I am so sorry for procrastinating, and then tossing you a short chapter, but the holidays have been extremely busy and this chapter gave me trouble. So forgive me!

Hopefully the next one will come very soon, of course...and thank you CaptMacKenzie for your excellent review. I love it when someone takes the time to put in that much insight!

The fire ripped down his arms, the pain excruciating but familiar; adrenaline coursed through his veins, making them throb as blades split muscle. It was taking all of his concentration to hold the knives back, but he didn't have all of his concentration to give. Logan was tracking every one of his companions' movements, watching each person separately from the others, and he couldn't keep himself in check while he was busy worrying about them. It was too much effort; the claws were slipping, along with his control. He was familiar enough with his own anatomy to know just when the adamantium ridges would be visible beneath the skin of his arms...and when they would be obvious below the reach of his shirts' sleeves. They were getting close to that point now.

He snarled quietly to himself as he felt them slip again. His arms were quivering, every muscle straining to keep the blades sheathed, but his instincts were telling him to do just the opposite. He wasn't supposed to trust these strangers from the south, and he wanted to leave, to run in the opposite direction from the scents of cotton and polyester and clean-cut society. But he had to protect the girl. It was an obligation he couldn't refuse. So here he was, getting ready for another fight.

And then the struggle was over. The African woman's eyes lightened perceptibly in Logan's peripheral vision, turning almost white, and that subtle but curious change had his control slipping away as if it had never been in the first place. His claws slid out as a growl ripped up his throat and between his teeth; teeth that were slightly bared, lips pulled back to show just enough of his long canines. His reaction was fast, fluid, and completely instinctual, and it marked the end of his desire to take flight...he had just committed himself to the situation. But he wasn't going to attack...not yet. He was merely trying to warn the strangers about what they were getting into. Logan's wordless communication presented some very real dangers, but in his mind he was only responding to the African woman's actions. She had made the first move, after all.

Logan was the only one who didn't jump when the knives split his knuckles. The redhead's eyes widened and she squeaked in surprise, jumping back out of slicing range as quickly as possible. The girl from the bar gasped; Logan heard her mutter a breathy 'oh mah gawd', and take a big step back. The African's scent spiked with adrenaline and her eyes widened when she saw the silver blades, but she looked up and froze when she realized that the Canuck was focused on her. "Jean, I think this is what the Professor meant by 'a little feral'," Ororo said in a low voice, backing up as she spoke. Jean swallowed and nodded in agreement. This would definitely qualify as feral in her book...not that she had much experience. Hank was the only wildman she knew of, and he was the most cultured person she'd ever met.

Logan followed the conversation with his eyes alone; he raised an eyebrow at the mention of the Professor. "S'at another fuckin' mutie I gotta worry about pickin' through my head?" he growled, glaring pointedly at Jean. She cringed away from both his stare and his criticism, embarrassed with herself, but Ororo didn't appreciate the statement at all. She'd been backing away the whole time and was now far enough out of his reach to feel safe speaking her mind. "We just came to help," she said, indignant even as the haze of fear-scent floated on the wind. "We don't want any trouble."

Wolverine's frown deepened at that. Well, ain't that ironic. He caught the redhead staring at his forehead with a confused expression, her mask of disinterest slipping; when her eyes met his he cocked his head and she quickly looked away. "Where're you from?" he asked, still watching Jean with a cold glare. "Westchester, New York," Ororo replied, her voice sharp with both irritation and stress. The feral mutant seemed to become even more tense at her statement; the African noticed a muscle twitching on the back of his right hand, flush with the ridge of a blade. His eyes flicked away from Jean and back to her; he shook his head at her statement, frowning, suspicious of her claim. His movements were slight, but they seemed bigger in the cold; everything did, like the world was made of glass. "There's nothin' in Westchester...it's a tourist town." he paused, cocking his head slightly to the right, his jaw clenched. "Where're you ladies really from?"

Ororo shook her head in disbelief. Did he really need to be this wary? To him she said, "We are from Westchester. Professor Charles Xavier is a telepath and the owner of the School for Gifted Youngsters. For mutants. We came to see if you needed help, and possibly a home at the mansion." She paused at that, her lips held together in a thin line, and added, "But we were expecting someone much, much younger."

At that, Marie looked over at Logan, shocked and terrified at the same time. She'd told him all about herself; would he give her away? These people might not really be from a school... Visions of skin grafts and needles embedded deep within her skull sent a shiver up her spine. Logan glanced at her just as Jean felt her fear and uttered a hushed "No..."

His eyes snapped back to the redhead as the sound caught his attention, and she immediately fell silent. But Marie need not have worried. Logan stayed tense, his eyes dark and unreadable as he spoke...he hadn't even considered accepting the offer. These women hadn't exactly warmed themselves to him. Then again, he hadn't tried all that hard to be friendly himself, but he wasn't interested in doing so. "I don't need your charity, darlin'," he growled at Ororo. "You tell your professor that I ain't interested. An' that I don't want ta see you gals again." His voice was completely emotionless and as cold as the night itself; he was giving nothing away but the threat, making sure they wouldn't have a reason to stay.

"Great, so we're done here?" Ororo said in response, her question more of a dismissal than anything else. Her voice snapped through the air like a whip. "Fine. Let's go, Jean." Jean nodded and started backing slowly away; Ororo was still watching Logan, obviously unwilling to turn around. Smart girl.

Jean suddenly stopped moving and Logan stared at her warily, unsure what she was about to do. She was staring at the ground with a vacant expression, almost as if she was listening... For a second Wolverine thought she'd been sifting through his thoughts again, but then she looked up and frowned at him in confusion. "The Professor has a...job...for you," the redhead said in a hesitant voice, as if that was most definitely the wrong word for what Xavier had to offer.

She couldn't have been more correct.