A/N: Sorry for the delay, guys. Just wish you guys are still reading this.
*** Third person POV ***
Somewhere over Arlington, Virginia
Arlington couldn’t have come soon enough. Storm activated what she called the invisibility shield and at first Logan looked at her and started to scoff like she was kidding him. Then he turned back to look out a rear window and blinked as a part of a propeller literally disappeared before his eyes.
“We’re landing in three, two…”
Hodge’s new hideout was an abandoned manufacturing facility in North Highland, next to the Potomac River and just off route 66. It couldn’t get more ‘hiding in plain sight’ than this. Storm was the first to step out of the jet and looked up into the beautiful and crystal clear full moon night.
“Bad timing sweetie,” she whispered, gazing up at the moon.
Within seconds, the night was shrouded in thick cloud cover and Logan understood where she got her alias from.
“Angel, you take the north entrance. I’ll seal the south side so no one gets out and meet you back there. Logan…”
“Go East, I know. That’s where the money is…”
The claws came out once again, slow and stealthy for a change as the three mutants separated, charging towards the target in sight.
Jean couldn’t sleep.
She’d showered and changed and grabbed a bite, then paced for exactly fifteen minutes in her bedroom, the one she’d once upon a time shared with Scott before he moved out. When she still couldn’t sleep, she decided to hell with it. Stepped into her kitten heels and went back down to the sick bay. This time, she left her doctor’s coat behind.
The Professor was sitting beside Scott’s bed, holding his son’s hand in both of his as he rested his elbows on the bed. His head was lowered and it seemed like he was maybe… praying.
“Jean,” he looked up and smiled, welcoming her in warmly.
Xavier’s eyes hardened ever so slightly. “He is just resting. No need to be alarmed.”
Jean huffed, “Yeah, but, it’s as if he hasn’t rested in years.”
She bit her lip. “Freudian slip?”
Charles smiled a little morosely and turned back to the unconscious Scott. “I’m afraid so.”
Jean swallowed, and looked away too. Scott’s past continued to haunt him, refusing to allow him to live his life in the present. Such a strange coincidence – this man Logan – coming into his life just when Scott was beginning to face some of his old demons after nearly ten years.
Jean’s face hardened at the thought of the Wolverine. “I’ll… uh, come back later.”
“Wait, Jean.” Xavier wheeled himself around and smiled. “It’s too late anyway for a man my age to be staying up, won’t you agree?”
Jean just rolled her eyes and kissed the Professor farewell when he started to leave but not before turning back once to glance at his sleeping son.
“Something tells me I’m going to be sleeping a tad more peacefully after tonight.”
Xavier left. Jean turned towards Scott, hoping the Professor’s wish did come true – and that Warren, Storm and Logan succeeded in stopping Hodge tonight, preferably for good.
But a tiny, very, very tiny, miniscule part of her wouldn’t be all that sorry if Logan failed either.
Logan slashed his way through the East door with relative ease.
The guards posted there were dressed and armed like regular government security and not like the super-soldiers Storm had described earlier. Clearly they had no idea what they’d been hired to *front* for. So Logan just knocked them out, kept the use of his claws to a minimum.
He slammed his massive adamantium bulk against the door repeatedly until it gave, and Logan stalked in, heading toward the center of the facility where the stench of human presence was the strongest. And just as he was about to round a corner, a ball-sized, bright yellow colored *smiley* face popped out of nowhere and shot him in the right shoulder.
“Alright, you know you have this coming, don’t you?”
Jean floated a clear bowl of warm water over to her side and pulled out a couple of fresh hand towels from another drawer. And all the time as she worked, she continued to talk, not just think or project thoughts but actually talk. Hoping Scott could hear her. Hoping the familiar monotone of her voice would grate on the unconscious man’s nerves enough to make him blink open his beautiful blue eyes.
“I know you’d rather just grab a quick shower. But I can’t help you if you don’t speak up, sweetie. Last chance…”
Jean sighed, disappointed, even if she wasn’t actually expecting a response. She soaked a towel in the bowl, wrenching the excess water out before pulling the sheet covering Scott’s naked body down to his waist. She started with gently sponge-bathing his neck, careful of the bruising not quite purple anymore but evident nonetheless. It just served to remind her of the feral mutant responsible for it.
“Scott… you know I still love you.” Jean mumbled as she ran the washcloth down to left shoulder, making her way down the arm until she picked up his left hand and wrapped it in the wet towel.
