E-mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; theSummary: After "Tony" Tagawa is almost killed, Marcus and Logan team up to find his
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 and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
assailant, discovering a plot that ties in with both the Yakuza and the Triad - as well as Logan's
and Tony's past. And just what has become of Jean?
Notes: Takes place shortly after "X2" and immediately after "Duende".
Prologue - Tokyo, 1980
“Logan, sweetheart, are you completely out of your fucking mind?” Mariko snapped, as he pulled her into the kitchen of the Dynasty Hotel.
“Probably. But somethin’s going down, And I want you out of here as of five minutes ago.” The restaurant staff, not accustomed to patrons infringing on their terrain, stared at them in wide eyed shock. Aware he was gaijin, they said derisive things about him and rude Westerns in general, clueless that he spoke the language. But he honestly didn’t care if they thought his mother was probably a whore and he was a typical American (very grating, that one - had no one ever heard of Canada?) as he pulled Mariko through the kitchen.
Fats sizzled on grills, water ran heedlessly in the sink as everyone from the cooks in their white aprons to the dishwasher in his hairnet gaped at them openly. No one beyond employees were allowed back here, which is why he was taking her out this way. The smell of people and all the cooked and cooking food was so overwhelming he almost felt dizzy.
Mariko was able to snake her arm out of his grasp, and stood stock still, feet planted and face set in what he knew as “deadly stubborn” mode. At times, it was endearing, but most of the time it just made him want to put his head through the wall. “You tell me what’s going on, now, or I’m walking out through the lobby like a normal person.”
“There’s no time for this,” he told her, aware that wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference. With a frustrated sigh, he told her, “I saw a man staking out the hotel, and keeping his distance. Something’s going to happen, and I want you gone.”
This time, when he grabbed her arm, she didn’t pull away, but she didn’t come along easily either. “Staking out? Couldn’t it have been something … I don’t know, innocuous?”
“Maybe. Doubtful. I’m not taking that chance.” This was supposed to be a routine meeting between family branches, and to guarantee security, he had booked it at two separate hotels, even though it was only taking place in one of them. He didn’t inform those involved which was the real one until twenty four hours beforehand. There was no way to completely guarantee safety, but that would have made it as safe as possible.
He had men out front, one pretending to be a doorman, three in the lobby pretending to be patrons, two out back covering the known rear exit. He was sitting in a car parked on the street, a rental, posing as the hired driver waiting for someone in the hotel. It not only let him sit down for the detail - always nice - but allowed him to be less conspicuous, hide his relative whiteness as much as possible, and gave him access to mirrors, so he could see everything around him without having to blatantly look.
He wasn’t even sure why he noticed the man across the street at first. He looked like a boy, an average Japanese teenager, lanky, face as pockmarked as the Moon due to acne scars. He wore tan slacks, a white t-shirt advertising Yoo-Hoo, and a blue canvas jacket, and glanced casually at the Dynasty while standing on the street corner, looking around as if seeking an address. Something about him set off alarm bells, but he didn’t know what. Still, Logan kept an eye on him in the rearview until he went around the corner. By now he knew he couldn’t always reason out his intuition, but he trusted it - it had yet to steer him wrong.
Just six minutes ago, he saw that boy again.
He had changed his shirt - it was now a powder blue one with a picture of Popeye on it - and he added thin rimmed glasses (probably without lenses) and a blue baseball cap to his wardrobe, jacket nowhere to be seen. But it was the same kid. Same acne scars, same loping gait, same posture. He was walking in the opposite direction this time, hands jammed in his pants pockets, and he pretended to look at a car driving by on the street, incidentally glancing at the hotel, never slowing down. But he didn’t have to. Logan knew the guy was waiting for something. And whenever the Yashidas were gathered anywhere, there were few choices as to what that could possibly be.
He got on the radio and told his team they were packing up and moving out, ASAP. He left his “second”, Matsui, to deal with the rest of the Yashidas and their bodyguards (they preferred working with a Japanese anyways, not an “interloper” like him) while he went up and got Riko personally. Yes, maybe it seemed totally biased, but he didn’t give a fuck - he was getting to his wife, and getting her out.
