MUTATION: TOXIC SKIN.
NATURE OF MUTATION: SUBJECT’S SKIN ALLOWS HER TO DRAIN ENERGY, MEMORIES, AND LIFE FORCE FROM ANOTHER WITH A TOUCH; A PIECE OF WHOM EVER SHE TOUCHES BECOMES LODGED IN HER HEAD; IN THE CASE OF MUTANTS, SHE GETS THEIR POWERS FOR A TIME, UNLESS SHE TOUCHES THEM UNTIL DEATH OCCURS, IN WHICH CAUSE THEIR POWERS BECOME HERS PERMANENTLY.
STUDIES: DURING HER TIME IN THIS LAB, SUBJECT HAS BEEN COMPELLED TO TOUCH AND TO FULLY DRAIN SEVERAL MUTANTS; SUBJECT NOW POSSESS THE POWER OF FLIGHT, HEALING, STRENGTH, SOME TELEPATHY, SOME EMPATHY AND TELEKINETIC SKILLS; SUBJECT WOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN MORE POWERS, HAD SHE NOT LEARNED TO CONTROL HER SKIN THAT SHE REFUSED TO TURN BACK ON DESPITE EXTREME ENCOURAGEMENT BY DOCTORS THAT SHE DO SO.
The file and the mutant it documented were discovered when a human lead, civilian mutant rights group conducted a raid on a black opts government lab and after much discussion, it was decided that Xavier’s School For The Gifted was most likely the best place to send the obviously traumatized young woman. She had refused to speak or so much as look anyone in the eye following her liberation, and while all physical wounds had healed as soon as the collar negating all her powers was removed from around her neck, she still had mental and emotional issues that needed immediate attention from someone qualified in dealing with mutants. A human would have no luck reaching her, it was easy to assume, as it had been human doctors that had tortured her in the lab for at least a year before she learned to control her skin and for another six months after she defied their demands that she continue to drain others like herself of their life and powers.
Hers was certainly one of the most tragic cases the professor had ever heard and he felt an undeniable sorrow and gut wrenching pity for the girl as she set in his office and with a smile he welcomed her to the mansion. He explained that only mutants lived there, so she was among her kind, she didn’t have to be afraid, or fearful, she could trust him as well as those he wanted her to meet in time and when she was ready, if she wanted, he told her she could openly talk to him about everything and anything at anytime, day or night.
During the professor’s speech, the girl said nothing and she remained silent when Jean showed her to her room and explained that she was just a few doors down the hall with her husband, Scott, and Rogue could drop by anytime. If she needed anything she only had to let someone know and it would be gotten for her…Jean looked into the brown eyes that touched hers for only a moment and the pain there nearly took her breath as she sighed and realized that it would be a long while before Rogue trusted her or Scott or anyone. She was living behind some strong and well constructed walls, she had been hurt too often and too long to just open herself up and Jean cried that night, when she and Scott talked about it and even Ro admit that it all seemed unfair, how someone so young had suffered so much.
They had no idea exactly where she had come from, if she had family, or if she had been tossed out by her parents when they realized she was a mutant. It was something, sadly, all of them had seen happen quite often and Jean suspected that was likely the case with Rogue, given how serious her original mutation had been.
“We just have to allow her time and space.” Charles said thoughtful. “She has been in a lab for nearly eighteen months that we are aware of, maybe longer, and I am sure that she suffered more than what was documented in the file.” It was likely she had endured a sexual assault, but Jean didn’t dare ask her, she doubted the girl would have tried to answer and she didn’t want to needlessly bring up bad memories that were already not far from mind if the pain in her eyes was any indication.
Her eyes, Jean decided, could rip out a person’s heart and she ached for the girl as her first weeks at the mansion turned into months in which Rogue made no effort to all, to speak or reach out to anyone. She was like a ghost, in the halls, roaming about silently, always waiting until everyone else had eaten before she went into the kitchen, only to return to her room afterwards where she stayed all day, reading books she got from the library or drawing in a sketch pad she had somehow found. She seemed content to rely, only on herself, she didn’t intend to trust anyone, or so Jean was beginning to assume, until late one even when a knock sounded the bedroom door and she opened it to find Rogue standing there with her sketch pad in her hand.
“Hello, Rogue.” Jean smiled, trying to overcome her surprise. “Can I help you?”
The girl said nothing, but she did nod.
“Okay. Would you like to come in?”
Rogue looked past her, into the empty room and after a moment, she nodded again and Jean stepped aside to allow her to enter.
Taking a moment to close the door, she turned to face Rogue, who had perched herself on the edge of the bed. She looked nervous, but not afraid, which Jean was glad for, as she smiled again.
“What can I do for you, dear?”
Glancing down at her sketch pad, Rogue opened it up and extended it to Jean who held the girl’s eyes as she reached for it.
“I…I need to find him…”
They were the first words Jean had ever heard her speak and her voice was weak, just above a whisper and she blinked at the sound, unable to believe the girl had chosen to open up at long last.
Forcing aside her delight and her surprise, Jean looked down at the drawing in her hand, only to receive another shock.
She knew the man in the drawing.
The rugged but handsome features, the wild hair, the intense eyes.
It was The Wolverine.
A mutant mercenary that would do almost anything, if the money was right, he had often taken jobs from Charles that the team wasn’t prepared to handle, do to the often brutal, outright violence or bloodshed involved.
The Wolverine had no problems with any of those things.
“Rogue, do you know this man?”
“Yes. A lot time ago.”
“How along ago?” Jean set down beside her, curious yet still cautious.
