He suddenly smelled her,felt her wrap herself around him,her body conforming to his as she pressed against her back, her breath caressing his neck as she wrapped her arms around him.He was insane;he was losing his mind,and this hallucination was probably the last straw.He knew if he concentrate he could will her away...but he didn't want to. He wanted to feel her one last time,not dying,not in pain."I'm sorry,"he whispered,every new sob like a shock to his lungs.One had gotten punctured by a bullet and was still reinflating itself,the tissue knitting together in a different kind of pain.
"I didn't want this,"she said quietly.He knew what she meant (she was a figment of his imagination-of course he knew what she meant).
"I know."And then,with great reluctance,he admitted,"I did."As if violence was a purging substance designed to take his pain away,he craved the blood of these bastards who had not only robbed him of Mariko but had tortured her,forcing him to give her the final,fatal blow.But the pain still remained:she had not come back,and if justice had been served in some cosmic or savage,archaic sense,it didn't feel like it.
"The last thing I want is for you to suffer,"she said,and he could feel the
ghostly kiss of her lips against his neck.
"Don't let this eat you alive.Let it go."
"I can't,"he sobbed.
"Yes you can,"she insisted,assuming her stubborn resolve voice."You have to."
Maybe that was true,but he didn't know if he had the strength to do it.How could you forgive something as evil as this?And how could he forgive himself for what he had done?
"You're strong enough,"she had said,her voice fading away in the wail of sirens."I didn't fall in love with a coward."
"Yes you did,"he replied,barely able to speak through the shuddering sobs that made him ache even more.
"No I didn't,"she said,and he couldn't quite sense her anymore,except for the feeling of her lips on his cheek before the hallucination faded away,leaving him alone in his pain and his emptiness.
But as he fell away into something between unconsciousness and sleep,he realized if he had loved her at all,he'd have to find a way to live through this,as he lived through all other supposedly lethal blows,and lived through his own insanity.For her if no one else.
Los Angeles-Present day
He'd also put him out of a job,since his boss closed up Robin Hood's and took off;in this economic climate,that was a mean thing to do.It was all up to Lia now:if she figured she could stand him,he'd get the job.
Helga was just a bit cheesed at him (still) because he let Dayu walk-with a new mindset,of course,but it was the principal of the thing-but she was getting over it.She let the Emma thing slide a bit easier,all in all.All he did was take out the very bogus Star Wars 'your father is (Logan and) evil bit'-a surreptitious DNA test put an end to all speculation:the only thing she had in common with Logan was a basic humanness and a mutation-in Emma's head and let her go home to her folks (she was a runaway-about one in every four teenagers were in L.A.),unaware that she had ever worked for an ex-drug lord.He was torn about taking away the memories that she had killed-sadly,there was a bit of a psycho streak in the girl;she had enjoyed wielding her powers in a destructive manner-but he put a block on those memories for now.When she was older and perhaps a bit more adjusted to things,especially her powers,they could have a chat about it.
Logan wondered how Bob knew so quickly Emma wasn't his daughter,and he told him it was simply math-she was too young:she'd have had to have been born months after Bloody Friday.Dayu had fudged the dates so they fit the story.It was a case of a bullshitter trying to bullshit one of his own kind,and that was simply not done.
The temptation to push Logan a bit was there,and still was,but he was doing his best to let Logan come to a resolution on his own.He just seemed determined to kill himself about this.
Bob hadn't told him the worst bit-that while the autopsy report had said Mariko was dying from the toxin,her actual cause of death was three parallel,sequential stab wounds that destroyed her heart.Logan had obviously mercy killed his own wife,and as far as Bob was concerned,that explained everything else that went on that night.They forced him to kill the thing he loved,and it made Logan snap.Bob figured it might make him snap too-and they thought an angry Logan could do some damage?What Bob guessed he'd lack in actual bloodshed he'd make up for in sheer numbers affected.
Logan was probably brooding on the roof,which seemed to often be a favorite spot of his.Bob wondered if it was because he just wanted to be alone (who went up on the roof,except maybe a cat burglar and an occasional passing gargoyle,but either could pick better people to mess with than Logan),because he wanted the high point and all encompassing view of his surroundings,both things,or neither.Sometimes he was a very hard man to fathom.
