By M Jules
Summary: Wolverine plays savior to Rogue in a little different way than usual.
Notes: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Taryn and tinhutlady for holding my hand and coaxing me through this. Your support and advice was invaluable. This is what you get when I go on a marathon and watch five Season Three X-Files episodes in a row and start comparing Mulder's reactions to a victim with what I think Wolverine's would be. They're both behavioral psychologists in their own way, both of them have a protective streak a mile wide, and both of them are willing to go to great enough lengths to terrify those around them on occasion. So, "Oubliette" (loosely, 'she forgets') became "Elle Sait," ('she knows'), and here you have it. There really is a Whynot, Mississippi. It's on the road between Meridian and the Alabama state line, close to Causeyville. It provided me with no shortage of puns when I was a kid. Content Warning: This fic deals with abuse, physical and mental violence, and other dark themes relating to kidnappings in some detail. And you can also imagine Logan's reaction to someone treating a young girl that way. So… you were warned.
"Me an' Marie, we worked it out just fine. Just fine, jus'fine... we worked it out just fine, me an' Marie." The bedraggled girl in front of him had been intermittently mumbling indiscernible nonsense as she rocked back and forth for the past four days, so the fact that she'd finally said something that could be interpreted as intelligible speech should have thrilled him. But it just scared him worse.
"What do you mean? Who's Marie?"
"McCartney and Lennon. Lennon/McCartney. Harrison and Starr, I'm the star, I'm the star. Me an' Marie, we're all fine, we worked it out jus' like they said, just like they said we should. We worked it out. We're fine."
"Who are you?" he asked quietly, not sure what answer he was expecting, not sure he wanted to know. The fact that this erratic, psychotic behavior was an astronomic improvement over the catatonia she'd displayed when they'd first rescued her was enough to make his claws itch and he wished fervently, down to the marrow of his metal-soldered bones, that he hadn't killed the son of a bitch who had done this to her. He deserved to still be alive and suffering; a month of torment wasn't enough. Thirty years wouldn't be enough.
She whimpered and curled into herself, her dirty brown and white hair falling over her face, over the scratched and bruised arms that curled around her bare, white legs. She was smeared with dirt and mud and other substances Logan would rather not think about no matter how clearly he smelled them. They had managed to strip her of the filthy nightgown she'd been wearing, and she refused to stay dressed in the clean hospital gown they'd brought her. They hadn't been able to coax her near water or to get close enough to try to sponge her down. Hank was the only one they felt was safe enough to try, covered in fur as he was, safe from her naked, deadly skin, but she'd screamed, shrill with panic, when she saw him, so for now they were letting her alone. She was as filthy as she had been when they'd busted her out of the fucker's basement five weeks ago.
"No, no," she whimpered. "No name. I have no name. He's coming to kill me. He's gonna kill me!" Her voice had gotten shrill, and she made a shushing motion, putting her finger over her pursed lips, and trembled.
"Nobody's gonna to kill you," he soothed. "You're safe now. You're at Xavier's."
"Xavier's…Saviors…so many saviors, none of them mine. No brother, no keeper, just me an' my dirty dress, my broken crown." Her eyes got wide and she shushed herself again. "No, no, don't talk about, don't talk about. Bad girl. Bad girl, bitch. Very bad, little brat. Bad."
"You're not bad," he stated emphatically, straining to keep his voice gentle, although hearing her call herself those names, knowing it was probably an echo of what that psycho had drilled into her head, was enough to make him want to break something.
"Yes, yes," she disagreed, shaking her head. "Very bad. We drink, and drink, and drink them dry. She drank me dry, but we're all fine now, me an' Marie." She wrapped her hair around her finger and started humming, her eyes glassy and focused on the far wall.
He waited, but she didn't speak again, and he finally settled back to watch her in the dim light. There was barely any illumination at all in the room, but they had discovered that anything brighter was enough to make her sob and scream in pain for the first six hours after her rescue. She had curled up in a fetal position, her face pressed against the padded wall of the room, and screamed until she was hoarse. It had taken them longer than they liked to think about to realize that she was reacting to oversensitive eyes, and they'd kept lowering the lights until she stopped shrieking, when only Logan's eyesight could even detect her form. That was why he was here, guarding her, while Jean and Hank watched from the observation room on the screens from the night vision and infrared cameras.
Her eyesight seemed to be remarkably good, though, and it made Logan wonder just how dark that basement had been.
