Things got much better, because as soon as the line of fire started to die in the sky, there was a huge, Jurassic Park sized thud.
"Well, that's not good," Mat noted.
There was another thud, and yet another. Something big was walking, and while it was impossible to say in which direction it was moving, Marc was willing to bet it was coming towards them. It was exactly how their day was going. Wait, day? Week, month, year, lifetime, complete existence. "Everybody get to the trees," he said, gesturing to the others. "I'll hold it off as long as I can."
"With what?" Xander asked. "Your stunning good looks?"
"Thanks sweetheart, but I'm taken."
"This thing sounds like an ogre," Helga interjected. "And you're a Human. I don't care if you have guns, it ain't gonna do shit to something as tall as a skyscraper."
He looked at her curiously. "Ogres exist?"
"In some dimensions, yeah."
"What hurts 'em?"
She had to think about that a moment, as the thuds continued, and seemed to be growing louder. Nothing was blocking the sun, so he took that as a good sign. "Battery acid, magnesium, magic."
"Anyone got any of that?"
"You know the answer," Giles replied icily.
"Okay then, we're fucked. What a shock. Get to the trees, I'll do my best to annoy it before it stomps me flat."
"Fuck you," Helga snapped. "I'm the only one with any kind of power here; I'm still a demon. I'll distract it."
"I'm a mercenary, hon. I make it my job to be the most annoying thing around."
"And I'm an assassin. No one's a bigger dick than me."
"Dick Cheney," Xander said.
"No one here is a bigger dick than me," Helga corrected, giving him a dirty look. Xander was so used to getting dirty looks he only shrugged.
The thudding was pretty much answering the question for them, as they were running out of time. Marc decided to make the decision for both of them. "Fine, we'll keep it occupied, you guys get to the trees."
"And you'll keep it occupied for what, thirty seconds?"Giles asked.
Marc shot him a harsh look. "You have any better ideas, I'm open to 'em."
Of course there were no other ideas. Any way you sliced this, they were screwed.
As the others drifted off, Mark asked Helga, "Got a plan?"
She shrugged. "Don't die."
"Yeah, that's all I got too." It wasn't much, but what else did they have?
Finally a shadow blocked out the sun, and Marc thought that he was seeing things (it was still weird having flat, normal eyes). They were looking at something vaguely humanoid, but outlined in dark orange fire, like it was covered in neon tubing. But the outline was it. Inside it was nothing but blackness, night trapped in a light cage. It looked about three stories tall.
"Is that an ogre? "he asked, doubting it.
She shook her head, staring up at it in wonder. "No."
"What is it?"
"I've got no fucking clue." After staring at it a moment, she asked, "Is it one dimensional? How the hell is it thudding?"
"It's the manifestation of a pan-dimensional being. It exists in several dimensions at the same time, so it's not two dimensional, it's actually forty eight dimensional. But 'cause your eyes can't see like that, it looks flat to you."
They both turned, and Bob was standing there, grinning like a kid who got the last cookie out of the jar.
"Where the fuck have you been?" Helga shouted, punching him in the arm. "Asshole! You were holding back for a last minute entrance!"
"Nope. Just couldn't find you. And no wonder, I thought this dimension had collapsed by now."
"What the fuck is that thing?" Marc asked, pointing at the neon lined shadow.
"Gesundheit," he replied.
Bob grinned even wider at that. "It's a guardian. It sees you as trespassers. You're not supposed to be here."
"We don't want to be here! Can't you tell it that?"
"I'll try,"Bob suddenly launched himself upward, like he had a flying mutation. As the others came out of the woods, Mat asked, "He can fly?"
"He's an energy being," Giles told him. "He can do anything he bloody wants."
Bob flew right up in front of the building sized guardian, and it stopped in its tracks. For a minute, nothing seemed to happen, but the guardian soon turned and thudded off from the direction it came in. Bob flew back down, hovering for a moment above the earth before landing in front of them. "This is really weird. It had no idea Saurva's gone, and has been gone for a long time."
"The owner of this dump?" Marc guessed.
Bob nodded. "He's been exiled to Earth, 'cause he pissed off the wrong god. His realm should have collapsed in on itself. Mine did."
"Oh god, there's another you down there?" Helga asked, shaking her head in exasperation.
"Not really. He's a tortoise."
"What?" Xander asked first.
"He was trapped in the body of a tortoise. He's at the San Diego Zoo, actually, I've seen him."
