Author: Notmanos
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Rating: R
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!   


Jean held the blouse up in front of herself as she looked in the mirror. It was a bright royal blue, with a deep but still relatively demur v - neck, and black buttons that could have been carved from onyx. "It's pretty," Ororo said, looking over her shoulder.

Jean frowned at her own reflection. "It is," she agreed, turning back towards the rack of similar designed silk blouses. "But it's too frilly and too .. young for me. And it makes me look pale."

"You are pale," Ororo countered, giving her a sly smile.

Jean hung it back on its rack with a heavy sigh. "Thanks for the agreement." They were the only customers in the boutique now, save for a young woman who disappeared into the changing rooms with an armful of clothes ten minutes ago and had yet to come out. Jean didn't try to pry, but she was able to pick up empathically that the girl was a nervous wreck, and thought she looked hideous in everything. She knew the feeling.

"And what was that "too young" crack?" Ororo continued, looking at a neighboring rack of shirts that looked more like scarves. To say they were tiny and made of scant material would be frighteningly redundant. She tried to imagine a situation where she would squeeze into a handkerchief like that, and couldn't, but Ororo was looking at them with definite interest. Then again, she had the kind of chest that would look good with ( theoretical ) shirts like those. "Are you suddenly a decrepit old woman?"

"There's no suddenly about it," she sighed, giving up on the silk shirts. The next rack over had prim white blouses, suitable for work, and that made her instantly feel very depressed. She didn't want to wear shirts like those. "I am a school marm."

Ororo laughed, taking a good hard look at a blue paisley scarf ( shirt ) with those long, drapey sleeves that she always found wildly impractical. "At least you're not a spinster school marm."

"No, I'm almost married," she said, looking at the prim white blouses with their proper lace trim and pearl like buttons, and loathed them with a passion.

She noticed that Ororo was staring at her out of the corner of her eye, and looked at her. "What?"

"You say that like it means almost dead."

"No I didn't." But even as she denied it, didn't she think ... just a little .... she shook her head at her own thoughts. "I didn't mean it like that."

"Are you sure?" Ororo was looking at her skeptically, and Jean quickly pretended to be fascinated by the microscopic skirts hanging on another circular rack farther away, out of her direct line of vision.

"Of course I'm sure - what kind of question is that?"

She pretended to look through the leather and suede minis as if actually interested, so she didn't have to look at Ororo as she came over. "A good one." She lowered her voice to a whisper as she said, "Jean, you're my friend, and so is Scott. And no matter how you both try and hide it, I know there's something wrong."

Jean shook her head, looking at a blue suede skirt that really was very nice. Too bad it was so short. She could never get away with wearing something this skimpy ... could she? "Nothing's wrong. It's just ... couples go through peaks and valleys, that's all. We're in a valley right now."

"Not a canyon?"

She smirked at her sourly, not appreciating the humor, and wondered if she'd ever be able to tell someone what was wrong when she didn't actually know herself. This felt like some awful cliche: physician, heal thyself. But if it was only a physical problem - a broken arm, a case of food poisoning - she could deal with it. But it wasn't something nearly that easy. Something had happened between her and Scott, and she didn't know what; they were growing apart, moving away from each other, and she didn't understand how or why it was happening. She wanted to stop it, go back to the way things were. And yet there were some mornings when she looked over at Scott's sleeping form and wondered what she ever saw in him. She now wondered if he ever felt that way about her.

Maybe they had always been doomed. She was older than him - not by much, but still - and he'd had almost no romantic experience at all when she met him; hell, he'd only ever been on two dates, and while he'd never said it, she was pretty sure he was still a virgin. It was his self -consciousness over his mutation that made him keep people at arm's length - Scott's greatest fear was that he would accidentally kill someone by looking at them - although with her and the Professor's help, he seemed to have opened up a bit more, let people get closer to him, and certainly he had grown more confident, by leaps and bounds. She always found his awkward innocence endearing, just like he seemed to find her "worldliness" fascinating. He seemed perfect; he should have been enough. So why wasn't he? What was wrong with her?

He was handsome; he was caring; he was polite; he was faithful; he was reliable; his mind was a quiet retreat; he was safe. So what was the problem?

"We're fine, Ororo," she lied, putting the skirt back on the rack. "Things have just been really strange lately."

"Well, I can't argue with that." She wandered over to another rack to look, giving Jean a moment's peace.

