Chapter 1: Jack London Never Had it So Good
The stars were magnificent tonight. Max couldn’t remember the last time she’d looked up into a clearer sky.
The sounds of the evening echoed all around her, singing in her blood as she smiled up into the shining face of the full moon. It had been so long since she’d last broken away and let her nature take her where it so badly wanted to go, and years in the city had really done a number on her sense of smell. The exhaust, trash rotting in the street and urine from various vagrants too addled to care where they voided their bladders – it had all been so oppressive at first. After the first couple of months, the wretched odors eventually blended together. They had become like a low background hum that you eventually became used to.
Now, the richness of the earth combined with the exciting rural scents surrounding her, giving her an almost heady high.
“I can’t believe I waited this long to come back to you.” she murmured softly.
The moon was like a lover on nights like this. Tonight, she would run without restraint. She’d gone far enough into the wilderness to ensure that she wouldn’t run into any people after she turned, and she wanted her hunger to ride her; the way she remembered from the days of her youth.
When she was still Pack.
Max’s lips curled into a lazy smile as she stretched against the ground, bowing her back and letting her fingertips slide through cool grass. Summer was just ending and she was beginning to scent the first taste of fall on the night wind. So sweet. She stood in one fluid movement, the graceful curves of her naked body framed in soft, silver moonlight. As she let out a yawn, her body began reshaping itself, ripples juddering along her muscles as she crouched down on all fours. It hurt a little more than she remembered this time, but it was over quickly enough.
In her place stood an enormous, dark honey colored wolf with sharp orange eyes.
Her senses were suddenly overwhelmed and she let out a little whine, shaking her head briefly as she gave herself time to adjust to them. The wolf’s nose was considerably sharper that that of her two legger form. There were so many things to focus on and she didn’t know quite what to go after first. A field mouse slowly picking his way through the tall grass at the edge of the treeline seemed as if it would be entertaining, but it would hardly make a meal – or be worth the effort. As she settled back on her haunches, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
Bigger game was to be had out there and if she wasn’t up to finding it, she wasn’t half the wolf she thought she was.
A pair of hinds were out and about, keeping each other company as they foraged for food.
Max slowly began stalking toward them, making sure to stay downwind so they wouldn’t catch her scent and run.
Creeping through the brush, careful to keep from making too much noise, she smiled quietly to herself. Should she spook them and chase them, or simply down one of them? The last meal she’d eaten had been fast food – just to keep her stomach from growling on the drive up. Her hunger plucked at her now, wanting her to be quick about getting dinner.
Deciding that expediency would calm her nerves so that she could freely run after prey without worrying about the pit in her stomach, she moved closer. A loud cracking noise echoed out from somewhere behind the treeline, as if something large had stepped on a long dried out branch. It startled her prey and they immediately bolted, white tails flagging behind them in alarm.
She growled, cursing the noise that had startled them. She quickly spun in the direction of the noise and listened, ears swiveling forward. Perhaps this distraction would suffice for dinner instead, seeing as how it had so effectively chased hers off. There was another loud crack, then the sounds of something slowly moving away from her.
Oh no you don’t.
Max shot forward in a burst of speed, looking forward to the chase.
It took her a moment to realize that the night around her had gone almost entirely silent now. She started to think that fleeing wasn’t such a bad idea, and quietly started to back up.
Whatever it was, it was apparently scary enough to make the rest of nature fearful of it; always a bad thing in her mind. She took another step back and froze as she watched a figure at the edge of the tree line stumble out of the forest.
Whatever it was, it was limping.
She could probably take it. Her belly urged her forward, but she still took small, wary steps. The wolf was primal and didn’t fear much, but Max had been in her two-legger form for long enough that those bipedal fear responses had wormed their way into her psyche. The wolf wanted to dart forward, to tear the animal’s throat out and gorge itself. It took a great deal of willpower to keep from simply throwing herself on it and attacking it.
The figure stumbled, throwing a hand out to catch itself as it hit the ground.
Max gasped in surprise; it was Human! What the hell was a Pink doing out this far in the woods? Wounded, no less?
She continued to move forward slowly, her ears back as she heard it groan in pain. There was something very wrong with it. She could smell the sharp tang of a mix of both stale and fresh blood on the wind, and the wolf surged forward, almost taking her with it.
Then something else caught her attention. A sharp male scent.
The man grunted as he tried to get to his feet, then stumbled and landed on his side. He groaned again and she was now close enough to see him clearly.
He was literally covered in gore.
Not all of it was his, from the readings she was getting from his scent. He had the smell of many men on him and it confused her nose.
Were they here with him now, tracking him down? She let out a nervous whine as she padded over to him.
The man opened his eyes to look up at her, halfheartedly baring his teeth.
Max chuffed at him, a laugh. He could barely walk, much less kick her ass. Who was he kidding? She couldn’t see any obvious wounds on him, but all the blood had to have come from somewhere. She took a quick look around, sniffing and trotting around his body as she tried to see if there was anybody else coming through the woods after him.
Slowly, the sounds of the night started back up and she let out a breath of relief.
Max looked back at him to find him watching her intently. He frowned as she padded back over to him and she found herself wondering what he was thinking.
His voice came out in a croak that startled her. “What are you?”
He was staring at her, almost through her, and it was beginning to creep her out. He winced and clutched at his side, pulling something long and sharp out of his body. It had apparently been embedded between his ribs. He’s got to be in a substantial amount of pain, she thought to herself as she watched him toss it into the bushes. She sat on her haunches, quietly watching him from about ten feet away. He rolled over and started to push himself up, throwing up into the grass beneath him.
“Christ.” she heard him growl. “Fuckers really nailed me.”
He spat, slowly getting to his feet and she quickly stood, taking a few steps back as he looked over at her.
It seemed to annoy him and she cocked her head as he grumbled, “I ain’t gonna hurt ya, if that’s what yer thinkin’ – ‘long as you leave my ass alone, that is.”
He laughed to himself and began pulling the remnants of his t-shirt off, thick muscles cording beneath his skin as he moved. The man was built like a tank. He hissed and pulled a sharp, curved wedge of something out of his stomach, tossing it onto the ground at his feet. As she watched, the wound began closing up.
He heals like me, she thought as she ventured closer, taking in his scent. He smelled different somehow. She watched him tense slightly and backed off.
The man then cocked his head and asked, “Really – what are you? You don’t act like no wolf I’ve ever seen.”
She opened her mouth and chuffed again, laughing in the only way she could in this form.
He nodded his head and said, “Fair enough. You ain’t gotta tell me.”
He then ran a hand through his hair, pulling some of the dried blood and bone out of it and wiping it off on his pants. His clothes had long since crusted over. The smell was alternately delicious and appalling.
“I really gotta wash this crap off.” He turned to look back at her and asked, “You know where there’s a stream or river nearby?”
She cocked her head, still hungry, but intrigued by him. Her curiosity won out and she nodded, turning and walking away from him. She wasn’t entirely surprised when he began following behind her, but still found it somewhat weird. Who was he? Where had he come from? And why was he covered in the dried blood of god only knows what else? They walked in companionable silence until reaching a sizable river. She stopped at the edge of the riverbank but the man just continued walking on into the river until the water came up to his hips.
He let out a sound of utter contentment before dipping beneath the surface of the water, disappearing from sight for a few moments. His head popped out of the water and he began scrubbing himself clean. He seemed at home in the water and before long, he was padding back towards her; his jeans draped over one arm. As more of his body became visible above the waterline, she realized that he was entirely too well proportioned. She quickly looked away and heard the man chuckle as he walked up and tossed his pants over onto the grass to dry.
“You usually this shy?” he asked as he walked past her, and she turned to nip at his leg, just to teach him some manners.
The man laughed, easily avoiding her jaws as he began walking back the way they’d come.
Where did he think he was going?
He seemed completely at ease as he strode purposefully through the bushes. Still extremely curious, she followed him back to the patch of woods that he’d initially popped out of. After he’d gone about ten yards into the trees, he reached down to collect a backpack. He began rooting through it, pulling clean, dry clothes out of it and pulling them on. She sat back on her haunches, somewhat disappointed that he was covering up. He really did present a great view. As he pulled a clean, white tank top over his head, he looked back over at her.
“You hungry?” he asked, pulling out a packet of something that he then held out to her.
Max took a tentative step forward and he opened it, letting the aroma out so that she could savor it.
Beef jerky. But this smelled different. Stronger. Not store brand. Homemade?
The man crouched next to the backpack and pulled out a hunk, biting down on it and chewing before offering it to her. She eyed him and darted forward, snatching it from his hand and backing up before chewing it.
It didn’t taste the same in this form. The wolf didn’t want dead. She wanted alive. Still breathing, struggling – heart beating.
She swallowed it down and whined.
“Yeah, I know. It ain’t the same as fresh, but it’s all I got.” he took several more bites, then picked up the backpack.
Cleaned up, she had to admit that he didn’t look half bad. His raven black hair was somewhat unruly, but it made him look wild. Untamed.
She liked it.
She let out a quick chuff and then ran off in search of her own dinner.
The hart was delicious. It had gone down quickly and she’d easily avoided its hooves. The accomplishment made her beam with pride. Max was happy that she could still pull one of the bastards down after so long. It reassured her that she hadn’t gone entirely Pink – derogatory Pack slang for humans who weren’t furry on the inside. Once full, she realized that there was still a significant amount of meat left on the carcass. Never comfortable letting food go to waste, she licked her lips and darted back out into the night, in search of the strange man. Perhaps he’d want some of her meal. There was plenty left, and it would be a shame to leave the rest for just the buzzards and bugs.
Max tracked the man’s scent back to the riverbank, where he’d set up a small sleeping area. He was apparently bedding down for the night.
She chuffed and danced in front of him, hoping he’d get the idea. He looked over at her, frowning – then smiled. He then stood up, tying the sheath for a large knife around his waist and leg. He was certainly a good deal smarter than any other human she’d ever met. He caught on quicker than she thought he would.
The man followed her back to the carcass and made short work of the rest of it, removing several substantial hunks of meat, placing them into a canvas bag. He startled her by unceremoniously tearing into some of the meat, not bothering to cook it. He looked over at her as he chewed, almost as if waiting for a reaction. The two-legger in her found it odd that he’d do such a thing, but the wolf quietly praised him. He knew the value of meat and didn’t desecrate it by burning it in order to make it more palatable.
She chuffed again and he shrugged as he continued to consume the meat in large chunks.
By the time they arrived back at the campsite, he had worked his way down to the bone on one of the larger pieces. There was a meaty crack, and she looked over to find him sucking the marrow from the bone. He raised an eyebrow and she simply sat down, watching him – fascinated.
The man finished and tossed the bone into the river. He then began pulling the rest of the meat out and making quick work of it.
Good god, this man eats more than the wolf does!, she marveled when he finally finished his meal.
He washed his hands and mouth in a little of the river water he’d collected, then pulled a small towel out of his backpack; wiping his fingers clean before reclining on the sleeping bag he’d laid out on a small tarp.
She found herself wondering what he would do if it rained. Did he have a tent? If so, why wasn’t he sleeping in it?
“‘night pooch.” he murmured as he rolled over onto his side.
“Perhaps tomorrow you’ll trust me enough to tell me what ya are.”
She whined and lay flat on the ground, placing her head on her paws, still watching him. She was starting to feel protective of him and didn’t want to leave him alone, in case the men who hurt him came back. Besides, he smelled good. Reassuring. Familiar.
Eventually, she drifted off to sleep as well.
The sound of movement woke her, and Max watched as the man got to his feet, wandered over to the bushes and relieved himself.
The sound of an owl hooting caught his attention and as he zipped up his posture stiffened as he looked up into the trees in the direction of the sound. The man then turned back to his makeshift campsite, his lips quirking with the hint of a smile as he spotted her watching him. As he lay back down on the sleeping bag, he quietly held a hand out to her.
Not entirely sure why, she slowly got up and padded over to him, sniffing his fingers. He smelled strong, like good breeding stock. It was a tang that settled on the tip of her tongue in a way that made her stomach flutter. He watched her carefully as she reached out to touch her nose to his fingers, then flexed them gently.
Max froze for a moment, then when she’d assured herself that he wasn’t going to make any threatening movements she let her tongue dart out to taste him, startled at the zing she felt along her taste buds.
What the hell?
She whined and took a step back and the man frowned. He looked almost disappointed.
She let out a small, Oh, why not?, whuf sound and moved close enough for him to touch her. Something in his posture changed as he reached over and gently scritched the side of her head, around her ears. He smelled almost relieved that she’d accepted him.
Max moved to lie alongside him, enjoying the feel of his fingers moving through her fur. It had been awhile since anybody had properly petted her when she had her fur on. It reminded her of her mother, back when she was a pup. She would turn and jump into her mother’s lap, falling asleep to the almost sedative feel of her mother’s fingers in her fur. She smiled and placed her head on her paws again.
The man continued running his fingers through her fur until they both fell asleep.
Max woke with a start.
The man was having a nightmare. A doozy, from the sounds of it. His body was bowing up away from the ground, his hands clawing at his sides. Everything about him sang DANGER and she quickly skittered away, letting out a sharp, frightened yip.
She watched his face contort in pain and wondered what was going through his head. What would have to happen to a person to have them endure this kind of thing while they were asleep? He cried out and she jumped in surprise as something shot out of the tops of his knuckles with a strange metallic sound. He then sat straight up, growling.
Max whined and backed away as she realized that three individual metallic claws now extended about a foot out from his knuckles on each hand.
It took a minute or two for him to realize where he was – to recognize her. Once he did, the claws immediately retracted back into his knuckles.
She cocked her head to the side as she watched small dots of blood spatter the sleeping bag from where the claws had come out.
He seemed almost embarrassed as he looked over at her.
Max took a step towards him and he croaked, “Sorry ’bout that. My dreams ain’t too pleasant lately.”
The man coughed and she went to him, feeling a familiar need in him as she rubbed against his side, trying to reassure him.
He just needs to feel Pack. Then he’ll be ok, she thought to herself, wondering why it occurred to her to treat him so. The man let out a long sigh and she could tell that it was working. He was feeling better already.
“Thanks pup.” he murmured as he moved to lay back down, his hand still deep in the fur around her neck.
She pressed her back against his side, letting him feel the warm reassurance of her presence. It definitely seemed to be helping.
Sleep came quickly this time.
The sun was just beginning to warm her fur as she opened her eyes. The man’s arm was around her shoulder, his forehead gently resting against her neck. It seemed odd, but right, somehow. She had never slept next to a human in this form before and the feeling was a little disorienting. Max looked over at the river, finding a pair of deer grazing about twenty yards away. The sounds of the morning were music to her ears and she smiled. The last time she had taken a furry vacation, nothing this exciting had happened. She felt the man move to stretch beside her and she quickly got to her feet and stretched as well, shaking the sleep out of her muscles.
She turned to look at him and he grinned back at her.
“So. You gonna tell me now?” he asked as he began to sit up.
Max chuffed and darted over to his backpack, rooting around inside it and pulling a large gray t-shirt out with her teeth. He crooked an eyebrow up as she ran off into a patch of bushes. Why she wanted to share this with him, she couldn’t really say. Perhaps it was to show him that he wasn’t the only one with problems.
After the change was complete, she pulled the shirt over her head and stood up.
The man watched her head peek over the top of the bushes and blinked. Once.
He then said, “I’ll be damned.”
Max let out a bark of laughter, then quickly covered her mouth with her hand. She walked out from behind the bushes, thankful that the t-shirt was big enough to cover all the vital spots.
“You asked.” she retorted.
He blinked again, then laughed.
She took a tentative step forward, asking, “Why do you smell…familiar?”
He frowned, thinking about it for a moment before replying, “Damned if I know. I’ve never met you before. I’d know. I never forget a scent.”
“What are you doing out in the middle of nowhere?” Max asked, growing more curious by the minute.
The man stood up and grunted. “Got dumped here. Don’t know how long I’ve been here.”
She cocked her head and peered at him, her hazel eyes glittering. “They hurt you.”
The man let out a harsh laugh and moved to start rolling up his sleeping bag. “They tried.”
Max moved closer, wanting to touch this man who healed like her – who smelled like Pack, but not like Pack. He slowly turned to meet her gaze and stood still as she placed a hand on his arm. She touched him delicately at first, then started gripping his arm, feeling for the strange claws beneath his skin that had come out during the night.
He watched her with the same patient expression that one would show to a child.
“Do they hurt?” She peered up at him, wincing inwardly at the very idea.
“Not now, but when they come out – yeah. They hurt.” he explained quietly.
Max frowned and asked, “Do you have..fur on the inside like me?”
The man shook his head with a wry smile.
“I’m not like you. I’m somethin’ different altogether.”
She let her hand drop and leaned in to taste his scent.
“You smell very..” she wrinkled her nose, trying to think of the right word. “A part of you smells alien.”
An eyebrow crooked up in surprise as he looked back at her. “Alien?”
She felt a flush creep into her cheeks and immediately looked down and away from him, hoping she hadn’t offended him.
“You taste almost electric. Humans don’t taste like that.”
Her words trailed off and the man laughed softly.
“I’m a mutant. ‘could be why, but I’m not sure.”
She met his eyes and saw a kind of hesitation in them. She had heard the term before, but only on news programs where people were just starting to wonder if they were truly dangerous. It was a word that was just beginning to make people nervous. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t scared of her – or freaked out about what she was.
“I’m a Turnskin..” she explained, “Movies like to refer to us as werewolves, but I’ve never liked the word, myself.”
Max nervously brushed a wisp of hair the color of honey away from her face, tucking it behind her ear.
The man peered at her curiously for a moment and she felt as if he was quietly assessing her.
“You don’t get the chance to do this much, do you?” he asked, his tone soft.
She answered with a slow shake of her head. “It’s been about a six months now since I last let the wolf out.”
“Why so long?”
Why did he care? And why was she talking to him about this?
Because you saw a secret, vulnerable part of him last night, she told herself. It’s the least you can do. And besides, he looks like he could use a friend.
“There are things about it that aren’t so easy to control if I let the wolf out on a regular basis.”
He nodded, then moved to continue breaking camp – what there was of it.
“Been there. Ain’t pretty.”
He stopped and turned to look back at her. “But sometimes you need it. You keep shuttin’ her in, she’ll fight with you. Weakens you both after a time.”
She felt the wolf prowl inside her, agreeing with him.
“It’s in your nature, darlin’.” he continued. “And while you can’t fight with your nature, you can come to agreeable terms with it.”
Max liked the sound of his voice, the way he moved as if he didn’t fear anything. The way he seemed utterly at ease with himself and his place in the world.
Her fingers trailed along the edge of the stitching at the bottom of the borrowed t-shirt as she quietly murmured, “You sound like you speak from experience.”
He finished rolling up the sleeping bag and began forcing it into the backpack.
“I guess you could say that I have my own wolf, of a sort.”
Max smiled, then laughed.
“This is easily one of the stranger conversations I’ve had in the last five years.”
He laughed softly and asked, “Are there more of you around here?”
She shook her head and took a step back, “No. They’re all back..” she stopped herself. She was somewhat comfortable revealing things about herself to this total stranger, but it wasn’t fair to do the same with the Pack she’d left behind.
“I’m not from around here.”
He seemed to sense her discomfort and watched her take a step back as he stood up.
“It’s OK. Didn’t mean to seem nosy.”
“Are there more of you out there?” she asked, relaxing a little.
He laughed at that and replied, “Darlin’, there ain’t nothin’ else like me out there.”
She smiled and looked over at the river, watching a fish break the surface of the water.
“I’m Logan.” he offered as she turned back to grin at him.
“I’m Max. It’s short for Maxine. It’s nice to meet you Mr. Logan.” she extended a hand to him and he gave it a firm shake.
“Just Logan – I ain’t never been Mister anything.”
Max gently pulled her hand out of his.
She moved to help him with the tarp and he looked over at her and said, “You sure you don’t want some pants there, hoss?”
Max looked back to see that the shirt was now revealing quite a bit more of her than she was comfortable with. She quickly straightened up and winced as she pulled the shirt back down.
He laughed and dug around in his backpack, tossing a pair of black gym shorts to her.
“You can borrow those until we run across your clothes, wherever they are.”
Max quickly pulled them on as Logan turned away. She found the gesture very touching. It seemed almost out of place. Logan, while being fairly short, was very solid and thick. He looked like a guy that you really wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. “Thanks.” she replied, moving to help him with the rest of his gear.
“Where are we, anyway?”
Logan began forcing the rest of the tarp into a separate section of the backpack.
“West Virginia, just along the border to Maryland.”
Logan frowned, looking up at the sky as he hefted the pack onto his shoulders. Max wondered what he was thinking.
“Let’s go find yer clothes, Max.” He chuckled, starting to walk back towards the tree line.
She laughed and replied, “Why do I get the feeling that you’re a handful?”
“Darlin’, you have no idea.”
MARVEL owns the copyright on their own characters, but I’ve fussed with and taken liberties with canon, and Max is my own creation.
Chapter 2: Just how much of an adventure are you up for?
"The wolf likes you. She thinks you’d make good breeding stock. A good mate.”
Sex with a weapon? She didn't think she'd enjoy it this much.
Still, it keeps the nightmares at bay, for a time.
“Last thing I remember is bein’ ran through with a military grade pigsticker and tossed out a low flying plane.” Logan explained.
Max looked over at him, eyes wide.
“Whoa. How’d you get to be so resilient?” she asked, curling a stray lock of honey colored hair behind her ear.
“I can heal back from anything – so far.”
His eyes stayed straight ahead as he answered; his tone casual but his body language somewhat tense. It was as if he was searching for something.
“Who’d you piss off?”
Max kept pace with him, wondering what he kept scanning for. Did he think that the men who had left him for dead would come looking for him again?
Logan let out a harsh laugh.
“The list of people I ain’t pissed off is a hell of a lot shorter. Fuck if I know. I didn’t recognize any of ’em. Military meatheads with an axe to grind, maybe.”
“Do people usually try to kill you on a regular basis?”
“They all seem to wanna take a shot. Nobody actually succeeds.”
He looked over at her now with a wry smile, an eyebrow quirking up. “My turn?”
Max grinned and nodded. “Sure. Shoot.”
She was truly enjoying his company. It was easy talking to him – and the fact that he already knew about the wolf put her as much at ease as she’d ever felt around anybody outside the Pack. She hadn’t had somebody that she felt safe about sharing her secret with since leaving home. It was a surprising relief to have it out in the open with somebody. Finally.
“What made you stay last night? Why didn’t you just hightail it back home when you ran across me?” he asked, now back to keeping a roaming eye on their surroundings.
A blush crept into her cheeks as she answered, “You fascinated me. And you smelled really good, after you cleaned up. You presented me with something that I haven’t had in my life in many years. An adventure.”
Logan remained silent for a few beats, then Max added, “That and you looked like you could use a friend.”
The silence grew between them, and Max could sense a subtle change in his scent. Logan looked over at her, his tone soft as he replied, “Means a lot, pup. You stayin’. It helped.”
Max nodded and grinned. “I could tell. I’m glad I stayed too.”
Logan chuckled and hefted his pack higher on his shoulders as Max spotted her car.
“There it is!” she pointed off to the right, seeing a flash of metal glinting in the morning sunlight.
Max gave the vehicle a quick once-over to insure that nobody had messed with it during the night. When satisfied that everything looked alright, she opened the back door and collected a set of clothes from the back seat. She slid a brown tiered gypsy skirt over the black gym shorts he’d loaned her before pulling them off and handing them back to Logan, who had again turned to look at something else so that she could change.
Max thought it very gallant. If she didn’t know better, she would’ve pegged him for the openly leering type.
As she pulled an olive colored tanktop on, she said, “You can turn around now.”
Max handed the tshirt back to him with a smile.
“You need a ride somewhere?” she asked, hoping he did. She didn’t want to leave him here – and was somewhat surprised to find that she really wanted to spend more time with him. She hadn’t met somebody this engaging in years.
“You sure it wouldn’t be too much trouble?” he asked. He sounded almost hopeful.
Max grinned and said, “Get in. Just toss your pack in the back.”
Slipping behind the wheel, she started the car as Logan settled himself in the passenger seat.
“Anywhere specific you need to go?” she asked.
Logan turned to her, the ghost of a smile playing at the edge of his lips.
“Just how much of an adventure are you up for, Max?”
A little thrum of excitement raced through her at the thought of just dropping everything and going where fate happened to take her. She was currently between jobs and was living in a shitty little efficiency that she could barely afford the rent on now. Her car was already seven years old, but it got decent mileage. Life had become an all too human grind lately and it tasted like stale ashes in her mouth. Why the hell not?
“What did you have in mind?”
He presented her with a slow, lazy smile that made her heart leap in her chest.
Whenever she asked him where they were going, he’d simply smile and say, “North.”
They’d been on the road for hours now and she was enjoying the anticipation of their destination, as well as wondering what he’d planned for after their arrival.
At this point, she was just going with it. Granted, she would ask him a few questions here and there, but for the most part, the trip seemed almost suspenseful. Anything could happen. It wasn’t the same kind of high that she could have found in a particularly dangerous activity, but the subtlety of it went a surprisingly long way
They had long since pulled off the highway and were now rolling down a dusty mountain road; the tires kicking up clouds of dirt behind them.
The sun had dipped below the horizon and the stars were shimmering in the sky when Logan said, “Pull over. There.”
Max parked in a patch of dead grass off to the side of the road, then turned to face him.
His face looked strange illuminated by the dashboard lights and something in her stomach fluttered as he smiled.
“Now we get out.”
He opened the door and hopped out, collecting his pack from the back seat. Max turned the car off and stepped outside. The night wind had a mild chill to it as she closed the car door and watched him head off towards the trees at the edge of the road.
She grinned and followed him, excited at the prospect of another night of hunting and sleeping beneath the stars. She caught up with him, keeping step with him as they made their way through the surrounding forest.
“You ain’t scared of much, are ya?” Logan asked, looking over at her.
Max smiled and replied, “You’d be surprised.”
He stopped to stare at her, frowning.
“You’re heading into the woods, in the middle of nowhere, with a guy that you just met less than twenty four hours ago. Darlin’, I could be a serial killer. That don’t scare ya?”
Max laughed and trailed a thoughtful finger down one of his forearms.
“If you wanted to kill me, you would have already. Besides – you don’t smell like a serial killer.”
Logan laughed, a full throaty sound.
He forged ahead, and she moved to follow. After about ten minutes, they came to a sizable river with an open patch of ground. Just the right size for the tarp and sleeping bag. Max looked up at the sky, glad that there wasn’t a cloud in sight.
Logan dropped the backpack, then turned to face her. “Been awhile since you had a good hunt, eh?”
Max nodded, wondering what he was getting at.
“Tonight’s yer lucky night, darlin’. I’m feelin’ frisky. Bring it.”
He pulled her into a quick, rough kiss, then ran off – further into the woods.
Max boggled for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. Then, the wolf kicked in.
He’s getting away! she howled.
Max thought she could also hear the wolf’s chuffing laughter and approval as she quickly stripped and changed. The smells and sounds of the night weren’t as overwhelming this time. Logan’s scent cut through all others like a knife, and Max zeroed in on it, sprinting off to track him. The man’s very distinct scent zig-zagged all over the place as he kept doubling back, trying to confuse her. She caught up with him in short order and leapt at him, startled at how quick and agile he was. Logan had reflexes that made him look almost boneless.
Max tucked and rolled as she hit the ground where he had been standing a moment before. She heard low laughter behind her and quickly scrambled to her feet.
When she turned to look, he was gone again. Letting out a chuffing laugh, she again began tracking his scent, which now seemed to be changing. There was something considerably more musky, almost spicy about it now.
She quickly found him again, watching him smile out at her from the depths of a line of bushes as she crept closer. He feinted, and she moved to intercept, but he darted off in the other direction. She quickly corrected to intercept and tore off after him. Soon, she was almost at a full on run. Her blood sang joyously through her system and the wolf reveled in it. Just as Max was hitting her stride something knocked her over and she tumbled twice before righting herself. Logan was off to her left, crouching on all fours and grinning back at her. She let out an excited bark and made a little leap towards him.
He didn’t move, but his grin became wider.
His scent was sharper now and there was the unmistakable tang of something very familiar to it. She’d just left her teenage years behind her the last time she had experienced it.
Max saw him sink lower to the ground and she swore she could hear him growl as he leapt at her. She quickly dodged and turned to watch him roll to his feet.
The chase had officially turned.
Now she ran, laughing in her heart as he pursued her. This was easily the most fun she could remember having since she was a pup. She zigged to the right and he slammed into her, knocking the wind out of her. He rolled and came to his feet, then was immediately on her, pinning her down. Excitement rolled off him in a heady wave as his lips curled into a grin. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, which made her giddy. He growled once, and then disappeared again, back into the surrounding trees.
This went on for about twenty more minutes – tackle, sprint, tackle, growl, chase. He then shifted course in a jarring fashion.
When she realized that he was now leading her back to the river, she wondered if he planned to ambush her. She approached the stream cautiously as it came into view. Her ears perked up as she listened for the sounds of movement, of breathing. The night had gone eerily quiet again and she suppressed a shiver.
Max slowly made her way to the edge of the river and leapt almost a full foot in the air as Logan’s head popped out of the water.
She let out a little frightened yip, then quickly shifted into her two-legger form and yelled, “Bastard!”
Logan was laughing as he walked towards the shoreline, thoroughly pleased with himself.
“Never ‘scared anybody naked’ before.”
Max blushed and crouched down in an attempt to cover up as Logan stood on the riverbank, sopping wet. At some point, he’d stripped down again. Max spotted his dry clothes over by the backpack and she again averted her eyes.
“I ain’t gonna be offended if you look, darlin’,” he murmured as he took a step towards her.
“I figure with the eyeful I got, ‘least I owe you is a look.”
He chuckled and Max turned to look at him.
He really was magnificent. She cocked her head and let her eyes roam. He was remarkably hairy, but then she’d always liked furry men. They smelled different for some reason. Stronger. Tasting his scent on the wind again, she watched as his body quickly recovered from the chill of the river, catching up with the excitement coarsing through his bloodstream.
Oh yeah. Very well proportioned.
Max took a deep breath and stood up. She watched Logan’s body tense slightly and she smiled. At this point, she was as equally worked up as he appeared.
“Only a look?” she asked, feeling her face flush hotter as she took a step towards him. Her own boldness surprised her.
She never saw him move. He was suddenly there, hot and electric at the same time. He was rough and ragged; his mouth and hands, so strong as they clutched at her. She felt him shiver as she slid one hand down his back, another through his hair. Logan let out a ragged moan and picked her up, sliding into her with an almost painful thrust. It startled her for a moment, but she quickly recovered as he began a pace that quite took her breath away. Release came upon her like a freight train and she heard herself scream as they slammed over the edge together. Logan roared and shuddered against her, still holding her in his arms, her legs wrapped tightly around his hips.
It was the most frantic – the most powerful coupling she could ever remember having. It definitely blew any of the sex she’d had in the last ten years completely out of the water. Max collapsed in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder and smiling against his neck. Logan laughed, holding her tighter as he made his way back to the riverbank. He walked back in and dunked them both, and Max spluttered as he surfaced.
“Next time, warn me.” she said, eying him and coughing.
“About which part?” he asked.
She gave his shoulder a playful slap as he laughed again.
He then looked up at her with a solemn expression as he quietly said, “Thank you.”
Max’s heart did a slow roll as she met his eyes.
“You’re thanking me? For the best sex I can ever remember having?”
Logan brought a hand up to cup her face, his thumb gently sliding along her cheek. He then pulled her into a kiss. This time the frantic urge was entirely gone. He was a surprisingly good kisser. Not all bull and balls. Max smiled as the heat between them slowly started to rise again. She felt him recover while he was still inside her and smiled.
“Honey, I should really be thanking you.” she murmured, feeling his lips curl into a smile as he slid a hand under her ass.
The water made for an interesting medium for this particular activity and Max giggled as the pace began to pick up; the water around them churning with their rapid movements. This time it was just as intense, but in a different way. There was a more relaxed flavor to it.
After they recovered, Max started a splash fight that quickly evolved into an all out river skirmish. It was good to see her new companion laughing and enjoying himself. He looked as if he’d been needing to for some time now. She got the feeling that he didn’t really let himself go and have fun all that often.
Later, when she had her back pressed against him as they lay together on the sleeping bag, his arm around her waist, she quietly murmured, “I like your idea of adventure, Logan.”
Max smiled as he pulled her back against him, kissing her shoulder.
“Thought you might.”
He nuzzled her neck and she drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, when she rose, Max smiled at the feel of the man at her back. It had been a good, long time since she’d been with anybody. She had forgotten how good, how comforting it felt. Logan was large and strong enough to make her feel safe; like she didn’t have to be on guard all the time. Protected. She hoped that they could stay together a little while longer. She liked this feeling.
Max felt Logan shift against her and she shivered as she felt his lips brush against her skin. He turned her to face him and rumbled, “Mornin, darlin’. You sleep OK?”
Max nodded and asked, “You?”
Logan thought about it for a moment, then smiled.
“Actually, yeah. Been a while since I actually slept without the nightmares.”
Secretly pleased, Max reached out to trail her fingers through his chest hair.
She met his gaze and her heart thumped almost painfully in her chest. He had such beautiful, expressive eyes
“What’s the plan for today?” she asked, her blood rushing in her ears as she watched his lips move.
“More of the same.” he murmured, capturing her lips with his own. Max grinned as he kissed her, thinking herself very lucky indeed. Even if this didn’t last, to have it just once…
Logan pulled away and looked back at her, gently stroking her shoulder with his fingertips.
Max frowned slightly as she asked, “You don’t get a chance to do this often, do you?”
Logan shook his head, silent.
Max gently pushed him over onto his back and straddled him, her honeyed locks spilling over her shoulders and trailing down over her breasts.
“Then I’ll do my best to make it entirely worth it for you.”
His expression clouded over and he captured her wrists with his hands. He opened his mouth to speak but Max interrupted, explaining, “Logan – I like you. Trust me when I say I’m not doing this for entirely altruistic motives here, alright? I plan to get as well as I give.”
She felt him relax beneath her; the doubt that had crept into his eyes slipping away. Max smiled and shifted to rest her head on his shoulder.
“For now, I just need this,” she murmured, letting out a small happy sigh as she felt his arms encircle her.
Logan was surprised at how good it felt just to hold her. The wolf girl had been entertaining at first and she was definitely attractive, but there was something different about her, other than the obvious attraction between them. Had he ever been with somebody like this? A year had passed since he had liberated himself from the facility he’d found himself trapped in. He’d been wandering the wilderness since, keeping to himself and trying to find the man inside the monster they’d created in him. Many other men had come after him, but since they’d turned him into a damned human abattoir, they were quickly dealt with.
He’d damn near kill himself before they took him back to that fucking place again.
How the hell had he ended up in the US? The last couple of months were still a groggy blur in his thoughts. He was having a hard time piecing it all together, but then he was getting used to that. Memory timeslip here – timeslip there. Christ, he was surprised he could still remember that he liked beer at this point. They’d fucked his head so thoroughly that he wasn’t really sure of who – or what he was at times.
Man? Animal? Weapon?
Max shifted against him with a happy sigh. He hadn’t heard anything that sublime in a good long while. Sure, he’d had his share of sex. There were always women who wanted to rut, after all – and that’s all they usually saw in him. After all, fuckin’ was fuckin’, right? And it served its purpose quite nicely.
This one, though? He sighed and held her a little tighter. Something about her kept his thoughts from flying apart. Kept the nightmares at bay. Kept him somewhat sane. It was the closest he’d come to peace in his head in a long time.
The wolf girl moved beside him again, turning and pushing herself up to look down at him.
God, she was beautiful. It damn near took his breath away.
Her eyes were just on the greenish side of hazel and they danced when she smiled. There was an odd innocence to her that he hadn’t seen in the other women he’d encountered. He slid a hand down to rest at her hip and smiled back up at her.
Her voice was like spiced honey as she talked and it sent a little shiver up his spine as she said, “The wolf likes you. She thinks you’d make good breeding stock. A good mate.”
He laughed, liking the way it made her breasts jiggle.
“You always been this direct?” he asked, still chuckling.
Max grinned and nodded. “Yeah. It makes most guys really uncomfortable – but not you. Why is that?”
Logan gave her hips a light squeeze, rumbling, “I like it. ‘s refreshing.”
Max cocked her head at him. It looked like she was assessing him.
“You really are gorgeous. You know that, right?” she murmured, leaning in close to brush her lips against his ear. It set his entire body tingling.
He let out a soft growl, his fingers digging into her hip. He groaned as her fingers wrapped around his hard length.
“Honey, I’m gonna make sure you’re not able to walk after this..” she murmured as she slowly slid down his torso.
Logan looked up at the stars as Max rested her head against his shoulder. She was fast asleep. He would need to start moving again tomorrow. She had done her best to stick to her word and likely would’ve been able to carry through if it hadn’t been for his healing factor. She’d been able to keep up with him a hell of a lot longer than any partner he’d ever been with, though – which was a definite plus.
She would probably come with him if he asked her, but he wasn’t entirely sure that he her wanted to. Sure, he liked being with her, and having her around for the moment – but he didn’t want to put her in harm’s way. And harm was definitely comin’ his way. It always was, or so it seemed. It was just a matter of time before they tracked him down again and she’d probably turn out to be a liability in a combat situation. He’d end up being worried about her getting hurt instead of keeping his own ass lead free.
She snuggled against him beneath the covers and he pulled her tighter. Would it be worth it to cut her loose? To bring the nightmares back? To let the beast take control again? There was a certain primal freedom to letting that part of himself flood his system, but it always had a price. Everything had a price. Of course, there was always the off chance that they could go to ground completely, go off the grid for awhile.
The stars held their own secrets, being poor counsel in such matters. He closed his eyes and let himself drop off to sleep.
He’d figure it out in the morning.
MARVEL owns the copyright on their own characters, but I’ve fussed with and taken liberties with canon, and Max is my own creation.
Chapter 3: How good are your surgical skills?
Things get complicated.
They were getting back in the car when he felt it. A sharp sting against his shoulder. Then one at his side.
Logan scented the air, his hand tight on the car door handle as he shifted in the passenger seat.
Now another in his arm. His vision started getting fuzzy as he let out a low growl.
“Logan?” Max frowned, reaching out to him. “Ow!”
She then slumped over in her seat.
Logan, frustrated that he hadn’t been able to track a telltale scent, turned to look down at her.
Fuck. She’s already in now, whether she wants to be or not.
He began clenching and unclenching his hands, hoping that his healing factor would burn the tranqs out quickly. He felt somewhat groggy, but was still capable of fighting if it came down to it. And it looked like that was definitely in the cards in the next few minutes. At least the retrieval team wasn’t immediately going for the kill. They wouldn’t be using the darts, otherwise.
Logan relaxed back into the seat, closing his eyes; playing ‘possum. Perhaps this group hadn’t believed everything they’d been told about previous encounters with him. He hoped not. It would give him the advantage he needed. Through slitted eyes, he watched as several men in forest camouflage slowly crept towards them. Two broke off in flanking positions, making their way around the back of the car. The other two kept their weapons trained on him as they edged closer. He couldn’t chance Max getting hit again. Logan knew that he could take a fair barrage of bullets, but he didn’t know how much damage her healing could counteract. As she stirred beside him, he hoped that she would provide enough of a distraction for him to take the other two out.
Max frowned as she craned her neck to look up at Logan, who now appeared to have passed out in the passenger seat. She was still a little dazed. It was almost as if she was experiencing the afteraffects of a drug of some kind. The feeling was rapidly fading.
What the hell?
“The girl’s up. Move in and close them down. Now.”
The voice had come from off to her left and she frowned, her eyes narrowing to slits. The wolf urged her to action and Max quickly responded, opening the door with all her strength and slamming it into one of the soldiers who’d taken it upon himself to peer into her window. The man flew ten yards back into the brush as Max then ripped the door from its hinges, using it to slap the other soldier back into the woods
Several painfully loud fireworks and a roar sounded off to her right. She turned in time to see Logan spring from the car, his claws popping out with a distinctive sound as they sheared cleanly through the barrels of the weapons the soldiers before him were holding. Pieces of metal dropped to the ground; the grass starting to smoke beneath them.
Both men went sheet white before Logan slammed his claws into their chests with another roar, forcing both of them to the ground.
Max yelped out as something sharp and hot slammed into her leg. She then heard a loud crack.
Something inside her shifted and she screamed as her body responded, forcing her into dire form.
One of the men she’d thrown back was now pointing a pistol at her and she dodged as she felt something whip by her ear.
Shit! Did he just shoot me?
In moments, she was at the man’s side, laying his dominant arm open with four deep slashes. He immediately dropped the pistol and began shrieking as she moved in closer, taking his scent in. Were these the same guys that had hurt Logan in the first place? The ones who had left him here?
She pressed down on the man’s chest with her claws as she leaned in to look at him, startled when she felt his ribcage collapse beneath her furred hand. Shit. She’d forgotten how fragile they were.
Max then whirled around to find Logan looking down at her, spattered with bits of bone, gore and blood. His eyes were different now; sharper – feral. He was breathing hard, his mouth turned down in an ugly scowl. Max stayed in a crouch over the man, moving slowly. It was like dealing with any other wild animal; as long as you didn’t run, or didn’t show fear, they wouldn’t attack.
“Logan.” she murmured, the word sounding strange with an extended muzzle full of razor sharp teeth. Max closed her eyes, feeling her body shift back.
He was still staring back at her as the change completed, his breathing labored now. Max slowly stood up, keeping her hands at her sides. Logan flinched and she saw the claws slide back into his knuckles. He had a distant expression now, his eyes almost lost. She took a step towards him and he flinched again. He looked almost as if he were having a mild seizure.
“Logan.” she breathed as she reached out and touched him, then slowly wrapped her arms around him. She felt him shiver, then felt his hands slide around her waist, resting on her lower back.
The blood on him was quickly cooling and the wolf wanted to lick him clean. She looked over to see the remains of the others. Pieces of the men were strewn about in rather large chunks. It had taken him moments to carve them up with those claws of his. They had sliced through bone and flesh as easily as the metal of their guns. Logan trembled against her and she pulled back to look into his eyes.
“They’re gone, Logan. I’m here. It’s OK.”
He was stunned. Not only had she easily taken care of herself, but here she was comforting and reassuring him. He wanted to speak, to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. That dark, cold place in him was still struggling to fight and it was all he could do to force it back down now that the threat had been eliminated. Her tone helped more than he thought it would and the darkness slowly receded. It became a little easier to breathe. As the tension finally slipped from him he pulled her close, holding her tightly.
Finally, the words came out, almost choking him. “Where’d you learn to fight?”
Max relaxed, laughing now, knowing that the worst of it was now past.
“Eight brothers. We’d all beat the holy hell out of each other. It was good practice. It’s just a good thing that humans aren’t as resilient as they are. I would have gotten my ass handed to me. I’ve been years out of practice.”
Logan looked back at her, still unable to believe that she was taking this as well as she was.
“C’mon. Let’s get you cleaned up.” she murmured, grinning as she began leading him back to the river.
Feeling extremely disoriented, he nodded and followed, letting her take control. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling.
As she scrubbed the blood out of his hair, she asked, “So – how often does that happen to you?”
Logan let out a weak laugh. “More often than I’d like, although a part of me enjoys it.”
“What are you, a bullet magnet?” Max gently extracted another piece of metal from his shoulder, relieved that he was recuperating so quickly. As she tossed it behind her, the wound closed up.
