E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The character of Wolverine is 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 patronSummary: Post X2: Logan gets roped into the search for a mystical object that is wanted by several dangerous beings, and ends up getting help from a notorious vampire. But are they good enough to survive a demonic gang war? And dare he trust the undead?
of the arts, I won't object. ;-) Bob and Yasha are *my* characters - keep your hands off!
“Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.” - T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
Gakido - The 'Demon Road' or Purgatory in Japanese cosmology. It is the lowest form of existence. (Courtesy of the Encyclopedia Mythica, http://www.pantheon.org/mythica.html)
Logan started in on his fourth beer of the afternoon, and once again wondered where the hell he was. Not that it mattered - all places had the same sort of dreary sameness about them. He just wondered how much farther until civilization completely dropped away.
He wasn’t even sure how long he’d been rambling around, although he guessed it to be two weeks, give or take a handful of days. He remembered … maybe it was a week ago … when he was staying at a fleabag hotel on the other side of the border (well, he had to be somewhere in Canada now - the speed limit signs were now in kilometers), Xavier called him. But he didn’t give him a chance to say more than “Logan - ” “Leave me the fuck alone,” he had snapped, and then slammed down the receiver. To his knowledge, Xavier hadn’t tried to contact him again.
Had Bob put him up to it, or was it just Xavier wanting to use him for something else? He didn’t know, and ultimately he didn’t care.
Did Xavier know about Jean? Had he figured it out or had she contacted him in some way? Or had Bob finally told him? Not that he cared. None of it mattered; Jean was - either way - stuck in some kind of limbo state, neither dead nor alive, and not quite what she was before. He knew, and he wished he didn’t know. He wished he didn’t have memories of her - and some of her memories - rattling around his head.
He wished he could sleep, or at least drink himself into complete, wonderful oblivion.
In all these days that had blurred together, running like watercolors in the rain, he figured he’d gotten, in total, maybe ten hours sleep. He was more afraid to sleep than ever before, and it didn’t seem to come so easily to him anymore.
He ached to se her again; he was terrified to see her again. He was so fucking sick and tired of the dichotomies of his life he could scream. And sometimes his head even hurt, and that had never happened before. Or maybe it wasn’t pain; it was hard to tell. It was like his head was pumped full of helium, lighter than the rest of his body, and he was staring out from far back within his own skull. It was disorienting and uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful, just annoying. Maybe the lack of quality rest was finally getting even to his miraculous healing factor; maybe he was finally starting to break down.
But if that were true, why couldn’t he feel the alcohol?
The bartender had turned the television over the bar from the news (people, apparently, were killing each other all over the world - what a shocker) to a baseball game, to pacify three sad sacks melting on their stools at the bar. Logan always thought baseball was one of those games you had to have some alcohol in you to really enjoy, so therefore its appeal eluded him. At least in hockey, there was a fifty-fifty chance of a fight, or somebody getting rammed through the safety glass - the ball players never attacked each other with the bats, did they? Might be a more popular game if they did.
Logan rested his head in his hands, trying to curb that floating feeling, when he felt a shadow pass by him - a shadow with a familiar scent. “You make it tough to find you on purpose, don’t you?” Marcus said, sliding into the chair across from him.
Logan slowly looked up and stared at Scorpion. He had dark fuzz on his scalp, like he was letting his hair grow back, but he had the same shit eating grin and black goggles as always. He still had the small gold scorpion dangling from his left earlobe, but now he had four other gold and silver earrings behind it, leading up the outer rim of his ear. Knowing how painful it was to have cartilage grow back, he couldn’t imagine having holes drilled in it on purpose. “Who sent you?” He growled. “Bob or Xavier?”
Marcus held up his gloved hands, and tried on an innocent look that didn’t quite fit his face. “Neither, kemosabe, I found you for my own selfish purposes. But good god almighty, Loge, you look like shit warmed over. When’s the last time you slept or had a bath? You almost look like you belong in this hellhole.”
“I do belong in this hellhole. Go away.”
He was afraid that wouldn’t work, and it didn’t. Marcus simply raised an eyebrow at him. “What is it with me lookin’ you up when you’re at your lowest? Is it my luck, or are you an unmedicated clinical depressive?”
He glared at him across the scarred table in this smoky, unrepentantly sad bar in the middle of Bumfuck Nowhere, and wished he had never had contact with the outside world. “Go away, Marcus. I can’t help you, and I’m in no mood for this shit.”
