"It ain't nice to tease a Wolverine," the man growled. Marie just shook her head and put down the glass she was drying. She leaned her elbows on the bar and got in the man's face.
"Look buddy. I didn't mean to tease you. I honestly thought we still had a few bottles of the good beer left. Guess we went through the rest tonight," she replied.
Marie had been working at the bar for six months, since she had wandered in cold, hungry, and looking for a ride to Alaska. After catching her looking at the tip jar like a lion drooling over an animal carcass, the bartender first got mad, then felt a twitch of sympathy once it came to closing time and the young girl hadn't been able to set up a lift for herself and all of the trucks had long since left. He gave the girl a place to sleep on his couch for the night, swearing that she was out by daylight. Once he woke and found her still sleeping, he let her be and got ready for work. Before he left she woke up and thanked the man as she folded the blankets and piled them and the pillow he had lent her on the sofa. As she gathered her things to leave, he heard the distinct sound of her stomach growling. Before he realized what he was doing he offered her breakfast. She paused before accepting his offer. He cooked her a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, home fries, juice, and coffee. She ate three heaping plates and he realized if she had had any money when she ran from wherever she came from, she had run out awhile ago. Over breakfast, he found out her parents had kicked her out and with no other family to turn to, she had decided to head out on her dream trip to Alaska. He gathered from what she didn't say that she hadn't expected the journey to be as rough as he assumed it had been. He knew what it was like on the road, and for a young girl who looked no older than seventeen, he could guess it was worlds harder. When she had finished eating he let her wash up while he cleaned up the dishes. She emerged a half hour later a little cleaner than when she had arrived. She was gathering her bag up when he stopped her and offered her a job and a room above the bar. The rest, as they say, was history. Marie loved her job, especially since she had found a way to control her mutation. It was easy to turn off, but sometimes it took a bit of pushing to turn it back on.
"Yeah, alright, then just gimme whatever you got that don't taste like piss," he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a cigar. Marie turned to the cooler and scrunched up her nose. She still hadn't gotten used to the smell of cigars, and had hated them her whole life. They reminded her of her father, and she hated him most of all. After retrieving a bottle of beer, she skillfully popped the cap and slid the bottle over to the man she had seen win quite a number of fights that evening, the most in one night that she had ever seen. She was intrigued by The Wolverine indeed. She tried to concentrate on listening to the news on the television above her as she wiped down the top of the bar. The door opened and she glanced up, freezing in place. Three men had come in, shaking the snow off themselves in the doorway before walking inside.
Wolverine took notice of her stiff posture, and the way her scent clearly changed. It told him she was afraid. He thought it funny how she hadn't smelled afraid once around him. He turned his head enough to be able to catch a glimpse of what had spooked her. He took notice of the three men, normal looking town types. One guy looked to be about in his twenties, jeans and a flannel shirt. The other two were older looking, truckers if he wasn't mistaken.
"Hey, Marie, bring us the usual," the younger man shouted from a table in the back. Marie nodded, then quickly set a tray on the bar and began mixing drinks. Wolverine watched as she poured three shots of Jaeger and popped three bottles of beer open, setting them all on the tray and lifting it with shaking hands.
Marie knew the men well. Her first week working in the bar she had waited on them. Greg, the bartender/owner of the bar had taught her the ropes, about how to handle rowdy or grabby customers, and he always watched out for her. Marie had felt secure in her amazingly innate ability to read the men that came in, and head off any trouble they would give her before they had to be kicked out. That first night they came in though, she hadn't expected the kind of trouble she got. She had waited on them, just like any other customer, and of course they flirted, tried to goad her, tried to grope her. She brushed them off playfully at first, then insistently, threatening to sic Greg and his rifle on them if they didn't cool off. She thought they had understood and when she took a break later that night, she realized she was wrong. One of the men noticed her put her apron behind the bar and slip up the back steps. He quickly followed her, glancing over at the bar to be sure Greg wasn't looking. He caught her at the top of the steps, her room key in hand. Marie was caught off guard when he grabbed her around the waist. She fought him, kicking, and biting, and clawing at him. He pawed at her incessantly, and at one point tried to pry her keys from her to unlock the door and get her inside. As he tugged at the keys, Marie found her opening and kneed him in the groin. He fell back on his ass as Marie scrambled down the stairs. She ran to Greg and told him what had happened. He hauled ass up the stairs and after beating the man senseless, dragged him down the stairs and tossed him out into the snow. His friends followed shortly after, not letting on they were with him. Marie had been scared witless and spent the rest of the night in her room, crying herself to sleep. She knew she could have used her mutation if she had needed to, if she had concentrated hard enough and gotten it to turn back on, but she had not wanted to unless it was her last resort. First off, she knew her boss hated mutants and wouldn't hesitate to put her out in the cold. Secondly, she knew the feeling of having someone in her head, and it wasn't something she cared to have happen again.
As she approached their table, she knew there was gonna be trouble. It was not a coincidence they picked tonight to come back, when Greg was home with the flu. She began to place their drinks down when the younger man reached up and grabbed her butt, squeezing hard. Marie yelped and jumped back, almost dropping the tray.
