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!
"Shit,"he murmured under his breath.He'd never heard of normal people getting their brains fucked over,but why the hell not?It wasn't beyond the realm of possibility.Besides,maybe that's what they did when it came to him-they went around erasing the memories of everyone who had ever known Logan What's-His-Name.And then they erased his...
"I'm not sure what her abilities are either.Not like mine.My grandmother made some cryptic notes;she mentioned my 'strange affinity' for electricity,but all she said about Maddy was "people are never the same after touching her".I don't know what that means."
Logan chewed a chunk of his Szechewan chicken thoughtfully,wondering if maybe Maddy had an ability like Rogue.Anything was possible,right?
"But I'm afraid they may have really taken her because of me,because
the fucking bastards couldn't get me,"she continued,her blue eyes filling
with tears of rage.And he knew it was rage,because the electric lantern
a few feet away from their table flickered,like the filament was actually
a living thing,a lightning bug wanting out.When she was upset-or emotionally
excited in any capacity-everything electrical around her was affected,and
not usually for the better.
He could remember that sometimes when she kissed him,when she touched his bare skin, sometimes there would be accidental sparks-she was so electrically charged she couldn't help it.He could remember feeling the small burn on his lips and tongue,like a powerful static shock,and feel the sparks sizzle and jump across his skin;the pain was minor,almost negligible,and not only did he get used to it,but by the second day of their long 'lost' weekend,he found he sort of liked it.It was strange,erotic,powerful.He knew that was probably kinky,but hell,why not? He was probably a kinky sort of guy.
"They may have just taken her because they're motherfucking assholes,"he reassured her,trying to hold his anger in check.It was hard,but Naomi was the one who deserved to be angry;he was second place at best."Don't you dare blame yourself for this."
"I'm sorry,Logan,I shouldn't be involving you in this,"she said,wiping away the tears before they could fall.
"I want to be involved.And if these are the same bastards that took me,I'm already involved anyways,"he pointed out,fighting to keep the anger from his voice and failing miserably."You didn't track me down just to spill your guts,did you?"
She gave him a sly look,overlapping the sad."You know I tracked you down?"
"I guessed.It'd be a hell of a coincidence if we were both here at the same time."
She acknowledged that with a rolling shrug of her shoulders."I called L.A. to see if you were still there.Cordelia told me you'd gone up to Vancouver in hopes of finding some hints about your past.Also,she added you don't call,you don't write,you're being a complete and total ass."
He couldn't help but smirk."Sounds like Cordy."
"She likes you,you know."
"No."He found that hard to believe.Had she ever acted like she liked him more than the other guys?Well,there was that kiss that one time,but it was a goodbye kiss-or it was supposed to be,at any rate."Why would she?"
"Because you're as sexy as hell,"she replied casually,and for a moment their eyes locked.He could almost sense the tension,making his skin feel hot and tight,and he wanted to pay the check right now,so they could get the fuck out of here and go back to his motel room and pick up where they left off.The look in her eye seemed to say she would enjoy that.
But then she shook her head,cleared her throat,and tried to look as sober as possible-which was,sadly,very much sober."Look,Logan,I don't want this to get in the way.Emotions can make people do stupid things."
"Lust is an emotion?"
She had to think about that for a moment."I don't know.But you know what I mean.I think we'd better keep things hands off for now."
"Is that what you want?"
She seemed to study his face before glancing down at his hands,and then hers.She picked up her chopsticks and started making strategic rearrangements of snow peas."I think it's for the best."
"That's not what I asked."
She knew that,but she didn't want to answer that question."I just want your help to find the area I'm looking for.You don't have to-"
"I'm in for the whole deal,"he interrupted.Maybe a nostalgic screw was out of the question,but that didn't matter.If he could track down any of the fucks who had done this to him,who sicced Shrike on them,who took Naomi's sister,it would all be worth it.
She glanced up at him warily,but she looked touched."Logan,I don't want you to risk your life in any way.This could get ugly."
He sat back,smirking at her."Well,how in the hell could I say no to that?You're a born seducer, Naomi."
She smiled back at him,almost laughing."I should have known the idea of trouble would be irresistible to you."
