To Run in Circles
The inconvenience of healing factor meant that he was awake, wanting to scream long before his lungs repaired themselves to the degree that would allow him to do so. Even then, there wasn’t much air and what little there was came filtered through flame and smoke and brick. Logan’s bottom half was trapped. Craning his neck up, he thought he recognized a section of the second-floor bathroom—a door, a wall, a sink. Pipes wove in and out of his skin like some half-assed sewing project.
Cutting himself free took a long time, pulling himself out took longer. He hacked at the rubble until he could sit up, and then continued working his way down, slashes of his claws that might just as easily sever the legs he was trying to free. He glimpsed an adamantium femur, threads of grey among the pink and the red.
In his chest, which still smoldered a bit from Scott’s laser, his heart spluttered indignantly, threatened to quit, but always grudgingly returned to its work. It didn’t seem to understand why it should pump blood he was just going to spill everywhere. The only advantage was the thin layer of moisture, a protectant from the heat that didn’t protect for very long.
He passed out, woke, passed out again. The smell of his own burning muscles filled his nostrils, made him think of steaks forgotten on a grill, charred and inedible.
The crushed bodyparts screamed when the pressing weights on top of them were shifted, screamed more as he tried to move. He lay back, choking too hard to rest but keeping still until veins and tissue fell back in line. Someone else would have had ample chances to wish for death and be glad when it was given to him; he only got the first. Logan crawled, scrambled over pieces of the ceiling that was now the floor, or some jigsaw equivalent. His skin picked up glass and splinters like a lint brush.
The flames were roaring, an entire zoo’s worth of predators released for the hunt. Fire zig-zagged over the grass. Behind him, the lab stood like a smashed birthday cake. He tried to guess how much time might have passed since they’d blown up the building.
He couldn’t remember hearing the Blackbird take off, but he wasn’t sure he’d had working eardrums at that point.
What they heard now were helicopters, blades thumping the air like a boxer’s gloves on a punching bag. It was possible they weren’t military, he thought. Possible, if unlikely. They might be forest services, come to salvage what they could of the hills. Rescue teams. Maybe a News crew.
Regardless, none of those would make it okay for him to be spotted standing around Ground Zero, so he made for the least ignited tree line. Blood-drenched, soot-soaked, organs cooked enough to be served on a plate. Dazed and tired, the remains of his leather X-suit more nuisance than an answer to the demands of cold air and decency. That Logan was able to leave the area before the authorities arrived spoke to the marvel of his healing factor, but it had more to do with how very fucking angry he was.
Eleven days. He got himself clean, clothed. He got a vehicle, and enough cash to smooth the way. In the process, Logan committed several crimes—some of which were necessary, a few that just made him feel better. Logan wondered what they’d told the junior team about why he’d been left behind if they’d told them anything at all. He wondered if the subject of him had had its very own debriefing. He wondered if they’d send someone after him.
When the time was right, he spent a week leaving indicators of a route he never intended to take—a clawed ATM in Detroit, a terrified desk clerk in Battle Creek, a bar fight in Fort Dodge. Let them think he was healing. Let them think he was hiding, but not well. Let them think he was moving away from New York. And he did, for a while—the fake route took him west, towards Oregon.
Then he turned south.
One arm’s worth of claws pointed at the reverend’s sternum, and the other closer, draped across the man’s neck, the edges drawing up tiny red dots if he took so much as a deep breath. He was wearing a white dress shirt with pearl buttons, not so immaculate as it had been some twenty minutes ago. There were rips now, wet patches. The man shifted his weight; Logan settled the blades a centimeter deeper, through shirt and flesh. The wet patches grew.
“I said don’t move.”
“How did you get past my security team?” he wheezed, scarcely parting his lips.
“That was a security team?”
Sweat was loosening the adhesive that kept the man’s toupee on. His cheeks spasmed; water shivered in his eyes. For someone who made thousands preaching to a stadium’s worth of churchgoers, twice as many watching from home, he was having trouble forming coherent sentence now. “Puh-please. You d-d-don’t need—Oh, Jesus—don’t kill me.”
“Is that taking the Lord’s name in vain? I can never tell.”
“P-lease. I have money.”
“I don’t want your money.”
“I have—I have influence.”
“Don’t want your influence.”
“Then how about a beer?”
Then the reverend, head of six megachurches in the continental U.S. and the owner of twice as many bank accounts overseas rippled. He lost three inches and thirty pounds, as well as his clothing. The toupee became real hair, redder than anything a salon could sell and slicked close to the scalp--her scalp.
“Or would you prefer something stronger?”
“I wouldn’t say no.” Logan took a step back from Mystique, but slowly. One could never really tell which version of her you’d get, even when she looked like herself. She didn’t break eye contact with him, rubbed a pinkie finger over the scratches he’d made and then sucked on it. He watched her sashay across the apartment, righting chairs as she went. “I really liked that lamp,” she mentioned, stepping over the pieces. “Would you have killed me, if I was the reverend?”
“Be a waste of gas money if I didn’t.”
“Mm,” she agreed. “And you knew that I wasn’t because-?”
“We’ve been tracking you.”
“Charles lost Cerebro.”
“Not like that. Every year or so, some far-right son of a bitch in power has a change of heart, starts preaching tolerance towards mutants. That runs its course, then starts somewhere else. This time you were literally preaching. Not gonna lie, we all got a kick out of it.”
“I bet they did.”
She opened the mini-bar, pulled out two bottles—bending slowly, glancing back over her shoulders with a smile.
Logan kept his claws out.
“It’s nearly time for a change, anyway.”
“You gonna put up “Make America Human Again” signs?”
“Don’t be silly; I’ll have people to do that for me.” Placing one of the bottles on a nearby coffee table, too cautious to quite bring herself back within arm’s reach, Mystique sat down on the couch and crossed one blue leg over the other. Patting the space next to her—“What brings you to Texas? I’d heard you were up north, doing all sorts of bloody things so that Charles can say he’s done good.”
“Not now. I need some help.” He took a seat on the edge of one of the newly upright chairs, picturing how many times, over the years, he’d tried to kill the woman across from him. Her expression seemed to suggest a similar train of thought. But her smirk seemed a little forced. Nobody else would have noticed, but Logan thought she might be worried for him.
“Whatever you did, be careful. He knows how to hold a grudge.”
“So do I.”
Mystique shrugged. She wasn’t going to waste valuable time contradicting him; she’d lost too many people she cared about to cling to the leftovers. “What is it you think I’m going to do for you?”
Logan blinked, looking down at his knuckles, his arms, where the blades had retreated. “I left something, up there in New York. I need you to help me get it back.”