"And you didn't help him?" Giles asked.
"Why would I? He has no idea he used to be a god, and he's really happy. He's got three hots and a cot, all the lettuce he can eat, his own pool unmarred by predators, and he can lay eggs without fear of them being eaten." At their looks, he said, "He's a female tortoise. Gods, remember? Gender doesn't matter. Anyways, he was always a dick, as this realm indicates, and he deserved so much worse, so I don't see helping him. Besides, when he dies as a tortoise, he'll be back in god form, probably remembering how happy he was as a torty. If that ain't torture, I don't know what is."
Xander scowled, and looked seriously pissed. "What is it with you gods? You're all a bunch of fucking nuts!"
Bob just smiled at him. "What's your point, mate?"
Xander looked like he was about to have a hissy fit, so Marc quickly interjected, "Who brought us here? Yama?"
Bob looked almost relieved for the subject change. "No. But I've got no idea who did, which is why I had such a hard time findin' you. There isn't enough residual energy to tell me who's responsible. All I can say is they're not here now." Bob squinted up into the sky, as if there was something to see. "Weird. Who'd use Saurva's old realm? Who knew it was even still here? Strange." After a moment of staring at nothing, he clapped his hands together, and said, "Well, time to get you back. On the plus side, you missed the fight. Slackers."
"You took out Yama already?" Helga responded. She sounded disappointed.
"I didn't. The Gorgons did."
"How'd you get them involved?" Helga asked. "I thought they didn't like to get involved in this internecine shit."
"Yama did something stupid. That's the thing with arrogant pricks – sometimes they neither know nor care who they're pissing off, until it bites them in the ass. So, I told the Fravartin we were leavin', which is the only reason I didn't hafta boot him into that dimension where everybody looks like Donald Duck. Better put your goggles back on, Marc, or you'll be in for a nasty shock. I think it's afternoon back in L.A., and the smog ain't enough to protect you."
"What, it's over?" Marc asked. "Just like that?"
"Just like that. I guess someone wanted you guys to sit this one out."
He shook his head and shrugged. "No clue. Probably doesn't matter either. I mean, if they were evil, they'd have already killed you."
Marc was sure he heard an unspoken "maybe" in that sentence, and scowled at him as he lowered his goggles. "Unless they had something else planned for us."
"Yeah, that's a possibility, but they missed out, didn't they?" He gave him a teeth bearing grin that was almost nothing but false confidence. For once in his life, Bob didn't know anything, and it bothered him, although he was trying to hide it as best he could. What could Bob not know? That in itself was kind of troubling.
"Could it be one of your smart ass god friends playing a prank on all of us?"Helga wondered, giving him a knowing glare.
Bob half shrugged. "Could be. Those that do have a sense of humor are pretty kinky."
Xander was shaking his head in disgust. "Just get us out of here, Mister Happy Pants."
"Happy Pants?" Mat asked.
"He's got like eight million kids," Xander explained. "How is he not a happy pants?"
Helga grabbed Bob's arm, and whispered in his ear, "This is serious. Somebody did this to us for a reason."
Marc agreed. But would Bob ever tell them the truth? He didn't like to gamble, but he bet not.
Angel bolted up in his chair and stood up, suddenly certain something was wrong. He wasn't completely sure what, but ... something.
He darted out into the front room of the office to find Bren behind the receptionist desk, typing something out onto the computer, while Rogue and Xander sat on the sofa, debating over whose turn it was to make the coffee. This struck him as bizarre for some reason and stopped him short.
Bren noticed him first. "Something wrong?"
Angel wanted to say 'You're dead', but he didn't, mainly because he didn't know why he thought he was or should be. He also thought they should be fighting zombies, but again, why? He rubbed his forehead, feeling the same kind of reeling disorientation he did when he was dropped into another universe – or out of it. Was that what happened? Had reality been warped or somehow reset?
One named popped into his head: Bob. Damn it. What had he done? "I don't know," Angel admitted. "Has anything ... unusual happened this morning?"
"It's Los Angeles," Xander said. "Unusual is normal. If I didn't see a hooker dressed like a clown masturbating into a mailbox on Sunset, that would be unusual."
"Ew!" Rogue exclaimed, wrinkling her nose in disgust. "You're makin' that up. You have not ever seen that."
