ANGELS AND INSECTS
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!
Scott finally noticed the cops aiming their weapons at him, and he stopped before he stepped out into the wreckage strewn street. “I’m a good guy,” he told them, honestly puzzled to be in their sights.
“Hands behind your head, mutie,” one of the cops shouted, trying to take shelter behind a free standing mailbox at the end of the street across the way. “Face away from us and get on your knees.”
“But I’m a good guy,” Scott explained, still not getting it - the cops assumed they were all hostile. It was the “Shoot ‘em all and let god - or their lawyers - sort ‘em out” policy, one that Logan was very familiar with. It only proved how much Scott hadn’t lived in the outside world to not know that cops were instantly hyper-suspicious of mutants.
Blaster boy must have recovered, because suddenly a beam of coherent whitish yellow light shot out from behind the truck, and nailed Scott in the shoulder, throwing him back into the wall of the nearest building. Scott groaned, so he was obviously still conscious, but just barely.
Logan shook his head and slipped into a narrow alley between buildings (why did they always reek of human piss? Actually, he knew why - it was simply rhetorical) and popped his claws. These were all tall buildings, but he slammed his claw in, got a grip, and started climbing - he didn’t need to climb to the top (he’d be climbing all day if that was the case), he just needed to get high enough to survey the scene, and get the drop on them, if possible.
One of the cops down on the street opened fire, which was a stupid thing to do, because blaster boy started shooting at all of them in return - with rays, not bullets - and the mailbox that one cop was hiding behind went airborne, crashing into a cab on the cross street. There was no obvious sign of the cop who had been hiding behind it.
A red beam shot out and clipped the armored truck, hitting it hard enough to make it skid across the asphalt, raising sparks. Scott wasn’t completely out of it yet.
Logan sensed eyes on his back, and looked over his shoulder to see a little kid in the window of the neighboring building, staring at him in goggle eyed shock. What, a lot of claw guys didn’t climb the outside of old hotels? As soon as he met the kid’s eyes, the kid darted away from the window, so fast the curtains wavered in the breeze of his wake. He almost felt like shouting “Sorry,”, but ah hell, who was he kidding? He wasn’t sorry - what he wanted to do was beat Scott’s ass for pulling them into this little detour.
Looking down, Logan saw he was about five stories up, not nearly far enough, but close. Down below, the street was lit up like Christmas, and the crackle of police radios were calling out desperately for SWAT support, air support - any kind of fucking support, as long as it was heavy duty and got here right now. It was easy to see why; Blaster boy was shooting coherent beams, as was Scott, and they met in the middle, rivers of energy splashing up against once another and canceling each other out. He could feel the backwash from here, more intensity than heat, making the hairs on his arms stand on end, but he bet it was making the normals down their shit their pants.
Scott had accidentally stumbled on a good strategy - he could throw coherent energy at this clown all day, but Logan had only seen this guy use bursts, and he was sure Scott could wear him down, make him exhaust his own personal energy supply. But just because he saw him use bursts didn’t mean he only had the energy for that - he’d seen Scott uses bursts almost exclusively, but not because he didn’t have the energy for more; still, Logan had the curious feeling he was right.
He knew Blaster Boy, didn’t he? Shit, he was sure he did …
But he had no time to continue wracking his brain; he could see she hulk was on the move, probably picking up a car to throw at Scott. He quickly scrambled up the side of the building as quickly as he dared (although no fall was going to hurt him), hoping to get enough height to make a leap even possible.
He jammed his claws into the façade like pitons, moving around towards the front of the street, as Blaster seemed to be weakening under the strain, and the Hulkette picked up the sedan she had previously used to crush the cop car, and threw it at Scott. Logan was out of time.
With all the strength he could muster, he jumped off the side of the building, claws extended, aimed like a missile towards the car.
He almost didn’t meet it in time. It was close enough to Scott to nearly make him flinch, but Logan slammed into it, claws slicing through it like it was make of rice paper, and some kind of hydraulic fluid splattered as the trunk scissored off the car, and the two pieces, with thwarted momentum, tumbled to the street, short of its target (but the big half rolled, and nearly hit Scott - luckily he was far too drunk to notice).
