Author's Note: All the spoken dialogue in the cave scene is taken directly from Ultimate X-Men issue #41, written by Brian Michael Bendis. Any other dialogue and interpretation of the characters' actions are written by me. Thank you for reading.
To Die A Man

--Logan, please come to my office.--

A few moments later, the doorknob turned.

"What can I do for you, Chuck?" Logan asked, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him. He approached Xavier's desk.

"I need you to go to Bromlet, South Carolina."

"What's in Bromlet?"

Despite the deep reluctance he felt in carrying out this conversation, Charles hesitated only a moment before he responded.

"There is a young boy hiding in a cave located near the town. His mutant ability has just recently been activated, and it has resulted in some rather devastating effects..."

Logan raised an eyebrow. "You sure you want me to take this one? I mean, I ain't really one for kids..."

Xavier shook his head slightly. "It has to be you, Logan, you're healing factor... His mutation causes him to radiate a series of toxins and acid-like poisons -"

"Wait, wait... lemme write this down..." Logan interrupted, taking a pen and a pad of paper off the desk.

Xavier paused, raising an eyebrow.

Logan shrugged. "Kid oughta know what the hell's wrong with him, right? Might be nice ta give him some specifics..." Logan poised the pen over the pad of paper. "Now, say that again?"

"This specific mutation radiates a series of toxins and acid-like poisons which destroy any organic tissue within a certain radius..."

Logan paused in his scribbling and glanced up at Charles, brow furrowed.

"He killed anyone yet?"

"... At least two hundred, probably more."

Logan closed his eyes briefly.

"Damn."

After a silent moment, Xavier continued. "His mutation kills the tissue within a matter of moments, essentially vaporizing it. Due to a certain... influence... the matter will be attributed to a chemical leak. However, if the true nature of the incident were to be discovered..."

Logan stared at the professor. A sudden realization occurred to him. "... You're not sending me just 'cause of my healing factor, Chuck. You don't expect me ta go console this kid..." Logan stared at the floor for a moment, then looked at Charles. "You sure there isn't anything we can do for him?"

Xavier lowered his head and sighed heavily.

"I'm afraid that, in this matter, there is nothing I can do to save the boy. His mutation is too dangerous, uncontrollable..."

"... How old is he?"

Xavier looked at Logan with melancholy blue eyes.

"Fourteen."

Logan gave a slight nod and gazed out of the windows at the sapphire sky. A long silence passed.

"... I trust you can take care of this, Logan?"

"... Yeah. I'll do it."

He tore the page off of the pad of paper, folded it, and stuck it in his jacket pocket. He then set the pen and the pad back on Xavier's desk. Without another word, he turned and left the room. He shut the door behind him, leaned against the wall outside, and closed his eyes.

"... Shit."

Inside, Professor Charles Xavier turned towards the window, a single tear upon his cheek.

- - -

"Where are you off to, Logan?" Scott asked curiously as the other man stepped into the kitchen, dressed in a Harley Davidson shirt and heading towards the garage.

"Professor's got a thing he wants me to do in South Carolina."

"South Carolina," Scott muttered to himself, furrowing his brow as he tried to recollect something. His eyes widened suddenly. "Oh, right... there was a thing in the paper today, some chemical leak that killed something like 265 people."

"Jesus..." whispered Jean.

"Yeah... might want to steer clear of that place, right, Logan?" Scott grinned slightly.

Logan smirked glumly. "I'm headin' straight into it, kid."

Scott's grinned faltered and Jean looked at Logan with concern.

"What do you... is it... a mutant?" she asked.

Logan nodded. "Yeah."

"What is Professor X having you do about it, Logan?" Scott asked naively.

"Exactly what you think he'd have me do," Logan replied.

Jean placed her hands to her mouth. She closed her eyes and uttered a barely audible "Oh God."

Scott looked at Jean, and then back at Logan in alarm.

"You're not..."

"Yeah, Scott," Logan said, heading for the door. "I am."

- - -

It was evening as Logan approached the mouth of a cave in the South Carolina hills. He stepped into the darkness and lit a match. It flared up, illuminating the remnants of the occupant's last meal - McDonald's fast food wrappers were strewn across the floor of the cave - and a small bundle of sticks. Logan could hear startled movements.

"Get outta here!!" a voice shouted from the further darkness of the cave.

Logan flicked the match toward the sticks.

"I said get outta here!!" the voice shouted again, as the twigs began to catch fire.

Logan sat down on a rock near the small blaze and pulled a beer off the six-pack plastic holding ring he was carrying.

"I MEAN IT!! I MEAN IT!! You're gonna die if you don't get outta here!!" rang out from the back of the cave, a hint of panic and frustration in the voice.

Logan popped the tab on the can, wiping the beer spray off on his jeans.

"Not today," he said to the voice.

He took a swig. A boy stepped hesitantly into the light of the fire, staring at Logan. Logan pulled off another beer and held it out to him. The boy squinted at him in the dim light.

"Y-you look familiar..."

Logan looked at the kid.

"Yeah. I'm a world-famous mutant."

"You're -" Recognition washed across the boy's face. "Oh, shit, you're one a' da X-Men."

"Name's Logan," he said, with a slight nod. "Wolverine."

The boy gave him a disbelieving glance.

"Get outta town."

"I got a healing factor. You ain't gonna hurt me."