“It was before.” Rogue said with a slight frown.
“Before? Before you were…” She didn’t want to say the word ‘lab’.
“Before that. Before the lab. Before I died.”
“Excuse me?” The comment threw her, but Rogue smiled.
“It’s might be hard to explain, hard for you to believe, but I will start from the beginning, and I…I hope you will be able to help me.”
“Are you serious?”
In another set of circumstances, Jean might have laughed at the comical _expression on Scott’s face as he set on the sofa in the professor’s office beside Ro as Jean stood next to Charles’s desk, the story Rogue had shared with her now team knowledge, but only because Rogue had given her permission.
“Dead serious. And she believes it.”
“Well…” Scott looked from her to Ro and back. “Is there a chance that she’s…”
“Crazy?” Ro supplied with a half smile.
“Well, she has been through a lot…” Scott pointed out.
“Or maybe she’s telling the truth.” Jean suggested.
“Are you telling me you believe this girl and Wolverine were together in a past life?”
The idea sounded insane to Scott, he couldn’t believe anyone could even consider it likely even in the most extreme circumstance. “Do you realize we are talking about someone, a confused young girl, that believes she has been reincarnated and she now wants us to help her find her lover who, in cause you all have forgotten, has next to no memories about the past Rogue thinks she shared with him?”
“It’s possible.” Ro said, her voice quite but her words enough to startle Scott.
“I grew up in Africa and I know not all things involving life and the gods are easily or in some causes explained at all.”
“I agree with, Ro.” Charles finally spoke after a few moments silence.
“Why dismiss what Rogue claims?”
“Because it has no bases in reality.” Scott argued.
“Once, the idea of mutations had no bases in reality.”
“Can’t deny that point, love.” Jean smiled at Scott. “And I believe her.”
“As do I.” Ro added.
“And I think we need to help her.”
“Jean, *even* if there is some chance that Rogue is having a real memory here, we
do need to try and keep in mind that Wolverine is…well, we all know that he isn’t what anyone could call stable.”
“He’s been through a lot.” It was Jean’s nature to be diplomatic.
“He’s been through the same thing Rogue has.” It was troubling to Ro, to think about it.
“Being reunited with him could help her.”
“I believe her, Scott, and I…” She sighed. “I believe her.”
“She didn’t call him that. She called him Logan.”
“Did she tell you her real name?” Charles asked.
“Yes. It’s Marie.”
“Fine. He’s Logan. She’s Marie. But that aside, he is still a scary man.”
“Perhaps there is more to Wolverine, or Logan, than we realize, and perhaps the key to understanding him is Rogue, or Marie.” The professor leaned back and looked at Ro, then Scott and Jean. “I will track down Wolverine. I can do so easily.”
“Will you tell him to come to the school?” Scott never liked it when he did, he felt badly, for the man, given all he had suffered, but he was paid to be dangerous and he took a certain delight in that as far as Scott could tell and that was what worried him.
“No. I think we need to talk to him on his turf.”
“I agree with the professor.” Jean said.
“As do I. I think we need to be careful. It is likely Wolverine will not believe this.”
“He doesn’t have any clear memory of his past.” Scott sighed.
“Scott, I want you to go see him, after I locate him and take Jean with you.”
“Why? It might be better if I go alone.” He didn’t want his wife exposed to the man.
“I think not, in this case, given how you doubt what Rogue says.”
“I agree.” Ro stood. “I think Jean has a better chance at reasoning with him because in all likelihood, you will project your doubts, Scott.”
He sighed, unable to argue. “Fine. Fine. Me and Jean.”
Jean smiled, and moved to sit beside him in the place Ro had vacated.
“Relax, Scott. I know it seems odd, but there is something to this.”
“You really mean that?”
She lifted her shoulders. “I do. Maybe anything really is possible.”
“Or maybe Wolverine will laugh in our face before he guys both of us.”
Finding Wolverine wasn’t hard for the professor, he easily tracked him down to a dive bar in Laughlin City in Canada where he took part in cage fights. It was one of his oddly favored pastimes, one Scott didn’t understand anymore seeing it himself, as he had just after he and Jean had arrived at the bar. A man would have to be a fool to step into a ring with Wolverine, Scott didn’t doubt that, as he set with Jean at a table in the far corner of the bar where Wolverine had agreed to meet them as soon as he and the old bartender settled up their winnings for the night.
“This is insane.”
“You’ve said that a dozen times in the last half hour.”
“Well, I could say it a dozen more and it still wouldn’t convince you.”
She smiled and scooted closer to him. “Afraid not. I believe in this.”
“After seeing him in that cage, kicking the shit out of men, you believe that he is the wonderful man Rogue described to you?”
“Yes. I do.”
“It’s been twenty years, Scott. A lot has happened to them.”
“Yeah. She died. Was reborn. And he…” He shook his head. “He is nuts.”
“He’s been through hell.”
“I don’t deny that…”
“And Rogue said they were in love.”
“That is all well and good…”
“And what about us?” Jean asked.
“What about us?”
“Well, I love you every bit as much as Rogue loves Wolverine, so maybe you and I had a grand affair in a past life.”
That made her frown. “Why do you say that?”
“Because, I could never forget loving you in this life or any other.”
“Sweet talker.” She brushed her lips over his. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Jean.”
“And isn’t that sweet.”
Scott sighed and Jean smiled as she looked up to see Wolverine standing beside their table.
“So, Jeannie, you still with One Eye?”
“She’s married to him.” Scott snapped.
Wolverine raised an eyebrow at that. “Well, well. Did he get you drunk?”
