His dreams still speak to the pain, the terror, the anguish. The flash of red, the tearing apart of atoms and neutrons, the rebuilding of quarks and quirks, cell by cell by cell. Three seconds, he'd heard on the news some time later. But for him, it felt like years. Centuries wading inside the red agony of the wave, listening to the desperate cries for mercy and forgiveness, for an end to the punishment, for an end to self. In his head, the cries he heard were part of the mist, but in his heart, he knew that voice like the back of his hand.
Logan tugs on the bottle of cheap whiskey and lights a cigar, pulls himself out of foot-fall snow and stares at the forest around him. The Himalayas. Some miles outside Kangding. He's been here before, on some mission to save some mutant child that he can no longer remember the name or face of. How many had there been in his time with the X-men? A hundred? A thousand? Probably. Probably more. He rarely cared. Rarely had a reason to care.
There are of course those that stood out. Kitty, Jubilee, Idie, Quire. These kids. They sparked something inside of him. Fierce and protective. Instinctive, the runts of the litter, thrown out by society and left to fend for themselves. He chose to fend for them himself, to show them how to snarl, how to bite, how to protect themselves, how to grow and be right human beings. They looked to him as a father figure, a mentor, a guardian, respected and loved. They'd cried when he died, left flowers at his grave, and welcomed him back with open arms when he eventually got better.
Logan doesn't remember being dead. Doesn't remember heaven or hell, though he's pretty sure he was burning eternally for all of the crimes he'd committed through his life. Idie thought that this was his second chance to live life properly for a change, to wipe the blood from his claws and to finally become the person that he was always meant to be. Quire thought it was ridiculous. “If it had been Summers brought back, I'd have been waiting with held breath. At least he was interesting.”
Another swallow of fermented rye, and he massages blood back into his blued bare feet. His healing factor's been on overdrive for months now. He misses the momentary buzz that he could get when he drank too fast and too much all at once. Bobby had called him a liver killer on more than one occasion, and Proudstar had commented more than once that he doubted Logan was dead to begin with. “Maybe you were just finally too drunk to move,” he said one morning over coffee. “And your death was really just a hangover.”
He blames the Avengers for making a mess of things. Tony Stark for building his own damn mutant hunting machine he called Cerberus, Steve Rogers for cowtowing to the powers that be and gathering up mutants by the dozen and putting them in the Undertow. Had they just relaxed, worked with Storm and Kitty, let them help or hinder as they would, the whole damn Red Hunt could have been avoided. But, no, not a week after Sao Paulo, Tony comes out with his Cerberus technology and insists that he will hunt the responsible mutant down, and the whole world bows to his presence.
Storm was against his leaving. Kitty didn't even bother to argue. She knew better. But, Storm, she was sad. With tears in her eyes, she said goodbye to her old friend and sometimes lover, held his hand and told him that she wished he would stay, but Logan had other plans. Plans she wouldn't abide by, and he knew she wouldn't, so he didn't even bother to explain them. There were enough of them – Ororo, Kitty, Sam, Piotr, Kurt, Jean, Ali, Hank, Forge, Rogue – that they could protect the kids from Stark's Red Hunt and be okay. They didn't need him. At least that's what he tells himself as he takes a final draw from his cigar and looks up into the sky.
He prays now. Or meditates. Or wishes. Kurt would tell him that the only true prayer is that spoken to the only True God, words of graciousness and thankfulness, of need for forgiveness for transgressions and evils that constantly plague the human soul. But, Jean would tell him differently, that a prayer is simply a desire, a force of will sent out into the cosmos with hopes that that universe will react. And, that's what he's doing, hoping the universe reacts.
Hands folded, bent at the knees, he closes his eyes and prays for the Red Wave to strike him once again, calls out for the ruby red light to peel down upon this barren landscape, to seer across him with pain and portent, to cry and wail and beg for mercy upon mercy. He has a message to deliver, one that he thinks will be of some import.
He prays until his feet are iced and black with frostbite, until knees shake with spikes of bloodlessness. He prays until his mind wanders off into the depths of the world, surmising the movements of the Red Hunt, of the mutants, of the stakes in this game that he's chosen to play. He prays until he's done, until he realizes that the Red Wave cannot hear him from here, that he's nowhere near loud enough, and for that, tears begin to fall. “Please,” he begs into the stillness of air. “Please, talk to me.”
But, nothing comes. No red. No light. No rush of pain or anguish or need. Just a push of winter wind high upon the Himalayas, some miles from Kangding. Logan pulls himself together reluctantly. He's here for a reason. A good reason. Even if the Red Wave won't speak to him directly, it's spoken here before.
SHIELD and Stark abandoned this site over a month ago, citing operational difficulties to keep it up and running. In other words, they were just afraid of the cold and the snow and the ice and the height. But Logan, such things don't bother him, so long as he can look at it. Unlike other sites – Sao Paulo, Brussels, San Francisco, Lima, Santiago, Victoria, Sheffield, and the others – there was no second flash of red, no restoration. According to rumor, it remained as it was when the Red Wave struck down – a two mile chunk of missing mountain devoid of snow, of cold, of anything that could make it distinctly Himalayan.