"I have," he insisted. "I've also seen a fat guy dressed like Spider-Man fighting a guy dressed like a syphilis ravaged version of Spongebob Squarepants near Mann's Chinese Theater. Almost made me homesick for Sunnydale."
"Everything weird happens on Sunset," Bren said. "What the hell were you doing there? I thought you claimed to be straight."
Xander gave him an evil look. "Laugh it up, bi boy. I drive by it on my way to work."
"Isn't that congested?" Angel asked, pretty sure that was some of the worst traffic within the city (and that was saying something.)
Xander shrugged. "Sure, but the entertainment value's priceless."
"As long as you have your priorities in order," Angel said, deadpan. He was sure something about all of this was wrong – besides the obvious – but he couldn't place it, and the more time passed, the more foolish he felt. Why did he think Bren was dead? And for a moment, he didn't know why Xander was here, as he was sure he was missing.
He was sure Bob had done something ... but he no longer knew what or why.
Well, if he did do something, what were the odds he'd ever tell him the truth? Probably very bad.
Angel stood there for a long time, wondering if this was something he should be worried about. Ultimately he decided no. As long as everyone was okay and accounted for, there was no need to worry at all.
Logan didn't so much as wake up as he fell out of bed.
He instantly rolled up to his feet, hands curled into fists, claws ready to pop, but as he looked around the darkened room, he was alone. He couldn't scent anyone, but the room was very familiar: his room at Xavier's. Now he wasn't angry, he was just disoriented. Was he supposed to be here? For some reason he was sure he'd been in ... Japan? No, Los Angeles. Wait ... both? That was impossible, but he felt two distinct tugs of memory. All he knew was he wasn't sure he was supposed to be here. So why was he?
He stood scratching his head for a moment, then went into the bathroom to drain his bladder and see if there was any still healing injuries on his face.
He didn't see any, and was looking at his chest – for some reason, he expected a hole in the center – when he heard Bob singing, "There's an audience, and someone will remember this ..."
He was too accustomed to his rude entries to even be surprised by it anymore. "What the fuck did you do?"
"Me? I just got here, mate." He turned to see Bob in his rock star gear – leather pants, boots, "Sausage Victim" t-shirt – grinning at him with an innocence he never could have possessed. Logan just glared at him until he said, "Fine. What do you remember?"
That shouldn't have been such a hard question to answer. But Logan tried to force the memories into some kind of coherence, and couldn't quite. Wasn't that always the way? Eventually, he had to concede, "It isn't memories, exactly. It's ... feelings. I'm not supposed to be here. Or at least I wasn't here ... I dunno." He rubbed his eyes, and guessed, "We had another god fight, didn't we?"
"What makes you say that?"
"'Cause I always feel this out of sorts after a god fight. I'm guessin' we won?"
"Well, we're still here, aren't we?"
Logan threw up his hands, shaking his head at Bob's non answer. He should be used to them by now, but he didn't like them. "You gonna tell me why I woke up feeling so weird?"
He hesitated, not quite sure how to explain it. When he realized what it was, he was baffled by his own initial reaction. "Happiness. I was happy."
"Weird for you, I guess."
He frowned at him, but of course he was right. If he was a normal person, it wouldn't have baffled him."What the hell did we do?"
"Saved the world from a cranky pants death god." He paused briefly, before adding, "You know, I'm not a big believer in fate or destiny or the whatnot and the hey hey, but I do believe that some good can sometimes come out of tragedy. Not that it's good to suffer, or that it always happens, but sometimes a positive comes out of it. I mean, as much as it killed me to lose my first wife and kids, it was that loss that led me to discovering I was really a god. I probably would have found out eventually, without their deaths – and believe me, I'd have preferred that – but I can't deny that that was a factor. As painful as it was, the loss turned out to be necessary."
"What, you mean recently? No one to my knowledge."
"So what's this depressing pep talk about?"
"Nothing, I just felt like being Yoda for a moment."
He didn't quite believe that, but he could hardly force the truth out of him. "You done? Or are you gonna levitate a spaceship and make me kiss my sister first?"
"Ooh, could I?" Bob rubbed his hands together and grinned maniacally. Logan rolled his eyes and turned away, wondering why he ever gave him an opportunity to make a smart assed comment.
"Look, I'm just saying while shitty things happen to you, maybe good does come out of it. I mean, after the first two or three shitty things that happened to you, the others were pretty superfluous. But they made you the man you are today."
"The assassin with a heart of gold."
"Don't be that way. Let me have a profound moment."
