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!   
Notes:  Takes place shortly after the "X Men" movie, and "Schism".


They killed the Guldar demon first.

Its muddy brown blood spilled over the concrete floor like a kicked over bucket of dirty mop water, and the body was dragged away by two of the white hooded acolytes as another set came up the sewer tunnels, dragging drugged and bound vampires with them.

There were seven in all, some kind of holy/mystical number mumbo jumbo crap, and most of the vamps were too doped up to do anything but look around as the acolytes dropped them on the floor, arranging them in a loose circle around the High Priest, and their eyes rolled back in their heads like marbles.

A single bulb positioned overhead put them all in a halo of yellow light, and the Priest, from his position in its center, raised his arms and started chanting the appropriate spell. A warm wind seemed to kick up, blowing through the otherwise blocked off sewer tunnels, and started swirling around the circle of light as if it was the eye of a hurricane.

Dried leaves and loose bits of paper not swept away  were soon pulled up in the sewer dust devil, and the Priest had to chant louder as the wind started to make a low, keening sound.
A vampire near the front, who dressed like he had seen "Blade" one too many times, seemed to regain some semblance of consciousness and looked around curiously. He must have had some idea of what was going on, because he looked at the Priest, then at his bound hands, and started to say something that looked very much like, "Oh shit."

But the first syllable was barely out of his mouth when the wind's howl rose to a glass shattering pitch, and all the vampires suddenly exploded into dust, creating a brief, solid funnel of gritty remains around the High Priest.

"Well, this sucks," she said, stifling a yawn.

"Shh,"  Keenan replied, giving her a nudge with his elbow.

She rolled her eyes, and wondered - not for the first time - why she ever went out with this idiot. "Look, you said raising, fun, and this is just crap. I could go to Vegas and see Siegfried and Roy if I wanted to see something this tacky."

"Would you shut the hell up?" He snapped, eyes bulging out of his sockets in fear. He looked around quickly, to make sure no one else had heard her.

But she started shoving her way through the attendant acolytes, heading towards the only tunnel that still had surface access. "Good luck with your death cult or whatever the hell," she said dismissively, not even bothering to look back and see him freak out.

Admittedly, there was next to nothing to do in this country, but this circus sideshow was not her idea of an even mildly diverting time.

Man, she needed a drink.


Logan didn't even hear the fight until he shut off the motorcycle.

He had taken a spot close enough to the entrance of the bar that he could keep an eye on the bike through the window, but the glass was so dark with years of accumulated cigarette smoke he wondered why he bothered.

Once he killed the engine and put down the kickstand, he heard the familiar noise of flesh on flesh, and in spite of the heavy exhaust smell of the night, he scented five guys in the alley that cut through on the far right of the bar.

"I am not getting involved," he muttered to himself. He seemed to be constantly finishing other people's fights, and he was tired of it. He wasn't some fucking superhero wannabe like Scott and his super special justice league - he was just a mutant with some issues and some really bad luck.

There was a thud - someone hitting a metal dumpster hard - and derisive laughter. "That all you got, faggot?" A man with a smoke coarsened voice said.

Someone else snickered, and another guy said, "I wonder if he screams like a woman."

This provoked another chorus of self - impressed hooting, and Logan let his chin fall to his chest as he sighed. "I can't believe I'm getting involved in this," he muttered to himself, getting off the bike and heading for the alley. Oh, who was he kidding? He loved a good fight.

Of course, this probably wouldn't be a good fight, but hell, any chance to beat on a redneck was a good time.

"Come on, faggot, let's hear you scream," Tobacco boy rasped, as Logan turned into the alley.

"Isn't there an Aryan Nation rally you're missing somewhere?" He asked, quickly assessing the group.  No challenge here: four guys, ranging from six foot two to five foot seven, most with the muscles and hard fat of heavy laborers and heavy drinkers, all plug ugly and reeking of booze. He figured they probably got streeted for being obnoxiously drunk, or just obnoxious.

The fifth man was sitting on the ground with his back against a dumpster, blood pouring from his swollen, crunched nose, reeking with fear. Two of the biggest asshole were looming over him, while the other two were standing back, as if on watch. Boy, did they suck at their jobs.

The biggest guy - with a shaved head that reflected the neon of the bar and was the only light source in the dark alley - scoffed loudly. "Oh man, look what we got here."

"Your bang buddy?" A guy with a Skoal cap said, kicking the bloody guy hard in the leg.