"Hell yeah,sign me up for a steamin' hunk of that."
Her smile fell away as she looked back down at her plate."Do you think she's dead?"
Rather than even speculate on that,he asked,"What do you know about what happened to her?"
She sighed,putting her chopsticks back down and reaching for her beer.She held the half empty glass in her hand,but didn't drink out of it;she just seemed to be drawing comfort from it somehow."Everyone's mind has been so screwed with regarding her it's been difficult to get anything together.But from what I've been able to dig up,she was last seen in an area of Alberta referred to as the 'Big Empty'.Heard of it?"
He thought of that for a moment.Alberta-home of Alkali Lake.What was it about that area they loved so much?The remoteness,of course,but there had to be more.Maybe there was something he had overlooked;something they had all overlooked."Near the Lake?Or is it a reference to a base?"
She shrugged helplessly."I didn't know.I was hoping you might."
Logan frowned as he considered it,aware of how untrustworthy his own memory was."Maybe we should have a look around."
"Winter's coming on,and it's a big place."
"Tell me about it."
"I don't want-"
"You want to find your sister?Stop worrying about my life,Naomi-nobody's killed me yet.Let's worry about Maddy's."
She glanced at him,frowning in concern,weighing his words.She knew he was right.
"You didn't find me just to discourage me from helping you,"he pointed out.
Of course he had her,and there was no way she could deny that."I just started having a bad feeling about this,Logan,"she admitted reluctantly."What if it's another trap?"
"What if it is?None of them have worked before."
"There's a first time for everything."
"But not today.Or tomorrow.We're the two biggest bad asses they've ever tried to take on. Hell, they were never able to get you in the first place.I feel sorry for the pricks already."
She smiled shyly,almost laughing."That's why I needed to find you,Logan."
"My rakish charm?"He wondered,smiling in return as he dug out money for the check.He had a feeling they were done here.
"Your sense of humor,"she replied,although her smile was very warm.
"I have one?Wow-who knew?"He tossed the money on the table,and threw on an extra couple of bucks,because he wasn't going to bother figuring out a tip.Hell,he'd just fought a werewolf and several drunk guys;figuring out a tip was so mundane it bordered on absurd.
He finished off his beer and got up,and Naomi followed suit.It was reflex for him to offer her a hand up,and equal reflex for her to take it.When her fingers touched his,there was a small blue spark that he felt as a short,sharp pain,but nothing he couldn't handle.
She instantly withdrew her hand."Oh,I'm sorry."
"Don't be.I got used to it."
For a moment,she just looked at him,and then glanced away,as if ashamed,embarrassed,or scared:he really couldn't tell which."Umm,could you give me a lift back to my hotel?"She asked,staring at a paper dragon like it had suddenly gotten interesting.
"Sure."He wanted to do more than just drop her off there,but if she wanted to play it that way,fine.In a way,it unsettled him that he missed her,but he had.He felt comfortable around her,like there were things he just didn't have to explain-she knew.But he understood what she meant about it getting in the way;it could.Still,it would have been nice."Where are you holed up?"
"The Hilton West."
"And where are you-wait,let me guess:some fleabag motel that has hourly rates available?"She asked,looking up enough to give him a sly smile,and he was honestly glad to see it back.
"It's not a fleabag hotel,"he protested,most of his annoyance faked (some of it was real)."Just because it has hourly-"
He trailed off as she raised an eyebrow at him."Okay,it ain't classy.But I've been in worse places."
"Which is what bothers me.You don't have to live like that,Logan."
He swore he could hear the words echo in his head;words spoken by another woman in another lifetime.He tried to internally shake off the eerie feeling that gave him."Does that mean I should stay at your hotel tonight?"He smiled,trying to pass it off as a joke,but he couldn't quite bury the hope.
She actually seemed to consider it for a moment,and then he saw in her eyes the preparation for the gentle let down."Logan-"
"We'd better get some sleep-it's a long way to Alberta,"he interrupted, heading towards the door. It spared her having to say it and him having to hear it.
Maybe this 'friends only' thing could work.Maybe.
But he wasn't about to hold his breath.
