It was dark when he arrived; the moon was hidden behind clouds that were pregnant with rain. It would pour any second- he could smell it.
He stalked across the great lawn that expanded in front of the mansion, bigger than a football field, his gunny sack stuffed to the brim and thrown carelessly over one shoulder. Everyone would be asleep.
Logan. I'm glad to see you
Logan seethed, a low growl tickling out of his throat. Count on Professor X to sense his arrival, even in the dead of night. And to invade his mind as easily as Logan healed from a wound. Just to get his goat, Logan used the casual nickname he knew the professor hated.
What's up, Chuck?
Mild amusement ran directly from Professor Charles Xavier's mind into Logan's.
Join me for a cup of tea?
It was more than a request and they both knew it. Logan shook his head free of the mental connection and headed for Professor X's office.
Logan glanced down at the cup and saucer that was offered to him, raised an eyebrow, and suffered the dainty china in silence out of respect for the Professor. There was a bottle of Jack Daniels at the bottom of his duffel that had his name on it; but right now he had to play house with the cup of Earl Grey. He sniffed it, nostrils flaring, and sipped it with the straightest face he could.
"I am glad you have come, Logan." Xavier was staring at him knowingly, like every thought in Logan's head was an open book that could be read by first graders. Logan felt his lips pulling back into a snarl; he hated the way his defenses were automatically unlocked around the prof. Fuck this, he thought. Let's cut to the chase.
"How is she?" It started as a growl, ended in tightly controlled fear.
"She's fine, Logan, just fine. Hank McCoy is our resident physician while Jean and Scott are on their honeymoon. He says she is in perfect physical health."
The Wolverine in him snorted. There were a thousand different ways to be fucked up in the head, even with a perfect bill of health. Hell, he was humanity's poster boy of health, and there was hardly anything 'normal' about him.
"I understand your concerns. We have them too, which is why I called."
Professor Xavier poured himself another cup of tea and glanced at Logan with bright, keen eyes. "Rogue is...she is having a very difficult time adjusting to her new situation. Ororo has been meeting with her on a daily basis but Rogue refuses to talk about it."
Logan could picture it: a mansion filled with sympathetic, pitying X-Men ready to let Rogue cry on their shoulders, but not understanding that maybe she didn't need a shoulder. She had too much of him inside her; she needed to fight. She doesn't need a shrink, he thought angrily, forcefully, and the thought slipped across the room to Xavier, who nodded.
"You are correct; she does not need a 'shrink.' She needs a friend. She needs you, Logan."
Logan rolled his shoulders uncomfortably and shifted his weight in the delicate office chair he was shoved into. It creaked alarmingly. He slouched even further down on his spine, regarding the older man in the wheelchair across from him under a furrowed brow.
"...who did this to her?"
That got ol' Chuck, Logan noticed. The professor had to set down his cup because his hand shook, his aura of control slipping a few notches. Xavier sighed deeply.
"Rogue, Gambit, and Jubilee were sent to investigate a surge of mutant kinetic energy on a remote island off the coast of California. It was...my fault," he whispered, a hand pressed to his bald pate. "I was so sure it was a minor glitch in Cerebro; nothing to worry about."
Logan's fingers tightened around the cup in anticipation.
"While sweeping the island, Rogue discovered an abandoned military base, hidden from satellite detection...but the base was not as abandoned as she thought. She stumbled across a faction of the Brotherhood while they were conducting genetic experiments."
The tea cup broke in Logan's hands. The Wolverine was howling inside. Professor X calmly passed Logan his handkerchief to mop up the spilled tea. A thin red line ran down Logan's hand; a shard of the china had sliced through his flesh. As Logan watched, uninterested, the wound closed leaving only a smear of blood that he rubbed off on his jeans.
"They...they had taken her and fled before we even knew she was missing."
"Who." It was more of a growl than a question.
"Dr. Sinister. And Mystique."
That bitch. Third time's a charm, lady; when I see you next you're dead.
Xavier cleared his throat; the homicidal thought was apparent even without his superior mind-reading abilities. "We located her and dispatched the X-Men immediately to rescue her, but we were...too late. Dr. Sinister had already used her as a test subject for his...machine."
Logan closed his eyes, rubbed his fingers over his temples. He remembered the conversation from two days ago; the phone call that had halted his personal quest for answers in its tracks and caused him to race back to the wayward team of mutants that always seemed to need his help.
No, not the team. Just one.
Rogue. His Marie.
The call. Professor X; cool and precise but lacking that air of calm that normally surrounded him. "She's very vulnerable right now, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately she will not talk with any of us about it. Everything has changed, she's not sure who she is any more. I thought perhaps you would be the ideal person to speak with her. She trusts you, more than any of the X-Men. Will you come?"
Like he had a choice.
Logan glanced up; the Prof was staring at him in that calm, omnipotent way. The urge to drink was second only to the urge to tear something up...tear someone up for letting this happen to the kid.
