It’s 1973 and so far, the seventies are far better than the sixties were. Mostly, Buffy thinks, it’s the hippies. The hippies make everything better.
That, and the fact that it’s been years since they really took a hit. Which is why Buffy isn’t really worried when Charles mind-calls her to the foyer because they have a strange visitor.
He claims to be from the future, he sends and Buffy quickens her pace, easily keeping pace with Erik’s longer legs.
They clatter into the entrance hall - empty for once, Charles has cleared out the kids – and Buffy stops halfway down the stairs, staring.
“Logan?” she blurts, the same moment the man looks up, eyes widening and echoes, “Buffy?”
Between them, Charles turns, looking from one to the other. “I take it you know each other?”
Erik takes a step closer, pressing his chest against Buffy’s back and Logan’s eyes widen. “Something went wrong,” he mutters, disbelief stark on his face, in his voice.
“You’re really from the future?” Buffy asks, because he doesn’t look like the Logan she knows, not really, but he knows her, and that… well, the seventies just stopped being easy and fun, she can tell.
He nods and she finally takes the last few steps to bring her down onto the ground floor, Erik hovering. The only reason Charles isn’t closing ranks is that it’s off-putting, having the three of them united against you.
They’re pretty intimidating, apparently. In the future, no-one was ever intimidated by Buffy, but here she’s a symbol, or something. Mutant poster child. How do you even.
“You died,” Logan says, flatly, after a pretty long pause, during which he studies her intently.
Buffy nods, agreeably. “Quite a lot, actually. But hey, not dead.”
He shakes his head. Charles throbs with worry, apparently reading something from the older man that he doesn’t like. “I watched you pulled apart by sentinels. Believe me, you’re dead.”
Buffy frowns. Something isn’t right. Charles takes over talking for her. “That’s quite impossible, I’m afraid,” he explains. “That would be more than a decade after Buffy was cast into our time.”
“And what, pray-tell, are sentinels?” Erik adds, voice tense in expectation of a new threat. “And why are you here?”
He seems to dislike Logan on sight, which is sort of Erik’s default, but it has edges, this time.
He turned us down during our recruitment trip, Charles provides. He was quite rude. Only days before we found you, as a matter of fact. He smiles, sweet and soft and Buffy thinks it’s stupid, how stupid she still gets over it after more than a decade.
Logan grunts, fingers twitching. His claws wanting out, Buffy remember from a few whirlwind weeks of fighting back to back with him, way back in 2006, during a particularly nasty apocalypse. Sparks had flown every which way, but neither of them had felt like an adrenaline-fuelled fuck, then. Not really. They’d wanted to know each other a little, had postponed them time and again, until they’d slotted into the roles of buddies and never spoken about a few ill-timed kisses again.
Charles gives her a curious look while Erik, undoubtedly catching the memory via Charles, steps way too close again. Her boys. Idiots, the both of them.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Logan snaps at Erik, because in reality, only seconds have passed. They lose time sometimes, when Charles links them the way he does.
She doesn’t have to look at Erik to know that all his teeth are showing. “I live here. Now if you’d kindly tell us what you’re really doing here, I won’t have to kill you.”
Logan snarls, but subsides quickly with a side-eye on Charles. “This is all wrong,” he mutter again. “I was sent back from the future to stop an event that’s going to end with all of us dead. I was supposed to come here, help the Professor and Magneto to stop Mystique from assassinating some mutant hater by the name of Trask. But this is all wrong.”
“How?” Charles asks, even though she can feel his mind pressing outwards, rifling through Logan’s.
“Well, for one thing, you can walk. For another, Magneto is apparently not in jail for killing the president. And you…,” he looks up at the landing, where Buffy felt a few of their friends, other teachers, arrive a while ago. They’re only here to guard, to help, if necessary, and Charles probably called them, but Logan stares at them with such a naked expression that she has to turn and look. Raven, with Kurt on her hip, Azazel at her side. Alex and Angel next to them. The others are probably keeping the kids at bay.
“Christ,” Logan breathes. “You’re all alive.”
“Surely that’s not surprising? You did just travel through time,” Erik asks, half serious, half mocking. He remembers the days when Buffy regularly freaked out at seeing dead people on TV and, sometimes, in real life.
“Yeah, bub,” Logan answers, not taking his eyes off Raven. “But most of these guys have been dead for years by now, in this time. Is Beast here? If anyone can make sense of what the hell happened to me, it’s that furball.”
On the landing, Raven gasps and Erik snarls, loudly. Buffy finally takes a step forward and lays a hand on Logan’s forearm. Under the pads of her fingers, she can feel his bones shift as his claws try to break free.