Logan knew his own momentum had been fucked up, and there was no way he could land on his feet, so he tucked and rolled, hitting the pavement hard enough to lose most of his breathe in a whoosh, but he stayed in form, and managed to roll up neatly onto his feet, like the whole thing had been choreographed ahead of time. It would have been cooler if he wasn’t completely turned around, but he heard someone mutter an awestruck , “Fuck,” as he spun to face the Strong Lady, hands and claws spread out at his side.
Blaster Boy knew he’d been beaten; his energy was dying fast, and Scott’s energy was starting to push him back, up onto the sidewalk across the way. The woman looked at him with a snarl, reaching for the flattened police car, and Logan simply motioned for her to bring it on, as whatever she could hit him with he could avoid or cut to ribbons. Was her skin as strong as her muscles? Her sneer seemed to falter, as she must have realized that this wasn’t a promising proposition. Ideally, Blaster Boy could take him out, but the second he turned his attention away from Scott, he was smashed like a pancake. And she could throw crap at him all day … but it wouldn’t make a fucking bit of difference.
He started stalking towards her slowly, waiting for her to commit herself to a move. She seemed reluctant to do so, understanding it would leave her open to a move direct assault. She could probably throw him into a low earth orbit, being as strong as she obviously was - but immune to the claws? Probably not. It didn’t look like she had adamantium skin.
The air was cut with the percussive thump of rotors - a helicopter was on its way - and that’s when the mutant Bonnie and Clyde decided to call it. “Neimi,” Blaster shouted. “Out.”
With that, she moved fast, and Logan’s sudden recognition of the voice - fuck, he knew that man’s voice - made him pause, and that may have been all they needed.
She ran behind the armored truck and suddenly shoved it violently towards Scott, cutting off the beam inexorably making its way towards her friend, but since Scott was still firing, his optic beam hit the truck and shoved it back so violently it shot sparks before smashing into the building across the way, breaking the façade and causing windows to shatter for several floors, raining glass down on the street.
“Oops,” Scott said, knocking it off. If he hadn’t, he could have put the truck completely through the building and knocked it all down.
Logan ran and jumped up on the top of the armored truck, looking around for any sign of them. In a perfect world, they would have been splattered by the armored truck, but if they were quick enough, they could have outrun it - and wasn’t there a narrow cut through between the buildings?
“Freeze, goddamn it!” One of the cops shouted through a bullhorn, as Logan caught their scent, and heard the noise of them running in the opposite direction. He did know Blaster Boy - he was one of Reaper’s men. He was the fuck who shot concussive blasts through his hands, the one who helped kidnap him (and helped nearly kill Marc) back in Montana. He forgave himself for not recognizing him because he’d dyed his hair and lost some weight, and he hadn’t caught his smell until now, but it still seemed unforgivable. As he moved across the truck, towards the alley entrance, the bullhorn cop yelled, “Stop or I will fucking shoot you!”
Logan glared at them in exasperation, pointing down the alley. “They’re getting away, assholes!”
“Put the weapons down!” The cop behind the bullhorn had a bullet shaped head and a square jaw, and was built like a Marine, with small eyes like pinholes, his face flushed from shouting. He was giving off a “fuck you” vibe that clearly suggested he was beyond reason, and just ready to start shooting.
Logan rolled his eyes. Not this again.
“He can’t,” Scott said helpfully, still unsteady on his feet. “If he could, don’t you think he would have?”
“You, face away,” Bullhorn barked. Now without the massive power display happening, cops started creeping out of the rubbernecking crowd, but they were edgy, guns drawn and ready to dive for cover the instant anyone coughed. “Hands behind your head!”
Scott looked flabbergasted. “We’re the good guys!”
Logan knew he could jump down into the alley and go after them - he had their scents, and in spite of the urban reek of the city, he knew he could track them anywhere they chose to run - and certainly the cops were welcome to take potshots at him; it would sting, but no more than that. But what about Scott? If they shot at him, they’d surely shoot at his “partner in crime”, and Scott had no immunity to bullets. Shit!
