WAKING UP FALLING
E-Mail: notmanos at yahoo dot com
Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the------------------------------------------------
character of Wolverine is also owned by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Comics. No copyright
infringement intended. I'm not making any money off of this, but if you'd like to be a patron of the
arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
The town itself was a little disappointing,although he got a lead on a black marketeer named Erasmus who might be able to hook him up with what he needed,but only tonight,and only at some little cess pit of a bar named Sully's.Now all he had to do was kill time until tonight,which was a hell of a lot easier said than done.
It was a clear day,so sunny it was almost painful,but the sun seemed to offer no warmth,and the air remained still and cold,as if it had somehow been frozen.Which was just how he felt.
At some point he stopped off and had a burger and a beer,because he couldn't remember the last time he ate.He had no appetite to speak of,but he knew even he'd wear down if he didn't eat.He might be technically indestructible,but even he could get weak.He regretted eating too,because it seemed to sit in his stomach like a ball of lead,and he didn't feel better for having done so.He supposed he should go back to the hotel and catch some sleep before tonight,but he remained too keyed up to rest.
But by the time mid-afternoon rolled around,he returned to the hotel after a trip to buy some cigars and a bottle of scotch to keep him hydrated.As he parked the bike,he got a sense he was being watched.
And when the wind shifted,he couldn't believe his nose.
"Hello Logan,"Jean said,emerging from the shadows beneath the awning of the front of the hotel.
The hotel was a sprawling 'motor lodge' sort of thing-a single level,rooms bracketing a large and unscenic parking lot-and the lot was mostly empty,with only his bike,the manager's car,and the van of some local painter's (sadly,he could smell the turpentine on the wind).But he could smell Jean too;she wore a light perfume,probably faint to her and others,but he could smell that musk rich scent a mile away.
She looked out of place in this dingy little town too:as elegant as always in a red cashmere sweater and slim black pants,she also wore more climate practical black boots and a long,fleece lined black coat that looked about one size too large, swamping her like a cloak.But she made it work.
And he couldn't think of another person he wanted to see less right now.
"What are you doing here?"He asked as he got off his bike,looking around for any of the other so called 'X Men'.But he didn't smell them,so Jean was alone-well,theoretically.He bet that insecure dickhead of a boyfriend was keeping tabs on her via binoculars...well,monocular?
Jean dug her hands in the pocket of her coat as she crossed the parking lot,her long red hair loose and framing her face as if she was using it to try and keep warm.He couldn't blame her if she was."The Professor is concerned about you."After a pause,she added,"And so am I."
"Wow,Jean,that almost sounded sincere,"he sneered,digging his hotel key out of his coat pocket.Like he needed this bullshit right now.
She frowned at him,but in a mild,disapproving sort of way.Couldn't let our emotions get the better of us,could we?"It is sincere,Logan,whether you like it or not."
"Fine,whatever.You've shared your feelings,so you can go home now."He walked away,towards his matching rooms,brown bagged bottle of scotch tucked under his arm.Just having her around seemed to make the muscles in his back and neck tighten until he thought they might snap.He didn't need this right now.Why didn't people just leave him the fuck alone?
"I can't do that."
"What?The Boy Scout fly off without you?Or you just can't live without me?"Of course the key had to be sticky in the lock.Just as he was about to slash the door down,the lock clicked over and he was able to get in.He could sense her approach, it felt like an itch between his shoulder blades,and it made him want to scream in frustration.He considered slamming the door shut in her face,but she was close enough to prop it open with her hand before he was all the way inside.Maybe she caught his thought.Fucking telepaths.
"Logan..."she paused,sounded tired."I know something happened to you and Naomi that you're not saying."
"Oh,so you're jealous,"he replied,keeping his back to her as he tossed his hotel key on the slab of wood currently making do as a coffee table.
"Those men who...hurt you captured you again,Logan.You can't say that-"
"Hurt me?"He interrupted,turning to face her.Although she had come in the room,she was still by the door,as if afraid to get any closer.For the first time,he noticed she wasn't wearing any make up:her face was pale,her lips thin and ashen from the cold,and dark rings encircled her warm brown eyes.She looked weary beyond the telling of it,making him wonder if she had been up all night.But she still looked as beautiful as always,and that irritated him more for some reason."I've been hurt a lot, babe.Those guys didn't hurt me:they tortured me for the sheer hell of it for a very long time.So what else were you going to say?"
