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Back into the Fray

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“Is this safe?”

Devyn stumbled on the doorstep, and Logan pulled him into the house. The bare skin was cool under Logan’s hand; blood crusted under his fingertips. He rubbed it absently, baring a patch of white flesh beneath the black flakes.

“Looks like somebody’s lodge house, which means no one’s here most of the time. It’ll do for a night.”

The young man grunted and pulled himself away from Logan’s support. He had Logan’s jacket wrapped and tied around his waist. It was hard not to stare at the scars which wrapped around his ribs like a savage hug. Hard not to admire them as they cast bold glances at him through ribbons of dry blood.

There was cured wood stacked next to the fireplace, and folded blankets on the couch. Everything was primed for the owner’s next visit. It was a perfect spot to bunk down for a night after they’d driven for six hours straight.

They hadn’t talked much. Devyn didn’t remember shit. He didn’t remember shit. What was there to say? All they had were questions, and to his relief, the kid wasn’t trying to beat those to death. The unspoken camaraderie, it resonated somewhere inside him. It wasn’t a thought. More like a flesh memory. As though his body knew this silent companionship, and craved it.

Logan set to making a fire. Devyn disappeared. He heard running water a few minutes later, and was thankful the plumbing was still turned on. Once he had the fire roaring, he took a look at his own hands, which still had dried blood caked in the creases. A shower would be great, right about now.

~~~~

Devyn sank to his knees and stared into the water as it ran into the tub. The exhaustion he’d barely kept at bay through the long drive was tugging him down, but he couldn’t sleep like this. He had to wash away the lingering sensation of Victor’s hands. And the blood. And the creepy, brittle feeling of the hounds’ skin where he’d touched them.

Slivers of his old life cut at him, teased him with incomplete promises. There was a war going on; of that much he was sure. The blood he’d taken from Victor had found some scattered bits inside him, glued them together to form a piece of a picture.

The hounds were carrion birds that flocked with a being they called the Outsider. It wanted dominion, and they had pushed it back from their world. When they were shunted away, the hounds had shifted their focus to this world, instead.

They worked in some kind of symbiosis with one another. The Outsider didn’t seem to control them, but they acted in its interests. And anywhere they went, it was sure to follow.

If it took the surrounding verses, it would have enough influence to control them without the need of conquering them directly. That’s what Kirjan said. But he wasn’t to be trusted.

But that’s where Devyn’s memory stopped short. Why wasn’t Kirjan trustworthy? How did he know him, and why listen to him at all?

He sent me through...he sent us all through...me...

...and...

Eyes like emerald flames. His fangs grew, then seemed to rip his head apart. A white, scaled head followed behind the fangs, which kept growing until each was as long as Devyn’s forearm.

But that was all before, and it slipped away before he could catch hold. Smoke through his fingers. He closed his eyes, clenched his hands on the rim of the tub.

There was so much more to me than this.

Chapter Text

Logan rinsed his arms and face in the kitchen sink. There was a twelve pack of beer in the fridge, evidence that a loving god may yet exist. He drank one by the fire as he waited for Devyn to finish cleaning up. They still had to get the manacles off him. But the water kept running and running. He pondered his way through a second beer.

The man with the claws. The mutant that had seemed so familiar. He was involved with some kind of military black ops project. They hadn’t been prepared for what they were facing, clearly. And Devyn was involved...how?

He remembered Devyn’s eyes, lazily half-open, as he drank the blood from his captor’s throat.

His thoughts were interrupted by the distinct sound of water spilling where it shouldn’t be. He followed the sound to the bathroom.

He knocked.

“Hey. Kid. You ok?”

No answer. He pushed the door open.

Devyn sat on his heels, slumped against the side of the tub, still with Logan’s jacket tied around his hips. His head rested on his forearm and his eyes were closed. One of his arms dangled into the tub. Continuously running water poured over the porcelain and had the whole room an inch deep.

Logan splashed across the floor and turned off the tap. Devyn’s eyelids fluttered.

“Oh, that woke you up, huh?”

Devyn lifted his head partway, looked down, and made a dismayed sound.

“Just go to bed. Forget the mess.”

“No!” He looked alarmed as Logan pulled the stopper out of the tub to let it drain. He grabbed Logan’s shoulder. “Gotta get clean.”

“I put in a lot of work saving your ass just to have you drown in a tub.”

“I saved your ass, too. There were multiple ass savings involved.” His blue and gold eyes flashed up, and Logan smiled.

“True.”

Devyn ran his lip through his teeth, and his head sagged. “I felt strong, before. When we were fighting. Now I can’t stand up.”

“The adrenaline wore off and now you’re wrecked.” But Devyn shook his head.

“Not just that. When I touched the hounds...it felt like they were pulling the life out of me.”

“Well. I couldn’t touch them at all, so you got one on me.” That earned him a puzzled look. “When they came close, it was like being dipped in frozen nitrogen,” Logan explained. “Everything just stopped.”

“The guys they caught turned blue,” Devyn said. “They had icicles growing out of their skin.” He looked down at his arms.

“But that didn’t happen to you. Why not?”

“I don’t know, sir. We were fighting them, where I came from. Then they came here and we followed. But everything outside of that is—” his hands came up by his ears, clawed, like he could wring the truth out of his own head. “I can’t remember! There were all these reasons, and they’re gone!

“Alright. Calm down.”

Devyn covered his face and let out a slow breath.

The water had lowered enough. Logan put the stopper back into the tub.

Devyn glanced up. There was still blood on the bottom of his chin. Logan reached up to rub it off, and found himself staring down at those pink lips.

“Did you know you drink blood?”

“No.” A whisper.

“That’s why you got sick at the truck stop.”

A nod.

“Do you know if it’s something you were born with? Or did it happen when you were older? A teenager?” Most mutants showed power in their teens, and Logan was willing to bet this kid hadn’t passed nineteen, yet.

Devyn’s eyes shadowed and he looked into the distance. “I don’t know...but it wasn’t just me. The ones of us that were together, before the Gate, they were like me.”

“You think they’ll come for you?”

“I think whatever happened to my memory probably happened to them, too, if they got through. So maybe we’re all wandering around with no idea why we’re here, or that we can’t eat sandwiches.” He let out a humorless laugh that sounded like all the frustration and bitterness of the last few days coming out. He pushed back from the tub, tugged at the knotted arms of the jacket around his hips. It slithered off him and crumpled onto the wet floor. Blood had caked in his pubic hair, where it had flowed down from the slashes on his chest and stomach.

“What are you doing?” Logan’s tongue felt thick around the words.

“Getting clean,” Devyn said, through gritted teeth. He pushed himself up on shaking arms. Dried blood had cracked in streaks all over his arms and front. There was a deep, pitted wound in his thigh where the creature had...bitten him? Or had it just stabbed him with its beak? The wound seemed to have cauterized itself. The skin around it was black and blue.

He levered one leg over the tub with a loud clank as the manacles hit the rim. He knelt inside, then turned and sank back with a grunt of mingled satisfaction and pain. He looked sideways at Logan, and there was something in his eyes. An awareness of their position, and his vulnerability. And a defiance of that fact.

He seemed older, since the second rescue. As if the partial return of his memories came with a decade attached.

“I’ll leave you to it, then,” Logan said. He half-rose, ready to go.

Devyn’s hand closed around his arm. His tongue snaked out and wetted those plush lips.

“No, sir.” He hesitated, then said more firmly, “No.”

“You aren’t saying ‘sir’ as much, now.”

“I’m supposed to work on that.”

“According to who?”

Devyn looked lost for a moment, then shook his head. “Ghosts,” he murmured. Then more clearly, “Please stay.”

Logan sank back onto his heels.

Devyn’s hands shook opening the bottle of liquid soap, but Logan didn’t try to help. After being attacked the way he had, the boy needed enough space to fix himself up, or he’d start seeing himself as weak.

There was no doubt he had accelerated healing. The bruises and cuts on his face from the first day they had met had disappeared, since he’d fed from his kidnapper. The marks from that mutant’s claws on his chest, side, and hips were now angry purple scars, only the width of them showing how deep they’d actually gone. The claw marks from the hounds were worse; the skin had closed over, but they indented his bicep and forearm in inch-wide streaks.

“How quick will you heal, now? Do you know?” He was thinking about all the other scars that still ridged every inch of that body. Would these new wounds become old-looking scars within a week? Would all the rest disappear, leaving him smooth and new? Selfishly, he found the thought unappealing.

Devyn followed his gaze to the dented scars on his arm from the hounds. He ran the washcloth over them and grimaced. “I don’t know, exactly. It’ll disappear eventually, though. The new stuff will,” he amended.

They looked at each other, and Logan saw the light click on in Devyn’s eyes. “I just said that without thinking! That means there was a time when I was different than I am now. Cuz I don’t scar anymore, but I used to.” He looked worried. “Right?”

“Sounds like,” Logan agreed.

Devyn nodded, satisfied. “That’s something,” he said.

“It’ll come back. Just give it time.”

His platitude was met with another nod. They both knew there might not be any time.

“Sir...the scars don’t bother you?” This time, his voice was soft.

Bother me? The thought was laughable. I want to trace every ridge on your body with my tongue.

He couldn’t get a scar to stay on his skin if he tried. Devyn’s body was like some exotic work of twisted art he couldn’t get his fill of. He retained enough presence of mind not to say any of that. He doubted the young man would think well of him for it. He didn’t think well of himself for it.

What happened to being the good guy? The mocking self-admonishment came in Stryker’s voice.

“We all have scars, kid. Some of them are on the outside.”

Devyn scrubbed himself without looking up, and was silent for a while.

“We should turn back North, at some point,” Devyn said at last. “The hounds will want to stay where it’s cold.” Reading Logan’s frown, he added, “If I was sent here to go after the hounds, then the rest of my side are likely to come through in the North, too.”

“Will they be in this area?”

“Maybe not. But we can’t stay in one place waiting. If the hounds get a solid hold on this world...” he hesitated. “Things would be bad.”

Logan snorted. “Bad?”

“Well. Unless you like ice a lot. And creepy bird faced dogs. They aren’t the real problem, though. They’re basically frontrunners for the thing that really wants in.” He ran a hand through his wet hair, slicking it away from his face. “It was something that tried to take over where I came from, and it couldn’t. So it’s heading here. It wants to get strong here so it can move at us sideways. At least, that’s a piece of what I can remember. And it probably knows what we’re trying to do, now, cuz it seemed like the hounds were at that place looking for us, right? Well...for me.” He bit the inside of his cheek and frowned at the water, then up at Logan. “Sir...Logan,” he corrected himself. “Why are you helping me?”

The question was bound to come up, sooner or later. Thing was, Logan still didn’t have a good answer for it.

Because someone from my past kidnapped you. But he wasn’t kidnapped, anymore.

Because the world needs us? Egocentric in the extreme.

Because I don’t want you to leave...

“The world needs us,” Logan said with a gallant shrug.

Devyn gave him a disbelieving look.

“And I was bored.”

Eyebrows raised.

“Plus you owe me a new van. And how am I gonna collect if you get whacked?”

Those lips pulled in a wide, crooked grin, and Logan found an easy smile on his own face before he knew it was happening.

“I’ll do my best not to get whacked,” Devyn told him. “But only so I can get a job and pay you back.”

“Much appreciated.”

Chapter Text

They sat on the floor in front of the fire, both showered, both somewhat dressed. Logan was back in his bloodstained jeans, and no shirt. Devyn wore a bath robe he’d found in the closet.

“Put your hand flat.”

Logan gripped the manacle around Devyn’s wrist to keep it steady, and extended the center claw on his other hand. Devyn said nothing, but his heart beat loud and fast as he watched the back of the blade settle against his inner wrist. There was almost no space between the cuff and his skin.

“One. Two.” Logan drove his claw down after “two.” It sheared right through the manacle, missing just a sliver of metal. He was able to pop it open using only his hands.

Devyn gripped his wrist and let out an adrenaline-laced laugh. A strange expression crossed his face as he looked from Logan’s knuckles to his own bare wrist. His eyebrows drew together and he met Logan’s eyes.

“Are you oka—”

Logan didn’t get a chance to finish that thought. Devyn lunged forward, fisted his hair, and kissed him.

It was no soft press of lips. This was more of a bite, with a lot of tongue.

He rocked backward. Their momentum continued, and he slammed back onto the floor. Devyn pressed down on top of him, sucking at his mouth until he returned the kiss with equal bruising force. His mouth tasted like mint toothpaste, but under that there was a sweetness that was all him. He couldn’t get enough of that taste. They kissed until his lips hurt from Devyn gnawing on them. He kept his touches to Devyn’s face and his upper back. As much as he longed to feel more of that warm, ridged flesh under his hands, he didn’t feel right about taking this farther. Not when the young man still wore three of the four manacles he’d been tortured and assaulted in.

Not when Logan kept wondering, in a black corner of his mind, what it must have felt like for the guy who’d laid down the Braille patchwork that cried out its presence under his fingertips.

The kiss wound down on its own, turning into long licks and slow nips of flesh. Finally they just lay there with lips together, drinking each other’s breaths. Logan was the first to break the silence.

“Do I get three more of those?”

He couldn’t see Devyn grin, only felt his mouth move and the chuckle that ran through his chest. Devyn traced up Logan’s arm to his hand, then kept going until Logan gripped only the manacle around his left wrist.

“It’s worth a try.”

“Yeah,” Logan agreed. “Yeah, it is.”

~~~~

The sun was just coming up as Devyn curled into his side, in the first real bed he’d slept in for months. The bath robe and pants stayed on, by unspoken agreement.

It was as good as sex, just having someone tucked in his arms as he fell asleep.

~~~~

His nightmares were a kaleidoscope of friends dying while he clung to them, helpless. He woke bathed in sweat, panting at the ceiling.

He wasn’t the only one. Devyn’s cries had laced into the tail end of his dreams.

The young man had curled into a ball, facing away from him. His hands worked at the empty air. Logan leaned over him. Devyn was crying in his sleep. He pushed at the comforter and screamed in near silence.

“Hey. Wake up, Devyn. Wake up!” He shook Devyn’s shoulder.

This time, Logan didn’t see the blow coming.

Devyn might have broken his hand on Logan’s adamantium-coated bones, except instead of throwing a punch, he drove his palm straight up the center of Logan’s septum, crushing his nose up into his skull. Logan’s head snapped back. The next blow from an elbow hit the muscle of his jaw. The muscle cushioned Devyn’s elbow from the metal. The jaw joint snapped out of place. Another blow against his Adam’s apple, and he fell backward.

His vision cleared. He was on his back on the floor, hands up in surrender—and also to protect his face. Devyn crouched over him, panting, his fist drawn back. There was still a violent light in his eyes, but there was recognition, too.

“Oh, fuck. Ohh, fuck!”

Logan twitched as Devyn reached out to stroke his face. He pushed the hand away, put a palm flat against his own jaw, and popped it back into place. There was a series of crunches, and a moment of nauseating discomfort, as his nose straightened.

“Thought I was the only one who did that,” Logan muttered. He had to stop talking to suck back some blood from his sinuses. He spat out a red glob.

Devyn stood up. His hands kept clenching and unclenching at his sides.

“Sir—I’m sorry—I’m so sorry—”

Logan held up a hand to stop his babbling apology.

“I stabbed a girl straight through the chest once when she woke me out of a nightmare.”

He sat up and wiped blood off his lips. Seeing Devyn’s expression he added, “She was fine, though.”

Devyn looked blank for a moment, then barked out a wary huff of laughter. “Really.”

“Yeah.” He rubbed his chin and eyed the kid. “Good to see your strength coming back. We’ll need it.”

Chapter Text

They were leaving tonight.

Devyn didn’t want to. It felt safe, here in this cabin. Their own little bubble, far away from soldiers and guns and monsters.

When they sat by the fire and planned their next steps, it all seemed far away. Like they were talking in hypotheticals and this warm, comfortable place was the reality. But the sun had come and gone, and they would leave in the next two hours. Back to the soldiers. The guns.

The monsters.

He huddled in the bathtub. It felt good to soak in clean, hot water. Last night’s bath had been necessity. This one was for pleasure.

“Logan,” he said softly.

And he waited.

Footsteps came down the hall. A long, confident gait.

The bathroom door was already open. Logan’s massive form filled the doorway. His bare chest was a work of art. Devyn couldn’t keep from staring.

“You alright?”

Now. Do it now. Everything might be gone, tomorrow.

He swallowed.

“I need you.”

The man walked over to him and crouched down. “What do you need help with?”

“I don’t need help.” Devyn stretched up, and curled his hand behind Logan’s neck. “I need you.”

Logan went very still.

Devyn’s breaths couldn’t seem to get deep enough. Whatever the hesitation was, it could tip one way or another in a moment. But before long, it was Logan who spoke, his gaze distant.

“Y’know every time I fall asleep, people are dying in my dreams. Sometimes I try and help them, sometimes I’m doing the killing. But I always heal. They don’t. They just die. Or get broken so bad, they’d be better off dead.”

Wherever that train of reasoning led, it chugged away without being spoken. Chocolate brown eyes focused down on him. Deep lines creased the man’s forehead, and his knuckle slid along Devyn’s jaw.

Devyn stroked the man’s forearm, memorized the feel of hair sliding between his fingers.

“Everything might be gone, tomorrow,” he murmured. “No matter what happens right now.”

Logan’s eyes raked over his exposed body. “Yeah.”

Devyn brushed his hand across the man’s furry cheek, then ran his fingers down that arm and took hold of his wrist.

His heart thudded. This might backfire splendidly.

But it might not.

“Well...then pretend I’m just some sexy fucker you’ve never met before...” He drew Logan’s hand down into the water.

“...And let’s have a good time.”

~~~~

Logan’s mouth went dry as his hand settled over Devyn’s cock. The young man rocked his hips upward. His blue and gold eyes were hungry. It hid the vulnerability some. Not all, but some.

That was the last really coherent thought he had.

Devyn held his hand in place and thrust into it. He pulled Logan’s neck with his other hand, and Logan sank down until their lips pressed together. Their mouths opened.

It was better than last night, if that was possible. He tasted like frosted cherries and vanilla, with a hint of biting spice. Logan delved his tongue into that mouth and sought out the tantalizing flavor. The resulting moan vibrated through his tongue.

His hand began to work on its own, coaxing the young man into full arousal. His hand fit perfectly around that beautiful, thick cock. Devyn released his hand so he could grip him by the hair and shoulders.

Fingernails in his back. Teeth against his tongue.

His skin hummed like there was a low current running through him.

Devyn thrust up into his hand in perfect time to his strokes. None of the awkwardness of a new partner. It was like he could read Logan’s movements before they happened.

He grabbed Devyn’s hair and pulled him away so he could look down at him. He jerked harder than he meant to, wrenching the young man’s head back. Devyn let out a guttural cry as his throat was exposed. His eyes were half lidded: rich color peeking through the black fans of his lashes. His plush lips were swollen and red. He swallowed hard, looked beseechingly up at Logan. How could his mouth look so well-fucked already?

“Please...yes...”

Logan growled, and dove down to bite Devyn’s throat. He bit and sucked hard, chasing after that elusive taste. Devyn’s fingertips dug into his back. He squeezed and worked that sweet cock, tugging low moans out of him with each stroke of his hand.

Devyn fought to get back to his mouth again. They ate at each other, and Devyn’s hands snaked out of the tub to pull at Logan’s pants.

He reached down to help open them and draw out his cock, because his pants were crushing his hard-on. But once he was free, he grabbed Devyn’s wrists and pinned them against the lip of the tub just above his head. The young man’s lips parted; he stared at Logan’s cock, then looked up. His eyes were hot with need, but he held still. Waiting. Obedient. It was both disturbing, and unbelievably arousing.

“Let me take care of you.” Logan’s voice was barely more than a growl.

“Yes, sir,” Devyn whispered.

Fuck. His mind went blank again, flummoxed by that complete acceptance of whatever he was going to do.

Keeping Devyn’s wrists pinned, he bent down and kissed him again, but this time softly. His hand worked beneath the water. His tongue found Devyn’s. And with both, he stroked in the same coaxing rhythm. Devyn moaned sweetly beneath him. His legs came out of the tub and spread to either side of it, so he was more exposed.

Logan couldn’t stand having that solid object between them, anymore. He reached under the water and lifted Devyn out of the tub, then set him down on the bathrobe that had been discarded on the tile. Devyn reclined on his elbows, with his legs splayed. His eyes burned with hunger as he watched Logan. Waited.

“You don’t know what you’re doing to me,” Logan murmured.

“Letting you take care of me,” Devyn said. His lips twitched in a phantom grin.

Logan wanted to deliver a witty response, but all the blood had gone to his other head. He pushed out of the confining pants and tossed them aside. He crawled forward on hands and knees, and Devyn opened his legs to let him in between them. The young man’s eyes had finally left his; they were locked on his rigid dick. Devyn’s cock jumped, smacking against his own stomach. Logan grinned and grabbed it.

“Hungry boy,” he growled, and squeezed.

Yes.” The syllable was strained.

“Do you want me inside of you?”

Yes!” The word burst out of him and his eyes begged along with his mouth, along with his pounding heart and throbbing cock. “Please, yes, Logan please fuck me.” He bit his lower lip, hard, as if even the words were too much to bear. “Please, fuck me.

Logan hadn’t intended it to go this far. He’d wanted to give the young man a quick handjob and ease both their tension. But right now, with that muscular, striped body spread beneath him, there was no way he could take less than Devyn was willing to give him. He wanted the imprint of this moment on his flesh for the rest of his life.

He bent down to kiss Devyn’s belly, just below his navel. His mouth opened over a cluster of narrow scars, and he lapped at them. They rippled across his tongue.

So sweet. God...

He licked and sucked a path up that muscular chest. Devyn tensed up as he neared the bottom of the word that had been carved into him, but he didn’t linger on it, nor did he skip it. Devyn’s body melted as he got past the lettering. Logan sidetracked to bite his nipple. Some men have sensitive nipples and some don’t; his boy was the former. His spine arched, and a strangled whimper came out of him. So Logan did it again.

He fisted Devyn’s hair and held him in place for another long, breathless kiss. Then, with their lips just inches apart, he spat into his own hand and slipped it between those spread legs.

Devyn’s breath came in gasps as Logan’s long fingers traced his opening. When he pressed his middle finger against the tight swirl of muscle, Devyn’s head rocked back. He withdrew before penetration, and pressed again. And again. He could feel just how frustrated the boy was becoming, yet he held true to his word that he would let Logan have control. It was intoxicating. A man could do terrible things, with that much control.

Or he could make someone fly.

He spat in his hand again, and gave Devyn’s cock a rough tug as he pressed his finger all the way inside.

He swallowed the young man’s cry into his mouth. There was no finesse in this kiss. They were both too far gone for that. Devyn’s short fingernails tried to get traction in his back. Their tongues fought. They bit each other. Devyn’s legs wrapped around him.

A sharp pain blossomed in his lip.

Heat rushed through his mouth, as if a part of his soul was pouring out through the wound. Every nerve ending in his body seemed to wake up at once. He froze, overwhelmed.

Devyn’s eyes opened halfway. The blue in his eyes seemed lit from within. The gold, as if it reflected the sun. He sucked on Logan’s mouth, drinking him in.

Bitten, Logan thought. And then:

Vampire.

The world melted into a frenzy.

Logan ripped back to break the suction. A thin string of his blood streaked across Devyn’s face. Devyn surged up, rolled on top of him and bit the side of his chin. Logan wrestled the young man onto his belly, jerked his hair back, and left a trail of unrestrained bites along his shoulder muscle.

Where their flesh connected, it was like fireworks. The animal inside of him, the one he always fought to keep leashed, came ripping free.

Devyn twisted around to face him, fighting his hold with a strength that matched his own. Maybe even surpassed it. But he wasn’t fighting to free himself. He lunged upward to steal another violent kiss. His legs twined around Logan’s waist, drawing their bodies together. The scent they were making together slipped into his nose and set off sparks in his brain. He sucked Devyn’s tongue, while his hand twined around the boy’s throat and his thumb pressed inward.

They scrabbled at each other, each fighting for more contact. Logan finished the argument by shoving his cock hilt-deep inside Devyn’s ass in a single thrust.

Those short fingernails managed to rip skin off his arms. Devyn’s head rocked backward and he went perfectly still. His heartbeat pounded hot and fast around Logan’s cock.

A part of him wanted to savor that moment, but the rest of him was swept up by his conquest. He thrust in and out without restraint. Devyn’s strong body bucked beneath him, twisted and fought. Sanity broke through the haze. It took everything he had to hold still over that squirming body.

“Tell me,” he snarled, and his voice was bestial. The words were barely discernible; he could barely get them out of his throat. “Tell me.”

Devyn’s eyes rolled forward from the back of his head. His lips worked soundlessly. Then:

Don’...

Logan bowed his head and shuddered. Devyn bit his lip and let out a cry of frustration.

“Don’...don’t stop! Need this!”

All the hair on the back of Logan’s neck stood up at the plea.

He grabbed Devyn’s hip in one hand, his throat in the other, and started fucking him into the floor.

It was a good thing there were no neighbors for miles, because Devyn’s screams would have woken them. Logan squeezed his throat until his face turned red, then released just enough to let him breathe while still muffling his cries. The way he tried to make noise—couldn’t, because Logan was choking him—was so fucking sweet. Devyn beat at his arms and clawed at his chest in turns, pulled his chest hair til it stung, and maybe the boy knew he was just egging him on, or maybe they were both too far gone for subtlety.

Logan flipped Devyn onto his stomach and drove back into him before he could squirm away. He angled sideways and stepped on the back of the boy’s neck, pushing his face into the floor. He wrenched one of Devyn’s arms up behind his back and used it as a lever to hold him in place while he fucked that beautiful ass.

Unable to move, Devyn could only scream. Sweat gleamed on his scarred backside, highlighting the ridged muscles, the curves of his spread ass and thighs. Logan watched his cock slap into that tight body, captivated by the savage beauty of his thick meat disappearing, over and over, swallowed into Devyn’s tightness.

“Tell me you want it,” he snarled. He was in a fog, barely knew what he was saying. He got on both his knees, covered Devyn’s mouth with a wide hand and pulled his head back, holding his shoulders to force him back into the thrusts. “Why’n’tcha tell me how bad you want this?”

A wild tug at his fingers. An elbow into his ribs, and a choked whimper. Each unrelenting thrust brought another muffled cry. He slathered his tongue across the back of Devyn’s neck, felt the boy shiver. That luscious scent spilled down his throat like liquor. He breathed deeply, then released Devyn’s mouth and shoved his shoulders into the floor. He shifted to trap both of Devyn’s legs between his own, pushed down against those scar-striped shoulderblades, and pounded into him with heavy, downward thrusts. The screams became a wild music.

Logan’s eyes rolled back. He flattened Devyn into the floor and pressed down as hard as he could, as his balls shot their load deep into that glorious body. One throbbing wave after another pushed his hips into that round, bubble ass, until he dropped his forehead onto Devyn’s back, between his shoulderblades, and sighed out a long groan.

He stayed in that position for a while. Devyn’s heartbeat was a rapid flutter, engulfing his cock. Devyn’s breaths were ragged, his throat torn from screaming. Logan lazily watched his fingers trace scars along the boy’s shoulders, squeeze his sides, pet his hair.

He finally came back to himself enough to reach around Devyn’s hips. His hand found the young man’s cock and stroked it. It was slick and wet.

“You—”

He cleared his throat. Talking was hard.

“You cum?”

Devyn moaned and nodded.

Without pulling out of him, Logan turned Devyn to face him. He pulled the young man into a hug and rolled them over so he had his back on the hard tile and Devyn straddled him, speared on his softening cock, head resting in the curve of his neck.

He didn’t fall asleep, but he floated for a long, blissful time.

Chapter Text

“So it’s come to this,” Logan grumbled, as he climbed back into the Jeep and shut the door.

A heavy bundle of clothes landed against Devyn’s side. Devyn flashed his companion a sideways glance as he gunned the engine, pulling them away from the truck stop.

Logan had gone into the way station’s showers while he’d kept the Jeep running; they had been hoping against hope that someone had left some clothing there so Devyn wouldn’t be stuck in nothing but a bath robe. They needed to save their actual money for gas. Looked as though someone had indeed trusted their clothes to the universe, and were gonna be pissed as soon as they came out of the shower to find themselves wet and naked when it was twenty degrees out.

“Poor guy better have a backup set of clothes in his truck,” Logan said.

“You could have just taken a turn naked. I wouldn’t complain.”

“I’m good.” Logan’s mouth curved up, and he raked his eyes over Devyn’s body. “Been enjoyin’ the scenery.” Logan’s clothing was grimy with dirt and blood, and the shirt was torn, but at least he had shoes. Devyn’s feet were freezing.

“Here—hold the wheel and we can switch places.” Devyn flicked on the cruise control and undid his seatbelt. He shoved the bundle of clothing into the passenger footwell, around Logan’s legs.

“What—now?

Without waiting for him to comply, Devyn slid across the flat front seat and lifted up, making space for Logan to slide over behind him. Logan cursed, but reached over to snatch hold of the wheel while he scooted across the vehicle.

“Coulda just pulled over,” Logan growled.

“Yes, sir. But, trucker Bob may already be tearing down the highway with murdery sorts of thoughts in his head. So really it’s for your own safety.”

“You were a lot less snarky when you couldn’t remember anything. Is this trend gonna get worse as your memories come back?”

Devyn shot a look at his companion’s profile. His confident humor faltered.

Somewhere in the back of his head, there was a voice. It instructed him on how to be respectful. How to obey. When he got it wrong, there was punishment that left him unable to stand. Unable to do anything but scream until his voice was gone.

“Hey. You know I’m just kidding.”

Logan’s voice snapped him back to reality.

“I know.” He tried to give an easy smile, to show nothing was wrong. Logan’s frown said it didn’t work too well.

Devyn ducked his head and sorted through the stolen clothing. Underwear—no, he wasn’t using another guy’s briefs. But the long-sleeved blue shirt and jeans looked like they’d fit. Most importantly, the brown work boots fit him, with just a bit of extra space in the toe. He let out a relieved breath and slipped the bath robe off his shoulders.

“Hang on a sec.”

Devyn glanced over. Logan had lit another cigar; it dangled from the far side of his mouth.

“Sir?”

Logan crooked two fingers, then pointed at the spot right next to him. Devyn flushed. They’d had sex three times at the cabin, but it hadn’t been enough. He wasn’t sure it could ever be enough. His neck still throbbed from those bites, and he didn’t want the pain to stop. It made him feel owned.

As soon as he was close, Logan fisted his hair. His limbs felt like water as that big hand pushed his head down into Logan’s lap. Heat started in his cheeks, crept down his chest and pooled in his cock.

His nose met the older man’s jeans, and he breathed deeply. The smell of him came through the clothing, rich and musky. A groan snaked out of Devyn’s throat. He had the fly open in seconds, and sucked Logan’s soft cock into his mouth. It made a delicious mouthful and then some. He let out a muffled, eager sound and worked his tongue, coaxing the length to grow down his throat until he could no longer take it all.

A large hand deliberately squeezed the fresh bruises on his neck and shoulder where Logan had bitten him. Looked like he wasn’t the only one who appreciated those marks. Devyn hummed around that thick cock, inciting a low, reciprocal sound from above him. Logan’s hand splayed out on his shoulder and traced across the ridges of his back. He seemed fascinated by the tactile sensation of those scars. The touches were a warm balm on Devyn’s insides. It made him feel more sure of himself.

Logan thrust up into his mouth, shoved his head down when he tried to back off. He could barely breathe. Didn’t want to breathe.

“You watch those fangs of yours,” the man grunted.

Devyn tried to pull back to say that he knew what he was doing, but a big hand on the back of his neck forced him down until his throat was full, and the words fled. He was consumed by the stretch in his throat that was close to pain, by the lightheadedness and pressure that left him unaware of anything else but the thick rod filling him up.

He clung to Logan’s chest and thigh, and let himself be used.

I will never get enough of this.

~~~~

Several hours later, Devyn had fallen asleep with his head pillowed on Logan’s thigh. As they pulled into a gas station, the Jeep hit a bump and Logan heard the boy’s heartrate change from sleeping to waking. He stroked Devyn’s cheek.

“Gettin’ gas and food.”

“Yes, sir.” Devyn sat up, rubbed his face. “Are we good for money?”

“No. Gone through ‘bout everything I had in my wallet. So we might have to tear out of here in a hurry.”

Devyn’s hand landed on his arm. “Wait. Please.”

Logan killed the engine. “For what?”

He looked over, and saw Devyn’s fingertips pressing at his cheek, just above the canines. Those sapphire and gold eyes were focused across the parking lot. Logan followed his gaze. A man had just stepped out of his truck and was walking into the convenience store. He was tall and brawny, and moved with a sure gait.

“I’ll take care of it,” Devyn murmured. “I’m hungry, too.”

Logan looked from the closing door of the shop back to the boy, who seemed half a world away. “You gonna go chew on that guy? Won’t he notice and cause a problem?”

“He’ll notice,” Devyn said, in that faraway voice. “But he won’t cause a problem.”

~~~~

The man came and went from the shop. Logan went to the pay phone while Devyn circled the man’s truck. In one ear was the click of coins, the blip of a string of numbers he’d memorized years ago. In the other ear was Devyn, that fuck-me voice amped up to eleven, and he was tempted to hang up and march back over to them, take the boy by the ear and rut him against the truck as punishment for using that voice with anyone but him.

Excuse me, sir.

That was all. Then silence, the click of the truck door closing, and a deep moan that carried through the vehicle’s shell to die on the night air.

“Xavier Academy for Gifted Youngsters,” came a female voice out of the phone. Logan started, gripped the side of the pay phone cabinet to steady himself.

Jesus, Logan. Get a grip.

“Yeah—uh, I’m looking for—”

Jean. Scott. The Professor. But they’re dead, all of them, and I don’t know half you fucking people, anymore.

“—Ororo Munroe. Is she available? Tell her it’s Logan.”

“One moment, please.”

A minute passed while memories he did possess—most of them unwanted, some of them gut-wrenching—swam through his mind.

There was a reason he’d taken a break from the team.

“Logan?” That breathy voice. Something in his chest uncoiled upon hearing it.

“Storm,” he said, and heard the relief in his own voice. And then, without thinking, “I miss you.”

“...But, this isn’t a friendly catch-up call,” she finished. He could hear the quirk on her lips. It eased the guilt some.

“No. It isn’t.”

He explained the situation as best he could, leaving out the achingly familiar mutant he’d killed, and the dimension-jumping (because he wasn’t sure if that’s what it was, or whether he could explain it in any case). All the rest—finding Devyn on the road, the kidnap by the military, the attack from the hounds, came spilling out of him.

“I don’t think it’s chance that you called, Logan. We’ve been getting reports of those animals you describe—”

“They’re not animals,” Logan cut in. “I don’t know what they are, but they aren’t animals.”

“No. I suppose not.”

Silence fell. Maybe she was waiting on him to ask the question that caught in his chest. He suspected that she was. She was intuitive like that.

He scented Devyn approaching. A pale hand reached up to his, pressed something into it. Logan checked his palm, and his eyebrows went up. It was a roll of twenties. Tall dark and bitten must have just gotten paid.

He looked up, felt the blood rush from one head to the other at the sight of Devyn’s swollen lips and vibrant eyes. He reached up to thumb a streak of blood off the boy’s chin. Plush lips curved in an afterglow smile, and a possessive streak made him lean down to claim that smile with his mouth.

“We’re in Illinois,” he said as he pulled back. “Could make it to New York by tomorrow.” He cleared his throat. “Could, ah, use a little help on this one.”

Another beat of silence. He was betting she’d heard the kiss, but Storm never gave him shit. She was too classy for that.

“I may be able to find a room for you both,” she said, and there was a suspicious quiver in her voice, like a restrained chuckle. “We’ll expect you tomorrow.”

“See you then.”

“And Logan?”

The receiver was halfway to the cradle. He brought it back to his ear.

“Yeah?”

“I missed you, too.”

Chapter Text

Devyn was half-dozing, even though he was awake and had his eyes open. Hints and flickers of memory rolled through his mind, never enough to catch hold of. Finally, a dip in the road startled him back to himself. He blinked. It was as if they’d just driven through a cloud, and the remnants of it left him dusted by mist.

“You went away for a bit.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, you’re back just in time. We’re here.”

Logan stopped the car at an automatic gate. A camera somewhere must have picked them up, because the gate opened, and he rolled up the driveway until they were nestled in the curve of an enormous mansion.

Devyn sat up straight. There was a cluster of teens across the manicured yard, but otherwise, the massive building was quiet. One of the front double doors opened, and a stylishly dressed, slender woman with dark skin and white hair came out.

Devyn glanced back at Logan in time to see a warm smile light up his face.

He’s coming home. The realization gave him a sympathetic rush of joy, but there was sadness laced through it, too, like choking vines.

“C’mon,” the man said, then slipped out the door and walked around the Jeep.

Devyn opened his door more slowly. The woman and Logan met at arm’s length, and gripped each other’s hands. She beamed up at him.

“So good to see you.”

“You too, darlin.’”

A girl slipped out of the same door the woman had come from. She wore a thin turtleneck with elbow-high gloves. A white streak shot through her mahogany hair. She squealed, “Logan!” and dashed down the steps, only stopping just before she would have rammed into Logan’s chest.

“Hey there, kid,” he said, and grabbed her for a side hug. The grin almost split her face.

“Logan,” the first woman said, “would you like to introduce your friend?”

Three pairs of eyes turned to Devyn, still half-hidden behind the open door of the Jeep. His stomach fluttered.

“Devyn, this is Rogue. She’s a student, here, and a friend.”

He bowed his head toward the girl, who was studying him with frank curiosity.

“Pleased to meet you, miss.” It just came out of his mouth; his brain told him it was the thing to say when introduced to a girl. But he caught her expression of puzzlement, and Logan’s frown, and knew something had been wrong with his response.

The other woman approached him. “And my name is Ororo,” she said. “We’re pleased to welcome you to the Academy.” Her hand came out, open.

Reaching for him.

.

.

Darkness slammed down over the tranquil lawn, as if night had come in an instant.

Devyn was alone. He stumbled backward, curling into himself like he’d been kicked in the stomach.

Look at what you did. LOOK AT HER!

The voice roiled up from everywhere at once. Devyn’s heart shot into his throat and choked him. A pressure roared inside his head: something pushing through that didn’t fit there. Something that would shatter the world from the very core, if it came loose.

A man’s voice hummed low in his ear. A voice he knew better than he knew his own thoughts. The words burned scars into his brain, burned him to his center. A mark that would never come clean.

Son. You need to open your eyes, and see what you did to your mother.

~~~~

Terror was a complex scent. It could be sour, acrid, or spicy. It could smell so exquisite that it would inspire the inner hunter to claw its way to the surface. But when mixed with despair, it was a death-smell.

Logan lunged forward the moment before Devyn fell backward. His back hit the Jeep and his head cracked against the edge of the window. He didn’t even flinch. His eyes were wide open, staring at nothing. Logan caught him mid-collapse and eased him to sit on the gravel.

“Oh! What happened?” Storm knelt beside them, reached out to touch Devyn’s cheek.

“Wait!” Logan held up a hand to block her.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know, just...”

Why had he stopped her? He replayed the scene: the moment her hand went out, Devyn saw it, and the combined scent of terror and despair had burst out of every pore on his body.

“Just give him a minute,” he finally said.

“I’ll get Hank,” Rogue blurted, and ran back inside. Logan looked a question up at Storm.

“Hank? Blue fuzzy?”

Her lips thinned in an apologetic smile. “Yes, Hank has been...filling in.”

There was an ocean unsaid behind that statement. Filling in. Because Dr. Jean Gray was dead, and it couldn’t be that easy to wrangle up a genius physician who happened to also be adept at treating mutants with any number of volatile maladies.

“Oh.”

Devyn began to tremble from head to toe. Logan exhaled, hard, trying instinctively to get that sick smell out of his nose. It did no good. The only solution would be to put some distance between them, and he couldn’t.

He couldn’t.

He pinned Devyn’s arms to his sides and squeezed him tight. The kid’s teeth were chattering.

“Hey. Hey, it’s okay. You’re gonna be fine.”

Every time I fall asleep, people are dying in my dreams.

Every time.

Chapter Text

“It wasn’t a seizure—not exactly. But his neurons have been having fits since I got the machine on him.”

“How is that not a seizure?” Logan scowled at the fuzzy back of Hank’s head. He, Hank, Storm, and a still-unconscious Devyn were in the infirmary. Rogue was there, too, holding gloved hands with her little ice-boy friend, Bobby. Logan had told them to get back to class, but for the first time since he’d left the Academy, he was confronted with people who knew his bark from his bite. Rogue had dug her heels in, and Logan had relented as long as they stayed out of the way.

The infirmary had changed since he’d last been here. Jean’s preference for muted white and steel was now overrun with tangles of gadgetry that looked like it had been cobbled together in a maniac’s workshop.

And the maniac has blue fur and an Oxford accent.

“Well, I have a guess,” Hank said, “and it is related to your assertion that an episode of complete corporeal spatial dislocation was what originally caused his memory loss.”

“Oh, for Chrissakes,” Logan muttered. “Just spit out the theory, doc.”

Hank swiveled in his chair to face Logan. One enormous, bare foot with sharp toenails rested on his opposite knee. He steepled his index fingers below his chin.

“My guess, Logan, please. I would never be taken seriously in academia again if I were known to have based a theory on such tenuous evidence.”

Tension began to throb between Logan’s eyebrows. Seeing this, Hank hastily continued. “All of the activity has been localized to three regions: the hippocampus, the neocortex, and the amygdala.”

“This may come as a shock to you, but I haven’t studied neuroscience.”

“Memory!” Rogue cut in.

“Brava to the young lady!” Hank dipped his chin to smile over his reading glasses at her. “You were listening during my lectures last semester. Yes, those are the regions of the brain where explicit long-term memory is stored. That is, memories of things that happened to you, things you’ve done. Now, what I’m reviewing here,” he gestured to the large screen behind him, “is a hypermagnification of the neural network inside the patient’s amygdala. This is where the activity has been the strongest. The amygdala is where the brain consigns emotional significance to events. It is the main determinant in how the brain processes memories that evoke fear.”

Logan almost told Hank to hurry it along, before he recognized the correlation between what the man was saying to the spike of absolute terror he’d smelled on Devyn as he’d passed out. Memories that evoke fear.

“I won’t bore you with all the details.” Hank shook his head at Logan’s impatience. “Let me break it into bite-sized pieces. What I’ve observed over the last thirty minutes appears to have been a surge of explicit long-term memory encoding, along with structural changes in the amygdala. When I first put the sensors on him, the activity was higher than anything I have ever seen. A virtual Big Bang of new connectivity. However, in the last fifteen minutes or so, several large sections of the new formations have separated from the rest of the network. Since they began to separate, the activity has slowed a great deal.”

Logan pinched the bridge of his nose. Hank could not speak in less than three syllables a word to save his own life.

“Bite size, Hank. Bite size.”

“Yes. My apologies.” Hank cleared his throat, scratched his chin, then leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers across his stomach. “I would guess,” he emphasized the word, “that your friend remembered a highly traumatic event, his brain shut down to cope, and it is now working to wall off the memory from the rest of his consciousness.”

Logan frowned. “Is that normal?”

Hank tipped his head back. “Ah. I would say, it is a normal response to an abnormal situation. The brain is a complex and malleable organ. Why, I once met a man who taught himself to take a mental snapshot of the front page of the New York Times every single day. He could recite the front page story from January 15, 2007 to you, verbatim! Then there was this drug store clerk, I met her in grad school, when I was fourteen...”

Hank’s voice had turned to an ebullient drone. Logan shut him out and went to the table where Devyn lay, with a dozen different wires taped to his temples and chest. Logan had wrapped his torso in a thin sheet, both to protect him from the cold, and to hide the word that had been carved on his chest from the curious stares of Rogue and her boyfriend. Devyn’s scar-striped arms lay on top of the sheet, and the two teenagers had barely stopped staring at them all the while they’d been here. Hank and Storm were more subtle, but he was glad Devyn hadn’t seen the horror on their faces when his shirt had come off.

He pulled a rolling stool over and sat next to Devyn. He traced the side of the young man’s face, down his pale neck, to the semicircle scars that someone had bitten into him.

Hell. The boy’s whole body was a roadmap of traumatic events.

“He looks very young,” Storm said, as she came up beside him.

“Too young for me, ya mean?”

“Yes,” she said simply, and Logan huffed. She gestured to the stripes on Devyn’s exposed arms. “But also for this. It wasn’t done all at once.”

“‘F I ever find the fucker that did it, he’ll look ten times worse b’fore I’m done.”

Storm said nothing to that, and after a while, he felt her move away. He’d half expected an argument about their age difference, or even horror directed at him for being with another man.

His fingers drifted lower down Devyn’s neck, to a series of semicircular bruises that trailed over his shoulder. His own teeth had left those marks.

Should he feel guilty? Ashamed?

He didn’t. Not even a little.

~~~~

Devyn sat, holding his knees, in a bed of smooth river stones. He allowed the gently flowing stream to wash over him. Tiny fish nipped at his legs. An expanse of stars opened above him, and a distant, full moon, with two smaller moons to the side of it.

“Pretty, ain’t it.” The gruff voice came from beside him.

“Sir, yes, sir,” Devyn answered, staring upward.

“We’ll be gone from here in a week’s time. Next place maybe won’t be as nice.”

Devyn glanced sideways. His companion wasn’t one for casual words, though he’d opened up over time. He had a wit that was like being slapped in the face. Devyn had learned to love it—even when he hated it.

Bright silver eyes flashed down at him from a wolfish, bearded face. Hair the color of steel made the man seem old on first glance, but it was just the way he was. Timeless.

The man’s arm settled over his shoulders. They were both naked, and comfortable with each other. It was a perfect moment.

“One of the dumbest ass things people do is hide away from the things that feel good, cuz they’re afraid of losing it.” The man’s drawling voice was like a mild earthquake; it rumbled through Devyn’s whole body. “Everything in the many verses is gonna die, boy. A cut flower, you and me, and the stars you’re lookin’ at. Live in this moment and you can appreciate it for what it is.”

Devyn frowned over that for a while before he said anything. The man wanted him to speak his mind, but it was a hard habit to get into.

“Some things, though...it’s too much. To have a little, and then...” He rubbed his legs, which suddenly felt cold. His voice trailed off.

“It ain’t gonna be enough until you make it enough.” He swept his arm out to encompass the scene before them: the lush trees, the chirping insects, the open sky untouched by city light. “If this single moment right here ain’t enough for you, it’s your head that’s fucked. Life don’t fill you up and keep you that way. You get to be full sometimes and then hungry awhile. Ain’t no reason not to eat.”

Devyn’s lip curved in a sideways smile. “I don’t eat, sir.”

His companion had pulled more and more words from him over the time they’d been together, and Devyn had slowly learned that he could make jokes without being attacked. It always felt a bit like jumping off a ledge, but he was getting used to it.

The big man grinned down at him, baring sharp, white teeth. The canines, and the teeth in front and back of them, were sharp as knives. Serrated, like a shark’s. He took Devyn’s jaw in a massive hand. The man’s thumb caressed over his lower lip, and Devyn’s stomach fluttered.

“Yeah you do,” the man rumbled. “You always swallow.”

That surprised him into laughter. It felt strange to laugh freely. But the man laughed with him, and it felt good.

A warm glow filled his chest, and his companion pushed him onto his back. Devyn tensed his stomach to keep his head out of the water, but a big hand cradled the back of his head and kept him up. He sighed in pleasure and melted back into that supporting hand. The warm river water whispered over his arms and chest. His lover’s shadowed face was surrounded by a crown of stars.

“You’re gonna have to let go, now.”

“Sir?” Devyn’s smile faltered.

The man leaned down over him, blocking the stars. Full lips brushed his own, and breath came warm against his mouth.

“This place already come and gone a long time ago, boy. And so did I. Time for you to let go.”

A sensation like icy raindrops shivered down Devyn’s spine as he realized the man’s hand was going to release the back of his head. Once his head went under the water, he’d be back in the place he’d come here to escape.

“No. Please, don’t.”

He reached up to hold the man’s arms, but his hands didn’t obey him.

The stars were still blotted out, but he no longer sensed the man’s presence hovering over him. No longer felt the water against his skin. Instead, there was a firm slab at his back, and his arms were tucked at his sides.

He was cold. Cold all over. And he was alone. His breath reflected back onto his face. Four sides and a lid. Ventilation holes, but no light.

“Not again,” he whispered.

Chapter Text

Hank was explaining something about the hypothalamus to Rogue and Bobby when his cheerful monologue was interrupted by a whirring sound from his laptop. He turned to it and frowned at the screen.

“Oh,” he said softly. “Oh, my.”

Logan had no need of another long-winded explanation; the spike of adrenaline had hit his nostrils just before the laptop had started making noise. He bent over Devyn’s prone form.

Sapphire and gold eyes flew wide.

Devyn screamed, and surged upward. Logan caught his shoulders, remembering too late how it had gone the last time he’d attempted to ease the kid out of a nightmare.

A flare, like banked coals, sizzled through the gold ring in Devyn’s eyes. The sapphire blue roiled like a stormy sea. Logan had a fraction of a second to feel wonder at how beautiful, how alien it was.

Then the kid twisted in his grip, levered Logan’s right arm up and out, and wrenched his shoulder from its socket.

Of the rest of them, ice-boy was the quickest to act. As Devyn leapt from the bed, wires tearing both from him and from the machines, Bobby threw out his arm. A foot-thick, concave wall of ice formed in front of Devyn’s headlong charge. Devyn skidded to a stop, fell down, and scrambled to the side to run around the wall. But it spread faster than he could move, until he was completely encircled. It was already chest height, and grew quickly upward until it was well overhead.

Everyone stood in shock for a moment—except for Logan, who was listening hard. A triple-time beat, muffled behind the thick ice: Devyn’s heartbeat. A shuffling, scritching noise: testing the walls of his prison. Then a hard bang and a snarl, followed by more bangs.

Logan approached the ice wall and put his hands against it.

The banging went silent.

A cold trickle of water wound between his fingers and down the back of his hand. More ice water followed, until his hands were wet and he pulled them back.

Melting?

It should’ve been a warning, but he didn’t catch on in time.

A cloud of steam exploded in his face. He flew backward. Blisters formed, popped, and healed across his hands and cheeks in seconds. Half the room was obscured, for a moment, by white.

Devyn emerged from the thick cloud, which was all that remained of the ice prison. Steam tentacles clung to his limbs he stalked forward. That unearthly glow sizzled through his eyes. His glare was fixed on Bobby.

Devyn charged forward. His expression promised murder. Logan lunged for them, but he was too far to the side. His stomach went cold. Devyn was strong as fuck. He could kill the other kid instantly, if he landed a single good hit.