Logan sighed. "Fine." He did know what Bob was trying to say, and he appreciated the sentiment, although he was honestly worried that Bob felt the need to point this out. Did something happen to him that was particularly bad? He was pretty sure he died again – he was always a little discombobulated after he died – but he imagined that wasn't it. Death was no longer an eyebrow raiser, although that was pretty fucking troubling by itself.
Suddenly he got it. Bob was trying to comfort him because, while he'd never be truly happy again, at least he could fight like a motherfucker. Then he realized he thought he was in Japan, he was in Japan and happy, and he thought of Mariko with a sickening twist in his gut. Oh shit ...
Bob put a hand on his back, and said, "No, mate, don't think like that. You should be proud of yourself. You bluffed a death god and saved the world. Not many people could have pulled that off."
He didn't feel bad at all, wondered what he had been thinking about, and guessed that Bob had probably pushed him. Over what and why he couldn't say, though the idea of it annoyed him for a second. "Being crazy helped."
"Doesn't it always?" Bob backed up, grinning like an idiot, and while he was still annoyed at him, he felt ... almost good. He had done something good, hadn't he? It would have been nicer if it paid off more, but hey, can't have everything. Could you?
He turned to ask Bob if he could get a little something for this – peace of mind, a new bike, the undying love of a few hundred bikini clad nymphets – but Bob was gone, as abruptly as he had shown up. Figured.
He had no hope of getting back to sleep, so he went ahead and took a shower, trying for a while to remember what happened before giving up. He wasn't even sure what he was trying to remember anymore.
He was getting dressed when there was an almost timid knock at his door. He shrugged into a t-shirt and said, "Yeah?"
"Monosyllabic. Well, at least I know I found the right room," a familiar but unexpected female voice replied.
He felt a little twinge in his heart, and opened the door to make sure. Yep, it was her. "Naomi, what're you doing here?"
She was standing there in the hall, dressed in a casual wardrobe of jeans, a red and black sweater, and an oversized green suede jacket that was probably's a man. She'd gotten a new haircut, short and spiky, frosted electric blue at the tips. She looked good, although tired. "Well, I just got out of Canada, and I figured what the hell. Might as well stop by. So, did I miss anything?"
"What, here? Nah. Usual shit."
He shrugged. "Depends on your definition of one."
"Oh boy, a newbie and no one told me," Shaheen said, coming up to them and pulling out a PDA.
"She's not really a newbie," Logan said, and then introduced them. "Naomi, this is Doctor Shaheen Khoury. Doc, this is Naomi Deschanel, also known as Electra."
"Stupid, stupid name," Naomi said. "I'd rather change it to Volt or something cooler."
"That might be too close to the code name the kids decided I should have," Shaheen said, scrolling through the records on her PDA.
Logan knew she didn't have a code name and was determined to find one, but hated every single one suggested. The closest they'd come to one was Battery, which sort of explained her powers, but was, admittedly, bad. (Although a pretty kick ass Metallica song. Him pointing that out hadn't helped matters at all.) "What did the kids pick?" he wondered.
"Jolt. Which I believe is a type of cola."
"It makes you sound electrical," he said.
"Or like a speedster," Naomi said.
Shaheen nodded in general agreement. "I know, I don't like it any better than Jump Start, which was the runner up, but sounded just a bit too much like an after school program for me. Ah, here we go, Electra, electrical channeling and manipulation, ooh, another level three mutant here to make me feel inadequate. Nice to meet you."
They shook hands – Naomi had gloves on, so Shaheen didn't get an unpleasant shock – and then Naomi asked, "What's level three mean?"
"Oh, it's a classification system Xavier cooked up," Shaheen explained. "A level three is pretty much as high as a mutant could get, save for a mythical level four, which would have nigh apocalyptic powers. It means if you wanted to, you could really fuck shit up; your powers could disable or destroy several people and/or city blocks. Xavier was a level three, Magneto, Jean, Storm. I'm a level one, which is for us localized, puny ass bastards. I just boost the powers of other mutants, so I could only aid and abet someone else."
"Hey, ain't I a level one?" he interjected. "I take exception to being called a puny ass."
"No, you're a qualified level two."
"It's not so much your powers that are dangerous, it's you. You could destroy that city block, it'd just take you much longer."
"Ah. So I'm in on the lethal personality clause."
Naomi gave him a tight but affectionate smile. "If the label fits, wear it."
