Standing watch for the past two and a half hours, his lean, toned leg muscles feel the strain. Sunshine beats down on the roof overhead promising to turn the small porch into a kiln as the day wears on. The merest kiss of a summer breeze does nothing for the sweat trickling down the back of his neck, staining the arm pits of his fatigues. He shakes one leg and then the other and blows at the fly buzzing rudely in his face. Bored nearly to death, he can't help feel sorry for himself.
A faceless voice, deep, controlled, with a hint of southern twang filters into his subconscious, "Good morning, Princess. Happy birthday!"
Through the screen door he sees a perky, blond haired girl peck a kiss on her father's cheek and exclaim, "I'm ten, I'm ten! That's double digits, isn't it Daddy?"
Fucking guard duty for some pain in the tush American officer and his too cute little family. Pulled out of sniper training for this! Well yeah, he'd 'earned' it, rather deserved it. The stunt he and a few other comrades in arms pulled the weekend before; well, let's say he should be grateful he wasn't sitting in the brig waiting on a court martial.
"Yes, it is and since it's such an important birthday I've taken the morning off. We have six hours to do whatever you want."
"Really?" The girl falls silent for a few moments and says, "Can we go riding?"
The man laughs, "Why did I know that's what you'd say, Sassy-Girl?"
"Yay! I get to riding with my Daddy!" The girl, imitating a horse, prances around the kitchen table.
A woman enters the scene carrying a baby. Conversation mingles, the cooing baby, the girls pesky pony imitations, dishes clattering, a chair scraping against the linoleum floor, into an inseparable din.
Suddenly the man's voice rises above the racket, "Susan, make good use of all that energy. Take your brother and play with him over there." He points to an open space between a couch and a large bookcase.
Oh thank you Jesus! Or Major stiff shorts. Talk about your reasons for birth control: noisy, smart assed, insufferably cute little girls. Note to self, if I ever have a kid and it acts like that put in for hazardous duty in Siberia; unaccompanied tour.
The woman speaks, "Will, take this to our long-suffering sentry."
The man grumbles, "Aileen, how many times do I have to tell you, we don't have to feed and entertain security personnel."
"I know. But they work such long hours and put up with so much. It's just good manners."
"He's on duty," the man emphasizes.
"And you don't stop for a lunch break?" she retorts. "Oh never mind! I'll do it myself."
Sure he does. Eats nails peppered with gunpowder and gets his jollies spitting it back at lowlife corporals.
Balancing toast and a cup of coffee on a plate, she walks crisply to the screen door and bumps it open with her hip. "Here you go Corporal….," she reads his nametag, "…Logan. How are you on this gorgeous day?"
Snapping to attention, he replies, "Thank you, ma'am," with a guarded smile. He can't help noticing her thin dressing gown. Can't see through it but it sure outlines every curve. Can't miss the tents her nipples form in the clingy fabric. The Major scored himself a looker.
"You're welcome. Please, relax. You'll give yourself indigestion."
Or a hard on. "Yes ma'am," he replies with courtesy he doesn't feel. She has a nice scent too. Womanly. Fresh. Hint of baby powder, maybe and the unmistakable musk of recent sex. Guess the Major got lucky.
The woman retreats and sits down to her own breakfast and newspaper. Nondescript conversations flow through his consciousness before evaporating into nihility. He smirks, thinking on how those lonely officers wives help him earn his extra hazard pay.
A chair scrapes the flooring and the man struts briskly through the screen door. Snapping to attention, the sentry salutes. As per protocol, his superior returns the gesture, though dismissively. "Carry on," he growls.
"Yes sir." And fuck you too, bub. The young corporal nearly flashes the Bronx salute but quickly curbs the urge. No sense risking additional punitive duty.
Guard dogs penned not far off divert his attention. Scratching anxiously in the dirt pen their whining does nothing to soothe his aggravation. The birds abruptly cease flitting amongst the cherry trees and fall silent. Even the fly that tormented him has flown the coop. Something isn't right.
It isn't exactly a sound but more like a rumble; a sensation that seems to travel up from the ground creating a weird buzz in his head. His keen senses kick into over drive; every nerve ending a-flame. Suddenly he can't find his balance. The wooden porch beneath his feet sways and buckles. Earthquake!
