of them for information. This mutant though may need our help."
The two women nodded, with Jean adding,
"Who knows how long she has been alone like this? Also think about the changing seasons and temperature, it's a wonder she hasn't frozen to death in winter."
Ororo shrugged slightly, though she looked equally as horrified as Jean.
"Maybe her mutation helps with that. We don't really know what kind of mutant she is, or anything about her at all really."
Logan didn't participate in the conversation.
He was already heading in the direction of the forest not far from them. He couldn't help comparing this unknown female mutant to Marie and he wanted her out of that forest, safe back at the Xavier mansion and far away from fucking stupid, inhuman, bigots that would leave one of their own children to their own devices just because she turned out to be different.
The other three X-Men soon noticed Logan's absence and hurried to catch up with him. Though they didn't know it, their thoughts mirrored those of their Canadian friend.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Special thanks go to my beloved Beta, Becstasy.
A little warning upfront: This one, as well as the next chapter, will be rather slow progressing story wise. Some of you may think that it's boring, missing action and having far too many details and thought processes, seeming to go nowhere fast. This is necessary to establish Willow's character and background in the story. After the third chapter, things will be at a point where the story can flow better and humor and action sequences can be incorporated. I just don't want you to give up on this story because right now it seems to be much ado about nothing.
But maybe that's just my pessimistic self and you don't think the following that bad. Please let me know.
She frantically ran through the forest.
She didn’t need to look over her shoulder to know that he was still behind her. The angry noises of all the different animals of the forest as they tried to attack him to divert his attention from his prey, told her as much. Their attacks on this man had proven completely useless though, as he just casually threw them out of his way with a malicious grin on his face, not even slowing his pace.
Was this creature even a man? She wasn’t sure. She had only fleetingly glanced at him, when he had broken through the bushes surrounding the lake she had been bathing in and then left barely enough time for her to grab her long shirt and throw it over her nude body before he had roared loudly and lunged at her. It had been pure luck that he had slipped on one of the loose stones around the lake, thus giving her enough time to scramble out of the water and flee. But he had been on her tail almost immediately and chasing her for what felt like hours.
And he was getting closer.
She thought about using her abilities once more to trip him with tree roots or hit him with branches, but then remembered how those tactics hadn’t even fazed him before when she used them the first time and decided to rather concentrate on running.
She knew though that she wouldn’t be able to do so for much longer.
She was exhausted.
She didn’t know how long this chase was already going on, but it was definitely too long. The combination of the fruitless use of her abilities to manipulate and control plants earlier, plus the relentless running at top speed for a long period was taking its toll on her body. She couldn’t seem to get enough air into her lungs, no matter how fast and desperate she sucked in her breath.
Her legs felt sluggish, rubbery, and not at all like they were moving as fast as they had in the beginning. A needling pain had also taken residence in her side, her fear no longer enough to ignore it in favor of running faster.
She needed more energy. She needed to stop.
He was closing in.
In a desperate last ditch effort, she focused on a large tree right in front of her, willed it to bend it’s branches down, and quickly climbed up.
To the bystander it would look like the tree was accommodating her every move, boosting her up with its branches, leaning and bending in ways that shouldn’t be possible for such a large tree, easing her way to higher ground and then straightening out to deny access to the one following.
Of course, that didn’t seem to slow her pursuer down any, and she didn’t even have time to catch her breath before he began to repeatedly and brutally slam into the trunk. The redhead clung to the upper branches as best as she could, but with each hit, the power that shook the tree seemed to increase and she knew that the tree wouldn’t be able to withstand the slams of this vicious beast much longer. She was beginning to panic again. She couldn’t climb down just to give herself up to whatever this manbeast wanted to do to her, but she also couldn’t wait until he succeeded in uprooting the tree.
The decision was taken from her, when the next powerful slam made her loose her grip and with a shocked gasp, she fell.
Sabretooth was in the forest. Wolverine had been able to detect the smell of the thrice dammed mutant shortly after the group had set foot into the woods. It had taken him little time to determine in which direction their quarry was headed and the four had immediately started their pursuit. But after about five minutes, Storm, Cyclops and Jean found themselves hard pressed to keep up with their friend, as Logan all of a sudden started to run. As the three tried to catch up to Wolverine, the Canadian was pushing his body to go even faster.
When they had learned about the mutant woman that apparently lived in this forest since she was shunned by the people in the village, Logan had been irate enough to forget about the strange scent that had assaulted his nostrils ever since he got off the jet. But only minutes after locking onto Sabretooth’s foul smell, he had also gotten a whiff of that alluringly intoxicating scent again.
But just as soon as he realized that, he also discovered something else, Something that propelled him to get to where the scent was as soon as possible. Sabretooth was close to the scent.
And that just wouldn’t do.
That scent, whatever it was, it was his and his alone. A fact he didn’t question anymore. He wouldn’t let anyone take it away, least of all fucking Sabretooth!
Finally he arrived in a small clearing just in time to see the ferocious mutant slam into a tree like a deranged animal, followed by a soft female gasp that only his enhanced hearing enabled him to pick up on, and then he witnessed a woman with long red hair, dressed only in what seemed to be nightgown, falling out of the tree, directly into Sabretooth’s arms.
Logan didn’t wait for another second. He shot across the remaining distance between him and his target and rammed into a very surprised Sabretooth, forcing the other man to drop the woman in his arms.
It was at that time the other three X-Men arrived on the scene. While Cyclops immediately went to try and help Wolverine against Sabretooth, Jean and Storm ran up to the woman sitting on the ground, that they had seen trying to escape from the beastly mutants' arms right before Logan had ploughed into him. She was most likely the same woman that little boy had spoken of and they really wanted to make sure she was ok.
She was scared and confused.
First she was running, then she was climbing up a tree, then she was falling, and then, while desperately struggling to get out of the manbeast’s (as she had come to refer to him in her mind) grip, he let go and she fell once again, only a shorter distance. Of course she didn’t have any time to try and get her bearings about her, as she saw two women, wherever those had come from, rapidly approaching her.
Fearful of the intentions of yet more strangers, the young red haired woman quickly scrambled backwards until her back hit the tree trunk behind her. Tapping into the large tree’s energy restored her own enough to grow long, thick vines and roots and have them build a wall around her and the tree, hiding and protecting her from the strangers that probably wanted to harm her.
Jean and Storm stopped abruptly when they saw what must have been about a dozen vines shoot out of the ground and wrap themselves around the tree and the young woman in a wide circle. A little bewildered and worried, Jean turned to Ororo.
“So I guess we can assume that part of her mutation has something to do with the growth of greenery.”
“Well, it’s one possibility. She looked pretty scared right before she holed herself up with those vines.”
Jean nodded as the two of them got closer to the large, green cocoon that hid the unknown mutant inside it.
“Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. From what we know so far she probably hasn’t had much contact with others and then she comes across Sabretooth of all people. She must be really afraid right now.”
“Do you think she is the reason why he is here?”
Jean shrugged. “I don’t know, but we will have to consider it. What could Magneto possibly want with a mutant who lives in a forest though?”
The two came to a stop right before the huge cocoon of vines and roots that wound around the large tree, denying them any kind of access to the young woman inside. Storm carefully approached the slightly intimidating construction. The cocoon came easily up to seven feet, if not more. The intricate vines were all very thick and sturdy looking.
Storm tried to find a hole somewhere between the vines, to possibly be able to take a closer look at the woman they wanted to help, but there was nothing. The whole thing just screamed impenetrable.
Reasonably sure the woman wouldn’t try to attack her and Jean with the vines, Ororo leaned in close against the cocoon and spoke.
“Hello? Can you hear me? It’s ok now. I’m Ororo, and this is my friend Jean. We won’t hurt you I promise. I know you are probably scared right now, but it’s ok to come out. Nothing will happen to you.”
There was no response.
“Are you ok? Did he hurt you? If you need help, please let us in.”
The white haired woman tried again to find a weak part in the structure, hoping to get inside or at least take a look to make sure the woman wasn’t critically wounded. She was getting more worried by the second, not knowing if the woman was bleeding to death while they stood uselessly before a wall of green.
Her friend’s hand on her shoulder pulled her back from her dark fears, as Jean then assured her.
“Don’t worry, I can’t feel anything relating to pain from her. She is alright. Just scared and confused. I’m sure she will come out if we give her a little time to calm down.”
Sighing in relief, Ororo thanked her goddess that Jean had been able to get such a good grip on her empathic abilities over the last couple of weeks. It still took the redhead much concentration and she couldn’t read the emotions of someone who was too far away or consciously didn’t want her to, but in this case Jean apparently had been able to glimpse enough from the unknown mutant to know that she was at least physically healthy.
It was then that Scott and Logan came up to the two women, the latter cursing angrily under his breath.
Scott turned to them.
“Sabretooth took off. What about the girl?”
Jean and Ororo turned back to the cocoon of vines.
“She holed herself up in this. We think she is ok, but we will have to wait until she has calmed down a bit and realizes we mean her no harm before we can get to her.”
Wolverine didn’t quite agree. While engaged in his fight with Sabretooth, he hadn’t thought of much other than to beat that piece of shit into the ground.