“You’re never in the mood for anything. I don’t know how you get laid as much as you do.”
Logan growled before gulping down the rest of his weak, watery beer in a single swallow. Marcus only chuckled. “See, the growling thing, that turns me on.”
He slammed the mug down hard enough on the table that it rocked on its slightly uneven legs, and the mug cracked, not quite shattering, but Logan could see the filaments growing inside the glass, just waiting for the slightest hint of pressure that would send it all flying apart. “I said go the fuck away,” he snarled, the anger in him as raw and hot as boiling acid. He knew, somewhere in the back of his mind, that this was Marcus, probably the best friend he could ever remember having, and yet he also knew this was in Marc’s best interest - stay the fuck away from him, and as far away as possible.
The bartender, a thick necked old guy, mostly hard fat and tobacco yellowed skin, said loudly, “Is that boy bothering you?”
Oh god no.
Marc looked over slowly, his head canting in a way that most people would judge as curious, but Logan knew from experience was simply Marcus visually scanning his target for the weak points. “Tell me you didn’t just say that,” he said, in a pseudo-humorous manner that was full of barely suppressed anger. “Tell me you didn’t just call me boy.”
The bartender was too stupid to live. He glared back at Marcus, narrowing small, pale eyes nearly submerged in his round, fleshy face, and sneered, “And what’s with those glasses? If you ain’t a blind boy, are you one of them freaks?”
Marcus stood up, so rapidly his chair scraped across the wooden floor with a noise as violent as a scream. “Which one is worse, in your esteemed opinion? Bein’ black or bein’ a freak?”
“Same difference, ain’t it?”
Logan heard it. The hasty removal of a glass bottle from the surface of the oaken bar top, the bottom of it sliding slightly in the moisture of condensation, and the whistle as it was thrown through the air.
In a single swift movement - faster than even he would have thought possible right now - Logan jumped to his feet, turned around to face the incoming projectile, and sprung the claws from his left hand as he lashed out at where he expected the bottle to be. Even though he didn’t quite see it, he hit it with his claws, and it shattered into a million pieces. “Stay the fuck out of this!” He roared at the stunned collection of rednecks. They were all staring at him goggle eyed now, terrified of the weird looking rummy who turned out to have knives in his hands.
One of them stood up so hastily he nearly fell off his stool, and did his best to feign some sort of dignity as he backed towards the door. The others were too stunned to do anything but stare, except for the bartender, who seemed to be inching closer to the opposite end of the bar.
Logan impaled him with a gaze that felt wild and hollowed eyed, even to himself. “You go for that gun, cocksucker, and I will shove it so far up your ass you’ll be able to taste it in the back of your throat.”
Proving he at least had two brain cells to rub together for warmth, the bartender froze on the spot.
The atmosphere was tense and charged, and Logan realized how good it would probably feel to hurt someone right now - maybe kill someone. The world was full of assholes, and none of them deserved to live - not if Jean couldn’t.
“Well, I guess I don’t need to call Al Sharpton now,” Marcus said, breaking the silence. “C’mon bud, let’s blow this redneck bugger hole. I know a place where the bartender doesn‘t jerk off in the glasses first.”
It seemed to take Logan a moment to process the fact that he was talking to him, and then he wondered why. Leave? Just as it was getting good?
Marcus walked past him, heading for the door, his long black leather coat swirling behind him like a cape. No one made any further derisive comments or threatening moves towards him, but then again, they were paralyzed with fear. It wouldn’t take much to wipe them all out - they were fucking helpless, and useless even when they weren’t.
“Bud?” Marcus said, standing by the door and gesturing to it. “Abandonar?”
Well, he couldn’t stay here any longer, could he? He growled at them as he stalked past, not bothering to sheath his claws, and in a way he hoped that one of the dumbasses would try something. But nobody did, and he was disappointed.
Marcus gave all of the rednecks the one finger salute, and said, “It’s been real, but next time I see you, you’ll all be sucking my dick. Probably with a lot more enthusiasm than your wives. Adios, putas.”
Outside it was nicely gray, the air cleaner than most big cities, and he was glad he didn’t have to see the sun. He didn’t want to see the sun; a world of night would have suited him just fine. Things were uglier in daylight anyways. “So what’s say you go back to your hotel, clean up, and I’ll take you to this great bar I know about in Winnipeg?” Marcus said, as soon as the door swung shut behind him. “Play our cards right, we’ll probably get laid, and you look like you could use it.”
