WAKING UP FALLING
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; theNotes: Takes place shortly after the "X Men" movie and during "Angel" season two. Directly
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!
"It's old:you're old,"Marc Williams replied,deliberately ribbing his partner as music-real music-began pouring from the tinny speakers in the back.
Harvey Bratten frowned,wrinkling his swollen cauliflower of a nose in distaste as he took a heavy drag off his unfiltered cigarette,shifting his assault rifle to his lap."God,how can you listen to this brain rotting shit?I'll take 'Run Through The Jungle' over 'Welcome To The Jungle' anytime,"he sneered.
Williams just turned up the Guns 'n' Roses and bobbed his head along happily,ignoring the disapproving grunt from Bratten as he steered the truck carefully along the serpentine mountain roads,the high beams cutting narrow tunnels of light in the ceaseless gloom.The roads appeared to be icing over,but the truck was built for that and could take it.If it started snowing like it did last night,they might be in trouble.
It was insane:two feet of snow dumped in a single night.Williams was willing to bet some fucking mutant was behind it;he heard some could control the weather and shit like that.But these roads had been plowed,of course -all roads leading to the base had been cleared almost instantly.
"Would you slow the fuck down?"Bratten snapped impatiently,reaching over to fiddle with the heater controls. "We ain't on a time constraint here."
"I don't care,"he replied,deliberately taking a curve in the road too fast just to freak him out.Snowy banks appeared and disappeared on the sides of the road as the headlights quickly slewed about,the pines as tall and dark as telephone poles whenever their shadows bothered to distinguish themselves from the veil of night swallowing the landscape of the Canadian Rockies whole.
"Do you give a shit about anything,Williams?"Bratten wondered,rolling down his window only enough to pitch his smoldering cigarette stub outside.It was too fucking cold to have it down for even that long.
"Yep-killing mutants,"he said,which got a grunt of approval from Bratten as he quickly cranked his window shut.
They had come to his favorite part in the song,so just to annoy Bratten a little more,Williams howled along as he took the next perilous curve."Welcome to the jungle,baby.You're going to die!"
It was at the last syllable that became a loud,gravelly howl from Axl Rose that Williams saw movement jitter briefly in the sweeping beams of the headlights,and he noticed a shadow falling across the road ahead of them. A pine tree,toppled by the weight of the snow.
"Shit!"He and Bratten shouted in unison,as Williams quickly stomped on the brakes.
The truck continued its forward trajectory,the tires chewing gravel and skidding on what miniscule ice had already formed,and Williams grabbed the wheel suddenly and cranked it to the left,nosing them straight into a snowbank before they could hit the thick tree trunk blocking the road.
They nosed in fairly hard,straining against their seatbelts before snapping back violently into their leather seats,but hitting snow head on was a hell of a lot softer than hitting a tree;even Williams had to reluctantly admit that to himself.Why hadn't he thought of that?
The engined ticked noisily and Guns 'n' Roses kept raging until Bratten turned them off."You okay?"He wondered.
"Fine."Bratten then smacked him hard on the back of his head.
"Hey!What the fuck was that for?!"
"For driving like a fucking moron,"Bratten shot back angrily.
Before Williams could tell him to go fuck himself,metal claws sprang through Brattan's door,and tore it right off its hinges.
Williams let out a yelp of shock as Bratten raised his assault rifle,but silver flashed through the frigid night air and his weapon seemed to shatter,barrel and casing reduced to black shards that bounced inside the front cab like shrapnel as the thing-the man;a man with feral green eyes and ice crystals in his close cropped yet still wild beard-grabbed Bratten by the front of his jacket and threw him right out of the truck,somewhere beyond where Williams could see.
Williams hastily undid his seatbelt and pulled his handgun as the man with three long claws growing straight from his hands turned his hateful,acrid gaze on him.As he made a move to climb across the seat,Williams leveled the handgun at his face and fired,point blank."Eat that,mutant,"he spat,more frightened than angry. The freak had to be a mutant-what else could he be?Normal people didn't have metal shit coming out of their hands.
But something strange happened.He knew the bullet had hit him;he let out a grunt of pain and seemed to take a step back into the snow,but the bullet zinged around the cab like a ping pong ball.Williams felt it zoom an inch past his own face before it rocketed through the windshield,leaving a penny sized hole in the thick glass.What the fuck...had it ricocheted off his face?