"Hey, you keep your damn hands to yourself or you can walk yourself right back out that door," she yelled.
"Sorry, didn't know you were so touchy," the man said, laughing with his buddies. Marie cautiously approached again and finished putting their drinks down. As she laid the bill down on the table, one of the men got up and came up behind her, grabbing her arms and pulling them behind her back.
"Let me go, you asshole. I'll kick your ass," she screamed. Her panic kicked up a notch as she realized she may have to use her power on them, and she didn't want to think about having these creeps in her head.
The younger man got up and stepped up close to her face.
"No, you won't. You’re just a weak, helpless little girl without your ‘daddy’ here to save you," he said in the most hateful, mocking tone Marie had ever heard. The man grabbed her cheeks and squeezed as the third man came up to join the party. "Now, first I'm gonna make you scream," he said, sneering at her, "and then, I'm gonna make you scream," he hissed. He reached up and before his hand touched Marie, a voice bellowed from across the bar.
"I wouldn't touch her if I were you."
The young man looked up and over at the large man who was now standing at the bar, cigar hanging from his mouth, beer dangling from his fingers.
"This is a private party. Why don't you take a hike," he shouted. The Wolverine shook his head, setting the bottle down and placing his cigar in a nearby ashtray. He turned and walked toward the three men. The youngest man and the trucker not holding Marie moved to intercept him. When the three got close, the trucker pulled back and swung his fist, clipping Wolverine's chin. He immediately hollered in pain and pulled his hand back, shaking it and cursing.
"Did I forget to mention you shouldn't touch me either?"
"Screw you, buddy. Now it's just you and me, and I ain't gonna go down like my pansy ass friend here," the young man said. Wolverine smirked as his opponent pulled back and launched his fist forward. This time though, he never reached his target. Wolverine grabbed the other man's fist in mid-swing and squeezed. The cracking of bones could barely be heard over the man's screaming. The man who was holding Marie threw her to the ground and made a headlong rush at Wolverine, trying to help his fallen comrade. He came face to face with a fistful of claws, and stopped dead in his tracks. Wolverine let go of the hand he had just finished crushing and stepped back.
"Now, unless you want to take a swing at these, I suggest you take your friends here and get the hell out. And don't let me see you in here ever again, or next time I won't be so nice," he said, his voice low and menacing. He didn't need to raise it for anyone, it spoke volumes as it was. The man left standing gathered up his wounded friends and helped them limp out of the bar. When she was sure they were gone, Marie stood up and walked over to the man who had saved her. Wolverine waited for the usual reaction, be it fear or anger. He waited for her to tell him to get his freak ass out of her bar.
"Thanks, I...I'm glad you were here. Thank you for helping me," she said, looking at him in awe, her body still shaking in fear.
Wolverine didn't know what to think. He was stunned by her gratitude.
"No problem. Those assholes had it coming," he said, turning away from her and heading back toward the bar. Marie watched him walk away before following him.
"Listen, can I buy you a drink or something? Are you hungry? I live upstairs, I could make you something to eat. It's the least I can do to repay you," she said, her words running together somewhat in her rush to get them out, adrenaline still pumping through her veins.
"No thanks, darlin’. Isn't it closing time? I should get going," he said, swigging down the last of his beer. Marie felt a moment of panic at the thought of being left alone in the bar. She glanced over at the door, then back to the stranger who was starting to walk away. She made a decision and quickly ran around the bar and straight into his path. "Can I help you with something?" he asked, suddenly suspicious of her intentions.
"No, well, yes. Listen, I....," Marie began. She looked down at the floor, suddenly nervous and mad at herself for feeling so scared and vulnerable. She was shaken from her thoughts when the man tried to walk around her. Marie jumped back in front of him.
"Please, wait. I...can you stay? Just a little bit? Greg, he's the owner, well he's normally here with me but he's sick and there's no one else around and I'm...I'm afraid to be alone for awhile. Those guys have tried stuff before and I'm scared they'll come back if they see you leave. Please, I'll give you free drinks and...and feed you if you're hungry, but please, please just don't leave," she pleaded. Wolverine looked down at the slip of a girl, glaring down at her. He didn't think of himself as nice, or helpful, or any of the other words that would cover the sort of thing she was asking of him. But he knew fear; he knew loneliness even if he would never admit it out loud to anyone, and he knew what it was like to feel desperation about something, even if it wasn't the same kind she was feeling. He gave her a once over, his eyes searching for something. Marie caught his eyes, and they stared at one another, each trying to find answers to questions they weren't even sure they knew yet.
"You got a name, kid?" he asked.
"Marie," she said, her voice ghostly soft. "What's yours?"
"Logan," he said, still staring into her eyes.
"So, will you stay?" she asked.
He thought for a moment, his mind flitting over all of the reasons why he should keep walking until he was out the door, in his truck, and driving down the deserted roads once more toward his next unknown destination. Something inside him told him if he stayed, his life would never be the same. He thought about his existence up until this moment, and what it would continue to be if he just kept walking, kept running from the past he’d lost and the nightmares he couldn't escape. Then he thought about the girl with the brown eyes looking up at him and how she hadn't been afraid. It was then he decided.