"Very funny." He supposed he should take some pride in that too. What he lacked in powers he more than made up for in an insane refusal to face reality and give the fuck up.
Shaheen finally lowered the PDA, and said, "Since you're here, Logan, I guess you can take over the whole danger room exercise today. That'll spare me from having to deal with Zehra all by myself."
"She being her drama queen self?"
"Danger room?" Naomi asked, smiling awkwardly. "That's that holographic practice thing, right?"
"Right." Logan told her. "Wanna see it? Hell, wanna join in?"
"There's an idea," Shaheen said, apparently latching onto the idea with some enthusiasm. "You could zap the kids on the butt when they become unbearable."
"Wish I could. But I'm pretty sure as soon as I call up some electricity I'll probably crash the whole system."
"Oh," Shaheen replied, sounding disappointed. "Damn it. You gotta point."
"You really want to get out of this, don't you?" Logan said to Shaheen.
"Hell yeah. I've been stuck with these moody hormone cases since you left. Goddamn, I never want to have kids." She paused briefly. "Exactly when did you get back anyways?"
Logan shrugged. "No idea." Both Shaheen and Naomi looked at him with raised eyebrows, and he wasn't sure he could take the dual girlfriend stares, especially when in either case it wasn't warranted. They weren't his girlfriends! He looked at Naomi, and said, "Maybe you can't participate, but you could observe, if you wanted. Might give you a laugh."
She gave him a genuine, kind smile. "Sure, why not?"
Naomi showing up after Bob left – that was just coincidence, right? Or something else? He wondered.
So the three of them walked to the Danger Room, with Shaheen filling Naomi in on who their team was (Pyro she knew of, but everyone else was new to her), and he realized that he was almost happy. No, not happy, just ... content maybe. Life wasn't so bad sometimes. Always weird, but not always bad.
He could adjust, right? He was a survivor; his mutant power, if nothing else, was being the ultimate survivor. Like a cockroach, he just lingered, standing still while time moved around him, and while it was horrible, he could take a moment out every now and then to just enjoy what was around him.
There was no need for the indulgence of survivor's guilt. He'd earned himself a moment of peace.
After all, how long could it last?
She found herself wandering the forest, stretching out her senses until they encompassed the realm. This wasn't her place, was it? No, but she felt it was a safe place to hide from ... she didn't know. But she sensed a lingering hint of his energy here. He'd come and taken her people away.
They weren't the right people though, were they? She thought they were, but she was confused. The one with the goggles, now he was close to him, but not him.
Him. Pronouns. Could she not put a name to any of this? She sat down and considered this, staring at her hands, which looked wrong somehow. The wrong color? Maybe. Maybe not. Her mind was scrambled, fractured, she almost couldn't make sense of anything. Her first impulse – to find safety, a place to hide, those people ... what was the purpose of those people? She had a feeling she should kill them, then a feeling she should save them. Use them as bargaining chips. Against who?
She found herself thinking of her killer, her savior, and her betrayer. She thought he was one; then she thought they were two. Was there more? Maybe.
The name Bob floated to the surface of her mind, as things calmed and her thoughts became slightly less choppy. He was dangerous, she knew not to trust him. But was there something more?
Yes. Logan. He killed her ... and had she wanted him to? She felt that was true. She seemed to love and hate him in equal measure. She wasn't sure if she wanted to kill him or not.
This realm ... somehow she knew it was empty. The god was gone. How could she know that? Wait ... she didn't know. Someone else knew. Maybe her brain was so scrambled because it wasn't her own alone; she was two different people. No. She was one person, and ... something else. She was the end of everything and the beginning, she was death and fire, blood and war, alpha and omega. She was a god. And somehow she was a Human as well. Odd. She was as conflicted as her mind was, and she didn't know which was going to win, or why she even came out of the darkness in the first place.
Jean Grey waited to discover who would win, and what she was supposed to do next.
To my readers:
I'm so sorry you had to wait so long for the end of this story. Due to various circumstances in my life, I fell way behind. As such, I think it's best I end these stories for now. It's not necessarily the end – I may be back as soon as circumstances warrant more free time. I also have original fiction on FictionPress, which I hope to continue to update regularly.
But for now you'll have to forgive me if I end Logan's story here, at least for the moment. Still, you know he and Bob live on, getting into more trouble than any of us could imagine. (Or perhaps not.)
Thank you all for reading and sticking with me.