She cannot see. It has been so long since anything except darkness has invaded her world, she wonders if she is blind. Then the bright flashes come, the sick, high-pitched whirring whine of the camera, and she wishes she were blind. And deaf. And, sometimes, dead.
She has no knowledge of how long she has been here, only that it has been long enough for her throat to become parched, for the cuts on her cheek and forehead to become infected, tender even without touching them, for her hope to flicker and fade and come close to failing altogether. It won't be long now before she simply retreats into her mind and refuses to come out again. Except now she is not alone in her mind, and that frightens her worse than anything.
There is a sound across the room, bare feet scraping over dirty concrete, and she holds her breath, listening for the Other. The Other was here long before she arrived, and she feels a pang of sharp hopelessness at the thought that no one has rescued the Other, and no one will rescue her, either.
At first, she thought that the Other must have a name and simply refused to tell it. After the touching incident, though – and that is how she has come to think of it, since she doesn't have a way to categorize it, toe-tag it, catalogue it with nice post-mortem details (but then it isn't dead, because she isn't – it is still alive and crawling in her infected head) – she realized that the Other does not have a name. At least not a name that anyone on earth knows anymore. And it frightens her, and she holds on to her own name with fierce determination.
Even when he comes down the wooden stairs into the musty cellar, even when he flashes the bright, whining camera in her face and whispers in the creepiest voice she's ever heard how no one is going to spoil what he's got because no one's ever going to find her, that she's going to be all his, unspoiled, forever, she holds on to the thought of her name. But she doesn't tell him what it is. She won't. It's the one thing that is hers, the one thing she knows.
She keeps it like the most precious secret ever. Or the most dangerous.
He didn't know what made her important to him. She tugged at something in him, something that felt like memory, and anything that remotely resembled memories got a special place in his priorities. It didn't matter that they were calling her a lost cause; he'd never given up on one yet. After all, he was still fighting in their damn war, wasn't he? He figured if he were Catholic, St. Jude might be his patron. It would be fitting.
But he didn't think all his motives were that self-centered. He knew Jean thought they were; she had cautioned him when she'd accidentally brushed up against his psyche while he was pondering the familiarity of the broken girl they'd rescued.
"Logan, this is a very traumatized young girl. I don't think she'll be the key to unlocking your past. You might want to consider that before you pour all your energy into this."
"Believe it or not, Jeannie, everythin' ain't about my past. Sometimes, I actually remember how to give a shit."
She'd mentioned something else, something about him identifying with the girl too closely because of his own harrowing experiences, the tortured captivity he only remembered in too-real nightmares, about maybe needing to back away, to put some distance between himself and the situation, that maybe he was too close to be involved.
He'd said something back about already being involved, and if she wanted some distance between him and the girl, she'd have to put it there herself, and just how strong was her TK anyway because she'd have to sleep sometime, right?
She'd conceded, however reluctantly, and he had to give her credit when she didn't try to rehash the argument even after CNN Headline News ran a ticker tape that read: Cairo, GA – Decayed remains found in meat packing factory confirmed as those of AL-born freelance photographer Earl Dean Lucas, a suspect in the disappearance of two MS girls. Officials say death appears to be the result of an animal attack.
He was torn between regretting that he'd left enough behind to make a positive ID – even if it had been a painstaking process of DNA testing for the coroner's office, once they'd figured out what meat was human and what was ground beef – and feeling vaguely pleased that the residents of Cairo, Georgia were probably all going vegetarian.
It wasn't anything compared to what he was doing.
He was going stark raving mad, closed up in isolated containment with a girl who he thought might be beginning to respond to him, and that scared him worse than all the time she'd spent spouting schizophrenic gibberish and being generally oblivious to his presence. It scared him because he thought she was beginning to need him, and a girl that empty, that broken, that stolen, was going to need a whole damn lot. He didn't begrudge her that; it was simply that he didn't know how much he had to give.
There wasn't much left of him, either.
She is alone now, in the room if nowhere else. He hasn't come back for a long time, and she doesn't know whether to be worried or relieved. She wonders if he is angry about her request, or if he even remembers that she made one. She asked for some clean clothing last time he was here. She is still in the long white cotton nightgown she was wearing the night he abducted her from her bed. It seems so long ago now – how long has it been?