Matsui and the team were getting everybody else out through the known back entrance, the secondary egress, but he was getting her out through the unconventional third - the employees only fire exit in the kitchen. He had Haruki go around back and confirm a clear path before having Natsume bringing the car around into the service alley.
As he dragged her through the maze of startled and offended employees, she said, “I’m not sure if I should be glad you’re protecting me, or angry that you’re so fucking paranoid.”
“Being paranoid is my job, hon.” He shoved the fire exit door open and instinctively checked out everything as the warm, moist fall air hit him in the face. It had been an unusually warm September so far; a storm was due in off the Pacific any time now.
It was all clear. The alley was too narrow for a roof sniper, and the few windows in the neighboring building and on this side of the hotel were at awkward angles for a clear shot. Haruki, a stocky bodybuilder type, opened the back door of the sedan for them, and said, “It’s clear.” He looked and sounded annoyed; he probably thought he was freaking out for no reason.
Logan nodded, and said, “Go see if Matsui needs help.”
He nodded tersely and went back inside the hotel as he hustled Mariko towards the idling car. She yanked her arm free again, and looked at him crossly. If he was anyone else, she’d probably have hit him with her briefcase (and she had a hell of a swing). “Logan, I’m not a delicate flower - don’t treat me like one.”
He sighed, tension making his guts knot up. “I’m not, I’m just doing my job. You have to trust me.”
She grimaced sourly, not happy, but relented with a sigh, her shoulders sagging. “I know. It’s just it took me two months to even get all these bastards to agree to meet in the same room with each other. And me.”
“I know. Well, you had forty five minutes. Any breakthroughs?”
She quirked an eyebrow at him, her dark eyes narrowing in anger, although her lips twisted in grim humor. “We all thought the shrimp sucked.”
He shrugged. “It’s a start.”
She shook her head, pulling strands of her sleek hair out of the dowdy knot she put it in for the meeting. She always tried to look extra prim and “respectable” on these occasions, as if trying to take the sting off being married to her bodyguard, and a gaijin on top of that. A good daughter of the Yashidas, even though she was considered a “traitor“ - and much, much worse. “I don’t know wha-”
It was then there was a loud, explosive roar, felt rolling through the ground the moment it was heard, and Logan instinctively grabbed Mariko and threw her into the car, covering her with his body as she yelped in shock. The windows of the hotel shattered, sending glass raining down on the car, sounding like pebbles hitting the roof. As Riko scrambled out from beneath him, deeper into the car, Logan slapped the bullet proof glass partition separating the front seat from the back. “Drive, damn it, drive!”
Natsume did as he was ordered, throwing the sedan into gear and speeding down the alley as Logan pulled himself fully inside the car, closing the door just seconds before it would have been ripped off by a trash bin. As he sat up, sinking down instinctively in the seat, he felt his gun digging into his back, and he wondered if he should pull it.
Mariko twisted around and collapsed against him, throwing her arms around him as if grabbing on for dear life. No matter how many close calls she’d been through, they were all frightening; he could feel her trembling as he slipped a comforting arm around her waist. “Did they just blow up the hotel?” She asked, her voice only betraying a quiver near the end.
“Not the whole thing,” he replied, aware that might be factual, but it wasn’t comforting. He pulled his radio from his waistband, aware he wouldn’t be in range very long, and snapped, “Matsui, report.”
“Car bomb out front,” he came back, the radio cut with static. It almost buried the mild panic in his voice. “Principals okay, secondaries okay as far as I can tell, evacuation almost complete.”
Principals were the Yashida family; secondaries were the bodyguards and the staff. And if they had been evacuating the principals through the front - like they were scheduled to - there would have been fatalities, without a doubt. “My principal is away from the scene. Get the rest clear, then help the civilians.”
“You got your orders. Breaking up, see you at home base.” He then turned off the radio and tossed it on the car floor, done with it. Yes, his job was to protect the entire family (or what was left of it), and he did, to the best of ability, but Riko was always going to be his priority. It wasn’t just that she was his wife, or that he loved her - it was that she was better than all of them combined, in his opinion. She wanted to make them legitimate, she wanted to play by the rules, but they were happy with the way things were, no matter how many people died because of it.
