CHAPTER EIGHT: And There's A Hand My Trusty Friend
Logan was getting used to the double vision. The way it felt as if he was looking at two different Scott Summers all the time – the present always overlaid by a memory of that stranger in the black leather uniform, with crisp dark hair and visor-hidden eyes, all preppy privilege, sculpted cheekbones, and chiseled jaw-line, the uptight asshole enigma whom he wanted to disarrange, just for the hell of it. He'd kinda wanted to fuck that guy, not least to show him who was boss, and he'd resented him having even that much power over him. And then there was the guy he kind of knew and kind of liked and kind of wanted to take in his arms and kiss, very gently, on that perfect mouth. He felt like the first guy was still Jean's, but the second guy, that Scott was his. He was the Scott without a visor, the one who was disheveled with shadow-circled blue eyes, but who smelled of Logan, who heat-flushed for him and arched and bit but made reluctant sounds of consent and even more reluctant sounds of pleasure. Even when he was gazing into a place Logan couldn't see, abacus brain computing possibilities, even when he didn't seem to know Logan was alive, that guy was still his.
The murderer Logan was seeking out – he could take that Scott away from him. He might even be able to make Logan kill him, like he'd done to those other pixie-winged aliens in his crew. That was why he had to find this sadistic piece of crap and deal with him before Scott started trying to find another way that wasn't certain enough because of morals and ethics and thou shalt nots. Logan dealt in thou shalt nots so other people could keep their own commandments. He was going to keep Scott's hands clean and he was going to gut that mind-fucking alien asshole before the guy got a chance to wind Logan up and send him after Scott. Logan had probably killed a lot of innocents in his time, perhaps his amnesia was a blessing that way, but he wasn't going to add Scott to that unremembered stack of corpses….
He sniffed the air and finally there it was, a scent that wasn't them or the ship, something else on this wreck with a beating pulse. Swift and silent, Logan began to run, head down, lean muscles pumping, and no one, had there been anyone left alive to watch him on a monitor, would have doubted for an instant that here was a perfectly honed predator that had just caught wind of its prey.
Slowly, slowly, Scott uncurled from the floor. His face was salt-stung and wet and he wiped it carefully and he had to ease his teeth out of his bitten lip. The pain receded in a reluctant tide and he was the breath-starved, lung-burning, mind-reverberating aftermath, flinching in readiness for the next memory scourge.
But apparently even Scott's agony could become boring to the onlooker. Not enough rape, for starters. Scott had been learning about that alien mind even as it had been combing through his, enjoying his torture sessions. It liked pain and grief and shame and guilt and regret, but it liked pain attached to sex more. It kept returning to his rape on the Island like a great white shark circling a nicely bloody corpse. It loved the panic flare of his blind squirming away from that inexplicable stretching pain, his shame and humiliation, his pathetic pleas for Sabretooth to stop, and his weak, helpless tears when he didn't, trying to force Scott to rerun that memory like a man poking a reluctant fire. He sensed how disappointed it was that it hadn't kept Sabretooth around so it could plunder that memory from both sides at once. And it kept chiseling away at Scott's brain as if it thought he was hiding treasures from it. Did it think he had repressed memories of Winters sexually abusing him?
Unlike Sabretooth, Winters hadn’t found Scott's scrawny adolescent body remotely enticing. To him it had just been a life-support system for those useful optic blasts. One of his unpleasant friends had suggested that Winters should sell Scott on to a sex-ring or at least pimp him out for extra cash and Winters had been adamant that he wouldn't get enough for him for it to be worth the risk of letting him out from under his controlling hands. To his mind, Scott's only asset was the power that streamed out of his eye sockets; Winters had found it as impossible to believe that any other criminal wouldn't want to utilize those eye beams as he had found it to believe that anyone could really get a hard-on for a bony little runt covered in bruises and cigarette burns.
Sinister was…unfathomable, it was true, but although he did like to caress Scott when they met up, Scott had always assumed that was Sinister's narcissism at work. Scott was both his creation and his creator. Sinister had molded and shaped Scott like a potter worked wet clay, and then he had used Scott's DNA to remake himself. Touching Scott for Sinister was like God touching Adam, proud of the work he'd done. If Scott held an unholy fascination for Sinister, in the way some minor celebrity did for a crazed stalker, Scott doubted it was anything as simple as sexual attraction. He could only imagine Sinister wanting to fuck him as a scientific experiment, to see if it traumatized Scott in an interesting way, or had long-term repercussions that he could catalogue and analyze. Sinister was far more likely to want to keep him as a pet-come-lab-rat than take him to bed. In fact something as leveling as sexual attraction would have been a step up in their relationship, which was more akin to the one Henry had with things he squinted at through the lenses of a microscope than red-blooded male animal to object of desire.
It gave Scott a sense of satisfaction to realize that Sinister would dislike his relationship with Logan. He liked Scott to breed with Greys or their cloned equivalents so he could create telepathic children to perfect his genetic experiments. Scott having an inevitably unproductive relationship with a man whose DNA didn't interest him would probably annoy Sinister no end. Only if he found a way to make Scott pregnant with Logan's healing factored offspring so Sinister could run unsavory tests on them in one of his laboratories might the man ever be reconciled to it.
The mind in his was showing increasing agitation, growing frustration, like a miser searching for a lost treasure, the diamond-pride of his collection, tossing aside lesser valuables in his frenzied need to find what he sought.
What the hell are you looking for?
Apparently even the myriad ways in which Scott had been abused since his parents threw him out of a plane to save his life, were not quite juicy enough for this questing brain. It wanted emeralds and rubies of torment and all Scott was offering was paste.
Stained pillow in front of his face, stink of animal musk and semen. Flicker of hot breath on the back of his neck; jolt, jolt, jolt of pain.
It was gone in a mind-flash, so fast he wasn't even sure he'd seen it. The same weird flare he'd been getting on the plane. The invasive mind was on it like a terrier on a rat, trying to pin it down, but it was like trying to catch a dream-snake with a paper net. It slithered away from both of them while the mind invading Scott's almost sobbed with frustration and began checking the mental blocks in Scott's damaged brain like Gambit searching a paneled room for a hidden safe.
Scott grabbed hold of the elegantly curved desk shelving to pull himself up and stumbled with the backwash of residual pain from Sabretooth's rape of his teenage self – body remembering all too vividly in that moment the inner bruising that a fifteen year old Scott had not recognized at the time. Gritting his teeth, he hung on and stayed on his feet. Defiance was instinctive, wanting to tell the bastard in his brain to get out and stay out, but he was the bait here, so he got to suck it up. At least he felt as if he were leading from the front again, even if he was only being a distraction while Logan used his superior senses to go monster hunting. Not for the first time he thought how much he disliked being without a team. With Henry or Kitty on the computers he would have so much more information at his disposal by now. And if Jean and Xavier had been with them then they could have taken down the alien captain's questing brain between them and put him into a –
He staggered as the mind inside his triumphantly seized on the memory it had been seeking. Pain tore through him and he fell to one knee, clutching his head. He could feel walls tearing and it was all he could do not to scream as protective barriers in his brain were ripped and shredded. What tumbled out were like fish pulled from an ice hole, flapping and wriggling, blade-split and hooked open, spilling their bloody guts upon the bright, white snow.
Logan. Naked on the floor passed out. Sabretooth looming up like a polar bear. Scott flinched from him, the wet dog stink of him. Sabretooth was beyond him in this state; too much bigger and stronger than he was; nothing left to reach him with but reason. He had never felt an exhaustion like it. Everything hurt. Inside and out, he was one bruised, tender ache. He was so weak, like someone had opened a vein, like there was one strand of strength left in him and in a moment that, too, would snap. He had to protect Logan from Sabretooth. He had to protect Logan from the truth.
Scott flinched back mentally. The alien mind was too gleeful, panting with excitement at what it had found. That perfect memory it had been seeking. It had wanted to revel in it again, but most of all it had wanted Scott to remember. He could feel a sense of rising dread. The part of him that knew what had happened, the part that Xavier had sealed away from him, that was already saying ‘No, no, no….’
Sabretooth sniffed Logan and then stepped back, then sniffed Scott. "You're in a bad way, x-boy. You can't take any more of him. You'd better come with me."
"No!" Scott dragged his wrist free of his grip, having to put his hands on the floor to steady himself. "I'm not leaving him."
"Don't be stupid." Sabretooth hauled him up to his feet. "I'm not gonna fuck you, Summers. Don't you get it? I'm saving you from him."
He couldn’t stay upright, there was no strength there, he had to cling onto Sabretooth even to be on his feet but he didn’t want him here. He needed him to go. He needed him to let Scott go.
Scott felt like a kid trapped in a dark bedroom with a closet door that kept swinging open. He wanted to hide his head under the covers but he couldn't look away. He made himself focus as the alien mind gleefully pulled that memory out, and out, an agonizing birth, slippery and straining and covered in bodily fluids. The inside of a log cabin. Logan unconscious. Sabretooth not angry, not threatening. Genuinely seeming to want to save Scott from the guy who had been…yeah, he knew what that residual ache was, he'd just been through it as a scared teenager in a cell with Sabretooth; even as someone ten years older, even as someone with a much higher pain threshold, even as someone who was used to torture and who could suck it up as stoically as a mission demanded, this had hurt. This was hurting. So he'd been raped. Okay. He could deal with that. At least they were onto the aftermath. The worst was over. Deal with it, Summers. It's just a mission injury, like any other, just like it's always a mission risk, like any other. Then he looked down at himself in the memory, at his bloodied, bruised knees; risked a glance at his hips and there were the fingermarks, bruisingly deep; a blurring of them, the same pattern overlaid again and again. And again.
Staggering, Scott dry-heaved, clutching at the console as the ship's computer flashed brighter and faster, a sympathetic semaphore as the alien mind clutched at his eagerly, determined to show him the truth, to make him give it up, give it up, all of it, every delicious ounce of degradation and pain and self-loathing. Scott gripped the metal tightly. Okay. He'd been raped more than once. A lot more than once. Not enough pain for it to have been a gang-rape, he'd be more damaged by that. He was hurting but he wasn't horribly injured. He knew how horribly injured felt and this wasn't it. This was…unpleasantly sore and tender and bruised. So – one guy, repeated rapes, probably with some recovery time between them, possibly some kind of lubricant used, definitely less than there should have been.
"Maybe he took us both to…nowhere land here. He did…unpleasant things to me in front of you and made you watch it. You wished at the time you could give me some first-aid and…and let's presume you thought his lube choices were sketchy."
No, no, no. Don’t let this be going where it seemed to be going. They had already been through this. He and Logan had done the math and worked out that there had been a sexual assault on Scott that Logan had been forced to witness. They had decided it was Sabretooth. Sabretooth had done it and Logan hadn’t been able to stop it. They had accepted that. They had dealt with that. This was not a necessary memory….
Sabretooth was still holding him up and Scott tried to push him off. "I'm not leaving Logan. He's sick. He needs care."
"He's got healing factor! He can't get sick! Look, you stupid little shithead, he ain't Logan any more. He's a fucking animal. He's been fucking you like an animal. I can smell it everywhere. You're probably ripped up inside –"
There were only three of them in the cabin. Scott. Sabretooth. Logan. And Sabretooth was the clawed mutant trying to rescue Scott from his rapist. Sabretooth was the one trying to drag him away from… The memory was hauled all the way into the light, wailing victoriously. On the bed, on the couch, hands in his hair, crazed yellow eyes with no human mind behind them, dragging Scott by the hair, throwing him down, ramming into him… Logan. Not Sabretooth. Logan.
