Do not be seen.
Do not be heard.
Harm no one.
Just get in, get the files, and get out.
Fairly simple instructions, but after only thirty minutes and one wrong turn inside the facility, Logan found himself incapable of following any of them.
It wasn't supposed to be a real lab. That's why he went in alone, and perhaps things might have turned out differently, if he had known. If he'd had time to steel himself, hadn't been thinking about a good beer and a decent fuck. If the team had come along. But Xavier gave him the blueprints, the car, the orders, and *promised* him that it was not a real Mutant Lab. Just a meeting place, he'd said. A storage facility.
Now, looking at the creature strapped to the table, Logan reminded himself that sometimes even telepaths are mistaken.
The doctors did not see him. Logan stood by the door, shocked, staring, protected by the shadows, their preoccupation and his natural talent to be unseen when necessary.
The chamber was circular, counters and sinks on both sides. Against the walls stood a collection of filing cabinets and tables; some covered with sheets, others whose contents he did not care to name. The floor was tiled, like that of a swimming pool shower room--square tiles with drains every few feet. One had a clump of hair caught in it's grill.
He smelled chemicals, and pain. And blood. So much blood.
Nine people--seven men and two women--bustled around a table in the middle. For a moment The Wolverine was too distracted by their white coats to see what lay on it.
Or perhaps he did not want to.
Pale flesh and a dirty hospital gown. A multitude of tubes snaking out of a thin arm, connected to a few bleeping machines and a hanging bag of clear liquid. Tangled brown hair, streaked with grey and white.
The surgeons held needles, conversing in untroubled tones as if playing golf or watching the playoffs.
"We might be able to avoid the seizure effect of the mephobarbital, if we lower the tramadol level more."
"Yes, but then we won't be able to test more of the other formula for at least two days."
"But if we spark another seizure and it goes into another coma, we'll have to rewrite the report."
"Check her ESR and we'll see. Diane, will you--"
It's unlikely, but things still might have turned out differently until this moment. Logan might have backed out, summoned the team, and cleared the lab out quietly. Maybe. But that did not happen, because at that instant the bod on the table--which Logan had only seen in glimpses between the doctors--moved. Just a little, her head turning an infinitesimal degree to the left. But enough. Enough to seal a piece of destiny for the both of them.
Large, chocolate eyes in a young face. Pain, but little fear in them. They were too exhausted for that emotion. Those eyes found his and did not blink. And something in him fierce and ancient reared up.
Logan barred his teeth, not even attempting to stifle the growl reverberating in his throat like the scariest musical note.
A red-haired doctor, his face boyish and freckled, was the first to turn, the first to see him.
Nine inches of metal, tougher than steel, slid from Logan's fists. They cut through tendons like butter, but that pain was too familiar for his attention. That red-haired doctor--who looked like any ones nephew but wore a swastika for a necklace, was the only one to not scream that night. He didn't have the chance.
Wolverine danced to the pattern of those screams, those pleas. He fed off the sounds, off the smells, off the beautiful knowledge that those coats weren't so white anymore. They tried to get away. He cut through their chests, their throats; broke bone and skin with the same ease. One--male or female, Logan couldn't tell at this point--slit his face with a scalpel. Logan removed their arm, and then their head.
At last, when his shoulders were heaving (a red flood was making it's way down the floor drains, as it had done so many times) and only two heartbeats could be detected in the chamber, Logan stopped. He retracted his claws with a wet *sskllicckt*, and turned to the girl on the table.
She had not moved. Had not made a single sound, but her chest rose and fell in rapid breaths. Like a bird's. The table was metal, flat silver with no sheet. One or two lab mutants had been brought to the school, but Logan had never really seen them. She was so small. So thin. The hospital gown stretched only a few inches down her thighs. She was naked underneath. The girl's flesh was so mutilated that it was easy to imagine that she wasn't human.
Logan came to stand above her, blood on his jeans and his hands and....well, everywhere. She looked up at him with eyes that were glazed, though he hadn't noticed earlier. Shit. Kid was drugged to high heaven. And the part that was semi-aware was half-dead already, and promised no resistance should he choose to stab her as well. He stared, seconds passing like hours, hypnotized by disgust and shock. But time caught up with Logan when the first siren erupted in the air. He flinched, and so did she.
"Alright," he said gruffly, speaking to himself as much as the girl. "It's okay, Kid. Not gonna hurt ya. Whadaya say we get you out of here, huh?"
He began undoing the belt-like clasps on the restraints, tugging the needles from her veins. Quickly, but gently. At least, he told himself that. She made no noise, even when blood swelled up through the holes.