“Behave. Both of you.”
“Whatever you say, red.”
“Please, have a seat, Wolverine. We need to talk to you.”
He followed Jean’s request, sitting down opposite her at the table.
“I take it old Chuck has a job for me.”
He looked perfectly relaxed, leaned back in his chair, his shit on but not buttoned, his hair wild, a beer in his hand.
“Not quite.” Scott ventured, casting a look at Jean.
“Actually, this is a little complex.” Jean began.
“Lay it on me, darlin. What ya got.”
Scott sighed, deciding he would lay the basic groundwork and leave the rest to Jean to sort through.
“About four months ago, a civilian mutant rights group busted up a lab.”
“Good for them.” It almost sounded like a growl.
“I agree.” Scott continued.
“They find something interesting?”
“Yeah. A girl. About twenty. She had been there for a year and a half.”
“Shit. Lot of bad stuff can happen in that amount of time.”
“A lot did happen.” Jean said, her voice sad.
“The girl, Rogue, they called her, she had, has, skin that can drain the life, the energy, the memories from a person with a touch and with mutants, she gets their powers.”
“The doctors forced her to drain several mutants, so she now has healing and strength and a lot of other powers.” Jean added. “She would have had more, but she learned to control her skin and…”
“I imagine she refused to do what the doctors wanted.” Wolverine set his beer aside.
“She did.” What they must have done was something Scott didn’t think about.
“When she came to us, for four months, she didn’t speak to anyone.”
“She stayed in her room, reading and drawing, until…” Scott looked at Jean.
“She came to me last night, Wolverine, and she opened up.”
“She talked about the lab?”
Jean shook her head. “Not really. She talked about…”
“About?” What this had to do with him, Wolverine had no idea.
Reaching for a piece of paper she had sitting in her lap, Jean unfolded it and laid it on the table, so Wolverine could see it.
An image of himself.
One of the many Rogue had drawn.
“What is this?” He asked, staring at the drawing.
“Rogue drew that.” Scott said.
“That…how…” He picked it up. “Does she know me? Do I know her?”
“Maybe?” He finally looked from Jean to Scott and back.
“Look at this.”
Scott reached into his pocket and withdrew a small photograph that he placed on the table, just as Jean had with the drawing, but this time, Wolverine’s reaction was far less started and more angry.
“How did you get this?” His eyes blazed with fury, as he snatched up the picture.
“It was in the file.”
“What file?” He snapped.
“The one on Rogue.” Jean answered, sensing his emotional turmoil.
“This…no. No, this is a fucking game and I ain’t playing.”
He stood so abruptly, he knocked over the chair he had been sitting in.
“Wolverine, this isn’t a game…”
“I don’t know how you got a picture of her, One Eye, but that girl…”
“Marie.” Jean said softly. “Her name is Marie. And you’re Logan.”
He went deathly still. “How do you know that?”
“Sit down, Wolverine, and I’ll tell you everything I know and how I know it.”
“Please, Wolverine. Logan. Trust me.”
“I don’t trust anyone.”
“Try.” Scott encouraged, the doubt he had felt fading.
“Why should I?”
“Because we might be able to help you find something you thought you lost forever.”
His eyes locked on Scott’s and held.
“If you are fucking with me…” He made his threat clear.
“We’re not fucking with you.”
He hesitated for a moment, then slowly righted his chair and set down.
“You got half an hour. Start talking.
He set alone in the back of the jet, her photograph clutched in his hand, his eyes on her face. It seemed so impossible, so unlikely…so insane…he had thought for sure they were lying to him, but he had smelled the truth, he had sensed they were on the up and up and they were taking him to her. To Marie. His Marie. His love…his life…the one he had lost so long ago…she had died in his arms…he winced at the memory, at the pain it brought to life as Jean came from the front, to cautiously sit beside him, her concern for him evident in her eyes.
“We should be at the mansion in half an our or so.”
He nodded. “Good. Good.”
“Wolverine…” She sighed. “I can’t imagine what a shock this is to you.”
“I thought she was dead, Jeannie. She was dead. She died.”
“I know. She told me. Most of it.”
“They killed her. They took me…” He shook his head, still looking at the picture.
“How long after you escaped the lab did the memory come back to you?”
He half smiled at that. “I never forgot her. Couldn’t. She was everything.”
“You loved her very much.”
Finally, he looked at her. “I loved her more than life. I still love her.”
“She still loves you too, Wolverine.”
“Does she? She loves who I was. What I am…”
“Hey. A lot has happened. To both of you. It will take some adjustment, but the love isn’t going to fade away now if it hasn’t after all this time.” She rested a hand on his arm. “If her dying and being reborn and both of you facing hell in labs hasn’t destroyed what you felt for one another then nothing will.”
“I’ve done so bad things.”
“Haven’t well all?” She raised an eyebrow, mocking him and he half laughed.
“Not like me, red. Not like me.”
“She can handle it.”
“You sound sure.”
“I’ve seen the look in her eyes when she talks about you.”
“God. She told me she would find me again. Someday. Somehow.”
“It seems she did.”
He nodded and looked back at her picture.
“You said she told you some of it?”
“Yeah. Not everything. Mainly how…well, how it ended.”
“She didn’t tell you how it began?”
Jean shook her head. “Not really.”
“Want to hear it? It’s a hell of a story.”
“I don’t doubt it. And yeah, I would love to hear it.”