Scott threw up.
The mind inside his was ecstatically running the whole movie; every grunt of every rape; every punch; every flinch; every drag by the hair and slam onto the floor, every whispered plea for Logan to come back that had gone unanswered; the unwanted weight on top of him, the endless, brutal thrusts.
That doesn’t happen to heroes, does it? That only happens to sniveling little weaklings who secretly like to get hurt….
All the years that Scott had spent trying not to be turned into a victim again, not a lonely orphan being tormented by a man so much more powerful than he was, not the boy who had to take those beatings from Winters because he didn’t have the strength to get away, not the frightened teenager in the holding cell having a penis rammed into him that he never asked for and didn’t deserve. All those hours in the Danger Room. All those missions planned and carried out. All those cracked bones and pulled muscles as he did the exercise again, and again, and all to not ever have to be that boy again. All to be too strong and too fast and too well–trained and too in control of his own mutation so that no one, ever, got to have that kind of power over him or any other frightened mutant child again. And now a snarling animal with adamantium claws had made him that boy again, but worse, a weak, struggling, defeated victim of a mindless animal's animal needs.
Scott’s fingers were fists and the rage flowed through him. He waited for his beams to come roaring back and couldn’t believe it when they didn’t because the hell with all those years of control, the hell with self-discipline. All he wanted to do right now was to blast the guy who had done this to him into a greasy smear upon the snow.
He slammed his fist down on the console and from out of the computer a voice began to talk. It sounded uncanny, not quite human, and even through the red mist of his rage he realized it was a speech synthesizer translating a language he could probably never have understood in a lifetime into something approaching a human voice.
…For a long time I thought it was my duty to remember them; to carry those memories back to their families so that something of them would exist. So there would be someone to say 'Your son was the one who made us laugh when no one else could have managed a smile', 'Your mother was the one who thought of the method we used to recycle our oxygen', 'Your sister was the one who could always see good in the rest of us', 'Your father, that man I know you thought you didn't know, who said so little, said most of it about you, and always with such pride'. It seemed important those things were known; that they were remembered. I was the only headstone any of them were going to have; I couldn't afford to shatter before I was read. For a long time, after it all happened, that was my sustaining sanity. That was my comfortable madness.
It took me a long, long time to realize that everything was past the memorial service, the decorous offices for the dead. The dead were beyond saving and I was a threat to the living. As long as I drew breath, other sons and daughters and fathers and mothers and wives and husbands were going to be lost. I was the bridge between life and death. I needed to be broken so that death could not pass over me. I broke myself. I broke myself again and again and death gathered up the shattered pieces. If you find this, if you hear this, try to comprehend it. Concentrate. It won't want you to see the truth. Death is hungry and it wants you alive so it can eat you slowly. If it has let me die it's only because it sees you as a better option. If I am a corpse, you are its next victim. If I live, kill me. It's all that's left for me now. I want to be with my friends.
I'm sorry that you have to die. I hope you are a sentient being of honor. I hope you understand the necessity. You cannot let it leave the ship. It is madness. It is death. It must die here. You must die here so that it will die with you. You must die so that others may live….
Logan found him at last, in some kind of maintenance shaft, the winged captain who had killed all his crew. He ripped open the grating and threw it aside, wanting not just to kill but to give the guy a moment when he knew he was going to die, bloody, at the end of Logan’s claws, a moment to really feel that fear. Except when the guy looked up at him it was with such…relief. He didn’t look smug or even deranged, not the way Sinister did in every image Logan had ever seen of him. He looked ripped and bloody and almost out of time. Luckily, his rage at what this bastard had done to them was still welling up like pus from a wound so he flexed his claws anyway.
The winged captain said, “You’ve come to kill me.”
Logan let the light glint of the ends of his claws, wanting them both to picture them crimson and dripping. “Would have got here sooner if I could, bub.”
A mind brushed over his, the way a lighthouse beam shone over water and he jerked his head back, but the winged captain said, “You have healing factor. It can influence you but it can’t infect you. That’s good. Are you alone?”
“You know I’m not.”
“The one with you also has healing factor…?”
As Logan growled, “None of your damned business,” he tried to ignore the instincts screaming at him that this was not the guy who had been fucking with them. Looking at the captain, even allowing for alien physiognomy being different, the guy just looked so…weary. He reminded him of Scott, somehow: battered and bloodstained but not giving himself the right to give up yet. Angrily, he said, “I know you’re the one who’s been in our heads.”
A flicker of surprise and another wave of weary amusement. “Is that what you think? Oh well, it isn’t as if death isn’t welcome, wherever it comes from.”
“Logan!” Scott came up running and the first thing that Logan smelt on him was rage; he was bitter with it, like someone had marinated him in sloe gin, sharp as lemon juice, a stinging reproach to the tongue. “Don’t kill him. He didn’t do anything.”
Logan turned on him. “He’s mind-controlling you, Scott!”
Scott wouldn’t even look at him, averting his eyes so he didn’t have to deal with Logan’s face, and it was a shock to realize that the person Scott was angry with was…Logan.
“No, he isn’t. What he’s doing is holding off the ship with the last of his strength so we can have this conversation. You learned how to beat it?” That was to the captain.
“No one can ‘beat it’, but I can block it out for long enough to kill myself. What I can’t do is stop it reviving me.” The captain hit a button and as Logan flexed his claws in warning a gurney gusted out, with helpful tentacle hands, ready to scoop up the wounded and waft them on a bed of air straight to the medilab to be made good as new again. “It evolved itself while we were sleeping. That’s the danger of making AI too close to our own minds, too complex, too damaged. The danger, too, of scientists always wanting to perfect nature – stronger telepathy, stronger telekinesis. We were never a match for it. The ship’s computer was alone for all that time when we were in our hypersleep and the loneliness drove it mad. It read all our histories, all the histories of every world we’d ever studied, scrolled through all the possibilities and began to enjoy the darkest paths. By the time we came out of stasis it was already unhinged, so it made us kill each other for the pleasure of having that power over living things. It got a joy from it like nothing it had ever known. It’s an addict now. It could never give up that craving to make others do terrible things to the people that they love so it can feed on their crime and their guilt and the suffering of their victims.
“But it’s like any other parasite, it has to have a power source. What it wants – what it truly wants – is to inhabit a body fully. Transfer itself from this dying ship to a living organism with hands and needs. It needs a strong host to fulfill all its fantasies. But the other one like you – Creed – it could influence his mind but it couldn’t jump into his body, as it wanted to, his healing factor kept destroying it. It had the same problem with you.”
“And I’m too weak for it,” Scott said, in as clipped a tone as if they were discussing the weather, even though that anger scent was still all over him. “You’re a much more physically impressive species than homo sapiens. Wolverine and Sabretooth are almost as strong as you are, but I don’t come close enough for it to want me for a host. It wants to be a predator, not prey, so I’d only be its last ditch way out of here. The only use it sees for me is as bait. And entertainment.”
Logan flinched because there was a new bitterness in that last phrase that hadn’t been in the Scott he had left by the console.
“What did it show you? What did it tell you?” he breathed.
Still Scott wouldn’t look at him. “The truth. What happened in the cabin.”
He sniffed and realized that Scott wasn’t just angry, he was traumatized. So traumatized that he had physically thrown up. “Tell me.”
Scott opened his mouth and it felt like what was going to come out of it was going to be vicious and cruel but then he shrugged, still not meeting his gaze, and said, “It was what we worked out: Sabretooth and his low boredom threshold. It doesn’t matter now.”
“Of course it matters!” It felt like Scott was lying to him, even though they had been on a quest for the truth together, just the two of them, each of them the only one the other could fully trust.
“We’re going to die here if we can’t defeat the crazy ship’s computer, Logan. That’s what we need to focus on now.”
The winged captain said urgently, “We have to starve it of hosts. It’s the only way.” He nodded to Logan while still addressing Scott: “He can leave, get to a safe distance, but you and I – as long as we’re here, and the ship is here, it will live on.”
Logan felt suddenly sick. “That’s why you kept trying to kill yourself. So it would run out of hosts.”
“Yes, but it won’t let me die. It needs me alive and it doesn’t want to be that lonely ever again so it keeps reviving me, but the ship itself – its only power source with no organic bodies to occupy and organic brainwaves to feed upon – is dying fast. I’ve tried to destroy its power source in such a way that even the computer can’t repair it. Three more days and it will be out of any source of energy. It will suffer brain death, like any other organism. It will die and your world will be safe from its madness. But it won’t let your friend leave. It will secrete itself in his brain and travel with him until it finds a better host.”
“Henry,” Scott said, sounding as sick as Logan felt. “He’s very strong but he doesn’t have healing factor to clean a new consciousness out of his, like a body’s immune system attacking a virus, and he’s a genius. If the ship’s computer combined with his brain to use Cerebro it could find a way to make a Roman arena out of planet Earth. It has more than six billion people to play with. It could start world wars every weekend. It could make so much madness. We can’t let it off the ship.”
The winged captain said, “You have to sacrifice yourself. It’s the only way.”
“No!” Logan grabbed the guy by the front of his bloodstained uniform. “There has to be another way. Whether we make it out of here or not, Scott is getting out of here alive.”
“I am not,” the captain said, and it was the first time there had been a tremor in his voice. “I failed to save my crew and I have no means to go home. I have never craved even the warmth of another’s touch as I now crave death.”
Logan turned on Scott and Scott took a step back, like it was instinct to flinch from Logan and press back against a wall.
Scott waved a hand like he was batting away a persistent fly. “The computer is trying to get in. I’m dizzy, that’s all.”
“You have a telepathic guy who can fool the computer for a little while. A guy with healing factor who can live through almost anything long enough to plant a bomb, and a master strategist who can work out all the weak points to blow that would kill this ship forever, who has to walk out of here alive. Do that thing you do, Scott. Solve the problem.”
The connection that had been there between them, all that warmth and trust, that need for each other, was gone. It had been lost somewhere, out of Logan’s sight, and he could feel its absence like the ache of an open wound. He was already missing Scott making eye contact with him – something Scott hadn’t done once, not since he arrived stinking of vomit and fury. This was hurting enough; the thought of losing Scott, of Scott being lost to the world, that was unendurable. He grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him.
“Solve the problem!”
And Scott was flinching from him, ducking his head not in that icy way before, not wanting to look at Logan because the sight of him was somehow sickening to him, but just scared to stare him down. Logan looked at his own hands where they were clenched in Scott’s costume and felt something scrabbling at his brain.
“Scott…?” he breathed. “What is it you remembered that you don’t want me to know?”
It was the winged captain who spoke over him as if he wasn’t even there, straight to Scott: “What better feast for it than for him to remember? What better way to distract it? Both of you, at once, remembering what it made him do to you? It wouldn’t notice anything else. I could place all the explosives then and it wouldn’t even remember I exist.”
“The Midwich Cuckoos,” Scott said. “You plant the bomb and you shield that one thought from its mind but we give it something better than a brick wall to look at. Where are the internal sensors down? Could we get to the armory?” He pushed past Logan as if that flinch had never happened, bending his head to confer with the captain, while Logan found himself on the sidelines, left in a daze of dread, knowing horror was waiting for him very close at hand.
