E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; theSummary: Still reeling from the aftermath of events that occurred in Elysium, Logan returns to
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!
Vancouver and finds something in his recent, dark past waiting for him. Meanwhile, Bob is left to face some angry Powers That Be while trying to determine the true mastermind behind the near apocalypse.
Notes: Takes place shortly after "X2" and immediately after "Elysium".
He left for Vancouver shortly after the funerals.
Logan had to admit - to himself if no one else - that he really hadn’t known Tom that well; all he knew for sure was that Tom had resented the shit out of him. It was Xia's death that broke his heart, and wouldn’t let him go.
Poor girl. He could
still remember her telling him back at that Organization warehouse in
Death Valley, while under Bob’s influence, “You were the most
important thing to me … I didn’t mean to fuck everything up …” and
he still had no exact idea what she was talking about, except that it
him, somewhere deep in the pit of his soul. She'd apologized to him,
he'd never gotten past the feeling that he had failed her
in some earth shattering, fundamental way. That was why he felt
compelling need to figure out if he remembered anything about her;
felt bad enough as it was. Now he got to put her
(“She’s a pretty screwed up kid, Logan. The Organization had a lot of fun with her too. She thinks maybe she loved the Wolverine.”)
Scott was feeling guilty since they'd died on his team, and it was "his fault Cressida was there” (Logan hadn’t understood that one), but even so he didn’t take it as hard as he could have. Maybe because it was obvious Xia wouldn’t have died unless she had explicitly chosen to do so - and of course, she had. She wasn’t killed as much as she had committed suicide, simply by shutting down her force field.
There had been some good news: Marcus was up and around and, although hardly at one hundred percent, he'd decided to go home to Baltimore to recuperate. “No offense, but kids make me squirrelly,” he said, and Logan could sympathize. Spider went with him, as they were working on a “project” together. He suspected what it was, and told them to call him if they ever needed help.
(“We can never alter our past,” Xia had said. “But perhaps we can atone for it.”)
To the relief of the rest
of the mansion's residents, Bob and Helga took the Sisters with them
left, and Amaranth did the whole “vampire revoking spell” thing before
she zapped off, so the Sisters could never drop in uninvited for
tea. That pleased everyone to no end.
No one had mentioned Jean
but he knew it was only a matter of time. Not only was Storm
(‘I never meant to hurt you, Logan.”)
It took him about two and a half days on the road, which was good considering British Columbia was on the other side of the country, but he could have been there sooner if he'd wanted. He was, in a way, enjoying his solitude, but now he found he had ghosts for companions; ones that would not relinquish him even to his old familiar nightmares. When he tried to sleep, he’d inevitably have dreams where he was swallowed in darkness; still hearing distant voices but unable to make out the exact words. He recognized one of the voices as belonging to Xia - and he would wake up in a heart stuttering panic, because he didn’t want to know what she was trying to tell him.
So very tired, and he knew the weariness was taking its toll on him, so he pulled over into an all-hours diner. It wasn't a truck stop but an adjunct to the interstate that might as well have been, and while he was trying to force down high-octane coffee that made his taste buds hurt (he'd given up on the burger, as the first few bites went down like lead balls), he could hear the radio the cook was listening to in the back. It was a hard rock station, and Logan startled himself by realizing he was whispering the words to a song under his breath. “So you couldn’t dam that river, and it washed me so far away.” Did he even know what the fucking song was? He guessed it was Alice In Chains, just because Layne Staley’s raspy snarl was pretty unmistakable, but he was sure he had never heard the song before. So how did he know the lyrics? (Now that he thought about it, he was pretty sure he knew how it started too - “I broke you in the canyon, I drowned you in the lake.” Then again, maybe he knew the song because it sounded like a litany of his own life.)
Too many new things seemed familiar, bringing with them a taste of déjà vu that he couldn’t honestly reconcile with anything else in his Swiss cheese mind. He supposed he could blame the song on Bob - Bob really liked the grunge bands; maybe he'd picked it up from his mind - but what about the rest of it? The back roads he had taken for the first time, or so he thought, seemed oddly familiar, as did the make and colors of certain cars, the profile of a person he had never seen before at a crosswalk shouting mindlessly into their cell phone, the smell of burning wet newspapers in a rusty metal drum that once held industrial solvents.