Logan stalked to his motorcycle, retracting his claws, and only stopped to look back at Marcus once he had reached it. “Winnipeg? Are we in Manitoba?”
Marcus cocked his head at him, and his jaw went slack. “You’re so out of it you don’t even know where you are?”
“I am not out of it,” he snapped, straddling the bike. God, he was tired. It was a bone deep weariness that seemed beyond mere exhaustion - there was no word for this feeling.
“Fuck you, man, you are so! What the fuck happened? Did Xavier pull some shit on ya?”
Logan glared at him. “I’m not doing this.”
Marcus threw his hands out wide, as if asking a question. “Don’t wanna talk about it, fine. But let’s go out for a drink at a decent place, huh? Maybe I can buy you a burger - when was the last time you ate something? Do you know?”
Logan continued to glare at him. “What the fuck are you, my mother?”
“Claw me for carin’, man, but you really do look half past dead.”
“What the fuck do you want from me?”
Marcus raised an eyebrow at him, and stuck his hands in the pockets of his coat. “I kinda needed your help, man. But I didn’t realize you were so shitty, so maybe I should just take a pass, huh?”
“I am not shitty. And maybe I’m tired of bailin’ your ass out.”
Marcus was quiet for a long time, and Logan could feel his eyes punching through him like laser beams. “Say that again?”
He had enough awareness left to realize he had stepped over the line. After all, hadn’t Marcus bailed him out last time? Those demon fucks would have attacked the mansion if Marc hadn’t intervened. Logan rubbed his forehead (he swear it hurt), and said, with great regret, “I didn’t mean that. I’m just … done with people, okay? I’m tired.”
“No shit, Sherlock. You look like you need about a month’s hibernation.”
He ignored that, and wondered if the truth would be enough to scare Marcus off. “I killed you, you know.”
That honestly confused him. “Pardon?”
“Montana, the Shadowcaster Base. We got ambushed, remember? You got a hole the size of a grapefruit blown in your chest.” He used his hands to make the shape and size of the hole, for demonstration purposes. “I think I saw one of your lungs. You were a dead man, Marc. Only Bob showed up in time to pull you back from the brink. But I still killed you, and for absolutely fucking nothing.”
“Fuck you, it was the assholes with the armor piercers that technically killed me. And I wasn’t dead, just almost; almost only counts in horseshoes and rocket propelled hand grenades.”
Logan sat back, mildly surprised. “You knew? You remembered?”
Marcus shrugged. “Yeah. And so? What’s the point you’re trying to make here?”
He honestly couldn’t believe this. Had Bob pushed him to accept it? “It doesn’t bother you that being anywhere near me can get you dead?”
He made a rude noise, and waved his hand dismissively. “Sweetcheeks, I’m a mercenary, ‘kay? It ain’t the safest line of work in the world. If I wanted to play it safe, I’d be doin’ what every other philosophy major is doin’ - bussing your table. But safety isn’t for me. Die young, leave a pretty corpse.”
“It’s not pretty when you have a cannonball sized hole in your chest.”
“No, but as long as they don’t hit the face, I’m good.” He then flashed him his trademark smart ass grin at him.
Logan shook his head. This was unbelievable. Bob must have pushed him to accept it, or Marc was really and truly insane. (Well, he thought he was his friend, so yeah, that last one would track.) “Get someone else.”
“I can’t get someone else. I need someone I trust, someone who’s smart, someone who can take care of themselves if shit goes down, and someone who speaks Japanese. According to my list, you’re it.”
“How do you know I speak Japanese?”
Marcus scoffed. “Fuck you - you speak everything. You’re like a “Universal Translator” on legs.”
Well, he had him there. “You think I’m smart?”
“I knew you’d glom on to that.”
“You’re still tryin’ to get into my pants, aren’t you?”
“The way they smell now? Fuck you and your mother! Assuming the zookeeper ain’t doin’ her, of course.”
“Of course.” He rubbed his eyes, and just decided to give up. Maybe he would leave him alone if he just gave him something that he wanted. “Look, what is it I’m supposed to do?”
“Come with me tomorrow and listen to him explain what the gig is.”
