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 and his bunch are all mine - keep your hands off!
He was in the shower so long Marcus was starting to wonder if Logan had slashed his wrists and healed up again. With him, it wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility.
His healing ability probably kept him from looking like a prune too, although he should have. At least Logan had been aware enough to not pick out any of his really good clothes; he'd just gone with an olive drab t-shirt and jeans, both of which had seen better months. But at least there weren’t blood and brains on them. Although he wasn’t covered in blood now, Logan really didn’t look that much better.
“Got anything for me?” Logan asked, not so much sitting on the couch as collapsing upon it.
“Yeah. I’m still narrowing the list down.” He held out the can of beer to Logan, but he made no move to take it. Marc finally shoved it in his face, and Logan snatched it from his hand, scowling at him. He never thought he’d see the day when Logan would frown on a beer.
“How many have you got?”
“At the moment? Six probable, three on the North American continent.”
“Where are the others?”
“One’s in South America, another is in Russia, and the third is in Europe.”
“They’re here,” Logan said glumly, closing his eyes. “I know they’re close.”
Marcus just nodded, studying the data. It was a combination of oddities from the surveillance satellites he was able to (illegally) tap into, certain radio and microwave frequencies, and traffic on illegal (and legal) weapons and materials, mostly from trusted but anonymous “inside sources“. He had no one on the inside of the Org just yet, but it was only a matter of time.
Logan cracked open his beer, and Marcus was mildly relieved. At least he was doing something almost normal. “So what’s the plan, big guy?” Marc asked, just trying to keep him talking. “I’ve got a new grenade launcher I’m just dying to try out.”
“I’m goin’ in alone.”
Marcus scoffed. “The fuck you are.”
“I’m gonna do this alone. No more people are gettin’ hurt because of me.”
“You're gonna get hurt because of you,” he pointed out. “You can’t do it alone, man. You know that.”
“I have a plan.”
“And what is that?”
Logan was silent, and when Marc glanced at him, he was conveniently drinking his beer and looking away, staring blankly at the dead eye of the television screen. He still didn’t look good, but something had resolved in his expression; he was still gut shot, but he had figured out a way to keep his intestines from falling out. Now that he had made up his mind as to what he needed to do, the shock had started to fade.
Logan finally looked back at him, and said, “You wouldn’t like it.”
Marcus raised an eyebrow at that, aware that Logan was probably being honest. “Why wouldn’t I like it, Logan? How bad is it?”
“I have to do this,” Logan said, not arguing with him - he had clearly decided not to; he could see it in his eyes.
Marcus noted, in the back of his mind, that Logan had the funniest eyes. They were more or less green, but sometimes they looked darker, more hazel than green, and sometimes they were so light green they were almost blue. And if the constant shifting of color wasn’t puzzling enough, it was the fact that no matter how macho a guy he was, his eyes were these strangely naked things - every single thing he felt played out there clearly, for everyone to see. Logan must have known, he could squash it down quick, or switch to his standard look (on most people that was neutrality; on Logan, it was mild irritation, verging on pissed off), but he didn’t even bother to hide it right now: he was angry, but more than anything, he was weary. It was impossible to imagine that Logan would ever get tired of fighting, but maybe he finally had.
Marc had no idea why, but that thought scared him.
“I’m going with you,” he insisted. “You go alone, you’ll be lucky to be killed. You know that.”
“I want to … I have to do this by myself. It was my daughter, Marc. I don’t want or need company.”
He did wonder, briefly, what that was like. To have a child just show up and lose them, just like that, to have their head exploded by a bullet while you were just standing there … talking? What had they been doing? Where had this happened?
Logan could be a pretty hard man - he had to be, didn’t he? - but he did everything hard: fight, survive, feel. He felt for that girl, and even if he didn’t quite love her, he cared for her enough that her death was already haunting him. It must have been hard to be Logan.
“What happened?” Marc asked, curiosity finally getting the better of him. “How old was she? Who was her mother? Do ya got more-”
“Ask Xavier,” Logan interrupted, pain flashing through his now greenish
brown eyes until they solidified into anger. “I need to get moving as soon
as I can.” His voice was sharp, but brittle. Marc knew if he
pushed, Logan might explode; it was too raw right now, too soon after the
fact. Logan couldn’t talk
“I can’t let you go alone.”