Right now, he was chalking it up to being extremely tired. It was the kind of exhaustion that made his head feel like it was seething, boiling away his consciousness like morning dew. He was really sorry caffeine wouldn’t work on him, but at least the horrible rocket fuel aftertaste would keep him up for a while. He feared he was getting soft, after being with the X-Men and Bob for so long, or maybe his mind was finally absorbing all this god and multiple dimension shit, and breaking down under the strain.
(Or healing - holy shit, what if this was healing?)
Then again, maybe it was
the ghosts. All of
them, his private army of remembered regrets. Right, this was it;
was hallucinating and getting maudlin, which meant his mind was
getting soft, which also meant he needed sleep before he started seeing
and Yasha on a street corner, trying to get him to pull over for
God, he was a wimp. He remembered it wasn't that long ago when he could go five days without sleep. Of course, by that time he was usually talking to someone only he could see - and sometimes smell - but damn it, he could still keep going. So what if he was legally insane?
By the time he hit Vancouver, the sky was the color of rust, and he was still soaked from the rain squall he encountered on the Alberta border; the addition of the wind chill was making him shiver, and he was pretty sure his balls had shriveled up to the size of raisins. See? He knew he was a puss now - he couldn’t even handle a little cold anymore.
Logan found the sad, restored Victorian rooming house where Yasha had her apartment and, after entering the downstairs foyer, he encountered a sleek black Manx cat sitting on a small side table piled with mail. The envelope on top seemed to have familiar name on it. That didn’t say 'Yasha', did it?
He moved closer, making the snaggletooth cat twitch an ear back in annoyance, but it made no other move as he approached. “You a bad omen, or the guard cat? Maybe someone‘s familiar?” He asked it, as he picked up the envelope. Indeed, it did say 'Yasha' on it - no last name given, barely a street address. The post office had really earned its money here; it even had a Japanese postage mark.
Opening the butter-yellow envelope, Logan didn’t know what he expected to find; perhaps a note from a friend, a death threat, who knew. But when he tore it open, it was empty.
The cat walked over to him, brushing against his arm with a tentative purr, and jostled the envelope, causing something to dislodge. What fell to the polished wood table in the cat’s wake was a tiny, colorful rectangle - a folded one million yen note. He peered inside the envelope and shook it briskly, but nothing else came out. Money? Who would send her money? Her banker?
“Good cat,” he said, pocketing the yen and giving the animal a scratch behind its ear. It really liked that, and purred like a motorboat.
He sifted through the rest of the mail, but found nothing else specifically addressed to her. The cat kept rubbing up against him, and it did have nice fur. Obviously a well fed, pampered feline, which made him wonder who owned it. Or maybe it was the “house” cat, a lobby fixture. He’d never been at Yasha’s long enough to notice.
Heading up the red carpeted staircase, he even locked his own jaw to keep his teeth from chattering, yet still found himself humming that damn song from the diner. Oh yeah, he was in full-on crazy mode now.
The cat followed him,
pacing him up the stairs, going up a level and sitting on the bottom
step, waiting for him to catch up. “So, cat, who do ya think sent Yash
money?” He asked it, as the smell of coffee and bacon and eggs started
to waft through the former boarding house, added to the idiot murmur of
morning television barely heard through thick walls. People were
starting to stir, getting ready for the daily grind, and here he was,
to collapse from exhaustion. But these were normal people, who
never realized a vampire lived on the top floor, and certainly didn’t
know their world had
The cat didn’t answer him, so he figured he wasn’t that far gone.
It shadowed him up to the
floor, which Yasha had pretty much all to herself. That was obvious by
The cat twined around his
so he gave it a final pat as he grabbed a rolled-up paper off the top
The cat continued to stare at him with big green eyes, until he went inside and closed the door behind him.
The place smelled so much of her that it made his gut hurt - or maybe that was the kerosene the diner called coffee fighting his healing factor and trying to eat its way clear through his stomach lining.
Logan tossed the newspaper on the couch and let the torn envelope fall on top of the T.V., figuring he’d scour it for clues later. If there was a later, or anything worth searching further for.
He started stripping off his wet clothes, and noticed she had a bit more furniture than the last time he was here, but not much. The heavy blue velvet curtains were already drawn against the slowly rising morning sun, so he wouldn’t have to expend any energy closing them. Very good, as his blood was starting to feel like liquid metal. He hated it when he was so exhausted he really began to feel his second set of bones - or at least that’s what he sometimes thought of them as: his internal suit of armor. If he didn’t know better, it seemed that sometimes his bones actually ached, constantly crumbling and rebuilding under the weight.