She met his eyes,and flinched slightly at the anger she must have seen there.Well,that wasn't his fucking fault;he didn't ask her to come."Logan,we're just concerned about you."
"Concerned?"He let out a humorless chuckle."Where were you when those fucks had me?"
She glanced down at the plaster dusted carpet-his best guess was it was sort of smokey grey at one time-clearly chagrined."We didn't know."
"No,of course not.He can use that Cerebro thing to track me down here,but he couldn't use it to find me in a mutant hall of horrors?"He slammed down the bottle of scotch on a nightstand working as an end table with enough force to make the ugly ceramic lamp on it jump about a half inch.He was probably lucky he hadn't shattered the bottle.
"He didn't know to look."
"But he knows to look now,long after the fact,when it does me no fucking good at all.If it wasn't for Angel and Naomi I might still be in there.So thanks so fucking much,but the mutant calvary is too late.Message delivered.Now go away."
"Not without you."
"Wanna bet on that?"He snarled,glaring at her.
But Jean crossed her arms across her chest and held her ground."He didn't tell me exactly what he saw in Cerebro last night, but it left him shaken.You're in a bad place,Logan.Let us help."
"A bad place?"He snorted derisively."What?Wanna get a room at the Hilton with me,Jean?Tired of being disappointed by the one eyed goody two shoes and wanting a real man for once?"
Her frowned deepened,eyes narrowing,but not before she took an actual second to think about it.He knew it."You know what I mean,Logan.The Professor is concerned you're heading down the same path Erik ended up on."
"Erik?"It took him a moment to place the name."Magneto?"He couldn't help but scoff."You can tell him I ain't interested in ruling the world.Goodbye."
"I can understand that you want revenge,Logan,but you're leaving yourself open to attack.They know you're out here.Please come back to the mansion with me.You need to cool down and think about this before it goes too far."
"Before?"He repeated incredulously."So cutting me open wasn't far enough?"
She winced and briefly looked away."Logan-"
"You saw it,Jean,"he hissed,and she glanced up at him,eyes widening in surprise."When you read my mind,I didn't know then what you saw,but I think I do now.You saw what they did to me,didn't you?But you didn't see it all;you saw a fraction of what they did to me.But you've guessed that,haven't you?"He knew he had her;she looked shaken,and he could smell the fear coming from her.She didn't like to think about it?Well,too fucking bad."You wanna keep them from getting me again?Join me-stop letting the Professor and Scott hold you back.You're better than that and you know it.Help me.They are doing this to other mutants,and they will keep doing it until somebody stops them.Do you really want to turn a blind eye to it because they're human?"
For a long moment he held her gaze,and he knew she was considering it.Unlike the others,she had seen it-and felt it-for herself and knew what they had done,and what they were still doing.But just when he thought he got through to the real Jean-not that uptight 'good girl' who was concerned about what everyone else thought,about making a 'good impression' on behalf of all mutants everywhere-she closed her eyes and shook her head."It's more complicated than that,Logan,and you know it.Until we find the source of the problem,you can only destroy all the bases you want,but they'll simply pop up elsewhere.And whether you know it or not,your one man war is hurting other mutants as well as people.I know you, Logan- you don't really want to hurt anyone.You-"
"You don't know me at all."He snapped,glaring at her angrily as she finally dared to open her eyes.Looking at him was just too tempting,huh?"You don't even know yourself.So don't deign to tell me who I am and what I want.Either join me or get the fuck out."
Her gaze hardened,and it was kind of a thrill to see her express some actual passion;she was so reserved,and just to make other people happy."We don't want to have to fight you,Logan."
He grunted in amusement,never breaking away from her challenging stare."Because you couldn't fight me.I'd kick all your asses and you know it."
"So am I."He ripped off his jacket and threw it aside before holding out his arms at his sides and popping his claws,the familiar pain of them tearing through the knuckles almost welcome.It was nice to feel something beyond the usual dull menu of rage and hopelessness.Jean flinched again,shocked that he'd actually done that,but that was the problem with the damn X Men:so fucking reserved,always holding back."Think I can't,Jean?Think I won't?"