“Yes you can.” Logan stared at him hard, and Marcus stared back, wondering if they really were going to have to find out which one of them was more stubborn. But Logan seemed to remember that Marc was controlling the data (did he know for sure he wouldn’t send him to a Kwik-Stop in Modesto if he pissed him off? And that was a damn good thought …) “What I have to do … it won’t be pretty.”
“Most of what I do ain’t pretty. I can take it.”
“But I don’t want you to,” Logan replied, with pained vehemence. “I don’t want anyone to see me like that. Sometimes I ... I lose it. I need to just - be by myself.” He was almost desperate with the need for Marcus to see it, and Marc felt his stomach twist.
He looked away, back at the blue light of the laptop screen, because he couldn’t close his eyes. Logan would see it, would know what it meant or simply take it wrong, which might actually be better, because he’d already figured Logan loathed pity. But he did feel shit sorry for him. He’d found family and had it ripped away from him in a single moment of savage violence, violence pinned somehow to his checkered past. How could he not feel sorry for him?
“Give me five days,” Logan said, his voice quiet and strained, almost but not quite pleading.
To his own surprise, Marc replied, with equal solemnity, “You got three.”
And that was it, all they needed to say to each other about that topic. Logan had three days, starting from the moment he walked out Marc’s door, and Marc knew he’d be counting the hours, impatiently watching the clock, armaments packed up and waiting to go. Maybe he’d leave a couple hours ahead of the deadline, because hey, what was a few hours between friends?
He knew he’d probably regret this. The words he told Xavier were coming back to haunt him: ‘Yeah, well, excuse me if I have a little faith in Logan’s ability to handle himself.” If he wasn’t a complete fucking liar, he was going to have to suck it up now, and let Logan do what he had to do. But he didn’t have to like it.
And he only had to keep to the spirit of his promise, not to its exact nature. Logan would have his time alone with them - and then it was his turn.
Even now, it seemed like his beloved road blindness had abandoned him. The hum of the tires along pavement, even at speeds too impossible to be sane, was like an annoying white noise eating at his brain, and his body felt heavy with gravity, like his bones were accumulating more adamantium, like he was somehow leeching it from the air and absorbing it through his skin. If he concentrated, he could almost feel the flakes of metal in his traitorous, sluggish blood.
Logan didn’t want to think about it, but found himself mentally going over the crime scene anyways. The birds had stopped singing at about the time he stood up - why hadn’t he noticed that? There was no glint of sun off the glass of a sight, no flash of laser targeting, so he had to assume the shooter was a mutant with excellent, perhaps telescopic sight, or a normal gifted with some kind of targeting equipment Logan was unaware of; and if the sniper picked out a good hiding place in the trees (and he was sure that was the angle of the shot - from the wooded jogging path), he could have kept sunlight from glinting on the glass of a scope. Only the bullet that hit him smelled like adamantium; hers smelled of titanium. Why waste expensive ammunition on a target that didn’t require it?
He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to rewind it all and view it again and again, like some conspiracy junkie viewing the Zapruder film over and over again. Her last words had been “Yeah, they’re gonna be sorry they ever let me go, huh?” Couldn’t have been more ironic if they had scripted it. Hell, maybe they had. They'd never truly let her go either; she was released simply as a lesson, nothing more. They obviously had no use for her anyways, beyond that. Perhaps what Xavier’s friend had found, the “genetic conflict” that shortened her life and possibly her long term memory, had made her a fatally flawed project.
He was filled with an aimless rage that made him want to hurt something very, very badly; he wanted to rip out someone’s throat with his teeth, smash his hand into someone’s face until even his healing factor was at a loss as to how to deal with the swelling of his knuckles … but what would that prove? Would it bring her back? Would it make them pay? Would it even make him feel better for more than a couple seconds?
That was the worst part - he didn’t think he’d ever feel better.
His stomach was empty, and rumbled with some regularity, but he didn’t stop to eat because he knew he couldn’t; he'd only drank that beer at Marc’s because he thought he tasted blood in his mouth. He’d been on the road for hours, chasing an indifferent sun, and he was weary beyond the telling of it. But he also knew this was probably one of his last days of freedom for awhile, and did he really want to waste it?
Of course, he was ultimately counting on Bob to free him. No matter what they did to him, Bob would find his avatar, yes? And that was the end of that base. They couldn’t neutralize a god, and certainly not a pissed off one. And he assumed Bob could reverse everything they did to him, although he supposed if they wiped out his memory engrams again, Bob couldn’t restore what wasn’t there, but maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. If he never had to remember Leonie’s head exploding like a melon shot by a thirty aught six, that would be great by him.