It turned into a moot point when Rogue sprang between the two boys with a shout of, “No!” Her hands were still gloved; she couldn’t bare her skin quickly enough to use her power. To all appearances she was no threat, but Devyn braked on his heel like she’d brandished a gun, and stumbled backwards before he could touch her. More adrenaline poured into the air, and it was mostly from him.

It made no sense, but somehow Rogue had just scared him shitless.

Hide, then, you coward!” Devyn shouted.

Bobby’s face went bright red. He stepped around Rogue and shot back, “Says the guy who just nearly wet himself!” Which just went to show how fucking young he was.

“I’m protecting her!” Devyn’s hands were shaking hard. Ice-boy didn’t seem to notice that.

“No need.” Bobby’s grin was a baring of teeth. He gestured, and a wall of ice sprang up behind him, hiding away Rogue, Hank, and Storm.

“Bobby!” Rogue shouted. “You stop it right now!”

Bobby!” Storm’s voice was stern.

Enough of this shit.

“Devyn.”

Just that. Just one word.

Devyn turned slowly. From the confusion on his face, he must have been seeing Logan in the room for the first time. His eyebrows drew together; he looked from Logan to the ice wall, to Bobby, and around the room, taking in all the machines and gadgets. He shook his head. He took one step backward, then another.

“No,” he whispered. His hands went to his head, touched wires and electrodes. He flinched, then ripped them away, let them fall to the ground, and put his palms to his forehead. “You’re not real. This is isn’t real.”

On the other side of the ice, Rogue and Storm were both giving Bobby hell. Ice-boy held his hand out, and the wall seemed to shrink and suck back into his palm, but he never took his eyes off Devyn.

Logan walked forward, hands open at his sides. “Devyn.”

Devyn’s chin dropped. He walked slowly backward, muttering to himself. “He said to let go and I fell through to the Box. Then I fell through there, and came here. And before that, I fell through the Gate, and they said the Gate could break your mind.” It sounded like he was reasoning things out, but Logan didn’t much care for the track he was going down.

“You’re not dreaming. We drove here together.”

Devyn ignored him, still muttering down at his hands. “And these are the pieces that got pushed together. All these random pieces.”

“You met Rogue and Storm. And you passed out. We brought you to the infirmary and the doc hooked you up to a machine to try and figure out why you wouldn’t wake up.”

The young man sank down to sit on the floor. He put his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Logan knelt in front of him.

“We’re different than the people where you came from. Remember? I have the claws. Ice-boy shoots ice out his ass. But we’re real, and we’re not tryin’ to hurt you.”

There was a short stretch of silence, then Devyn raised his head. He looked past Logan’s shoulder, and a bemused expression crossed his face. Logan followed his gaze, and realized the kid had just spotted Big, Blue and Furry, looking like the epitome of hallucination chic in his pinstriped charcoal suit and a tie that matched his fur.

“Oh, and that’s Hank. He’s blue and smart.” Fuck.

Devyn nodded, as if this were a perfectly reasonable explanation. Then he spoke, with a brittle calm.

“Kirjan. If you can hear me, don’t send anyone else through. And get me out. Something went wrong with the Gate.”

Logan’s shoulders sagged. Clearly, talking would take them nowhere. But if words couldn’t break through, maybe he could use something else. Something that would touch deeper than words could reach.

He pushed up his right sleeve, extended his center claw, and slashed a deep, red ravine into his forearm. Rogue yelped, somewhere off to the side. Blood sprayed for half a second before the arteries mended and the flesh began to knit back together. He reached out with his bloody arm and rested his palm against Devyn’s cheek.

“Taste me, and tell me I’m not real.”

Devyn’s eyes had fixated, predator-sharp on the closing wound. He slid forward with liquid grace, cupped Logan’s elbow, and licked a long stripe through the blood. His eyes went unfocused, and his eyelids fluttered. A whimper rushed out of him and hit Logan right in the gut with a primal hunger. Electric sparks tingled through his arm from Devyn’s tongue. He could honestly say he’d never in his life considered a slashed wrist to be a turn-on, but when Devyn’s plush lips opened and he delved into the gash, licking and sucking, Logan’s body lit up like a teenage virgin at a strip bar. He groaned out loud.

He felt it when the last edges of the wound closed over. Devyn rose up and pressed against him, lithe and warm. Logan gathered that beautiful, striped body into his arms, well aware that he was outing them to the whole room. Devyn gripped his back, and when lips brushed against his throat, he squeezed Devyn’s sides hard enough to leave hand-shaped bruises. Not to stop him, but to goad him on. The scent of lust in his nostrils had him drinking the air greedily. He was sensible enough to realize he was drunk on the boy’s pheromones, and intoxicated enough not to give a shit.

Devyn’s fingers curled through his hair and gripped it, holding his head to the side. His lips parted, and he licked a slow, wet line up Logan’s neck, tracing the carotid artery. It was one of the hottest fucking things anyone had ever done to him. He growled and pushed his hips up, was rewarded with the press of Devyn’s crotch against his bulging jeans.

The licking stopped, and Devyn’s warm breath fluttered, unsteady, against his throat.

Logan,” he whispered, just before he bit down.

~~~~

Bits and shards.

Impressions rushed over his tongue like rainbow paint, filled his mind with a splatter of images he could barely comprehend.

A dead-eyed man with colonel stripes on his chest, looking down at him from a high platform.

A musket against his shoulder, a scene out of a Civil War reenactment. But the smell of entrails baking in the sun was very, very real.

A red-haired woman, dead in his arms. Her skin still warm against his knuckles. Grief that threatened to break his sanity.

Eyes like tarnished blades, looking down at him with dark humor.

A shock of recognition rushed through him, and he clung to this scene. He tried to speak, but there was only a slow hiss of air like he was a leaky balloon. His vision blurred and the man’s face became a tan streak, but his voice was clear and terribly familiar.

“You went an’ stepped on a land mine. That was a dumbshit thing to do. Took me all day to pull the biggest pieces back together.”

The surface he was lying on dipped down as the man climbed onto it and straddled him. His weight settled down on Logan’s hips. It felt like all the bones in Logan’s pelvis were being held together by tape, and they crunched together under the weight. He tried to scream, and managed a low grunt. Claws dug into his chest, adding fresh red pain to the throb that burned through his entire body.

Victor grinned savagely, leaned down, and brushed a kiss over his lips.

“Welcome back, little brother.”

~~~~

Devyn jerked back with a gasp. Blood fell out of his mouth, fell onto Logan’s own lips and he realized he was on top of the larger man, straddling him on the floor just like Victor had straddled Logan in the...

What had that been? A dream? Vision?

Memory?

Logan’s eyes half-opened. He licked the blood from his lips. He squeezed Devyn’s hips, slid his hands up and stroked the scars at his lower back. He smelled like cum and sweat. There were other smells in the room, too: antiseptic, plastic and metal, and four other people. He could distinguish the individual scent of each of them. And beyond them all, beyond the walls and ceiling and even the floor, there were other lives moving about. None of them noticed him—except one, far in the distance, but it was soon obscured by the riot of life that was close by. He almost felt that he could reach out and touch any one of them with his mind, if he chose to. But rather than flooring him with sensory overload, it felt natural. Like his senses had been smothered, before, and he was just starting to get back to normal.

The wound in Logan’s throat had closed, but the man recovered from the after effects of the feeding more slowly. The sensual smile faded, his forehead creased, and his eyes turned sideways, toward where the others stood watching. Then he closed his eyes, snorted, and shot a wry smile upward.

“You believe me now?”

It was a loaded question, considering the scene Devyn had just stolen from Logan’s mind. But he answered the question as it had been intended.

“Yes, sir.”

Chapter Text

Devyn looked out the window, down to a verdant yard where a dozen teenagers...mutants...exercised their various powers.

He was in an upper room of the mansion. Hank had produced a thin, long-sleeved shirt for him to wear. Logan, Ororo (or Storm, as Logan called her), and he were sittting around a table with a three-dimensional map. Storm messed around with the tablet that controlled the map, while Logan rubbed between his knuckles and stared off into the distance. Hank was off making tea, of all things, and there was an incongruous normalcy to that which seemed to make everything ten times more surreal. “Ice-boy” and Rogue had been sent on their way after they left the infirmary, which suited Devyn fine. They’d stared so hard at his scars it made him feel like a freak, and both had been giving weird looks to him and Logan, who had needed a few minutes to clean up after Devyn had fed from him.

Whatever had happened to him, earlier, it wasn’t the paradigm shifting knowledge dump he could have hoped for. But it had done something, because bits of understanding kept rising to the surface when prompted.

That thing with the ice...that baffled him, mostly because everyone was making a big deal out of what he’d done. Storm, especially, had wanted to know more about his “powers,” and he didn’t know what to say. The ice wall had trapped him. He’d seen how it was put together, and he had taken it apart again. It had been perfectly clear while he was doing it. Yet, all of them seemed boggled by his explanation. So maybe, in retrospect, that was another “memory” that had surfaced.

He seemed more able to rise to situations as they came up, now. Problem was, he was running on intuition. He didn’t know what he was capable of, so he couldn’t make a plan.

He wanted to leave. There were so many people in this building, he felt smothered by the weight of their presence. He wanted to be on the road again, out in the wide open with Logan’s hand on his thigh as scenery blurred past them.

Or maybe just on his own. He was having a hard time looking at Logan, right now.

An enormous, blue hand set down a mug of green tea in front of him. Devyn looked up, thanked Hank, and cradled the mug. Though he didn’t drink it, the warmth and scent were comforting.

“Ready, Hank?” Storm asked. The man nodded, and she continued. “Three days ago, we pinged eight newscasts and police reports of these creatures in the Northern United States and Canada. Yesterday, there were twenty-two, and today there have been over forty. Those are just the ones that our early-warning system gleaned for us. The creatures are being described as dogs, so there are probably a lot more that we’ve missed. But the reports of people being frozen all the way through have been everywhere. We have this video—”

She paused, and an image popped up in the middle of the table. A video from behind a press of people who stood around a slender woman who was frozen like a statue. Her skin grayish-blue. Her face twisted in a silent scream. One of the onlookers tried to take her by the arm that was outstretched as if to protect herself, and it broke at the shoulder, crashed to the ground, and shattered. Screams, and someone near the camera yelling, “holy shit!”

Storm cut the feed, and the image disappeared.

“Piotr flew to Toronto today to gather information,” Hank said. “We thought there was a mutant who was doing this. But from what you’ve told us, Devyn, I think his investigation will be a dead end.”

Once Devyn had gotten past the initial shock of his appearance, he’d found Hank to be thoughtful and gentle. So when Hank had turned cerulean eyes to him, earlier, and posed his questions, Devyn had explained everything as best he could. The questions had gone on for a long time.

“Sir,” Devyn said to Hank, “I need to look for the rest of my people. Has your computer found anything on them?”

“I started the scan about ten minutes ago,” Hank said. “But there are a lot of, ah,” he cleared his throat and made air quotes, “‘vampire’ sightings for the AI to go through. We are also watching hospital admissions for any reports of amnesiacs.”

Devyn drummed his fingers on his opposite wrist. He was sure he could find them, if he was close enough, but an in-person search of the continent was impossible. Would he stay in one place, and wait for their computer system to find that chance mention in a news article or police report? How long would that take?

“The hounds might come here,” he muttered. He didn’t want to jeopardize his ability to stay here, but he had to be sure they were aware of the risk. “They found me at that army base.”

Storm raised her eyebrows in a haughty expression. “Are you afraid that the enemy might feed itself to us at our strongest point? I think that would not go well for them.”

Hank, though, turned a keen look on Devyn. “Can you tell us how you defeated the hounds, as you call them? What did you do?”

Logan turned to him, as well. He knew they wanted a way to replicate his success. Problem was, he couldn’t give it to them.

“I don’t think I can explain it well.”

“Just do your best,” Hank said with a smile, and it struck him again how kind those eyes were. Kind, and a little sad.

He looked down at his hands. “Once I had my hands on it, I just...reached inside. I felt where it was connected to something else, and then I pulled that, and it broke. Then it died.”

The other three exchanged glances, each clearly thinking how little this helped them.

“I’m sorry. I wish it was something I could teach you.”

“That’s quite alright, Devyn,” Hank said.

But it wasn’t. It wasn’t at all. They were facing an army of innumerable enemies, and they had only one sword.

“Sir,” Devyn began, then lowered his head and put a hand over his forehead to hide his eyes from the others. Something else had changed, since waking in the infirmary. Some push-and-pull had started inside of him. One part of him said he had to stay silent until he was asked a question, while another said his voice was crucial to the discussion. All of it tied back to an old life that he couldn’t remember, and being left so uncertain, so helpless to stop it, made him want to scream. “Sir,” he said again, and his voice was rough. “Aren’t any of your people able to use...powers...to search for the others like me, instead of us waiting for a news report?”

There was a weighted silence. Devyn glanced up. Hank and Storm were exchanging glances, tried to share them with Logan, but he just glared at the ceiling. Clearly, he had just touched a nerve.

“No,” Storm said at last. “We don’t have anyone like that.”

Chapter Text

Logan came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, and a few drops of water still snaking down the back of his neck. Devyn stood fully dressed at the side of the bed—the queen-sized and only bed in the room that Storm had given them. The boy’s shoulders stiffened as soon as Logan came into the room.

“Alright. What is it.” His voice came out gruff. Devyn had been twitchy with him ever since the incident in the infirmary, and downright sullen since they were alone together.

He’d anticipated more prying to get his answer, so he was surprised when Devyn rounded on him.

Why didn’t you tell me what that guy was to you?”

“What?” But his confusion seemed to infuriate the boy.

The army fuck who tried to rape me! ” Devyn shouted. He jerked up his shirt and pointed to the rapidly fading claw marks on his belly, now almost lost among all the older scars. “The one who cut me up and tortured me! Why did you lie!? ” His face was flushed, now, and there was a telltale glow in his eyes.

Logan was flummoxed by the rage. He hadn’t considered it a lie, not to tell the kid about the man’s haunting familiarity. And how could Devyn have found out, in any case?

“Because it doesn’t matter,” he snarled, his temper rising hot and quick. “I broke the guy’s neck, so he’s dead anyway.”

Devyn looked surprised by that answer. “You killed your—you killed him?”

Logan’s eyes narrowed as he caught the slip. “My what? What do you know about this? And how is it just coming up today?”

“No. You answer me.” And that goddamn shadow in his eyes, that miles-deep hurt, it demanded an honest answer more than any yelling could have done.

Logan sighed, leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Yes. I recognized the guy that took you. But when I tried to remember who he was, all I got was blood and screaming. You’re not the only one who woke up one day, not knowing who they are or where they came from.”

He paused, watched Devyn’s expression. It softened, became thoughtful.

“Look. Whatever I was into back then, it was some sick shit. I think I might’ve been a real bad guy. And I’m done with it. All of it . I killed him, it’s over. Now, you wanna tell me how you suddenly know about this?”

Devyn looked down. Locks of tangled black hair shadowed half his face. “I saw him through your eyes when I drank from you. I saw how you knew him.”

A stutter of fear leapt through Logan’s chest. And something else... excitement . “How I knew him?” He stepped toward Devyn. “What did you see?” Easy to say he was done with his past. He couldn’t help his hunger to know. To have the mystery unraveled.

Devyn’s expression was shuttered. “It was just a flash. You woke up and you couldn’t move. He said you’d stepped on a land mine, and he was the one that put you back together. Then it was gone.”

“Where were we? Did he say anything else? Do you know what year it was?” The questions tumbled out of him.

“That’s all,” Devyn said, and he didn’t think that was entirely the truth, but his nose was assaulted by a sharp, spicy scent and Logan realized the young man was getting increasingly pissed at him. If he was going to get any more information, it needed to happen some other time. He awkwardly changed the topic.

“Did you...does it happen every time you drink blood? You see things from that person’s life?”

“It was just feelings, at first. I think it’s getting stronger as I get stronger. I need to go walk around for a while,” he added, before Logan could get in another question.

“It’s late.” Not that late. It was eleven.

“Good night, sir.”

Devyn slipped out of the room. Logan almost followed, until he saw that Devyn had left his shoes by the bed. Surely he wouldn’t leave the grounds without shoes.

The kid was overwhelmed. He got that. Might as well let him walk it out of his system. After that...after that, they would see where they stood.

He ignored the hollow feeling in his gut as he got into bed.

It was hard being back at the mansion. Harder than he’d thought it would be.

He lay awake for a long time.

~~~~

Devyn padded on bare feet through corridor after corridor, trying not to think. Quiet lives pulsed throughout the mansion, most sleeping, some awake. All of them easy to avoid. He had no direction, but he never stopped moving. The many walls cut him off from the sound of outside, and he didn’t like it. It made him feel restless, trapped.

He went floor to floor, poked into various rooms. Classroom after classroom. Computers, desks, machinery. Exercise equipment. Some kind of weird pods that looked like you could sleep in them. None of it meant a thing to him, and he was half ready to take a walk outside when he found a spacious room with sound insulation all over the walls, cabinets and drawers, a table covered in dials and knobs, and a stack of speakers. Five instruments hung from the wall.

Guitars. And a bass guitar. His legs carried him into the room without thought. He drew up before the center guitar, a red and white Les Paul with an opalescent sheen. He stroked its curves like a lover, unaware that a fond smile had stretched his lips.

“Pretty,” he murmured.

He pulled the instrument down and plugged it in to one of the Marshall amps. His fingers moved over the knobs without conscious thought. He gave it a few minutes for the tube amp to warm up, then plucked out a couple of notes.

It was like having an electric drill rammed into both ears. He cried out in pain and switched the amp off, then rubbed his ears til they stopped ringing.

He set the guitar aside and started opening the cabinets around the room. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for, but he’d know it when he found it.

~~~~

Logan woke to a knock on the door, and Storm’s voice calling his name. Sunlight filtered through the curtains, yet Devyn wasn’t in the room. Not a good sign. He rolled out of bed and answered the door, rubbing his eyes.

“Yeah?”

Music floated through the hallway. Someone, somewhere in the mansion was playing electric guitar. The reverberating melody tugged at him. He cocked his head.

“Huh. They’re pretty good.”

Storm’s eyebrows lifted sardonically. “Yes, he is. But considering yesterday, we would prefer you be the one to interrupt him.”

“Oh.”

~~~~

He followed her down a floor and toward the west wing. As the music got louder, it got harder not to just stop and listen. A number of students had done just that. They stood in the hallway, books clutched to their chests, eyes glistening. It was eerie. Like a spell had been cast through song.

They made it to the hallway with the sound room. There was a line of students crowding the hall, just standing there. Logan and Storm had to elbow between them. As they got closer, the song changed. The haunting melody amped up in speed, distortion crept in, and it became a hair-raising wail. A shudder went down Logan’s entire body. It was the sound of hunting, running, and killing. It was the drumbeat of war.

Storm’s touch on his arm brought him back. His fists were clenched; his claws had come out. He pulled them back in and shook his head, trying to clear it. He strode quickly the rest of the way down the hall, and went into the open door.

Devyn sat on the floor with his legs crossed, curled around a guitar. His fingers ran dexterously over the strings, shredded through those quicksilver notes like it was nothing. A slew of small tools and snips of wire surrounded him. A score of wires and colored cords ran between amp, speaker, and guitar.

As Logan took in the room, he saw more tools scattered around the amp Devyn was using, and what looked like a home-cooked hookup to a bigger speaker which had been gutted and put back together in a setup so bizarre, he was amazed that it put out such an incredible sound. Or any sound at all, for that matter.

He picked his way through the mess, knelt in front of Devyn, and knew even then that he hadn’t been noticed. The young man was completely wrapped up in the music. He reached out and brushed his hand over Devyn’s cheek.

Devyn gasped, jerked back. The last high note rang in the air, clear as a bell.

“Hey. How long you been at this?”

Devyn’s eyes were bloodshot. The answer, clearly, was “all night.”

“Sir, I don’t know, sir. What time is it?”

Logan shrugged. “Morning. I think. What’d you do to that amp?”

Blue and gold eyes flashed past him to Storm. Devyn had the grace to look embarrassed. “Ma’am, I’m sorry—I know it looks bad, but it had this screech, and...I knew how to fix it, but I didn’t have all the tools I needed. But you can hear the difference, right? It’s a big difference.”

Storm looked at a loss for words. “I admit, I never heard it sound so, ah, musical. It was...” she shook her head. “Very moving.”

Logan cupped the back of Devyn’s neck. “Moving” was accurate, if inadequate. “I think you’ve got a fan club out there already. But maybe pack it up for now and get a couple hours sleep.”

Devyn nodded and began gathering tools into small piles. Logan had a mimed conversation with Storm, wherein he asked her if the hall was still packed with dazed kids, she checked, shooed them away, and gave him a weary shrug. Her cell phone rang, and she pulled it out of her pocket.

“Yes, Hank?”

Logan’s enhanced hearing picked up the voice on the other end of the line. Hank sounded like he was about to faint. “Here. Now. Conference Room. With Devyn.”

Not even complete sentences? Something was very wrong. Storm’s eyes were wide as she hung up.

“Come on. Forget that.” Logan pulled Devyn to his feet. Storm ran out first. The two of them were right behind her. They pushed past a crowd of students, some of whom hooted at Devyn and clapped. Logan glanced at him, but the boy didn’t even seem to notice them. His worried eyes were on Logan.

Chapter Text

The three of them burst into the conference room. Hank was hugging the desk like it was the only thing holding him up. On the big monitor there was a woman, over fifty but with model good looks. She wore an expensive suit and glasses. Her dark hair was casually tied back.

“Tell them,” Hank said, as soon as they cleared the room.

The woman gathered herself up, but she looked afraid.

“Charles Xavier is here with me.”

It was the sort of statement that should have shattered time. Made the room shake apart, or the sun go black. But none of those things happened, except maybe inside Logan’s head.

“What.” It wasn’t a question.

“Charles—”

His claws shot out of his fist and ended her sentence decisively. “What the fuck kinda game’re you playin’ at, woman?” He advanced on the television set as if he would strike her down through the telecom.

“He’s inside my patient!” She was pleading, now. “Listen. Please. It’s Charles’ brother.”

“He didn’t have a brother,” Logan snarled, but Storm cut him off.

“Yes. He did,” Storm said. “He was born brain-dead.”

“Yes,” Moira agreed. She touched a hand to her forehead. The hand shook. “He transferred himself into his brother’s body. His twin brother. The biology must have been close enough—and his brother’s been brain-dead from birth—he’s been speaking to me, into my mind, and I couldn’t—” She paused to wipe a tear off her face. Logan wasn’t buying it.

“Hank, who the fuck is this? You’re not telling me you believe this bullshit?”

Hank looked like he’d aged ten years overnight.

“I do. Moira, ask Charles how to get through to him. Ask him.”

“What?” It must be what blasphemy felt like, to the religious. They were mocking the life of the greatest man Logan had ever known.

Moira turned to him, eyes wet with a good acting job worth of tears. Her next words, though, rocked him back on his feet.

“He says he’s sorry that he was so harsh with you, when you questioned him about the blocks he put in Jean’s mind. He says you of all people would know what it’s like to have your own mind taken from you. And he wishes he’d taken the time to explain his reasons to you. Though he doesn’t think it would have changed anything, in the end.” She paused, then added, “He also says the mutant you killed to save Devyn is not dead, and he’s more dangerous than you think.”

Logan’s claws had retracted, but his fists stayed clenched. Every sentence was a blow to his very core.

“This can’t be real.”

Moira’s back straightened, and she looked a little less frail. “It is real. He’s been here all this time, but he made me wait to—to tell anyone.” She took a deep breath. “He wants you to come here with Devyn. He says Devyn is the key, and everyone on this planet is going to die if the Outsider breaches the veil of this world.”

Logan turned, saw Devyn’s eyes widen at the mention of the “Outsider.”

“Ma’am, how is he planning to help?”

“By finding the rest of your kind before our enemies do.”

“Where are you?” Devyn’s response was instant.

“We’re here. Only about thirty minutes from the Academy.”

At this, Hank’s brow furrowed. “You—what? How? You were—”

“In Scotland?” Moira let out a laugh that sounded nearly hysterical. “We were.” She looked at Devyn. “He saw you come through into South Dakota and then we were making plans to move him right away. We only arrived last night.” Her breath hitched again, and she struggled to calm herself. She looked back at Hank. “I’m so, so sorry, Hank. I wanted so badly to tell you all. It’s been hell.”

“Yeah, hell for you,” Logan growled. “Knowing he was still alive the entire time.”

“Not alive,” Moira said. “This body has been in a coma from birth. He transferred his consciousness here, but he can’t wake up. I don’t know if you’d call that a life.”

“Hank?” Storm made the name into a question. “Are you sure?”

On the television, Moira lowered her eyes as if listening. “He says to say—”

“NO.” Storm’s voice was a steel wall, and her eyes flashed white. For a moment it was as if someone dimmed the lights in the room, then Logan realized that clouds had blotted out the sun, outside.

“Say nothing to me, Moira.” She turned back to Hank, and her voice softened. “Are you sure?”

Hank bowed his head. “Before I called you, she told me everything. Secrets I’ve never told anyone.

“Perhaps she is a psychic.” Her voice was stern, but also brittle.

“Perhaps,” Hank conceded. “But we have to find out, don’t we?”

“Give us the address,” Logan said.

And that seemed to settle the matter.

~~~~

Storm drove. This was because Hank drew too much unwanted attention, she didn’t trust Logan not to wreck her little X-mobile, and Logan had no vehicle of his own, other than the stolen Jeep—and it was a miracle he hadn’t already been pulled over in it. Though they told no one at the mansion what they were doing, Storm called Piotr during the drive and let him know everything. Just in case.

It seemed like they had just gotten into the car, when they pulled into the parking lot of a stately white mansion, two stories tall with an acre of its own land. Logan jerked Devyn by the arm to wake him up (he’d fallen asleep the moment they got in the vehicle) and held his upper arm as they approached the front steps. It was only when Devyn touched his hand and murmured his name that he realized how punishing his grip was. He grunted something like an apology and let go.

Devyn’s hand found his and held it. He almost shook off the grip before realizing he wanted it. He needed something to anchor him. They laced fingers and strode side by side, flanked by Storm and Hank. Ahead of them, a door opened. Moira emerged, and the relief on her face seemed genuine.

Professor?

Heat rose in his chest as his mental query was met with silence. Was he really that gullible? Did he honestly think he was doing anything, here, but working to expose a fraud and find out just what kind of a con Moira was trying to pull on them?

“Come with me,” Moira said. Up close he could see the dark circles under her eyes, the depth of the worry lines on her forehead, the gray close to her scalp where her hair had grown past the dyed brown.

They followed her through a magnificent hall that was still somehow bare. It was the sort of place that should have been dotted with fine, wooden furniture and expensive art. Instead it was barren, as if it had stood empty for a long time. They entered a long wing. At the end of the wing, double doors stood open into what could have been a conference hall, or an entertainment parlor.

It was neither.

Two of the four walls were floor-to-ceiling windows. Natural light fell onto a trio of large machines, and a stick-figure of a man in the hospital bed nestled between them. Tubes and wires ran from the machines into the man’s body, his arms, his nose, and under the sheet that covered him. He bore a disturbing resemblance to Charles Xavier.

Logan.

His entire body jerked. In the corners of his vision, he saw Storm and Hank have the same reaction. It was that simple; all his disbelief was blown away with that single utterance of his name inside his own mind.

Charles, he thought back. How is this possible?

The response pulled at his mind like sucking sand, heavy with regret.

I’ve done a terrible thing, Logan.

~~~~

Devyn watched with interest as his three companions went still. Ripples ran through the air: little heat waves traveling between them and the comatose body on the hospital bed.

“Devyn,” said the older woman. “I’m Moira—but of course, you know that now. Charles has been so hopeful—he talks about you—” She cut herself off abruptly and clasped her hands together. She was eyeing Logan nervously. Understandable. But the man wasn’t paying any attention to them. His eyes were distant. His lips moved, now and then, with silent words.

Devyn.

The thought tugged at him. Faint. Alien. But not as surprising as it should have been. Something inside of him recognized this form of communication. He turned to the body on the bed.

Are you Charles? Why do you want me here? He broadcast the thought, and received a response.

I am he. And you have remembered your mission.

Devyn nodded.

You said you could help.

To an extent, Charles replied. You think of your entrance to this world as passing through a Gate. Whenever that Gate appears, it’s like a flare in the distance. I can see it, even as I am now. Three more of your people has arrived since you came.

What? Where? I have to find them! Devyn’s thought was half-panicked. Can you help me?

Someone else’s frustration tapped along his spine.

Indirectly, through Moira. I can see, now—farther than I ever could, before. But I cannot make myself heard to anyone outside of this room. I sensed you, when you came through, but you had no memory, and were lost to me. I only found you again when you did something that used great power—something that bent reality.

Devyn recalled the melee in the infirmary, of taking apart the ice wall with his mind, and the aftermath when his senses had stretched out and someone had looked back at him. He thrust that memory at the man in the bed, and asked: That was you?

It was. I am so...limited, now. The thought stream trailed off, and the bitterness was a palpable thing.

Devyn drifted toward the comatose man. His forehead and eyelids seemed abnormally stretched, and Devyn realized it was because the man had been lying there, expressionless, for his entire life. He reached out, and his hand went to the man’s throat, to the rise and fall of his lifeblood.

Can’t you make this body wake up?

A bitter laugh shivered at the edge of his thoughts.

Do you think I have not tried? The thought was edged like twisted strips of sheet metal. Every day I try.

Devyn let his palm sink into that pulse point, “listening” to it through waxy flesh. The blood called to him, weak as it was. The body was alive and healthy. The spark that should have been inside it, though—there was nothing. It made him understand the term, “brain-dead.” This brain had no self; it was a mostly dead organ inside an animated body.

And somewhere deep inside of that dead space, there was a presence. A shadow that didn’t belong to the body it inhabited.

So strange to be touched back, mused the voice. Jean was the only other who could see my thoughts.

I don’t see your thoughts, Devyn corrected him. Just you.

He studied the working of nature and design that lay before him. With the hand not on that listless pulse, he touched the comatose man’s lips. Behind him, Moira made a sound of protest. A shiver fluttered past him on the air, elusive as a stray thought, and she quieted.

Inside of the body, the Charles-shadow trembled. It knew what he wanted to do. Impressions flowed across its surface like a wavy projection. Charles was ashamed. Afraid. And yet, hope burned in him so brightly for a moment that it pushed the shame and fear to a small corner. A punishment that Charles would face later, perhaps. Or had been facing for so long, now, that its impact had grown dull.

Yes. Devyn could see exactly where the connections had failed. Charles was a relative of the comatose man, and maybe that was how he had managed to cling on to this body in the first place. But his was a fully formed consciousness, trying to graft into a place where no consciousness had ever existed. None of his pieces fit into that undeveloped space. He couldn’t assimilate. Not the way that he was.

He didn’t ask permission, because it was written all over Charles’ shadow-self. This was what he had hoped for. Underneath the altruistic desire to help save the world, this was just as much the reason he had convinced Moira to bring him here. To free him.

He spared a brief glance backward, to Logan. The man had an expression of wonderment on his face. His eyes were unfocused, staring at the wall. Charles was still speaking to him. The others looked about the same. Only Moira was watching him. She had her arms crossed tightly over her middle, hugging herself.

Devyn slid his tongue across his teeth. His fangs were retracted, and he spent a futile moment trying to make them extend before he realized it wouldn’t happen. He only ever felt that ache in his jaw when his hunger had been aroused, and there was nothing arousing about this stale, strangely blank mannequin. His canines were still sharp, though, so he rubbed his tongue against one, hard, until he tasted blood. That taste brought an ache to his upper palate. His fangs grew, and he was able to put a good slice into his tongue. Blood gushed into his mouth.

He bent over the unnaturally still form, closed his eyes, and pressed their lips together. Repulsed goosebumps rose on his neck. He coaxed the comatose man’s jaw open with his hands, made a seal between their mouths, and fed his blood through.

~~~~

Charles gave him a lengthy confession about Jean’s instability and his own fears surrounding the situation. Logan listened attentively, not because he wanted to know—it was painful to even think about—but because it was astounding to hear Charles in his mind again. And after all this time trapped inside a living corpse, it almost seemed as if Charles had gone a little mad. He’d never been so prone to rambling.

And when I sensed her return, it was as if the world turned inside out. Her very consciousness pulled me from my bo—

Silence.

Logan blinked. Charles’ presence inside of him was suddenly gone, and it was like losing him all over again. He remembered his body, the room around him, and looked up to find Moira holding her hand over her mouth. Across from her, Devyn’s black-haired head completely covered his view of the comatose man’s face.

“Devyn,” he whispered. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Devyn didn’t reply, but Logan’s skin was suddenly prickling. A pressure built in his head, and his ears felt plugged up. A thick, crackling sound came from all around him. He put his hands over his ears.

The body on the bed seemed to shift beneath the covers. The sticklike arms, visible above the sheet, plumped up as if muscle was growing beneath them right in front of his eyes. He blinked.

This had to be some kind of induced hallucination. He looked at Moira again. She was covering her mouth with both hands.

The pressure in his ears suddenly popped, loud as a cannon, and it felt like something in the air was set free. Devyn’s legs buckled. He slid to the floor; his head cracked back against the hardwood. Blood trailed from his lips down the side of his face.

The patient in the bed also had blood on his lips, and smeared across his cheek.

The patient...whose eyes had just opened.

Moira said something in Gaelic that sounded like a curse and a prayer all at once.

Logan hadn’t looked very hard at the patient before. It had been Charles, his Charles, but so skinny and lackluster...a living corpse, and his eyes had shied away. But now everything had changed. A full head of hair sprouted from the man’s scalp. Even as he watched, he would have sworn another inch of hair spilled across the pillow. The man’s hair, his eyebrows, even the stubble on his cheeks had turned a lustrous brown. His face was still Charles, but the skin was plump and young, so young it could be Charles Xavier’s son, lying there on the bed. This was not the same man who had been lying there a minute ago.

Tears streamed from the man’s opened eyes. His mouth worked.

“Uh...muh...”

MOIRA!!!

The mental scream was so loud that Logan, Storm, and Hank all staggered backward. Moira stumbled to her knees.

“Quiet, Charles, oh my dearest God in heaven, that hurt,” she whispered.

The patient’s left hand twitched, spasmed, then lifted. He slapped at his own face, hooked his fingers into the oxygen tube that curved over his ears and went up his nostrils, and tugged at it. Moira pushed herself up and went to him, the doctor in her overwhelming her shock. Charles’ side of the conversation was so clear, it was as if he was speaking out loud. Even his mind-voice sounded younger.

Get it out—the tubes—they burn—Moira, my skin is on fire!

“Slow, slow, please, stop thrashin’! Ye’ll pull out your feeding tube!” Moira’s voice was an urgent whisper. In her stress, a thick Scottish accent colored her every word. Tears streamed down her face, fell onto her patient’s feebly waving arms.

Get it out! Get it out!

Charles moaned out loud. He turned onto his side, tried to curl up, and his voiceless scream filled the room.

“Logan! Help me put him onto his back!”

Numb, Logan walked forward. A charged scent burned at his nostrils, like too much ozone. As he got close, the patient lurched to sitting. The man’s glazed eyes were wide and his mouth was open in a cry of silent agony. Logan stopped, frozen by a kind of superstitious shock.

“Charles, oh dear God! Your tubes! Let me see your stomach.”

The man closed his eyes tightly and grimaced. He caught Moira’s hand as it reached for his belly.

No—no, it’s healed, now. It grew out.

“A feeding tube dinnae jus’ grow out!” she hissed. But motion caught his eye, and as Logan looked down, he saw two different tubes slide out from under the sheet and drop to the floor.

Stop, Moira. Stop.

The man’s thought-voice was clear, but his head hung forward like a heavy flower on a weak stem.

I can feel my legs...

A weak moan came from the man’s lips, shook, and turned to a dry laugh.

I’m moving them! Moira, I can move my legs!

His knees tented the sheets, moved side to side, and he let out another moan-laugh. His joyous eyes turned up to Logan, then back to Moira, but all the motion cost him too much. He shook, then slumped back onto the bed.

“But this can’nae be happenin’! Charles, your face! Your f-face!”

The man turned onto his side, easier this time, and tried to touch himself on the face. His hand whacked at the pillow, then he managed to slap himself on the cheek.

My face?

“You’re young, Charles, and your hair...your arms have grown muscle—how is this possible?”

A mirror. Bring me a mirror.

Flustered, Moira waved at Hank and Storm. “Can’nae one of ye take a picture with your phone? Charles, I’m not leavin’ your side until we know what’s happenin’. Can ye see alright? Can ye see me?”

The man’s eyes turned up to her, and a tremulous smile overtook him.

Yes, he said, and fresh tears trickled down his cheeks. So beautiful. My Moira.

Storm approached the bed slowly, eyes wide like she was seeing a ghost.

“Charles,” she whispered. “You look just like you did when we first met in Cairo.” Her voice shook. “You don’t look a day over thirty.”

The man’s face went slack.

Mirror! Please, I have to know.

Storm pulled out her phone, swiped across the screen to activate the front-facing camera, and held it out to him. He reached out a tremulous hand and tipped the phone towards himself. His lips parted in wonder, and a long silence stretched out.

“How,” he croaked out loud. Then he looked side to side, as if he remembered something. “Deh...Dev...”

Devyn, Logan realized, snapping out of his shocked haze. He stumbled around the bed and the people crowded around it, and saw him on the floor, right where he had dropped earlier. Eyes closed, skin so white he looked carved out of ice, and completely insensible to what was going on around him.

Logan fell to his knees beside the young man. His fingers found Devyn’s pulse at his throat. Faint; it was too faint.

“What happened between you two?” Logan asked. “What did he do?”

But at this, Charles was silent.

“What did YOU do?” This time, the question was a snarl. He glared upward, up at eyes that were much too familiar to be in a young man’s face. A head that shouldn’t have hair, legs that shouldn’t move—a life that shouldn’t be here.

And maybe Charles read that last thought from his mind, or maybe he saw it in Logan’s expression. Charles grimaced in pain, and he closed his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said, with his voice and mind at once. “Oh God. Please forgive me.”

Chapter Text

“He needs blood,” Logan snapped.

“Hank, do you keep stores at the Academy—” Moira began, but Logan cut her off.

“Not bagged blood! MY blood!” The possessive snarl in his voice made the woman jump back.

He couldn’t do it here. Not in front of them, like this. He let out a growl of frustration. When Storm made a move toward him, he swept Devyn into a child’s carry, turned and nearly ran of the room, as if she had tried to take the boy away from him. Devyn was cold in his arms, and much too still. He ran down the hall, as far as he could get from the others.

As far as he could get from Charles. How could that be Charles?

In a mansion like this, the bedrooms would be upstairs. He ran up the spiraling staircase, went down the hall opposite to the patient’s room downstairs, until he was at the very farthest end of the house from everyone else. This hallway, at least, seemed prepared for company. There was a floral arrangement in the hall. One of the doors opened into a sunlit guest room that held an elegant dresser and a four-poster bed. He went in and kicked the door shut behind him, sat on the side of the bed (it groaned under his weight), and adjusted Devyn in his lap.

The only other time he’d fed Devyn deeply, he had cum in his pants like a horny kid who’d just made it to second base. And that time, the boy hadn’t needed it. Now he did, and Logan had a feeling they would want the privacy.

He wedged his wrist into Devyn’s mouth.

Nothing happened.

“C’mon,” he grunted, wiggling his wrist against the boy’s teeth. Still no reaction.

He extended a claw, just a few inches, and put it to his wrist, right next to Devyn’s lips. He shifted uncomfortably as his cock sprang to attention. If they kept this up, he was going to develop a truly bizarre wrist-slashing fetish.

He drew his claw down across the muscle, hard and fast. Blood spurted up into Devyn’s mouth like a fountain before the artery he’d nicked closed over.

Fast as a striking snake, Devyn’s teeth knifed into his skin. Logan cried out. Warmth spilled up his arm: a month of sunrises riding through his flesh, all tucked into a single moment. He tried to hang onto himself, but he was swept away before the intention had fully formed.

~~~~

It was like a light flipped on in a black room. One moment, there was nothing. The next, sunlight filled his mouth and the mineral scent of blood filled his head. Devyn groaned, low in his chest, and caught hold of the wrist that was pressed up to his mouth. A large hand was pushed up under his shirt, stroking his stomach. At the noise he made, the hand slid down, cupped him through his pants and squeezed.

His head swam. He knew Logan’s scent, the taste of his blood, the feel of that bulky form cradling him from behind. He put his hand over Logan’s and pushed it up and down over his crotch, writhed back to feel an answering hardness press against his spine.

He withdrew his fangs from Logan’s wrist, twisted in the man’s arms and stretched up, searching for his lips. They rocked backward while they shared the last traces of blood, then Logan rolled them over and covered him completely.

They were in a bed. How had they wound up in a bed? Last thing he remembered, they had been in a big, white house with picture windows, and—

But Logan was undoing his pants for him, and everything else could wait. He yanked Logan’s shirt upward, and with a lot of pushing and pulling, they each managed to come away with the other’s clothing. Logan wedged one jean-clad thigh between Devyn’s bare legs, pulled his own cock out, and fisted both of them together in one large hand. Pleasure shuddered through Devyn’s body from those rough tugs. He ran his hands over Logan’s hairy chest and thrust into his grip.

“Fuck—unhhh—shit, Logan, fuck!”

His curses were cut off by a deep, consuming kiss. The hand jerking them moved faster, that leg pushed up until he was spread on it, and his orgasm came without warning; the feeding had pushed him too close already. He pulled Logan’s hair and cried out into his mouth as warm cum hit his chin, then chest, then belly.

Logan jerked his hair back and licked the cum from his chin in one long, filthy swipe of his tongue. He wiped a hand across his belly, then shoved a glob of the slick fluid into Devyn’s mouth. Devyn choked, gasped, swallowed.

Logan growled, low in his chest. “Dirty boy,” he rumbled. Devyn’s chest flushed hot. Logan scooped up another glob and did it again, forced slick fingers deep into his throat, gagged him until tears ran down his face, all while telling him what a nasty little boy he was. It was demeaning, and it hurt, and he never wanted it to stop.

Logan flipped him onto his belly and held him down by the back of the neck. He slicked Devyn up with his own cum, then wedged that massive dick between Devyn’s ass cheeks and spat down on them. The wet, teasing slide of his cock was torture. The bed creaked underneath them. The sound and smell and almost painful weight on top of him were so good, the after effects of Devyn’s own orgasm so intoxicating. He rocked his hips up, Logan rutted down against him, and the bed gave a loud, warning groan.

He looked up. The bed was a double, in a nice looking wooden four-poster frame which was definitely not suited to any kind of vigorous activity under Logan’s weight; the man was insanely heavy—more than his musculature could explain. It was one of the many things Devyn had simply accepted about him, same as Logan had accepted his scars and blood-drinking.

That solid weight lifted off him, earning another protest from the bed. Logan wrapped an arm around his waist and jerked him up, then threw him down so abruptly that Devyn flailed and fell to his hands and knees. Logan jerked the mattress off the bed frame and dropped it on the floor. He grabbed Devyn by the hair and jerked him back into the mattress, then mounted him and kicked his legs apart. A forearm pushed down heavily on the back of his neck, and the blunt head of Logan’s cock slipped back between his ass cheeks, wedged against his hole, and pushed.

The man’s penchant for fucking him without stretching him first might have been a problem for somebody else, but Devyn cherished that initial burst of pain. The sudden stretch sent cold fire through his lower body, made his legs turn to water and stars burst behind his eyelids. He bit the comforter and sobbed. Logan pulled down a pillow, jerked his hair back, and shoved his face into it.

“Shut up,” he grunted. He plowed in, his thrusts slow and hard, each stroke pushing Devyn’s body apart so that he could fit inside. A wave of faintness spread over him and he gave himself over to it. When Logan let him breathe again, he managed to keep his noises down to quiet gasps, at least for a while. When he pushed all the way in and started to thrust in short, punishing snaps of his hips, Devyn screamed. Logan pulled his head up by the hair, and brutally forced a big section of his discarded shirt into Devyns mouth, stretching his jaw wide. Then he clapped his hand over it for good measure and slapped the side of Devyn’s face with his other hand.

“We ain’t alone,” he grunted into Devyn’s ear. “Shut the fuck up.”

That comment really made him wonder where they were, but Logan held him in an unbreakable grip and he had absolutely no desire to get free. The intense pleasure/pain of being dominated and fucked raw seemed like a continuation of his initial orgasm, just endless waves of sensation that turned his brain to jelly. And though his vision was limited to Logan’s hand and the base of the wall, he had other senses which affirmed that Logan was right; they were alone in the room, but other people were in the building. One in particular stood out from the rest: one who had shared his blood, who was fully aware of him—and of what was being done to him. Devyn felt that other’s body shudder, felt hands that were not his own grip something solid to stay upright.

The connection was blotted out when Logan’s teeth sank into the back of his neck. The bite broke skin, made him scream and his eyes run with tears, made Logan’s grip shove that goddamn shirt-gag halfway down his throat, and Logan’s cock throbbed inside of him, painting his insides with cum.

Metal slid on metal, the sound muffled by layers of skin and muscle. Searing heat sliced through Devyn’s right shoulder. Another scream ripped his throat. Just at the edge of his vision, he could see that Logan’s claws had come out on the hand that was holding his mouth.

He held very, very still, terrified to move, and still so full of heat and pleasure that the fear became another peak all by itself. The bite on his neck burned. He was crying, choking on his own spit and a baseball sized wad of wet cotton. A second orgasm wracked through his body like a slow roll of thunder. Between that and the lack of air, his vision went black.

Slowly, Logan’s last, jerking thrusts went still, and he pulled out. Another snikt of sound as his claws retracted, his weight came up, and Devyn realized how much the man’s weight had constricted his breathing as his ribcage suddenly expanded. Logan lay down beside him. Devyn rolled onto his side, pulled the shirt-gag out of his mouth, and pressed it against his bleeding shoulder.

Logan’s neck and cheeks were still flushed, but he also looked concerned. He pushed Devyn’s hair back out of his eyes and examined him, wiped some tears off his cheek with his thumb.

“Are you alright? Did I hurt you?” He tilted Devyn’s head as he said it, and touched the bite mark, which was throbbing like a brand.

“What?” So many questions, and he still had no idea what was going on, except that Logan had just fucked his brains out and it had been incredible. “No—yeah. Wait, what?”

Logan smirked, self-satisfied.

Devyn licked his lips. “You...you fed me... What...” But just as he said that, it all came back to him. The room with the picture windows. The coma patient. “Oh.”

“You remember?”

“I passed out...”

“You looked half dead, and there was no telling how much blood you lost, so I figured you needed it to heal up.”

“I did.” He reached up to stroke Logan’s furry cheek. “Thank you.”

“Feel like I should be thanking you.”

“Then, you’re welcome.” That earned him a smile.

“Every time you drink from me, it’s like this. I can’t control myself.”

“Uhnnn,” Devyn moaned, with what he imagined probably looked like a drunken leer.

Logan chuckled, brushed his hand over Devyn’s cheek, but a more serious expression took over.

“Me bein’ outta control ain’t a good thing, kid.”

He sniffed the air after he said it, and the lines between his eyebrows deepened. He pulled Devyn’s hand, and the shirt, away from his shoulder. Devyn’s stomach fluttered nervously, but he didn’t try to stop him.

Logan’s mouth came open as he stared. Devyn followed his gaze, worried the claw wound was far worse than what it had felt like, and was relieved to find it was not. One stripe was bad; it went about an inch deep into the muscle and stretched four inches long, but the bleeding had already stopped. He wondered if that was from his own native ability, or whether Logan’s healing transferred over with his blood. The other stripe was barely a millimeter deep; it would probably be gone in an hour.

“Sir?” He felt suddenly adrift, as if Logan had gotten up and left, even though he lay right there.

Logan’s eyes wrenched away from the wound to meet his gaze. He looked haunted.

Devyn’s stomach twisted.

Every time I fall asleep, people are dying in my dreams.

He wanted to protest that it would heal without a scar. Victor’s claws had gone just as deep, and last time he’d looked, he’d had trouble finding those scars amidst the others. But he had also seen that red-haired woman from Logan’s memory, slack in his arms with three stab wounds in her chest, and felt her blood dripping down his knuckles. He was pretty sure it was what could have happened, more than what did happen, that had put that closed-off expression onto Logan’s face. So what, really, was there to say?

Logan didn’t resist when Devyn sank back onto the bed and pulled him down, so the man’s head rested against his unhurt shoulder, cradled under his arm. Their legs twined together, and Logan’s arm wrapped around him. He could feel his heartbeat pulsing up against Logan’s cheek. He carded his fingers through the man’s hair. Logan traced the scars along his side.

A subtle fear kept trying to worm into his thoughts. Fear of loss, fear of being alone. He tried to take the advice he’d been given, once: to live in the moment. But it was hard.

~~~~

“You wanna tell me what happened back there? What you did?” Logan propped himself up on one elbow, but never stopped tracing the scars along Devyn’s waist.

Devyn still felt boneless after the rough fucking, and it was unpleasant to have to go back to that room, if only in his thoughts. He grimaced. “Where are we, first?”

“Still at Moira’s place. Upstairs.”

“Did Charles wake up?”

Logan’s eyebrows drew together, and he wouldn’t meet Devyn’s eyes. “The guy in the bed woke up. Yeah.”

“He was the one I touched,” Devyn murmured. Logan gave him a sharp look.

“What’s that?”

When Devyn shook his head for an answer, Logan said, “Alright, fine. Just tell me what happened.”

And he tried, but it wasn’t easy to put something that had been driven by intuition into words. He described how he had reached in through his own blood as he fed it to the comatose man, and changed the body until it could fuse with the consciousness that lived inside. How he’d put too much into it, hadn’t been ready, and the last thing he could remember was the black cloud which rolled over him while that current still ran through him, feeding his own life into a body that wasn’t his own. As he spoke, he saw goosebumps pull up along Logan’s arms. That wasn’t a good sign.

“He’s your friend, sir.” He paused, but Logan gave no acknowledgement. “Isn’t he?”

Logan frowned over that, like it was a question he’d been asking himself. “I thought so. But this just doesn’t seem like something the Charles I know would’ve done. He stole his brother’s body. He had you risk your life to fix him up.” His frown deepened, cutting vertical lines down his forehead. “‘Course, he did a few things before he died that surprised me.”

“I don’t think my life was ever at risk. And the body...if you could’ve seen inside it like I did...there was nobody in there. At all. So if Charles lost his own body and went into one that had no person, is that a bad thing? He seemed really twisted up about it. But, also kind of frantic. How long has he been dead?”

“Year an’ a half,” Logan muttered.

“A year and a half inside a living dead man,” Devyn said, and that dream of waking up trapped inside a box flashed through his mind. His skin crawled. “I would’ve done anything to get out. Wouldn’t you?”

Logan just grunted.

Chapter Text

Within minutes after they stopped talking, Devyn passed out on the bed beside him. Which was good, because Logan had started to wonder just how long he would manage to keep going like this before he crashed.