The fact that there was no way to actually climb up to the (seemingly) rickety roof of the Way Station was no impediment to Logan either;he just used his claws and hiked on up.Bob didn't feel like breaking out the climbing pitons or the grappling hook,but luckily Amaranth had come by for a drink and to shoot the shit,so she was able to just zap him up there.
Logan was sitting on the far edge of the roof facing the street,smoking a cigar,and while he had his back to him, without even looking he said,"So the teleporter witch is back,huh?"
"Well,yeah.She's a relative from Australia-she's visiting."She was a granddaughter,actually,only half Belial,and quite the witch.Apparently it was a hobby.
Logan glanced over his shoulder at him and scowled."Last time you said she owed you a favor."
"Well,that's true,sort of,but I'm a Belial,Logan-you gotta expect me to lie sometimes."
Logan grunted in a sort of grudging acknowledgment."Hard to trust you then."
"I lie about little things;no one gets hurt."Except when he lied about big
things,but he decided not to mention that.
He sat down on the edge of the roof beside Logan,within arm's reach but still not invading his space,which he knew was very important to him.
Logan had some actual clothes now,not in the least bit burned,but they looked so much like his old ones pre-charring you could be forgiven for thinking his clothes had regenerated themselves too.
It was a clear day,the Santa Ana winds kicking up and signaling the unofficial start of wildfire season in the foothills (it was a good thing he had calmed Emma down before that),and the sky,while clear,was a flat and unattractive color he thought of as L.A. haze blue:as harsh as the Outback,but nowhere near as expansive or pretty.It was like the smog and the people had bled most of the color out of the sky,leaving only a fragile pastel afterimagine.It made him miss home sometimes.
"So what are your plans,Logan?"
"Your next move.I know you plan to leave-where are you going?"
He shrugged,chewing on the cigar like a toothpick."Where is there for me to go?I don't know.Away seems good enough." Bob saw him massaging the knuckles on his own right hand,and when Logan caught himself doing it,he instantly stopped.Logan had put the same two and two together that he had:Logan had apparently clawed people even before he had the adamantium grafted to his skeleton.So the claws he had assumed were a completely artificial construct foisted on him like a sick joke were most likely an actual part of him,possibly an extension of his real skeleton,buried under adamantium.It seemed to appall Logan,and Bob guessed that he felt like a bigger 'freak' than ever before.That wasn't fair,but Logan could be pretty rough on himself.
"You're giving up,aren't you?"
Logan glanced at him,raising his eyebrow in that almost gravity defying way of his."What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you don't want to know anything more about your past,do you?You plan to let it go."
"What else do I need to know?I'm a killer."
"I wouldn't say that."
Logan glared at him like he was the stupidest creature on the earth."I was single handedly responsible for a massacre, Bob.What would you say?Mass murderer?Fine."
"I think there were some extenuating circumstances,Logan."
He snorted derisively,looking down at the crumbling street several stories below."Well,that makes it all better."
"I realize that fitting the definition of temporarily insane-"
"Only temporary?"Logan interrupted.
Bob frowned at him,but otherwise ignored him."-doesn't change anything,no,but it means you are not a cold blooded killer.You want proof?You could have wiped out the Takabes at any time during your employment with the Yashidas.At any time.But you didn't.Do you know why?"
Logan continued to scowl down at the street as if it had personally offended him in some way.There was nothing on this block that was pretty to look at-even after all this time it still had scars of the L.A. riots from the '90's-but that made it all the more easier for demons to come and go as they pleased.This was the neglected part of L.A.,the part everyone wanted to forget,and nowhere people like Logan fit in here just as well as any demon.It made him feel obscurely sorry for Logan and all the humans (mutants) like him."I wasn't hired to take them out;I was hired to protect the Yashidas,"he finally admitted.
Logan wasn't dumb,although enough snide remarks from Scott might make you think that way.It was just you had to get him to think past his emotions.For a stoic guy,he was extremely emotional."Right.If you were a cold blooded killer,you'd just have wiped out the Takabes and have been done with it.But you didn't;you did your job,and you did it well.You just got pushed to the edge,Logan.If I were you,I'd probably have done the same thing."
"You're not like that,"Logan said,taking the butt of his cigar out of his mouth.He looked like he was about to pitch it down into the street,but he seemed to have second thoughts.Probably a wise idea considering all the flammable trash that had a tendency to collect in the gutters.