Logan laughed then, looking up at her. She was glorious, even with her clothes in bloody tatters. Her skirt seemed to have survived the shift, but the tanktop was practically hanging off her.
Max smiled and continued checking him over to see if there were any more bullets embedded in his skin. There were only about four more, going up his side. Logan waited patiently as she plucked them out, one by one. He figured that she either wasn’t fazed by what had just happened, or she was in shock.
He frowned, hoping it wasn’t the latter. She did seem to be lucid, though.
Max gave him a strange look and dropped her hand back into the river to wash the blood from it.
“What is it?” she asked, reaching back up to place her hand on his chest.
“I been runnin’ a long time, darlin’ and even I ain’t okay with everything that happens after the claws pop.”
Max frowned back at him, asking, “What are you getting at?”
Logan paused for a moment, his eyes capturing her gaze with an intensity that sent a chill through her.
“You sure you’re okay with what just happened back there?”
She chuckled and explained, “Well, yeah. Growing up Turnskin isn’t exactly easy at times. I’ve gone through my share of hunts and the aftermath that follows.”
Max sobered a little as an old memory resurfaced.
“Well, what the fuck do you expect me to do, Z? Piss on it so that folks steer clear from it now? Maybe bury it under some leaves? This ain’t no deer you killed, son.”
Her father’s voice came out in an angry southern drawl, his mouth tight as he crossed his arms. Her brother looked up at their father with wild cornflower blue eyes as her other siblings crowded around the corpse. It had been an accident from what Zane said, but the boy stank of fear in a way that seemed to indicate that something else had happened.
The chest cavity looked as if it had been torn open; the remains of the boy’s ribcage left to rot beside one of his booted feet. The ants and various other bugs were just starting to come to dinner. The innards had been mostly consumed, but thick drapes of intestine spilled out of it, off to the side. Blood slicked the surrounding leaves and she could easily spot the signs of a brief but passionate scuffle in the ground at their feet. Large chunks were also missing from the boy’s arms and legs.
Her brother had apparently had himself a fine little feast here after his little ‘accident’.
Max wrinkled her nose, unable to imagine that the pink creatures that smelled so strongly of chemicals could taste anything but tainted.
“You cain’t play with ‘em like you play with pups, son. Ah told ya that more’n ah care to count, now.”
Her father’s voice was dripping with barely restrained anger now, as well as an underlying current of fear. She knew that he would now have to do something fairly extreme to make an example of her brother so the rest of the Pack learned. If they were going to live this close to humans, they had to learn – or they’d be hunted down. It was as simple as that.
Max heard the beginnings of a rumbling growl building up in her father’s throat.
“Goddamnit Z, why the fuck did you have to EAT him?”
The sound of her brother begging and whining made her faintly ill. Whether they were blood kin or not, he’d shat in his own backyard. Their backyard. The least he could do was be a man about it and take his punishment as was his due. Zane began retching, then violently threw up in the grass beside the corpse. Max spotted what looked like the remains of a human finger in the wet red mess left behind.
She was disgusted – not with the aftermath of the meal, but with her brother’s behavior. Didn’t he understand that the rules were there for their own good?
That if they didn’t follow them, there would be deadly consequences?
Max shuddered as she remembered the vicious way their father had chosen to punish her brother. It was enough to almost make her choke. Since then, nobody had gone against the old Alpha, and it had changed him; twisted him into something she would never call family again. Breaking his own son like that shattered something inside him and he’d become brutal afterward, driving them further away from civilization. It had only been a matter of time before their mother left, and then he really went ’round the bend. Max had run away from home soon after and had been trying to make her own way in the world ever since.
“Max..?” Logan sounded uncertain as she met his gaze again.
“Just trust me when I say I’ve seen worse, OK?”
Logan nodded, wondering what had brought the brief shadow into her eyes. Sure, she seemed like a young, almost naive kid about some things – but there was something deeper in there. Something she didn’t want him to see. Hell, everybody had secrets. He saw no reason to begrudge the fact that she didn’t want to share hers. There were plenty of things about himself that he’d rather no-one ever knew.
He frowned and let out an irritated sigh. “They’re likely gonna keep comin’ after you after this. Knowin’ these military types, they probably wired back to their boss tellin’ him all about you since they spotted us together.” he explained, not at all happy about the prospect. Having someone constantly on his ass was tiring, but at least when it had just been him he knew he would be able to do anything to keep from getting caught again. With her in tow, it was going to make things much more difficult. More complicated.
“Then we stick together. I don’t think they had time to say anything to anybody about what I really am. If that’s the case, it gives us both an advantage.”
Max’s voice was soft as her knuckles gently stroked his cheek, but there was a feel of iron behind it.
Not liking it, but not seeing another way around it, Logan nodded.
“Makes sense. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I got you into this.”
Max laughed and suddenly his chest felt a little lighter.
“Are you kidding? I involved myself the moment I started following you around. I had a pretty good idea that you were the kind of guy that trouble followed. It was kind of obvious, y’know.”
Logan gave her a measured look, then sighed. “Darlin’, you really are somethin’ else. You sure ’bout this?”
Max eyed him with a wicked grin. “Don’t make me bite you.”
“What about the life – the place you’re leavin’ behind?”
He often wondered what it would be like to finally relax. To finally have enough time to get his bearings so that he could figure out the details of everything that happened to him. To find the fragments of his past that would help him piece it all together. Why would anybody give that up, willingly choosing the life that had been forced on him? A life of running and constant searching.
“What life?” Max rolled her eyes and curled her hair behind her right ear. “Honey, I’ve been working retail for almost no pay, for misogynistic bosses who just love to harass their female employees. I’ve been scraping my life, what there’s been of it, together since I left my Pack. If I go with you, I have the chance to feel that connection again – the feel of blood, of family. Pack.”
Logan frowned again and she shook her head.
“Hey – I’m fine. More than fine. This is exactly where I want to be and if we don’t get out of here soon, more of those soldier boys are going to come looking for the guys that you just sent to Carneios.”
“Point taken.” he murmured.
As they began making their way back to the shoreline, he asked, “Carneios?”
Max flushed briefly, wondering why she’d used the old god’s name as well. All this time she’d spent in the human world, and it had taken less than two days for her to get back into the habit of using old Pack terminology.
“Carneios is like..it’s our version of your grim reaper. Death.”
She began squeezing the water out of her skirt. At least she had another tanktop in the car. She had gotten most of the blood off it in the river.
“Fair enough.” Logan murmured, his heartbeat jumping as she took his hand.
They walked back to the car in silence, Logan trapped with his thoughts and Max liberated by hers. She didn’t realize how much blood had saturated the area and was grateful that only a little had sprayed onto the car. She moved in to start wiping off the right front fender, watching Logan as he walked over to survey the remains of the bodies he’d unceremoniously taken apart.
He looked over at her, watching her fastidiously inspect the car for more telltale splashes of blood. Girl was smart. She’d probably make a decent soldier if she put her mind to it. As he peered back down at the soldier who had been calling the shots on the team that had found them, he cocked his head, then squatted down and began fishing through what pockets he could find.
It did him no good – no ID, no dogtags – just like the others. They were practically kids.
Seasoned soldiers who knew better would have shot him full of holes, then waited for him to wake up in a cell, hours later after his body had gotten the time to heal to a point where he would be useful. Were they just fuckin’ with him?
A year in and he still wasn’t used to seeing the aftermath of the carnage that followed the *SNICKT* of the claws. From the bits and pieces he could remember from before, he had been a killer back then as well – but that was different. Sniping, knifing or blowing people up was a good deal different than turning them into large kebab chunks with a few quick strokes. And it wasn’t so much the gore that followed, but the cold darkness that roiled inside him when they popped. It was as if something switched his brain to feral, shutting down anything but the instinct to survive at all costs. Logan was slowly getting used to coming back from that, but from time to time it was still disorienting.
This time it had been easier, though. He hadn’t kept running or fighting until he passed out. It was likely because of her. He had been able to come back to himself quickly because of the way she’d responded to him. If that was the case, it could end up being both a boon and a curse. He didn’t have any desire to tie his sense of sanity to something outside himself; it would make him vulnerable in a way that he didn’t like thinking about. Self contained. That was the way to go. Anything added only caused problems. Besides, he always worked better alone. Nobody to keep track of or to account for that way.
He turned to see her kick the tires to make sure that none of them had been punctured by a stray bullet. What exactly had she gone through that had been so terrible? He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know. He could already feel himself growing close to her; enjoying her company – but that could only last so long, right? It had been far too long since he’d actually been around people that weren’t in and out of his life in under a day. Life on the run didn’t afford much of a chance to take the time to get to know people, and it wasn’t exactly the wisest of ideas to start now, given his situation. He stood and walked back to the car, helping her inspect for damage.
Max smiled over at him and it knocked the breath out of him. Christ, she was just a kid herself. There was a strange innocent purity about her that made her seem so much younger than her body development reflected. And yet, there was definitely something inside her that matched his beast – his fury, in a way. It was a strange mix that made him wonder how she pulled it off.
“What?” she asked, her eyes shining with mirth.
He opened the door and slid into the passenger seat.
“We’re going to need to ditch the car. I don’t know how they tracked us this far from the drop point, but the car’s likely on their radar now.”
Max ducked her head to look across at him, frowning. “How are we supposed to get another vehicle? Steal it?”
Logan looked up at her with a bland expression.
“Okay, so we steal a car. Any suggestions as to where we’re supposed to find a car to snatch?”
He thought about it for a moment, not at all comfortable with the fact that they’d tracked him down again so quickly after the two of them had covered so much ground.
“You said that you tasted something electric when you touched your tongue to my skin, right?” he asked, looking back at her.
Max nodded and frowned.
“How good would you say that sniffer of yours is?”
If they had embedded a tracer in him, wouldn’t his healing factor have naturally forced it out by now? And if so, why couldn’t he sense it if she could?
“I was one of the best trackers in the Pack.” She admitted proudly.
“Good.” Logan reached into his backpack, pulling out an enormous knife.
“How good are your surgical skills?”
Max blanched, feeling the blood drain from her face as she looked down at the blade. It was razor sharp.
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
She met Logan’s gaze and sighed. The man was completely serious.
“I-I know a little first aid.” She stammered. The thought of cutting him open wasn’t at all appealing.
“Good. Get out of the car.” He murmured as he opened the passenger side door and stood up.
Ah, shit. Max left the door open as she walked over to his side of the car, placing the knife on the hood.
Logan looked at her strangely as she began stripping down and she explained, “Pink nose isn’t as sensitive as the wolf’s is.” She tapped her nose and quickly stripped before him, tossing her clothes on the roof of the car.
“And I don’t want to lose another outfit today.”
Logan watched her shift, fascinated as her features bled into the enormous bipedal wolf creature he’d seen earlier. He looked down at her wickedly curved claws and said, “Maybe you don’t need the knife, eh?”
He pulled his shirt off and turned around, tossing it on top of her clothing. A strange sound echoed out from her throat that sounded something like a laugh. Max took a step towards him and began licking him and taking his scent in, trying to find the spot on his body where the electrical contact was the strongest.
There. It was in the middle of his lower back, deep under the skin. Possibly in the bone.
This is going to get ugly, she thought to herself, wincing.
She shifted back, knowing her claws would be too unwieldy for the kind of cut she would need to make. She also didn’t want to shred him.
“Whatever it is, it’s in your back. I think it’s embedded in your skeleton or something.” She explained.
Logan leaned over, spreading himself out face down on the hood.
“Get it out.” He commanded, his tone rough as he steeled himself for the pain.
This was gonna hurt like a motherfucker. When he found the asshole that had tagged him, he was going to ensure that they never had the chance to do it to anybody else.
Max picked up the knife from the hood with shaking hands.
“Fuck..” she murmured. “I don’t know if I can do this, Logan. I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”
He turned to face her, chest still pressed to the hood.’
“I’ll heal. Trust me. I’ve come through worse.” His tone was soft, reassuring now.
A tear trailed down her cheek as she leaned in and pressed the tip of his knife to the spot.
“It’s OK, baby. You just gotta get it out, or they’ll keep sending kids in uniforms after me. Then we gotta run.”
Max tried her best to steady her hands as the knife jittered against his skin, opening up several shallow cuts. She heard him growl before he said, “That’s not helping. Just steady yourself and jam it in.”
Max took a deep breath, then cried out as she pushed the knife into his skin. Logan grunted and Max heard a metallic thunk as it hit something deep inside his back. Was that it?
“Now, quick,” he growled, “you gotta dig it out. Before it heals up. Turn the knife to give you more room to work. Can you see it?”
His breathing was quick and shallow and his legs were shaking as they tried to hold him up.
Max closed her eyes and gave the knife a savage turn, wincing as Logan let out a pained groan. She then began digging around in the ragged hole, her fingers searching for something that was supposed to feel like it shouldn’t be there. She grabbed his shirt to soak up the blood that was slowly oozing into the wound. At least he wasn’t a heavy bleeder. That helped.
After dabbing at it, she frowned as she peered at the strange, shiny metal that seemed to cover his his bones. There was a small piece that looked out of place on top of the smooth surface of the metal. She chipped at it with the tip of the blade until it finally broke free. She dabbed at the wound again and fished around for the bit, pulling it out and placing it on the hood along with the knife.
“That it?” he asked and she could hear the agony in his voice. He sounded almost constricted.
She could only imagine how much pain he must be enduring, and she started feeling slightly nauseous.
“Yeah. It’s out.” She replied before the world went fuzzy.
“MAX!” She heard him cry out as the ground rushed up to meet her.
MARVEL owns the copyright on their own characters, but I’ve fussed with and taken liberties with canon, and Max is my own creation.
Chapter 4: You Sure You’re Not Furry on the Inside?
Logan recovers from his wounds and Max shares a bit of her story as the pair try to put some distance between them and the soldiers pursuing Logan.
Logan’s back was a blazing fire of pain and itching as his body rapidly stitched itself back together. He hadn’t been quick enough to catch her, but at least she didn’t look like she’d hit too hard. She’d just slumped where she stood. Likely just passed out.
Fucking hell, he grumbled to himself as he moved to pick her up.
Pain exploded through his lower back and he gritted his teeth against it as he grunted and stumbled to the ground. This was the true pain in the ass about his healing factor; he had discovered that unless his endorphins were going through the roof in combat, serious injuries hurt like a mad bastard until his body recovered. He had to be in that dark, cold place that his psyche swam in when he dropped into that swift, efficient killing place. Logan still wasn’t entirely used to the feel of his body patching itself back up after grievous bodily harm. The first couple of times had been debilitating when the endorphin high finally wore off. He would have to wait a few minutes for his back muscles to reknit themselves before he’d be able to move again.
Unfortunately, now that the tracer was out, they needed to get out of the area – quickly. He also needed to eat a substantial meal soon.
As soon as he was able to utilize his newly grown back muscles, he picked Max up and started dressing her. It was an awkward business, with an unconscious body. Although he wasn’t averse to the view she presented, a naked chick in the front seat of the car would call attention to them like nothing else would. It was a headache that neither of them needed. Once the major areas were covered, he shifted her as gently as he could into the passenger seat. He then strapped her in and walked over to pick up the tracer from the hood, inspecting it closely. As he turned it over in his fingers, he realized that it wasn’t a technology that he was remotely familiar with. He hoped that it was inert now that it was no longer lodged in his spinal column.
Had it also been monitoring his vitals? God only knew.
A flare of memory flickered to life – a disorienting series of images of men in lab coats standing around him. Was he in a tank of water? Two of them were furiously scribbling notes down on a set of clipboards. As he looked back at one of them, he felt something cold slide through his veins as he lost consciousness again.
Logan gritted his teeth and tossed the tracer into the trees, groaning as he picked the knife up. He slid into the driver’s seat and bright spots danced in his vision momentarily as he leaned back against the seat, waiting for the pain to die down. He was grateful that Max had left the keys in the ignition. As he started the car and stepped on the gas, he winced. At least the pain was becoming somewhat manageable now; if not easier to ignore and push through. The wheels kicked up gravel as they spun out, and Logan slammed on the gas as the car sped down the dirt road.
They would need to lose the ride soon, but he wasn’t likely to find anything helpful on this long stretch of back mountain road. It would need to be something that could accelerate quickly, but not something that would immediately be reported as a high priority retrieve for the local police. They’d have to make it into a suburban or city area where he could dump the car and run back to the booster.
“C’mon, darlin’. Wake up.” He grumbled, giving her a gentle shake.
Max groaned and shifted in her seat.
“Whua happened?” she muttered, brushing her hair out of her face.
“You fainted. Y’allright?”
Max sat up straighter now, looking over at him and blinking as the scenery whipped quickly around them.
“How can you..?” Max stammered in utter disbelief.
Logan cut her off with a grunt. “Told you. Been through worse.”
Max shook her head and murmured, “I just cut your back wide open. You shouldn’t be able to move yet.”
Logan let out a wry laugh and spun through a left hand turn.
“Yeah. Mutant, remember?”
Max’s eyes widened.
“So..when you say you’ve been through worse..”
“Been damn near dead a bunch ‘a times, darlin’. It don’t ever stop me though. Don’t worry about it – you did good back there.”
“Logan..” Max’s voice trailed off, sounding very small. She sounded like she was going into shock. That wasn’t going to do either of them any good.
“Max.” His tone was crisp and commanding. “We don’t have time for you to get all freaked out by this.”
He was right. She took a deep breath, then asked, “Okay, what can I do to help?”
Logan jammed a thumb towards the backseat. “Need food. ‘s in the backpack.”
Max nodded and quickly shifted in her seat to reach into the back, rummaging through his pack. She found several high energy bars and some of that beef jerky he had offered to her on the first night that they met. She pulled out hunks of the jerky and handed it to him. Logan wolfed the food down with a growl. After he finished all the jerky and several of the bars, he relaxed back into the driver’s seat.
“Fuck..” he murmured, keeping his eyes sharply focused on the road.
“Are all your bones made out of metal?” she ventured, dropping the rest of the energy bars into the glovebox.
Logan replied with a grim nod, his hands tight on the wheel. “Seem to be.”
He remembered the first time he’d discovered it. He’d taken shrapnel all along his side from a fragmentation grenade about two weeks out his escape from the facility. It had blown the majority of the meat off his hand and part of his arm, leaving shredded, bloody chunks of flesh clinging to a silvery articulated skeleton. By the time he’d cut his pursuers to ribbons in a frenzied haze that he only partially remembered, his hand was fully restored. As long as he kept fighting, it seemed to short circuit the pain receptors in his nervous system. It was one of the reasons that pulling away from the darkness inside his psyche after a fight was so difficult; awareness brought physical agony while his body reacted to and repaired his injuries.
“Is that part of your..mutation as well?” she asked, turning in her seat to face him.
“I don’t remember.” he murmured, frowning.
Max cocked her head and leaned her shoulder against the seat. “What part don’t you remember?”
Logan shifted in his seat, and the pain in his back lowered to a dull throbbing. It felt like just a torn muscle now.
He wasn’t comfortable talking about this. He hadn’t spoken about it with anybody since he had first fought his way out of that lab rathole and stepped into the blinding light of day reflected back against a sheet of snow two feet high.
Max placed her head back against the headrest, her voice soft as she added, “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me..”
Logan cut her off, his tone gruff. “No. ‘s okay. It’s just – a headfuck. I can’t remember much of anything past a year ago.”
“Amnesia?” she asked, peering at him curiously.
“Possibly.” he replied, relieved that they were finally turning onto a paved road.
“I have nightmares, but it’s all in pieces. I can’t really put any of it together.”
“Logan.” Max began quietly, “Have people been tracking you since then?”
“Do you know who they are? Why they’re after you?”
Logan grunted and explained, “All I know is I got away from a place that seriously fucked with my head a year ago and I been on the move ever since. I got no idea who these assholes are.”
Why was he telling her all this?
“Got nailed by a team of ’em a week ago. Not a dogtag between ’em. No ID. Kept me drugged until some idiot forgot to check the dosage one night. I cut up four or five of ’em and the ones left took it personal. They’re the ones that dumped me where you found me.”
He let out a harsh laugh. “If they were smart, they’da kept me locked up.”
“I’m hopin’ to put enough distance between us and that tracer you pulled outta me so that I can get some rest and recuperate. Figure out my next move.”
Logan glanced over at her, frowning. His words probably weren’t helping her any. She was starting to get that look on her face again. He was going to have to try to find a way to keep her talking – keep her distracted so she didn’t get shocky. He didn’t need to take care of a medical emergency while driving at the same time. There was already too much to deal with at the moment.
“Talk to me, Max. What’s goin’ on over there?”
Her eyes darted away, back to the road, as she murmured, “You sure you’re not furry on the inside?”
She then gave a weak, halfhearted laugh.
“What makes you ask?” he prompted; eyes back on the road.
“The pits..” she started, a cold chill rolling through her body as the memory resurfaced.
“When the Tribes were bigger – more united, a gathering called a Buck was held once a year. The strongest fighters from the various Packs across the country would show up at a designated point that would move to a different location each year.”
Max turned to look out the window, watching the scenery whip by.
“The one rule for these fights – well, more like riots at times – was that only pups up to a certain year could enter. It’s kinda like the ‘coming of age’ trials that some of the indigenous human tribes had for their teenagers, but this was brutal. Feral.”
Max swallowed and turned to look over at him as she continued, “Most of the kids that fought ended up pretty badly damaged, but for my kind that’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. The point of the thing was to take as much damage or pain as possible. To prove yourself – both to your Pack and to yourself. In a way, it was an affirmation that you belonged.”
She could feel Logan tense beside her as he asked, “Did you fight?”
Max nodded, feeling a mixture of pride and discomfort.
“I was the best in the ring that year. It was also my first kill.”
“How old were you?”
She watched his features tighten, and explained, “We all fought. It’s just our way.”
Logan took a slow breath in, then asked, “How bad was it?”
Max looked away, her voice barely audible as she replied, “Bad. I literally took my opponent apart with my bare hands – but I don’t remember doing it. Everything blanked out and the next time I remember opening my eyes – she was just..in pieces.”
Her hands were trembling as she looked back over at him.
“The way I won was by enduring my punishment for killing an opponent.”
She took a deep breath, then quietly murmured, “I can fight if I need to, but it scares me. I don’t want to black out again.”
Logan nodded, then looked over at her and chuckled.
Max glared at him, irritated. “What?”
“Hellofa thing, you finding me the way you did.” he murmured, and Max relaxed a little, leaning back into her seat.
“Sorry I got you into this?” Logan asked, his tone a little softer.
Max shifted in her seat, shaking her head slightly. “Not really. The wolf’s been itching to get out into the world for a while now. She’s elated.”
“Jury’s still out.”
Max looked away, peering out the window. “I have to admit that I’m not entirely against the idea of running with you…”
Her voice dropped to a hushed whisper.
“..as long as I don’t have to cut you up like that again.”
“If it’ll make you feel any better, you can check my back out now if ya want. It’s all healed up.”
Logan wasn’t entirely certain how to reassure her. He wasn’t exactly in ‘comfort and reassure’ mode at the moment. Fight or flight had kicked in like a bitch, and he was torn between listening to her and finding them another ride.
Max shook her head slowly.
“No – it’s okay. Do you know where you’re going?”
He spotted a glow in the clouds off in the distance. Hopefully it was a gas station. First order of business was more food, then a map.
She chuckled and replied, “We’re a bit far out of my stomping grounds for me to know where we are. I’ve never been this far north.”
Logan spotted a gas station up ahead. He scanned the area around it for anything out of the ordinary, pulling in and parking the car at the pump.
“Got any cash?”
Max fished around in the bag behind her seat, pulling out her wallet. She had about sixty dollars.
“Good.” he murmured. “We’ll need more, though – eventually.”
“I can just use the ATM inside..” she explained and Logan shook his head.
“Can’t. It’s traceable.”
“How do you know they’re tracking me now?”
He eyed her and explained, “Darlin’, like I said, it’s a good bet that they ran your tags before they jumped us.”
“How do you know that?” she asked, frowning.
“It’s what I would’a done.” he answered, looking over towards the mini-mart.
She paused for a moment, thinking. “How are we supposed to get more money?”
Logan presented her with a sharp, predatory smile.
“We improvise. Stay here and fill the tank. I’ll go in and get supplies.”
Max nodded, then handed him the money and got out of the car. Logan sat in the driver’s side seat for a moment, watching the kid at the cash register.
This place was still somewhat remote and there weren’t any other customers.
Max was inserting the nozzle into the car when she heard the driver’s side door close.
Logan walked towards the front door of the station with a strange look on his face. When the nozzle finally clicked off, she moved to place it back on its resting hook and spotted Logan coming back out with a large, full grocery bag.
He set the bag in the back seat. It was almost overflowing with bags of jerky, trail mix and potato chips. It would last them for a while, but already the wolf was wanting to get out to pull down some real game again.
She slid into the driver’s seat and asked, “Are we roughing it again tonight?”
Logan nodded as he closed the car door. “Yep.”
“Good. Then I’ll get us dinner.”
Max smiled as she started the car up and pulled out of the station.
Chapter 5: Who the hell are you people? A dance company?
Max and Logan find themselves confronted by a green team of Mutant 'rescuers' from Westchester County, New York.
And suddenly, their adventure changes.
Max grinned and chuffed happily as she tore a chunk out of the hind she’d run down earlier. Logan sat across from her, cutting large pieces of meat from the carcass and quickly choking them down.
The meat tasted good. Clean. It was reassuring in a way that few things in life were.
Boosting the car had been a bit of a rush. They had chosen to snatch an innocuous white economy car from a poorly lit parking lot after dumping her car several blocks away. Logan had easily broken into it and hotwired it, as well as switching the plates with a similar car that they’d found farther down the highway.
They’d driven for several more hours before finally deciding to stop and hunt down some food.
Blood dripped down Logan’s chin as he chewed, his eyes closed. He looked almost meditative. Every once in a while, his body would shake slightly.
Max quickly ate her fill, leaving the rest of the meat for him. He looked like he needed it a great deal more than she did.
She moved a few feet away from the kill and sat down on her haunches, keeping a watchful eye on him.
The raw meat slid down his throat and Logan’s stomach worked quickly to process it and get the protein out to his fatigued muscles. Sure, he’d been hurt worse, but it always sucked coming back from it when the danger had passed. Logan could feel his core temperature rising as his body worked to utilize the food as efficiently as possible. His body was capable of repairing damage at a staggering rate, but it always ended up having a rather high protein cost. Several times after previous encounters over the last year, he’d come to his senses nose deep in raw meat from something he’d chased down and torn apart.
The first time it happened was disconcerting, but over time he’d found that raw, bloody meat just tasted better. It was also more efficient and was easier for his body to process.
He hoped that the military goons wouldn’t run them to ground again so soon. The gnawing hunger in his gut finally abating, he cracked one of the femurs, sucking at it to get the marrow out. He then tossed the bone onto the rest of the carcass and stood up, ready to head to their makeshift campsite and pass out. The impromptu surgery had taken a lot more out of him than he had initially thought.
Logan quietly snaked through the woods, back the way they’d come, hoping that Max wasn’t in the mood to ask too many questions. He was simply too tired to answer.
Max started after him, hoping that he was all right. He had been awfully quiet since they pulled in. She could smell the exhaustion on him and worried that he was pushing himself too hard. Unfortunately, given their situation, he probably didn’t have much of a choice. She watched him slide into the sleeping bag and let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding when he held it open so she could join him. She quickly shifted and slid into the sleeping bag, settling back against him. He’d been too tired to get out of his clothes, and it felt weird having a layer of fabric between them – especially since heat was rolling off of him in an almost overpowering wave.
He was burning up.
Max let out a soft sigh as she felt his arm wrap around her waist, pulling her close; his face buried in her hair. Within moments, he was fast asleep and Max soon followed.
Logan was awakened in the middle of the night by a loud snapping sound. Immediately alert, he began tasting the scents in the air, but couldn’t pick out anything distinctive. Another snap. Didn’t sound like an animal making that noise, either. He felt Max rouse beside him and he quickly clamped a hand over her mouth.
Max, disoriented, looked up at him and frowned when she saw him give his head a single shake, holding a finger up to his lips.
~Logan, it’s OK. We’re not here to hurt you.~
He sat up, ramrod straight at the sound of the voice in his head. His eyes narrowed and he gave his head a rough shake before looking around, trying to find the source. He looked down at Max and could tell that whatever was happening – the way he was reacting to it had her spooked. She stayed quiet, though.
~Just ease down. We’re not here to hurt you. ~
Logan frowned, wondering where the hell it was coming from. Had he finally cracked?
He tensed as a woman in a tight black leather outfit stepped into his line of sight.
“Logan? I’m Jean.”
Her voice sounded different now that it wasn’t ringing around in his synapses.
There was a growling sound behind him and he turned to see Max in wolf form now, baring her teeth at the woman, her hackles rippling. Logan blinked as the wolf began slowly floating on the air, letting out a frightened whine, eyes wide with alarm.
“Max!” he cried out, moving to catch her and pull her back down.
“Oh!” he heard the woman behind him exclaim.
“I didn’t know it was with you, I’m sorry.”
As Max’s feet touched the ground, she began backing away quickly, growling and barking.
“What the fuck?” Logan whirled on their unexpected visitor, angry now.
The woman winced, then took a step forward and said, “Hey, I said I was sorry.”
Logan walked over to Max, kneeling at her side and gently running his fingers through her fur at the back of her neck.
“You okay, darlin’?”
Max leaned into him, giving his chin a nervous lick.
“Is he yours?” the woman asked, moving towards them. “He’s beautiful.”
Logan looked back at her in annoyance.
“You usually this much of an ignorant bitch with people you’ve just met?”
Max chuffed beside him, chuckling in her own way.
The woman’s expression grew bewildered as he continued, “And what the hell did you do to her anyway?”
“..Her?” the woman asked, as she looked closely at Max.
After a moment she took a step back and spluttered, “Oh shit. Is she really what I think she is?”
Logan looked back at her as if she were addled.
“Lady, are you crazy? What are you talking about?”
“Jean?” Another voice – this one male, echoed out of the darkness. “Is everything alright?”
Logan watched as a man in a similar outfit started walking towards them. Christ, how had he missed both of them? Was he losing his senses entirely? The guy had some strange sort of protective eye gear on his face.
“Who the hell are you people? A dance company?”
Logan growled, keeping his hand on the back of Max’s neck. “And how the fuck do you know my name?”
“Jean..” the guy sounded wary and was reaching a hand up to the strange piece of equipment on his head.
“Scott, I’ve got it.”
The woman composed herself, then turned to Logan and mentally explained, ~ I’m a telepath. That’s why you can hear me in your head, and I how I know your name. We’re not with the guys who are trying to hunt you – I promise. We’re here to offer you an alternative solution to running. ~
Max grew uneasy as Logan’s hand froze at her neck. The woman had stopped speaking and she felt a thread of unease slide through her as Logan pulled her closer. What was happening? She didn’t want to shift in front of the strangers. It was better to let everybody think that she was just a pet, rather than showing her hand too soon and losing them the advantage if they needed to fight and escape.
~ I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t realize.. ~
The woman’s voice echoed in Max’s mind and she began barking frantically, trying to get away from it.
It stopped and she could hear the sounds of anger. Logan was on his feet now, facing the woman down.
The expression on his face was ugly, his voice cold as he spat, “Get the fuck outta my head. And leave her the hell alone. Now.”
The woman gave a pained sigh, her voice tired as she murmured, “Shit. I really suck at this.”
The man with the strangely bulky eyegear came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder, murmuring, “This is what – run number four? Did you expect that it would always go easily?”
Max caught the scent of cordite before her right flank flared bright with pain. She let out a yelp as she heard Logan and the man cry out.
Pain blossomed in Logan’s ribs, and he growled. The sounds of bullets hitting trees and the ground beside them echoed in the night air, and he quickly dove to the ground, covering Max. It sounded as if she’d gotten tagged in the first volley.
The woman screamed, and then Logan heard a strange liquid thumping sound. He frowned and turned to see the woman now standing with her arms stretched out to her sides, her eyes glowing. The guy with the headgear was slumped at her feet. Logan couldn’t tell if he was breathing. He could no longer hear the bullets slapping into the ground and trees around them, but could still hear the quiet pops of the suppressors. They’d been clean enough with the first few shots – why were they now missing their targets entirely? Did it have anything to do with the strange woman and her companion?
He felt Max stir beneath him. Her fur was receding back into her skin, her bones shifting. It was a vaguely unsettling feeling, and he quickly sat up and gave her a little space. Her scent changed slightly as he watched her slide into the form he preferred her in. He moved to check her over when she finished the shift, growling at the bloody hole he found in her upper thigh.
“Max. You okay?”
He touched her gently and she gave him a weak smile and a thumbs up, her body shivering.
“Bullet’s still in there. I can feel it. It burns.” she groaned and he nodded, pressing his fingers around the wound.
“Want me to dig it out?” he asked, wondering how long it would take her body to push the metal out on its own. The wound was already closing up. Max nodded and braced for the cut, startled by the sound of his claws coming out. She closed her eyes and the pain burned, making her cry out as he cut into her leg, pulling the skin apart and plucking the hot hunk of metal out. Her eyes watered and she let out a sigh of relief.
Logan rested a bloody hand gently against her arm, his voice soft as he leaned in and murmured, “It’s out. Better?”
“Yeah. It hurts like a mother, but it’ll close up soon enough. Did you get hit?”
Logan gave a quick nod. His body had already pushed the bullet out of his side and was busily working on sealing the wound. There were the sounds of weapons dropping to the ground, followed by the sounds of bodies hitting the earth. Just how many were out there? And what the hell was happening?
“What’s going on?”
Max turned to look back at the odd woman in the leather outfit. A strange nascent aura curled around her, almost like a mini aurora borealis. The expression on the woman’s face was one of intense concentration.
There was another liquid thumping sound and then the woman was immediately crouched at the man’s side, crying now. Max slowly sat up, wincing through the pain as she looked over at the two interlopers, bewildered. Somebody was going to have to explain all this to her. At the moment, though, she couldn’t stay angry at the woman who’d imposed her presence on them; she literally stank of fear and pain.
“Max..” Logan murmured as she stood up and started limping towards them. Logan was immediately at her side, helping to hold her up.
The woman was trying to check him for injuries, but she was clearly hysterical. Had she ever seen anybody get shot before? Max didn’t think so.
They stepped up to her and Max quietly ventured, “Can I take a look at him?”
The woman looked up at her with pleading eyes, nodding quickly. She obviously loved the man very much. It was likely why she was flipping out so badly.
“Can you get her something to drink? It might calm her down a little.”
Max crouched at the man’s side, realizing that he was much younger than she initially thought. He looked about nineteen. His chest was rising and falling in quick, shallow breaths. She reached forward to remove the gear on his head and was startled when the man grabbed her hand, stopping her.
“You don’t..want..to do..that..” he said in between breaths.
“Okay. I won’t touch it.” She replied softly, leaning in to sniff him.
“What are..you doing?” he asked, trying to move away from her.
“Trying to figure out where the bullet is,” she explained, moving closer to his upper left arm.
“Think it..passed through..when..it hit.” The man explained, surprising her. He was remarkably lucid for somebody who had just taken a shot in the arm.
“Logan, can you..?” she turned to find Logan already handing her several strips of fabric that would help her patch the wound.
Pinks didn’t heal like her kind, and they tended to bleed a whole lot. If they lost enough blood, they’d die, but other than keeping the red stuff from coming out of them, she really didn’t know what she was doing. Max hoped the cloth would keep him from bleeding so much. She smiled back at Logan and watched the corners of his mouth quirk in the ghost of a grin. He then handed her the knife.
“You’re becoming an old pro at this, see?”
Logan turned back to check on the woman who was now shivering and drinking down a bottle of sports drink.
Max was relieved to find that the bullet had indeed passed through the muscle of the man’s shoulder entirely. Good. She wasn’t going to have to dig it out of him.
“I’m either going to have to rip this fancy jacket you have, or we’re going to have to get it off you by moving your arm.”
The man nodded, and she saw his jaw clench as he steadied himself. She thought it very brave of him.
Max cocked her head as her fingers lengthened into sharp claws. She carefully tore a large section off the sleeve so that she could check the wound. There was a substantial amount of blood on the ground, if the shiny patches were any indication. They all looked black in the low light, though. She looked over at Logan as the woman stood up and looked off to her left, closing her eyes.
Max gave Logan a look that asked, What the hell?
He shrugged and made his way over to her, asking, “Kid gonna be alright?”
“The pinks are a lot more fragile than us. That basic first aid I told you about? I learned it on others like me – not on pinks. I only know a little about them.”
“Pinks?” he asked, frowning.
“It’s ah… one of our terms for folks who aren’t fuzzy on the inside.” she explained, looking back down at the man as he tried to control his breathing.
The wind picked up in the trees, then a large gust of wind rushed past them.
“I am sorry I’m late. I brought as much as I could carry.”
A dark skinned woman with long hair the color of spun spidersilk slowly descended out of the sky and Max’s eyes grew wide. The woman touched down and immediately started walking over towards them, turning on the flashlight in her hand. It completely wrecked Max’s night vision for a moment.
“Can you warn me before you do that next time?”
The woman nodded and the bright splash of light moved to illuminate the man beside her.
“I have also brought a first aid kit as well.” the woman explained, her accent exotic and soft – not something that Max could easily place.
Logan reached up to collect the kit and the odd floating woman turned from them to talk quietly to the woman who had called herself Jean.
Max quickly patched up the man with the odd headgear, then closed the kit.
“You probably want to get him to an actual doctor sometime in the near future, but he doesn’t look too bad.”
The two women, both in similar looking leather outfits walked over to them. Was it a uniform of sorts? Jean’s eyes were red from crying and she looked strongly embarrassed. Her face was flushing almost as red as her hair.
“‘Ro, I got him shot.” she murmured softly as she looked down at the man, hugging her arms tightly around herself.
The white haired woman gently shook her head, her manner almost regal as she replied, “Do not tear yourself up about it. What is done is done. Scott will be fine, Jean. The girl seems certain of it.”
Logan chuckled and she swatted him.
“This thing we do is not without its risks, Jean. Some will go smoother than others.” The woman’s voice was smooth, cultured.
The man on the ground groaned and tried to sit up.
“We need to get him back to the jet.”
Jean’s voice sounded hollow; defeated. “Charles is going to tear into me for letting this happen.”
“Be bold, Jean. We have a job to do.”
The woman with the white hair turned to Max and said, “I am Ororo. If you like, we will leave you as we found you, or you may accompany us. Jean has told me that the soldiers will only stay out for so long. You are likely better off coming with us.”
Logan let out a harsh laugh and grated, “Are you kidding? How old are you kids, anyway?”
Jean frowned and Ororo quietly replied, “I am the oldest, at twenty.”
Logan let out a disgusted snort and Jean snapped, “Look, this may be new to us, but at least we’re trying to help. To make a difference.”
Logan grumbled and Max stood up, saying, “First of all, you’re not really making any sense. Exactly what is it that you’re trying to help us with here?”
The regal woman with the white hair took a step back, then turned to Logan and softly replied, “We are like you, Logan. Mutants.”
“But not like me.” Max murmured quietly.
The woman who called herself Ororo turned to look at her and gently shook her head.
“No. Not like you. We were sent here to find Logan, and to help him if he needed it.”
The man on the ground croaked, “And to let him know that we can help him remember his past.”
Max heard Logan growl, his voice ugly as he spat, “The fuck do you know about my past, kid?”
He sounded dangerously close to going feral, his tone dropping as his words trailed off.
“We know nothing, Logan. Honestly. It’s all locked inside you. The Professor can help you put the pieces together. He can help you figure some of it out.”
This from Jean, who now crouched by her fallen comrade’s side, looking up at them.
“Is he like you? Digs around in people’s heads without their permission?”
Logan was gruff. Angry. But Max could tell that he was suddenly interested in what they were saying.
“I’m sorry about that, Logan. Really. I promise I won’t do it again, okay?”
Max gently placed her hand on his arm and felt him flinch, but he didn’t pull away.
If he’d only had time to think; to figure things out. How had the soldiers tracked him down again so quickly? Transmitter on the car? He hated that she was right – that the quickest route of escape was to go with them, on the jet that they’d mentioned. From there, he would have a good head start – but he had no idea how the boys in green kept finding him. He supposed he could leave everything behind, if there were no more tracers in his body. Hopefully Max would have detected them if there were, but once the tracer was out, she’d said he no longer tasted electric.
“Where?” he asked, trying to reign in his temper. He was running out of options, and it felt like he was being caged in again – this time by circumstance. It didn’t sit at all well with him.
“Westchester County, New York.” Ororo replied smoothly. “It is a short flight.”
Logan paused for a moment, thinking about it before letting out an exasperated sigh. It was their best bet, and if this Professor could actually help him piece his past back together…
“Got any clothes?” he asked.
Ororo’s eyebrow quirked up and Max looked back at him.
“These assholes tracked us somehow, darlin’, and I ain’t about to bring whatever they’re followin’ with me if I can make a clean break from it,” he explained, then turned to face Max.
“We should leave everything here, ‘case they tagged it.”
Max nodded, then looked back over at their strange new companions.
Ororo frowned, as if wanting to say something, then thinking better of it.
Jean stood up and said, “She’s..she might as well be one of us, ‘Ro. We can’t leave her here.”
Max blinked as she felt Logan’s hand clamp down gently on her wrist.
“She comes with or we both stay. They’ve seen her with me, and they’ll hurt her to get to me. I’m not havin’ that.”
Ororo’s eyes narrowed, then she gave a brief nod.
“I believe that we have clothing that will be suitable back at the jet – but we should leave now.”
Max held Ororo’s gaze as she shifted, feeling a strange satisfaction when the woman’s eyes widened briefly. Max let out a short bark, happy to be covered in fur again. She didn’t know these people, and they’d seen quite enough of her furless form for her liking. With the shift, the remaining damage healed completely and she jumped up on two legs briefly to test it. Good as new.
Logan grinned and moved to run his fingers through the fur at her neck.
“Which way is it?” he asked, taking a quick step back as the body of the man with the strange headgear started floating, rising up to about waist height on the redhead.
Max shook her head, unsettled by the sight. Who were these people?
“Back this way,” Jean murmured as she turned to start walking back into the woods, looking over her shoulder and calling out, “See you back at the jet, ‘Ro.”
The wind quickly whipped up around them and Max watched, stunned, as the white haired woman rose into the sky, disappearing into the darkness.
“Yeah. I know.” Logan muttered, keeping a hand on her neck as they moved to follow the strange woman with the red hair.
Chapter 6: You’re shitting in the man’s house, Logan.
Escorted back to a strange school, Max accompanies Logan as he tries to search for answers about his past.
Max watched as the redhead trailed behind the body of the guy with the strange headgear as it floated up a silver ramp up into the belly of a strange looking aircraft above them. The woman who introduced herself Ororo then walked down the ramp with a pair of grey sweats in her hand, quietly passing them down to Logan before disappearing back into the depths of the odd airplane.
Logan looked over at Max and said, “Maybe I’m being paranoid, but..”
“No, it makes sense. I’ll check you over, then you can change and we can climb up into this flying machine.”
He nodded and handed her the sweats. She had never been flying before. She wondered if she’d like it.
Logan looked back at her, frowning. “This your first time on a plane?”
Max let out a nervous laugh and said, “Yeah. That easy to read, is it?”
“There’s nothin’ to it.” he explained as he pulled his shirt off and tossed it away from him onto the grass.
Max let out a laugh and said, “Last time you were on one it didn’t go so well, if I remember correctly.”