Inside the small house glass crashes to the floor. Panicked screams trill from all directions. Fighting for balance, struggling to get into the house, "Everybody, under the table" he shouts to the terrified woman and children. Frozen with fear, no one moves.
Horrified, he notices a heavy bookcase teetering toward the children. So does the woman, who screams. A blink from disaster, no time to think, he acts. Shouting, "Get 'em!" he braces his body. Grunting as the weight of it slams him, stressing shoulder joints and sinew he thinks, mother fucker's as heavy as it looks.
The woman snatches her brood away in a rain of knick-knacks and books.
"Hmmm. Huh!" I jolt awake. What the hell was that? Not the usual blood and torture.
The clock on the dresser stabs my eyeballs. Four thirty! I groan into my pillow. Might as well get up. Only half an hour before the alarm goes off.
Sitting up, flexing my left shoulder, gotta chase pins and needles. Nightmares, phantom pain, whatever. Shit! If it ain't one thing it's another fuckin' up a good nights' sleep.
Trudging across the room, flipping the bathroom light switch makes me blink at the sudden brightness. Taking a long, satisfying piss, I ask myself, "Why the fuck am I up before the sun?" Turning the shower spigot to full hot, I answer myself, "Cuz ya got a real job." And so goes the usual early morning debate with myself: The virtues of this life versus life on the road. Food's better. Paycheck's predictable. Action? A little slow sometimes.
Aw, fuck it! Don't think. Just do it.
"Go, go, go! Cross over. Shoot!" The ball curves into the goal box seamlessly. "Way to go, guys. Great practice. Hit the showers."
Trailing behind the pack of raucous, high-fiving adolescent energy, it's tough for a hard ass like me not to feel pumped and proud over how they're shaping up. Couple more weeks of running their butts ragged and they'll do okay against our rivals.
Great practice and fantastic early spring day. Mother Nature emerging from her long hibernation stirs up the wanderlust. Damn! I've set a record; been at Xavier's for better part of a year. Come spring break, think I've earned myself a holiday. Gonna hit the road, commune with the natural elements.
A white Jaguar cruising past the far end of the field grabs my attention, "Nice!" 'Eighty five XJ. Now there's something I wouldn't mind havin' a piece of.
Out of the car steps a honey-haired babe; sleek and classy as the car she's driving. A restrained wolf whistle escapes my lips. Mmm-mmm, darlin'. Wouldn't mind having a piece of you either.
Sniffing the air the breeze carries her scent away. Shame. Bet she smells sweet as she looks. How long since I got laid? More n' a week! Damn, that might be a record. Gotta remedy that little oversight. Tonight.
Refocusing on the boys, "All right, hurry up. Next class's in fifteen minutes. Anybody reported late does wind-sprints with me tomorrow." For cruel effect, can't help adding insult, "At o-five hundred!"
Stepping into my small office near the gym I snicker. O-five hundred, yeah right. Hook up with Ginger at Murphy's tonight and ain't no fuckin' way.
I can't help staring at this gothic behemoth rising from the softly rolling terrain of North Salem, New York. The Xavier Mansion, a landmark and icon of an era long past, is now a school for gifted children. Gifted not in the usual sense of precocious little geniuses [though I'm sure there are some extremely bright kids on campus] but gifted with a genetic mutation setting them apart from the normal population.
Stepping through ornately carved double doors into a lavish foyer makes me feel like I'm walking into a time warp. I half expect to see a Vanderbilt or Rockefeller greet me in white tux and tails or empire waist tea gown. Whee! I really need to get a life.
What does greet me is a rag-tag group of baggy denim and t-shirted teenagers moving en masse through a corridor leading off the grand entrance. Catching the eye of a petite Asian girl, I ask, "Where may I find Professor Xavier?"
Cracking blue bubble gum, she stares vacantly and shrugs.
Though dressed far too provocatively for her age, she's a classically beautiful girl. Sadly, her attitude screams tough shell forged from neglect and abuse; bet my pediatrics board certification on it.
A taller, older girl, sporting a silver streak through her hair and covered from neck to ankle, nudges her classmate, "You're such a dorkfish." She pauses and replies, "I think the Professor's in his office."
"Come on. Follow…"
A door to our right opens. A boyishly handsome young man wearing red tinted glasses emerges from what I guess is an office or conference room. "Hi. I'm Scott Summers."