He spent an embarrassingly long time up on one elbow, watching Devyn sleep and breathing in his scent, which—now mixed with Logan’s and drenched in pheromones from their fucking—had become absolutely addictive.

The wound in Devyn’s shoulder shrank visibly every time he looked at it. It might be gone as soon as tomorrow.

He was tracing the scars along the young man’s chest when it came from the back of his mind. A sense. An invitation.

Playing it real careful, aren’tcha, Charles, he thought, but he had no real reason to ignore the call. No reason except that, on a gut level, this whole business freaked him out. It came from his deep well of animal instincts—thou shalt not body-snatch—and he couldn’t just logic it away.

When the sense prodded him again, he gave in. He wrapped the comforter around Devyn, then impulsively leaned down and kissed the bite wound on his neck. The young man didn’t stir at all.

He expected everyone to still be clustered around Charles in the far room, so was surprised when he got downstairs and found the double doors into the back yard were thrown wide. Charles stood at the edge of the porch, wrapped around a white pillar like it was holding him up. Moira stood beside him. She shot a look at Logan and her lips pressed together.

“Ororo and Hank are arranging a flight,” Moira said to Logan. “A flight! Because I can’nae talk this bloody idiot of a genius into one day of observation until he stabilizes!”

“A flight? Where?” Logan addressed the question to the back of Charles’ head.

“Some forest in Canada. It’ll be frozen over, Charles, you’re making a rash decision. Logan, tell him! This is foolishness! We have no idea what’s been done to you, or whether it’ll even last!”

“It will last.”

Charles’ voice wasn’t as deep, coming from this younger version of himself. But the inflection was the same. Everything was the same—minus about sixty years and one death.

“Moira,” he continued, “if you would be so kind, I wish to speak with Logan alone.” She opened her mouth to argue, but he cut her off. “If I collapse, he can easily carry me wherever you wish, my dear.” He hesitated, then added: “Just...not to that bed again. Please.”

Moira let out a sigh, then gave Logan a stern look.

“The man refuses to sit down and he can barely hold himself up. Be ready to catch him.”

With that, she left them alone.

Elegant, unlined hands clung to the pillar as Charles shifted so he could look back at Logan. There was a moment’s eye contact—those familiar eyes, blue like the morning sky—then his gaze dropped to Logan’s shoulder.

Logan waited. It was Charles who spoke first.

“I could tell you that I foresaw this threat to humanity. Or perhaps that I had left too much undone.”

“You’re not that egotistic.”

Charles’ eyes flashed up, then away, and he grimaced. “You would be surprised, my friend.” He looked back out over the verdant yard, watched a trio of birds dance through the trees. There was such abject bliss on his face as he followed their movements, and Logan flashed back to what Devyn had said to him. I would’ve done anything to get out. Wouldn’t you?

“So you’re sure this whole-body-graft thing is gonna take, huh?”

Charles winced. Callous, but he’d meant it to be. He wasn’t gonna pat Charles down with kid gloves after a stunt like this.

“I never expected to be made young again,” Charles murmured. “Though I had an inkling of the power inside that young man, I had not guessed at the full extent. And he does not remember, but...” He trailed off, thoughtful. “No, I will tell you. I wish to tell you.” He turned to look straight into Logan’s eyes. “His healing ability is even greater than yours.”

Logan frowned.

“No it isn’t. Faster than normal, yeah, but he takes way longer than me to heal. And he’s got all those scars—”

Charles held up a hand to stop him. “The scars are from before he was changed into what he is now, so they are set in stone. The speed of his healing depends on how well he has fed, and yes, it is slower than your own, but it is unstoppable. Cut off his head, burn him to ash, it matters not. He will heal. He cannot be killed.”

Logan’s heart thumped against his ribcage as he realized what Charles had just given him. He cannot be killed.

“How do you know this?”

Tears welled out of Charles’ eyes. Unexpected, even by him, it seemed. His pink lips trembled, and he swayed in place. Logan stepped forward and caught him under the armpits before he could fall. Charles allowed Logan to take his weight, and he eased the man down to sit on the porch. He sat down as well. Charles had hidden his face behind one hand. His breath whistled on the inhale, and Logan realized he was crying.

“Forgive me,” he choked. “Had I not drunk so much of him into myself, perhaps...”

“What is it? Do you need Moira?”

“No! No, this would only worry her.” He stopped hiding his face, at last, fisted that hand and put it up against his lips. Tears made his eyelashes stick together in clumps. It was strange, to see him so distressed, so unsettlingly handsome. He was used to Charles being almost like a monk—sexless and serene. And though the way he spoke was the same as Logan remembered, there was a passion to it which had been mellow in his old age, and now roared like a well-fed fire.

“I have seen the thoughts of great monsters, Logan, and the suffering of countless innocents. Were I not able to distance myself from their pain, I would have gone mad at a very young age.”

“But?”

Charles smiled thinly. “As you have seen, Devyn has a talent for blood-memory. He receives the memories, in certain circumstances. In others, he transmits them. He gave me...he fed me...his life.”

“Wait. Are you saying you can remember the things he can’t?”

Blue eyes met his, and the truth was in them. Some knowledge that had blasted him to the core. When he spoke, Charles’ voice was a thin whisper.

“It may be kinder to make his past irretrievable to him.”

You don’t get to make that choice,” Logan snapped. Suddenly he was standing over Jean again, watching the Professor muck around in her head—for her own good—and maybe his fury from that moment had never gone too far below the surface. “One hour back and you’re already starting to fuck around with other people’s lives!”

Charles’ handsome, young face screwed up in an expression every bit as forbidding as his older self had ever managed—except that his voice was a shout, and his cheeks turned red.

“And you continue to pronounce judgement when you don’t know what you’re dealing with!”

Logan surged to his feet. He was done with this.

“Wait!” Charles said, and his voice trembled. All the anger was gone like it had never existed. He held up a hand, imploring. “Wait, please. I spoke out of turn.”

It was the “please” that got him. Logan slumped back down and stared at his hands. Charles took a slow breath.

“One of Devyn’s people arrived in Alaska. He is the only one who has retained their memory. He is currently making his way in our direction, and I have every confidence that he will find his own way. Another came through in Minnesota. He repelled the Tomohawk strike force which tried to take him, and has since gone to ground. The third is in the Dunlofan wildlife refuge in Ontario. That is where we go first.”

“Why that one?”

An uneasy look passed over Charles’ face. “If Devyn can get through to him, then everyone else will fall into place.”

Logan pondered for a minute. “Wait a minute. You know all this, but I thought your range couldn’t get that far without Cerebro.”

A wondering smile turned Charles’ lips upward. “It is extraordinary, isn’t it?” he breathed. “I have never felt so nearly omniscient. That boy of yours is truly extraordinary. Quite literally out of this world.” He let out a short laugh, eyes back on the sky to watch the clouds roll past.

“So, you said ‘Tomohawk’; is that—?”

“The newest arm of the military’s secret war against us. The men who attempted to kidnap Devyn. They believe the hounds are being controlled by a terrestrial mutant, and that the portals which have opened between worlds are actually created by that mutant.”

It was scary, seeing Xavier with this much information. No investigation. No Cerebro. He just knew.

“And you said the one I killed isn’t dead?” He’d killed a lot of them, but they both knew the one he was talking about.

Charles’ eyes shifted to the side, but he didn’t quite look him in the eye. “That’s right. He, also, has prodigious healing ability.”

“And what makes him more dangerous than the rest of his little black ops team?”

It was now clear that the other man was avoiding his eye. “He is a powerful mutant who has chosen to align himself with our enemies. And he has a personal stake in this...now that you have become involved.”

Logan recalled that surreal flash of recognition when he and the other man...mutant...had first seen each other, back at the truck stop.

“Who the hell is he?”

Charles looked out at the trees, a frown between his eyebrows.

“I am not entirely sure. His mind is...” A shudder ran through his lean frame. “It is like walking into an abbatoir. Little humanity remains inside of him. But he has fixated on you. All of his thoughts are blood, death, and you.”

~~~~

“Woah, cool!”

That was the best Devyn could think of, as the compact grey jet landed in front of the mansion. Logan’s arm settled around his shoulder. He looked up, saw the man’s expression and frowned.

“Sir? You aren’t okay with this.”

“Eh, ‘s just weird,” Logan said. “Professor’s back ten minutes and all the little X-soldiers fall into ranks. No one even questions it. It don’t sit right.”

The engines went silent. A minute later, the side of the jet opened and Storm came out. They watched her go to Charles and Moira, where the three of them conferred. At one point, Charles staggered. Both Moira and Storm caught him, both with identical stricken expressions on their faces, and Charles did a lot of arm-waving and talking, apparently to try and reassure them he was fine.

“He means so much to everyone,” Devyn said. “They’re all so scared to lose him again.”

Logan looked thoughtful, but he just grunted. Storm finished with the other two, and walked back to the jet. She waved at them, indicating they should follow.

A worm of discomfort flipped around in Devyn’s belly as they approached the hatch. He ignored it. Storm went in first. He followed, with Logan behind him.

As he passed the threshold, it became impossible to breathe.

The jet was tiny, on the inside. Two rows of uncomfortable looking chairs, and no windows. The walls were steel. A flying coffin.

Steel walls, the brushed metal almost artistic. Shit and piss and blood, and just one hole to breath out of. His body burned like fire from being bound...whipped...fucked by one stranger after another. Yet he’d rather still be with them, than locked away in here.

In here, he was alone.

Alone.

Completely.

Chapter Text

Devyn clutched his stomach. He couldn’t get air in. The walls were pressing his chest and back, and he was going to suffocate. A hand closed around his arm, and he wanted to fight it, but it was like his body had turned to glass. Brittle. Unbendable. There were so many voices, all talking at once. Only a few phrases slipped through the fog of them.

Put that whore mouth to work.

A bark of male laughter.

Little doggy wanna play?

Devyn. Devyn. What’s wrong?

“No,” he whimpered. The word took the last bit of air he had in his lungs. He backed away from the voices and grabbing hands. There was another man’s voice, closer, and a grip that tried to pull him back into the box, but he couldn’t go back there, no, no, no, he could never do that again.

He wrenched free, stumbled and half-crawled, half-fell down a small staircase onto earth and green grass. Nothing had ever felt sweeter beneath his hands. He scrambled forward, dug his fingers deep into the soil. Grass meant open sky, and sky meant he could breathe. His thundering heartbeat drowned out all the other voices.

Except one.

You’re safe, my boy. These are only memories. They cannot hurt you now.

It was as if his mind was a table cluttered with screeching monsters, and a hand swept them all away in a single stroke. He convulsed at the sudden quiet, looked up into blue eyes that reflected his own demons, but somehow held them at bay. He came back to himself instantly, knew he had made a ridiculous scene. He locked on Charles’ eyes, because he was afraid to look at Logan or anyone else, sat up and rubbed his palms on his thighs, wiping off dirt and grass.

This was a mess. He couldn’t go into the jet. He couldn’t.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, he thought.

It will be alright, Charles replied. I will help you do this.

But Devyn was still sweating, and he had to clench his teeth when they clattered together at just the thought of going back into that tiny box. For the first time since he’d woken up in this new world, he was disgusted with himself.

“Devyn.” Logan’s voice was reserved, and it cut into him. He was being weak.

He pushed to his feet, then offered a hand to Charles to help him up, as well, to show that he was still strong, was still him. But inside, he was begging.

Please don’t let me fuck this up. Please help me.

You are not weak. Old memories are breaking through. Your mind is healing from the journey, and it is going to be painful. It caught you by surprise. Now you know what to expect in this situation.

Which was a nice sentiment, except when he looked up at the open maw of the jet, it felt like his heart would burst out of his skin, and the sky reeled around him. Charles caught his arm when he swayed. He must have said something silently to the others, because despite how Devyn was behaving, no one asked any questions.

This is humiliating, Devyn thought, to himself alone. Self-loathing twisted in his chest, and he used it like a whip to prod his legs forward. I don’t need help. I don’t need anyone.

Charles released his arm, but walked alongside him as he shuffled on heavy legs toward the jet. He could feel the other man inside his head, and it helped, but when he set his foot on the first step, something broke free of the calming blanket Charles had put up inside of him.

~~~~

A face just like his own, but much older. Cold, gray eyes looking down at him from above. A voice that was his whole world, but it spoke without affection.

“Who are you?” the man asked him.

And he looked inside for the answer, but found nothing. He could feel the box closing back in on him, because no matter what he said, that was where he would end up when they were done playing with him.

Who was he? He was everyone’s whore. He was garbage.

“Are you my good boy?” the voice prompted.

A sound came out of him, something inhuman, disgusting, and the man’s lip pulled in a sneer. He hated himself with such passion in that moment, he could have ripped his own heart out. He sobbed, and drool fell down his chin.

~~~~

“Stop it!” Logan shouted. “This is torture! Just STOP!”

Charles had a grip on Devyn’s arm, and maybe he was just steadying him because he looked like he was about to fall, but he might’ve been trying to pull the young man forward. Logan grabbed Charles by the shoulder and thrust him away, harder than he’d meant to. The man staggered back against the jet, his face pale as milk, and his eyes held a reflection of the devastated expression on Devyn’s face.

Logan wrapped both arms around Devyn, squeezed him tight and walked him away from the jet. Tremors wracked through the young man. He smelled sick, like his body was pumping buckets of toxins into his bloodstream.

“‘Salright. ‘Salright. We don’t have to go that way. We’ll drive, okay? Not gonna make you do this.”

Devyn said nothing. The look on his face was frightening, because Logan recognized it. That was the look of the guys that came back from war camps where they’d been tortured. The guys who’d been taken to the edge and then way beyond it. And he wasn’t real surprised, was he? Because all those scars had to have come at a price.

How bad is it, Charles? He didn’t bother to keep the anger out of his thoughts. Unfair, maybe, but he had to blame somebody.

Charles’ mind-voice, when it came, was shaken. Rambling.

Worse than I...

It’s not that I haven’t...

A pause, and a sense of the man gathering his thoughts.

It’s by his own blood that I have my strength back. We are connected. When he panics, it overwhelms me, too. I can’t keep hold of him.

So, we drive, Logan decided. But Charles negated him.

We don’t have the time. Tomohawk is aware of the creature and is mobilizing toward the wildlife refuge.

Logan scowled.

Whaddya mean, “creature”? Thought this was another like him?

It’s complicated, Charles hedged. You’ll understand when we get there.

Moira must have run back into the mansion at some point; she came back down the steps and met Logan where he stood holding his silent conversation with Charles, with Devyn crushed to his chest.

“Here,” she said, and held out a glass of water and a bottle of pills.

Logan took the mostly-full pill bottle in one hand and read the label.

“Xanax? Seriously?”

“It’s been a stressful year,” Moira said defensively. Then she seemed to realize he was referring to Devyn, and said, “Oh.”

Devyn, whose heartrate had slowed considerably in the last couple of minutes, turned stiffly to look at Moira, then at the bottle. His jaw clenched and he snatched the bottle out of Logan’s hand.

“‘S fine,” he mumbled. His hands shook as he unscrewed the cap.

“Devyn, you don’t have to prove shit to me. I know you’re tough. You don’t need to be putting yourself in harm’s way to—Jesus!”

The young man had just tipped the entire contents of the bottle into his mouth and started to chew. Logan knocked the bottle out of his hand and grabbed his jaw. Devyn shoved him off with that inhuman strength, and he staggered back.

“You’re gonna put yourself in a fucking coma!” he shouted.

“No’m not,” Devyn mumbled, spitting white powder as he spoke.

“No he’s not,” Charles said at the exact same time, as he came up beside them. “He processes drugs very quickly, Logan. Almost as fast as you, I dare say. This will help him sleep for a little while. If he can just get to sleep, I can keep him that way until we arrive at our destination.”

Devyn sank down to sit on the bottom step of the mansion, elbows on his knees. Moira set down the glass of water beside him. He mumbled a “Thank you, ma’am,” and drank it.

Logan rounded on Charles. The man’s youthful blue eyes held a weariness that maybe could’ve turned his anger aside, if he wasn’t so good at being angry.

“This is bullshit. Don’t tell me you know what you’re doing. You’re gonna take someone who can turn ice into steam with his brain, and put him six miles high in a tin can, and hope he doesn’t lose his shit.”

“I’m not weak!” Devyn’s voice grated out like there were rocks in his throat. Logan looked down to find the young man glaring up at him, and opened his mouth to say something he’d probably regret.

“Enough!” Charles said loudly. “Listen to me. Devyn’s compatriot has already killed over a dozen people in his confusion. He is incredibly dangerous. Devyn is the only one who can get through to him. If the Tomohawk forces reach him before we do, it will only escalate—Logan, I would not ask this of you both if there was another way.”

Logan glared at Charles, but the other man didn’t back down. He hadn’t expected it. Yeah, the X-soldiers were all falling into line, alright. And once again, Charles had been withholding information, doling it out in tiny servings, just enough to get people to move the way he wanted.

I would ask nothing of you that I wouldn’t give, myself, Charles said silently.

“Get outta my head, Xavier,” Logan growled.

Charles’ jaw clenched, and he looked away.

Chapter Text

Logan sat on the floor of the jet, up against the wall. He wasn’t claustrophobic, himself, but he loathed flying. Devyn’s head in his lap was undoubtedly helping him more than it helped Devyn; the young man was utterly insensible.

He distracted himself from the fact that they were miles in the air by trying to finger-comb all the knots out of Devyn’s thick hair. The last time the boy had combed it had been at that lodge house. He could feel Charles’ eyes on them, but ignored it. He kept catching a particular scent from the man, and it was confusing.

He wasn’t just muscle and no brains, despite what most people thought. Charles had said he’d received Devyn’s memories with his blood. Well, Logan was in some of those memories, wasn’t he? Which was the only explanation he could think of for the whiffs of desire that would come off Charles’ skin every so often.

It was hard to think of Charles as young, despite the evidence of his eyes and nose. Hard to think of his stately, paraplegic associate having the sex drive of a thirty year old and possibly finding him attractive.

A sharp exhale made him look up. Charles had a smirk on his face.

“What?” His voice was cold. He was still pissed.

The man shrugged, touched his face as if to hide his expression, then let his hand fall.

“Yes, well, it’s not easy for me either,” Charles said with a strangled sort of humor.

“Thought I told you to get outta my head.”

“I’m trying, but the louder thoughts are like you’re shouting in my face.”

“Then try having a little—whaddyacallit. Tact.”

Charles tittered, covered his mouth. Logan rolled his eyes.

“You’re even acting like a twenty-something.”

The other man sobered, and frowned. “I am aware of that. I’ve been pondering this. One thinks that one knows one’s own mind, but add in cellular regeneration, a flood of new hormones and neurotransmitters, and I believe it has precipitated a shift in personality to match my physical age, despite my having the experience of nearly a century of life.”

Logan grunted. That was a very “Charles” thing to say, but he didn’t have to be so hyper about it.

They were silent for a while. Then Charles shifted uneasily, drew in a breath, and Logan waited for the young/old man to work up to whatever he had to say.

“About Devyn,” he said at last. “As his memories unfold, there are likely to be many more of these setbacks. He overcame them before, but it took him many years of hard work—”

“How many?” Logan interrupted.

“I don’t know exactly, because he doesn’t know. He’s crossed dimensions before, and it’s altered his perception of time. Possibly twenty years.”

“If he’s over twenty I’ll eat my claws.”

A faint smile crossed Charles’ lips. “Would you like a napkin?”

“You serious?”

Charles nodded. “He may have been around seventeen when he was turned. He never knew his exact age, because—well.” He pulled at his own fingertips, bit his lip—nervous gestures, so unlike himself. “In any case. After that, his appearance hasn’t changed at all. I believe he’s closer to forty.”

Logan chewed on that: first, the jolt of wondering if his lover was just on the wrong side of legal, then learning that he was actually about as old as Logan himself appeared to be.

“Huh,” he articulated. He ran his fingers over Devyn’s catlike jawline, that supple skin that hadn’t seen a razor in two days, yet had barely a hint of stubble.

“All I’m saying is, give him time to adjust as his memories return.”

“Why’s it matter to you what I give him?” Logan muttered, but he held Devyn tighter, went back to finger-combing his hair. He glanced up and was taken aback to see an expression of utter longing on Charles’ face. The man quickly turned away, and when he looked back, he’d schooled his expression.

“Because he is a very good person who’s had a very hard life, and so are you.” He said it clinically, like he was a therapist pronouncing his diagnosis from a particularly strange office chair, but his eyes belied the detachment.

Uncomfortable, Logan changed the subject.

“How long til we land?”

Charles hesitated, and his eyes went vague. “About five minutes.”

That was faster than he’d expected. “He gonna wake up?”

The man gave him a strained smile. “The moment I let go. I’ve been holding him under for a while, now.”

~~~~

Devyn’s eyes flew open. He bolted upright, then surged to his feet. The panic that hammered through his chest drained away quickly as he realized he was in a forest of tall trees, with a cloudy sky overhead and not a wall in sight. He swung around to find Logan, Storm, and Charles, all standing together. Another quick glance around and he could just make out the jet, nearly hidden by trees behind them.

It hit him. Logan must have deliberately carried him far away from the jet before they let him wake up. That did something to his chest. Something that hurt, but also felt warm and good. His throat tightened with emotions he couldn’t understand.

Then his gut heaved.

He bent double and retched violently. Blood and bits of white pills sprayed onto the forest floor. Steam rose up from the sick; there was slushy snow beneath the leaves. Storm came running towards him, and he held up a hand to signal her to stop; he couldn’t speak yet.

“Sorry,” he got out, then vomited another wet mass of red and white.

“It’s alright, Ororo,” Charles said, as she continued to hover.

“But the blood!”

“I drink blood,” Devyn said hoarsely. “Remember?” He couldn’t remember if anyone had actually told her about that. The pills tasted vile, the second time around. He spat, trying to clear his mouth.

“We had to set down at a distance so the jet would not draw a reaction,” Charles said, as Devyn stood and wiped his mouth. “But if you reach out, you should be able—”

“I feel him,” Devyn interrupted. He realized his rudeness and winced. “Sir, I’m sorry, sir.”

There was a brush in his mind, like the press of fingertips. You have no reason to apologize. Now, lead the way.

“Lead the way,” Charles said out loud, for the others’ benefit.

“What’s the plan if this gets violent?” Logan asked.

“Storm will call a fog around us, and I’ll use my power to hide all of us except for Devyn. Logan, you will need to stay with Storm and myself,” he emphasized, “and do not interfere. Let Devyn handle it. The only reason we are following is in case the Tomohawk team causes trouble. I can sense them at the other end of the forest. They have deployed scout drones, but they do not yet have a location.”

“I’ve already sent heavy fog and sleet to their area,” Storm said. “It will slow them down.”

“And you have a plan for them if they do find us?” Logan asked.

“I can hold them for a limited time,” Charles said. “Let’s try to do this without shedding blood. If we can be away with the other before they find us, it will cause them greater delays.”

“‘F they’re all dead it’ll cause a delay,” Logan muttered under his breath.

“Logan,” Charles said sharply.

“Yeah yeah. Good guy, yadda yadda.”

Devyn was barely listening to the interaction. The more he looked inside himself, the more he could feel it: what he’d thought was a thin thread was actually a thick rope, stretching out from his center and connecting him to another. He started walking. He didn’t know if the others followed. At this point, it didn’t matter. Whoever was on the other side of that rope, he needed to find them.

~~~~

Someone was watching them.

Logan’s ears pricked and his nostrils twitched as he tried to find the source. They were thirty minutes into a densely wooded section of forest. Their breath frosted the air. A fog which belonged to the forest, and not to Storm, covered the ground up to their knees. His nerves twitched nonstop like he was walking under a spider nest, and he kicked himself for not having a smoke before they’d taken the damn flight.

Wait, Charles said silently. Logan and Storm stopped.

Devyn broke into a run.

Logan glanced at Charles, saw the “don’t do it” in his wide eyes, and ignored it. He chased Devyn into the woods.

The young man was a wraith through the trees. He moved so damn fast, Logan wound up tracking him by scent alone within a minute. All his senses went on high alert. Something was up ahead; something was wrong.

A massive screech, like steel pylons giving way, roared through the air. It shocked his eardrums so painfully he had to clap his hands over his ears. He thought Devyn might’ve screamed right after, but couldn’t be sure. He found that he could, in fact, run faster. His claws shot out of his fists. A loud crash sounded up ahead, and the distinct, ominous snap and creak of a tree beginning to topple.

It nearly got him. He dashed past another cluster of trees into a clearing, felt the air move above him, and a trunk as big around as he was smashed down behind him. A stray branch knocked him to one knee.

A frigid wind blew past him, and he shuffled back against the felled tree on pure instinct. He barely had time to wonder what had just happened, then something enormous swung over his head, so forcefully that his hair and jacket moved in its wake. He looked out from under a shielding arm.

A black shape thrashed on the ground in the middle of the clearing. Devyn rolled on top of it with a savage scream.

Another black shape darted past him. It leapt into a smooth arc, and was slammed out of the sky by the claws of something huge and serpentine, something with a thousand colors reflected in its alabaster scales—

Logan’s jaw dropped, and he couldn’t pick it back up again.

Dragon.

It was a fucking dragon.

A dragon the size of two semi trucks.

In Ontario?

The thing turned with deceptive slowness. It had one wing tucked into its side; the other dragged alongside it like a crumpled billboard. Its tail whipped around it like a gigantic mace. Devyn, who was running toward it as it swung toward him, threw himself into a base-runner’s slide. The tail missed his nose by inches and crashed into another of the black shapes. The shape flew into the sky until it was past the trees. It was the first one of the black things Logan could see clearly, as it sailed into the distance: it was a hound. That was what he’d been sensing in the trees. The hounds had found them here.

He sprang toward Devyn, who scrambled up from the ground and must have been dazed, because he was running toward the dragon instead of away.

“RUN!” Logan bellowed, and brandished his claws. He may not be able to go near the hounds, but he was betting he could put a few dings in that dragon’s chrome.

Devyn looked over his shoulder, saw him, and his eyes widened. He changed direction, ran at Logan, and jumped entirely over him. Logan filed that away to gawp over later. He glanced back, and realized another of the hounds had been on his tail, and now Devyn was locked in combat with it. He left the boy to that battle and turned back to his own.

He was just in time to see an open maw the span of his spread arms barreling down to meet his head. It had double rows of teeth, and the fangs were as long as his forearm.

He slashed his claws into the mouth as it tried to engulf him. Blades met the whip of a tongue, gashed it nearly in half, and took a few smaller teeth with them as they sliced out. The head whipped away, and another screech blasted the air apart. Something burst inside his head, on the left side. Warmth filled his ear, trickled down his neck. The fucking thing had busted his eardrum.

He snarled and spun around, only to be hit by that battering ram tail. He had a moment to feel his spine snap cleanly in half before he blacked out—

—and woke up on his back, splayed like a discarded doll at the base of the tree that had stopped him from flying halfway to Vancouver. The sky spun and settled while he tried to remember how to twitch his fingers. There they were. But he still couldn’t feel his legs.

He fought the feeling that he’d been run through a mulcher, managed to turn on his side, and saw that he was still inside the clearing. A number of large, black hounds littered the area, bodies twisted at various angles.

Not five yards away, Devyn grappled with what looked like the last one standing. The young man torqued his body into a forceful flip with his arms around its neck, twisting its head in a complete circle. It fell on its side, legs thrashing. Devyn bent over it, hands on its throat, and the thing went still. A possessive pride hit Logan deep in the gut at his lover’s grace and power. But fear slapped pride away when he realized the dragon was in a headlong charge toward Devyn. Its sinuous body undulated in a limping gallop. The broken wing dragged, useless, through the six-inch slush. Despite its injuries, it moved at high speed, and Devyn’s back was still turned.

His fucking legs wouldn’t move. He shouted inarticulately, and Devyn whipped around as if he’d understood the warning. Devyn got one arm up over his head and shifted to the side; the quick movement kept him from being swallowed whole down that serpentine neck.

The dragon’s maw snapped down over the entire left half of his torso.

Devyn shrieked so hard, his voice broke. His left arm came out the far side of those jaws and reached backward, fingernails grasping for purchase on the dragon’s snout. His right hand clawed at the space just under one gleaming green eye. Then the fight seemed to drain out of him, and he just clung onto its scales, practically hugging himself into its mouth. The dragon’s whiplike tongue curled around Devyn’s waist, then disappeared between them.

They were upwind. He was hit in the face with an overpowering headful of Devyn’s blood-scent. He heard a sound come out of his own mouth, but it was far away. He willed his legs to move, move, fucking MOVE! Agonizing heat in his lower back said his spinal cord was fixing itself, too goddamn slow. He rolled onto his belly with a guttural snarl and started an army crawl toward them, while the dragon wrapped its tail around itself and Devyn. It lifted its front leg, curled opalescent claws around his side, and tore his heavy jacket off like it was tissue paper. Its tongue whipped deftly around his torso, like it was savoring a treat.

And then it was gone.

Just gone.

Instead of a dragon clutching him in its claws, a hulking, naked man with skin like frost had one arm wrapped around Devyn, face dipped into his neck. Devyn cried out as the larger man tumbled them onto the ground. He clawed at the man’s face, but his wrist was caught and pinned out to the side as easily as if he was a struggling kitten.

The heat in his spine hit its peak, and tingling like a trillion bees rushed through both of Logan’s legs. He pushed himself up onto those burning sticks and lurched forward. The man covering Devyn was drenched in blood. His shoulder blade had been ripped halfway out of the skin; the bone stuck up out of the upper right side of his back. His skin was so stark white he made Devyn seem tanned, but he wasn’t an albino; his long hair was chocolate brown. He had a tattoo down half his body, but like no ink Logan had ever seen; it was iridescent silver on the white canvas of flesh.

Devyn breathed out a whimper. His fingers twitched. The man rutted against his prone body while he held him down, face hidden in his throat, grunting like a carnal beast. A corona of blood spread through the snow behind Devyn’s head. As Logan neared, every single hair on his entire body stood on end. It felt like he was standing inside a cloud filled with lightning.

Two dragging steps, and he was close enough. He pulled his fist back to strike, claws extended.

A long arm whipped out and caught his wrist, then wrenched his arm around. He fell on his side, rolled and lunged, aiming a slash at the man’s broad shoulder.

The man knocked his wrist aside like it was a gnat, then grabbed his neck, and slammed him down into the ground. This time, the man raised his head from Devyn’s throat to glare at Logan. His beard stubble made the blood on his face look like gore, and his eyes glowed emerald green. His lips were drawn back, and Logan had the impression of entirely too many razor sharp teeth amid the blood that dripped down his face. A deep, warning growl rumbled out of his belly. There was nothing remotely human about the sound.

The growl cut off abruptly. The man’s shoulders bunched up, like he had a cramp, and he groaned. His distended shoulderblade cracked back into his body as if it had been pushed. Muscle and skin crawled up over the bone, swallowing it in a process that was clearly agonizing, and which gave Logan his opportunity. He wrenched the man off Devyn and threw him to the side.

He hadn’t expected the severe wound to make the man an easy mark. He’d been right. This guy knew how to ignore his pain, knew how to fight. The man rolled up to his hands and the balls of his feet, poised to spring in any direction. Then he froze in place, eyes vague, as if he was listening to voices in the far distance. Slowly, his eyes dropped to Devyn’s sprawled figure in the snow beside them.

“Dev,” the man croaked. At first, Logan thought it was just a random noise. But then he realized...it was a name.

Devyn’s eyes were half-opened, fixed on the tattooed man. His throat looked like it had been chewed on by a mastiff. His exposed chest was covered in deep, bloody gouges from the dragon’s teeth. But he reached for the man with his splayed-out arm, curled his fingers as if to pull him closer.

“Master,” he rasped.

Chapter Text

Logan and the shapeshifter stood frozen. Stalemate. The wild aggression was gone from the man’s green eyes. Now they were watchful. Assessing Logan’s threat level.

The man took a step toward Devyn. Logan mirrored the movement and raised his claws.

“Get back,” he snarled.

The man’s mouth worked, as if he was trying to remember how to speak. His eyes flicked to Devyn. His neck gave a twist reminiscent of the serpentine dragon’s neck, and he spat out a snarl that was five times too big for his size.

“Devyn,” Logan said, in as calm a voice as he could manage. “I’m ‘bout to kill your buddy if you can’t call ‘im off.”

The man locked eyes with him when he said that. He rubbed the back of his hand across his face, then licked the blood from it with a long swipe of his tongue. Logan’s lip curled back in a snarl.

“Master,” Devyn said, voice choked. The man’s green eyes dropped to him immediately. “Don’t. Please. Lover.”

That last word gave Logan an ugly jolt. The big man walked up to Devyn and knelt beside him, but he kept a wary eye on Logan.

“Bite him again and you’re dead,” Logan warned him.

The man held up one hand, as if in surrender. He lifted his other wrist to his mouth, bit into it, and the intoxicating scent of fresh blood blossomed in the air. It streamed down his fingers as he lowered his hand to Devyn’s lips. The young man opened his mouth, groaned as the blood hit his tongue, and Logan’s heart—and pants—tugged at the sight of what he knew too well to be an extremely intimate act. He sheathed his claws. The fight was over. At least, that particular fight.

The direct effect of the feeding was immediate. The deep wounds in Devyn’s chest, side, and throat zipped shut without a trace. Devyn had never healed that fast for him.

‘Course, Devyn had never called him “Master,” either.

Or “lover,” for that matter.

The side effect of the blood came next. The man pried his wrist off of Devyn’s mouth and curled over him, claimed him with a crimson kiss. Devyn’s stomach bunched to raise him up; he threaded his fingers into the man’s long hair and used it to pull him down. They remained fused together for an agonizing minute, then the larger man gently disengaged.

“Dev,” the man whispered into his lips.

“I remembered the first time I saw you shift,” Devyn murmured, and traced a familiar hand down the man’s nose. “It kept coming back to me since I woke up here.” The man caught his fingers and kissed them.

Logan cleared his throat. Loudly.

They both looked up, like they’d just remembered his presence. Devyn grimaced and sat up all the way. When the man started to brush snow from his arms, he pushed the hand away. He awkwardly turned the gesture into a wave in Logan’s direction.

“Sir, this is Logan,” he said. “Logan, this is my—”

“Michael,” the man cut him off with a squeeze on his wrist; Logan caught the subtle motion and glowered.

“That what he call you?” he asked, voice edged like a butcher knife. “Or is it just ‘Master’?”

The man bared his teeth and curled an arm around Devyn’s shoulders. That possessive gesture was answer enough.

“Wait,” Devyn broke in, “where are the others? Storm and Charles?”

“We outran ‘em,” Logan said, still glowering at the man who was holding onto Devyn like he owned him.

Michael looked down at Devyn, and his face softened.

“These guys helpin’ you?”

“Yes, sir.”

He took Devyn’s hand and hauled him to his feet. The boy was shivering already, with his jacket and shirt in shreds. Michael, by contrast, seemed perfectly comfortable in the snow, even though he wore nothing but his tattoo.

“Here, kid,” Logan grunted at Devyn. He pulled off his own jacket and held it up. Devyn left the other man behind and came to take it from him.

“Thanks,” he said, with a smile that seemed relieved and worried all at the same time.

Logan brushed some of the snow and dirt from Devyn’s hair, then wiped blood from his lip. Devyn didn’t push his hand away, which gave him no small amount of satisfaction. He kept an eye on Michael, who watched the whole exchange with narrowed eyes. Logan smirked at him. Michael gave him a flat look back, which just made his smirk widen.

Master. Possessive. Violent.

He was beginning to wonder whether this was the guy who’d laid down all of Devyn’s scars. That was a conversation he’d be happy to start—and finish—once they were out of these woods.

In the back of his mind, he tried calling for Charles, but only silence greeted him. Not a good sign. He scented the air. It got his hackles up, though he couldn’t have said why.

“Something’s wrong.”

Devyn went still, maybe listening, maybe using some other sense to reach out. His eyes went wide. “Oh, shit.” He tugged on Logan’s arm, started to run back the way they’d come from. Michael caught up to them easily; his long legs ate up the ground. When Logan glanced over at him, he had to look up. Six-five, six-six maybe, and built like Thor. Tight curls of translucent, golden hair, like filaments of ice, covered most of his body. They added an ethereal air to his already godlike form. This, as far as Logan was concerned, was completely unnecessary and unfair. Michael caught him looking and glared.

The air was getting colder, a cold that burned his throat. There was noise up ahead. Pounding. Thudding. It wasn’t gunfire. Something the size of a baseball fell from a tree ahead and bounced across the ground. He glanced at it as they ran past. It was a ball of ice.

A blow cracked into Logan’s shoulder and he spun around, snarling. But it was just another ice ball. That was the only warning before the sky opened up, and rocks of hail crashed down through the trees. He ducked against a tree, arms over his head.

“STORM!” He screamed her name, but doubted that she could hear him. Branches snapped and shuddered around him. A tall, black shape manifested out of the hailstorm, and it was a hound, battered by stones of ice, trying to duck into the same shelter Logan had claimed. That heavy, freezing cold sank into his bones as the thing got close. He tried to extend his claws, and it hurt more than it ever had before, like the skin would break off and fall away from his hand if the claws chipped through.

A figure cut between him and the hound before his claws broke the surface of his knuckles. A pale hand wrapped around the hound’s throat, long fingers sank into its darkness, and that sensation of freezing all the way through dropped off. A tingling on the edge of his nerves was all that remained to show it had ever been there.

Devyn’s head snapped to the side as a fat hailstone clipped him over the eye. He hunched down with blood running over his face, shouldered the hound’s body up and squirmed beneath it. He tried to yell something, but Logan couldn’t hear him.

A blast of frigid, dry air hit Logan like the shock wave of an explosion. It shoved him back against the tree trunk, and the world was suddenly quieter. A long, white body, scaled like a serpent, crowded the space over him and Devyn, shielded them from the hail. The dragon’s neck snapped taut, pulled back into view with a hound caught in its teeth. It chomped the thing three times, then hacked out a sound like the world’s biggest hairball and spat the pieces onto the forest floor. Not as tasty as Devyn, then.

Its bulk lowered onto them for a second, pressed Logan into the tree so hard the cartilage of his ribs creaked, then it sprang off him and darted into the blistering hail. Devyn’s frustrated scream was drowned out as the sky pounded back down on them, its ferocity all the worse for having let up for a second. Devyn edged out from beneath the dead body and ducked into the same space as Logan, curled up against his side and pressed those soft lips against his ear.

“Cover me so I can get to him!” He had to shout to be heard over the crashing hail.

“Why?” If the thing was killing hounds, it was doing them a favor.

“He’ll go after the others. He can’t control it!”

“Fuck,” Logan spat. The adamantium would protect his skull, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt like a motherfucker. He jerked Devyn’s head and shoulders into his chest and stood, hunch-walked them out into the din and gritted his teeth as ice projectiles split the skin on his head. He never knew how long they staggered around like that. Devyn led the way, wearing him like a heavy, shuffling jacket. Logan just kept his legs moving; it was all he could manage while the sky tried to pound him into the earth.

The beating stopped so suddenly, it was like waking up from a nightmare. Logan groaned, so eager to rest that his legs went out from under him and Devyn caught his fall, eased him onto his back.

A whisper against his lips, “Sorry,” then a quick kiss, and he was alone with his own labored breaths.

He rolled to his side and up on one elbow. They were in the eye of the storm, with Storm herself standing, arms spread, in the center of the only patch of sunlight for miles, a single beam that shot down from the sky to keep her and Charles warm. Charles had his fingers against his temples and eyes closed. Just inside the dividing line between hail and clear space, two hounds stood, heads low and legs trembling. Charles was holding them back, somehow, but it seemed to take everything he had.

“Stop the hail! Stop!” Devyn waved his arms, tried to get Storm’s attention. Her eyes were white, clouded with the power that flowed through her. “Cold doesn’t hurt them! If you make it hot, they get weak! Storm!” He picked up a ball of ice the size of his fist, and threw it so it hit her in the stomach.

She turned a baleful blank gaze on him, and she wasn’t in there; she was outside herself, flying the wild shifts of the atmosphere. The open circle dipped in around them, a knife of hail swarming straight at Devyn. He danced away from it, ran toward her and his hand flew across the air. He never touched her, didn’t get within two feet of her, but something passed between them. She took a step back. All the hail stopped at once, and the silence that came after was deafening.

The weather may have gone quiet, but the violence still raged inside of Storm. Her white eyes flew wide; her teeth bared in a snarl, and a buzz of electricity filled the air so fast it choked the air out of Logan’s lungs.

Devyn fell to his knees, put his hands on the back of his head: a gesture of surrender. “Please, Storm, listen. Make it hot. The hounds are weaker when it’s hot.”

For a moment, she didn’t move. Then her blank glare swept upward. The tiny patch of sunlight opened up, and light so bright it hurt the eyes came beaming down through the trees. Surely she couldn’t have pulled the earth closer to the sun, but it felt like she had. The two hounds Charles was holding at bay shifted uneasily and stepped backward. Devyn jumped up and ran to them, caught one around the neck.

The white dragon slipped out from behind the trees, silent as a serpent, and snatched the other one up in its jaws. Crunch, crunch, hack, and three fat sections of hound littered the melting snow. Charles groaned out loud and sank to his knees, like the weight of the world had been lifted from him. The dragon’s massive, gleaming head whipped toward the sound, and it stalked forward.

Storm blinked, and the white drained from her eyes. Clouds swallowed the sun just seconds after she released the weather.

“Goddess,” she breathed, all the wonderment of a child in her open-mouthed stare. The dragon’s nostrils twitched. Its tongue whipped between its front teeth, like a snake scenting the air.

Devyn ran up beside it before it reached the two of them, stuck his face right up against its muzzle, and breathed quiet murmurs into its nose while he stroked the scales just above its massive fangs. It shook its head to dislodge his grip, let out a rumble that vibrated the ground. Devyn reached up, grabbed the ridges of long whiskers that ran up the sides of its jaw and pulled it down to his face, pressed his lips back against its nostril. He was using his own scent to bring the creature to heel. Clever boy, or maybe he’d had to do this before.

“Easy, easy. Leave them for now. Feed you soon. Make you full. Give you everything.”

The slitted eyes dilated, fixed on Devyn, and the great beast’s head bowed. Logan joined Storm and Charles; he could at least get a few slashes in, if it tried to come at them again. All three of them watched the pair with mixed unease and wonder.

Dragon. A thing of dreams, right there in front of them, big as a house and head bowed to Devyn’s whispers.

None of them expected the rifle shot that blasted the still air.

The dragon whipped its head up and roared, loud enough to shake Logan’s teeth in his skull. Logan looked around wildly for the source of the shot. His ears twitched, too late as a zip-click sounded in the trees, and Storm dropped like her strings had been cut.

Logan dived onto Charles, shielding the man with his body. He sent Charles a wordless query, and received back an image of the trees from above. Two dozen men were coming from the West in ATVs armed with everything from flamethrowers to bazookas. One lone man was on foot, circling in from the Southwest, his thoughts churning like blood. With the military men, but separate from them. The other mutant.

They came in as soon as the storm dropped, Charles told him, but Logan brushed the explanation aside. It didn’t matter how they’d gotten here, only that they were and it was time to run—except there was no way they could outrun those ATVs.

I’m a bit more worried about the bullets, Charles said. I can give us a minute, but I can’t hold them back for long. Their snipers will pick us off the moment I let go.

He paused, then added: We have a plan.

An image popped into Logan’s mind that was so downright ludicrous, he could only gape down at the man who was now trying to squirm out from under him.

“No time to argue,” Charles snapped. “Come!”

“You’re insane.”

I’m helping Devyn speak to him, Charles said silently. He’s agreed to help us.

Charles tugged at Storm’s limp body.

Carry her, Logan! Help me!

“You’re insane,” Logan said. “I’m insane. Goddamnit.” He scooped Storm off the ground and followed Charles to the dragon.

Somewhere inside the connection that still hummed between him and Charles, he could feel the other mutant thrashing at the control Charles was exerting over him. The violence in him ripped at Charles’ thoughts, left his mind wounded, and Logan could feel Charles struggling to keep himself going long enough for them to do this completely insane and ridiculous thing that they were definitely going to regret in a few seconds.

The dragon had flattened itself to the ground, wings tucked to its sides like the archways of a bridge. Devyn leapt onto its neck and held its spines like a handrail as he ran up its back, crouched between its wings, and looked down at them.

“Come on!”

And it was Charles—ninety-something year old paraplegic Charles, who went first. He mimicked Devyn’s leap with quite a bit less grace, hauled his way hand-over-hand up the long neck until he was a good twenty feet off the ground. He made it to Devyn and grabbed hold of the younger man like he was a life preserver. He laughed hysterically, tucked his face into Devyn’s neck, then let out something like a sob.

“Logan.” Devyn locked eyes with him. Just a look and his name, but it said so many things.

Don’t leave me now. Trust me. Be with me.

Logan shifted Storm up over one shoulder to free his hands, and stepped up to the dragon. Its eyes narrowed in an unmistakable glare which he didn’t try to reflect back at it. Even he knew better than to antagonize a beast like this right before it took him high enough to send him skydiving without a parachute.

It held still as he climbed on and made his way to the others. The creature had pointed spines along its backside in a ridge, but there was some space in between them. He crawled around the one behind Charles, straddled the beast and laid Storm across his legs.

When the dragon lifted to its feet, it was like sitting on a rockslide. It spun in a circle as soon as it was up, whipped its tail around and took down a tree that was too close. Logan found a couple of spines to brace his feet, held Storm in a death grip with one arm, the long spine in front of him with the other. From his vantage point, he could see a lot of the area. Jet-black body parts were scattered in a wide circle around them.

He swore under his breath. There must have been a good twenty of the hounds encircling Storm and Charles, and it certainly hadn’t been hail that had torn their heads off and ripped their bodies in half. It seemed the dragon had been doing some guerilla warfare while the rest of them had been playing with the weather.

The dragon unfurled its wings. Their tips touched the trees around them, couldn’t quite spread all the way. The stretched skin between the spikes of bone gleamed like an oil slick on ice.

Motion caught his eye below. Something raced toward them like a panther through the trees, and it took him a second to realize it was a man, bounding on all fours like a great cat, the black of his trenchcoat rippling around him.

The dragon’s wings beat down, and the world gave a drunken lurch. Logan made a sound that was definitely not a scream, realized he wasn’t clinging to his seat nearly hard enough, and did his best barnacle impression as the next beat of wings took them into the sky. He closed his eyes and kept them that way.

They were only airborne for a minute or so, but that didn’t mean Logan would want to do it again anytime soon—“soon” being at least the next hundred years. The beast touched down beside their jet with surprising delicacy, and flattened so they could climb off. Devyn helped Charles climb back down the long neck. Logan swung his leg over and slipped down the dragon’s side with Storm over his shoulder. And then the air flexed around them, the dragon disappeared, and Michael lifted a hand that still had scales and claws to run his fingers back through his hair. When the hand came out of his hair it looked normal, but Logan was certain the claws had been there.

“Quickly. He’s just behind us,” Charles wheezed. Devyn was under his arm, supporting his weight as they walked to the jet. Its side opened and the stairs slid down to welcome them.

“You three go,” Devyn said. “The two of us can get out on our own.”

Logan was about to say the hell you will, but he saw Charles and Michael exchange a glance that held a lot more than just silence. Charles cocked his head at Devyn. Michael walked up to them, and put a hand on the back of Devyn’s neck.

Devyn’s eyes rolled up like he’d been punched. Michael caught both him and Charles, who started to go down with him as he went suddenly boneless. The big man pulled Charles to his feet with one hand, and picked Devyn up in his other arm as easily as if he was a small child. His violent green eyes locked on Logan from behind a wild fall of hair.

“Come,” he rumbled. And to Logan’s consternation, he swept into the jet with the two men like he owned the damn thing.

“Fucking goddamn asshole steaming pile of shit,” Logan muttered as he jogged to catch up; he wouldn’t put it past the guy to leave him here. “Charles, you good to fly this thing?”

“Yes,” Charles called back. He was already climbing into the cockpit. Logan set Storm down and followed. Charles sat in the pilot’s chair and pushed buttons like he knew what he was doing. “I can take what I need from Storm’s mind.”

The engines let out their whine, and a figure burst through the trees just as they lifted from the ground. It was that mutant again, tearing up the ground with his claws as he propelled himself faster than any human could have run. He skidded to a stop and stood up, locked eyes with Logan through the window as the jet rose into the air. His face contorted in an expression of maniacal rage, and his mouth opened in a scream that couldn’t be heard over the jet engines. But it was even more disturbing when the rage melted from his features, subsumed by an amused resignation that said this wasn’t even close to the end of the hunt. He smirked, lifted one hand, and waved just his fingers in a flippant good-bye before their ascent blocked out the sight of him.

“Yeah, see ya later, bub,” Logan growled under his breath.

Chapter Text

Logan backed out of the cockpit to check on the others. Storm lay on her side; he straightened her out. A momentary feeling of weightlessness left his stomach hollow when he stood back up, and he took a death’s-grip on one of the passenger seats. If he hadn’t just lurched across the sky on the back of a dragon, he might have been in worse shape. Somehow, he didn’t feel grateful for that. He swallowed down nausea and glared at Michael.

The giant man sat against the wall with Devyn’s upper body cradled against him, lower body held between his open legs. Devyn’s head rested against his broad chest, tucked under his chin. Somewhere between shifting from man to dragon and back again, the blood had sloughed away from his face. He looked to be in his mid-thirties. His beard and hair had gone wild from living in the woods for a few days, but he was handsome. Devastating, really, and if Logan hadn’t loathed him so much, he might’ve tried to fuck him.

The man glanced up from beneath his brows. His eyes had changed color: the solid green was now mostly blue, and there seemed to be brown right in the middle.

“Smell you,” the man rumbled. His fingers threaded into Devyn’s hair and locked his head in close, like he was a prize the man was guarding.

“You’re one to talk. You stink like a lizard.”

That was a flat-out lie. The man’s scent was like frost and woodsmoke, ginger candy and sex. It was frustratingly appealing.

Michael only raised his eyebrows at the jab, then the distant look returned and he squeezed Devyn tighter. Logan’s blood boiled low in his gut, a persistent voice that kept saying, Mine.

“So. Lover, huh?” Logan’s mouth got away from him, sometimes. This was one of those times. As a conversation starter, it was a dick punch. Maybe not the smartest thing to do when the punchee’s dragon form was as big as the jet that was currently hurtling them through the atmosphere.

Michael’s eyes flashed back up. A line creased between his eyebrows. The feigned confusion pissed Logan off to no end.

“And Master, too? How’s that work? You tell him to go to bed, and he gives you the ‘sir, yes, sir’? That what does it for ya?”

Michael’s expression went flat, and vivid green flooded the blue out of his eyes. “You should stop talking,” he said, and the growl of the dragon was laced through his voice.

Logan shrugged, as if his heart wasn’t racing through his eardrums, demanding violence. “Hey, I just wanna know where we all stand, lover.” Now that it was out, he kept circling back to that word. It tasted like bloody dragon meat on his tongue.

Those green eyes narrowed, dropped to Logan’s throat, and he could swear the man was mapping out his pulse. Pressure built in Logan’s forearms as his bones shifted around sliding metal. But then Michael barked out a jarring laugh.

“He was talking about you, dumbass.”

Claws halted in mid-slide. “What’re you yappin’ about?”

“He told me you were his lover so I wouldn’t kill you.” He paused while Logan absorbed this, then added, “If you’re that insecure, maybe you should stick to your own kind.”

The tension which had begun to ease from Logan’s shoulders ricocheted back in on him, hauled all his muscles into knots.

“The fuck’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know exactly what that means. I tasted you in his blood. Did you think he could feed only from you?”

It took Logan a second to think through his anger and realize what the man was saying. No, he hadn’t thought Devyn could feed only from him. He hadn’t really thought any of this through. He just wanted it to keep going—whatever it was.

But he was the outsider. This guy...this thing...was Devyn’s...

His what?

“Why’s he call you ‘Master,’ then?”

Michael’s teeth bared. “That’s between him and me.”

“What else is between him and you?”

“You have a death wish,” Michael snarled, and this time his voice filled the space they were in, threatened a form that would burst the walls apart.

“I have a wish to not see my lover gettin’ played by some punk shapeshifter that tears him up and leaves him bleeding out on the ground,” Logan shouted back, and his claws ripped free.

Michael didn’t rise to the threat, didn’t move at all, but every line of his body sang with tension; the man was strangling down his own rage, and it was like a perverse taunt. Like he was saying Logan couldn’t take him, if he let loose.

The voice that said maybe he was right was drowned out by the pulse of blood in his head.

And everything was drowned out, a second later, as Charles’ voice roared through him.

BOTH OF YOU, SETTLE DOWN OR I WILL TURN THIS JET AROUND.

It was so startling, Logan’s claws snapped back up into his forearms. Michael blinked, mouth open in a comical “O”, then he sank back against the wall and a low laugh rumbled up his chest.

“Touché,” he muttered.

“The hell’s your problem?” Logan muttered. He could feel Charles’ baleful glare in the back of his head.

Michael rolled his shoulders back, and something in his neck cracked like a branch snapping. It was a surprise when he actually answered the question.

“Changed too many times. Healed up too much.” His green eyes lifted. “I’m HUNGRY.” The last word came out in a barely contained roar, like his throat had half-shifted while he was speaking. His hand fisted in Devyn’s hair, and Logan eyed it nervously, remembering the human hand still partly shifted into a dragon’s talons.

“Easy, fella.”

Michael glared at him, but then he looked from Logan down to Devyn, and his expression changed. He traced Devyn’s cheekbone, bent and laid a kiss in the tangle of black hair.

“Didn’t remember who he was,” he whispered into the boy’s hair. “Didn’t mean to hurt him.”

Logan sat in the chair closest to them, and smothered his urge to jerk Devyn out of the other man’s too-familiar arms. Time to change the topic to safer ground, at least until the flight was over.

“You got your memory back, now?”

Michael nodded.

“So how’re you lot supposed to stop these hound things? Besides chewing ‘em up one at a time.”

The man quirked an eyebrow. “Why haven’t you asked Devyn that?”

“He still can’t remember much of anything.”

A strange expression passed over Michael’s face. “Really.”

He fell silent, leaving Logan to wonder just what he’d meant by that.

“The hounds,” Logan prodded. But the man shook his head.

“Not til he’s awake.”