“Now don’t go usin’ that as an excuse.” he chided.
Logan quickly stripped down as Max handed him the sweats, then shifted into dire form. After a cursory check that revealed nothing remotely electric, she shifted into wolf form and chuffed. Logan grinned, then pulled the pants on. Max cocked her head and let out a wistful whine as he covered up and he laughed.
“Later,” he growled as he pulled the grey sweatshirt over his head.
They then made their way up the ramp and into the back of the cabin. Several odd looking chairs sat in a slanted line aiming to the center console, which was covered in metallic buttons, computer readouts and dials. Two odd looking steering wheels stuck out of what Max could only assume was a dashboard of sorts.
Ororo swiveled in the pilot’s seat to look back at them and said, “We do not have a place in which we can safely strap her.”
Max peered up at Logan and he said, “You got a set of these for her as well?”
Jean tapped his shoulder and he flinched, unsettled that she’d been able to sneak up on him. She quietly handed him a set of sweats and Max shifted and pulled them on, plucking at them. They were somewhat comfortable, but not really physically appealing.
Logan chuckled at her and she moved to swat him. He deftly evaded and murmured, “C’mon. Let’s get you strapped in.”
When they turned back to the seats, Max couldn’t help noticing that Jean was staring at them with a strange expression. The woman’s gaze kept moving from Logan to her, as if there was something about them that she didn’t quite get.
Then Max recognized it. The scent of jittery pheromones tickled her nose and she looked over at Logan, who now looked surprised as well. The woman was attracted to him – or at least her body was. Logan could probably smell it on her as well, Max thought. She chuckled and gave him a halfhearted elbow in the ribs before moving to strap herself firmly into one of the seats.
Logan looked back at her with a confused expression, then he looked alarmed.
Max laughed and shook her head, smiling. He cocked his head and walked over to her, peering at her strangely before moving to strap himself in as well.
Once in the air, the feeling of flying was entirely too disorienting. Max hated it. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to shrink back in her seat in an attempt to stop the nausea that was threatening, but she was losing the battle. Only when she felt a hand brush her knee did she open her eyes. The seats themselves didn’t allow for much movement, but Logan had reached back to touch her. To reassure her.
He could probably smell her fear. It was an acrid tang that made her own nose twitch a little.
She moved to grab his hand with an iron grip and he squeezed back. They’d stayed like that for the duration of the flight.
Once on the ground, Max let out a breath that sounded more like a whimper. Logan was immediately at her side, helping her out of the chair and picking her up.
“Is she going to be alright?” Max heard Ororo’s voice behind them as Logan hefted her into his arms and started walking to the back of the plane.
“Yep. First plane ride.”
Max leaned her head against his shoulder, shaking slightly. She knew she would feel a whole lot better once they were back on solid ground. She felt the thrum of his chest as he chuckled and breathed, “Okay, no more planes. I got it.”
He walked down the ramp and stepped out into a respectably sized hangar. Shop tools and parts adorned one entire wall. It was meticulously kept.
Logan spotted a doorway off to the left and asked, “What’s the quickest way to the outside?”
Ororo looked up and Logan followed her lead, startled to see that they had landed in a hangar that seemed to be subterranean. What civilian could afford such a thing? Who the hell were these kids, and who was funding them? Since they didn’t seem to be in imminent danger, he waved the questions away, wanting to get Max outside.
“There a ladder somewhere?”
Ororo shook her head.
“I can fly you up.” she suggested, and Logan took a quick step back.
“No thanks. There another way?”
She nodded and replied, “Follow me.”
Max pressed her nose into the grass, feeling Logan’s hand on her back.
“Never getting on one of those things again.” she muttered.
Logan lay beside her, grinning. “Better?”
Actually, yeah. She was feeling much better now. How was it that he had known the exact thing that she would need to bring her back from the edge of hysteria? She turned to look at him, then gasped at the size of the mansion behind him. They were lying about twenty feet away from it in a patch of thick, cool grass. At least she wasn’t wincing from the overwhelming scents of hydraulics and engine oil anymore. This place smelled clean and good.
She rolled to her side, catching his hand with hers.
“How do you do that?”
His brow furrowed slightly as he asked, “Do what?”
She pulled his hand to rest it over her heart, her tone soft as she said, “How did you know just what to do?”
He smiled and pulled her closer.
“Told you. I got my own wolf of sorts.”
Max laughed, feeling the rest of the remaining tension drain from her body.
She watched Logan retreat into his thoughts, then looked up into the night sky. The air was clean here, which surprised her. She sat up and briefly surveyed her surroundings. The mansion was enormous, and only a couple internal lights were on. Max briefly wondered what time it was. The grounds of this place were very well kept and she could see a large pool off to the right that hadn’t yet been covered up for the coming fall. There was a slight chill in the air and the thought of being naked around strangers again made her discount the pool as an immediate option.
She looked over to find Logan watching her with a thoughtful expression. She grinned at him and lay back beside him as he wrapped an arm around her waist.
“I’m sorry you had to leave your stuff behind.” she murmured.
“It can be replaced.” he replied, resting his forehead against her shoulder.
He then laughed softly. “Hell of a ride, eh?”
Max laughed, resting her cheek on his head.
“Hell of a ride. I have to admit that although I don’t like getting shot all that much, it’s been worth it so far. Choosing to come with you.”
He moved to look up at her and she traced the line of his jaw with a finger. She moved in to kiss him, but was interrupted by the sound of somebody politely clearing their throat.
“The Professor would like to meet you, when you’re ready.”
The woman had the ghost of a smile tugging at the edges of her lips as she spoke.
Max gently patted Logan on his shoulder. “You should go. Figure your head out.”
“Actually, he wishes to meet with both of you.”
Max frowned, wondering what the man could possibly have to say to her.
Logan was surprised at how relieved he was that Max was okay. She’d been too tightly wound at the end of the flight, and he had done the only thing he could think of that would put her back on an even keel. He was glad that it had worked. It had scared him a little and he hadn’t been quite sure what to do about it. It had been a long time since anything had come close to putting any sort of fear in him, but the thought of her hurting surely did it. It was a sign of something he was fairly positive he didn’t want to think about.
Now that she was alright, his thoughts began to wander back to the reason they’d come here.
This Professor guy, whoever he was – could the man really help him make sense out of the trainwreck of disjointed memories in his head? And if so, how far was he himself willing to go to chase down the past? Logan wondered if there would be revelations that would steady him, or simply pull him further apart. It wasn’t a reassuring feeling.
Logan looked over at Ororo, then stood up, turning to help Max get her to her feet and placing his arm around her waist as they made their way back to the mansion.
Logan walked beside the wolf girl, not quite certain where his strong sense of possessiveness about her was coming from. Before, skirts had always been a pleasant distraction; something to break up the last year into less painful chunks. He could sense her confusion with it as well, which made him wonder what was really going on. Even stranger was the fact that the mocha skinned woman with the white hair wasn’t even hitting his radar. She was utterly gorgeous, by any standards, and..nothing.
No reaction. It wasn’t like him.
Logan watched her ass sway gently as she walked ahead of them, waiting for it to hit; baffled that it completely wasn’t.
He frowned and looked over at Max who was looking around at all the dark woodwork in the foyer as they entered the mansion. He stopped for a moment and she looked over at him with a curious expression – and it hit him like a sledgehammer right between the eyes.
Immediate. He shivered.
Oh shit, he thought to himself, instinctively knowing what this was now, but not at all sure how to deal with it.
Max saw discomfort flicker through Logan’s expression and she gently pulled away from him. He looked back at her and blinked as she moved to take his hand, threading her fingers through his and gently pulling him along with a smile. There was no urgency to it, no desperation – and that made the knot that had suddenly formed in his gut loosen a little. They kept pace with each other as Ororo led them through an enormous living room with a large stone fireplace on the far wall. They followed her over to a corridor rich with the same dark wood Max had seen in the foyer. She had never been in such lush surroundings before.
The house itself was a study in dark wood and classical furnishings. Max saw a doorway up ahead and as they passed it, she spotted two kids eating ice cream together in an enormous, well appointed kitchen. The pair looked back at her with cautious eyes. One of them was covered in a strange, slick substance that made him look as if he was dripping wet, but the liquid didn’t seem to be dripping or pooling on the counter around his elbows, or the floor by his feet. The other looked like a normal boy with platinum blonde hair and bright blue eyes.
As Max looked at him, something in his eyes flashed and she blinked.
Max stopped in her tracks, suddenly transfixed by the boy. Fascinated. She took a step into the kitchen. What was it about him? There was something captivating about the way he looked, the way he moved. Everything in her wanted to simply be near him as she took another step forward.
Logan caught her arm as Ororo popped her head in and chided, “John – what did we say about egregious use of your abilities?”
The boy immediately flushed, looking abashed. Suddenly he didn’t look so appealing anymore, and Max shook her head to clear it.
“What was that all about?” Logan asked as they walked back out into the hallway.
Ororo explained, “This is a school where our kind can learn to live without fear of reprisals from those who would injure them out of fear of what they are.”
Max wondered where she hailed from. Max found Logan’s hand back around her waist now as the woman continued, “Each of them has special abilities that we do our best to nurture. John has the ability to fascinate people – to the point of utter distraction from everything else.”
Max asked, “Is it something he can turn on and off?”
The woman nodded and smiled. “It is now. John has been with us for a year now. He has come a very long way. When he first arrived, we had to keep him isolated in order to actually get anything done.”
Max was immensely curious.
“How many others like you are there?”
As they turned another corner and Ororo replied, “It is difficult to tell. We are only just now learning of the vast numbers of mutants out there.”
Ororo walked them up to a set of very heavy looking double doors, taking a step forward to gently slide them apart, revealing a conservatively dressed bald man sitting behind a dark wood desk in an elaborate library and sitting room.
The man smiled gently and said, “I am Professor Charles Xavier. My apologies for the initial disturbance and distress you endured. Please rest assured that it was not intended.”
Max and Logan stepped inside the room and Ororo took a step back, closing the doors behind them.
They looked at each other briefly before the Professor quietly said, “I am sure that you have many questions and I will be more than happy to answer them all.”
“How’d you find me?” Logan asked, his expression stony. “And how’d you know my name?”
Xavier leaned back and explained, “Like Miss Grey, whom you met earlier, I am a telepath. We were able to track you with the help of a prototype device that locates mutants such as yourself so that we can track them down and help them. To offer them a place to learn about their gifts and adapt to them without fear of derision or violence.”
Logan set his jaw, his voice low as he snapped, “So, you just figured you’d dig around in my head, eh?”
Max could smell the anger on him. It radiated around him in jittering waves. Her own response was laced with fear. The idea of her thoughts no longer being her own frightened her in a way that she was not at all comfortable with. She took a step away from the desk and frowned as she wrapped her arms around herself.
“I am very much aware that this idea discomfits you both greatly. Please, allow me to put you at ease – it is not my wish to intrude in minds in which I’m unwelcome.” he began, but Logan immediately cut him off.
“And I’m just supposed to believe you? ’cause you say so? ‘fraid it don’t work like that, Chuck.” He grated, taking a step forward.
Xavier let out a deep sigh, placing his hands on the desk before him.
“There are only so many assurances that anyone such as myself can offer to reassure others; to assuage their fears. You will have to trust me – much in the same way that I will have to trust that you will not harm anybody on the school grounds. Trust has to begin somewhere, Logan.”
Logan paused for a moment, his brow furrowing. The man had a very good point. If he had seen even a fraction of the stuff in Logan’s head, he would have to be near insane to choose to bring him to a place like this. Besides, if he were to hold good to his deal about helping Logan recall the past, he’d have to let the man in sometime. It was going to take a little while to adjust to the idea though.
Didn’t mean he had to like it.
Max moved to sit in one of the chairs in front of the desk, curling her legs beneath her. Xavier’s attention shifted to her and Logan looked back and forth between the two of them.
“Max, is it?” he asked, and she nodded.
He smiled and said, “Although this is a school exclusively for the tutoring of mutants, I would like to extend the opportunity to you to stay, if you wish. You are the first of your kind that I have run across and I would appreciate the opportunity to learn more about you, if you are willing.”
“I would like time to think about it before giving you an answer.” she replied quietly.
Xavier nodded, his tone soft, “I understand. Of course.”
He looked back over at Logan and said, “When you are ready to trust me, I will do what I can to help you piece your memory together, Logan. Until then, you’re both welcome to stay and familiarize yourself with the school. A room has been prepared for you.”
Logan couldn’t figure out if the man was stupid or crazy. One of his kids had just gotten shot while trying to bring the two of them back here and he still wanted them to stay? With children in the house? It didn’t seem the wisest of moves.
“You really wanna bring this down on yourself? On the kids I saw in the kitchen? You sure you want the kinda trouble that follows me?”
Xavier’s expression darkened as he replied, “We are well defended, Logan. Otherwise I would not have extended the offer.”
“What – by those teenagers you sent after me? Aren’t they a little green for this kinda work?”
Max shifted in the chair. Logan could tell that she wasn’t comfortable with this confrontation.
Xavier’s expression closed down, his tone even as he replied, “Perhaps you should leave the evaluation of my people to someone who actually knows them. It’s late. We’ll discuss this further in the morning.”
“What? Who the fuck..” Logan began and Max quickly stood up, touching his shoulder.
“You’re shitting in the man’s house, Logan,” she murmured softly.
Logan, looked back at her as if really seeing her for the first time since they’d walked in. He took a deep breath, then let it out, his eyes locked on hers as she continued, “He’s right. It’s late. Too late after everything that’s happened tonight to be rational. Sleep can only help at this point.”
He felt the anger slowly recede as he looked back at her. Why did she have this affect on him? He was beginning to think that she could pluck him out of a red rage if she put her mind to it. He cast a quick glance back at the man behind the desk, letting him know with a look that this challenge wasn’t over.
Xavier nodded to him, acknowledging it before Logan turned to leave.
Max moved to follow and Xavier quietly said, “Max – if there is anything that either of you needs, please let me know.”
She looked back and tried to give him a reassuring smile, but it felt tight and forced.
“Thank you, Professor.”
Logan was out the door and down the hall before she could catch up with him. Frustration poured off him in waves as he walked down the corridor.
At least he’s not pissed enough to hit something now, she thought to herself as she called out, “Logan.”
He whirled to face her, his expression tight. Something flickered behind his eyes as she heard Ororo’s voice behind her.
“The Professor wishes for me to show you to your rooms.” she explained, and Max frowned.
“Rooms? As in plural?” Max asked, thinking it very unwise to leave Logan alone in this strange house. Especially with his tendency for the vicious nightmares she had seen him endure. She also wasn’t entirely comfortable about having to spend the night alone in this place.
“Yeah – that ain’t gonna work.” Logan growled, irritated.
Max turned to her and said, “I agree. That’s not really a good idea.”
Ororo’s brow furrowed briefly as she explained, “This is essentially a dormitory with separate wings for both males and females. We have children that..”
“One room. Period. Or I’m fuckin’ outta here.”
Logan was beginning to get angry again and Max understood why. Strong Alphas always responded badly to direct challenges.
“Ororo – in this instance, I believe we can bend the rules.”
Xavier was coming up behind her. In a wheelchair. Why hadn’t she noticed that he was in a wheelchair back in his office? The thought quickly left her head and Max blinked.
Ororo paused, her expression becoming briefly unreadable before she gave a graceful nod and said, “Yes, Professor.”
“One of the rooms at the far end of the east wing should suffice for now,” he said as he turned to make his way back down the corridor.
Ororo walked past them and they turned to follow as she led them towards a large staircase in the foyer.
Max’s heart leapt as she felt Logan take her hand, his fingers twining with hers. It was like being a teenager again, crushing on her first pup. She relaxed as he gave her hand a squeeze.
“Thanks.” he grumbled as she smiled.
“For what?” she whispered.
“For not letting me get outta control back there. This is a different place, with different rules. I’m not used to them.” he explained, keeping his voice low.
Max laughed softly. “The only reason I am is because I forced it on myself for so many years. Pink and Pack interaction is in the same in some cases, but things get a lot more aggressive with us, more quickly than with them.”
“I don’t like this, Max. If they track me here, things’ll get real ugly, real quick.” he murmured, tightening his grip on her hand.
They followed their guide up the stairs as Max replied, “That woman Jean handled herself just fine, even though her mate had just gotten clipped. Whatever she did to stop those guys, she kept her head until everybody was no longer a threat. Only three of us got shot – and the bullets only found you once this time.”
“I don’t want other people getting hurt ’cause ‘a me.” His voice lowered to a whisper as he added, “I don’t want you gettin’ hurt.”
Max smiled and squeezed his hand, gently bumping his shoulder with hers.
“I know – but I’m a lot stronger and more durable than I look, remember?”
Logan stopped and looked over at her, his expression pinched.
She rolled her eyes and snapped, “Don’t you go pissin’ all over me now. I can easily fight by your side, Logan, and you know it.”
He let out a choked laugh and Ororo turned to look back at them, her eyebrow raised in silent query.
“We’re coming..” Max called out, pulling Logan along behind her.
Chapter 7: Don’t start getting all psych 101 on me, Max.
Max does a little wandering, meeting a few of the denizens of the School/Mansion before trouble finds them again.
Max looked around the room as Logan closed the door behind them. It was a decent sized room with a small bathroom off to the left. A double bed sat in the right hand corner of the room beneath an open window that let the night breeze in. She looked back to see Logan leaning back against the door, watching her with a careful expression.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, frowning slightly.
He pushed away from the door, his voice gruff as he replied, “Been awhile since I slept in an actual bed.”
Max walked over to the bed and began turning the covers down.
“How long have you been roughing it?” she asked, looking back at him.
Logan pulled his sweatshirt off and tossed it onto a chair in the corner.
“’long as I can remember.”
She walked over to him and placed a hand on his chest. “Don’t you ever use a tent?”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Nope. Never needed one.”
“Not even in the rain?”
“What’dya think the tarps were for?”
Max smiled at that and gently pulled away. Logan caught her hand, pressing it back to his chest. Max could feel his heart hammering beneath his ribcage. By his expression, she could tell that he wanted to say something, but was wrestling with it.
“Logan..” she murmured softly, feeling him shiver beneath her hand.
“I’m not good with this kinda thing.” He explained stiffly, not knowing how else to say it.
Max smiled and replied, “It’s not entirely surprising, seeing how all you’ve been doing for the last year is running for your life and squatting out in the wilderness.”
He sighed and pulled her close. She detected a hint of a tremor in his voice as he murmured, “What is it about you..?”
“Your wolf wants companionship.”
Max felt him shiver at the sound of her voice. “So does mine. It’s a powerful draw between Turnskins.”
“But I’m not..”
Max cut him off, shaking her head. “You may not shift, Logan, but you’re furry on the inside where it matters most.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of, darlin’,” he replied in a hushed whisper.
Max wrapped her arms around him, kissing his cheek. The man had his own demons to fight. She couldn’t step up and battle them for him, no matter how much she wanted to. Simply put, the wolf wanted him – she wanted him, and Max knew she would do what she could for him – no matter how he ended up feeling after he figured things out. There were too many variables to try to direct anything, or to hope that anything ended up a certain way. The best thing at this point was to just go with it for as long as it lasted.
In her experience, regret was something best saved for other things that were more easily controlled.
Logan frowned, squeezing her gently. He drew in a shaky breath, wondering if this was it – a chance to finally stop running so hard. To stop fighting tooth and nail for every goddamned thing. She was definitely right about one thing – there was a powerful draw between them. He almost couldn’t pull away from it now if he wanted to and it felt both reassuring and terrifying at the same time. At times, it felt as if the beast inside him was large enough to shake the world.
As Max gently pulled away and met his gaze, he found himself searching her eyes for something – he wasn’t quite sure what. He definitely knew he didn’t like feeling this conflicted.
Max’s hands slowly slid down his back, immediately redirecting his thoughts to something much less confusing. She smiled as he leaned in to kiss her, trying to hold back – to take it slow.
“You don’t have to worry about breaking me..”
Logan growled then, gripping her roughly and pressing her tight against the line of his body.
“Better.” she purred.
Logan quickly lifted her, wrapping her legs around his waist as he moved to slam her back up against the wall. Max quickly pulled her sweatshirt off, tossing it across the room. Within moments, they’d separated from each other, getting the rest of their clothing out of the way as quickly as possible.
Max lifted her hands over her head as she moved to lean back against the wall, locking her arms together. Did she know what she was doing to him? The signs of her submission were like a red flag to a bull. He shivered as a smile curved her lips.
Oh yeah, she knew. It shattered what little control he had left.
Suddenly she was in his arms again as he pulled her against him, growling. He gripped her tighter, digging his fingers into her ass.
Logan then spun Max to face the wall, grabbing her hips and roughly pulling her back. Max cried out and slapped her hands on the wall, her toes curling as his fingers dipped down to find her more than ready, sliding along her slickness and sending sparks skating through her synapses. He leaned into her and ran a hand through her hair, gripping it tight, his lips brushing along the back of her neck.
“Please..” she whispered, and he bit down hard, marking her and drawing blood as he slid into her.
Max screamed as she came apart beneath his fingers, and he felt her body lock up as he sped up his rhythm, relentless.
Once he’d spilled over the edge, Logan then quickly spun her and kissed her, gripping her so tightly he was positive he’d leave bruises – for however long they’d last on her skin. The wolf girl returned the kiss with a ferocity that surprised him.
Logan pulled back and she let out a full throated laugh, her eyes wild. It took his breath away. A trail of crimson snaked down over one of her breasts, and he frowned. He didn’t think he’d bitten her that hard. The ragged marks his teeth had left in her skin were already closing up.
“Don’t stop.” she moaned, her voice husky.
“Jesus, Max.” he groaned, wanting to lose himself in this. In her.
So, for the rest of the night, he did.
Max woke to the sounds of a chatty bird in the tree outside their window. Warm sunlight streamed in the window through the leaves. She turned to try to catch a glimpse of the bird and chuckled as Logan mumbled something and pulled her close.
She felt him smiling against her skin as she asked, “You plan on getting up anytime soon?”
He shifted beside her, groaning. “Too bright.”
She laughed lightly and turned to face him. “Aren’t you interested in checking this place out? It’s enormous.”
Logan looked over at her, nonplussed. “Saw all of this place I need to last night.”
Max smiled and she saw the ghost of a smile play along his lips as he rolled onto his back.
“Well, I’m gonna go exploring and see if I can find some breakfast.”
Max sat up and walked over to collect the grey sweats that she’d thrown over by the door in their late night frenzy.
“And some different clothes.”
She wrinkled her nose, wishing that she could find a skirt. Emergency shifting in pants tended to be a bit of a pain in the ass, although her father and brothers never seemed to care about all the pairs of jeans they’d ripped up throughout the years. Besides, skirts were just more comfortable. There was more freedom of movement.
Max pulled the sweats on and looked over to find Logan watching her, a smile quirking his lips as she moved over to the door.
“You want me to bring anything up?”
“Nah. I’ll come down and forage later.”
He rolled over onto his stomach now, still eying her.
Max smiled and opened the door, stepping out into the corridor. She wanted to give him some time alone to figure stuff out, as well as getting to know the layout of this place. She had always been inquisitive, wanting to investigate caves and various patches of forest that her brothers had never showed any interest in when she was a pup. As she padded over to the stairs, the scent of freshly brewed coffee made her mouth water. Max quickly made her way down the stairs, almost knocking over the blonde boy she’d seen in the kitchen last night as she came around the banister.
She deftly dodged and gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry. I didn’t see you there.”
The boy smiled and looked up at her, his voice sounding out of place for his body. “It’s okay. I’m sorry about last night.”
Max let out a soft chuckle. “That’s alright. I’m Max.”
She extended her hand and the boy shook it gently. Very polite.
“I’m John. Are you and the scary man staying here now?”
Max let out a bark of laughter, then quickly covered her mouth and cast a quick glance back up the stairs. The scary man, indeed.
“I don’t know yet, John.”
“I hope you stay.” He murmured, letting go of her hand.
“We’ll see.” Max replied as she heard someone call his name out from behind her.
“Gotta go. See you later, Max!” he called out as he ran off.
She chuckled and turned to walk to the kitchen, hoping that there was some of that delicious smelling coffee left. The tile floor in the kitchen was a touch chilly and a small shiver went through her as she looked up to see a large blue furred creature sitting at the breakfast table, eating a bowl of cereal and reading a hardcover book that it held up between its toes. It looked up and smiled at her, sharp canines poking out over its lips.
“You must be Max! Splendid! Allow me to introduce myself. I am Doctor Henry McCoy, resident technician and mad scientist.”
He looked like a cross between a large blue gorilla and an enormous predatory cat as he peered at her over a small pair of glasses that sat perched on the end of his nose. How he saw anything through them was a mystery to her. One of his enormous blue hands encircled a ceramic coffee cup that looked so very fragile in his grip. Max found herself wondering how often he smashed them accidentally. He collected the book with his other hand and placed it gently on the table.
Max blinked, then stammered, “Coffee?”
Doctor McCoy gestured over to the counter, nodding as he replied, “Ah, yes. I’m often not myself until I’ve had my first vigorous cup of the day as well. You’ll find the cups just above the sweet aroma of the majestic bean itself.”
Max blinked again and asked, “Whua?”
He sighed and said, “Cups are in the cabinet above the pot.”
Max nodded and quickly poured herself a cup, her eyes closing in bliss at the first sip. She smiled and murmured, “Delicious.”
“It’s Kona. No expense is spared when it comes to providing staff access to high quality, early morning liquid fuel,” Henry explained, as she turned back to him.
Max paused a moment, then walked over to the table and sat across from him. A strong, musky scent surrounded the man and before she could stop herself, she blurted, “You smell feline. Are you?”
Henry did a small spittake, then quickly moved to wipe up the mess with a napkin.
“My apologies, dear lady. I’m not usually so easily startled.” He took a shaky breath, then quietly asked, “You can smell that?”
Max nodded and tapped her nose. “It’s stronger than it looks.”
At that, he cocked his head, his expression intent as he asked, “So, are your canis lupus attributes as potent now as they are after you’ve changed forms?”
Max raised an eyebrow at the comment and Henry quickly explained, “I don’t mean to be abrupt or prying, but this is the first time I’ve ever encountered an actual lycanthrope.”
Max took another sip of coffee, then carefully answered, “My nose is stronger when I have fur, if that’s what you’re asking.
“Fascinating.” Henry’s voice was a soft, reverent whisper, and she could see his eyes glittering with intellectual curiosity.
“Do you know if the guy who got shot – the one with the weird thing on his head – do you know if he’s okay?”
Max hoped that he was recovering well. She felt bad that it would take him a while to heal the wound.
Henry gave a solemn nod as he replied, “He’ll be fine. He won’t be able to use that arm for awhile, though.”
“It must be frustrating to have to wait for your body to repair itself over an extended period of time.”
Max took another sip of coffee. It was easily the best coffee she’d ever had, but then she’d never been much of a coffee snob. As long as it was black and bitter, she was happy.
Henry frowned, then cocked his head slightly. “Do you have accelerated healing as well, as the legends of old portray?”
“Bruises and cuts don’t stay on me for long.” she replied before asking, “So – are you..like me? Can you turn skins?”
Henry frowned for a moment, as if not quite understanding. He then let out a heavy sigh and shook his head. “Ah, I’m afraid not. What you see in stark representation is a physical mutation that, for all intents and purposes, is permanent in nature. I cannot reverse it.”
Max was suddenly sorry she’d asked. It sounded like she had hit a sore point, and she hoped that she hadn’t hurt his feelings.
“I didn’t mean..” she began, her words trailing off as Henry held up an enormous blue hand.
“It is quite alright, madame. While I am still on my way to making my peace with my appearance, I can hardly fault you for being equally as curious as I myself am about your..well, you.”
Max smiled and took another sip of coffee.
“I’d like to ask you a few questions, if I may. Would you be willing to submit to a minor scientific inquiry?” he asked, with a hopeful look.
Max sobered at the phrasing. She didn’t want to become a lab rat, dissected for study.
Henry seemed to sense his conversational misstep and quickly explained, “Rest assured, dear lady, that any revelations that I acquire about your nature will stay within the confines of this house. Although it would be an enormous splash in the scientific world to release such proof that your kind exists, I have no desire to submit anybody to the heartless and cold, clinical examination that certain immoral groups would invariably conduct on their subjects.”
“Are we talking questions, or tests?” she asked, wary.
Henry pursed his lips for a moment, then said, “Anything that you will be most comfortable with, Max.”
He was friendly enough, and there was a sincerity about him that was reassuring.
“Let’s try this – a question asked for a question answered?” he offered, raising an eyebrow. It was odd to see such a gesture on his feline features.
Max smiled and nodded, placing her cup down on the table between them.
“I go first.” she grinned.
Logan was padding through the corridor to the kitchen when he heard Max laughing. His lips quirked into a secretive smile as he strode into the kitchen. The conversation stopped and a large blue beast and a shirtless, tanned GQ model with bright, white wings peered over at him from across the kitchen, sizing him up.
Max spun around and grinned, her eyes dancing as she said, “Logan..”
Her tone made him shiver as he walked over to her. He still wasn’t at all comfortable with the surroundings, but being near her made it less irritating.
“Salutations! We were just discussing nature versus nurture with your delightful companion, Logan.”
Henry smiled and Logan eyed him, staying silent.
Max quickly intervened, explaining, “Henry’s the school’s resident scientist, and the guy with the wings is Warren, who apparently introduces himself as – what was it? ‘Just another featherheaded billionaire shmuck.'”
Who gave a shit? Why was she bothering to get to know these people? Logan raised an eyebrow, still silent.
Warren quickly stood and said, “Henry, we should probably get going – busy day and all.”
He then smiled at Max and said, “It was a pleasure to meet you Max.”
His expression sobered as he nodded and said, “Logan.”
The two of them walked out of the kitchen and Max looked over at him, her expression mild. “Any particular reason you’re being a dick this morning?”
Logan’s eyes widened as she added, “They were nice, and were telling me about the school – in detail. It sounds like a good place. You didn’t have to get all anti-social alpha on them.”
“Christ, ain’t there any mercy in you?” he muttered, annoyed.
“Logan, I know it’s been hard out there, and I know it’s going to take time for you to be comfortable socially – but you’ve gotta start somewhere.” she murmured, gently placing a hand on his arm.
She had no idea. None. The horrors he’d seen – that he’d been subjected to.
He pulled away from her and growled, “Are you fuckin’ kiddin’ me? Don’t start gettin’ all fuckin’ Psych 101 on me, Max. You got no clue about the shit I been in.”
Young. She was still so young. Why did he keep forgetting that?
Max sighed, pulling back from him, her tone soft as she explained, “We’re here to learn about your past. Alienating the people around here isn’t going to help you with that.”
Logan took a slow, deep breath in, feeling his anger rise. It didn’t help that she was right. He took a step away from her.
“We’re both runnin’, Max. Trouble is, what I’m runnin’ from puts holes in everything around me. It kills anything I let in too close.”
His mouth became a thin hard line. “This was a fuckin’ mistake.”
He turned and walked out of the kitchen and Max shook her head gently.
Logan tried to control his breathing as he strode angrily through the sitting room towards a pair of French doors off to the right that opened out into a patio that overlooked a lush backyard. He didn’t want to be here – didn’t want the added frustration and confusion that other people brought with them. His life hadn’t exactly been easy of late, but at least it had been somewhat manageable. Now he was not only on the run again, but was now being assailed with a whole host of other bullshit that he simply didn’t have time to deal with.
His thoughts raged as he walked out onto the meticulously manicured lawn, looking around for something that he could tear into that would bleed some of the excess frustration off.
“Women.” he grated, his nostrils flaring. “Too damned much trouble.”
Where the fuck did she come off, getting in his face like that? She didn’t know him. They barely knew each other, for chrissakes, and she was already trying to analyze him like a dollar store pop shrink.
All the hair on the back of his neck stood up as the whup-whup sound of chopper blades off in the distance caught his attention. Logan stood stock still, tensing at the sounds of several more helicopters approaching.
Dammit! I fuckin’ told you, Charlie…
Logan ran back inside the house, yelling, “MAX! INCOMING!”
The Professor rolled into the room, with both Jean and Ororo hot on his wheels. Max appeared by his side, as if out of thin air, and he flinched. How the hell had she moved that fast?
Ororo’s hair began to float around her head as she walked over to the doors. Logan blinked as he looked back over at Jean, whose mouth was now set in an angry line.
“Jean – wait for my mark.”
Charlie’s voice sounded entirely different now as he slowly closed his eyes and gripped the armrests of the wheelchair.
“What the hell?” Logan frowned, then followed Ororo outside. Max padded quietly behind him.
The woman’s white hair was now whipping around her face and she started floating upwards. She looked like a goddesss roused to action. Within moments, a thick fog began rolling across the school grounds from the lake, creating a thick white blanket that obscured everything. Logan felt Max take his hand and he gripped it tightly. He didn’t want to lose track of her in this mess.
The choppers grew closer and Logan tensed, waiting for the sounds of gunfire. They seemed to be circling in a searching pattern.
Logan frowned. They should’ve found the school by now.
After several moments, the sounds began to fade away – back the way they’d come.
“What the fuck just happened?” he asked in a hushed whisper.
“No idea.” Max answered, jumping slightly at the sound of a voice behind her.
“You’re playing a dangerous game, Logan.” This from Jean. She sounded angry.
He whirled on her, dropping Max’s hand.
“What the fuck are you talkin’ about, lady? I was the one told you guys that I had trouble followin’ me. Not my fault you didn’t choose to listen.”
“Charles had to literally erase your presence from the minds of the men in those helicopters in order to convince them to leave. They seemed really excited about getting their hands on you again.”
She cocked her head, placing her hands on her hips. “What do the words Weapon X mean to you, and why are they so important in the minds of the men chasing you?”
Logan stilled, his hands clenching into fists.
“Is it something you have that they want?”
The fog around them began to clear and Ororo dropped lightly to the ground beside them.
Charlie hadn’t been kidding about his ability to protect his people, at least on their home ground. The thought of how quickly the threat had been eliminated sent icewater racing through his veins. If the man could easily manipulate the minds of that many men that far away – how much damage could he do to somebody that was less than twenty feet away?
“Yeah.” Logan murmured, feeling sick to his stomach. “Me.”
Chapter 8: Have a large supply of raw meat ready for him for afterwards…
Surgery adds to the mystery - and a startling discovery
“She did what?!?” Jean gaped in disgust.
“Was the only way to get it out.” Logan grunted, irritated.
Max looked over at Professor Xavier who was now watching the interaction between Jean and Logan with a great deal of interest. The redhead seemed particularly temperamental. She was very beautiful and her anger only enhanced her appearance, which irritated Max. In her opinion, angry people should look unpleasant if not downright ugly – not more appealing.
The professor explained, “Be that as it may, Logan, the problem still remains. The only logical explanation for those men being able to locate you so quickly is that there must still be another tracking device somewhere on your person.”
Max frowned. If that was the case, why hadn’t she tasted it on him? Surely it would have given off some sort of electrical resonance through his body like the first one had. Wouldn’t it? Jean was still reeling from the shock at the revelation that Max had cut him open to extract the first one. Wasn’t she a doctor of sorts? Henry had mentioned something about it during their conversation earlier. Surely the woman couldn’t be that squeamish.
Granted, Max had to admit that it had been pretty nerve racking at the time, and she had passed out shortly afterward. Max winced as Logan looked over at her, looking beleaguered.
“Look,” she said, trying to make herself heard over the arguing that had now broken out between Jean and Logan. “Doctor McCoy mentioned something about being a scientist. Isn’t this something he can figure out?”
What were they, children? They were snapping at each other like siblings.
Professor Xavier seemed to see her for the first time, his expression relaxing. “You are indeed correct, Max. I’m somewhat concerned that I didn’t think of that sooner.”
Ororo was making her way from the kitchen when Hank walked in. The two of them looked at each other for a moment, then walked past each other. Max wasn’t sure if anybody else in the room had noticed their secretive smiles to each other.
What an intriguing pairing, Max thought to herself, looking back over at Logan and seeing an exasperated look on his face. The redhead was really getting to him.
Max felt her lips curl into a small smile as Henry said, “Unfortunately, I’m afraid that none of our equipment is quite diminutive enough to transport easily up from the lab. We’ll need to transport him down there in order to conduct a thorough physiological inquiry.”
Max watched Logan look over at Doctor McCoy and her smile grew bigger as she watched him set his jaw. She shook her head gently as he turned back to face her, frowning.
“I don’t care where it is. I’m not cutting it out of you this time. You’re on your own with that, darlin’.”
His bland expression almost made her laugh out loud. ”I’ll go with you, though.”
“Henry, report back to me with the findings as soon as they’re available.” The professor turned to the redhead and said, “And I believe that you currently have a patient to tend to, Jean. I’m sure Doctor McCoy will notify you when he needs you.”
The woman gave Logan an acidic look before turning and walking out of the room with a haughty stride.
“What’s her problem?” Logan grumbled.
Max walked over to him and explained, “She’s attracted to you, and she doesn’t like it. Girls get stupid when it comes to stuff like that.”
The three men in the room went silent. Doctor McCoy recovered first, clearing his throat.
“The lab is this way. If you’ll please follow me.” He walked out into the foyer.
As Henry walked past her, Logan let out a laugh. “And you say I need to adapt better socially?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Max asked, frowning as they moved to follow the blue furred doctor.
“I may not know much about this sorta thing, pup, but I do know that you don’t usually go blurting stuff like that out in a group of people.” he explained, chuckling now.
Max blinked and looked over at him, confused. “Really? Why not?”
“I believe the common notion is that it is considered conversationally rude.” Henry explained as he slowed down. “On the whole, most people aren’t entirely comfortable with anything that direct.”
“That’s stupid.” Max said airily. “How does anybody effectively communicate if they’re not straightforward?”
Logan turned to look at her now, asking, “Max – how long you been livin’ among the ‘pinks’, as you call ‘em?”
“About six years now. Why?”
It was his turn to look baffled.
“All that time among ‘em and you didn’t pick up on this?”
Max pursed her lips for a moment, thinking back. Suddenly, a whole lot of the weirdness that she had been on the receiving end of from the people around her throughout the years made total sense. She had just figured that it was the way the pinks were with one another. No wonder everybody always seemed a little off.
“Holy shit.” she breathed, and Logan let out a howl of laughter like it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
Max narrowed her eyes at him, irritated. “What?”
“All that, and you’re lecturing me on ‘social graces’ in the kitchen?” He smirked.
Max rolled her eyes and elbowed him.
“Sorry I was shitty earlier.” He murmured, sobering.
Doctor McCoy walked up to a wall of paneling in the foyer that opened up to reveal an elegant elevator car.
Max blinked, then looked over at him and said, “Yeah, me too.”
“You were right. It bugged me.”
Max smiled. “I’ll try to cut down on that in the future.”
Logan gave her a low growl as they walked inside.
Logan stared back at doctor McCoy, dumbfounded.
“How many again?” he asked, stunned.
“Well, it appears that there are an elaborate series of backups that snake through each device. They seem to be fused to your spinal cord in several key places. My best guess is that this was a failsafe of sorts in case you happened to damage any of them.”
Jean nodded, trailing a finger along the illuminated X-Ray, tapping along several spots on the spine. “C1, T1 and L5, to be exact. Max, can you show me where you..” she shivered for a moment before recovering her clinical professional tone. “..extracted the first one?”
Max turned to Logan who still seemed to be in shock. She gently touched his shoulder, then ran her fingers along his skin until she found the right place.
“There.” She felt Logan shiver and she moved to grip his hand. Good god, what else had been done to him?
Jean frowned for a moment, then looked up at Henry and said, “That’s L1 taken care of then. We’ll have to operate quickly. We need to get them out of him and get the transmitters far away from here.”
Henry nodded, his expression stern. “Agreed. Would you like me to assist?”
Jean took a breath and nodded again. Max noticed that she looked a little shaken.
Max moved to stand in front of Logan, who was now sitting on an operating table in the medical bay, his legs dangling over the side. She captured his gaze which had grown empty and distant. He was deep in his head somewhere. Max got the strong feeling that wherever his thoughts had gone, they weren’t at all pleasant. She placed a hand on his knee and he flinched, blinking and looking back at her.
“They’re wanting to operate as soon as they can. I’ll stay with you the entire time, okay? I’m not leaving your side.” she murmured. “Do you want to be awake for it?” she asked, knowing that he would appreciate the respect intended in the question.
Jean gasped, blurting out, “Are you kidding? Of course we have to knock him out. Otherwise, he’ll feel everything. If he moves during the operation, it could cripple him.” She shuddered.
Logan’s eyes locked with Max’s.
Nobody was knocking him out again anytime soon. It was highly unlikely they could afford the amount of tranquilizers it would take to put him down and keep him down in the first place, anyway. The pain would be excruciating and the severity of it might just do the job for them anyway, but he didn’t want any sedatives.
Max quickly explained, “He’s like me. Sedatives and painkillers don’t really work on us all that well.”
“But..” Jean began and Max frowned, her voice a low warning.
Henry let out a slow breath, then said, “I believe that it is in our best interest to provide the man what he has requested in this particular instance, Jean.”
He turned and stepped out of the room to wash up in the scrub sinks out in the hallway.
Jean moved to follow and Max added, “I’d also have a large supply of raw meat ready for him for afterward.”
The woman looked back at her and frowned, asking, “In god’s name, why?”
“Just trust me on this.” she replied, turning to look back at Logan.
Jean shook her head as she left the room and Max murmured, “You sure about this, studly?”
He blinked, then gave her a slight smile. “Studly?”
Max shrugged and grinned, giving his hand a gentle shake. Logan sobered and rested his head on her shoulder.
“I can’t go under. The claws could pop. Reflex.”
She wrapped her arms around him, nuzzling his cheek.
“Too much bad shit in my head chasin’ me down when I’m out.” he whispered as she kissed his shoulder.
Max nodded and he pulled her close.
“You sure you wanna stay? You didn’t react too good the last time.” Logan let out a chuckle.
She wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea of watching him endure the amount of pain he was going to put himself through for this, but she couldn’t let him go through it alone, either. If he could endure it, the least she could do would be to witness it. To be there for him.
A cold tightness coiled in his gut. He knew how much pain was coming, and he couldn’t avoid it with any degree of comfort. He wouldn’t be able to let himself retreat into berzerker mode in order to bleed the pain away. If he lost it..
He didn’t want to think about the aftermath of that particular scenario.
Max looked back at him and replied, “Positive.”
Logan nodded grimly, taking a deep, slow breath, trying to prepare himself the best way he could. Henry and Jean walked back in, now in full sterile operation gear.
“You’ll want to clean up as well, Max. We don’t want to take any chances with infection.” Jean explained.
Logan laughed at that and turned to face them.
“Are you kiddin’? You’ll be lucky if you can keep me open long enough to pull the fucking things out. Trust me – infection ain’t an issue.”
Jean blinked behind her plastic visor and blanched.
“Please tell me you’re joking.” She whispered.
Logan shrugged and she took a step back.
Jean cleared her throat, finding her professional voice.
“There’s going to be a substantial amount of blood loss. We’ll need to type him first.”
Henry nodded and began collecting the equipment before Logan muttered, “O, but yer not gonna need any blood.”
Jean frowned and asked, “Any other medical history that we should be aware of?”
Logan grunted and shook his head. Max watched his jaw set as he moved to lay face down on the operating table. His fingers gripped the edges of the table, his breath coming slow and deep now.