“It was about twenty two years ago. It started in Canada…”
They were curled up before the fireplace, the bearskin rug beneath them, a thick wool blanket draped over their bodies as he looked at her in the dimming firelight, unable to fully believe that she was real. She was his. She loved him. It all still seemed unreal, more than a little too good to be true…she was perfection in so many ways, she was young, she was beautiful and gentle and kind and the child growing in her slightly swollen stomach was his. *Theirs*. She had told him that afternoon she thought she might be but he had assured her there was no *might* about it, he had sensed it weeks before, had smelt the change in her scent, but he had wanted her to be the one to tell him, cause he knew women liked that kind of thing.
“Silly man. You’ve known all along.”
She had squalled with delight before throwing herself in his arms and he held her close, drinking in her scent.
“I’ve been going crazy, waiting for you to figure it out.”
Grinning, she stepped back and looked up at him. “I am so excited…”
“Me too, darlin. This is…” He shook his head.
“Hey, what have I told you?”
“That I deserve the best.”
“Right. And me and you and this kid, we are gonna have the best.”
“Always, Marie. I’ll always do right by you.”
“I know that.”
And she did. He had proven it to her, again and again.
He had proven that no one could love her as he did, despite the fact he was different.
He was a mutant.
He hadn’t told her right off, when they had first met, when he picked her up from the side of the road, where he had found her standing in the snow, looking frightened, tears in her eyes and bruises on face where the last guy she had hitched a ride with had hit her before he tossed her out, after she refused his idea of repayment.
Hearing the story had made Logan want to hunt the bastard down and gut him.
Instead, he had settled for getting the girl in his truck, the heater blasting warm air on her while she ate a bag of beef jerky he handed her and washed it down with a warm soda she had declared delicious. She admitted that it had been days since she ate any real food, she had run out of money after six months on the road, having run away from home when her parents tried to insist that she marry a man she didn’t love and never would. He had been a friend of her father’s, they had been in business together for long years…it had seemed almost prearranged to her, she said, with obvious disgust that Logan had shared as he asked her questions, to get her to open up about herself and to his surprise, he liked everything he heard.
He liked her.
And he wasn’t known for liking people.
He was a loner, his own family had been dead for years and while he looked and first told the girl he was thirty five, he was well, well older than that.
He suspected she wouldn’t have believed it if he had told her right off, so he took his delight in learning that she liked the snow, but she didn’t like to be cold and she ate ice cream but she didn’t drink milk.
Her favorite color was green.
Her favorite season was autumn.
She was twenty, she wanted to be an artist and she loved dancing.
Every little fact, both silly and serious, held his attention, he wanted to listen to her talk, even if it was about nothing.
He told himself he was insane.
He told himself he had finally lost it.
After two hours, he knew he was falling in love with her.
They found a pizza place in the next town they came to, about three hours after he picked her up and while they ate, he basically told her he was alone in the world, that he just traveled from place to place during the better part of the year, working odd jobs and cage fighting, but he spent most winters at a place he had up in the mountains. It was remote, quite and removed from the world…he thought it was the perfect place to unwind and she told him it sounded beautiful and right then, he almost asked her to go there with him.
He held back.
He told himself he couldn’t.
She was twenty. She was human. She was damn near perfect.
He was a mutant.
The world usually made him laugh. He knew of only one or two like him. Another that had a healing factor, some guy named Creed, he had known in the army…a guy he had met in a bar once that could freeze time.
The guy in the bar was the one that had taught him the word mutant.
He had said there were others, that it was happening more and more and some said it was starting to catch the attention of the media and the government more and more, but Logan had dismissed the guy’s concern. He had no worries, as he kept to himself for the most part, he didn’t draw attention, he just lived life as it came and he liked it that way.
He liked being alone.
Until he met her.
She changed that.
She changed everything.
By the end of the meal, he had told her he would get a motel room, with two beds, so they could both get a good nights sleep.
“You need rest, kid.”
“Thanks, Logan.” Her smile took his breath. “Thanks for…well everything.”
“You don’t got to thank me, kid.”
“I do. You’ve been nice to me.”
“I don’t know how anyone couldn’t be nice to you.”
That earned him another smile. “And you treat me like a person.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you listen to me. Talk to me. My family just wanted me to do as they said.”
“You have a right to making your own decisions, kid.”
He wanted her to decided to stay with him.
And not just for the night.
He wanted forever.
The motel room was small, dingy, nothing special, but Marie said it was perfect and Logan smiled as he set on one bed while she took to the shower first. He had told her to take her time, to relax, that she could use some of his clothes, since she had admitted most of hers weren’t clean.
“We can find a laundry joint tomorrow, if you want.”
He had made the suggestion before she stepped into the bathroom and it had earned him another smile.
He had realized then that he wanted to keep finding ways to make her smile.
He laid back on the bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering how to handle this…how to deal with what he was feeling when he knew he had no business feeling anything for someone so young and so pure.
He closed his eyes and told himself he was a fool.
His eyes opened and he set up, to see she had just come from the bathroom, her hair damp, falling to her shoulders as she stood there in a baggy pair of sweats and a long sleeved shirt.
He had seen a lot of women in a lot of situations, but she was beyond beautiful.
“I’m finished with the bathroom, but I’d wait a while for the hot water to build up.”
She smiled and moved to the other bed where she set down and began running a brush through her hair, humming as she did.
“Logan, can I ask you a question?”
“Do you…do you normally pick up hitchhikers?”
“Never.” He was honest with her.
“Don’t like people.”
“Then why me? Why help me?”
“You needed it.”
“A lot of people need it.”
He smiled at that. “I suppose so. But you…” He trailed off.