~~~~

Blue, green, and honey brown, with the green ascendant.

No matter where in the Many Verses he was, the eyes that greeted him when he woke up were Home. Devyn was finally home. His Master lowered him from the child’s carry he’d been in, set his feet on the ground. The man was still stark naked.

Devyn looked around. They were in a massive room, almost like a warehouse. The jet sat behind them, eating up most of the space. From the line down the center of the ceiling, he figured it had split down the middle to let the jet in before sealing back up.

He caught sight of Logan, watching him from clear across the room. He, Storm, Hank, a beefy brunette man Devyn didn’t know, and Charles were all clustered together. The big brunette had his hands on Charles’ shoulders; it looked like another emotional reunion.

Logan caught his eye. His expression was closed off, and it twisted in Devyn’s gut. He pulled away from Michael’s touch.

“Sir,” he said softly, “Why are we over here?”

“Don’t call me that, Dev,” Michael said.

It was like tiny steel tumblers clicked into place. Disparate fragments morphed into a recognizable picture, and another piece of his life joined the pile he was slowly collecting.

Kin protocol required public respect to his Master, but Michael hated when he said “sir” in private. There was more to it than that, an entire history of how and why that was still locked behind a thick fog, but Devyn was grateful for anything he could get. After just a few days, the rate of revelations was promising.

He still had to catch himself before he said, Sorry, sir.

“Sorry. But why—?”

Even as he spoke, the beefy man broke away from the cluster of people to walk toward them. His eyes roamed over Devyn, then lingered on Michael.

“Devyn and Michael, I am Piotr,” he said as he got close enough not to have to raise his voice. “I should have some clothes that will fit you, comrade. Pleased for to have you here.” A thick Russian accent brought his words out from the back of his throat, and explained the strange phrasing. When he held out his hand, Michael was the one to take it.

Piotr froze when their hands touched. His pupils shot wide, and his next breath was unsteady. Michael held onto his hand way too long. Heat rose between them, almost thick enough to make the air shimmer, and another piece of knowledge floated to the surface of Devyn’s thoughts.

This was why they were way off to the side. Michael was starving. Changing between forms made him voracious, and he’d expended a lot of energy in the forest. Anyone who came near him would feel the effects, and it was only going to get worse.

He could almost grasp hold of an actual, visual memory—dozens of people in a trance, desperate to bare their throats—but then it was gone. No matter; he’d seen enough. If that happened here, it would alienate them from their only allies in this world...and from Logan.

He put his hand on Michael’s wrist, just behind the two men’s clasped hands. Michael’s eyes had gone solid green, again. He blinked, then relented to the pull on his wrist and drew his hand away from Piotr’s.

“That would be a big help. Thank you.” His words were strained, and his eyes didn’t lift from the man’s thick neck.

“If you could hurry,” Devyn added.

Piotr hovered, reluctant, then shook himself and backed away. “Yes,” he said, and then again: “Yes. I am...doing that. I will return.”

Devyn sagged in relief when Piotr left. Michael lifted a large hand and curled it around the back of his neck. A new tension sang through him, and he shivered.

This is going to be a problem. He was afraid to see if Logan was watching them now.

He wasn’t immune to the pull of his Master’s desire. But Michael would forget himself. He’d forget how to let go, or that he even should. It was his dragon side, the half of him that only knew how to possess, guard, and keep. Sometimes it was erotic. Among their kin, it kept the multitude of other predators at bay. But right now it was uncomfortable and frightening. Like taking a hungry tiger into a kindergarten.

“Master,” Devyn hissed. Michael jerked, and lowered his hand. Another piece of vampire protocol that he tolerated, but didn’t much like. It woke him out of the haze enough that Devyn was able to brush off the heavy hand and lock eyes with him. “You need to feed, sir.” He used the honorific deliberately. To remind Michael of who he was. Of the power he had, that he needed to keep in check. “Please wait here for me. I’ll arrange everything.” He touched the man’s thick triceps, and couldn’t help skating his hand over the cool, hard flesh. Their bond sang beneath his fingertips; it was physically painful to let go.

“You’ll be in control after you’ve fed. Just...” Don’t lose it. Not here. Please.

He didn’t say it out loud, but Michael knew. He nodded, started to reach for Devyn again, then curled his fingers into his palm and crossed his arms like he was holding himself in.

“Fuck,” he muttered. “Where’s Kristoph when you need him.”

Devyn frowned. “Who’s Kristoph?”

Michael gave him a sharp look. His jaw worked, and Devyn knew he was chewing the inside of his cheek: a habit from when he was human. His fangs had turned it into an exercise in masochism, but he still kept doing it. Sure enough, he grimaced and pushed his tongue into the wound he’d made.

“You really don’t remember Kristoph? And Pulse?”

The names meant nothing. Devyn shook his head, and Michael looked thoughtful. He opened his mouth, closed it, then huffed out a sigh. “Need to talk later. Can’t think straight.”

Devyn nodded. “We’ll take care of it. Just hold on.”

~~~~

Logan’s eyes shot open the moment the doorknob turned. It was the dead of night. Soft light from the moon filtered through the window. He watched the door swing inward, inhaled deeply as Devyn slipped into the room. His scent had changed. It was stronger than normal, heady and rich like sex. He smelled of Michael, and other men, but not from fucking. Blood sharing, definitely. And probably more than one pair of ruined pants left in his wake.

“Where’s your friend?”

Devyn didn’t jump. He let his jacket slide onto the chair by the window, and pulled off his shirt.

“Staying with Piotr.”

Logan’s eyebrows shot up. “Our Piotr?”

He could just see the way Devyn’s cheeks lifted with his smile. “Yeah.”

Logan stared at him for a few moments, then a deep chuckle shook his chest. “Damn. Get it, tin man.”

Devyn huffed out a laugh. He took off his shoes, but left the pants on and came up to the bed.

“He said if Michael tried to bite him, he could turn his skin to metal. Was he serious?”

“Yep.”

“I’d love to see him do that.”

“Shouldn’t take much convincing. He likes to show off.”

He waited, but Devyn didn’t get on the bed. Nervous, then. He’d looked nervous yesterday, the entire time he’d explained that he had to go get his buddy loaded up with blood to keep him from going on a rampage (he hadn’t said that in so many words, but it was strongly implied), and that he didn’t know when they would come back. True, Logan had been gruff with him, but he doubted it was for the reasons Devyn thought.

He got up on one elbow and grabbed the edge of Devyn’s pants, pulled him in until the young man got on the bed next to him. Up close, his scent was intoxicating. Logan pressed his lips against Devyn’s side and inhaled deeply. Devyn’s fingers carded through his hair, but his touch felt shaky.

“Why’re you scared?” Logan asked.

A click as Devyn swallowed. His chest rose and fell, and Logan waited for him to try and edge around the matter.

“I don’t want to lose you.”

The directness was unexpected. “I’m right here.”

“I didn’t remember him, before,” Devyn said, and Logan’s chest clenched. He’d expected that Devyn would be afraid of losing him, of his jealousy, but this sounded like the start of goodbye.

“And now that you do?” He had to drag the words out of himself.

“He made me.” Devyn stroked down his back, and it felt so good. His hands were cool, and wherever they touched, Logan’s muscles melted. He didn’t question it anymore. The kid had power. Not mutant, but it didn’t matter.

“He turned you from human to vampire, or whatever you call it?”

“Yes, si—yes.”

“Does that mean you can’t be with me?”

Devyn jerked. “No! No, it doesn’t—No. He said I was gone from him for ten years, once. He told me about it...I can’t actually remember.”

“Did he, now.”

“He said, normally it would’ve killed someone to cross worlds without their Master.” Devyn’s hand went tight on Logan’s arm. “And I know that’s true—like I’ve always known it. I don’t remember what actually happened, though. He said it made me lose it for a while, but I was one of the stronger ones, so I didn’t die.”

“So he’s telling you that you can’t live without him?” Logan was keeping check on his temper, but it continued to rise the more he learned about what Michael had told Devyn about his past. He’d been stupid to tell the sketchy bastard that Devyn had lost his memory. Michael could tell the boy anything at all, now, and there was no way to determine truth from lies.

“No...shit.” Devyn ran both hands back through his hair like he wanted to tug it out. “Just, he’s kin. He’s in my blood. I—he’s part of my life.” He stopped, as if just realizing what he had said. “He’s part of my life. That’s what I’m saying.”

Logan chewed on that. It didn’t sit well. In three days he’d found someone he genuinely liked, someone who matched him strength for strength...someone who wouldn’t die on him.

Also someone who had a mountain of baggage that hadn’t yet made it to the terminal. At some point, that was all going to come crashing down on him.

But Charles had encouraged him to ride it out.

Oh, hell. He wanted to smack his forehead. It was so simple. Charles could tell them if Michael was lying about Devyn’s past. He didn’t need to put thumbscrews on Devyn and Michael at all. Hell, Logan might even be able to get the Prof to bend his telepath ethics enough to tell him what the real situation was between the two vampires. Charles owed him big time for yesterday’s clusterfuck. It’s complicated. What was so complicated about an amnesiac demon-slaying vampire/dragon shapeshifter, who’d come from another dimension, and had once turned Logan’s lover into a vampire, but not into a dragon?

“I need a beer.”

Devyn huffed. “I’ll grab you one. Just tell me we’re alright.”

“Tell me he’s not the one that did this,” Logan retorted. He found one of the ridged scars with his fingers, pinched it. Devyn exhaled sharply.

“I don’t think so.”

“That’s not a ‘no.’”

Irritation edged the boy’s voice. “I didn’t forget my whole life just to be difficult. I can’t remember how we met. I just know how things are. He wouldn’t hurt me on purpose.”

On purpose. That qualifier as good as negated the statement.

“I don’t like the way that guy treats you.”

“He’s not usually out of control like that.”

“You know that for sure, do ya?”

“No...but pretty sure we usually know who we both are, there’s not an army of evil ice dogs attacking us, and he’s not starving so bad he’ll attack anything that moves. Cuz that tends to rub people the wrong way.”

“Smartass,” Logan said, and he couldn’t help smiling.

Devyn traced the corner of his mouth. The touch soothed his nerves more than any of the explanations. But there was a sadness to it, too, and Logan wondered if they were both thinking the same thing. At some point, it would be time for the kid to think about heading back to whatever world he’d come from. At some point. But not tonight.

Logan pulled that muscular body down on top of him, and found Devyn’s plush lips with his own.

They had enough shit to deal with.

Chapter Text

Tao needed sleep.

Needed it; wasn’t about to give in to it. A bottle of No-Doz and a Monster drink sat beside his keyboard. When he made handwritten notes, the pencil jittered on the paper.

Things with the general hadn’t gone as he’d expected. And though Tao had managed to smuggle half a vial of the alien’s blood to his fridge at home, tucked between expired milk and a takeout container of lo mein, the atmosphere at Tomohawk had changed dramatically enough that he might just bring it back here, to his lab. He’d been given free rein to do whatever he deemed necessary, and the general promised they were going to acquire the target again, and bring it to him so he’d have all the supply he needed. If they managed that, the sky was the limit.

Even with the single vial of blood and the cheek swab, he’d managed to just about replicate the bizarre genetic structure. It had taken a lot more work for the rabbits to stop dying when he injected them with it. He finally stumbled onto a solution: their blood needed to be extracted first, fused with the alien blood, and fed back. He’d still lost two dozen subjects before one had lived through the convulsions.

Number 32 blinked red eyes at him from her solitary cage. She’d been caged with two others, but had killed them both after the injection. Vicious little thing. Tao fed her mice and watched her red irises swirl hypnotically when she sank her sharp teeth into them.

He was onto it, now. Sleep was for the uninspired. Tomohawk was going to let him start human trials tomorrow. They had an unlimited supply of army grunts for him to inject, all prepped with Stryker’s hypnotic serum to keep the final product under control.

Only one of them needed to survive.

Chapter Text

Main Characters: (I know I know, they were at the beginning, but I never get tired of looking at them)

The splintering crash that had woken Logan at 5 a.m. was explained when he went back up to his room that morning, a cold Coke from the downstairs fridge in hand. Piotr ambled toward him, two long sections of mangled wooden bed frame tucked under a musclebound arm. A shit-eating grin stretched Piotr’s face when their eyes met.

“Morning, comrade,” he said cheerily.

Logan said nothing, but hiked an eyebrow as he watched Piotr walk by. Sure enough, a heavy layer of Michael’s scent clung to ol’ Colossus as he skipped down the stairs with the demolished remains of his bed.

Was he humming?

“Get you some, tin man,” Logan laughed. He was still chuckling when he got back to the bedroom.

~~~~

It was unnerving, the way the two vampires turned heads. Logan had noticed it with Devyn before; everyone watched him. He appeared to be in his late teens, muscled like he lifted weights. He rode the fine line between beautiful and handsome, with a catlike jawline and lips any woman would envy.

Then there was Michael. He was of a height with Colossus’ flesh and blood form, which put him around six-foot-six. Piotr was going to have to rethink his bed situation if this guy stuck around.

Michael had buzzed his wild beard into quarter-inch stubble. The iridescent, scaly tattoo that covered half of his body, a reflection of the dragon inside of him, slashed up his neck and behind his ear. His long hair was pulled into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. In his human form, when they weren’t dragon-green, his eyes were actually closer to hazel: blue-green with a burst of honey brown in the center. The kind of eyes a man could drown in.

Both of them had eyes like that. It was ethereal, the way the iris seemed to move if you looked at it too long. Devyn and Michael: two sides of a hypnotic coin, and everyone in the mansion was feeling the pull. Teenage boys barely up to Michael’s elbow stopped to give him sloe eyes as he strode down the hall. Girls clung to each other and turned pink when Devyn walked past, though he never looked at them. He had a thing about women.

It was a relief to get to the conference room and shut out the stares and whispers.

Charles sat behind the stately wooden desk, fingers massaging his temple in a slow circle. It was still a jolt to see him so young: right around thirty, if that. His chestnut hair waved gently to his chin, and though his summer-blue eyes held the command of the old Charles, they were softer now that he’d been reborn as his younger self.

“Have a seat.” Charles waved to the cluster of chairs that had been pulled up by the desk. “It will be just the four of us.”

Michael took the biggest chair and stretched his long legs out in front of him. Devyn sat a few spaces away. Logan crossed his arms and leaned his hip on Devyn’s chair. Knowing that Michael could smell what he and Devyn had done last night gave him no end of satisfaction. The big man’s hazel eyes took on a literal green tinge every time he saw them together.

“Who else knows you’re back?” Logan asked Charles. This would be his first real day back at the mansion.

“Piotr was the only other we told, and it will remain so for the time being. As far as anyone needs to know, I am a visiting professor from London. An old colleague of Hank’s.

“Now,” he turned his piercing gaze to Michael, “let’s discuss your Master.”

“His” Master? As in...Michael’s? Logan’s eyebrows shot up. He glanced at Devyn, who also looked like he’d missed a crucial part of the conversation.

“You know where he is?” Michael asked the professor.

“Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like the two of you, he lost all his memories when he passed through the Fall Gate. He is, however, ah, very resourceful.

Michael snorted. “He is that.” He tapped his fingernails on the arm of the chair. “So. It took Devyn’s blood to wake me up. Are you sayin’ he’ll need to drink from me before he remembers he doesn’t need to rebuild his empire from scratch, starting in...” his slow blink injected a dose of mockery into the pause, “Minneapolis?”

“Potentially. However, several factors run in our favor. One is that your fourth ally is heading our direction.”

“On purpose?” Logan cut in.

Charles spared him a glance. “Yes. I took the liberty of communicating with him, as he is the only one who didn’t lose his memories when he passed through the Gate.” Trembling fingers lifted to his temple. His hand jumped when it brushed a lock of hair, like he still didn’t expect hair to be there. “His mind is hard to touch. He has defenses against telepathic ability. The moment he sensed me, I was shut out. But he knows our location and that of your Master. I have asked him to wait until we can make contact. If all goes well, he can pick up your Master on his way here.”

“Then what?” Logan asked. “Is it just me or are these ice dogs multiplying? And what’s to keep the Tomohawk goons from knocking our doors in?”

Charles’ hand went back to his forehead, massaging it like he had a migraine. That tremor in his hand was starting to worry Logan. Only a day back, and Professor X was once again indispensable. Frailty was not an option.

“More and more of the hounds are slipping into our world,” Charles murmured. “This is partly in our favor. Tomohawk has stretched itself thin, trying to chase down the gateways to find more like you,” he nodded at the two vampires. Then he zeroed in on Devyn, and a troubled line appeared in his forehead. “Devyn, I know you recall the true enemy as the Outsider. Have you made any attempt to see how close it has come to breaching into our world?”

Devyn looked caught out, like he’d been asked a question in a class he hadn’t studied for. “I—no?”

Charles rubbed his lower lip. “Would you be willing to try? It would tell us how much time we have to prepare.”

“Mind telling us what the strategy is, first?” Logan cut in. “No way these fellas jumped across dimensions without some kind of plan.”

Charles’ forehead creased even deeper. He exchanged a glance with Michael, who shot an unhappy look at Devyn, who still looked baffled.

“I would like to tell you, but I must not,” Charles said, and a tired sadness weighted his voice. “Devyn, your memory must return organically or it could cause a great deal of damage to you, and to everyone around you. There is enough power locked up in your mind to split our planet down the middle. I fear that if I push you into total recall before you are ready, that power may burst free before you remember how to control it.” His heavy gaze lifted to Logan, and he spread his hands. He looked exhausted. World-weary. And just as Logan was gathering an argument, Charles asked: “Do you need me to explain my reasoning further?”

The offer was a neat jab. Charles had stonewalled him, back when they had argued over Jean. He was offering to do things differently, now. That was a pretty damn big olive branch.

Still...

“What. So you’re not gonna tell either of us?”

Charles shook his head. “Because of his blood-memory. It is too unpredictable. He could drink the entire conversation from you later, without meaning to. Forgive me, Logan, and Devyn. I have struggled with this all night, and I firmly believe the best course is to allow the memories to return without trying to pull them free.”

Devyn turned a lost look toward Michael. “Master?”

The big man sighed. “Sorry, Dev. I think he’s right.”

“Does this mean I can’t drink from you again either, til all my memories magically click into place without anyone trying to make it happen?” Bitterness thickened in his voice with each word. “I know it was something really bad, okay? I mean,” he gestured up and down himself with both hands, then threw them in the air with a laugh like broken glass. “I know I was somebody’s dog for a long time.”

No one had a response to that. Charles had a knowing, sad look on his face, and it made sense how that would piss the kid off, because it seemed patronizing. The air shimmered around Devyn’s chair, like a heat wave. A sensation that could have been blistering heat or freezing cold shot up Logan’s leg where it touched Devyn’s elbow. He pulled away. Devyn shot a narrow look at him, then went back to glaring at the professor.

“I know more about it than you think I do,” Devyn said. “I know there was a man that looked like me.”

“Dev.” Michael’s voice was low.

“I know he whored me.” The reference to the word that had been carved into his chest came out like a curse.

“Devyn,” Logan said.

“I know he broke me,” Devyn whispered. “I know that you don’t think I ever really put my pieces back together.”

Fire sizzled around the gold ring in his eyes. Pressure burst through the room, and a screech and shatter as the window exploded outward. Charles jumped back from the desk as it rattled in place. Loud crashing sounds came from downstairs, and from outside the mansion.

Logan grabbed Devyn’s arm, then jerked back with a yell as his nerves burned up all the way up to the shoulder.

“Stop it!” Michael snapped. He lunged between them, took Devyn’s shoulder in one large hand and pushed him back against the chair. Devyn glared up at him, eyes reddened with tears. His teeth ground together audibly.

“Devyn.” Michael wrangled control of his voice; it was low, now. Reasoning. “You need to trust me. There are two worlds of lives riding on what we do, here.”

The wooden armrests of the chair cracked in Devyn’s hands. Splinters broke off and hit the floor. Michael brushed a light touch over Devyn’s hair, stroked a thumb over his knotted forehead.

“I love you, baby,” Michael murmured. “Please, trust me.”

Devyn let out a breath like he’d been punched. The tension in the air fell apart. Furniture groaned as it slumped back into place.

Devyn looked at the open maw that had once been a picture window, and hitched out a sob before he stifled the sound, lowered his chin to his chest. His grip flexed on the armrests, and chunks of wood crumbled off between his fingers. He wouldn’t look at any of them.

“Clearly,” he said to his knees, but then he cut off. “Clearly,” he repeated. Tears fell into his lap. Whatever he was trying to say, he couldn’t get it out.

Logan went to the edge of the broken window, looked out over the yard. There was a car on its side; it looked like Storm’s. The big fountain was empty, but the ground all around the outside of it was wet.

Holy shit, he mouthed silently.

Rapid footsteps, and the door clicked. When he turned, Devyn was gone.

~~~~

The grounds around the mansion were huge, but it still felt stifling when there was nowhere else to go. Devyn had found a place at the far back corner, hidden inside a copse of trees. The mansion wasn’t visible from where he sat.

He’d managed to bloody his fists to a satisfying degree against a tree trunk. He sat across from his makeshift punching bag with his back to a tree, and thumped his skull against the trunk. Every time he did it, his teeth clicked together. Thump-click. Thump-click. Thump-click.

As coping mechanisms went, he knew it was self-indulgent. This wasn’t going to fix the window, or any of the other things he’d broken. At some point he would have to go back and face what he’d done.

Just...not yet. Not until his breaths stopped making that pathetic, shuddering sound.

Footsteps shushed through the grass nearby. He tugged his sleeves down over his hands to hide the bleeding knuckles. He pulled his hair forward to hide his swollen, red eyes, and let all the tension drain out of his face. The masking felt so familiar, he was certain he’d done this before. So many times, it had become second nature.

“Hey.”

A girl’s voice. Not what he had expected. He tilted his head to look up through his camouflage of hair. It was the one with the white streak, the first one Logan had introduced him to. Rogue.

When he made no response, she asked, “Was that you, back there? When everything crashed?”

His stomach turned. It suddenly occurred to him that the pressure he’d felt from below his feet, the crashing sounds afterwards, had to have happened in the first floor classrooms. If the windows had broken—

“Was anybody hurt?”

“No. Nobody’s hurt.” Rogue paused, then said, “Nobody’s mad, either.”

He shot her another sidelong look.

“I mean. If that’s why you’re out here. Stuff gets broken or set on fire pretty much every day, here. So.”

He nodded. She just kept standing there.

“Can I ask you somethin’?”

The question set off that strange doubling effect inside his head. On the one side was a glib response: You just did. But on the other, there was an intense pressure to shut his mouth, turn and escape before something really, really bad happened. That sense of impending disaster was a time bomb in his chest. The ticking almost drowned out the sound of the trees and birds.

He was certain it had already been an uncomfortably long time before he responded.

“Yes, ma’am. Might not answer, though.”

“Kay...” Then she blurted out, “Why’d you say you were protecting me, the other day?”

It took him a minute to remember what she was talking about. Then he recalled the fight with “Ice boy,” and how he’d almost run into her.

“Didn’t want to hurt you.” He felt this was pretty obvious.

“Really.” She sounded skeptical. “And it had nuthin’ t’ do with my power?”

That made him look up. She had an arch look on her face and a hand on her hip, like she was going to scold him.

“Ah...no,” he said slowly.

Rogue stepped in front of him so she was right next to the tree he’d been punching. She took in the chipped bark and indented trunk, the red smears across the wood, and shot narrowed eyes at him. But then she turned to face him and sat right down, leaned against the tree, and gave him a piercing look. When he pulled his feet back to put more space between them, she seemed downright offended.

“So. What’s your power?” She made it sound like an accusation.

“Breaking shit ‘n’ setting it on fire,” he mumbled.

“Huh.” Not quite a laugh. She still looked pissed. “What’s the real reason you were afraid to touch me?”

His head was really starting to hurt, and not from hitting it against the tree. Rogue was young, his age, and being around her alone felt different than being with Storm or Moira in a group of people. It felt wrong, but he couldn’t pinpoint why, and so it was just a constant pressure. A sense of doom, from no discernible source.

“That is the real reason. Didn’t want you to get sick cuz I touched you.”

Her pretty face screwed up in confusion. “Why would I get sick?”

“I don’t know!” He threw his hands up. This was too exhausting. “I don’t know why I do half the shit I’ve been doing. Alright?” He rubbed his face with the sleeve tucked around one fist. “I just knew if I touched you, you’d get hurt.”

“Does that happen when you touch folk?” She sounded genuinely curious. “I mean, I know you touch Logan. I mean, I don’t know that. Like, I don’t, like, try to see it or anything. It was just that one time. I thought he liked women, though, so it was pretty weird. I mean, I’m not judging though, or anything.” She raised her hands, palms out. “That’s y’all’s business.”

Devyn squinted up at her, torn between a laugh and a sob. “I’m sorry—what was the question?”

Rogue put her gloved hands over her face. Her fair skin had turned cherry-red. “Oh my gawd. Look, never mind about that. I just wanted to know if it was cuz o’ you or cuz o’ me, cuz I’ve never met anybody that has the same thing about touchin’.”

At his blank stare she said, “I can’t touch anybody,” then shrugged, embarrassed, like she’d just admitted to having a body odor problem.

This actually got his attention. He only felt the need to avoid women, but to not touch anyone?

“Why?”

“They get hurt. Only guy I ever kissed wound up on life support. I thought Logan maybe told you, cuz it happened with him, too.”

Devyn pushed his hair back to stare at her. “You kissed him?”

The girl’s mouth fell open. “What? No! Oh gawd. No. I mean, he’s really...but we never...” She cleared her throat. “I’m with Bobby?” It sounded like a question. She swallowed and looked around, as though the verdant lawn would offer up a new topic of discussion.

Devyn found himself suppressing a smile. Whatever dark memory had tried to well up in him, before, it had dissipated. Out of all the things he could have done to soothe his flayed nerves, he never would have put “conversation with comically awkward teenage girl” on the list.

“So, you touched him and he got hurt?” Devyn offered, more out of pity than curiosity. The girl smiled, as though grateful to be steered away from topics that would put “Logan” and “kissed” in the same sentence.

“Yeah...it’s a long story. Started when he kinda stabbed me, a little.”

Devyn blinked. “This didn’t involve you waking him up out of a nightmare, did it?”

Her mouth flew open and worked for a second before she managed to squeak out: “How—he told you about that!? I can’t believe him! I got used to power a mutant’s death machine! Why didn’t he tell that story? Oh, I’m gonna kill him for this.” Indignation rose from her like steam, and that about did it. Devyn covered his eyes and laughed, and if there was a bit of hysteria to it, well, that was better than a pane of shattered glass.

Rogue snorted. She tried to keep a stern face, but a smile kept twitching at the side of her mouth. She tilted her head, and it suddenly struck him how very sweet she smelled, and the shine in her hair, and how her lips sometimes moved before she spoke, as if she was mouthing out the words ahead of time.

“Sorry if I’m starin’,” she said, “it’s just...your teeth’re really pointed. I’ve never seen anything like that.” When he didn’t bite her head off for noticing, she added: “Are you really a vampire?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and for some reason his cheeks felt hot. Rogue’s eyes sparkled, delighted at his admission.

“That’s so cool,” she breathed. Her scent wrapped around him. He wiped sweat off his neck. The day had become uncomfortably hot, in the last couple of minutes. “Can I ask you some questions?”

He shrugged. The girl perked up, and leaned even closer.

“What was it like? You used t’be human, right? Is that real tall guy a vampire, too? How come you got scars? D’you sleep in a normal bed? How old are you, really? You look younger’n me, but you talk older.”

His eyebrows lifted and his smile widened as each question tumbled over the one before. He waited for her to realize that, magical, mythical being of lore or not, he couldn’t answer a dozen questions at the exact same moment. But he did listen. Her southern accent was a pleasant melody, and made it easy to remember her words.

“—Does it hurt to be in the sun? Can you eat real food?” She stopped abruptly. “I’m sorry, I’ve been thinking of all this since the last time I saw you.”

“Ok, ok. Hang on.” He played back her laundry list of questions like it was a song she’d gotten stuck in his head. What was it like, you used t’be human...

He ticked them off on his fingers. “I don’t remember, I think so, yes, don’t remember, yes, I don’t know, no, and blood is real food,” he raised his eyebrows, daring her to say otherwise, “but sandwiches are out.”

Now she was the one staring at him like he was being strange.

“What?” he asked.

“You just made all that up,” she challenged. “Answer it again, but say the questions too, this time.”

So he did. He tried not to, but he couldn’t help a swelling of embarrassed pride at the amazed look on her face. At the end she clapped her hands, and now it really was too hot outside. He touched his cheek, which was so warm it tingled.

“I bet that’s why you’re so good at music,” she said. “‘F you can hear stuff and remember it all, like that. Y’know Bobby was real mad about his amp, at first, but when he started playin’ it he said he’d never heard anything like it. He’s buildin’ a better box to fit all the wires in. He’ll prob’ly never say it to you, but he really wants to know how you made it sound so good.” She shrugged, gave him that little head-tilt again that made it hard to look away from her lips. “If you offered to show him, though, he’d be real excited. I mean, if you’re okay with that.”

Devyn wrenched his gaze from her lips to look her in the eyes. “I—yeah. Yeah, no problem.” Except this time, he wasn’t sure what the question had been.

Chapter Text

To an onlooker, his passing would be nothing but a flutter of stirred leaves. The night air was home, and in his home, he wielded ultimate power.

He had encountered two types of prey thus far: those with weaponry, and those without. Some bore conventional weapons, such as the armed men who had died trying to capture him. Some kept it hidden beneath the skin. He’d learned this when he’d tried, in his starved haze, to take a woman’s throat by force. She had summoned sunlight to her hands and it burned the night away, left him writhing on the ground and clutching his face.

He was more careful, now. He relinquished force, turned to subtlety instead, until he could understand the world in which he found himself.

He scaled the side of the nightclub, fingertips easily cracking the masonry to find purchase. He couldn’t bear to be in the din of the club itself. The electronic screech of the speakers tore at his eardrums like a hail of stabbing knives. The humans must be half-deaf to think there was anything musical about the jabber of copper wires. Yet they flocked to the noise, and provided him a steady stream of luscious throats when they stumbled out into the night again on a wave of drunken euphoria.

The window opened before he reached it. He slipped in like smoke, shut it behind himself.

The brothers said nothing as he shed his clothing. Thirty-five and twenty-nine. Masculine, and eager to please him. Both they and the older one’s wife owned the club. Now he owned them. It seemed like a fair deal to all parties.

“Fetch our lady,” he told the oldest, who had laced a wandering hand into his brother’s unruly blond hair as he watched his master undress. The man’s throat bobbed, but he nodded and left the room.

“Kneel,” he told the younger. Jade was his name. A pretty name, like its owner, and the man obeyed. “Are you clean for me?”

“Yes, Master.” Jade’s stubbled jaw shuddered over the reply. So eager.

“Did your brother prepare you as I asked?” The answer was self-evident, from the scent of musk and lubrication in the air, and Jade’s burgeoning hard-on, but the man flushed so sweetly when he answered, it was worth the charade.

“Yes, Master.” His voice was barely a breath, now. His pupils were so dilated, his green eyes looked black.

The elder brother and wife came into the room just as he settled his hard cock against Jade’s lips. The married couple both flushed as his gaze turned up to them. They shivered when he smiled, and Jade whimpered against his cock.

This world held such lovely distractions for him to indulge.

~~~~

After an hour of replenishing himself with his three hosts, he sent the wife and eldest brother away. They had become useful to him during daylight hours, when the sun scorched the land. The light of it practically blinded him. It turned his stark white skin to fiery red with just a few minutes of direct exposure, and the pain was too much to ignore. So, he sent his couple shopping for a wide brimmed hat, leather coat and gloves, and sunglasses to reduce the glare. His limitations could be managed. Jade stayed with him, asleep on a roll-out mat beside the bed. He could have taken another room, but he didn’t like to be away from his master.

The tablet was hardly the bright sun of day, but it stung his eyes even at its lowest setting. He could distinguish the letters and images out of the red, white, and green matrix of dotted lights, which was better than the desktop computer he had tried to use. His hostess claimed this tablet had the best screen that existed. That was disappointing. But it allowed him to scan for more information than his hosts could provide.

Mutation seemed to be the obsession of this society. Two sides rallied in fear of each other. Political unrest that was at once familiar and foreign. Maybe he’d known all about it before his memories had been wiped clean. If he was a mutant, it might explain why he hadn’t found another like him. From all he could glean, each mutation seemed to be a unique manifestation.

He studied articles that detailed the most powerful of mutant kind. A man who could move and shape metal at will. A woman who could summon storms. These were the ones who would give him trouble. He would need to build a power base, before he could move into the open.

Something fluttered at the edge of his perception. He went still. He’d sensed this presence before. Always just on the perimeter of his consciousness: a ghost in the shadows. But this time, instead of flitting off into the void, it came nearer.

It was one of them. A mutant. He clicked off the tablet and closed his eyes. A figure resolved on the back of his eyelids, as if it stood in the room beside where he sat on the bed. Just the outline of a man, but the image kept stuttering. One moment the shadow stood tall, the next it sat in a wheelchair.

What do you want, wraith, he thought, and was not at all surprised when he received an answer.

My name is Charles Xavier. I am a mutant, as you are well aware. With these words, the figure resolved. It was a young man, pretty, with bow lips and blue eyes. But there was a weight of knowledge in that gaze which gave him pause. This wasn’t another Jade to be toyed with.

You have started quite the collection of toys already, said Charles Xavier, and his shadow-self indicated the sleeping human on the floor with clear disapproval.

The mutant had read his thoughts. Interesting.

My question stands. Why are you here, other than to admire my collection? I’ve seen you watching me. Am I so diverting?

I am here because you’ve forgotten yourself. Your research into this world has already shown you the gathering of your enemies, yet you have not given them a moment’s thought.

His heart tried to beat faster. Almost unconsciously, he subdued the organ to its former, slow rhythm. And what enemies are these, Charles Xavier, mutant?

He let a sliver of his true voice edge into the name. The shadow-man wavered before him, then solidified even more than before. Drawn in by the name he had so blithely given. There was power in a name.

Maybe that was why he had no name of his own.

Ah, the mutant said, but you DO have a name. Would you like to know it?

He opened his physical eyes. The shadow-figure was still present, standing just where he’d been standing in his imagination. Young and handsome, and oh, so slippery.

“Jade,” he said out loud. “Get out.”

His pet woke and scrambled to obey without question. He walked right through the shadow figure.

Once the door had shut, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and set his elbows on his knees. His own auburn hair rolled over his shoulders with the movement, framed his face to calculated effect. At last, he got under the psychic’s skin. Powerful he was, but he was still young enough to have strong appetites. And lust...that was power.

Those blue eyes dilated, but they also hardened. Resisting him.

He cocked his head and let his lips part. This strange, powerful man aroused him, and if he could read thoughts, he could surely read hunger.

He opened his endless hunger to the man, and the effect was like a blow. Only a thread of blue remained in those eyes, stretched around gaping black. The entire shadow figure shuddered, as if he had just come undone.

Then tell me, lovely Charles Xavier, he purred. What name would you give me?

The slender young figure blinked out, then reappeared, melted to a mere shadow. It split into a second shadow, this one a head taller and twice as broad. Eyes opened in the new face. No other features came clear, just the eyes. A whorl of blue and green and honey-brown, color which swirled like a living thing.

Swirled just as his own irises did when he looked in the mirror.

Treske, said the shadow. That was all it took.

There was power in a name.

A gash opened up as though slit into space: a rent in the veil that had cloaked everything prior to these last few nights.

Centuries of life, condensed into a single instant.

~~~~

It’d been long enough.

Logan chased Devyn’s scent downstairs and out the back. He lost it for a minute when he got out in the breeze, then it drifted past him: winter jasmine and vanilla. There he was, walking toward the very door Logan had just come out of...and he wasn’t alone.

Devyn and Rogue were side by side, as though they’d been taking an afternoon stroll. They looked like a pair of Xavier’s students on a date, and that was an awkward thought. He’d always considered Rogue way too young for him, but standing beside her, Devyn seemed no older. He looked up, saw Logan, and his expression froze. Rogue followed his gaze, scowled, and pointed an accusing finger at him.

“You’re in trouble, mister,” she said. Then, “See ya,” to Devyn, and she walked off. She threw one dirty look back at Logan on the way.

“What was that about?”

Devyn’s lips twitched. “Sorry. Apparently the accidental near death in a night gown story is ‘super lame,’” he made air quotes, “and from now on, if you’re gonna talk about her, you need to lead with how she got kidnapped as part of a supervillain’s plot to take over the world.”

It took him a second to figure out what Devyn was talking about, but the rise of humor drained away as he saw how tight the boy’s shoulders were.

“Sir, I know Charles was right. I’ll do whatever I need to help repair the damages—”

“Don’t ‘sir’ me, not on this, Devyn. They’re wrong. It should be your choice.”

Devyn hesitated. “There’s a lot of people that could get hurt,” he started, but again Logan cut him off.

“Yeah? Well, it could wind up being more dangerous to walk into this blind than to push yourself to remember more. Just cuz Xavier’s a telepath doesn’t mean he can see the future. Whatever risk you take, that should be your decision. That’s all I’m saying.”

Devyn looked at the grass, expressionless. “I’m gonna try and see where the Outsider is in relation to us. So we know how much time we have.”

He looked the boy up and down. There was an edge of fragility to him, despite the down-to-business attitude, but if he wanted to push on, they’d push on.

“Fine. Chuck and Dragon are upstairs making contact with the other vamp.”

Actually, Chuck and Dragon are through, if you would like to join us, said Charles’ voice in his head.

Devyn glanced up. “That’s kinda creepy.”

“Tell me about it.”

~~~~

Upstairs, they found Charles lying down on a brown leather couch in his personal study. He had one hand on his forehead; the other dangled to the side of the couch and held a glass of water. Michael stood beside him, leaned against the wall. The big man had an unpleasant smirk plastered across his face.

“What’re you so happy about?” Logan asked.

“Just glad to catch up with an old friend,” he said, but something vicious slid under his voice.

“Centuries of violence and blood,” Charles whispered. “I could see the shadow of them, before they flooded us out. He was screaming.”

“Yeah he was,” Michael agreed, then laughed like it was the best joke he’d ever heard. In the context of what Charles had just said, the phrase “unholy glee” sprang to mind. Devyn and Logan exchanged a glance.

“Come in,” Charles said, and pushed himself to sitting. He held his forehead in one hand and waved them in with the other.

“What the hell happened?” Logan asked, scowling at each of them in turn.

“A slight miscalculation,” Charles muttered. “He was suspicious from the start.”

“He’s always suspicious. We’re lucky you walked away with a headache and nothing more. I promise you, he deserved every bit of what he got.”

“I take it your Master got his memories back?”

Michael’s teeth bared in that razor-tipped grin. “Oh, yeah.” He looked at Devyn, then back at Charles and and a thoughtful frown creased his forehead. “You didn’t tell them to head here, did you? Treske in a school full of high-powered, horny teenagers just seems like a bad idea.”

“I had, but after this, I have to agree with you,” Charles said. “We’ll find a different rendezvous point.”

“Treske is his name?” Devyn asked. “Your Master?”

Michael’s smile wilted. “Yes.”

Devyn made a sound of acknowledgment, but didn’t elaborate on what he did or didn’t remember about that name. Instead, he spoke to Charles.

“I don’t have money for the damages—”

“I’m going to stop you right there.” Charles held up a hand. “You owe me nothing. This is a place for mutants to learn their powers; property damage is par for the course. And money is not an issue.” His summer blue eyes went incredibly warm, and there was no denying his sincerity. “Devyn, all I would ask of you is that you have faith that I will do my utmost to support you in your battle.” He did not clarify which battle he was referring to.

Devyn’s mouth thinned, but he nodded. “I’m ready to look for the Outsider. But I want to ask you something, first.”

“If I can answer, I shall,” Charles said.

“I keep having this feeling. Like there’s two of me.” His body was a tense line, but he maintained eye contact, almost defying Charles to tell him to shut up. “Like, someone will say something, and there’s two opposing responses in my head. Or I’ll have these two distinct feelings about it, and they’re polar opposite.” He shifted in place. A blush was rising up his neck. “When it happens, I don’t know which one’s real. It feels like I’m going crazy.”

As he kept talking, Charles’ brow furrowed more and more.

“You aren’t going crazy,” he said. “You are experiencing the dichotomy between your true reactions and those that were conditioned into you a long time ago. The truth will become more clear as you recover your lost memories. For the time being, when you are in doubt, I would strongly encourage you to rely on whichever thought or reaction is not based in fear.”

Devyn was silent for a minute, taking it all in. Then he nodded.

“That was all I wanted to know.”

“Dev,” Michael cut in. “You did put your pieces together. Past tense. It’s done.”

“It is. It’s done.” His voice was mechanical. He strode over to the couch and sat down on the far side from Charles and Michael.

Logan crossed his arms and leaned against the door. Devyn didn’t need him hovering; he was tough, through and through. All this handling him like a live grenade was gonna give the kid a damn complex.

“What’re you gonna do?” Logan asked. “Is there a ritual, or something?”

Devyn exhaled a short laugh. “No. I’m just gonna step out and look. Feels like it’ll work.” He sank back into the couch.

“Hang on,” Michael said. He approached Devyn and knelt in front of him. “You need to tether.”

“What?” Devyn asked. As Michael reached for his hands, he tucked them between his knees. He had the sleeves of his long shirt pulled down over them, like they were cold.

“Tether. We’ll keep a physical connection so if anything goes wrong, I can reel you back in through our bond.” He gave a smile that was just vulnerable enough to make Logan want to knock it off of his face. “We lost you out there for a few days, once.”

“Oh.” He seemed to debate internally, then let his fingertips slip out of the bunched-up sleeves.

Michael frowned at something, then he and Devyn exchanged a hard look.

“I’m healing this.”

“No. It’s mine.

The short words and stubborn expressions gave it the feel of an old argument that had just been dredged up. Fortunately, Charles intervened.

“Gentlemen, perhaps now is not the time for this discussion.”

Devyn’s sapphire and gold eyes raised to Logan. There was a blush across his cheeks as he linked hands with Michael. Then his eyes slipped shut, his shoulders relaxed, and a whole lot of nothing happened.

“Is he looking?” Logan asked.

“Yes,” Charles and Michael said at the same time.

Logan fidgeted, then remembered the bottle of scotch Charles had once kept in his desk for visitors. He crossed the room and rummaged through the drawers, not really expecting to find it, but there it was. Looked like it had been sitting there since before his death. He sat down in the rolling chair, put his feet on the desk, and opened it. Charles shot him a scandalized look.

“You’re too young for this,” he said, and took a swig straight from the bottle. Not his first choice of booze, but after chugging half the bottle in under a minute, he had a pleasant buzz that might last him for a couple more. From his new angle, he could see what all the fuss had been about. Devyn’s knuckles were swollen, crusted with blood. He snorted and took another long pull from the scotch.

Michael was being an overbearing ass. Sometimes a man just needed to let off steam.

Usually, when he drank hard liquor, he’d get warm. This time, the opposite happened. He shivered. It wasn’t until Charles got up to fetch his wool coat from the rack by the door that he realized it wasn’t just him.

“What’s going on?”

He’d asked the question to Charles, but it was Michael who answered.

“It’s cold out there. Some of it’s leaking through. It’s fine.”

Logan watched a white plume emerge from Devyn’s nose and parted lips. His breath was fogging the air.

“Out where?

Michael shrugged. “Wherever he went. Most of the Verses are just empty space.”

Logan kicked his legs off the desk and approached them. He watched thick, white clouds come from the boy’s mouth, as if he was smoking one of those new vape devices. Devyn’s skin had that translucent ice-sculpture look to it, same as when he’d fed Charles too much of himself.

“This doesn’t look ‘fine.’”

“He’s done this plenty of times. No need to be squeamish.” He didn’t look up, but a smirk twisted his lips.

“Y’know, I don’t get you. Ya get all bent outta shape over busted knuckles, but you don’t have a problem with him doing something actually dangerous.”

“There’s a difference between being self-destructive and taking a calculated risk when you’re at war.”

“Well I guess that all depends, doesn’t it?” Logan drained the last of the scotch.

“Logan, please.” Charles’ voice cut through the buzz of alcohol. “Let him focus on maintaining their connection.”

The barest of whispers came from Devyn’s throat, almost lost under Charles’ words.

“What’s that, Dev?” Michael asked.

“Still far,” Devyn breathed. “Veil’s too thick for it to get through. It needs a lot more deaths...” He trailed off. Logan glanced at his knuckles. They had been red just a few minutes ago. Now, the red had turned a purple so dark it was nearly black.

“Bring him back,” he said. “We got the intel.”

“Shut up,” Michael growled. “I’m working on it.”

Logan almost snapped back, but he caught himself. It didn’t look like Michael was doing shit, but he’d always been uncomfortable with the invisible powers. He didn’t like an enemy he couldn’t smell. First telepaths and now this.

Devyn’s eyelids fluttered, then opened. For a dizzying moment, his irises were a thousand blades of gold and blue, shooting out from the center. Then the colors resolved into outer and inner rings, and Devyn was back in his body, shivering like a puppy in a snowdrift. Logan closed the length between them in a heartbeat and sat next to the boy. Empty cold radiated from his skin, like a window cracked open into deep space. Devyn leaned against him, pulled his hands out of Michael’s and wrapped them around Logan’s waist. Logan about jumped out of his skin when the boy’s frigid forehead touched his neck.

“Jesus fuck, kid, ya feel like an ice cube. Thought we had a talk about this.”

Devyn chuckled against his collarbone. “All I r-r-remember is you saying not t-to puke in your van.”

That made him smile. “Is that right.”

Logan looked up to find Michael watching them, but not with his usual green-eyed envy. He just looked tired.

“Get him into a hot shower so he can get his core temperature back up.”

Logan scowled at him, somehow rubbed wrong by the man’s abrupt approval of him.

“What about you?” He cursed himself for asking. It sounded like an invitation.

“I need to sleep.” He rubbed his face. “Sun’s near the apex. ‘S like haulin’ around a bag of bricks.”

“He never seems to have a problem.”

A fond smile stretched Michael’s lips. “Yeah, well. My boy’s special. Always has been.” His ice-white hand reached out and stroked Devyn’s hair. The young man tilted his head into the contact. “And he needs heat, right now. My body runs cold.”

Logan pulled Devyn closer, not-so-subtly separating them. “I’ve got him. Go do your thing.” Fuck off, bub, but he didn’t say it out loud. Michael heard it anyway, and gave him a wintry smirk as he pushed to his feet.

“You know where to find me if you need me,” he said to Charles.

“Go rest,” Charles replied. “You’ve already been invaluable today.”

Michael grunted like he didn’t quite agree. “Should’ve anticipated it. Pretty and powerful’s always been like catnip to Treske. You’ll want to watch your back.”

Charles’ fair cheeks turned cherry red. “Thank you. For—your concern,” he stammered, and managed not to trip over his tongue by a hair’s breadth. Michael actually winked at him, and Charles’ stunned blue eyes remained fixed on his ass until the door closed between them.

Asshole,” Logan said under his breath. Devyn snorted out a graceless fit of laughter, despite his chattering teeth.

“Sh-shouldn’t be jealous. People act the same w-w-way with you.”

“Yeah, right.” He didn’t mind the compliment, but how could he explain what it was like to watch his once elderly mentor turn into a swooning schoolboy whenever Michael flashed fangs at him? He shook his head. Dragons and vampires were all well and good, but some things stretched the realms of possibility too far.