"Alright. Here we go, honey. Easy. Nice an' easy." Logan slipped an arm beneath her shoulders and another under her knees. This restricted his fighting abilities considerably, but he wasn't crazy enough to think the kid could walk.
Jesus. She was so fucking light. A kitten. Logan could feel her bones through his jacket. The girl curled herself toward his chest--more of a reflex than a move for comfort.
He could hear yelling now, boots pounding. And this time, they were definitely headed his way.
Logan carried the girl out into the hall. Concrete and cheap linoleum. He thought he knew where the exit was, not far from here. Left. Left. But he'd gotten lost earlier. He could be wrong. Had the blueprints indicated left or right?
But the footsteps and his own instincts were thundering, so he swore and picked the left.
Logan didn't stop when the first bullet hit him, or the second. A deafening crack and the scent of gunpowder. Blistering pain. But he kept running, long legs propelling him further and further.
But when the fourth pierced through his hip, Logan became concerned. His vision was tinted red, a haze of agony and rage, the latter stronger and less easily ignored. He glanced down at the kid in his arms. Her head bounced alarmingly, cheek slapping his jacket with each step. His adamantium should stop most of the bullets, but....
He stopped quickly, where the corridor split off.
"You're alright. You're alright," he murmured, carefully setting the girl down, where she would be chiefly shielded. "Just...ah...stay there," he told her, needlessly. She lay crumpled in a limp ball, scarcely more conscious than a doll.
Logan straightened with a grunt(the bullet inside his leg shifted; he'd have to dig it out later), turned to face the guards as his claws kissed the open air again.
An hour later, he was speeding down a back road. It was little more than a forest path, forgotten and certainly unpaved. Tree branches and tall grass whipped against the metal. But this car--small and black and unremarkable only for it's supreme unremarkability--withstood the jolts well. Summers must have added his special touch.
The sound of the helicopter wings had died away only minutes ago. They weren't out of the woods yet, Logan thought humorlessly as he guided the vehicle through the trees. The kid lay in the reclined passenger seat, where he'd hastily strapped her in. She was unconscious, head lolling with the car's vibrations. She was a mess. Her greasy hair draped over her face, and the gown sliding up, showing Logan much more than he wished to see. Logan berated himself for several moments, for not covering her in his jacket. But there'd been no time.
He smelled blood. Her blood.
He needed to get them a safe(which meant far) distance away. They needed to be able to blend in before stopping. Xavier should be called, and he had to get her some help. Perhaps not in that order.
Logan drove through the town with the cell phone pressed to his ear, eyes scanning the vehicles around him and in the rear view mirror, searching for a tail, for any sign They might be following him.
It was the first time he'd heard Xavier cuss. The old man used nothing particularly creative, sticking to "damn" and it's variations. But it was impressive all the same. Chuck's voice wasn't nearly so cultured now, shouting at Logan from the cell's tiny speaker.
How could he have been so foolish, The Professor asked him. Were his orders not clear enough? He'd jeopardized the entire mission, didn't Logan see? Everything they'd planned for months.
Logan told him about the kid, tried to explain. But Xavier had worked himself into a good fury, and wasn't ready to let it go now. There could have been more, he said. Other mutants, certainly other facilities. One girl was nothing compared to them. Others could have been saved, if Logan hadn't thrown up a red flag, alerting Them. Now, even the files were useless. They were probably evacuating Their bases now.
"You've ruined everything," The Professor told him. Wheels added that under no circumstances was he to return to the mansion. What if Logan led his pursuers to the school? He could place them all in danger. Chuck promised to call him, after "cleaning up this mess."
And then there was nothing. Just the dial tone.
"*Fuck*", Logan swore, hitting the steering wheel. He hated Xavier, hated that self-serving bastard...even as the ever-practical side of him acknowledged the truth in Chuck's words.
Now what?, he asked himself, his gaze settling on the kid. Now what?
A flea-bag motel and a thirty dollar room, plus another to ensure privacy from the cleaning staff. The guy at the front desk became conveniently blind to Logan's rather gory attire when he slipped the man the bill, and wished him a pleasant evening.
Ground floor, far end of the parking lot. Logan opened the passenger door, leaning inside to unclip the seat belt. Her eyelids fluttered. He picked the girl up, taking care not to knock her head against the metal, wondering again at her weight--or lack thereof.
Anyone looking from their windows would have been treated to an alarming sight: the large, feral man carting the almost-nude, emaciated child into his motel room. This was a rural town, whose inhabitants were inclined to mind their own business (especially for a green-tinted incentive). But this would be a stretch for even the most morally lax of persons.