She hugged him tight, burying her face in his neck. “You knew. How did you know?”
“I didn’t; it was a guess. Paranoia isn’t always useless.”
He felt a tear slide down his neck, trickling beneath his shirt, but Riko was trying hard not to cry. “They’re never going to stop, are they?”
“I don’t know.” But he did, didn’t he? They both knew: no, they weren’t. As long as there was a Yashida alive, they weren’t going to stop the attacks. Every now an d then, he considered - in very low, angry moments - hunting down all the Takabes and taking them out, removing the threat entirely. They thought they were good? He used to be a government agent, and not the good kind, the known, officially acknowledged kind - he infiltrated, he killed, he destroyed, and all with the utmost quiet, efficiency, and lack of trace evidence. They were thugs with cudgels; he could be an assassin with a scalpel.
But that was not him, not anymore, and he was not sinking down to their level. They were dying off on their own anyways, the junkie bastards. It was a true axiom: if you gave people enough rope, they generally did hang themselves. You just had to be patient.
He pulled her tight, nuzzling his head against hers, smelling her hair. Damn him, she was safe, and that was all he actually cared about. “I’m not gonna let them hurt you,” he whispered, swallowing down a sudden lump in his throat. It was a vow he had made a thousand times before, but he meant it, each and every time. “They’ll get to you over my dead body.”
“Please don’t prove that,” she replied, giving him a desperate squeeze. “I hate this.”
As the sedan took a hard right, Logan thought he spied through the tinted safety glass the acne scarred young man in the blue t-shirt, standing in a crowd of gawkers. He craned his neck painfully, trying to spot him again as they sped away, but he didn’t. Maybe he wasn’t there - maybe it was someone else.
Either way, he was relatively sure it wasn’t the last time he’d see him. But the next time he did, Logan knew he would be ready for him.
Chicago, Illinois - Present Day
“I keep tellin’ ya there’s a mistake,” the boy’s voice claimed, carrying through the reinforced walls of the precinct house hallways. “Nobody’d spring me.” He added, almost as an afterthought, “P-pig.”
The cop, a solidly built black woman with close cropped black hair, a handsome face, and a terminally bored expression, rolled her eyes. Apparently she found his attempt to get thrown back in the cell far too pathetic to even bother with. “Next time, kid, say it like you mean it.” Officer Ranelle Green pulled Brendan out into the front room, and Logan stood up from the butt numbing bench where he had been waiting pretty much since he got here thirty minutes ago. The amount of bureaucracy was always staggering, even when someone had just been picked up on a d.i.p (drunk in public) and not formally charged with anything. It didn’t help that Bren had given a false name when picked up, probably because he was wanted as a state runaway back in Pennsylvania. Lucky for him, no one had matched his picture on a database yet.
As soon as Brendan saw him, he started to back up. But he reeked of malt liquor, and his balance wasn’t great; he almost smacked into Green. “Uh uh, no way, I’m not goin’ with him.”
“Kiefer“, let’s go.” For some stupid reason, Brendan had given his name
as “Kiefer Lavelle”
Brendan scowled, trying to look pissed off, but he just made himself look that much more drunk, eyes so heavy lidded they were almost closing. “I’m not - I don’ wanna go back.”
“Fine, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Let’s just go get you a bite to eat, huh?”
“No, I’m not hungry.”
Green grabbed him by his shoulders and steered him straight towards Logan, and Brendan’s reflexes and strength were so compromised by his sloppy intoxication that by the time he figured out what was going on, Logan had his arm, and was helping hold him up straight. She looked Logan in the eye, and said, “Please get him out of here before the resident crackheads try and kill him.”
That surprised him. “He’s been givin’ lip to the crackheads?”
“Naw. With those red contacts of his, they think he’s the devil or somethin’. “ As if on cue, there was a bloodcurdling howl from the direction of the detox tanks. It sounded like someone was saying “Get it offa me! Get it offa me!” “Then again, they sometimes call me Oprah. Do I fuckin’ look like Oprah to you?”
“No. I’d say Angela Bassett myself.”
She stared at him, eyebrows raised in sarcastic appraisal. After a moment, she gave him a small, slightly acrid smile. “You making a move , Mister Lavelle?”