“And I know part of it is just plain envy, it’s hard seeing you with…” Jean sighed. “Sorry. It’s just too soon, I guess.”
Gently, she scrubbed at a speck of Canadian soil that managed to settle into the crook of his neck and picked up a fresh towel. She winced at the yellowish swelling at the side of his ribcage and moved her hand very carefully around it.
She still remembered vividly the night it all came crashing down around her a month and five days ago. Although to be honest, she did see it coming for almost a year *before* that. He’d started to withdraw into a shell little by little, why, he didn’t quite understand himself. At first it was just the waning sex, then the unusually long and awkward gaps in conversations. They never had issues with silence before – fact she knew Scott to be more comfortable with it than anyone else. And then the day came when he started blocking her out psionically, and that’s when she knew – that she was losing him. That he was falling out of love, if he hadn’t already.
The Right attack and his subsequent loss of power basically cemented the divide further more, putting his new health and identity issues in the forefront, effectively closing all doors for Jean to try to work her way back into his life. Doors that, somehow, for some insane reason Jean couldn’t understand, were coming apart very easily and rapidly for a strange amnesiac mutant from the great wild North.
“God, he’s such an… argh… such an animal! What do you see in that brute anyway?”
Logan casually dusted off remnants of shrapnel off his uniform’s lapel, and glanced around at the pile of bodies on the floor, mostly unconscious and yet others writhing in pure agony about him. He grabbed the nearest one by the collar and yanked off his smiley-face headgear to look into a pair of petrified eyes.
“Where is Hodge?”
The man still had some balls left, Logan had to give him that. Either that or his hatred for mutants far exceeded his love for his own life. He stayed quiet. Logan growled and posed his other hand’s claws right into the guy’s face.
“Tell me where your ring leader is, if you wanna live.”
“Y-You won’t k-kill me. You’re an X-Man.”
Logan’s face melted into a frightening snarl as he let his middle claw nick the man’s exposed column of throat, just enough to draw blood.
Storm had only recently perfected this nifty little trick. After disposing off the guards at the South gate, she created a number of small-sized but high intensity lightning bolts struck precisely at the joints of the iron door. The bolts generated enough heat to weld the damn thing down so soundly that it would take a bulldozer and half a day to break through. Mission accomplished, she flew back toward the north where she saw that Warren had already managed to breach through the entrance, but was being overcome by a dozen of Hodge’s battle-suited men.
“You okay there?” She cried out, pulling one of twelve goons off the other mutant and flinging him aside like he was a rag doll. She got an angry grunt in response, before Warren signaled towards a barricaded door behind him.
“Something or someone’s in there that these men don’t want us to reach. Go for it, Storm!”
Ororo nodded and was about to turn away when she spotted a short-range missile fired out of one of the guards’ shoulder pads and heading straight for Warren’s head.
“Angel, watch out!” She screamed just in time for Warren to turn and soar out of the missile’s path only to be accosted mid-air by another guard propelled by his suit’s flying ability. A tussle in the air followed and Warren, caught off-guard for a change, wasn’t quick enough to evade another missile that pierced through the corner of his left wing.
Warren screamed in pain, blinded momentarily by the white hot explosion right before his eyes and he was only vaguely aware of the unnaturally dangerous speed of his descent to the ground. By the time he realized he was falling, it was just too late to attempt a pull back. He was just going to have to bear the twenty or so feet fall and hope to not land on his neck or something.
But the impact never came. Instead Warren found himself cushioned in two strong arms, breaking his fall only three feet above ground, holding him safe and out of harm’s way as another missile whizzed past his head, just about singing the ends of his long blond hair. Lightning struck again, and Warren managed to blink away the blindness, opening his eyes to realize he was enveloped in Storm’s arms, slowly lowered to the ground when he could carry his own weight again.
“My hero,” he whispered huskily. Ororo could only shake her head exasperated, blushing ever so softly. But that was about all the time they got.
Another missile came flying towards them and they both ducked, Warren reaching out with a hand to pull Storm down with him to the floor.
“That’s it!” Ro hissed, more angrily than Warren had ever seen her, before her versatile blue pupils rolled up into her head.
“This ends now.”
Jean pulled out a pair of standard issue gray sweats from a cupboard and brought them over to the bed where Scott lay, still sleeping, hopefully peacefully. There didn’t seem to be any REM activity behind his eyelids whatsoever, which worried Jean. Enough to make her monitor his vitals more often than necessary but they continued to look normal. Well, as normal as they could be for a mutant.