"Stop this,Logan,"she said,her voice a whisper thick with despair and fear.
He started stalking towards her,across the nearly empty room."That's your problem;that's all your problem.You fear.I don't.And that's how I'll beat you all."
She raised her hand palm towards him,as if threatening to use her telekinesis,but he didn't feel anything,and saw nothing but trepidation in her eyes.She didn't want to 'hurt' him-as if she really honestly could.He stopped where he was,grinning at her.He wondered if he pushed her far enough if he'd get to see the real Jean,and not the Professor's lap dog." Go home,Jean. Go back to your mansion and your safe little boyfriend and your safe little life,and stay the fuck out of mine."He snapped, retracting his claws and instantly pivoting towards the connecting door to the rest of the room.He stormed through it,into the bedroom,and slammed the door behind him.
Damn it,he left the scotch in the other room.Well,as soon as she tucked tail and ran,he'd go get it.
He was half way across the room when the door exploded open.He turned quickly to see Jean standing in the doorway,and in that second an invisible force seemed to hit him,knocking him off his feet and slamming him hard into the far wall,pinning him against it as loose flakes of plaster salted down from the ceiling.
He stared at her,trying to move,but it felt like a two ton weight was pressing against his chest.Jean walked into the room, hand raised towards him,and the anger in her eyes was white hot,making them smolder like embers.She started towards him, but stopped about eight feet away,her lips thinned to a grim line."You're in pain,Logan.I know that,I understand that.But you don't have a corner on the market.And by sharing that pain with others you are not helping yourself;you're making it worse."
"Kill me or don't,but spare me the lecture."He growled,actually a little impressed.Jean had balls;well,she was about the only X Men that did,although Xavier had his moments.
"Do you feel better yet?"She continued,ignoring him."Have the nightmares stopped since you started doing this,Logan?"
"Shut up."The pressure on his chest was easing a bit-when it came down to it,could she really hurt him?Did Jean have the balls to try and kill him?Try being the operative word,of course.
The anger in her eyes was dying,replaced by pity,which infuriated him,but he thought he saw something else as well,although he wasn't sure what it was.It was probably just that she had the hots for him,whether she'd admit it or not."Is this solving your problems,Logan?Is this going to give Naomi her memories back?"
"Shut the fuck up!"He spat angrily,Naomi's name hitting him like a baseball bat to the gut.How dare she throw out her name like a weapon.
Jean looked confused,dark brows drawing downward,and she lowered her hand,the pressure dying and finally falling away completely."She meant something to you,didn't she?I'm sorry Logan,I didn't know."
"Come on,Jean,make up your mind-do you want to fuck or fight?'Cause I'm game for either."He was happy to be back on his feet and breathing again,but that little demonstration just proved he could kill all the X Men if he wanted to:showing pity or mercy on an opponent was a drastic sign of weakness.
Anger flared in her eyes once more,but it quickly died,replaced with even more pity.It was like a slap to the face."I'm a telepath-do you think I don't know what you're doing?"
She scowled at him."Trying to shove me away.I know you're not accustomed to asking for help,but we're your friends and we want to help.Let us."
"Help?But you don't really want to help me.If you did,you'd be helping me find and destroy the base right now,rather than play with me."And in that second he darted across the room,coming to a stop right in front of her and putting his fist level with her face,maybe eight inches away.She gasped in shock and jumped back,but he held his ground and glared at her,fist frozen in place."If I popped my claws,I would have killed you,"he pointed out coldly."Unlike you,I don't play."
He saw the blur of the lamp out of the corner of his eye and lashed out his hand,unleashing his claws and shattering it before it could get within an inch of his face,but he never looked away from Jean,whose eyes widened once more.It was her turn to be impressed."You use your powers against me,you mean it."He growled through gritted teeth."Because I will."
She began to back up slowly towards the door,hand held up as if to ward him off.But if she used her powers again,he knew she wouldn't really hurt him;she couldn't.She had a 'soft spot' for him.And it was a shame too,because she was the only one of her measly group that had even a chance of killing him,at least in a permanent sense,although he had his doubts about that."Logan,stop this."
