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A shrill scream...sharp even against the wind. A flash of white. Apple blossoms. A glove hand flies past his face as a male voice screams out, "ROUGE!"

Marie! NO! He isn't sure if the words are his thoughts or if he is actually saying them as she flies past me, weightless in the jet's vacuum. Her eyes lock on his. Soundless screaming. Old, brown eyes glaring angrily, asking why he didn't keep his promise? Damn it, he thinks, I'm trying. He strains, but can't move. His hands...cold metal cuffs. Cloth brushes over his knuckles and he snatch it tightly. Long fingers wrap around his.

He look up to Marie's face inches from his own. A new scent fills the air between them...a little of everything feminine mixed with a little of something else. The clothed hand lets go of his, suddenly moving up from his knees. He feels the kid press against him, with a look he never want to see on her face. He doesn't give a shit if she marries or not. But then, the face changes. Mystique's face moves in close to his.

"What do you really want?" she asks, voice barely above a whisper. She pulls back, eyes grey overlapping brown on a pretty Asian face marred in a grimace. No, he thinks, trying to pull away, no, not again. The grey falls away leaving the brown eyes again. Her mouth opens but only a gurgle comes out. Something warm and sticky slides down his hand. Smells more metallic then it should be. So thick he can practically taste it.

"Girl's flirt with the dangerous guy, Logan," a voice sounds above him. Swallowing, he look up. Oh god, not her.

"They don't take them home," she says, softly taking his hand in both of her own. He look down. Claws covered in blood, far to much. She looks at him, smiling, and suddenly he can hear Striker's voice right beside him.


He's right next to her now. No, please. She leans in, eyes closed. Jean, stop. Her lips brush against his. Claws glistening...

"NO!" the harsh scream rips painfully through his throat. He hears fabric nearby tear, jerking him to wakefulness. He glances around, half-afraid and half-glad the room is dark. The smell of blood still hangs in the air. The alarm clock flashes the symbols 2:00 A.M., annoyingly bright in the darkness. He glances at my hands, claws embedded deeply in the mattress. Damn it, he thinks, trying to retract them. At first, they don't slide back. He snarls, jerking them up. Bits of cotton rise up out of the deep gashes in the bed. A spring hangs out loosely, pulled out of place. The metal slides back into his hands cold and unnatural.

He lets out a sigh, running his palms down his face and ignores their shaking. Weakness was never something he could afford before. He can't afford it now, not with...not with the kids. He sits up, enjoying the feeling of cool, wooden floors beneath his feet. Squinting at the clock, he rubs the bridge of his nose as though already expecting the headaches of the day. Twisting his neck, he feels it satisfactorily crack as the metal plated bones slide against each other. Standing up, he walks towards the door.

It's been years since the kid had come to him either half-embarrassed and half-terrified by her own dreams, or still embarrassed after having sensed his. Still, he wears the wife-beater to bed, more out of habit now, so she can make contact with him without fear of her powers. Of course, in losing her, he gained at least ten more kids. Sometimes, he doesn't understand why they come to him. He can smell the fear in most of them as they approach him or even look up at him. Sometimes he thinks himself the stuff of their nightmares. Sometimes he wonders if that's why they come to him, letting the Nightmare turn on itself.

He paces down the corridor in front of his room, sniffing the air for anyone foreign. All he gets is the overpowering scent of a flower garden mixed in with sweat, cheap cologne, aftershave, and the ill-fated fruit concoctions the female students like to call shampoo. A little further ahead everything is overpowered by a heavy scent of brimstone, signaling the Elf has been there. He reverts his gag reflex to an annoyed growl, turning into the next hall to avoid the smell. The bright moonlight flows into the hall through large ornate windows. It is the one wing in the entire school that hadn't received tremendous damage.

He find himself uncomfortable here. The sharp light shines as if it were a sunny afternoon, but the wispy glow cast deeper shadows along the hall. Instinct battles with the rational half of his consciousness over whether to proceed forward or not. He steps forward, listening intently. A loud snore rumbles three doors down followed by the creak of a mattress. Outside, the leaves rattle shakily on their branches. His arms tense. He can feel the tips of the claws pressing against the flesh of his knuckles. Without thought, he sniffs the air. A familiar scent of older cologne assaults his senses. Scott has walked through here.

Immediately, a series of emotions fill him. Annoyance. Empathy. Sadness. Most of all need. A natural instinct to assert his position over the weaker male. Relaxing himself, he walks through the hallway. All the while ignoring the nagging voice inside his head telling him it is a lie. A voice telling him what he truly needed was her approval. A voice that makes it hurt in ways that won't heal as he catches the imaginary whiff of her scent, eternally mingled with Scott's. He locks the voice away, as deeply as he could. Weakness was never something he could afford before. He can't afford it now.

A sudden noise startles him. He glances at the kitchen now, slightly stunned. Inside he can hear the muffled giggle and shuffle of teenage girls He can't help but smile just a little. The kids like to think of themselves as so sneaky. Between his hearing and the Professor's talents, he isn't sure just where they get the idea. A sudden idea enters his mind, broadening his smile. This place is a school after all.

