E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the------------------------------------------------
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
Logan knew he was stuck, and wasn’t sure what to do about it.
After getting Bob’s bland answering machine message ( “This is Bob. Not here, or not answering. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Please leave the info after the sound of the car horn.“ ), he’d even tried to contact Wesley, only to find he was out and having a life too. He was so desperate to leave he even went to the Hyperion, only to discover that it was closed, and hadn’t been used in some time. It was terrible when people’s lives moved on without you.
Even though he didn’t want to, he had no choice but to return to the Way Station ( well, after stopping for a taco - hey, he was hungry ), and hope Bob had finally checked his messages. Otherwise, what else was he going to do? It wasn’t like he could just hop on a plane, especially nowadays. The scream of the metal detectors would probably make the airport guards piss their pants.
He paused before the door, aware that he should have at least stopped and bought a helmet. Or maybe just a cup.
But as he shoved open the door of the bar, he heard what sounded like a cat being rubbed down with a cheese grater. Then again, since when did a cat know the words to “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”?
Once inside, he saw the source of the problem. A big pile of greenish brown slime, sitting in back corner, was howling along with the jukebox. Lia threw a wet bar towel at him, which hit him in the face - er, maybe. At least it landed on top of the pile.
“Shut up before I throw you out - “ and she said a name that sounded a lot like “Thrakazog”. It couldn’t have been that, though, as wasn’t that the name of a villain in the cartoon “The Tick”? ( Okay, so he watched it when there was nothing else on. It was funny sometimes … )
“Yeah, shut your gob before I shut it for ya, ya tone deaf bastard!” The inexplicably Cockney demon at the end of the bar shouted. He looked Human, save for having yellow crystals in place of eyes, and a distinct but odd smell of celery.
Thrakazog pulled the towel off his face (?) with a very moist looking appendage, and burbled, “Everyone’s a critic.”
Oh god, his life was a cartoon, wasn’t it?
He was just grappling with that shattering fact when Lia seemed to realize he was here. “What the fuck are you back for?”
“Good to see you too, sunshine,” he drawled, taking a stool at the bar, upwind from the British celery guy. “Bob called yet?”
“No. Bye. Never darken my bar stools again.”
He scowled at her. “I can’t find anyone to help me.”
“Must be your magnetic personality,” she replied acidly. “Repels ‘em.”
Celery guy snickered.
He sighed, wondering what the bug up her butt about him was exactly. Did she just hate everyone who wasn’t Bob on principal? “I need to get outta here.”
“You know where the door is. Back up.”
Celery guy snickered again. All right, that was it - no more Mr. Nice Guy. “Get me a beer. A good one, in a clean glass this time.”
Her brilliant cobalt eyes narrowed to slits. "You wouldn't dare."
"Yeah, I would. Time keeps slippin' by, and I know goddamn well you know a lot of the same people Bob does. I need to get there now, and you know someone who can arrange that, but you're not sayin' 'cause you hate me. So I'm gonna stay here and make your life a living hell until I get a way outta here." He pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket, and motioned towards the jukebox. "I think I have a hankerin' for Elton John songs. With me, Thrakazog?" Well, it was playing Morrissey now - he really didn't know which was worse: him or the crooning Thrakky.
Thrakazog made a sort of drunken hooting noise from the corner.
If looks could have killed, Logan knew he'd have been just a stain on the floor. Lia's admittedly cute face seemed to scrunch in on itself, and she sneered like he'd just taken a leak on her carpet. "If you weren't Bob's avatar, I'd take off your fucking worthless head with a spoon."
"If anyone could, I'm sure it'd be you," he replied reassuringly.
She thudded a heavy book on the bar with excess violence, and at first he thought it was a phone book. But while it was just as thick, phone books weren't usually bound in brown leather ( unless it was an L.A. thing, but he doubted it ). It smelled so musty, so ripe with age, he had to turn away and sneeze.
“Medusa bless ya,” Celery guy said.
What the hell - was he serious? Was she a god? Oh, what the fuck did it matter? He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything.
“You know this is exactly why I hate you,” Lia said, angrily flipping through the thin pages.