The man glared at him,and Williams swore he saw a glint of silver as the bullet hole in his left cheek suddenly closed up,like an eye shutting and sealing itself up."Have to do better than that,dickhead,"the man snarled, climbing up into the cab.
Jesus fucking Christ-what the hell was he?
Williams opened the door quickly and got out so fast he almost fell out,slipping across the pavement as he ran, reaching the edge of the road and looking down.
In the pale moonlight,the snowy hillside looked almost blue,the shadows between the tress dark and fathomless, as bottomless as the middle of the ocean.Williams heard the mutant freak coming and pulled his gun again, even if it wouldn't do that much good,but the freak was in no hurry.He stalked towards him,shoulders up and head down,walking like a panther moving in slowly for the kill.The claws growing out of his hands glinted cold silver in the wan light of the crescent moon before velvet textured grey clouds scudded over it,blocking its light from view.
Williams raised the gun,his hand shaking so bad he couldn't aim.""Who the fuck are you?"He demanded,his words exploding into white clouds in the freezing air.
The man didn't answer.White vapor seemed to puff like steam from a dragon's mouth around him.
"What do you want?"Williams demanded,trying again,and taking a step back into the deep furrow of snow where the roadway met the top of the hill.He felt a little slip down his boot,melting into his sock.
"To see you all dead,"the man growled,vapor fuming out his flared nostrils and trailing behind him like the fragments of a ghost.
Williams fired randomly,emptying his gun into the mutie,who staggered back a step but kept on coming,even as the bullets hit something metallic beneath his skin and caromed off,a spark briefly flashing on contact.
He was so terrified he continued stepping back,and backed right off the edge of the hill.
Logan knew the dickhead was going to go right off the edge,but he didn't care.In fact,he thought it was kind of funny.
He fired a final shot before he stepped back into air,the bullet just missing the right side of Logan's face (although not by much),and the beefy,thick faced man pinwheeled his arms comically before he let out a high pitched,reedy scream and disappeared over the edge,falling backwards like a reluctant skydiver.
Logan ignored the ache in his body from the bullet wounds and looked over the edge of the slope as the man tumbled downhill,gathering flakes and speed like the world's largest snowball.For a while he made amusingly distressed noises,until he hit the first tree,and then he didn't make any noise at all.
Logan heard crunching in the snow behind him,beyond the still idling truck,and in spite of the exhaust scent clogging his nostrils,he could still smell the fear sweat of the other soldier.Was he going to try and flank him? Sneak up to the truck and grab another weapon,try and take him down?
Oh god,he hoped so.
He wanted a fight so bad his skin felt like it was ready to crawl off his body just to get away from his tensed muscles.He was aware he still hurt from the bullet impacts,and his nose was painfully cold,ice crystals gathering in his eyelashes.If he'd be a normal human,he may have been in danger of suffering a minor case of frostbite or hypothermia,but he was neither.He was the Wolverine,and he could survive anything these assholes wanted to throw at him.
But as Logan came around the large olive drab military truck,it was clear the crunching was leading in the opposite direction,and he could see from the imprints in the snow and the fading away of both human scent and sound that the other soldier,the one he tossed out like a bag of garbage,had decided discretion was the better part of valor and fled like a motherfucking coward.He'd probably die out there in the cold and the snow, as there was miles and miles of nothing out here,and it was at least six hours until dawn.
Amazingly,he couldn't seem to care.He was only sorry he decided not to fight.
Logan checked the cab of the truck,opening the glove box and finding nothing but a road map of Southern Alberta (not so much folded as wadded up and compressed),a fifth of Wild Turkey (one third empty),a pack of crumpled Marlboros with three cigarettes inside,a pair of gloves,and a paralyzer.After thinking about it a moment,he grabbed the paralyzer and put it in his pocket.Souvenir.