He opens the door, unsurprised to see the lights turned off. Even in the dark, though, he can see the tell-tale yellow of at least one student crouching down behind the renovated counter. He can definitively smell another person in the room, female as well. The last one is a girl, but there's something odd about her. Emotions are subtle things to smell for, but he had had years of practice. Some things, like fear or uncertainty, were easy to read. Others, like sadness, were much more difficult. This one's scent was practically made of emotion. There was no definitiveness to it all as every smell collided with the each other.

"So," he says, hearing several intakes of breath, "Are you going to come out or do I need to start searching?"

A loud groan comes from the one in yellow as she pops her head out from beneath the counter. Her coal black eyes fix him with an annoyed glare.

"We weren't doing anything, Mr. Logan," she states coolly, signaling to her companions. Two young women, one brown haired the other a red-head, rise into view. He feels a slight jolt at the second girl, memories of hair a similar shade floating through his mind.

"Quiet, Jubilee," the brunette exclaims, glaring at her friend, "We're in enough trouble as it is."

"Hey, I wasn't the one laughing, Kitty" shoots back the other girl, "If you hadn't made so much noise..."

"It was probably your yellow clothing that got us caught," argues Kitty, "That shirt is so bright you could..."

"Guys!" the red-head's voice is soft, but strong. It almost seems to belong to someone far older then the girl. Logan blinks, surprised, before crossing his arms and fixing the girls with his fiercest glare.

"I seem to recall," he starts, "The Professor setting some ground rules about students being in bed by a certain time."

A disgusted look crosses Jubilee's face, which instantly falls the moment Logan turns his eyes on her. A small, but amused smile crosses the red-head's face.

"You mind telling me what was so necessary to break curfew and come down here?" He demands.

An abashed look cover all three faces. Kitty looks down, flushing brightly. Jubilee crosses her arms, glaring at Logan. The red-head's cool demeanor doesn't fade.


"I-it was just," Kitty starts, "Jubilee was having a...we just thought it might be a good idea, you know. Try to get back to the way things were. The Professor's always going on about that...and..." The argument died down on her lips as she looked up at Logan.

A feeling of regret washes over him. It is obvious these girls are adjusting, trying to put there lives back together Again, the small measures of doubt assails him on his degree of guilt for shredding said lives. Even though the curfew was important, now more then ever, Logan can't bring himself to cause them a degree of pain. Even the slight discomfort caused by getting into trouble.

Sighing, he lets his arms drop and says, "Fine, I'll let you get away with it once."

A look of utterly relief crosses Jubilee and Kitty's face before he lifts a finger and adds in a snarl, "Just once."

The looks of relief all but drop as the girls nod.

"Now get to bed," he orders, "And don't let me catch you again."

Instantly, the two are gone, leaving behind their half drunk cocoa. That and, Logan realizes, their friend. The young woman remains pinned to her spot, staring at him with a frown.

"What do you want?" he demands, deciding to keep the stern tone. The young woman smiles slightly, tilting her head to the side.

"You surprise me," she says, her soft voice unusually loud in the quiet kitchen.

"Oh, how's that?" he replies, picking up the cups. He ignores the burning sensation as he poured their contents down the drain. He turns around to suddenly see her leaning against the counter, studying him. Close up, he can swear he smells the lingering remains of Scott's cologne on her clothing.

"For all your common sense," she replies, "You really don't know much about the people around you."

"What do you mean?" he mutters, glaring at her.

"There's a lot of doubt in you around them," she says simply, "But I don't sense any reason for it. They don't really see you as something to fear exactly."

Logan feels a slight chill at her words. Had the kid read his thoughts?

"I think you better get to bed, kid," he growls, trying to frighten her off, "Before you start talking about things you don't understand."

This time, the girl chuckles. Standing up, she looks him directly in the eye. Her sharp pale face is clear in the darkness, just like the moonlight. The brown eyes seem to protect their shadowy secrets.

"Alright," she says, "But just hear me out. Someone once told me, 'There's nothing to fear but fear itself.' Now I may not know much about you, Mr. Logan, or about what happened after the attack on the school. I'm sure I don't want to. But I do know I'm going to be dealing with the results of it for a long time, and I know it hit you more then most people. I know that the only real thing to fear is outside these walls, with the people who fear us. What I want you to know, Mr. Logan, is that we don't fear you. And you shouldn't fear us."

With that, the girl turns and starts walking towards the door. Midway there she pauses and adds, "He wasn't the only man she loved, Mr. Logan, he was just the one she thought was an easier choice."

Finished, the little red-head opens the door and vanishes into the hall. Logan stands there for a while, repeating her words over again in his head. More emotions fill him, but he forces them down. He could never afford weakness. He could never afford fear. But he had never really felt he could live without them either. Drained now, he walks out of the kitchen. The girls' scent still lingers in the air, but he doesn't care. Tired, he makes his way back to his room and falls on the torn mattress. His breath slows as he falls into a dreamless sleep.

A. N. Well, there it is. Sorry (again) if it's weird. It sort of popped in my head as I was writing "Once Upon...". Hope you liked it, and reviews are appreciated.