“What cha looking’ for?” Celery demon asked.
“Stay out of it, Rags,” she snapped.
Rags? But Logan wasn’t ready to dismiss anyone yet. “You know any teleporters?”
He scoffed. “Shit yeah. Dima dozen.”
“I need to be in New York as of forty five minutes ago.”
Lia put a hand on her hip and studied him dubiously. “Don’t bother with one of your scams, Rags. Even he’s not dumb enough to fall for it.”
“Hey!” Logan snapped. Should he be insulted or not?
“ ‘ey, it’s not a scam!” Rags replied, even more indignant. “I’ve gone legit. I’m safe as ‘ouses.”
“Do I make fun a you, Belial?”
Logan looked between them, trying to figure out if she honestly hated the Cockney Rags more than him, or it was just she was sharing the wealth, like an angry hunter spraying bullets randomly into the woods. “You wouldn’t dare - it’s my bar. And I could rip your testicles out your ears.”
He dipped his head to the side. “Fair enough.” His yellow crystalline eyes then shifted to Logan, and he asked, “Yer ‘uman, ain’t cha? Ain’t you scared to be in ‘ere?”
He shook his head. “I’m the Decapitator.”
Eyes made of crystal couldn’t show a lot, expression wise. But just by the way the wrinkles clustered in the corners of his eyes, he knew he didn’t believe him. “No yer not. ‘e has knives fer fingers; yer fingers ain’t knives.”
Logan held up his left hand, and popped the claws, slightly slower than normal, so he could tell it wasn’t a good trick.
“Fuck!” He exclaimed, leaping back off his stool. The celery reek became that much stronger. He looked torn between running out the door and fainting, but finally, after Logan had retracted his claws and lowered his hand, did he start slowly creeping back to his stool. “Fuck! You’re real. I thought you were a myth or sumpfing.” It sounded like he actually said “sumpfing”; it also sounded like he said “miff”.
“I’m as real as you are.” But could a Cockney demon with an accent thick enough to make him nearly incomprehensible, yellow crystals for eyes, and an inexplicable scent of celery be real? It sounded like some kind of weird Bob joke.
“Is that like a custom job or sumpfing?” He wondered, straddling the stool once more. “Do ya just got the one?”
“Matching set.“ Logan honestly didn’t feel like talking about it. “So who’s this ‘porter?”
“Bullshit,” Lia snapped. “You’re a Persaid demon - you can’t teleport!”
“I can so!” Rags replied with a sort of wounded dignity. “I learned ‘ow when I became ‘igh Priest of the Stone Temple. “
Logan studied him curiously, sure he had heard him wrong. “You’re in Stone Temple Pilots?”
Yes, he’d gotten it wrong. His blond brows lowered until they looked like they were about to touch the stones of his eyes. “Nah, I’m a ‘igh Priest in the Stone Temple, dedicated to Medusa and her ‘oly sisters. I learned ‘ow to teleport once I graduated from being a prelate. ‘onest.” He made a crossing his heart gesture ( assuming he had a heart, and in that general area ), and Logan noticed that not only was he six fingered, but he seemed to have a tattoo of a leafy black vine crawling up his wrist, twining over his hand.
“Is it a big church?” Logan asked, almost in spite of himself.
Rags shrugged. “Big enough. We don’t ‘ave any ‘umans. The Goth kids get interested, but once they find out we don’t do blood rituals or go to Cure shows, they leave.”
“Okay, prove it.” Lia challenged. “If you can ‘port, do it.”
It occurred to Logan she was trying to protect him, and he wondered if it was because she hated Rags more than him, or if she just didn’t like liars who weren’t Belial demons.
Rags frowned at her. “You fink I’m a liar.”
She nodded, not bothering to comment further.
Rags sighed like he was the most put upon demon in the bar, and reached into the breast pocket of his orange t-shirt. “I resent that, you know,” he muttered, before saying something even more incomprehensible than normal, and throwing what looked like a pinch of glitter in the air. He disappeared with an audible “whoomp”, and the rest of the glitter drifted down onto the now empty bar stool.
“That was impressive,” Logan admitted.
“But there was a sound,” Lia countered. “That’s kind of cheesy.”