Some small part of him was ashamed of himself;he didn't want to hurt Jean.He never wanted to hurt her,or scare her as badly as he was now.But he couldn't stop himself;he was so angry he had to get some of it out before it killed him.He really thought it would if he kept it all bottled up."Read my mind,Jean.You want to know me,see what else they did to me?Read my mind."
Her eyes grew impossibly wide in terror:she had seen a bit of it once,and she did not want to live through it again.She backed up a little faster now,putting more space between them."Logan,you have to stop.You're killing yourself.Can't you see that?"
"I don't die-don't you see that?You can vivisect me and use my internal organs for fucking party favors and I will be able to get up and join you,"he snarled bitterly,following her into the next room,continuing to stalk her as she backed towards the door."Come on,Jean.Read my mind.What are you afraid of?Afraid you'll become like me?"
There were genuine tears in her eyes as she reached the door,which had opened for her."Logan,what's happened to you?"She asked,standing in the doorway,letting in cold air and the acrid sting of paint thinner.
In some distant part of himself,he felt terrible for doing this to her.He knew she meant well,that she wanted to help,and maybe by sending her away he was blowing everything,but he couldn't stop himself.Besides,he had gone too far to back out now,and he had no real desire to do so,just some vestigial tug of guilt that simply had no place in his life right now."I remembered,"he growled,and as soon as he was within reach of the door,slammed it shut on her face.
He took a deep breath,glad to be alone finally,but in the same instant,he felt slightly ill.Something irrevocable had just happened,but he wasn't sure what.
He had a feeling he'd eventually find out,though.For good and for bad.
She had always known Logan was dangerous;that was a strange part of his appeal.But he had been a decision away from actually killing her.He hadn't just been trying to scare her,although it was clear that was the initial intent.But at some point his emotions had swept him away,and he had almost done it.Something stopped him,but it had been a near thing,a thing she could not count on to make a second appearance.
Of course,she could just throw him through a wall-a hard enough knock would cause his brain to collide with the walls of his skull and put him out for a while.But only a while;Logan always got back up again.If he was serious about doing her harm, she'd have to kill him,and she didn't think she could do that.Telekinetically yes;emotionally no.
She walked across the parking lot and leaned against the painter's
van,trying to get her jumbled emotions under control and swallow back the
tears and the lump in her throat.She wanted to hate him,and frankly she
was furious enough to put him through every wall in this run down hotel
that was still standing,but at the same time,she was almost paralyzed with
And she desperately wanted to help him;as angry as she was at him,she couldn't help but want to ease his pain somehow.She couldn't imagine how much he had suffered,or the extent of what they had done to him.It was like they killed a little bit of his soul,one excruciating inch at a time.
(And she could remember the jumble of images she pulled from his mind,like from a nightmarish fever dream,and they were bad-and confusing- enough.Worse were the feelings:being paralyzed and helpless,of drowning and being frozen,like an insect in amber,and then the pain of flesh being sliced by metal,cold and hard,and then being pulled,as if they were trying to yank both skin and muscle from the bone...which is probably exactly what they were doing...)
She shook the memory away,shoving it back into the far corner
of her mind and desperately swallowed back her rising gorge.
But she had caught something,a fragment of his thoughts at the time.Most were incoherent,as you might expect of someone undergoing involuntary surgery without anesthetic,but there was a litany of hysterical yet grimly determined thoughts that remained constant,as long as he could think through the pain-"I'm getting out of here and I'm killing you I'm getting out of here and I'm killing you".
No wonder he was acting out in rage now:it was the only thing that kept him alive and kept him sane,so now it was his default coping mechanism.But while it worked there-Alkali Lake or whatever it was actually called-it just didn't work here,in the real world.But her mistake was in trying to reason with a man who was literally crazed with pain.He was beyond reason right now.He was beyond a lot of things,and she wasn't sure how to reach him,save for putting him through a wall,and in that case she would have to kill him.He was right:with Logan,you got one chance.And if you blew it,he recovered and came for you.Logan almost always healed and came back at you before you were ready for him.
And just thinking about what they had done to him made her almost angry enough to join him.