“C’mon. Let’s get you warmed up.”

Chapter Text

Devyn’s hands shook uncontrollably as he stripped off his clothes. Logan’s frankly worried stare would have made him redden with embarrassment, if there had been a drop of blood left in his skin. Felt as though it had all condensed deep inside him, and would need to be coaxed to come back out of hiding. He gripped the sink with both hands to hide the shaking. It transferred to his shoulders and teeth, instead. Shit.

“It’s warm,” Logan said. He pulled his hand out from behind the door of the walk-in shower, and peeled out of his own clothing. It was a testament to how drained Devyn was that he couldn’t summon the will to ogle his gorgeous lover, as Logan stripped naked and approached him. Logan took his arm to lead him to the shower, but he hissed at the contact. “Christ. It wasn’t like this even when I found you half frozen. Feels like your skin’s sucking the heat outta me. Is this normal?”

Devyn shrugged. He opened his mouth to say he couldn’t recall for sure, but his jaw chattered like a wind-up toy and made speaking impossible.

“Alright, c’mon.”

He was equal parts grateful and frustrated as Logan walked him into the shower. He breathed the steam deep into his lungs, ducked his head under the spray, and closed his eyes. Logan held his waist, loose and ready to catch him if he fell. Devyn waited until his teeth stopped chattering before he turned to face him. His eyes were on a level with Logan’s chin; he zeroed in on the pulse that beat beneath the unshaven scruff at Logan’s throat. The man’s body was a work of feral art, all springy hair and bulging muscle.

“Better?” Devyn asked, once he was sure he could say it without a stutter.

Logan’s rough palms curved around Devyn’s hips, testing his temperature. The backs of his hands were laced with thick, ropy veins. Devyn traced them with his thumbs. The pulse quickened beneath his fingertips, and when he looked up, those chocolate brown eyes had dilated until they were mostly black.

“Yeah.” The man’s voice was rough. Logan’s thumbs circled on his hip bones, and the heat of his hands penetrated the numbness. It almost felt like if he lifted his hands, the shape of them would remain glowing on Devyn’s skin.

“So...while I was outside,” Devyn said, then bit his lip. It hadn’t just occurred to him when he’d stepped out of his body to search the Outer Coil for their enemy. This idea had already been nipping at the back of his brain since the battle in the Canadian forest, yet now that he was about to speak, he second-guessed himself. He was following a thread of logic so thinly sliced that he was afraid if he breathed it out loud, it would disintegrate.

“What?”

Devyn’s lips pulled in a tiny smile. Logan was gruff even when he was being solicitous. He flexed his hands, found them less stiff than they’d been a minute ago, and laid his palms against Logan’s lower belly.

A low growl jerked his gaze upward. Logan looked stern and forbidding, and it sent a thrill down his center. Those huge hands clamped down until it hurt, a fragile sort of pain with his skin still recovering. He imagined the hand-shaped bruises he was going to have on his hips, and if it weren’t for the remnants of that bone-deep chill, he would’ve had an erection hard enough to poke a hole in Logan’s thigh.

“While you were outside,” Logan prompted, but his voice was rough like the stubble on his throat. Devyn’s next breath shuddered out, and he tried to remember what he’d meant to say. It was important.

“The cold. So, you know how the hounds carry the cold from the Outer Coil with them?”

Lines deepened between Logan’s eyebrows.

“I have no idea what you just said, kid.”

“Oh—right. I remembered some things while I was out there.” He ran his fingers up Logan’s abdominal muscles, grounding himself against hot skin and damp fur. “The hounds are entities that exist at one of the extremes of the multiverse. Back home, some people called it the Outer Coil. Like two snakes are twined together, you know like that medicine symbol?”

“A caduceus.”

Devyn shrugged. “Maybe? Anyway, they talk about each Verse as being in the open part, hovering between the two snakes’ bodies. In the middle, that’s where things are balanced. But on the outside, at the coils themselves, it’s all black or white. It’s so extreme, none of us could even exist in that space. Those are the Outer Coils.” The image had come to him while he wandered outside his body. A statue that was several feet taller than him. Two twining serpents: one light, one dark. Another fragment to add to his pile.

“You remember all that while you were ice skatin’ in deep space?” Logan gave a wry smile, but he had a thoughtful look in his eyes.

“Yes, sir. But I’m able to go out there, right? I mean, it’s not fun. It doesn’t feel good. But I don’t freeze solid, either. And I can touch the hounds.”

“Mmh.” Those frown lines had deepened, and with a nervous flutter in his guts, he wondered if that was good or bad.

“So...what if...” He licked water from his lips, surprised at how hard this was. At how very much he wanted Logan’s regard, his respect, and to make up for his erratic behavior these last two days. “What if that ability is transferable?”

“Transferable how?”

“By blood.” He touched the pulse at Logan’s throat. “Everything that we are travels by blood.”

Logan raised his eyebrows and went quiet, thinking.

“Prob’ly wouldn’t work.” Devyn looked a question at him, and he answered: “Healing factor. Drugs, alcohol, nothin’ works on me for more’n a few minutes.”

Devyn hummed. He hadn’t thought about that. He rubbed at the ache in his arms until Logan saw and took over. The man’s huge, warm hands were much better than his own. He slumped into the massage, found himself craving the touch more than he would’ve guessed. The bruising squeeze, the way Logan was hovering over him, there was a dark edge about it. Possessive, he thought, and for a confused second, he started to pull away. Logan’s grip clamped down on him, and it truly hurt. The pain shot directly to his cock, and the chill of deep space melted like spun sugar before the heat in Logan’s eyes.

Never let a bigger man get leverage on you. His Master’s voice, sense of a wide open space where he’d first learned how to fight. A flux of memories threatened the edge of his consciousness, and the rush of water faded into background static.

Scent of oiled leather and metal bars. Strapped down and sick inside, but he could struggle all he wanted. He wasn’t getting away.

It shivered along his tongue, then. A name ready to be spoken. His heart shoved up into his throat, like it couldn’t bear to stay inside him if he let his mouth form that sound. He grabbed Logan’s hand and twisted it away, not to stop him, but to stop himself, to distract. They wrestled for a moment, wet slap of hip and shoulder against tile, until Logan pinned him up against the wall, chest hot against his back. His heart was still trying to escape, but it was better, now. There was no name, no memory. Just Logan, hard cock wedged against the top of his ass crack, his scent so distinctive, there was no question it was him.

“I can’t tell what you want, right now.” Logan’s breath warmed the back of his neck. “Do you want me to stop?”

“No,” he whispered. His fingers curled against the tile, both wrists trapped together in one large hand. No, he didn’t want this to stop. But the feeling still nipped at the back of his mind. Emptiness deep enough to shatter bones. Sense of his chest feeling starved, his heart an empty black hole that burned and burned, never let him rest. Caress, slap or punch, he’d take it all and be grateful. Anything to be touched. The memory was so real, it was like he was there again.

Logan released his wrists, and that, more than anything, brought him out of the morass. His posture or scent must have revealed the conflict inside, and Logan wasn’t like those men he had once known. He wouldn’t take, if Devyn said stop, and that’s what his body was saying right now even if his mouth disagreed.

He turned to face Logan, stuck his chin out defiantly. The man’s lips twitched, just a little.

“I told you,” Logan said. “Chuck and Dragon ain’t givin’ you enough credit. Don’t let it fuck with your head. I’m not gonna treat you like a fragile little flower. You wanna know what I know, all you gotta do is ask.”

“What do you know? Tell me.” He was eager for any kind of distraction.

Logan reached past him and adjusted the water, turning the heat down. Then he stepped into it himself, let it wash over his head and shoulders, plaster his hair back.

“For one thing, your body got stuck at age seventeen, but you’re really in your thirties.”

That, he had not expected at all. His mouth opened and closed. “Who told you that?”

“Charles. He also said you can’t be killed. You heal up just like I do.” He stared at the wall as he said it, absent like he was just regurgitating facts. But Devyn instantly thought of the day before, and how Logan had freaked out when he’d accidentally sliced Devyn’s shoulder open. This had to mean more than the man was letting on.

“What about you? How old are you?” Devyn asked. Logan had a maturity to him, even for a man his age. Hard living, maybe, or long living as Devyn suspected. If his power was healing, then it would stand to reason that he wouldn’t look his age.

Flash of dark brown eyes, shuttered. Logan wiped water off his face and squeezed out his hair.

“First time I remember seeing a paper, it was October 5, 1981.” He paused. “Do you even know what year it is, now?”

Devyn’s mouth opened before he realized he had no idea. He shook his head.

“2008,” Logan said, unperturbed. “I don’t remember a fuckin’ thing from before ‘81, but the way I look hasn’t changed at all since then. So short answer is, I have no clue.”

Almost thirty years remembered, and no less than thirty-five to forty, before that.

“At least sixty-five,” Devyn murmured. And it had just sparked off another memory. “Older than my M—than Michael.” He shouldn’t have said that out loud; it earned him a dark look.

“My turn for a question. Why does he turn scaly, but not you?”

Devyn frowned. “I don’t know. We could ask him.” At the look on Logan’s face, he smirked. “Or not.”

Logan grumbled something inarticulate, and made a move like he’d turn off the water. Devyn caught his wrist.

My turn,” he said, and jerked Logan around to face him. He caught the pleased curve of lips; Logan seemed to like it when Devyn showed he was just as strong. This man wasn’t some base creep who liked to prey on the weak; he wasn’t like the men in those gut-churning flashes of memory. He was a warrior.

Devyn pressed his fingers into the grooves between Logan’s knuckles on his right hand, traced those three divets up to his wrist, then followed the inevitable path up his forearm until he almost touched the elbow. Logan’s breath grew harsh, as if Devyn was jerking him off.

“Careful,” he said, and his voice was thick.

“Don’t need to be,” Devyn murmured, and sank onto one knee.

Logan huffed out a breath. “That what I get for tellin’ you about your healing?”

“I already knew I healed,” Devyn reminded him. Water curled around Logan’s shoulders and hips, rained down his arm, his wrist, and Devyn sucked it from the dip between his knuckles, hard swipe of tongue on flesh that had been split by claw countless times. The lick drew a hiss from Logan’s teeth, and his hand flexed into a fist.

“You’re playin’ with fire, Devyn.” His cock stood out ramrod-straight. Devyn rubbed his cheek against the hot length of it, eyes lifted to devour Logan’s hungry expression.

“Need somethin’ to keep me warm,” he retorted with a sharp grin, mimicking Logan’s speech pattern. His heart was back to pounding, but for a very different reason than before. He dug a thumb into the cords of muscle at the top of Logan’s forearm. With his other hand on the back of Logan’s, he felt the slide of metal between the finger bones. The man let out a choked sound.

“Kid—fuck—careful,” he groaned. His inability to articulate was as much of a turn-on as the blade that came slicing through skin between his index and middle finger, rich with the scent of Logan’s blood on it.

“I’m not a kid, Logan.” He hooked his finger deeper into the muscle and pulled down, forcing the claw to extend. Logan let out a strangled grunt. A glance showed the leak of clear fluid from the slit of his cock. Logan’s legs trembled. The scent of coiled aggression thickened the air, and Devyn’s heart hammered in time with the pulse beneath his fingertips: blood drawn to blood of its own. Logan’s life still pulsed in his own veins. He lifted that hand up to his face and took the very tip of his claw into his mouth.

Logan watched him with parted lips, eyes so dark they looked black. His free hand tangled in Devyn’s hair, like he would stop this in a heartbeat.

He didn’t, though. He didn’t.

“I like pain. You know this,” Devyn said, his lips and tongue fluttering so lightly on the claw tip. He wasn’t surprised when just that tiny brush spilled a trickle of blood down his chin. Logan’s fist tightened in his hair until it hurt. Devyn slid his tongue up the blunt back side of the claw, then down to the tip again. “I like how it feels. It makes everything light up, inside.”

The sound that came out of Logan seemed to dredge up from the base of his spine. “Fuck,” he gasped. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“No,” Devyn corrected him. He would take Logan’s lead on a lot of things, but not on this. “You don’t want to damage me. And you won’t. Smell me, and say that I don’t want this. Say that you don’t want it.”

Logan looked truly wild, then, like he might bolt. His nostrils flared, scenting the air.

“I know you like it, too,” Devyn whispered. “You can’t break me. Stop holding back.”

And then he couldn’t say another word, because Logan had a hand wrapped around his throat like a noose. He was jerked to his feet, then up onto his toes. He gripped that arm with both hands to hold himself up. Muscle flexed beneath his fingers, and a snikt-THUNK beside his ear as claws drove into the wall. His heart was somewhere up in the top of his head, fluttering like a trapped bird. Every other ounce of blood in his body was down in his cock.

“This what you want?” Logan ground the words out, and Devyn couldn’t answer through the grip on his throat. He thrust wantonly into the air, scratched his nails up Logan’s forearm. Logan put his nose against Devyn’s throat and sniffed him, drawing the answer up from his skin: an unequivocal yes.

A swift knee kicked his thighs apart and Logan hoisted one of Devyn’s legs over his shoulder. Logan spat on himself several times, then dropped Devyn on his cock so fast it was like a punch through his center.

His attempted scream might as well have been a whisper as the hand on his throat choked it off. Logan thrust into him like he would drive him through the tile, each jolt to Devyn’s body halted by Logan’s grip on his neck and the claws in the wall. Pain and pleasure shattered him apart until there was nothing but heat and motion. The slick slap of balls against his ass, water spraying on his legs, fur and muscle beneath his grasping hands.

Hard to fuck like this in a school filled with kids, without making noise. Here and there, Logan released his throat just enough to let him gasp a few deep breaths. Somewhere far in the distance, he felt Charles fall into a chair, overwhelmed. Just up the hall, his Master stirred in his sleep and slipped a hand below the sheets to touch himself. Devyn had made so many connections in this world in just a day, and they each left a unique burn inside of him, so hot that the chill of the Outer Coil was a distant memory, unimportant.

Logan smashed a kiss onto his open mouth, busted his lip and ate the blood like a dog after raw meat. Devyn licked at him deliriously. Every thrust felt like a punch to the base of his lungs, driving air in short bursts up through his constricted throat.

Then Logan pulled out, and he was hanging by his throat for a second, then by nothing at all. He slid to his knees, wasn’t able to restrain the violent coughing, and curled up with both hands over his mouth. Logan rinsed his cock under the shower head. He saw Devyn watching, leaned down with a harsh glint in his eyes, and his fist drove, palm-up, directly toward Devyn’s throat. The two outer claws emerged to cup his jaw like a steel thumb and forefinger, cradled his neck with the sharp side up. Even an inch of movement would slice his jaw wide open.

Devyn’s pulse made the tip of his tongue ache. The fear was an exotic spice, and he was pretty sure it was impossible to be more turned on. Logan bent his arm slowly, kept Devyn’s back to the wall so he had nowhere to go but wherever those claws went. He rose to his knees, heartbeat thumping against metal on both sides of his throat, and the blunt, wet head of Logan’s cock pressed to his lips.

Devyn opened his mouth wide, and Logan plunged deep into his throat, forced it open until the claws pressed tighter on the outside, and nothing had ever been this erotic. Trapped against the wall, Devyn twisted to angle his throat open so he could take more. Logan obliged and turned with him, drove all the way in without pause, and it fucking hurt; it felt like his throat would rip open. Claws nicked his flesh on the outside; impossible to hold still through this. When Logan pulled back, he smelled blood and musk. When he pushed in, everything was pressure and drool, curly hair against his nose and chin. He jerked at Logan’s hips, telling him to go faster. That fist pushed hard on his throat—two more slices to join the rest—then the claws disappeared and Logan dragged him around by his hair so Devyn knelt in front of him, with water raining down on his back.

Logan gathered his wrists up in one hand and held them to the side, then fisted his hair and forced his way back into Devyn’s throat. His thrusts became punishing, each one balls-deep and Devyn’s jaw burned to match his throat and his ass. He was going to come just from this; he was so hard it hurt, and more and more of his concentration was stuck on keeping his fangs retracted. Logan didn’t know how hard it was for him to hold back, how desperate he was to add Logan’s blood to the taste of his precum, and that desperation became tears, the occasional breathless cries, but most of his sounds were just the wet slop of flesh plunging in and out of his throat. When Logan finally pulled off, ropes of thick spit still connected them, dripped down Devyn’s chest to show how roughly he’d been used.

Logan wrenched his head back. Shock like a slap when the man spit in his face, then leaned down to lick it off him and bite his lips. Devyn’s eyes rolled back; he wasn’t going to pass out, but he almost wished he could. This was too much, too good and yet not enough. It felt like he was losing his mind.

“More,” he croaked.

Logan swung him around by hair and wrists, pushed him down on his back so he was bunched up against the wall and spread around Logan’s knees. His crossed wrists were pinned up, then another snikt-THUNK and he looked up to find Logan’s fist palm-down, with knuckles against his wrists and the two outer claws sunk into the wall. He tried to pull his wrists down, but the back of the blades stopped him.

“You gonna shut up for me, this time?” Logan asked, and his eyes were darker than Devyn had ever seen. Lust and violence side by side, barely a razor’s edge between them. A restrained slap rocked his head to the side. Fingers on his jaw pulled his gaze back up. “Huh? Can’t help screamin’ when I split you on my dick, can you? Keep your fuckin’ mouth shut or I’ll do it for you.”

Devyn’s mouth worked. His throat was still full of thick spit, and he coughed. Logan wedged his thighs under Devyn’s hips, lifting him until only his shoulders touched the tile, head propped against the wall and wrists pinned. The man thrust back into him, angled like he’d punch straight out of his lower belly. Devyn choked on his own breath and kicked Logan in the back, which did nothing but drive the larger man into a frenzy. The thrusts sped, and when he started screaming, a swift hand clamped around his throat. Sharp pain below his jaw where his skin had been sliced open, earlier. He wrenched his arms against the blades, was punished (rewarded) with more choking and thrusting, and his legs wrapped tight around Logan’s sides as the orgasm ripped him to pieces.

His arms fell, limp, when Logan released his wrists to take his jerking cock in hand, and he was certain he would pass out then, because nothing should be allowed to feel this good. Black dots faded into his vision, then back out as Logan curled over him and rutted him into the tile, hand choking his screams into gurgled whimpers until the man thrust in deep and stayed there. His cock swelled and pulsed, and that slick heat filled Devyn’s insides like a promise.

Both of them were left gasping like they’d nearly drowned. Logan pulled him up and sat back against the wall, pulled Devyn to his chest to straddle him. Blood and sex coated his throat with every labored breath. Logan trailed a finger beneath Devyn’s jaw, brought it up, drenched in red, to his lips and rubbed it onto his own tongue. Devyn’s cock gave an interested twitch. He found the cut on his throat with his own fingertip, drew off a trickle of blood and fed it to Logan as well. He earned himself a bitten finger for his trouble. He smiled, but that was too much effort and so he just collapsed against Logan’s chest and tried to remember how to breathe.

“That how you like it?” Logan finally asked. His words were flippant, but his voice was rough as two rocks rubbing together.

“Al—always,” Devyn coughed. He wiggled, got another low groan out of the other man, then just cuddled into him. His guilt about the broken window was entirely gone, seeing as how Logan had just stabbed a bunch of holes in the wall. He sucked on Logan’s throat, in love with the man’s intense flavor caressed by streams of running water. Nice benefit to living in an enormous mansion: the hot water never seemed to run out. They should do this again. As often as possible. Or until Charles kicked them out for breaking all his stuff.

Chapter Text

Shameless self-promotion! There is more NSFW art on my Twitter:

https://twitter.com/SubverbalD

Chapter Text

For my subscribers: I've gotten more versed in ProCreate and was able to adjust the images for Devyn, Michael, and Jaeger so they fit better with the descriptions I've given them in the story. (Adding long hair for Jaeger and Devyn was beyond my skill level). Enjoy the beefcake! And hey, if you're enjoying the story please drop me a line. I really do want to hear what you think.

Chapter Text

None of the chattering patrons noticed the man-shaped shadow against the side of the building as they trampled down the sidewalk in their hurry to experience the nightclub’s clamor. If they had, they might have noticed that his was the only breath which didn’t fog the winter air.

After the avalanche of memory had crashed down on him, the high noon sun had pushed Treske into deep sleep. He’d come awake at dusk, with mud between his synapses and a galling lag in reaction time. “Hangover” seemed the word most fitting, though it had been so long, he couldn’t honestly remember what one felt like.

He’d staggered into the night, hours earlier, to find suitable sustenance. It would have been gauche to drain his hosts to the dregs, no matter how frantically the three of them tried to push themselves on him. It was a lesson in humility to find out that he had screamed for a solid half-hour before he’d fallen unconscious, leaving Jade a hysterical mess for the entire day.

A burly pimp, two random pedestrians, and an evening jogger had renewed his strength, at least enough that he’d been able to return to the club, make himself vague in the memories of his hosts, and come down to the street to await his transport.

He was not above spite, and felt that the four bloodless bodies he’d left scattered about the city were an appropriate adieu between himself and Minneapolis.

A 20-foot truck with white, flaking paint pulled up to the curb across the street. Two coins of bright silver flashed through the window of the cab, around head-height.

Treske emerged from the alley. He didn’t adjust course to avoid the three cocksure young men who were walking to the club, and one of them bumped into his arm. The heat of that unexpected contact was jarring. He could not recall the last time someone had bumped into him when he hadn’t intended it.

“Fuckin’ watch it, douchebag!” the man swore.

He stopped. Perhaps he had a bit more spite to leave in the American Midwest.

Treske turned on his heel and walked back into the alley. He tilted his head at the three men, who had rounded as one to jeer insults at him. He flashed a provocative smile, crooked his finger, and waited for the angry pack of them, just inside the shadows.

He emerged from the alley just a few minutes later. This time, the passing flock of pedestrians scattered for him.

Bit by bit, the balance of power would right itself.

He was halfway across the street when pounding footsteps and ragged breaths let him know that at least one of his pets had overcome the memory blur. Without looking back, he walked around the back of the truck and waited at the sidewalk.

His lovely Jade, flushed and panting. Of course, it would be him.

“Please!” Jade fell to his knees as soon as he reached Treske, held out his hands like a beggar. “Please. Don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.” His words hitched on shallow gulps of air. Sobbing had turned his voice thick like honey. Treske drew the scent in through his nostrils, inhaled the young man’s desperate want like opium smoke. Then he exhaled, bent, and drew Jade to his feet. He framed the man’s unshaven face in both hands and drew him in for a final kiss. The glut in the alleyway had bolstered him more than he’d realized he needed. He reached deep into his Jade through their kiss, found the remnants of himself he had overlooked the last time, and tugged them gently out of the young man’s clinging grasp.

When he withdrew from the kiss, Jade’s eyes were vague. Treske walked him onto the street until the club became visible. He turned the man toward it, so its neon sign reflected off Jade’s eyes.

“Your brother is waiting,” he murmured into the nape of the man’s neck. “You have a lovely night ahead of you, Jade.” Treske patted his rump and pushed him forward.

Jade’s first few steps were shuffling. He ran a hand through his hair, made it to the far sidewalk, and looked around like a man who has forgotten his keys. Then a patron in line outside the club called his name, and Jade waved at her. He took off at a jog to meet his friend.

Treske circled the truck and opened the passenger side door. He assessed the driver, and was in turn measured.

Metallic silver eyes that were like sun glare off a tin roof. Long, steel hair tied in a ponytail, a wolfish face brushed by stubble. He was so tall, his knees had to fall outward just to fit his legs in the footwell, and his thighs were like tree trunks. Despite his size and musculature, he twisted in his seat with the flexibility of a cat to peer down at Treske. His sculpted lips pulled back to bare carnivore’s teeth: the canines, and the teeth in front and behind them, were serrated razorblades. Treske’s fangs were for puncturing; this man’s teeth were made to rend through live flesh, as indeed was the man himself.

“Tueur,” Treske said in greeting.

The man who had earned the name “Killer” among vampirekind bared his teeth further.

“Ain’t no need to stand on ceremony, Master Treske.”

Treske pulled himself into the passenger seat and closed the door. “Jaeger, then.”

“Cute boy ya got there.”

“Had.”

Jaeger grunted. “‘F you don’t mind me sayin’ so,” he drawled, “you look like you been chewed up by a wolf an’ shit over a cliff.”

“Should I assume the size of this vehicle means you’ve been gathering supplies?”

If he was annoyed that Treske didn’t take the bait, Jaeger didn’t show it. He flicked on the headlights and pulled them away from the curb.

“Been across half a continent to reach you,” Jaeger rumbled. “I’ve gathered a lot o’ things.”

“Has Kirjan managed to contact you?”

“Nah. Flyin’ blind til we can get hold o’ Devyn. Curious about this Xavier fella, though.”

“Has he given you a rendezvous point?” Treske asked, with a thoughtful frown.

“He did, last night.” Jaeger humphed and rubbed his scruffy chin. “Then he up an’ changed it, this afternoon.”

Treske shot narrowed eyes at him. “Did he.”

“Mmhm. New spot’s in upstate New York, property records look like it’s owned by Xavier. Couldn’t tell who actually lives there.”

“What was the old location?”

“Xavier Academy for Gifted Youngsters,” Jaeger said in a chipper voice. “Cute, huh? Telepath owns a school for mutants.”

“Adorable,” Treske said flatly. “Take us to the school.”

“Think they stock napalm, there?” Jaeger smirked. “Bunch o’ kids ain’t gonna do us much good, even if they can make lights flicker and whatnot.”

“I think he realized he has something to hide from me. And some of these mutants’ powers are as good as napalm.” Treske drummed his fingers against the seat. “If he turns out to be useless, we take my children and leave.”

Jaeger shrugged. “Fine by me. There’s a soft spot out that direction, bit more north. Lotta hounds comin’ through, just about wiped out a town up in Ontario.”

“Perfect.”

Nothing more needed to be said. If the veil had become thin enough for hounds to stream through en masse, it would be an ideal location for them to have Devyn reach through and reopen communications with their kin. Xavier had been useful, but he would be obsolete once Treske had his children back.

Useless things had no place in Treske’s world.

~~~~

Logan stalked through a dense forest, the crunch of shattered ice beneath his feet. A trillion globes of fallen hail littered the ground, made stealth impossible. The sun was long set, and shadows played tricks with his peripheral vision. Kept thinking he saw the hounds circling him, but every time he looked, there were only trees. Still, the lifted hair on his neck told him he was not alone.

Step. Crunch. The sound below almost masked a snap from overhead. It was only then that he realized he’d looked every direction but up.

He raised his head in time to see a fanged, grinning face fall down from above, razor-tipped fingers reaching for him, black coat spread like bat wings. He rolled to the ground with the mutant on top, all teeth and claws. With a savage roar, Logan stabbed him through the chest.

The impact jarred all the way up his arm, and that, more than anything, snapped him awake.

Lips parted like a blooming rose. Startled eyes wide. Devyn lay supine with Logan’s knuckles pressed above his heart. He looked like he was about to ask a question. Logan’s claws had sunk all the way through the right side of Devyn’s chest, pinning him to the bed. His own chest felt like it had been pierced just the same.

He’d known this could happen.

But he hadn’t wanted to sleep alone.

Still just an animal.

That was as far as his mounting self-hatred got before Devyn’s look of surprise turned to a flash of sharp fang and Logan was rolled onto his back, claws still trapped in the boy’s ribs. Teeth snapped into his throat, followed by that sense of his soul being sucked out of his skin.

His blood turned molten, left heat trails on its way out. Orgasmic vibrations shot up his arm from Devyn’s chest, the heartbeat traveling all the way through him to join in rhythm with his own. Through blood, tooth and claw, their bodies had become one.

He came all in a rush, tangled naked in the sheets with Devyn holding him down, speared on his claws. They didn’t retract until his cock finished pulsing. Devyn arched back as they jerked out of him, let out a wet cry that streamed blood down his chin like war paint, and spilled his seed onto Logan’s stomach.

Devyn gripped Logan’s chest and went into a coughing fit that sprayed red all over the backs of his hands. As soon as the coughing stopped, Devyn punched him right in the Adam’s apple. It was Logan’s turn for wide eyes.

“Asshole!”

The weight rolled off of him, and he was able to curl up around his crushed windpipe. Once he could breathe again he sat up, and lifted a hand just in time to catch the wadded-up, wet bath towel that Devyn had thrown like a fastball at his head. Logan stared down at the towel like it would give him answers. His heart was still trying to get out of his ribcage. The nightmare, the terror, the guilt, and then a mind-blowing orgasm, all muddled together in a confused knot in his brain.

Devyn was alive. Pissed off, yeah...but alive.

Relief intense enough to rend flesh came out as a harsh laugh, and once he’d started laughing, he couldn’t make himself stop.

Outside the bedroom door, he heard Michael’s voice, “They’re fine, everything’s fine,” and Piotr’s urgent, “Is Devyn hurt?” Because he knew what Logan was capable of.

Devyn stalked across the room naked, a towel across one shoulder. He cracked the door a millimeter, knee against it to keep anyone from pushing in.

“Everything’s cool. Logan’s having a nervous breakdown, on account of he’s an asshole.”

Somehow, that was the funniest fucking thing Logan had ever heard in his life. Devyn spared a scowl toward the bed.

“You have blood on your mouth,” Piotr began, but Devyn interrupted him.

“Vampire,” he said archly, and slammed the door.

That did it.

Logan curled up on his side and convulsed helplessly as the hysteria pumped through him. He could hear Michael outside, still trying to reassure Piotr. Storm’s voice joined the mix, and he was unbearably grateful for Michael fielding everyone so that he could fall apart. At some point the laughter morphed into sobs: hail turned into a thunderstorm. And then he was apologizing, over and over and over.

Devyn’s weight made the bed dip down beside him. Fingers ran through his hair, stroked his cheek. The kid was a warm presence—not trying to fix it, just there for him, and he didn’t know what to think about that because it was like breaking and healing up all in the same heartbeat.

He sat up at last, found the towel Devyn had thrown at him and started to clean himself. There was blood all over his hands.

So much blood on his hands.

“Go wash up,” Devyn said, then kissed his temple and gave him a push to get him moving. He did, still numb. He could hear the kid stripping the bedsheets while he washed his hands, watched red water swirl down the drain. By the time he got it all off, he’d started to feel like himself again.

He returned to the bedroom to find the worst stains had been cleaned from the mattress and the sheets were gone. His clothes and jacket were laid out across the foot of the bed. Devyn was already dressed.

“It’s ten thirty,” Devyn said.

“Time to hunt?” Logan asked vaguely. That was the term Devyn had used for it the other night, and it seemed apropos with the smell of blood fresh in the room.

Devyn hummed agreement. They stood there for a moment, looking at each other, then Devyn jerked his chin at the laid-out clothes. “Well?” To Logan’s continued bafflement, he waved an impatient hand. “Get dressed, Wolverine. You’re coming with us.”

Logan opened his mouth. Closed it.

“Unless you’d rather sit here and think about how much life sucks all night,” Devyn said. “But you definitely owe me a drink.”

A faint laugh puffed out of him. “Just gave you one.”

“That doesn’t even remotely count toward your tab,” Devyn said. “And I was thinking more along the lines of whiskey.”

Logan’s eyebrows may have reached his hairline. “You want me to sneak you into a bar.”

Devyn’s eyelids lowered, and his pink lips curved in a smile that managed to be suggestive and uncertain at the same time. “I can get into a bar myself, sir. But I’d like to have you there with me.”

The “sir” was noticeable, and Logan realized he hadn’t been hearing it much, lately. He pulled on his clothes and checked the jacket, found his cigars and lighter in the pocket, along with the rest of the bills Devyn had lifted from that guy at the gas station a few days ago.

“Alright. Your drinks’re on me. The dragon pays for himself.”

Chapter Text

Two vampires and a mutant walk into a gay bar.

That was the line that kept going through Logan’s head. Somehow, the bouncer forgot to check their IDs. He did remember to grab Devyn’s ass, and only the kid’s quick eye contact with Logan and a shake of his head saved the bastard from a broken nose.

Other than the prick at the door, the place was decent. Not a dive, but still rough enough to be comfortable. A backlit bar took up half of one wall. There were clusters of men playing cards, and a couple of pool tables. The venue was packed, most of the men in their thirties and older. The familiar scents of aftershave, alcohol and emptiness. At its core, every bar was the same.

“Surprised you didn’t take us to some goth nightclub,” Logan said.

Devyn made a face. “Can’t. Amplified sound here is terrible.”

“It’s the same back home,” Michael said. “Human sound tech wasn’t built for our hearing.”

Devyn kept moving ahead while Michael talked. The big guy didn’t even seem to notice that every single eye in the vicinity was riveted on him. Besides being the tallest man in the room, his ice-white skin set him apart. Every man in here looked like they wanted to see how he’d taste. When Logan tried to follow after Devyn, Michael held onto his arm.

“Hang on.”

Hell. This was their first time alone together, and Michael’s tone made it clear they were about to have some version of A Talk. Logan crossed his arms to show how receptive he felt about that.

“You good with this?” Michael asked. The wary look on his face was aggravating. Granted, Logan nearly flattening the bouncer might have given certain impressions.

“I’m fine.” A tall guy with a neck tattoo got too close to Devyn, looking hungry. Logan took two steps toward him and glared until he faded back into the crowd. Michael came up alongside him, pitched his voice low.

“We pull them in, Logan. They can’t stay away. All these fish swimmin’ around, we take a little bite from a whole lot of them, and nobody gets hurt. This is how it’s supposed to be.” He gestured to Devyn, who had leaned halfway over the bar to talk to the bartender. A guy in a leather jacket got right up next to the kid and put a hand on his shoulder. “You need to decide real quick if you’re okay with that, cause he can’t change what he is.”

He didn’t give Logan a chance to respond; he walked off to the opposite end of the bar from Devyn, where a pair of jocks were giving him bedroom eyes.

Devyn turned and saw Logan, raised his eyebrows and made an impatient drinking motion. Immediately two rough-looking guys, each old enough to be his father, stepped in and tried to buy his drink at the same time. Devyn stretched up to say something in the taller one’s ear, waved in Logan’s direction. Both the men turned to look him up and down. The shorter one slumped away in apparent defeat, but the tall guy’s face stretched in a wolfish grin. He leaned back against the bar, elbow brushing Devyn, and mouthed at Logan, “You want a drink?”

~~~~

Devyn somehow convinced the bartender that, instead of pouring shots of whiskey, he should pour them pints. Fifteen minutes later, they migrated to the tables on the back porch so Logan could smoke; he’d already downed two pints and was maintaining his buzz with a third. Just a few feet to his right, Michael had his face buried in a man’s neck, probably his third one so far. The smell of blood was swiftly followed by the musk of cum.

Devyn hadn’t left his side, despite the buffet of hovering men. Their pal from the bar, Jack, seemed equally interested in both of them. He bought their drinks like his money’d never run dry. Logan didn’t mind him. He had a good smell, a callused handshake, and he didn’t talk too much. Jack grinned as Devyn finished his second glass of whiskey.

“I am damn impressed at how much you can put away, boy,” Jack chuckled.

Devyn grinned back, and the man blinked. Logan had caught it too; Devyn’s fangs were fully extended.

“Jack,” Logan said. He squeezed a warning on Devyn’s leg, and the young man leaned against him, smile fading. “What would you say to another round? On me this time, if you don’t mind grabbin’ it.”

“If that’s all it takes to keep your company, it’s on me.” He winked, looked them both up and down with clear desire, and got up.

Devyn waited until he was gone, then asked, “What is it?”

Logan slung an arm around his shoulders, took a long sniff of Devyn’s skin. The alcohol had changed his scent, like a sultry cologne.

“You’re hungry,” he murmured. “Your fangs are out. And you keep watching all these guys like a shark in a fish tank.”

Devyn snickered; the low light gleamed off his sharp, white teeth, and Logan’s cock took notice. He threaded his fingers into Devyn’s hair and pulled his head back. Not much, but Devyn let out a little moan, and the scent of his arousal spiked. The way that hint of control made him melt was more intoxicating than the booze.

A pair of guys were smoking against the wall, across from them; one leaned into the other and murmured for his buddy to check them out. Devyn noticed this as well, and spice joined the musk of his arousal. Maybe a little bit of an exhibitionist, too.

Logan took a drag from his own smoke, and spread comfortably in his seat. He pulled Devyn’s ear to his lips and spoke in a low voice, deliberately making his words vibrate down the boy’s spine.

“And the fish are watchin’ you right back. Waitin’ for you to take a bite.” He watched Devyn’s eyes flick up to the two men, watched his cheeks darken. Devyn slid a hand up Logan’s leg to cup his crotch. Not just those two watching them, now; he glanced around to see more faces turned their way, and off to his right, the faint glow of Michael’s hazel eyes flickered from behind a fall of hair. Time to make those eyes turn green.

Logan cupped Devyn’s chin in the hand holding his cigar and licked the shell of his ear. Devyn’s breath caught.

“You hungry for a little Jack to go with your Jack Daniels?”

Devyn let out a breathless laugh, and squeezed Logan’s cock through his jeans. “Yes, sir,” he whispered.

Logan nuzzled behind his boy’s ear. Devyn purred and kneaded him.

“Lucky bastard,” someone said.

“Which one?” asked another.

Devyn tilted so he could press his smiling lips against Logan’s. “Definitely me,” he murmured. Then a gasped, “Careful!” as Logan drew him into a kiss. He licked between the long, sharp fangs and coaxed Devyn’s tongue into his mouth. He dropped his cigar in the ashtray so he could slide his hand under Devyn’s shirt to caress his ridged backside. He controlled the kiss with his hand in Devyn’s hair. The boy was halfway into his lap when Logan’s ears pricked to the clink of glass on the table. He broke from the kiss to find Jack devouring them with his eyes. Lust poured off him like smoke.

“No need to stop on my account,” he said, with a crooked grin. “Long as you don’t mind the audience.”

“Can’t say that we do,” Logan said, and raised the nearest glass in a salute before he downed a quarter of it. Between the booze and all the vampire pheromones, he felt perfectly relaxed. It was a damned good feeling.

He crooked two fingers at Jack and indicated the spot on the other side of Devyn. The older man’s eyes lit up like he’d just struck gold. He switched seats in a flash, and Devyn tried to turn toward him, but Logan clamped down on his hair. He eased Devyn’s head back so his throat was completely bare to them, like an offering. Logan stared into Jack’s eyes, and dipped down to taste Devyn’s racing pulse. He reached out and caught Jack by the back of his neck, pulled him down to the other side of Devyn’s throat.

Jack’s kisses and bites were tentative at first, then harder as Devyn’s sounds encouraged him. The boy’s hips lifted; Logan reached down to stroke his cock through his pants, only to find Jack had beat him to it. He slipped his hand under Devyn’s shirt, instead, found his nipple and pinched it. Devyn squeezed and kneaded his cock, writhed between them.

“Please! Logan!” Devyn’s voice was an urgent whisper. Logan twisted his nipple and grunted as it earned his cock a firm squeeze.

“Yeah? You wanna suck on him?”

Devyn’s response was just a low growl. Jack looked up at Logan, eyes dark like he was starving. He leaned across the boy for a kiss. Logan gave it to him. Rough stubble scraped his lips. He sucked the flavor of whiskey from Jack’s tongue, stripped the taste down to the man beneath it, and when Devyn strained to reach Jack’s throat, pulling against the hand in his hair, Logan released him with a smile.

It was fascinating to see someone else be fed on. Jack’s eyes went wide at first, then half-lidded. His scent tripled in intensity as he let out the unmistakable groan of orgasm, which Logan muffled with his own mouth. When Devyn pulled back from his throat, Jack slumped like his bones had all been pulled loose.

“Call a cab home,” Devyn murmured in his ear.

Jack nodded. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “Think I’m a little wasted.”

“Have a good night, bub,” Logan added.

Jack mumbled something and lurched to his feet. The two guys in the peanut gallery applauded him as he stumbled through the back door of the bar and disappeared.

Logan laughed. He caught Devyn’s chin and pulled him back for a rough kiss. The taste of alcohol and blood was a stretch of well-known road to his tongue, but it had never turned him on like this.

“I need to fuck you.” His voice was a hungry growl.

“Soon,” Devyn moaned, and wriggled around to nip Logan’s throat just beneath his ear. “Want your huge fucking dick inside me. Want you to rub your cum all over my skin, so I smell like you for a week.”

“Keep it up with that dirty mouth, you’re gonna get it right here in front of everyone.”

He noticed Michael from the corner of his eye and looked up; the man made eye contact with Devyn and pointed two fingers at his own face, then off to the side. Devyn nodded, and Michael disappeared back into the club.

“What’s that about?” He reached for his cigar and drink, hit with a sudden craving for both.

“He’s gonna hunt the streets for awhile. He needs to drink way more than I do, because of his other form.”

“Yeah?” He squeezed the back of Devyn’s neck and enjoyed the boy’s shiver. “How much more you need?”

Plush lips quirked in a seductive smile. “You pick the next one.”

They were definitely going to get thrown out of this bar.

~~~~

It may have been three hours; Logan didn’t have a watch. In his twenty-nine years of memory, he didn’t think he’d ever felt this drunk, or this good. After they left the bar, Devyn got distracted by a street performer; the guy handed over his guitar with a dopey grin when Devyn asked to play a song, but then he drew a crowd so big, he wound up playing for a good while. The busker accompanied him on a harmonica, hawked him like they’d planned the whole thing, and before long there was so much cash in his guitar case, the guitar wasn’t going to fit back inside. Devyn busted out some lyrics to a couple of songs. His voice was honey straight off the comb—sweet and smooth on top, with a gritty rasp underneath. The harmonies he strung together pulled at the chest, like a dream of home after years fighting on foreign soil.

Michael and Logan shared a bottle of Pikesville while Devyn jammed out with his new friend. Michael was a lot less of a prick, now that he was well fed. He went on an enthusiastic monologue about how the kid played every instrument he touched like he’d been born to it, and talked about the years Devyn had spent working with some vampire sound junkie to learn how to build an amplifier system that would sound good to their ears. Michael sounded so much like a proud papa, Logan finally laughed.

“The way you talk about him,” he chuckled, “if I hadn’t seen your tongue down his throat, I’d have thought you were his father.”

When a man kicked his chair away from the table for a fight, the scent was pure adrenaline. That smell jumped off of Michael right then, strong as the afternoon sun. The blades in Logan’s forearms lurched an inch forward in reaction, but Michael made no move to start violence. The silence thickened to a tacky paste between them before Michael spoke again.

“Don’t ever say that kind of shit.”

Logan cocked a sardonic eyebrow. “Is that where you draw the line? Didn’t I see you with identical twins, earlier?”

Michael’s jaw worked, like he was trying out words. Finally, he shook his head. He extended a hand for the bottle. Logan passed it over, and he took a long pull.

“Alcohol here’s not bad,” he said. His gaze stayed fixed on Devyn, though, and there was an intensity to it that could’ve burned holes in the kid’s shirt. “Can’t really get drunk off it. Our kin make this drink, back home, I swear it tastes like chai and paint thinner. But it’ll get you plastered. Might even work on you.”

“Huh.” Logan lit another cigar. He didn’t feel like fighting. They both went silent. When Devyn started another song, he strolled up close to listen.

Devyn’s head turned, and Logan was caught in eyes of deep ocean water circled by golden fire. The lyrics bypassed his brain and hit him in the chest. It didn’t matter that there were at least thirty people clustered around; he knew this song was just for him. When it finished, Devyn returned the guitar to its owner and slipped around the crowd. He ignored the cheers and cries of encore, tucked himself under the arm Logan stretched out to him, and they fell into step together. Still caught up in that last song, it took Logan a minute to realize they were missing someone.

“Where’s the dragon?”

“I think he’s giving us space,” Devyn said, with a crooked smile.

Logan grunted. They walked in silence for a couple of blocks, until the air was still and no one was nearby. Devyn looked at him sideways. His scent kicked up like a starting pistol, and that was all it took. The whole night had been a long, delicious tease.

Logan tugged him into the space between two buildings and kissed him until neither of them could breathe. They tugged at each other’s pants; Logan pulled out of the kiss so he could bite down on his cigar and free both hands to get Devyn’s fly open. He spun the boy around and threw him into the wall, then jerked Devyn’s hips back by his belt loops and kicked his ankles apart.

Devyn pushed his own pants down to his thighs, and put a hand back to hold Logan’s hair as Logan knelt to slather his tongue over that exposed hole. He got it drenched and glistening, then stuck the cigar back between his teeth and shoved two rough fingers inside. Devyn made a strangled sound and writhed in discomfort.

“There it is,” Logan said, words muddied by the cigar. “Right where I left it.”

He twisted his fingers, corkscrewed them in and out of Devyn’s ass to extract the cum he’d fucked into him earlier that day.

Devyn bit his own forearm to muffle his cries. Sweat trickled down his spine despite the cool evening. His sweet scent was infused with a combination of lust and something not quite humiliation, but close: a hard bite to the edge of his hunger, that hot shame of having cum milked from his ass in a public alley.

Logan smacked his flank, hard. It left a perfect imprint of his hand, but Devyn stuck his ass out and stretched against the wall like a cat that had just been scratched at the base of the spine. Devyn groaned, low and needy, and hung his head between his braced forearms. Logan pulled his ass cheeks apart to admire that glistening hole. It smelled so fucking good. He’d marked this body in the most primal way there was, and he was about to renew his claim.

He positioned and shoved in balls-deep before Devyn could prepare himself. Devyn’s breath choked off, and when he tried to twist away, Logan wrestled his arms behind his back and shouldered him into the wall. Devyn kept struggling, and it was such a fucking turn-on that this time it was Logan being the loud one, his grunts spilling plumes of smoke around them.

He was going strong until Devyn let out a whimper, and it was just the right waver and pitch to bring every ounce of Logan’s attention to the power of his position.

To Devyn’s helplessness, his desperate want. His willingness to let Logan utterly dominate him. Bleed him, even. Fuck, Devyn still had purple scars on his throat from what they’d done in the shower.

The things he could do to this gorgeous little pain-slut, and still have him begging for more...

Another pleading whimper, and that was it. Logan damn near bit through the cigar as he came.

He barely pulled out in time to spend his load across Devyn’s lower back; he dragged his fingers through it, painted it into Devyn’s skin, then reached around and jerked the kid to a quick orgasm.

Logan was shivering, more from the thoughts that had tipped him over the edge than from the climax itself. He wondered whether Devyn had seen any of those vicious fantasies while feeding. Wondered if that was part of why Devyn liked him so much.

Some folks needed hurt as much as pleasure.

Some folks needed it more.

“No washing this off for a week,” Logan breathed against the curve of Devyn’s ear. “You promised.”

Devyn squirmed in place until the last shudder left him, then hitched his pants up and turned around with a grin. He snatched the cigar out of Logan’s mouth and pulled him down for a kiss that was all gritty smoke, booze and male sweat, with Devyn’s sweet flavor to smooth it all together. Logan curled one big hand around his boy’s throat and smirked down at him.

“Let’s head back,” Logan said.

Devyn nodded, a still-dopey grin plastered across his pretty mouth. Logan thumbed that plush bottom lip and smiled.

He noticed, as they each pulled their clothes back into place, that his forehead felt strange.

It took him a minute longer to realize that was because his face was relaxed.

Chapter Text

Devyn was floating as they walked the silent streets. The night had hit its peak, and the only company he wanted was right next to him. His head was filled with the scent of their fucking.

They made it several blocks before Devyn’s chest twinged like he’d been speared with a hook and then jerked sideways. Phantom cold turned his mouth to ice.

“Hounds,” Logan said, but Devyn barely heard him. He was focused on the sensations that barreled through his body, through his connection to Michael.

“They’re attacking my Master. He’s close to changing—fuck! Not here!” He raced in the direction of the tug, raced faster than the cars in the street, though he didn’t realize it. All his attention was focused inside. Michael was well fed and should have had control, but the feeling in his chest was trapped, surrounded, kill.

He passed humans who’d been frozen solid as he ran. Image of cyanotic screams, bodies huddled as if to keep in warmth. There was a clusterfuck up ahead: blackness writhing on blackness, and in the middle of it, Michael. Devyn threw himself into the fray, killed two of the hounds in seconds. This pack of fifteen or so would have been easy for Michael to dispose of, in his other form. As a vampire, he seemed less adept than Devyn at killing them. His skin was blackened where the creatures had gouged him. He screamed, and it must have echoed for a half mile. He was right on the verge of the change. 

“I’ve got it!” Devyn shouted. “Get out!”

But his Master only snapped into a hound’s throat with a mouthful of razor-sharp, inhuman teeth, and Devyn had to turn back to his own fight. He prayed Logan would have the sense to stay out of this.

 

~~~~

 

Logan came late to the battle. Canine bodies littered the ground like a lumpy oil slick. A flash of white and green: Michael’s eyes were emerald flames. Black ichor dripped from his chin. He caught one of the beasts in a hand that ended in crystalline claws, and slammed it into the concrete so hard, the road cracked.

When the temperature at Logan’s back began to plummet, he turned with his own adamantium claws at the ready. He watched ice crystals crawl up the blades to his knuckles, then envelop his fists like white gloves. It happened so fast, the only thing he remembered was grey sheeting out his vision, as if a curtain had been drawn across his open eyes.

 

~~~~

 

Devyn leaned over with hands on his knees, panting. He clung to his Master through their bond, shuddered alongside him with the need to unfurl his wings. Slowly and together, they wrapped the dragon back up inside. His own mouth ached as Michael’s teeth shrank.

Bodies everywhere. Hounds and humans, both. They had to get out of here before the cops arrived. Devyn picked across the corpses, took his Master’s arm and began to walk. Sirens pierced the night air. 

They made it some distance before the unease in his guts became a full-on roil. Logan could track him by scent. He should have caught up with them by now.

 

~~~~

 

Logan moaned out loud as soon as his lungs could move. His eyelids felt creaky as rusted window panes when he blinked. Before he could even see straight, he knew he was somewhere else. This place smelled of age and plaster. A building, maybe an abandoned tenement house, because the human scents were old.

And he was not alone.

He tried to get up, and slumped back onto the floor. A shape blinked in and out of focus, above him. Fingertips and something sharper trailed across his face, scratched through his beard. 

The smell...he knew this smell. He knew...

A strong hand held his jaw in place. Whiskers scratched his cheek, and hot breath skated across his lips. In one surreal heartbeat, he was somewhere else. There was a moon like a silver fingernail through trees, blood on his naked skin, and a savage thrill in his veins. 

When he came back to himself, there was an empty hole in his chest where that moondrenched night had been. Cracked plaster walls and a busted window. The only light came from outside.

The face beside his lowered into his throat, breathed deeply at his pulse point and exhaled a sound that was almost a moan. His body’s reaction scared him more than the man looming over him. He ached for this. And by sound and scent, he knew this man felt the same.

All of his thoughts are blood, death...and you. That was what Charles had said to him. This mutant was something to him. It sat right on the tip of his tongue, and refused to go any further.

“Who are we?” he whispered. He hadn’t thought out the question, but it sounded right once it hit the air. The other mutant seemed to agree. His deep chuckle rumbled between them and pulled at things it shouldn’t have, places it shouldn’t know how to touch.