Pulling out the last fragment of one of his better cigars,he paused to light it and took a deep drag of the warm smoke into his cold lungs,exhaling it out his nose.At least his respiratory tract felt warmer;the rest of him needed work.Even inside his boots and hiking socks,his toes felt as cold as his nose,ready to freeze solid and fall off,rattle around his boots like dice.But while the freezing could happen,the falling off-hell,the dying- wouldn't.Staring out at the blue-white snowy vistas around him,the sky above him a dark webbing of grey clouds obscuring the moon,which was no more than a hazy bright spot overhead,he wondered if he could die a natural death;if there would ever come a time when his body said "Enough" and simply quit.What was the time limit?A century?A millenia?An eon?Would he live long enough to watch the universe itself collapse and die,long after all other life had been snuffed out?Was it remotely possible that he would be the last thing to go?
What a frightening thought.And it proved he'd been waiting out here too long-he needed a drink.
But before he returned to where he had stashed his bike,he decided to see what these fucks had in their truck.
The back was locked,of course,but it was nothing for him to pop his claws again and rip the door open.He then stuck his head inside and had a peek.
It was too dark to really see anything,but he smelled decay and blood;even in the preserving cold,there was a hint of decomposition slowing but not completely stopping.That,and the scent of plastic.
Climbing inside,he slashed a bigger hole to let in what little ambient light there was,and he could finally see what his nose had told him:there was nothing in this trucks but body bags.
He unzipped a couple just to have a look at the contents.There were no familiar faces,but it was clear from the smell they had all been mutants,and most had been killed with gunfire.He found the body of a boy no more than twelve with a bullet hole in the center of his forehead,open eyes frozen over and opaque,skin as white as the snow outside.
Why dead mutants?Well hell,even the cops couldn't ignore a dead body,mutants or not;they had to take their crimes with them,and then cover them up by incineration,or some other method of mass corpse disposal.
Logan knew he should be angry,but that felt used up,spent;now he was just cold.
He sat on the tailgate of the corpsemobile and took the last puffs off his cigar,wondering where he could get a mass quantity of napalm.There had to be a market for it,but where?
Tired of freezing his ass off,he decided to get going.As he walked past the truck,he popped a single claw,and punctured the side of the truck.He could smell the gasoline spilling out of the reserve tank,puddling beneath the truck before drizzling down the icy road.He retracted his claw as he walked away,and waited until he had climbed the fallen trunk of the tree he had slashed down before taking a final look at the truck.It looked so homely and fucking harmless;hard to believe it was part of the war machine.
As he jumped off the trunk to the opposite side of the road,he tossed the butt of his cigar over his shoulder.
The first explosion was massive,seemingly reverberating off the high peaks and shaking snow from the trees as the noise and wall of heat seemed funneled down the narrow road,but even while the raging wall of heat driven wind buffeted Logan's back,he barely even noticed it.
He had straddled the bike and kick started it by the time of the second explosion,when what little was left of the truck was rocketed into the sky on a huge red-orange fireball that lit up the sky like dawn.
Watching the flames roil up and dissipate,finally settling into a smaller but consistent fire spread for meters in all directions over the no longer icy road,he remembered how both he and Naomi were almost killed when a gas station went up,and how maybe it would have been better if they had both incinerated.Or at least him.
As he drove away,into the frigid night,he hoped the dickheads behind it all took it as a challenge,because that's the message he wanted to send.
And he was ready to make good on that challenge.Or die trying.
It was getting worse.He didn't know why,unless it was his recent trip back there,or what happened to Naomi, or both.All he knew was the night terrors were more violent,longer,and yet his mind seemed to shy away from retaining any memory of it at all.And all the furniture in the vicinity was suffering.
He had to peel what was left of the shredded sheets off of him,as he had apparently been sweating like a pig,and his throat felt dry,raw,making him wonder if he had screamed.But if he had,why hadn't that woken him up?Maybe it had;he just didn't remember.
That was the wonderful thing about fleabag hotels-nobody gave a fuck.You could be slicing up a family of twelve in your room with a chainsaw,and everyone pretended they didn't hear a damn thing.Of course,the manager would be steamed about the ripped up mattress,but hell,he'd be long gone by the time he noticed it.
He tried to take a shower,but the pipes had frozen during the night,so he got little more than a trickle of water from the old showerhead,and had to settle with washing his face in the sink and rubbing the sweat off his chest and back with a damp towel.