“I’m what?” She stopped brushing her hair to look at him.
“You’re different. Special.”
But she shook her head. “Hardly. I’m not special.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you are, Marie.”
Their eyes held and he stood, not sure where he was going but she held at hand out
to him and before he could talk himself out of it or tell himself again that he was insane, he took her hand in his and she pulled him onto the bed.
“Am I crazy, Logan?”
That set so close he could feel the heat of her body and the warmth of her breath
as she asked the question.
“Why would you think you’re crazy?”
“Cause of what?” He could see a blush staining her cheeks.
“What I feel when I’m around you.”
Those seven words undid him.
His will was gone.
He was gone.
“Christ, Marie, you aren’t crazy.”
“I feel it too.”
Her eyes and lips smiled at once. “Good.”
It was better than good, he thought vaguely, as he took her mouth with his, deciding it was perfect.
She was perfect.
And she was his.
At least for the night.
The one night he promised himself turned into a week, and a week into another and another until a month passed and without even realizing it, they made it to his cabin just before the first hard snow fell.
It was perfect.
It was magical.
They seemed to fit together perfectly, she added light and laughter to his world and he made her feel safe and secure and live.
They spent their days walking in the woods.
They spent their nights and a good part of their days making love.
He hunted for their food, they cooked it together, they shared everything, and living together seemed natural and right.
Logan wanted it to last forever.
But he knew he *had* to tell her the truth about himself, about what he really was, and how he was different from her.
He knew he had to tell her a truth that would likely send her running from him, seeing him as a monster and a freak.
She would hate and fear him.
He would lose her, so he put it off for as long as he could, until their second month at the cabin, when she came to him one evening, looking worried as she set down next to him.
“Logan, what’s wrong?”
He smiled at her. “Nothing, baby.”
But she shook her head. “Something’s bothering you. Please tell me.”
“Is it…do you want me to go? Do you not want me around?”
“Christ, Marie, no I don’t want you to go. Ever.”
He could see her shoulders sag in relief.
“I was scared…”
He cupped her face in his hands. “I love you, Marie.”
“I love you too.”
It was the first time they had ever said the actual words and he smiled before he kissed her long and hard and she responded with her usual passion, her small hands fisting in the folds of his shirt.
“Marie..” He could smell her desire.
“Make love to me, Logan.”
He wanted nothing more.
But he knew he had to tell her first. He couldn’t want any longer. She had to know.
Easing back, he looked at her and sighed. “Marie, I have to tell you something.”
She nodded. “I know something’s troubling you.”
“I…” He had no idea where to begin. “I’m gonna show you something.”
“Don’t be scared.”
“I could never be scared of you.”
God, he hoped she would feel that way when he was finished.
Taking a breath, he flexed his hand, allowing the bone claws to spring.
“I’m a mutant, Marie. I have the claws. And I heal. From anything.”
She lifted a hand to brush her fingers over the claws, clearly shocked.
“Are those bones?” She sounded curious, not frightened.
“Yeah. I have six of them. Three in each hand.”
He flexed his wrist again, causing the claws to retract, allowing her to see how the skin instantly healed.
“A mutant? I’ve heard a little about mutants…”
“I read an article about a year ago. I don’t know a lot. Something about a difference in the DNA…” She shook her head.
“I don’t know much about the how or why, just know I am one.”
“You said you heal? From anything?”
“Cuts. Burns. And I…”
“You what?” She was still sitting close to him.
“This might be hard to believe, but I don’t age.”
“You don’t age?”
He nodded. “I told you I’m thirty five.”
“Marie, I was born on October 2nd, 1891.”
“I have pictures around here that prove it, along with a certificate proving my birth.”
“I know…” He looked down at his hands. “I know it’s a lot to deal with, a lot to believe, but it’s all true and I…well, I understand if it changes things.”
“Changes what things?”
“How you feel.”
“Wait. You think you being a mutant changes my feelings?”
The sheer shock in her voice drew his eyes to hers. “It’s a lot to deal with.”
“Not so much.”
“You’re a mutant, Logan. Okay. It’s just a part of who you are.”
“But my age, the claws…”
“Are a little surprising, but not bad. I mean, it’s all just a fact.”
“What? Did you think I was gonna turn and run? I love you, jackass.”
Overwhelmed with relief, with love, he laughed and hauled her into his arms, so she was straddled him.
“God, I love you.”
“I love you too, Logan. Being a mutant doesn’t change that.”
“I was afraid.”
She cupped his face in her hands. “Like I said, it’s just a fact, like you’re not liking to eat your veggies or the fact that you make great stew and the fact that you snore.”
“Hey, I don’t snore.”
“Trust me, sugar. You snore.”
He laughed and pinched her ass. “Fine. I snore.”
“And look at it this way, one day, with the rate you age, you’re gonna be the hot guy with the old ass girlfriend.”
“You’ll always be hot, even when you’re ninety, and I want to change girlfriend to wife, as soon as we get the chance.”
“Really. As soon as spring comes and we can go down the mountain.”
“Sounds good to me.”
She leaned forward and kissed him and this time, he gave into the feelings, the needs, his fears gone.
Life was perfect.
He was blessed.
Blessed was the one thing he had thought he would never be, but lying there beside Marie, watching her sleep, the world felt right…he felt right…he felt a peace inside his heart and soul and he knew he had Marie to think for that.
Marie and the news she had shared.
Four months into their stay at the cabin, she had told him the news.
She was pregnant. They were pregnant. Before next winter, they would have a baby.
He grinned like a fool thinking about it, imaging what it would be like to see their child in Marie’s arms.