Then when Cyclops made his presence known and Sabretooth realized he wouldn’t stand much of a chance against the two of them, he had quickly got behind Wolverine and with a cheap shot threw him into the other X-Man.
As soon as he had untangled himself from his teammate, Logan had wanted to go after the fleeing Mutant, but Cyclops held him back, stating they needed to make sure that the victim of Sabretooths attack was alright.
So not only wasn’t the Canadian able to go after his nemesis, he had also lost the scent again!
It had still been clear and close when he began his fight with Sabretooth, and then he had been concentrating on the fight, the scent no longer on the forefront of his mind. But as Scott and him made their way back to the girls, the sudden absence of the scent, that he had already declared his property, made itself glaringly obvious to him.
There wasn’t even a lingering trace on the wind, or any faint sign that whatever the scent belonged to was distancing itself from the place.
It was just gone. Like suddenly cut off.
It was maddening.
He was starting to doubt not only his own sense of smell, but his sanity as well. How could he think that a scent he picked up in a forest belonged to him?
What was going on in his brain that instilled in him the unshakable certainty that this scent was his?
He didn’t even know what it was for god’s sake! It could be a rotting corpse for all he knew! It was completely ridiculous!
And yet, even as he was having those thoughts, a voice inside him kept on insisting that the scent was his and his alone.
Considering all these things, it was quite understandable why he really didn’t feel patient enough to stand around in a damn forest and wait for some female mutant to come out of her hiding place.
He let his claws out.
“Why don’t I speed things up a little and just get her out of there?”
He was about to follow through with his plan, but Storm placed herself in his way.
“Don’t. I really don’t think it’s wise to frighten her any more than she already is.”
He didn’t back down so quickly.
“So you suggest we just wait here until she deems it fit to grace us with her presence?”
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Sabretooth alone is probably enough to scare anyone into hiding, but on top of that she has been living alone and shrouded from any social contact for who knows how long. This must be very hard for her and if we want her to trust us then the least we can do is give her some time.”
While the X-Men were discussing this, the mutant in question was slowly regaining her breath.
Thanks to the huge tree she had spun her protective barrier around, she had been able to replenish her energy by tapping into the tree’s resources. Her legs still felt a little rubbery, but she was sure that she could make a run from the strangers now.That is, if she found a way to distract them long enough to escape her current position.
At first she hadn’t really listened to what the two women had said, much too concerned with getting her erratic breathing back under control, but hearing one of them trying to speak directly to her, telling her they weren’t going to hurt her, made her weary.
If circumstances had been different, she would have jumped on the chance for company.
Loneliness was a feeling with which she was all too familiar and she had hated it ever since she was kicked out of her home by her parents and then right after chased away from her hometown by the other villagers.
Living in a forest wasn’t easy and sharing said forest with the hundreds of animals it inhabited was even worse, so she should have been excited beyond believe over the prospect of finally speaking with other people again.
But after being chased halfway through the forest by the manbeast, she found herself rethinking her position on meeting new people.
The red haired young woman hadn’t really listened to the words exchanged outside by the two women and, what were probably their two male companions that had arrived only moments ago, but she did catch the end of what sounded like a heated discussion.
“…trust us then the least we can do is give her some time.”
~Yes, that’s right.~ She thought gleefully. ~Just give me some more time to perfect my escape plan.~
She was about to put her hastily thought out ‘distract-them-with-some-wild-roots-and-make-a-run-for-it’ master plan, when a sound right beside her made the blood in her veins freeze.
Logan was about to vocalize his displeasure about having to wait around once more, when a terrified scream came from behind the barrier of roots and vines. Before any of them could react, said plants seemingly exploded open and the young woman they had been waiting for ran out at top speed, barreling straight into Wolverine.
Logan was not at all the type of man that was comfortable with people invading his personal space. Especially not people he didn't even know. And under normal circumstances, he would have pushed the redhead that was clinging to him and mumbling incoherently into his chest, away as soon as she had made contact. But the second the petite body had hit him, something else had hit his nostrils as well.
It was back in full force, far stronger than what he had been able to pick up before, and it came from her. It was her, the unknown female Mutant, who had been shunned by her hometown, lived in a forest for who knew how many years and had been hunted for whatever reason by Sabretooth.
He didn't consciously register when his arms came up, wrapping around the small waist of the redhead before him, his head leaning slightly forward and down to inhale deeply. Nor was he aware of his three companions, drawing closer to try to understand what had upset the woman so much. He didn't even know how much time passed while he stood there, bathing in this delightful, addicting scent, with only one thought running through his mind.
She was vaguely aware that she was clinging to someone.
Someone she didn't know, surrounded by other strangers she had been afraid to meet only moments before. But at the moment, she really didn't care. She would cuddle up to anyone as long as that dreadful, creepy little frog didn't get anywhere near her.
She doubted that anyone could understand her chanting the words: "Get it away from me! Get it away from me! Get it away from me!", considering how desperately she was currently trying to bury herself into the body right before her. But she also wasn't willing to give up this momentary safety for the sake of communication.
So she just tightened her hold on the person she would most likely run away from as soon as the frog crisis was averted.
Jean wasn't used to being clueless.
Being an accomplished expert in many fields, as well as having the ability to pick up the emotions of others, generally gave her not only a very detailed insight to the situation, but also the knowledge of how to handle it. Right now though she found herself at a complete loss.
Aside from the obvious distress the other redhead - who for all intents and purposes was currently trying to crawl inside of Logan - was in, Jean could easily detect the fear radiating off the rather small woman.
Fear that she would have otherwise chalked up to being around strangers after having been chased by someone as terrifying as Sabretooth.
But the fact that the plant manipulating mutant was clinging to one of the aforementioned strangers, pretty much negated that hypotheses.
Had she not been so completely stumped with the young woman's behaviour, she might have found it strange that Logan wasn't doing anything to dislodge the redheads grip on him. As it was though, she had other concerns on her mind.
Ororo and Scott were equally confused over what was happening, but unlike her two friends, Ororo did notice Logan's more than willing reaction to the female mutants closeness.
She had seen the way his eyes had widened when the slight woman had propelled herself right into him and had then been stunned when, instead of pushing her away immediately, the Canadian had taken a deep breath, wrapped his arms around her and then all but buried his nose into her red hair.
At first Ororo had suspected that maybe it had been a reflex on his part. Maybe he had only wanted to steady the clearly scared girl in wrapping his arms around her, maybe calm her down a little by breathing softly into her hair. In the next second she had discarded that idea. Not only was it completely unlike the gruff loner to do something like that, it also didn't explain the way he tightened his arms around the redheads waist, pressing her impossibly closer.
She would have time to ponder over this later though, right now it was more important to find the source of the woman’s sudden panic. Maybe then they could also find a way to calm her down.
Scott was the first to break out of his stupor.
"Does anyone understand what she is saying?"
Jean shook her head.
"To be honest, I don't understand anything right now."
Finally Ororo carefully approached the quivering Mutant.
"Hey, it's alright. Just tell us what's wrong and we will help you, ok?"
Of course, the redhead responded by clinging to Logan even more, though the white haired weather Mutant couldn't comprehend how that was physically possible.
The slightly hysteric mumblings also increased, but now they were even less decipherable, due to being spoken into the Canadians chest.
Ororo cast a look at Logan for help, but quickly decided that he wouldn't be able to provide any at this moment.
He wasn't occupied with breathing in the woman’s scent anymore, but he clearly wasn't paying attention to the current situation either.
His eyes were firmly fixed on the red hair before him. What was most puzzling however, was the way he seemed to start loosening his arms, and then immediately tightened them around the small waist again.
Logan didn't know what to do.
He had already burned her wonderful scent into his brain, he knew the softness of her hair, even though some of it was slightly wet, as was the thin shirt she was wearing. Underneath which, as he could easily discern, she was completely naked. Which made it rather simple to get a feel of her alluring little body.
Her small frame, that made it possible for him to tuck her under his chin.
Her petite waist, so easily imprisoned by his arms.
The soft mounds that were her breasts, pressed tightly against him.
That gracious, pale neck that would peak out beneath the long tresses of fiery colored hair, whenever she moved her head.
He had been so very tempted to bring his mouth down on the tender looking flesh and mark her for all to see then and there.
And that is exactly where his problem began.
Here he was, ready to claim the woman whose scent was already declared as his, as well, and he didn't even know what she looked like.
When she had burst out of her little cocoon, he had been more than a little surprised and after what couldn't have been more than a glimpse of time, she had already buried herself into his form.
So he hadn't been able to get a look at her face at all.
Of course, he could do so now, but that would mean unwrapping his arms from her and distancing their bodies enough to actually give her the space required for a frontal view.
And he really didn't want to let go. She fit so perfectly against him, as if she had been molded for the sole purpose of him holding her.
Which he was all too happy to oblige to, but he also really wanted to see her face. Gaze into those eyes, hear this voice, kiss those lips...
Logan shook his head. He was getting majorly ahead of himself here.
What was he even thinking? This was ridiculous! How could he want this woman so much, based alone on her scent?
He admitted that sometimes, his heightened senses caused him to behave in a way often more associated with animals, and yes, he usually trusted and went with his instincts, but he considered himself far from being driven by them.