He retracted his claws, braced for a bullet in the head (again), but the cops just flinched, clearly waiting for their cue from bullhorn. “Are you gonna go after them?” Logan carped. “They got a lead on you dicks! They’re heading towards Hell’s Kitchen!”
“Get off the truck, now!” Bullhorn roared, making his angry face turn a tomato red. He was about two seconds away from shooting everyone.
But there was the small matter of the chopper, that was flying in a circular pattern, strangely high to avoid the skyscrapers, and to minimize the backwash from the rotors that could hurt people on the street below. It was not the air support the cops wanted - it was a news chopper. The irony was, Reaper’s boy and his gal pal ran from the media, not the authorities, and the media were going to keep the cops from shooting them down in cold blood.
“What is wrong with you people?” Scott shouted, his drunk anger resurgent. “We ran those guys off! We are good guys! Can’t you get that through your thick heads?!”
Logan closed his eyes and groaned. Insulting jittery cops was never good if you weren’t immune to bullets. And he knew he could make it worse for Scott by pointing out he quit the X-Men, but he’d probably best save that for sobriety.
What the fuck was Reaper’s guy doing here, in New York, right now? Logan found it hard to believe it was coincidence (even though Reaper was so dead there probably wasn’t enough of him left to fill a bucket), but why rob an armored car? It seemed petty somehow.
Logan had made up his mind to just jump off into the alley and hope the media presence was enough to keep Scott from going down in a hail of bullets when he heard a familiar “whoomp”, and canisters clattered onto the street, spewing white smoke.
Not smoke - tear gas.
“Who fired those?!” Bullhorn shouted, as three more canisters hit the street, filling it with a nearly impenetrable, noxious white fog.
Logan was immune to it; it offended his nose and stung his eyes, but no more than an exposed septic tank. But from the sudden choking noise coming from across the street, Scott wasn’t, and Logan knew (without knowing how - typical), that with this much gas, a normal person could suffocate - unlikely, but possible. Especially in his compromised state.
Logan jumped off the truck, deeper into the swirling clouds of noxious vapors, and found Scott on his knees, gasping for breath. “I can’t breathe,” he rasped, wasting air on the perfectly obvious.
His own eyes were watering, but only because of the chemical sting; he had no trouble breathing, he just had a bad, burning taste in his throat. He yanked Scott back up to his feet, then pulled his shirt up. Scott almost objected to this, but as soon as Logan covered his nose and mouth with the tail of his shirt, Scott seemed to get he wasn’t trying to pants him, and the fabric seemed to instantly cling to the mucus and tears already streaming down his face. “Shallow breaths,” he told him, trying his best to see through the gas, putting his arm around Scott’s shoulders and holding him up. He was probably going to have to rely on memory, what with this stuff still spewing out and the air heavy and still (save for the rotor backwash, which was probably spreading this misery down the block), but luckily Logan was pretty confident in his own sense of direction. Ironically, this crap could help them elude the cops - which made him wonder anew who has actually fired the caniste! rs, and why. Did Reaper’s guy and his girlfriend have a silent partner?
When the wind started to pick up, he thought the helicopter was coming in low, attempting to get a better look. But the air wasn’t pressing down on them from above but swirling around them, and belatedly he realized it was scooping up the gas, surrounding them in a funnel of opaque vapor, like they were suddenly safely tucked away in the eye of a hurricane.
Logan’s suspicions were confirmed when he saw, walking towards them from the end of a neighboring alley, Storm, her eyes as white as Static’s. “I guess it’s a good thing I came after you,” she said. Tears were starting to run down her face, even from the most minor dose of the gas.
“Why’d you come after me?” He asked. Scott tried to say something, but just coughed thickly, and Logan wondered if he was going to start barfing now.
Storm cocked her head to the side, like it was the stupidest question he could ever ask. “I was afraid you might dump Scott off in the Bronx.”
“Would I do that?” He lied, wondering how she knew him so well. What had Jean been telling her about him?
Ororo pointedly did not answer that question, which was probably for the best. “What the hell is going on here? I assume you’re both not involved.”