She couldn't say she loved him-maybe,given time,and a normal life,she could-but something about him never failed to instantly attract her,and it puzzled her.She didn't like guys with sideburns-normally-and what was the deal with his hair?
But there was something about him that drew her like a moth to a flame.What?
She thought maybe it was a residual of the false memories Shrike had planted in her head-she had thought Logan and Shrike were her heroes for so long...no,wait,not for so long,just since she encountered Shrike (this was so confusing!)-but no;even when she knew that was a lie,she still felt drawn to him.It was him,of course;unlike Shrike,he was a hero.She got to see that first hand.He was one of the bravest men she had ever met,if also the strangest.
But he had his reasons.
She noticed he was wearing different shirts this morning-a black t-shirt,just like the one last night,with a brown plaid flannel shirt over it,as he was a big believer in layers-but they smelled new.His shirt last night smelled of cigar smoke and stale beer;he was such a hopeless bachelor.And yet,he'd gone out this morning and bought new shirts,presumably because of her (although she didn't expect him to admit that).It was kind of touching.
But it wasn't that he was really a hopeless bachelor,was it?It was just that he didn't know how to stop running,how to stop living like a hunted animal.
That was another thing about him;sometimes looking at him made her feel so sad,and she knew if he knew he'd resent her for it.But she couldn't quite stop it.
She held on tight as he weaved in and out of traffic at speeds that were beyond legal,but she had no fear,as she trusted Logan to know what he was doing.Also,he would never hurt her-of that she was sure.At least,not deliberately.
Ahead of them,the lightly overcast sky gave way to clear,but rather than blue it was a bright,clear pink,a sort of high saturation color rarely seen outside of dreams.It brought to mind that old children's rhyme/mnemonic: "Pink sky at morning,sailors take warning".In other words,a storm was brewing.She wondered if that was true.Well,she guessed they'd find out.
The wind screaming by them was bitterly cold,biting into her skin,so she rested her cheek against his back,and just generally tried to hide behind his warm body.Luckily,he was broad shouldered enough to be a very good windscreen.Looking at the scenery streaming by was pointless-it became a beige-green blur when they passed by strips of weedy overgrowth struggling to live at the sides of the road,and a multicolored blur when they passed nothing but cars-so she closed her eyes,and enjoyed the sensation of rapid forward motion.If she really concentrated and blocked everything else out,it felt like she was flying.
She had to be careful,though,because she was almost tired enough to fall asleep.Although she slept fairly well last night-beer had that effect on her-she woke up just before dawn,and found herself unable to get back to sleep.Part of her regretted not taking Logan up on his offer,while another part of her cursed her for getting him involved in this in the first place.
Truth be told,she was terrified:of 'them' (the government men-she did not know what to call them,but neither did Logan,so she felt a little better about that),of what they might have done to her sister,and what they might do to her if they somehow captured her.
But worst of all,what would they do to Logan if they caught him again?
He didn't know-she never told him-but his nightmares startled her,made her feel a sort of angry pity for him,which,again,she knew he'd resent.Logan didn't want much from people in general, just mainly what she wanted-to be left alone.But the idea of someone pitying him would probably send him flying into a rage she couldn't blame him for.
The first time he woke her having one of his nightmares,she thought it was due to all they had been through,all that fucking bastard Shrike had done to them.She put an arm around him, pressing up against his back,and whispered that they were safe,that everything was okay.It worked,maybe for five minutes.And then she realized whatever kind of nightmares he was having,they were something she wouldn't wish on her worst enemy.Veins in his arms and neck corded,standing out in relief as his muscles bunched beneath his skin as if he was straining against shackles that weighed a ton,and sweat beaded on his forehead as his head jerked and his eyes moved rapidly beneath his lids,searching desperately for escape.The noises he made- aborted grunts like swallowed screams-chilled her blood as she realized he was not really not dreaming:he was reliving something.
She considered waking him up,but they were his memories,as awful as they obviously were;was he not entitled to his memories,since he had so few?And,watching his hands clench,so tightly she would swear she saw the ghosts of his claws beneath the thin skin of his knuckles,she realized waking him might also be dangerous.