This trendy little clothing boutique was more Ororo's style than hers - when was the last time she bought something here? It always smelled of potpourri and seemed to have some New Age music playing very quietly in the background ( today it was Enya - or was it Clannad? Something like that ), and it seemed too precious somehow. The fact that it mostly carried clothing she couldn't imagine wearing was just another problem.

Light flooded in through the store's plate glass window, giving everything a golden glow that just seemed to emphasize the rarefied air of the place, and she wandered the narrow aisles of the place, feeling more lost than ever.  What was her problem?

It didn't help that she and Scott had bit of a dust up this morning. She made the mistake of telling him how much she missed that feeling of Camaxtli's protection, just because the feeling of power she had was incredible - she'd never picked up a car before! And it wasn't hard at all; there was no sense of strain or exertion - it was like lifting a feather. Bob had been right about it: the feel of power was incredible, intense, sexual, orgasmic; something like ecstasy and adrenaline all rolled into one concentrated shot. She missed it; she wanted to feel that kind of raw power again.

Scott stared at her over the breakfast table, mouth hanging open in shock, and then finally found the ability to say, "Are you insane?"

That wasn't a good way to start a conversation with your fiancee. She was sure even Scott knew that, if only in retrospect.

Okay, so Scott didn't like the addition of Camaxtli's power - his optic beams were so powerful he could barely contain them, and nearly put himself through a wall using them. She could see why that wasn't such a good thing from his perspective. But couldn't he see why what happened to her wasn't a bad thing?

She couldn't talk to Rogue, Bobby, or Kitty about it, and Storm had been left behind, so there was no one she could talk to this about at all. Well, she had discussed it - after a fashion - with the Professor, who suggested she talk it over with Scott. "You're starting to bottle things up, Jean," he had told her telepathically. "I don't need to tell you that isn't healthy."

No, of course it wasn't healthy, but Scott apparently didn't even want to know. So who else was she going to talk to? Who else could understand the dark, seductive allure of that much power? Of the knowledge that you could, with a flick of your hand, make everyone disappear? That with nothing more than a minimum of effort you could make all your enemies ( and problems ) go away?

She thought sourly "Magneto". Which isn't what she wanted at all. She didn't want to actually do it, it was just ... god, the power. That kind of strength was just mind blowing. She could talk to Bob about it, but something about him made her nervous. So who did that leave?

Logan? He didn't have that kind of power, although he was physically strong, and everyone knew he could wipe anyone out with a simple flick of his wrist. But he had channeled Bob's power, didn't he? If you believed Bob, he saved the world with it - he wasn't under the protection of a god, he really had its power. What must that have been like? He never talked about it, but since when did he talk about anything? She really had to talk to him while he was still at the mansion.

She was gazing in stark wonder at a bright magenta blouse - okay, who would wear that, and was being color blind the only reason to do so? - when she felt the strangest sensation. It wasn't like telepathy - not exactly - but it was a feeling like ... like what? It was like the equivalent of a burst of static while tuning between radio stations.

She rubbed her forehead - it didn't hurt, but it wasn't exactly a comfortable feeling - when Ororo asked, "Is something wrong?"

"Did you feel that?"


So it only affected telepaths. What the hell had that been?

It was then that the front window shattered, sending glass shards flying throughout the tiny store, and even as she ducked on reflex, Jean immediately called up her telekinesis and tried to channel the glass, sending it harmlessly into the nearest racks of clothes. But she was put off her game by the sight of what had broken the window - a woman.

A tall, lean woman in casual clothes, jeans and an old white t - shirt advertising the band Joy Division, stumbling about on rubbery legs, possibly due to the fact that she was bleeding copiously from a wound to her neck. She looked at her, and Jean was taken aback to see she was blind - her eyes were pure white - but at the same time she realized that no, while she looked blind, she was clearly seeing her perfectly. "Jean Grey?" She said, then collapsed to her knees on the carpet.

Ororo had immediately gone to the remains of the window to see if there was anyone immediately pursuing her ( obviously not, or she would have said something ) , and jean shouted to the flabbergasted woman behind the counter, "Call 911!" But even as she went to the woman, she knew it was probably too late - that was arterial spray; a major artery had been cut open. She was probably lucky to still be conscious.

As she knelt beside her, she tried to use her telekinesis to staunch the wound, which, up close, looked impossibly bad. She hadn't been cut by glass; either she had been shot, or something inside her throat had exploded, leaving a lethal wound and ragged flesh behind. The redheaded woman looked up at her with blind eyes, her skin rapidly paling to the same color, and said, "Second implant. Should have known they'd have compensated for me ... "

"What?" Considering she was bleeding to death, she wasn't necessarily going to be very coherent.