Their first child.
First of many.
She stirred in her sleep, turning her head towards him, a smile on her face.
“Haven’t we talked about you watching me sleep?” She sighed, clearly amused.
“Can’t help it. You’re beautiful.”
“You’re silly, sugar, but I love you.”
He rubbed his hand over her stomach. “I love you too. Both of you.”
“Both of us. God, I love that. I can’t wait…”
“Same here.” He pressed a kiss to her mouth.
“We need to think about names.”
He set back, braced on his elbow. “Names.”
“If it’s a boy, I want to name it after you.”
“And if it’s a girl?”
“I don’t know. Hope, maybe.”
“Because you brought Hope back into my life when you picked me up.”
“You did the same for me.”
Leaning down again, he captured her mouth and she tangled her hands in his hair, holding him to her as he used one hand to move the covers down her still bare body that was again eager to be pressed close to his.
He whispered his name, trailing his mouth to her breast as she arched into his touch, each of them become lost in the other.
So lost that he didn’t realize someone had approached their small haven until the door was kicked open and men began spilling into the room, dressed in camouflage and carrying guns.
Instantly, Logan was on his feet, placing himself between Marie and the men, his claws out, his eyes blazing with rage.
The command came from the man that was obvious in charge as another aimed a gun at Logan.
“Who the fuck are you? What is this?”
The man with the glasses smile.
“My name is William Stryker.”
“And? So the fuck what? Get out of my house.”
“I’m afraid that isn’t possible, Logan.”
“How do you know me?” He looked at each man, there was at least ten of them, aside from Stryker, and they were all armed.
“I know everything about you, Logan. And Marie.”
Slowly, clutching the blanket to her naked form, Marie stood, one hand clutching his shoulder from behind.
“Get out. This is our home.”
“I am afraid I can’t leave. You and I…well, we are going to work together, Logan.”
“Fuck you.” He wanted to claw the bastard. He could feel Marie shaking with fear.
“Now, now.” Stryker shook his head. “Please, let’s be reasonable, Logan.”
“I know you have an amazing healing factor, Logan, but Marie doesn’t and it would be a shame to see something happen to her.”
He went still at that. “Leave her alone.”
“Marie isn’t of any interest to me, but she is of an interest to you, Logan, and therefore, I know you don’t want to see her harmed.”
“Logan…” Her voice was frantic.
“It’s okay, darlin. Everything’s fine.”
They both knew it was a lie.
“Logan is right, Marie. If he is willing to listen to me, you will be fine.”
“What about Logan? What do you want with him?”
“I am afraid that is complex, dear.”
“If I go with you, will you leave her here?”
He stared at the man, thinking he could take him, maybe even all of them, but he couldn’t do anything with Marie around.
He couldn’t risk her getting hurt.
He had to protect her and the baby.
“Fine. I'll go with you.”
He turned to look at her, his hands on her shoulders as he looked down into her wide, tear filled eyes.
“It’s gonna be okay, Marie. I swear it.”
“Logan, don’t…please don’t go with them…”
“Darlin, I have to. But I’ll be fine.”
“I love you, Logan.”
“I love you too. Both of you.”
He turned back to Stryker who nodded at one of the soldiers that moved forward, what appeared to be a collar in his hand.
“What the fuck…”
“I need you to wear this, Logan.”
The tone of Stryker’s voice left no room for argument and he didn’t dare fight as the solider locked the collar around his neck while Marie watched.
“It’s okay, Marie.”
His eyes caught hers and held.
“Thank you for cooperating, Logan.” Stryker said it with a smile before glancing at one of the other men. “Kill her now.”
Neither Logan nor Marie had time to register the words as the sound of a gun going off shattered around them and he screamed as bullets ripped into her, one in the chest and two in her stomach.
She sank to the floor, gasping, as Logan dropped beside her, gathering her in his arms, screaming her name as he held her close, Stryker and the others forgotten as he looked at his Marie.
“Darlin…” Blood was everywhere, her eyes distant, her skin pale.
“It’s okay, Marie. It’s all okay.” He cried openly as he pushed her hair from her face.
“Get…you get away…from them…go…”
But he shook his head. “No. No, I won’t leave you. I love you. I love you, Marie.”
“Love you…so much…loved you…the minute I saw you…”
He smiled through his tears. “Me too. I loved you first the first. I always will.”
He could smell death on her.
He could sense her slipping away.
“Logan, you survive…no matter what…you survive…”
She lifted a blood covered hand to touch his face.
“I will…I will find you again, Logan. Understand…I will find you…”
“You live…you live and I will…I will come back…again…we will have forever…”
“Marie, I love you.”
She managed a weak smile. “Love you…see you…again…”
The last of the life faded from her and he bellowed, his anguish, his pain, blinding him to all else, even the physical pain he felt as a needle was shoved into his neck and an instant later, even as he cried and held on to the lifeless body of the woman he loved, the world went black.
Black and cold.
The way it had been before Marie.
The way it would be without her.
By the time Logan finished the story, he had tears in his eyes and Jean was crying, her heart breaking for Marie and Logan and their child. She couldn’t believe how unfairly, it had all ended…how she had died in his arms…how he had held her…how she had said she would come back and somehow she had done just that.
She had made a promise and she had kept it.
“I never forgot her. Never. I love her…” He looked away, struggling with his pain.
“I can see that. I can hear it. And…she’s back. She is waiting for you.”
He closed his eyes. “I still can’t believe it.”
“I know it seems impossible, but I have always heard that love can do anything and in the case of you and Marie it seems it has.”