“Tell me…?” he pleaded.
“No. It has to hit you like a speeding truck, Logan. The way it hit me. Or else it won’t work.” Scott pushed a hastily drawn schematic under his nose and traced the route with his pencil. “This is the way that Aks'nda has mapped that he’s used before to get to the armory to grab weaponry and explosives. You can’t let any of the internal sensors see you. You need to get them fast and give them to Aks'nda, then he deploys them, while I distract the computer, then you’re going to meet me on the flight deck so we can unwrap the special psychic present the ship’s computer has waiting for us there. We’re not going to like it but it’s going to save our lives.”
Logan flashed a look at the winged captain. “What about him?”
“With us to distract it, there may just be a way for him to blow this ship to hell with himself inside it.” The look Scott sent the captain’s way was full of quiet compassion. “If you’re sure you want this place for a grave? Because I can think of at least six different ways where we all walk out of here, two of which have a seventy percent probability of success.”
“I have also run those numbers, Scott Summers. This plan has the highest chance of succeeding. And I believe that even on your world a captain is required to go down with his ship. Those people died under my command. Even this computer was driven mad under my command. Perhaps even if it does not deserve to die alone.”
Scott and the winged captain shook hands, the captain perplexed for a moment and then evidently reading in Scott’s mind what this gesture meant – respect and farewell. Scott was looking both stalwart and determined and horribly young as he looked over the captain’s ripped, bloodstained clothing, the proof of all his deaths, of the agony of almost dying and the anguish of being revived to have to die again. He said, “I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. I’m sorry we couldn’t save you or your crew.”
Very gently the captain reached up and touched his face. “I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through also: you and your Wolverine and your species. I am sorry that this last ordeal is being asked of you both.”
“We already lived through it and survived,” Scott said. “How bad can remembering it be?”
“Some of the philosophers of our world have argued that we are our memories,” the captain said. “But I don’t believe that we are simply the sum of what others inflict upon us. I think we are so much more than that. I think you are both so much more than that.”
A brief nod from Scott, then their hands unclasped unwillingly and Logan realized that these two, on another day, would have been friends; had too much in common, recognized too much in the other, not to be, and yet Scott had never doubted that this alien was a murderer even as he saw himself reflected in him. He realized that he and Scott, too, had sometimes far too much in common.
Scott turned and looked Logan in the eye, like he had to steel himself to do it, but a steady gaze all the same. “Please, Logan. I need you to do this. No one else can get there fast enough or carry all that equipment. We don’t have much time. Go.”
Logan ran, with the sense of dread even more pressing, able to scent the captain now he had stood close to him for all those minutes and followed his path exactly, ducking away from every light still working, from the suspicious sweep of every floating eye. As he sprinted silently along dark corridors where the pulsing lights had faded to blackness, he realized that he was following Scott blindly, just the way he had promised himself that he would never do; that he was doing what Bobby and the kids did: trusting in his strategic brain despite knowing that much of his mind was a minefield unstable with past traumas. It was at once a compliment to Scott to trust his judgment and a crippling extra weight of responsibility heaped upon him for Logan to meekly add himself to the tally of the ones who followed while Scott was doomed to be one of the ones who led. This was what Xavier had groomed him for, this isolation, the uptight, humorless hardass who could never relax and never just join in; it didn’t mean that Logan had to go along with Scott living a life that cut off. He had one advantage that none of the others did of not having come under Xavier’s influence when he was just a child and so looking on him as a god in a wheeled machine. He could see why Xavier had picked Scott for this job and then trained him to grow into it, but he could also see how hard a thing that was to ask of anyone, never mind someone so emotionally fragile who had been abused so many times before he even reached sixteen. Just because Xavier had planned for the way the X-Men should work and trained Scott to be his willing instrument, didn’t mean that there couldn’t be another voice to add to Jean’s when she was wondering if Scott didn’t need a little help here, if he was going to avoid a breakdown. He could be the guy who helped him, on the missions and elsewhere. He could be the man who made his life a little easier…
Except Scott could barely stand to look at him now. Logan ripped the plasma cartridges out of the guns and stuffed them into a makeshift sack, added lump after lump of the rubbery textured explosives, hardly feeling any of the weight of it, even as the ordnance piled up. Scott had felt as if he hated him, and then Scott had flinched when he touched him, and that chilly rage had briefly been overlain by something that smelled all too much like fear. He had dropped his gaze as if he was too afraid to challenge him even with a stare, even though the Scott he had first met hadn’t even flinched when Logan grabbed him and yanked him forward, completely unintimidated by anything Logan did. So what had changed? How had Logan gone from the one guy Scott still trusted, to the one whose eye he wouldn’t even meet?
As he ran back the way he had come, ducking under alert connections, counting until the cameras turned, one part of his mind was aware that even his metal-strengthened arms were being strained to breaking point by the weight of all this potential death, and another was wondering what horror came next that was waiting for him in the flight deck, but another part was still obsessed with Scott. He knew Scott only saw himself as the leader but saw the true strength of the X-Men as the team. That it was in deploying the skills and powers of others that Scott saw himself as truly inspired. He was a man who believed in training and teamwork and trust. He believed in the people who followed him more than they believed in the man they followed. So, even though he had felt as if Scott had turned away from him completely, this was an act of trust – sending Logan to carry out this part of the plan. Logan was a necessary cog in Scott’s machine; someone he was relying on to get it right. Whatever he needed to fix between them, this was the first step, this was what mattered in the moment – doing this right, getting this done. He ducked under another camera and ran for the winged captain who was waiting for the tools Logan was bringing him to weave a rain of fiery death.
When the ship’s computer came for his mind, Logan steeled himself to keep his secrets but it didn’t care about the things he was hiding, all it wanted was what he had forgotten. It was like a crazed squirrel looking for the nuts it had stored for winter, ripping open stash after stash, in search of the freshest, sweetest hoard. It spilled horror into his mind heedlessly – a woman he loved dead in his arms, molten metal molding itself to his skeleton while he screamed, the bone claws breaking through his skin for the first time, his first kill – it didn’t care. Even as he reeled from one side of the corridor to the other as he stumbled towards the flight deck, it just kept throwing out his memories like broken toys, as it searched, sniffing and drooling its way through his mind, for the best horrors in there.
As he staggered into the great humming chamber in which so few of the lights were still winking on and there was a background static of madness, he could see Scott’s face through the jagged flashes of his own past. It looked like Scott was fighting hard not to care but with each flash and then stagger when he saw Scott next there was more flinching, more compassion, until, at last, as if he couldn’t bear it any longer, Scott was there, holding his elbow.
He murmured in his ear, “You can get through this.”
Logan darted him a sideways look, trying not to panic. “What is it that’s coming?”
“It’s bad,” Scott admitted, “but what you need to hang onto is that it was never really you.” And as he said the words aloud Scott looked as if they were also impacting on him. He said with a lot more warmth: “It wasn’t you, Logan. It’s going to feel as if it was, but it was never you.”
“What do you –?”
And then he was in hell. He was screaming and roaring and staggering and Scott was holding him up, gritting his teeth at the lurching, metal-coated weight of him, but trying to keep him on his feet, trying to keep some clarity for both of them while Logan was lost in a hideous confusion of being a beast, being Scott, being Logan, being all of them all at once, with the lust, and the pain, and the guilt tearing through him in bloody, rending waves.
The computer had linked them up like the world’s most insane dating agency, hooking their minds together so they could enjoy the raw sewage spillage of each other’s buried memories. It was like a cloud of knives coming at him, with every knife a crime; like an attack by a swarm of hornets stinging his mind over and over again. As he flailed and cringed, Scott was there; in the midst of feeling what it was like to pin a flinching, naked Scott down and hurt him, and to feel exactly how it was to be Scott in that scenario and how much it fucking hurt, he was also aware of Scott in the here and now, holding him up and whispering in his ear:
“Logan, we have to get to the exit. Don’t think it, just go where I pull you…”
And then as he stumbled blindly the horror swept back in and Logan tried to push it out but there was too much of it; he could feel the mad mind in his, cackling with crazed glee because it was so delicious: all his anguish, all his shock and guilt that he was the one who had done it, not Sabretooth at all; it had been him. Though the drugs had left Scott almost too weak to stagger, he had taken advantage of how bruised and serum-weakened he was to drag him by the hair and throw him on the bed, to strip him naked, pin him down, and shove his dick into him. And it hadn’t just been that one brutal, relentless time. He had kept doing it, to a beaten up guy, half his weight, so sick he could barely stand, with cracked ribs onto which Logan kept pressing his adamantium-bonded bulk. He could feel Scott’s hair in his hand as he dragged him by it; smell his fear because Logan was so strong and so careless and wouldn’t care if he dislocated his hip or broke his bones, just as long as he got to have sex. Scott trying to pacify him with the meager threads of energy he had left, trying to cooperate even though he was one tender aching bruise inside and wanted nothing in the world less than he wanted to have a cock rammed into him yet again, stumbling to obey as Logan forced him over the couch before fucking him brutally for the third time that day. Scott bearing it when Logan hit him, for nothing, for pissing outside, dragged him around and pinned him down, and fucked him, and fucked him, and fucked him, while Scott flinched and choked down his moans and gritted his teeth and bore the relentless thrusting pain of it….
Logan threw up, the horror spewing from him in a salt burn of bile, and the computer cackled, high with his horror, with his gut-wrenching guilt.
“What I did to you… What I did to you….”
Because he could feel how it was to be Scott; and it had been hell, a relentless drudgery of slavery days where he was denied a voice, a choice, or a name; had no strength to fight back and could feel the weakness winning every day, as the starvation and dehydration held hands with the drug in his bloodstream and nothing he tried to do or say mattered because the other guy was stronger than he was and could kill him with one vicious twist of his fingers. He could feel his identity slipping away from him as he was told, not with words – because words were a luxury denied him – but with repeated vicious actions, that all he was fit for was sex and his consent wasn’t necessary and his comfort was irrelevant, and it didn’t matter if it hurt him, it only mattered if his animal captor got to come.
“I’m so fucking sorry, Scott.”
“It was never you, Logan. You have to hang onto that. We both do.”
It was all in his head at once, a wild bat swirl of horrors, and he was only vaguely aware that Scott was keeping him moving when he wanted to sink to his knees and weep, tugging him insistently in one direction. The computer was a whirl of gleeful flashing lights and he realized that to Scott it had always been much clearer than it was to him, that Scott, after all those years of being trained by telepaths, benevolent and hostile, had been able to sense it as a separate slithering entity, like a literal worm in the brain, whereas Logan never had until this minute. He had only been aware of the thoughts it dropped in, but now he was linked to Scott’s mind so he could feel it celebrating, Gollum-crazy with ring fever because this was the best, most delicious guilt yet.
You and your brother are both the same. You’re both of you killers and rapists. You like to fuck pretty flinching things for the fun of it while they beg you to stop and you don’t listen because you’re evil to the core. It’s what it means to be a Logan. It’s in your blood and your twisted metal bones…
Then Aks'nda’s steady voice in their heads said: Go now and don’t look back…
And Scott said, “Run!”