She starts when she realizes that she has some way to gauge her time here. The reason she needs new clothes is that her nightgown is soiled and sticky, and her underwear is soaked through with menstrual blood. She thinks hard and recalls that he took her the day after her last period ended. She has been here approximately twenty-four days. No, wait – twenty-eight.
She whimpers as her head thuds back against the wall. She doesn't know how much longer she'll last. The Other is gone, at least from the room. A timid wisp of suggestion curls up from the back of her mind like sweet incense smoke, and she is aware of just how much the Other is still present. She knows without words or images what the Other is offering now. It was an option they whispered about furtively in the brief moments before the Other escaped, and one that she admits she finds awfully tempting.
She can be the Other. Or, more accurately, she can allow the Other to be her. Just for a few minutes, just long enough to give herself a break, to escape this blank hell-hole in the only way she knows how. Soft mental hands caress her mind and she relaxes into them, feeling the smoky incense grow thicker and stronger until she thinks she can smell candlewood, Marlboro cigarettes, and a hint of something more… more. It's familiar. Images of a beaded curtain swaying in the open archway of a living room are becoming clearer now. A balding man in a dirty wife-beater sits in his green velour-finish recliner, flicking ashes into a smudged glass tray and not really caring about the few cigarette burns in the cloth of the chair.
Music plays from somewhere, a song that she somehow knows the words to without ever having heard before, and there is a pleasant weight settling over her torso. The music is a thick, heavy beat with overtones of psychedelia, and she smiles up at the boy resting on his elbows above her, on her bed. His long, dark hair is a little stringy, and the stubble on his face is more of a joke than a beard, but his fingertips are tender and a little possessive as they trace up and down her arm.
The soft gray coils of smoke from the nearby incense burner are permeating the air, curling into their hair and branding them with the scent of Moon Goddess. Yesterday it was Strawberry Fields Forever, but he didn't like that one so much. He likes Moon Goddess much better, and she thinks that she doesn't really care what it smells like as long as she can smell and feel him close to her like this.
Then the loud creaks of heavy feet on wooden stairs scatter the images like pick-up sticks and the double-wide is replaced by the familiar, heavy darkness of the basement. She is no longer the Other. Now she is Marie, and she wishes she were alone again.
"Logan – here is our patient's food. Is she consuming it?"
"Not really, no. Hank, since you're here, I gotta talk to you."
"Certainly, Logan. On what topic?"
"The girl. I gotta know – what… I mean – dammit, Hank, is she gonna get better?"
"That, no one can ascertain with any certainty, I am afraid. I have simply never observed or… or heard of, even, a case such as this. If we have correctly inferred her implications, and if our interpretation of the results of the Professor's telepathic scans is correct, she is simply not herself. That is, the girl speaking with us is not the original inhabitant of that body."
"You mean she's possessed?"
"In a manner of speaking. It is as if this is a completely separate entity that has somehow managed to inhabit her body, but I am fairly certain that the entity speaking with us now was formerly in possession of a corporeal body of its own – possibly even the other victim."
"Like a ghost or somethin'?"
"I … I wish I knew. Her mind is so closed off, neither Jean nor the Professor have been able to get an accurate reading."
"Hmph. Thanks, Hank."
"Of course. You know, Logan…"
"She has become much more cognizant since you have been present with her. During the five weeks you remained in Cairo, she was entirely non-responsive. I believe… I believe there may be some hope for more improvement. How much more, it is impossible to say."
"You think – shit. Okay. Thanks."
She wishes she could remember what it feels like to cry. She thinks that, once upon a time, it felt good. It felt like a release, like every dark emotion and every overwhelming thought of pain and torment and hopelessness could leak out for a little while. At least it would take the edge off.
What she wouldn't give to be able to cry now. It's taken him a long time – and more 'incidents' than she cares to recall at the moment – but he has finally learned that he cannot touch her without passing out. It doesn't deter him, though. There are other ways, and other means, of getting some of the things he wants. And he has finally decided that she has been 'unspoiled' long enough and he's going to be the one to ruin her. She really wants to cry as she thinks about how accurate that is; she's afraid she's going to be ruined for life.
The Other retreats when he is around – after all, that was the whole reason for the deal; so that he couldn't get to the Other anymore – but afterwards, when he leaves, she feels those smoky incense hands in her mind like tendrils of the sweetest smelling sacrifice ever offered. She wishes she could burn to ashes, but the Other's memories help soothe her sometimes. They help her forget. That was part of the deal, too.