At least she had the decency to lie and say “both”, but he knew she really only meant it for him. Logan scowled at her. “No. We stumbled into something … no, scratch that - drunk boy here stumbled into something, and I had to extract his ass.”
Scott muttered something, “Mff nff fhrunkh,” which Logan guessed was, “I’m not drunk.” But then he started coughing again, and that put the end to his conversational abilities.
Storm shook her head and scowled in disappointment, but aimed it solely at Scott; she expected better of him. But Logan? Naw, she expected this kind of shit from him, and that made him feel vaguely insulted. “Let’s go. We can come back for the car when the incident - and the gas - has blown over.”
“Fine with me,” he agreed, dragging Scott towards the alley. He was leaning on him so heavily, Logan wondered if he was about to pass out.
Logan wondered - not for the first time - exactly how he got involved with these people, and why he stuck around.
By the time they got back to the mansion, a whole bunch of the kids - only about half that he recognized in even the vaguest way - were gathered in the front room, watching the fight they’d just been through on television.
If the professional newshounds got any footage, it wasn’t being shown ad nauseum; what was was shaky camcorder footage that mostly just showed off the amount of power that Scott and the Reaper creep were throwing around (he remembered how Bob had made Blaster Boy shoot himself in the face with his own power back in Montana, and had to conceal a snicker), and then, near the end, showed a blur slashing a car in two pieces in mid-air. Guessing from the silver glint, that was him.
The kids seemed thrilled by the footage, and were actually cheering for it. Storm had already dragged Scott in through the underground entry, and he left her to figure out how to give him an eye wash (typical after tear gas exposure) without destroying the sink, and she had left him to explain all of this to Xavier - he really had no idea who had the worst job. Logan was hoping he could sneak by the kids, like last time, but he had no such luck.
Rogue led a round of applause, and Brendan’s pretty boyfriend (what was his name again?) asked, “Why don’t you teach us this shit in the danger room?”
He just shrugged, and said, “Take it up with Summers.”
The kids had the sound turned down low, and he knew why, because it wasn’t so low that he couldn’t hear it. The pundits on t.v. were ranting about the “mutant problem”, about what threats they obviously were to decent, “ordinary” people. One commentator compared Scott to an “android”, and Logan - predictably - heard himself referenced as “some kinda animal” again. What about Blaster Boy and the woman who could bench press the Empire State Building? Were they not as photogenic? Or were they too photogenic - so much like “normals”, the populace couldn’t be scared by the mere concept that a filthy mutant could pass for one of them?
Then one commentator mentioned the “injured” flooding local hospitals, and Logan was willing to bet his left nut the majority of those “injuries” were from exposure to tear gas. The anti-mutant people would just use any excuse to blame them, wouldn’t they? Especially when it was not their fault. Okay, it was the fault of some mutants, but not the ones being picked apart in the media for - god forbid - trying to help those stupid, “ordinary” people. He knew he shouldn’t, he knew it was wrong, but right now he loathed them all.
He was almost to the elevator when a familiar voice said behind him, “When they bother to view the entire tape, they will know the real story. You have to forgive them their momentary hysteria - it makes for an exciting, if inaccurate, news story.”
Logan turned to see Xavier gazing at him placidly from his wheelchair, hands folded in his lap. “Thank you for bringing Scott back in one piece.”
He waited for him to add, “And not dropping him in the Bronx,” but he didn’t. Maybe that was implied. “Does this mean I don’t hafta tell you what happens?”
“I have seen the footage,” Xavier said, his lips quirked up in a hint of a smile. “You and Scott did very well. You make a good team.”
Logan knew he was just saying that to get on his nerves. “No we don’t. Is Bob still here?”
A troubled look passed over Xavier’s face like a cloud scudding over the sun. “No. He left shortly after telling me of Jean’s eminent return. He thought you’d be angry with him for sending him after Scott.”
“He was right,” he said, rubbing his eyes. They were a little dry, but otherwise okay. Unlike Scott’s, which had swelled up underneath his visor, and made it look like the thing had been shot onto his face at a high speed. Also, he wasn’t the walking snot factory like Scott was the last time he saw him. Tear gas was a lovely thing.