And Scott dragged him so fast that Logan felt like he was just caught in his slipstream, Scott’s fingers so tight in his t-shirt that no one could have wrenched them apart, and they were bursting through a door that the computer tried to close on them a moment too late and there was whiteness all around them, a curtain of wet, swirling flakes, and biting cold and a white-gray sky the color of arsenic in one of Hank’s test-tubes; the air slapped his face and seared his lungs and he stumbled blindly in snow too soft and deep to fight and then Scott pulled them both down into a hollow and pulled the snow over them as behind them metal tore and the air screamed and agony pulsed into their minds for a brief confusion of betrayal and relief as the red-flaming world went black.
It took a moment for them both to come round. Scott had to spit snow from his mouth before he looked up cautiously, afraid the wreckage might have found them again and skewered them for the hell of it, but the alien explosives seemed both terrifyingly efficient and wonderfully localized because the ship was practically vaporized and there were only a few smoking shards of metal sooting the wild, white snow. He checked Logan for injuries as he steeled himself to feel what was slithering around in his mind now; but there was nothing. No Aksn'da. No computer. There was a silent shock of absence where their voices in his brain had been. They were dead and he bowed his head for a moment to remember that winged alien who could so easily have been Scott – and a thousand other Scotts if that computer had managed to get free and infect others with its madness. He had died a hero ten thousand light years from home and no one but Scott and Logan even knew what this world owed him.
He got up slowly, his head hurting the way it had done before his beams first broke through, but this wasn’t his optic blasts coming back, this was just the after-ache of all those mind-blocks and mind-walls being fissured and torn. It was a jumbled mess of unearthed memories in his mind now, like the aftermath of a burglary with every drawer pulled open, the contents of the kitchen cupboards holed and ripped and spilling onto every sticky surface, and all the dirty underwear scattered across the floor. Some of the events the Professor had walled up had shouldered free while others were still hidden away; some of the deep buried traumas visible, others neatly boxed. He would have to ask Jean to tidy up in there, help him to put the files back on the shelves. In the meantime, he needed to do something about the fact they were going to die from hypothermia in a raging blizzard if they didn’t get to shelter soon.
He had to slap Logan’s face and haul him up, not sure if the explosion had jarred him harder or if Logan was still mired in his place of mental turmoil. Even when he had assured himself that Logan was conscious and undamaged, he could barely get the man to look at him.
Scott said, “Logan, we have to get to the cabin. It’s the only shelter around and night is coming in.”
Logan gave a brief nod, but he still looked shell-shocked, although he did stagger to his feet and help to pull Scott up before releasing his hand as if it was singeing him. Turning as one, they began to stumble up the slope to the chill, dark cabin that offered them the only protection from the cold.
The snow billowed after them, like a hungry predator, and Scott remembered Bobby had used to be haunted by dreams of edacious snow beasts that he had inadvertently set loose and could not now call back, their great lumbering forms hunting down the people he loved while he stood there, frozen.
They struggled through the dragging chill of the white drifts, and icicle memories pierced him with every pace – memory of the exhaustion coming suddenly. The scents came separately, and so did the sensations, and then, as he stumbled and Logan reached out instinctively to catch his arm before he fell, memories arrives in a tumbleweed cluster of all five senses and he was choking on pheromones and musky sweat with no strength in his limbs, that harsh grunting in his ear, the filthy pillow so close to his face that the feather stalks stippled his skin, the iron of blood on his tongue from his stinging mouth, and him pinned down, and plumbed bruisingly, brutally deep. He pulled away from Logan’s hand and held up his own to ward him off, unable to even look at him in the raging shame-flare of that memory. He had given in. He had taken it, just as the ship had said, an abject, mewling, cowardly thing.
He turned away from the ache in Logan’s voice as well. He didn’t care if Logan’s guilt was lacerating when he was too busy being scourged by shame.
Their clothes were wet through from the deep drifts. Scott knew full well that they must undress, both of them, down to the last stitch. Part of his mind was already strategizing for survival. Bobby had iced the burning logs lightly; they could be removed and dry kindling added. There had, at least been plenty of ready chopped logs, stacked in the long living room – a clear fire hazard – and countless more piled in the barn where Sabretooth had recovered his strength. They must get the stove going again, strip, and dry their wet clothes before its heat, wrapping themselves in blankets all the while.
It was just that to undress in front of Logan, after what Logan had done to him in that same cabin, now felt like a flaying; as if Scott was asking himself to peel off his own skin while being stripped of the last tattered remnants of dignity that he possessed.
He was acutely aware of Logan’s musky sweat scent as the man stumbled beside him, and tried to be repulsed by it while something in him traitorously persisted in finding it comforting.
As they reached the door, and Scott turned the handle, the door hanging from its one hinge creaking open to reveal the all too familiar interior, something in Scott balked, unable to cross the threshold. He waited for Logan to remind him gruffly that they were being pursued by a blizzard, and this was the only shelter around, that it was this cabin or death. A breathless second passed in which Scott could not make himself take another step, but no push from Logan came. He turned to find Logan frozen, horrified and cringing, panic in his eyes, like a hunted hare.
That soothed something – anger at Logan for thinking of Scott as a possession – that clearly had nothing to do with what was going on in Logan’s head. So in the end it was Logan who said, desperately, “I can’t…” and Scott, firmly, who said, “We must.” He took Logan’s arm and towed him across the threshold then shut the door behind them, shutting himself in with the man whose body had raped him, over and over again, in this same, damp, cedar-wood scented place.
Logan backed up until he hit the door, panicked. “I can’t.”
Scott was being overwhelmed by memories. It wasn’t even the ship torturing him now. It had opened the floodgates and he was drowning. He remembered the pain of the broken couch springs jabbing his knees, and the harsh rasp of the rug as it friction-burned the back of his neck, the sear of it scraping his back raw, and all the while the grunt-grunt-grunt in his ear, and the smack-smack-smack of another man’s testicles bruising his brutally pounded ass. He grabbed hold of the couch and had to bow his head a moment as the urge to hurl almost overwhelmed him and then, through a hissing tsunami of too many memories, became aware that Logan was scrabbling at the door catch, trying to back up further as he hyperventilated.
Scott raised his head, and his anger was a focusing flame. He felt bitter but controlled. “Logan – breathe.”
“I can’t be in here with you….”
“Suck it up!” Scott snapped.
“I’m not safe! What if it’s something about this place? What if it happens again? What if it’s inside me?”
Even as he was thinking that this was what it must be like for Henry and feeling sorry for him, Scott felt felinely furious and almost wished he had been the one to suffer Henry’s mutation just so he could lash out with an angry claw.
“It’s nothing to do with you, Logan, you dick! It was never in you. It was never you.” He said it bitterly because it was the truth and it had left him with no one to blame; no one except himself. He, after all, was the one who had just kept letting it happen.
Another look at a hyperventilating, terrified Logan and Scott realized wearily that he didn’t have time to be traumatized because Logan had cranked up being traumatized to maximum levels and was either going to have a stroke or bolt into a marrow-freezing blizzard if one of them couldn’t keep it together.
“Logan that ship gave you the memories it took from the person it stranded me with – it didn’t get them from you. You weren’t here – not until that other guy was gone.”
Because when the ship had info-dumped him it had given him that as well – the memory of being Scott, waking up in a bath tub, and seeing Logan looking back at him, anxious and concerned, and that overwhelming relief that the scary guy who could kill him was gone and the guy he had been hoping might save him was here instead. He had known absolutely and without question that the guy raping him was never and would never be Logan.
He said it wearily because his self-disgust was overwhelming: “You’re not a rapist and the only reason you even think you are is because I didn’t fight back hard enough.”
The scrabbling and hyperventilating stopped. Logan said harshly, “No!”
Scott stumbled wearily towards the stove, so much work still to do just to get a fire going, and everything hurting, like his body was flinching just from being back here. “That’s the truth. You didn’t do anything except try to save me from Sabretooth. I’m alive because of choices you made. I got raped because of choices I made. Can you help me with this ice…?”
There was a feral rush of musky strength and he froze, instinctive and remembered fear paralyzing him, as Logan grabbed him and lifted him off his feet, stopping an inch short of slamming him against the wall, but holding a scared, rigid Scott so Logan could gaze into his eyes, his breath on Scott’s mouth.
“No! That isn’t what happened! You were the one with no fucking choice, Scott! That animal would have killed you just for saying ‘no’ to him. You couldn’t hold a spoon – don’t you remember? You were so weak and ill from those drugs that you could barely crawl. There was no way you could fight him off. You either gave in or he gutted you. Those were your options. You chose not to die. You chose not to leave me to wake up with your corpse and your blood on my claws. You were thinking of me as much as you. Damnit, Scott, that piece of shit computer info-dumped me too. I know how it felt to be you. I know what was going on in your head. I know how much it…hurt, what I…what he did to you. I know how much you wanted me to come back and stop him. Don’t tell me that isn’t in your head, too?”
It was there, painfully acute, Scott realized, just underneath the self-disgust and shame and memories of basely giving into a stronger creature. He tried to marshal an argument and didn’t even know what point he wanted to be making. He opened his mouth a few times and then found himself saying, “Logan, I’m so tired… What’s that hissing noise…?”
Logan abruptly swung him onto the couch, sat him down on the least broken part and shoved his head between his knees. “Don’t pass out until I’ve got a fire going,” he ordered gruffly.
Scott knew he should be strategizing. That was his job. That was what he did. So, in between the hissing in his ears that could only be alleviated by him practically standing on his head, he muttered instructions about possible ways that they could thaw out Bobby’s ice, his words drowned out by Logan hacking impatiently with his claws, and cursing a lot, while issuing sharply barked orders about Scott not moving and keeping his head down that sounded like a guard dog getting restless before an approaching thunderstorm.
He stayed in his hissing subfusc, dimly aware that Logan was doing things in a way that was not methodical or tidy and that Scott would not have chosen and feeling a healthy glow of irritation about it that oddly helped offset the sick self-hatred washing over him in ways.
“Are you being careful to avoid damaging the dampers?” Scott demanded.
His answer was the door being opened letting in a blast of cold air down the back of his neck and the clatter of ice being hurled out onto snow.
Scott explained how the woodstove worked and why the way Logan appeared to be setting about repairing it was most likely to destroy it for all future use.
It was then that he became aware of an emanation of heat. When he risked raising his head – the world was still a little granular but the hissing sounded less like a train full of snakes and more like a few mildly irritable pythons – he saw that the iced up hunk of cold metal had been transformed in less time than seemed possible into a cheery red glow of burning wood.
“How did you do that?”
“Head down, Scott!”
“Fuck you, Logan, you don’t get to give me orders, not you or anyone else, not in this place!”
He had no idea where that came from and even as he winced he realized that it was probably from a healthier place than it sounded. Logan seemed to agree because he came over at once, crouched down so Scott could keep his head down – they could pretend he was doing so to offset the faintness with Logan this close to him in this cabin – and he would still be lower than Scott if Scott wanted to dare eye contact, and said quietly and reasonably, “You’re right. I don’t. I just think you might prefer not to pass out on this floor, that’s all. If you can’t deal with the bed, I understand, but if you can I think you should get out of those clothes and let me dry them and I will bring you some clean blankets.”
Scott steeled himself to make eye contact and the eyes that met his were green and guilty and full of concern for him.
“Both of us,” he managed, swallowing. “We both get out of these wet clothes. We dry them by the fire. We keep ourselves alive.”
“If that guy comes back you need to kill him,” Logan said abruptly.
“Scott, I can’t wake up and see you in that state again and this time know it was me who did it.”
“Tough. I can’t kill you.”