"Get out of here now, or you'll be leavin' feet first," he warned. They didn't deserve the head's up, but hell, all he wanted was a drink and maybe some fast company. If they wanted to get beaten to a pulp, that was their thing.

"Ooh, I'm shakin',"  the big guy replied, holding out his hand and moving it up and down in a parody of shaking. Oh, how witty.

The two members of the forward guard - for no reason at all, he thought of them as Bean and Cheese ( well, they were both obviously descended from some some variety of string ) - advanced on him as one, and Logan didn't even bother to look directly at either of them. Bean, on the right, threw the first punch, and Logan simply caught his fist as Cheese, on the left, threw a punch of his own. Logan snagged his arm by the wrist, and twisted. His arm snapped with a loud crack, and he screamed and fell away, grabbing his arm ( now hanging at an odd angle ), while Bean kicked him in the leg. It didn't hurt, just annoyed him, so he squeezed Bean's fist until he heard the bones crackle like ice. He was trying hard not to scream - he made an odd, sick noise instead - and dropped to his knees.  Only then did he let go of his hand.

Now Big Guy and Skoal Cap were staring at him with a mixture of disbelief and awe, with an undertone of fear like a splash of turpentine. Not enough fear, not by a long shot. "What the fuck are you supposed to be?" Big Guy said. "Some kinda freak?"

"We prefer the term 'mutant American'," he replied sarcastically. "Or, in my case, 'mutant Canadian'."

There was the fear now, a smell as sour as curdled milk. "You're full of shit," Big Guy said, glancing at Skoal Cap. A private signal - they were going to try something.

"No, I think that's your department, fugly."

For big, stupid guys, they moved fast. Big Guy moved straight for him while Skoal sidestepped, pulling out a knife and moving in from the right. Again, it might have had a chance of working if he was a normal guy, and a complete and utter dumb ass with the reflexes of a narcotized sloth. Big Guy had pulled a knife too, but it made no difference.

Logan popped the claws on both hands and lashed out, slicing the blades off their wicked looking knifes, and he tore a little skin right along with them.

"My finger! My fucking finger!" Skoal screamed.

Okay, maybe a little more than skin got torn away.

Big Guy threw a punch, and since he could see where it was going Logan let it connect. For a normal person, it would have been a bad punch; the knuckles were going to make contact with his cheekbone, and a bone on bone hit was sloppy at best.

But when one of the bones involved was plated with adamantium, it was an outright disaster.

Logan felt the impact, and since the guy had a fist about the size of a canned ham, it wasn't a shock. But the gunshot loud cracks of the man's knuckles against his face did make him flinch in unexpected sympathy. That had to hurt.

He tried to scream, but that would have required drawing breath, so he just made a tortured squeaking noise as he stumbled backwards, cradling his broken hand. He tripped on the legs of the man he had been previously beating on, and fell on his ass. He compounded this problem by reaching out reflexively and trying to brace his fall with his hands - bad one included.

His scream must have gone into the supersonic range. Logan was surprised the bar window didn't blow out.

"You scream like a woman," Logan chided, but it was probably wasted, as he seemed to have passed out.

The guy with the broken arm was still huddled up against the alley wall, clutching his arm and making whimpering sounds. The guy with the broken hand had slunk off, proving he had been smarter than the rest of pals, but the guy who was now missing a finger tried to staunch the bleeding with his other hand, and looked at him, eyes as wide and shiny as silver dollars in his shock paled faced. "What the fuck are you?" He asked.

Logan scowled at him, and he began slinking back down the alley, everything in his body language saying he was going to run like a scared rabbit as soon as he thought he had a chance. He was cool with that - the guy was not an even mildly entertaining fight. "Some kinda freak," he growled, lowering his head and stalking towards him.

That did it. The guy broke and ran like his ass was on fire.

He knew he was being stared at, so Logan looked back, retracting his claws, and saw the guy with the broken nose - the supposed "faggot" - staring at him like a deer in headlights. He had his hand pressed up to his swollen nose in an attempt to slow down the spurting blood, but it covered him in a dark stain from neck to crotch. His right eye was starting to swell shut too.

He was younger than all these guys, maybe nineteen, with blond hair highlighted with pink streaks ... or was that blood? His good eye was wide and bloodshot, and Logan could smell the fear coming off of him in waves. Yet another person terrified of him even when he was doing them a favor. Shit, why did he bother?

He was turning away when he heard a muffled, nasal, "Thank you." Thamb ooh.