Though Stark had proved his nemesis, he was most disappointed in Captain America, the shining symbol of democracy and freedom. The liberty bell. The Constitution. Cap had hopped on board with the whole Red Hunt as soon as Stark cried mutant, cited all the dangerous mutants he could think of: Magneto, Emma Frost, the Summers brothers, Mystique, Quentin Quire. He swore to the public that the Avengers would put this mutant menace on ice no matter what, and within days had gotten their hands on Hope, Gambit, Bishop, Sunfire and his sister Sunpyre, Feverpitch, Avalanche, and any other energy wielding or powerful mutant that they could find.
The Undertow had been built specifically for Scott Summers – the one time mutant leader turned Phoenix host, turned terrorist upon his escape from a conventional private institution. Built in Atlantic waters, at the bottom of the ocean, it was top secret, top shelf tech provided by Stark himself, meant to house the most terrifying mutant of them all when they finally captured him again. Summers died before it's completion, but construction continued, and once Storm and Kitty figured out what they were up against, they took the mutants underground.
Hand over claw he forces his way up the mountain, ignoring the chill bite of his nose and fingers. He can deal with this, he'll heal from this, but he just needs to know, once and for all if he's right or not. Storm called him crazy, Kitty insane. Quire told him that he was old and deficient, Idie told him that he was just hopeful. Beast, though, he was oddly quiet. Suspiciously so.
In the back of his head, he'd always seen himself a martyr. The best there was at what he did, but also the one to make the tough calls, the tough decisions. The one to bring blood, and with that blood to end the ever escalating wars that tended to surround mutants on a daily basis. He figured since he was already damned, he might as well save a few by proxy, keep them from going down the rabbit hole of darkness that he'd gone down so many years ago. Keep their hands clean, their shoulders light. It was never about the pain. Good beer, he could take pain like no other, it was more about the soul. That they didn't lose it. That they didn't wander off the sacred path of Xavier and find themselves knee deep in a swamp of blood.
He'd lost only one during his tenure as reigning hair shirt midst the X-men. And that loss he regretted more than anything else in his entire life.
Claw over claw, he paws his way up the side of the mountain, wishing that his healing factor would allow for the spurned warmth of drink as he plunges himself further. He can feel the tears in his lung, the way they knit back together as he forces them to breathe the arctic air. His arms are tired, his legs restless, but he pushes forward, ready to see, ready hear whatever song has been left behind by the Red Wave.
In many ways he blames himself. That he'd left. Summers, had after all, offered elections, offered a democratic response to leadership that in any other circumstance would have seemed extraordinary. He was willing to chalk it up to mistakes, to forcefulness, to whatever else was needed in order to ensure the survival of the species. But, Logan. He just couldn't take it anymore. Couldn't take watching the man he'd follow into hell and back coast far too fast on his downward spiral that culminated in Phoenix possession, the death of Charles Xavier, prison break, and becoming a wanted terrorist. He respected Scott too much to watch, no matter if he agreed with the decisions or not.
It was Logan's job to take the heat, to take the blood, but there was Scott taking all of the weight, and not batting an eyelash at the burden of it. No complaints, just silent resolve and ever-moving forward in his quest to keep the mutants from going extinct. In the three years that he led the mutant race, Cyclops proved more the Atlas than Logan ever was, and it was with broken pride and protective instincts that he tore the man in two and abandoned him to the will of the world.
In the pit of his stomach, the bile rises, boils over with hatred and spite as he recalls how resolute the man was, then how defeated. How death had become an option for him, a wanted option, and how he wanted Wolverine to deliver the final blow. “You're the best there is at what you do, Logan,” he'd said from behind drastic red lenses and orange prison uniform. “At least you'll make it quick.”
Claws dug deep into the side of icy mountain, the hatred spews over, boiling up throat and tongue releasing itself into the air. For long minutes after, the dry heaves of guilt and anger come, until finally he refocuses his mind and begins the climb again.
The plateau of the mountain is unnatural, carved smooth rock instead of jagged with ice and age. The snow fall here is a light dust, blown off too easily by high-altitude winds, and the goats have taken this place as a refuge from their perilous trek to forage for food. In the months since the strike, small roots have taken hold. Tender shoots of green protected by the carved rock overhead, bloom where the top mountain meets the flat, a nice juicy treat for the animals that have ventured this far. In a few years, if the goats leave well enough alone, this three mile long expanse will be a garden of delight, a haven for seeds and sherpas, a respite for animals too tired from the cold. But, for now it is still too young for that, and the song of its maker still too loud midst the rocks.
He can smell it here, the natural scent of just beginning autumn when the sap starts to rise in the trees. The sweetness of it, the earth. The will of the world to sleep and be at peace. A strange scent for something so barren.
Whiskey in hand, he lights another cigar and looks to the sky once again. He can hear it here, the pain. He can still hear the words vibrating in the stone, that death would be welcomed. Logan pours a touch of brew out onto the stone, watches as it slushes across the light dusting of snow. “I'm coming,” he says quietly to the sky. “I promise. This time, I'm gonna save your ass.”