Offering my hand, "I'm Sue Harris. I have an appointment with Professor Xavier."
Scott glares past me and speaks sternly, "Miss Lee, dress code?"
The Asian girl cracks her gum boldly then pulls her blouse across her tank top.
"Button it," he demands.
"Fine," she huffs.
"And get a move on." He taps his wristwatch, "By my calculations you've got twenty seconds to get to your next class."
The girls slink off and the Asian girl gripes, "I swear he's compensating for something."
"Jubilation Lee!" he barks. "That's four demerits."
She mimics, "Jubilation Lee, ya da, ya da, ya da. Whatever!"
He turns to me, "Sorry. Come this way."
I nod and murmur, "Thanks."
Side by side, making our way along and elegantly paneled corridor, I'm searching for something to quell a minor case of pre-interview nerves. "I think we've met."
His face is neutral.
So much for that ice breaker. But it's true, we have met. "I remember. At the genetics conference; late last summer. You and Jean were off to do lunch between sessions."
He replies with a lukewarm, "Uh, right," which tells me he probably doesn't remember and doesn't want to look stupid. But it's the lack of eye contact that tells me I may have broached a taboo subject. Oh! Duh. Him and Jean together for a private lunch? Dollars to donuts they were a couple. Backtracking to save face, I offer, "I'm so sorry for your loss."
Scott pauses, eyes downcast and nods. He's just about to knock on a pair of doors when one opens, seemingly on its own. Charles Xavier, a bald yet dapper gent, smiles warmly from behind a pristine, spacious desk. There's a muted whir as he wheels across the room.
"Susan! I'm pleased to see you." His handshake is warm and strong. "Please sit down." He gestures to a deeply upholstered leather chair in front of his desk.
Scott Summers nod is clearly not meant for me but a split second later he glances at me once more, "Nice to meet you---again." He's got a sad smile on his face as he slips silently away.
"Professor, it's wonderful to see you again though I wish the circumstances were happier. I'm so sorry to hear about Jean. It's a terrible loss."
"Thank you." There's a moment of uncomfortable silence before he says, "Let me express my condolences to you...."
With effort, I resist tugging on the bottom of my jacket and wonder how he knows about my fathers' recent passing. "I appreciate that sir, but it's unnecessary."
If there's a way for a man to scrutinize politely, Xavier's the master and I feel compelled to explain my stance, "I haven't seen or spoken to my father in years. Our differences were....,"
I'm struggling for the right words, "…irreconcilable." I sigh, "At least he died in the line of duty."
Quirking his eyebrows, his mouth settles into an odd half- smile, "I understand." Clearing his throat, he shifts to business mode, "As you're aware, we're in need of a doctor, primarily for the children. Your reputation caring for Mutant children is well established…"
I blush, "Thanks."
"…and your experience with trauma, while not your specialty, is more than adequate."
"I've considered your proposal very carefully and as long as we are clear on the scope of responsibilities, I'm pleased as punch about this opportunity."
"Splendid!" he claps his hands together. "I knew I could count on you. Now, how about the grand tour?"
This is a lovely place…," I muse as we make our way through a wing of the mansion featuring a comprehensive, comfortable looking library and an enviable music room. "…for a child to grow up. Seems to me you've done everything possible to make a warm haven for the kids."
He smiles, "It will never take the place of a loving family but it's the best I can do." He pushes a waist high button on the wall and its panel slides away revealing an elevator.
"I know you're aware that we're more than a school here and it's important that you are familiar with our underground facilities." He boasts, "Our mission control, if you will"
He wows me with a vast subterranean complex replete with everything, including a couple kitchen sinks. Housed in a briefing or Situation Room, as he calls it, are computer banks that would give the Pentagon apoplexy. Located close by is a hangar, the likes of which I didn't realize possible and one of those 'doesn't exist' jets and a helicopter straight out of science fiction novelization.
Xavier's tone becomes brutally serious. "There will come a time when the team will need your medical expertise. And I can't promise I won't need you for missions, but it would be the rarity, I hope"
"Without any mutant abilities, I'm concerned that I'd be a hindrance to the team."
"Not to worry. You'd never be asked to do something beyond your capabilities." We pause and clean metal doors hiss open. He says with flourish, "I think you'll find our medical facility impressive."