The situation he was in at this moment though proved to be anything but usual, as well as his reaction to the woman still in his hold.
Yes, her scent was the closest thing to heaven he believed he would ever get, and if her face was even half as pretty as her body was luscious, then she was clearly a very attractive woman, but that was hardly a reason for him to lay claim to her the way his body and instincts were telling him to.
He needed to get a grip on himself.
Ororo tried once again to get through to the scared woman.
"Please, if you just tell us what's wrong, we can-", but she was interrupted when, from behind her, she heard a very distinctive *ribbit*
The woman before her stiffened immediately and let out a soft whimper. Curious Ororo turned around and saw a small, green frog hop out of what had moments before been an impenetrable barrier of roots and vines.
The answer to the new redheads sudden panic dawned on her and Jean at the same time.
"Scott, get rid of the frog."
The man turned questioning eyes to his fiancee.
Jean wasn't all that fond of amphibians herself, so she took a step back as the little guy hopped ever nearer, as she repeated herself.
"She seems to be afraid of it, so make sure you take it far enough away so that she doesn't see it."
The sunglasses wearing man still found this situation a little odd, but complied non the less with the request. Carefully scooping the little frog up into his hands, he swiftly headed in a direction away from the group.
As soon as her team leader - and the frog - were out of sight, Ororo got close to the female mutant once more, this time softly laying her hand on the smaller woman’s shoulder, hoping to reassure her.
"The frog is gone now, my friend took it away. It's okay, you can look now."
She was very surprised when, this time, she got an instant reaction. The redhead spun her head around, away from its position against Logan's firm chest, and fixed her gaze squarely on Ororo.
"It's really gone? Are you sure? Those creepy things are tricky, you know?"
Ororo and Jean were a little amused by the way the other redhead swiftly began to scan the perimeter, her green eyes swiping from right to left and back again.
Jean smiled. "It's gone, we promise. But are you ok? Did Sabretooth do anything to you?"
It was then the woman finally remembered that she was supposed to run away from these strangers. She cursed inwardly.
The stupid, creepy, little frog had distracted her from the danger she was in.
That probably had been its evil plan from the start. She had always known those things couldn't be trusted!
She quickly retracted her arms from the body they had been wound around and tried to make a run for it, but found herself halted by a pair of steel bar like arms around her waist.
That couldn't be good. Turning back around, she locked eyes with the man she had used as a clinging pole for the very first time.
Oh, this really wasn't good.
Screw his earlier thoughts about her being attractive. She was fucking gorgeous!
Her eyes were a color of green that could outshine the most precious emeralds, framed by long eyelashes.
Her flawless pale skin looked softer than even the white clouds in the sky.
Her full, rosy lips, that he just knew were made to be kissed, seemed to be glimmering without the aid of that funny tasting lip-gloss stuff women everywhere were so fond of.
Her voice had been just perfect.
Having a heightened sense of hearing, Logan was aware how truly rare it was to happen across someone whose voice was neither too high, nor too low. And he definitely appreciated the way her particular tone of voice kind of smoothed it's way through his ears.
Logan, of course, saw the fear that was growing on the lovely face, when she realized that he still kept his arms around her. But he was also quite certain that she would bolt as soon as he surrendered his hold.
And he was not going to let her escape from him.
Thankfully though, the empath of the group was very aware of her fellow redhead's mounting panic and quickly intervened.
"Nobody is going to hurt you. Quite the opposite in fact, we would very much like to help you. Now, if my friend lets go of you, do you promise not to run away from us?"
The young woman looked her straight into the eyes and upon seeing the youthful face so closely, Jean wasn't sure anymore if the term 'woman' could even be applied to her. She looked so very young.
Of course, they had had no reason to believe that the mutant they had heard about from the little boy was even over the age of 18, but by the way young Toby had said that the forest nymph' had been living in this forest "forever and ever", she had assumed they would be dealing with an adult here.
Now she wasn't so sure anymore.
So engrossed with the problem of whether the female mutant was to be referred to as a girl or woman, Jean nearly missed the very tentative, very quietly spoken "Okay."
Logan had been quite comfortable having the beautiful little Nymph in his arms, but he could smell the fear rolling off of her clearly and although it did nothing to sour her delightful scent, it was not the kind of feeling he relished in evoking.
Not in her, at least.
So, reluctantly, he slowly unwound his arms form around her waist, after she had given Jean the promise not to run away from them. He only allowed her to take one step away from him, however, before he growled quietly, which immediately stopped her in her tracks. No sense in letting her out of arms reach, right?
Though very surprised by Logan’s reactions and actions to the new mutant so far, Ororo decided that questioning him about it could wait, and concentrated on the very nervous redhead before her, who had crossed her arms tightly over her middle and was fidgeting from foot to foot, while trying to keep all three of them in her sights at all times. She decided introductions were in order.
"Hi. I'm Ororo, but most often people just call me Storm. These here are my friends, Jean and Logan, who is also known as Wolverine. Our other friend, the one who took the frog away," - an involuntary and very noticeable shudder went through the younger redhead’s body at the mention of the frog, and Storm wondered just how terrified the poor thing really was of the little creatures, before she went on - "is Scott, but if you like, you can also call him Cyclops. What's your name?"
It took a little while for her to gather enough courage to answer, but she finally decided that telling these strangers her name probably wouldn't worsen her current situation.
"I-I'm Willow.... you can call me Willow, I don't have any other name."
She was nervously shifting her eyes back and forth and began twiddling her fingers.
"Well, except for my last name, which is Rosenberg, but I'm not allowed to use it anymore, my parents would get mad-"
Suddenly her eyes widened in shock.
"Oh no, I'm not supposed to call them my parents anymore! Please don't tell them I did! I-It just slipped out, I didn't mean to..."
Jean’s heart went out to the scared girl. What must her parents have done to her to cause this kind of reaction?
She could feel the waves of deep sympathy coming from Ororo, who stood next to her and knew that her friend probably wanted to just hug Willow and comfort her as much as she herself wanted to.
But Jean also knew that the younger redhead was still wary of them and physical contact was probably not the way to go just yet. So she decided to try and steer the conversation into safer territory.
Especially considering that Willow’s fear of her own parents had Logan clench and unclench his fists in fast increasing anger and she didn't think that him snapping and tracking down her parents to pound them into the ground right now would help their situation any.
"It's okay, we won't tell them anything. How about you tell us a little about yourself? How old are you?"
It seemed to do the trick as Willow stopped her nervous rambling and got a thoughtful look on her face.
"Ehm, I'm not sure... What year is it?"
Of course, it made sense that someone who had been living in a forest would lose some feeling of time passing by, and she had kind of expected such an answer, but it still somehow shocked Jean to have Willow say the words. She didn't even listen when Ororo answered the redhead, but she did hear Willow's astonished reaction.
"Only sixteen years? It seemed to be so much longer... But to answer your question, I'm 26... Oh, unless it hasn't been the 21st of March yet, then I would only be 25."
Ororo gasped quietly. 26? She hardly looked 18! And it had been 16 years? But that would mean-
Logan’s enraged voice cut through her train of thought.
"Your parent's kicked you out when you were only ten?!"
Willow visibly shrank into herself, her hands twisting the material of the long shirt she wore.
"W-w-well, y-yes. I r-remember very w-well, cause... it was my b-birthday... B-but they had to! Because that was the day I... I..." ~became a freak.~
But she couldn't tell them that! If these people knew what she was, who knew what they would do to her? Best case scenario, they would leave, worst case scenario... Willow didn't even want to think about it.
Sure, she still didn't trust them, and the man, Logan, she remembered, was a little scary what with the growling and all, but so far they had been really nice to her and even though she was still wary of them, it was just so nice to be able to talk to someone again. Scary as hell, but she didn't want it to end this soon.
Willow never even considered the possibility that these people already knew of her mutant status. Because if they knew, they would not stand there, talking to her. Normal people, 'real' people, did not socialize with Mutants.
Abominations of nature.
So they couldn't know what she was, it was that simple.
The reason for their presence in a thick, deep forest, their apparent knowledge of the manbeast that had been chasing her, the fact they knew that her former parents had thrown her out, all this just didn't connect at this moment in time for the normally bright and perceptive 26 year old to come to the right conclusions.
Her thoughts only concentrated on the task of what she could tell them that wouldn't send them running away from her as fast as they could, or force her to run away form them.
Preferably without having to lie to them. She wasn't good with lying. Well, at least she hadn't been good with lying when she was a kid and she doubted the years of isolation had changed that.
She was about to say something that would hopefully steer the conversation in a different direction, when Logan finally lost his, so far better than normal, control over his temper.
"That's it! I'm going back there right now and have myself a nice little talk with Mr and Mrs Rosenberg!"
The metallic 'zing' of his adamantium claws coming out was heard clearly by the three women around him. But he only heard Willow's shocked gasp and turned his gaze back to her. Finding and 'talking' to her bastard parents was temporarily forgotten as he saw her widened eyes and even paler than before looking skin.
"Y-you.. you are..."
Fortunately, this time Jean understood the situation immediately and knew what to do. She raised her right arm and with it, the fist sized stone that laid right before Willows feet rose slowly into the air.