For a moment he found himself staring at his own reflection in the water in the rust stained porcelain sink,and he felt something like revulsion,fear making his stomach spasm like he might vomit.He wondered why until he suddenly remembered-
-looking up through green tinted water,warm as flesh and cloying as damp cloth,feeling the scalpels slice into his leg as he realized that while he couldn't move,he also couldn't breathe:there was no oxygen mask this time.They were punishing him for something-dear god,what did he do to deserve this?-and he couldn't help but scream as they sliced open his thigh,peeling back the flesh like they were skinning him,and as he did, wasting what little air he had,his lungs involuntarily pulled in a breath...but there was no air to be had. Sucking in a lungful of chemically tainted and blood infused water,his lungs seemed to freeze, paralyzed,the pain of water flooding his windpipe akin to swallowing acid,and he heard nothing but his heart pounding frantically in his ears,needing oxygen,trying to pull it from a bloodstream that had very little left.In his mind he was panicking,clawing at the walls,wanting air,needing to breathe:god,he needed air,couldn't they see he was suffocating?He needed air!But he was drowning;chained down to a board in a tank and drowning as they flayed him open and drove something into his bones,something hard and beyond any traditional notion of pain.But even that seemed like nothing as his vision went from green to red to black,they pain in his heaving lungs far greater than anything they could do to him with surgical equipment.He didn't want to die,not like this,but maybe now the pain would stop;god,anything,just make it stop.
Five minutes later,he woke up again-
It was instinctive,atavistic-he unleashed his claws and smashed it down at the sink,shattering it like spun glass.The warm water splashed his legs as fragments of porcelain skittered across the stained and torn green linoleum of the bathroom floor like broken teeth.
He wanted to rip the entire room apart;he wanted to destroy everything and everyone he came across.He was so full of rage and hate he was shaking,and couldn't retract his claws.He could swear he could still feel his lungs burning from inhaling water,starving for air and never getting it.
He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror,wild eyed and looking-frankly-insane,and he looked away,making himself take deep breaths until his heart stopped its frantic pounding.He swallowed back his rising gorge, trying desperately to tamp down the black rage overwhelming him,filling his ears with white noise.
He leaned against the wall and slid down it,chips of porcelain cutting into his skin,and finally retracted his claws,watching them disappear inside his hands,the bloody slashes of their emergence quickly healing shut as he watched,leaving no trace of blood.
He thought of Shrike,of how the single claw that emerged from his hand bled because he couldn't heal fast enough,and how he laughed and said he was made to kill:"A killing machine,"he had cackled.
Maybe it was high past time he lived up to what they had made him;but instead of killing for them he'd kill them.That had been his intention all along,but he knew he had been hedging,reluctant to take on an entire base for fear that,like last time,they'd be ready for him.But this sniper shit-these commando raids of taking out single trucks,single unsuspecting units-was making that possibility worse,wasn't it?They knew he was out there,and they knew he was hunting them.Was he not sabotaging himself along with them?
Logan knew something deep inside him was holding him back,but he also knew that memory had broke down the final wall.He was ready to kill them all,to watch the light in their eyes fade out and feel their blood on his hands.They loved to torture him,to see how many times they could hang him from the edge of death and watch him come back anyways-he wondered how much enjoyment they got from knowing Naomi had lost ten years of her life.
He hoped they got a good buzz off of it.Because it would be their last.
A veritable orgy of dark wood and brass,leather padding and low lighting,the bar was like a thousand he had been in before,except the crowd skewed a bit younger here,and the beers were fancier and pricer.The music was different too,contemporary hard rock as opposed to country or oldies of questionable status.As he waited for his overpriced beer at the bar,guitars raged in the background,a man singing angrily,"Praise the one who left you broken down and paralyzed..."
Oh yeah-this was his kind of place.
He heard noise erupt from a corner table in the back,beyond the red felt pool table that looked more decorative than used,and noticed a small crowd,mostly young men but a few women,drunk by the sound of their raucous cheering and heedlessly loud voices.
Logan took a deep pull off his beer before he wandered over to have a look at what they were doing.
Before he got too close,a couple of the people around the table noticed him,gave him dismissive or disdainful stares before looking away.But one woman near the back,with bloody red lips,long raven black hair,and eyes so dark they looked almost as black,quirked an eyebrow at him,and gave him a curious,interested smile.Yeah,next to all the dipshits in here,he probably looked real good.