"Oh mate,you'd be surprised what I'm capable of,"he said,not quite proud of it.They all had their dark side;some were just a little closer to the surface,that's all.
Logan studied him for a moment,then replied,"No I wouldn't."
That was almost funny."You live to be contrary,don't you?"
Logan looked away,but not before Bob saw the hint of a smile on his face."It keeps things interesting."
They sat in silence for a long while,looking at the decayed cityscape around them,and Bob could feel himself getting depressed.It really wasn't worth it to stick your head out of the Way Station;it made him miss Australia quite badly. And sometimes waiting for Logan to actually say something was a trial.
"They don't know how old I am,they found armor in my belly,"he began to sing under his breath."From the sixteenth century,conquistadors I think-"
"You make some of these songs up,don't you?"Logan accused.
"No,that's a real one that always makes me think of you,"he said,not adding that there were several songs that reminded him of Logan,now including that Soundgarden song that included the line "I shot my love today,would you cry for me".There were just some things you kept to yourself.
"Why?"Logan asked,then shook his head."No,I don't wanna know."He took another puff off his cigar butt before finally starting to talk,which was what Bob had been waiting for all along."You know what else bugs me?I could have kids out there.Emma wasn't mine,but I could have kids somewhere,and that never even occurred to me before. And I wouldn't know 'em if I met 'em.Hell,I could have an ex-wife or two too;maybe in a nursing home by now,but still I wouldn't know her either.It just bugs the hell out of me."
"Which-kids,or the fact that you wouldn't know them?"
He shrugged helplessly with his hands."I don't know.Both,I guess.But they probably wouldn't know me either,so it all evens out."
Logan was trying to be nonchalant,but there was a clear undertone of regret and sadness in his voice.He had long ago given up on having a semblance of a normal life,and while he acted like he had no regrets about it,some part of Logan still ached to be 'normal',whatever the hell that was.Not that he'd ever admit that,but he didn't need to;Bob got that,loud and clear.Bob also knew Logan would appreciate a change of subject,so he decided now was a good time to do just that."I have a proposition for you,"he began,aware Logan wasn't much for conversational foreplay.
"I'm flattered,Bob,but you're really not my type,"he replied,stubbing out his cigar on the edge of the roof.
"Hey,serious guy makes a joke!Nice start,but keep your day job.Anyhoo,the deal is this:stay here for now,and let me help you find some answers."
"I think I've got enough answers,thanks."
"Don't be chickenshit,Logan,it doesn't suit ya."
Logan's head snapped around so fast he was surprised he didn't give himself whiplash,and he already knew he pissed him off,but sometimes you needed to get someone's attention.Bob went on before he could lash out."Okay,this was a real shitty,regrettable chapter of your life,but that's no reason to give up.They robbed you of your life,Logan.You can't be content to let them get away with that."
"Hey,it's my choice,"he snapped,flicking the dead cigar butt into the street.He actually got good distance on it-it almost hit the sidewalk across the way.
"Yes,it is.But I can offer you something no one else can:safety.The Organization can't hurt you-or any of us-here,not with me around.Maybe they can counter mutants,and possibly even vampires,but they will never have a counter for me.And they will answer my questions,because they have no way to refuse."
Logan glanced away,not wanting him to see he was actually thinking about it.But he was,just like Bob knew he would.The biggest impediment to looking for answers was that people seemed to get hurt around Logan when he did so,himself included.But he had to know the closest thing to a sure bet was teaming up with him.
After a long moment,in which Bob was tempted to start singing again,Logan said,"You said it was a proposition. What is it you want from me in return?"
"Oh,just a blow job now and then,"Bob replied casually."You got a purdy mouth,boy."He then grinned at him,and Logan laughed,shaking his head in disbelief.
"Truth be told,I want nothin' from you,mate,but I know,being Mister Proud,you neither like nor trust free rides.So basically I thought if something comes up I can't really or don't want to handle,maybe you could step in for me."
Logan seemed dubious,which he expected.Sometimes it was just fucking mind blowing how much he reminded him of himself as a youngster.He wondered if they were somehow distantly related.Gods knew it was probably possible, even if he was all human."I hope that's not code for using me as muscle or a bagman."
"Now come on,I have Helga for that."