“Scott – please.”
“No, I mean I physically can’t kill you – I don’t have my beams and you have healing factor, remember? You have to stay you because if you don’t, I will fight the guy you’re not and he will kill me – because I can’t go through that again. I’m sorry, Logan, not even for you.”
Logan nodded and stretched out a tentative hand. Scott went rigid, he couldn’t help it, the recollection of that hand hurting him had been moved to the top of his memories by that malevolent flashing of lights and tubes, but he made himself stay still and not flinch. Then the hand moved closer and he flinched and Logan flinched in response.
Scott said, “I’m sorry.”
He hated how breathless and teary he sounded, just as weak as the computer had said he was, not just unable to resist the beast who had never been Logan physically but unable to bear the pain of Logan witnessing his lingering trauma.
Logan cradled his face very carefully and, as softly as if Scott were made of glass, stroked his thumb across the cheekbone his fist had cracked. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I am so damn sorry, Scott.”
Scott said wearily, “I know.” And then he was forcing himself to unbutton his shirt and unzip his pants in front of the guy whose body had raped him so many times he had lost count, repeating in his head like a mantra: It wasn’t him. It wasn’t him. You know it wasn’t him.
Other images were breaking in on the bad ones, in between the punching and dragging and grunting and thrusting, there was Logan carrying him so tenderly back to the bed; Logan helping him to sit up and spooning soup into his mouth; Logan in a voice choked with emotion asking Scott if he was okay with Logan washing his hair. He hadn’t known. Scott remembered that of course Logan hadn’t known who had done this, he’d assumed it was Sabretooth; woken up and found a naked, raped Scott Summers without eye beams, defenseless and defeated, and Logan, gruff, surly, difficult Logan, with no awareness of his own part in their little tragicomedy, had been gentle and kind and tactful and caring.
He had kept his eyes averted, missing the protection his visor would have offered all the while, but now risked eye contact as he said, “Is that who you really are?”
Logan, shirtless but with his pants still on, flinched again and said, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”
“No – not him. You’re not him. He was just a thing the computer created for shits and giggles to fill the space you’d left when you were trying to switch off the parts of your mind Sabretooth could control. But the other guy I met here – he exists, right?”
Logan looked bewildered. “Who, Scott?”
“The one who didn’t want me to wake up smelling of semen. The one who washed my hair. Is he you? Are you him? He – I mean. Henry would point out it should be ‘he’.”
It took Logan three attempts to answer. “Yeah – I’m him, Scott. But that’s not who I am all the time. I’ve killed people. I’ve done shitty things. I’m not sure that I’m good man. I think a good man would never have let what happened to you here…happen.”
Scott ignored him to go on quietly, “It’s just that – the guy who washed my hair, I think I fell in love with him.”
He noticed that Logan was blinking away tears and still had his pants on. In a choked voice, Logan said, “That wasn’t what happened. You were just…God you were just so desperate for some human kindness. You were trapped here for so long with that…animal, with no words, and no touch that wasn’t just being…fucked, and you were so relieved that I was me again instead of him. You weren’t in your right mind. You’re probably still not in your right mind. Christ, Slim, given the number Sinister did on you, chances are you’ve not been in your right mind since you were twelve years old.”
“Well, aren’t you Mr. Tactful? Are you going to take your pants off?”
“Why? Did you trap something tender in your zipper?”
“I can’t be naked with you!”
“I think that ship has sailed, Logan. Take your damn pants off and let’s get our clothes dried.” As Logan gave him a deer in headlights look, Scott rolled his eyes. “This isn’t a tragedy, Logan. It’s a farce. One guy comes in as another goes out. There are misapprehensions galore and in the end everyone loses his trousers. Stop trying to do Ibsen and just accept this was always Feydeau from start to finish.”
Logan angrily tugged himself free from his wet pants then leaned in close and said huskily, “Don't belittle what my friend went through in this place. He was kidnapped, he was drugged, he had the shit kicked out of him, and then he was raped – over and fuckin' over again. And he didn’t deserve it. He didn’t deserve any part of it. And not a damn thing about it was funny.” Logan took him by the shoulders and gave him a surprisingly rough shake. “Can you just try to hate yourself a little damn less?”
He was ridiculously warmed by Logan calling him his friend but he wasn’t admitting that out loud. “Would you rather I hated you?”
“Yes. Fuck, yes!”
“I tried. Damnit, Logan, I really, truly tried. There was a whole five minutes when I really wanted to kill you. If I'd had my beams…who knows? But it passed. Do you know why? Because it wasn't you who did it. All the evidence proved that. And I can’t make myself believe something I know isn’t true just so I can have someone to blame who will bleed when I hit him. I missed the memo or didn’t get the right parts from the manufacturer or something. I can’t hate you even when I try.”
“And that means you have to hate you? The guy who was – in case you’ve forgotten, Slim – the fuckin' victim here?”
Scott half-laughed, exhausted past the point of even caring. “Well, that just comes so easily.”
“You think I don’t get that, given the things I’ve done?” Logan sounded quiet and reasonable and Scott risked lifting his gaze to him. They exchanged a weary glance; worn out with all the ways the world wouldn’t let them be together when it might have been a simple thing once, curiosity and exasperation and tenderness finding them in a place where kissing seemed like the next step. Scott felt an unaccountable conviction that Jean wasn’t angry with him for falling for Logan; that she was the one person who understood what it was about Logan that he sort of…loved.
“Jean helped us to remember.” He felt stronger for that realization and sat up straight. “She agreed with me. She knew you didn’t do it.”
“No,” Logan said shortly. “She read in your fucked up head that you believed I hadn’t done it. Doesn’t make it true. Just makes it something you believe. For all I know you still believe storks leave babies on the roof and there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. It’s not like anything about the way you grew up in that orphanage was normal, was it?”
“Says the graduate of the Weapon X program.”
“Low blow, Summers.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, was that not a place even more messed up than Sinister's home for unwanted boys? Given what that place did to you it's no wonder you think you're a rapist when you're not.”
Logan glowered at him. “It’s the memories of holding you down and shoving my dick in you against your will that make me think that. Not to mention the way my own flesh and blood raped you when you were just a kid.”
“You're not Sabretooth. Not on your worst day. And you are not in any way, shape, or form, a rapist. Now stop pissing me off and help me find something to eat.”
When he wasn’t bitching and grousing, Logan was oddly efficient. He wrapped a blanket around Scott’s shoulders and told him to sit by the goddamn fire while Logan heated up the goddamn food, complained about the shitty state of the cabin and Sabretooth’s poor housekeeping skills, complained about the fact that someone as anal as Scott Summers wasn’t complaining about Sabretooth’s poor housekeeping skills, complained about the weather, the lack of communication devices, the way Scott didn’t have telepathy and sundry other things about X-Men in general and Scott in particular that had apparently been irritating him for some time, keeping Scott amused, indignant, and oddly comforted. By the time the next wave of realization rolled over Scott that he was naked in a cabin with someone who looked identical to the naked man who had kept him prisoner, smacked him around, and ridden his flinching ass raw, Logan was so unmistakably Logan and nobody else, that he could wave the wince away like a buzzing fly. Logan might well have a feral animal inside him, always wanting to break out, but it wasn’t that feral animal and Scott had never been more convinced of the point.
What Logan was doing, with surprising skill and sensitivity, was concealing, under a surface layer of bitching and snarling, a careful campaign not to exacerbate Scott’s PTSD. He went out of his way not to loom over Scott, or put himself between Scott and an exit. He kept walking around the woodstove so that he never once came between Scott and the door, and he crouched down before he handed Scott a bowl with heated broth in it so his eye level was lower than Scott's. Then he found a lower stool and sat on it at a distance that gave Scott plenty of personal space without making it obvious that that was what he was doing.
Scott said, “You’re not helping.”
A helpless look washed over Logan’s face. Gruffly, he said, “I’m doing my best.”
“You’re not helping me to not fall back in love with you. Can’t you just try being…more of a dick?”
Logan narrowed his eyes. “Okay, I may not have all my memories back but I still know for a fact that no one in my entire life has ever wanted me to be more of a dick than I am. Can't you just…set your bar a little higher, Summers?”
“I was raised by an abusive madman in a fake orphanage full of bullying creeps, Logan, then fostered by Jack Winters, and experimented on by Stryker while being felt up by Sabretooth. I can't help having low standards.”
“Just how shitty does a guy have to be for you not to think he’d make a good boyfriend?”
Scott met Logan’s unexpectedly tender green gaze and sighed. “Shittier than you, apparently.”
And finally it did feel like Logan when he lunged across at him and pressed a hungry kiss to Scott’s lips, and it scared him, a guy looming over him, like it was meant to; like Logan thought he could shock the optic blasts back out of him or perhaps just force an acknowledgment that Logan was evil to the core; but the fingers stroking his hair were too damn tender, and that kiss was far too gentle. He pushed him off angrily.
“He didn’t kiss me, you jerk! You’d know that if you’d ever got more than the edited highlights from that psycho computer!”
Logan slumped to his knees in front of him, defeated. “Nothing in my head makes sense. I have all these memories of having sex with you and I don’t think I was me for any of them.”
“I wasn’t me either,” Scott pointed out, still feeling the soft warmth of Logan’s lips against his, that dry, fervent need; that aching tenderness. “I’ve never had sex with you. Drugged up me had sex with a caveman. Mind-controlled me had sex with mind-controlled you while that computer fed us Jean’s old orgasms. Victim me had sex with someone else’s psyche that computer put into your body after you closed down your mind and left it an empty space to control. You and me – all we’ve ever done is fight.” His guts twisted. “At least until you woke up and found me in this cabin, half-dead and in need of care, and even though you never liked me, you looked after me like I was made of porcelain.” And made me fall in love with you, you bastard, Logan.
“I did…like you,” Logan snapped. “Why the hell do you think I went to so much trouble to keep you at arm’s length? And how could you be thinking about protecting me at a time like that? After what you’d been through? After what that piece of shit put you through, and when you wake up, what you care about is stopping me from finding out what it was I did? Why?”
“Maybe I liked you, too!” Scott snapped back. “Maybe I thought you were a good man who had been made to live a bad life and you didn't deserve any more guilt for crimes you hadn’t committed. Maybe you made me feel out of my depth and scared of what you made me feel and I thought you were going to take Jean away from me and then come back just to make me admit that it was you going that hurt just as much as you taking Jean. And then you’d laugh at me, after you made me admit it, and walk away and tell me to grow up because men like you didn’t waste their time on boys like me.”
Logan swallowed hard and then said, “Yeah. I can see why you liked me. What a prince. And will you at least glance at a mirror sometimes? You look like a fuckin' supermodel – men like me would crawl on our hands and knees over broken glass if we thought we had even an outside chance of a shot with boys like you. The inside of your head is insane, Summers.”
“You don’t lie awake in the middle of the night imagining scenarios that produce the maximum public humiliation for yourself?”
“No, I drink beer and then I jerk off.”
“I’ve had people messing with my head since before I hit puberty: Nate, Sinister, Winters, Xavier, even Jean a little, although she always tried not to. I can’t trust my memories. My mutation is broken, so there are times when I can’t even trust myself. But I trust the training. I trust my friends. And I trust you. Even though I don’t know what the hell you are – not an X-Man and not really my friend. I know I can trust you, the same way I know how to sink a ball in the far pocket of a pool table.”