He glanced back at Jean. “I don’t think it will really sink in, until I see her.”
“That will happen soon. We land in about five minutes.”
“Thanks. Thank you. For finding me. For…” He shrugged and she nodded.
“You’re more than welcome.”
She stood, to return to the front of the plane with Scott.
“If this is real, I…I can’t lose her again.”
She smiled. “You won’t. Trust me. Marie said forever. You two are gonna get it.”
When they arrived at the mansion, Ro greeted them in the hanger, explaining to Jean and Wolverine that Rogue was waiting in her room. She had asked if Wolverine, Logan, as she had called him, could go to her there, she didn’t want their reunion to be public, which Ro and Jean understood. It was a private matter, something no outsider needed to pay witness and Wolverine looked relieved as Ro told him where Rogue’s room was located and he half smiled and told her not to bother with directions.
“I’ve already caught her scent.”
It had hit him the moment he got off the jet, the scent of innocents…beauty…no one else could have *that* exact scent, he was sure, as he left Ro and Jean with Scott and without hesitation, he tracked his way through the mansion, to what he knew was her room, where he paused for a moment outside the door.
He was almost afraid to know.
What if it wasn’t real?
What if it was a dream?
He could handle the disappointment….the loss…not again…never again.
If it was her, he would never let her go.
Finally, he lifted his hand to knock, but before he could, the door open and *she* was standing there.
It was undeniably Marie.
He opened his mouth, but the shock, the delight, it made it impossible to speak as tears filled her eyes and his and she flung herself into his arms that wrapped instantly around her, holding on for dear life.
For an endless moment, they just held one another, crying softly, saying nothing, until his shock finally eased enough for him to lift her up into his arms and carry her into the room, kicking the door shut behind him.
“Logan…” Her eyes never left his as she brushed her hand over his face.
She smiled and nodded. “It’s me. It’s really me. I…I came back.”
“I know. I know. I don’t understand it…”
“Right now, how doesn’t matter.”
God. He could agree with that.
He set her down gently on the bed, settling himself beside her as she tangled her hands in his thick hair, pulling his mouth to hers in a kiss that was familiar and wonderful all at once.
He knew her kisses.
He knew her taste.
It was all still the same.
His resistance when it came to her still didn’t exist, the moment her small hands touched him, he lost the ability to think, all he could do was feel and she wanted that more than anything as she frantically worked the buttons on his shirt, pushing it from his shoulders, desperate to have access to him. All of him. She had ached for this moment, this man, it was what had kept her alive in the labs, what had kept her going…she had known in her heart and soul she would find him again and she wanted to celebrate that and she sensed he needed the same thing she did, in that instant, as she suddenly realized he had stripped her completely.
“Do you need time…”
But she shook her head. “Too much time has passed.”
He kissed her again, his tongue snaking around her, frantic and eager as he pushed her back on the bed, barely breaking contact to shed his jeans before fully stretching out beside her.
He looked down at the familiar face.
The beautiful face.
The eyes that he had dreamt about night after night.
“I’ve so missed being called that.”
“I’ve missed you, Marie. So much. So very much.”
“I know. I know. But it’s over now. I’m back. I’m never leaving you again.”
Her eyes told him it was a promise she would keep as she began to sweep her hands over his body, touching him, exploring him, reacquainting herself with the feel of his skin, the heat that radiated from him.
He gasped her name when she closed her fingers around him.
“Please, Logan. Please. I need you in me.”
It was a plea he couldn’t ignore.
One he didn’t want to ignore.
He used his legs to further part hers and as gently as possible, chanting her name, cause he needed to hear himself say it, he eased into her, stretching her, filling her so fully and so completely tears of sheer delight filled her eyes.
“Logan…” She arched up into him. “Love you…I love you…” The tears leaked from her eyes as she said the words that had echoed in her soul, in her memory, for so long and he kissed her hard.
“Love you too, Marie. Always. Always.”
She clutched his shoulders, her legs wrapped around his waist, clutching him to her as he began to move steadily and she matched the rhythm.
She never closed her eyes.
She didn’t want to look away from him ever again.
His eyes held hers, she drank in the love and warmth and devotion she saw there.
He whispered her name.
She called out his as everything around her exploded into a sea of pleasure.
He followed an instant calling out his love for her.
They rested on their sides, facing one another, touching constantly, almost afraid to stop for fear the other would disappear. He felt completely submerged in her scent, safe and secure warped in her closeness, knowing it would last…forever, she had said several time, having explained to him that she had been given healing and strength in the lab, along with other impressive skills Charles said he would like her to use as a member of the team. He was planning on talking to Logan as well, but for the moment, that didn’t matter to either of them, the team was the last thing on his or her mind as he started at her, playing with the white streaks in her hair that had appeared during her first days in the lab, when she had been forced to kill for the first time.
It had taken her four months, at Xavier’s, to get all the voices in her head and all the memories that came with them sorted out.
She had felt she needed a handle on herself before she went to Jean, to ask for help, in finding Logan.
“When did you remember our past together?” He was completely captivated.
“I was seven when I started having odd dreams that I dismissed at first, until one day, it just all flooded back to me. It was like a door was opened. I remembered it all.”
“All?” She could feel him tense and she nodded, tears in her eyes.
“I remember our meeting, falling in love, finding out I was having a baby…”
“And I remember Stryker.”
“So do I. Vividly. I…Marie, I am sorry, I let him…”
She pressed her fingers to her lips.