Logan looked back at him, mildly surprised. Maybe he'd been beaten so bad his mental processes weren't functioning correctly. He tested the theory by backing up a couple of steps, near the Big Guy who now simply resembled a beached whale and held out a hand to help the kid up.

The kid hesitated, still frightened of him, but he did reach up and take his arm, and used Logan to lever himself to his feet, other hand still pressed to his nose. He could barely stand up.

Although Logan hated to get even more involved in this whole mess, he said, "Maybe you should stay here. I'll call ya an ambulance in the bar."

"No, that's okay." A variety of mashed syllables that actually sounded like nobfhastokie.  He then stumbled and hit the dumpster again, leaning against it to stay on his feet.

Logan shook his head. "You can't even walk, and I ain't so nice I'm gonna carry you. So stay here - "

"No," he insisted. Nobe. "You know how they treat us."

For a moment, Logan was sure he had heard him wrong: oohnoowtheybtritess. But he realized it was the only thing that made sense in either context.

The kid was a mutant.

He could see the iris of his good eye was silver, but he had thought it was a contact. But could he smell saline solution? No - must have been real. Whatever abilities this kid had, it obviously was no use to him in a fight, and this was no place or time to ask.  He wondered how he had escaped the Xavier mutant finding trap, but he supposed, even with the Cerebro doohickey, you just missed some; someone always slipped through the net.

Logan knew this kid had to go somewhere. Many mutants could heal faster than normals, but in general they couldn't heal like he could, and this kid had taken a pretty good thrashing. "I gotta call someone," he finally said. "You're gonna pass out in a minute."

"No, I'm fine," he insisted. Nobeibfive. But then he tried to take a step forward, and his knees buckled, and Logan caught him before he could hit the pavement face first.

Why didn't anybody listen to him?

He lowered the kid down and propped him up against the end of the dumpster, head forward so he didn't choke on the blood running down his throat. He had blood on his t - shirt now, and no, it sure as hell didn't smell like normal Human blood. God damn it.

The guy with the broken arm had crawled - or something - to the parking lot, so the alley casualties were just the kid and the beached whale. Oh well, maybe the whale would move on once he heard sirens.

Logan went around front and entered the somewhat seedy little bar, only to belatedly realize, in the assault of loud music and glimpses of neon, that it was actually a moderately trendy place. Oh, damn it. The front looked scuzzy! What false advertising.

He made his way through the mostly young crowd, up to the wooden bar ( correction - fake wood. How low could you go? ), and signaled the bartender over. He was a barely legal Asian guy with a pierced eyebrow, and short black hair gelled up into bright green tipped spikes. It looked like you could cut yourself on his hair. "A guy got mugged in the alley or something," Logan said, shouting to be heard over the music. "He looks pretty bad. I think you should call an ambulance."

He affected a look of concern as he finally interpreted the words through the filter of music. "Oh shit. Yeah, okay," he agreed, moving off towards the phone.

At least he now had an excuse to move on and keep looking for a decent bar. Man, sometimes it was just impossible to get a drink.

"You must not be from around here," a female voice proclaimed from just beyond his right shoulder. "No one around here would give a shit."

He glanced at a trim, dark skinned woman standing just behind him,  some trendy neon green drink in a martini glass held in her right hand. She was young, attractive, and had bright blue eyes that looked really familiar. Even over all the people and all the chemicals they slapped on themselves, he caught her scent; also familiar, and, in spite of her appearance, deeply inhuman.

"Is that right?" Logan replied. "Well, I know better than to trust a Belial on that."

She arched a single dark eyebrow, looking almost impressed. Her short black hair was straightened, but strands of it glittered - she had tinsel in her hair? Something like tinsel; something metallic. "Wow, you know? I guessed you for a civilian."

"Hardly." He turned away, not intending to waste his time with a Belial ( a real one too, not a Bob kind of one ) , but she grabbed his arm to stop him.

He could have yanked it away, but he chose to simply glare at her before doing so. She didn't seem to take the hint. She leaned forward, and whispered hastily, "Come on, new boy,want to go someplace decent? This place kinda sucks unless you're a trendoid."

"So why are you here?"

She shrugged. "Hoping to get laid."

He grunted in sympathy if not necessarily belief, and pulled his arm away as he stalked towards the door, shoving the aforementioned trendoids out of the way. She followed, though, and as soon as they were outside, she asked, "Did you beat him down?"

He wheeled on her and scowled. "What?"

"I can smell blood on you, even if the mundanes can't."