“Never. Just pointing out the obvious.”
She shook her head, smile growing broader as she chuckled. “Get outta here before I arrest you too.”
Logan mock saluted, and said, “Thanks for letting me get my son. Sorry if he was a pain in the ass.”
“He was a gentleman compared to the rest of ‘em. Bein’ comatose helps.”
noticed. He won’t bother you again.” He started dragging Brendan
through the cop shop, which was extremely busy considering it was one
in the morning, but on the other
hand, that made sense.
As soon as
they were outside in the cool, exhaust laden air, Brendan said, “My
god. You were crusin’
“There’s no harm in turning on the charm. Besides, she was cute.”
“She shoved me around like the last passenger on a bullet train.”
“Just another point in her favor,” he teased. Brendan tried to yank his arm away, but didn’t have the strength, and almost made himself fall over. He quickly gave up.
It was Chicago, so it wasn’t hard to find a fast food joint that was still open. He ordered food on Brendan’s behalf, also ordering him a iced tea because he didn’t need caffeine on top of the booze. He got himself a tea as well, if only to give himself something to do. There was only one other customer in the place, at a far table by the window, a long haired guy drinking a super-sized pop and eating French fries blindly, glazed eyes staring out the window at the parking lot. Even if he couldn’t smell the smoke on him, it was easy to tell he was massively stoned.
Logan was honestly surprised that in the two days Brendan had been gone, he’d only gotten as far west as Chicago. He half expected Xavier to tell him he was in Idaho, or maybe Texas. Although Brendan continued to be surly and disagreeable, when the food was done, he tucked into it ravenously, almost inhaling the first veggie burger he got him. “When did ya last eat?” Logan wondered.
Brendan shrugged. “I dunno. Been a while. Maybe yesterday.”
Logan drummed his fingers on the plastic tabletop. “Maybe never. You’ve been gettin’ a self-pity drunk on, haven’t you?”
He glared up at him, head lowered over his food like a starving predator trying to protect it from others. “This from the guy who spends all his free time in bars.”
Logan shrugged, stirring his iced tea with the straw. There was always too much sugar and never enough fruit flavor in these pre-made teas. “I ain’t denying it. In fact, that’s how I know. “
“I don’t wanna go back. I don’t wanna …” He petered off, picking at his fries.
“What? Talk about it? It wasn’t your fault. It was a tragic incident, and it’s pretty clear Matt had been targeted anyways.”
Brendan looked up sharply, sitting rigid in his chair. “What? What d’ya mean?”
“I don’t know all the details, but it seems evil vampire guy wanted Matt for his power. How he found out about them, I have no idea.”
His shoulders slumped, and he looked strangely older in his sorrow. “Tell me the vampire guy’s dead.”
“Oh, he’s dead all right. I killed him.”
Brendan nodded, mildly satisfied, yet still depressed. “Is Matt … is he ..?”
Logan looked down at his drink, wondering if there was any way to be gentle about this. No, not that he could figure. Headlights flashed across the wall as cars drove by on the street outside, traffic hardly diminished in spite of the hour. Life went on for a lot of people; it stopped dead for others, but almost no one noticed. The way of the world. “Yeah, I’m sorry Bren.”
He grabbed the edge of the table, and he gripped it tight. Logan wasn’t sure if he was trying to tip it (no way - it was bolted to the floor), or stand up, but after a moment it became a moot point. Tears spilled out of his red and bloodshot eyes, and his face seemed to crumble as he struggled to hold back the flood. “It’s my fault; it’s all my fault. I knew he couldn’t last for a minute out there -”
Logan shook his head, feeling bad for the kid. Here it came. “It ain’t your fault, you can’t blame yours-”
“-Matt just fronted all the time,” he continued, his speech starting to devolve into catches and hiccups. “He couldn’t - I shoulda protected him -” He shoved the food away, and laid his arms down on the table, letting his head fall there as he sobbed brokenly, his words muffled as he howled, “He’s dead an’ it’s my fault!”