“I wanna beanie jet!” Thrakazog suddenly shouted.
“Any idea?” Logan asked Lia.
She shook her head. “No, no fuckin’ clue.”
Rags reappeared on his stool with another “whoomp”. “See? I told ya I could. I ain’t a liar.” He brushed the glitter from his mop of white-blond hair.
“What’s that stuff?” Logan asked, gesturing to the stuff falling on the bar. “Fairy dust?”
“What? Nah - fairy’s don’t exist. It’s sprite dust.”
Logan quirked an eyebrow at him. “The drink?”
Rags scowled at him. “Are you takin’ the piss? The drink? Shit.”
“So how much to get from here to New York?”
He at least pretended to think about it for a moment. “Where in New York?”
He shook his head. “Never ‘eard of it. But as long as you know where it is and think about it, it’ll work. I don’t like goin’ to New York - the people scare me.” He paused to take a slurp of his drink, and then said, “A ‘undred bucks.”
“Go swivel,” Lia snapped. “The usual is seventy bucks and you know it.” Leave it to her to know the going rate of teleporters.
“Seventy five?” Rags offered, looking at him.
“Seventy and a drink on the house.”
“Deal,” Rags agreed.
“Hey, you can’t do that,” Lia sniped.
“I don’t think Bob would mind me compin’ someone one drink.”
“Maybe he doesn’t, but I do.”
Logan frowned at her, but dug in his pocket and pulled out a five, which he tossed on the counter. He then counted out seventy bucks and slid it down towards Rags.
“Cheers, mate,” he said, lifting his glass and gulping down the rest of his drink.
“So how do we do this thing?” Logan asked, still dubious. He knew he’d honestly disappeared from the room - briefly, he couldn’t smell celery - but he wasn’t sure if he should trust him. Still, the fact that Lia hated him was a point in his favor.
Rags slammed his empty glass down and stood up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and gestured for him to stand and get closer to him. Logan did, but warily. “Give me yer ‘and.”
He waited for him to get to the punch line, but he was serious. “Do I have to?”
“If you wanna come wit’ me, yeah.”
Logan held out his hand, hoping Xavier appreciated the things he things did for that bloody school. But it was Rags’ turn to look at him warily. “Yer not gonna bring out the knives, are ya?”
“Be good and I won’t.”
“Okay.” But he still seemed dubious, even as he took his wrist. “Safe as ‘ouses,” he muttered to himself. “You thinking’ about the place you wanna go?”
“A Long Island ice tea is six fifty,” Lia said, waving the five like a soiled napkin.
He rolled his eyes. He honestly didn’t care anymore if Rags was a fraud or not - he just wanted to get the hell away from her. “Bill me.”
Her brilliant blue eyes narrowed to slits. “You cheap motherf -” But he didn’t get to hear the rest of her insult, as Rags had repeated the incomprehensible word, thrown the glitter in the air, and reality disappeared from them in a “pmoohw”.
It was all darkness, a sensation of falling, and lateral movement, like he was being shoved across a chessboard. Then light and reality returned, a pinprick quickly blossoming into a spotlight, and with another “pmoohw” they were spit out into it as if from the end of a slide at a water park.
Logan stumbled away from him, managing to both keep his balance and not toss his taco, but he was lucky. “Fuck,” he cursed, as soon as he could speak. “Why didn’t ya warn me it was a bumpy ride?”
“Cross country’s never easy,” Rags said, as if that was enough of an explanation.
They were in the back garden of Xavier’s, and the sun was starting to set, turning the sky a pale pink that would soon deepen into orange and then red, moving from hues of flesh to hues of blood. It was far from dark, although his vision had to adjust - come back from a crappy teleport, he supposed - and he could smell long before he saw the dead body.
The grass was spotted with black puddles of sour Ressik blood, and there was one laying about a half meter from the pond, and a severed hand all by its lonesome suspended in the shrubbery.
“Nice place,” Rags said, glancing around, brushing glitter from his hair. (Sprite dust his ass -it was just store bought glitter - what the fuck was that about?) “Yours?” Then his crystalline yellow eyes settled on the dead body, and all the pools of rank blood. “Ah - uh. I guess I’d best scarper.”