Now Logan knew he had missed something. “Wait a minute. You tracked me down all this way so I’d listen to some guy talk?”
Marcus threw up his hands and looked up to the sky, as if appealing for help from a passing jet fighter. “You stupid … look, there’s obviously more to it than that, but I ain’t gonna announce it in the parking lot of Jimmy Joe Bob’s Chug-A-Lug Palace, am I?”
Logan briefly checked to make sure that wasn’t the actual name of the bar. Oh thank god it wasn’t - that would have been a new low, even for him. (Well, hell, it was Manitoba; a place by that name could actually exist.) “If I tell you to fuck off, will you leave me alone?”
Marcus sighed, and let his arms collapse to his sides. “No, Logan. I’m going to wheedle, nag, and cajole you until you attack me. And then I’ll use my venom on you, and since I’ve never hit you with it before, it should paralyze you. And I’ll drag you with me to meet my client, and prop you up in a corner so you can listen while the poison wears off.”
“That’s actually a good plan.”
“Isn’t it? I thought so.”
Logan hung his head down on his chest, and let out a heavy sigh of his own. He was nearly paralyzed right now, and Marcus hadn’t even sunk his fingernails into his skin. “Fine. Buy me a beer and tell me the gory details of this meeting of yours. But if I don’t like it, I walk, and you leave me the fuck alone - got it?”
“Fine by me. But, seriously dude, a shower never killed anyone.”
“Except in Psycho,” he couldn’t help but point out. He had no idea why, except it was something about Marcus - his smart ass cracks were contagious.
Marcus clicked his tongue impatiently. “Now come on, it was Norman Bates and his knife that killed her, not the shower. The shower always gets the blame.”
Logan was convinced now that he had completely lost his mind. But at least Marcus had proved he wasn’t alone there.
Bob materialized inside what appeared to be a massive library, with bookshelves towering thirty feet high, and reaching out for miles in both directions, under a sky that seemed to be made of prismatic crystal. The floor was black marble, veined with miniature rivers of gold, and thin tendrils of sand colored vines twined over the top of the shelves, arranging and rearranging books, slipping beneath jackets and spines of flesh, leather, and pulverized bone, and sliding them off the slick marble shelves.
And still, it smelled musty.
He was surprised he hadn’t been intercepted immediately. Was he out? He started walking down the wide aisle, looking for an outlet. “The circumstance it turns you inside out,” he sang, glancing at the spines for book titles. There were precious few; most were marked with hieroglyphs that obviously followed a very specific, personal system. He’d ask the vines for help, but they didn’t talk. “So we can have peace before you find out what’s inside your head. And all the flashing lights and futile cries, they’re left with you now.”
Up ahead, he saw a large book standing alone on a marble plinth, spotlighted by an unclear source. Would he have kept note of it in there?
“- just close your eyes and take that final step.” He finished, coming around to look at the open pages of the thick tome, clad in the skin of one thousand different mortal beings.
The pages were snow white vellum, and the ink blood from manifold beings, mixed until it was black with a few flecks of copper within. There were neat columns of names written in a familiar, scratchy hand. Ares, Kumiho, Powers (2), Ra, Kombu, Fenrir, Phobos, Agrona, Kuk, Balder, Shen Yi, Hermes, and Camaxtli, in ink so fresh it still looked wet. And scratched at the bottom, in temporary ink, was “Bob?” and he could feel the wishful thinking behind that doodle.
But the ink was fading away, as it should. He didn’t belong in the pantheon of dead gods, or at least, not yet.
“What the hell are you doing here, peasant?” Osiris snapped, coming striding down the marble aisle towards him.
“Looking for a dead person, Sy - why else would someone visit your underworld realm?” He replied coolly, turning to face him.
Sy still looked as he did the last time he had seen him. Tall and pale, his hair the white of polished bone, his bird-like black and gold eyes too large and flat for his otherwise human looking head, and his fingers ending in sharp points of bare, filed down bones. He still wore a black outfit that gleamed like oil, making him look like a Nazi trooper who’d seen The Matrix one too many times. “You live to annoy me,” Sy hissed in a truly bitchy manner, stomping up to the book of dead and glaring at him, as if he was afraid he’d set it on fire or something.
It was a thought.
“No, not just you,” Bob corrected him, then got to the reason why he was here. “I need you to confirm something for me.”