Calmly she continued to describe all her actions to Scott, as if he could hear her. Poured her heart out to him, words she could never say to him if he were wide awake and conscious.
“Right, let’s get you into some clean clothes, alright baby?” And Jean softly scoffed. “And here I’d given up all hope of ever seeing you naked again”.
But it was a quip filled with sadness more than anything else. She shook her head, maneuvering Scott’s body telekinetically so she could pull the sweats onto his unresisting body. She laid Scott back down on the bed gently, then pulled the bed sheet up to his shoulders again to keep him warm. She decided not to put him back on the respirator, seeing how his breathing seemed normal now. Pulled a chair next to the gurney and sat down, one hand still buried in the man’s soft hair, stroking his scalp softly.
Something prickled at the back of her mind, making the telepath first frown and then huff with exasperation. She swiveled around to face the new presence entering the ICU.
“Molesting the poor boy in his unconsciousness now, are we?”
Jean narrowed her eyes, neither surprised nor affected by the mocking smirk and biting sarcasm in the other mutant’s voice. She never did like Emma Frost, for reasons more than one and way too complicated to bother with at the moment.
Emma tsked, shaking her head. “What have you been reduced to, Jeannie.”
Jean ground her teeth. “The answer’s still no, you know.”
The blond stood with a hand poised on one hip, feet set apart in an aggressive stance that only served to annoy Jean more. “Whatever do you mean, darling?”
Jean stood up. Damn did she love her height advantage or what!
“You’re still not getting him, Emma. Try all you want. We might not be together anymore but I’m making sure your subversive powers of suggestion continue to be useless on Scott.”
Emma scowled, “I knew it. You’ve been blocking me out from the very beginning, haven’t you?”
It was Jean’s turn to smirk and cross her arms. “I’ve been on to you for years. Your flirting skills aren’t quite as subtle as you think, Frost. And I know you probably think you have a chance now, with me out of the picture, but he--”
“Oh, please!” Emma interrupted her angrily. “Do you really think that delinquent *feral* Wolverine is a better choice for Scott than me?”
Jean bit her lip. Emma looked smug enough but Jean couldn’t think of anything to wipe that smirk off the other telepath’s face. Emma took two steps closer, her voice dropping two notches to a manipulative whisper.
“Admit it, Jeannie. Scott is such a lonely guy, so shuttered… incapable of making connections with anyone but telepaths. Charles, you, and if you let me… *me*.”
Jean looked away and back at Scott. Emma circled slowly until she was on the other side of Scott’s bed and right in Jean’s direct line of sight.
“Besides, what do we know about old *Claw-man* anyway, except that his mind is a blank slate and his instinct to tear to shreds first ask questions later?”
She leaned over Scott and looked right into Jean’s eyes. Jean had her mental walls up good and tight, knowing how Emma Frost could convince a hydrophobic to jump into the Atlantic if she wanted.
“Think about it, darling. He’s unstable. Unpredictable. You’ve played with Scott’s head for years to block me out. What are you doing to protect him from this guy?”
Jean swallowed around the urgent anxiety lodged in her throat.
She couldn’t believe she was even considering this.
It was like a video game, Logan mused, as he broke in through the last level of protection around the facility core. That was where he found the head honcho for the entire sordid operation, the bastard he was looking to gut with his bare claws.
“Cameron Hodge, I presume?”
The man was… nondescript, to say the least. Short, bald, overweight, but his limitless loathing for who Wolverine was, *what* Wolverine was, couldn’t be more starkly evident in his jet black eyes.
Hodge held out a .45 and took a shot. Logan ducked and avoided it easily. Three other (possibly last standing) guards made last-resort attempts to stop him but were easily side-swiped. For a second Logan lost sight of Hodge and rushed, only to spot him ramming uselessly against the exit door that Storm had sealed tight from the outside.
“Damn you, fucking mutants!” Hodge screamed, throwing his empty gun at Logan in frustration. The metallic conking sound made as it bounced off Logan’s temple seemed to take him by mild surprise, but was quickly forgotten when Logan reached out and gripped his throat in a chokehold, practically lifting Hodge off his feet.
“It-It’s too late,” the man choked. “You can’t stop him now.”
Logan frowned, suddenly remembering there was something else they needed Hodge for first, before ridding the earth of this sorry waste of space.
“What’s going to happen at the Senate hearing tomorrow?”
