Sequel to Haunted
By Scarlett Burns
Disclaimer: Don't own it!
Author's Note: This is the third story in a series, starting with Ghosts and its sequel Haunted. If you haven't read those, you may be lost here. You've been warned. A huge thank you to MidLifeCrisis for beta reading this for me... her help with this made a huge difference!
Oh, and I love to hear what people think so click on the review button if you feel so inclined! :) Thanks for reading!
I gotta leave.
Outta here. Gone. Splitsville. This is the mantra playing in my head as I Iean against the doorframe listening to Storm finish up her last class for the day.
Thought I'd stick around but after crossing up with Casper kid's ghost mojo, I can't. I won't. Hell! Who's next? Stryker? Mariko?
Scares the shit outta me on so many levels.
Sighing, I shake my head, forcing myself to focus on Storm. Not that I give a shit about whatever history lesson she's teachin' but it's an okay diversion.
I'm in the groove, kinda enjoying it 'til I realize she's talking about the Civil War.
I was a kid back then. Same age as Rogue or Bobby. In a different life I'd have been at school or apprenticing to take over the family business.
I still hear Victor inside my head, "C'mon Jimmy. It'll be fun and we'll be doing good." I learned then that fun and doing good was Victor's idea of mayhem and murder. Too stupid and too cowardly to oppose him, I tagged along and got myself mixed up in a place neither of us had any cause to be in. We're Canadian for chrissake!
Storm drones on but I'm back in the battle thanks to a vivid memory cascade. Roaring cannon fire, the crack of muskets, the screams of maimed and dying men—boys like me – rush at me like a tidal wave. The burn of my claws between my knuckles forces me back. Unclenching my fists, I knead my hands, willing the pain away.
"By the end of the war, how many people had died?" Ororo asks.
Several hands shoot up but only the third kid answering gets it right.
Over 620,000. Probably more like 750,000. Record keepin' wasn't too accurate then.
"That's correct, Jubilee."
Muttering, "But how many actually died battlin' it out?" earns me rapt stares from the kids.
'Ro's just as surprised as the kids are but she recovers fast. "Is that a question you want answered for yourself or that you want the students to answer, Logan?"
Not liking the roguish glint in her eye, I weave my fingers together, thrust my hands forward and crack my knuckles. "Just wonderin' if you knew."
A couple students giggle and the scent of doubt stinks up the room. Let 'em think I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed. What they don't know and I hope they never have to learn is that pretending to be dumb can keep your ass out of a serious hurt locker. Maybe even save your life.
She hitches one eyebrow and after a long moment concedes, "I'm not sure."
"230,000… give or take. Rest of 'em died from sickness." That smell of illness, of death, it sticks with ya.
A boy from the back of the room raises his hand, "Like what?"
I shrug and push off the wall, stuffing my hands in the pockets of my jeans. "Lots o' stuff. Typhoid, Dysentery, Consumption… hell even the shakes from gallinippers." Itching to ditch being Ro's sub, I wave the kid off. "I'm sure 'Ro…um Miss Munroe'll cover all that."
Eyes still gleaming, 'Ro strings me along. "Gallnippers?"
"Uh, mosquitoes. Malaria."
Saved by the bell, the kids snatch their stuff and practically run me over busting out of the room. Safe bet my spin on the Civil War's brain dumped in five minutes flat.
Class room empty, I grab a seat and prop my feet up on a desk.
"So what makes you so knowledgeable about the Civil War, Logan?" she asks, not wasting any time. She never does. Usually it's a trait I like. Not so much when it's focused square on me.
Gearing up for goodbye, now's not the time for a trip down memory lane. "I read, ya know. Look… I… uh…"
She cuts me off, "I find it hard to believe you read Gallinipper in a book."
She takes a deep breath. Closing the distance between us, her expression and scent shift from curiosity to amazement. "I noticed the look on your face during my lecture. Your thoughts were nowhere near this room, were they?" Her soft hand rests on my shoulder. Looking me dead in the eye, she asks, "Were you there?"
I flinch, reacting to her invasion of my personal space and the question. "I didn't come here to talk about me."
Her hand falls away. "You never do."
"Nothin' good to talk about." In truth, there's a mountain of garbage and misery primed to collapse and bury anything good.
Sighing, Ororo walks past me. Expecting her to leave, she surprises me by closing the door. Turning to face me, her eyes are gentle and probing. "I'm certainly not one to judge your past." Hesitating for a moment, she finishes with, "James."
My gut twists hearing her say my name. Ever since that day by the professor's grave when I told her my real name she still called me Logan. She understood that it was a private thing I shared only with her. Been most comfortable being called Logan, ever since my Team X days. 'Ro never pressed the issue. Nobody needs to know the name Logan is my personal reality check. Reminds me where I come from and of the animal constantly itching to break free.
"I haven't told this to many people," she says propping herself against her desk. "The Professor and Jean knew. I am not sure how much Scott knew. I guess all that doesn't matter now…"
Curious, I lean closer. "Knew what?"
"I was born in New York but when I was a child we moved to Cairo. When I was six my parents died in a plane crash. After that…" voice trailing off, she turns away.
A heavy scent of grief and pain shroud her like fog. Like her, I know the pain of losing somebody ya love dulls but never goes away completely.
She faces me and I see shame in her eyes. "After that I was on my own. I was a thief, Logan."