Logan had no idea why he felt a lump form in his throat. Big displays of emotion always made him feel awkward, but this time he felt a strange empathy. He didn’t know what he could do or say to comfort him, but after a moment, he reached across the small table and patted his shoulder, aware that was worse than useless. “You can’t think that, Brendan. It was not your fault. You couldn’t protect him forever.”
“I should’ve found a way,” he sobbed. “I shoulda.”
He wanted to say something, but there was nothing to say. Logan just kept his hand on his shoulder as Brendan tried to cry out his pain, and wondered why this felt so oddly, uncomfortably familiar.
By the time he sobbed himself pretty much dry, and vomited up most of his dinner beside the dumpster in the back of the parking lot, Brendan could almost pass for sober. At least Logan trusted him to hold on as they took his motorcycle back to the motel where he’d gotten a room for the night - he figured there was no way Brendan would be up for an all night drive, not in his intoxicated condition. There was also the problem that he didn’t know if Brendan wanted to come back.
Once he helped Brendan into the reasonably clean, cramped motel room, the boy collapsed on one of the narrow twin beds as Logan went around turning on lights. Probably would have been better with them off; it was a really homely place, and it smelled nauseatingly of canned lilac air freshener. “I don’t wanna go back,” he said, staring up at the ceiling. There was a rusty water stain up there that could have passed as an image of the fat Elvis, or maybe Santa Claus. Pillsbury Dough Boy? Henry Kissenger? At least it was better to look at then the dull paint by number landscape over the bed.
“Where would you go?” He didn’t tell him he couldn’t. Unlike Xavier, he felt that Brendan should make the choice for himself. Of course, the Prof was just worried he had nowhere else to go, but Logan had a solution for that.
“ ’M a street kid goin’ way back. I can deal.”
“The long time homeless guy says fuck you. You ain’t hittin’ the street again. I won‘t allow it.”
Brendan looked up at him as he sat down on the end of the opposite bed. “You were homeless? I thought you just moved around a lot.”
“I lived in a truck for almost fifteen years, kid. You bet yer ass I moved around a lot.”
Just like he thought, that admission actually stopped Brendan’s tears for a moment. “You never, like, had a home?
He shrugged, not sure how honest he should be. “Not to my knowledge. Even when I tried the steady work thing, I still lived in trailers or my truck.”
Brendan propped himself up on his elbows, his curiosity piqued, tears forgotten for the moment. “The steady work thing? What did you do?”
“I did some seasonal work on the pipeline, using a really good fake i.d.-”
“Alaskan oil pipeline. Illegal - and dangerous - as hell, but the supervisor liked it that way - cheaper to hire illegals under the table than get union approved workers. Then I bluffed my way into a bartending job for a while; the owner was thrilled I could do double duty as a bouncer. But I kind of got bored, and after a while, staying in one place … well, it makes me really itchy. I had to move on. As soon as the winter was over, I left the Yukon and just kinda drifted around ... well, everywhere.”
Brendan almost smiled. “You were a bartender? Can you make mai tais?”
He glared at him. “Bartender in the Yukon, Bren. You got beer, whiskey, rotgut, lighter fluid, beer, vodka, beer, beer, and beer. Nobody up in the towns servicing the pipeline or the loggers serve sex on the beach or blue squirrels.” It only occurred to him belatedly that he never had told anyone about those brief episodes in his life. Well, there really wasn’t anything to talk about, was there? He made better money, overall, in illegal fighting competitions. He had decided early on he wasn’t cut out for the daily grind. Even if he wasn’t a mutant with some kind of bizarro hit squad after him, he didn’t think it would have been for him. He was just too restless and impatient.
“Ah. Too bad.” He dropped back down to the bed, and let himself settle. “I’ve been on floors more comfortable than this.”
“I’ve been chained down to tables more comfortable than this. But hey, you live with what you got.”
Brendan frowned at that comment, almost said something, but then thought better of it. He stuck to the lost topic. “I really don’t want to go back right now. Maybe later, I don’t know … I just need a break, y’know? Time to get my head together.” He exhaled like he was being crushed by a heavy weight. “That ain’t gonna happen, is it?”
“I dunno. You play by the rules, maybe we can make a deal.”