And if the Other doesn't stay around when he comes into the room, at least the him in her head receives a sound and thorough trouncing at every opportunity, because the Other hates him even worse than she does and needs the power that abusing him offers. She doesn't mind at all, even though every pain that lances through the mental-him affects her. It's worth it. And the Other thinks so, too. Sometimes the violence of the expression of the Other's hatred is enough to make them both flinch, but it is less than the violence they feel he has done to them, so they accept it.
She only hopes that one day, the Other's daily murders of him in her head will be able to come out as action and she will leave this basement. He never has brought her new clothes, although her nightgown reeks now with the second month of her cycle and the smell is sometimes enough to make her want to pass out. She doesn't know how he can stay down in the basement long enough to touch her like he does without simply fainting from the stench of her unwashed body, the human waste, the blood, and the corpse in the corner.
The Other has been dead for a month and two days. At least, that's her best estimate, considering no light reaches her except the sharp, epileptic light of his flashbulbs (and God, if she ever makes it out of here, she will break every camera she finds, and with relish).
He tried to touch her for the first time the day he discovered the Other's dead body. His touch sent a shock of pain through her system, and she was as incapacitated as he for several long minutes. She could weep at the thought of losing the opportunity to escape, but the Other soothes her again as usual. There was nothing she could've done, except... She doesn't know what, but she is sure she could have done something despite her weakened leg muscles and the numbness in her arms from long weeks of restraint.
She hears footsteps on the stairs – again – and stiffens in panic. He has already been there once today – the still-warm, sticky, white splotches on her dirty nightgown confirm that, yes, it was only minutes ago he was here, not days (or what passes for them in this never-ending darkness) – and he never returns this quickly. Never.
Something must be wrong.
Her heartbeat is quick and thready with terror, and her breathing is coming in dark, rapid gasps. She reaches for the feel of sweet-smelling smoke in the back of her mind and senses the Other's alarm. She has never actively sought out the Other's presence, never asked for company. It was always given and received, but never demanded. Until now. And now, she is asking for oblivion.
Disgust and horror rip through her, and she knows it is what the Other is feeling. Fear escalates, and she imagines she can smell it blending with all the other foul odors of the basement. But this is her body, she is the stronger one, and as the door creaks open, she throws the Other to the forefront of her mind and dives quickly into the shadows of a deep mental crevasse. She won't be coming back out.
"Wh…where am I?"
The whisper was so quiet it might've gone unnoticed had it not been for Logan's sensitive ears. As it was, his head jerked up, pulled from a light doze by the knowledge that something was different.
"My God… it's so bright…"
Logan blinked in the dimness of the room, squinting a little to make out her movements and facial expressions. He'd grown used to the lighting in the weeks he'd been staying with her, but he had ventured outside to speak to Hank a few minutes before, and his eyes were still adjusting to the lack of illumination.
Her wandering eyes finally detected his dark shape in the far corner from her and widened. He smelled the change in her scent when she became aware of him – curiosity, hard surprise, and no small amount of fear.
"Who are you?" she demanded sharply, and it suddenly clicked into place exactly what was different about her. He didn't know how to put it into words or explain how he knew, but somehow he understood that the girl speaking to him was the one who belonged in that body, not the other one. And he had a pretty good guess what her name was.
"Are you Marie?"
"How do you know that name?" she snarled. "Who are you?"
"My name's Logan," he reassured her gently, consciously moderating the rumble of his voice to what he hoped was a soothing tone. "You're okay now; you're safe."
"Where am I? What happened?" She didn't appear frantic or emotionally unstable, and that was damned impressive, all things considered. He found that some warm mixture of approval, admiration, and awe was spreading through his chest at this display of her fortitude. God knew (from experience, he thought wryly) he'd probably be unrecognizable as human if he'd gone through what she had.
"You're at a place called Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters," he explained, feeling somewhat ridiculous at having to spew out that mouthful of a name. "Me an' some of the others found out about you bein' kidnapped, and we went to see if we could rescue you. We got you out."
"How long ago was that?" she asked softly, and once again he was impressed that she even had the presence of mind to think of that question. To be very honest, he was amazed that she could string words together in a coherent sentence.
He had to think for a minute, scrambling to remember what day it was, how many weeks he had stayed in this cubicle with her, meditating and observing her for minute alterations. "Um… eight weeks."