Crossing my arms in front of my chest I'm a little surprised by her confession. The frown on my face is not from her past but her reverting back to the name Logan. The fucked up part about it is I don't even know why I care.
Eyes becoming watery, I realize she misread me. Face downcast her voice breaks, "You don't understand. There was nothing else I could do."
Reaching out, I lift her chin with my finger, "I understand survival, darlin'. Guess I'm disappointed ya didn't use my real name. Can't tell ya why."
Her eyes go wide and I can sense her relief. Just as fast, her beautiful face twists with regret.
As I dig in my pocket for a cigar and stick it in my mouth she talks. "I was living on the street as an urchin, a pick-pocket, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got involved with the wrong people. I needed to leave, and the winds told me to head South. Toward home. I accepted a ride from a complete stranger… stupid, but what choice did I have? I had no money, no car of my own. I took the offer, and… he tried to rape me."
"I take it he didn't succeed?"
She shook her head and walked to the window, staring out at the grounds. Whispering, "No, I killed him," her voice catching in her throat.
Her back towards me, I stand there starin' at her reflection in the glass window. Even if I couldn't instinctively sense and smell how bad she's hurtin' inside, it shows on the reflection of her face from the glass.
I chew on my cigar before breaking the silence. "Sounds like the bastard had it comin'."
Not sure what else she expects. I'm not the type to get all weepy about someone takin' out the garbage. She turns to me and the full anguish in her eyes is stark. She's never gotten over this. I'm not surprised. Like me, she's a child of nature and the earth but unlike me, she not at war with an inner savage animal.
"How could you understand what it's like to be so young and do such a horrible thing?"
She wants to see my disapproval, my disgust but I ain't going to give her that. "'Cause you ain't the only one."
Outwardly I'm granite but my stomach turns. Like her, I'd never gotten over killing my father… I wasn't sorry the sick bastard was dead. Just sorry that at the young age of eleven I'd become a monster. I realize she probably thinks the same thing of herself. But unlike me she didn't keep on killing.
The silence between us says more than any words could. Bowing my head, I chomp harder on my cigar. "Ro, there's nothing wrong with doin' what needs doin' to survive."
She wrings her hands explaining, "I didn't have to kill him."
"Maybe but ya might not've got away alive, either. You made the only choice ya could. Kiddo."
A trace of a smile graces her lips. "I'm hardly a child."
Searching for my lighter, I wink. "Compared to me you are."
She frowns as I light up and opens the window. "Logan, with a past like mine how can I run this school?"
"Well, unless you're goin' to teach 'em to pick pockets I think you're fine."
Closing my eyes, I take a deep drag on the cigar. A hopeless, screwed up bastard like me has got no business shellin' out the kind of advice she needs. "Do I look like Dear Abbey?"
"Who else can I talk to?"
Dunno but ya better figure it out cuz I'm outta here. I pinch the bridge of my nose trying to come up with something that doesn't sound like it's coming from the selfish prick that I am. Shit. Never gave a damn 'bout it… 'til now.
"Keizoku wa chikara nari."
She tilts her head. "What?"
"Continuance is strength. A wise man told me that, years ago. Didn't really get it 'til now but it means that these kids, this school needs you, needs things to be as close to the way it was as you can make it."
A single tear slides down her cheek. "I can't do it by myself."
Oh, here we go. I came in to say goodbye, and nowI can't. Not yet.
I've run for over thirty years and no doubt I'll have to again. Guess there ain't no harm in takin' a breather. If 'Ro and the kids need someone to kick ass, I'm it. "Well you got yourself a soldier if ya need one," I wink and grin, anything to make her quit the tears, "Just say the word."
She says, "The word," like she's teasing but her scent is anything but. "Thank you, James."
I shrug and I think she gets I'm uncomfortable on the receivin' end of gratitude. Changing the subject, she probes, "You never answered my question about the civil war. Were you there?"
I ain't afraid to tell her the truth. "Yeah," I admit, my eyes diverting from hers to the window.
I note the awe in her voice and witness her awe change to a sly smile. I don't need a keen nose to smell something fishy is in the works as she declares, "I've found my replacement Western Civilization teacher for the seventeen hundreds to present day!"
"I ain't that old!" Then what she's saying hits me like a whack from a two by four. Raising my hands in front of me, I sputter, "Uh no. No. No way, darlin'."
"Come now," she laughs, a wicked twinkle in her eye. "You've been through the Civil War! Surely you can handle a small classroom of children."
"Hell no! I ain't ever going to be no history teacher."
"Well, you're living in a school. You're going to have to earn your keep somehow."
I give her my best death glare. The one I reserve for scum that are about to be run through by my built-in adamantium pig stickers.
She doesn't exactly retreat but offers, "Tell you what. We'll start you with self defense, danger room and PE classes and work from there."
I grunt an affirmative, okay with the agreement. Beats mucking the stables.
"We'll graduate you to history class after you've gotten used to the workload," she adds.
I grumble, "You can try but it ain't happenin'," but my smirk says I know she's teasing.
"Thank you." Her smile and gratitude are genuine.
At my limits of teammate bonding I nod and leave the room.
As I amble down the hall, past the TV room, I overhear a few kids arguing over what show to watch. Dry washing my face I wonder what the hell I just got myself into. Memories on the rebound or not, this is virgin territory for me.
Can't help wondering… is it too late to call Department H, make peace, and see if they got a slot for an old intelligence officer who's nearly indestructible, has built in weaponry, and speaks sixteen different languages?