He nodded,briefly thudding the heel of his left boot against the wall in impatience.He was torn;Logan was confused, and in cases like that his first inclination was to run.His post traumatic stress disorder-which told him staying still too long was deadly-didn't help matters either."Look,"Bob continued,as gently as possible."Muscle's always a possibility;I can't rule out a fight.'Cause,in the demon world,Human is synonymous with weak."
"Is it really?"He heard the dark sarcasm in his reply,and knew Logan could never walk away from a challenge. Especially if someone was inferring he was a wussy.
"Give me a week.You don't like it here,or you really don't want the info,it's cool.Just give it a chance,huh?"
Logan thought about it seriously,staring at nothing,or perhaps the fire gutted,abandoned building across the street, which was basically the same thing."That's what you came up here to tell me?"
"Well,that and I'm goin' to New York tonight,so if you want me to say howdy or fuck you and the horse you rode in on to the mutant gang,let me know."
"Why are you going to New York?"
"Oh,I finally accepted Xavier's invitation to be a guest speaker.I'm gonna tell the kids about the multiple universe theory currently believed by some in the quantum physics field and how fucking wrong it is.I can't wait to tell the psychic kids how they both violate and prove the uncertainty principal.Ain't quantum physics a hoot?"
Logan gave him almost the exact same look Helga gave him when he told her-like he had just announced his intention to shred all his money into cole slaw to feed the Third World nations and run off to clown college.That was a hell of a look."I'll take your word on it,"he finally said,looking away with the most minute shake of his head.
As a battlefield general Logan was top notch,but obviously physics was not his deal.That was okay;you really didn't have to understand it all to have it fuck up your life completely.
"I bet Scott's looking forward to seeing you again,"Logan opined wryly."Almost as much as he'd look forward to seeing me."
"Yeah,well,Jean would be happier if it was you.Can you believe she doesn't quite trust me?"
"You?Nah."The sarcasm in Logan's voice made Bob smile.
Logan stood up,and Bob followed suit,not surprised Logan made no comment about Jean:right now he was ready to renounce all contact with anyone of the female persuasion out of fear he would get them killed.Of course he liked sex too much to keep to that forever (who didn't?),but for now he was the strangest de facto monk there had ever been.And since Helga liked a challenge too,he wondered how long Logan could hold out against her,his lingering guilt about 'cuckolding' Bob aside.What Helga wanted she almost inevitably got.
"Before I left,though,I wanted to show you something,"Bob told him,aware of what a loaded statement that was.
Logan turned to him scowling."If it's more photos or police reports,I don't wanna see them."
"Trust me,it's not.This is something you'll want to see.Okay?"
He remained doubtful,but reluctantly shrugged in acquiescence."Yeah,okay."
Bob took his cell phone out of the back pocket of his jeans and flipped it open,hitting the preprogrammed number as he raised it to his mouth."Two to beam up,Mr. O'Brien,"he said as soon as she answered,getting the oddest look from Logan.
"You are such a geek sometimes,granddad,"Amaranth sighed into the phone,and Bob found it hard not to laugh.
There was such fun to be had in mortifying your grandkids;he was sorry so few others realized that.
Still,there was a momentary sense of displacement,and then they were standing on a close cropped green lawn under the light of a nearly full moon,the air cooler and just a smidgen cleaner than the air they had left behind in Los Angeles.
Logan staggered back a couple of steps,but otherwise kept his balance as he glanced around in wide eyed shock."What the fuck was that?"He asked,briefly turning ashen before color infused his face anew.
Normal humans didn't take teleportation well at all;they usually ended up on their knees barfing from the universe's worst case of motion sickness for five to ten minutes after,and there were certain demons (vampires immediately came to mind,as did slime demons) that it incapacitated in the same way.But he was gambling that Logan's super duper regenerational capability could even take this,the physiological equivalent of a sudden,near light speed slingshot around the world.The fact that he stumbled rather than collapsed and looked only briefly nauseous proved he was right beyond his wildest expectations.
"That was your first teleport.Congrats,you did great."
Logan glared at him,as usual not in a partying mood."You could warn a guy."
"Oh,but where's the fun in that?"He then said into the phone,"Thanks,Ammy."
"Yeah.But why don't you try and bring yourself home?"She said teasingly."Stop bein' a slacker."
"Do you really want a postcard from the Zhr'ethrin dimension?Stand by."He flipped the phone shut and slipped it back into his pocket.