"Eight weeks?" she whispered, and he heard her respiration and pulse go immediately shallow. Shit, he thought. She's going into shock.
"Marie?" he called. "Marie, stay with me. Stay with me, darlin'."
He wasn't reaching her, he realized, and very slowly, so as not to startle her, he crept across the room and crouched beside her, just beyond her arm's reach. "Marie," he tried again, pitching his voice low with a gentle, but commanding, tone. "Marie, come back. Stay with me, Marie."
"No," came a thin, high-pitched voice. "Nononono… I shouldn't have told you her name, her name is like perfume poured out, should not have told you, the murmurings of a meadow brook. Should not, should not. Bad, bad. The sins of our fathers…"
Logan sighed and leaned back, resting on his heels. "Dammit," he muttered darkly.
She has not retreated as far this time as she did the last. The Other is still in the fore, but Marie remains aware, watching as if from a distance. Eight weeks, the dark man said. Eight weeks she has been safe (he said) and unaware. She wants to watch, to see how safe she really is, before she begins to venture forward.
:Has he harmed us: she asks the Other quietly.
:No. I don't know. I don't want to be here.:
:I know. I am sorry. Would you like to remember:
She feels a smoky sigh from her mental companion and the relief that washes through the Other at the idea. The Other likes to remember the time before she was taken from parents' double-wide in Whynot, Mississippi. Marie doesn't mind it much, either; she can barely remember Meridian, and Whynot isn't that far away. The memories are comforting, in their own way.
The Other chooses another interlude with her boyfriend, the young man with the greasy black hair and the adolescent excuse for a moustache. They are her favorite memories, and Marie doesn't mind, since they flood the Other with such warm, pleasant feelings that spill over into her.
The Other has picked an especially intimate moment, which she often does, and Marie has somehow never felt embarrassed by this. She thinks, perhaps, that it might be because she is not a voyeur in these memories; it is as if the thoughts are hers, the moments were hers, although she knows she never had a boyfriend named Robert, Jr. and that she never experienced half the things the Other remembers.
Robert, Jr. likes to read, something nobody knows except the Other (and now Marie) because the boys at the mechanic's garage would laugh at him and his dad would probably box his ears just on principle. His mom would want to know why he doesn't do better in school and his sister just wouldn't care. But the Other knows, and he likes to whisper in her ear the things that he has read. He is well-versed in various religious writings, including Eastern mystics (such an exotic, forbidden idea in their Southern Baptist-Methodist-Assembly of God-Episcopalian town), and he has recently discovered that their Sunday School teachers were holding out on them all those years – it seems that even the Bible could not avoid a dip into sensuality and erotica. It fits with his redneck hippie ideology – the hedonistic belief that all good-feeling things are his for the taking – and he is fond of whispering Solomon's hidden love song to her whenever they are together.
She isn't sure she quite understands the romanticism in her hair being like a flock of goats, but he manages to inject his own personal meaning into the bit about her breasts being like twin fawns – young, tender, and soft. He is certainly playing the hunter right now, and she has to smile at the memory of him traumatizing her four-year-old brother with the declaration that he "shot Bambi's momma." She can laugh at the thought because she knows he isn't like that. He might dress up in camouflage and sit in a cold stand for hours on dark winter mornings with his father or cousins, and he might be inordinately proud of the six-point buck he manages to drag in and even go so far as to mount the head on his wall, but if he ever did see a doe with a young fawn, she half-suspects that he would feed them his own lunch.
He has been moving within her for some time now, and the motion of his hips is becoming jerky. Marie pulls back a little from the memory, bracing herself for when the Other carefully fades the image away. The Other has never allowed her to see the moment when he climaxes, and Marie imagines that her willingness to share only extends so far. There are some memories that no one else should ever have.
But for whatever reason, the Other does not put an end to the memory, and he muffles his groans against her neck, his lips moving against her skin in an approximation of her name. Shock ripples through Marie as she suddenly realizes exactly why the Other has never allowed this moment – she has guarded her name even more carefully than Marie has guarded hers – and she cannot help her surprised question.
:Mary Anne? Is that your name:
The images snap into nothingness with the suddenness of a broken film reel, and she feels the Other's sharp withdrawal.
:Wait! Mary Anne! Where are you going:
But her words echo in her head as if in an empty room, and try as she might, she cannot feel the Other's familiar incense. She begins to tremble as she realizes that her companion has left her alone with the dark, scuttling presence of their former captor. She feels suddenly defenseless and ducks quickly into a mental corner, waiting to see if he will show himself.