She dug in the pocket of her leather coat, collapsing backwards, but Jean caught her, propped her up on her own knees as she put a hand over the wound on her throat. It would be no more effective than her telekinesis in trying to stop the flow of blood, but she had to try. The irony was, she could stop the blood flow with her powers, but to do so would have killed her just as surely as this wound was. There'd been too much damage for her to telekinetically fix so fast. "Give - give these to Logan," the woman said, holding up two computer discs now stained with her own blood.

The mention of his name shocked her. "You know Logan?"

"He has to - " she said, and then Jean felt her sag heavily against her, the strength that kept her going finally running out; even the blood seemed to stop trying to squirt out from between her fingers. The disks fell from her limp hand and landed in a pool of blood.

Ororo came over, a  hand clamped over her mouth, blue eyes wide with horror. "Is she - ?"

"Yes," Jean said, trying to set aside the cold feeling that had just swept over her like an arctic tide. She'd been trying to scan the woman's mind, just in time to feel her die. Oh god, how horrible was that feeling? So cold ... god, so very cold, empty, dark ... she tried to set it aside, swallowing back tears and bile, and concentrated on telekinetically keeping the woman's heart beating.

She looked with bleary eyes at the disks floating on the puddle of blood, and wondered what could be on them that was worth dying for.


Logan was in the gym with Kitty when they got back to the mansion.

Ever since the Fenrir thing, Kitty was more convinced than ever she needed to know something about defending herself, beyond being able to simply phase out. Scott had offered to teach her, but no, she - like most of the others - took Logan's basic brutality to mean he was the better fighter. And okay, maybe he seemed to know every martial art known to man, including a few that no one knew existed, but that didn't make him the better fighter. It just made him different. But even the Professor got him to admit Logan probably had more hand to hand combat experience than he did - the one thing about his mutation is that he didn't get many opportunities to do close quarters fighting: he could generally put someone through a wall before they got within ten feet of him.

Scott wished he could have remained with Jean rather than be errand boy; she was so shaken, so pale. Why wouldn't she be? She just had a woman die not only in her arms but in her mind. Yet he couldn't help her there - the Professor was trying to comfort her as only telepaths could, and that left him out of the loop. So he offered to go get Logan if only to give himself something constructive to do.

He had seen the woman -  they'd brought her back here since she was not only a mutant but a murdered one ( and god knew the local cops were certainly eager to investigate any mutant murders ... sure they were; just like they were ready to admit they had a couple of bad cops on the force. Yeah, right.  ), and Scott had been stunned by the resemblance of the dead woman to Jean. Her hair was cut differently, much shorter, and was a slightly brighter red, but there was an uncanny resemblance, white eyes aside. It was chilling to look at her; for a moment he could imagine it was Jean, and it was like a ghost walked over his grave. Storm had taken the computer disks she had given them to clean them up and see what was on them; he envied her that job, but since she looked pretty shaken up too, he wasn't about to insist he could do that.

As he came in, Kitty dodged a blow that Logan threw, and let out a yelp of surprise as he followed up with a second sweeping jab from the left. She phased out and went right through him as he was in the full arc of the swing, and he stumbled forward, his weight committed so much to the punch that he was thrown off balance by her sudden disappearance. "Good," Logan barked, instantly turning to face her as she phased back in a couple of feet behind him. "But you should have went solid sooner, and kicked me in the back of the knee."

"Kick you?" She said, with a comically horrified expression on her face.

Logan smirked, and said, "Hey, come on, no fear. No matter how big and nasty your opponent, the back of the knee is a weak point. What are the others?"

"Eyes, throat, groin, solar plexus," she recited, and Scott shuddered to think what Logan was actually teaching her.

He nodded. "Right. If you get the chance to take your enemy off his feet, do it, and once he's down, keep 'im down. And never give 'em a chance to breathe - you get a hit, capitalize on it instantly. Don't give 'em time to recover." He started to undo the velcro closures on the thickly padded, black fingerless gloves he wore ( well, with all that adamantium in his body, even a careless slap could break a bone on someone else ), and told Kitty, "We're done for now. Good job; yer getting better."

She nodded, then glanced nervously at Scott, giving him a nod of acknowledgment as Logan held open the ropes of the sparring ring  so she could climb out. She could have phased, but maybe she'd done that enough for now.