“Let’s go for L5 first.” Jean pulled a metal tray over to the table and Henry gently placed an array of surgical tools down on a thin sheet of paper covering the tray beside the table.
Jean swabbed Logan’s lower back with a slick yellow substance, then paused for a moment, looking up to see her patient white knuckling the edges of the table.
“Shit.” She quietly murmured before leaning down and making the first cut.
After the final extraction, Logan convulsed on the table. Max had been able to talk him down from going utterly feral several times, but if he didn’t eat soon, he was likely going to snap. The intense pain and his reaction to it had hit a level that scared him. He could hear a snarling, growling sound echoing throughout the room. It almost sounded like an enormous rabid dog. It took a moment to realize that the sound was coming from his own throat.
He could hear something else through the growling, something soft. A puff of breath by his ear.
Suddenly, the smell of blood was overpowering. Stale blood, but it’d do. Any port in a storm, as it were.
Jean’s eyes widened at the sight of Logan wolfing down large chunks of raw, bloody red meat with a ravenous gusto. She looked more than a little unnerved. The operation, while initially proving to be an exercise in frustration, had also been a success – they’d gotten the remaining tracers out.
Max kept a close eye on Logan, making sure he stayed focused on eating. With the utter rage he’d been swimming in earlier, she wanted to make sure he didn’t get drawn further into it. If his feral side took over now, they would have to get the hell away from him as quickly as possible and just let the rage burn its way out. He would likely destroy a great deal of the lab, not to mention the mansion, in the process. He’d also likely butcher anything in his path. Everything would become prey.
Max had seen an Alpha male in a fine red rage before, and the only thing you could do was just get out of their way until it passed. There was no way to make them see reason – they were completely beyond it. It was rare, but it happened.
Thank god the meat was holding his attention. It was definitely helping.
“How do you…?” Jean’s voice trailed off and she shuddered.
Max cocked her head back at the woman and asked, “How do I what?”
“Stay with him?” She murmured quietly.
Max smiled, showing teeth. “I’m a great deal more like him than I am like you. The things that bug you about him seem normal to me. Reassuring.”
Jean frowned, then nodded when she remembered the nature of the creature she was talking to. Her tone was soft as she replied, “Yes. I imagine they would.”
She paused for a moment, then asked, “You aren’t the least bit affected by the way the surgery went, are you?”
Max smiled and shook her head gently. “I didn’t have to cut him open this time. Makes a sizable difference.”
Jean paled, then closed her eyes for a moment. Max felt for her. The woman might be a doctor, but Logan was a rather unusual – if not downright distressing patient. Max had been surprised at how efficiently Jean had conducted herself, only letting her discomfort show now that it was over.
Max was fascinated with how quickly Logan’s body had repaired itself once the tracers had been taken out of the various points along his spine. As he ate, the shininess of the new skin growing over the wounds quickly faded. After a few moments, there was no indication that physical trauma of any kind had taken place.
Thirty pounds of meat later, Logan felt a good deal better. He’d still have to sleep for awhile to let his body recuperate, but now the worst of it was over. He looked over at Max, exhausted.
“Are you okay to walk?” she murmured, gently wrapping her fingers around his wrist.
“Think so.” He muttered, trying to haul himself up and failing.
His eyes narrowed and he let out a growl of frustration. He hated getting this weak, much less being around other people when he was in this state.
The body fatigue was hitting him much harder this time – probably due to the fact that he hadn’t had the strong dose of adrenaline pumping through his veins that usually kept him upright and relatively pain free during a fight.
Max hefted him up, cradling him in her arms. It was a weird feeling, but there wasn’t much he could do about it, so he went with it.
Henry raised an eyebrow, his tone hushed as he said, “He easily outweighs you by at least sixty pounds.”
Max smiled and said, “Actually, he feels a lot heavier, but then I’m a lot stronger than I look.”
Carrying Logan presented a light strain on her muscles, which let her know that he weighed a considerable amount – very likely at least double what Henry had pegged him at.
She turned to the door and said, “I’ll get him upstairs. He’ll need to sleep for awhile after this.”
Logan’s head fell back on her shoulder and she gently kissed the top of his head.
“Bed soon.” she murmured. She saw the ghost of a smile at the edges of his lips.
They made quite the sight as Max walked through the mansion carrying him. Ororo’s eyes widened when she passed them in the hallway – her only emotional indicator that Max had done something that had actually surprised her. The woman was surprisingly contained; almost stiff at times. Max wondered if she ever really let go and let it all hang out.
Once back in the bedroom, Max gently placed Logan on the bed, sliding the covers over him before sitting beside him and gently running her fingers through his hair. He let out a shaky sigh, then dropped off to sleep. The last time one of her brothers had been injured almost as badly, it had taken at least twenty four hours to recover from it. Max figured it a safe bet that Logan would be out for the next day.
While she wasn’t quite tired yet, she was still awfully curious about this place and the people here. She wanted to do a little more poking around. She leaned forward and kissed his temple, then let quietly let herself out.
Jean and Hank were in the kitchen, and Max was able to pick up what they were saying before she made it down the stairs.
“Do you think he knows?” Jean asked.
There was a pause, then someone sighed. Henry answered, “I would imagine not. The Professor was saying that he is incapable of retrieving past information about himself. He believes that this is due to a stress factor on Logan’s psyche that was so great that it shut most of the man’s memory receptors down in order to preserve itself.”
“The pain he must’ve endured..”
This from Jean.
“I can’t even begin to imagine..”
Max rounded the corner, walking into the kitchen, her tone casual as she asked, “Do you think he knows what?”
Both of them remained silent for several beats before Jean replied, “His entire skeleton is covered with a strange metallic substance. Its almost as if its been fused directly onto his bones.”
She frowned for a moment, then continued, “Even with all the scraping throughout the removal process, I didn’t even come close to scratching the surface of the metal itself. If whoever implanted those things in him had fused them to his spine with the same metallic alloy I don’t think we would’ve been able to get them out of him.”
Max pondered this for a moment before pulling up a chair and sitting beside them.
“He knows about it, but I don’t think he knows what it is. The metal, I mean. Couldn’t it be part of that mutation he’s mentioned?”
Jean shook her head slowly, her voice low. “This looks manufactured. It definitely didn’t occur naturally; through a mutation.”
Henry gave a grave nod and quietly said, “I concur.”
Jean leaned forward, her expression earnest. “The thing that baffles me is that the process they used to do this to him should’ve destroyed his bones completely. Bone marrow manufactures the body’s blood cells. This includes the veritable army of white blood cells that his body surely utilizes for his vastly accelerated healing. Without this critical process, Logan would die outright. A metal covering would close off the veins and capillaries that run through them, as well as the delicate fissures throughout. Since he bleeds, as we’ve seen – where does the blood come from?”
Max had never gotten that in-depth into biology when she was younger and the question of the origin of his blood didn’t really interest her. She pulled away from them, her expression growing cold as she asked, “So – what you’re telling me is that somebody did this to him?”
She heard herself growl towards the end and knew that if she ever ran across the people that had put him through this, she would gladly vivisect them with her bare claws.
“I believe so.” Jean answered, watching Max with a wary eye now.
Max’s hands slowly fisted, her voice trembling as she asked, “Is there any way to find out who did it?” She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been this angry.
Henry leaned forward and replied, “This entire scenario tastes more like a privately funded research outing, more than anything else – although I am honestly unable to imagine why someone would do such a thing.”
Jean let out a small gasp, placing her hand on the table as something clicked in her thoughts. A previous piece of Logan’s mental puzzle that she’d gleaned suddenly made sense.
“Shit. Why didn’t I see it before?”
“Jean..?” Henry frowned.
“They’re not after him because he has Weapon X. They’re after him because he is Weapon X.”
Chapter 9: Fuck or fight, old man. Pick one.
Max makes a few new friends and Logan endures nightmares and red-headed irritants.
And then it's time for him to leave to find answers.
Professor Xavier sat behind his desk, his fingers steepling slowly as he peered over them at Max.
She felt the intensity of his gaze as he asked, “How long have you and Logan been travelling together, Max?”
She pulled her legs up under her as she replied, “About several days.”
The professor blinked and placed his hands flat on the desk before him, leaning forward. “I’m sorry – did you say several days?”
Jean shifted in her seat beside Max, looking perplexed as well.
“What?” Max wondered what the big deal was.
The professor leaned back, asking, “I’m curious. During this time, has anybody else tried to come after him?”
“Four men in military uniforms shot us with darts a day or two ago. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but he reacted as if they were enemies and I backed him up.” she explained.
“When you say you backed him up..” The professor raised an eyebrow in query.
“We killed them.” Max looked back at him, matter-of-factly.
The room stayed silent for a moment. Max felt a palpable wave of unease coming from both Henry and Jean.
Max let out a sharp bark of laughter and said, “Hey, if you want to try to stop him when he goes into that fine red rage he slides into when he’s being attacked, you go right ahead. Me?” She leaned back in her chair, placing her hands on the handrests. “My father taught me better’n to get between an Alpha male and his prey.”
Professor Xavier became very still as he said, “Max – I need to speak with Miss Grey and Doctor McCoy alone for a few moments. Would you mind? If there’s anything you find that you need, Miss Ororo Munroe should be able to help.”
Max nodded, relieved that she’d be able to leave the room now that everybody else seemed distinctly uncomfortable. She knew that pinks tended not to like it so much when one of them died. Her own father had drilled it into her family’s heads, over and over – you don’t kill the two-leggers. And yet – she’d had to, do keep them from killing her, or worse. She felt no remorse or guilt about it. It was simply what needed to be done.
Pinks were weird when it came to killing most things. They didn’t realize that it was a substantial part of life. It was all part of the struggle.
But then, that was the way of the Pinks, wasn’t it? They didn’t want to see where their meat came from – not wanting to rationalize that it had once been a living, breathing creature, enjoying its life. Everything killed everything else to live. That was the name of the game.
They didn’t call it survival for nothin’.
She let herself out and quietly closed the door behind her and made her way towards the sitting room, wanting to get outside for a bit to clear her head.
Killing other Turnskins was anathema, but almost everything else was prey. The wolf’s base instincts were always very clear cut: hunting, killing, fucking, eating, sleeping. The flip side was where the rules came in. They couldn’t all live like rabid, feral dogs, tearing each other apart every five minutes. Wolves in the wild had their own pack structure – their own rules to keep chaos from ripping the fabric of their society apart.
For Turnskins, it was much the same – although their rules were a great deal different from the Pinks.
They didn’t kill their own. There were only a finite number of Turnskins. Litters as large as the ones she’d been in were unheard of. Most mated pairs could only have a single pup at a time, if that. It made what her father did to her brothers such a betrayal of everything the Pack stood for.
It was also clear that you didn’t kill Pinks, unless you had a damned good reason. Nobody wanted to bring curious Pinks down on the pack. Their numbers were far greater and it would only bring disaster on the entire community.
Killing prey, however – that was another thing entirely. It was all part of the life cycle they all lived within. She never tormented her prey; always choosing to deliver a swift killing blow so that the animal wouldn’t suffer. There were others in her Pack that loved the taste of terror in their meat, but she had never been overly fond of it. To her, it always had a faintly bitter taste to it. It ruined the taste of her meal.
Max stood before the doors in the living room, peering out at the yard beyond. The sun was just slipping down behind the treeline, throwing long shadows along the grass. The expansive grounds made her want to shift and run, to feel the wind rushing along her muzzle. The sweat outfit was uncomfortable. It felt constrictive and the wolf wanted to be let out to play. Max ventured a quick look around before quietly opening one of the doors and ducking outside. The night air was delicious with smells that alternated between sweet and musky. She quickly stripped and shifted, tearing across the yard with a happy chuffing sound.
A small rabbit caught her eye and she leapt after it, laughing as she chased it around the yard. It darted from hedge to hedge, its heart racing as it tried to get away. Not being hungry enough to actually catch it and eat it, Max let it scamper off, happy for the exercise. Besides, half the fun was knowing that she could easily catch her given prey.
Something off to her left caught her attention. It was over by the fence that surrounded the grounds.
Max stopped, cocking her head and looking over at it. It looked like a person just standing there watching her. The figure took a step back from the fence, as if surprised that she’d seen it. She started a brisk trot over to where the figure stood and it turned and ran off, heading for the treeline across the road. When she reached the section where it had been standing, she tried to pick out a distinct scent. It smelled like a Pink, but there was an edge to the scent that made her hackles rise.
What the hell?
Max watched the figure retreat as it darted into the trees. Whatever it had been, it was gone now.
She decided to give the grounds a quick run to see how much room there was to cover and was surprised at the sheer size of the place. She first encountered a large square of very tall, pristinely maintained hedges that had a small opening in them. She peered inside, seeing another hedge wall. Max wrinkled her nose, not caring for the feeling that the hedges gave her.
She continued her curious quest, coming back around to the pool she’d seen the first night they’d arrived. A sizeable basketball court was just behind it.
Beyond the pool lay the edge of a lake. She padded over to the shoreline, the sounds of the water lapping at the rocks calming her. Max sat back on her haunches, just watching the moonlight glitter on the surface of the lake. There was a reassuring quality to the sound of the gentle waters.
This place had a good, healthy feel to it. She found herself wondering how far the trees that surrounded the mansion extended back into forest that was still included within the property. Were there things she could hunt here? And if so, would they mind if she did?
“Hey, I didn’t know the professor had a dog around here!”
Max’s ears perked up and she turned back to see two boys walking towards her. She quickly stood up and they paused, stopping in their tracks.
“Holy crap.” one of them said. “That’s one big dog.”
It sounded like the boy she’d met earlier, John.
John took a slow step forward and his companion quickly said, “Don’t! Dangerous.”
John shook his head slowly and said, “No – not dangerous, Jason. Pretty.”
The boy John had referred to as Jason shifted from one foot to the other. Max noticed that his skin had a strange green color to it; almost blotchy. The boy looked sick. Suddenly, Max found herself smiling and trotting over to John, bowing her head so he could easily pet her. The boy gently ran his fingers through her fur and she plopped down in front of him, rolling over now so he could scritch her belly. The wolf in her balked, wondering what the hell was going on.
“John. Jason. Get back inside.”
“But..” John stopped petting her and Max let out a disappointed whine.
Max looked up to see the woman with the dark skin and white hair watching her as the two boys made their way back to the house. A large brown towel was draped over one arm.
“She never lets us have any fun.” Max heard John grumble.
Max quickly stood, giving her head a shake. The boy had used his gift on her again.
“Max.” Ororo addressed her in a stern tone. “It probably isn’t the wisest of ideas to walk around in this form while you’re at the school.”
Max shifted and stood with her hands on her hips, irritated both at the woman’s tone and the fact that she had so easily been drawn into the boy’s fascination again.
“Look, I hate to sound ungrateful, but do you have anything other than those horrid sweat outfits that I could wear? They’re really very uncomfortable.”
The woman gave her a small smile, then handed her the towel and said, “Come with me. I believe I can help.”
Ororo nodded appreciatively as Max turned and checked herself out in the full length mirror. She’d given Max an emerald green tiered gypsy skirt with glittering bangles on it and a black vest.
“The style is no longer to my liking, and I would rather the outfit go to someone who will appreciate it.” she explained.
Max smiled and looked back at her, touched.
“Thank you, Ororo. This means..a lot.”
The woman smiled – the regal smile of a pleased queen. The woman had seemed haughty at first, but Max was beginning to learn that she just carried herself differently. There was a subtlety and economy of movement that Max had simply never encountered in anybody else before. The woman was grace personified.
Suddenly, Ororo frowned and stood up. “We need to go.”
Max perked up, concerned at her tone. “What’s wrong?”
“Your companion seems to be in distress.”
Max was across the room in the blink of an eye, opening the door and running through the corridor as fast as she could. Was he having another nightmare?
She reached their room in moments, startling Jean.
The woman blinked and cried out, “How the hell did you get here so fast?”
Max ignored her, opening the door and finding Logan clawing at the bed with his hands, his claws extended. There were vivid splashes of blood on the sheets from where he’d cut his legs open over and over. As soon as one set of wounds healed up, he’d cut open another. He was growling and gnashing his teeth, as if he was wrestling with something.
Max turned to Jean and said, “You need to go. Close the door.”
The redhead looked back at her as if she’d suddenly grown a second head.
“Are you kidding? And leave you alone with him? He’ll kill you.”
Max explained, “Foreign scents will set him off quicker than anything else. Let me handle this.”
Max looked back over at Logan, hearing the door close behind her. She was relieved that she didn’t have to argue with the woman.
“Logan.” she murmured, taking a deep breath as she walked over and placed her hands on his shoulders. He reacted quickly, lashing out at her with those razor sharp claws of his.
She darted out of the way, changing her voice to a soft purr as she came back at him.
His demeanor changed and he began scenting the air. Max quickly stripped out of her new clothes, tossing them over onto a chair.
“Fuck or fight, old man. Pick one.”
She moved closer, tasting her own pheromones as they filled the room. She wasn’t going to give him much of a choice, if she had anything to say about it. Fighting wasn’t an option – not while they were still in this house.
The claws slid back into his knuckles with a metallic snikt, his hand darting out and grabbing her wrist, pulling her down to him. He was rough – moreso than usual. As long as he didn’t go feral, that was all that mattered. He flipped her over, pressing her into the bed. Christ, he was heavy. Had he been this heavy last time? She had forgotten. He jammed his nose behind her ear, giving her neck a nip as he scented her. His breathing slowed, becoming less labored as he nuzzled her neck now.
Max frowned, wondering what was happening. At this point, she would’ve expected to be tossed around a bit – possibly have a few bones broken. Alphas didn’t usually stop in mid rage and get all soft and gentle. What the hell was going on with him?
“Max.” she heard him murmur, feeling his hands grip her tightly, squeezing her.
“Max.” It was almost as if he was reassuring himself with her presence.
She moved to run gentle fingers through his inky black hair, feeling him calm down.
“I’m here, Logan. I’m here.” she murmured.
He turned onto his side, pulling her back against him and spooning up against her. He was shaking gently, but he was definitely past the dangerous stage now.
“Don’t go.” he breathed – so quiet that Max almost didn’t catch it.
She brought his hand up to her lips, kissing his knuckles, licking the blood gently off them. The taste zinged on her tongue.
“I’m not going anywhere.” she reassured him.
The nightmares. Why had they come back with such vicious force? At least she had been able to bring him out of it again. They seemed to be getting worse.
She felt Logan’s body relax as he slipped back into deep sleep. She would stay with him until he woke again, at this point. She couldn’t afford not to.
Yep. I’m fucked.
Logan watched Max as she slept, a strand of honey blonde hair trailing across her nose and cheek. He gently brushed it back behind her ear and her contented sigh eased something inside him.
“She’s turning me into a fuckin’ sap.” He grumbled to himself.
He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. It was time to start figuring shit out. The idea of the brainiac in the wheelchair digging around in his head made him suitably queasy, but it was the only possibility at answers that he’d been presented with since this entire thing started.
Max was still out and he wanted to let her sleep, so he gently made his way off the bed and over to the bathroom. After a quick shower, he went downstairs and ran into Jean.
She looked at him strangely, then said, “You’re up.”
Logan’s brow furrowed as he replied, “Yeah. And?”
“Well, it’s just..” She looked almost flustered. “Are you feeling better?”
She shifted on her feet and smelled nervous as all hell.
Jean paused for a few beats, then stammered, “Ok then. I’ve got to..There’s a..I need to go.” She then turned back the way she’d come, walking quickly away from him.
Logan shook his head and pressed on, heading towards Charlie’s office.
She’s bugfuckingnuts. Gotta be.
He found the door open. The professor sat at his desk, sifting through a stack of papers. He looked up and said, “Ah, Logan. I presume you’re feeling better after the operation?”
Logan stepped inside, his voice low as he replied, “Good as new.”
The professor slid his paperwork off to the side, peering at him curiously. Logan waited for the man to say something, but it appeared that Charlie was going to wait him out.
Logan took another step towards the desk and quietly said, “You offered to help me. About my past.”
Xavier placed his hands on the desk, nodding once.
“I will do what I can, Logan – but I can make no guarantees. Everybody’s mental landscape is different and there are too many variables in active play that keep me from attaching a definite ‘type’ to a given person. In this, no-one is truly as they seem.” He paused for a moment. “Depending on the degree of stressors and other factors that may or may not have been applicable in your case, the memories can be anywhere from clear and easily read to almost painfully fragmented. With the indications that we’ve seen in the small amount of time that you’ve been our guest, I can only hazard a guess that this will be a daunting task at best.”
“Is there a chance that you could make it worse?” Logan asked, not entirely comfortable with the man’s explanation, but feeling a bit more reassured with the fact that he wasn’t just saying outright that everything would be fine. At least the man wasn’t bullshitting him.
“It is my honest opinion that the method that I utilize to attempt to piece together your memories will not fragment them further. It has the distinct possibility of being a slow process, however. The mind is both powerful and fragile. I will only proceed at a speed at which I feel best suits your current mental state.”
Logan frowned, slipping into a chair now. He watched Xavier relax just a touch. The man had likely been waiting for another confrontation – and Logan couldn’t blame him. He had openly challenged the man on his own turf. He would’ve been defensive and pissy too – to say the least. The fact that the man hadn’t immediately taken a snotty tone with him actually made Logan respect him a little.
It wasn’t perfect, but it might possibly be the best offer he was going to get in this particular instance.
He took in a deep breath, then asked, “Ok. How do we do this?”
Max woke to find Logan gone. She was relieved that he was up and around. Maybe he was scouting the place out, or getting cornered by Jean who still couldn’t figure her own feelings out. She smiled at that thought, deciding to take a short shower.
Afterward, she slid on the new outfit that Ororo had given her. It felt good to be in a skirt again. Ah, freedom of movement.
Downstairs, she ran into Warren who smiled and gave her an appreciative nod. She grinned and waved at him, following Logan’s distinct scent as she tracked him through the mansion.
She found him sitting out at the lakeside in a meditative position. He was staring at a far off point in the distance, his breathing deep and slow. She wondered what was going through his head.
Logan turned to look back at her, his expression focused.
Max walked over to him and quietly sat beside him. They sat in companionable silence for several minutes, before he said, “Saw Charlie earlier.”
She watched his expression close down as he continued, “Figured some things out. Still figuring other stuff out.”
“How can I help?” she asked softly.
He wouldn’t look back at her.
“Don’t know if you can, darlin’. ‘Fraid this is somethin’ I need to run down on my own.”
Max turned to watch the lake lapping at the shoreline. She had known it would come to this eventually, but she still wasn’t prepared for the almost painful vice grip around her chest now that it was happening.
She felt a hand on her knee and she looked over to see him watching her carefully.
Max took a long, slow breath and said, “You’re going to leave.”
Logan nodded, his reply gruff. “Got to.”
Max pulled her knees up to her chest, her voice quavering as she quietly breathed, “I don’t want you to go.”
She felt like a helpless pup again, hating how small her voice sounded.
Logan leaned in and wrapped his arms around her. “I know.”
“How soon?” she asked, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Tonight.” he replied softly.
“Don’t forget me.” she murmured.
Logan pulled away from her, his eyes glittering as he captured her gaze.
“I’m comin’ back, Max. Got it?”
She nodded, feeling numb. She understood – but still wanted to go with him, or wanted him to stay.
“C’mon, darlin’.” He gently picked her up, easily hefting her in his arms.
“Logan..” she breathed, feeling the first tears come.
“Yeah. I know. Me too.”
He gently kissed her forehead and started walking back towards the house.
“I wanna stock up on good memories before I have to confront the shitstorm I’m walkin’ into.”
Chapter 10: We need to start using the codenames
With Logan gone, Max is put to the test in the Danger Room - then joins the team.
On a trial basis.
Logan watched Max as she slid into a deeper sleep, eager to get going. He didn’t want to drag this out any longer than he had to, and he was agitated about getting on the road; finding the place that would hopefully bring the fragments of his memory back together again. Back to Canada.
Still – she’d gotten under his skin.
He brushed his knuckles softly across her cheek and she smiled, her body shifting beneath the covers. Would she understand him just taking off, or would she be pissed at him? Hard to say.
Easier this way, though, he thought to himself as he slowly stood up, so as not to wake her.
He dressed, then took one last look back at her before he let himself out, quietly closing the door behind him.
“So you’re just going to leave her?”
He flinched at the sound of the now familiar voice, looking over to see Jean standing in the hallway, her arms crossed.
“What the fuck is it to you?” he snapped, turning and heading for the stairs.
“And how’d you know I was leavin’?”
“Professor Xavier notified me earlier.”
Jean set her jaw, her eyes flashing angrily. “Don’t you even care about her?”
Logan looked back at her as if she’d grown two heads.
“Lady – what exactly is it with you and shoving yer nose in everybody else’s business? Is that a telepath thing, or are you just a bitch on principle?”
Jean’s mouth turned down into an ugly frown, her tone snotty now.
“You’ve been nothing but trouble since you got here. Perhaps she’s better off.”
Logan let out an incredulous laugh as he started walking downstairs.
“Un-fucking-believeable,” he muttered.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Jean stood at the top of the stairs, her hands on her hips.
“Figure it out, crazy bitch.” he muttered as he strode across the foyer.
“Fucking psycho.” she growled, continuing to follow him.
He whirled on her, his expression empty as he growled, “Look. I don’t know what you think is gonna happen here, but you need to back the fuck off. Now.”
She opened her mouth to reply, then seemed to lose steam entirely. She actually took a stumbling step back.
He turned to open the front door and she said, “Don’t go.”
Logan turned to face her, angry now.
“You stink of fear. You’re terrified of me. Why the hell would you want me to stay?
Jean winced, her expression confused and nervous now.
Christ. He hated when Max was right. He let out a heavy sigh.
Yeah. Stupid question.
“Just..make sure she stays safe.” he murmured, looking up for a brief moment before stepping outside.
Jean moved to close the door as she watched him walk out to the main gate.
“Be careful, Logan.” she whispered, both irritated and frustrated that she was worried about him.
Max brushed her teeth, unsurprised that Logan hadn’t been there when she woke up. It was probably the best way to have handled it, though. She had never been fond of long goodbyes either.
Now she just needed to figure out what she wanted to do during the interim. It seems she had a choice ahead of her. She could either go back to her old life among the pinks, working retail and spinning her wheels – or she could stay here and learn more about these extraordinary people – this very intriguing life she’d encountered. Max had a strong desire to get to know them better.
Anything had to be better than the banal insanity of what she was putting herself through before.
Max got dressed and headed downstairs. The idea of staying cooped up alone in this room now that he was no longer here was just depressing.
She padded into the kitchen on bare feet, finding Jean and the man who’d gotten shot sitting at the kitchen table. He looked over at her and smiled. He was wearing odd looking sunglasses with thick vivid red lenses now. He was actually somewhat attractive now that the top half of his face wasn’t obscured by that strange headgear.
“Hey! You’re up and around.” Max grinned, glad to see that he was feeling better.
“Thanks for the patch job,” he nodded to his arm, which was in a sling.
“I’m happy that I could help.” she replied.
Jean leaned forward and asked, “Are you okay, Max?”
Max frowned, seeing that the man was now starting to look a little uncomfortable.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
Max moved to lean on the counter, wondering if there was ice cream in the freezer that she could snag. After all, she was planning on offering herself up for localized scientific inquiry. Ice cream was the very least they could offer in return, she figured.
“Jean..let it go.” the man beside her murmured.
“I’m just concerned..” she explained.
“Jean. Drop it.”
The man’s tone was clipped and he looked mildly irritated now.
Max took a step towards them, asking, “Should I not be okay? Did something happen?”
The man quickly explained, “Not at all. She’s just..”
Jean cut him off, turning and snapping,
“Don’t answer for me. I hate it when people do that.”
She then got up and angrily strode out of the room.
Max blinked and looked over at him, baffled. “What was all that about?”
The man ran a hand through his hair, sounding very tired.
“Honestly? I don’t know. She’s been a little on edge since we got back from picking you guys up.”
Max opened her mouth to explain, but thought better of it after remembering Logan’s words from earlier. The woman was apparently not dealing well with her attraction issues and since she already seemed to be dating this guy, it’d likely be a social misstep to stumble in and tell him that his girlfriend had the hots for another guy.
She decided instead to redirect back to the woman’s earlier comment.
“What was she talking about?”
The man looked almost embarrassed as he explained, “She thinks that you’re going to freak out when you find out that Logan’s left.”
“Ah.” Max replied, moving to take a seat across from him. “That.”
“She means well – she really does. She’s not usually this erratic,” he added, giving her a beleaguered smile.
Max grinned and leaned back in her seat, relaxing now that she knew that nothing big and bad was happening.
“I knew he was leaving. It’s just..something he has to take care of.”
The man regarded her silently for a moment, then extended a hand to her.
“I don’t think I we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Scott Summers.”
Max shook his hand gently and grinned.
“Nice to finally have a name for the face.”
She peered at his glasses curiously. “What’s up with the weird sunglasses? And the odd head thing you didn’t want me to take off the other night?”
Scott’s hand went to the glasses in a reflexive gesture.
“They’re protective gear of a sort.”
“Are your eyes unusually sensitive?” she asked, wondering if he was ever able to take them off.
“Actually, they’re to protect everybody else.” he explained.
Max chuckled and said, “What, d’you shoot laser beams out your eyes or something?”
He was grinning now.
Max blinked, her jaw dropping.
“Whoa, really? Can you ever take them off?”
“I can, but then I’d have to keep my eyes closed. I can’t control the beams.”
“That’s gotta be a pain in the ass.” she murmured.
Scott nodded and replied, “You have no idea.”
The boy with literal rose colored glasses. Had he ever been able to see other colors, or just different shades of red? Curious, but not wanting to make him uncomfortable, Max quickly changed the subject.
“Would it be rude if I rooted around in the freezer for some ice cream?”
“Not at all. I think there are several containers with different flavors to choose from.”
Max beamed and made her way over to the icebox.
Scott slowly stood up and shook his head. “No, thanks. I need to go find Jean.”
Yeah. Good luck with that, she thought to herself, hoping that the woman’s attraction to Logan was just a passing infatuation.
Scott seemed like a nice guy. She was surprised to realize that she didn’t like the idea of seeing him hurt. The nice ones always seemed to get the shaft.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” she murmured.
Scott smiled and said, “Me too. See you later, Max.”
Ice cream only goes so far, unfortunately.
Max started diving into tasks to keep herself busy so that she didn’t have to think about Logan’s absence so much. Several days had passed since she’d initially started talking with Doctor McCoy and the Professor about her nature. In that time, the Professor had shown her something he referred to as the Danger Room.
Henry had explained that it was still in the experimental stages, but what there was of it was phenomenal. He’d explained that it created “three dimensional holographic constructs” that looked and felt real – which she didn’t entirely understand until he and Warren brought her into the brightly lit white room and turned it on. It had blown her mind.
One moment she’d been standing in the room, the next – she found herself in the middle of a forest at twilight. The sounds were right, and she was startled to find that she was able to walk up to one of the trees and feel solid bark under her fingertips, but it didn’t smell right. It was the only thing that kept the illusion from being completely real.
Now, she was standing naked in a lab with multiple sticky pads with differently colored leads attached to various points along her body. Doctor McCoy had seemed embarrassed until she explained that it would be easier to shift this way.
“Maxine, are you entirely certain that you’re ready for this?”
He seemed to prefer using her formal name and she found that she liked calling him Hank. They had established a strange but firm friendship, and she appreciated that he’d gone out of his way to ensure that any of the tests or questions didn’t discomfit her.
“Yep. I’m good. Do you want me to do it now?” she asked, watching him nod as he sat at a computer terminal across from her.
Max felt her body begin the change and the connected equipment immediately began shorting out. Sparks popped from the equipment next to him and Hank leapt over and began rapidly unplugging everything connected to her. When he looked back over, his jaw dropped in astonishment.
“Good lord, Maxine. You are a truly beautiful creature,” he murmured, ignoring the blue smoke that was just beginning to curl up out of one of the terminals to his right.
Max grinned and let out a happy chuffing sound. The sticky pads had all dropped away from her skin when her fur had started sprouting and she looked down at one of them, sniffing it.
Hank crouched in front of her, mesmerized.
“This really is most astonishing. The entire mass of your body seems to have been redistributed, but it doesn’t appear as if it’s been done evenly. You’re enormous. I do believe that there is added bulk to your frame in this form.”
Max let out a soft whuf and licked the blue fur on his face. Hank laughed and gently nuzzled one of her ears with one of his enormous blue hands.
“Are you capable of transmogrifying into anything else?”
Max cocked her head at him and Hank sighed. She was starting to recognize this as the sigh he gave when he had to ‘dumb things down’ for people.
“Do you have other forms?” he asked, still smiling.
Max nodded and felt her body shifting again. Hank’s eyes grew wide and he stood up, taking a couple steps back as she morphed into dire, bipedal form.
“Oh my stars and garters,” he whispered, taking a tentative step towards her. He had to crane his neck to look up at her.
Max let her claws open so that he could look them over. Hank quickly picked up a clipboard and started quickly jotting down notes.
Max easily pulled the heads and limbs off of her attackers, then spun to face Hank; his labcoat now decorated with bright, loopy trails of computer simulated blood.
“Um..” he stammered as he tapped the tip of his pen on the official looking clipboard he held before him.
“Yes, well – I don’t think that..”
A disembodied voice broke in, echoing around the room as it explained, “I think what Doctor McCoy means to say is that we don’t usually prefer to deal with opponents with such fatal force.”
It sounded like Scott, but she couldn’t be sure. Where was he?
In order to test her response time and reflexes, Hank had brought her into a session in the danger room and the voice ringing through the trees sounded entirely too eerie.
Max shifted back to her non-furry form so that she could respond.
“You said to show you what I could do..”
Due to the nature of the tests that had been conducted so far, she had gotten past her initial timidity about being naked around others, but the men weren’t adapting to it as rapidly as she had.
Hank quickly handed her a lab coat, averting his gaze as she pulled it on.
Max heard doors open behind her and she turned to see Professor Xavier entering.
“I believe what Scott is trying to say is that it is not our policy to engage others with such..finality.”
She frowned, holding the coat closed as she asked, “So – even though Scott got shot that night, he wouldn’t have killed any of them? That’s seems foolish.”
The professor moved into the room, his voice calm as he explained, “Be that as it may, it is school policy. That, and I’m afraid that the other students and staff here don’t share your..particularly fatal way of dealing with combatants.”
Ah. The meat of the matter spoken aloud, finally. Max pursed her lips and nodded as she replied.
“You’d like me to be less bloodthirsty, right?”
Xavier’s expression became mild as he replied, “While I wouldn’t have put it quite so bluntly – yes, please.”
Max sighed and took a step back.
“You don’t have to worry. I wouldn’t hurt any of you.” she murmured quietly.
“We know you wouldn’t, Maxine.”
This from Hank who was now watching her with understanding eyes.
“I’m here to present you with a unique opportunity, Max.” Professor Xavier was watching her with an intense curiosity. Scott walked in behind him and stood beside his chair. It looked like a strange father/son pairing, the two of them standing there together.
“What kind of opportunity?” she asked, pulling the coat around her a little tighter.
Scott spoke this time, the tone of his voice different from when they’d talked before.
“That night we picked you and Logan up – it wasn’t the first time we had done that.”
Max frowned as he continued, “Every day more of us are coming into awareness; some with abilities that are both frightening to them and possibly dangerous to themselves and those around them. We do what we can to track them down and bring them here so that they can learn and adapt to their new abilities without hurting anybody. It’s what this school is all about.”
He paused for a moment, then added, “We’re still figuring out the most efficient way to do it – and to be honest, we could use another person on our team.”
Max blinked, then cocked her head at him.
“We could use a heavy hitter in situations for when things get really out of hand.”
He took a slow breath, then said, “I’m asking you if you’d like to join us.”
Max stammered, “Yeah, but I’m not one of you.”
Professor Xavier moved forward and said, “I would like to speak to Max alone for a moment, gentlemen – if you please.”
Scott nodded and Hank said, “Terminate simulation.”
The forest slowly bled back to the big white room as the two of them walked out.
“You have very unique talents and abilities that you do not engage very often,” he murmured.
Max nodded, shifting from one foot to the other.
“I’d like to see that potential realized to the fullest,” he explained. “And I think you would too.”
Max took a step back from him, meeting his gaze.
“The wolf isn’t always easily controlled. If you don’t want me killing people outright, then you don’t want me going out with them. Trust me on this.”
Xavier regarded her for a moment in silence.
“Would you be willing to train with the others to see if there is a way to gain control of it?”
“This is really important to you.” Max murmured, actually starting to think about it.
“It is the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”
Such strong conviction. He almost reminded her of her father – before he’d gone insane.
“I can’t control her – but I can work with her. I’d like to get a better handle on that.”
She thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. I’ll try it.”
The Professor smiled then, pleased.
“Thank you, Max. Thank you for trusting me.”
Max flew across the room, slamming into a collection of large chemical drums. She quickly got to her feet, holding her head.
“Ow.” she grumbled.
“You need to evade better.”
She was finding that Scott could be a real tightass when he jumped into a Danger Room session. The beams that came from his eyes, while not hot, definitely knocked the hell out of things. It felt like getting slapped with a very focused hand. At least she hadn’t broken any bones yet.
Hank was nowhere to be seen, but she caught a trace of his scent off to the left, just before he jumped.
She easily ducked out of the way, coming up behind him and shifting into dire form, pinning him up against a wall.
He grunted as she pressed into him and Scott said, “See? Why couldn’t you have moved like that a minute ago?”
She released Henry, then shifted back into her two-legger form. Her training sweats had burst at the seams and torn in places.
“This isn’t going to work, guys. I’m gonna be running around naked most of the time if this keeps happening.”
She pulled at the remnants of the top, sighing.
Henry turned to face her, gently rubbing at the wrist she’d wrenched behind his back.
“I’ll see if I can come up with something that will be more capable of accommodating your body shifts easily.”
“Your reaction time is quicker when you’re up against people, but you don’t seem to do so well against projectiles. Why is that?” Scott asked, taking his hand away from his strange visor.
Max shrugged, the movement shifting the fabric on her torso, revealing one of her breasts. Scott blushed and turned away and she said, “See? It’s a distraction you guys don’t need in a situation like this.”
She moved the shirt to cover herself up and explained, “I think it’s because I track things with my sense of smell.”
“You’ll need to become familiar with more scents, then. I know that you heal quickly, but enough bullets or shrapnel and you’ll go down. Possibly permanently.”
Max let out a halfhearted laugh. “You usually get shot at that often while doing this?”
Scott sighed and explained, “I’m just trying to prepare everybody for every possible contingency.”
“How many of you are there out there – doing what you do?”
“So far, it’s just me, Jean and Ororo. Sometimes Henry tags along but he’s of more use to us here in the lab than he is in the field.”
Max felt the last of the light bruising fade as she looked over at Hank.
“Well, unless you guys want to fight me while I run around in the buff, I’m going to go for a run.”
Hank smiled and asked, “Has the lunar lady’s countenance chosen to shine the fullness of her radiance upon us again?”
She grinned and nodded. She was slowly starting to understand his wordiness.
“Wanna come with?”
Hank looked conflicted. She rested a hand on his arm and softly murmured, “You gotta let it out sometimes, or it lets itself out.”
She then presented him with a bright grin.
“Besides, it’ll be fun. Promise.”
Scott started walking to the door, calling back, “You should go let off some steam, Hank. We all need to from time to time.”
Hank grinned and said, “I would be delighted to accompany you on a run beneath the full moon, Maxine.”
Five full moons had come and gone.
Max stood at the edge of the lake behind the mansion, watching the moon wax gibbous out over the frozen water. This place was finally beginning to feel like home. Surprisingly, she had actually gotten to know Jean a little better, and found herself growing very fond of the woman. Sure, Jean could get a little crazed at times, but she’d learned that it came from having a wild heart that she didn’t let many people see.
Jean and Ororo had become almost like sisters to her, in a way. Hank reminded her of her brother Ducal in ways that still startled her from time to time. He had been the brainiac poet in the family.
February brought with it a lush blanket of white, powdery snow that draped everything in a way that seemed almost magical. Max had always loved snow. The school was growing now, slowly and surely. Hank had finally developed a special polymer that adapted to her body shape whenever she shifted into dire form – she still had to strip down to fur up on four legs, though. Since then she had even gone out on a couple of runs with the rest of the team recently, startled at how much open hatred there was for the people she’d come to call her friends.
Her family, now.
Max thought of Logan often, wondering if he was okay. She hoped that he had been able to find the answers that he seemed to so strongly need. In the beginning, she wished that he had taken her with him – but now she was content that he’d left her behind. In the last couple of months, she had established a stronger bond with her wolf and was now able to shift almost instantaneously – fluid, and with little pain. Scott had taught her a good bit of hand to hand combat so she didn’t always have to attack with a slash of her claws.
She finally felt something for the first time in her life – pride in who she was becoming.
Max hoped that her father, the man he’d been before the ‘incident’, would have been proud of her as well. The creature he was now, though – who knew?
The sounds of footsteps coming up behind her pulled her gently out of her thoughts.
“We have a pickup in British Colombia. Can you be ready in fifteen minutes?”
Scott. She’d learned quickly that he became all business when there was a job to be done.
Max looked back at him and nodded, watching her breath mist in the air as she said, “Yeah. I’ll be there.”
“You alright?” he asked.
Max smiled and replied, “I’m good. Just..memories.”
Scott gave a curt nod then said, “We’ll meet you on the pad in fifteen.”
She watched him walk back to the house, then moved to follow. Max wondered who the retrieval was this time. Scott always provided them with a briefing on the plane – which she had finally gotten used to riding in.
Max made her way back inside, heading down to the locker rooms to change. Everybody else wore those leather outfits that made them look as if they were in a strange rock band of sorts, and she got to slide on stretchy almost spandex-like material.
In the team meetings lately, they had been tossing around ideas for an identifying mark of some kind – a distinguishing symbol to place on the uniform.
Max had thought it a bad idea. They were still kicking the possibilities around, so the uniforms remained devoid of any kind of insignia. Still – a group of people running around in all black? Wasn’t that target enough?
Max chuckled as she zipped the suit up. It didn’t bunch or wrinkle, molding to her skin almost perfectly. Hank had done a good job.
When she made it to the hangar, everybody else was pacing; mentally preparing themselves for another run.
They were getting better at this now, more unified, but there was still a substantial case of pre-show jitters present from time to time.
Jean caught her eye and grinned, a playful little gleam in her eyes. At times, the woman could easily match her for deviltry, and they’d plagued both Scott and Hank from time to time with little pranks. It had actually gotten them a halfhearted reprimand from Xavier, once.
“So, our fearless leader has apparently been thinking of a name for us,” Jean quietly confided as Max walked up to her.
“You don’t say?” Max chuckled, wondering what Scott had in store for them this time.
“Oh yeah. It’s a doozie. You ready?”
Jean paused for dramatic effect and Max giggled. “X-Men.”
Max blinked, then laughed. “Wait, what? What is it even supposed to mean?”
Jean let out a snort of laughter, clapping her hand over her mouth.
“Ladies, get your heads in the game. We’re taking off in three.” Scott snapped as he headed up the ramp.
Max looked over to see Ororo watching the two of them with the barest hint of a smile. She turned and followed Scott up the ramp. Max and Jean moved to follow, trying to suppress their laughter.
“You are like evil twin sisters,” Ororo murmured, and Max could tell from her tone that her smile was more pronounced now.
“What, both of us? How can both of us be evil twins?” Jean asked, grinning.