He layed her on the bed, gently, then returned to the car for the first-aid kit Scott kept in every trunk. Closed the door, turned the three locks to the right. Logan set the white kit next to the bed and exhaled.
"I'm sorry." he mumbled, cutting off the gown with a quick snip of his claw. A moment later he was cussing. It was either that or puke his lunch on carpet or something even more pansy-ish. Like crying.
She could have been an Auschwitz prisoner, like the pictures Ororo kept (for who knows what reason) hung in her classroom. Logan could have snugly fit each of his fingers in the hollow between her ribs. A trigger-happy artist had gone over the girl, painting her skin with red and purple swirling bruises, and too many little lacerations to count.
Logan began at her head, working his way down. He maintained a steady chant of, "Not gonna hurt you. Not gonna hurt you.", though it was likely she couldn't hear him.
Her scalp was dirty, her hair fragile, bloody at the roots from being pulled. A few strands came away in his fingers, though his touch was light. Forehead feverish, but cheeks cold. Eyelids tinged blue. Faint pulse in dip between her collar bone...and markings, on her neck. *X973*. Not a tattoo, but a brand. Logan stroked the intricate scar. It looked old....Needle marks down her arms, blue contusions. A strange bump under her left shoulder, another scar. Her wrists had been chafed bloody by the straps, appearing like terrible bracelets. More bruises on her chest, and sticky gray circles left by the heart monitor and other machines. Logan studied a bloody half-crescent under her left breast for several minutes before recognizing the pattern of human teeth. His claws almost came out. At least one fractured rib; two others that he wasn't certain of and didn't want to press hard enough to check.
The bottoms of her feet were tore up, as if she'd jogged through broken glass. Her legs bore welts and similar restraint abrasions, and were oddly hairless. But little of that effected Logan as much as the blackened red of her thighs, the clotted red between her legs.
Logan shut his eyes. His breath came out in harsh pants, deafening in the otherwise silent room. He pictured his claws slicing the lab employees' jugulars, and regretted being so merciful. The Wolverine wanted to kill. Needed to kill. It didn't even have to be the Doctor's. He could go out, right now, and just pick somebody. He could--
No. Logan forced back the urging voice within him until it was more or less ignorable. He looked at the First Aid kit, ran a quick inventory. Antacid, Ibuprofen, Calamine lotion, Aspirin, antiseptic ointment, scissors, thermometer, tweezers, cotton balls, gauze, hypoallergenic tape, and four types of bandages. Scarcely adequate, but he'd have to make do. Walking the young lab escapee into the hospital wasn't exactly and option. He considered phoning Jean, but didn't think the doctor would pick up. She always liked to be the one to call him.
So Logan went into the tiny bathroom and grabbed two washrags from the chipped metal rack. He ran them under the water--not too hot--and returned to his kneeling position by the mattress. Feeling self-conscious, a giant told to polish a robin's eggshell, Logan brushed the cloth over her skin. Gently, but he still worried the bristles would aggravate the bruises and cuts.
"I'm sorry. It's alright. Gonna be alright," he said, when the cheap material came away scarlet. Jesus Christ. Logan cleaned her, finding lacerations deep between the girl's legs. No idea what to do with those. He put antiseptic on her feet, bandages on the other scrapes. Then Logan took the medical tape, tearing long strips one after the other. Lifting her up in one arm, (and seeing even more wounds on her back), he placed the tape over her ribs. Carefully, carefully. He wrapped them around her chest, from spine to sternum. Only halfway, lest he cut off her breathing.
Her eyes opened. Chocolate irises, inches away. Drowsy and hurting. Looked at him, or maybe through him.
"It's okay. It's okay, kid." He llowered her back onto the pillow.
The girl gave a soft whimper and closed her lids again. Thick, feminine lashes, the only part of her that seemed semi-natural. Logan didn't know her age, but it couldn't have been more than sixteen. Seventeen, if he factored in malnutrition. Plenty of girls that age running around the mansion, happy and unharmed. How long had this kid been in that hellhole? Did she have a family searching for her? What was her mutation? What quirk in her genes drew Their attention?
Logan wasn't prone to fits of empathy. But she was just...just so...so goddamn *small*. Her tiny head made the average-sized pillow, and bed, seem a vast continent. His heart, an organ Logan (and countless others) usually doubted the existence of, clenched.
Logan thought about what Xavier said, one rescue meaningless compared to hundreds of other potential victims. And he thought of those chocolate eyes, from the bed moments ago and from across that operating room. He covered the girl with one of the light bedsheets, then went to wash the blood--from his clothing, and his hands.