“You know me,” the mutant said. “I smell it on you.” His hands framed Logan’s face, and Logan’s eyes were healed, now, adjusted enough that he could see the man regarding him with a familiar heat. “I wondered...I always did wonder if I made it through...”

He leaned in close, as if to kiss. Logan rolled away from him, and scrambled to his feet. This room was too small. He felt trapped. 

“Who are you?” Logan asked, but his gut told him, no, that’s not it. The question was right the first time.

The mutant stayed on one knee and cocked an eyebrow up at him. For a moment, Logan thought he wouldn’t answer. 

“Victor,” he said at last, and his eyes devoured Logan’s reaction. Like he wanted the name to mean something to him.

It didn’t.

“Alright...Victor. You wanna tell me how I know you?”

Not the right question. The question is, who are WE. Logan shrugged his shoulders as if he could push the thought away.

Victor smiled, but it was empty. “That’d take a lot more’n tonight to tell. But then...” He stood up. He wasn’t that much taller than Logan, but he filled the room. It was his scent, that goddamned familiar scent that smothered him under all the things he couldn’t remember. “You and me, we don’t need words.” 

His hands flexed, brandishing those clawed fingers. Logan tensed just before the mutant leaped forward, a feline pounce that bowled him over.

Instinct overwhelmed his thinking brain. He disappeared within claws and blood. Deep breaths pumped the mutant’s scent, Victor’s scent, deep into his bones, and he knew—he knewit in every fiber of his being. This man was a part of him.

He rolled over Victor, stabbed him through the heart. A fanged laugh in his face, blood spat by each of them as Victor’s claws gouged through his ribs. No telling how long they fought, bodies busting through aged walls, claws and fists through cheap flooring. A part of his brain had shut off entirely, while another section had opened wide like a floodgate. Victor caught both Logan’s wrists and clawed down to the bone, wrapped him up so he was hugging himself like a straight jacket, and the hot line of the mutant’s body pressed against him from behind. A scratchy nuzzle behind his ear, then a bite that drew blood. Logan screamed, and even that seemed familiar.

“You remember,” Victor snarled into his throat, and his tone was triumphant. He dug his claws deep, clung on in that strange hug. Logan shuddered; his body was on fire. Blood boiled, head throbbed. He could get out of this embrace if he really tried—but it, too, was known, and it almost seemed his arms, wrapped around himself, were the only thing that held him in one piece.

“Who—?” But he stopped. His voice sounded small and lost, and that frightened him. Victor hugged him tight. He sucked on the spot he’d bitten, intimate like a lover, and shivered against Logan’s back.

“I’ll see you again,” Victor promised. “Soon.”

Logan swung around as soon as he let go, but he could see only the edge of Victor’s coat as he ducked out through a stairwell door. Logan burst through the door after him. The stairs went down in a spiraling square, but Victor had leapt straight down the middle. He hit the ground several floors below, and ran.

 

~~~~

 

The walk back to the school went by in a haze. The area where the battle had taken place was crawling with cops, but Victor had taken him far enough away that it wasn’t hard to avoid attention. He was still at least a mile out from the mansion when the motorcycle he’d been hearing for a few minutes finally came into view around a corner. He stood in surprise as Devyn hit the brakes and spun the bike in a semicircle to line up beside him. 

“How did you get this?” he asked, which was a stupid question. It was Scott’s old bike; someone must have loaned him the keys.

Devyn ignored the question, looked him up and down with eyebrows drawn together. “Did you kill him?”

It was Logan’s turn to frown. “What? Who?”

“That other mutant. His scent is all over you.” The kid’s nostrils flared as he said it. His fingers worked on the clutch, like he might take off if the answer wasn’t to his liking.

Logan shook his head. “He’s like me. Everything I did just healed.”

He’s like me.

Victor’s voice. You remember. I smell it on you.

It was that first day all over again. Surrounded by the unknown and known. Unaware of anything save his own confusion, the sharpness of his senses, and the terrifying blades hidden beneath his skin. Knowing he was a weapon, that he was Wolverine 45825243-T78-A, but nothing more than that.

Except now there was Victor, and Victor was like him.

I smell it on you. 

You remember.

He jumped at a touch on his cheek. Devyn looked more worried than wary, now.

“Get on,” Devyn said.

Logan got on. He wrapped both arms around Devyn’s chest, felt the solidity of muscle beneath the shirt. The scent of the two of them together was still strong on Devyn’s skin; he hadn’t washed it off. Logan tucked his nose into the back of the boy’s collar as they pulled back onto the silent road. He took deep, slow breaths, and it helped. It didn’t eradicate Victor’s scent from his memory, but it grounded him.

If Victor was his past, he’d be right to stay the fuck away. It would be the smart thing to do. But there was that fragment of memory, the woods and the sliver of moon. Had there ever been a time when he’d felt so right in his own skin? Was this some trick of Victor’s to fuck with his head? Or had Victor’s mere presence knocked something loose out of the morass in his brain?

When they got back to the school, Devyn told him that Charles had helped locate him, but everything else was status quo. The cluster of hounds was expected as their numbers continued to increase. Michael had managed not to turn house-sized. Nothing else needed to be said, and Devyn asked no more questions about the other mutant. Logan was too keyed up to sleep, so he walked outside, and the kid let him be alone. 

He circled the mansion like a dog patrolling its territory, and maybe that’s what he was doing. The school was his. Devyn was his.

He’d protect them to his last breath.

 

~~~~

 

Bobby Drake was not having the best day. The overcast noonday sky reflected his mood, and though he sat outside in company with Kitty and Warren, he was so wrapped up in thought that he might as well have been alone. He and Rogue had ended last night with yet another argument, and today she’d taken off to shepherd some younger kids on a shopping trip. Insult to injury, he had to find this out from their freaking teacher when she didn’t show up for class. 

All he’d said was that he didn’t get why she was so into that scarred-up jerkoff. He might have also used an insulting word to describe Devyn’s relationship with Logan, her other crush, but it hadn’t been out of homophobia; it had been to wake her up. One, she had no chance with either of them. Two, and more importantly, she had to realize at some point she was either going out with him, or not.

And now the bottle of water in his hand had turned into a brick of ice. Perfect.

He slumped back in the bench. Kitty’s heart-shaped face fell in sympathy. “It’ll be fine, Bobby. Anyway, they probably aren’t staying here long.”

He flashed her a perfunctory smile. Her empathy just made things worse.

“Uh...who’s that?” Warren was half-perched on the arm of the bench, because of his wings, and he faced off to their left. Bobby and Kitty both turned to look.

A cluster of second-year students were gathered up close to the mansion, and a man stood among them. The stranger wore a calf-length trench coat the color of black coffee, and a wide-brimmed hat that matched. A wave of auburn hair fell across his shoulders, but otherwise, he was completely obscured from view. Warning bells went off in Bobby’s head.

“We’d better find out,” he said.

The stranger’s head tilted as they stood, and Bobby could have sworn that he was listening. He swiveled on his heel and cut a diagonal line across the yard—toward them, but also toward the front of the mansion, where a lot of the other students were outside for their lunch break. Bobby lengthened his stride to catch up before he could reach them.

“Hey,” he called. “Can I help you?”

The noise around them went dim as the man stopped and turned to face them. Beneath the shadow of the hat, his feline jaw was brushed with coppery stubble. His Cupid’s bow lips parted, flashing white teeth.

“I am here to consider your school for my gifted youngster,” he said. “Perhaps you can guide me.” 

His voice was cultured, almost European, but something about his tone set Bobby’s teeth on edge. Like he was mocking them.

“Do you have an appointment?” 

He was close enough, now, that he could see the man’s face. It did something strange to his stomach. Shadowed, heavy-lidded eyes. White, white skin, like the frost inside a freezer. Another of them, he thought, but it wasn’t exactly right. The other two vampires were strange, but in comparison to this man, they seemed benign as kittens.

“I have an invitation, yes,” the man said. He looked each of them over. His gaze barely even hesitated on the angel wings which sprouted from Warren’s shoulderblades. 

The earth seesawed under Bobby’s feet when those eyes landed on him. The irises were like molten sap, in motion as though whatever had been caught in those amber depths was still swimming around, trying to get out.

“I’m Bobby,” he blurted, in lieu of all the intelligent comments that failed to come to mind.

The sides of the man’s mouth curled upward, and there was a surrealism to it—like he was about to bust into a full-on Cheshire cat’s grin. “Such a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Bobby.” His lips turned the name into a full-body caress. “Call me Treske.” He extended a hand, and Bobby returned the gesture out of habit. 

Treske’s handshake was firm and cold. He cocked his head to the side, like he was listening. Bobby started to withdraw his hand, but Treske’s clamped down and held him in place. 

Solid ice shot up his arm. And it wasn’t him doing it; this came from Treske. Blood vessels froze inside his forearm, and the cold flowed like a thousand clawed serpents up his shoulder, reaching for his heart.

Bobby activated his power, later than he should have. He marshaled his concentration, and turned everything from his neck down to ice. The sensation of freezing through halted; now he was simply comfortable.

Treske’s lips stretched in a wide grin that bared inch-long canines. “Outstanding,” he purred. His grip loosened, and he caressed the inside of Bobby’s wrist as he examined his hand. His touch felt warm, now, and the brush of fingertips sent a disturbing trill up Bobby’s arm. “Flesh of living ice. What a marvel you are.”

“Bobby, are you alright?” It was a girl’s voice, and Bobby jumped. He had forgotten Kitty and Warren were there.

“I’m fine,” he said. Treske’s eyes were at his throat, now: the spot where ice met pink skin.

“Is your power solely internal?” Treske asked.

“No.”

“Bobby!” Kitty’s voice was a reprimand. “Don’t give this guy information!”

Without taking his eyes from Bobby, Treske made a gesture in her direction. The air shivered. Bobby reacted on pure instinct, reached out with his power and caught the arctic blast Treske had just sent toward her and Warren. It jarred him down to his center, and his heart choked up into his throat. They could have died, if he hadn’t caught it in time.

“What the hell is wrong with you!” he yelled.

“I’m getting help,” Kitty said. She dashed straight toward Treske, to get to the house behind him. Except, instead of phasing through him, she rammed into his outstretched hand and fell backwards. Her eyes went wide in disbelief.

“Across your world, thousands of humans have been frozen solid,” Treske said, like this was just a collegial conversation. “They are blaming mutants. Have you kept up with the news?”

“It was you,” Warren gasped. He backed away from them, spread his wings to fly. Treske shot him a look, and though no streak of power moved between them, the wings folded down and Warren’s expression became subdued.

“Do you honestly think I can be in a hundred places at once? I am here to destroy these creatures. Yet it surprises me that your masters have not put you to work, Bobby. You alone could protect your fellows as well as any of my kind.”

Bobby gritted his teeth. “I don’t have a ‘master’,” he said.

“Oh? What do you call him, then?” Treske slipped his hands into the folds of the coat and turned to face a man who was striding across the yard to them. Bobby looked the man up and down. Somewhere around thirty years old, he wore a light grey suit and had chestnut hair down to his shoulders. Bobby had never seen him before.

“I have no idea who that is,” Bobby snapped. “But leave him out of this.” He raised his voice as the man got closer. “Sir, please stay back. We’re having a private discussion.” The last thing they needed was some student’s dad to get hurt during a visit.

Treske’s eyebrows arched. “No idea,” he repeated. “Interesting.”

“Treske,” said the stranger, and his voice was frigid. “Did your colleague not deliver my directions? You were not invited here.”

“He did indeed. Your original and your reconsidered directions.”

Treske curled an arm over Bobby’s shoulders. Bobby stiffened as cold fingers brushed his throat. The newcomer’s summer blue eyes flicked to that hand, then back to Treske.

“Leave my students out of this—”

Your students?” Amusement whipped through Treske’s words, and Bobby’s mouth stretched in a smile. He tried to wipe it off his face—worried, when the newcomer grimaced at him as if Bobby’s mirth frightened him—but he couldn’t. Treske was happy; everyone else should be happy, too. Treske tipped against him, close enough the brim of his hat tapped Bobby’s temple, and cold breath skated over his cheek. “Bobby, is this man your teacher? Your headmaster?”

“What? No,” he said, and a real laugh bubbled out of him. “Ms. Munroe runs the school, now.” Those fingers stroked along the cords of his throat, absently like he was a pet. If he had a tail, he would have wagged it; the touch felt that good. A small part of him protested that something was wrong, but it was hard to pay attention. He was too focused on Treske’s stroking hand.

“Then where is Charles Xavier?” Treske asked, looking between Bobby and the stranger. 

That finally wiped the smile from Bobby’s lips. “He’s dead,” he answered. “Over a year ago.”

“Dead,” Treske repeated. And to the other man: “Yet it is your true name.”

“Come with me—” the man began, but Treske cut him off.

“What happened to your wheelchair? I assumed a recent accident had taken your mobility, and so you continued to picture yourself on two feet.”

Bobby frowned. “Professor X was in a wheelchair,” he offered.

“Regeneration, then?” Treske mused. “And so you still picture yourself in a wheelchair. You fascinate me, Charles. So many quirks beneath that base telepathy.” He walked forward, pulling Bobby along. “Come. Show me your school, and tell me about your many talents.”

The other man’s blue eyes hardened to steel.

“Stop.”

 

Chapter Text

The wash of Charles Xavier’s power hit Treske like a wave, one that penetrated his skin and pushed through his mind, seeking purchase.

It found none.

Treske’s gaze was drawn to Bobby, first. The boy had frozen between steps, his unblinking eyes on Charles. Treske took a quick survey of the yard. The boy with wings and the girl who had tried to discorporate through him were still as statues. The more distant students also appeared to have been paralyzed in place, a living diorama. 

Behind Charles, several adult mutants emerged from the mansion. He recognized one of them from his research into this world: Storm, a.k.a. Ororo Munroe. The mutant who could control weather. A very tall and muscular young man walked to one side of her. On her other side was a man covered in blue fur, who wore an expensive-looking suit. The three of them faced him like soldiers awaiting the command to strike.

“I am curious how you think this is going to go for you, Charles.” 

An expression of consternation flashed across Charles’ face. Clearly, Treske being unaffected by his power had not been part of the plan. Treske allowed himself a cold smile.

“Unwise to begin hostilities without a contingency plan,” Treske said. “We have telepaths in my own world.”

Charles’ lips tightened. “Egregious of me, wasn’t it.”

Behind Charles, the tall man grew taller by more than a foot, and his skin turned to chrome. He ran to the left. The blue man in the suit ran to the right. Storm looked upward, and the clouds split down the center of the sky. The noon sun beat directly down onto Treske, forced him to squint through its brightness.

Treske reached for Bobby as a convenient hostage, only to find him gone. He sensed the blast of ice at his back before it hit; he caught and absorbed it, then redirected a spike of that energy back toward its point of origin. He heard Bobby cry out as he was hit. He didn’t turn to look; he went for Charles’ throat.

Across the yard, one of the students whipped around—a black-haired teenage girl wearing a backpack. She threw her arms out, toward Treske. A magnesium flare exploded in front of his eyes, turned everything white. The sound of it was a cannon blast that left him deafened. 

The deprivation of sight and sound turned out to be a boon; when he reached with his mind toward Charles, he found him—but not outside. No, Charles Xavier was inside the mansion. There was no blood scent within twenty feet of Treske. 

He retraced his steps to this very point, and realized where he’d been fooled. That wash of power that Charles had cast at him: it had found purchase in Treske’s mind. The telepath had projected an image of himself into all of their minds to throw Treske off guard, then cast a targeted illusion to distract him while the children escaped. What a clever little human he was.

Treske ran toward the sense of Charles’ true self with all of his preternatural speed. In the next breath, he was at the wall of the mansion. His vision began to return in increments, but he closed his eyes so as not to be distracted. Voices came at him from different angles; he tasted each with his mind, and found them all to be false. 

He smashed in a window and jumped into a classroom, felt phantom students around him like a flickering projection. He could even smell them, could taste the thrum of blood in their veins. Charles couldn’t possibly have known how to replicate the enhanced senses of a vampire. He had turned Treske’s own mind against him. Nothing could be trusted. 

Treske opened his eyes, and found himself inside a kaleidoscope of colors and faces. The din of sound and scent rose up, became an impenetrable melee.

He closed his eyes again, and looked within himself. Charles Xavier had been clever in many things, but he had also given Treske his true name from his own lips, and that name was as singular as a thread of DNA. Treske used it now to identify the shadow of Charles inside of him. So many, many points of connection where the telepath worked to manipulate him. 

In the empty space between breaths, he sent a death strike of his own power through every single one of those points. He felt it, when Charles’ heart stopped.

The world went silent.

 

 

 

Treske popped his ears and pushed his hair back from his face; the hat had been lost somewhere along the way. He extended his battered senses to determine his true situation. The students outside had evacuated to a far end of the property. Within the building, most of the lives had gathered at the far wing. Charles rose another notch in his estimation for having had the sense to remove hostages from Treske’s proximity. Unfortunate that Charles had needed to die. He could have been a valuable tool.

Only a few lives remained scattered throughout the building. Two of them were his kin. He reached for them, then paused. 

No...not two.

There was a third.

A disbelieving grin stretched across his face.

“Exceptional,” he murmured.

He sent out a call to Michael and Devyn as he ascended the stairs and followed the trace of that third life deep into the mansion, until he reached a point that was no longer antique and hardwood; here, the corridor was shining steel. Charles Xavier lay crumpled up ahead, in front of a gleaming hatch that was split crossways by an “X.” His heartbeat sounded loud and clear down the hall.

“Stop moving.” It was a woman’s airy voice. Treske stopped, but a smile tugged the corners of his mouth.

“Can you control the weather inside this building, Ms. Munroe?” 

He turned. The woman called Storm stood in the corridor behind him, arms spread at her sides. Her eyes were entirely white, an intriguing effect. The smell of ozone filled the tunnel. Treske’s gaze twitched down to her hands, where sparks jumped between her fingers. 

The coil of a feathered wing against his cheek; the crack of a branch in a high wind. Random sensations assailed his mind as energy roiled around him. The sparks and the smell had him anticipating an electrical surge, and he contrived a defense while the pressure built. A bolt of electricity inside a metal tube would be the ideal way for someone with her powers to dispatch an enemy. 

Of course, it would destroy the unconscious Charles, as well. Would she kill one of her own, just to get at him? She, who was headmistress of a school for marginalized children?

That understanding came just in time. Treske switched the flavor of his defense at the last instant, and he was able to spread the force of the gunshot blast of air pressure she shot at him so that instead of penetrating his flesh, it merely shoved him to the side, feet skidding across steel. He pushed himself off the wall and ran at Storm, who leapt away from him. 

Other lives were approaching. One reached them before the others, in a rush of displaced air and a metallic aftertaste. An enormous, silver fist flew into Treske’s peripheral view. He ducked beneath it, and deliberately brushed his fingertips across the mutant’s metal flesh as he passed. That sampling of the colossus’ energy told him all he needed to know. This one, he wouldn’t be able to defeat by hand to hand combat. No matter; as usual, Jaeger made his entrance just when it was needed. The half-breed killer went after the mutant with a coil of chain held between his hands. Jaeger trussed up the metal man in seconds, arms behind his back and chained to his neck. But the colossus flexed, and the chain links broke. Meanwhile, Storm had used the distraction to gather her forces, and a blast of heat charred the left side of Treske’s face.

Take the woman,” Treske snarled, in the Old Tongue of the vampire kin. It was the only language he could be sure the mutants didn’t know.

Jaeger sprang out of the way as the steel mutant whipped the ruptured chain through the air. Jaeger drew one of his many guns, and aimed at the woman in the same motion. A man attacked him from the side, ripped blades through Jaeger’s arm as he fired, and his shot must have gone wide. The newcomer, a feral-looking man who wore jeans but nothing else, appeared to have knives sprouting from his fists.

Treske leapt at the steel man, caught his head in both hands, and sent a blast of cold energy through his skull that should have stopped all brain activity. It didn’t, but the massive body hit the floor with a thud and did not get back up.

Treske retreated into the dead-end tunnel, to where Charles Xavier lay. He could feel the telepath working his way up from the depths of insensibility. Treske went to one knee beside him and put a hand over his throat. Charles’ pretty, blue eyes snapped open, and Treske greeted him with a cold smile.

“Cease all hostilities, or I will rip this man’s head off.” 

Treske’s voice resonated down the corridor. He augmented it with his power, tore through the battle haze so that his words would reach every one of the combatants.

The scent of ozone dissipated. The steel giant shrank into a musclebound brunette. The shirtless man’s claws snapped back into his knuckles, though he looked ready to spring back into battle with Jaeger, who bled from a score of wounds. Jaeger grinned down at the feral mutant, baring his serrated teeth. The man with the claws barely came up to his neck, yet he snarled back with no hint of fear.

“Master.” 

Michael stepped into view between Storm and Jaeger, with his own blood-child, Devyn, trailing behind him. Michael wore only pants; Devyn had managed a t-shirt. Both were barefoot. Treske’s noon arrival must have startled them from sleep. Devyn hardly seemed to notice the rest of them; he stared at Jaeger like he was seeing a ghost.

“My son,” Treske greeted Michael and ignored the boy.

Master, I ask that you do not kill him. He’s proven his value.” Michael made his request in the Old Tongue. Wise of him.

“He’s proven his value.” Treske repeated that last sentence in English, for Devyn’s benefit. He switched his gaze to the boy. “And he’s proven his bloodline, hasn’t he, little crow?”

Devyn looked at him as though he was still speaking another language. The boy’s apparent confusion was puzzling. Treske had always been able to read him by pulse and breath, yet neither one changed in response to the jab at his surname, nor even the insinuation that Treske considered his actions treasonous. No, it was Michael whose heart skipped a beat, and Treske’s gaze snapped back to him.

What are you hiding, my son? 

Michael knew him well enough to read the question from his face. He shook his head almost imperceptibly, and Treske gave just as small a nod back. He would settle accounts with Michael and the brat after these mutants were subdued.

“Charles.” Treske looked down into defiant blue eyes, and he listened through his fingers to the tantalizing beat of the man’s heart. “You are an impressive young man.”

“And you are a sadist.” Charles’ lip curled. “A mass murderer.”

This drew a genuine smile. Even after poking around in his mind, Charles must have a determined naïveté to think that Treske could be shamed for the things he’d done.

“I am both of those things. I am also here to save your world. Does one outweigh the others?”

Charles’ lips thinned, and that gave his answer before the words.

“You will not harm a single one of the students in this school, nor the teachers, nor me,” Charles said. “Give me your word as Master of your bloodline.”

Treske released Charles’ throat and pressed two fingers to the man’s temple. He dragged those fingers down his cheek to touch his lips. Such a pretty thing. Pretty, and formidable in his own right.

“I give you my word as Master of my bloodline that so long as we are not at cross purposes, I will not harm this school’s students, nor teachers, nor you.” A sensation passed between their flesh, like ice and electricity. Treske was unsure if Charles knew how binding a promise he’d just made. Oaths within one’s bloodline were costly to break.

And Devyn’s blood ran through Charles’ veins.

“Swear it without the caveat,” Charles demanded.

Treske bared his fangs. “I have walked through the veil between worlds, Charles Xavier. I would sooner slaughter your entire legacy than be diverted from my purpose. Take my oath as it stands.”

The mutant’s pulse beat hard and fast. His nostrils flared, and for a moment, that defiance burned brighter in his eyes. But it ebbed away, and resignation took its place.

“Very well.”

Treske rose, and took Charles’ hand to pull him to his feet. Pleasure shimmered between them as Charles stumbled into him, still weak after Treske’s psychic attack. The attack that should have killed him, but had not, due to their shared blood. That connection sang through their touch, too much to resist with Charles so pliant in his arms. Treske tilted the man’s head back, loose as a sunflower swaying on a fragile stem. He smiled at the near-panic in Charles’ eyes as he leaned down and stole a kiss from those rosebud lips.

Charles moaned into his mouth. He fell into Treske, into the draw of their connection, and Treske’s own gravitational desire. Treske’s ears perked to the snikt of metal on metal, but he trusted Jaeger to handle hostilities from the others. He delved deep with his tongue and learned the taste of the man who would be his enemy. Charles’ desire and confusion were loud as a shout, now that they touched flesh and not just minds. Devyn must have fed a massive infusion of himself into this human, yet he was still just that. A human. 

A mutated human psychic with a blood bond to Treske. 

This world was filled with wonders.

He pulled out of the kiss to find dazed eyes looking up at him. He traced a thumb over Charles’ lips.

“Take us somewhere to talk. We may need several hours.” His lips twitched in half a smile, as Charles pulled out of his grip. “Oh, and feel free to resume classes.”

Nyet!” the muscular brunette cried out. “Do not trust this man!”

“Piotr, enough,” Michael snapped. The brunette shot him a hurt look. Lovers, then. “Treske is Master of all our kind. His word is Law. He’s never broken it.”

“Michael is right,” Charles said. All of the mutants relaxed by a fraction at his affirmation. “Storm and Piotr, please ensure classes resume with minimal disruption. Piotr, retrieve clothing for those three,” he indicated Michael, Logan, and Devyn. “Logan, come with us. We’ll meet in the conference room.” 

Treske watched everyone as Charles gave his orders. Storm and Piotr hopped to it, though he had an impression that some silent exchange continued to take place between them and Charles. 

The one called Logan circled around to Devyn, put a hand on his arm and looked a question at him. Treske could have rolled his eyes at the intimacy in the man’s gaze. Devyn still had that air of bafflement about him. If the little bastard had taken one of his inconvenient mad turns, Treske was going to gut him when they made it back to their own world, and watch with pleasure as the brat picked up his own entrails. Devyn’s power more than made up for the trouble he caused, otherwise Treske would have been happy to throw him in a hole and forget about him decades ago.

“Logan, is it? He makes a poor substitute for the one you truly crave, Devyn,” Treske said. “Does it help if you close your eyes and imagine?”

Logan turned to scowl at him. Devyn’s expression was more subtle, and it irritated Treske that he couldn’t get a read from the boy.

“What’re you yappin’ about,” Logan grumbled. Treske ignored him and watched the boy. 

“The height may give it away even then,” Treske continued. “He’s several inches shorter than your—”

 

~~~~

Logan’s shoulders had bunched up with a near irresistible desire to cut Treske’s fucking face off. He didn’t get to find out who he was “several inches shorter than,” however, because the vampire’s mouth snapped shut. This was clearly not what Treske had intended to do—which meant Charles had done it for him. Charles and Michael had just locked gazes with one another, and Treske’s narrowed eyes darted between the two of them.

Logan tensed to attack, but Treske didn’t go after Charles at all. Instead, he simply looked at Michael, and the tall vampire crashed to his knees with his hands over his face.

“Easy!” Charles cried, as Logan’s claws shot out of his fists. “Easy, Logan. Treske, release him.”

“I’m sure he appreciates your concern, Charles, but Michael well knows the price of secrets.

Michael curled entirely over himself, spasmed, and then relaxed with a moan of relief when Treske looked away from him. Logan let his claws retract, but his body hummed with adrenaline. He was with Piotr; this guy was bad news.

Michael’s hands lowered from his face to reveal flakes of ice across his eyelashes. Crimson tears had frozen in streaks down his cheeks, as well as on his upper lip from a nosebleed. Despite his injuries, he raised calm, hazel eyes to Treske’s. He didn’t smell at all agitated by what had just happened, and that spoke volumes in itself.

“Forgive me, Master,” Michael said as he got up. “There are certain factors that you don’t know about, yet.” 

“I believe he’s talking about me, sir,” Devyn said. Treske honed in on him like a serpent before the strike. Devyn’s jaw was set, and he either didn’t see, or studiously ignored the shut up look that Michael shot him. “I seem to be the only one of us who hasn’t got their memory back.”

Treske’s expression froze. “Is that so,” he murmured. His giant bodyguard shifted, and Logan’s forearms twitched. That fucker had to be seven feet tall, and if he wasn’t a mutant, then he sure wasn’t human. Logan had cut his chest and arms down to the bone, yet he’d barely bled, and the wounds were already half sealed. The glancing blow he’d dealt Logan, on the other hand, had nearly ripped his arm off. It still ached as the torn tissues healed.

Treske also noticed the giant man’s motion, and he asked something in that other language. The giant responded, in a voice that was like gravel pouring into a grave.

Devyn ground his teeth audibly as they spoke over his head. He turned to the giant. “I know you.” He said it like an accusation. 

“That ya do, boy.”

“What’re you, from Texas?” Logan asked. The words had been spoken with a distinct Southern accent.

  The giant hooked a thumb into a belt which sported two guns. He grinned, displaying a vicious array of teeth; though they looked human in the front, when his lips peeled back they revealed that his canines and the teeth around them were long and pointed, with serrations up the sides like a shark.

“Oh, I make it all over,” he drawled. 

“A planet with three moons,” Devyn said, and those steel eyes snapped to him like a rifle’s laser sight.

“I remember.”

“I don’t,” Devyn said, and his fists clenched. “I don’t even remember your name.”

The giant’s predatory grin softened. “Jaeger.”

“Do you remember the reason you are here?” Treske asked Devyn. His eyes glittered, hard like stone.

“To stop the hounds and the Outsider, sir.” 

Treske dipped his chin. “How?” He stretched that single syllable out until it dripped with disdain. Devyn’s neck and chest turned bright pink, but he didn’t lower his gaze.

“I don’t know,” he gritted.

Treske’s lip rose in a sneer. “Michael, get your—”

“Maybe you should just tell me, if it’s so important, and quit being a dick!” Devyn cut in. Treske and Michael both stared at him. Michael looked horrified. But Jaeger just chuckled.

“Love to, boy,” Jaeger said, and tapped his own skull. “But you got a damn nuke in that head o’ yours. We need to talk damage control ‘fore we go pushin’ buttons.” His silver eyes flashed to Treske. “If we can restrain ourselves.”

Treske gave the giant a flat look, then pointedly looked away. “Michael, get your child out of my sight before I jog his memory. 

Michael spun around and walked toward Devyn. “Come on.”

“Sir?” Devyn sounded incredulous. 

“Come on.” The words came out in a snarl. He grabbed Devyn’s arm and tugged him along like a child. His eyes had gone bright green, and they were too wide. Logan caught a whiff of fear on the dragon’s skin as he hustled Devyn out of the room. 

Logan caught Charles’ eye. “What the hell! 

Charles’ face was a tense mask. “Logan, go with them.” 

Logan’s heartbeat slowed to a crawl, and he recognized the sensation. Charles had stretched time so that they could talk. Jaeger and Treske remained frozen, watching Devyn’s retreat.

Treske despises him, Charles said silently. He would take any excuse to harm him. 

But he needs Devyn, Logan argued.

He needs Devyn’s power, Charles clarified, which he can still use even if the boy is maimed. They operate by different laws than ours. Devyn just broke one by his public defiance, and Treske is well within his rights to punish him any way he sees fit. Logan, please, help me to defuse this situation.

Logan’s fingernails cut into his palms. And leave you alone with these two? Forget it.

‘Scuse me, fellas. The intruding thought had a gravelly drawl, even without vocal cords behind it. But y’all need to quit tryina talk behind Treske’s back, ‘fore you get caught. 

Both their gazes snapped over to Jaeger, whose eyebrows raised at their expressions of disbelief.

Go on, Knives. I’ll see to it the Master don’t get too handsy with ya boy, here.

Jaeger winked. An unfamiliar frisson went through the air, and time was suddenly back to normal speed. Charles looked like a cat that had just been splashed with water, but he caught quick rein on his surprise.

“Go, Logan,” he said, and the look in his eyes said everything else. 

With a frustrated snarl, Logan turned and stalked out. Jaeger’s razor-edged grin hovered behind his eyes like a ghost image.

Chapter Text

“Nordstrom? Really? I gotta say, I wouldn’t have expected you here. Goodwill, on the other hand...”

Rogue jumped half a foot in the air at the sardonic male voice that came up behind her. It was more unexpected than frightening, though maybe that was stupidity on her part. She still thought of John, or “Pyro” as he called himself now, as just another kid in class. Couldn’t quite internalize that he’d killed people. That they weren’t just schoolyard enemies, they were real enemies—the kind you don’t want to catch you in a dark alley.

Or, in this case, a bustling street outside Nordstrom.

When she turned to face him, his appearance was a second surprise. His eyes were red-rimmed, and his face was white except for high spots of color on his cheeks. His short, sandy hair stuck up like he’d been running his hands through it. Rogue shielded her two fellow students behind her. Eli and Elizabeth, eleven and twelve year old siblings, had the inconceivable benefit of rich parents who still cared about them even knowing they were mutants. All the shopping had been for them, but no need for Pyro to know that.

“What I do ain’t none of your business,” she snapped. “I don’t want to talk to you. Go away.”

Pyro craned his neck to look around her, and an exaggerated expression of understanding crossed his haggard face. “Ohhh, I get it. You’re basking in the glow of someone else’s wealth. Kinda like you do with Bobby. Where is he, by the way?” He squinted and looked around, as if Bobby would pop out from behind a parking meter.

“Rogue, who is this guy?” Eli piped up.

“How does he know Bobby?” Elizabeth added.

Rogue turned around, head cocked to keep Pyro in her peripheral vision, and made a shooing motion at the kids. “Quiet! We’re leaving.”

“Uh-uh,” Pyro tutted. Rogue cursed herself for flinching when his hand squeezed around her upper arm. She jerked away, but he held on.

“Let go of me!”

“Look, your whole shtick is protecting the helpless homo-sapiens, isn’t it? So don’t tell me you aren’t interested in the fact that a whole group of people got frozen solid just a couple miles from here, last night.”

“I don’t know what—”

“Yes, you do,” Pyro snarled. His hand tightened down like a vise clamp; his voice dropped to a threatening hiss. “What’s our little Iceman gotten himself into? You know something! Who else can freeze people like that while they’re still screaming?”

His face was less than a foot away, now, twisted with rage. Rogue lunged forward as if she would kiss him. He jerked back, eyes panic-wide, and at least that gave her some small, bitter amount of satisfaction. 

“Don’t ever touch me like that,” she said, backing away.

His face crumpled. The brittle superiority fell away like a paper mask, and now he just looked lost. Hurt.

“My—” He stopped, and swallowed like he was choking down pride. It looked painful. “My boyfriend was frozen through last night. He’s dead.”

Rogue said nothing, but she stopped backing up. Was he serious? What kind of trick was this?

“He went out with some friends. I didn’t want to go. And he got frozen to death. Because I wasn’t there to protect him.” Pyro’s eyes grew even more bloodshot, and filled with tears as he spoke. His hands flexed at his sides, like he wanted to grab something and shake it. If he was acting, he was doing a really good job. “Only one of our friends survived, cuz he had to go back to the club to find his wallet. And you know what he saw, when he caught up?”

Rogue shook her head. It felt wrong to see him so vulnerable. It made him harder to hate.

“Some dude in a big black coat, carrying another dude away. He was frozen solid, but since it was Wolverine, I don’t think that matters much. Does it?” He watched for her reaction, and his anger reignited when he saw her shock. “Bobby’s lost control, hasn’t he? And Logan tried to get in the way, and he got iced.”

“What? No! It isn’t Bobby doing it,” Rogue started, but her words cut off. Something had moved in the air, about twenty feet behind Pyro. She squinted at it, and Pyro turned to look. 

It happened again. It was like the road and shops were a painting that had been pushed from behind, making it ripple.

“What the fuck?” Pyro said.

All the other pedestrians saw it too; they had either clustered with phones out, or scattered. The rippling settled. For a few breaths, the whole street was silent, except for excited chatter.

Then three points of the air dented outward, like giant fingers on the other side of mirrored fabric. The tips of those dents turned jet black. 

Ebony beaks appeared first, then doglike heads, floating in the middle of the street. Shoulders and forelegs came next. It was like the creatures were being squeezed out of invisible tubes. Three enormous, canine bodies emerged from nowhere and gracefully landed on the blacktop. They rippled in the diffuse sunlight like smoke.

A couple of the onlookers were too close. As the hounds stepped out of their tight huddle, ice condensed across the blacktop beneath their paws and spread out to touch the two nearest bystanders. One of the people got out an aborted scream. The other died in silence. 

The remaining gawkers turned and ran.

The students at the Academy knew about these creatures, of course. It had been all over the news yesterday, and the teachers had warned them to run if they saw something that looked like a giant, black dog. All she could think was Pyro and his buddies probably didn’t watch the news because they were too busy being lowlifes. It was all too clear that he’d been caught unaware, because Pyro backed right into her, mouth hanging open. Rogue shoved him forward, suddenly indignant.

“Do something, jerk! You’re the one with fire!”

The three hounds turned toward her voice. Rogue shivered. There was a malignant intelligence in the black orbs that passed for their eyes. Like they were laughing at her. The three of them stalked forward in perfect synchronicity. Pyro still seemed paralyzed, and Rogue slipped off her gloves. If he was going to just stand there like he’d already been frozen, then maybe...maybe it wouldn’t be the dumbest idea in the world to steal his power. Not enough to really hurt him—just enough to save the folks in the street, and get away with the little ones.

She spread her fingers, imagined grabbing his neck, imagined the wild crush of memories, of personality, of strength. Sweat broke out on her upper lip. She actually craved this. Wanted it like some horrible drug. One that ruined other people’s lives, instead of her own.

But before she could touch him, Pyro got hold of himself. There was a click from his hand, that wrist ignitor he probably never took off even to sleep, and the air was sucked out of Rogue’s lungs as the fireball grew more than head height, and barreled toward the black figures.

The one in the center was hit straight on. It curled up like a cockroach sprayed with poison, legs twitching. The other two rushed at Pyro without missing a beat. He turned his flame at one, but it circled the blast, easy as a gust of wind. Pyro ran toward it, and Rogue screamed as the other hound came barreling straight at her. 

To her horror, the first to respond was Elizabeth. The twelve-year-old threw her hands out, and an impenetrable steel wall appeared between Rogue and the creature; Elizabeth’s gift was to create illusion.

“NO!” Rogue screamed, as Eli rushed forward. He was able to turn his sister’s illusions into reality. But to do that, he had to touch them. 

The hound burst through the illusory steel wall. Eli’s reaching fingertips turned instantly blue as he got too close. Rogue reached for his jacket, but she knew it would be too late.

Eli was knocked back as the air rippled in front of him: the shockwave of a violent blast of flame. The boy fell onto his back, holding his wrist and crying. 

Pyro locked eyes with Rogue when she looked up.

“Run!” he yelled.

Rogue hesitated. The hound had abandoned Eli in favor of Pyro; it circled the firestarter. The temperature plummeted as soon as Pyro’s flame withdrew from them to follow the beast. Rogue screamed as the other hound, no longer cowed by flame, ran at her and Eli from behind.

She didn’t think. She leapt across Eli with her hands out. The beast wasn’t even within a few feet of her before her hands turned blue. The cold went up her arms so quickly, it didn’t even hurt.

“ROGUE!”

Pyro’s scream was as hot as the fire that came with it. The consuming blast licked at her back, her sides; it surrounded her in a corona of flame, and the numbness stopped spreading. She had just a moment to feel pure, adrenaline terror as her hands laid flat against the hound’s slick-looking skin.

It was like dipping her arms in a lake of nothingness. Touching the hound didn’t even feel cold; it just felt empty. Her power flared to life, and a sensation like death rolled up through her arms, flowed into her chest until she was suspended in it.

It was as if, rather than absorbing the hound’s power, it had absorbed her completely. Rogue tried to pull out of it, but the world was gone; she floated in eternal emptiness.

And the emptiness looked back at her. Blackness swirled together before her, until it formed the shape of a man. Powerful and huge, he could have been carved out of onyx, except that his flesh swallowed the light, instead of reflecting it. His head tilted down to look at her, and one of his enormous hands came reaching toward her face. She couldn’t move a muscle to avoid it.

GATEWAY, the shadowman said. It wasn’t a spoken sound: it was a mountain of wicked intent crashing down on her. The weight of his joy was shattering.

That reaching hand connected with her flesh, and it burned all the way down to the bone. This man—this thing—was Other. An Outsider. She fought with all she had in her, but she was as potent as a moth against a steamroller. In less than the time it took her to recognize what was happening, the Outsider latched onto her power and swarmed across her consciousness. 

She fell into the darkness, screaming.

 

 

~~~~~

 

It took all of Pyro’s concentration to keep the flames just near enough to Rogue that she wouldn’t freeze, without actually burning her. He almost wanted to let it consume her, to sever that connection to his disgraced past, but something in him couldn’t do it. He could make up a dozen believable reasons. He wouldn’t let anyone know the truth: that he wouldn’t hurt Bobby like that, even now. Especially now. Because he knew how that loss felt.

It burned.

Something went wrong the moment Rogue touched the creature. Her bare hands sank an inch into its flesh like it wasn’t quite solid, and black veins radiated up her arms. The temperature had already gone down from those black dog-things, but now it plummeted so fast, ice formed on every single surface on the street.

He spread the radius of his flames to surround himself and the two kids Rogue had brought with her. Anyone else could freeze solid for all he cared, but these three mutants were still some kind of family.

Except.

Except Rogue stood up like a puppet that had been pulled by the top of its head. Her arm jerked up by the wrist—again, a marionette’s jerky movement—and the flames around her turned blue. Having them wrenched from his control was a bit like having dead skin cut off; it didn’t hurt, but he felt the fire peel away from him. The blue flames continued to dance, but coronas of ice fanned out beneath them like crystal lily pads. The only red flames remained around him, and the two children.

Rogue turned to look at him, and all the air sucked out of his lungs.

Her skin had gone white as snow, but it was cracked with black veins. Her eyes, though...

Her eyes.

He’d had a dream, once, when he was a little boy. His mother had been alive, then, but in his dream, she hadn’t been herself. She’d looked down at him, and his heart had turned to poison with the knowledge that the woman who loved him no longer existed; her body was inhabited by something else. Something evil. He’d woken later in a cold sweat, screaming, and had slept with the light on for months.

He remembered that dream now, real as it had been to his younger self. Whatever intelligence there was behind those eyes, it wasn’t Rogue. They sparked with light like the reflection of the sun on an iceberg, and they tracked his wrist that bore the ignitor with avid attention.

The hounds sidled up to either side of her, like dogs to their master. She laid a bare hand on each of them. Her head cocked to the side, and the air around her buckled.

All three of them disappeared.

The blue flames extinguished, leaving only the fires he kept burning by his own power. Pyro looked around himself, stunned.

The two mutant kids were alive, cowering in each other’s arms. But outside the circle he’d kept warm, there were bodies. Dozens of bodies. He had to get out of here, and fast. But where would he go?

The Brotherhood was still in pieces since Magneto’s fall from power, and anyway, the most they were likely to do for him would be to hide him from the police. They wouldn’t help him seek revenge on the creatures that had killed his friends, and they sure as fuck wouldn’t help him get Rogue back.

In the end, there was just one place he could go.

Chapter Text

Devyn had been gearing up for a furious argument. Michael’s grip on his arm was so tight, it was going to leave a hand-shaped bruise. Devyn held his tongue as he was dragged down the hallway, through a corridor and into some kind of empty classroom; there was a video board across an entire wall, and a handful of chairs facing it. A clouded sky was visible outside the room’s many windows. Michael pulled him inside and shut the door.

“Why— ” Devyn began.

It was all he got out. Michael pushed him against the wall and enfolded him in a hug so tight, it crushed the rest of his rant right out of him. Michael leaned into him like he would press Devyn through the wall. Confused, Devyn returned the embrace, and wound up petting Michael’s back as if to soothe him.

“I’m sorry,” Michael whispered. “I’m so sorry. I should have warned you, but I thought we’d have time before you had to see him.” Devyn was startled to feel the big man shaking in his arms.

“You’re afraid of him,” Devyn said. It was hard to credit; there was something obscene about it. He may not recall the details, but he knew Michael was powerful, even by the standards of their kind. To feel him tremble like this after a cross word from Treske was just wrong.

“Do you not remember him at all?” Michael murmured the question into his hair.

“No, sir. Just that he made you, and you made me.” Devyn rested his forehead against Michael’s neck. The man cradled the back of his head, scratched his neck at the hairline, and Devyn melted into him. He was still upset, but he couldn’t resist his Master’s touch.

“This,” Michael said. “What you feel with me? It’s because I made you. It’s our bond.”

“No,” Devyn protested. “This is real!”

“It is real,” Michael agreed. He tilted Devyn’s chin up, leaned in so their lips were barely an inch apart. “It’s completely real and true, Dev. We belong to each other, from skin to soul. Nothing can change that.”

Devyn’s lips felt suddenly swollen, aching for the kiss Michael withheld from him. Michael was doing something with his power; he had to be, because Devyn felt weak as water. His knees shook and buckled; only Michael’s arms held him up.

But he didn’t want to be held up. He wanted to kneel before his creator. He needed it, and that need came out of his mouth in a moan.

“Master!”

Michael silenced him with a kiss. Devyn’s lips parted to receive his Master’s tongue like a plant opening up to the rain. Hunger buzzed through his limbs and left him weak. He knew there had been an argument of some kind, but he couldn’t fathom it, now. How could he want anything but what his Master wanted?

Michael pulled back from the kiss. He hadn’t come apart like Devyn, but his eyes were dark with lust. “We’re connected in ways that humans can only dream of,” he said, and his voice was silk, sliding over every inch of Devyn’s body. “You are my blood.”

It was too much; all his nerves were on fire. Devyn arched in the bigger man’s arms, a plea strangled in his throat. He would beg, would grovel, would do anything at all to receive his Master’s pleasure, to satiate this all-consuming need.

Michael’s hand wrapped around his throat, put gentle pressure over his pulse, and cool, blue calm flowed across Devyn’s skin. He let out a long breath, unbearably relieved. Arousal still coursed through him, but it no longer felt like it was burning him alive. He looked up, and saw both love and sorrow mingled in Michael’s expression.

“I would never use my power over you to hurt you, Dev. But this is what it means, when we say ‘Master.’ It’s not just some nice title. I could make you do just about anything, and you’d want it.”

Slow understanding drew knots in Devyn’s forehead, as he realized what Michael had just shown him.

“He could do that to you? But you don’t...” love him, he wanted to say, but the words stuck at the back of his mouth. Yet Michael didn’t skip a beat.

“It doesn’t matter. He’s Master over both of us.” The last sentence was just a whisper, and Devyn held him tighter, as if his arms could keep the monsters at bay. Well...just one monster. Michael stroked his arm and gave him a sad smile. “You don’t need to protect me, Dev. I know my way around his moods, by now. You’re the one I’m worried about. There’s a few things you need to know before you see him again.

“One is that, among our kind, you need to show public respect to your ascendant bloodline. You mouthed off to Treske and he let you walk away this once, but you can believe he wouldn’t have done that, back home. It could’ve set off anything from assassination attempts to a full-scale uprising, if our kin had seen that kind of ‘weakness’ in him.” He made air quotes around the word, “weakness”; clearly, he didn’t agree with popular vampire opinion over what made one weak. “Over here it may not matter so much, but he won’t let it slide a second time.

“The other thing you need to know is that the two of you have decades of history together, and it’s all bad. Charles was right when he said Treske is a sadist. Our saving grace right now is how much he needs you to pull off what we’re trying to do. If he didn’t...”

Devyn clung to Michael’s shoulders, this time to stave off his own anxious chill. “What happened to me being able to break the world with my brain?” The joke came out thin, and he wished he hadn’t said it. Michael sighed.

“He’s got more than just the sire-bond in his favor. He’s Master over all of our kind. I’ve seen him use our kin like puppets, use their powers like it was them doing it. There is no such thing as direct opposition to him. Get that thought out of your head right now. And Logan, you might as well just come in before you leave an ear print on the door.”

Devyn stiffened as the doorknob turned. He’d been so wrapped up in the aura of his Master, he hadn’t even realized Logan was outside. What it would be like to be so consumed by Treske’s presence, he never wanted to know.

Logan’s jaw was clenched when he came in; there was a dark cloud across his eyes that made Devyn’s stomach feel like it had fallen out.

“How much did you hear?” Devyn asked.

“Everything.” It was Michael who answered, looking down at Logan with a haughty tilt to his chin. “Because he needs to know as well, if he’s going to be of any use.”

“There’s only one thing I want to know,” Logan growled. He looked back and forth between them, then focused the weight of his scowl on Michael. “Was Treske the one that scarred him up?”

Devyn’s eyes widened, and then he was looking at Michael, too. He hadn’t even considered it. Was Treske, the one Michael claimed had ultimate power over them both, also the one who’d fucked up his body so bad? If he’d done that before Devyn had been changed into a vampire, what had he done after?  But Michael’s answer released the gathering cloud of fear.

“No. Treske didn’t do any of it.”

Logan’s nostrils flared, and Devyn realized he was scenting Michael, trying to see if he told the truth. Warmth flooded his chest at Logan’s protectiveness, but he was also relieved beyond measure.

“Alright,” Logan said. “What about the big guy? What’s his deal?”

“Jaeger? He’s...actually not that bad,” Michael said, though his mouth twisted like it pained him to say so. “Mercenary. He doesn’t answer to Treske except when it’s for money.” He hesitated, then said to Devyn, “You lived with him for a while.”

Devyn pictured those bright silver coins that were Jaeger’s eyes, and he frowned.

“I got memories back when I found you,” he said to Michael. “And when I fed the first time, and from fighting the hounds. But now these two are here that I supposedly have all these connections with, and my mind is a dead blank. I had a dream with Jaeger in it, days ago, but actually seeing him in person?” He lifted his hands. “Nothing.”

“Maybe it’s the blood,” Logan said. Devyn and Michael both turned to look at him. “What?” Logan asked, defensive. “You drank blood for the first time right before you fought the hounds, and you and Dragon played human mosquito with each other the day you met up, too. You said blood carries memories.”

“Human mosquito?” Devyn exhaled a halfhearted laugh. “No...maybe you’re right. I don’t guess Treske would let me—”

“Don’t ask!” Michael interrupted him. “Any blood sharing would give him more control over you.”

Devyn opened his mouth to suggest he try Jaeger, instead, but the words never formed. All of a sudden, the room fell away. There was nothing but cold, and darkness.