“You do that,” he agreed, popping his claws. In spite of the thick scent of violence, he got some other scents too. Xavier, metal guy, lots of cordite … and Marcus. Good, he got here in time? Maybe things weren’t as bad as he feared.
Rags disappeared behind him with a “whoomp” and a brief whiff of celery, and he didn’t bother to look back. What, didn’t Medusa priests give last rites? Or did they only give them to snakes?
He approached the home warily, unnerved by its silence, but then the rear door was slid open, and Marcus looked out at him, giving him a shit eating grin. “Loser. You missed all the fun.”
The story of his life.
He felt weird being inside the mansion again; it was like an itch between his shoulder blades that he knew wouldn’t go away until he got outside and breathed fresh air again ( although it was technically thick with death and Ressik blood ). But Marcus being here made him feel slightly less awkward, for whatever reason.
Still, it was weird being in Xavier’s study without any of his people ( and he couldn’t help but think of them that way - Xavier’s people ) - no Storm, no Scott, no Jean. Rogue was here - she apparently had to physically drag Brendan to the study, as he refused to come out of his room - but she hadn’t been here long enough for him to think of her as one of “Xavier’s people“.
Logan was inexplicably tired, and figured it was “teleport lag” or whatever, so he threw himself in the chair farthest away from everyone and tried to pretend he wasn’t exhausted and dying for a beer ( he should have remembered to tell Marcus to bring some ).
Marcus was sprawled on one corner of the leather sofa, looking remarkably relaxed and at ease, but Logan knew that was just a pose with him - he was always ready to go. Rogue was sitting on the opposite end of the couch, as far from Marcus as possible ( he was getting the sense he made her nervous ), with Brendan between them but closer to her ( well, he didn’t know him at all ). Xavier was parked beside his desk but not behind it, which surely meant something. The room was very dark, as the curtains had been pulled shut, but he didn’t know if that was in deference to Marc’s infrared sight or just to confound potential snipers. ( Whenever you were under siege, the tried and true rule was stay the fuck away from the windows. )
For some reason, Brendan kept looking at him. He kept looking away before Logan could catch him, but he could feel when people were looking at him, so it didn’t matter. “What?” He finally snapped, staring at him.
Brendan glanced up shyly. “It’s warm in here. I was just wondering if, uh, you were gonna take off your coat.”
“Yeah, Logan, take it off,” Marcus agreed, grinning, happy to encourage any libidinous behavior. “Take it all off.”
He glared at him. “You wanna die, don’t ya, Marc?” Marcus - of course - just laughed.
Xavier kicked things off by saying, “The information we were able to get from the Ressiks wasn’t very helpful.”
“They said they were hired by some white guy - their exact words - and met with him at a deli on 52nd street. They were paid twenty five hundred in cash to come here and threaten the Chuckster over there,” Marcus said, continuing the narrative. “They could rough him up a little, to let him know they were serious, but nothing major. The point was to deliver the message that he was going to be getting a phone call around sunset tonight, and whatever he was told to do he should comply immediately, or not only would they finish the job they started today on his “pets”, but the school would be rubble. But they didn‘t ask why or who was behind it, ‘cause they‘re mercs and why the fuck would they care? As long as the money‘s good, they‘re on. I mean, I‘d have asked a couple questions, but I ain‘t your average mercenary.”
Brendan looked at him sharply. “You’re a mercenary? Seriously?”
Marcus nodded. “Best in the biz, but I’m not cheap.”
“Do you got someone on Scott and Storm?” Logan asked Xavier, getting back to the point.
He nodded. “The police are guarding them. I doubt that even the Organization would like having to explain shooting police officers in a hospital.”
“Cops are watching mutants? Since when?” Logan asked, sure he’d missed something.
Xavier gave him a wan, sickly smile. “What mutants? There aren’t any mutants at the hospital.”
“But you just said - “ Rogue began, but stopped as she figured it out. “Oh.” What all the talk of equality couldn’t accomplish, a little telepathic futzing could.