"Look, I helped the guy, but believe what you want, sister. And I ain't no demon."

"No, but you're not a mundane either, I can tell." She gave him a calculating smile that she probably thought was attractive. "So what's say we outsiders go get wicked drunk at a decent place, huh?"

"I ain't an outsider, and I don't hang with Belials." He wasn't even mentioning Bob, because that wasn't generally voluntary, and he wasn't exactly a Belial either, in spite of appearance and claims to the contrary.

"Afraid of me, tough guy?" She mocked, tossing the martini glass aside. It shattered against the hood of a near by Lumina, and splattered a lurid green apple - tini all over the windshield.

He snorted derisively as he straddled his bike. " A Belial? I doubt it."

"Then what are you afraid of?"

He glared at her. She was pretty in an airbrushed sort of way - high, sculptured cheekbones, almost feline cobalt Belial eyes, full crimson lips, and a set sort of expression that made her look like unamused royalty. But the problem was it all seemed like a studied pose, just another part of a Belial scam, and considering Bob's own astounding looks ( although he was not, to be fair, a real Belial ) , that tracked. Although she kept the outfit subdued - jeans, dominatrix boots, a red leather tank top that showed off her impressive boobs - Belials went out of their way to look good, to lure in prey and then totally fuck them over. "Nothing. Don't even try me. Look, why the hell are you bothering me? I know you're full of shit."

"I know. The only people I ever meet who know who I am are demons. It's kinda impressive."

"Go be impressed someplace else."

"Look, you want the truth? This town is dead; nothing ever happens here. You look like trouble, and I want some. Besides, you have the nicest ass I've seen in a long time."

He sighed. He bet some of that was a lie. But he knew she had been truthful about the town - it was dead. Why else had he ended up here, the only promising looking bar in town, and yet it turned out to be a yuppie lust pit. And not even an interesting one of those.

Logan considered his options, and asked, "You're tellin' the truth about knowin' someplace better?"

She shrugged a single shoulder and sauntered over, obviously thinking she'd gotten the okay. "Yeah. It looks like a pit, and it's mostly demons who hang there, which is why I skipped it, but it has booze that could knock you on your ass."

"I doubt it." Although he wished such a creature existed. He wondered if he shotgunned a lot of rotgut really fast, how much of a buzz could he get from it? And for how long?

She gave him a questioning look, and, although he had a feeling he'd regret it, he said, "Yeah, hop on."

She grinned and pretty much just launched herself on the back of the bike, settling in and grabbing him firmly around the waist, pressing herself up against his back. He had to admit that felt kind of nice.

"What's your name?" He shouted, as he revved the bike.

"Cliandra," she said into his ear. Was she making that up? "What about you, hairy?"

Oh, ha ha. "Logan," he admitted, as he sped out of the parking lot.

Even if this was some kind of trap, any kind of action was better than no action at all.


He had just ducked back under water when something grabbed him so hard his arm was nearly yanked out of his socket.

Bob surfaced and gave Helga's tail a grumpy little tug. "Hey, you did that on purpose."

"Well, of course I did," she replied, completely unashamed. "Do you know how long you've been in the goddamn pool? Did you give yourself some gills?"

"Ooh, there's a thought," he replied, giving her a sarcastic grin. Still, it might be fun to breathe underwater.

It was a beautiful bright Sydney day, the sky a sort of hyper - cerulean that only seemed to exist near the coast, as if it was mimicking the water below. The few clouds were like little tufts of cotton, and he knew you couldn't ask for a nicer day. Unless you liked rain, and even he had to admit that wasn't bad. No other type of weather could be so atmospheric.

And on a day this nice how could he not have a morning swim? Sometimes it was more bracing than coffee.

Well, at least he thought so. Helga just thought he was nuts.

She was sitting near the edge of the pool, legs folded under her and tail still in the water, flicking little droplets at him. He did notice there was an open cell phone sitting beside her on the cement.


"Yeah. It's baldy."

"Could you be more specific?"

"Logan's baldy. "

"Ah." He grabbed onto the edge and hoisted himself out of the pool, glad his shorts decided to stay on this time ( that would teach him to wear jams to swim ),  and sat on the side, legs still in the water, as Helga gave him a final flick with her tail and handed him the phone. At least it had a waterproof cover on it.  Doing his best Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons" impression, he said, "Ahoy hoy, Chuck."

After a pause, Xavier said, "Are you ever serious?"

"Only when I have to be," he admitted, moving back to his real voice. "So what can I do for ya?"