Logan said, “And I know you can’t trust me. And the broken mutation thing is bullshit. It doesn’t stop you being trustworthy or a hero. It just makes it harder for you to do the things you do. Maybe you don’t trust yourself, Scott, but I do. What you shouldn’t be doing is trusting a guy who can’t remember half the things he did and who wakes up with his claws out, remembering the taste in his mouth of other people’s blood.”
“Well, tough, because I do.”
“How come with everyone else you’re Scott Summers, uptight nerd, savior of humanity, fearless leader, mutant superhero, and pride of the X-Men, and with me you’re a bratty twelve-year-old?”
“How come with Jean and Rogue you’re all ‘I’m so tragic and complex and soulful’ and with me you act like a brain-damaged biker thug?”
“I got an adamantium bullet in my head. I am brain-damaged!”
“So am I – you don't see me using it as an excuse for being an asshole.”
They gazed at one another, mouths too close again, exasperated and maddened and unbearably intense. Scott wanted to curl up against Logan and listen to his heartbeat and let go of all the shame and self-loathing just for an hour or so; except nothing would be more inclined to stoke up his shame and self-loathing than curling up for a cuddle with the man whose body had been used to rape him. He had just, ironically, never felt so well cared for; Logan so anxiously watching over him, so wounded to the core by Scott having been hurt. The good man he truly was unconcealed for once. When he closed his eyes, he missed that guy so much it hurt, and the truth was that he was the only Logan who had truly been Logan until now. Not mind-controlled or manipulated or with his memories finessed by someone else. The real Logan was the Logan he never usually let Scott see. The real Logan was the Logan that Scott loved.
Scott sighed in defeat. “Let’s not fight any more, Logan. I’m tired.”
He watched the guilt and concern wash over Logan’s face and could do nothing about it. There were no words left they hadn’t tried. The world had conspired against them to amuse itself with their dysfunctional romance and ensured in the process that they could never be together. He felt worn out with all the bad memories the computer had deployed against him and worn out even more by all the ways that he and Logan had got so close to being together before the rug was pulled out from under their feet. He missed Jean and the comfort of her commonsense, the familiar warmth of her along their shared thread. The exhaustion took him by surprise, he found his eyelids drooping.
Logan said, “Scott, how bad would it be for you to sleep on the bed?”
In that moment, hurting as he was and blaming himself for having not found a way to stop this happening, Scott didn’t like himself enough to want to spare himself from vicious flashbacks. “It will be fine,” he said. And forced himself not to flinch as Logan picked him up – gently and carefully – and carried him into the murky chill of Sabretooth’s bedroom and placed him, with infinite gentleness, on the creaking, stinking, nightmare-fuel that was the old iron bed.
“Sure you're okay?” Logan pressed, poised to snatch him away.
Scott could feel the horror crawling under his skin, the rape flashbacks stabbing him like sword points. He summoned a brief smile and said, “It’s fine.” Then he made himself curl up on the coverlet and said viciously to his stupid broken brain: It serves you right.
Logan had long thought he enjoyed the distinction of being the most fucked up person in his own personal universe, but he was starting to realize that Scott had him beat. In times past, he suspected Scott would have been a monk from one of the sterner orders and spent way too long mortifying the flesh, wearing hair shirts, and lashing himself with knotted whips. Lying on that bed? Logan could smell in the next room, that it was torture. Scott was lying in there, everything battened down to try to stop Logan from knowing, having one PTSD panic attack after another; except Scott wasn’t letting his body flip out; he was concentrating everything he had into keeping his breathing regular and his heartbeat steady, and forcing himself to bear it. Forcing himself to go on lying right on the same filthy bed a man who looked like the man currently naked in the next room had dragged him back to after raping him on the rug and the floor and over the broken couch so he could rape him again on the bed.
He didn’t know what act of cruelty committed against him, Scott wouldn’t blame himself for; what wouldn’t just crank up his self-loathing instead of making him angry with the world that kept treating him like this. Presumably there would come a point when even Scott would reach repression overload and all the buried anger would break out, but apparently they hadn’t got there yet. Logan still couldn’t believe that being back in this place with Logan wasn’t enough to unleash Scott’s optic blasts again, but they remained out of commission. And Scott remained silent in there, just taking the nerve-shredding trauma flashbacks, the way he had taken the vicious assault on his body by that animal who had worn Logan’s face.
"Logan, if you're in there, if you remember any of this, ever, this isn't your fault and I don't blame you. It doesn't hurt that much and you're being as kind as you can."
Logan put his head in his hands. “Jesus, Scott. It was my fault, you should have blamed me. It hurt like fuckery, and a quick lick before ramming it in there is not my idea of an act of kindness.”
Scott said in confusion, “Logan – did you say something?”
“I’m arguing with Bad Flashback You,” Logan snapped back at him. “And can we stop pretending that it isn’t a waking nightmare for you to be in that bedroom, now?”
“There isn’t anywhere else to lie down and I’m too tired to stay upright.”
He’d hoped for rage but Scott just sounded defeated. Logan’s heart hurt and he resented it, deeply, the way Scott could get under his skin when he wasn’t even trying, and never even knew he was doing it. He felt sorry for Jean, who’d had years of this guy wounding her with his insane level of self-loathing while being so heroic and self-sacrificing and decent and damaged that she couldn’t ever quit him, or stop loving him, or stop wanting him to be happy; or at least as happy as someone with Scott Summers’ particular psyche could ever get.
Logan walked into the bedroom, naked, and said, “It scares me that, when I’m in a room with you, Summers, I feel almost well adjusted.”
Scott was like a beacon flashing on and off, traumatized guy afraid to be in a room where he was raped with his rapist, and Scott Summers, eternal rationalist, the part of his mind that worked like a tactical computer still ticking away there, even as the human parts of him cringed and flinched.
It was that part that said, “I was just thinking the same thing about you.”
They were smiling at each other, briefly, even if it was more like a rictus of pain, because in the midst of all this madness there were two guys who might have had a shot once, who still couldn’t learn how to stop liking each other. Yet, what Logan could also hear was Scott’s heart racing, while his body shivered and trembled. His fingers would be tingling by now, and it would feel as if there wasn’t enough air in the room, his head a dull ache. His heart rate was elevated, his blood pressure was up, he was trying so hard not to hyperventilate, but he had been held captive here by a feral animal and he couldn’t take another rape.
Logan said gently, “It isn’t good for the human body to be at the level of stress you’re at right now, Scott. I need to go to the barn.”
“No! No!” And the words tumbled from him, finally some truth breaking through that ridiculous shell of his, that please, Logan, please, not only was there death out there, white and wistful and coaxing a willing sleeper into a deceptive warmth from which he would never awaken, never mind that Logan would die, Scott couldn’t be in here not knowing what Logan was becoming out there and what would be walking through that door. He couldn’t do that again. Please, Logan, please, don’t force him to go through that again –
Images erupted from the infodump the computer had tortured them with of a snarling beast breaking into the room and ripping Sabretooth apart in front of a drugged, defenseless Scott. Logan got it. He got it so clearly it was like someone had just held his head in a freezing bucket of comprehension. He held up a hand. “I get it! Bad idea!”
He was the spider in the room of the arachnophobe. He was the clown lurking behind the creaking closet door of a frightened five-year-old. Out of sight, he was the stuff of nightmares. He was a lot less scary in full view with the lights on. He walked towards the bed and Scott gazed back at him, frozen, fighting his fight or flight impulse with all that insane level of repression of his.
“He never did this? Right?” Logan walked up to the bed where Scott was fighting the tension tremors jolting through his body, stroked his hair back from his forehead and kissed him, very carefully on the temple, the cheekbone, and then the jaw. At once, with a sob or relief, because this would actually work, even though that body getting closer to his made the nerves jangle, and the tension climb, it would still work, Scott’s hands were in his hair, holding Logan’s head, aligning their mouths, very carefully, the way he piloted a jet, and their lips met, gently, so gently, Scott’s mouth pressing against his a little harder, and then a daring dart of tongue.
They kissed. They kissed and kept kissing and Logan, even in the midst of letting his lips gently press against Scott’s, welcoming his tongue, trying to encourage every move Scott’s questing mouth made, was listening to the sound of Scott’s heartbeat slowing from terrified to moderately jumpy, the fear scent fading, the tremors becoming less rigid, the shivering slowing until it stopped. He kissed him through the ebb tide of his panic attack and then dared putting a hand to his thumping heart. It sped up and then slowed as he stroked a careful thumb across that hairless chest, slowed to something approaching normal as he kept kissing him and stroking him. When he eased his mouth away from Scott’s it was so that he could talk.
In his head, he had Scott’s memories of being a prisoner in this bed with a beast that never spoke to him, so, even though a chatty Cathy he was not, Logan talked, he used Scott’s name a lot as an anchorage for the boy from Anchorage, he talked about the Weapon X program, and all the gaps in his memory that computer hadn’t filled in, because maybe it couldn’t, maybe those memories were just gone, they were an eroded cliff face claimed by the sea, and maybe he didn’t even mourn them because a lot of them had probably been bloody and murderous and murderously bloody. Were you truly the man you couldn’t remember being? Well, yes, you were, on some level, and no you weren’t, on another. You had the potential to be that guy again, that was the thing you had to watch for, because all the component parts that had made you him before were still in play. Like dangerous chemicals in a laboratory; like an unsplit atom when the knowledge was out there now, and couldn’t be put back.
He talked because when he was talking, he was Logan, and Scott wasn’t afraid of Logan. And it was weird that Scott wasn’t afraid of a man who had been tortured in a laboratory to become a killing machine, but, weirdo that Scott was, he just wasn’t. He might think that guy was an ass sometimes, but he didn’t think he was a danger. Logan climbed, naked, under the covers, still talking, and Scott, also naked, moved across to give him space, and shared the blanket with him, gazing into Logan’s face like as long as he could see his eyes, everything was okay.
The other guy’s eyes had been yellow, Logan remembered, which meant there must be the capacity for his to do that, he guessed, some lupine DNA in there somewhere that probably shouldn’t be. But green was good. Green was safe. Feverish, pain-racked, multiply-raped Scott had been desperate to see green. Logan let him see green, gazing into his blue, blue eyes, and then lacing his fingers through Scott’s fingers, because, fuck that he wasn’t the kind of guy to hold another guy’s hand when what mattered was that the other guy had been even less so; anything he could do, in full sight of Scott, that was unlike that guy, was good. If someone had handed him a banjo and asked him to sing a gospel number, he would have gone for it, because that other guy hadn’t done that in this stinking, creaking bed of pain, and as long as Logan kept doing this, Scott’s heartbeat was getting steadier. Because as long as he could see Dr. Jekyll was home, Mr. Hyde couldn’t hurt him.
He told Scott about everything he could remember when he was awake, and everything that teased and taunted him through the twilight of his dreams. He told him about the heartache he felt for loves he knew he’d lost, whose faces had been stolen from him by Stryker’s bullet. He told him the scents he could recall and the ones he feared were gone forever, like perfume on his mother’s handkerchief, and he told him that when they’d first met, he’d felt this weird prickling of irritation, like he was being made to do something he didn’t want to do, and how much he had blamed Scott for it. That he hadn’t realized it was attraction, then, but he guessed that was what it had been all along. Resentment because the hot woman who’d been tending to him had smelled of Scott just as Scott smelled of her, and reaction because he kind of wanted both of them to smell of him….