Sy’s avocado-sized hawk eyes glared back at him blankly. “Am I your lackey, exile?”
“No, but you do keep records on the dead. I need you to hit the books for me, confirm a death.”
“You couldn’t find a body?”
“No, and I couldn’t confirm or deny it through other sources, so you’re it. Don’t gloat about it.”
“Why would I gloat?” He queried, clearly gloating.
Bob rolled his eyes, and wished his other contacts would have come through. He hated dealing with Osiris. The funny thing is, no one needed to keep records on the dead - Osiris did because he reveled in this kind of thing. He loved the dead; he loved surrounding himself with the mementoes and remains of the deceased of several realms (he’d have done it for all, but even his realm didn’t have that kind of space). He was one morbid and kinky son of a bitch.
“Is this dead a person from the earthly realm?” Sy asked, even though Bob thought that was perfectly obvious.
“Yes, a human named Jean Grey. Died - supposedly - about two months ago in Alberta, Canada. Can you confirm that?”
Sy made a “sit down” gesture with his hand, and three bookshelves sunk into the marble floor, revealing even more overcrowded bookshelves behind them. “That’s the death records for the earthly plane from just last week. Do you realize how long that’s going to take?”
“I know. But I have no doubts about your competency, Sy.”
He snorted in disbelief, aware that Bob was just blowing sunshine up his skirt. “Your ass kissing is sub-par, pariah.”
“Indeedy-do. I also have another thing you might want to look into.” He tapped the page of the dead god pantheon, right under Camaxtli’s name. “I’m not sure this is accurate.”
Sy’s eyes widened, and threatened to bug out of his small, pale face. “Eris killed him. Were you not there?”
“Cammy was expecting a throw down - okay, with me not her, but still this was no shock. I think he may have had an emergency escape hatch.”
He cocked his head to the side, just like a confused lorikeet. “Are you suggesting he had an avatar?”
“Sounds like it, don’t it?”
He scoffed derisively. “Camaxtli washed his hands of all other realms.”
“He did, or at least he wanted us to think that. Do you really think he was so dumb he’d leave himself open to attack with no back-up plan?”
He tilted his chin up, and assumed a haughty pose. “No one expects Eris.”
Bob was sorely tempted to say “And no one expects the Spanish Inquisition either,” but he managed to resist the urge. “He was expecting the attack from me, like I said, but that’s not how it went down. Is this sinking in at all, Sy?”
He scowled at him, adding folds of flesh to his severely angular face. “Don’t you speak to me that way, peon - certainly not in my realm. Why the hell should I help you, outcast?”
Bob clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on the balls of his feet, making a show of thinking about it. “Because I could toast your ass? Send you to the earthly realm and put you on the Jerry Springer show? ‘Outdated Gods Into Necrophilia, And The Demi-Gods Who Love Them - Next.’ ”
Sy stared at him blankly. “The earthly realm has made you insane.”
Bob chuckled, and said,
“Don’t make me get up. God, that’s my favorite pointless threat. If that’s
It had the desired effect. Osiris backed up a couple of steps, eyes widening even more, to the point where they looked like they might fall out. “You are deranged.”
Bob shrugged with his hands, giving him a smile he knew was vacant and creepy. “Nah. I’m Bob. I’m one of you guys, remember?”
Sy scrutinized him like something he had scraped off the bottom of his shoe after a visit to one of the more noxious hell dimensions. “You are not one of us, Bob. You were never one of us. You were a hideous accident of the Higher Realms.”
That just made him grin. “That’s right - blow even more sunshine up my kilt.”
“If I do what you wish, never come here again.” It sounded like a demand, but Bob knew it was a plea.
Poor Sy. What could it be like to be a death god who was so easily freaked out? Bob bet he was squeamish too, and how the hell did he revel in the dead if he was? Ah, gods were just so fucked up. “Absolutely. An eternity-length library isn’t my idea of fun anyways.”
Osiris’s eyes narrowed, until they were almost normal sized. “No - your idea of fun is being with lessers.”
Bob continued to smile at him, but leaned forward and lowered his voice to a whisper, as if imparting a great secret. “But when the Highers are you and Cammy, who wouldn’t want to hang with the lowers, huh?” He then winked, as if it was a great joke, and got to see an unusual peach color rise to Sy’s bloodless cheeks before Bob teleported himself out of there.
Some death gods just had
no sense of humor at all.