"HANK! Somebody get in here and help me, dammit!"
The door to the containment cell burst open suddenly and Logan blinked in the bright white light. "What is it, Logan?"
His breath rushed out of him in a relieved sigh. "Jeannie, thank God – you gotta help me – she's unconscious, Jeannie, we're losin' her. You gotta help her."
"Of course, Logan, of course. Can you pick her up? I'll let Hank know to meet us in the lab immediately."
The brief look of concentration on Jean's face let him know that she was already calling the other doctor, and he bent down to scoop the body up carefully, trying to keep his bare skin away from hers, holding his breath momentarily against the smell. He hated himself for thinking it at a time like this, but he was relieved that they would likely be able to bathe her while she was comatose. He just hoped like hell that she woke up eventually.
"C'mon, Marie," he whispered near her ear as he followed Jean out of the containment room, squinting momentarily while he waited for his eyes to adjust to the outside light. "Ya can't leave me now, darlin'. We're just gettin' started."
The light is bright, and at first she thinks it's Heaven, but she wonders if Heaven's light is supposed to burn her eyes this badly. She thinks not. Voices are murmuring with some urgency just above the level of her consciousness. She can't quite make them out, but it's not a priority for her at the moment.
She takes a deep breath, then another, feeling as if she hasn't really breathed in a while. A minute shift of her arm, and she becomes aware of a strange pressure in the back of her hand and a heavy tugging. She struggles to open her eyes, and her eyelids flutter vainly a few times before she is finally able to crack them enough to see what is responsible for that odd sensation in her hand. She barely registers an IV tube and medical tape before her eyes are too heavy to hold open any longer, and she exhales with relief at the normality of it.
One voice becomes more distinct than the others, and she thinks she recognizes its peculiar timbre, the warm rumble of it. She thinks it is the dark man who spoke to her in that room. What was his name? He is worth trusting a little bit if only because he spent eight weeks with her without harming her. Her eyelids flutter a few more times, but it simply isn't worth the energy it takes to open them.
She manages a whimper, but barely.
"Marie? Can you hear me? It's Logan, darlin'. I'm right here."
His voice sounds distorted, and there is a ringing and buzzing in her ears, but her body is gradually swimming toward the surface of full consciousness, and at least she can understand him and now she knows his name.
"Yeah, I'm here. You had us scared there for a while, darlin', but you're gonna be okay now. Everything's okay."
She doesn't know why, but she believes him and drifts back into sleep without a second thought.
"Have you been able to learn anything, Professor?"
"Indeed I have, Jean. Kitty has been most helpful in accessing the more, shall we say, restricted documents, and one or two of the investigators have been quite forthcoming, with the correct motivation."
Logan looked through the window into the room where Marie lay on a standard issue hospital bed, the IV stand beside her pushing much-needed saline and glucose into her rail-thin body. They'd been offering her food the entire time, but she rarely ate, choosing instead to hoard most of her portions, and they had ascertained that she probably hadn't been fed often while she was in captivity.
Anger boiled through him again at the thought of what she must have gone through. The pictures Jean had found… he shuddered with fury as he remembered.
"God… Scott. Look at these."
"What is it, Jean?"
"It's… it's pictures. I think he must have taken them."
"Of – shit! Shit! Son of a …"
"She's so terrified. Look. You can practically feel it through the picture… my God… it's so violating… almost like being raped without ever being touched… My God… Scott, we've got to find her."
"Jean! Scott! Over here!"
"What have you found, Storm? Wh—shit, what is that smell?"
"I think we found them…"
"I think you're right, Ro. Where's Logan?"
"He's… I don't know. Logan? Logan?"
"I don't think the kidnapper's long for this world. We should stop him – tell him to bring the guy in for questioning but not hurt him. … Scott?"
"No. He deserves whatever Logan gives him. And worse."
After that, he had turned off his comm device and given everything over to his own particular brand of justice. The kidnapper hadn't gotten far; the trail had been extremely fresh, and he wasn't but a few miles from the house. After Logan had seen the expression of terror on Marie's face in the pictures, he hadn't been able to stand still. Someone had to die, and he was going to make sure of it. But not before they got to know what it felt like to be scared shitless.