“You recognized one of them?” Xavier suddenly said, shocked.
He wasn’t going to discuss this with him. “Scott doesn’t want to be here. I imagine once he’s sobered up, and the swelling’s gone down, he’s not gonna wanna stay. I hope you got your pep talk all ready to go, ‘cause I’ve done all I could.”
“You’re not staying?” It wasn’t really a question.
“I never intended to. I just stopped by to … fuck, I can’t even remember anymore.” The irony of him forgetting something yet again was not lost on him. “Look, I’ll check in, but maybe while there’s publicity floating around, it’ll be good for me to get away.”
“Why do you always believe yourself to be a hindrance?” Xavier asked, refusing to just let him leave. “You’ve always been a help to us, and I like to think we’ve been some help to you.”
He sighed, wondering why he never thought that Xavier would try and lay a guilt trip on him. “I’m not bein’ ungrateful, okay? I just got some things to take care of.”
Xavier gave him a knowing smile, tinged with sadness. “You always have things to take care of, Logan.”
“I know. I got a shitty life.” He considered the news footage, and the windbag commentators calling him an animal, and said, “Well, shittier.” He turned and walked away, the psychic weight of Xavier’s guilt pressing down on his back, and he said, without bothering to turn around, “Give me a ring if Jean gets back ahead of me.”
But even as he said it, Logan knew it was a sick joke. He would probably be the first to know when Jean came back. He just didn’t know if Jean or Camaxtli would be the one to make sure of that.
He was rather surprised he got out of New York in one piece.
It still bothered him beyond the telling of it that Reaper’s man was involved that - it almost felt like a set up - but it didn’t make a lot of sense. And Reaper’s buddy probably never even saw him, as he had his hands full with Scott the whole time; he probably wasn’t even in his peripheral vision. Which made him wonder what he thought when Hulkette told him, and he saw the footage on the tube.
But he didn’t think about it much. He let it fall away behind him like so much roadway, the black ribbon of highway his bike ate up so fast he was surprised it wasn’t becoming molten beneath the wheels, returning to a liquid state.
When he could go off road he did, leaning into the tunnel of wind threatening to rip him off the motorcycle and throw him aside. And even though he knew damn well it was stupid, even with his healing factor, there was something freeing and exhilarating in just letting go like this, in just trying to outrace everything he had been and was; everything that made up his sad excuse for a life.
Maybe he ran too much, but sometimes there was something simply in the act of running that made you feel alive, in control of your fate, if only until you couldn’t run anymore.
Gladly lost in road hypnosis, he didn’t realize he was in his target area until he was almost through it, and then he had to slow down, letting the giddy rush drain away in increments, preparing for the awful moment when he would have to stop, and let time and reality catch up with him.
But it was not the worst of all realities, not here. Even as he parked his bike in a gutter scummy with recent rainwater and spilled malt liquor, in front of what looked like some kind of hybrid warehouse/brownstone, he knew this was a good place to be. Slightly shitty neighborhood, but safer than anyone would imagine by looking at it.
Logan let the pack on his back fall to his arm as he went up to the building’s door, and buzzed the unit he wanted, casting a glance at the oddly whitish sky overhead, and the more or less empty streets around him. It might have made him nervous if it wasn’t typical.
The intercom opened with a crackle, and a loud blast of music - Prodigy? - came through before a man said, “Yeah, what?”
“Gonna let me up or what?”
There was a pause, which allowed him to hear it was indeed Prodigy singing about poison, which meant it must have been Marc’s theme song, and then he said, in the worst Southern accent ever affected, “Well, goll - ly, I got me a gul durn tee vee star at my door!”
Logan groaned in disgust. So it had made it down to Baltimore ahead of him, had it? “I am so going to kill you,” he grumbled, glancing around once more, just to make sure there was no one loitering with a video camera.
“Killed by a celer-bity! I’ll be on Entertainment Tonight for shor!”
“Let me in the fucking door, Marcus, or I will break it down,” he growled into the intercom.