Kitty walked past him, giving him a small smile, and as soon as the door closed behind him, Logan asked, "Why do I smell blood on you? What'd I miss?"

Scott knew he didn't smell blood, and quickly looked down at himself. Eventually he found a tiny spot of blood - a pinprick really - on the collar of his shirt. Wow - that really was a sensitive nose. "Do you know any red haired mutants with white eyes?"

He stared at him, but Scott wasn't sure if it was from shock or simply surprise at such a question. "No. What the fuck is this about?"

Logan climbed out of the sparring ring himself, and while Scott was glad he bothered to wear a shirt ( but of course it had to be a tight white tank top that was almost too small for him, and showed off every single muscle he had in his torso - Scott was sure he did that on purpose. But who was he trying to impress? ), he noticed with a grimace that he was barefoot still. He hated that, especially in the gym ( it was so unhygienic ), but Logan claimed he got "better traction" barefoot. Sometimes the man was barely above an animal.

"Jean and Ororo encountered a mutant who seemed to know you in town."

He finished stripping off the gloves and tossed them back inside the ring behind him ( he didn't even look to see if he had hit it. He had, dead center, but that wasn't the point ). "Did she hurt them?"

"No - she got killed."

That made Logan stare at him intensely, his eyes narrowing as if he was ready to race out and do battle. "They killed her?"

"No, someone else did. Jean tried to save her and she couldn't; she's pretty shaken up about it."

Something like concern crossed Logan's face. "Is she - are they hurt?"

He wasn't sure which "she" he meant, but he could guess, and he didn't like it. "No. There was no fight. Jean thinks she might have been killed by a sniper shot or some kind of implant; she's going to study her wound in the med lab to find out."

"Is that where she is?" He asked, walking past him out the door. Scott instantly followed, wondering why he just felt like hauling off and punching him. Sometimes Logan just made him feel that way, and he loathed him for it.

"Yeah, downstairs."

"Did they get a name? This woman? Did she say how she knew me?"

"No. But she wanted Jean to give you some computer disks."

That made Logan stop, and when he turned to look at him, Scott was surprised at how dark and intense his look was. "What? Why? What's on them?"

"Ororo hasn't cleaned them up enough to see yet."

"Cleaned them up?" He repeated, brow furrowing in consternation. But then he guessed, "Blood?"

Scott just nodded. There was no need to elaborate.

They rode the elevator down to the lower floors in silence, although he couldn't help but notice Logan clenching and unclenching his fists -  a nervous habit? Maybe he always wanted to pop his claws when things happened that he couldn't understand. Violence was his answer to everything.

As the elevator doors opened, Logan asked, "Can I see her?"

It took Scott a moment to realize who he was talking about. "The dead woman?"

Logan nodded, a muscle in his jaw twitching. He didn't want to see her, but he had to see her - a  paradoxical feeling
Scott knew all too well. For a second - a very brief second - he almost felt sorry for Logan. But it passed quickly.

"Sure, but it's not pretty."

"Death never is." Logan sounded like he was speaking from experience. He most assuredly was.

Scott led him to the part of the med lab that was being temporarily used as a morgue, and wasn't surprised to see Jean and the Professor were inside. She was standing beside his wheelchair but holding his hand, and he supposed Xavier was still offering telepathic comfort. He wished he could help her somehow - the idea of feeling someone else die was chilling, and he really didn't know how Jean could bear it  - but again, he was not a telepath: he could not know what it was like. Honestly he was glad about that, but his heart still ached for her.

She gave him a questioning look, and he knew what she was asking - did Logan know the woman? Scott shook his head in reply as Logan asked her, "Are you okay?"

She mustered up an anemic smile for him ( oh yeah, sure - like Logan was actually concerned for anyone beyond himself ), and said, "I will be."

Logan nodded solemnly, sniffed, then said awkwardly, "Can I see her?"

Jean tightened her grip on Xavier's hand. "Are you sure you want to?"

He nodded. "I have to know."

Scott supposed that was fair enough. Jean must have thought so too, because she nodded, let go of Xavier's hand, and used her telekinesis to open the metal drawer where the woman's body waited in cold storage. She probably didn't want to be so close to it again so soon, and he couldn't blame her.

The body was covered by a clean sheet, only minutely spotted with blood by the neck, and Logan approached it warily, walking in that strangely careful way of his, so even though he was barefoot on a metal floor he hardly made any noise at all, and paused before pulling back the sheet, uncovering her face.