But, you know, if this was going to be his last day of freedom until Bob got his butt back to Earth, well hell, wasn’t there someone he’d like to see?
As soon as he saw a freeway exit, he took it, and drove through the center of a depressing downtown hub at reasonable speed. He figured he was in the Northern half of the Midwest, but so many of the regions of America looked the same he knew he was just guessing.
He saw a reasonably upscale hotel in the middle of downtown - probably the classiest joint in this city - and even though he normally would seek out the anonymity of a cheap motel, he figured he deserved a decent bed that didn’t remind him of sleeping on a pier.
Bob’s cabin up in the Canadian mountains had lots of books on lucid dreaming, and he had read enough to get the gist of it. He'd even tried it once, only to dream about the usual crap. Bob told him he dreamed about what he really wanted, whether he knew it or not; Logan thought that was bullshit. But he figured there really was no one else he’d rather see, and if it was ever going to work, it was going to work now.
He expected some of the
shit he got at the front desk, the stares. There were few people in
the lobby, which was all polished wood and burnished hues of gold and burgundy,
sprays of flowers (lilies predominant) in ornate vases tucked into free
corners. It was all fine, but he supposed the fake Impressionist painting
behind the front desk (it looked like a mimic of Monet’s “Viale Del Giardino“,
The front desk guy seemed to eye him like he was the night janitor, and when he pulled out the wad of cash to show he could pay for the room, he stared at him like he'd robbed a bank. He expected him to tell him they didn’t rent rooms by the hour, but somehow he held his tongue.
Logan finally got a mag card to a free room, and went up to the eleventh floor, which he figured was as far away as front desk guy (Anthony, by name tag) could send him. Logan didn’t pay much attention to the room, which was standard, nothing special; it smelled a little too heavily of the chemicals the cleaning staff used, and the sheets reeked of industrial detergents. Still, he closed the blinds, smoothed the comforter out, and stripped down to his shorts, laying down on top of the bed rather than beneath the covers - he would willingly block out as much of the scent as he could. He threw an arm across his nose, trying futilely to keep from getting sick on chemical cleansers, or having it invade his subconscious.
He focused on her as he closed his eyes, and wondered if he could actually make a dream (a memory?) appear by force of will. It really did sound like bullshit, but then again, he used to be an atheist too. (He still was, in spirit - although he supposed it was easier to embrace polytheism as opposed to monotheism, which was apparently the wrong end of the stick. The Higher Realms were absolutely lousy with gods, like cockroaches underneath a fridge in a tenement.)
He didn’t know when he fell asleep, but then he usually didn’t. He did remember the odd sensation of feeling empty yet being far too heavy, like his metal bones were about to send him falling through the floor. For a moment, he would swear he felt himself doing just that, and it wasn’t unpleasant.
The next thing he was aware of, he was entering a front room he could only see half of, in some odd dream tunnel vision. No, an incomplete memory; his mind filled in the blanks as best it could, showing a sparsely furnished but strangely tasteful room, where Japanese ink paintings of cranes and ponds shared space with a framed copy (it was a copy, right?) of Savador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”, where the melted clocks in its sunset landscape seemed to mock him somehow.
I chose that, he realized with a shock. He enjoyed the bitter irony - he remembered so little, and the distorted time pieces were representatives of his freakishly long life span. He warped time, even as it warped his memory. Logan was a little surprised to realize he'd ever felt that way … and before the Organization got a hold of him? Or was it just his subconscious adding it now?
“Logan?” The voice was so familiar it sent chills up his spine.
And there she was, standing
in the entryway leading to the kitchen, the woman he wanted to see before
For a moment he just stared at her, taking her in. Her oval face, her almond shaped brown eyes as deep and dark as the sea, her long black hair as shiny and sleek as a panther’s pelt. He knew she was not immediately drop dead gorgeous, not like Yasha, but there was a delicate beauty to her open face, and something inside of her gave her an inner light that he felt attracted to like a moth to a flame.
“Riko,” he said, and his voice cracked down the middle, tears suddenly welling in his eyes and blurring his vision. He felt a stab of pain in his gut, like he’d just been pierced by an icicle, when she came to him and threw her arms around him, embracing him tightly. “Honey, what’s wrong?” She asked, as he buried his face in his hair and started to break down into harder, gasping sobs.