“I do not know, but somehow you manage it,” Ororo explained, her lips curving in a wicked grin.
Scott spun around to face them, his expression stern as he began, “Tonight’s retrieval is a teenage girl who has the ability to manipulate microwaves which currently gives her the uncontrollable capability of superheating things by accident.”
Max strapped herself into her seat, watching Jean and Ororo do the same as Scott continued. “If she sees us as a threat, we’re going to have to take her down hard and fast – without damaging her or anybody around her.”
He paused for a moment, then said, “We need to start using the codenames.”
Jean rolled her eyes and said, “Not this again. You’re telling me that you really want me to call you Cyclops?”
They had gone back and forth about this particular subject throughout the last week or so, and Scott was becoming more insistent about it.
“We can’t keep using our legal names.” he explained, “We’re actually starting to see press on our little nighttime excursions.”
Jean sighed and replied. “Fine. Cyclops it is. What am I again?”
Jean shook her head and made a face. “Oh, that’s right. You do realize how much I hate that name?”
Scott leaned back in his chair, his tone becoming slightly exasperated. “We talked about this…”
“That doesn’t mean I’m okay with it.” she snapped.
Ororo broke in, ever the diplomat.
“I believe that this is a matter for discussion at another time. At the moment, we have a job to do, do we not?”
Scott stood up and crossed his arms, nodding. He looked almost embarrassed. Max wondered why he let Jean needle him like that all the time. It obviously frustrated the hell out of him. Still, they seemed to make it work together. He spun around to face the console, his tone back to all business.
“Right. Let’s get this bird in the air.”
Chapter 11: Don’t tell me how to run my team, Max
First retrieval with the team goes smoothly. The team returns to learn that Logan has been captured.
Scott touched the jet down in a remote section of the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Once she heard the engines start to wind down she let out a silent breath of relief and relaxed the deathgrip her fingers had on the arms of the chair. She started wiggling them around to work the ache out of them.
Yep. She might be used to it, but she still hated flying.
“How far out are we?”
Jean began unbuckling her seatbelt.
“About two miles.” Scott leaned forward, starting to switch everything down.
“Great. Another trek.” Jean grumbled, standing up and stretching her arms up to the ceiling.
“I may be able to get us there faster.” Ororo offered.
Scott looked over at her, surprised.
“I know you’ve been working on hefting one or two of us in the air at a time, but are you sure you can do this?”
She nodded and replied, “We shall have to stay just above the tops of the trees, but I believe I can do it.
Scott nodded and stood up, heading towards the back of the jet. Max got out of her seat and moved to follow Jean and Ororo as they stepped out onto the descending ramp.
The ground was covered with a blanket of snow about three inches deep. Their feet made crunching sounds as they stepped off the ramp into the snow and Max began having second thoughts. In combat simulations, Ororo had tried to lift her with the winds before and Max had almost immediately thrown up afterward. The idea of going through it again didn’t appeal to her at all.
She would probably cover more ground in fur, anyway.
Ororo’s eyes began to fade to white and Max quickly said, “I think I’m going to meet you guys there this time.”
Scott looked over at her, frowning.
Max quickly explained, “I can probably run as fast as she’ll be able to fly you over without you getting sick. Besides – I’ll end up with the insides of my stomach on the ground when we land, and it’ll take me a minute or two to recover..”
Scott didn’t look convinced. “You sure you can keep up?”
Max smiled and said, “Oh yeah. Which way is it again?”
Scott pulled out a map, indication the location and pointing north.
“Be careful Max.”
Max nodded and began stripping down. Scott turned away and she chuckled, tossing her uniform to Jean after sliding out of it. Hank was still ironing out the kinks of a suit that would shift with her. Max found it somewhat cute that Scott was still so easily embarrassed at her nudity.
“In case I need it when we get there.” She explained, shivering slightly.
Jean laughed and tucked the suit in a small black pack on Scott’s back.
The three of them slowly lifted into the air and Max shifted, immediately leaping into a sprint. The wolf howled inside her, delighted at the chance to break loose in the wilderness again.
The monthly runs with Hank were enjoyable, but nothing could truly compare with this. Joyous, Max looked up to see the three of them keeping pace with her above the trees. She let out a bark of laughter and ran faster, easily outdistancing them. She would get to their destination before they did at this point.
It was rare that she had to tap into her hidden reserves of speed. By default, everybody else just seemed to move slowly to her in comparison. Even Logan. But then she had yet to really make him tap his reserves either. She hadn’t gotten the chance.
The sounds of the trees whipping by her had an almost rhythmic quality to them and she found herself falling into an almost meditative space as she ran.
So many different scents out here! she thought to herself, wanting to come back up here to hunt someday. She was disappointed that they didn’t have time to wander around a bit longer.
When Max finally arrived at the rundown house seemingly in the middle of nowhere, she stopped short.
A man was standing on the front porch smoking a cigarette, his other arm wrapped around himself to warm up. He smelled sick – she could tell even from here. Did he know? Her nose wrinkled as she quickly darted out of sight behind a woodpile, looking up to see where her friends had gone.
After a few moments, she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see them picking their way across the snow towards her.
“Bless Hank and his temperature regulated uniforms. I’d be freezing my ass off if I was wearing anything else in this,” Jean whispered as she stepped up and gave Max’s head a friendly stroke.
“Ok Jean, you’re on.” Scott murmured as he handed Max’s outfit back to her.
Max quickly slid into it and zipped it up, shivering a little as the suit’s temperature adjusted.
“Good god, it’s cold.”
Jean let out a quick snort, then took a slow breath and closed her eyes. After a moment or two, she murmured, “Ready.”
The four of them began slowly walking towards the house. Max had asked on previous runs about why only the parents of the teenagers they visited could see the illusion of four non-threatening people in normal attire, when she still saw them in their uniforms. Scott had said something about it being a directed thought that Jean placed into their heads.
Max wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of Jean manipulating what people saw, but when she thought about it, it actually made sense. The outfits were armor of a sort and the design had been improved on slightly since Scott had gotten shot those many months ago. This way they could be prepared for a direct confrontation if forced into one – but still retain a normal front of sorts.
Scott waved to the man on the porch who returned his wave with a nervous, shaking hand. The man didn’t look at all happy as he took a long drag on his cigarette.
“Good evening, Mister Jones. I’m Scott Summers with the Xavier School for Gifted Children. We spoke on the phone earlier?”
Scott was smiling and extending his hand out as they walked up.
The man eyed him, blowing smoke out in a quick puff before taking Scott’s hand and giving it a single shake before quickly pulling away from him. The man was all nervous jitters, his eyes scanning back and forth as he said, “You’re taking her tonight, right? She’ll go with you and she’ll be safe?”
Scott nodded and spoke softly, reassuring him. “She’ll be safe with us, sir. On that you have my promise.”
The man trembled and gulped, then turned to open the front door. “Please..come in.”
My god, he’s a wreck, Max thought to herself, wondering what had happened to the man that would have him freaking out this badly. She’d seen some shaken up parents before, but this one was entirely too twitchy for her liking. The wolf balked, not wanting to go in the house. Max took a deep breath and stepped inside behind Ororo and Jean.
The TV was on, but seemed to be experiencing a great deal of static from what looked like several different channels. The living room was small and unassuming, but something here skittered along her nerves, plucking at her fight or flight responses. Something bad was going on here.
She looked over to see Ororo peering curiously towards a hallway, her expression closed down.
That’s where the source of it is.
Max’s nerves were already jangling now, and she no longer wondered why the man was reacting the way he was. This place was getting to her already and she’d only just stepped in the door.
“Sh-she’s asleep. I g-gave her something to help her sleep.” he croaked, his hands twitching at his sides. He looked lost and frightened. His fear left an acrid trail behind him as he moved through the house.
The poor man. Max felt sorry for him.
“This way..” he murmured, walking towards the hallway.
Max looked over and saw Jean frowning, her brow furrowed in concentration. She looked like she was about to break into a sweat. Max wondered if she was okay, but knew better than to disrupt her while she was trying to maintain their illusion, especially when she appeared to be having a little difficulty with it.
The father looked back at them as they stepped up to a door at the end of the hallway – as if needing to reassure himself that they were following him. He slowly turned back around and opened it, immediately pulling his arms around himself. Max saw his breath come out in misty puffs. The room must have been well below freezing – almost on par with the temperature outside. A teenage girl with fiery red hair was curled up on the cement floor in the middle of what looked like a new room addition to the house. She was wearing shorts and a tanktop and sweat was pouring off her. The floor beneath her was moist and the edges of it were rimed with frost.
Scott stood in the doorway, his mouth in a tight line.
“It has to be at least ten below zero in this room. Why do you keep her in here?”
The man quickly stammered, “It’s not me..not me..”
He quickly held his hands up. “She comes in here herself when she has her spells. Otherwise stuff tends to..well – melt..around her.”
He flushed bright red, his eyes brimming with tears as he looked over at the girl. Sadness and guilt was rolling off the man in almost painful waves.
Scott nodded and Max could smell the anger on him.
“Is there a direct way to the outside from this room?” he asked.
The man pointed with a shaky hand to a door off to the right. “There. It leads out to the back yard.”
Scott took a deep breath, then turned to face the man, his tone once again soft and reassuring. “You did the right thing, Mister Jones. We’ll take her where she can get the help she needs.”
Tears spilled out of the man’s eyes now and he quickly dabbed at them, trying to master his own emotions.
“Thank you, Mister Summers. I – I didn’t know where else to turn.”
Scott moved forward to pick the girl up, but the moment his hand came in contact with her skin, his gloves began to smoke. He quickly pulled back, frowning. Max wondered how they were going to get her out of here if nobody could touch her. He looked over at Ororo, giving her a curt nod.
She moved to open the door and Max felt a wind rush through the room. It lifted the girl up gently from the floor. The concrete surface directly beneath the girl was smooth – almost like glass. Max wondered what Jean was showing the man while this was happening. He seemed to be calming down a little.
Scott shook the man’s hand and moved to follow the girl as she floated out the door. The man darted back inside his house, and Max hurried to follow Jean as she walked out into the snow. His emotions were setting her nerves on edge and she was more than happy to get the hell away from him.
“Ororo – think you can fly her back to the mansion? I think she’d wreak havok on the jet’s electronics, if she didn’t set it on fire outright. We need to get her back to the mansion and into a supercooled room as quickly as possible.”
Ororo nodded in response, all formality. “I believe so, if it is only the two of us.”
“Good. I’ll call ahead and see if Hank can’t get the new kid to stay with her while she tries to get a handle on her powers.”
Max hadn’t been on the run when the team had picked up the ‘new kid’, Bobby Drake, from his parents’ house in New York three months ago. He was adapting quickly with his abilities and, according to Scott and Hank, was showing quite a bit of promise. It only seemed common sense, placing this new girl with a kid that could lower the temperature of anything he touched to minus 105 degrees fahrenheit within moments.
“Why didn’t we just bring him with us?” Max asked.
Scott turned to face her, his tone irritated.
“We don’t bring kids on missions. Period.”
Max shrugged and began unzipping her suit. Scott quickly averted his eyes, and she slipped out of it while saying, “It just seems to me that it would’ve been more efficient to bring him along.”
Max quickly shifted and Scott replied, “Don’t tell me how to run my team, Max.”
He sounded pissed.
“Scott.” Max looked up at Jean, who now looked annoyed.
The two of them stared at one another silently for several moments. Max hated it when they had their little head to head conversations. It made it difficult to keep up with what was going on.
Scott let out a sigh and looked back over at Max.
“I’m sorry, Max. The fact that this girl’s own father kept her in a room like that just..got to me. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
Max let out a whuf and knocked into his leg gently with her head. All forgiven.
Scott smiled and scritched her ears, then said,
“We’ll meet you back at the ‘bird.”
Max stepped off the plane into the underground hangar, feeling only lightly nauseous. Scott chuckled and clapped her on the back gently.
“You’ll get used to it.”
“That’s what you’ve said the last five times I rode in that overpriced tin can.” Max grimaced as she looked back at him and he laughed.
Jean came down the walkway and linked her arm through Max’s, murmuring, “C’mon. Ice cream’s on me.”
Max presented her with a wobbly grin as she tried to calm her stomach.
“That is if I can keep it down.” she muttered.
Jean gently pulled her along and Scott said, “That’s one of the smoothest retrievals yet. Now if we could just keep it that way.”
“Bobby went smoothly as well.” Jean reminded him, smiling quietly to herself.
“Yes, but Bobby couldn’t have immolated us all accidentally.”
Scott removed his pack and placed it on a hook above a table full of tools.
“He could’ve frozen us all in an instant, which would have killed us just as effectively.” she explained, her smile growing bigger.
She was baiting him again.
“If it’s a choice between death by burning or freezing, I’ll gladly take freezing.” Scott muttered.
Jean stopped in her tracks, her jaw dropping open slightly.
She quietly breathed, “Oh shit.”
“Jean?” Scott turned to face her and she quickly breathed, “The Professor needs to see us. Now..”
The three of them started running.
Max flinched at the touch of Jean’s hand on her shoulder.
“Oh, Max. I’m so sorry.” she murmured.
Max was a million miles away, still unable to believe what she had just heard. Was that where he’d been all this time? Is it why he hadn’t come back? She looked over to meet Xavier’s eyes, her jaw tightening.
“It’s hard to say.” he explained, “I’ve been trying to get a lock on his mental signature for a while; trying to make sure he was okay. He’s remarkably difficult to establish a firm mental lock with unless he’s receptive.”
“How bad is it?” Max asked, her voice sounding hollow.
“I believe that the only reason I was able to get through to him was that he was too weak to prevent it. Something about his condition makes him rather adept at blocking mental intrusion if he puts his mind to it, and his consciousness is fragmented enough that he’s unable to keep most surface thoughts from being read easily.”
“Do you know where they’re holding him?” she asked, feeling the first stirrings of anger.
Xavier paused for a moment, leaning forward before he replied, “A Canadian military facility in southeastern Alberta. I can provide you with a map if you like.”
He sounded resigned as he leaned back in his chair. He also looked a little tired.
Max took a deep breath, then said, “How soon can you get it to me?”
Scott stepped forward, his voice calm and quiet.
“You can’t possibly think that you’ll be able to infiltrate a military installation by yourself, Max.”
Max growled, “I’ll damn well try. He’d do the same for me.”
“How do you know that?” Jean asked, sounding scared.
She had tried to get Max to talk about Logan before, and Max had always shut her down. While they might be close friends now, that particular topic of conversation was none of anybody’s damned business. Max appreciated the fact that Jean worried about her, but it was the wrong time to show it now.
Max glared at her, baring her teeth. “Don’t.”
Jean frowned but backed down, crossing her arms. She would pout, but she would also get over it.
“There are over three hundred soldiers and personnel within the facility, Maxine.”
She looked up at the Professor. He only ever used her full name when he was trying to stress the importance of something to her.
“They easily outnumber you, and they have weapons. They’ll kill you.”
“Shit.” she muttered, feeling her blood run cold. “Shit.” She began trembling.
“Max..” Jean murmured, placing her hand on Max’s arm.
Max leapt out of the chair, her teeth grinding. The wolf was howling with rage. Its mate – their mate was trapped – caged, and it wanted nothing more than to tear apart anything that stood between them. She was shaking as she took a step back towards the door.
The professor moved to open a drawer beside him, pulling out a manila folder. He placed it on the desk and slid it over to her.
“There is nothing I can do to stop you, Max. If you truly do wish to go, here’s all the information that I could find. There wasn’t much, I’m afraid. It’s apparently a location that the Canadian military proper hasn’t utilized in quite some time, so the records are a little spotty.”
Max reached out a trembling hand and picked the folder up, leafing through it. There was a map of where the facility was supposedly located, and a rough sketch of the building, as well as several satellite photos of the surrounding terrain.
“Which room?” She asked, her eyes scanning a diagram of the layout of the first floor. Was there only one?
“I can only tell you that he’s in the building. I’m afraid that Logan has been sedated quite heavily, and isn’t entirely aware of his surroundings.”
Max felt her fingertips lengthen into claws and tried to calm down, to reassure the wolf.
Unfortunately, Xavier was correct. The wolf was irrational and would get her killed. She needed to work in tandem with it if she was going to do this and make it out alive with him intact.
“Do you know if it’s the same people who..” she couldn’t finish the sentence.
Xavier shook his head, frowning. “Unfortunately, I don’t know. Even using Cyberno, Logan is too drugged to get a solid informational read on. I was very lucky to find him as it is.”
Max had watched him use the strange machine off to the side of his desk before. He’d explained that its essential purpose was to amplify his own abilities so that he could detect other mutants around the world. It was a prototype, but he was working with Hank on an upgraded model that he hoped would be ready for test trials in another month.
Max closed the folder and held it to her chest, her voice sounding empty.
“Can I borrow a car?”
She hated asking for favors, but hitchiking was hardly a reliable or efficient method of transportation. She wanted to get up there as quickly as possible. God only knows what they were doing to him. The thought turned her stomach.
Scott placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“I’ll fly you up.”
She looked back at him, her expression conflicted.
“Thank you.” She looked over at the door and murmured, “I really need to eat first. The run took a bit out of me.”
If she was going to do this, she would need to do it on a full tank.
Max sat at the kitchen table in dire form, wolfing down the raw fifteen pound roast that Ororo had picked up earlier that day.
“There goes tomorrow night’s dinner.” Jean sighed with a resigned smile.
Scott walked into the kitchen, his expression unreadable. Jean turned to face him while Max focused on her meal. She heard him pull out a chair and sit down as she shoved the last few bloody bites into her mouth. Max let her body shift back into hominid form and looked back over at them. They both wore strange expressions as they met her gaze.
Max licked her lips and said, “What? Did I miss a spot?”
She reached over to get a napkin and wiped her mouth.
Jean was the first to speak up. “We’re coming with you.”
Max blinked, then frowned. “You what?”
Scott leaned back in his chair and said, “You’re a member of my team. I can’t have you running off on a mission without backup.”
Max relaxed back into the chair, not knowing what to say.
“Since are you better able at tracking him, it only makes sense that you call the shots on this one.” Scott explained, adding – with a wry smile, “Just try not to get me shot again, okay?”
Max thought about it for a moment, then eyed Scott.
“This could get really ugly. It’s taking almost everything I’ve got to keep me seated at this table and not immediately changing to run up to Canada myself in fur.” She shivered and continued, “I don’t know if I can control her once we get up there – and she wants to kill everything that gets in her way. I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry – I know she hasn’t. Not much truly pisses the wolf off.”
Scott blanched and she could tell that he wasn’t at all comfortable with the idea. If she got out of hand, it would turn into a slaughterhouse pretty damned quick, no matter what weapons the guards had on hand. It was imperative that they understand this.
“You sure you want to do this?” Max asked, hugging her arms around herself.
Scott set his mouth in a hard line and nodded, his tone back to that commander tone he slid into when they were in the field or in a Danger Room session.
“We’ll need to keep the collateral damage to a minimum, if at all possible. The only way we can do that is by backing you up while you get in there and retrieve him.”
Max nodded, appreciating what it cost him to agree to this.
“I’m probably going to go in hard and fast at some point, and I can’t give you any guarantees about keeping body count down.”
“If I tag them before you get to them, will your wolf attack them?” he asked.
Max thought about it for a moment, then responded, “I’m not sure. I can’t say the same for the men that smell like they’ve had a direct hand in whatever’s been done to him, though. You need to be clear that they’ll be in pieces before we leave. That’s something I won’t be able to stop.”
Scott drew in a long breath, then said, “We’ll just have to play it by ear then. We’re not letting you go in alone.”
Max looked over to see Jean watching her with wary eyes.
“Just..if it looks like I’m losing it, get away from me as quickly as you can. If I’ve blacked out and she’s taken over, I don’t know if I’ll be able to tell you apart from the others.”
“Max..” Jean murmured.
Max cut her off, her tone soft.
“You know what I am, Red. I know it’s hard to forget when it’s not in your face, but – this is who I am.”
“I know. It’s just hard to realize that your best friend is a psychotic animal at times.” She murmured with a weak smile.
Max smiled and said, “Bitch.”
Jean’s lips curled into a genuine smile now as she replied, “Takes one to know one, Blondie.”
Chapter 12: They’re not so much worried about people breaking in, as other things getting out.
Recon mission to retrieve Logan spirals toward disaster
Max’s clawed fingers jittered anxiously at her sides as Scott peered through a pair of high powered binoculars. She was trying hard to hold the shift in as he quickly assessed the facility before them, but parts of her were slipping from her control.
The complex was small. At first glance, the main building looked fairly rundown; as if it had fallen into disrepair over many years of neglect. There were a few lights, but they only illuminated the main east entrance and a side entrance on the south wall of the building.
“There are four men on the roof with what look like MP5’s, but that’s about it. I’m guessing they don’t get many visitors out here.”
Scott turned back to face Max.
“Jean’s going to try to take down as many as she can from here. We want to be as unobtrusive as possible, but if things get out of control I’ll start knocking them out. We’ll cover you, then move in to follow,” he explained as Jean smiled over at him. She had that proud ‘that’s my man’ expression that usually lit up her face when Scott started giving orders.
“Let me do a test run first.” She murmured, “I don’t know how effective my telepathy is going to be from this distance. The professor’s much stronger with it than I am.”
Max watched as one of the sentries on the roof walked the length of his post, then crumpled to the ground.
“Good. How long’s he going to stay out?” Scott asked.
“I inserted the idea in his head that he was exhausted, and that he needed to sleep for about an hour. I’ve never tried this before, so I don’t know if the mental command will last the entire hour, but he’s out for the moment.”
Another slumped to the ground and Max’s muscles tightened in anticipation.
“Now?” she asked, barely holding it together.
Two more went down, then Scott nodded.
Max quickly disrobed, then shifted into four legged fur and ran at top speed to the corner of the building, giving the splashes of light a wide, cautious berth. Once there, she took a quick look around, scenting the night air. She smelled guns, sweat and the light hint of fear, but no Logan. She slowly made her way to a side entrance. Now that she was actually taking action, the wolf was starting to calm down a little, becoming a little more co-operative.
Max peeked inside, spotting a bored looking guard positioned behind a desk; his face illuminated with the dull glow from something he was watching.
She shifted back, shivering now. It was beyond freezing outside and her hands trembled as she knocked on the glass. The guard looked up, his eyes immediately going wide. She let out a puff of breath, watching as the small cloud of mist drifted slowly away from her on the night breeze. Jesus, it was cold.
She had to admit that this possibly wasn’t one of her brighter ideas. Would he let her in before parts of her started getting frostbite?
The guard bolted out of his chair and walked quickly over to the door, his brow furrowed in consternation. Max pulled her arms tighter around herself, giving him a pleading look. The man picked up his radio and said something into it.
Fuck. Why the hell isn’t he opening the goddamned door?
She looked up and peered up into the camera pointed at her. She gave it her best ‘damsel in distress’ face and the man finally moved to open the door, letting her in and pulling a coat off a nearby rack. He wrapped her up in it, then quickly stepped away from her. He opened his mouth to say something before his expression went blank. Max frowned back at him, cocking her head and waving her hand in front of his face.
~ I’ve got him, Max. Just go find Logan. And watch out for cameras! ~
Max shook her head, still not liking the feeling of somebody else in her head. Even a friend.
She looked around, finding another camera pointing down at the lobby entranceway. Max took a step towards the guard and sniffed him, irritated that everything smelled so sterile.
Another guard walked around the corner, saying, “Hey Kessler, shift it. It’s your turn to walk the…”
Max watched the man’s jaw drop as she stepped out from behind the man who’d let her in. She dropped the coat to the floor, and watched his eyes grow wide. She smiled and curled her finger, beckoning him over and the man took several hesitant steps forward before stopping, his expression going slack.
~ That’s it for this section. I’m thinking that they’re not so much worried about people breaking in, as other things getting out. I’ll keep light contact with you so that we can know how you’re doing while you’re in there. ~
Ok, this is weird.
Max began walking back towards the hallway, checking the monitor feeds behind the guard’s desk. They displayed empty rooms, but nothing really useful. She frowned, then shifted into wolf form and began padding down the hall, her claws clicking on the cement as she tried to pick up a scent that she could use to track Logan down.
There was something – just underneath the fresh chemicals used to clean the floors, but she couldn’t tell what it was. She followed the odd scent to a grey metal door with a lock that had six metal buttons above it.
She snuffled underneath the door and the odd scent became a little stronger. She heard footsteps in the hallway behind her and turned to find Scott walking towards her.
“I knocked out the cameras, and Jean got one of the guards to let us in.” He turned to look back down the hallway as Jean came around the corner with one of the guards. She walked the man up to the door, watching him key in a code as he turned the doorhandle and opened the door, his eyes empty as he moved to stare straight ahead. Max looked back at her with wary eyes.
~ You know what I am, Blondie. You also know that I’m not comfortable with doing this, but it’s for a good cause. ~
Max chuffed at her with a quick nod, then stepped through the door. The scent was definitely stronger here, but still really diminished.
She moved through the hallway, not bothering to look up now that Scott and Jean were behind her. She kept her nose to the ground as they made their way down the hall, following it to the left. As she came around the corner, the door at the end of the hallway opened and a man stepped into the corridor. Max stopped in her tracks and the man’s eyes grew huge. He moved to close the door, then stopped, standing in place.
Max ran up to him, taking in his scent. The scent of Logan was strong on the leather of the man’s boots, but the rest of his uniform didn’t have any distinct, helpful smells. Jean walked up to the man, frowning. She cocked her head and the man winced, then stepped aside.
“This way.” She murmured, moving through the doorway.
Max darted through the doorway, frustrated that she wasn’t picking anything helpful up. Jean seemed to know where to go now, though.
A high pitched sound rang off the walls of the corridor.
Scott muttered, “Damn. Facility alarm’s been triggered. So much for stealth at this point.”
A bright red beam of energy burst forth from the slot in his visor and knocked the door at the end of the corridor back through the hallway.
“Jean – where are we going?” he called over his shoulder as they began running.
Jean led the way, her red hair flaring out behind her as they followed her through the halls.
“That door.” She pointed, and another beam slammed it open.
Now she could smell it. Pain and exhaustion licked at the edges of his scent, as well as a strange smell that Max could only assume were chemicals as they stepped into a medical procedure room. A large steel table sat in the middle of the room, but everything had been cleaned and meticulously put away. They’d had him in here recently.
Max wanted to sprint off in the direction of the scent, but she didn’t want to leave her friends behind. At this point, they were in as much danger as she was. She found it odd that she was still rationalizing at this point, now that she had actually verified that he was here.
They ran through a number of rooms before starting to hear the voices of people up ahead. Max could smell cordite and gun oil, her nose wrinkling as she kept pace with Jean and Scott. The sounds of premature gunfire further down the hallway as it curved to the right brought them to a full stop. Max’s ears were now ringing painfully and she shifted back to pink skin, clapping her hands over them. She had forgotten how loud gunfire could be in an enclosed space.
Should’ve brought earplugs, she thought angrily to herself. Loud noises always irritated her and made her jumpy. The wailing of the alarm siren had been bad enough.
She kept her hands over her ears as they advanced towards the sounds.
Max could barely hear the clatter of weapons as they hit the floor, but her eardrums were recovering quickly. She could go completely deaf and her hearing would still be restored within minutes. Handy – but still painful as all hell. She looked back at Jean who was now sweating, her expression slightly strained.
“How many are there?” Scott asked, frowning back at her.
“Not many, but there’s something…one of them has something in his head that he’s trying to keep me from seeing.” she growled.
She blinked for a moment, then said, “Oh.”
It almost looked like she’d just remembered where her keys were after searching for them for the last fifteen minutes. Then her expression clouded and she looked truly scared.
“Oh shit! We need to get to him now! This way!”
They began running, easily hurdling the bodies in the hallway that had slumped where they stood. They were through two more doors when an echoing voice rang through the hallway.
“Terminate the subject and evacuate the facility.”
The cold, clinical tone in the man’s voice sent a chill down Max’s spine. It sounded offhandedly irritated as it floated out of the speaker above her head. A muffled explosion followed by a rapid burst of machine gun fire in another part of the building set all her internal alarms off and the wolf took control, forcing her into dire form as she roared and pounded off in the direction of the noise.
“MAX!” Scott yelled, growling, “DAMMIT!” as he and Jean quickly made to follow.
Everything shifted into the singular determination of the wolf as Max felt her own consciousness slip away.
Chapter 13: I think that’s just about the worst thing I’ve ever seen
Everything was wet and red; the floor around him covered with torn, fleshy chunks and pieces of skin. What the hell had happened? There was a strange pressure in his chest, along with a familiar itching feeling...
Logan looked up to see a naked crimson angel standing before him in the dim lighting of his cell, her body dripping with blood, bits of bone and gore. Her hair was matted with it, sticking to her skin in dark red trails. He tried to move to get a better look at her, and watched as tears spilled out of her eyes.
“Christ.” he groaned out of what was left of ruined vocal cords. “Don’t come..here..and start cryin’. Fucksakes.”
He winced, realizing that he had to be pretty busted up for it to sound that bad. He wanted to get up, but his body wouldn’t respond.
Whoever she was, his mystery distraction, she was a knockout under all the red stuff. She had visited him before, when he could manage to get somewhat lucid – before they knocked him out again. Usually when she came to him, she looked much cleaner. Pure, almost. Why was she all bloody now? She looked as though she had strode through a killing field, dominating it.
Something was different this time, though. Now he could actually feel her hands on him as she began sliding them gently along his sides, arms and legs. She seemed to be checking him for something.
“How on earth could he have survived this?”
The hushed whisper caught his attention and Logan looked to find the source of the other voice, seeing a woman with red hair and black leather that looked vaguely familiar. Seeing her irritated him, but he wasn’t entirely sure why.
“Max, we need to go. NOW.”
Logan lolled his head to the side to see a tall man in black leather. What the hell was on the guy’s head? Did he realize he looked like an idiot?
“Dreaming again..” Logan mumbled, trying to roll over and finding that he couldn’t.
Everything was wet and red; the floor around him covered with torn, fleshy chunks and pieces of skin. What the hell had happened? There was a strange pressure in his chest, along with a familiar itching feeling.
Suddenly, he was hefted into the air by something big, wet and furry. It smelled familiar and comfortable, apart from the fact that it was also covered in blood as well. What, had everybody taken a liberal roll in a blood puddle? It growled softly at him and he relaxed.
Hell, if he was dreaming, there wasn’t much he could do about it anyway.
Having expended the rest of his energy trying to move, he slumped in its arms as he slid back into darkness.
Max cradled Logan in her arms in the back of the cargo area of the plane. Scott had strapped them both into the netting since Max refused to let go of Logan and sit in one of the seats. She didn’t want him getting any more banged up on the ride home. She could still hear low, ripping explosions as they tore through the remains of the facility below. Scott had the plane in the air already and the sounds began fading away.
She was still somewhat delirious herself, having come back to awareness once they were able to get into the cage that held him. The wet, ragged mess of his torso was knitting itself back together as he regenerated and she winced as his healing factor forced yet another hunk of metal out of his neck. It hit the floor with a metallic tak sound as she ran shaking fingers over the skin of his shoulder. She watched as tissue started reconstructing over exposed metallic ribs at phenomenal speed, wondering what the hell they had done to him in order to cause so much damage. She wiped at a bloody spot on his leg, relieved that the skin there was now unbroken – the scars quickly fading.
“God, Logan…” she breathed, her voice cracking as tears threatened to start again.
Max couldn’t even remember what the wolf had done, which was the truly maddening part. When she realized how badly they’d hurt him, she wanted nothing more than to start tearing people apart. Now she couldn’t even do that. She remembered seeing vivid splashes of crimson along the walls as well as large chunks of skin and bone strewn liberally throughout the halls as they had run back through the facility, trying to find the exit. The wolf had apparently rent asunder everything in her path once she’d wrested control from Max. It had taken justice into its own hands, leaving her feeling impotent and frustrated.
It curled in her psyche now, sated and content that it had saved its mate.
It was only a matter of time before Logan´s body burned off whatever zombie cocktail those assholes had forced into him; he literally stank of chemicals. It would take a good deal longer for him to heal from the extensive injuries he’d endured. She had never seen anybody come back from anything this extreme before, and it left her more than a little shaken.
Max couldn’t believe that Logan hadn’t broken a single bone. What kind of metal covered them, anyway? His cell had literally been covered in gore, as if something had exploded, splashing it everywhere. She had wanted to ask Jean or Scott what had happened to him before the wolf released its hold on her, but neither of them seemed much in a mood for conversation.
Jean had looked as if she were going into mild shock. Max could get the story later. At least they had gotten him out.
She opened her hand and looked down at the souvenir that she’d swiped from the hook that it depended from just outside the cage where they had found him. It was a small metal plate that looked like an unusual military dogtag of sorts. She ran her finger over the single word engraved into the metal again – Wolverine. What the hell was that supposed to mean?
Max clutched it in her hands, her stomach lurching as the plane jostled gently. Flying in the cargo section was decidedly worse than sitting strapped into one of the seats. Max hoped they would be landing soon.
Pink water swirled around the drain as Max rested her cheek against the cool tile of the shower walls. The water was damn near scalding, but she could barely feel it. Ororo had immediately sent her to clean up after they deposited Logan in the infirmary. There wasn’t much more that Max could do. It was just a matter of waiting now. She finished cleaning up, then headed back downstairs, still feeling numb.
Scott was sitting in the living room, staring quietly outside.
She padded over and sat across from him. “Can I ask you a question?”
He looked over at her, his expression unreadable. His tone was wary as he replied, “Sure. What is it?”
Max frowned for a moment, wondering how to phrase it without making it sound too ghoulish.
“What..what happened to him? What caused the big hole in his chest?”
Scott gave her a strange look, his tone tight as he asked, “You don’t remember?”
Max gave him a sad shake of her head, pursing her lips.
He took a deep breath, then explained, “I think they put some kind of..explosive charge in him and detonated it before we could get to him in time, hoping that it would kill him.”
His tone became hollow as he turned away and murmured, “Then when that didn’t work, they opened fire on him.”
Max felt the blood drain from her face as her hands began to shake.
“Jesus…” she whispered as she pulled her arms around herself.
“Yeah.” Scott croaked, his hands tightening briefly into fists. “I think that’s just about the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Max took a calming breath, then asked, “How bad did I get?”
Scott let out a weak laugh and looked back over at her.
She frowned and murmured, “I’m so sorry.”
His expression softened as he replied, “We knew it was a nasty situation going in. I just..we had no idea.”
He shuddered. “It went the way it went. I’m not blaming you, Max.”
“Is Jean okay?”
“Oddly enough, she’s not as bad as I thought she’d be. Apparently telepaths see some pretty vivid, nasty stuff in other people’s heads when they’re broadcasting their thoughts. The initial shock seems to have worn off quickly, thank god.”
“I’m glad.” Max forced a smile, then stood up and said, “I’m going to go check on him. Wanna come?”
Scott shook his head slowly and looked back outside.
“I think I’ll stay here – but thanks.”
Max nodded and made her way through the mansion to the infirmary, relieved that she didn’t run into anybody else along the way. The place seemed unusually quiet for some reason. When she walked in and saw Logan laid out in a hospital bed, something in her chest tightened.
His body had fully regenerated, but he was breathing slowly. Max sat by his bedside, watching for any signs of voluntary movement. He was still out like a light, and likely would be for a while. She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and quickly turned around to find Ororo standing there, her expression stoic.
“Have you eaten?” she asked, her tone soft.
Max shook her head as her stomach gave a loud growl.
“Would you like me to bring you something?”
“No. I’ll be okay.” Max murmured, turning to look back over at Logan.
“Little good will come of you denying yourself sustenance, Max.” Ororo chided softly, letting her hand drop from Max’s shoulder.
“I can’t leave him.” Max whispered, feeling strangely guilty.
“I will bring you something from the kitchen. A sandwich?” Ororo offered.
Max turned and met the woman’s ice blue eyes, her chest growing tight.
“Have you ever..had vengeance taken out of your hands?”
Ororo smiled and pulled up a lab stool, perching on it with a regal mien.
“All of us, at one time or another, lose the opportunity to see the wickedness that affects us directly punished before our eyes.” She paused for a moment, then gave a somber nod. “Oh yes.”
Max let out a deep sigh and replied, “I want so badly to hurt – to kill those who did this to him – who put him through this – and I can’t because, in a remote way, I already did.”
“Jean spoke of the aftermath – the carnage you left in your wake on your way to reach him. It sounds as if you firmly collected the debt yourself.” She looked slightly confused. “Was this not the case?”
Max shifted on her stool and murmured, “Well – yes and no.”
She looked away, not wanting her friend to see her shame so plainly on her face.
“At a certain point, I essentially lost consciousness – and the wolf took over. All the rage – the anguish and pain I felt at what was happening – she’s the one who brought the price raining down on their heads. Not me.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I don’t even remember it.”
“Then you must accept that Karma herself was riding beside you tonight and place the need for vengeance behind you.”
Ororo shivered for a moment as Max looked back at her. “It is not always a good thing to be her direct instrument, Max. Trust me on this.”
She sounded like she spoke from a place of pretty harsh experience. Max wondered what she had gone through to sound so jaded about such a thing. She still looked so young. It was hard to remember that she was twenty.
“You’re always so calm – so measured in your responses. How do you do it? How do you keep it all from getting to you and tearing you apart?” Max asked, her hazel eyes searching.
Ororo smiled and quietly explained, “I command the very elements of the sky with thought and intention. I had to enforce rigid control over my emotions at a very young age to keep from destroying everything around me.”
“Did it get easier over time?”
Ororo chuckled softly, shaking her head.
“Sometimes it is very difficult indeed. I cannot always keep how I feel penned in, but I do the best that I am able.”
Max had a stray thought, and her eyes widened.
“What about during…?” she let the rest of the question go unasked and Ororo presented her with a wry smile.
“It is the one question that everyone seems to ask me.”
She slowly stood up and said, “Have you not noticed that, every once in a while, a brief thunderstorm will break out around the mansion?” She raised an eyebrow and her smile grew bigger as she turned to go.
“A sandwich it is.” She murmured as she walked out.
Max blinked, then let out a bark of laughter.
She felt the tight spot in her chest loosen a little and relaxed.
Chapter 14: If you leave again, I’ll cut your fucking heart out myself
Max gets to deal with a feral Logan in full rut.
Logan opened his eyes, surprised to find himself lying in a medical bay – without restraints. He kept his breathing even as he looked around, frowning as he spotted a blonde woman curled up in a chair at the foot of his hospital bed. She appeared to be asleep. He quickly sat up and jumped off the bed, placing it between him and the rest of the room as he surveyed his surroundings. He took a deep breath, his chest tightening at her familiar scent.
He watched as she shifted her position in the chair, pulling the blanket that covered her closer to her chin. Her eyes suddenly popped open and she looked back at him, staying very still. Logan went into a slight crouch, watching the woman as she slowly uncoiled from the chair. He let out a low, throaty growl and backed up a step.
“Logan.” The woman’s voice was thick with sleep.
He trembled slightly, now hyper aware of the affect that the combination of her scent and voice were having on him. Damn, she smelled good.
Still, first priority was food. Escape. Food. Sleep, then rut. His body needed fuel if he was going to be able to continue moving around. Base needs had to be taken care of first.
The woman stood up and he took another step back, his hands at his sides.
She frowned at him, cocking her head to the side. “Logan?”
There was only one exit and he tensed, wanting simply to be free and fed.
Shit – he’s gone feral.
Max took a long, slow breath. At least his claws hadn’t popped yet. She held a hand out to him, hoping that he would take it as a sign to ease down.
~ I’ve told the residents to stay in their rooms. Get him outside, if you can. ~
Max almost jumped at the sound of Xavier’s voice in her thoughts. While it was sometimes handy to have the intervention of a powerful telepath, the ‘head talk’ thing still tweaked her. She’d notified the team beforehand that he would likely wake up unaware of himself due to the amount of damage he’d sustained.
Just provide us with a straight path out, and it should be okay, she’d explained, wondering at the time how bad it would actually be when he regained consciousness.
“Food?” she asked softly, making her tone and body language as passive as possible. Any remotely dominant moves would be taken as an act of outright aggression at this point and her best bet was to maintain as submissive a posture as she was able.
Logan came out of the crouch and slowly stood up, his expression still wary.
“Follow?” she murmured, taking a tentative step forward.
It was better to stick to single word communication. Nice and simple.
Logan watched her, his posture tight and tense.
Max couldn’t blame him, after what he’d gone through. Having a vague idea had been bad enough, but seeing the actual aftermath of what they had done to him – it still made her shudder.
She lowered her eyes and slowly walked past him, shivering when she felt him turn and begin to follow her. So far, so good.
Until he ate, he’d be difficult to reason with at best. Turnskin Alphas tended to get very aggressive and temperamental after healing massive amounts of damage unless they consumed an almost obscene amount of food shortly afterward. She was guessing he was pretty much the same. It was probably a safe bet.
The trip up through the mansion to the ground floor was thankfully uneventful. Max kept expecting somebody to pop their head out from around a corner, which would have set him off faster than anything else, and would likely have gotten her and the interloper killed. He was probably bewildered at the mixture of unfamiliar scents surrounding him already.
She kept her pace measured and slow, letting him take his time in following. From time to time she would look behind to see him prowling behind her, his eyes sharp and focused. They made their way into the sitting room and Max headed over to the double doors leading to the outside.
Spotting a way out that led to grass and trees beyond, Logan quickly shot past her and out onto the patio. He took one brief glance up at the stars from the patio, then crouched down, scenting the night air.
At the sound of a footfall behind him, he whirled to see the blond. She stood stock still, keeping her distance.
Again, he had that strange feeling of strong familiarity, then a scent on the night wind caught his attention.
He darted off into the woods at a full run now, letting his senses take him where they wanted.
Max let out a sigh, then stripped down and shifted, racing to keep up with him. She shook her head, chuffing to herself as she ran past the hospital gown he’d been wearing. What, did the man just have a thing about running around naked? He led her on a brief run through the woods as he chased his quarry, a group of hinds. To assist, she circled around to drive them back towards him and he caught one, quickly leaping on it and snapping its neck with a savage twist. Max watched from a respectable distance as he tore into the animal with those long, steel claws of his. The innards of the animal spilled out onto his feet with a slithering sound, blood spattering his upper legs and hips. The wolf gave a nod of respect, realizing that he hadn’t torn any of them in the process. He could be almost surgical with the fucking things.
Logan didn’t bother simply slicing sections off this time. Instead, he immediately fell to the task of eating, burying his nose deep in fur and blood. The wolf smiled, wanting to join him, but keeping her distance. He was still very dangerous at this point.
Is one going to be enough? Max thought to herself as Logan made quick work of the animal. He growled and grunted, consuming the meat as quickly as possible. The man looked like he was damn near inhaling it.
Max kept an eye out for anything that looked as if it wanted to intrude upon his meal. Until he gorged himself, he would likely kill anything that interrupted him.
By the time Logan finally finished, there wasn’t much left of the deer but bones with a light covering of flesh. He’d almost completely cleaned the carcass off, leaving some of the less choice internal organs spilled out along its side in a wet, twisted mess.
He sat back in a crouch, looking up from the messy remains of his dinner. He looked like he was breathing a little easier now as he wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand.
Max let out a soft sigh and shifted to skin, relieved that he seemed to be coming back to himself.