The geeks were gathered around a not so impromptu arm wrestling contest,with a substantial yet still piddling pile of money in the center of the table.As he looked,a guy who couldn't have been more than twenty two pinned down the arm of a bigger,older guy (twenty five).But that guy looked normal;the younger guy was some steroided out weightlifting freak,with arms as big and lumpy as pythons after a meal at the rabbit hutch.He let out a triumphant whoop as he swept the money towards him,his group of drunken friends cheering along with him.The younger boy standing behind him-surely too young to be in the bar legally-with the same dishwater brown hair and macrocephalic,thick build,locked his sunken blue eyes on Logan,and said,"Wanna give it a shot,Wolfman?"
His friends laughed,while the steroid goon looked up at Logan,his grey blue eyes bright with obvious disdain."I don't know,hairy.I'd hate to hurt you.Sometimes I don't know my own strength."
He had been willing to let it go until then.The guy was so haughty,so full of himself-he thought he was the hottest piece of shit around here,didn't he?-that Logan felt an instinctive,natural urge to teach him a fucking lesson.
Logan straddled the now empty chair across from him,and pulled out a wad of bills that he threw on the table without bothering to count.Since he was going to get it all back,who cared how much it was?"I'm shaking,"he deadpanned,meeting the boy's flat,beer glazed eyes.Logan almost felt bad about taking his money;the goon's pseudo-brush cut had gone to seed,and it was clear he needed the money for a new haircut.He transfered his beer bottle to his right hand,as there was no need to set it down.Those loitering around the table thought that was funny.
Logan held up his left arm,and the goon held up his,chuckling slightly,as one of his drunken friends said,in a loud voice never intended to be a whisper,"Ah,here's some easy money."
"Break his arm off Jake,"a drunken women called from somewhere behind Logan.It wasn't the black haired beauty,though;she was standing off to his left,and still throwing appreciative glances his way.
Jake grasped his hand and squeezed it far harder than necessary;intimidation,or a genuine attempt to hurt his hand (cheating,in other words-oh,real fucking cute).But of course,it didn't hurt him,and he saw just a hint of confusion-and fear-play over Jake's face as Logan grinned,and one of Jake's buddies said,"Go!"
Logan let him have a few seconds-he let him incrementally push his arm down,watching the muscles bunch and the rope like veins pop in Jake's monstrously drug enhanced arm,sweat beading on his forehead as confidence flooded his piggy eyes once more.
Then Logan let him have it.
He shoved Jake's arm down to the table with about five times more force than necessary.The table shattered as he slammed his hand down,the spindly wooden legs giving way first,cracking in half like pencils.Jake himself almost fell forward onto the ruins of the table until his brother (?) and a friend grabbed his massive shoulders and pulled him back,holding him in the chair."Motherfucking Christ!"Jake howled,holding his left hand between his knees."I think he broke my fucking hand!"
"Sorry about that,"Logan said insincerely,as he scooped up the money from the tabletop on the floor.As he got up,several of Jake's buddies stepped back."Sometimes I don't know my own strength."
He walked back towards the bar,shoving the money in his pocket,and all the drunken yahoos gave him a wide berth,all the boisterous joy sucked out of the group by Jake's triumphant failure.He heard someone say quietly, "Maybe he is the Wolfman."
The bartender-an older guy with silver hair but lots of that hard fat you see on guys who were street fighters as opposed to pretty boys who hung out at the gym (like Jake back there)-eyed him warily,but made no move to kick him out yet.But he was welcome to try.Logan really wanted a good,nasty fight.The tension building inside of him was so incredible he thought he might snap.
"I know he's a blowhard,but he's not always that obnoxious,"a woman said,sliding on to the stool beside him.It was the black haired woman who had eyed him before;now she was openly appraising him,and clearly impressed at his humiliation of Jake."Still,he was kinda askin' for it,wasn't he?"
"Kinda,"he agreed,appraising her.Not a bad body;a little younger (twenty two?) than he usually liked them,but hell,fighting wasn't the only way to release a little pent up energy,was it?