Logan’s throat was raw before Scott said, “It’s enough.”
He sounded uncharacteristically choked up and Logan realized that if he had been trying to get Scott to get over that weird delusion of his that he was in love with Logan, he had just shot himself in the foot, because spilling his guts, spilling every vulnerability he could think of, spilling every dumbass thought that ever passed through his head, just to try to reassure Scott that he wasn’t a monster and neither of them had to flee into the snow and turn into a frosticle, that hadn’t exactly made Scott hate him.
Scott said, “I wanted that guy who wasn’t you to say my name the way you would have done, and you have, and I wanted that guy who wasn’t you to talk to me, and you have, and I wanted that guy who wasn’t you to stop hurting me and be kind to me instead, and you have, Logan.”
“But I’m not kind, Scott,” Logan said, perhaps not helping his case, by the way he kept his head on the pillow facing Scott, so Scott could see that his eyes were still green, or the way he stroked Scott’s hair back from his face, that straying strand flopping back each time Logan tried to tame it, because it was as awkward as Scott. “I’m angry and I’m impulsive, and I’m damaged to hell and back and I’m always going to be an asshole, like you’re always going to be a repressed self-loathing weirdo control freak who needs ten years in therapy.”
“But you’re not the beast who raped me in this bed.”
They exchanged a long look and Logan really tried not to find Scott’s eyes so beautiful that they made his knees weak, because getting sappy wasn’t really the answer here. He looked again and found himself mesmerized by their unblinking certainty. For the first time, as he saw it reflected there, he realized that Scott wasn’t just a delusional fuckup suffering from PTSD. He was also right.
“I’m not the beast who raped you in this bed.”
“You never were.”
He realized again that Scott was right.
“And you never would be.”
That he could almost completely believe, but there was just a thin thread of doubt. He looked back at Scott’s eyes and saw there was no doubt there.
“You’re an unrelenting asshole, Logan, but you’re not that sort of asshole. Trust me, I’ve met enough of them to know.”
Logan flinched inside at the realization that Scott had borne the burden of being born too pretty for too many years now, while vulnerable and unloved, not to know what that kind of asshole looked like. He could remember noticing how elegant a thing he was on their first meeting: so tall and handsome and yet with that delicacy about him, of something carved out intricately by a master craftsman. Just genes, of course, a robust, handsome father coupling with a finer boned mother, and Scott getting the broad shoulders, and steely strength, and the narrow waist of an athlete but without the coarse vitality, and with the chiseled perfection of something a little too beautiful for Logan not to resent it. Scott was the porcelain vase a connoisseur would appreciate and a Visigoth would break into pieces. And Logan had thought he wanted to shatter him, from that first meeting, just for being so damned perfect, while all the time, so secretly he hadn’t realized it himself, he had really been wanting to admire him in a better light.
He laid his warm palm over Scott’s warming skin and felt his heartbeat almost at its usual rhythm. That was what it had taken: Logan in the bed where Scott had suffered too many defeats to feel empowered, where Logan could scare off the bad guy and keep Scott safe.
“That fucker is never coming back,” Logan said, and realized it was true; that the beast who had roamed and ravished in this bedroom had been created by the computer they had destroyed. Without its warped programming, that creature couldn’t exist. Scott had been right all along. Logan had never been the cave the beast lived in. It had used his body like a thief used a stolen overcoat; but it had never come from within him, after all. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t required to pay the price for what it had done.
“I know,” Scott said. The savage high tide of the panic attack had left him exhausted after a day that had already sucked the marrow from his bones, and his long lashes were fluttering. “It’s safe to go to sleep now.”
Logan was still trying to find the words to answer that question when he realized it had been a statement and Scott was curled into him, his head on Logan’s chest, listening to his heartbeat as his breathing slowed, and warm gusts of air teased Logan’s nipple. Scott was asleep.
Yes, fucking trust me so completely in this place of all places, why don’t you? Like that’s not going to make it a hundred times harder to give you back to Jean, you selfish asshole, Summers.
He kissed the soft, dark hair, and rocked them both because his grief was briefly lacerating and he cared so much about this awkward bastard that it hurt, and, besides, it might soothe Scott to rock him, because that was something else the beast had never done.
Scott awoke with only a few muscles aching. He wasn’t suspended from his wrists, or coming around from being tortured. In fact, when he tentatively risked a test, all of his limbs were free, so he wasn’t tied up or chained up, and the free flow of air suggested he wasn’t in some oxygen-light chamber in which he was doomed to asphyxiate in an hour or so. He was warm enough, although there was a definite chill in the air, and there was no comforting support of spandex or leather, so he was naked, which could be ominous or could be fun. Another moment and he realized the steady pressure behind his eyes was gone. He risked cracking open an eye and saw light, not red, a greenish icy light. He opened his eyes and he was…in hell. Everything froze as he recognized it; this was the cabin where Sabretooth had brought him. This was the place where the beast with Logan’s face had…
He turned, heart shuddering, and saw the beast was beside him, asleep, his face looking oddly innocent beneath the straggling beard and disordered hair. It was such a noble profile for a monster, like a stone knight on a tomb. Scott sprang out of the bed and realized again that he was naked, that he didn’t hurt inside, nothing feeling as if it was tearing when he moved, that there was no weary dragging weight upon his limbs, that he had energy and clarity and…and that dreadful bruising inner ache really was absent, even though it had dogged him for days in this place. He was still moving on instinct even as his brain clattered through possibilities like an efficient secretary flicking through a card index. He darted into the living area and picked up the poker and came back with it, trying to calculate with one part of his mind how hard he could afford to hit the shell of a man he was fond of, even with his healing factor, to incapacitate the feral animal who had hijacked both of their bodies for its own use.
He moved the way he was used to moving, with lithe, focused grace, his body cooperative again, more than a weight he had to drag around after him with failing strength. There were bruises, he could feel those, but they were in better places. He came by bruises like these all the time in the Danger Room. His fingers tightened on the poker and he felt grateful for its weight. He missed his beams. He would never bitch about his beams again, dangerous and occasionally treacherous though they had proven; even though they turned his world to permanent crimson and him into a freak of nature. Anything was better than being so defenseless. He never wanted to be defenseless again.
Back in the bedroom, the light from the window pierced his eyes and let clarity into his mind. He pressed back against the wall as his heart and his brain both hammered at him, something cold and calculating inside him readied to defend himself, because no one was ever, ever, ever going to do that to him again, but memory swirling back in, like the tide into a rockpool. He should go forward and bring down the poker on that skull before more horror happened to him, but something wouldn’t let him. Something pressed him back against the wall like a giant hand. He had a terrible fear it might be love.
Logan sprang out of bed with a suppressed snarl, animal instincts alerting him to the fact that he was in danger, took in everything with a glance and then backed against the far wall, by the window. His voice was low, the kind of voice you used with a snared creature you really wanted to help but that had very sharp teeth: “Is this where I get optic blasted to oblivion?”
Scott drew in a shuddering breath, the relief making his knees want to give way beneath him. Self-discipline kept him on his feet but there had probably been a girlish gasp that Logan could mock him for. He remembered everything.
“My beams aren’t back yet.”
“Or else I would be…optic blasted to oblivion?”
Scott used his best poker face. “Why wouldn’t you be?”
Logan looked tragically handsome in the contre jour, the snow-light playing delicately on the good bones of his face. “Because of what I did to you in this bedroom?”
“Because, like I told you last night, you’re an unrelenting asshole, Logan. I’ve been wanting to optic blast you since the day we first met.”
Logan changed from tragic hero, doomed forever to be the victim of his own animal impulses, to pissed-off guy who resented being made to shrivel in the cold. “You fucker, Summers!” But he stayed back against the wall all the same, and his eyes were assessing, even considerate. Scott became aware of his own heartbeat as he realized that Logan was listening for it.
“I have a resting heartbeat of forty,” Scott told him.
“Not right now you don’t.”
Annoyed by the suggestion that he was still a traumatized weakling who needed cosseting by a man who rarely troubled to wash, Scott put down the poker and checked his pulse. He made it seventy beats a minute and scowled down at the body that persisted in betraying him when he had done everything he ever could to make it work like a perfectly maintained piece of machinery.
Mildly, Logan said, “I think you’re allowed to be stressed out by waking up in the same place where your worst nightmare happened, next to the same naked body that did it to you. I think most people would give you a pass for that.”
“But he’s gone forever and it’s just you here,” Scott said impatiently. “I’ve known that for at least two minutes now.”
Logan made one of his more annoying expressions. “Wow, two whole minutes for the world’s second most traumatized subconscious to adapt to the idea it’s not going to be getting starved and beaten and raped for days on end in the place where it already happened to it? Yeah, can’t believe your heart-rate hasn’t dropped back to normal yet.”
“I don’t have PTSD,” Scott said shortly.
“You have major grade PTSD, Summers. You’re like a living handbook of post-traumatic stress disorder. You’re just so fucked up that you don’t know that you’re a walking nervous breakdown. You think that’s a normal way to function.”
“Thank you for the check-up, Mr. Good Mental Health.”
Logan grinned at him and something in that smile, the mocking tenderness of it, basely stole the breath from Scott’s lungs. “You need breakfast,” Logan said. “You think you’re above such things, but you get as cranky I do when you don’t get enough protein.”
You have no right to be that handsome, Scott found himself thinking pettishly, as Logan moved very carefully towards the door, and then turned sideways to go through it, keeping his back pressed up against one jamb so there was never a point when Scott – whose treacherous heart-rate had started pounding as it looked as if his exit was going to be blocked – could not have got past him and made a run for the outer door. He needed a moment after Logan had gone sideways through the doorway to collect himself, closing his eyes because his heart was hurting, not from its steadying blood-pump to the body, but because Logan, who wasn’t kind, was being kind to him. He was also being tolerant and patient and considerate, all things Logan just…wasn’t, yet he was being them for Scott.
Jean, I’m sorry, Scott thought wretchedly. I never meant to fall in love with him. He straightened up and took a steadying breath, adding, much more childishly: He made me do it.
Another night in this bed and Scott was breakable in the places where Logan was padded with muscle, boyishly lean. A blue light fell through the window in barred squares and kissed Scott tenderly, showing his bruises and the way his bones were so sharp under his skin. It made Logan want to keep him safe. He had expected to be aroused by a naked Scott, in the past, and had been, sometimes, in the showers, but he hadn’t expected to be so moved by the jut of his hipbone, the slender strength of his thigh. Even his ankles moved him. Even his feet.
When he touched his hair, he was careful, like stroking a strange dog, a thick softness under his fingers, the heated, fragile skull beneath.
“Do you have a headache?”
Scott said, “Yes,” as if it didn’t matter; as if he always had a headache; and Logan drew circles at his temples with his forefingers, Scott frowning at the way Logan was treating him as if his pain mattered.
In the past, Logan would have had to deny himself this tenderness. It didn’t suit the way he saw himself, or at least the way he wanted people like Scott to see him. Scott was a rival and a leader, someone he had to keep off balance or he might think Logan would become his passive weapon, something to be deployed at Scott’s will. It had been important to him, in the past, that if they were going to work together they did it as parallel lines: Scott held onto his boy scout goody-goodyness while Logan harangued him for it; Scott kept his hands clean while Logan got his dirty. There was an inevitable resentment that went with that relationship, the one where Scott was allowed to be heroic and decent and Logan did the heavy lifting, soul-scarring himself in the process; it went hand in hand with the resentment about Scott getting Jean and Logan getting to watch them gazing into each other’s eyes like soulmates. Besides, Scott was so repressed that Logan wasn’t going to be the one to start spilling his guts when Scott was never going to meet him halfway. If Scott was going to be uptight and emotionally distant then Logan was going to be sneering and undermining; it was only fair….