Willow watched the suspended stone rotating in front of her, her expression a mixture of awe and 'scared to death'. Then Jean brought her arm back down, letting the stone lay back in its previous position. She looked at Willow with a calm, reassuring smile.
"We are Mutants, Willow. Just like you. I can only imagine what your parents and the other people in your hometown have told you about that subject, but you have to believe me when I tell you that most, probably all of it, have been lies. And that we are not going to hurt you."
Willow was shocked beyond measure. She didn't know what to do, what to think! These people were Mutants. Freaks like her. But they had been nice to her, and this Jean person had even said that they weren't going to hurt her. And strangely enough, she believed that. But Mutants were supposed to be monsters and evil.
Then again, she was a mutant herself and she honestly didn't consider herself to be evil. Probably a monster, but not particularly evil.
Maybe Mutants were only nice to each other? But then why had the other one, the manbeast, been chasing her?
This was all too confusing and Willow felt a small measure of relief when, what happened next, freed her of having to think about this any longer.
Blackness consumed her vision as, for the first time in her life, she fainted.
It was very fortunate that he hadn't allowed her to step out of his reach earlier, as Logan just managed to catch the redhead, before she could hit the ground.
Ororo and Jean hurriedly stepped towards him to take a look at Willow.
After checking her pulse and breathing, Jean sighed relieved.
"She is alright. The shock of the situation must have been too much for her and her system just shut down."
Ororo nodded, standing up from her kneeling position next to Logan, who had Willow securely in his arms.
"I guess it would be much to take in all of a sudden. Especially considering the kind of mind frame she must have grown up with in that village."
Right after she said that, the white haired woman slowly shook her head.
~No. You can hardly call a period of only ten years 'growing up'. How can anyone do that to their own child? Sixteen years... what must it have been like for her? Maybe I should accompany Logan and go 'talk' to her parents a little.~
Her dark and angry thoughts were interrupted when Scott stepped out of the tree's behind them and hurried over, his face worried as he looked at the unconscious redhead.
"What happened? Is she alright?"
Jean turned to him. "Yes, she is okay. Things just were too much for her. I'll explain later. What took you so long anyway? I said to take the frog out of her sight, not out of the forest."
Scott shrugged, a confused look on his face.
"It was the weirdest thing. Every time I sat the little guy down, he hopped right back in the direction we came from. It was only when I got to a little pond about 500 meters from here when he finally stayed put."
He looked once again to the pale woman cradled in Logan's arms on the ground.
"Are you sure she is okay?"
Jean nodded. "Don't worry. But I don't think we should just take her with us to the jet like that."
Ororo agreed. "She would probably get really scared if she woke up during the flight, or later in the mansion. And I would like to see where and how she has been living all these years."
Although Scott wasn't sure about the details yet, he knew they needed to decide on a plan of action.
"So, what now? Just wait here for her to wake up?"
Logan had used the time his teammates were talking to adjust his grip on the beautiful woman in his arms, sliding one arm underneath her knees and the other under her shoulders. With her securely held against his chest, he stood up, at once thinking that she was far too light for a healthy 26 year old. He smirked slightly when he thought about all the dinner dates he could take her out to, to change that.
First things first though.
He turned to the others. "I can smell her strongly in that direction," he jerked his head to a path behind him. "so that's probably where she stays and keeps whatever stuff she has."
Then, without another word, he turned in that direction and began walking.
The others, already used to Logan's way of saying "How about I lead the way?" just followed their friend, using the walk to catch Scott up on what had happened while he was gone.
Meanwhile Logan could once again only concentrate on her scent.
Even though he held the source of the heavenly smell right there in his arms, it was surprisingly easy to sniff out the route to her 'home'. And every time he looked down into the pretty face, that little voice in the back of his mind became just a little louder.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Thank you everyone who reads, reviews or tracks this story. It's a great feeling knowing that so many of you like this fanfic.
As always, my appreciation and gratitude goes to my wonderful Beta, Becstasy. And in light of the latest great news she shared with me, I dedicate this chapter, as well as the next few, to her.
One more thing, before we continue with the story: Chapters will from now on be shorter.
I had originally planned to write chapters of at least 10 to 15 pages each, like with the first two chapters. But one reviewer took the time and courage to sent me a private message, explaining how much she enjoyed the story, but had difficulty following it, due to her slight form of dyslexia.
The fact that she still took the effort to read my fanfic and confide to me her problem, touched me.
So, from now on, chapters are going to be shorter than originally planned. I hope this will help this special reader enjoy the story.
Willows 'home' turned out to be a group of large and thick trees, that stood bark to bark in a circle. They had rounded it once, looking for some kind of entrance, but found themselves stopped before a wall of thick vines connecting two trees that stood farther apart from each other. It was very similar to the cocoon Willow had hid herself in before.
Scott ran his hands over the unique door.
"I could blast an opening for us through this, but that would probably make Willow trust us even less than she does now."
Jean and Ororo had told him everything they had discovered about Willow during the time he was trying to get rid of the frog. He could only shake his head in angry disappointment. There were so many kids at the institute whose parents just hadn't been able to deal with the fact that their child had a mutant ability. Yet, a case as severe as Willow’s had been unprecedented. At least the other bigoted parents had been decent enough to dump their kids in the safety of the school grounds and didn’t chase them away to live alone in a forest.
He just couldn't understand it. If he and Jean would ever be blessed with children, he would love them no matter what. There wasn't anything his mind could conjure that could possibly make him abandon his own flesh and blood. Wasn't that supposed to be how every parent felt? He was brought out of his thoughts by the voice of his fiancée.
"That aside, I wouldn't feel good about invading her home like this. Maybe we should wait until she comes to."
Logan had just about enough of all this waiting. He still held the petite redhead in his arms, bridal style. Scott had offered to take her from him about halfway through their little journey to her home, but Logan had only growled at the sunglasses wearing man and quickened his pace slightly. Yeah, like he was going to let another man touch her!
Her weight, what little of it there was, meant nothing to him and he wasn't about to give up this nice feeling that holding her created. But that didn't mean he wanted to stand around in a forest all day, even with her delectable body pressed against him. So he stepped towards the rows of vines denying them entrance, intent on just slashing them away with his claws, (as soon as he figured out how to do it without letting go of his Nymph), when suddenly they parted all on their own.
The others looked at him with surprise written all over their features, until Ororo broke the stunned silence.
"The plants must react to her presence. Like an automatic door with proximity sensors, just that in this case, only Willow can trigger it."
Logan raised an eyebrow. Well, if that wasn't convenient. Without any further holdup, he stepped through the opening with his precious cargo, the others only a half step behind him, before the vines could lock them out again.
What they found inside had them look around in open fascination.They stood in a place about 25 to 30 square meters, littered with numerous little knick knacks.
Ororo looked around wide eyed. In one corner of the 'room' laid a collection of stuffed animals, as well as some toys and other things she couldn't make out from the distance. When she got closer, the state of the various objects became blaringly clear.The stuffed animals were visibly old and weathered, many of them missing one or more parts, like an eye, nose, or even a whole tail in the case of a black dog on top of the pile. The toys were in a similar state. Most of them broken beyond use, which was probably why they had been thrown out. She wondered briefly if those had been Willow’s before her mutation manifested, or if she had gathered them from the trash of other villagers.
Next to the toys was an assortment of kitchen and bath utensils, like combs that were missing some teeth, or skillets long since rusted over. Some broken frames that held pictures of different people laid on the side as well as some tools that must have gotten replaced by newer and better models. With a heavy heart, Ororo came to the conclusion that all those things had been discarded by their previous owners, to land in the possession of a girl that had been discarded by her parents.
Jean came to a similar conclusion while browsing through the six high stacks of books she had found in another corner. Children’s books, schoolbooks, a tour guide of Germany, a book about old coins, the odd novel, what looked like a diary, an encyclopaedia about poisonous and healing plants, an English to German dictionary...
Willow had probably been grateful for any kind of entertainment she was able to get her hands on. Even - Jean shuddered as she read the title of the book in her hands - 'Advanced calculus'.
There were about fifty different books, encompassing a range of information from stories you would read to a four year old, to complexities that college professors could be found arguing about at length. Sure it seemed to be a tall order right now, but over the span of sixteen years? How many times had Willow read all those? Had she understood the more difficult ones? Had she been frustrated of not being able to read the next book in the crime series? Had she craved more information about the quantum physics discussed in one of the college class books? Had those tattered and used books been her only companions all those years?
Scott was currently looking through a huge heap of old clothes in various sizes and states of disrepair. Now he understood why the young woman was only wearing an oversized shirt. Amidst the sweatshirts, nightgowns, bathrobes, t-shirts and dresses, all of which looked to be either too small or far too big, there were only five pairs of pants. Two of those would require the aid of a belt to stay on Willows small hips, and he didn't see any belts between her clothes. Another one had so many holes in it that it probably exposed more than it covered up and the remaining two were missing their buttons and zippers.
He couldn't see any shoes, which probably explained her being barefoot and there were only about three socks. One white, one purple and one yellow. All of them a different size.