The boy's brow furrowed. "Healing factor? What... what are you doing here?"

"I'm here to talk to you."

"Me?"

"Yup."

"H-how did you find me?"

Logan could hear the confusion and nervousness in the boy's voice, but there was also a note of relief, of comfort in no longer being alone.

"Guy I work with, Charles Xavier. He has this machine. Mutant finder machine thingy. Can find any mutant."

"Mutant?" the boy asked, taking the beer from Logan's outstretched hand.

Logan didn't respond; he took another swig of his beer. The boy opened the can and clutched it tightly in his hands.

"... I'm a mutant?"

"Yup."

The kid gaped at Logan, comprehension flashing across his face.

Logan glanced at the kid and nodded. "Yeah."

"It... it was me then?" The boy considered this, and tears began to form in his young eyes. "I think... I think I killed my parents."

Logan stared deep into the flames, watching the boy out of the corner of his eye.

"Yeah."

The boy covered his face with his hands and mumbled, "Because I'm a mutant?"

"Yeah."

"I- I- I- I killed people. All those people died because I'm a mutant?" he muttered into his hands.

"Yeah."

The boy glanced at Logan through tear-filled eyes, then sobbed into his hands. Logan continued to stare at the fire.

Wiping his nose with the back of his hand, the boy asked, "How many people did I kill?"

Logan turned and looked at him.

"You really don't want to know."

The boy wiped the tears away from his eyes and looked at Logan with a reluctant fierceness.

"No. Yes. Please."

Logan stared at the glowing embers.

"They say 265. Maybe more."

The boy's eyes widened in surprise, in horror, and tears began to fall anew.

Logan looked at him, regret in his eyes. "Sorry, kid."

The boy looked at him, confusion in his teary eyes. "How...? How can that...? I -"

"You hit puberty last night," Logan explained. "You... wait, I wrote it down," he said, rummaging in his pocket and pulling out a torn-off piece of paper. "Says here your mutation..." He read over the paper quickly. "Your specific mutation radiates a series of toxins and acid-like poisons..." Here the boy looked at him, both interest and despair showing in his face. Logan nodded. "Yeah. And everything in a radius around you..." He folded the paper back up and placed it back in his pocket. "Basically, all you do now is kill organic tissue. Vaporize it."

"All I do is kill?" the boy asked him, his voice marked with incredulity. "My mutant power is I kill everything around me?" Tears began to streak down the boy's face. "That's what I do? I kill?"

"It's what it says," Logan said, lifting his beer to his lips. "Sorry."

"Oh no!!" the boy moaned, covering his face with his hands once more. "OHNNOOO!! I CAN'T LIVE WITH THIS!!" he cried out in despair, causing a slight echo to ring through the cave. "I CAN'T!! I CAN'T... THIS CAN'T BE MY LIFE."

Logan drank deeply and stared at the opposite wall of the cave. "Just shitty luck, kid. Bad roll a' th' dice."

"I can't... I can't live with this," the kid muttered, glancing at Logan.

Logan paused for a moment and hung his head slightly before saying, quietly, "I know."

The boy stared at him as he realized what Logan meant. Logan looked at the kid and held out another beer. The boy gazed silently at the fire, tears falling unrestrained. He took the can out of Logan's hand.

"I shoulda done more stuff, huh? I shoulda, like, enjoyed stuff more," the boy said, staring into the flickering flames. "I can't-" his eyes watered "-I can't believe this. I- I wanted to..." He choked back a sob. "I was going to go to the national stock car race and I was going to go drive cross-country next summer. I'm supposed to start looking at colleges and..." He hung his head. "I never..." He closed his eyes. "Me and my girlfriend never..."

"Sorry, kid," Logan muttered.

"Shoulda never been born..." the boy mumbled and then broke out into more sobs.

Logan let the kid cry in silence for a moment before saying, "Well, if it makes you feel any better, ain't no one's ever gonna know it was you that done all this. Ain't no one ever going to know what happened."

The boy glanced at Logan. "But all those people... My mom..."

"Yeah," Logan said, with a light nod. "Some kind of chemical leak. That's what they'll say."

"Why?" the boy asked, his brow furrowing. "Just go ahead!!" he said angrily. "Tell everyone I'm like the biggest loser of all time. I'm the big-"

Logan interrupted him. "'Cause if it ever got out a mutant did this..." He shook his head. "By accident, on purpose. Don't matter. They'd round us up. All of us," he added. He drained his beer and grabbed another off the ring. "So, see," he explained, "there's a bigger picture kind of thing going on."

He opened his beer, flecks of liquid falling into the fire and hissing.

"So, like-" the kid sniffed "-Like one chromosome or whatever to the left and I would'a maybe been one of The X-Men."

"Maybe," Logan said, taking a fresh swig. "Finish your beer," he said, as tears streamed down the boy's face. They both knew what was coming next.

"Just do it," the boy muttered, closing his eyes to the world, tears uncontrolled.

Logan took a final gulp, set his can down, and stood up, facing the kid.

The shit I do for you, Xavier.

- - -

Logan stepped out of the cave into the light of the dawning sun. He looked up at the sky, at the clouds that were dyed a pale red in the morning light. A faint breeze blew by him, ruffling his hair and his jacket. He put a hand in his pocket, clutched the piece of paper that was in it, but did not pull it out.

"Sorry, kid," he muttered, his back to the cave. He walked away, never glancing back.