"I'm Ruthie,"she offered,smiling,turning towards him on the bar stool.She leaned her elbow on the highly polished bar,and rested the side of her face in her palm.Although she was trying to be coy,she was so obviously attracted to him it was almost funny.But he wasn't laughing.
"Logan,"he offered,then after having a swig of his beer,held the bottle up."Want a beer,Ruthie?"
"I'll just have a drink of yours,"she said,and he held out the bottle.As she took it,her fingers deliberately brushing his,she asked,"So Logan,are you a martial arts guy or something?"
She smiled at him as she took a swig of the beer,and then gave him back the bottle."Does that mean you are a 'wolf man'?"
"Do I look like a wolf?"He replied,taking back the bottle.
She gave him a sensuous smile,full crimson lips curving back into something half way between a grin and an amused smirk.
"No.You look dangerous.I like that."
He finished the rest of the beer in a single gulp,and slid the empty bottle aside as he swiveled to face her,his eyes meeting hers unflinchingly."Let's cut the bullshit,Ruthie.Wanna get outta here?"
She sat up,trying to assumed a shocked posture,but she couldn't stop smiling,and he wasn't fooled for a moment.Young or not,she was no innocent;she'd been around."And go where?"
"I don't know.Where do you wanna go?"
She made a show of thinking about it,her black eyes sparkling with mischief."Back to my place?"
That was pretty much the answer he was expecting.
It took him a moment to remember who he was and where he was,but he always did. Sleep was like an unwelcome journey that could lead him anywhere,but usually to some place he didn't want to be.
He was in a slightly lumpy bed with a woman sleeping beside him,her back turned to him.Ruthie,right,that was her name.He gave her a cursory glance,making sure he hadn't clawed her in his sleep-no,she looked okay,and he didn't smell any blood;in fact it sounded like she was very faintly snoring-then got out of bed,finding only his boxer shorts on the threadbare tan carpet,in the pale blue half light of encroaching dawn bleeding through the fragile ivory curtains.
He found the rest of his clothes-and hers as well-strewn out in a trail leading down the narrow corridor separating the front room from the bedroom.A twelve foot walk at best.
He dressed in his clothes as he found them,finding his coat on the living room floor and his shirts spread haphazardly on the tatty lime green sofa that made up the bulk of the furniture in the living room/kitchen.It was a tiny,sad apartment over a sporting goods shop,which probably explained the faint scent of paraffin.But mostly the place smelled human,and he hadn't really realized it before,but as he pulled on his black t-shirt and shrugged on his brown flannel shirt,he knew he didn't want to be here because humans gave him the creeps.
Well,'normal' humans-you couldn't trust them.When they figured out you weren't really one of them,they freaked out,and had a tendency to treat you like you were the monster.
Of course,he wouldn't have been surprised if Ruthie had guessed he was a mutant and was attracted to him for that reason:there was that human minority that liked the novelty and 'thrill' of fucking a 'freak'.Which didn't really bother him as long as it got him laid every now and then.
He left the apartment via its outside staircase on the side of the building opposite the street,and even though the sun hadn't completely risen yet,he could see that it would be a clear day,sunny but bitter cold.He zipped up his leather jacket in a vain attempt to ward off the bitter chill,as the air bit into his skin like it was made of jagged shards of glass.He guessed it to be in the low twenties,but maybe that was generous.
As he returned to his bike,parked in a hollow of shadow in a connecting alleyway,he finally pinpointed what was wrong:he was still tense.Sex should have relaxed him,at least somewhat,but no,he felt even more keyed up than before.Maybe it was because she was human,and therefore fragile;and also,she didn't know what he was. Or if she did she never said it,never even hinted at it (of course,when did she have time to).
Clearly he was not going to relax-to 'be at peace'-until he killed those fuckers up in the mountains.All he needed was a decent map of the base's layout,and a couple dozen pounds of napalm or maybe Semtex,and bam, problem solved.
As he started the bike,he wondered where the hell he was going to go.He checked out of his last hotel room because he figured as soon as the maids saw what had happened to the bed and the bathroom sink the manager would have a cow and quote him some outrageous price for damages.And he needed the money he had for bribes and weaponry.
Logan just randomly picked a direction,something that would take him closer to the mountains,and drove off, hoping he could find what he needed,and get this done before his own rage killed him.