But he took even more notice of the things missing. There were no jackets, thick winter wear, or blankets in the pile. Which reminded him of Jean’s concerns after they had learned of the woman living in the forest. How had she survived the cold? Did her mutation help with the climatic changes, or had she been freezing year after year, bundled up in as many of the unfitting clothes as possible in the desperate attempt to beat off the cold? He shuddered involuntarily.
Logan meanwhile wasn’t quite sure what to do.
He knew he should lay Willow down in the comfortable looking space right before him, but he didn’t want to relinquish his hold on her. She felt good in his arms.
He didn’t need to be a psychiatrist though to know that she would more than likely freak out if she awoke to find herself being held by him. Her reaction to him and the others had been the reason why she passed out in the first place after all. So, after deeply inhaling her delicious scent once more, he gently lowered his precious cargo onto the soft ground.
Kneeling beside her, he carefully brushed a strand of red hair away from her pretty face. Her hair was long. No wonder, really, if she hadn't cut it in over 16 years. He had had to be careful while carrying her through the woods to not let it trail on the ground.
She looked young. So young. Had it not been for her telling them that she was 26 and his own enhanced senses confirming her adulthood, he would have guessed her to be about Marie’s age. Her porcelain skin was unblemished and soft, not full of scrapes and hardened form years of living in the wilderness, as one would expect it to be. Her paleness, in spite of being subjected to the sun’s rays 24/7, left him wondering as well.
If not for the glaring proof all around him, he would never believe that the beautiful redhead before him had spent even a week in the forest. Much less living there for most of her life.
As he continued his visual scan of her body, he stopped, surprised when he spotted what looked like a tattoo on her right arm. It was some kind of thin, green, ivy like plant that wrapped itself around her wrist and up her arm, until it ended at her shoulder, where it sprouted five small flowers. Those flowers were very close to the crook of her neck, which surprised him a little, as he had been very close to that delicate neck before and hadn't noticed them then. But then again, he had been otherwise occupied at the time. Sniffing her delicious scent ...
But back to the matter at hand, since it couldn't be an actual tattoo, Logan guessed the markings were caused by her mutation. That wasn't unusual. Many mutants carried traits of their powers on their skin. For some those traits even manifested to a nearly disfiguring degree. So the tattoo-like marking on her arm was not a big deal. It even suited her.
He stopped his pondering when he saw her shift slightly.
“Hey, I think she's coming to.”
The others quickly went to his side, Ororo taking Logan’s place in front of Willow as he stood up. He didn’t want to scare her with his close proximity.
A low moan escaped Willows lips as she slowly blinked her eyes open and close to try and get her sight focused again. She lifted her right hand to her head, shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight. What had happened?
“Willow, are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?”
The concerned, female voice made her turn her head sharply and stare at the four people standing and kneeling right beside her. Not even a second later her memory kicked in and filled her in on everything that happened prior to her losing consciousness. Her eyes widened in shock and with a gasp she scrambled backwards as fast as she could.
The four X-Men had seen the very moment that panic had entered the young woman’s eyes and had all spoken at the same time, trying to prevent her from fleeing.
Surprisingly it had worked, as Willow remained exactly where she was, frozen in place.
Knowing that the other redhead must be very afraid of them right now, Jean tried her best to make her voice sound as soothing and reassuring as possible.
“You are safe, Willow. No one is going to hurt you. You are in your home. It’s ok. You are safe.”
She felt she needed to repeat that last part once more for the slightly shaking woman before her.
Willow looked around herself uncertain, wanting to confirm what the woman, Jean, she remembered, had said. It was true, she was in her home, but she didn’t know if that should make her feel safer, or even more scared.
Her home was the only place she felt safe, tucked away from the outside world and it’s cruelty. And now people were inside. No, not people. Mutants. As that wasn’t a reassuring thought either, she tried for some conversation to hopefully distract herself.
“You are mutants.”, she stated.
Well, so much for distracting herself.
The white haired woman, Ororo or Storm, nodded, smiling.
She wanted to say more, but Jean silently signalled her not to, sensing that Willow wasn’t finished with her inquiry.
“But you aren’t evil.” Another statement that made her ponder why she hadn't voiced it as a question.
Scott, who was also Cyclops – and why did they all have so many names? - shook his head.
“No, we are not. “
Willow nodded, taking in the new information. She had to sort this out in her head. She felt the need to repeat herself.
“You are mutants, but you don’t want to hurt me. “
Logan knew it wasn’t her fault and that they needed to be patient with her, but her apparent incapability of not linking mutants with ‘dangerous’, made him want to march right back to Saint Sebastian and bash some heads in.
Fortunately Jean took the reins of the conversation.
“Tell me Willow, you are a mutant too, right? Do you think you are evil because of that?”
Said redhead looked lost for a second, before answering, very carefully.
“No… I don’t feel evil… but maybe I am and just don’t know it…”
Jean shook her head.
“I doubt it. Otherwise Toby wouldn’t have asked us to thank you in his place.”
Green eyes looked up to her questioningly.
Storm smiled, realizing where her friend was going with this.
“The little boy you helped find his way out of the forest some days ago.”
When Willow’s face showed recognition, Storm went on.
“We met him in the village. He told us all about you. How you found him and led him back to his house. He said you were very nice, not evil at all.”
Willow seemed to be pondering that thought and Jean and Ororo mentally high-fived each other. The seed of doubt had been planted, now for redirection.
"He also told us you did something to heal his scraped knee. Could you tell us a little more about that?"
It must have been a part of her mutation that Willow didn't hate, because her eyes lit up a little and she smiled.
"Oh, that! It's this really nifty trick I can do. You saw how I'm able to grow and use different plants, right? But I can also use them in another way, or more accurately, my body can. You see, plants have various qualities, from soothing a sore throat, to helping mend wounds and many more. If I know what I want it to do, I can produce a secretion with the concentrated agents for different uses. Kinda like a salve. Look."
Then Willow lifted her hand for the others to see and only moments later, a thickly green liquid coated her palm.
"Toby had this really nasty gash on his knee, so I concentrated on something that would sooth the pain,disinfect the wound and help with mending the flesh back together. I didn't exactly heal it on the spot, but the bleeding stopped and the injury should have healed much faster than normal."
Then Willow closed her eyes and the salve like liquid was absorbed back into her skin.
Jean was fascinated.
"So you can create any kind of medicine just by concentrating on it?"
Willow nodded happily. "Yeah, as long as I know what exactly is ailing the person and what kind of ingredients are needed, you know? Open wounds are easy. I can even create antidotes to poisons, if I know what poison was used. Not that I have ever needed to do that, but I could. That's pretty cool, right?"
Willow was positively beaming, proud of being able to help others. Then her expression suddenly got pensive.
"...I mean, even if it is a freak ability, it still has it's good sides, right?"
Those people had really done a number on her. Just seconds ago Willow had been smiling, happy of what she could accomplish and now she looked positively shameful because of the origins of her talents. Well, no more. Right then and there, each one of the four X-Men present swore to themselves that they would do everything in their power to show Willow the truth and make her realize that being a mutant wasn't bad.
And Ororo decided to start right now.
"I think what you can do is great. In fact, I think your power is rather unique. I know of no other mutant that can do something like this."
Her statement brought the desired reaction from Willow.
"Do you know many mutants?"
"Why don't we tell you a little bit about our home..."
And so Ororo and Jean, with a bit of input from Scott and Logan, told Willow about the safe haven for mutants that was the Xavier Institute, Professor Charles Xavier himself, the students that lived in the mansion, their contributions as teachers at the school and, of course, their work as X-Men, keeping people safe and fighting those that posed a threat to either humans or mutants.
Willows eyes had widened more and more during the tale. Everything these four had told her seemed so unreal.
"There really is a place like this?"
It was incomprehensible. But the women and men before her nodded.
She would probably need some more time to really take this in.
Jean decided it was time to get to the heart of the matter.
"Willow, we would like you to come back with us to the Institute."
Green eyes looked at her, surprised.
"You want me to visit you? Well, I guess I could do that, but it's pretty far-"
But Jean quickly interrupted her.
"No, no. I mean we want you to come back to live with us."
Whereas she had been surprised before, Willow now felt like the ground had opened up underneath her.
"You m-mean leave the forest?" Good god she hoped the others hadn't heard how squeaky her voice just sounded.
"P-p-per-permanently?" She really hadn't meant to stutter like that.
The more she thought about the possibility of leaving the only home she had had for the last 16 years, the faster she had to draw in breaths. Damn, when she had previously envisioned finally making friends, a panic attack definitely hadn't been part of the plan.
Jean and Ororo both recognized the early signs of hyperventilation and shot forwards. They sat down on both sides of the redhead, gently stroking her arms and back, falling into a monologue of soft and reassuring words, until Willow was able to calm down again.
Willow herself wasn't sure what had helped more, the calming words the two women had spoken, or the soft touches.
The human touch couldn't be quantified, couldn't be analyzed with statistics. It was the best, the most direct, the most lasting way of affirming another person's humanity. And until that very moment, Willow hadn't realized how much she had missed it. Even if it came from another mutant.
She caught herself before she could lean into the touches anymore and sat upright, a nervous smile on her lips.
"Thank you. I don't know what came over me."