Logan caught the familiar scent again, turning slowly to see the blonde from the medical bay walking slowly towards him. Her complete lack of clothing wasn’t lost on him, and his libido grabbed him by the back of the neck, savagely forcing him to his feet. She smelled so damned good it was driving his synapses crazy. Now that food had been covered, something else much more pressing and insistent had slammed it aside, shaking through him.
Max stopped as soon as she saw his eyes glaze over. One base need had now completely been subsumed by another, and she took a hesitating step back, letting out a small cry of startlement as he growled and leapt at her, knocking her to the ground. He was immediately on her, his hands seemingly everywhere at once.
Shit! He’s in full rut!
Logan’s fingers gripped her hard enough to leave dark purple bruises that quickly faded behind his roughly roving fingers. Her body wasn’t ready for him and there was a fair amount of pain as he slammed into her in one swift thrust, gripping her shoulder and damn near pulling it out of the socket as he sank his teeth deep into the soft flesh of her breast. Her collarbone was going to snap if he kept this up.
Max winced and bared her teeth at him, growling. At this point, if he wasn’t going to be an even mildly considerate lover, then she would beat the holy hell out of him until he came to his senses.
Granted, he’d been gone for about six months, and had obviously been tortured – but that was no excuse to start behaving like a selfish, abusive prick.
Max cuffed him sharply on the ear and Logan shook his head, momentarily disoriented.
She pushed him away from her, then kicked out at him and watched as he flew across the clearing, colliding with a tree. There was a resounding crack as he hit.
Max quickly got to her feet in time to see those deadly metal claws slide out of his knuckles.
“Hey ASSHOLE!” She yelled, angry now. “I am not a goddamned chew toy!”
Blood dripped down her chest from the ragged teethmarks he’d left behind.
Logan leapt at her and she quickly evaded, snarling and shifting into dire form.
“Logan, dammit!” she growled, the words sounding gravelly and deep through a long muzzle of sharp teeth.
He slashed at her, nicking her along a hip, and she roared, tapping deep into her reserves to quickly blur behind him. She picked him up and tossed him at another tree with a larger trunk. He hit with a sickening, meaty thud and dropped.
“BEHAVE, dickhead.” She growled, taking a step towards him. “You don’t want to recover from any more injuries than you have to.”
The claws slid back into his knuckles and Max shifted back to skin, frowning. The furrows on her hip were quickly closing up as crimson trails snaked down her thigh.
“Logan..are you in there?” she murmured, walking over to him. She really didn’t want to put him back into the infirmary, and she was more than willing to help him out with the rut – as long as he didn’t try to pull her apart again while in its throes.
Logan slowly got to his feet, shaking his head. She’d only shaken him up a little – no real damage had been done. Damn, she was a feisty one. He glared back at her as she moved closer.
God, she still smelled so amazing.
He leapt towards her, pinning her up against a tree, his cock pressed tightly against her abdomen. The need was becoming overwhelming and his body shook as she looked back at him, her eyes sharp.
“You gonna try to dislocate something again?” she growled in warning.
Logan leaned in and pressed his nose up against her neck, just under her ear. If he didn’t fuck her soon, he was going to tear the entire damned forest apart in frustration. He shivered as he waited until she showed her compliance by sliding her arms around his neck with a soft sigh.
The feel of her tongue as she began licking blood off his shoulder made him groan. Logan shifted and pulled her into a rough kiss, dipping his fingers inside her, now finding her slick and ready. He growled and slid inside her again, shuddering at the sensation. All the pent up frustration he’d been harboring shattered his fragile control. After several quick strokes, a quicksilver fire shot through him, damn near stopping his heart as he crashed over the edge, gripping her shoulders tightly and roaring.
He poured himself into her until he was sure that there was nothing left.
Max winced at the scratchiness of the bark against her back as Logan slumped in her arms. As they crumpled to the forest floor, she held him tightly, letting out a small ‘oof’ as they hit.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of reunion she had envisioned, but then again – few things were ever as she thought they would be with him.
Logan let out a shaky sigh as he murmured, “Max.”
Good. He was lucid. She smiled and chuckled. Rough quickie or not, it was the sweetest feeling in the world, holding him.
“‘m I dreamin’ again?” he croaked.
Max ran her fingers gently through his hair. “I’m here Logan. It’s not a dream.”
He wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her so tightly she thought she heard several bones creak.
“What the fuck happened?”
Max gently pulled away and smiled back at him, her torso spattered with crimson smears.
“We got you out.” she replied simply.
“We?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.
“Scott and Jean flew me out there – to the location they were holding you. We all went in after you. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I could’ve done it.”
Logan frowned, then looked down and winced at the realization that they both looked as if they’d been fingerpainting with a bucket of blood.
“Christ, what a mess.” he grumbled.
Max laughed and leaned in to kiss him.
“Honey, you could be covered in damn near anything, and I’d still want you.” she murmured softly.
His heart skipped a beat at her words. Holy shit. He was out? Really out? This was real?
“If you leave again, I’ll cut your fucking heart out myself.” Max growled.
Logan heard the seriousness in her tone, but she kissed him softly, like she’d truly missed him. She touched him as if he were something precious to her.
He couldn’t remember anybody ever feeling that way about him and it damn near broke him down.
He paused a few beats before asking, “Where are we?”
Max kissed his chin, grinning as she replied, “Back at the mansion, about two hundred yards from the front door.”
He felt his body recover as she sat up, straddling him and looking down at him with a light in her eyes that he never expected to see from anybody.
“I missed you.” she murmured, placing her hands on his chest and cocking her head back at him.
“You threw me into a tree.” he grumbled, gripping her hips lightly.
“You were being a shit.” she explained, sliding back against his length and capturing his undivided attention.
He had the good sense to look chagrined. He had known exactly what he was doing at the time – he just couldn’t stop it. He hadn’t slipped entirely into the depths of the darkness, but he’d been getting close, otherwise the claws wouldn’t have popped.
“Yeah.” he replied, his tone contrite. “Sorry about that.”
Max smiled and moved against him, nice and slow. Her smile grew broad as he groaned and pressed his hips against her, loving the feeling of her slickness against him.
“Then shut up and make it up to me.”
He laughed – actually fucking laughed then, and it was liberating.
“Christ, you’re demanding.” he growled playfully.
She opened her mouth to say something, but he skillfully diverted her train of thought with a well placed hand.
“Better.” she purred, rocking into his touch.
Logan snapped awake, frowning as he sat up. He looked up and saw spots of stars through the dark canopy of trees above. They’d fallen asleep in a pile of leaves, some of which were now sticking to his side. He heard Max let out a soft moan as she reached for him.
“Whua..?” she murmured.
He briefly scanned the area, pulling some of the leaves from the sticky patches on his skin.
He leaned down to nuzzle her cheek, his voice a soft rumble as he kissed her and said, “G’back to sleep.”
She smiled as he leaned down to pick her up, laughing softly as he grumbled, “Why is it that one of us always ends up carryin’ the other?”
“Think we can sneak back in like this?” she asked, letting her head gently rest on his shoulder.
“I doubt it.” The voice echoed out off to the right, startling them both.
Logan caught a whiff of a familiar scent and muttered, “Really tired of people gettin’ the drop on me.”
Max chuckled as Scott walked into view. He was holding a pair of large black robes.
“Thought you guys might want these for the long walk back in.” he explained, holding them out.
Logan let out a wry chuckle and replied, “Ain’t no shame in walkin’ ‘round in what’cher born with.”
“I’m fairly certain that the kids don’t really need quite so vivid an anatomy lesson, Logan.” Scott cocked a hip, still holding the robes out.
Logan nodded, not wanting to ride the kid too hard. After all, the boy had risked his life coming to help Max bust Logan outta that Canadian hellhole.
“Thanks, Summers.” Logan murmured, not entirely comfortable with being indebted to people he barely knew.
Scott gave him a quick nod as Logan took the robes. He then turned to walk quickly back to the house. Logan let Max hop down and pull one of them on, smiling as she tied the fuzzy belt around her waist. He took a deep breath, then slid the other one on. Max moved to tie it, then wrapped her arms around his waist.
“I wasn’t kidding, you know.” She purred.
Logan pulled her close and asked, “’bout cuttin’ my heart out?”
Max nodded and he held her tighter. “Oh yeah.”
He swept her into his arms again and looked back at her. Even as filthy as she was from the extended romps in the woods, she took his breath away.
He pressed his forehead to her temple and quietly replied, “I know.”
Max couldn’t remember the last time when a shower had felt so wonderful. They were liberally covered in dried blood, dirt and leaves, and it took a while for all of it to come off.
Logan was so tender and gentle now as he touched her that she almost started to wonder if he was the same person she had gotten sexually tossed around by earlier.
With the amount of trauma he had endured – and god only knew the breadth and depth of what he’d actually gone through – she would have expected almost anybody to be a useless quivering pile of meat for a good long time. It made her wonder if he’d been put through worse in the past.
Once he finished rinsing the soap off her, she tended to him, taking note of his shaking sigh as she cleaned him off. She pushed him back against the tile wall, smiling as he kept his hands at his sides, letting her take control. He shivered as her hands slid down his stomach, gently scrubbing.
“You’re a really messy eater.” she purred.
Logan chuckled and closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation. It was odd to have somebody taking care of him like this. Odd, but good.
Max lathered him up, then moved to rinse him off under the hot spray of water. He peeked out at her from behind inky black trails of hair, his eyes sharply focused on her.
Max cocked her head back at him, her brow furrowing. “What is it?”
Logan pulled her into a kiss, feeling something inside him shift as his lips met hers. Now that he realized he was well and truly gone on her, he didn’t mind as much as he thought he would. No matter what else happened now, he wasn’t walking away from her again. Max seemed to sense the change in him and was suddenly overcome with emotion.
All the tears she’d been holding back to be strong came forth in a wave and Logan caught her, picking her up as she began to weep. He moved to shut the water off, then slowly slid them both down to the floor, just holding and rocking her as she cried.
Later, as they lay across from one another amongst rumpled sheets, Logan gently traced her lips with a finger and murmured, “Thank you for gettin’ me out.”
Max let out a light laugh, her eyes still a little red as she replied, “Are you kidding? You’re lucky I don’t hand your ass to you for getting caught.”
Logan sobered for a moment, his thoughts drifting off in an extremely uncomfortable direction. What if she had been with him – and they’d both gotten tagged? What would they have done to her?
“Your head’s going somewhere nasty again, isn’t it?” She asked, reaching out and brushing her knuckles along his cheek.
“Yeah.” He looked away from her.
“Don’t. You’re here now. Be here.” Max tapped his cheek.
He met her gaze and rumbled, “They fuckin’ nailed me good, but I don’t even want to think about what those cocksuckers would’a done to you if you’d been with me.”
“Then don’t. It hasn’t happened. No sense in dwelling on it.” Her tone softened as she pulled him closer, wrapping a leg around his waist.
“Max..” he sounded aggrieved.
“Logan, who’s to say that they would’ve been able to take both of us down?”
Logan let out a halfhearted laugh. “They tagged my ass while I was scoutin’. I never saw it comin’. Next thing I knew, I was in that fuckin’ pen.”
Max took laced her fingers with his as she asked, “How long ago did they get you?”
Logan frowned, trying to remember. The drugs had fucked his perception, so he had no real idea how long he’d been down there.
“A month, I think.”
“Does the word ‘Wolverine’ mean anything to you?”
Logan went utterly still, his tone a hushed whisper as he asked, “Where’d you hear that?”
Max pulled the metal tag out from under her pillow, holding it out to him by the chain.
“I found this hanging outside the cage they were keeping you in.”
He took it from her, his eyes narrowing to slits as he stared at it. He vaguely remembered the muddled jeers from the guards who had taken shifts watching him and keeping him dosed. There had been a variety of truly unpleasant activities that his captors had engaged in with him while he was doped up and he was grateful that he only barely remembered it all through a foggy haze. He had wondered why they kept calling him that. Perhaps it had been a pet name for whatever it was that they were trying to turn him into. He ran a thumb across the engraved letters, then his hand tightened into a fist around the tag.
“Why’d you keep it?” he asked, his voice deadly serious.
“I thought it might help trigger your memory.”
He rolled over onto his back, his mouth set in a grim line.
“There anything left of the place?”
Max shook her head and growled, “They blew the facility. Jean kept us from getting too banged up as we raced to get out.”
“And the men?” he asked. He had to know.
“The wolf tore everything in her path to pieces when we realized where you were.”
Logan looked over at her, frowning.
Max nodded, her expression pinched. “That’s what Scott and Jean tell me. Apparently it got pretty rough.”
“You remember any of it?” he asked, recalling what she’d told him about her first fight.
Damn. That had to be frustrating. He hoped she had missed a few, actually. He had a personal score to settle with some of the more creative pricks that had decided to take out their frustrations on him. Good god, the things they’d done to him. He let out a subvocal growl. It would have been so much worse if Max had been captured as well. They’d probably have had a grand old time, testing her durability and cutting her up once the eggheads had finished running her through test after grueling test. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, not wanting to give it any more prime time front brainspace than it had already gotten.
The word bounced around in his head, distracting him.
Max softly asked, “Want me to leave you alone for a little while?”
Logan turned to her, his eyes blazing.
“No. Stay.” His features softened as he added, “Please.”
Max nodded and slid up against him, her head on his shoulder.
Chapter 15: Charlie’s gonna have to strap me down for this, darlin’
Charles works to help Logan uncover his past memories.
The sound of gentle rapping on the bedroom door roused Max from a deep sleep. She squinted as she pushed herself up to peer over Logan’s shoulder, wondering who it was. What time was it? She slowly sat up and Logan tensed beside her, eying the door with a baleful gaze.
“Guys, are you gonna come out anytime soon? Professor Xavier wants to see you.”
It sounded like Jean.
Max relaxed, calling out, “We’ll be down in a few minutes.”
She heard soft footfalls pad away from the door and moved to place her chin on Logan’s shoulder, grumbling. “Well, we knew we couldn’t stay in here forever.”
“Yeah.” He rumbled, irritated. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to interacting with anybody else so soon after the extraction. Hell, he’d never been very personable to begin with, from what he knew.
Max grinned and kissed his shoulder, throwing off the covers and hopping over him.
“C’mon. Let’s go put in an appearance.”
Logan grunted and sat up, running a hand through the bird’s nest his hair had become. A section of it stuck straight up and Max let out a sharp bark of laughter. Combined with the sour expression on his face, he looked like a malevolent puppy that had just been kicked awake. Logan gave her a look of mock irritation and she began laughing louder.
“Bitch.” He muttered before yawning and standing up.
“Yep.” Max grinned, raising an eyebrow. “Got it in one.”
A sly grin pulled at the edges of his lips as he padded off into the bathroom. She followed him in and turned on the shower as he relieved himself. She quickly jumped under the warm spray and began trying to work the tangles out of her hair. She heard a flush and leapt into the corner of the shower as the water briefly became ice cold.
“Dammit!” she growled.
Logan gave a low chuckle as he climbed into the shower with her.
“’s what you get for laughin’ at me.” He chided, grinning now as he soaped himself up.
Max glared at him and smacked him, and he started laughing.
“What? Can’t take it? Get out.” He cocked a thumb, jabbing it back towards the door.
She quickly darted a hand forward and gripped a small patch of hair on his chest, yanking it out.
He started laughing harder.
“That all ya got, pup?”
Max let out a subvocal growl and leapt at him.
An hour and a half later they padded downstairs into the foyer, hair still damp. As they made their way into the sitting room, Scott looked up from the book he was reading and shook his head.
“I really need to talk to Hank about soundproofing that room.” He murmured.
Max flushed briefly and Logan looked over at her with a wolfish grin.
“Ah, Logan – Max, I see you’ve decided to finally come down and grace us with your presence.”
The professor rolled into the room as they turned to meet him. Max felt Logan tense up and quickly squeezed his hand.
“Don’t.” she murmured, leaning into him.
She was right. It was his natural response to even the mildest challenges to react aggressively. In this place, it’d only make life more of a pain in the ass than he wanted to deal with. Logan took a slow breath in as Max said, “Sorry for making you wait.”
“It’s quite alright, Max. Let’s just say I’m not beyond a little needling myself, considering what you and Jean so helpfully stuffed into Scott’s locker last month.”
He smiled and Max flushed again, letting out a quiet cough. “I believe it’s a trivial little thing called payback?”
Max spotted the hint of a smile on the professor’s lips. Logan turned to see Scott trying to keep from laughing, wondering they were referring to. Apparently a great deal had changed since he’d been gone. Of course she would’ve made friends – gotten closer with them. Why did he feel a small twinge of jealousy? Had he expected her to be miserable while he’d been AWOL?
Perhaps part of him did.
Still, there was a connection there that seemed awfully close. The kind that took a good while to build. Longer than he’d initially thought he’d been gone. He frowned and carefully asked, “How long was I gone, Max?”
She looked up at him and replied, “A little over six months.”
She was frowning too now.
Shit. he paled, squeezing her hand tightly. They had me in that fuckin’ can for four months. He moved to lean against the back of one of the couches, grinding his teeth with a low growl.
“Logan..?” she sounded alarmed.
“Four months. Christ.” He muttered, letting out a shaky breath.
Shocked, Max stammered, “Not one, like you originally thought?”
Logan shook his head with a grim expression. His voice came out in a low rumble as he asked, “How’d you guys track me down again?”
“I believe I can answer that.” The professor offered, continuing, “I’d been trying to get a lock on you for some time, just to keep track of you – but your mind is remarkably resistant to probes. Combined with the chemical cocktail they’d administered, it was almost impossible to establish a firm connection.”
Logan wanted to be angry – the invasion of privacy bugged the shit out of him, but if it hadn’t been for Charlie’s nosiness, he’d still be on lockdown. Nobody would know where he was. He eyed the Professor and gave the man a curt nod.
“Thanks for that.”
Xavier returned his nod, his tone subdued as he replied, “I regret that I wasn’t able to find you sooner than I did.”
Logan murmured, “It’s enough you found me at all.”
Scott stood up and was walking over as he asked, “Was there any..permanent damage?”
Logan looked over at him and let out a harsh chuckle. “There never is.”
Max leaned into him and he wrapped an arm around her waist.
Logan asked the professor, “Think you can try that thing we did before?”
Xavier nodded, but replied, “I want to ensure that you’ve had ample time to recuperate before we..”
Logan cut him off, saying, “I’m ready.”
Xavier blinked and paused for a moment, frowning. “You’re certain?”
“Yep.” Logan set his jaw, then added, “She comes with.”
At this, Xavier raised an eyebrow. “You remember what happened the last time.”
Logan grunted and nodded. “She’s a part of this – of me now.”
Xavier let out a small sigh. “As you wish, Logan.”
Max wanted to chime in with, Don’t I get a say?, but it was enough that he wanted her there with him. She’d let him roll alpha on her as long as he stayed somewhat considerate about it. It also helped that the way he’d put it made her heart do a low, thumping roll in her chest. She felt her pulse quicken, as Logan’s arm around her waist tightened. He’d known the effect his words would have on her.
“This would best be done down in medical, I think, considering what you’ve been through recently.” Xavier explained. He turned to go and Logan moved to follow, pulling Max gently along with him.
“Why medical?” Max asked, confused.
“Charlie’s gonna have to strap me down for this, darlin’.” Logan rumbled.
Max balked, stopping in her tracks.
“I wrecked one of the chairs in his office last time.” He explained, his expression sour. “Busted it down to kindling. Prof didn’t take it too well. He said it was an antique. Got an earful afterward.”
Max winced, letting him pull her along again. “Wow. That bad, eh?”
“Yeah. It’s gonna get nasty.” He frowned and continued, “Truth to tell, I’m not really sure I want you to see what’ll happen – but if you’re gonna be with me, you gotta know what you’re getting involved with.”
She threaded her fingers through his on the hand at her hip. “You’re saying I haven’t seen how bad it can get?”
She almost didn’t want to think about what could possibly be worse than the condition they’d found him in in that cell.
Logan let out a weak laugh and replied, “That’s just blood and guts, darlin’. The psychological shit that came up last time was almost too much.”
“Then why are you going back into it?” Max asked, bewildered.
“I gotta know. I need to see the faces. The reasons.”
His face closed down, his expression going stony.
Yeah. Max could understand that.
The initial screams should’ve been the worst. They sounded like they were coming from a wounded animal as Logan twisted on the table, pulling at bonds that were proving to be surprisingly strong. The Professor sat at the head of the hospital table, his hands resting on either side of of Logan’s head and his expression one of fierce concentration.
No – it was the weeping that broke her down. Tears trailed down her cheeks as she stood beside him, wanting to reach out and touch him – to reassure him. To do anything to help. God, he sounded like a little boy who’d just watched his beloved pet killed in front of him. Logan’s entire body was rigid as he wept – as if the sensation was too unbearable. Like he was fighting it. Five minutes in, the Professor pulled away and opened his eyes, his expression remote.
Logan slumped, breathing heavily. He sounded as if he’d just run a marathon. Max placed a tentative hand on his arm and his eyes snapped open, his gaze malevolent as he stared back at her.
Holy crap. If looks could kill..
“Logan.” She murmured, placing her wrist under his nose. She’d wiped it under her armpit, collecting the strong tang of her scent and using it as a way to re-orient him, hoping it’d pull him out.
His nostrils flared and she watched as he relaxed back into the hospital table, his breathing slowly returning to normal. No wonder he’d been trepidatious about her presence during this.
“Talk to me, Charlie. Tell me you got somethin’.” Logan muttered, his voice still a little rough from the damage inflicted on his vocal cords from the screams. Anybody else would’ve been hoarse for a day or two afterward.
Xavier quietly murmured, “Logan, I’m so sorry I didn’t find you sooner..”
“Don’t.” Logan growled, his tone dangerously sharp. “Just tell me you got somethin’. And get me outta these fuckin’ things.”
He flexed his arms and Max quickly moved to start unbuckling the straps.
He looked over at Max who was now watching him with sad eyes.
“Not you too.” he snapped, sitting up.
Max bristled and grated, “Hey fuckhead – you’re my mate. I get to be pissed off and worried for you.”
Logan grunted and looked back over at the Professor who was calmly peering back at him.
“I believe I might have found something, but I’m going to have conduct some research to be positive.”
Logan let out a slow sigh as Max wrapped her arms around him. He couldn’t quite remember now what had gotten him so agitated – so utterly furious, and it bothered him. Like all the other memories, it’d creep up and hang out right at the edge of his mind’s eye, then dart away when he tried to inspect it. It was maddening. Something had to give.
“Logan, once again I find I must caution you about letting these malignant subconscious memories fester. I can recommend a very good..” The professor wasn’t at all surprised when Logan cut him off with a growl.
“I ain’t goin’ to a fuckin’ shrink. Period.”
Xavier nodded, disappointed.
“We done here?” Logan grunted, wanting to get out of this place for a little while.
“Yes, Logan. We’re done.”
Chapter 16: You wanna go hard, baby? We can go hard.
- Nobody had ever wanted the claws before. -
Max and Logan blow off a lot of explicit steam.
Max watched Logan knock back his fifth beer in the last five minutes.
“You trying to get trashed, cowboy?” she asked, picking at the bowl of peanuts on the bar. They’d gone to a roadhouse dive that Logan made a beeline for the moment they were off the mansion grounds.
“Can’t.” he grumbled, placing the empty beer on the counter and reaching for the next one. He had five more lined up.
“Mutation won’t let me.”
Max gave a sober nod, sipping at her coke. Her kind couldn’t really get drunk either, so she’d stopped trying years ago. It was too damned expensive to try to get anything remotely resembling a buzz on, and she’d never really liked the taste of alcohol. It left her mouth dry and just ended up making her thirsty. The twang of seedy country music echoed out of an old jukebox in the corner, making Max’s lip curl.
Ugh. The only country song she’d ever liked had been Devil Went Down to Georgia.
“How can you listen to this crap?” she asked, looking out at the mostly empty bar. Perhaps it got more rowdy at night.
Logan eyed her and knocked back the rest of his beer, his tone derisive.
“Your taste is in yer mouth, girl.”
There was laughter in the depths of his eyes as he reached for her and kissed her. Max was surprised that she really liked the taste of beer on him. It washed off the taste of that shitty cigar he’d been smoking since they first stepped up to the bar. It sat in an ashtray off to his left, smoke curling in a lazy swirl just above it. She grinned and pulled out of the kiss, catching the bartender glaring at her. The woman was obviously disappointed that he was with somebody. Max looked back over at Logan who was pulling another beer off the bar and knocking it back.
“Do you even notice them?” she asked.
He quickly drained the beer, then burped. “Notice who?”
Classy. Max rolled her eyes at him.
“You’re like the pied piper of rough sex, and you’re not even aware of it?”
Now that they were out in the world, among pinks, Max couldn’t help but note the reactions of most women when they saw him. Did it really not register with him?
“You don’t say.” he replied with a pleased grin.
Max slowly slid her hands up his thighs and his grin grew wicked.
“Is it a pheromone that women respond to, or is it just you? And why is it that almost every female we run across has that little heated spark that lights up in their eyes when they see you?”
She was honestly curious. Was it also what attracted her so strongly to him as well?
“Oh.” he murmured. “That.”
And down another beer went. He’d have to ask for more soon.
Max stood before him, sliding her hands around to the outsides of his thighs now. He eyed her as the beer quickly emptied into him, happily journeying to parts below. He placed the empty back on the bar and said, “Fuck if I know. I just know it happens. Why?”
“Some of them give me the black look when they realize that you’re with m,.” she explained, not being entirely comfortable with it.
In the pack, nobody really cared. Mated pairs still slept around, but the bond was usually solid enough to withstand almost anything. Pinks were almost painfully demanding and possessive of their mates, and the pairings didn’t usually last that long because they tended to look for all the wrong things in a partner. Turnskins were more pragmatic about the whole affair – which wasn’t to say that there weren’t dramatic tussles from time to time. Blood in her kind always ran hotter, so disagreements usually jumped pretty quickly into bloodloss – but as soon as the conflict was over and wounds were healed, the dispute was considered settled.
Logan crooked an eyebrow and asked, “You the jealous type, Max?”
She quietly replied, “I can share, as long as it’s understood that I’m Prime – in everything.”
Logan raised an eyebrow, asking, “Prime?”
Max explained, “The Prime has the final say on any external couplings in a given relationship. Both ‘skins in the initial mated pair have control over who their mate sleeps with. This is pretty much in case one or the other makes a poor choice in bedmates – IE sickness of mind or body..” she let her words trail off at the look on Logan’s face. He looked pissed.
“I don’t share, Max. Period.” he growled.
She smiled and murmured, “I kinda figured. Honestly? I always sucked at the sharing thing myself.”
She let her relief show and felt him relax as he collected another beer.
“Good,” he murmured.
She took another look around, wincing at the decor. It really was a shitkicker country joint. There were assorted dark splashes on the wall, presumably from where people had haphazardly thrown their beers. The jukebox looked as if it had seen better days as well.
“Ok. Next time, I get to pick the place. This blows.” she chuckled, taking another sip of her coke. She looked over to see the bartender giving her an acidic look.
Max smiled back at the women, revealing even, white teeth and letting some of the predator bleed into her eyes.
The woman balked, taking a step back before turning around and wiping down a section of the counter.
Max heard Logan chuckle beside her and looked over to see the smug grin on his face.
“Jealous.” he grunted, tipping the rest of his beer back.
“Possessive and asserting my place.” she corrected, leaning into him and gently squeezing his cock through his jeans.
He choked and glared at her, taking the beer away from his lips with a growl. Max grinned and pressed her hand against his length, sliding along it. Logan groaned and grabbed her wrist, setting the unfinished beer gently back on the bar.
“You’re just bound and determined to get yourself in trouble, aren’t ya?” he murmured.
“You were gone for an awfully long time.” Max purred.
“Can I at least finish the fuckin’ beer?”
She gave another squeeze and his eyes fluttered shut. Suddenly, her hand was gone and the glorious sensations stopped.
Logan’s eyes snapped open and he looked over to find Max perched back on her barstool with an innocent smile.
“What?” she asked, taking another sip of her coke. “Still want that beer?”
He didn’t know if he wanted to hit her or kiss her. He growled and slipped off his barstool as she chuckled and said, “Pay the woman – then keep up. If you can.”
He reached for her, but she deftly slid out of the way, jumping off the barstool and walking towards the front door.
“Too slow, old man. Doesn’t bode well for the chase..”
Logan grabbed a wad of cash, tossing it onto the bar and turning to stalk her.
“Don’t play, girl – you won’t like what happens.”
“Oh, I think I will.” Max crooned in a singsong, then quickly slipped out of the bar.
The sun was just beginning to set as Logan stepped outside. The parking lot was mostly empty, and Max was nowhere to be seen. Her scent still lingered on the evening air, just enough to tantalize. Just enough to track.
The motorcycle he’d borrowed was still there, and since he had the keys, she’d stay somewhat close. He took a quick look around, then ran in the direction of her scent. She had a good head start on him, and was a damn good runner. She hadn’t stripped down and shifted yet – her scent didn’t have that distinctive musky addition to it – so he had a chance of catching up with her. Since actually evading him was likely the last thought in her mind, he figured that increased his odds. He let out a growling laugh as he made his way through the brush, tasting the tang of her excitement on the light wind.
God, what she did to him. It almost wasn’t fair. His body thrummed as he heard the noise of someone quickly making their way through the trees up ahead. Was she really going to make it this easy? Something tackled him and he tossed it away with a snarl. Max laughed and rolled to her feet, crouching across from him.
“You used to be better at this game.” She jeered, grinning and running off.
“You’re only makin’ it worse for yerself.” he growled, standing up and dusting himself off.
His grin turned wicked and sharp as he once again leapt into the chase. There was a crack off to his right and he quickly spun to close with her, gritting his teeth as her claws dug rich red furrows into his arm. He hissed as the marks closed up, his tone becoming a low rumble as he grated, “You wanna go hard, baby? We can go hard.”
The claws snapped out with a metallic SNIKT and he spun to face her. She’d only shifted her hands into those enormous, vicious claws. The rest of her stayed pink – and so very delicious. She’d shed her clothes at some point, and Logan momentarily wondered where she’d stashed them before she crooked a claw at him, making a beckoning gesture.
“Let’s see what’cha got.” she taunted, crouching.
They circled one another as Logan murmured, “Baby, you ain’t ready to see what I got.”
He stood up and Max cocked her head, her eyes narrowing as he leapt at her. She grinned and evaded, tagging his side, making sure to keep the cuts small and shallow. No reason to tear him all to pieces. She wanted him to have enough strength for what came after. Logan felt the pain flare in his side briefly, knowing that she was pulling her punches.
He quickly spun and caught her in the shoulder, extending her the same courtesy. Tag for tag. He still owed her one, though.
He leapt back, avoiding her strike and got her again in the thigh. She cried out and came at him quicker than he could compensate for. Her speed startled him as she slammed him up against a tree, her nose flaring and her breath coming hot and heavy.
“So whip it out.” she purred, letting her claws trail lightly down his chest.
Logan smirked back at her.
“So, you’re declarin’ a win?”
Max laughed, her claws morphing back into smooth pink hands. She quickly slid a hand between their bodies, gripping his cock behind his jeans and pressing him harder up against the tree. “Maybe.” she purred.
Logan groaned, his head rocking back as he growled. “Y’know, most guys don’t like overly aggressive women.”
Max leaned in and let her tongue play along the taut skin along his neck.
She bit down and he gripped her hips, claws still extended. Logan began making that now familiar sound that was somewhat between a growl and a purr of pleasure. He’d only started doing it since their return from the facility. The first time she’d heard it, she’d asked him what he was doing. He honestly didn’t know, but it had definitely done something for her. Since then, she was noticing that it was becoming more pronounced.
She heard the SNIKT of his claws as they retracted and she gently bit his ear, murmuring, “No – leave them out. It provides an added level of difficulty.”
He let out a warm laugh, popping the claws again and sliding his hands up her waist. He had to be careful, this way – but he was finding that the awareness was definitely adding something to the experience
Nobody had ever wanted the claws before.
Max squeezed his cock firmly and Logan’s body bowed out and away from the tree, his fisted hands at his sides as the nails on her other hand opened little bloody furrows down his chest.
He trembled as her hand shifted back to pink fingers that she trailed them down the lines of the quickly healing cuts. The growl purr grew stronger as she reached for his jeans, quickly opening them and sliding them down his legs. Max slowly knelt before him, looking up to meet his eyes as she took him in her mouth. Logan groaned and shivered, his hands trembling slightly at his sides. Her mouth was exquisite. The sensations as she sucked him and slid her hands up his thighs sent his eyes rolling back in his head. He felt her moan around him and cried out, wanting so badly to touch her, but not wanting to seriously hurt her with the claws.
She pulled away and he looked down at her, his eyes pleading.
“Put your hands on my shoulders.” she suggested as she licked the tip of him, sending another jolt of sensation shaking through him.
Logan gently touched her shoulders, careful to keep the claws away from her face and hair.
“You sure you wa..”
Max effortlessly took away his capacity for speech as she engulfed him with her mouth again, humming and taking as much of him as she could.
Logan gripped her shoulders tightly, moaning loudly and closing his eyes as she picked up the pace. Christ, the girl was an expert cocksucker. He’d almost forgotten. Just as he felt himself jittering up to the edge, she stopped and gripped his wrists, gently moving his hands away from her shoulders.
His eyes snapped open, wild as she grinned and stood up, taking him in her hand. He was growling now, his lip curled in frustration at being denied release.
“Playin’ with fire, girl.” he grated, his voice hoarse with need.
She smiled and purred, “Yeah, but you’re the one wanting, and I’m the one waiting to be fucked. So maybe the fire needs a little coaxing.”
She leaned in to kiss him, brushing her lips gently against his. Was she trying to drive him insane? It seemed possible. She stepped away from him, then bolted off into the woods, the sharp tang of her interest sending an almost painful thrum through him.
“Bitch is gonna be the death of me.” he growled, retracting the claws.
He kicked his boots and jeans off before sprinting after her.
Her scent was much easier to track now, but she seemed to be weaving around in a confusing pattern. What the hell was she up to? He took several tentative steps forward, then spun and reached out to grab her. Holy crap, she was quick. He was just lucky this time.
Max looked almost startled that he’d caught her and Logan presented her with a sharptoothed grin as he growled, “My win.”
She let out a sigh of acknowledgment and Logan forced her down onto all fours, gripping her from behind and pulling her towards him. Max shivered as he pressed her hips down, spreading her legs. Logan slid a finger along her slickness, delighted that she was easily as worked up as he was. God, her scent made his mouth water as he found her clit and began making slow lazy circles around it as he roughly pinched one of her nipples, pulling at it. Max cried out, her body bucking as he drove her close – so very close. He tipped her just to the edge, then took his hand away, giving her ass a sharp slap as he licked her juices from his fingers.
He admired the brief handprint that appeared on her ass briefly as he chuckled.
“You were saying?”
Max let out a cry of frustration as he stood up and walked over to lean against one of the trees behind her.
“Bastard.” she grated.
“Hey, you started it.” he replied with a smug grin. “Now who needs it more?”
Max looked back at him angrily, her pwn hand snaking down between her legs. Logan quickly stepped over and stopped her, pulling her hand behind her back.
“None of that, now.” He then grabbed the other one, holding both of them behind her back now as he leaned down and said, “I think I win again.”
He reached around to cup her breast, pinching her nipple as he let his teeth play along the sensitive skin between her neck and shoulder. He let the claws pop as he rolled her nipple between his fingers, enjoying the sound she made as she saw them. She sometimes liked to try to roll dominant on him, but always ended up submissive. Funny how that worked out.
And now the claws? That both surprised and excited him.
Logan sheathed them, then roughly forced her back to all fours, his tone heated as he gripped her hips.
“God, I love fucking you.” He slowly slid inside her, watching her body arch back against him. “Making you come. Hearing you scream.”
He popped the claws again, careful to keep them away from her sides and arms. Max moaned, her hands clawing at the ground.
“Making you mine.” He pulled out and slammed back in and Max cried out, her body shaking.
Logan smiled as he heard her murmuring, “Pleasepleasepleaseplease.” under her breath.
Now she was ready. He let himself slip into that dark, rough place that she liked so much as he sheathed the claws and growled, grinding into her with bruising force as he moved to bite down sharply at the skin between her shoulder and her neck. He felt the scream building up before it shattered out of her, his name ringing loudly through the trees. Logan quickly followed, roaring as he tightened a fist in her hair and poured himself into her. They both slid to the ground, momentarily exhausted as they tried to catch their breath.
“That was pretty good, for a quickie.” Max murmured, giggling.
Logan wrapped himself around her, his voice hoarse as he said, “Oh, now you’re really gonna get it.”
Max laughed and kissed the blood from his knuckles.
“Okay, that was hot as hell.” she murmured.
“You ain’t gettin’ out of it that easy, darlin’.”
They arrived back at the mansion much later that night, covered in mud and leaves. They were both howling with laughter as they rode up to the gate on the motorcycle that Scott had lent them for the night. There would be a substantial amount of cleaning to do in the morning in order to get the mud out of the creases in the leather. They quieted down a bit as the wrought iron gate doors opened, but it was mostly due to Max’s prompting. She didn’t want to wake anybody.
Logan pulled the motorcycle into the garage and Max hopped off, still giggling. Logan shut off the motor, then picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, grinning from ear to ear. As they walked up to the front door, Logan spotted Scott standing on the porch with his arms crossed. He didn’t look pleased.
Scott cleared his throat as Logan walked up to him. “This isn’t a flophouse. It’s an institution of learning. There are certain rules and a certain code of conduct that need to be maintained.”
Logan stilled. Who the fuck did this kid thing he was? Was it any of his damned business?
“What’re ya tryin’ ta say, scooter?”
Scott’s expression darkened and Max said, “Logan, put me down.”
Once back on her feet, Max turned to face Scott and said, “We just went out to blow off a little steam. I think after everything he’s been through, it’s the least he deserves.”
Logan and Scott glared at each other for a moment, then Scott relented, looking back over at Max.
“There are impressionable children that live here, Max.”
Logan growled and she stepped forward, “Can we please talk about this tomorrow?”
Scott cast a momentary glance over at Logan, then said, “Just please be quiet about getting to your room, ok? Almost everybody else is asleep. Classes start early tomorrow morning.”
Max nodded, placing her hand back against Logan’s leg and giving it a squeeze.
Scott turned to head back inside and Logan looked over at her, frowning, “Classes?”
“There are enough children here now for there to be an actual curriculum. Granted, they’re really small groups, but it works.” she explained.
Logan took a step back, taking in the measure of the mansion.
“I don’t know if I can do this, Max.”
“What are you talking about?” she murmured, moving over to him. “Scott’s a little tight, I know, but..”
“No..” he grated his teeth, continuing, “I don’t know if I can actually live in a place like this.”
“Too many rules?” she asked, figuring that this would be the big wedge.
“Kids.” he croaked, looking truly uncomfortable – like he didn’t even want to take a step inside.
“There were kids here the last time you were at the mansion, Logan.” This was weird. What had gotten into him?
“Someone like me doesn’t need to be around kids, Max.” he muttered, looking away from her.
“Someone like you?” she breathed, placing a hand on his arm. “Logan..”
He pulled away from her and snapped, “I’m an animal, Max. I kill people. It’s what I’m best at.”
Max smiled and murmured, “I’d argue that you’re pretty damn good at at least one other thing.”
Logan’s expression became pinched as he grated, “Don’t.”
She didn’t understand. How could she? She’d never truly seen him fall into the blackness entirely, consumed by it. She’d never seen the aftermath. If she had, this is the last place she’d want to bring him.
“You have no idea..”
Max stood her ground, glaring now. “Don’t you think that the Professor has a pretty good goddamned idea of what you’re capable of, even if I don’t? Do you think he’d let you stay here if he thought you were any threat to these kids?”
She had a point. A pretty damned good one, actually.
“Give it time, Logan. If it doesn’t end up working out, I’ll go anywhere on this earth with you. Truly. Just..give it time, okay?”
Logan looked over at her, seeing that she meant every word she said.
He let out a slow sigh, then murmured, “Or you’ll cut my heart out, right?”
Max leaned into him and smiled. “Yeah. That’s pretty much the size of it.”
“Well, seeing as I have no choice..” he wrapped an arm around her and began walking up the stairs to the porch.
“I guess we better get inside.”
Chapter 17: You just need an ass kickin’. It’ll set your head straight
Logan and Scott throw down in the Danger Room to work things out between them.
Logan woke with a start, sweat rolling off him in sheets. Max moaned softly beside him, but didn’t wake up.
What the hell?
It felt like they’d gotten to bed just minutes ago. Perhaps they had. Logan sat up, tossing the covers off and swinging his feet to the floor. Something chittered at the edge of his conscious thoughts – closer now than usual. It set his teeth on edge. He knew he wouldn’t be getting back to sleep anytime soon. Usually when he slept next to Max he was able to make it through a somewhat uneventful night of sleep. What was different this time? His captivity this time around seemed pretty run of the mill, from what he could remember.
Well – except for them blowing his chest cavity open this time; and he’d only felt the edges of pain due to the drugs they’d kept pumped into him. He could only imagine how astronomical the facility medical bill for narcotic supplies had been. It took an impressive amount to keep him doped effectively for any length of time. Logan ran a hand over his face and slowly stood up. He needed to find something to do to bleed the agitation off. Something was irritating the shit out of him, and it was compounded by the fact that he had a vague idea of what it actually was.
He pulled on a pair of jeans and a white tanktop and quietly headed downstairs.
As he walked through the sitting room, he spotted a figure sitting in a corner chair in the low light. Logan scented the air, recognizing Scott before he saw the outline of the kid’s odd glasses. He was looking outside.
“Figured you’d be long asleep by now.” Logan murmured, walking over to him.
Scott looked over and replied, “I seem to be having problems sleeping lately.”
“That why you were up when we got in?” Logan asked, leaning back against the arm of the couch.
“Yeah.” Scott’s reply was quiet, almost a whisper.
The boy was brooding about something – something heavy.
“You still in the complex?” Logan tapped the side of his own head gently, wondering how much action the kid had seen before that.
Scott’s expression was pinched as he smiled tightly.
“I can’t seem to leave it. I can’t stop seeing what they did to you.”
Logan slid his hands in his pockets, his tone soft.
“You ever seen anythin’ that rough before?”
Scott let out a halfhearted laugh.
“I’ve seen a lot of nasty shit in my time, Logan – but that..”
Now that surprised him. Logan found himself re-evaluating his opinion of Scott somewhat, hearing the truth behind his words. It made him wonder what the boy had gone through.
“How do you do it?” Scott asked, bewildered.
Logan thought about it for a moment, then rumbled, “How’d you get through – when the shit got thick for you?”
It was difficult to read the boy’s expression without being able to see his eyes, but Logan could feel his scent shift, becoming bitter and acrid.
“I just did. No other way through it.”
Scott’s words were clipped, as if the memory – whatever it was, was still strong enough to bite.
Logan nodded and replied, “Same here.”
Scott took a breath, then seemed to shut himself back down into that distant calculating persona that he always wore.
What the hell did the kid want? Some long sob story bonding session? He wasn’t gonna get it. Logan leaned forward and growled, “It ain’t magic, kid. You deal as best you can. That’s it.”
“I’d say your case is quite a bit more extreme than most.” Scott snapped. Logan could tell that the boy was getting irritated, but didn’t want to let it go.
“We all got our shit sandwiches to eat, Scott. After awhile, you either start trainin’ yourself to start likin’ shit or you buckle and break. ‘s the way it is.”
Scott stiffened and replied, “Great outlook. You should write a book.”