 

~~~~

 

Devyn woke into a din of confusion. Faces swam above him; they jarred back and forth like they were in a bus that kept stopping and starting. Calculating amber eyes caught and held his gaze, and when he tried to wrench away, Treske’s hands clamped down around his head.

“Keep still,” Treske ordered, and his voice was colder than the emptiness of the Outer Coil. Devyn’s body went obediently limp. Pain stabbed through his skull. Not from Treske’s hands, but from something far more invasive. Treske’s thoughts—burning cold purpose, remorseless cruelty—drilled into Devyn’s head like spears of ice.

He tried to reach out for Logan, but his body ignored his urges to move. He turned instead to his internal connection with Michael, only to find it flooded out by Treske. Panic bit at him. He couldn’t escape. Treske was inside his head, and he couldn’t stop it.

Those ice spears dug around in his mind, churned through his thoughts and tossed up images of Rogue, but not like Devyn had ever seen her. Her face was screwed up in terror, and her hands were sunk deep into the blackness of a hound’s flesh.

“Mutants,” Treske hissed. “It’s used one of them to slip past the veil.” His thoughts dug deeper, and the pain of his callous probing turned everything white. If Devyn could have moved, he’d have screamed until his throat bled.

The pain lessened slightly as a new presence folded itself into his overcrowded headspace. The new presence spread like a balm over the bleeding edges Treske had cut open, and Devyn realized it was Charles who had intervened. Charles gasped as he became privy to the scene of Rogue’s hands against the hound’s slick skin. “How are you seeing this, my boy?” he asked.

Treske was the one who answered. “He’s touched the Outsider enough times over the years that they’ve formed a bond. When it entered the veil, their connection flared. I cannot determine whether Devyn was seen, but I’ve concealed him, for now. Who is this girl? You know her.”

“Rogue,” Charles said, and the horror of his recognition jolted through Devyn’s chest.

The Outsider was through the veil. It was inside of Rogue.

Treske forced the moment of possession to replay inside Devyn’s head, while the three of them watched. Rogue, under the control of the Outsider, put a hand on each of the hounds and vanished. She reappeared in a place that was covered by snow, so deep it came up to her knees. A herd of black shapes approached through the heavy snowfall: dozens of hounds. Rogue reached out toward them, and they flocked to her.

There was more, but Devyn lost track of it. He kept seeing Rogue’s eyes, empty of their personality and humor. He flashed back to the little grove outside the mansion where he’d sat, leaned against a tree, watching Rogue’s expressive lips and laughing at the silly things she said. A black certainty welled up in his gut: he had tainted her, by speaking with her. He had drawn the Outsider’s attention toward her.

Treske’s cold amber eyes flickered down to him, as if he’d heard Devyn’s thoughts. A cruel smirk twisted his plush lips.

“There is no such thing as a clean slate,” Treske said. “Think on what you’ve done, and perhaps more will come clear to you.”

And the frigid spears of Treske’s thoughts shredded through Devyn’s mind, carelessly vicious as they bored through to see the Outsider. Treske’s control of him burned like high voltage to every nerve. From far away, Devyn heard himself scream. He tasted blood as he bit his tongue.

No such thing as a clean slate.

What did that mean?

Think on what you’ve done.

Had he hurt a girl like this before? The thought was a horror, and he didn’t know if the knives in his chest were from Treske, or from guilt. The pain made it impossible to think. Images flashed behind his eyes, unrelated to anything, as if Treske’s invasion was throwing up piles and piles of photographs while he searched for something underneath.

No such thing as a clean slate.

The guilt grew, until it was as real as the pain, as real as the floor beneath his back. Because of all people, Treske wouldn’t try to protect him from his past. All those scattered photographs, but some of them had been buried deeper than others.

He’d done something wrong. Something terrible.

Think on what you’ve done.

Something unforgivable.

I’m sorry, Rogue. I’m so sorry.

 

~~~~

 

Pure relief flooded Logan’s chest when he found Charles still alive. Treske and Jaeger had abandoned him on the floor in the corridor to come running for Devyn when the kid collapsed. Only a casual “Your pal’s in the same fix” from Jaeger had let him know that Charles was even in trouble. Logan had been torn between the two, but Devyn had Michael to look after him.  And besides—he was immortal. Charles, on the other hand, was on his last life, and he had no one else near enough to do him any good.

Charles lay on his back, splayed out where he had fallen. Logan knelt next to him and cradled his head in both hands. Charles’ forehead creased, and his blue eyes fluttered open. He focused on Logan’s face, and one of his hands came up to brush Logan’s knuckles.

“I am...alright, my friend,” Charles whispered.

“What the hell happened?”

Charles grimaced, and his fingers clenched tight over Logan’s. “The entity they are battling—Rogue touched one of its creatures. It was able to enter our world through her, using her power as a conduit. We have very little time.”

Logan’s mouth dropped open. “What? Where is it? Oh, god—is Rogue alive?”

“I believe she is still in there, but the entity keeps moving. It can teleport across vast distances. No way to anticipate it.” Charles struggled up to sitting with apparent impatience. “Get me to Devyn; between the two of us—” He cut off abruptly, a shocked expression on his face. “Get me to Devyn,” he snarled. His young face hardened in a fury suited to a much older man.

Logan pulled Charles up onto wobbling legs and helped him limp down the corridor. Past the thump of his heart and the scrape of their footfalls, distant screaming raised the hair on the back of his neck, and he realized why Charles had become angry. That bastard was doing something to Devyn. Logan withdrew his arm from under Charles’ so that he could run back to the classroom.

“Wait,” Charles said. “Not without me!”

“Then you’d better step it up,” he growled. He grabbed Charles’ upper arm and broke into a run. The other man managed to keep up with him, and Logan burst into the classroom with Charles right behind.

Michael lay on his face, limp as a wet rag. Devyn was curled up on his side; all his limbs twitched as though he was in the throes of a nightmare. A crimson puddle had gathered around his head; his screams were wet with lungfuls of blood. Treske knelt over him, fingertips against Devyn’s throat as though to take his pulse. He met Logan’s eyes without shame or concern. Jaeger stood between Logan and the two of them.

Get your fucking— ” Logan began, but his tongue went still as a dead fish in his mouth. Godfuckingdammit, Charles!  He railed silently, but Charles ignored him.

“Treske, this is unnecessary,” Charles snapped, and stepped out in front of him. He walked past Treske’s giant bodyguard without a hint of concern. Jaeger looked bored, but that was a facade; his unfocused stare allowed him to keep all of the room in sight.

“Are you offering your assistance, Charles?” Treske’s voice was distant; his concentration seemed to be wrapped up in whatever he was doing to Devyn.

“No!” Logan barked.

“Yes,” Charles said. “Between the two of us, Devyn and I can locate your enemy. I have allies who can be of use. My condition is that you help us bring back Rogue intact. And it would be considerate of you to stop torturing your grandson while under my roof.”

His voice was carefully controlled, but there was fury beneath his words, and Treske heard it. The bastard actually smiled, as if he found Charles’ reserved chastisement to be amusing, but he withdrew his fingertips from Devyn’s throat and stood up.

Logan rushed to Devyn’s side and knelt, hand on his shoulder. Devyn flinched away from the touch; he covered his face with both arms and curled into a fetal position.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry...

“Devyn!” Logan grabbed his shoulder and shook it. The endless pleading scared him more than the screams had. The kid sounded broken.

“Feed ‘im,” said a deep voice.

Logan glanced over his shoulder. The silver-eyed bodyguard wasn’t looking in their direction; there was no indication he’d even spoken except that Treske, who was pulling a dazed-looking Michael off the floor, glared and snapped, “Jaeger .”

The mountain-man shrugged, but made no apology. Logan almost liked him, in that moment.

Logan wasted no time; he cut open his wrist and stuffed it between Devyn’s teeth. The boy tried to keep apologizing into his skin, until the taste of the blood hit him and he suctioned fast to the wound. Oddly, there was no rush with the feeding—just pain, and a pull like something more than blood was leaving his body.

Devyn drank from him until the wound closed, then wrapped both hands around Logan’s forearm and clung to him. He kept his face hidden, but his chest convulsed with silent cries. Logan caressed the side of his face, and again, Devyn flinched. Logan looked a question up at Charles, who shook his head.

He’ll be all right, Charles said, mind-to-mind. He hesitated, then added: In time. Some fragments of memory have resurfaced.

Treske had Michael on his knees, now; some exchange had begun between them in low, heated voices. The language they used was unfamiliar, so Logan tuned them out. All he cared about was that they were distracted. He glanced up at Charles.

Can you help me get through to him? he asked.

Charles looked down at Devyn, and a worried frown creased his forehead.

Yes, he said. He approached them, knelt at Devyn’s head and put one hand to Logan’s temple, the other to Devyn’s. He shot a wary glance in Treske’s direction. Subjectively, you will have a few minutes. Don’t waste time.

Logan had no chance to respond. The room disappeared.

Chapter Text

Logan extended his claws on instinct as he felt the world shift. He was no longer at the Academy. This was someplace he’d never been. All around him, gray walls like the walls of a maze rose three quarters of the way toward the high, slate ceiling, where fluorescent fixtures cast merciless light.

His senses were off. He smelled leather, metal and blood, but it was dull as if he was wearing a mask. It was disorienting, not being able to smell. His hearing was dulled, as well; someone was whimpering, just around the corner, and he had barely noticed it.

Logan followed the wall to its end, and rounded the corner. The space in front of him was another oddity. There was a single, metal table, tall as his head and tilted away from him. It seemed to fill the alcove in which he stood. Thick chains crossed beneath it, as though something or someone was chained to the other side. He craned his neck, but no matter how he moved, his perspective on the table never changed.

The blood smell was stronger, here. The fluorescent lights had gone dim; all he could see was the table, and though he sensed there were other objects in the room, he couldn’t get himself to focus on them. He realized, if this was Devyn’s memory, he wouldn’t be able to see anything other than what Devyn remembered.

A huge metal table, seen from beneath.

Ragged breathing from his side jolted him from his daze. He was here for Devyn, not to gawk. He withdrew his claws, turned toward the sound, and his chest jagged like something had come loose and gone tumbling down through his ribs.

Devyn was naked, curled up on his side against the wall and hugging his knees. There was barely a scar on his body. A couple raw, red ones on his side that weren’t even a year old; that was all. Devyn looked like a different person, without his scars. He was bruised, though: covered in striped welts, as though he’d been thrashed by a belt. The skin around his wrists was swollen and raw, dashed with spots of blood. He’d been bound, and had struggled. He looked no younger, but there was something small about him that reminded Logan this was a memory, and nothing was as it seemed.

Those gold-ringed sapphire eyes were focused, in an unblinking stare, up at the bottom of the metal table. That blast-zone expression of devastation, well-worn on his present-day face, seemed brand new on this memory version of himself. His lips moved, just a fraction. Logan put himself between the boy and the table, but Devyn’s gaze penetrated right through him. He may as well have been a ghost. Logan leaned in close, and then he heard it.

‘M sorry, ‘m sorry, ‘m sorry, ‘m sorry, ‘m sorry...

It was an unending mantra, just underneath his breath.

“Devyn,” Logan said loudly. He reached out, hesitated, then grabbed the boy’s shoulder and shook him. “Devyn!”

The mantra cut off. Shivers wracked through Devyn’s body. His eyes seemed so see right through Logan. A thin whine seeped up from his chest, and as it came to his lips, words formed:

‘M sorry...’m sorry...

“Devyn!” Logan shook harder, this time. “Come on, wake up! This isn’t real.” He slapped Devyn’s cheek lightly, just to get his attention, but those eyes bored right through him, wide and haunted. The stare unnerved him enough that Logan looked over his shoulder.

A long fall of shiny, ebony hair spilled over the edge of the table. Had that been there before?

Devyn choked on his own breath, and shrank into himself. Logan turned back to him, then he heard it too. Footsteps, coming toward them. A long, heavy stride. Devyn made a strangled sound, and resumed his mantra in a voice that cracked on each word.

Logan grabbed the boy’s head in both hands and tilted it so they were eye to eye. “Devyn!” He shouted.

Devyn looked up. And up.

Logan lifted his head to follow Devyn’s gaze. An impossibly tall man, legs clad in black leather, musclebound chest bare, stood over them both. The fluorescents made a halo of light over his head, and hid his face in shadow. Devyn’s pleading cut short; he seemed unable to breathe. Logan had to remind himself that this was just a memory, that the kid’s tormentors couldn’t actually hurt them. Against all instinct, he wrenched his gaze away from the monstrous man and focused back on Devyn. The boy’s eyes were soft with longing, where there should be only terror. Logan’s heart wrenched. He looked like a tormented supplicant before some dark god.

“Devyn, please look at me,” Logan begged. “Please, wake up.”

Shadows grew thick around them as the faceless man knelt. His hand passed right through Logan’s shoulder to cup Devyn’s face, so impossibly huge it was like an adult cradling the face of a small child.

“Get up, boy,” said an unfamiliar, deep voice. It came out soothing, and set Logan’s teeth on edge.

Devyn closed his eyes. Trembling took him over from head to feet. The man’s hand clamped down onto Devyn’s shoulder, made him whimper in pain. Logan extended his claws and slashed through the man’s arm, to no effect whatsoever. He may as well have been the dream. The man jerked Devyn to his feet, and it was no illusion that he was huge; Devyn barely came up to his waist. Logan jumped up and ran after them, shouting, as the nightmare of a man dragged Devyn several steps away from the wall. A groan of misery welled up from Devyn’s chest. His eyes were clenched shut. The spectre’s long fingers knotted in Devyn’s hair and wrenched his head up, forcing him to face the table.

“Look at what you did.” When Devyn’s eyes remained screwed shut, that deceptively soft voice rose to a shouted command. “LOOK AT HER!”

“Get the fuck off him!” Logan bellowed. He slashed through the man—he could only reach his chest—but his claws did nothing. He tried pulling at Devyn, but the kid seemed unaware of him.

Devyn kept his eyes closed. His whole body shook like he was coming apart. A sob ripped out of him, and then they kept coming, one miserable, grinding cry after another. The nightmare giant shifted and knelt, hands wrapped around Devyn’s shoulders so he couldn’t run away. Logan tried again to see the man’s face, but it remained in shadow. Everything was in shadow except for Devyn, the man’s hands, and this knowledge of where the man stood in relation to him. Logan tried to look around, but the rest of the room was gone.

It’s a memory, that’s all, he reminded himself. And Devyn’s eyes were closed, so this was all he could remember.

Son.

Logan’s heart crumbled into ash. He couldn’t even begin to think about what that one word meant.

You need to open your eyes, and see what you did to your mother.

The man’s deep voice penetrated to Logan’s very bones. It seemed to come right at the cusp of his ear, though the shadow of the man’s face was next to Devyn. Light glimmered between Devyn’s eyelashes. His lips drew back in a grimace as his eyes slowly opened.

In the reflection off his iris, Logan saw there was a woman sprawled out on the table. She was nude, and her hair was black.

That was the only thing Logan saw, because he screamed, “NO!” and slashed an inch of claw down his own throat. The monstrous man held Devyn from behind in an unbreakable grip, so Logan embraced him from the front and pulled Devyn’s face into the spray of blood. Lips touched his throat, and—

 

~~~~

 

The floor solidified beneath his knees. Logan could have sobbed in relief when he realized he was back in the mansion; the nightmare prison was gone. That relief lasted half a second. Pressure shattered across his skull, like he’d been hit by a tire iron.

Logan’s body rose into the air, and he watched his skin rip away from the bones of his arm as a flare of explosive energy jetted outward. It spun him around full circle. His heart jumped as a red flare rushed toward Charles, but Treske appeared between Charles and the blast, as if by teleportation. Treske made a circular motion with one hand, and the energy coiled into a churning, red sphere in front of him. Whatever was holding Logan in the air, it vanished. Logan dropped three feet to the ground and stumbled onto one knee.

Treske seemed almost bored. He brought the roiling sphere down until it hovered just above Devyn’s ribcage.

“Control yourself, little crow,” he chided, then pushed the sphere into Devyn’s chest.

Flame sizzled through the golden rings in Devyn’s eyes, fast at first, then just a few lazy sparks as the pressure in the room died away. Devyn dropped back to the floor, panting, and put his hands on his chest like it hurt.

Logan gritted his teeth over the pain as his arm healed. Fortunately, he’d taken most of the blast to one shoulder and arm, the adamantium had protected his bones, and Charles seemed none the worse for wear except for a shell-shocked expression. Jaeger’s eyebrows had drawn together, and he watched Devyn thoughtfully. Michael looked like he was about to explode, but though his fists shook, he stood in place and watched, as Treske circled Devyn like a cat observing a mildly interesting bug.

“Devyn—” Michael began, but Treske held up a hand, and Michael’s mouth snapped shut. His eyes belied the silence; he looked murderous.

“Get up, boy,” Treske said. Logan would’ve given all the adamantium in his left arm to punch him in the fucking teeth right then. “Your task is to determine the enemy’s end destination. Track it; use Charles’ guidance as necessary.”

Sir, yes, sir,” Devyn whispered. He curled onto his side and pushed himself up. His bowed head kept his face hidden.

“Charles,” Treske turned to face him, “do you have any mutants in your alliance who can teleport us?”

Charles’ eyes still held a dazed sheen; it took him a moment to look at Treske. “Why,” he said, his voice a rasp.

Treske didn’t miss a beat. “Once the Outsider reaches its end destination, we may have very little time to make our counterattack. It is gathering the hounds as we speak, so it would be best if we could transport Jaeger’s arsenal, as well. He can take them down en masse with his weapons.”

“There is one I could try to contact,” Charles said. “If that fails, the jet would be the fastest option.”

A frigid smile curled Treske’s lips. “See to it that it does not fail. Your world is at stake.”

“And yours,” Charles gritted. Treske’s eyelashes fanned across his cheek as he dipped his head in acknowledgment.

“Just so.”

Logan’s ears perked to running footsteps, still far from them. Treske cocked his head, then looked at Charles.

“Ask Ms. Monroe to bring hot weather to this entire area, if she can. It would help protect your school from the hounds, as heat weakens them. It may be worth finding out whether your metal man is immune to the cold. Bobby will be useful and should be placed under Jaeger’s direction. What other assets do you have?”

“My people are not your pawns to be sacrificed,” Charles said.

“They are my soldiers to direct, if you would like your student returned intact,” Treske replied without missing a beat. “I expect the complete cooperation of your team. Rogue will have no chance without the aid of my kin.”

Storm, and Colossus in his full metal form, made it to the door just as he finished speaking. Charles was near shaking with anger, yet he held up a hand before Storm could get a word out.

“The situation has changed,” Charles said. “The entity has breached our world, and has possessed Rogue. Storm, we need you to draw down as much heat to this area as you can. As quickly as possible. The entity could teleport here at any time.”

Storm looked taken aback, but she nodded and left. Colossus ducked through the door in her place. Side by side, he was a handsbreadth taller than Jaeger; Logan found that reassuring, somehow.

“Professor,” the tin man said, “how can I be of help?”

Treske stepped toward Colossus’ hulking form until they were only arm’s length apart, and held out a hand as if to shake.

“I believe Charles called you Piotr,” he said. “Tell me, is your metal form invulnerable to extreme temperature?”

Chrome eyes scowled down at Treske, then turned to Charles with a question.

“He wishes to test your endurance to cold,” Charles said. “I have to agree. We need to know if you should run toward this fight, or away from it.” To Treske, he added: “If you see him begin to fail, you are to stop immediately.”

“Agreed,” Treske said, without looking back.

Colossus reached down and clasped Treske’s hand.

The temperature in the entire room dropped. Logan’s hair stood on end, though nothing visible was happening. Tin-man and Treske just stared each other down, each almost daring the other to let go first. Finally, Treske gave a tight smile.

“He’s resistant enough to touch the hounds without damaging himself. Charles?” He cocked an eyebrow and glanced back.

“Partner up with Michael,” Charles said to Colossus. “The two of you should be ample discouragement to any of the Outsider’s creatures.”

But Treske tsked and shook his head. “No. You will work under Jaeger. My son is too emotional with his lovers to make sound decisions on the battle- field— ” The last syllable came out in a strained huff. Colossus’ chrome teeth bared in a snarl, and his forearm flexed as he crushed Treske’s hand in his. The crackle of broken cartilage was audible from across the room. Treske tried to jerk his hand back, but he might as well have been a flapping leaf for all that he affected Colossus’ grip.

“I will partner with Michael,” Colossus snarled.

Logan shot a quick look toward Jaeger, but the bodyguard seemed content just to watch. In fact, a suspicious twitch curved the side of his mouth.

“If you insist,” Treske hissed. Colossus finally released him. Treske’s hand was obviously broken, but he gave no indication that it hurt. His eyes shone like diamonds, and it was clear Colossus had just chosen to make Treske his enemy. Balls of steel, but hey, everyone knew that. Michael, probably most of all.

Hey, Chuck, Logan thought, as loudly as he could. Where’s Devyn’s head? Can he manage this scouting mission with that prick in the room?

Jaeger’s silver eyes flashed in his direction, and he cursed himself. He’d forgotten the giant could eavesdrop.

“Treske,” Jaeger said, then lapsed into that other language. Logan tensed, unsure if he was about to test his durability against the vampire’s cold power, but Treske nodded in response to Jaeger’s words, then looked at Charles.

“We should set up defenses around this property immediately,” Treske said. “ It very well could teleport here and save us the trouble of chasing it.”

A thunderous expression crossed Charles’ face. “There are too many innocents here to bring a war to the doorstep.”

“This war was always going to come to you,” Treske said. “The Outsider has been seeking an inroad to these Verses for millennia, always drawing nearer. It will only take the conquest of one world for it to cascade itself to each adjoining Verse, until every iteration of this reality is as bleak as the Outer Coil.”

Charles gave Treske a thin-lipped stare, then said slowly, “I know.” He tapped his own temple. “You already showed me.”

“Send your students away,” Treske said after a brief silence. “Even if we leave, it may trace our steps back here. The closer to the earth’s equator, the safer for them. Though ice will pervade even there, if we lose.” Treske’s curved lips showed how little he cared for the Academy’s students in either event.

Charles put fingers to his temple and closed his eyes for a moment. “Hank will arrange the evacuation,” he said. “Treske and Jaeger, set up what defenses you can. Better to draw it here, I think, than chase it somewhere more suited to its purposes.”

Treske nodded. Without another word, he turned and walked out of the room. Jaeger ducked through the door and followed.

At last, Devyn’s head came up. His eyes were red-rimmed, and blood streaked his chin.

“Charles,” Devyn croaked. “We need to look. I need your help.” He swiped one bare arm across his face, but only managed to smear blood around. He moved toward a grouping of chairs with desks attached to them, up against the wall. Logan followed.

“Devyn...that wasn’t your fault.” Just the thought of what he’d seen made his voice come out raw. “What happened in that memory, it wasn’t your fault.”

“Memory?” Michael asked, his eyebrows drawn thunderously tight.

Devyn sat in one of the clustered chairs and gripped the table over it. He didn’t look up.  

“I don’t remember anything.”

It was the first time he had lied to Logan. It changed his scent, made him seem hunted and small.

“Logan,” Charles cut in. “Go and help Hank organize the students. Michael, go with Treske and, er...”

“Keep his attention off the kiddies,” Michael interrupted. “Got it.”

Michael turned and strode right out the door. Logan hesitated, but Devyn was already zoning out the way Charles did when he was using telepathy, and Charles made a shooing motion. Logan scowled and hurried out after Michael. The vampire was all the way at the end of the hall.

“Hey, Dragon,” Logan called.

Michael stopped and turned, a wary look on his face.

“Why’s Treske keep calling him ‘little crow’?”

Michael sneered. “He thinks he’s cute. It’s what Devyn’s last name means.”

He had started to walk away again, when Logan hit him with his real question.

“Is Devyn’s father dead?”

The reaction was more telling than a lengthy confession. Michael bristled like he’d been sprayed with cold water. He swung around, his face twisted in an expression of hatred so visceral, Logan felt gut-punched just from having it directed at him. But Michael closed his eyes and his fists, and visibly reeled himself back in.

“Technically...no,” he said at last. When he looked back up, green flame licked through his eyes. “But I’m sure he wishes that he was.” He bared a mouthful of pointed teeth in an angry grin; his dragon self was peeking through. “No more questions.”

Logan nodded, though Michael didn’t see it; he was already walking away. He thought back on the words Devyn had spoken in Charles’ office, right before he blew the windows out.

I know there was a man that looked like me. I know he whored me.

All those years’ worth of scars, and Devyn not yet eighteen? Yeah, Logan had suspected. And now he knew.

Now he knew.

 

~~~~


Logan rounded the bottom of the staircase just in time. Charles staggered off the bottom step; his hand slipped off the handrail and reached into empty air. Logan rushed forward and caught him as he fell.

“What the hell?”

“Sorry.” Charles’ voice was thin as a breath of mountain air. “I am alright. Just tired.”

“Yeah, well, it’s been a good few hours. Where’s Devyn?”

“He went to your room to get some sleep before nightfall.”

Logan nodded. “The students’re taken care of.”

“I know. It has been a long time since the mansion stood this empty. I pray they will be safer where Hank has sent them.”

Logan snorted. “Well, they’re thrilled, I can tell you that much. Not every school pays for you to vacation in Brazil.”

“My family has owned that estate for generations. This may be the first time in a century that anyone’s lived there except the groundskeepers.” Charles’ tired eyes drifted to one of the tall windows, and a frown clouded his face. Logan released him so he could walk up to the window; Charles pressed his hands against the glass and stared.

“He says it’s not visible to anyone outside the perimeter,” Logan explained, though he still didn’t quite believe it.

Acres of translucent, brimstone script cut across the landscape, floated in the gray afternoon sky like a mirage. Logan had already been outside to gawk. The scrolling patterns formed a dome over the entire estate. Looking at it for more than a few seconds made him nauseous.

“I can feel it, brushing against my thoughts,” Charles murmured, and hugged himself. “It is...alien.” He fell silent for a minute, then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as the visual effect of the ephemeral patterns got to him. “This was never quite how I pictured Armageddon.”

“I always figured it’d be a mutant,” Logan said.

“So did I,” Charles confessed. He smiled, then, and there was a sadness to it Logan didn’t quite remember from Charles’ elderly days. He had to wonder if that was new: if it was a byproduct of sharing Devyn’s history, or had something of the afterlife rubbed off on him?

Charles put a hand on Logan’s back and guided him away from the window. “Our reconnaissance has been of some use. The Outsider has not breached our world entirely. It has implanted a fragment of itself into Rogue; the rest remains outside of what Devyn calls ‘the veil.’ The teleportation it’s been using seems to have burned up more energy than it expected, and it went underground within an hour. It’s barely been mobile, since. But it gathered a large pack of hounds before it went to ground.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Devyn thinks it will become active again after the sun sets. He says there are no stars out where it comes from. He thinks that is why it can’t bear the sunlight.”

Logan’s brow furrowed; Charles’ words brought to mind another man who brought cold in his wake and couldn’t bear direct sunlight. Charles’ lips quirked.

“Ah, yes, the correlation between the Outsider and Treske has occurred to me, as well. I wonder if vampirism itself might not be the result of a species from this place they call the ‘Outer Coil,’ interbreeding with humans.”

“Alien vampires,” Logan muttered, and shook his head.

“We have seen stranger things,” Charles pointed out, and Logan had to smile.

“True.” He put a hand on Charles’ shoulder; he’d meant it to be a quick squeeze, but Charles turned toward him and looked up with the strangest expression Logan had ever seen on his face. It took him a moment to place it as longing.

“Uh,” he said.

“Logan...” Charles’ lips thinned. He reached up and cupped Logan’s face in both hands, soft thumbs stroking along the fur of his jaw. Logan was so flummoxed, he just stood there with his mouth open. “He’s hurting, my friend. Treske wounded him in a way that only a Master of his kind could heal.” He paused, searching Logan’s face. “I hope you will...consider, that by their very nature, none of their kind can love exclusively. But they still love.”

With that enigmatic statement Charles’ blue eyes shuttered, his hands fell, and he walked away. Logan let him go; he was still trying to get his mouth to shut.

Chapter Text

Devyn took his time washing the blood from his upper body, then brushing his teeth, then cleaning under his fingernails, then just scrubbing down the sink. He could hear Logan and Michael’s voices outside the bedroom, somewhere in the hallway. Talking about him, no doubt, and he didn’t want to hear it. He avoided his own eyes in the mirror, scowled instead down at the bracelets of scars around his wrists.

Your Good Boy. Your hands. Your eyes. Anything for you.

The unbidden chant floated through his thoughts, like a prayer half-remembered from childhood. He shoved it away, stuffed it deep inside the lockbox in his mind where he’d stuffed the dream he had shared with Logan. It took physical effort, and he gripped the edge of the sink, panting.

His bravado had run out. Maybe it wasn’t worth it, knowing his past. What if he could move forward with a blank slate? Start a new life, here? The old one didn’t seem all that appealing. 

The bedroom door clicked open. Devyn swiped Logan’s flannel shirt from the towel rack; he didn’t want to be exposed right now. Everything was too raw. He buttoned it up as he walked back into the bedroom, then stopped in his tracks. Logan and Michael had come in together, and shut the door behind them. Logan eyed the shirt and frowned. At some point during the hours they’d been apart, Logan had put on his boots and a wife beater. Michael wore one of Colossus’ tank tops, but remained barefoot. He still towered over them both.

“Where’s Treske?” Devyn asked warily.

“Busy with Jaeger,” Michael answered. “Charles told them what you found. Treske wants to use your connection to the Outsider to lure it here, come nightfall.”

“Storm’s already got it a hundred degrees out,” Logan added. “Dragon, Bobby, and Tin-man can defend us from its dogs while the rest of you work to get it out of Rogue.”

Devyn’s shoulders slumped. Rogue.

Logan noticed the movement. “We’re getting her back,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” he agreed. This was Logan’s friend; Devyn needed to do everything in his power to help her. There was no time to drag his feet or chastise himself. Later. He could do that later. 

Logan and Michael exchanged a meaningful glance. Since when had they gotten so cozy? Devyn took a step back as the two men advanced on him.

“Uh...what’s going on?”

“We’ve got just a few hours to sunset,” Michael answered as he circled around behind Devyn. “Everyone needs to be tanked up before we roll.”

“You an’ Chuck blew a lot of energy, today,” Logan said, tapping his temple for emphasis. 

Michael’s hands came to rest on Devyn’s upper arms. The bonds of energy that connected the two of them hummed to life, buzzed in the space between them and made it hard not to close the distance. Devyn’s throat clicked over a dry swallow. He was very hungry. He’d been ignoring it, for the sake of the mission. But Logan stood right in front of him, and the pulse at his throat beat a song of temptation that had Devyn’s mouth watering. He and Logan had shared kisses and gropes with a lot of other men, the night before, but it was different to have Logan and Michael closing in on him. The two of them barely tolerated each other. And as for how they were acting toward him ...Devyn had expected patronizing, coddling, maybe everyone tiptoeing around him after the incident with Treske. But not this.

Nothing like this.

“Who are you, and what have you done with Logan?” Devyn joked in a thin voice. 

Logan reached up to cup the back of Devyn’s neck. Michael’s hands engulfed Devyn’s hips, and his power hummed up through Devyn’s torso, reaching for the warm touch on his neck like lighting drawn to a conductor. Logan felt it when the energy hit him; his pupils shot wide, and he gasped.

“Jesus, fuck,” Logan whispered. “You weren’t kidding about that connection.” Lust rose in waves from his skin. Michael’s lips touched Devyn’s ear.

“Life isn’t always rough like today was, baby,” Michael murmured. “There are good things too. So many good things.” He took hold of one of Devyn’s hands, and lifted it to Logan’s chest. Devyn stroked the soft, thin cotton, entranced by the muscle and hair beneath, but then he frowned.

“You’re not influencing him, are you?” he asked. Logan’s eyebrows went up, but a smile tugged his mouth. Michael chuckled.

“No,” Michael said, and the grin was audible in his voice. “The old horn-dog came up with this one all on his own.”

“Who you callin’ old, granddad?” Logan groused, then looked hard at Devyn. “You feel like you need to bury your relationship with him, because of me. I’m not some insecure asshole, Devyn. I know what you feel for me. I can smell it every time you look at me.” He bent down to bury his face in Devyn’s neck, just under Michael’s chin. Logan took a long, slow inhale through his nose and sighed in pleasure. “I know what I do to you.”

Devyn repressed a groan. The heat of Logan’s breath tingled all the way down to his cock. “Got it. You’re a very secure asshole.” He managed to say it without sounding like he was running out of air. Both the men laughed.

“Look, all I’m sayin’ is, I want to be with you. Whether it’s you an’ me, or you an’ me an’ this dickhead.” He jerked his chin at Michael, and now Devyn really wished he had eavesdropped on their conversation outside the door. He had clearly missed something. “Stop sweatin’ it, kid.”

“Not a kid,” Devyn said, but that just got him a hungry smirk.

“Sure you are,” Logan said. He stood up straight, putting Devyn’s eyes on a level with his chin, and patted the top of his head. “Just a tiny little thing.”

“Tch! Fuck off!” Devyn laughed.

Logan’s smirk widened; he glanced over Devyn’s shoulder. “I heard ‘fuck.’ That what you heard, Dragon?”

“That’s what I heard,” Michael breathed against Devyn’s temple.

“You guys are both assholes,” Devyn said, but he was smiling. Logan’s hands slipped down his waist, settled just above Michael’s and gave a squeeze. Devyn let out a small sound.

Logan looked up, past him, and nodded. He and Michael both let go of Devyn. Logan stripped off his wife beater in a fluid motion. Devyn ogled his gorgeous chest, then looked over his shoulder to see that Michael had also taken off his shirt. The scent of both men mingled in the air, a contrast of winter and summer. Michael pressed up against his back, cool even through the flannel. Logan closed in on him from the front, all heat and fur. 

He got it, now. They were trying to distract him with macho banter and extreme shirtlessness. The question was, would he go along with it? 

“Don’t overthink it,” Michael breathed into his ear. 

Don’t think . That was a very appealing course of action. The power of Michael’s touch, of his very existence , poured through Devyn’s veins and increased his awareness of Logan’s musky scent and thudding heart. Logan bent down to kiss his neck. Logan always had to bend down to kiss him, yet Devyn never really thought of him as tall. What had Treske said?

He’s several inches shorter than your—”

Than my what?

Anything for you. Your Good Boy. The chant popped back up out of the recesses of his mind. A sensation like cold water trickled down his back, a prickle like spider legs over his skin as his arm hair rose.

“Shh, look up, Dev.” Michael’s breath was cool against his ear. “Look up. It’s just us.”

Devyn wrenched his eyes open. Gray eyes a mirror image of his own looked down on him, but it was only for an instant before they resolved into deep brown. Logan’s eyes. His brow furrowed with concern.

Get it together, he berated himself. 

Get on your knees, another voice rumbled, like an earthquake in the distance. Devyn’s chest squeezed, and something flowed out from his skin. Logan and Michael both stiffened. The windows rattled, and Devyn flinched as something crashed down in the bathroom. He reached out for that sense which extended past his skin, worked to reel it back inward. It returned like a winter wind, seeping back into his pores. The rattling stopped.

Fuck,” he whispered, “I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” He lowered his head to hide his tears from Logan. He was more angry than afraid. Why couldn’t he be normal?

“Can’t you use your bond to help him?” Logan asked Michael.

“Devyn, will you let me?” Michael’s large hand stroked his hair, asking permission as much as his words. Which was a fuckton more than Treske had done before he’d gone tearing through Devyn’s head.

“Yes, sir.” Devyn forced his voice to come out stronger than he felt. His whole face was hot; he was sure his cheeks were bright red. Humiliating, to be so out of control. He had to get it together. For Logan. For Rogue. He had to be—

be a Good Boy—  

He ground his teeth together. Michael’s hand settled over his temple, and a cool, blue wave of calm seeped into his head, flowed over that cut-open sensation that had drilled all through his skull, and tamped it down. The pressure of black memories floated away on the thought stream. Devyn moaned in pleasure at the release.

“Better,” he murmured. “Thank you, s—thanks.”

Michael kissed the top of his head, and ruffled his hair. Logan wiped the tears from his cheeks, then kissed the side of his mouth.

“We don’t have to do this,” Logan said.

“No! No, I can do it!” Devyn said quickly. “I want this. Please.” He wrapped his arms around Logan’s neck and pulled him down to kiss the doubt off his face. He was sloppy about it, and their teeth clacked together. The energy he’d nearly let loose a moment earlier was still close to the surface; it sparked between their mouths. Logan jumped, then let out a sound between a chuckle and a growl.

“You sure?” he asked. Devyn pulled him back into the liplock and hummed an affirmative. 

Michael wrapped one arm around both of their shoulders. His fingers came around the back of Logan’s neck, tracing his pulse. His other hand nudged between them to flick open the two buttons Devyn had fastened on the flannel shirt. He peeled the shirt down to Devyn’s elbows, then bent to kiss along the column of his neck. Michael’s power buzzed through Devyn’s skin and twined with his own, a sense of connection and comfort as though they had laced their fingers together. Their combined power tugged at Logan, and his pleased hums took on a savage edge. His kisses turned to bites, and Devyn bared his throat to the assault. He wanted to drown in pain and comfort.

“More, sir...thank you, sir...” He barely noticed what he was saying, until Michael pulled his head back and looked into his eyes from above. His voice was gentle but firm: “We’ll give you more, if you can stop saying ‘sir.’ Deal?”

Now, there is a goal worth the effort. Devyn smirked at Michael’s cleverness. “Deal.”

Logan sealed the bargain with a deep bite into the crook of his neck. Tingles shot down Devyn’s arm and chest. He thrust forward with a shameless whine. Michael and Logan both lifted him at once; he wrapped his legs around Logan’s waist and tilted his head back. 

“Logan?” Michael’s voice rumbled down Devyn’s spine. Logan, who was kissing Devyn’s chest, lifted his eyes. Another silent communication passed between them, and Logan straightened up. 

“This should be fun,” Logan said with a feral grin.

The two men leaned in tight over Devyn’s shoulder and kissed each other. Deyvn’s shock turned to raging lust as Logan made an animal noise deep in his throat. Michael pulled back, and a mouthful of blood spilled down Logan’s chin.

Instinct drew Devyn’s mouth to the spill like an earth magnet. He slathered Logan’s chin and lips with his tongue, earned thrusts and groans in return, but Michael held him back from sinking his own fangs into his lover. Devyn tugged at Michael’s restraining hold, stretched his tongue to lick the last remnants of blood from Logan’s bottom lip.

Michael’s hands enveloped his jaw and forehead, and their connection flared to life. The blood in Devyn’s mouth turned to glimmering stars. Michael’s power swept through him like a slow ocean wave, rode through the fresh blood and magnified its energy. Devyn sang out a moan of pure bliss. He hadn’t even realized how badly Treske had fucked him up, until this moment. It was like he had road rash all over his soul, and Michael and Logan had made a balm that healed over the ravaged nerves, pulled the torn bits back together.

Oh, sir—Oh, Master—

He barely caught the cries before they left his lips. If Michael wanted to train him out of the honorifics, Devyn might just have to say nothing at all. It felt intensely wrong to speak as equals when he was receiving such incredible pleasure from these two men.

With Devyn and Michael locked together by their Master/child connection, Logan was the only one free to act. He pulled Devyn’s legs from around his waist and lowered him until he was standing. He licked a path down Devyn’s chest, pulled open his pants and slipped them down to his thighs.

Devyn squirmed in surprised pleasure as Logan’s hot mouth sealed over the head of his cock. Once again, Michael’s energy rode through him as if seeking Logan’s mouth; the connection flared to life, and Logan and Michael both moaned. Devyn’s cries took on a pleading edge, as the world lost its defining edges. Blackness crowded out his vision.

“Ah, I can’t, I can’t!” They were the only words he could manage. He was either going to cum or pass out.

Logan caught him under the legs as Devyn fell; Michael caught his upper body, and together they carried him and laid him down on the bed. They took the flannel off him, freeing his arms. Devyn turned toward Logan’s warmth, folded into his chest with Michael’s cool hands on his hips. No need for sight to know who was who. Logan’s scent was spice and earth, laced with tobacco, and alcohol that he probably shouldn’t have in the school. Michael’s was a biting burst of winter frost, ginger, and wood smoke. 

The fog cleared from Devyn’s vision to reveal Logan’s chestnut brown eyes, dark with a heat that was all human, all masculinity. Devyn surged forward, buried his face into the heat of Logan’s throat, but a cold hand around his jaw pulled him back. Devyn growled and fought against the grip, but it was useless.

“Hold onto that hunger, baby,” Michael purred. “That’s for after.”

Devyn turned to direct all the heat inside him into a glare at his Master. Michael smirked, but there was no mockery in it. Just understanding, and lust. It was the latter that melted Devyn’s impending anger. 

“Fuck—fuck me,” he rasped, just barely restraining the “sir” that wanted to come out, replacing it with a strained “please.” Michael’s smirk widened.

“You want this?” he rumbled, and nudged the bulge in his pants against Devyn’s ass. “Or how about this?” He took Devyn’s wrist and guided his hands to the front of Logan’s jeans.

“Both,” Devyn groaned. “Oh, fuck.” As their hunger rose, so did their scent. The smell of them alone would drive him insane. Michael shifted to undress himself, but when Devyn tried to remove his own pants, Logan took him by the throat and pushed him back onto the bed.

“That’s for us to do,” Logan said.

Devyn managed some kind of noise; his brain had shut off the second Logan’s hand circled his throat. He rolled his hips into the air, aching for one of them to touch his cock. Michael pulled off Devyn’s pants while Logan devoured his chest and neck in rough bites. The touches were incredible, but his cock needed attention.

“Please! Please!

“Mmm, begging already,” Michael purred. He pressed a cool kiss into the crease of Devyn’s thigh as he pulled his legs open. Devyn let out an aggravated growl and reached down to squeeze his own throbbing cock, but Michael caught his hand and pinned it to the bed. 

“Ah, fuck!” Devyn gasped. Michael wasn’t damping down their connection at all; each touch set his body aflame. Logan wasn’t safe from it, either; he kept letting out these bestial growls. His sharp teeth closed over Devyn’s shoulder muscle and he bit until Devyn screamed.

 

~~~~

 

Logan was thirsty for blood. He choked off Devyn’s cry with a hand around his throat and sucked droplets of coppery red from the bite wound. The young man’s voice was just a gasp through his grip.

Fuck me! Ow...please!

Logan groaned. The beast was so close to the surface. His claws climbed up his wrists, stiffening them. He shifted his grip on Devyn’s throat so they would drive through the bed, if they came out. He was going to owe Charles thousands in damages to this room.

“If I...start,” he got out, “I don’t think...I can, stop.” He cringed at the sound of his own voice. He sounded like an animal that had learned to speak English. Feral. But Devyn had to know how close he was to losing control. He wanted to bite a chunk out of Devyn’s skin to mark his territory. 

You were an animal then, and you’re an animal now. Some of Stryker’s last words to him, words he’d never really gotten out of his mind. 

“Logan,” Devyn said, then stopped, putting his hands on Logan’s shoulders. Devyn closed his eyes and took a steadying breath, then opened them and wrapped one hand around Logan’s throat. 

Logan started to pull back, but Devyn pulled him down instead. His grip was inescapable, and he batted away the hand Logan raised to tug at him, easy as dislodging a kitten. 

“If I want you to stop, I’ll stop you,” Devyn said. His words were sure, but his eyes were cautious, as if he feared that Logan might be upset with him, somehow.

It was very much the opposite. The reminder of Devyn’s preternatural strength wiped away the last of Logan’s restraint. He gave Devyn’s cock a rough squeeze and swiped up the precum. The kid was leaking like a faucet, and gave him plenty to work with. He used Devyn’s precum and his own to slick Devyn’s hole, then he fisted Devyn’s cock while Michael took his place between the boy’s legs. Michael pushed Devyn’s thighs apart, wet his fingers with his own precum, and pushed two thick digits into Devyn’s ass. Devyn flushed bright pink from his nipples to his ears. He thrust his hips up into Logan’s grip, then back down onto Michael’s fingers.

“That’s good,” Michael cooed. “Opening right up.”

Three of Michael’s fingers were now buried deep. Logan reached down with his free hand to trace the stretched ring of Devyn’s hole.

“F-fuck,” Devyn gasped. “Like, that...Both of, you...Please!”

“Both of us, huh?” Logan raised an eyebrow. He turned the circling of his fingers into a steady press, and his index and middle finger squeezed in with Michael’s three large digits. He and Michael pressed in together, and Michael was cupping the back of Logan’s hand when he curled his fingers upward to touch Devyn’s prostate.

Devyn practically levitated off the bed. Sweat broke out on his forehead, and his cries took on the tone that meant he was about to cum. 

“I need...I’m gonna...”

“Give it to me,” Logan growled, and quickened his strokes on Devyn’s cock until it jerked in his hand. Devyn spasmed around their fingers as cum shot up past his own shoulder, then onto his face, chest, and belly. He went limp, hands splayed out beside his head. Logan bent down to lick the cum from Devyn’s cheek and neck. Michael scooped it up from Devyn’s belly and used it to slick him up more. He resumed the fingerfucking, and Logan eased back into rhythm with him. Devyn watched them through half-lidded eyes, his plush lips parted over afterglow moans. His scent filled the room, and it was absolute heaven. Logan kept him pinned to the bed by his hair, sniffed and gnawed on his throat like an animal. He was so ready to fuck the boy senseless. 

Michael seemed to read his mind. “Think he’s ready for a real fuck, aren’tcha, baby?” 

“Yes, s—” Devyn visibly caught himself, and cast a glance at Michael as he rolled his lower lip between his teeth. Michael grinned.

“Nice save,” he said. Devyn snorted.

Logan took Michael’s place between Devyn’s legs, added some of the boy’s spilled cum to his own cock and eased in slowly. Devyn’s eyes lost focus. The moans started as soon as he was breached, but there were no students left to be quiet for. Logan darted a glance at Michael, but the vampire shook his head and mouthed, It’s okay. Which meant Treske was far enough away, or occupied enough, that they could be loud. 

Perfect.

He pulled Devyn’s hips up and took him in long, hard thrusts. Michael knelt on the bed above Devyn and pushed his enormous, uncut cock between his lips.

Logan hadn’t been entirely sure whether he’d get jealous, if they did this. He’d overheard the two of them kissing, earlier, and it hadn’t been a surprise; he knew just by the way they smelled around each other that they’d fucked in the past, even if Devyn couldn’t remember it. Logan had been in threesomes before, but never with anyone important to him. Yet there was something unbearably fine to this view: Devyn struggling to service that magnificent cock while Logan fucked his brains out. Devyn’s moans were muffled; he gagged and sometimes tried to break away, only to be soothed with a touch or encouraging word from one of them. Both of them ran possessive hands over Devyn’s exposed body, but when Michael’s hand closed over the back of Logan’s, he pulled away.

Michael glanced up, a devious gleam in his eyes. He put his palm flat over Devyn’s lower belly, just over where Logan’s cock sat deep inside the boy, and a wave of power ran through Devyn to Logan. Suddenly Devyn was fully erect again, and Logan was thrusting hard enough to bruise the kid’s poor ass. The bed groaned a loud protest beneath them, but he couldn’t stop. The nerves in his dick felt supercharged; every sensation was magnified.

“Fuck,” he gasped. “Fucking...incubus...Christ on a stick, fuck!”

Michael let out a genuine laugh. He cupped Devyn’s neck to help him angle his throat open, then leaned forward and drew Logan in with his other hand. Hell. They were going to kiss again. He had all of a second to stop it. Long enough. But he didn’t.

Michael tasted like he smelled, but more and wet . Logan ate into the bastard with a snarl. Their negotiation in the hallway had been quick and to the point. Neither of them would take anal from the other, but there were other things. So many other things they hadn’t explicitly said “no” to, and now Logan wanted to try them all. Devyn’s desire for the both of them was its own physical entity in the room. And Christ, but Michael was fucking hot.

They came apart in a gasping mess. Logan’s lip burned where Michael’s fang had nicked it. Michael thumbed a smear of blood on his own lips back into his mouth, watching Logan with predator-dark eyes.

Michael spat into his own palm, leaned forward and slipped his hand between Logan and Devyn. He circled the base of Logan’s cock, then traced firmly along the stretched ring of Devyn’s hole.

“You want both of us, baby?” Michael asked.

Devyn hummed an enthusiastic noise around the cock in his mouth. Michael’s eyes were on Logan, but whatever he saw seemed to please him. His index finger and thumb made a ring around the base of Logan’s cock while his middle finger sank inside.

“Jesus, fuck...oh, shit,” Logan choked. An insane amount of pleasure flowed through his skin where Michael touched him. That finger, snugged in alongside his cock, lit up every nerve. Michael worked in a second finger, and dipped his head to take Devyn in his mouth.

Devyn scratched red lines onto Michael’s back, onto his ass. Michael worked in his pinky finger, and finally his index. Devyn’s struggles intensified, until Michael pulled out of his mouth and asked, “This what you want?”

Devyn coughed. When his voice came, it was a rasp. “Yes, sir!”

“Yes, what?” Michael asked, cocking an eyebrow as he looked back at Devyn. He moved his hand, as if he would pull out, and Devyn whimpered in protest.

“I—I’m sorry—Michael, please! I can’t—I can’t think...please...Fuck, please!

Michael smirked up at Logan. “Awful lot of talking for someone who can’t think straight.”

“Needs some more dick in his throat,” Logan growled.

“Good idea,” Michael said, and thrust in deep. Devyn struggled beneath them and beat at Michael’s sides. They fucked him hard from both ends for several blissful minutes. At last Michael pulled back and climbed off the bed, withdrawing his fingers from Devyn’s stretched hole. Devyn’s eyes were glazed from tears; slick ropes of spit ran down both sides of his face. Michael stroked his cheek and kissed his swollen lips. 

Logan leaned down as soon as Michael pulled back, devoured Devyn’s lips and sucked Michael’s flavor from his tongue. The taste of Michael on his lover’s lips set off something bestial in his brain. He crushed Devyn beneath the weight of his adamantium-enhanced body and ate into his mouth until neither of them could breathe. Michael’s cool hands stroked over Logan’s back and thighs, and it turned him on even more, knowing that Devyn’s “Master” was watching him own Devyn so completely.

“This bed’s gonna break.” 

Michael’s voice penetrated the fog. He was right, of course; the bedframe’s squeals had reached a pitch of imminent failure. 

“Throw the mattress on the floor,” Logan said. He put an arm around Devyn, coaxed the boy’s arms up around his shoulders, and stood up without pulling out of him. Michael pulled the mattress to the floor and knelt on it.

“Bring him here,” Michael said. 

“You ready for us to split you open?” Logan rumbled against Devyn’s ear. Devyn’s arms tightened around his shoulders. 

“Please, yes,” he moaned. “Please, fuck me.”

“Hmm, since you ask so nicely,” Logan said. “Let’s lube you up for this.”

“Don’t need to,” Michael said. He wrapped his hand around his own impressive cock and squeezed. A string of clear fluid spilled from the tip and stretched all the way to the floor. “We’re made for fucking. Aren’t we, baby?”

Devyn moaned into Logan’s neck. “Fuck yes, sir. Made for you to fuck me.” He emphasized his words by sliding himself up and down on Logan’s dick, and if Michael caught the “sir,” he let it go this time.

“You say the sweetest things,” Logan purred. He kissed Devyn’s neck and carried him to Michael, pulled out of the boy and let Michael take his waist to lower him down. Devyn spread his legs to either side of Michael’s thighs, and he looked so fucking gorgeous just like that, all dripping and spread open, with his rigid cock stuck out in front of him. Logan grabbed Devyn’s cock and pumped it while Michael thrust up into the boy from behind.

Devyn squirmed breathlessly as the new angle tortured his insides. Michael was rougher than Logan had expected. His slaps left handprints on Devyn’s ass. He tugged the boy’s nipples, slapped his face and sides, and bit his throat until Devyn was a wanton, sobbing mess. If Logan couldn’t smell the fact that Devyn was completely into this, he might’ve tried to stop it. As it was, he kept tugging on the boy’s rigid cock and kissing the pleas from his lips while Michael fucked him within an inch of his life.

“Fu-uhh...pl-lea-ea! M-Mich..unnh—ow! Fuhhhck!” Devyn twisted away from another bite. Blood welled up around a dozen shallow wounds on Devyn’s shoulder and neck, marks which hadn’t been made by human teeth.

“That’s more like it, Michael growled. “Not even complete words.” He was in rough shape himself; his voice had a preternaturally deep edge to it, and his words came out muddy around sharpened teeth.

Logan surged forward before Michael could lower his head to the boy’s neck again. Something about the smell of those wounds was making him crazy. He fastened his mouth over them and gnawed into the muscle, sucking the blood away like it was liquid sugar. Devyn’s breath caught; he came like a fountain over Logan’s hand, and Logan couldn’t wait any longer. He knelt between their legs and positioned himself while Devyn was still moaning through his second orgasm. Michael had been right about not needing lube; everything down there was slick and wet, and so very ready for him.

Devyn went perfectly still, breathless as the head of Logan’s cock pushed in alongside Michael’s. Electric heat poured from Devyn’s skin like an invisible tide, crashed into Logan and lit up every cell in his body. Logan clung to Devyn, and to Michael behind him, as if they would anchor him against the storm.

“Easy, Dev; bring it back in. That’s it. We’ve got you, baby.” Michael gripped the two of them; his cold energy spread over that jagged heat and somehow stabilized it. Devyn dropped his forehead to Logan’s shoulder, panting, and he fit against Logan’s body like they had been made for each other.

So good,” Logan whispered. He tilted Devyn’s chin up and devoured his lips with slow, hungry kisses. Michael squeezed bruises into Devyn’s skin that Logan traced with his fingertips. 

Devyn was limp as a dishrag in their arms, completely overwhelmed. Blue fire glowed between half-shuttered eyelids, and a moan drifted from his parted lips. Another stream of electric warmth rolled out from his skin, but this time it came intertwined with Michael’s power, and all Logan’s senses registered was pleasure beyond anything he’d ever imagined. A groan shuddered through his chest as he thrust all the way in.

“Ffffuck,” Michael gasped. Logan moaned a vague agreement. All his attention was focused on his cock. Whether it was pheromones or otherworldly magic, or just the fact that he was double-dicking the sexiest young man he’d ever seen with the world’s hottest dragon shifter, Logan wanted to rut against them both until their scent became a part of him. 

Devyn leaned his head back onto Michael’s shoulder and let out a sound of helpless pleasure. His hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. Logan and Michael found a rhythm as easily as if they had done this a hundred times.

Green eyes watched Logan avidly as Michael dipped his head to swipe a lick across Logan’s forearm. Long fangs flashed between his lips, just barely grazed the flesh. They didn’t draw blood, but it was close. Logan growled and shoved Michael’s shoulder. The vampire grinned, savage, yet neither of them lost the rhythm of their fucking. 

Logan was hit with the strangest sense of deja vu. In his mind’s eye it was that mutant, Victor, who knelt across from him, claws against the back of Logan’s bleeding neck as they shared a young lover between them. 

He blinked his eyes open. Where the hell had that come from?

He hissed through his teeth as Devyn’s fingernails raked down his biceps after a rough thrust. Scent of fresh blood, and the vision was forgotten. Michael pulled Devyn’s head to the side by his hair and nipped his neck to release a trickle of blood which he licked off, still watching Logan with that carnivorous lust. 

Devyn whimpered and squirmed, pushing against Logan’s hips.

“You tryin’a get away?” Logan grunted. He sounded like a caveman. He didn’t care. Nothing had ever felt so fucking good. Devyn tried to moan some kind of response, but no clear words came out of his mouth.

“Lean back on me,” Michael rumbled. He lowered onto his back on the mattress, pushed Devyn’s hips down while Logan lifted Devyn’s legs to his shoulders. The change in position made it easier to move, and their thrusts quickened. Devyn’s cries took on a desperate edge. His cock lay hard and dripping against his stomach even as he slapped at Logan’s arms until Michael pinned him in a bear hug. Both men thrust hard into their willing captive. 

Devyn’s tight body flexed around their cocks, and that was it. Logan lost it.

He came with a roar, ground deep into Devyn’s ass and held him tight when the boy tried to writhe away from him. He grabbed Devyn’s chin and fell on top of him to claim a kiss so violent, it split Devyn’s lip against his teeth. Logan sucked hungrily on the wounded flesh. The taste of Devyn’s blood lit up every cell inside him.

Michael wrapped his arms around them both and rolled them over. He pinned Devyn to Logan’s chest and plowed his helpless body with rough thrusts. 

Michael’s power melded with Devyn’s, filled Logan up from soul to skin, and drew out his orgasm like a singer holding a high note. It went on and on until his vision went white. When Devyn’s fangs pierced his throat, it was Logan’s turn to scream.

He didn’t remember anything after that.

 