Really, first she passed out, and then she nearly started hyperventilating. This so wasn't how she had pictured making friends.
Ororo and Jean just smiled at her and withdrew their hands, reasoning that someone who had spent most of her life in isolation probably wasn't all too comfortable with such gestures so soon.
"It's alright. It's perfectly understandable. This must have been quite a shock for you. Are you okay now?"
While Willow, a little sad about the sudden loss of physical contact and at the same time relieved that it was over, nodded to answer Ororo's question, Logan watched on in a bit of jealousy.
That could have been him calming his little Nymph down. And he had wanted to, but as a general rule, women were better with this stuff, especially those two. So, grudgingly, he had stood back and let the women do their thing. Considering that he would have likely taken advantage of her state and carried her to the jet before she could actually reject their offer, it may just have been for the best. He grimaced. Or maybe not, since now she could still decide to not go with them.
He could just throw her over his shoulder, but the other three members of his team might oppose this. He needed to think of something else to make her come with them.
While he was doing that, Jean tried her luck once more.
"Willow, I know leaving your home to live somewhere else with people you have never met before is a really scary thought, but it won't be so bad. You would have your own room, you could sit in with the other students during lessons. Everyone would help you. You wouldn't be alone anymore."
Willow was uneasily wringing her hands.
"It's not that I don't want to... it would be great to be away from all the pesky animals..."
Scott looked at her questioningly.
"Did the animals here attack you?"
He hadn't seen any bigger wildlife like bears or wolves so far, but that didn't mean there weren't any wild animals here that were more dangerous than squirrels. But Willow quickly shook her head.
"Oh no, no. They haven't attacked me, not the way you think at least."
That got the others curious as well.
"What way did they attack you then?"
"They are just too close, you know?"
Logan raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah. Everywhere I go, they are always there and then they are all over me. All that sniffing and licking and cuddling... it's too much. When I was still living in the village, the day before I became a mutant, a bunch of stray cats and some neighbour’s dogs jumped on me. There were so many of them I felt they would squash me and I would suffocate and... it wasn't good, you know? The animals here are just as bad. I had to grow poisonous ivy around the tree trunks and across the top so that they won't try to get into my home."
At that the other four adults looked around, and indeed, everywhere they looked, little strings of the poisonous herb were strung around and over the trees that made up the walls of Willow's home. How come they hadn't noticed that before?
Ororo turned back to Willow.
"So it's not just frogs you are afraid of?"
The redhead shuddered again at the mention of the little green amphibians.
"No. It’s really all animals, the creepy f-frogs are just the worst."
Jean nodded, sharing some of the younger woman’s revulsion for frogs, but still highly astonished by what they had just learned. Having a whole bunch of animals swarm you like you were an oasis in a desert could certainly leave a young child with a trauma like fear for years to come, but what could have caused such behaviour in the animals back then and now? She hadn't realized that she had asked that question out loud, until Logan answered her.
"It's her scent."
The others, including Willow, looked at the Canadian.
"What?" Scott asked.
Logan looked directly at Willow as he answered, his eyes dark and deep, boring into hers.
"Your scent is the most amazing thing I have ever come across. It's deep and light and full of other such contradictions. It's no 'one' thing. It's everything. I can't really describe it, but you smell like everything good in the world. A true part of nature. I bet that's why the animals are so drawn to you. They can't help themselves. " ~Like me~
While Scott, Jean and Ororo stared at Logan in open wonder, - it was very unusual for their friend to say something like this -, Willow looked decidedly uncomfortable. The intense stare that the highly intimidating man was still giving her sent cold shudders down her spine.
And what he had said about her smell didn't sit all that well with her either.
Just as his next sentence.
"That could also be the reason why Sabretooth was after you. He must have smelled you too."
As Willows face blanched even more at that thought, Logan had to put some effort into keeping his face blank of the elation he was feeling at that moment. Finally the rotten bastard Sabretooth was good for something. With the threat of him after Willow, his redheaded Nymph surely wouldn't protest the move into the Xavier mansion anymore.
Of course, that didn't mean that he wouldn't bash the asshole's head in for going after her the next time he saw Sabretooth.
Not knowing that she was actually helping Logan’s plan, Jean agreed with him.
"I believe he could be right Willow. Sabretooth's sense of smell is as sensitive as Logan's. But even if that should not be the case, Sabretooth is dangerous and he has clearly shown interest in you and that's bad news in any case."
Scott chimed in too.
"You will be safe at the institute."
Still, Willow looked torn. She definitely did 'not' want to face the manbeast again, but leaving her home was such an incredibly scary thought.
The four mutants before her seemed nice enough, but what would all the others at this institute be like? What if they didn't like her? She had lived the last several years of her life in a forest, what if she made a fool of herself?
What if... what if....
~"That could also be the reason why Sabretooth was after you. He must have smelled you too."~
What if he came back?
"Can I bring my things?"
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
It had been a little problematic to convince Willow to board the jet with them while most of her things stayed behind. She was more than reluctant to part with the only belongings she had, however damaged or unfitting they were. But there was simply not enough space in the X-jet to bring even half of it along. With the promise that they could return at a later date to collect the rest, Willow chose four of her favourite books, two stuffed animals - Logan was a little surprised that she liked the plushy things when she was so scared of the living ones - and some of the more fitting clothes.
Secretly Ororo hoped they wouldn't have to come back to get the rest of Willow's stuff. All the things the redhead had gathered over the years were old, used and often broken. They could only serve to remind the young woman of the loneliness she had to endure for far too long. The weather controlling mutant wanted this to be a new and better beginning for Willow. With clothes that hadn't been worn until they tore and actually fit the slender frame. With books that weren't missing any pages or covered in multiple stains. And an actual place to call home with people that understood her and accepted her the way she was. The white haired woman was determined to make sure this all came true for Willow.
The actual flight had been, simply put, amusing. Green eyes had been wide open during the whole time, shining with absolute wonder. It was particularly funny when Willow began to partially climb over Ororo and Logan, in turns, to catch a better glimpse out of the small windows at their sides. As soon as the first rush of excitement was gone though, she would realize the far too close position she had put herself and the other party in, then she would blush a deep red, stutter a very embarrassed apology and scramble back to her seat. Only to be caught in the exact same predicament not even ten minutes later.
While Ororo had offered to trade places with Willow, which the redhead had vehemently refused as then she would be "too close to the sky that is moving far too fast and that would make me super nervous", Logan enjoyed her bounds of curiosity immensely.
Having her petite form crawl all over him, steadying her delicate hands on his chest, pressing her porcelain face close to his to look out of the little window... If only the flight was longer. He did notice though that Willow hurried herself a lot more to get off him than she did with Ororo. She was in general very skittish around him. He sighed. It was probably because of his comment regarding her scent. He may not be as knowledgeable as Jean on the subject of psychology, but understanding Willow's current reaction wasn't really all that difficult.
He had told her that it was most likely her scent that attracted animals to her and that it was probably the reason why Sabertooth had been after her as well. And as he himself hadn't really held back in the way he described her scent, it was only logical for Willow to kind of group him in with Sabertooth and the animals. And although he didn't appreciate the comparison, he could admit, even if only to himself, that it wasn't so far off.
He was so very deeply attracted to her scent that he had already declared it as his property, before even knowing it came from Willow. This primal need to be as close to her scent as possible had grown in him from the very moment he detected it after stepping off of the jet. The fact that her delicious scent came in an equally delicious package was a happy, and more than welcome coincidence, but Logan knew that right now, that was all that was drawing him to Willow.
The Canadian was no stranger to physical attraction, of course. It had been part of the reason why he had flirted with Jean so much in the beginning. The other part had been because it had pissed her boy toy off so much and everyone knew how he delighted in doing that.
He had known from the start though, that physical attraction was all it was ever going to be with Jean. For one, she was far too in love with nancy boy to ever see another man like that. And for another, if he was being really honest with himself, - which was surprisingly easy at the moment - his attempts at pursuing her had been fuelled more by his ego than possible feelings for Jean.
She was an attractive woman, the very first in his line of sight after some time and right after he had woken up in the examination room at the mansion. It wasn't hard to fall in lust with her and seeing that she didn't share the wish to jump into bed with him, well... that had kind of hurt his pride.
It was petty and immature, but it had been the initial reason for him to continue flirting with the telepath, trying to entice her into giving in to carnal desires, and with that, acknowledging that he was "the better man."
Logan had to halt in his thoughts momentarily, when soft, nimble fingers once more [slayed splayed] over his chest and shining, light red hair came into his vision, as Willow curiously looked out of his window again. As subtly as he could, he deeply inhaled her scent once more. Of course, by now it permeated the whole interior of the jet, but it was still the best up close.
He thought about all the concessions he had just made to himself and wondered if his sudden ability to analyse his previous actions and thoughts so honestly had something to do with Willow's closeness.
He wasn't normally the soul searching type. He didn't question his motives or try to find a reason for his feelings and actions. Yet, it came so very naturally to him while in his Nymph's presence. It couldn't only be her scent that had awoken this introspective side in him. It was somehow... her. Her very essence. Her soul, if one wanted to believe in such.