“You listen to me, Logan, and you understand, that none of what happened was your fault. I remember it very clearly, I remember that you were willing to go with Stryker, that you were willing to hand yourself over to him to keep me safe and I love you for that, because you are and you were brave and good wonderful.”
“I mean it. He said he would leave me there.”
“I had no idea he would…” His own tears were close to the surface.
“I know. I know that.”
“I would have rather died myself.”
“You suffered enough.” He had already told her about his time in the lab, the metal on his bone and how metal now covered his natural bone claws.
“The worst was losing you.”
“I’ve come back, Logan.”
She lifted one shoulder. “I don’t know. Sheer will, maybe.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, with my last breath I said I would come back to you, and I don’t know if I was meant to all along or if fate or whatever controls the universe decided we deserved a second chance.”
“I guess how doesn’t matter.”
“No. What matters is the fact I’m here. You’re here.”
“I have one more question.”
“Your mutation, your skin, when did it start?”
“When I was seventeen, I went to a dance at school, and a guy tried to kiss me
and the second he touch me, I felt this electric like charge and his life and thoughts started pouring into me. I broke away from him, but he was in a coma for three weeks.”
“And your family?”
“Didn’t want a mutant.”
She shrugged again. “It’s okay. When I ran away, I was running to something. You.”
“I got caught.”
“I am so sorry you had to go through that.”
“It’s okay. I survived it. Just like you did.”
“Marie, you should know, I’ve done some bad things, since then.”
“I mean it. I’ve made mistakes. I haven’t been a good guy.”
“You are the best guy and whatever mistakes you have made, they are in the past and what matters now is the future we can have, if you want it.”
“If?” He smiled. “Darlin, there is no if about it.”
“Really. You’re what I want, Marie. All I’ve ever wanted.”
“It’s the same for me, Logan.”
“I’ve been dead inside without you.” More so than she would ever know,
“Well, we’re both alive now.”
She snuggled closer to him, kissing his mouth gently.
“Make love to me, Logan. We got a lot of time to make up for.”
He laughed and rolled her beneath him. “Gladly, darlin.”
For two days, Marie and Logan remained in her room, uninterrupted, perfectly content to be alone and together. It was as magical and as perfect as it had been before, only a bit more so now…knowing that it was now really about forever made Logan feel alive and ready to live for change rather than exist. He knew he never wanted to be far from Marie again and after some serious discussion, they decided it would be good to stay at the mansion for a while. It would give them a safe place, a chance to help others, in the long run and Marie liked it there and Logan even admitted that it wasn’t that bad, but while Marie napped, he went to see the professor personally, to tell him about their decision to join the team.
He also told him there was one thing he had to do.
“You want Stryker.” Charles said rather than asked.
“Yes. I want Stryker. I may have Marie back, but he took her from me once.”
“And you want him to pay.”
“Don’t you think he should? He killed her. He killed *our* child.”
“You don’t have to offer justifications to me, Wolverine.”
“Logan. I’m Logan again.”
The professor smiled at that. “Very well, Logan.”
“You’re not gonna try and talk me out of finding him?” He sounded surprised.
“You’ve done some…well, shall we say interesting work for me in the past.”
“So you know that while I believe it peace and I want it, I also know there are times when one has no choice but to use stronger means to send a message.”
“You know what it takes to get a job done.”
“And I know when some deserves to get everything they have coming.”
He slid a piece of paper across his desk.
“Information about an underground base at Alkali Lake.”
“Do what needs to be done, Logan.”
Standing, Logan nodded, and picked up the paper. “Thanks.”
He turned to find Scott standing at the door.
“You gonna object to this, Scooter.”
“Hardly. Just wanted to let you know the jets ready. And so am I.”
Logan raised an eyebrow. “You?”
“Jean told me what Stryker did.”
“Like the professor said, he some people need to get what they have coming.”
“In that case, let’s go.”
With the information provided by the professor, getting into the base proved to be no problem at all. Security was already diminished to almost nonexistence, Stryker seemed, to have lost the force he once had and Logan managed to easily find the man that had once ruined his life, held up in a small office, clearly terrified. He looked small and a little frail, hardly as formidable as he once and at the sight of Logan, he paled even more.
His voice was cold as ice.
“I…you’ve come back. I knew you would. You know where you belong…”
“You and I, we were meant to do great work together…we…”
“We were nothing. You are nothing but a murdering bastard.”
But he shook his head. “I did what had to be done.”
“You tried to turn me into a weapon. You killed the woman I love.”
“I had to. I had…”
“No excuse. None. It’s over.”
And it was.
“Jesus, Logan, I could kick your ass.”
Looking frantic, Marie flung herself into his arms, holding him tight as he laughed.
“Sorry, darlin. Had something to take care of.”
She pulled back and looked at him. “I know. Stryker.”
“No. He’s already dying. If he lives another month, I’ll be surprised.”
“So you left him to…”
“Die alone.” Logan said simply. “I thought about finishing him off, ending it, using
the metal claws he gave me to make him pay, but then I realized, he’s gonna die all alone, and there ain’t nothing worse than that.”
Marie considered his words for a moment, her eyes on his, as she finally nodded.
“You did the right thing. Dying alone, that is what he deserves.”
He pulled her back into his arms. “He can’t take you from me again. No one can.”
“Never. Never, Logan.”
“Come on. Let’s go upstairs.”
She grinned as he swept her into his arms. “I love the way you think.”
“Never had anyone tell me that before”
“Well, I’ll make sure to say it often.”
“Just tell me you love me, darlin. That’ll do.”
“Consider it done, sugar.”
She laughed and kissed him and he smiled and loved her more.