But no,that wasn't logical;it was an ultimately meaningless quest for revenge that would solve no problems and cause many more.If Logan was just rational for a moment he'd be able to see that.But he was acting from an emotional standpoint,not a logical one (which was sort of attractive,wasn't it?That was the refreshing thing about him.He was raw,all on the surface with his feelings;untamed,in a way.It was sort of thrilling...in a strange way.She could never explain that to Scott,but she thought maybe the Professor knew-why else did he ask her to try and talk some sense into Logan?) and she didn't know how to shift him into a more rational viewpoint.She wasn't sure it was possible.
But Logan could not be allowed to keep waging war and hurting people,even killing them.She knew there might be no choice but to stop him.But how?
("You fear.I don't.And that's how I'll beat you all.")
She was afraid he was right;even she hesitated to hurt him,even though she knew she couldn't hurt him for long (he would recover;he always did).He had just suffered so much,and was suffering again right now-how could she add to that?
But he could have killed her.He demonstrated that quite clearly:to let your guard down for a second was to invite death.
If it came down to it,maybe the urge to live would be enough of a motive to hurt him,to kill him if necessary-but how did you kill him?Storm could hit him with a lightning bolt,and Scott could disintegrate most of his body...but he'd probably survive both,wouldn't he?Rogue could probably kill him if she got her hands on him long enough,but she loved Logan (or at least thought she did),and would not ever turn against him.Leaving her.
And she wasn't sure she could do it.
Logan wasn't afraid of pain,not like a normal person;he didn't like it,but it didn't scare him.He'd probably had worse, and even he knew he could take it,whatever was being dished out.He might get knocked down,but he would always get back up again.Which was why he was perhaps the bravest man she had ever known-he just threw himself in and did whatever he had to do to accomplish what he wanted.And if that was vengeance or death...
How did they stop a hellbent Logan?
How did you stop anyone?Get to them through something they cared about;make them see what they are jeapordizing.So what did Logan care about?
Vengeance and death.Damn it!
Wait...Naomi?When she said her name,the pain in his eyes was so naked it was hard to look upon it:it was like she just rubbed salt into an open wound.But she was already gone to him,or at least he seemed to be acting that way.And she had no idea who he was,except "that guy who survived the explosion,and whose skin just grew back as we watched.It was really freaky." Bringing him to Naomi could backfire,and badly.It could remind him of everything he had lost.Again.
The Professor had obviously hoped Logan cared enough about her to stop himself.And,as terrible as it was to admit to herself,she had rather been hoping the same thing.
("Read my mind.")
The remembrance of the threat alone made her shudder.Whatever was going through Logan's mind right now,it had sent him over the edge;it was breaking him like the torturers had not.And she could barely tolerate the flash of memories she had pulled from his subconscious jumbled and disordered.She didn't want to see one in some semblance of cohesion,linear and vivid.To be fair,she didn't know how he lived with it;she wasn't sure she could.And none of it had actually happened to her- she just picked up echoes of what he had felt.
As soon as she thought she was under control (and what Logan didn't understand was how dangerous emotions could be for her.She knew from bitter experience that if she didn't keep her emotions under control,her gifts could get out of hand quickly),she pulled a cell phone out of her pocket,and punched in the number for Xavier's private line.She knew he was waiting for the call.
To prove it,he picked up on the first ring."Any luck?"He asked,not even waiting for her to say anything.
They were keeping this between them for now:they both knew Scott didn't like him (men-always a pissing contest),Marie was a child (whether she knew it or not),and there was no real need to inform Ororo if no one else knew.They had hoped to handle this themselves,and pull Logan back from the brink before he did something that would force their hand and make them act.
But it was hopeless.It was an utter waste of time,and yet she couldn't hate Logan for this.She knew she should on some level,even acting so crude and violent towards her...but it was as if he was daring her to try and kill him;he was all but telling her she had to the next time they met.Did he know he was on a downward spiral,but finding it impossible to stop?
("I don't die-don't you see that?"He had spat at her,with so much rage and so much pain...was that it?Did he want to die? God,was he doing this so someone would kill him and put him out of his misery?)
And now he couldn't forget.As much as he wanted to.
She looked towards his sprawling wreck of a hotel room,the off white curtains still drawn against the sun,and she wondered if his cry for help could be something so desperate and despairing as a deep rooted urge to die."No,"she finally said,and in spite of all her control,she still felt a tear trail down her cheek,and felt the lump return to her throat.