And how! State of the art and then some. Compact and quite complete from what I can see. "You've got that right, Professor. This is quite something. More than I was anticipating."
"Quite frankly, Susan, we don't often use this for the children. There's a suite of rooms above that had been Jean's office and examining rooms. It's far less intimidating."
Continuing the length of a sterile corridor, we soon halt in front of yet another metal door. It's circular with an X emblazoned proudly across its surface. He warns me to be still and positions himself just so. In seconds a retinal scan validates its master and the door eases aside. A catwalk projects into a spherical cavern comprised of what appears to be brushed metal rectangular tiles.
"This is Cerebro," he explains, sidling up to a deceptively simple looking console. "It's where I keep track of mutants all over the world."
I'm awestruck. "How does it work?"
"Quite simply, Cerebro amplifies brainwaves.
"That's amazing. Can anyone use it?"
Xavier frowns, "Indeed not. In the wrong hands, or mind, as it were, it causes grave neurological damage." Eyeing me with earnest, ice blue eyes, he warns, "Cerebro can kill."
"Let's go back up to the school," he says crisply, "Classes are nearly done and I'd like you to meet the others"
We join the others, casually assembled, in the conference room adjoining Xavier's office. He casts a sweeping glance and I feel something like a warm breeze flutter through my mind. I hear "Where's Logan?" but the Professor didn't utter a sound.
Oh that's right, he's a omega level telepath. How cool! Wonder who Logan is? Guess I'll find out sooner or later.
"He's in the gym," a cocoa complexioned, raven coifed woman offers.
It's my month to pull detention monitor and once word gets around, seems like I get a regular following. Guess it makes sense in a bass-ackward sort of way. Instead of piling on an extra hour's worth of study hall like Tight Ass Summers does, I get the pint sized scofflaws shooting hoops and talking. Doesn't take a degree in child psychology to figure that's what most of 'em need.
Right on time; ten minutes late, that is, my favorite frequent flyer slides silently between the doors. Other than Marie, Jubilation Lee, with her spunky, take no prisoners attitude, managed to get under my skin and thaw the ice block impersonating my heart.
Hollering, "Think fast!" I lob the ball. She snags it, dribbles once and sinks a perfect three pointer. "Every day this week, eh kid? What's it this time?" I read Summers' write up, so I know.
She shrugs and joins the other hardcore detention junkies bent on trying to outshoot each other on the basketball court.
Three days in a row, offenses that I'd classify as pre-meditated and stinking of frustration; the kid's cryin' for some intensive one on one. "Lee! Time out," I motion her to the bleachers.
She sneers but obeys and curls up hugging her knees. The scent of fear stops me dead in my tracks. "What gives, Short Stuff?" I ask gently as I can.
"What do you care?" she snaps.
Ain't my style to spread bullshit platitudes but I care - a lot. Crossing my arms over my chest, I go silent betting she'll spill her guts if I give her enough space.
"The whole freakin' school's out to get me," she whines while rolling blue bubble gum between her fingers.
"Why? Cuz ya got busted lippin' off to Mister Summers after he nailed ya for another dress code violation?" I can't handle the fruity blue gum stink, "Put that shit back in yer face or toss it."
She pops in into her mouth with a rude clack between her teeth.
"C'mon kid, some of the rules make a little sense." Geeze! I can't believe I'm saying this. Yeah, Summers deserves it ninety five percent of the time but…, "Ya can't go lippin' off."
"Don't gimme that crap, Wolvie!"
I hate that nickname. "Listen up," I growl. "You can call me Logan, coach, late for supper, but if you're gonna use my code name, it's Wolverine."
She pops a bubble the size of her face and twirls it around her tongue. "You're always telling Mister Summers where to get off," she shoots back.
She's got me on that but clichéd or not rank has its privileges. "Yeah, I do. But lemme give ya a clue. When we're out in the field, it's all business. Lippin' off can get somebody killed."
"Right. I tell him he's a dork and a butterfly gets its wings crushed."
Can't help snickering at the simplistic imagery, "Nah, calling him a dork won't but think about it this way. In a serious situation, if you're engaging your brain thinkin' up a load of bull to sling you might miss something that just might save your or somebody else's butt."