Truth be told,he could technically teleport without help,having both the power and knowledge to do it.But his teleportation aiming skills left a bit to be desired,much like his ability to park.The last time he teleported himself he ended up in the right place but the absolutely wrong dimension,and not one of the better dimensions either.He couldn't get back fast enough.Amaranth didn't get that,since her teleportation skills were limited to this (Earth) dimension,but she didn't have an overwhelming psychic energy queering the pitch.He had enough power to technically invert a dimension if he really wanted to,but it could possibly kill him,and also there was the huge 'why' factor.But,if he needed it,it was there.
"Zhr'ethrin?"Logan repeated curiously,almost stumbling over the syllables.
"Nasty place.Don't worry,we ain't there-we ain't up to our armpits in butterscotch pudding,are we?"
Logan continued to glare at him."I don't get you sometimes."
"Well,no one's perfect."He didn't bother to add he wasn't joking,as that was a conversational tangent that wouldn't help them now.
"Where the hell are we?"Logan asked,looking around and trying to scowl their surroundings into submission.
The rolling,expansive green lawn gave way to a copse of tall fir and fruit trees in the distance,but behind them were marble steps leading up to what appeared to be a mock up of either a library or a Buddhist temple,with a neat swath of lawn and what looked like a granite plinth between them and the building.
"Tokyo,Japan,this reality,"he told him,walking towards the plinth,which was about five feet tall and ended in a neat,flat top.It was an almost perfectly rectangular column made of what appeared to be dark,river smoothed stone rising straight from the earth like a small tower.It was elegant and beautiful,even from the back.
The flowers,wrapped in brightly colored cellophane,laid on the grass about six feet from the plinth,attesting to Amaranth's wonderful aim.She'd have been a hell of a football or darts player if she didn't think all sports were moronic.
Bob bent down and scooped them up,barely even breaking his stride,but paused when he realized Logan wasn't following him.Looking back,Logan was rooted in the same spot he had been after teleport,looking around at everything in a way that suggested both intense concentration and minor panic."Do you recognize anything?"Bob asked.
"No,"Logan admitted,and he could hear the tension in his voice even before he saw it on his face.It seemed to gather in the corner of his eyes,making his face look gaunt,his eyes a thousand years old."I don't want to be here,Bob.Tell her to send us back."
"We won't be here long,Logan.Come on,I assure you we're safe."
Logan shook his head,swallowing hard,his jade eyes almost bright with fear."I can't do this,Bob."
It was an awful thing to see Logan this genuinely terrified,and a very rare thing.He usually just swallowed his fear and got on with it when something did freak him out,but now he was virtually petrified.And it wasn't of a person or a thing,just his own past and the things that haunted him,even though he had no clear memory of them at all.A person or a thing he could beat;he could do nothing about ghosts and time.
Bob looked at him with sympathy,and said in a low,calming voice,"This is the only solace I can offer you,Logan. Please take it."
He remained outwardly tense,but Bob knew inside he was reeling,in an emotional free fall,and not sure how he was supposed to feel or react.Bob could push him but wanted Logan to come to this for himself.After a moment,he nodded with great reluctance and made himself follow,curiosity most likely winning out over everything else.
He didn't have far to lead him,just around to the front of the plinth.When Logan saw it he froze,a deer in high beams,and then his legs seemed to buckle,dropping him to his knees in front of the stone monument.
It was,in fact,an expensive,ornate gravestone,marking the passing of Mariko Yashida,whose picture was encased in plexiglass at the top of the small obelisk.It was a lovely head shot,showing her with flowing black hair,bright hazel eyes and a radiant smile that seemed to light up her delicate face.
"I told you you'd recognize her,"Bob said gently,placing the bouquet to the right of the grave marker.
Logan was simply staring up at her picture,it didn't even seem like he was breathing,and finally he said in a remarkably small voice,with the first tear escaping from the corner of his eye,"She liked roses."
"Great,fine,roses we'll get,"he agreed,grateful for the opportunity to walk away and leave Logan some privacy in which to grieve in.He pulled the phone out of his pocket and punched up Tokyo information,glad that he had a cell phone plan like no one else on any of the particular Earths,and hoped that,in some small way,Logan could lay this particular ghost to rest.
And maybe someday he'd even forgive himself.