He suddenly realized why Leonie’s death hit him so hard. It wasn’t just that she was cut down right in front of him, and that it was his fault, but it brought back an emotional déjà vu: it reminded him of how he'd lost Mariko. She was murdered too, in front of him, and he could do nothing to stop it, and nothing to save her. If he concentrated, he could feel the weight of her in his arms, taste her blood in his mouth, and knew that he'd not only failed her, but the loss had broken him in some fundamental way; it had made him an animal, because he didn’t want to be Human anymore.
Being Human meant you felt things, such as her love, as warm and enveloping as the sun, and the lack of it, a vacuum inside you that just made everything collapse, that made you suffer a pain unimaginable. Sometimes it was better not to feel anything at all. Whoever said it was better to have loved and lost was full of shit.
And he knew he could not allow himself to feel something that deeply again. He couldn’t, although gratefully, the Organization seemed to have helped strip him of the ability to do so; it had traumatized him enough, or simply wiped out the emotional equipment. But that was okay, because he was sure no one could love him like she had. It was possibly just romanticizing a past he couldn’t remember, but the association he had with her name, with her memory, was of a love unlike one he could ever remember having before (which did not say much, but still). He was never a freak in her eyes, no matter how angry she became, and she was never afraid of him - she accepted him for what he was, and loved him anyways. It was a love he knew he didn’t deserve, which made it sweeter, and made its loss that much more devastating.
He did his best to swallow back the tears, even though breathing in the scent of her hair seemed to make something contract in his stomach, and felt her body in his arms, not dead weight but something living and fragile and ephemeral. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered, not for the first time.
She slipped out of his grasp, only long enough to look him in the eye. “For what?” There was nothing but curiosity in her expression, and something like empathy in her eyes. It was almost painful for him to see.
“For coming into your life,” he said, as that seemed to be the sin that killed her.
She slipped her hands through his hair, and kissed him in that way of hers that felt as if she was trying to draw something out of him, pull the pain from his body, and he wouldn’t have put it past her. He knew without knowing how that she was always that way; that his pain was her pain, and she was always trying to bring him solace. Another horrible thing, because what was he but pain? She had deserved better, and she never got it. Had gotten far worse, in fact.
He held her so tightly he lifted her off her feet, responding with a kiss of his own, even though he knew he couldn’t get anywhere near her amnesia kisses, the ones that made him forget everything but her. But that was another great thing about amnesia - who cared?
It was then he felt a prickly sensation on his skin, something powerful near, approaching, and he knew, when he could feel the scene start freezing around him like it was setting in cement. He knew that feeling, and rage suddenly boiled up inside him as he turned away from Mariko - now freezing up like a buggy computer screen - and faced the intruder.
The back wall - what
there had been of it - was gone, as was most of the Dali painting on the
“Leave me alone!” He roared, glad at last to have a target for his anger. He stepped in front of Mariko as if protecting her, and he realized, in the back of his mind, that he was still keeping her like a secret - as if he was such a different person with her he wanted no one else to see it. Maybe that was true; all he knew was that the Logan Mariko had loved had, in all honesty, died with her. He was just that man’s shadow. Maybe that was what he was really trying to hide.
Jean seemed to rear back slightly, blinking as if stunned. “What -”
“I want to be left alone!” He exclaimed angrily, just in case she wasn’t getting it. “Can’t you just leave me be?”
Her red eyes took on a deceptively cold air, in spite of the boiling flames within. “Haven’t you made an interesting turn around?” She sniped. “You think I don’t know how much you want me?”
“And that’s what you're taking advantage of, isn’t it?” he snapped, aware he’d regret this but unable to stop himself. The rage was just spewing out of him now, making his face flush with heat. “You know the problem with connecting with a telepath? They can read your mind, but sometimes you can read theirs too. And I know that as soon as you come back, you’re going back to Scott and ignorin’ me, like nothing ever happened. So excuse me if I find that less than arousing.”
Her eyes were bright
enough that they almost hurt. “With an attitude like that, I wonder why.
“Yes you have. Don’t bullshit me.”
She scoffed, but rather than dismissive, it had an air of menace to it. “This from a guy fucking a vampire. You do realize that could be considered necrophilia, don’t you?”