The fear subsides and she's gnawing on her lower lip; thinking I guess—I hope.
"Gosh, Wolv—Logan. It's just that Mister Summers is so, so-- uptight. I can't help it."
I laugh aloud, "Neither can I kid, neither can I. How 'bout this?" Oh man! This is so bad it's great, "How much would it drive him nuts if ya went the other way and talked nice to him?"
She's a smart little firecracker and her eyes dance as a wicked grin spreads across her cute face.
"Now about the dress code stuff. . ." A sweet thing like her don't need to prance around like a slut in training but how do I say this without preaching?
A buzz sets up and I hear my name echo inside my head. WTF! It's the boss man himself summoning me to the staff meeting I've blown off. "We'll um, burn that bridge later, kid. The Professor's callin' me."
Cordial introductions complete and almost everyone dismissed, the missing man finally makes his appearance and right off the bat I get a lesson in local politics when the Team Lead, Scott Summers, needles, "You know Logan, we don't set the clocks to daylight savings for a few weeks yet."
Blocking egress, the man called Logan sneers, "Hey One-Eye, you can stuff it where the sun don't shine."
Breaking a stalemate, the Professor clears his throat, "Thank you Scott." For a second I think Scott and this new guy might actually butt horns—if they had horns anyway.
Charles doesn't drop a beat, "Logan, please come in. Meet Susan Harris, D.O. . . ,"
Drawing a deep breath, tall, brooding and buff's cocoa brown eyes give me the once over and I'm fairly certain a virtual undressing.
"Hi," he says, his voice rich and sensual with just maybe a touch of irritation? Sarcasm?
There's something very different about this guy: Untamed, powerful, mysterious. Scruffy but drop dead handsome at the same time. Willing myself not to fluster, I lock my gaze on his and extend my hand, which he seems to return with reluctance.
Xavier's voice filters through, "...our new pediatrician and interim Team physician."
"D O?" he says, still clasping my right hand.
Did I mention his voice is smooth as velvet? "Doctor of Osteopathy," I explain.
"Xavier continues, "Susan this is Logan. He's our athletics director and along with Scott, handles security"
I'm acutely aware this handshake is lingering and I pull my moist - make that sweaty - palm from his, "Pleased to meet you."
He graces me with a secretive half-smile and slight nod.
The door closes on its own again. Oh! So that's how he does it. Remote control on his wheel chair. Professor Xavier edges closer, "Logan, from the resume' I forwarded, I'm sure you've thoroughly briefed yourself on Doctor Harris' qualifications."
Logan shrugs, "Yeah." He reminds me of my sons responding to inquiries about homework.
"Thus, you're aware she has access to comprehensive DNA databases. If you haven't an objection, I'd like to task her to research your background."
I think I catch a wisp of surprise on Logan's face but it rapidly transforms to open cynicism, "Sure. And that's gonna be better than what ya've already tried?"
"Simply another avenue of exploration; one which I've not the time to pursue."
Sharp and assessing, Logan's gaze scours me and I don't think he's debating whether I wear panties or a thong this time, "So what's it all about?" He sounds suspicious.
Why do I suddenly feel like a cat dancing on a hot plate? Who's the doggone professional here?
I explain, "There's DNA typing that isolates Mitochondrial DNA."
Arms folded across his chest, he rolls his eyes and challenges, "So what?"
"Mitochondrial DNA is definitive whereas more common testing from the paternal standpoint is much less so."
"Hey doc, I ain't got a P H D from some schmansy university. Plain English, ok."
"Oh, ok. Basically, I may be able to discover who your mother is from the test."
His reply, "Uh huh," is as jaundiced as the look on his face.
Xavier asserts, "Logan, what she's offering is concrete evidence of who you are."
"Yeah? Well I ain't holdin' my breath."
I can almost hear the cogs turning.
"Ok. What do I gotta do?"
At least he sounds a smidgen placated.
"I just need a blood sample."
He grimaces, "Oh yeah, docs are all alike. Poke, prod…"
"Oh puhleeze! Don't tell me you freak out over having your blood drawn."
What a scathing expression! Me thinks I overstepped. Tread on his ego perhaps?
"Just tell me when and where," he rumbles. Hand on the door knob, he pauses, "Nice meetin' ya doc. See ya 'round," and slips silently out of the room.