She carefully slid out of bed,taking the blanket with her (he usually tossed it off anyways),and went to sleep in the armchair in the corner of their room at the Hyperion,at least until he was past this.But she couldn't sleep,as tired as she was.She just ended up watching him,caught in the throes of a memory/nightmare he could not escape,feeling a sorrow and pity for him so deep it was like an ache under her breastbone,solid and malignant.The bastards;the fucking bastards.
What had they done to him?
She knew about the surgeries,about grafting on a new metal skeleton while he was conscious enough to experience every agonizing bit of it,although she was still unsure what purpose that would serve,except perhaps make him insane.And that was bad enough.But she suspected there was more,much more;things he hadn't even begun to realize,at least not outside the realm of sleep.
It took her a long time to figure it out,but she thought she had:they had wanted to make a monster.They wanted to reduce him to a shell of a man;a psychotic beast that they probably thought they could control somehow,some way.It didn't work.Or if it had,not for long.
She thought about talking to him about it,the nightmares and memories,but that almost seemed like a violation of his privacy-if he didn't bring it up,she wasn't going to,and he never did. Besides,she didn't know how to keep the pity out of her voice when she talked about it.But how could she not feel terrible for him and what he must have been through,and rage at those fucking monsters on his behalf?
Then,on the final day they were together,she goaded him into letting her shave off his facial hair when they were taking a shower together;she just had to know what he looked like under there.
In retrospect,she wished she hadn't.
It wasn't that he was not a handsome man-on the contrary,he was beautiful.A sweet,sad man who looked all too human,enough to shock her when she realized this was what the old Logan looked like.The one he was searching for,and the one he would probably never find; pre-government,pre-Wolverine,a man so hard done by it was beyond comprehension.It was like an echo in time,a displacement,and the sudden sadness she felt for him was almost overwhelming;she felt like crying for him.Logan saw it on her face and asked her what was wrong."Am I that ugly?"He joked,smiling.
She simply hugged him,kissing him as the water pounded down on their faces,and kept her eyes tightly closed to hold back the tears.
His stubble grew back extraordinarily fast;obviously it was the result of one of the things they had done to him,or some weird offshoot of his regenerative capabilities.But later that night,she decided it was time to move on,before she got stuck there and never did.
But how strange was it to mourn a man you never knew?And who wasn't precisely dead, just... lost?
It was very strange:sometimes she didn't know if she was dealing with the first Logan-the one before-or the one 'after',which she couldn't help but think of as the fragmented one,although that was far from his fault.The fact that any of him survived,in any capacity,was a credit to his strength and determination.
She though she had seen glimpses of the 'old' Logan,although it
could have been her imagination.But every now and then,his touch was almost
too gentle-at least for him-his voice too soft,his concern almost foreign
coming from him-or,should she say,coming from 'Wolverine'.
A vicious circle,because even thinking about that made her wonder what they had done to her sister.
She opened her eyes as the wind around them turned colder,and she saw that Logan had taken a short cut that wound through what looked like a small forest of some sort,or maybe a state park,where the trees passed by like towering blurs of black,brown,and green,and the road beneath them was an endless black ribbon,rushing under the wheels like an angry river.
He said something,but she didn't hear it,the scream of the wind tearing away his words like wet paper.But she felt the rumble of his voice in his chest,and leaned up to all but scream in his ear,"What?"
He turned his head back towards her,the stiff stubble of his beard scraping against her cheek,and yelled,"We're being followed."
She glanced over his shoulder at the side view mirror,and could barely make out anything behind him;it was all a blur of motion with few colors and even less sense.But she thought she could see a black vehicle somewhere in the center of all the visual pollution.
"What do we do?"She shouted back.Part of her thought they should run,while another part of her wanted to pull over and attack the bastards.
"Well,I could go turbo and lose 'em,or go off road and lose 'em,"he shouted,his voice shredded enough by the wind that it sounded like he was hardly speaking at all.
"But you have a better idea?"She shouted back.She thought she heard the hesitation in his voice,as mangled as it was.
"Was what Shrike said about you fucking up engines true?"He shouted in reply.