Marcus chuckled, deep and low, having so much fun he couldn’t even fake a straight face (or voice). “Don’t get your panties in a bunch, man.” There was a buzz, and the door released. “Get up here ‘fore the paparazzi spot you.”
“Gee, thanks,” he growled, grabbing the door and yanking it so violently open he was surprised he didn’t rip it off its hinges. Marc’s continued chuckling seemed to follow him through the vestibule.
Once he climbed the metal stairs up to Marc’s apartment, he found him waiting for him on the riser, a bottle of lime tea in his hand. “You can’t even go to the store without running into shit, can you?” He said, but it was more sympathetic than taunting. Marcus was dressed casually in a white tank top and gray sweatpants, barefoot but still wearing his gold scorpion earring and a necklace that looked like a shark’s tooth (and very well could have been), as well as his ubiquitous black goggles.
“Seems that way, doesn’t it?” He agreed.
He followed Marc into his apartment, where the blinds were - as usual - closed against the half-light of this cloudy day. As soon as Logan shut the door behind him, Marc used a remote control to turn down his theme song, and Logan asked, “So how was Europe?”
Marc shrugged, and threw himself down on the end of his leather couch, slumping comfortably down in it. “Don’t know, I never got any chance to enjoy it. I can give you a critique of their airports, though - and ya know what? The French security personnel really are ruder than the ones you’d find in Detroit. Swear to Bob. So what brings you by? Tagawa told me he was very pleased with your business arrangement.”
“Yeah, I know - and that’s the reason.” Logan sat down on the opposite end of the couch, letting his pack drop to the floor. Marc was kind enough to turn off the t.v. - which, again, had the sound off. Could mutants only watch the news if they turned the sound off?
“Have fun kicking ass?”
“Hell yeah. What’s in the bag? Did ya bring me a severed head?”
“Almost as good.” He handed the bag to Marcus, who had to put his drink down to take it. Marc peered inside curiously, as if expecting something to jump out and bite him.
“Buttload of cash.”
Marcus tossed the bag back in his lap. “This is yours. Wanna drink?”
“Are you tellin’ me you don’t want it?”
“I’m tellin’ ya it’s yours - you earned it. I got my cut. So, wanna beer, hero?”
Logan scowled at him. “Don’t call me that.”
Marc shrugged as he got up and went over to his fridge. “You did the job, and I got my cut. I’m not a pimp - I ain’t gonna take eighty percent.”
“But I don’t … ” Want it, he thought, but that didn’t make sense even to himself. “ … need it.”
He snorted derisively, opening the fridge and fishing out a can of lager. He tossed it at him, and Logan caught it easily, the cold aluminum slick in his hands. “Are you serious? Everybody needs money, man - especially in this shitty economy.”
“I know, but you know I travel light. Money’s a burden I don’t wanna deal with.”
“Once again, I am awed by you,” Marc said, returning to the couch.
“Is that good or bad?” He wondered, cracking open the lager.
“Basically both. You live without money. You’re content to skate along with nothing holding you down … how the fuck do you live without a DVD player?”
He shrugged, and took a big swig of the thick, strong beer. Oh yeah, Marc - like Bob - always had the good stuff. “It’s hard to miss shit you can’t remember having.”
“True enough. So what do ya think?”
“Teaming up? We’d really rake it in on the merc market.”
He stared at him in disbelief. “I just said I don’t want money.”
“But you do like kicking ass. And you’d be able to do whenever you wanted to - none of this random brawling.”
He rolled his shoulders and let himself relax back into Marc’s couch, sighing and closing his eyes. It was odd how comfortable he felt with Marcus - or maybe not. Marc was a mutant, but not a goody two shoes like those at Xavier’s; he was not expected to be on his best behavior here. And, at the end of the day, Marc was not afraid of him, nor did he fear he was some kind of wild animal - he did not treat him like a delicate explosive primed to detonate. Until this moment, he had no idea how much he appreciated that. “I’ll think about it,” he told him.
“Which means no.”
“It means I’ll think about it.” After a moment, he added, “I think I’m being set up again.”
Marcus settled into the sofa before he asked, “By mutants, demons, gods, or all of the above?”