Jean's medical examination had turned up no evidence of sexual intercourse with Marie, despite the fact that she had been covered in ejaculate. The mangled corpse of the other victim, however, wasn't so lucky. Jean didn't have to tell him what it meant that the flesh had been torn but not bloody. It was too sick to think about. Sick enough to make him want to kill the bastard again.
"Logan? Are you with us?" Xavier had insisted that he attend this meeting, but Logan had wanted to stay close by Marie in case she woke up again, so they'd compromised and settled on having the meeting outside Marie's room so that he was close by if she started to stir.
"Yeah, Wheels. Go on."
"Very well. The girl we rescued is named Anna Marie Halsten. She is eighteen years old, from Meridian. The other victim took longer to identify using dental records. Her name was Mary Anne Fletcher, from Whynot, just outside of Meridian. She was also eighteen."
Logan started and opened his mouth to speak, but Scott beat him to it.
"Does anybody else find it odd that their names are so similar?" he ventured.
"Quite so, Cyclops. I am almost certain a professional forensic psychologist could give us some insight into the importance of the names – if that information was still relevant," he tacked on, giving Wolverine a significant look. Logan merely scowled and shifted his weight, refusing to apologize for dispatching the kidnapper.
"I have spoken to Mr. and Mrs. Halsten, Marie's parents," Xavier continued. "They are willing to allow her to remain with us, since they were not aware prior to the kidnapping that Marie is a mutant. It seems that Cerebro detected her shortly after her mutation manifested, which was while she was in captivity."
Logan's scowl had deepened and he growled, "So what took us so long to get to her, Chuck? You tellin' me she was locked up for two months before we figured out she was in trouble?"
"Logan…" Jean warned quietly, but he didn't appear to have heard her.
"I was not aware of the situation at first, Logan," Xavier sighed. "You may know, due to the unique nature of Marie's mutation, it is difficult to link directly with her mind. It is regrettable that it took me as long as it did to locate her."
Logan regarded him steadily before demanding quietly, "What aren't you tellin' me?"
Jean and Scott exchanged glances at the tension between the two, and Hank watched the proceedings carefully.
Xavier seemed to consider the question for a long time before he finally responded, "I was not looking for Marie when I found her. A long-time friend requested that I lend a hand with the investigation into the kidnappings in Mississippi. They were making no progress and the case was about to be de-prioritized. He was personally acquainted with Ms. Fletcher and had a vested interest in locating her. When I discovered Mr. Lucas and consequently the victims in his basement, I realized that one of them was a mutant. That is why you were sent to retrieve her."
"So that is how you were aware of the effects of her skin," Hank exclaimed suddenly, oblivious to Logan's still-dark expression. "I was curious as to how you had ascertained that after your own admission of finding Marie's mind inaccessible."
"Yes," Xavier nodded. "It was through my surface monitoring of Lucas's thoughts that I saw the nature of her mutation."
Logan looked ready to say something else, and this time Jean and Scott were both prepared to take action as it was obvious that he was becoming more agitated. It proved unnecessary, however, as his head swiveled around sharply to fix on Marie and his nostrils flared.
He strode through the door just as she began to stir visibly, and Jean shivered slightly as she considered his preternatural awareness of the girl. Even Jean, who had been telepathically monitoring the girl's state of consciousness, had not felt her waking until after Logan had already moved toward her.
Xavier looked at his team and nodded as if to confirm that they were dismissed. Kitty and Ororo left quietly with the Professor, Hank returned to the blood tests that would tell him more specifically the state of Marie's health, and Scott stayed with Jean for a moment as she watched Logan and the girl through the window of the room.
Vague emotions and impressions passed between them as they watched him settle on her bed, his gloved hand resting on hers. Her eyes struggled to open again as they had before, this time succeeding and coming to rest on his face for a moment before they fluttered closed once more. Neither Scott nor Jean missed the small smile on her face or the fact that her pale, slender fingers grasped his weakly.
Scott's arms tightened around his wife's waist as they continued to watch, and the same thought passed through both of their minds simultaneously.
Something is happening.
She has been awake for two weeks, although Logan teased her at first that her definition of "awake" must be a loose one, as she slept between fifteen and twenty hours a day for the first five days and continues to take cat-naps every few hours even now. She told him yesterday that she rarely slept during her captivity as she did not want to be caught unawares whenever her kidnapper came to visit.