Again, Scott couldn't get over her resemblance to Jean.Maybe it was the nose or the cheekbones, the facial shape, all of the above or none of the above, but it was all he could do not to shudder.

Logan's shoulders stiffened, and Jean asked, "Do you recognize her?"

"She looks like you," he said, speaking Scott's thoughts aloud. Logan carefully opened one of her eyelids, saw the white eyes, and then gently closed it again. He then examined the wound in her throat. "Smells like ... a chemical detonator."

Scott, Jean, and Xavier all shared curious glances. Logan and that nose of his. Frankly, it was kind of creepy at times. "Do you mean gunpowder?" She asked.

"No. Not nitroglycerin, but somethin' like it. She had an explosive in her neck. Why the hell would she have an explosive in her neck?"

That was a damn good question. "She said something about a second implant," Jean admitted. "But I didn't know what she meant. I assumed she was incoherent due to shock."

"Second implant?" Logan repeat, brows sinking low over his eyes. "What exactly did she say?"

"I - "

"Show me."

She stared at him in shock. Jean hadn't even shared it with him, but then again, Scott hadn't asked. She was so shaken up and of course the whole "dying in her mind" thing ... but he would have been willing if it helped her at all. "Logan ..."

"I can take it." He then added, somewhat sardonically, "I've died before. I can deal."

She glanced nervously at Xavier, who seemed to give her a reassuring nod, and then walked cautiously over towards Logan. Logan met her half way, perhaps so she didn't have to get that close to the woman's body before she was ready. She seemed to take a deep, steadying breath and stared at Logan for a solid thirty seconds before closing her eyes, and sharing her memories with him.

Scott felt suddenly, inexplicably jealous. Stupid - he knew it was stupid. Jean was just sharing the memories of this poor woman's agonizing death with him - a death Logan might be connected to somehow ( would it surprise him? Not at all ). But he still crossed his arms over his chest and tried to tamp down his anger, so Xavier ( or Jean, peripherally ) wouldn't pick up on it. Why was it taking so long?

Jean then opened her eyes, blinking back tears, and Logan hugged her, although it seemed absent minded, an automatic reflex that meant nothing. A good thing, as it was the emptiness of the gesture that kept him from going over there and ripping his fucking head off.

"Compensated for me," Logan said, apropos of nothing. He must have been repeating something the woman said. He tore away from Jean ( she was just stunned - she really wasn't disappointed he let her go ), and looked back at the corpse. "She knew of a first implant and destroyed it somehow. She suspected a second one but didn't know for sure - but it did exist, and it killed her."

"An implant given to her by whom?" Xavier asked.

Logan shook his head, staring at the dead woman as if expecting her to answer. "I don't know. I guess the answer's on the disks." He went to the dead woman's side, and looked down at her with such an overwhelming expression of angry sadness that Scott was surprised he didn't burst into tears or put his fist through the wall. "I have to what? What am I supposed to do with the disks?" Obviously rhetorical questions somehow related to what Jean had showed him, he sighed heavily and pulled the sheet back over the woman's face. "This is related to the Organization somehow; I'm sure of it."

"Well, duh," Scott commented, and for some reason Jean shot him an evil look for it.

But Logan seemed to pay no attention to him at all, and that took some of the fun out of it. "I don't understand ... could this be a trap?"

"You think they'd kill someone as part of a trap?" Scott commented. That seemed pretty far fetched.

Logan finally paid attention to him, giving him a hateful glare that verged on demonic. "Would you put it past 'em, Boy Scout?"

"Hey." After that snide nickname, there was no way in hell he was conceding he may have had a point.

Logan then looked slightly panicked, shifting his gaze to Xavier. "If they know I'm here, we have to lock down. They might - "

"I think they've known you were here for some time," Xavier pointed out calmly, exuding the kind of serenity only he could in situations like this. "If they were inclined to make a move, I doubt it would be when we expect them to do so."

Logan nodded in agreement, but Scott saw him doing that clenching and unclenching of his hands again. Was there something he wasn't telling them? He seemed really nervous ...

The door opened, and Storm came inside, looking at them all in turn. Unlike Jean, she had not changed her blood flecked shirt, but Jean really hadn't had a choice; it wasn't flecked so much as completely sodden. "The disks are as ready as they're ever gonna be," she said, glancing between them. But her gaze fell the longest on Logan, possibly due to his "connection" to all of this.

"Excellent," Xavier said, and his wheelchair hummed to life. They followed him out, Scott waiting until everyone was out of the room before he joined them, bringing up the rear.