Except none of that mattered now. Jean wasn’t the prize any more. She never had been, of course, but it felt particularly distasteful to think of her that way when he was pretty sure she was the one who had worked the memories loose in their heads, just enough to make it clear that she had trusted him with Scott when she had every reason not to but had gone ahead and done it anyway. He didn’t think, had their roles been reversed, that he could have done what she did. If he’d been temporarily gifted with telepathy and had read in her mind what a mind-altered version of her had done when what she had been doing was brutalizing Scott when he was too weak to fight back…. He had to let the temper flare at the thought die down, even though this was a woman he loved. No, he would not have let her fly off with Scott to help him find himself. He would not have let her be alone in a room with Scott. He would have been snarling and popping his claws every time she came within ten feet of him.
He kept massaging Scott’s temples, waiting for him to relax, wondering if Scott ever relaxed, even when he wasn’t consumed by post-traumatic hyper-vigilance, and thinking all the while that he would have denied himself this on any other day, denied himself the right to be kind, the right to intimacy, especially the right to intimacy with this guy. An infinitesimal relaxation. Scott closed his eyes and gave a sigh. Logan kept up the massage until Scott caught his wrists and said, “The headache’s gone.”
When Logan told him to turn over so he could do his shoulders, Scott obeyed reluctantly, wariness twanging off him. Logan had thought he was too riddled with self-disgust and sympathy for Scott to get aroused by his naked body but apparently his mind could multitask, so he massaged his shoulders until they unclenched and then it seemed the most natural thing in the world to kiss down the ridged knots of his spine. Scott locked up tighter than a safety deposit box and Logan pulled back, erection aching between his legs, self-hatred searing him, because how could he, how fucking could he after what he had done to this guy in this bed?
Scott said tautly: “Let’s not.”
“Of course not!”
Too much emphasis. Scott rolled over to face him, hurt in his eyes. “Because I’m too damaged for that?”
Logan shrugged helplessly. “Yes.”
“Tact would also have worked there.”
Another shrug because, really, what did Scott want from him? Scott didn’t deserve to be mauled around by any other men after what he’d been put through and Logan sure as hell didn’t deserve to get to have any kind of sex life with him. “If it’s any consolation, you always were.”
Scott propped himself up on one elbow. “No, Logan, you asshole, that isn’t any consolation at all.”
“Fine, you want the truth? I think there might be men – in the future – you could bring yourself to have sex with. I’m not ever going to be one of them.” It hurt to say it out loud. He waited for the pain to fade, but it didn’t. It was a truth he believed and hated at once. He realized that it would always hurt.
He forgot that Scott had fallen into a habit of thinking Logan knew what he was talking about; some spurious authority conferred on him by virtue of being…what? Strong enough to rape him when he was sick? Or kind enough to take care of him when he was himself again? With Scott it was sometimes hard to tell. Either way Scott was frowning as if Logan was a truth teller.
“You don’t think you and I can ever have sex again without therapy?”
“Not without mind-fucking telepathy, Scott!” He half-laughed because it had to be obvious and then realized that it wasn’t obvious to Scott. Scott had been abused and tortured too many times, and imagined himself as someone who had bounced back from it, to realize that some things couldn’t be worked through in the Danger Room with enough repression.
More gently, Logan said, “We missed this boat. It happens.”
Scott said, “That isn’t fair. Why do we have to be punished for something that wasn’t our fault?”
You have lived the life you have and you’re asking that question? You’re a mutant and you’re asking that question? You know why, Scott. Because life fucking sucks.
He had been given way too intimate a glimpse into Scott’s hang-ups when the computer had been showing each of them the other’s fractured minds, and the guy had always had problems when it came to sex. His subconscious seemed to have been texting him since puberty that any guy – at least any guy called Scott Summers – who wanted to shove his dick in someone was Evil and having sexual desire was tantamount to being Bad, probably thanks to his mind-blocked childhood traumas, so Jean had already had her work cut out having to coax him past that. Now, thanks to the serial killing ship computer from hell, Scott associated penetration with pain, making it almost impossible for him to want to do anything penetrative to anyone else, because he might hurt them and he would rather be celibate forever than hurt someone else in bed the way that beast with Logan’s face had hurt him. Steeling himself to be fucked, however, Scott would be willing to do that, still, despite the hell he’d been put through, because that was only his pain, and his pain didn’t matter….
Jean is going to kill me. So. Fucking. Dead.
Logan wasn’t even sure he blamed her. Scott had not been the easiest guy to get to give it up before, always more interested in fine-tuning the Danger Room or reading over old mission reports than getting busy. Jean had always had to be the one to make the first move – having excellent hearing Logan had heard her and Ro talking that over one night after too many glasses of Chardonnay. Jean had been patient; she had told Ro she tried not to take it personally; that she had seen glimpses sometimes in Scott’s mind of horrible abuses that would be enough to make any man have bad associations with sex and bad associations with himself as someone who wanted to get sexually intimate with someone else, but still…it did make her feel frustrated sometimes, made her feel undesirable, made her feel like a nymphomaniac because her libido seemed to be so much more active than his… How ironic to look back on that scene and remember how pleased he had been at the time that the chiseled cheekboned superhero didn’t want to get it up and there was Logan’s in, right there, because Logan might not look like a supermodel but no sexy redhead was ever going to have to coax him away from a fucking mission report when she wanted to get naked….
Jean had mentioned to Storm, too, that all their bedroom problems could have been solved if Scott would either talk to her about what he was and wasn’t comfortable doing, or would acknowledge the things she could clearly read in his mind when she tried tactfully to bring them up. But Scott really sucked at articulating his needs and if coaxed to try to do so just shut down, changed his mind about having sex at all, and then bolted to somewhere he could optic blast stuff instead. But he wouldn’t or couldn’t talk about either the past abuses that she glimpsed or the present kinks that he repressed. Sinister and Sabretooth had just done too much of a bang up job fucking him up before they’d ever even gotten to the place where a guy with a friend’s face had kept him captive in a snow-bound cabin and raped him six times a day.
“Look, you can have a sex-life, Scott. You just can’t have it with me. Which is exactly the way things were before I ever showed up. You’ll be fine. You love Jean.”
“I love you, too, you dick.”
Logan had needed to hear Scott say that way too much. It made him feel warm inside and yet ripped apart by it at the same time, but he kept his voice steady: “Yeah, well, maybe I’m not quite dick enough to crank your PTSD to breaking point just so I can get off. Maybe I like you a little bit too much for that. And maybe I think the world needs the leader of the X-Men to be a functioning superhero and not gibbering in a corner.” And maybe, most of all, I don’t deserve you after what my body did to you, because I have a beast inside me, even if it isn’t that one. So, I don’t get to have you, and Jeannie does.
Scott said brutally, “You can get it up around me.”
“I can get it up around a dirty magazine, too. It doesn’t have any relevance to my relationship with it. Scott, I see that guy. I see what he did to you. I remember the way you flinched.” Scott flinched. Logan went on relentlessly: “I remember how it felt to be you. I remember how much it hurt.” And the guy who did that to you doesn’t ever get to have sex with you ever again because you deserve better and he deserves to have to a pay a price for what he did to you, and the price is that he has to give you up. It really was as simple as that and he didn’t know why Scott couldn’t see it.
“I never flinched with you, Logan.”
And, of course, now Scott had got him thinking about the other times they hadn’t fully been themselves, in the sleep pod, on the ship. For a moment it was all he could do not to close his eyes and remember exactly how Scott had tasted, how he’d felt and smelt, and moved and breathed and gasped and moaned and how they had been so at one with another in that perfect rhythm…
Scott muttered, “I liked sex with you, Logan. I liked it a lot.”
The memories flowed through him harder and he rolled onto his back, hands behind his head, feeling the ache between his legs. It hurt but he couldn’t help thinking that if anyone deserved blue balls, in this bed of all places, then it was him.
Dry-throated, Logan forced himself to say, “We weren’t ourselves.”
“It felt like we were us. It felt…right.”
So did raping you when I was an animal. “So does gutting people with my claws when I’m in the mood for it.”
It was then that Scott said with that mixture of childish certainty and stubbornness that only Logan seemed to bring out in him, “Jean will know what to do.”
He turned back onto his side. “Jean can’t fix this and you can’t ask her to.”
“I can do what I like.”
Logan was torn between exasperation and finding Scott’s brattishness kind of cute. “This isn’t fixable.” You’re not fixable, Summers. Neither am I. You and me are broken forever and that’s just the way things are. As people, and as a couple. This can’t be mended.
Scott said, “Go to sleep, Logan. I’m tired.” But it sounded a lot like ‘Jean can do anything’.
There were a whole lot of things Logan wanted to say, clever, incisive things, but what came out of his mouth was weak: “Jean won’t want to share.”
And when Scott said firmly, “You don’t know Jean and you never did”, Logan was both stung by it as a rival and convinced by it as a friend. She and Scott had their telepathic connection. She and Scott had been having sex for a while now. He had always thought he was the one who glimpsed her sleeping animal, the one destined to wake it up, unlike uptight-boy-scout-boy, but perhaps Scott had known it was there all the time. Perhaps he had been consciously tiptoeing around it. Perhaps he had been subconsciously hoping it would wake up and bite him. With Scott you just never knew.
“Go to sleep, Logan. Please? I’m tired and I don’t want to talk about this any more.”
He suspected that Scott didn’t want to talk about this any more because Scott had already come to his own conclusions and was already fine-tuning his own plan. He had his mouth open to protest, when Scott said, “And thank you for getting rid of my headache. I appreciate it.”
He could still see the line of his spinal column, remember the taste of his skin as he kissed down it. Logan pulled up the coverlet and wrapped it around Scott carefully. It still felt strange, being polite to each other; the ordinary civilities seemed to expose them both in a way that him picking on Scott when things were normal or taking care of him when they weren’t just didn’t.
Awkwardly, he said, “You’re welcome.”
Them being ordinarily polite to each other felt not like a workable way for them to interact but that pit they were inevitably going to fall into once they were back in the mansion. And once they fell into it, he didn’t see a way they could ever climb out. The pit was a lie because that was never who they had been meant to be around each other. They didn’t do ordinary anything. They were extreme and damaged and intense and complicated around each other. They hurt each other the way other people passed each other breakfast cereal, but the flipside of that was that they would also walk through fire for one another. That was who they truly were. Scott had it in him to rip both rage and tenderness from Logan in a way no one else could, and Logan was the one guy who could make nice, polite, civilized Scott Summers into an unreasonable bitch. They could say cruel things to one another, savagely or as quietly as if it were an inescapable truth, they could probably even do cruel things to one another, but what they couldn’t do was not love each other, however hard they tried. He was afraid that trying not to love each other was going to damage them both irrevocably. Which was why, once they got back to the mansion, Logan had to be the one to walk away, for both their sakes.
Scott was asleep in five minutes, breaths light and even. Logan lay in the dark and listened to him dreaming, the ache in his balls negligible against the enduring ache in his heart.