Out of all the thoughts and phrases in his head, there were only three words Logan could think of to say that would be appropriate in civil company.
"Where is she?"
Not much had changed in the mansion in the years he had been gone. Logan treaded lightly down the hallway; a heavy, determined predator seeking his target, but also stealthy in his hunt. Most people who first met him were surprised that such a big, broad-shouldered man could move so gracefully, and...well, that's where his advantage came in.
Logan remembered so little of his past that what was there in his head was sharp and clear, like looking at life through a magnified lens.
Waking up in the med center two whole days after his run in with Magneto and Sabretooth, when Rogue had almost died. Would have died, if it wasn't for his healing power. Knowing it was time to move on again. Bantering with Jeannie, her sly offhand remark that Rogue was obviously enamored of her burly protector.
"Well, you can tell her that my heart belongs to someone else."
What a lie. What a cheap bald-faced lie, said in the heat of the moment, trying to win over another man's woman. The truth was...Rogue was just as much nestled in his heart as Jean was- he loved Rogue, but it was a different kind of love. Jean Grey he had wanted, desired, but Rogue was a kindred spirit, a loner who he had given his protection to. And that wasn't something he gave lightly.
She knew before anyone else that he was leaving again. She knew better than anyone that after Jean's apparent death he hadn't wanted to talk about his fluffy fucking bunny feelings; he wanted to hunt, to tear, to hurt, to rage...Rogue accepted his cycle of grief, didn't shy away from it but didn't let him wallow in it either. She knew him, sometimes better than he did. And that was a scary fucking thing.
Professor X had told him in which wing her room was, but even if he hadn't Logan would know. Her scent led him straight to the second floor, to a dark wood door.
With everyone pussyfootin' around what happened to her, speaking in code words, no wonder she was afraid to open up. Logan grunted, dropped his bag, and knocked on the door; three sharp raps.
"Hey." He tried to sound casual, like he stopped by her room in the dead of the night every day. Unfortunately it came out as a short bark, gruff and raw. Great.
There was no answer.
Logan shifted uncomfortably. He may have understood her, but he sure as hell was not a shrink; talking didn't come easy.
"The ah...Prof told me you've been having a hard time at this and..." He growled on a sigh. "I'm not good at these kinds of things...but I'm here if you need me."
Logan was exhausted; he was pissed at the world, at the team for letting this happen to such a wonderful kid, and he was way too sober for a Saturday night. He rapped on the door again, hard, and his next words came out way more harshly than he intended.
"Look kid, you gonna make me talk through a door all night?"
The door opened so fast that Logan actually jumped back, his claws shifting in his hands just enough to feel the points prick through his skin. A petite Japanese girl in a short nightshirt stood with one hand on the doorknob and one hand filled with fizzing lights that crackled and smelled of pure electricity. When she saw who it was, she closed her fist; the lights were extinguished.
"Oh. It's you," she said.
Logan raised an eyebrow and glanced beyond the girl into the room. Another girl, this one a sleepy-eyed brunette in a gray sweatshirt, was sitting up in bed looking fairly interested in the entire exchange. The entire room reeked of Rogue, but she was nowhere to be seen.
"You know me?" he growled.
The girl nodded, shifting her weight from a defensive stance to a casual slouch against the doorframe. "You're the Wolverine. You don't remember me, do you?"
Logan racked his brain. "...no."
"I'm Jubilee. Last time I saw you was like...almost three years ago. You helped rescue us from Stryker."
A face was starting to take shape in his head: round and smiling and accented with big dangly earrings and a proto-punk haircut. But that had been years ago; the person standing in front of him was more of a woman than a teenager. Had it really been that long?
"You look different," he finally thought of to say.
"You look the same," she countered.
By now the roommate had deemed it in her best interest to join in the conversation. This one he remembered; she was the first mutant he had seen to use their abilities so casually as she strolled through a closed door as if it hadn't been there.
He nodded at her. "Kitty."
She nodded back, looking extremely flattered that he remembered. "That's me. You're looking for Rogue, aren't you?"
"She's not here."
Instinctively he sniffed the air and then glowered.
Jubilee added quickly, "She's here, of course, she's just not here right now."
It was the darkest part of night. "Do you know where she is?"
"She likes to walk...by the lake..." Jubilee offered.
"By herself? And you guys let her?"
"It's the Professor's property," Kitty defended. "She's a big girl."
Logan told her in no uncertain terms what he thought of that attitude.
"There's no need to be rude," she said.
"If she comes back-" he bit out.
"We'll let her know you were looking for her," Jubilee said, her hand on the doorknob as a definite sign that the conversation was over. He grunted out a noncommittal thank you and turned from the door. He heard Kitty's whispered giggle to Jubilee before the door shut completely.
"You're right, he does have a nice ass!"
Logan shook his head ruefully and stalked off in the direction of the guest room.