Logan laughed and crossed his arms, knowing how to help the kid now.
“You just need an ass kickin’. It’ll set your head straight.”
“And you think you’re the man to do it?” Scott replied, his tone cold.
Logan grinned and growled, “I think you need yer bell rung clean and hard to clear your head out. It’s a good distraction.”
“Jean’s right. You’re psychotic.” Scott stood up and started walking away.
Logan chuckled and murmured, “Yeah. She’d know.”
Scott spun to face him and spat, “What would you know? You haven’t been around any of us long enough to know a damned thing.
The boy advanced on him, getting angrier by the minute.
“You just decide to take off, leaving Max here – not even having the courtesy to tell her when you’re coming back. Then – THEN you get yourself into a clusterfuck that you couldn’t even get yourself out of. I may be a kid, mister, but at least I take a little fucking responsibility.”
Logan raised an eyebrow and slid his hands back into his pockets. “Feel better now, Scooter?”
Scott stood before him, nearly quaking with rage. Oh yeah. The nickname was an easy poke.
Logan murmured, “All that anger? That fury? It’s only gonna get worse unless you purge it. Boy.”
Yeah, it was a cheap goading tactic, but the kid was gonna pop on somebody if he didn’t try to bleed off some of the crap he was putting himself through. Besides, Logan was finding that he enjoyed baiting him.
Scott set his jaw and grated, “You want to end up in the infirmary again, fine with me.”
He strode over to the elevator, jamming his thumb on the down button.
“What, outside ain’t good enough?” Logan jeered. The kid was too easy.
“I can level a city block with little to no effort, and the beams would be too easily seen at night. If we’re going to do this, we’ll do it in a space equipped to handle it.”
The elevator doors slid open and Scott walked inside.
“You coming?” he snapped, holding the doors open.
The two of them lay sprawled out on the asphalt of an apocalyptic looking street. The buildings around them had been totally decimated, as well as the surrounding automobiles and traffic lights. Rubble littered the streets and large gouges had been ripped out of the pavement in multiple locations.
Both were breathing heavy.
The kid was surprisingly good. At some point, they’d foregone the hand to hand and had started going almost all out on one another. It felt good to jump into combat against somebody that could hold their own against him, although Scott seemed the least likely candidate to do so. The combination of hand to hand coupled with the trick shots he was able to pull off through that damned visor were devastating, not to mention that the beams packed a hell of a punch.
Logan had to hand it to him – the boy could be a tightass prick, but he could definitely bring it.
It made him respect Scott a little more.
“Had enough?” Scott’s voice was haggard, and Logan could tell that he’d completely run the kid dry. Scott would definitely feel it in the morning. The kid was covered in bruises and small cuts. Logan had tried to keep the physical damage to a minimum on him, not wanting to cause any injuries that’d take too long to heal. He’d taken what the kid had dished out, knowing that it’d be just be a momentary recovery for him.
It wasn’t an equal playing field, but Logan had ended up with his own collection of cuts, gashes and bruises that were quickly healing as he looked over at the front end of a car that had been crushed flat.
Logan slowly sat up, placing his arms on his knees.
“Nah. I could still keep going. I just need a few minutes to recuperate, is all.”
“Fucking hell.” Scott muttered. “You’re a damned machine.”
Logan laughed and stood up, offering Scott a hand.
“Yeah. I’m the Energizer fucking bunny.”
Scott took it and Logan hauled him up, looking up at Scott as the boy stood at his full height. The kid was at least six feet tall.
Scott paused for a moment, then said, “You may be short, but you’re a mean little bastard.”
Logan felt his lips pull back in the ghost of a smile.
“That headgear makes you look like an idiot.”
“Fuck you.” Scott snapped, turning to walk away, still breathing hard.
“You fight pretty damned good, Summers.” Logan murmured.
Scott stopped and looked back at him, stunned.
“Don’t let it go to your head.” Logan turned away from him, walking over to a little keypad embedded in the wall.
Scott said it quietly enough that he probably thought that it hadn’t been heard as he slipped out of the room.
Logan smiled and began working on figuring out how to program his own scenario.
Chapter 18: It’s a quiet art. So shut up and follow me
Max finds out that Logan has a quiet side.
Max rolled over, frowning as she patted Logan’s side of the bed. The sheets were cold. She sat up and looked over at the bathroom, finding the door open and the light off. Where’d he gone? Had he had another nightmare and gotten restless?
She got dressed and headed downstairs, following the faint trail of his scent. He’d been up for awhile, apparently. She followed it down to the basement; to the Danger Room. As her bare feet padded along the hallway, she could hear the faint sounds of someone putting themselves through their paces just inside. Max crept up to the door, peeking through the shatterproof porthole.
Logan was quickly jumping and flipping through what looked like a hyperactive gymnasium. The room was filled with two foot high robotic constructs that assailed him from all sides, climbing along the walls and jumping onto the bars and rings closest to him. The man flowed with a savage grace as he closed with his attackers, his expression focused and sharp as the claws ripped through another construct. The remains dropped immediately, landing below him on an ever growing pile of sharp shavings, electronics and metallic shells.
He moved with a feline, fluid grace as he reacted to and leapt away from a small pair of sharp, grappling pincers.
How long had he been down here? How on earth had he figured out how to work it?
Max knew better than to open the door in the middle of a session. She figured she’d ask him when he’d finished. She made her way back upstairs, padding into the kitchen in search of ice cream. Now that she was already up, the craving for rocky road was starting to poke at her.
Warren, the rich playboy angel, as everybody had started calling him, lifted his head as she walked in. He’d been sitting at the table, head bowed and held in his hands. Apparently he was having trouble sleeping as well. Max had heard some of the new female students going on about how ‘dreamy’ he was, and she had to admit that he definitely had something. He certainly had his parts built up in all the right places. Not her type though. Too ‘pretty’ and soft looking.
She raised an eyebrow, asking, “Everything ok?”
Warren responded with a halfhearted smile and a nod. “Yeah. Just couldn’t sleep.”
Max grinned and walked over to the refrigerator.
“Seems to be going around. I hear ice cream helps.” she murmured, looking over her shoulder as she opened the freezer.
He really was a nice guy – he just looked so lost lately. Max wondered what had happened to make him so glum. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it, though.
“Want a bowl?” she asked, pulling out the container of rocky road.
He smiled and sat up, chuckling softly as he replied, “What is it with you and ice cream?”
Max shrugged and pulled a bowl out of one of the cabinets, spooning a rather large amount of ice cream into it. People tended to get irritated if she ate it directly out of the container, as she’d done on several occasions.
“I just like it. It’s delicious. Isn’t that enough?”
Warren grinned and his wings trembled at his back momentarily. He smelled like he was starting to relax a little.
“Where’s Mr. Charming?” he asked, giving his back muscles a brief stretch.
Max laughed and said, “Downstairs running through a Danger Room session.” She brought the bowl over to the table, sitting across from him and shoveling huge spoonfuls into her mouth.
“How on earth can you eat so much of that and still stay slim?” Warren eyed her with mock distaste.
Max grinned around the spoon and swallowed. “High metabolism.”
Warren shook his head and murmured, “Won’t last forever..”
Max looked up at him and said, “You’d be surprised.”
The faces and images that flickered just at the edge of his awareness drove him harder, faster. Logan was actually sweating now as he leapt down to the floor and found the hidden keypad on the side wall. He turned the program off, and looked back at the room as it slowly bled back to plain metal plates.
Not bad for technogeekery, he mused silently as he walked back to the middle of the room, centering himself and taking in a deep breath. Pushing himself to the limits of his endurance didn’t seem to be helping, and something else occurred to him. Violence wasn’t the purgative he apparently needed for this. Maybe a subtle, softer flowing movement would help.
Max padded back down to the basement to check on Logan and let out a soft gasp of wonder as she watched him go through a complicated series of unnaturally graceful and slow martial arts moves. For such a thick, musclebound man, the moves looked almost out of place. Logan looked like he regularly lifted cars and threw them for a living, and to watch him move like this was literally mesmerizing. She watched the individual muscles on his arms and back slide slowly against one another as he moved, his skin slick with exertion. He slowly turned – the movement flowing almost as if he were underwater – facing her and opening his eyes.
Max blinked and stepped away from the door, frowning.
She heard him walk over to the door, and as it opened she peeked around at him from behind it.
“Wanna join me?” he asked, his tone soft and smooth.
Max nodded, taking a step towards him. “Sure.”
She walked into the Danger Room and eyed him, asking, “How’d you know I was there?”
Logan gave her a sly smile and replied, “It’s a secret.”
Max rolled her eyes as she turned to face him. “Those moves..what do you call them?”
Logan closed the door behind her and replied, “T’ai Chi Ch’üan.”
“How long have you been doing them?”
He gently took her hand and positioned her beside him, moving into a stance that she mimicked.
“A long time, I think,” he explained, beginning to move again as he watched her follow him.
Max slowly moved along with him, trying to track his movements and copy them, but she didn’t flow anywhere near as smoothly as he did.
Logan smiled over at her, seeing the look of intense concentration on her face and said, “Stop tryin’ so hard. Just let it happen. Go with it.”
“When did you get all Zen master?” Max asked, grumbling.
Logan growled, “It’s a quiet art. So shut up and follow me.”
Max found that her muscles actually ached a little by the time Logan decided to stop.
“Harder than it looks.” Logan murmured, looking over at her.
“You ain’t kiddin’.” Max replied, gently squeezing the biceps on her left arm. “Does it help?”
He nodded and quietly said, “Yeah. A little.”
“Good. Bed now?” she asked, hopefully.
He smiled and said, “I should be able to sleep okay now.”
Max took his hand and grinned, pulling him along.
“C’mon big nasty. I’ll tuck you in.”
Logan chuckled and padded behind her, asking, “What, no bedtime story?”
She laughed and said, “Anything you want, baby. Anything you want.”
Chapter 19: They want me to be the Wolverine? They fuckin’ well got it.
“You seem like a straight shooter, Chuck. One that don’t much like the idea of people gettin’ killed. Why are you willing to help me with this?”
Xavier leaned back in his chair, his tone soft as he replied, “Because if this is what I think it is, men like this won’t stop with you. They’ll find other test subjects.”
His expression darkened as he continued, “Other mutants will endure what they’ve put you through.”
“Your psyche is a very fractured jumble, Logan. Picking particular thoughts out of the maelstrom is difficult at best. There’s no possible way that I can link times or names to the events that you’ve experienced, but there does seem to be a pattern to some of it.”
Logan eyed the Professor as the man continued, “You appear to have been part of a rather unusual experiment. As to what this particular experiment was supposed to address, I cannot say for sure. What I can tell you is that you have a rather impressive collection of mental snippets of soldiers, men in very officious looking lab coats and what appear to be one or two business men.”
Max felt logan tense beside her and she gently rested a hand on his leg.
“Any of it explain ‘Wolverine’?” Logan grunted, his jaw tightening.
“The two things that seem most prominent are the surface concepts of Weapon X and Wolverine. I have noticed that the soldiers seem to utilize the latter, whereas the men in white coats use the former in reference to you.”
Max murmured, “An insulting nickname, perhaps?”
Professor X raise an eyebrow, his tone mild.”Hardly. Although the Wolverine may be diminutive in size, it is capable of killing animals as large as reindeer or moose. Perhaps they meant it to be ironic.”
“Military boys ain’t exactly known for their brains, Chuck.” Logan muttered.
“May I see the tag again?”
Xavier extended his hand and Max dropped the metal tag and chain into his palm. He turned it over, peering at the name.
The professor fingered the tag absently as he said, “The appearance and feel of the facility seems to vary, but the majority of the images seem to involve some sort of tank full of fluid.”
Logan felt his body jerk again in response to the professor’s words. He was suddenly surrounded by liquid, and the images around him were distorted, almost like those in a circus funhouse mirror. The weight of the water, or whatever the hell it was, was immediately oppressive and he struggled for breath. Muffled, excited voices echoed through the liquid, but he couldn’t make out what was being said.
A sharp jolt rang through his nervous system and he screamed, feeling his mouth fill up with water.
Logan bolted out of the chair, breathing heavily. Max was instantly at his side as Xavier murmured, “Another flashback?”
The words came out in a croak as Logan rubbed at his temple.
Max looked over at the Professor and said, “How long has he been having these episodes?”
Logan tried to control his breathing as Xavier replied, “It’s difficult to say. I’ve been witness to about three of them since the two of you initially arrived. Are his dreams improving? Does he still have the nightmares?”
“Not when she’s with me.” Logan coughed, relaxing as he slowly regained control of his breathing.
Max peered over at him and asked, “Why is that?”
Logan shook his head, his tone soft. “Damned if I know.”
“How bad have these nightmares become in the past, Logan?”
The Professor leaned forward, placing the tag on the desk before him.
“Bad enough that I stopped being around people while I was sleepin’. Otherwise, lots of property damage and blood followed.”
Logan locked eyes with Xavier, wanting to challenge his reasoning for letting him stay. To him, it didn’t make any sense. He was obviously dangerous, even with Max here.
“Then it would seem that a new rule needs to be established to keep this from happening.” Xavier turned to face Max, his tone formal as he said, “You’ll need to stay with him when he sleeps.”
Max nodded and replied, “Yeah. I kinda figured.”
Logan frowned and she quickly added, “Not that it’s an odious task, or anything.”
He let out a weak laugh, then addressed the Professor. “The Wolverine..Did you get the feeling that those military boys were scared of it?”
Xavier nodded, his expression grim. “Oh very much, I think. In order to disarm a fear, you have to destroy it. Humiliate it. Rend the bogeyman asunder, so to speak. It explains their actions towards you the last time they had you in captivity, but by no means excuses them.”
“Good.” Logan growled, collecting the tag from the desk and hanging it around his neck.
“They want me to be the Wolverine? They fuckin’ well got it. I’m done playing tag with these pricks.”
“I believe that most of the men responsible perished in the facility explosion.” Xavier explained.
Logan’s answering smile was not pleasant.
“Maybe I’ll get lucky.”
Professor Xavier leaned forward and said, “Logan, I can understand your desire for retribution, but at the moment it is completely non-directed. I don’t have anything substantive to give you. Allow me to make a few calls, to see what else I can find before you act.”
Logan thought about it for a moment, then his eyes narrowed. “You seem like a straight shooter, Chuck. One that don’t much like the idea of people gettin’ killed. Why are you willing to help me with this?”
Xavier leaned back in his chair, his tone soft as he replied, “Because if this is what I think it is, men like this won’t stop with you. They’ll find other test subjects.”
His expression darkened as he continued, “Other mutants will endure what they’ve put you through.”
Logan grunted, “Can’t shake hands with the Devil and expect to come away clean, Charlie.”
“I’m well aware of that.” Xavier replied, his expression closing down. “Wolverine.”
Max watched the interaction between the two men, frowning. Something was changing here.
“I’ll get back to you once I have something.” Xavier murmured, pulling a stack of papers over.
He began to leaf through them and Max realized that they’d been dismissed.
Logan turned and began walking towards the door, and Max moved to follow, giving a last glace back over at Xavier. The man looked up at her briefly, his mouth in a tight line.
“You comin’?” Logan asked her.
Max slipped out the door with him.
Chapter 20: Does he still have all his internal organs? Then consider him lucky.
Jean tears into Logan for Scott's injuries.
Logan makes a surprising declaration to Max.
“Logan what the hell do you think you’re playing at?”
Jean was yelling as she advanced on them and Max could tell that she’d worked herself up into a towering rage. She looked over at Logan who was curling his lip in distaste.
“Fuckin’ snitch.” he muttered under his breath as the redhead strode up and got in his face.
“Scott’s going to need at least a day to recuperate from what you did to him.” she snapped, placing a hand on her hip and jabbing a finger in his face. Jean’s eyes glittered with anger as she glared at him.
Max raised an eyebrow, waiting for Logan to respond. What the hell had happened? Had she missed something?
“Look, red.” Logan replied, setting his jaw. “The kid needed to decompress. I just..”
She took a step towards him, almost hissing now.
“You just beat the holy hell out of him. That was supposed to help?”
Logan advanced a step forward, unwilling to concede ground to her, even though by doing so, he had to crane his neck to look up at her. For a brief moment Max was reminded of a mother scolding a particularly petulant child. Jean backpedaled as he growled, “Look, you psychotic harpy, he gave as good as he got. I actually went a little light on him.”
“Are you kidding me?” she screeched. “Have you seen him?”
Logan presented her with a sharp toothed grin, his tone nasty.
“Does he still have all his internal organs?”
Jean frowned for a moment, nodding. “Yeah.”
“Then consider him lucky.” he spat, pushing past her.
Jean spun to say something but Max intervened and murmured, “He’s right.”
Jean gaped back at her and she quickly added, “If Logan really wanted to hurt him, there would’ve been nothing left of him.”
“You’re just defending him because you’re fucking him.” Jean snapped dismissively, her tone nasty and her face glowing with that beautiful fury that frustrated Max to no end. She really could be a bitch when she put her mind to it. Max was used to the woman’s temper by now, and knew how to back her down.
“Jean. Just because he’s my mate doesn’t mean I’d defend him if he really fucked up and argued that he’d done right. I hope you’d know me better than that by now.”
Max kept her tone even and non-confrontational. Jean would only get herself worked up if Max provided her with the conversational kindling to do so.
Her friend looked flustered, irritated that she was being provided with rational dialogue.
Jean opened her mouth to respond and Max quietly asked, “Did Scott tell you what happened outright, or did you have to push his buttons until he gave it up?”
Jean’s eyes narrowed, the crisp green of her irises sharp as she muttered, “That doesn’t make what he did right.”
Witnessing the interaction between Scott and Jean in the last couple of months had sped up Max’s social understanding of a great many things. The situation had been a very effective teacher.
“You know he was rattled at what happened back at that facility.” Max breathed, gently touching Jean’s arm, reassuring her.
“I’ve been trying to help him, but he’s been distancing himself lately.” she let out a pained sigh.
“Scott? Distant? Imagine that.” Max quipped, watching Jean’s lips curl into a tiny smile.
“Did he seem in better spirits this morning?” she asked, looking up into the woman’s eyes.
Jean frowned, thinking about it for a moment before quietly replying, “Yeah. Actually, he did.”
“So, you just went apeshit over how he looked..” Max trailed off softly and Jean actually looked embarrassed. Max watched Jean’s gaze flicker over to Logan who was waiting over by the stairs, his expression hard as he stared back at her. They really were like pouty, scrappy siblings.
“Why would you think that Logan would just tear into him for no reason?” Max asked, taking her hand off Jean’s arm.
Jean gave her a pained look, her tone aggrieved as she replied, “You’re right. When it comes to him, I’m completely irrational.”
She gave Logan a last fleeting look, then turned and walked back to the Professor’s office. Logan frowned, wondering what the hell that was all about.
“Crazy bitch.” he muttered to himself as he watched her walk into Charlie’s office.
Max let out a soft sigh, watching her friend retreat. She wished that there was something she could do to help, but this was something Jean had to sort out on her own.
She walked back over to Logan who quirked an eyebrow back at her and asked, “You gonna translate what just happened for me?”
Max took his hand and said, “We gotta talk.”
Logan couldn’t have looked any more startled than if Max had slapped him outright.
He blinked as he looked out at the lake, stunned. It took several moments before he was able to speak.
“You really thought I’d come back here and wanna fuck her? Get into a relationship with her?” he stammered, shaking his head. The very idea. He cringed. The woman made his teeth itch. How the hell did anybody put up with her? Sure, she was extremely easy on the eyes, but the personality? He’d rather jam a marlin spike through his side. He didn’t know how Summers did it.
Max threw her arms up in the air and snapped back, “I don’t know! I had no idea what was going through your head when you left. I figured that you weren’t exactly a one woman kinda guy at that point and wanted to give you a little latitude.”
He looked back at her with a sour expression. “And now?”
Max growled, “If you touch her, I’ll gut you.”
He relaxed a little, letting out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding.
“Christ, Max – why’d you have to talk about it with her?”
“I don’t know if you remember, but you were gone for quite some time. I had no idea where you were, or when you were coming back. She and I became really close in the interim. She kept needling me about you and I finally broke down and confronted her about her attraction to you.”
Max frowned, then continued, “At first, she lost her shit and wouldn’t speak to me for a week. When she finally pulled her head out of her ass, we talked about it. Really talked about it. It really messes her up that she’s into you. She doesn’t want to screw up what she has with Scott.”
“And this is my fault how?” Logan growled, eyes flashing with irritation.
“It’s nobody’s fault. She’s just..understandably sketchy about you.” Max explained, looking over at him.
“Scooter doesn’t fuckin’ know, does he?”
That would be just perfect. Nothing would fuck the kid up more at this point. Logan winced in distaste.
“No. I’m not that stupid.” Max muttered, feeling awful now.
Logan lay back and watched several small clouds chase each other across a cerulean blue sky. He took a deep breath and let it out, wondering how he’d gotten himself wedged firmly in the middle of this entire mess. Life was so much easier being alone and on the run. Now social complications were setting in that he just didn’t want to deal with. The redhead was going to make his life hell while he and Max were here – he was sure of it.
“Did I fuck up?” Max asked, her voice sounding smaller than she wanted it to.
Logan turned towards her and touched her arm.
“No. You didn’t fuck up. Just.. don’t talk to her about me anymore. I got enough drama in my life without her constantly rollin’ up on me like super bitch.”
Max laughed, looking back at him. “Deal.”
Logan paused for a moment then quickly leapt up, grabbing her around the waist. He hefted her over his shoulder and started walking out to the dock.
“HEY!” Max yelped, smacking at him. “What the hell?”
“And now – the punishment.” he rumbled before running to the edge of the dock and tossing her into the water.
Max spluttered as she went under. When she resurfaced, Logan was howling with laughter.
“You PRICK!” she shouted, trying to splash him and failing miserably. She settled for just glaring at him as she floated, trying her best to will the dock to break apart and sink.
Logan started laughing harder. The man actually had tears in the corners of his eyes, he was laughing so hard.
You just wait, little man. she grumbled quietly to herself. Payback’s a bitch.
Max was squeezing the water out of her hair as she asked, “So – why’d you beat him up, anyway?”
Logan sat on the dock next to her, leaning back on his hands.
“Kid needed a distraction. He was letting his head fuck him up.”
“Howso?” she looked over at him, dubious.
“Just – trust me on this one. Worked out, didn’t it?” he replied, looking back towards the mansion.
“What is it?” Max looked around him, trying to see what had captured his attention. She couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“Max..” he began, looking back over at her. “You need to understand something.”
Max frowned, wondering what was wrong.
“Okay.” She turned to face him, wrapping a leg around his waist.
“I’ll admit that Jean’s a looker.” He paused, as if searching for the right words. “But I don’t see anybody else but you.”
That was unexpected. She never really thought he’d actually come out and say it – especially like this. Max smiled and murmured, “It’s ok, Logan.”
“No.” His eyes glittered as he repeated, “I don’t see anybody but you.”
Max cocked her head as he continued, “When I was in that fuckin’ pen, I kept seein’ you. You were the only one who ever showed up in my head, out of all the others.”
A man like him had to have a whole lot of others. It meant something, this declaration. She respected it, but wasn’t entirely sure now what he was trying to say. He sounded like he was wrestling with it himself. He looked over at her, almost as if he was willing her to get it.
He sighed, then murmured, “I don’t get close to many people – anybody, really.” he explained, looking back out at the lake. “These other kids? I could honestly give a fuck – but Max.. you matter.” he growled, looking back at her with an intensity that made her shiver.
Now she got it. Max nodded, feeling a strong surge of emotion. “I feel the same about you, Logan.”
She leaned against him and he put an arm around her, gently nuzzling the top of her head with his cheek – his voice a soft whisper.
Chapter 21: Can I at least hit her? Just once?
Logan joins the team on a retrieval mission in Russia.
“Wait, you want us to go where?”
Xavier patiently explained, “The Ust-Ordynski Collective in Siberia.”
“Siberia. As in Russia.” Jean murmured, floored.
Xavier nodded and continued, “I am aware that Scott is currently recuperating – again.”
Max watched the Professor glance briefly at Logan who simply crossed his arms. “..and so will be unable to lead the mission, but this is a particularly time sensitive retrieval.”
Jean frowned and asked, “Who do you expect to lead the team?”
With the ‘fearless leader’ out of commission, the only other person that Max could think of would be Ororo. She looked over to see the woman watching the proceedings with the same quiet, inscrutable expression that she wore the majority of the time. She seemed to be damn near unflappable.
Max wondered if she’d ever witness the woman lose her temper. She then quickly hoped that she never would.
“I believe that Miss Munroe is more than well equipped to lead a mission of this nature.”
Professor Xavier gave Ororo a respectful nod.
Max watched the woman’s eyes widen briefly. The announcement had surprised her.
“Why am I here?” Logan asked, leaning back against a bookshelf.
Xavier looked over at him and explained, “I’d like you and Max to accompany Jean and Ororo in case they run into trouble, however, we want to avoid the possibility of an international incident.”
Logan raised an eyebrow and met the professor’s gaze, his tone mild as he rumbled, “Yeah, why the hell not. Better’n sittin’ around waitin’ for answers.”
He stepped away from the bookshelf, uncrossing his arms and sliding his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.
Max looked over at him with a wary expression as Xavier handed Ororo a folder. Jean watched the exchange with interest as she stood on the side of the room opposite from Logan. She didn’t look pleased. Whether it was over Logan going with them or Ororo being chosen to lead in Scott’s place, it was hard to tell.
At least she was staying quiet – a rare thing indeed.
“I’d like to give Ororo some time to review the scope of the mission before she decides how she’s going to proceed with it. I do, however, want you in the air and on your way within the next two hours.”
The professor gave Ororo another single, respectful nod as the rest of them began filing out of his office.
Logan followed behind Max, placing her between him and Jean.
“This should be fun, eh?” he mused with a sour expression. “Christ, I need a beer.”
Max walked up to Scott and Jean’s room, gently rapping on the door. She wanted to check in with him before they headed out – mostly because she wanted to see how badly Logan had jacked him up. Surely it couldn’t be..
Max gasped as Scott opened the door, wincing and holding a hand against his ribs.
“Oh my god.”
He looked as if he’d decided to let somebody use him as a club to beat the crap out of somebody else. His face and arms were covered in ugly black, purple and greenish-yellow bruising, and the side of his cheek near his eye was swelling to an alarming degree.
Scott responded with a weak laugh and nodded. “Yeah. Pretty bad, huh?”
Max winced and said, “No wonder Jean lost her shit.”
Scott gave a pained look and groaned, “Please tell me she didn’t..”
Max nodded, her expression apologetic as she replied, “I’m afraid so.”
He sighed and opened the door so that she could come inside.
“How bad was it? I tried to explain – to tell her that she wouldn’t understand.”
Max’s brow pinched as he took a step back and let out a groan.
“Is there anything I can get for you?” she asked, wanting to help him somehow. Pinks were so very fragile.
Scott smiled and shook his head slowly. “Nah. It looks worse than it is, actually.”
Max helped him over to a chair and said, “Yeah. You kinda suck with the bullshit.”
Scott laughed, then winced in pain, again holding his arm to his side.
“Believe it or not, it helped.”
His expression turned serious for a moment as he murmured, “He’s a good man, Max. He can just be a ballsy prick about it. It kinda gives people the wrong impression. I think I understand him a little better now.”
Max chuckled and replied, “Getting your ass handed to you tends to give you a strange sense of clarity that few other things do.”
“Strange but true.”
“Do you see?” Max turned to find Jean standing in the doorway, her expression bitter. “Do you see now what he did?”
“Jean..” Scott started, but she quickly cut him off.
“He’s a goddamned animal.” she hissed, her eyes flashing.
Max felt her expression grow empty and her breathing slow as she looked back at Jean and said, “Do not ever say that in front of me again. Not if you expect us to remain friends.”
The woman balked for a moment, then lowered her head.
“Fuck, Max. I’m sorry. I’m just…I’m so agitated I don’t know what I’m saying.” she murmured.
When she met Max’s gaze again, she looked so lost.
“I know ‘dee.” Max murmured. Scott had started calling them Tweedledee and Tweedledum shortly after they’d started hanging out so often together, and the shortened version of the nicknames had stuck since.
Jean gave her an apologetic smile then said, “Friends again, ‘dum?”
Max smiled and nodded. “Friends always. Just..ease up. It’ll be okay.”
Max gave her a brief hug before giving Scott a quick wave and popping back out into the hallway.
Jean needed to rein that shit in now if Logan was going to start going on missions with them. If they started that infantile bickering in the middle of a firefight, somebody was going to get seriously injured – if not killed.
Logan seemed to be adopting the stance of ‘the further away I am from that loony bitch, the better I’ll be’.
Max wondered if the professor had any idea about what was going on. Apart from being a telepath, she got the feeling that he was pretty sharp about these kinds of things. If it got out of hand, he’d likely step in – in the same way he had when she and Jean had started getting crazy with their pranks.
The man might seem easygoing, but he only tolerated so much bullshit in his house before he started bringing down the hammer. Still, he gave people plenty of rope to hang themselves with in the meantime.
Max wondered if he found any of the drama entertaining or merely irritating.
“Wow, you really fucked slim up.” Max murmured as she came into their room, flopping down on the bed beside Logan.
“Yep.” he replied, his arms behind his head. He sounded indifferent about it.
“He sounds better, though.” she wrapped an arm around his stomach, resting her head on his shoulder. He moved to slide an arm around her waist.
“Yep.” he gave her a gentle squeeze and Max smiled.
“We should head down to the locker room and get changed soon.”
Logan paused for a moment, frowning. “You don’t wear one of those candy ass uniforms now, do you?”
Max laughed and looked up at him, meeting hazel eyes that made her grin wider.
“Hank developed a special suit for me that shifts with me when I ‘beast out’, as it were. I still have to take it off to run on four legs, but I don’t wreck as much clothing this way.” she explained, adding, “And those ‘candy ass uniforms’ are outfitted with a special kevlar plating as well as being temperature adaptable. They’re actually pretty handy.”
“Says you.” Logan grunted, then laughed when she poked him in the side.
Max sat up and straddled him.
“C’mon. It’s more fun than you think.”
“I doubt that.” he replied, his expression mild.
She grinned and laughed as he looked up at her and asked, “You’re really into this, aren’t you?”
Max frowned and placed her hands on his chest.
Logan rested his hands on her upper thighs, squeezing gently.
“Into the whole thing – going out and pickin’ kids up. Helpin’ ’em out.”
“Not at first, really – but it does kinda grow on you after you’ve done it a few times.”
She smiled and placed her hands on his. “Besides, who’d ever thought that I would’ve been able to go to Russia? Even briefly? It’s exciting.”
“You and your quest for adventure.” he murmured, threading his fingers through hers. “You sure that’s it?”
Max pulled him up into a sitting position, wrapping her legs around his waist.
“This is the first time since I was a teenager that I can remember feeling like part of a pack – a family.”
She looked down at their joined hands and whispered, “I miss it.”
Logan gently placed a knuckle under her chin, pulling her into a kiss. She was all the family he was sure he’d ever need. He could definitely understand the desire for such a thing. If it was what she wanted – something she needed, he’d stay here for her so that she could feel it. No matter how much it irritated the shit out of him, otherwise.
Max gently pulled away, smiling and trailing a hand through his hair.
“Just how tight is this.. suit he made for you, anyway?” he asked, tightening his grip around her waist.
Max chuckled and replied, “That would be telling.”
Chapter 22: You don’t wear one of those candy ass uniforms now, do you?
Logan discovers that he's able to speak fluid Russian and continues to piss people off.
“Is that really what you’re planning on wearing?” Max chuckled as Logan frowned back at her
What was wrong with jeans and a tanktop anyway? It was comfortable and easy to move in. Perfect combination. At least he didn’t look like an idiot trying to play at being a superhero, or whatever it was these kids had in mind.
“It’s functional. I don’t need to run around in a tight black leather outfit to take care’a business.” he replied dryly.
“Aren’t you going to be cold?” she asked as they walked up to the jet. “We are going to Russia, after all. I hear it snows a lot there.”
“Actually, the current weather report states that the temperature in the region is at negative twenty. I believe Henry has an extra jacket that he can provide you.”
Ororo came up behind them, passing them with a wry smile.
“I will see if he can get somebody to bring it out.”
“Perhaps he’s too much of a he-man to wear something as sissy as a jacket to keep the chill off.”
Jean called out with a smug expression as she followed Ororo up the ramp into the belly of the plane.
Logan growled, eying the redhead with a baleful gaze as he muttered, “Can I at least hit her? Just once?”
Max shook her head slowly.
“This is going to be a long trip with you two.”
Logan sat behind Max in an outfit two sizes too big for him. It was one of the older prototype models of the current outfits that the rest of the crew were wearing, so it looked a touch weatherbeaten. It was supremely uncomfortable.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.” he grumbled.
“You’ll be thankful for the temperature regulation field when we’re on the ground. It really does make a huge difference.”
Max craned her neck to look back at him, smiling.
Ororo was busy prepping the jet for takeoff as Logan grunted and shifted in his seat. At the moment, he fairly swam in leather.
How was he supposed to fight in this fucking thing?
He sat back with a scowl, looking for all the world like an angry wet cat as the jet lifted off.
The snow covered mountains around Lake Baikal were majestic as they rose to greet the gibbous moon. It’d be full in a few days time. Max looked out at the lake itself, wondering what the bright silver reflection would look like dancing on the smooth surface of the water. What she could see of it was currently frozen solid and covered in powdery white snow. It was one of the most beautiful sights she’d ever seen.
“Wow. I’m actually in Russia.” she breathed, watching the cloud of moisture from her breath curl slowly in the subzero night air.
Logan grunted, trying again to adjust the horrid leather suit so that it resembled something somewhat comfortable. He was annoyed to find that she’d been right about the temperature adjustment. He barely felt the cold.
“We’re near the Mongolian border.”
“Really?” Max asked, grinning as she murmured and looked up.
The stars stood out in bright pinpoints against a black sky. Logan looked over at her and smiled at the look on her face as she looked up at the stars – the utter, almost childlike wonder. When was the last time he’d actually felt something close to it?
“Hell of an adventure, eh?” he rumbled.
“Oh yeah.” she replied, turning in a circle and taking in as much of the surrounding sights as she could before they got underway.
“We’ll be heading due north for about half a mile. We should find the collective there.”
Ororo stepped off the gangplank, Jean following behind her.
The ramp began ascending back into the aircraft and Jean frowned for a moment, getting her bearing before pointing and saying, “That way.”
“You okay?” she asked Logan. She sounded concerned.
Of course she’d be able to hit on the fact that he wasn’t entirely comfortable being out here.
“I’m just hopin’ we don’t get tagged. The RKAA doesn’t fuck around. It’ll get ugly if they know we’re here.”
Usually being in a situation like this wouldn’t bother him, but he had other non-combatants that he had to keep an eye on. It made for a pretty serious clusterfuck when bullets started flying.
“The what?” Max asked, curious now.
“Russian army.” Logan replied, taking a deep breath and extending his awareness.
So far, all he could hear were basic sounds of nature. No scents that were out of the norm, either. Good sign. Once they’d ducked back out of the country without popping up on anybody’s radar, he’d let himself relax.
When they reached the collective, Max let out a small gasp of surprise. The land was dotted with small wooden shacks that had corrugated tin roofs. It looked like some of the poorer reservations she’d visited in the midwest. How on earth did people live in these bitterly cold conditions without being able to turn?
Jean indicated a ramshackle dwelling up ahead with a rickety pen off to the side that looked as if it was sagging on one side. The house was tiny and looked as if it would fall apart at any moment.
‘Held together by grit-n-spit’, her father used to say. Yeah – that about summed it up.
Jean walked up to the front door and knocked gently.
It opened into a small room that was dimly lit by several lanterns placed throughout. The house was essentially a box with a stove in one corner, beds in the another and a table off near the front window.
The very bare necessities, Max thought to herself as she watched a woman with a weathered face smile and nod, welcoming them in.
Logan frowned and Max looked over at him, asking, “What’s wrong?”
“How do they know who we are?” he asked quietly, watching Jean with sharp eyes. “She pullin’ that head shit again?”
“Yeah. It’s usually easier this way. That way nobody freaks out or tweaks.”
Max understood his discomfort. It didn’t always sit entirely well with her either.
Jean smiled back at the woman, nodding along with her for several silent moments.
The woman then called out something in a language she didn’t understand. It sounded as if she was trying to speak backwards – underwater.
An enormous boy stepped into the house from the back door, kicking the snow from his boots and pulling off a large fur hat. The woman continued speaking to him in that strange rapidfire language, and he smiled and stepped forward.
“You are..from the school Xavier?” he asked, his accent very thick.
He had very strong, handsome features – short raven black hair and ice blue eyes – very striking.
Jean nodded and extended a hand, smiling back at him.
“It’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Jean Grey.”
The boy’s smile broadened and he introduced himself, giving her hand a gentle shake, “Dobry vecher – I am Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin, and I am meeting to pleased you as well. And who are being your..comerades, please?”
Max and Ororo introduced themselves, giving his hand a genial shake.
As Logan stepped up to greet the boy, Max was startled to hear the same strange dialect flow from his lips as he addressed the boy directly. Logan looked tiny in comparison as he stood beside the huge boy.
Their hands met in a firm shake and Piotr beamed as his hand completely engulfed Logan’s.
“You are having man speaking Russian! Yzumitelno!”
Logan said something else and Piotr laughed, nodding. They spoke together in that same strange language for several moments before Piotr looked over at Jean and raised an eyebrow. Jean’s eyes narrowed as she looked over at Logan and Max gave a heavy sigh.
She elbowed Logan gently in the side and he turned to her with a wickedly playful grin, his eyes glittering.
Oh, he was definitely up to something. Max wondered what the hell he was saying to the boy.
Piotr met Max’s gaze for a moment, then seemed to ask Logan a question. Logan replied by sliding his arm around her waist and saying something in an almost conspiratorial tone.
Piotr grinned and said, “Kakya vstrecha! I am pleased to be meeting you, wife of Logan.”
Max’s jaw dropped as she looked over at Logan, startled. “Wife?”
She heard Jean choke briefly.
Piotr frowned and said, “I have said a mistake?”
Max quickly replied, “No, not at all – it’s just..It’s a long story.”
She glared at Logan who couldn’t look more pleased.
Piotr then turned to the woman with the weathered face behind him and indicated Logan as he spoke, gently bringing her forward to meet him.
Max was getting frustrated that she was unable to understand anything that was being said, and reassured herself that she’d give Logan a swift kick when they got back to the mansion. How was she to know he spoke Russian? Or – that’s what she assumed they were speaking.
The older woman’s expression brightened and she came forward and excitedly greeted Logan, who let her pull him into a strong hug with a baffled expression.
The woman clutched at him and continued to babble as she thumped his back.
Logan nodded and kept saying the same thing over and over, as if trying to reassure her.
Logan willed the woman to let go of him, but she was apparently bound and determined to get him to promise that he’d watch over her boy while he was gone ‘in the Americas’. She didn’t release him until he assured her that he’d personally keep an eye on Piotr.
Dammit. Why’d I have to go and open my big mouth? Now he had two pups he had to keep an eye out for, although he was more than certain that Max could handle herself. That helped.
Still, it had been worth it to see the look on red’s face when he’d told the boy that she was the Sex-Ed teacher at the school.
Max would probably rip into him for that later, but still.
He’d have to explain the wife thing when they got back as well. That’d be an interesting conversation. The boy had misunderstood, but Logan didn’t bother correcting him.
Truth be told, ring or no ring, she was it for him. It didn’t matter what they called it. Let the boy think what he wanted. It’d keep Max guessing, which would at least be entertaining.
Logan watched as the boy said his goodbyes to his family, frowning as his parents teared up. The kid couldn’t be more than seventeen, but he towered over Logan. For chrissake, the boy’s chest was the size of a small car. It was actually uncomfortable to crane his neck up to meet the boy’s eyes when he’d shaken his hand.
Logan wondered what his particular mutation was. There was one more small round of both parents now begging him to take care of their boy – along with more of Logan’s reassurances, before Piotr followed them back out into the night.
Piotr looked equally as dazzled by the aircraft as Max had been when she first saw the mountains near Lake Baikal. They’d given him a few moments alone to walk along the shore of the lake; to say his goodbyes to his home. Max watched the boy as he trudged slowly through the snow, hoping that he’d be able to come back to visit his parents on a somewhat regular basis. They seemed like real nice folks, even though she couldn’t understand a thing they said. Piotr gave one last look up at the moon, then turned and headed back towards the jet.
He looked conflicted, which Max could definitely understand. She’d felt the same sense of loss when she’d left her pack and headed out into the world of Pinks so many years ago.
Jean and Ororo were already inside, prepping for the flight back.
“Your country is beautiful.” Max murmured, meeting his eyes.
The boy gave her a bittersweet smile and nodded, his tone softer than she’d expect from such a large guy.
“Spasiba. I am missing it very.”
Logan said something to the boy that made him nod and head towards the gangplank.
“We gotta get in the air, Max. I don’t wanna stay out here longer than we have to.” he murmured, gently placing his hand at the small of her back, guiding her over to the plane.
“Is he going to be alright?”
Max looked over at Piotr as he disappeared into the jet.
“He’ll be fine.” Logan reassured her. “Everybody leaves the den at some point.”
Once Logan spotted open ocean below them he relaxed and glanced over at their new passenger. Piotr smiled quietly in his seat, his eyes scanning everything within view as Ororo guided the jet home. The boy was all wide-eyed innocence, but he’d probably been worked hard his entire life.
At least he’d been big and strong enough to endure. Logan wondered what the members of his collective were going to do now without him.
It had been good speaking Russian again, even if he’d forgotten that he could. The language had just come back together in his head as he’d heard it spoken, like he’d had the puzzle pieces years before and had just dusted them off and put them back together. He wasn’t at all comfortable with what Jean had done – it felt too much like tricking people. Good people that meant nobody any harm. It bugged the hell out of him for some reason he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Communicating with them in their native tongue just seemed to make more sense to him. It was just basic respect.
Still, everything had gone smoothly.
He supposed that was good for something.
Piotr stepped out of the aircraft into the subterranean hangar with a look of wonder. The boy was grinning and peering around as if everything was new to him. It probably was. He was utterly fascinated.
“Bozhe moy.” the boy breathed, gripping his furry hat in one hand and a small bag that contained the belongings he’d been able to scrape together for the trip in the other.
“[Brave new world, eh?]” Logan said in Russian as Piotr nodded slowly in response.
“[It gets better.]”
The boy’s eyes widened as he looked back at Logan, stunned. “[Better than this?]”
Logan chuckled and nodded. “[You have no idea.]”
They started heading back through a tunnel that led to the mansion with Piotr following trepidatiously behind, still taking in his surroundings.
He’s damn lucky he didn’t get drafted for the army, Logan thought to himself. With his size and bulk, he probably would’ve made a hell of a soldier; and they would’ve run his ass into the ground. Kid could probably have taken it, though.
Logan couldn’t help wondering what kind of fight the boy had in him. Piotr could probably pick him up and throw him easily, so he’d have to rely on dexterity and fluidity of movement when engaging him in sparring sessions. Logan sized him up for a few moments, in the same way that he did automatically with almost everybody else he met.
The old soldier in him always kicked around in one form or another.
“[How fluent is yer English, comerade?]” Logan asked, moving to walk beside the boy.
“[I could probably speak better. Will you teach me English?]” Piotr asked, his expression serious.
Ah, crap. Shoulda seen that comin’.