Then she got an idea what he had in mind.Also,she knew why she was reluctant to stay with him,and yet he was the only name that came to mind when she realized she was going to have to hunt down her own sister.
Logan liked to live dangerously.
If you were going to fight an army,he was the guy you wanted to back you up.
She stood up on the back of the bike,prying her hands off from around his chest,and held her arms down at her sides as she let the hate loose,letting it rage through her bloodstream like the electricity it was,flushing her skin and suddenly feeling much too hot,even though she'd been freezing just a millisecond before.
The driver of the black van suddenly braked,aware they were up to something,but with a loud squeal of brakes and tread shedding,momentum continued to carry them forward,dead center towards them.She felt incandescent,like a star in the sky.
She could feel electricity everywhere:from the power lines buried deep below the ground, thrumming like the circulatory system of some great,slumbering beast;to the weak electrical charge within atoms themselves,all gathering around her like pets,like children.In this mode,she saw everything as negatives,or perhaps as infrared;intensity based on the electricity within them.The air was a fuzzy sort of bluish-white (although there would be a storm-she could see the gathering electricity in the clouds above like a reflection of neon blue),Logan and the bike hot spots of volcanic red-orange,the van a blurry negative of red and orange,like a badly sketched outline,brightest in the front,where the engine lurked under the hood.
As the electricity crawled over her skin,a caress as comforting as any Human touch,she focused her rage,eyes narrowing as she concentrated on that hot spot under the hood like a sniper taking aim. She hoped what Logan told her about the bike-that it was like no other-was true,because she knew,as narrowly targeted as it was,she might accidentally fry their electrical system as well.She hoped Logan knew how to fix the bike,just in case.
She held out her hand just as the van was thrown squealing into reverse,and released a sliver of blue light that slammed into the van's hood like a lightning bolt.
Thin tendrils of blue snaked over the van's front end as the bulk of the energy went underneath, and the vehicle died suddenly,with smoke erupting from beneath the hood in a huge black plume,like a volcano erupting in miniature.
Logan put down the kickstand and said,"Nice job."
"It's not over yet,"she said,jumping off the bike so Logan could dismount it without touching her,either deliberately or accidently;energy still crawled over her skin,crackled in her hair,and while she was sure she was not lethally charged,she would give a powerful shock to anyone who dared to touch her.
She let Logan lead the way,stalking towards the van as she heard the back slide open,and as he got close the front door suddenly opened,head right towards Logan at full force.While it surprised her,it didn't surprise him in the least.
He snapped out with his hand-to catch it was her first thought-but his nine inch silver claws shot out from his knuckles,and in a single sweep of his hand cut the door in half,like it had been made of nothing more than tin foil.What part of the window didn't shatter as soon as he cut it in half fragmented on impact with the pavement,and Logan kicked aside the half door as he went around to face the driver.
The driver,clad all in black and obviously thinking he was ready to face Logan,lunged at him from the driver's seat,paralyzer out and crackling like static over an open line.But Logan, avoiding the paralyzer,simply grabbed the man by the front of his commando sweater and tossed him onto the side of the roadway like a sack of garbage."Oh,come on,that's all you've got?"Logan snapped,sounding genuinely disappointed.
The man in the passenger seat got out,wielding what looked like a spear gun,but she knew from a little research it shot adamantium tanglewire nets,meant to subdue the most violent mutants, Logan included.But the man seemed to be looking at her.Oh please.
A small ball of energy shot from her outstretched fingertips as she approached the van,and it hit net boy straight in the chest.He froze for a moment,looking out from beneath his ski mask with bulging hazel eyes,and then collapsed to the road,on top of his own net gun.He wasn't dead,but by the time he woke up and regained control of all of his muscles,they could go to Mexico.
"Come on plebe,you know the drill,"Logan said,throwing the driver-who couldn't have been a day over twenty five (Logan had ripped his mask off,revealing a blond young man who currently looked overwhelmed and terrified)-hard into the smoking front of the van."Who do you work for,blah blah blah."
The man spun away from the hood and threw a punch that connected
with Logan's jaw,accompanied by a loud snap,like a tree branch breaking.But
while that only made Logan take a step back,the young man grabbed his hand
and dropped to his knees,screaming in pain.