She'd know for sure what Logan was after if she read his mind.But she couldn't dare,because she didn't know if she'd survive it.
"Jean,what happened?"Xavier asked,sounding concerned.
"He's starting to remember,"she admitted,not even bothering to keep the pity and sorrow out of her voice anymore."And I think it's driving him crazy."
A small place-even the ceiling seemed low :he swore he could reach up and touch it without even baring his claws-he banged his shin into two of the small round tables that filled up most of the place (neither currently occupied,which was a shame,as a senseless fight might be nice) on his way to the bar.The bartender,a muscular Asian man who seemed to have a perpetually annoyed look about him,eyed him warily the moment he came in the door."I'm looking for Erasmus,"he said,glaring right back at him.
"We don't sell it here,"he drawled,obviously being an asshole.
Logan curled his upper lip at him."Look pal,I-"
"It's okay,Will-I was expecting him."A gravel voiced man said,emerging from a back room partitioned off from the bar by a rainbow hued beaded curtain.The man was tall and cadaverous,skin leathery and craggy from too much sun (?),a black eye patch over his right eye,his nearly shoulder length silver hair held back in a ponytail.His single eye,which was so pale it was nearly clear,looked him over carefully before he asked,in his cigarette beaten voice,"You're Logan,I presume?"
"What do you think?"Logan snapped impatiently."Can we just cut the bullshit and get on with it?"
The man gestured to whatever was behind the curtain,an invitation for him to come in.Logan gave Will a last scathing look before following the craggy,vaguely creepy figure of Erasmus behind the plastic beaded curtain.
He led him through an small hallway to a room with a heavy,unmarked door.Inside was a low lit room that could have been the place of business of some hack fortune teller or an illegal poker game.Lit in a way that most of the tiny room was cloaked in shadows,it highlighted a single round table-the wood scarred,stained,and pitted from years of abuse-that took up most of the room.Here,it smelled like cigar smoke and whiskey and Erasmus,who had a leathery odor about him.Was he a mutant?Logan was starting to think so.
But there was something else too;another scent,buried far beneath the others,and familiar-exceedingly familiar.It reminded him of the scent of ozone and sterilizers...
"So you're looking for something in an armament?"Erasmus said,his scratchy voice a perfect accompaniment to the rough folds of rawhide like skin on his face.Erasmus took one of the two wooden chairs bracketing the table,the wooden leg screeching briefly on the floor as he pulled it out far enough to accommodate his lanky form.
"Uh,yeah,I need something powerful.I'm thinking napalm."Logan reluctantly sat in the only other chair,wondering what that other scent was.It was really distracting.
Erasmus simply nodded,no expression in his single eye."Easy enough to get.How much do you need?"
"How much do you have?"What the hell was it?Now it was really starting to bug him.Was it a person..?
Erasmus sat forward,resting his bony elbows on the table as he stared at Logan with his one good eye."I suppose I should ask how much cash you have,Mister Logan."
They had gotten down to the nitty gritty of it when the strangest feeling overcame Logan.It was like a sudden wave of dizziness,and even though he was sitting down,for a moment he felt like he was falling-
-and in his mind's eye,he was staring out the small window of a dingy hotel room,red neon buzzing just beyond the sill giving everything a bloody hue as he looked out at the rain slicked avenue,the street lamps under aerial assaults by swarms of insects suicidally attracted to the light,.He heard a woman-that woman he sometimes heard in his head-say mockingly, almost laughing,"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,hmm?"
He had no idea what she was on about,but he didn't care.He felt removed from himself,apart,as if he really wasn't here at all-
And Logan felt jolted as the vision seemed to disappear and he found himself looking across the table at the almost spectral figure of Erasmus,who arched a silver eyebrow at him surprise."Are you all right?"
He stared at him a moment,feeling the same disorientation he almost always felt upon waking up.What the fuck was that? "Yeah,fine,"he lied,rubbing the back of neck like it hurt.Which of course it didn't,but he couldn't show him how confused he was right now.It was like he'd fallen asleep for a millisecond,entered a dream in progress,and suddenly woke up.He couldn't have become suddenly narcoleptic,could he?
Unless it was no dream at all.