“[Sure, kid. My English probably ain’t the best to learn from, though.]”
“[Your wife – she is very beautiful.]” Piotr murmured softly.
“[Yep. I think so.]” he replied, almost stumbling as Piotr then asked, “[Will you help me find a wife, Logan?]”
Logan blinked then stared back at the boy for a moment. Of course the kid would want a wife. His parents had probably been pressuring him for a couple of years to get married so that somebody else could cook and clean out that wooden box they lived in. They were gettin’ on in years, and probably wanted a rest. Who the hell wouldn’t, after a life like that?
Logan cleared his throat and replied, “[Let’s take it one thing at a time, ok?]”
Max walked beside Jean, feeling anger roll off the woman in waves. Max found it ironic that it was so easy for Logan to get under her friend’s skin when she constantly gave Scott a hard time – but then Jean tended to court drama heavily at times.
“Why does he have to be such an utter prick?” she muttered, her hands fisted at her sides.
So beautiful in her ire. It wasn’t fair.
Max chuckled and shook her head. “I have a strange feeling that he’s bitten off more than he can chew with this one.”
“What makes you say that?” Jean frowned, looking over at her.
“Well, think of it. He’s not exactly the most personable guy. Now he has a puppy to take care of, whether he wants him or not.”
Would he regret it? Max didn’t think so, but it’d probably irritate him. But then, almost everything irritated him. She grinned conspiratorially back at Jean.
Her friend paused for a moment, then smiled. “You might have something there.”
Max laughed and replied, “I might indeed.”
Maybe she wouldn’t need to kick him. He’d be kicking himself soon enough.
Logan left Piotr with the professor then headed down to the locker room, eager to shuck off the uncomfortable uniform.
As he placed it on a hanger, he caught Hank’s scent before the large, blue furred doctor walked around the corner.
“Ah, Logan. Ororo said that I’d be able to locate you down here. I wanted to get your opinion of the environmental armor suit. Did it perform to specifications?”
Logan eyed him then grumbled, “If by ‘performing to specifications’ you mean it bunched up and made it a pain in the ass to walk around in, then yeah. Mission accomplished.”
Hank frowned for a moment, then brightened.
“Oh, that’s right – this one was a bit too generous with the fabric for your frame.”
Henry eyed the suit draped on the hanger before him.
“I’m afraid that we don’t currently have anything that’ll fit you comfortably, but if you’d like I can fashion one out of the materials at hand.”
Logan slid his jeans back on and shook his head. “Think I’ll stick with the old standard.”
“Still – I’d like to see if I could come up with something just in case, if it isn’t too much trouble.” Hank explained, his tone hopeful.
“Give it up, furball. I ain’t puttin’ on a uniform.” Logan growled as he zipped up and slid a tanktop over his head.
Hank’s expression grew dark as he leaned in and said, “Sir – I’ll kindly ask you to keep from making disdainful references as to my personal appearance.”
“Or what?” Logan looked over at him, his eyes glittering.
Would mister hoity fucking toity actually throw down? Logan was almost interested.
“Or I might just have to take you to task for your obnoxious behavior on principle.”
Hank’s tone was dark with growing anger.
Logan presented him with a small smile and said, “Might just be hope for you yet, doc.”
Hank blinked and frowned, his expression confused as Logan walked around him and headed out of the locker room.
“As god as my witness, I don’t think I’ll ever truly comprehend that man.” Hank murmured to himself.
Logan grinned and went off in search of Max.
He found her sitting with Jean on a couch in the sitting room. Both of them were giggling like schoolgirls. When he walked in, they stopped and looked over at him, then began laughing harder.
Uh oh. Logan raised an eyebrow as Max leaned over and gave Jean a brief hug, then started walking over to him.
Should I be nervous? he wondered as she presented him with a broad smile.
“You done with pup duties for the night?” she asked, grinning.
He frowned back at her and she explained, “Piotr. Is he all settled?”
“Oh. That. Yeah. Prof’s givin’ him the rundown on this place.” Logan replied, waiting for the zinger to come. Payback, after all, was a bitch.
“Good.” Max leaned into him, wrapping an arm around his waist. She met his eyes and said, “You look like you’re waiting for me to hit you.”
Jean chuckled and stood up, giving a brief wave to Max as she quietly headed over to the stairs.
“Aren’t you?” he asked, surprised that red had given up a perfectly good opportunity to give him shit. This couldn’t be good.
Max laughed lightly and said, “That comes later.”
“Ah, crap.” he muttered, smiling in spite of himself.
“Oh yeah.” Max murmured, squeezing him gently. “When you least expect it, expect it.”
The very idea gave him a little thrill that surprised him.
His smile grew as he replied, “I ain’t all that easy to put down and keep down, darlin’.”
Max pursed her lips as she steered him over to the stairs.
“So. About this wife thing…”
Chapter 23: It’s really better if you don’t know. It’d only embarrass him.
Logan is poleaxed by new information about Max, but he gets his head around it fairly quickly.
Logan and Piotr square off in the Danger Room, but it takes a few colorful embarrassing insults to provoke the kid to fight.
Max woke with a dull cramping in her stomach. She frowned and placed her hand on her belly.
There was a sudden surge in her throat and she leapt up, making it to the bathroom just in time. The sensation of throwing up had never been a pleasant one, and for some reason it terrified her. There was something that just felt inherently wrong about it.
“Jesus! Max!” Logan was immediately by her side, holding her hair back as she clutched at the sides of the toilet bowl.
Once her stomach was empty, she took huffing breaths to try to reorient herself. The taste was wretched. Max reached up to flush the toilet and Logan handed her a towel to wipe her face off. She sat back as Logan held his hand against her forehead, checking her temperature.
“You done?” he murmured.
Max nodded weakly.
Logan picked her up and carried her back over to the bed, checking her over. Max felt a dull pain blossom in her head and she groaned.
Once away from the sharp sting of sickness in the bathroom, Logan recognized a familiar smell. He froze and stared down at her.
Max frowned and looked over at him, her voice husky as she asked, “What’s wrong?”
Of all the things that had happened in the last year and a half, this was the one thing he was least prepared for.
“You’re pregnant.” he croaked, startled.
Max paused for a moment, then gave him a weak smile.
“Thank god. I thought something was actually wrong there for a minute.
Logan blinked, then murmured, “Wait – you’re okay with this?”
Max gave a weak chuckle and replied, “We’ve been having unprotected sex since we met, Logan. It had to happen sometime.”
Logan sat on the bed next to her, lost in thought. A father? The idea seemed almost laughable. There was still so much about his past, about himself that he didn’t know – and he still had an elaborate mystery to unravel concerning the people that kept coming after him. He was just getting used to the idea of Max being a permanent fixture, but a kid? His own kid?
He felt Max’s light touch on his arm and flinched, knocked out of his train of thought.
“Are you okay with this?” she asked, her tone soft.
He looked back over at her, his brow creased with uncertainty.
“I don’t know.”
She gently pulled him into bed with her, murmuring, “C’mon. Let’s get back to sleep. We’ll figure this out later, okay?”
Logan slid in beside her, pulling her close. He honestly didn’t know what to think. A man like him didn’t have the faculties for this kinda thing. Give him an opponent, an army to go up against – and he’d be fine. Fighting, tracking, killing – these were the things he was most intimate with. The things he was best at. He may not remember much about his past – about who he’d been, but this he knew in his bones. It came naturally to him, and he was as much an artist with the craft as a master sculptor or metalworker.
How had his life gotten so completely fucked in a little over half a year?
There was no way he could stay on the run with a mate and a kid. He’d get them both killed. Not to mention that there would now be two individuals that could directly be used against him. Not a good position for someone of his particular skillset to be in.
Still – he was being presented with a unique opportunity. One he never thought he’d have. A chance for a life that involved more than merely killing damn near everything around him to stay alive. He’d also given his word that he’d stay at the school with her – that he’d give it a chance. Scott was a good fighter, and he had the feeling that Piotr would come up quickly.
At least he wouldn’t be surrounded by people that couldn’t hold their own in a fight.
He felt Max slip deeper into sleep as he gently placed a hand over her belly and finally drifted off to sleep himself.
When Max next woke, she found Logan looking back at her with a soft expression. She watched his hazel eyes scan her face, figuring that he was probably lost in his head somewhere. She smiled back at him silently, placing a hand on his chest.
“I’m okay with it.” he murmured.
“You sure?” Max asked, feeling her stomach flutter.
“Yeah.” he replied, covering her hand with his own. “How long do we have?”
Max frowned as she referenced the memories passed down from the bitches in her Pack.
“Normally, the cycle with turnskins takes about four months. I also shouldn’t be shifting during that time because it could hurt the cub.”
There were special ceremonies that went along with the event of a bitch’s first birthing cycle as well, but she only remembered bits and pieces of them. Since she wasn’t surrounded by Kin, she didn’t know if it would matter all that much.
Logan paused for a moment, as if he was trying to figure out how to word his next question.
“How many? I mean..do you guys have litters – like wolves?”
God, he hoped not. One would be a handful as it was.
Max shook her head and explained, “It’s very rare, but it happens. I was in an unusually large litter, but most bitches only have one cub. I should be able to tell after the first few weeks whether I’m going to have one or more.”
Max then frowned, hoping he’d be alright with the rest of it.
“During the birth and after I’ve kitted – after the pup is born, I’m going to have to stay in wolf form.”
“For how long?”
“For the first four weeks or so. After that, I’ll be able to shift so that the pup can get to know me in both forms.”
She closed her eyes, hoping that she was right. She’d never known of a crossbreed of this nature among her kind, and had no idea what the mixture of her blood and Logan’s would produce in the way offspring. With his fairly unusual genetic material there was just no way of knowing what would happen.
“You scared, Max?” he murmured, tasting the faint scent of fear on her.
Max smiled and said, “A little. I don’t know if I’m ready to be a mother.”
She wished she had her own mother’s counsel on this matter. Even her sister’s. She’d learned everything she knew from watching her aunts and cousins – how they’d been with their cubs, the birthing process. It was a daunting thing to have to go through without somebody that knew exactly what was going on. It was also a significant thing in the Pack, a firm step into a different life that was taken very seriously. The cubs were guaranteed the protection of the Pack, and they’d help with training and the developmental skills of the cubs as they grew.
She wondered how her offspring would fare without the extended family that she’d had. It made the loss of her Pack resonate even more strongly.
“Are you?” she asked, “I mean..this has got to be a lot to handle for you too.”
“Never thought I’d be a father,” he rumbled.
It felt odd to hear the words spoken aloud. He frowned and looked over at her.
“You wanna make it legal? Between us, that is?”
That’s what you did when you got somebody knocked up, right? You offered to ‘do the right thing’. He wasn’t completely without social graces.
Max smiled at his offer but shook her head.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re already a mated pair. I’ve got no use for Pink laws or phrases.”
Logan nodded and gently ran his knuckles over her stomach.
He was going to have a kid.
“Holy crap.” he whispered.
Max laughed and kissed him. “Yeah.”
“Saddle up, comrade. [Let’s see what ya got].”
Piotr looked lost as he looked back at Logan, unsure of what to do as they stood in the middle of an empty downtown street.
“[But Logan, I don’t want to hurt you.]”
The boy actually looked concerned. Considering the size difference, Max almost had to agree. If she didn’t know what Logan was capable of, she’d have thought him crazy.
Neither of them really wanted to focus on the ramifications from earlier, and a Danger Room session seemed just the thing to get it out of their heads. Logan had expressed a desire to see if the new kid could fight, and Max had to admit that she was more than a little curious to see what Piotr’s mutation was.
After a brief conversation with the Professor, who stressed heavily that they take it easy on him, Charles agreed. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with having the boy experience the Danger Room so quickly after arriving, but things were starting to become heated in the mutant/human debate.
He’d once explained to Max that although he had hopes that mutants and humans could live in harmony, he was enough of a realist to realize that people, whether human or mutant, tended to attack and kill that which they most feared. People were getting more outwardly aggressive and it was time to start bringing in stronger members to the team.
Max understood the need for line guard to protect the Pack. It was a safe move on Xavier’s part.
“[Pete, ain’t you ever sparred with anybody? You know – fightin’ for practice?]” Logan asked.
It was always the really big ones that you had to watch out for. The ‘gentle giants’. They didn’t know their own strength, and once you provoked them, you were fucked until they ran out of steam.
“[I am an artist, not a fighter, Logan.]” Piotr frowned, obviously discomfited.
“[Ya gotta learn sometime.]” Logan murmured, taking a step towards the boy.
Piotr turned to Max, his eyes pleading. “Please. I am not wanting to be hurting your husband. Please be telling him to stop.”
“[Talk to me, Petey. Not her. Ain’t nothin’ you can do to me that’ll permanently injure me.]” Logan growled.
Another step forward.
“[But you’re so small! I could kill you – without even trying. Please don’t make me do this.]”
Logan cocked his head and tried another tactic. Explaining it to him wasn’t working. He was going to have to do this the hard way.
Max watched as Logan kept talking to the boy in that same unusual language. She was surprised that she actually liked the sound of it rolling off his tongue. She almost felt bad for Piotr. The boy obviously didn’t want to fight, and she was close to telling Logan to back off when the boy’s expression grew angry. Logan laughed and said something else, and Piotr’s expression became dark as he shouted something back at Logan.
Logan just smiled and kept talking until Piotr started shaking. Max then blinked as a slick metallic substance started sliding along the boy’s skin, coating his entire body
The whole process took moments.
“There we go.” Logan growled as Piotr launched himself at the smaller man with a roar.
Max watched Logan deftly leap out of the way as Piotr spun and grabbed a large blue government mailbox, pulling it out of the concrete easily. He threw it at Logan who let out a whoop and shredded the side of it with his claws.
“NOW we’re talkin!” he roared, grinning like a kid who’d just been given the keys to a candy store.
“Keep an eye out – he’s pissed.”
Logan called out as he leapt by her. Max ducked out of the way of a fire hydrant, wincing as it caved in the side of a car. A large fountain of water was now shooting high in the air as she turned to find Piotr bearing down on her.
“Oh shit!” She cried as she quickly leapt out of the way.
The boy’s hands closed inches from her ankle and she suddenly wondered whether this was a good idea anymore. It probably wasn’t one of the brightest things Logan had ever done. She was just quick enough to outmaneuver the boy, but if he caught her he’d end up doing serious damage. The injuries that he would inflict would likely be passed on to her cub.
Max quickly leapt to safety as Logan slammed into Piotr’s chest, knocking the boy back several feet.
“Watch yourself!” Logan hissed as Piotr got up and moved to swiftly crack him in the jaw, sending him across the street.
Logan flew into the side of a building, knocking several bricks out of the foundation. He landed on the sidewalk in a heap.
Max quickly made her way over to him, picking him up and getting him out of harm’s way before the boy’s fist connected with the concrete where Logan had been lying moments before, cracking it into several large chunks.
Logan groaned as Max jumped up to a spot on top of a small one story building. The punch had torn a substantial amount of skin off Logan’s face, exposing a section of metallic jaw and part of a metallic cheekbone.
Oh yeah. He’d definitely fuck me up in no time. Max mused, the blood draining from her face.
Logan’s wounds began quickly knitting themselves back together; the bruises fading. He blinked and looked up at her with a grin.
“Boy has a hell of an arm, eh?”
“Are you CRAZY?” Max bellowed, almost wanting to throw him back down so that Piotr could thoroughly trounce him.
“What the fuck did you say to him?”
Logan winced and replied, “It’s really better if you don’t know. It’d only embarrass him.”
The building shook and Max peeked over to see Piotr rapidly punching his way through the mortar and bricks. The metal on his knuckles showed no signs of damage – the sheen still smooth and shiny. The entire structure would collapse in no time at this point.
“Go make him stop.” she growled, dropping him onto the roof.
“‘Make him stop?’ Like it’s that easy? Kid’ll come out of it soon enough, when the rage wears off.”
Logan got up, dusting himself off.
The building was now starting to list to one side.
“Well, you started it – go finish it.” Max grated, wanting to kick him.
“I can take pretty much whatever he dishes out, but I want you to stay away from him.”
Max gave him a halfhearted laugh and said, “Yeah. No problem. He’s all yours.”
Logan grinned, pulled her into a brief kiss, then jumped off the roof onto a car below.
Max shook her head in disbelief as he watched Piotr chase Logan around the street, tossing everything he could get his hands on after him.
I’m mated to and having the cub of a crazy person.
Jean’s voice rang through the speakers throughout the Danger Room as Logan was crouching to avoid a car that was sailing towards his head. It collided with a pile of debris behind him with a loud crash. The kid had an outstanding throwing arm – he had to admit, and that metallic sheen that covered his skin seemed to stop anything.
He also didn’t seem to be showing any signs of tiring.
That dark little voice in Logan’s head wanted to see if the claws could cut through the metal as effectively as everything else he’d come across, but satisfying that particular curiosity wasn’t something he was altogether interested in. He was just beginning to like the boy, after all.
He was a good kid, and Logan already found himself growing protective of him – even though he’d goaded the boy into combat with a particularly grievous insult. Logan turned to look up, seeing Jean’s angry face in the window of the control room.
He frowned before getting tossed across the street into a building on the far side.
“Dammit!” he roared in annoyance as he got back to his feet, turning to spot Max who was now looking at him with a halfheartedly guilty expression. He could see the corners of her mouth beginning to turn up in a smile.
Had she thrown him? He guessed he’d deserved it.
“[Are you ok, Logan?]” Piotr was walking over to them, looking concerned. Apparently the sound of Jean’s voice had snapped him out of his angry assault.
“[I’m ok. She just clocked me when I was distracted.]” he growled, glaring over at Max whose smile was now just a little more pronounced.
The door to the Danger Room opened and Jean stomped into the room in a full on huff.
“You rotten little..!”
She spotted Piotr and she held her tongue, her eyes narrowing.
The large metal frame of the boy towered over Jean, making her look tiny in comparison.
“Is there to be meaning for your anger, Miss Grey?”
Piotr looked entirely lost. “Is mis-understanding in hallway earlier still angry making?”
Max stepped forward and asked, “Misunderstanding?”
Piotr’s form slid from metallic back to skin and he looked nervous.
“I am saying to her earlier, to perhaps ask for the education of the..”
“THAT’s…that’s enough, Piotr. It’s okay. I’m not angry at you.”
Jean glared at Logan, her eyes glittering.
Logan just presented her with a smug grin, crossing his arms and murmuring, “So what’s eatin’ ya, Jeannie?”
She stood before him, placing her hands firmly on her hips as she growled, “Like you don’t know.”
Logan’s grin became bigger as he shrugged and replied, “Sometimes it’s just better to know the language, headcase.”
Jean stiffened and Max wondered if he’d gone too far. Again. The redhead pursed her lips and spat back at him, “Right.” her expression tight as she turned and walked back out.
Max looked over at him, crooking up an eyebrow.
“And what, exactly, was all that about?”
“I’m sure you’ll find out later. Kick my ass about it then. Right now, we’re still in the middle of a session, ‘less you guys wanna cut it short?”
Max smacked him and he frowned. “What wazzat for?”
“A warm up.” she retorted, running over to the door. She wanted to find out what he’d done this time.
“You guys go ahead without me. I’m gonna go do a little damage control since dickhead here can’t keep his mouth shut.”
“Dick..head? [What is the meaning of such a word, please?]” Piotr asked, frowning.
Logan presented him with a wry grin and said, “[It’s kinda like an affectionate pet name. Well, for me anyway. She sure seems to like usin’ it a lot.]”
Piotr murmured, “Dickhead. [Another American word! I’m learning so much!]”
Logan nodded, wondering how hard the boy would hit him when he finally figured out that he was fuckin’ with him. The thought made him smile.
“[’bout earlier – I didn’t mean what I said. Sorry I had to rile you up like that.]”
Logan felt a little guilty, but the results had been well worth it.
“[Are you injured? Mama says I should never hit another man in anger. I am ashamed.]”
Piotr frowned, looking away from him.
“[Hey, I’m ok. See? No bruises. Told ya that ya couldn’t hurt me permanently.]” Logan reassured him. “[‘sides – boy like you has gotta know how to fight. You’re strong, but there’s not much finesse there. I could tighten that up a little if you let me work with ya.]”
“[I got into a fight once, a year ago.]” The boy looked almost haunted. “[A man made an inappropriate comment about my sister. He was in the hospital for seven months afterward. I was told that he’ll never walk again.]”
Logan looked back at him, his tone soft. “[Sometimes you gotta fight, Petey. It ain’t all the time, but if you know how it helps you end the fight quicker. Cleaner.]”
“[And you can teach me this way? Cleaner?]” Piotr asked, hopeful. “[I don’t like hurting people.]”
Logan nodded, feeling a camaraderie with the boy that he hadn’t remembered feeling before with anybody else.
“[Yeah. I can teach you that. I can also teach you how to control that temper o’ yours, so it’s not so easy to rile.]”
“[You would do that for me?]” Piotr asked, his voice full of wonder.
Logan grinned. “[Yep. I’d be happy to.]”
And strangely enough, he realized that was true. How odd.
“[Miss Grey seems awfully angry.]” Piotr murmured as he looked over at the door, looking worried.
“[Trust me, Petey. It ain’t you Red’s angry at.]” Logan reassured him.
“[Are you sure? She’s a little scary. I don’t really like loud, aggressive women. They make me nervous.]”
Piotr looked over towards the door as if he expected Jean to burst in and beat the crap out of him.
Logan chuckled and muttered, “[You came to the wrong country then, comrade.]”
“I’ll kill him.” Jean growled, her eyes narrowing as Max caught up to her.
“What now?” Max asked, befuddled.
Jean ground her teeth, then grated, “He told Piotr that I was the Sexual Education teacher here, apparently. I was mortified when the boy brought it up.”
Max let out a bark of laughter, then immediately looked guilty. Jean’s expression darkened and Max quickly said, “You have to admit, that’s a pretty good one.”
“I can’t believe you’re on his side!” she shouted, tossing her hands in the air.
“Jean – see this for what it is. He’s pissing in his corner, letting you know it’s his. You can either get pissed on, or do the pissing.”
“How.. vivid.” Jean winced, not liking the imagery Max’s words had conjured up.
“Dee, you’re my closest friend. I know you guys don’t exactly have to get along, but..”
“How am I supposed to abide him when he behaves like this? He’s a pig.” Jean spat, angrily.
Max chuckled and explained, “He’s just trying to goad you – and you’re falling for it. You do it to each other, really. He just has different reasons for doing it.”
Jean eyed her carefully, her tone curt. “And that would be?”
“He likes irritating you.”
Jean huffed. “He’s doing a hell of a job.”
“Exactly.” Max replied.
Jean paused, frowning. “Max, what are you trying to tell me?”
“If you try to beat him at his own game, it’ll just escalate. You guys will be at each other’s throats – and then the professor will get involved.”
“Like the time with the locker.” Jean murmured, nodding.
“Yeah. The key is to just.. be pleasant to him. That’ll rattle him like nothing else. He won’t know what to expect.”
Jean looked over at her, uncertain.
“Are you sure that’ll work?”
Max grinned and nodded.
“Oh yeah. Besides, it’ll be fun to see him try to figure out what’s going on.”
Jean began smiling and replied, “And you say I fuck with people’s heads.”
Logan and Piotr were heading up from the showers when Jean passed them with a bright smile.
“Afternoon, boys. Did you have a good workout?”
Logan blinked and frowned, spinning as he watched her walk by.
“[What is it?]” Piotr asked, turning to see what he was looking at.
“[Not sure.]” Logan murmured.
Perhaps she was waiting until the kid was no longer around.
Yeah, that was probably it.
Chapter 24: He’s in full Gran-Mal! Get Hank up here with a cart, NOW!
Xavier offers Logan a teaching position at the school. Things go downhill from there.
“Might I have a moment of your time, Logan?”
Xavier called out as Logan and Piotr walked out of the elevator.
Logan looked over to find Charlie eyeballing him with a mild expression. Here it came. Jeannie couldn’t do the dirty work herself, so she was going to sic Xavier on him.
“[I’ll catch up with you later] comrade.” he murmured to Piotr.
The boy gave him a nervous smile, waved to Xavier, then headed off towards the stairs. He was probably still waiting for Jean to jump out at him and smack him.
Boy’s gonna need to find a spine if he wants to find a wife in this country, Logan mused quietly to himself.
“Find out anything new?” Logan asked, not wanting to sound so hopeful.
“Nothing solid as of yet, unfortunately. No, Logan – I wanted to speak to you about another unrelated matter.”
Logan raised an eyebrow and asked, “What’s up?”
Xavier’s wheelchair spun around and he began heading back towards his office.
Logan moved to follow as Charles replied, “I understand that you handled yourself remarkably well with our new student in the last session.”
Logan padded behind the professor, wondering where he was going with this.
He remained silent as Xavier continued, “And I wanted to ask you for a favor of sorts.”
Logan’s brow creased as he cautiously asked, “What kind of favor are we talkin’ here, Professor?”
Xavier had gotten in his face about calling him ‘Chuck’ soon after his return, and it wasn’t a pissing contest that Logan wanted to engage in with the man again. He was willing to concede the floor and a moderate amount of respect to a man who had been critical in liberating him from that Canadian hellhole.
When they reached his office, Xavier replied, “It’s my belief that you’ll be a remarkably good tutor when it comes to teaching self defensive courses. While these children are already strengthening their minds, I’m afraid that the physical activities portion of their education is sorely lacking. We only have four teachers at the moment, and we could really use the help.”
Logan blinked, not really sure that he’d heard the man correctly.
“Wait..you want me to what?” he sputtered, completely thrown.
“Your skills, from what I’ve seen in the taped Danger Room sessions, are exceptional.”
Logan blinked again. Of course the sessions were taped. That only made sense. He supposed it was a prime way to review tactics and moves after the fact.
“It’s my rather strong opinion that you would be an asset to this institution, and to these children, if you could teach them even half of what you know.” Xavier explained softly.
Teacher? The man seriously wanted him to instruct these kids? Was Charlie kidding? The professor was damned lucky that he wasn’t proving to be a danger to them. A mild sense of constraint settled around him that he hadn’t felt since his last time in confinement and it made his stomach roil. It felt as if something were trying to cage him again, to lock him down – slowly plucking away one freedom after the other.
Seven months ago he had only the clothes on his back, the freedom of the wilderness and nobody else to bother with. It would’ve been idyllic if people hadn’t been trying to track him to the ends of the earth. He found that he almost missed it – the lack of complications. He’d only been responsible for one thing, keeping himself alive. There was a serenity to it that the white noise of being around other people disrupted.
Now that he’d saddled himself with a mate, and soon a kid, he was being asked by this man to give more than he felt he had left. What the hell was happening here?
He could feel his expression close down as he took a step back.
“Logan? Is everything quite alright?” Xavier asked, sounding concerned now.
Logan’s mind suddenly reeled. It was too much – too much responsibility, too many ties. A strange pressure began building in his chest and he was suddenly having difficulty drawing breath.
The water was back, surrounding him – pressing on him from all sides. He was held down by something, a metal grate of sorts that was suspended just above the water’s surface. Not enough room to breathe. Something bright flickered off to the side and he turned to follow the movement. An enormous needle was being depressed into a shunt just outside the tank. Logan followed the pipe of the shunt, startled that it led through a small caulked hole in the glass to his inner arm. He began thrashing around, hearing the sounds of muffled, anxious voices as several blurry figures outside the tank scrambled around in a flurry of movement.
Ice slowly crawled up his arm, through his veins and the vision slowly blurred out of focus.
An urgent call rang out in Max’s head, connected with a series of images of Logan convulsing in Professor Xavier’s office. She leapt up from her place on the sofa, startling the hell out of both Jean and Ororo.
Jean got to her feet as Max was suddenly just – gone.
Once in Xavier’s office, Max saw Logan clawing at his throat and choking, his eyes wide as he pressed himself back into one of the bookshelves.
He collapsed to the floor, his claws extending with a loud *SNIKT*.
“What the hell just happened?” She yelled, whirling on Xavier.
Ororo and Jean appeared in the doorway as Xavier explained, “I’m afraid that he’s experiencing another episode.”
“Well fucking help him, damnit!” she cried out as Logan screamed, his body bowing up from the carpet, his muscles so taut she was sure some of them would’ve snapped his bones if they weren’t covered in metal.
“Oh my god.” Jean murmured before shaking herself firmly out of her shock. She ran over and started checking his vitals while she barked out, “Keep his arms down, dammit! I don’t want to get eviscerated while I’m trying to help him!”
Max grabbed Logan’s wrists and forced them down to the floor, pointing the blades away from her.
Dear god, he was strong. It was taking everything she had to keep him pinned.
“He’s in full Gran-Mal! Get Hank up here with a cart, NOW!” Jean yelled as she turned to the professor.
“Is there any way that you can get in – any way that you can stop this?” she asked him. Max could see the barely restrained fear in the woman’s eyes.
“I’m afraid that the storm in his mind is quite impenetrable. I’ve tried.” Charles explained, his expression one of frustration and concern.
Max leaned forward and began speaking to Logan in quiet tones, calling him back to her – desperate.
Max was beside him on the floor, yelling at him and looking as scared as he’d ever seen her.
He shook his head briefly, trying to shake off the disorientation.
How’d he end up on the floor? And why were there a bunch of wires connected to his chest?
He frowned and looked up at Max, his voice almost a subvocal growl, “What the fuck is going on?”
He was startled to find that his claws were extended. They retracted with a metallic *snikt* and he tried to sit up. Max gently pressed him back down.
“Just..wait for a sec. You’ll knock the machine over.” Max murmured as Jean appeared before him, gently pulling several sticky pads with wires off his chest and looking back at him with a pitying expression. She quickly looked away and stood up, walking behind him.
“Max..” he growled.
Max released his arms and Logan sat up, quickly spinning to put the bookcases at his back. His eyes darted around the room, sharp with anger.
“You had a seizure, Logan.” Jean explained quietly as she met his gaze. Her eyes were full of pity, and he hated it.
He grunted as his eyes narrowed. It was bad enough that he’d lost control to begin with, but to have somebody other than the Professor or Max witness it? A feeling of helplessness shot through his system and he quickly quashed it, unwilling to give it any attention.
No fuckin’ way.
A snarl escaped him as he bared his teeth.
Ain’t soft, ain’t helpless and ain’t fuckin’ tamed. Not ever.
A word echoed in his head as he balled his hands into fists.
He looked back over at Max and frowned as he stood up.
“Logan.” Max murmured, taking a step towards him.
“No. Not now.” he grated, pushing past her and leaving the room.
He had to get the hell out of here.
Max watched him go, her shoulders slumping in defeat.
“Shit.” she breathed, her hands shaky as she moved over to a chair and slid into it.
“Where the hell does he think he’s going after an episode like that?” Jean blurted, baffled.
Max let out a weak laugh and replied, “Away from here.”
She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and looked over to see Xavier beside her, his eyes sad.
“My apologies, Max. I had no idea he’d have such a negative reaction.”
She took a deep breath, then calmly asked, “What did you say to him?”
“I offered him a teaching position here at the school. A self defense class.” Xavier responded, his tone soft.
“And that’s what triggered it?” Max asked, confused now.
“I assume so. His seizure began shortly afterward.”
At this point, the flashpoint didn’t matter. The fact that Jean and Ororo had seen him helpless had probably dealt a pretty thorough blow to his ego.
Males never liked having their weaknesses exposed, even if they couldn’t help them. In this, Pinks and Turnskins were fairly alike.
He’d also been a loner before they’d run across each other, and now that he’d promised to stay with her she wondered if he was feeling weighed down by the fact that she was now also pregnant. Had she mated with a Pack Alpha, he would’ve been almost giddy at the pronouncement, happy to welcome a new cub into the Pack. Lone Turnskins, however, were a different matter entirely. They sometimes took a long while to integrate into a Pack – that was, if they ever chose to at all.
Things were changing rapidly between the two of them – perhaps he was starting to feel more than a little trapped.
Max heard the faint sound of a motorcycle starting up and she got to her feet.
“There’s only one way to tell.” she murmured, making a beeline for the door.
“I’ll be back. With or without him.”
Max ran out to head him off before he made it to the gate. She jumped in front of the motorcycle and he stopped with a screech of tires, his expression dark and angry.
“What the fuck was that back there?” she asked softly.
“Let it go Max. Get outta the way.” Logan growled, revving the engine.
“Do you think that you’re the only one who feels lost in this?”
She met his eyes, cocking her head gently. “That you’re the only one that feels like they’ve had their wings clipped?”
Max took a step towards him, her tone soft.
“I haven’t seen my Pack in seven years.” She murmured. “Seven years feeling hobbled and constrained by the rules of the Pink world around me.”
Something began stirring in her as she spoke, her words feeling large and thick as they slid off her tongue. Logan watched her spin up, waiting for her to get it all out. It had obviously been a long time in coming.
“I made a choice, yes. But now I’ll never see them again. Never have that life back.” She blinked, frowning as if she realized something important that she’d missed before.
“My cub – our cub will never know the loving fur of my mother – my father. The scent of my siblings. I’ll never be able to provide it the guarded, nurturing environment that I was fortunate enough to enjoy.”
Oh god. How I miss her – them.
Her voice was cracking now and tears were just beginning to brim in her eyes. She’d had no idea that she felt this strongly and now the words started pulling from her, feeling like hooks in her heart.
“They’ve long moved on. And so have I. I had to.”
Her words came out in a croak as she wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to master her emotions. It wasn’t right to keep him – the wild thing that runs free and dies in captivity. She’d chosen to cage her own soul, and the cracks were finally showing; now that she could actually see them.
“I don’t want this to be an obligation, Logan. I don’t want to cage you – to tie you to this place. To me.”
Having said her piece, she stepped out of his path, looking away from him.
Logan eyed her and quietly replied, “You done?”
Max let out a shaky breath and said, “Yeah. I’m done.”
He leaned forward on the motorcycle, keeping his tone even.
“You’re not an obligation or a promise to be kept.”
He looked back over at the mansion, frowning. “I just ain’t doin’ too well with the way things are sittin’ in my head right now, and I gotta do somethin’ about it. You understand?”
Max nodded silently as he breathed, “Good.”
His expression tightened briefly before he murmured, “I’ll be back in the mornin’.”
She felt the tightness in her chest release just a little as she looked away. He needed to run in the same way that she needed to. After months in that awful cell he needed to feel freedom again, even if briefly to break away from the rules of this place.
Max met his gaze and said, “Don’t make me come looking for you again this time.”
A brief smile curled his lips before he rumbled, “Okay.”
The smile told her everything she needed to know. It was enough for the moment. Anything else could be dealt with later.
Logan revved the bike and pulled out of the driveway as the large iron gates of the school opened before him. She watched him go until the brakelight winked out of sight, then began walking back towards the mansion.
Chapter 25: Picked a hell of a place to run to, Einstein
Logan finds home.
The wind whipped through Logan’s hair, howling in his ears as he sped down the road, wondering where he’d end up. For a brief moment he toyed with not going back, but knowing that he wouldn’t be able to stay away. He could be a bastard, but not that much of an utter prick. He hadn’t lied to her.
It wasn’t obligation that kept him with her – but he needed to get the hell away, if only for a little while.
Xavier was being less than helpful in providing answers to him, although he was surprised to find that he could remember several key things about the vision that had slammed him to the ground so unceremoniously in Chuck’s office. It definitely affirmed the bald guy’s initial conclusion that he’d been experimented on.
Everything else was blurry – indefinite. Still frustrating.
No – what he needed tonight was something he wouldn’t be able to find back at the school. He wondered if he’d be able to find it at all as the motorcycle roared through the back roads of Westchester county.
Max stood on the front porch, placing a gentle hand on her stomach.
“Holy crap.” she murmured, taking a deep breath and letting it out before stepping back inside. The door closed with a soft click behind her. Jean looked back at her friend with a sad expression.
“Is he coming back?” She asked softly.
Max gave her a weak smile and nodded.
“When he’s run it off, yeah.”
“Run what off?” Jean asked, frowning.
Max shook her head walking over to the taller woman who pulled her into a hug.
“I don’t know if I could explain it in terms that you’d understand. It’s a wolf thing.” Max murmured, relaxing into the hug, but still feeling that crack in her heart from the revelation outside. Why hadn’t she noticed it before? She pushed it aside, not wanting to address it now.
Jean gently placed her chin on top of Max’s head and asked, “Ice cream?”
Max smiled, thinking that it would be a pleasant distraction.
Jean crooned, “C’mon. Let’s go get tanked on Rocky Road. Then we can go annoy Scott.”
Max chuckled softly then as they began walking back towards the kitchen. “Thanks, Dee.”
Jean smiled and chuckled. “Anytime, Dum.”
There it was. The sharp tang of the red stuff.
Logan stepped out of the bar, cigar clenched between his teeth. The scent was coming from off to his right, to the side of the building. The bar was closing down for the night as Logan stepped down onto the gravel, escorting the bartender over to her truck.
The sounds of a vigorous scuffle pricked his ears as he watched her climb into the cab.
“You comin’, cowboy?” she murmured, an inviting smile on her lips.
Logan gave her a sly grin and shook his head, gently closing the door for her.
“I got places ta be.”
The woman sighed and slid her keys into the ignition, her tone smooth and husky as she murmured, “A man like you always does. Take care of yourself, Logan.”
Logan stepped away, watching her drive off. He found it odd that he hadn’t even been tempted to take her up on her offer. It bugged him for a moment, but he shook it off. Once she was far enough away, he moved to investigate the scent of blood.
There was a loud bang that sounded like a body being slammed against a metal dumpster as Logan rounded the corner. A kid that looked like he couldn’t be older than eighteen was being held against one of the dumpsters in the back, an arm jammed against his neck by a man with a brown, shaggy mullet. His two friends were alternately kicking the boy and plucking at bits of his skin which were stretching away from his body to an alarming degree.
“He’s like one’a those stretchy dolls, man. I wonder how far we can pull him ’til he breaks?”
One of them grabbed the boy’s arm and gave it a savage yank. The boy began screaming as his shoulder dislocated with a sickening pop.
Skin stretches, bones don’t. Interesting. Logan thought to himself before he stepped forward and said, “You’ll wanna leave now.”
The boy’s attackers turned to face him and the boy dropped to the ground, crying and cradling his shoulder.
“What – you two wanna fuck, faggot? Is that it?”
One of them advanced on him, his expression nasty.
Logan took a pull on the cigar with a bland expression, blowing out a plume of smoke before darting forward and clocking the man in the jaw. His target´s neck snapped back and he crumpled to the gravel.
“I got better things ta do than send a couple’a fuckin’ snotnosed assholes to the city morgue,” he grumbled as he took the other two out, tossing them across the parking lot.
As he walked towards the boy near the dumpster, the kid began wailing.
“Please don’t hurt me! PLEASE!”
His cries were shrill and hurt Logan’s ears.
“Christ, kid – shutup. I ain’t gonna hurt ya. Fucksakes.”
Logan crouched and gently probed the boy’s shoulder.
The teenaged boy looked up at him with wide eyes. He was starting to get shocky.
“Kid, I gotta slide this back in. It’s gonna hurt a lot, and you’re probably gonna pass out, but it needs to be done.”
The boy started whimpering and Logan snapped his fingers in front of the boy’s face.
“That ain’t helpin. You’re goin’ into shock. D’you live somewhere close?”
The boy shook his head, stammering, “‘m a runaway.”
Logan took another pull on his cigar, his mouth turning down into a frown.
“Picked a hell of a place to run to, Einstein.”
The boy winced as Logan grabbed the boy’s arm and shoulder, then quickly forced his arm back into the socket. The kid shrieked once, his body going limp. Logan quickly examined the kid. There only seemed to be a minimal amount of blood on him. Most of it was from one of the others.
Apparently the kid had fought back at some point.
What the hell had he been doing all the way out here? The kid obviously wasn’t old enough to get into the bar.
Logan hefted the teenager up onto a shoulder and walked over to the motorcycle, gently placing him on the ground next to it. He found a small medical kit stashed in one of the side compartments of the bike and pulled out a small packet of ammonium carbonate. He pulled one of the cloth covered capsules out and broke it, waving it under the kid’s nose.
The boy immediately began trying to get away from it, his eyes fluttering. Logan tossed the capsule into the bushes, hating the stench of the damned things.
“How’s the shoulder now?” Logan asked.
The kid frowned and tried to move it, wincing.
“Still hurts, but nowhere near as bad.”
Logan offered him a hand and the kid took it, slowly standing up.
He eyed the kid and asked, “What’s with the skin?”
The boy looked away and murmured, “I don’t know. It started recently, whatever it is.”
“How often d’ya get yer ass handed to you because of it?”
The kid shifted on his feet, clearly uncomfortable. “When people find out, they kinda freak. It’s hard to tell how they’re going to react, or what they’re going to do. I just do my best to keep people from knowing.”
“You at a shelter, or on your own?” Logan asked, putting the medkit back into the side compartment.
“On my own. I keep to myself when I can.”
Yeah. Been there, Logan thought to himself.
Kid didn’t look like the type that was strong enough to stay on the road and survive for any length of time. It didn’t feel right, leaving him to fend for himself. Perhaps Chuck wasn’t so crazy after all.
“I think I know somebody that can help.” Logan offered.
The kid looked back at him with a wary expression. “Why would you help someone like me?”
Logan shrugged and kicked a leg up and over the motorcycle. “Hey, kid – ‘f you wanna stay out here and get yerself wrapped around another dumpster, don’t matter to me.”
“No..wait.” The boy stammered, hugging himself tightly.
Logan raised an eyebrow and said, “If you’re comin’, hop on. Either you trust me or you don’t.”
The kid paused for a moment, then made his decision, settling onto the bike behind Logan.
“Don’t you have a helmet?” the kid asked in a shaky voice.
Logan laughed and cut the engine on.
“You kiddin’? Just hold on tight”
He revved the engine and the kid pressed into him, keeping his injured arm tight between them, holding on for dear life with his good arm.
So much for cutting loose.
Was likely for the best, though. Logan was already feeling a little better and he hadn’t broken cover. Leaving a trail of bodies around would be like tossing chum in the water for the people who were already looking for him.
“Whoa. This place is huge.” the kid whispered as Logan walked him to the front door.
“Yep.” he replied, opening the door and stepping into the foyer.
Four in the morning. Will Charlie still be up?
He quietly closed the door behind them and made his way to the Professor’s office, the kid trailing behind him. He wasn’t entirely surprised to see Xavier sitting behind his desk, as if waiting for them.
“How’d you know?” Logan murmured.
The professor responded with a small smile.
“The boy is projecting quite loudly.”
Logan grunted and said, “Kid, just listen to what he has to say. You’ll be okay.”
The boy nodded as Logan turned and walked out of the office, making his way upstairs. He walked quietly down the hallway to the room he’d been sharing with Max, hesitating a moment before opening the door.
He took a deep breath, then turned the handle and stepped inside. Max was sprawled out on the bed face down, the covers bunched around her feet. He smiled to himself as he closed the door behind him thinking that they’d probably need to get a bigger bed sometime in the near future. They were both bed hogs.
He stood and looked down at her, tracing the lines of her body with his gaze. After all was said and done, she made him feel..welcome. Wanted.
She didn’t fear him because she was too much like him in a lot of aspects. With her he could be both the man he was, and the animal he’d become – and she accepted both equally.
It was more than a man like him had any right to ask for, he suspected.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad.
Her scent changed as she turned to look up at him.
“You home now?” she asked, sleep slurring her words.
“Yeah.” he rumbled, stripping his clothes off and sliding in next to her.