Scott knew it was petty and probably childish, but who had Jean turned to for comfort in this time? The Professor and Logan. The Professor he could understand - a fellow telepath, they lived in a world he could never really know. But Logan? Logan?!

He wondered if there'd be time to ask Logan if he wanted to do some training later. He really felt like doing some sparring right now. And what could be more relaxing than beating the holy shit out of Logan?

They retreated to an adjacent room, an adjunct of the "war" room, where Storm had a computer up and running. These were different from the upstairs computer in that they were extremely high powered and had a specially isolated mainframe, as well as security protocols that would make the Pentagon jealous.

Storm had removed the chair in front of the computer desk beforehand, so the Professor was able to maneuver right up to it and insert the first now unbloodied disk into the drive. For a moment the drive just hummed, and they all crowded around him for a look at the flat screen monitor. Jean grabbed his hand, and he interlaced his fingers with hers, giving her a warm smile ... and then he noticed her other hand was tightly gripping Logan's shoulder.

One of these days, he was going to kill that bastard.

Blocks of numbers flashed by on the screen, along with a jumble of letters and other symbols. "Is it encrypted?" he asked, leaning over Xavier's shoulder.

"I'm running a decrypting program now," he told him. It was nice that the Professor never said, "How do I know, dumbass?"

"Wait," Storm said suddenly. "I swear I just saw the name Wolverine."

"Where?" Jean asked.

"Two pages back," Logan said, as flatly as if this was of no concern to him at all. "In fact, I've seen it seven times." After a pause, and another column of letters flashed by, he said, "Eight."

It went by so fast all Scott could see were blurs. He was making that up! There was no way he could read that fast.
But he did have sharp eyesight - maybe he wasn't reading it more than catching the name as it flew by.

"It's not encrypted," the Professor said. "It's damaged. The data has been corrupted."

"But some of it is salvageable, right?" Scott was certain he'd never heard so much desperation in Logan's voice before.

"I believe so."

Logan sighed and hung his head, as if the answer had been a relief. Jean squeezed his shoulder in reassurance, and Scott gripped her hand more tightly. Did she even realize what she was doing?

But he supposed that was an argument for another time. Right now, they all tried to concentrate on what little data they could scrounge from the dead woman's disks, all wondering if she had died for absolutely nothing.


He stared at the data, hoping that it would soon make more sense. He figured that maybe, if he stared at it long enough, he'd see a pattern - like those stupid "3 - D " pictures that were all the rage a decade back.

But all Logan had gotten so far were dry eyes, a numb butt, and an almost undeniable urge to smash the computer.

Pretty much like those 3 - D pics, come to think of it.

He closed his eyes and saw the afterimages of the names burnt onto his retinas. His name was at the top of the list. Wolverine. Why? Did it make a difference, or in all the data scrambling did positioning become irrelevant?

He heard the door open, but already knew who it was by the scent of the perfume. "How'd the post mortem go?" He asked Jean, long before opening his eyes.

She didn't do a proper autopsy - she claimed she wasn't trained to - but she could examine the wound, do a few scans, and make some educated guesses. "You were right - the wound was caused by something inside her exploding outward. It's an exit wound with no entrance wound."

He opened his eyes, and looked at the screen again. No change, but he could now see her reflection in it. "A microexplosive."

"I didn't know those existed," she admitted wearily, coming up to stand behind his chair.

"Neither did I." He wondered if he had one in his system they'd never been able to detonate. Or maybe that came after his time with them; maybe he escaped before they could commit that particular atrocity to him.

He saw Jean's reflection scrutinizing the names on the screen. "You found all these?" She had piled her hair up on her head, probably to keep it out of the way during her examination, but it was sloppy in a way that was odd for her and yet completely endearing. She looked a little better than before too; maybe being able to stick to the logical breaking down of a person as things - chemical composition, bodily organs, parts of a whole - helped her regain her clinical distance.

"I found these all in this exact order. Wolverine, Shrike, Wraith, Static."

"Static? That's a new one."

"I know."

She gave him a troubled look. "You recognize it?"

"Not precisely. I just feel that I should, just like I feel I should know that woman in there." He paused, then admitted, "I keep thinking of her with a snake."


"A snake tattoo, a coiled snake cartoon ... something like that."

He felt her hands tightly grip the back of his chair, and he finally glanced up at her. "What?"

She looked down at him, partially stunned. "She has an ouroboros tattoo on her left hip."