“Is that enough?” Logan asked. “I mean, with Delirium out there - “
“You know they ain’t the most likely target, bud,” Marcus interrupted. “Not the ones who would be the easiest to get to if things go shitty.”
He had to nod. Marcus had a point - he was very good at thinking like a bad guy. Not that he was all that shabby at it. “The school.”
Marcus nodded in return. “Higher body count, higher reason to cooperate.”
Brendan slid down the couch, farther away from Marcus and closer to Rogue.
Logan glanced at Xavier, who seemed partially pained by this entire discussion. “We got a lot of time before they call. Why are we here?”
“We’re not gonna sit here and let ‘em bomb the school or whatever - right?” Rogue asked, glancing at Xavier before settling her eyes on him. Well, of course - she expected him to agree with her. And he would, but he mildly resented being considered predictable.
“No, of course not,” Xavier agreed. “I thought it best we arm ourselves with as much information as possible.”
Brendan groaned, and hid his face in his hands. “You’re gonna make me tell it again, aren’t you?”
“No. With your permission, I’d like to see it, and share it with the others.” As he glanced up in shock, Xavier explained, “Marcus and Logan have had more experience with the Organization than I have. They may catch something I’d miss.”
Logan thought that was a nice way to put it. “More experience” - translated, “Killed a whole motherfucking ton of them”.
Brendan looked nervous, flop sweat popping out on his forehead as his skin turned faintly bluish-green, as if the demon side of him was on the verge of emerging in his anxiety. “It won’t hurt, will it?”
Xavier gave him a gentle, avuncular smile, like he’d heard that a million times before. He probably had, every time he used his telepathy on someone who’d never experienced it before. “Not at all.”
So he’d come all the way here, after so much drama, only to watch the shooting through the eyes of the witness? Couldn’t Xavier just hooked him up by phone?
What did the Organization want from Xavier? Obviously it was something major, and something they thought he wouldn’t give - why shoot Scott and Storm and threaten the school otherwise? It had to be major, and it had to be bad.
Shit - they needed Bob. Where the hell was Bob?
He crouched down beside the “shore” of Alkali Lake, his reflection mirrored in its still, dark surface. It was like a vast pool of spilled ink.
Bob reached down and touched it, breaking the surface tension, making ripples move away from his hand while the water seemed to cling to his palm like oil. It wasn’t just “shrinkage” cold, but “pull up inside your body and freeze solid anyways” cold. “Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water,” he muttered to himself, watching the ripples move out towards the far center. “Come back here man, give me my daughter.”
“Doctor Seuss?” Helga asked curiously. Her reflection was just a tall shadow behind him, save for the flick of her tail.
He shook his head. “It’s a P.J. Harvey song.”
“You have a song for every occasion, don’t you?”
“Not Groundhog’s Day. Nothing ever sounded right.” He lifted his hand off the lake and shook the water off his hand. Resistant to cold or not, he could still feel the skin going numb.
Hel thought about it a moment, then said, “What about ‘Wynonna’s Big Brown Beaver’?”
That startled a laugh out of him, which seemed to echo back at him in this desolate mountain setting. There were some trees still standing, but many on the far side had fallen over, uprooted by their own weight in the suddenly sodden, loose earth. He swallowed back as much of the laugh as he could, and told her, “I think that’s stretching the small furry animal concept to the breaking point.”
When he stood and turned to face her, she was grinning at him wickedly, exposing her sharp canine teeth. She and Logan had those styles of canines in common - had they ever noticed that? “You’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first.”
He shrugged. “I am kicking myself.” He glanced around at the jagged mountains and the intact clutches of evergreens around them, looking for some sign of the dam and the base that used to be here. It was all under the water, of course, hidden and unreachable for all time … well, in theory. But they weren’t counting on him; virtually no one counted on him. He was generally as unexpected as the Spanish Inquisition, but better dressed.
Helga shivered, and sunk deeper into her leather bomber jacket. She was only wearing hiking boots, jeans, and his ‘Bad Religion’ t-shirt underneath it, so she really wasn’t ready for this. She just assumed they were going to a “flatter” part of Canada, or at least one where she’d have an occasion to use her flamethrower. “Well?” She asked.
“Is she - it, whatever - still here?”