~~~~

 

Logan knew where he was before he opened his eyes; he smelled Devyn beside him, and Michael beside Devyn in turn. The comforter was a pleasant weight on top of him. Every fiber of the cotton sheets made its presence known against his skin. 

Cool fingers lay threaded through the curls of hair on his belly. Michael’s fingers.

He cracked his eyelids, had a moment of disorientation before he realized they were still on the mattress, which was still on the floor. Devyn was fast asleep. Michael lay alongside the boy, his long hair cascading off the end of the mattress. He had an arm across Devyn’s waist beneath the covers and it was that hand which rested on Logan’s stomach, familiar as though they were lovers. Technically, he supposed they were, now. That was a strange thought.

“You bounce back quick,” Michael observed. He kept his voice soft, so as not to disturb Devyn.

“Was I out long?” Logan’s voice buzzed in his throat. He felt different. Sensitive all over.

Michael shook his head. “Few minutes. We still have hours to sunset.”

Logan nodded, then an unpleasant thought hit him. “Did you drink from me?” It might explain why he felt so strange.

“No,” Michael said, and an amused half-smile crept across his lips. “Your virtue’s intact.”

“Fuck off,” Logan said, but there was no heat to it. He felt too damn good to get mad. All slow and easy like a raft on a still lake. He frowned, though, because another scent hung thick in the room amid the musk of sex. He raised up on one elbow, sniffing. Michael quirked an eyebrow.

“Smells like blood,” Logan said. “A lot of it.”

Michael flashed him a strange grin. “You’re an animal in bed, I’ll give you that. I can see why he likes you so much.”

When Logan just scowled at him, Michael pointed to his own side waist. Three fresh, pink scars stood out amid the white skin and silver tattoo. Slow realization dawned on him: he had stabbed Michael sometime during his white-out. And while part of him was disturbed at this, he felt a smug smirk crawling across his face. Michael saw it and chuckled. Crazy fucker.

“Plus I might’ve clawed your shoulder a little,” Michael said, and winked. “But you zipped right back up.”

“Wha—?” Logan looked down at himself. Five streaks of blood, still wet, ran from back to front along his right shoulder. 

“Get some sleep, Wolverine,” Michael smirked. “Got a lot of killing to do, come nightfall.”

A lot of killing. Except he couldn’t do much of it, since he couldn’t get within ten feet of the hounds without freezing solid. He didn’t see any need to explain that to Michael. He’d figure something out.

He thought about cleaning up, then decided, fuck it. He was too comfortable, and it wasn’t as if the smell bothered any of them. 

He turned on his side so he could curl around Devyn and sling a leg across both of his. The back of his hand rested in the fur of Michael’s chest, but he ignored it. Michael put a hand on his thigh, and Logan ignored that, too. He had no regrets about them fucking, but that didn’t mean he wanted to cuddle the prickly bastard.

Michael’s energy thrummed through his skin, and echoed somewhere deep inside of him.

It had just been a fuck. Hadn’t it?

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

Art by zayacv

Chapter Text

“Sabretooth.”

Cold wind whipped Victor’s coat as he identified himself to the camera at the gate. He stalked through the moment it had opened, identified himself again at the door to base camp: a squat, concrete slab that hid at least a dozen underground levels, maybe more. This was where they were testing the alien kid’s blood; he knew that, because he’d scented it here, days ago. That Asian kid whose name he’d never learned, the one that looked like he belonged in a university, not a Tomohawk operation, he’d carried the smell on his hands like a tracking chip. Victor’s intel pointed to the lab being on the lowest level of this base, and that was where he was going.

Victor stalked down garishly lit gray halls, ignored the attempt at comradely bitching about where he’d been last night from one of the Tomohawk boys—truly a boy, just in his twenties. Never been shot, and entirely too proud of having been stabbed once. Victor had almost clawed him, three days ago, but had held back because it was either kill the punk or leave him with another scar to brag about. 

Well, there’d be plenty of killing today. He’d try and squeeze the kid in there, somewhere.

Stryker never learned his goddamn lesson. None of the brass ever did. Hadn’t taken Victor too much digging to find out they were trying to create another weapon out of shit they didn’t understand and wouldn’t be able to control. Normally, he wouldn’t care. What were a few dozen, a few hundred bodies here or there? But they planned to send this hybrid chop shop job after his brother, and...well.

Victor’s little side trip had given him the answer he needed.

Logan remembered him.

Not all the way; that was obvious. Maybe he didn’t remember nights spent fucking in fresh snow under the Northern Lights, or running naked through the woods to chase down wild deer, the spray of arterial blood shared between their lips and a tumble in the grass while they were both still drenched in sweat from the chase.

But he remembered something. The way his nostrils had flared, his eyes had dilated, and lust had mixed in with his aggression. So maybe his mind had forgotten, but his body knew the scent of his own brother.

Victor knew he shouldn’t have waited this long. He should’ve taken Logan, his little Jimmy, from the first day off the island and taught him who he was all over again. He’d done it once, hadn’t he? But that had been so long ago, and Jimmy had been younger then. Not the stubborn bastard he’d grown up to be. Always trying to play at being in the right. Always pretending there was a “right.”

He walked through the cobwebs of a hundred years of memory as he strode down the final, long stretch to the elevator that would take him down to the lab. The big, dark-skinned guard who stood before it knew right away that Victor didn’t have clearance. Victor let him bark off his warning. He even let the guy get a shot in. The dumb grunt didn’t think to use his mutant taser. He didn’t get a second chance before Victor took his spine out at the neck.

Victor pried open the doors of the elevator shaft. He grinned when he saw that luck had favored him; the elevator was a level above his head, leaving his way below clear.

He jumped into the black shaft, hit the far wall and dug in his claws to slow his fall. The skrawk of shredding metal walls made hellish music for his oversensitive ears, and he yelled to drown it out. His ears were ringing by the time he hit bottom, many floors below.

He made short work of the doors from the inside out, claws rending through metal like it was butter. Like it was Logan’s chest, flower petal wounds blossoming around his claws and then closing up again, heart pumping sweet adrenaline to make him crazy...

Oh, Jimmy. Never gonna let you go again, after this.

He wedged through the opening he’d made, and found a long hallway in front of him. The walls to either side were made of bars like a prison block. He sniffed the air, found it redolent with sweat and fear. They were keeping a damn zoo of prisoners down here that Victor hadn’t known about.

Victor stalked down multiple hallways. He’d never been on this level, but the young scientist’s scent led him well enough; he was down here, and Victor would find him.    

A whey-faced whelp barely old enough to shave pressed his forehead against the bars of his cell to see who was coming, then recoiled when he saw Victor’s face. Not completely stupid, then.

A cracked, male voice drifted to him from far away. Victor quieted his steps, turned his stride into a prowl.

“Sir, we have only two minutes to sunset. His vitals are stable—well,” the speaker let out a strained laugh, “he’s been unconscious since sunrise, but we anticipate activity after sunset, based on the previous subjects’ behavior. No, sir.”

A pause.

“He no longer responds to verbal commands. Did you get my report, sir? He killed three of his fellow test subjects, and was immune to everything except the UV lights. All three of the, well, the victims, were entirely drained of blood. And he ate their throats...” Here, the voice wavered. “No, sir. Yes, sir, I’ve rigged UV banks all around his cage, but I—no, sir, I hadn’t planned to feed him tonight. He bent the bars of his cell...no, sir.”

Many of the cells Victor passed were empty. A slender, brown-skinned man with a shaved head leaned against the bars up ahead, and watched Victor approach with haunted eyes. When they locked gazes, the man shook his head. Was that supposed to be a warning? Victor smirked, flashing fangs.

The man backed away from the bars.

All at once, the fluorescents dimmed and red lights began to flash from various points in the ceiling. A siren droned through invisible speakers. That hadn’t taken long. Time to paint the lab red and make his escape, before they covered all the exits with those taser guns. 

“Sir? Sir? Goddammit! How is this not on a backup generator!” Hysteria took the man’s voice up an octave. Victor cleared the corner of the last row of bars and saw him: the scientist he’d been looking for, hair stuck out in three different directions and sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He flipped through piles of paper and bric a brac, looking frantically for something. 

Machines towered about the room like menacing sentinels, but it was the cage far across from the little scientist that Victor zeroed in on. Long panels of light had been haphazardly set up around the cage, whose only occupant lay sprawled in a corner, naked and white-skinned, his blond hair buzzed short. Even from here, the smell of him made Victor’s hair raise. He’d been an army boy as recently as yesterday, like as not. But now? Now, he was something else. He smelled alive and dead all at the same time. Probably be a favor to put him out of this life for good. Victor’s senses had all honed in the way they did when he was about to make a kill. He inhaled deeply, wanting to know the scent of the lives he was about to take.

But all he smelled was cold.

Instinct lashed his feet into a sprint before he could tell what the danger was. He sped past the little scientist, ignoring his squawk of surprise and shouted questions. 

The lab opened up once he was out of the hallways of cells; there was a balcony, above him, but no stairs in sight. Victor raced for the ledge of the balcony, sprang from all fours and caught the edge of it with his claws. He pulled himself up and over the rails, then snarled. This was a dead end. A storage corner, filled with science shit and nothing remotely resembling a weapon.

The growing cold burned his nose until he had to cover it with his sleeve. Victor crouched against the wall and listened. Beneath the siren’s monotone wail was the simultaneous tak-tak-tak of many, many claws against the polished concrete floors. Victor’s breath frosted the air. He pulled his coat over the lower half of his face and crawled on his elbows until he could look over the edge of the balcony.

That skinny scientist didn’t even know what hit him. He was crouched in front of a wall socket when the vanguard of hounds came into the lab proper. Ice crystals washed over every surface. The kid stood up, backed away as two black dogs the size of deer closed in on him. 

He managed a single step before the ice overtook him. He toppled onto his side, a frozen corpse.

More hounds milled in the cellways, just out of sight; their claws kept takking away, but they didn’t come in.

The siren stopped its wailing. Maybe the mechanism had frozen over, because this situation was far from contained. In the jarring silence, a shuffling sound drew Victor’s eyes back to the cage. The geek’s little experiment looked to be waking up right on cue; he raised onto hands and knees, slow like he was drugged, then rushed the bars of his cell so goddamn fast, Victor’s heart leapt. The bars dented outward, like they were made of putty instead of two-inch steel. The caged man howled and lunged again, wedged his hands between the bars and pulled them apart. He launched himself through the opening and landed on all fours, looking around.

Even from here, Victor could tell there was something wrong with his face. The eyes were red all the way through. Bloody ropes of saliva dripped from his fanged maw. Victor bared his own fangs in a silent snarl, tensed up in anticipation—

And stopped.

A girl had come into the room. A girl he recognized. It was one of Logan’s little X-pals. She was one of the mutants on Stryker’s radar, because her power was to take power from other mutants. Except, just like the army grunt crouched and slathering below, this wasn’t really her, anymore. She wore nothing at all, and her skin glowed white against the gray backdrop. Black veins laced through the whiteness, cracking her like an aged statue. She walked within touching distance of the hounds, but the cold had no effect on her.

The feral soldier crawled toward her on all fours, fluid like a spill of blood. When he got close enough, the girl put her hand on his head. 

The power draw began almost immediately. The soldier’s ivory skin puckered all over his body, like the ridges on a dried fruit. He spat out a rabid snarl and wrenched away from her, clawed at his face like it burned. 

Victor sensed the shift in the soldier’s attention just a moment before that feral face turned up to his hiding place. The soldier’s nostrils flared, and his body tensed up. Victor had been seen.

He came barreling toward Victor, quicker than thought. Victor had always been fast, but this creature was faster. Before he’d done more than stand, the man had made the leap from ground to balcony and was on top of him, teeth straining toward his throat. Victor clawed into his blond-furred chest with both hands, and went for the man’s throat with his own teeth. 

The man sank fangs into his thick jacket. Victor’s teeth gouged through the meat of his unprotected neck.

The blood lit a fire down his throat like he’d swallowed a cup of bleach. Victor threw the man off with a wet scream, scrambled up and had barely started to run before the man was on him again, attacking face first like a dog. Victor fought back on instinct. The man’s poisoned blood boiled in his stomach, stoked his ever-present rage into a frenzy. Blissful red madness clouded his vision, the battle-haze he lived for. Pain was life and life was pain; he gave himself over to it. Screams and gurgles filled the air as they attacked one another. Neither noticed the deepening cold. Neither felt the mutant girl’s approach until she was already right beside them. Victor’s blood splattered across the girl’s cracked-marble skin as she caught the blond soldier’s throat in one hand.

Victor was beyond thought or reason. Both his hands were occupied, clawed knuckle-deep into the soldier’s belly. He snapped at the girl with his teeth, sinking fangs through the muscle of her forearm. His entire face went numb.

A bang of air sucking back into empty space. 

Sensation of being pulled through the eye of a needle.

 

~~~~

 

Victor came back to himself on his knees. The scent of motor oil and winter air placed him on an outdoors road before his vision caught up. He surged to his feet, only to stumble back to one knee. The sky, and a single street lamp, reeled overhead. He blinked and refocused.

He was on the outskirts of a battalion of hounds. Fifty of them—maybe a hundred. The way they milled together made it hard to tell them apart. One brushed against him as it passed, yet the cold of it barely even stung. 

He put a hand to his face. His cheeks had sensation, but not his mouth. He lowered his head and tried to spit. A burning glob spilled out of his mouth and splattered onto the pavement: a slick mixture of black and red. Blood and...something else.

Victor scoured the streets until he saw them: the mutant girl surrounded by a cluster of hounds, with the enhanced soldier hunched beside her. They walked with purpose, and as he followed their path forward, he realized where he was.

Xavier Academy for Gifted Youngsters, said the plaque on the gated driveway.

Well, then. Guess he would see his baby brother sooner than he’d planned.

Chapter Text

 

Devyn woke with a scream lodged in his throat. He surged upward—or would have, if he wasn’t weighted down by Logan’s heavy body. He elbowed the man in the side.

“Up—get up! Get up!” 

Logan gave a sleepy grunt and moved enough that Devyn could stagger off the mattress. He threw on his clothes. Logan picked up on his urgency and found his own pants, thrown behind the bare bed frame. Michael was nowhere to be seen.

“What is it?” Logan asked.

Devyn waved a hand toward the wall on his left. “Cold. Just outside the perimeter. And something...” He shuddered, unable to put into words the feeling that had rocketed him out of sleep. A black tendril that extended from his heart and connected him to something twisted. Something foul. “She’s here,” he said instead.

The expression on Logan’s face was a punch to the chest. Rogue’s body was here, but the rest of her? They were going to find out, and maybe they wouldn’t like the answer.

Devyn raced down the stairs so fast that everything blurred by. Outside the mansion, the sky was clear and black, and filled with stars too bright to be natural over a city sprawl. There was odd equipment scattered around the yard. Semiautomatic guns, he recognized. Other things, not so much. There were several tall stands with rectangular panels at the top of them. A line of bags. A trunk big enough to store a body in.

Treske, Jaeger, and Charles stood together in the curve of the driveway. They had all turned as Devyn burst through the doors. Treske cocked a finger at him. Devyn went. Now that he and Treske had locked eyes, he forced himself not to look away. His stomach remained a sickened knot until a familiar voice caressed his thoughts.

The others are close by, Charles said silently, and the words came with a mental image of everyone’s position around them . His true meaning came through unsaid: you are not alone, even if it seems so. Devyn gave no indication he’d heard anything, and made no response. Treske was watching him.

“Reach out and tell me what you see,” Treske said, gesturing toward the perimeter. The driveway wound out of sight, but Devyn didn’t need eyes for this. He pointed directly to the spot where he knew the Outsider stood.

“It’s there. The hounds have surrounded us completely. There are hundreds. One other life out there, too...” He trailed off, as a slithery, nauseated feeling swept across his chest. “And-and something else,” he stuttered. “I don’t know what.”

Treske nodded, as if he had expected all of this.

“You are to focus on the Outsider. Jaeger will drop the wards and come to aid you. Let the others deal with the hounds.” 

“Shit’s gonna blow like a nuke once the wards fall,” Jaeger said, his voice so deep Devyn felt it in his chest. “You still don’t remember nothin’?”

“No, sir.”

Jaeger grunted. “Then you’re bait. Outsider’ll come for you in that chick’s body. I hold ‘er down, you cut it loose.” He illustrated with a chopping motion across his throat. “Ya won’t hafta touch ‘er. Treske’ll show you what to do.” 

Treske stepped closer as Jaeger said that last. “Leave yourself open to my guidance. There will be no time for verbal instruction. Do you understand, boy?” His hand came up and curled around Devyn’s throat, cold as if he’d been holding a cup of ice. Anger coiled into a black stone in Devyn’s chest. Or was it guilt? After all, he was the reason Rogue was out there, and Treske knew it. He was the one who couldn’t remember how to stop the thing that had possessed her. He needed Treske to get Rogue back. 

“Yes, sir.” 

Treske dipped down to sniff Devyn’s throat. His energy, barren and cold, whispered out of his hand and sank deep into Devyn’s chest. It hurt like the sex he’d had earlier, with Michael and Logan: pleasure and searing pain combined. A glow shone in Treske’s amber irises as he stood straight, and Devyn’s heart tugged after him, sickly desperate to reclaim his attention. He knew this was the sire-bond Michael had warned him about, but it didn’t seem to matter. His head didn’t start to clear until Treske turned away from him.

“How is it going to attack?” Devyn asked, and he was pleased that his voice didn’t shake. His knees felt like water.

“No tellin’,” Jaeger said. “‘S never got this far inside, before.”

“Time, Jaeger,” Treske said.

Jaeger nodded. “Heads up, Charlie. Bout to pull the curtain.” He didn’t turn to see Charles’ scowl at the nickname. Jaeger raised one enormous hand with index finger pointed out, and he drew a line across the space in front of him. His fingertip split the air like a blade. Light like banked coals glowed through the breach, and hovered midair. It took about a minute. Jaeger finished by tracing a circle around all the symbols he had made. Treske reached out and touched the edge of the circle, grasped it as if it had physical substance, and spun it like a ship’s wheel. The circle and all the symbols inside it began a slow rotation.

Treske nodded to Charles, who put a hand to his temple, sending out a signal that Devyn couldn’t hear.

The circle vanished, and the wards fell.

It had been hot outside. So hot, Devyn was sweating. But the moment the script disappeared from the sky, cold filled him from skin to heart. A white cloud frosted the air as he exhaled. The hounds, freed from their boundary, swarmed across the yard like an oil slick. Devyn forced himself not to look at them. The Outsider was close: a numb spot in his soul.

Come on, then,” Devyn whispered.

And she was just there. Rogue, right next to him, her presence a hole in reality. Devyn jerked back from her on instinct, should’ve stumbled back into Treske, except Treske wasn’t there. Devyn tore his gaze from Rogue long enough to glance around.

Charles, Jaeger, and Treske were all gone. And so was everything else.

Where the mansion had once stood, there was a pile of rubble. The grass was gone; the trees were dead, their barren branches stretched to an empty sky. There were no hounds. 

There was nothing. He tried reaching out with that ephemeral sense that allowed him to feel the lives around him, but it was like trying to move a limb that had been cut off. He reached, and nothing answered.

Stunned, Devyn turned back to Rogue. He flinched through the shoulders when he saw, really saw what had happened to her. Rogue’s naked body was covered in black veins. The Outsider was killing her from the inside. 

Killing her and it’s your fault, your fault, son you need to open your eyes and SEE WHAT YOU DID—

Devyn shoved the knuckle of his index finger into his mouth and bit down until blood filled his mouth, and the voice was driven from his thoughts. His heart was going a million miles a minute.

Focus, fucking focus, she needs you. He lowered his hand. Against all the gray, his blood seemed very, very red. The Outsider’s eyes—Rogue’s eyes—tracked the crimson drip as it hit the pavement.

“How can I get her back,” he rasped. Even his voice was muted, as if it fought to vibrate the air.

Rogue tilted her head to one side, studying him. Her lips moved, but there was no sound: the meaning stamped itself into his head like a callous brand.

You want this life. She closed the distance between them, lifting her hands palm-up toward him. I will make a trade.

“Trade—for my life?” Devyn asked. “Would you give her back? Would she be herself again?” He just blurted anything that came to mind, as he felt around inside himself for the sense of Michael. He felt fairly certain that this barren version of the Academy was an illusion, and if he could touch something real, then he could break through. 

Michael, he thought, with all his strength. And then: Master!  

But there was nothing. No sense of home. His soul was a barren wasteland, just like the school grounds.

Rogue raised one hand toward his face, and Devyn lurched back, his concentration shattered.

Not for your life. For your need.

Rogue’s mouth worked, and an expression horribly similar to her own quirky smile crossed her lips. 

You can’t hurt me. Isn’t that your dream? You could be held in a woman’s arms, again. Like when you were small. Do you remember? 

With each successive sentence, the thoughts sounded more and more like Rogue’s voice. Humanity washed back into her features, smoothing away the black lines until she looked almost like herself. 

You would be safe.  

Almost, except for the trillions of alien stars that glittered in her black eyes. 

You would be...

“Loved.” 

Her lips caressed the spoken word, and Devyn shuddered from head to toe.

“Why won’t you look at me? D’you think I’m ugly?” It was Rogue’s own voice that spoke, this time.

“You’re not her,” Devyn said. In his side vision he saw her stretch out, arching her naked breasts toward him.

“You’re wrong, sugar. I am her. I’m both of us. We share this body.”

Devyn continued to reach for Michael inside of himself, but he was so distracted it was barely a token effort. Rogue’s body was unmarred, now, and his eyes kept trying to turn back toward all that lush skin. She was so slender and soft, so alien all by herself, even without the Outsider. He stole a quick glance and saw a sympathetic smile on Rogue’s face.

“Oh, honey. I know why you’re afraid. But you don’t have to be, anymore. I told you, you can’t hurt me. I wish you’d just touch me.” She tilted her head and looked up at him from beneath her eyelashes. “Rogue’s had dreams about you.” She licked her lips. “Dreams where she woke up wet. She saw the way you looked at her.”

“I—no, I didn’t look,” Devyn mumbled, stepping back. “I never looked at her.”

“You did. It’s okay. We could make that happen. She wants it so much. We want it.” Rogue touched her chest, then stroked down over her breasts and belly until her fingertips just touched the junction of her legs. “She’s never been with a boy, and you’ve never been with a girl. It’d be our first time.” She smiled, and heat rushed from Devyn’s chest all the way to his ears.

“Let me talk to her, ” Devyn said harshly. “If she’s so happy about all this, I want to hear it from her. Not you.”

Something dark flashed across Rogue’s eyes, then it was gone and she shuddered. It was as though a thousand years fell from her eyes and Devyn knew before she spoke that it really was her.

“Oh, god,” she gasped. “Devyn!” She hugged herself, covering her breasts. Devyn turned his face aside and pulled off his shirt, held it out to her without looking.

“Here,” he said. “Is it hurting you?” 

“N-no.” Rogue’s voice shook over the word. “He’s been talkin’ to me. This whole time.”

“He?”

“Looked like a man, when I saw him. Sounds like a man in my head.” She still hadn’t taken the shirt from his hand, even as he continued to hold it out to her.

“What does it say to you?”

“This.”  

From the side of his vision, he saw her arm sweep out over the destroyed mansion. “This is what he wanted to show you. He doesn’t see time as a straight line; he sees it all at once. The humans are making machines to control mutants. We’re all gonna be dead, or collared by these machines that kill our powers.” She hugged herself, looking out across the demolished landscape. “They’re gonna make mutants extinct.”

Devyn frowned. “The Outsider showed you that? Then why is it attacking us?”

Rogue stepped up to him, forcing eye contact. Devyn’s shirt dangled from his fingertips, forgotten. He locked onto her expressive brown eyes, forced himself not to look anywhere else, even though she had stopped hiding herself from him. Her cheeks were flushed bright red, but she held his gaze.

“He sees time all at once,” she said again. Devyn shook his head.

“I don’t understand.”

Rogue’s mouth twitched in that quirky smile that was so natural, so her. 

“It’s hard—after seeing everything at once, it’s hard to put it in order again so I can explain it. He’s gonna stop us bein’ destroyed. An’ he’s gonna show you his intentions by giving you what you want the most. What we...both want the most.”

Devyn tried to scoff, but it came out weak. “What do I want the ‘most’?”

Rogue’s hands lifted toward his face, as if to cup his cheeks. “Touch,” she murmured.

Devyn reared back from her. His heart was in his throat, and not just from the threat of her skin against his. Hadn’t he been told that Rogue’s power was to draw off the energy of others? Wouldn’t that make touch the ideal weapon?

If my sickness didn’t kill her first...

“I know what you’re thinkin’,” Rogue said. “I could talk all day long and you’d still be suspicious. But you know Rheven would never lie to you. Maybe she should be the one to tell you.” 

Rogue lifted her right arm, and a black swath like a portal into eternity opened up beside her. Frigid cold radiated out from it, yet Rogue seemed unaffected. She held out a hand toward that empty blackness. A slender, pale hand reached through it and grasped hers. Devyn watched it all in complete bewilderment.

“Who’s Rheven?”

Rogue’s eyes snapped to him. Expressionless, but there was the unmistakable sense that he had just tripped an alarm.

The scene around them fell apart.

Everything fell apart. The demolished mansion grounds, the sky and dead trees, all of it was gone. 

Devyn stood inside a room. It was a wide open space, lit by soft overhead light. The walls and all the furniture were white. There was a staircase leading up to a second floor. A full bar took up one wall, a picture window took up the other, and a half dozen white lounge chairs were scattered around a glass table. Devyn turned in a circle, stung by a haunting sense that he should know this place. But once again, he was adrift without a rudder.

Rogue was reclined on one of the plush, leather chairs, legs crossed. She patted another chair beside her.

“Sit down, sug. We need t’ talk.”

Devyn rounded on her. “Who. Is. Rheven,” he said, biting off each word. Because that had been the lynch pin. That had been where the Outsider’s illusion had fallen apart. But Rogue sighed and slumped, and didn’t answer him.

“We need to back up, sug. Take a look around you. Do you know this place?”

“Do you? ” 

Rogue’s eyes lit up, distant stars glimmering around the edge of her irises. “We know it well.” As she spoke, she flowed up from the chair and moved toward him, graceful beyond human motion. “Don’t you remember our shared dreams? How I found you here, when you were in so much pain?”

Devyn glanced back at the bar, the rows of bottles against a stark white wall—the image of them so familiar and so alien all at once. “Thought you wanted to rip the world apart, not chill out and have drinks,” he gritted. 

But instead of being angry, Rogue sounded like she felt sorry for him.

“Oh, Devyn. What have they done to you?”

“Nothing!” And why did he feel suddenly defensive?

“Liar. The Dragon and the Serpent have both been inside you since I entered this world. Your Masters have you fighting this war without any idea who your enemy is, and now they’ve taken your memories of ME." She bared her teeth and swept an arm toward the picture window. The bright daylight turned inside out: the blue sky became black, and the green earth became petrified gray.

“I was here before stars filled this void. I am the one who belongs here, not your race. Your grandmaster’s creator and her kin shut the veil against me so they could feed from the humans without interference. They are parasites. You are a parasite. You feed from the blood and souls of this world’s creatures, but you don’t belong here. None of you do.”

Devyn retreated as she stepped toward him. He shook his head. “No...”

She advanced on him, and he backed away. 

“Oh, you know it’s true, or you would have taken Rogue’s hand when I offered it. You know exactly what you are.”

And to that, he could say nothing. Her accusations all muddled in his head, to the point that he wasn’t sure what he was being indicted for, anymore, only that he felt guilty. Rogue’s hard expression softened as she read his face.

“Devyn, I know that you and your kin want to exist just as much as any other creature. So I’m willin’ to make a deal.” She held out both hands again, close enough that all he had to do was reach up to take them.

“This is my peace offering, sug. And I’m only gonna make it to you. Not to your Masters. You were the one I touched in my dreams, and it was you for a reason. And when I finally reached you, it was in this body for a reason.” A compassionate, sad smile dimpled her cheeks. “I know what you did to your mother. I can take that sickness away from you. 

“I can make you whole again. Help me stay here, and I’ll do that for you.”

And then— then, he felt the barbed coils of Treske’s presence choking up through his chest. Then, the window shattered inward as Jaeger’s mountainous form came crashing through it.

“No!” Rogue yelled, the voice all her own: young and panicked as Jaeger thrust a gleaming blade toward her heart.

 

Chapter Text

Treske’s presence inside of him told Devyn to unleash his power, to bring this construct crashing down. But it was only a background buzz as he reacted to the threat to Rogue. Devyn threw out an arm and directed that power at Jaeger’s blade, knocking it away before it could pierce Rogue’s chest. But the mercenary snarled like a beast and turned to attack him. Devyn found himself crushed under three-hundred plus pounds of muscle. He fought blindly as he was thrown to the floor. 

Again, Treske tried to direct Devyn’s power away from his attacker and toward Rogue, who was cowering against the wall, so slender and small compared to Jaeger. Devyn fought Jaeger with his body, Treske with his mind. As Treske had said, there was no time to speak, to plan or bargain. The battle was on.

And Rogue needed him. Devyn had to protect her.

Time didn’t seem to exist in this sliver of illusion. Devyn was exhausted, yet he could have kept going forever. Jaeger had stabbed him a hundred times, but Devyn had scored wounds as well. They both slipped in blood. Rogue cried out to him, told him of his past and future, of the movements of the Verses, and the end of all things.

That was, until Charles appeared. The psychic stood between him and Jaeger, in one of those strange pockets of time where everyone else stood still. Charles raised one arm as if guiding someone by touch, and the shadow of a man filled the space beside him. The shadow of Treske. 

The last thing Devyn saw was the flinch across Charles’ face before Treske’s ice-white fingers drove like blades into Devyn’s eyes, gripped them both and pulled them from their sockets. The blast of pain lasted only an instant; Devyn blinked and the world returned, but nothing was as he had last seen it.

Rogue’s body was once again alabaster white and cracked with dark veins. She stood with both feet planted on the asphalt driveway, under a clouded, gray sky, before a very un-demolished mansion. Jaeger stood behind her. His arms, each as big around as she was, were wrapped around her torso. Her fingertips had gouged like blades into his forearms, and his blood painted the ground beneath them. He spat and snarled in her ear, in a pattern that sounded like some feral language. She howled, and the sound was a spear of ice. Jaeger cried out and his chant stopped. 

Rogue took advantage of the mercenary’s moment of weakness. Her eyes, black from eyelid to eyelid, lifted toward the sky and a sound like the rending of souls tore from her throat. The earth bucked like a living serpent beneath them. From somewhere nearby, the shearing-metal shriek of Michael screaming in his dragon form split the air. 

The illusion tried to settle back over him. Amid the chaos and blood, Devyn blinked and saw flashes of a quiet, white room on the backs of his eyelids, and flashes of Jaeger trying to kill him. Rogue’s face switched from alien and furious to very human and very terrified. It was in one of the human phases that her arms released Jaeger’s and reached for him.

“He’ll kill us all,” she sobbed. “Help me, please! Don’t let him hurt me again, please!”

Devyn reached for her before he even realized it, but Treske’s hand cupped the back of his and the muscles in his hand cramped as cold energy coursed through them.

Peel it back from her, said a voice that was Treske’s and Charles’ combined inside of him. It’s killing her!

“No,” Devyn gasped out. He no longer knew what was real. Jaeger had attacked him like a madman, and Rogue herself had spoken to him. She had advocated for the creature. If they just stopped fighting it, maybe it would stop hurting her. 

Whatever you saw, it was an illusion, Charles shouted inside his mind. We barely brought you back! Fight it!

Treske’s body lined up behind his, arm still outstretched to guide his hand. Treske’s other hand curled over the front of his throat, and their connection flared to life with all the beautiful pain of the sun.

It’s manipulating you. 

Treske’s voice burned through him. 

It uses your own mind against you.

“So do you,” Devyn snarled through his teeth. He felt Treske’s amusement in response.

I know my enemy, then, do I not? Peel it back from her. The command was harsher, the second time around. Treske didn’t seem the type to give him a third chance.

Devyn forced his hand open around the searing power Treske was pulling through him. Rogue would die if he did nothing as surely as if he did the wrong thing; there was no time to be conflicted. 

OUT!

He screamed it with every fiber of his being. He might have said it out loud. What happened next may have been another illusion, or maybe his mind struggled to cope with the amount of energy blasting through it. 

Devyn became a network of trillions of nerves, a wall of sparking red coals that spread out like a net as it neared Rogue. When his energy hit her, the Outsider’s black tentacles laced through it and chilled the flame. 

The air, sky, and ground split with the pressure of the two opposing forces. 

Treske’s icy power enveloped Devyn as he reeled back, took away the sting of the Outsider’s cold, and it felt strangely right to be cradled in the remorseless, driving wave of Treske’s power as Devyn tore the last tendrils of the Outsider from the spark that was Rogue’s spirit.

The moment he got it free from her was like he had been pushing and pushing against a wall, and then the wall disappeared. 

Devyn soared on the release. His head fell back to meet Treske’s shoulder; he lifted a hand to the back of Treske’s that was curled around his throat.

Their power melded together like they were meant to be One. 

Michael had told him that Treske was the Master. He’d also said that Devyn had great power, but he had never before known what that meant. Now, he did. 

He knew.

Together, he and Treske could unmake every soul in existence. They could create something that had never yet been conceived. 

Devyn doubted that this union had happened by chance, but that didn’t make it less right. 

Treske’s cold hunger became his own.

Treske pushed, and Devyn moved. 

They reached after the retreating shadow of the Outsider. The chase weakened it, even as they grew stronger. Devyn’s heart was a living sun and a black hole all in one, orbiting itself in a cycle of endless power. And even as joy mounted inside him at his exponentially growing strength, that joy was measured. Controlled. Even as he felt his greatest triumph at hand, he kept rein on himself. Cold, like a serpent.

Cold, like Treske.

This isn’t me.

The Outsider turned on them just as the perfect synchrony of their connection faltered with Devyn’s hesitation. Treske tried to reclaim control, but Devyn dug his heels in, stopping them. 

Something had gone sideways. The Outsider had found a replacement vessel, and it shouldn’t have been able to. Rogue’s ability to fuse with it had been a one in a trillion chance; how could there be a second? The sense of it was familiar, and wrong , and just the brush of it against his soul made him feel sick. 

It’s in one of our kin, he told Treske. Feel it! It’s like us.

Treske felt it. And bared his teeth, hissing out a sound of repulsion. He sensed its kinship, and he was going to use their power to kill it anyway. 

NO, Devyn screamed. Foul as it was, this creature was connected to him in a way he’d never felt before. His instincts tore him in opposing directions: avoid, embrace. Destroy, protect. He didn’t know which to follow, only that one could never be undone. But Treske’s will was an overwhelming torrent; all Devyn could do was slow them down. 

It wouldn’t matter, in a moment. The creature had not been far, and it was coming in fast.

 

~~~~

 

Logan was in a bad mood the second he got outside: first at Charles’ insistence that he couldn’t stay right by Devyn’s side, and second when Storm’s heat wave crashed into him like a full body slap. His mood went volcanic when he saw the sandy-haired mutant who stood out on the lawn like he belonged there.

“What the fuck’re you doing here?”

The firestarting prick spun around at Logan’s barked question, and took a step back before he visibly stopped himself. Logan came at him stiff-legged, like a dog about to attack. They weren’t fifty yards away from Jean Grey’s fucking grave that this little shit had helped put her into.

“It’s okay! It’s okay, he’s here to help!” Bobby ran toward them, waving his arms as if that would help get Logan’s attention.

“Bullshit. He’s lying.” Logan didn’t stop his advance, and now the firebug—Pyro, that was it—was backing away, one hand sneaking to his other wrist where he kept an ignitor. 

“Go ahead,” Logan sneered. “Touch that and see what happens.”

“Logan,” Bobby said, in his best talking-to-the-crazy-person-with-the-knives voice, “he’s not lying. Professor Xavier checked.”

Pyro nodded like a bobble head doll. Logan turned an incredulous look on Bobby.

“I dunno if anyone’s ever told you this, but the only way to keep a secret is not to fucking tell it to people!” Christ, at this rate the whole mutant world was going to know Charles was back by sunrise.

Bobby started to make some excuse, but Charles himself interrupted them.

You three! They’re dropping the wards.

The moment he said it, the ethereal dome of script that had encapsulated the mansion simply vanished. 

The temperature plummeted. Bobby and Pyro stood to either side of him. Far off to his left, he could see Devyn, Charles, Treske, and the giant all clustered together. Farther still were the rest of the combatants: Colossus’ gleaming form, Storm’s white hair, and between one blink and the next, an opalescent monument that moved with a serpent’s grace. Michael, in his dragon form. 

Logan stayed close to the firebug. He’d make sure the little shit was on the up-and-up, and hopefully be near enough to the flame not to get his own ass frozen solid. 

It was a good plan, as far as it went, which turned out to be as far as the driveway’s edge.

A fucking stampede of hounds flowed over the gate like a flood of oil, then charged toward them in a black wall. Pyro shot out a massive blast of flame, which split the wall in two. Twenty or so of the creatures spread in a circle around them both. Logan found himself backing toward Pyro, who shot him a glance.

“You gonna help?” Pyro shouted.

Logan scowled and flexed his fists. “Cover me,” he yelled, and ran at a clustered trio of the beasts. Their movements seemed less fluid than he remembered; maybe the heat Storm had called down was actually working. His bones ached as he got closer to the hounds, despite the flame that billowed alongside him like some elemental sidekick. Logan gritted his teeth and aimed a slash at the forerunner’s throat, expecting at any moment to lose consciousness.

He didn’t. What’s more, his claws split the thing’s throat wide open so that its head rocked back on a sliver of oily meat. The cold of it turned his arm numb all the way to the elbow, but the frostbite had already begun a tingling retreat by the time he took his second swing.

Whatever had caused the change, he was all for it. He ripped forward with brutal efficiency, tearing the fuckers apart while Pyro blasted them from a safer distance. Somewhere in his peripheral vision, Bobby skated on a wave of ice and cut through the hounds with a frozen blade. 

The battle had hardly begun before the cold deepened. Every light in the vicinity switched off. The well-lit grounds became pitch black for an instant, until Pyro’s flames illuminated their area. 

For the moment, at least, all the nearby hounds were dead. Instinct pulled Logan’s gaze back toward the driveway where he’d last seen Devyn.

A tower of black smoke spiraled up from the ground, probably six feet in diameter. It stretched so high, it disappeared into the night sky. Treske stood facing the smoke funnel with Charles standing behind him. Charles had his fingertips on Treske’s temples. Neither of them moved. 

“What is that?” Bobby called. Logan didn’t answer. Cold blue light kindled beside Charles and Treske, emanating from the inside an enormous storage trunk. Jaeger’s profile was illuminated in an astral glow as he threw the lid back on its hinges and reached his right hand into the trunk.

Streaks of blue fire crackled up Jaeger’s right arm, as if whatever was inside that trunk was alive and climbing into him. The light rode across his chest and neck, lit his open mouth from within. Jaeger spat out a string of consonant syllables, and pointed two fingers of his left hand toward Treske and Charles. It looked like the beginning of some kind of spell.

Logan was running toward them before he realized it. The blue glow lit Charles and Treske from one side, the warm orange of Pyro’s flames from the other, but neither man moved. 

Something had gone completely wrong, and where the fuck was Devyn?!

CHARLES!” Logan screamed warning, just as azure lightning leapt from Jaeger’s fingertips. Logan thought Charles’ name as hard as he could, hoping that Charles would sense him. 

There was a brief, familiar touch. He saw Charles inside his mind, summer blue eyes wide with alarm. 

Don’t...back...

Those were the only words that he caught. Beyond Charles, the black funnel cloud became transparent. Within it he saw Rogue, completely naked, her skin as white as Treske’s and cracked through with deep veins of ebony. Black, inky vines emerged from where her eyes should be, finger-thick ropes that dripped black smoke and stretched forward to insert into Devyn’s eye sockets. 

Horror and fury barreled out of Logan’s chest in equal measure, and hit the air as a war cry. Those black vines looked solid enough to slice through, and that was exactly what he was gonna do.

Except that Charles forcibly pushed Logan out of the connection that had sprung up between them, and with that connection gone, both Rogue and Devyn were once more hidden inside that black funnel.

He had no clue how much time had passed during the vision, but Jaeger had been busy. Azure jags of lightning flowed in a steady stream through Jaeger’s body, out his pointed fingers, snaked along the ground and formed a dome around Treske and Charles. 

Jaeger’s voice rose in a clear sound of command. Five new tendrils of light zagged out  from the dome and sheared across the ground in four different directions. The lightning caught onto five metal poles that rose from the driveway, crackled up them, and spread to cover the wide, flat rectangles which sat atop each pole. They looked like solar panels, except they were all turned to face down and inward. As soon as each of the five panels had filled with lightning, a buzz tore through the air and forced Logan to cover his ears.

Light flared so brightly, he was blind for a second. He blinked into the sudden darkness, aware of sound all around him, crunches and cracks from across the yard that could have been Colossus and Michael still fighting the hounds. Two seconds, three, and the darkness still hadn’t cleared. It should have; his healing factor would’ve taken care of his blindness by now— if there was any light to see by.

“Pyro!” he yelled over his shoulder. “Gimme some light!”

Warmth billowed up beside him, way too close to his face, but in the frigid cold it felt good. Pyro looked sick with fear. 

Logan turned back to the driveway, and saw what Pyro had seen. The black funnel was gone, exposing Rogue and Devyn in their stand-off, eyes still connected by those dripping vines. 

Treske, eyes closed, moved his lips over silent words. Devyn gave a full-body jerk, and the vines shot out of his eye sockets like they’d been ejected. He stumbled backwards. Rogue staggered, then reached toward him.

Jaeger had closed the box on whatever the fuck nuclear device he had inside. His tree trunk legs moved with feline speed; quicker than a blink, he closed the distance between them and wrapped both burly arms around Rogue. Both arms, which were bared nearly to the shoulder by the black tee shirt that strained to cover his oversized body. Too late, Logan knew that no one had told Jaeger about Rogue’s mutant power.

Then Rogue screamed.

The earth bucked up beneath her, rolled outward in a wave, and Logan was thrown from his feet. He landed on his back and covered his ears as Michael’s dragon-shriek split the air. Pyro shouted nearby; flames ripped through the air just above Logan a split second before he would’ve sat up. He followed the path of the flame to see two hounds shear off to either side. The third took the brunt of the flame and curled up like a barbecued spider.

The hounds were flooding them in full force again. Logan rolled to his feet and shoved Pyro out of the way so he could kill one that jumped the kid from behind. A click and whoosh, and Logan looked to find that Pyro had shot another one that had tried to attack him while he was distracted. 

The driveway had become a light show around Devyn. Treske had glued himself to Devyn’s back. The air bent and crackled around them.  Jaeger was shielding Rogue; she looked unconscious. Hard to tell in the erratic light, but her skin seemed to have cleared of those black veins.

A roiling, black mass rolled away from the place Devyn stood. The upper half of it looked almost like a man, a huge man bigger than even Jaeger. Devyn reached one hand toward it, and a blast wave of light knifed toward the black mass, which retreated. The earth tore open before Devyn’s power like a film of ice before the prow of an ocean liner.

A sound like a low-flying jet cut the air. Logan looked upward. Hundreds of dots of light had gathered in the sky above them, a swarm of fireflies. Except these fireflies quickly became baseball-sized, then football-sized, then crashed in a hail of fire to split the earth in front of the billowing black mass. The blackness burst apart, each tentacle rolling off in a different direction. 

Fuck me, Logan thought. They were going to win.

He should have known better.

The air became heavy. Electrified. Instinct screamed at him to find a foxhole and hide. Hair standing on end, Logan scanned the area. A couple hounds nearby had hunkered to the ground, ears flat to their heads. The entire yard was lit in harsh light that flickered with red. Logan squinted through his fingers and could just barely make out the forms of Devyn and Treske in the middle of that radiance.

Oh god,” whimpered a voice behind him.

Logan swung around. A naked man was charging across the yard on all fours. His eyes were a solid, blood-red. His skin, ice-white like Treske’s and Michael’s, was split by the same black veins that had marred Rogue not a few minutes earlier. The man’s mouth hung open in a rictus scream.

His long canines marked him as a vampire. His cracked skin marked him as the Outsider.

He was going for Devyn.

“Get back!” Logan shouted. He didn’t look to see if Pyro or Bobby had obeyed. He ran to intercept the man. 

He felt more than saw those black eyes shift to him. Logan lashed at the vampire’s neck, intending to sever head from body.

The vampire came at him face-first, swerved around Logan’s slashing claws like liquid mercury, and Logan barely got his other arm in front of his neck in time. The vampire’s fangs grated against the adamantium-coated bones in Logan’s hand as he bit down. Logan extended the claws of that hand, puncturing his attacker’s cheek with one claw; another claw made it up through the sinus cavity and out the side of his skull.

It didn’t even give the man pause. Logan’s hand bones ground together as the vampire chewed into him. His hand, and then his entire arm, turned a numb blue-gray. Frostbitten. Logan stabbed the man again and again with his free arm, to no effect. The man didn’t even try to avoid the blows. 

Claw-tipped fingers wrapped over the front of the vampire’s face and hooked into his teeth. Another hand took the vampire’s lower jaw. It was Victor, teeth clenched in a grimace of effort as he pried the vampire’s jaw open so that Logan could reclaim his arm. Relief and bewilderment poured through Logan in equal measure. Victor twisted the vampire’s head around in a circle, snapping his neck. 

But the head twisted right back into place.

The vampire bared his teeth in a grin that stretched wider than it should’ve been able to. He reached for Logan with one hand, Victor with the other, and touched each of them on the forehead. Logan’s entire skull went numb. His vision went black.