Hodge had the gall to smirk at that. Logan flung him into the nearest wall and slid the claws on his other hand out. The look of abject fear in Hodge’s eyes brought a sadistic grin to his face instead. There was nothing, nothing more he wanted right then but to stab the bastard through his ugly eyes and end his sorry life. For everything he’d stolen from Scott. For nearly killing Scott. To think that if this man had succeeded, Logan would have never even known such an amazing person ever existed…
Logan ground his teeth and drew his elbow back.
Logan would never admit to it out loud, but he was honestly relieved to have Ororo’s commanding tone bring him back to reason. Feigning irritation nevertheless, he turned to see Storm rushing into the tunnel, followed by Warren who was supporting an old, limping man by the waist.
“This is Jean-Luc Lebeau,” Storm explained still giving Logan the glare for what she thought (she knew) he was about to do. “They’ve been holding him captive for days to use his son as the weapon for tomorrow.”
Logan frowned and let go of Hodge who flopped to the ground listlessly. Angel left Jean-Luc’s side when the old man signaled that he was alright, and immediately went over and stood guard over the defeated villain. Logan turned to the old man still struggling to catch his breath.
He seemed in his late fifties or early sixties, and looked like he’d been worked over a bit. There were blood stains on his white shirt’s collar and fresh bruises on the sides of his jaw. The man looked haggard even though the clothes he wore looked nicely tailored and, uh, rather… *hip*, if that was the word still used by civilization. With his right hand he clutched a shiny black leather jacket to his chest almost desperately. And it looked equally fashionable, with purple velvet lining and all, but Logan noticed it was two sizes too small for the man before him.
“What can your son do?”
Jean-Luc rasped a response in a faint Cajun accent and a voice that was low and controlled, even though Logan’s ears picked up a slight tremor that no one else in the room heard. “Remy’s my son… so naturally he’s a brilliant thief. The very best dere is. Sneak into buildings wid de world’s toughest s’curity details without wakin’ a fly, he can.”
Logan nodded. That explained why he was chosen. But that alone wasn’t enough.
Jean-Luc Lebeau looked up, his eyes filled with suspicion and a lot of worry for his son. “He can cause explosions.”
“Yep, that would do it,” Warren said, pulling out a tiny cell phone and flicking it open. “I’ll get the Prof to track this mutant down for us, just as soon as… damn it… someone picks up his phone…” Annoyed with the bad reception in the basement, he turned back to Jean-Luc. “Uh, your son won’t have a phone on him by any chance, would he? No? Damn it…”
Logan stepped closer to the old man. “May I?” He gestured at the jacket, which clearly belonged to this Remy Lebeau guy. The old man hesitated to part with it, but eventually let go. Logan brought it up to his face, breathing in deeply.
Storm examined Jean-Luc’s wounds in the meantime. “We should get him to a hospital immediately. I think a few ribs might be broken and he’s burning up…”
Logan handed the jacket back and barreled toward the only available exit door. “You take care of him, I’ll go track down the mutant.”
“How?” Warren shot back cynically. “Just give me a minute to reach the Prof, Lone Ranger, alright?”
“Call me when you do. I prefer to do my tracking the old-fashioned way.”
“What about him?” Storm asked, nodding at Hodge, still crouching in a corner, his eyes flaring with fury and more than a healthy dose of terror as he looked up at the blond warrior towering above him.
Warren sneered, his voice cold and dripping with bitterness. “Leave him to me. Hodge and I go way, way back, don’t we, *Cameron*?”
A part of Logan still wanted to skewer that man like a pig, carry his corpse back to the mansion and parade it victoriously in front of Scott. But something told him the boy was not going to enjoy that very much, like maybe, not at all.
// Y-You won’t k-kill me. You’re an X-Man! //
Logan rationalized his decision (protesting the notion that he might be turning into a big softie) later with two main things – one, Warren probably deserved his revenge more, and he’d do the job on Logan’s behalf anyway, and two, Hodge’s real defeat would be in foiling his ambitious plan to swing the Senate’s vote in favor of the Mutant Registration Act.
So Logan ran, toward the heart of the capital seat of the United States, toward the Hart Building where the conference was scheduled to occur in about four hours.
This was the kind of thing Scott lived for, hell, dedicated his whole fucking life to, even if Logan didn’t quite understand it himself. Or maybe he did and just wasn’t ready to accept it yet. This was something the kid would have wanted to handle personally if he could, what Scott came to Logan for, all the way to Loughlin City.
Now Logan was going to get it done, even if it was the last thing he ever did. For Scott.
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