Right now this was one more thing, just like his very recent behaviour and thoughts, that didn't make much sense. But he knew that, now that Willow was going to live with them, and if he made the effort to actually get to know her beyond her wonderful scent, in time, he would understand. He grinned at that thought.
~I'm looking forward to it.~
After landing in the underground hangar beneath the school, Willow's amazement hadn't ceased any while being led through the halls and corridors of the big mansion.
Jean and Ororo delighted in answering the inquisitive redhead’s many questions about what classes were taught here, how many rooms the mansion held, and was there a cafeteria and was it like the one in this book about a teenaged romance she had read? How many students were there and how old were they?
Laughing a little, Jean explained to their excited friend that she couldn't recall every students name and age on the spot, but that she shouldn't worry since she would get to meet them soon enough.
That made the little redhead very nervous again and she fiddled her thumbs for awhile, until a picture hanging on the wall caught her interest and she went back to asking questions again.
The other four though were very aware of Willow's continued fear of meeting the other students. It was a warm and sunny day today, after a long period of clouded skies and rain, which was why most of the mansions younger inhabitants were outside, soaking up the warm rays. Still, the occasional student would walk along the halls, either heading to their room or outside, and exchange greetings with Logan and the teaching staff. And every time that happened, Willow made herself as small as possible and slightly hid behind either of the other two women. She wasn't all that comfortable around the men, especially the one with the wicked looking claws.
Ororo worried a little over Willow's obvious skittishness at first, but then shook her head, told herself that it wasn't much of a surprise considering the young woman’s past, and that it would most probably get better after a little while.
It didn't take them long to reach the professors office and Willow began to nervously wring her hands when Jean knocked on the door and Professor Xavier’s voice granted them entrance. Jean had used her mental link with her mentor to inform him about the situation with Willow and she was sure that the gentle, old man would find the right words to make the younger redhead feel welcomed and hopefully, more at ease.
The group stepped inside the bright and nicely decorated room, the professor smiling at each of them in welcome, until his eyes settled on the very nervous and scared looking woman standing in between Jean and Ororo. Warmth entered his eyes as he addressed her.
"Hello Willow. My name is Charles Xavier. Welcome to our school."
Magneto paced furiously about the dark room that had served as his office for the last few weeks. Mystique and Toad, who was once again picking the skin from his appendages, stood to one side of the room, waiting for their leader to say something after the news they had brought him.
Across from them was Sabretooth, who seemed to be in a very unusual mood ever since he had gotten back. The volatile mutant had simply delivered his report on the search, no swearing, no stories about the chaos and mayham he had caused while away, no violent threats demanding some time for him to go out and 'play' with 'little Wolverine'.
Instead Sabretooth had chosen a spot in a corner of the room, quietly simmering and contemplating things that probably not even Mystique wanted to think about, and waited patiently for Magneto to come to some kind of a decision.
Said Mutant stopped in his pacing and once again levelled an angry stare at his companions.
They just shook their heads, with the exception of Sabretooth, who simply did nothing. Magneto frowned in disgust of the current situation.
How could the journal not have been in any of those places? Had he missed something?
Was there a fourth option?
It couldn't be!
Had Ivan left his belongings, including his precious notebook, with a family member? A close friend perhaps?
No, that couldn't be. The man's parents had already been deceased when he first made Ivan's acquaintance and his only remaining blood relative, a little sister, had succumbed to some kind of heart disease only some years ago.
Ivan had never married, too much in love with his research to spent enough time away from his desk for socializing. No affairs, no close friends, no living relatives... in short, no one the bright man would have entrusted with the safekeeping of his most treasured work.
Magneto's pace increased furiously. He needed this book! All his plans, the future of all mutants, relied on this one piece of knowledge!
Just where could it be?
With a heavy sigh, Professor Xavier looked at Scott, Ororo and Logan. The three had remained in his office to give him a more detailed report on their mission and encounter with Willow, after Jean had convinced the other redhead to let her give her a small medical examination, just to make sure everything was alright, and maybe run some tests.
Jean was very excited about Willow's healing ability and wanted to know more about it.
With the right words and gentle tone of voice, the professor had managed to gradually make the young woman more relaxed in his presence, but he could easily see the damage that hatred, abandonment and years of isolation had done to the plant controlling mutant.
He was in fact a little surprised that Willow's fear and nervousness wasn't more severe. He suspected that the young redhead had held on fiercely to her memories of the 10 years she had lived in the village, and the various reading materials Willow had gone through for all those years, most probably had something to do with her better than suspected social behaviour.
“I was really hoping I was just being overly cautious in telling you to not arouse any suspicion about your mutant abilities, but I fear we are still too far away from the acceptance I have been wishing for, for years.”
Scott crossed his arms over his chest.
“You should have heard what that little boy told us about the things parents there teach their children. Like we were creatures out of some kind of Horror story. Monsters that eat little kids.”
The tall leader of the X-Men was still disgusted with that kind of mindframe.
Ororo bside him nodded sadly.
“Willow believed as much herself to be a monster. She had trouble with the idea that having mutant abilities doesn’t automatically make her evil. As well as the fact that we weren’t out to hurt her.”
The professor looked gravely down at his desk. He had gathered much about the plant weilding mutant in his short conversation with her. Her deep rooted fear of being the monster the people in her past had made her out to be only one of them.
He hoped that her time here would help Willow to find her real self, instead of what other’s fear and ignorance had made her believe she was.
Logan’s next words brought them out of their sombre mood.
“What about Sabretooth? Do you think he was there for Willow? That Magneto wants something from her?”
The professor thought it over, then slowly shook his head.
“I can’t think of any reason why Magneto would be interested in Willow, especially as there is close to no chance for him to even have known of her existence.
The inhabitants of Saint Sebastian probably tried to keep the mutant living in their forest as much a secret as possible.
No, Sabretooth must have stumbled upon her while on his assignment from Magneto. I really don’t think Eric has any plans involving Willow, but just in case, it would be wise to keep an eye on her.” He turned to Logan “And if what you said about her scent is true, then we will also need to be wary of Sabretooth coming after her again.”
This comment didn’t do anything to brighten the Canadian’s mood.
He gritted his teeth, nearly growling in irritation. He would ‘not’ let that fucking son of a bitch get anywhere near his Nymph!
The professor was about to get their discussion back to the unresolved matter of Magneto’s newest scheme, when suddenly his eyes opened wide, an expression taking over his face that the three others had seen often enough in the past. He was telepathically connecting with Jean. And something was wrong.
“We need to get to the infirmary immediately. It’s Willow.”
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Welcome back everyone. Though it is slightly belated, I hope you all had a very nice Christmas and a great new year.
One of the reasons why this update took me so long is that my beloved Beta-reader is really busy right now and couldn’t help me with this chapter. And probably won’t be able to help me with future chapters. Which is why I’m in desperate need for a new Beta.
As previously stated I’m from Germany and find myself from time to time having a little difficulty with English. I have as well never been strong in matters of punctuation.
So if anyone is interested and willing to help me with my fanfic, please contact me through a review or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As you may already guess, this chapter might have some mistakes due to not being beta’ed. Please don’t mind those too much.
Now have fun reading.
Logan burst through the doors of the medical room, having outrun the others in his mad dash, to find Willow laying on one of the cots in the middle of the room. Her eyes were closed, her breathing erratic, sweat was building on her pale face, the machines around her beeping loudly, indicating her deteriorating vitals, while Jean was frantically trying to help her.
He approached the cot, his voice not disguising his worry in the slightest.
"Whats going on?"
Just as Jean answered him, Scott, Ororo and the Professor arrived in the room also.
"I don't know! I had just taken a blood sample from her when she started to feel a little dizzy. I made her lie down and to be save hooked her up on the vital scanner. That was roughly 15 minutes ago and her whole organism has been deteriorating since then. Fast."
Ororo quickly took her place on the other side from Jean, studying the latest display about Willow's condition.
"Her pulse is dangerously low, but her breathing is too hectic to put on the right medication, her heart could stop."
Scott looked at his fiance.
"Do you have any idea what could have caused this?"
The redhead shook her head, frustrated.
"No. It could be the fact that she has been living alone in a forest for most of her life and the change in location threw off her system. It could as well have something to do with her mutation or an allergy that is acting up. It could be hundreds of reasons, but we don't have time to try and find out what it is, because if we don't find a way to help her soon, she could die."
Logan did not like the sound of that.
"Well then do something!"
Jean looked over to him, her expression torn between frustration and desperation.
"I can't! As long as I don't know what caused her to shut down like that, anything I do could actually worsen her state! I tried connecting with her mind to see if I could find an answer to this, but her deteriorating condition makes it impossible to grasp a clear thought."
The professor quickly moved his chair forward right next to Willows head on the cot.
"Let me try."
He placed his hands on both sides of Willows forehead and closed his eyes. Tuning out the sounds of the machines all around him and the anxious and scared thoughts of the others in the room, he delved into the young redheads mind.
It didn't take long for him to open his eyes again, the look on his face sinking Jean's hopes.
"There is no explanation for this in her mind. This has never happened to her before. She has never been sick, even when she was still a human."
One of the machine's Willow was hooked up to chose that moment to let out a very disturbing sound. Ororo, who stood next to it, quickly checked the reading and drew in a shocked gasp.