“Considerin’ how long you’ve been with Scott, I guess you should be the expert on that.” This had gone way too far, and he knew he didn’t even want to be arguing with her. But he needed an outlet for his rage, and he knew he would see Jean again, knew he’d probably remember her. He didn’t have that luxury with Mariko.
Jean smiled at him, but it was as sharp as a razor, and didn’t really look like her at all. “That’s very funny. I’ll have to remember that.” She then gestured with her hands, and stepped back into her jungle. “Very well, be alone with your dead, Logan. You seem most comfortable with them anyways.”
Just like that she was gone, and the destruction she wrought repaired, as if there never had been a portal to another world replacing their back wall. Something was wrong with Jean lately, but it was hard to say what. Maybe it was just having all that power. He knew, from experience, it could take some getting used to.
He turned back to Mariko as the scene started to become unstuck, and took her in his arms, holding her like he was trying to envelop her, become her human shield. Maybe he was, but it had never saved her before, had it?
He would worry about Jean later.
Now that he knew Jean had borrowed some of his energy from Logan to put Cammy in the grave, it was a bit easier to track her down. He just had to pick up traces of himself in places he was sure he hadn’t been lately.
Bob’s search had led
him to a couple of dead ends, but finally he’d found a pocket universe still
in existence … and it was familiar too. It was her mental safe place,
the one he had seen in Jean’s mind when she retreated there after the psychic
shock of overextending herself during the fight with the Legion demons. This
was where he saw she'd made Logan her shirtless, barefoot gardener, perhaps
the groundskeeper to her Lady Chatterly. But there had been many changes
to the place since he saw it
First of all, the garden
wasn’t so much a garden anymore, but some strange combination of a jungle
“They’re both totally void of hate, but killing me just the same,” Bob sang, as he viewed the jungle that was starting to slowly encroach on the remains of the garden. That was the most troubling the thing; the jungle appeared like some nightmarish vision born of M.C. Escher’s and Maurice Sendak’s fevered imagination. Trees that never existed twisted with vines plump and pulsing with alien blood, and he got a sense that Logan had been here sometime recently. Should he have been surprised? “I am too connected to you to slip away,” he continued under his breath, parting vines warm as skin and slick as silk, looking to see if there was any sign of the mansion beneath this ravenous horde of trees. “Days away, I still feel you touching me, changing me. And considerately killing me.”
Vines wrapped around his ankles like tentacles, and ahead of him, dozens of them suddenly raised up and wove themselves together, building an impenetrable wall, thorns as thick as baby’s arm growing from their black and green flesh like Logan’s claws. Whatever was in there, Jean (?) didn’t want him to see it. That made him deeply suspicious, and he knew there was no fucking way that was the mansion. So what was it?
“I was wondering when you’d show up,” Jean said behind him.
He turned casually, digging his hands in the pockets of his jeans. He still sensed her as Cammy - that wasn’t good. “You could have dropped by and said hello.”
She shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes were full of flame, and her red hair was brighter and longer, like a halo of lava. “I thought Logan could say hello for me.”’
She really had her guard up, or she was having problems controlling her new power, as he was picking up nothing from her but power. The jungle would indicate a loss of control, but whether that was simply of power or of sanity was yet to be seen. “You know, it probably isn’t fair of you to use Logan like this, although I realize you saved him from some Cammy brainwashing, and good on ya for that.”
“Use him?” She repeated, and scoffed. “That’s rich coming from you. Does he even realize how much you use him?”
He raised an eyebrow at that. “’Scuse me, hon?”
“I know everything now,” she proclaimed, and he could see her aura take on a reddish orange glow, like she was spontaneously combusting. But it was psychic fire, a lot more deadly than the real thing. “You need him more than he needs you. It must be hard to be a god too undisciplined for the others, and too powerful for the Human pests.”
He could feel the power building as the translucent flames swathed her entirely, and he realized, with a small shock of horror, she was displaying the anthropomorphic power signature of Camaxtli. Oh shit. “Jeannie darlin‘, listen to me,” he said quickly. She was still Human, and he didn’t want to have to hurt her. “You have to reassert control now. I know you’re still in there - “
“Still in there?” She said, through her veil of flames, and laughed as the convection waves made her hair move like Medusa’s snakes when enraged. “I’ve never felt better. Unlike you.”
And it was then that he felt something like a flaming sword pierce his brain, and he realized that he had underestimated her control of the powers.
And how much of Jean was still in there.