"There's a lot to his story, isn't there?" I muse to Professor Xavier.
He nods. "I'll brief you on everything known and of course there's data in his medical records you'll find useful. For now, we need to attend to the final order of business."
"That would be?"
This new doc ain't Jean. Still, that honey blond hair, killer blue eyes and curves in all the right places, she stacks up pretty damn well. Besides, she's got a honey of a car. Wonder what I'll ride first? The babe or the car?
Running my hand over the tan rag top, a buzz sets up in the back of my mind. Why the hell's a memory stirring now? Closing my eyes, it comes into focus.
Cruising like a bat out of hell down the open road in; what is it? White convertible? Yeah. Jag? Nope. Oh yeah, nineteen sixty eight, maybe nine Lotus. Elan, I think. I can picture the black leather interior; layout of the controls; feel of the stick shifting through the gears. I can almost hear a faint echo of her perfectly tuned engine. My god! Did I really own something like it? 'Sixty-nine; how old was I? No fuckin' clue.
Thanks to Stryker, my memory's a mélange of haunted images; pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that defies a solution. Even with Charles' voodoo most of what's pieced together's been my doing. How the fuck does he think this chick can really help? And what if she does? Jean's death at Alkalai Lake was enough to prove the value of knowing ain't worth it.
Ow! The buzz is stronger; stabs a spike right between my eyes. Massaging my forehead, I remember the car's going way too fast around a sharp, blind curve. It's slippery. Rain? Snow? Not sure. The car crosses the line. Jezzus, no! I slam the breaks, try to correct but it clips an oncoming station wagon sending it into a spin. The Lotus goes airborn. There's a telephone pole coming at me. Glass implodes, shredding my face. My body slams against the steering wheel, ricochets back into the seat. Crushed and twisted steel wraps me in a coffin.
From behind, "You're a car aficionado?" shocks me free of the specter. I spin around, claws almost ejecting. Whoa! Stand down. It's her.
"I'm sorry," she retreats a step. "Didn't mean to startle you."
Idiot. Lost yourself. No way I'm admitting she got the drop on me. "Know a nice one," I look her up and down, "when I see one, darlin'."
"I'll make sure I snap a Polaroid for you."
Hello. Earned that come back but she don't seem pissed. More like amused.
"You like it?" She's definitely referring to the car.
It's killing me not to fire back a smart ass reply. But, I better not push my luck too far so I nod, "It's in damn fine condition."
"Thanks. I try to save it for nice weather." She glances off to the western sky, "Though I think I better skee-daddle. Looks like this taste of springtime's about to blow away."
"Yep," I say, inhaling deeply. "It'll snow later tonight."
"Is that the weather report?"
Pointing to my nose, "Nope. My prediction."
She's surprised, "How's that?"
"Heightened sense of smell. Can sense pressure changes, too."
"Ah! Your mutation?"
Pointing a finger like a pistol, "Right. You're not."
"No. How did you..? Oh wait; you can smell that too?"
"Impressive." The wind whips up. "Brrr!" she complains, pulling her jacket close. "I'd love to hear more but I really hafta scoot."
She slips the key into the lock and just to prove I ain't a total jerk off, I reach around her and open the door. Gets me up close and personal to imprint her scent.
A restrained smile plays on her lips, "Thanks." She slides into the seat.
I shoot her a wink, "Take care of the car, darlin'."
"No problem, dude."
She roars off and I can tell she's checking me out in the rear-view mirror so I give a casual salute. Shoving my hands in my pockets and heading toward my office, I'm thinking she likes me.
a/n. First business: Disclaimer. Marvel owns everybody except Susan and a few other OC's appearing later. I make no profit except for the joy of writing.
Some of you reading this are undoubtedly thinking you've read this before. You have but please read my profile for an explanation. Now, I must admit I crave reviews. I also have to clarify that a crush of reviews [or lack of] will not have an impact on the pace of updates. Blame the Muse; she's a w[b]itch. I'd especially like to hear from those of you who have read the original version of this story MORE THAN YESTERDAY LESS THAN TOMORROW. How do you feel about my changing POV? How do you feel about my leaner[concise] style of writing? How do you feel about cutting exposition and replacing it with action and dialog? How do you feel about my writing Logan's character closer to old style comic verse than movie verse?