"Well, I have an unusual problem I thought you might be able to help me with. Yesterday, we brought in two runaways as they came into Grand Central Station."

"Eew. Got 'em before they got mugged? Good grab."

"Indeed. Anyhow, one of the boys came through quite clearly on Cerebro, but the other was only a ... partial."

"A partial? I didn't even know that was possible."

"Neither did I. Which leads me to believe he's half mutant, and half ... something else."


"Well, that's why I called. I was hoping you could help me figure that out."

"Yeah, sure, no worries," Bob agreed, smoothing back his damp hair with his free hand. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Helga mouthing the words "I'm not going back to New York".
What was that about?

"There's no rush. If you had the time to drop by tomorrow I'd appreciate it."

"No problem. Can you tell me about this kid's mutation?"

There was a pause - Xavier thinking it over - before telling him, "He has two.  An eidetic memory, and, at will, he can trigger a physical change. His eyes turn red, his skin turns a bluish green, and dozens of red spikes come out of his body; he also has above average strength after the transformation."

That sounded really familiar. "How above average? Kick Logan's ass?"

"Oh, heavens no."

"Beat Scott silly?"

There was a long pause before he replied. "Borderline."

"Hmm. There's a couple of demons that could fit that description."

"He doesn't appear dangerous."

"Oh, I wouldn't think he was. Most of the demons who match that 'script are pretty peaceful, believe it or not." He gave Helga the "what?" look,  but she just gave him a "not now" scowl. You knew you'd been in a relationship a long time when you could have an argument with nothing but facial expressions. "Does he suspect he's anything but a mutant?"


Bob grimaced to himself. If he was a demon, and he'd never heard of them before ( save for the Catholic school interpretation ), this might hit him hard. "Okay. I'll pop by tomorrow, and see if I can suss him out, and soften the blow if necessary."

"I appreciate that."

"No problem, mate. Take care." He then folded up the cell phone, cutting the connection, and looked at Helga. "What?"

She had moved to sit on one of the poolside lounge chairs, stretching out her long green legs ( she was only wearing cutoffs and a white tank top ) and letting her tail loll over the side.  "Why do you help those guys anyways?" She asked peevishly.

"Are you going to tell me the real reason, or do I grab it myself?" He asked, the mildest of warnings.

She gave him an evil frown and made an obscene gesture with her tail. But after a moment, she admitted, "New York brings back some bad memories, that's all."

"We could make some better ones."

Her pale green lips curved up in a weak but appreciative smile. "I know. But most of us aren't as resilient as you are."

He went over and sat beside her on the edge of the lawn chair, putting his arm around her shoulders. She leaned into him, and draped her tail over his thighs. "You know you are, Hel. Why are you so worried?"

She sighed, resting her head against his chest, and admitted, "I haven't been terribly popular with the downtown demon crowd since I handed the T'Karii over to the Watchers. And now they have to know I helped get the League out of business too. There's probably an active hit on me."

"And you could kick all their asses, so what's the real problem here?" He paused briefly. "Oh, you can't possibly be worried about me."

"I pissed off some big league people. They could make accommodations for you."

"Let them try. If Lucifer and the Old Ones couldn't get me, what chance do they have?" He kissed her on the top of the head.

She put her arm around his waist, snuggling in closer to him even though he was still wet from the pool. "I never want you getting hurt 'cause of me."

"Ain't gonna happen," he assured her.

Bob held her tight, resting his head against hers, and wondered what the real reason was for her sudden fear.


So much for a romantic evening.

It all started going wrong before they even left the mansion. The Professor mentioned he was going to call Bob about a consult on Brendan Chambers, the stranger of the two boys they had picked up earlier in the day at Grand Central Station, fresh off a bus from Pennsylvania.

The two boys - teenage friends, the other being Matthew Parker - decided to run away from home, and since they were both mutants, they thought they could get lost in a big city, like New York. Matt was a troubled boy, and his odd mutation - anything he touched with his bare hands would break, from bones to iron ( like Rogue, he had a large collection of gloves, and never went anywhere without them - but unlike her, the mutation actually seemed to emanate from his hands, so he could still make contact with people, just not with his bare hands ) - had led to many arrests and a suspension from school (  he broke an entire row of lockers ), and after a heated argument with his parents ( where he admitted he broke "a wall" ), he was kicked out of the house. Brendan was a member of the foster care system and "between parents", a situation that had been unchanged for three years, so he had run away from a group home to join Matt on his Northward trek.