Man, things were so fucked up - he was fucked up. But how could things possibly get more fucked up than they were before? That seemed like a violation of some natural law.
All things considered, he timed it pretty well. Too tired to bother with any formalities, he kicked off his boots in the bedroom, and peeled off the last of his damp clothes before falling on the bed. Wrapping the blankets around him, shivering, he wondered if Yasha had a heater (she hardly needed one - it’s not like vamps cared about ambient temperature; one of the benefits of being dead), and it bothered him a little that the blankets still smelled so much of her. But at least she was alive - well, in a manner of speaking; sort of - somewhere else. Maybe he could think of it as her taking a vacation in a foreign land he could never visit - at least, not without Bob’s help. Regretably, he couldn’t say the same thing about Xia; she was gone for good.
Logan didn’t really want
but his eyes had closed of their own volition as soon as he hit the
mattress. He could feel the rising tide of weariness, engulfing him,
and knew he just
didn’t have the
The best he could hope for was that he wouldn't dream this time.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Helga asked, crumpling her beer can in her fist.
“What, darlin’?” Bob asked, as he put the finishing touches on the cake. Marzipan platypuses were even hard for him to make, which had to mean something. Personally, the fruit bat he made was his favorite, but he didn’t know if Syd was into bats, per se.
“Okay, so there was a dimensional disruption that got Nebbish released from his cage, and he exploited the followers of Argus to increase the chaos flux. Have I got this right so far?”
“Indeedy.” Sadly, he knew where she was going with this, so his mind raced ahead for an excuse while he finished positioning the marzipan animals on the red field of strawberry frosting. Real frosting he'd whipped up too, not that artificial crap in a can; in fact, he thought the seeds he couldn’t quite strain out gave it a lovely textured pattern. He also knew he probably enjoyed making these elaborate birthday cakes more than his great grandkids enjoyed them, but he didn’t actually care about that; even if he just ended up tossing it is a wastebasket, he would still do it. He was a great believer in it being the thought that counted. (Although, if the past could be counted on to repeat itself, most of the cake would be eaten by the adults before Syd even got a piece.)
“So Kalfu and Irish McCallahan both worked on using the chaos wave for their own ends? Fine … but how did they all know to strike together? I mean, Nebbish had no contact with anyone, did he? And I can’t see Erish-tible and Kalfutz getting on a party line to each other.”
Bob sighed as he put the lid on the cake carrier and put it in the refrigerator to set up, while Helgo tossed her can in the recycling bin, making a loud clatter among the cans. “Well, okaaay ... obviously there was someone behind the scenes orchestrating this.”
“Someone who could benefit from all the chaos, death, and destruction, yet was too afraid to get their hands dirty lest it all go straight into the crapper.”
“So - a weasel god?”
“Does that narrow things down at all?”
“Nope.” He grabbed a bottled lemonade tea from the fridge and went to the living room, Hel following as she continued without pause.
“All right, so it’s a huge list. How big is the list of people you can eliminate as suspects?”
“Umm … “ he threw himself down on the sofa, still thinking. How much should he tell her? Mr. Bungle played faintly on the stereo, almost mockingly, “Save me, the heavens have opened, the storm is over, so let’s start the parade …” “ I do believe they can fit on a single index card.”
Helga made a noise of disgust, and flopped down in the nearest armchair. “Is there any way to narrow it down further? Why wouldn’t they jump in and get involved themselves?”
“Well ..” he left it hanging, because again, he didn’t want to answer that honestly. He had his suspects narrowed down to a greater degree, but she didn’t need to get involved. It was better if she didn’t.
Sadly, Helga was just too clever. “Holy shit,” she gasped. “Someone not powerful enough to compete.”
He nodded, giving her that. “Or at least not powerful in the same sense that Neb, Ereshkigal, and Kalfu were, no. Someone with a niche power.”
She arched a jade eyebrow at him, and sat forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “You know, don’t you?” She reached across the gap between them and slapped his leg. “Spill it, ya old bastard.”
“I do not know,” he lied. “ I haven’t completely narrowed down the list to one.”
And it was then that a grenade exploded in his head.
Or at least it felt like a grenade. The bottle of tea slipped from his hand and thudded on the carpet as he winced and grabbed his head, the pain like a living blue wildfire in his mind. “Bob,” she asked, concerned. “What's-”
“Nothing,” he said, making it a push. “Nothing’s wrong.”