"Her pulse is too low, her organs will start failing soon. If her lungs collapse now-" Her panicked summary was suddenly interrupted by Logan's exclamation.
"Whats wrong with her tattoo?"
He didn't even know why he brought it up. It seemed so insignificant right now. He had been staring at her deathly pale face, worried of what would happen if they didn't find a way to help her in the next few moments, when his eyes had somehow wandered down to her shoulder and saw the mutational marking he had first noticed in her home.
Only, it had changed. The others followed his gaze and looked on with shocked, wide opened eyes, as the five little flowers that had been there before wilted away rapidly and the ivy like vines 'retreated' slowly down their path on her arm.
Seeing the mutant trait vanish bit by bit, the puzzle pieces quickly came together in the professors mind.
"Jean, Ororo, unhook her from the machines." The two shot their mentor an uncertain look.
"Quick, we don't have time."
As they rushed to do as they were told, the professor turned to Logan.
"You need to bring her outside, as fast and close to the nearby forest as you can. Lay her in the grass, or against a tree. She needs to be in contact with nature."
Logan wasn't sure he understood the old man's reasons, but he wasn't about to waste precious time when his Nymph's life was at stake. As soon as the last needle had exited Willows skin, he scooped her up in his arms and ran out of the room, the others close behind him.
Taking the stairs three steps at a time and sprinting down two hallways that made it look like the hounds of hell were after him, it took him less than 30 seconds to reach the outside and find a place not ten feet away from the first line of trees that made up the surrounding forest.
He knew he had been as fast as he possibly could, but having to strain his senses just to hear her heartbeat, feel her pulse and smell her scent that had so enticed him, made it seem like the longest journey of his life.
As he swiftly, but carefully, laid Willow down in the middle of two rather large bushes, he spared a quick thought to the fact that she hadn't yet changed out of the long shirt she had been wearing when they met. Which was very fortunate as he recalled the professors words: 'She needs to be in contact with nature.'
With the grass directly touching her bare legs and her left arm right against the stem of one of the bushes, he hoped it would be enough.
He didn't look up as Scott, Ororo and Jean came to a breathless halt beside him. Instead he focused all his senses on detecting even the slightest improvement on Willow.
The change was so soon that it threw him off slightly. Her heartbeat and pulse strengthened almost immediately, the sickly pallor left her porcelain skin in seconds and her scent came back full force.
He shot a quick look to her right arm and watched as the ivy ranks, that had looked a decaying green and retreated to right under her elbow, got back their vibrant colour and grew back up around her arm to sprout the same little flowers he had seen on her neck before.
And just as the last of those flowers fully came back to life, Willows eyes fluttered open.
She looked owlishly at the people gathered around her.
Jean quickly knelt down beside her, taking the younger woman's wrist in her hand to check her pulse.
"Are you okay Willow? Do you feel sick at all? Dizzy? Is it hard to breathe? Do you remember what happened in the medical room?"
Willow nodded slowly, while Jean continued with her examination, testing her pupils responses to movement with her finger.
"I was sick... I think. Which is very weird because I have never been sick before, even when there was this flu epidemic at home when I was 5 and nearly everyone had it, especially the kids, but I never got infected. But I always thought being sick lasted longer, so maybe I wasn't sick after all, just ... something. But then again I don't really know anything about being sick, because as I said, no first hand experience so far and... what happened?"
At the end of her mini babble, Willow looked up to the others, a little embarrassed. Logan couldn't help the small smile that escaped his lips. She was really cute like this.
Jean was about to answer Willow, when the professor’s voice made everyone look back at him.
"I believe I can answer that."
Willow sat up after Jean had nodded, relieved to herself that everything was as it should be health wise.
She looked questioningly at the professor.
"It seems that the nature of your mutation has grown dependent on the surroundings you have lived in most of your life. You have spent the last 16 years, beginning from the first day your mutation came out, in the forest. There you were surrounded by nature the entire time. Something that your powers connect with greatly. Considering that connection it is only natural that the constant presence of your 'power source' - if we want to call it that - has also affected your body as a whole. When you came here you had been in an airplane for about 30 minutes, that landed in an underground hangar. Then you were in the school building for about an hour until Jean took you the the medical room. This sudden and complete cut off from everything your body has gotten used to over the years finally took a toll on your system and caused it to shut down like this."
Willow looked at him, slightly confused.
"I'm not sure I understand. I was fine during the flight and while talking to you earlier. And then everything just happened so fast."
The professor nodded understandingly, knowing that this wasn't a concept so easy to grasp.
"Imagine it like this. The human body needs oxygen to survive, but depending on the individual, that same oxygen can be cut off for a certain amount of time, without harming the person or compromising their health. When that time is exceeded, however, the body will start to react. This is what happened here. Something essential to your well being was suddenly cut off and when your body couldn't cope with its loss any longer, it reacted."
The professor watched as understanding replaced the previous looks of fear and anxiety in the faces of the people around him. Willow though began wringing her hands nervously again, before she spoke in a very quiet voice.
"Does that mean I have to go back to the forest again?"
The wheelchair bound man understood her concern and quickly smiled in reassurance.
"No, I don't think that's necessary. As I said, the shock your body went through was mostly due to the suddenness of the change of environment. Though you will probably always need a certain exposure to nature, I believe we can slowly ease you back into civilization without any withdrawal side effects. For example by starting to replace all the artificial plants in the building with real ones."
Jean caught on to the idea quickly and chimed in.
"That's right. When Beast moved out of the mansion we weren't able to uphold his care of the various potted plants and just switched to fake ones. But with Willow around the chances of everything rotting away should be close to non existent."
Scott nodded his head. "We hired a gardener for the work around the house, but since non of us could claim to have a hand with flowers, the artificial ones were just easier."
Ororo also smiled, encouragingly rubbing Willows shoulder.
"We will outfit your room with as much greenery as we can get our hands on. If we start now, we should be finished in a few hours and well before evening."
The professor moved his chair back a bit as Ororo and Logan helped Willow stand.
"Quite right. Scott and Jean can make a short trip into the city and get enough for your room from the local florist. I'll call our gardener and order some bigger plants for our hallways and the classrooms. Logan and Ororo meanwhile can show you around. Just make sure not to stay inside too long before the new plants arrive."
Willow was about to protest, this was far too much. She couldn't make these people go through so much trouble for her. But then a new voice cut through their conversation.
"Hey, everything okay?"
The group turned around slightly to see Marie, Bobby and Kitty standing there with questioning looks on their faces. Marie quickly went on.
"We were over by the fountain when Bobby saw Logan running out of the house, carrying someone. Is anyone hurt?"
The professor smiled. Perfect timing.
“Not to worry children, everything is fine. But seeing as you are here now, I would like to introduce someone to you.”
It was then that the three teenagers first spotted the unfamiliar young woman standing between Storm and Wolverine.
“This is Willow. She will be living with us form now on. Willow, these are three of our students. The one on the right is Marie, the young man’s name is Bobby and the other girl is Kitty.”
As they were being introduced to one another, Willow suddenly remembered a piece of social etiquette she had read about in many books and last seen all those many years ago when she was still a child.
When meeting someone new, you were supposed to shake their hands. And since Willow wanted to make as good a first impression as possible, she hurried over to the three teens and awkwardly stretched out her hand to the closest girl. Which happened to be Marie.
“H-hello. I’m Willow. Ehm… Pleased to make your acquaintance!”
Though a little surprised at the redheads abruptness, Marie was about to return the greeting, until she caught sight of the bare skin of her hand and quickly retracted her arm before she made contact.
Willow, of course, misunderstood the reason behind the young girls action, and looked down crestfallen, starting to wring her hands again.
//Oh no, I did it wrong! I must have been too forward. Maybe people don’t shake hands anymore! I knew it, I’m such a freak! They will never like me now! Oh god, what do I do?//
Thankfully the professor knew exactly what was going on.
“It’s not your fault Willow. Marie’s mutation allows her to absorb the energy, or power, of others when her skin makes contact with theirs. She didn’t want to accidentally hurt you.”
After a quick look to the extremely uncertain Willow, Marie caught on to the professors intent and quickly nodded her head.
“That’s right! I usually wear long gloves, but they got wet when we were goofing off by the fountain and I laid them out to dry in the sun. I must have forgotten them when we saw Logan running here. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
Willow perked up immediately.
“Oh, no, that’s ok! You don’t need to apologize for trying not to hurt me. That’s a good thing! The ‘trying not to hurt me’ thing, I mean. So, thank you! Ehm… we can just, you know, do it without shaking hands? The introducing part, I mean…”
Willow cursed herself mentally. She was so botching this all up! Why couldn’t she just stop talking before everyone noticed what a complete loser she was?
Apparently the people around her didn’t think the same way, however, as they smiled and some laughed softly at the cute little babble and Marie stepped forward a little.
“Sure. So, as professor Xavier said, my name is Marie, but you can also call me Rogue if you want to. Welcome to the school. I hope we can be friends!”
Hearing the sincerity in the girls voice, Willow felt a comfortable, warm feeling spread through her. She smiled.
“I hope so, too.”
She still didn’t understand why everyone had so many names though.