Brendan craned his head towards him, looking at him upside down. It was a very kid thing to do; sometimes it was easy to forget he was still a kid. He bet Brendan sometimes forgot he was too. “Oh? Like what?”
“I might be able to set you up in a place in a L.A. for a month - but only a month. Then you gotta make a decision to come back or not. That cool with you?”
“L.A? Los Angeles?” He said, equally excited and stunned. He shoved himself up to a sitting position, and turned to face him. “Wow, that would be so fucking cool! But … how..?”
“Angel has contacts.” Actually, he was in charge of some big evil corporation, but it was probably best Brendan didn’t know that right now. “He owes me a favor - possibly several; I’ve kinda lost track - and I’m sure he can find a safe place for you. But you have to actually do what you said - get your head together, figure out what you want to do with your life. It won’t be a vacation, all right? And you have to stay in touch, just so the Prof won’t bite my head off. Maybe you could call Rogue on the weekends or somethin’, huh?”
“You’d do that for me?”
“I know what it’s like to need to be alone, to need your own space. Why d’ya think I don’t move into the mansion full time?”
“I thought it was because you actually had a life. And you hated kids.”
Damn - he had him there. “Well, that too. But I warn ya, I’m gonna have them check up on you. And if you’re gonna get drunk all the time, you get to move in with Rags.”
He had to think about it for a moment. “That weird crystal eyed guy who smells like the salad bar at the Olive Garden?”
“One and the same.”
He winced, as if Logan had just landed a punch. “That’s fucking evil.”
“Indeed. So knock off the binging. Alcohol doesn’t drown the grief; it doesn’t even make you forget. It just gives you a better reason to feel sorry for yourself. Believe me, I know.”
“I thought alcohol doesn’t effect you.”
“It doesn’t. It doesn’t have to.” He reached into his coat pocket, and pulled out the cell phone he’d gotten from Xavier before he left. Okay, it was technically Scott’s, but Scooter was giving it up, as too many other people used it, and he was tired of paying the bill. “Now, I’m gonna go tell Xavier what I’m setting up for you. While I’m in the parking lot, why don’t you clean up or something, go to bed? I’ll see if Wes can get Rags out here by morning. Er, proper morning.”
Brendan frowned at him again, eyebrows knitting together. “Why are you goin’ out to the parking lot?”
“ ‘Cause I don’t think Chuck would want you to hear the words he’s probably gonna call me.” He probably wouldn’t be that angry at him, but he couldn’t imagine him being happy about it. But Brendan was half-demon as well as Human, and he couldn’t be vamped even if there were Diego followers still going around vamping mutants. Brendan was safe from that, and probably from a lot of things most Humans weren’t. There were upsides to being a biological hybrid.
He had just stood up when the cell started ringing. “Okay, he can’t wait to curse me out.” He went to the door, phone buzzing away impatiently in his hand, and told Brendan, “It does get better from here. It just won’t feel like it for a while.”
Brendan nodded, a couple of new tears filling his eyes. They were so bloodshot, it was hard to tell where his crimson irises ended, and the rest of his eyes began. “You are the coolest guy I’ve ever met.”
“Bullshit.” As soon as he was out the door, he answered the phone. “I got ‘im, okay? He’s a little fucked up, but all right.”
“Who?” Marcus’s deep voice replied.
Talk about the last person he expected to hear from at the moment. “Brendan. What the fuck you calling me for, man? How’d you get the number?”
“Xavier. I called the mansion to see if you were there, he gave me this number. And hello to you too.”
“Yeah, hi. How you doing?” Although he wasn’t interested in having a brand new conversation, the last time he saw Marcus he was in pretty bad shape. Losing most of your blood did that to a lot of people.
“I’m walkin’ and talkin’, which is more than I can say for that Berserker. Hey, you up to something major? Got some free time later on?”
That was an amazingly loaded question. “Maybe. Why? Got a gig you need help with?”
“Not a gig, per se.” He paused, and it was then that Logan knew this was bad. Since when did Marc hesitate. “I could use your help, though, if you’ve got the time.”
“What’s goin’ on?”
Another pause, too long to be comfortable. “Some asshole just tried to kill Tagawa with a car bomb. I need some help shaking these fuckers down.”