He heard her sit back, and go on as if he hadn’t just had a type of seizure. “Why are you trying to hide it from me? Who do you think is -”
He tuned her out, not because he wanted to, but because the pain was impossible to fight. It took him a moment to realize what it was, because he hadn’t felt it for such a long time - a direct call from the Powers. They wanted to see him, and right goddamn now, or his head might actually explode.
The pain increased every few seconds, a bright blue light pulsing behind his eyes, so he couldn’t ignore it. “Hon, go,” he said through gritted teeth. It hurt to push right now, but he had no choice; he had to get Hel out of here. “Go out clubbing, have a good time, don’t worry about me. Go now.”
Blank faced, Helga just got up and left, and he didn’t wait for the front door to finish closing before he teleported upstairs, to the outside of the door that didn’t exist to anyone but him. He didn’t shed his corporeal form this time as much as he was brutally pulled out of it, and yanked through the door of unreality, into the strata belonging to the Powers That Be.
"What the fuck was the big
friggin’ deal?" He thought irritably, surprised to find that the Powers
*Imperfect one,* A voice boomed, both male and female, singular and plural; nowhere and everywhere. *You broke our rule.*
That was a shock. "Uh, can you be more specific?" He’d taken out many of their rules; that’s why he'd been booted from the club. Bob decided to take on the form of an asteroid, or perhaps a small rogue moon.
*You killed one of us.*
"Bullshit! I did no such thing!"
*You killed the half-breed.*
Oh, shit. "Only half you; 'doesn’t count." Okay, he was reaching, but it was still a valid point.
*It wasn’t you.* Voice one said.
*It was the Human.* Voice two said.
"Touch him and die." He didn’t like what seemed to be the drift of their thoughts. "Without my power he couldn’t have hurt him at all. The responsibility belongs to me, not my avatar. He’s just a puppet. Leave him out of this."
One of those long pauses, meant only to torment him. Wow, it really was quiet in space, wasn’t it? Finally, voice one thought *You protect him.*
"Yeah. Funny; I get attached to Humans."
*Is he one of Yours?* Voice two inquired.
"How can you even think that? He’s Human."
*You’ve hid them from us before.*
*He is a perfect vessel for you.*
"Coincidence. You know how entropy runs on that plane. Or have you forgotten Angel?" Bob got a sense of resentment from the surrounding space, not so much hatred or displeasure as simple distaste, and the overwhelming feeling that they needed to teach him a lesson. Logan was not going to be that lesson, no matter what noose he had to tighten around his own neck.
He felt the cold spike along his non-existent spine. *The Dead One.*
*You took him from us.*
Good - now they could hate him for something else. "He’s back now, good as new. No harm, no foul. He was just a loaner."
*You exist as you do at our sufferance.*
"The fucking world was coming to an end! Weren’t you paying attention?!"
*It wouldn’t have succeeded.*
It was the feeling he got when they said it that made him pause. "Because I was there to stop it. Oh, you little creeps …"
*You were irrelevant.*
"Oh, eat me! You expected me to shut it down! And if I fucked up, you had a reason to exile me elsewhere. Why can’t you be honest and just have me whacked?"
There was another long pause, like a whisper between stars. *Your feelings are clear; your words are not.*
"Welcome to Earth."
Another pause, rife with disapproval. *Being obtuse won’t help you.*
"You’d be surprised. So what exactly am I here for? You could have lectured me in a dream."
Of course they made him wait for it. You know, with nothing interesting to look at or hear, space alone could be pretty boring. He should have brought a book. Finally, they told him, *You will be judged.*
That didn’t sound good. Wasn’t that how he ended up Belial? He couldn’t precisely remember. "Which means...what? Are you exiling me elsewhere? Are you gonna make me a rhino?"
*Once we have judged, we will determine what is to be done with you.*
No, that didn’t sound any better. "I don’t suppose I can bring in a lawyer, huh?"
Dead silence. Man, they had no sense of humor at all, did they?
So Bob floated along, trying to be as carefree as an asteroid (not that they would necessarily be carefree - again, hard to think like a non-sentient, inanimate object, because they didn’t think at all), and decided not to worry about it. Either he would weasel his way out of this, or he’d end up a burp frog in the seventeenth dimension.
Seriously, he’d had worse.