More black clad men suddenly appeared from out of the back,many with the net guns,others with paralyzers,and still others with what looked like some type of dart gun.Drugs?
She didn't wait to find out-she simply shot out a bolt of electricity that went down the line,jumping from man to man,as they were close enough together to allow her to 'skip' the arc between them.People,being mostly water,were excellent electrical conductors in their own right.
Then she reached down and pried the net gun out from beneath the first fallen commando,and hoped another was still conscious somewhere,as she wanted to give one of them a taste of their own medicine.She noticed blue sparks jump from the metal barrel of the weapon as she touched it,but she felt nothing:electricity was too much a part of her to be harmful.
Logan had lifted the commando to his feet,and held him up by the collar,pinned against the ruined cab of the van.Sadly,it looked like she had gotten the rest of the soldiers (damn).But she held on to the net gun just in case.
"Come on,boy-you want to live?You'll talk."Logan growled,getting right into the terrified kids face."Who do you work for?"
The kid shook his head desperately,almost in tears."They'll kill me...I can't,I can't..."
"I'll kill you if you don't,"Logan snapped,slamming him hard against the van,enough to put a small dent in the paneling.But now the kid was honestly crying,and it was just pathetic.Even Logan looked disgusted."Fine,kid-tell me what you know about the Big Empty."
He continued shaking his head,blond bangs flopping into his terrified blue eyes."I don't know anything..."
And that's when Logan grabbed his broken hand.
Not hard,it was just a mild squeeze,but the scream was so painful Naomi flinched and looked away,swallowing back a sudden surge of bile in her throat.She didn't want to see this,but she knew she had no room to talk,having fried Shrike from the inside out like he was a potato in the microwave.
The kid,now shaking with sobs and barely able to stand (if Logan didn't continue holding him up by the collar,he'd have hit the road again),was hardly the hardened commando either of them had expected-he was just a...what?Trainee?Cadet?Why would they send someone so inexperienced after them?It made no sense at all.Unless they really had no idea the caliber of mutants they were dealing with.
"It's going to hurt a lot more if you don't tell me what I want to know,"Logan growled,his voice so low it was almost a whisper.Maybe that was another reason she went to Logan for help:he could do things she was relatively sure she could not.
The kid was a mess,his now whey colored face streaked with snot and tears,but he sputtered, almost hiccuping,"Grand Cache.It's somewhere outside Grand Cache.Please don't hurt me anymore."
She looked at Logan,as she had never heard of it.He scowled in thought,and with a final shove let the pathetic kid go.He sank instantly to the road,continuing to sob like the wreck he was, leaning up against the still smoking van for support.
"You know of it?"She asked Logan,as he started walking back towards the bike.She followed, continuing to throw suspicious glances over her shoulder,but no one was moving,and the kid continued to sob,broken hand braced gingerly between his knees.
"It's in the Canadian Rockies,up North,"he replied,obviously lost in thought,his eyes distant even as he straddled the bike once more."There's a hell of a lot of nothing up there,so the Big Empty name makes sense."
"Why am I sensing a 'but' in there somewhere?"She asked,tossing the net gun aside.It was too big to take with them.
"That's the problem-a lot of nothing.We could be searching for something for weeks."
She hoped she wasn't charged enough to give him a shock as she got on the back of the bike, carefully wrapping her hands around his waist.She didn't see a spark,so she figured she was okay."There's no way to narrow down the search at all?"
He kicked back the stand and started the bike.Thankfully,she had not shorted it out. "Maybe.We'll have to see when we get up there,won't we?"He glanced over his shoulder at her,favoring her with a small smile.
She smiled back weakly,out of reflex.It was so rare to see him
smile,it was hard not to return it.
But as they drove off,continuing towards Alberta,she couldn't shake off a growing sense of unease that seemed to settle in her stomach like a lead balloon.
The bait had been taken,and Logan was on his way to Grand Cache.But he was not alone.
As Kruger hung up the phone,he turned to his computer and ran through profiles,until he hit on Logan's most likely companion:Naomi Deschanel,also known as Electra.