“Hank’s been dead for six years,” she says, as gently as she can. “And I think we better sit down for this.”
Buffy has a headache.
A time travel headache. She thought she was done with those. But then it’s less a pure time travel headache and more a mixture of that and a good heaping of trying-not-to-cry headache, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of awful, thanks a lot.
It took them about fifteen minutes to figure out that something went wrong with Logan while he was travelling backwards in time, because he also, somehow, travelled sideways. There’s no other way to explain the discrepancies between his future and Buffy’s.
Erik snorted derisively when Charles brought up the theory, but Buffy’s been to enough heaven and hell dimensions – not to mention that weird thing Anya did that everyone only ever half remembered - evil Willow! - to know that it is, in fact, very, very possible.
That’s not what’s giving her a headache. No, the headache stems from the glaring differences between worlds. Logan pointed out dozens of alive-should-be-dead people and half again as many dead-should-be-alive.
In his world, Hank died as an old man on the battlefield, not in 1968, shot by a cowardly bullet Erik felt too late.
That lovely little girl with the red hair who sometimes called to Charles in her sleep wasn’t smothered by her parents out of fear when she was only three. Instead she lived, she grew up, and she became one of the most powerful mutants to ever live. She married, she had a son. She saved the world.
Here, in this world, Buffy was injured and Charles put off going to get little Jean just one more day.
And that’s the headache: it traces back to her. Everything that’s happened differently, traces back to her. To her interference in this world. To her keeping Erik and Charles from ripping each other apart. It united mutant-kind, but it fuelled the war against the humans even faster and now…. All that blood, Hank and Jean and a hundred others, is on her hands.
She did this. She changed everything just by existing and the universe is vibrating with it, rippling in ways it never should have.
She thought she could predict it, but she can’t. The moment she agreed to go with two strange men in 1962, she turned everything she knew about the history of this world into a moot point. She thought she was fixing everything, but all she really did was change things and, god, Hank.
She misses Hank so much, with his glasses and his gentle smiles and the ways he was so, so soft, even covered in fur and teeth and claws.
The boys are looking for her. She feels them before she sees or hears them, the twang of Charles in her head, the thrum of the metal around her. They enter the room with their shoulders brushing with every step, wearing the facial expressions they always have when she works herself into a mess. One worried, one faking put-upon.
Really, she has seen Erik sit up with a teething Kurt for four nights in a row, crooning German lullabies at him. The not-caring ship has sailed.
“Buffy,” he greets, taking a seat on the window bench next to her, while Charles is the one, who, for once, decides to loom against a wall. She suspects that Logan’s repeated mention of a wheelchair-bound alternate!Charles has made him appreciate the ability of standing up straight a lot more than he did this morning.
“You’re working yourself up over nothing.”
She shrugs, rolling her shoulders. “Am I? I thought I knew how the next forty-odd years play out, but I don’t. Not anymore. Everything rippled out from Cuba and now… it’s all so different. I don’t know what will happen next.”
Charles opens his mouth, but Erik beats him to it. “Welcome to life as a normal person, then,” he congratulates, sarcasm thick on his voice. “No cheat sheets and no certainties. It’s how just about everyone except you has lived all their lives.”
Buffy snorts a laugh, sudden and surprised, because he’s right. She’s a super-powered being among super-powered beings, with no way to tell the future and only her instincts to guide her.
At thirty-eight years of age, she’s finally achieved what she’s tried to do for more than twenty years: She’s become just like everyone else.
“I don’t know what to do,” Logan confesses, quietly, when she finds him in the small hours of morning, sitting in the dewy grass at the tree line beyond the gardens, smoking up a storm.
She sits next to him and it’s probably weird, for him to tell her that, for her to sit with her side against his, because, technically, they don’t know each other. They’ve never met.
But in a way Logan is the same man she was almost in love with an age ago, and she’s the woman he fought beside for years as the world ended.
They know each other.
“I was sent to fix things, but I’m in the wrong place to do anything and I have no idea if I’ll ever snap back into my own time. If….”
If anyone there is even still alive, because they have no other explanation for what happened to him. Something must have interfered with the mutant sending him back. Something big.
And now he’s sitting pretty in his own personal Elba, not knowing whether he’ll be pulled away any second or be living here for the rest of his life, in a body that isn’t, in fact, his.
Buffy wonders where the real Logan, the one who belongs here, went. If she’ll ever meet him, now.
She shrugs belatedly, brushing closer against him, despite the disgusting cigar smoke.
“I’ve recently been told that not knowing is how it’s supposed to be. I…,” another shrug. “You’ll figure it out.”
He grunts something that might be agreement, might not, and falls silent beside her.
She nods to herself and stays with him until sunrise.