He was quiet when she told him that, and she regretted for a moment having shared it with him. But he surprised her, murmuring roughly that he knew what that felt like and that she should get some rest now as he touched her hair gently with a gloved hand. He hasn't teased her about how much she sleeps since she said it.
She cannot explain why she trusts him as completely as she does, but she can feel peace flood her entire being whenever she catches sight of him. It goes without saying that she likes to keep him in her line of vision as much as possible, which works out well for both of them since he is reluctant to leave her side.
She saw herself in the bathroom mirror for the first time two days ago and was instantly baffled by the wide stripe of white in her long bangs. When she didn't come out as soon as he thought she should, he had opened the door to find her staring at her reflection and fingering the silver strands. Understanding had dawned on his face and he'd told her softly that the doctors – and she can never remember their names, but that will come in time – say it was caused by stress.
The Other has disappeared completely from her thoughts, and she sometimes misses the smoky incense of her presence. She feels as if she has lost a friend, somehow; their deal probably saved her life, though it took Mary Anne's. The Other had been desperate to escape, and after their accidental brush had revealed Marie's ability to siphon her life-force, they had reached a conclusion. If Marie could rescue the Other from the body their captor enjoyed abusing so much, then perhaps the Other could carry some of the emotional burden of their captivity. In the end, it worked exactly like that, and Marie finds that at times she has a strange emptiness of longing for the familiar presence that was her only place of safety during that time.
When the Other was in control, it was easy to forget that her hands and feet were bound and her legs would not support her weight. When they remembered, they could both forget. She knows she doesn't need it now, but she misses it – even if the bruises on her hips from her failed attempts at scrambling for the door have faded, there is still a lingering ache in her mind, and she finds herself wishing for an incense burner so that maybe she can regain some of that secure feeling. Although, she thinks with a small smile, the scent of Logan's cigars has come to hold a similar meaning.
Their kidnapper has also faded from her mind, and she does not regret that at all. She has been able to access enough of his memories to tell Xavier what the police wanted to know. He was working as a photographer's assistant at several high schools in the Meridian area when he first saw Marie and Mary Anne while taking their senior portraits. He had been fired the day before he kidnapped Marie, but the damage had already been done. He knew her home address.
Beyond that, she can't tell them much. That requires lengthy probes into the imprints of him in her mind and she refuses to touch him for that long. She shook and cried after seeing the day he took her senior portrait, knowing what he thought and how he felt about her. Logan held her tightly and growled softly, "That's enough, Chuck."
She yawns and stretches, glancing out the window to see that it is a bright and sunny afternoon. For once, Logan is not in the chair beside her bed, but she isn't worried. She can hear him in the bathroom just off her room, the water in the sink running as he washes his hands. She slips out of bed, sliding on the sunglasses he gave her last week when she complained that everything was so bright.
Her eyes are beginning to return to normal, but full sunlight still sends shards of pain shooting through her, and she is taking her healing as it comes. Logan exits the bathroom to find her standing by the window, leaning against the wall with her hand resting on the sill.
"You feelin' okay?" he asks her softly, and she has to smile. If she had a dollar for every time he says that…
She nods, murmuring, "I'm doin' good, Logan. Thanks."
He comes to stand behind her, coaxing her into leaning back against him gently. She cannot help melting into him a little bit, savoring the aura of safety and protection he gives off. "Nice day today."
She agrees, and takes it one step further. "Do you think … maybe we could go outside for a little while today?"
"Sure, darlin', if you're feelin' up to it," he says immediately. "You wanna go now?"
She is dressed in soft pajamas – she cannot bear the thought of wearing a nightgown – and her hair is mussed, but she thinks suddenly that the only person she really cares about seeing her has already seen her at her absolute worst, and she really doesn't have the energy to change clothes. Getting dressed drains her ridiculously fast.
She nods, and he takes her hand in his own, walking slowly with her. She knows he is prepared to carry her if her body is still too weak for the journey – he's done it before – and she clings to him gratefully as they move down the hall.
She knows her journey to recovery is only beginning, that there are still many questions she does not have the answers to and many places in her soul and mind that will take longer to heal, but she is confident that everything is going to be all right eventually. She looks up at Logan's face and cannot help but smile at the warmth in his expression.
"No matter what happens," he told her when she was still in the hospital bed in the lab, "I'll take care of you."
She believes him and holds on to his promise when the path out of her trauma seems too steep to climb. If there is one thing she knows any more, it is him, and he makes her believe that the worst is over. She thinks she might make it now.