Scott had an instant sympathy for Brendan, having been a member of the foster care system himself and abhorring it just as much, and didn't really like the fact that neither she nor Xavier could get a clear 'reading' of him. When Xavier floated the "other than human" suggestion, Scott objected rather strongly, but the Professor felt that no one could refute ( or confirm ) that suspicion better than Bob, and it was quite clear it wasn't up for debate. But Scott had been brooding about it ever since.

This whole evening had been Scott's idea in the first place. He'd planned this for weeks, and they did have reservations at a fairly exclusive restaurant, so he didn't want to cancel, but it was clear he was stewing about the Brendan thing, verging on a snit.

At least the movie was first. The plan was this - Scott wanted to take her out on a real date, something they hadn't done since ... well, ever it seemed. And while it was nice and romantic, it also seemed odd that Scott had been this way as of late.

No, it wasn't odd - Jean knew why, and it was starting to tick her off.

They had just turned out of the gates of the mansion, Scott driving and her slumped in the passenger seat, when the argument started.

She had simply told him that this precaution was for the best when he snorted derisively and shook his head, muttering, "Typical" under his breath.

"And what does that mean?" She snapped, feeling instantly defensive. She didn't like how dismissive that sounded.

For a moment he sat stiff and still behind the wheel of his sports car, a muscle twitching in his jaw and visible in the dashboard lights, which also highlighted the yellow of an old bruise on his right cheek. Most of the 'souvenirs' from the fight with the Logan possessed Heydon had healed or were at least healed enough to not be visible - the broken nose ( mostly ), the loose teeth were reset, the hairline cheekbone fracture was healing nicely, and his concussion had been treated - but a few bruises lingered. Just as soon as she figured he was going to try and be conciliatory, he said, "You're always siding with others against me lately."

"Excuse me?" She replied, feeling even more irate than before. "Siding? I was unaware this was a contest."

He gripped the steering wheel tightly, and never took his eyes off the road. "Look, I don't mind it so much with the Professor, I expect it, but couldn't you just once - "

"I'm glad that meets with your approval," she sniped, not wanting to say it but saying it anyways. Jean knew then that this whole evening had been blown to hell, and they might as well just turn around and go home. They were both in bitter, unpleasant moods, and who better to take it out on than each other?

Scott had been sullen since the whole Logan/Heydon incident. Perhaps he expected an apology from Logan, even though it wasn't his fault. Bob had even told them Heydon had intended to use Logan's claws on Scott, but Logan had been able to retract them at the last second, saving his life. But Scott didn't trust Bob, and Logan had left before anyone could ask if that was true.

Scott barely needed a reason to blame Logan for anything; he'd find an excuse if none were immediately available. It was so childish, and she knew why, which was why she was so ticked off at him for the moment.

Jealousy. She thought Scott was better than that. Men.

"Look, can't we just have a nice evening away from everything?" He asked peevishly.

"I'm not the one who started this."

He sighed heavily, as if she was trying his patience. His knuckles turned ghost white on the steering wheel, and that muscle in his jaw wasn't twitching more than it was spasming.

"Okay," Scott finally said. "Can we start over? Pretend this hadn't happened?"

"Sure, fine," she sighed in returned, glancing out her window. The dark roadside slid by like water, the glimmer of street lights like distant stars.

The silence spilled past them, tense and unsettling, and finally Scott asked plaintively, "What's happened to us, Jean?"

She found the question almost heartbreaking. "I don't know," she admitted. She wished she knew so she could fix the problem.

The glib answer - they were "growing apart" - felt like an easy excuse, and complete bullshit.
It was like an invisible wedge had been jammed between them; they hardly talked anymore, except about school and politics, and at times it felt like she was sharing a bed with a stranger. These things happened with all couples she supposed, but she really didn't know. She hadn't had many relationships; being a telepath had given her a complication that most people didn't have to deal with. She had encountered few people whose minds she wished to touch, and when you reached a certain level of physical intimacy, it was hard not to "touch" someone's mind - and that had killed most of her relationships. Seeing into their minds was enough to kill everything, no matter how much she thought she may have loved them.

Scott was different. He seemed to be a match made in heaven, with his steady, uncomplicated mind; his personality seemed custom made to soothe her at her worst.

So what had gone wrong?

Maybe it had been unfair to him. She used him like an anchor, a rock when her powers started to overwhelm her, but what did he get from her? She knew he loved her unconditionally, and maybe she took advantage of that from time to time.