Thank you all for your reviews. Very encouraging. There's just one more chappie after this, which will be from Logan's POV. It's taking me some time to get it just how I'm envisioning it. Once I'm done with it, I will go back and wrap up my Star Wars fic.
Anyhoo, please enjoy, sorry it took so long, and don't forget to review.
Chapter 2 – Nick Fury
I can't help but feel a little guilty. The girl, Rogue, looks really scared with a dozen guns trained on her. It hadn't really been my goal to ambush her like this. Either of them, actually. But I'm out of options. And time.
I won't need the gun power for her, but Wolverine is another story. I don't know how he'll react.
A bare-chested Wolverine eventually barrels out onto the front porch, his eyes frantically searching for her in a see of blinding white light and panic. A deathly calm seems to wash over him once he casts his glance over the scene before him and assesses the situation. Superpowers or not, I know he can't see me. I stand behind my men and their lights. It's a tactical approach. I can see him but he can't see me. It gives me the upper hand, I hope.
The feral grimace, coupled with the gleam of his now brandished claws, gives me pause. After having read about General Stryker's siege on Xavier's school a few years back, I suddenly wonder if perhaps I should have tried a different tactic.
When he takes a step forward, wielding those claws like a rabid animal, my men shift their aim from Rogue to him. I don't know how many bullets it would exactly take to neutralize him. I brought a dozen of my best men, as well as Stark and Barton with me. I hope that's enough. All I really want to do is talk.
"What is this?" His voice is tight with tension.
With the sly grace of a cornered animal he slowly moves around to stand directly in front of Rogue. No words are exchanged between the pair, but clearly a message was conveyed with merely a glance. Once safely behind him, I see her slowly inch her way back into the cabin, probably to call for back up.
"Wolverine?" I call out before she has a chance to do anything. This cannot escalate.
"You have ten seconds to get off my property." His voice is steady, but I can hear the strain underneath.
"Wolverine?" I make my way forward through my wall of guns and men, and I stop no more than a few yards from him. For the most part I'm silhouetted by the lights behind me, but I let him study me as much as his vision will allow.
Rogue's head curiously pokes out from the massive cover of Wolverine's form and I see a slight look of recognition flash across her face. She moves out into full view again. "Who are you?"
"You must be Rogue," I say gently with a courteous nod of my head.
"Rogue, get back in the house," Wolverine says to her gruffly, his eyes never leaving me.
"If they wanted us dead, Logan, we'd be dead already," she replies casually before correcting herself. "Well, I would be, anyway."
There's my opening.
"Let me assure you both, I just want to talk." I raise my emptly hands in a gesture of good will and take a short step closer. "We mean you no harm."
Wolverine lifts a single bemused eyebrow as his eyes travel along the guns trained on him. "Not buying, bub."
Fair enough. This is clearly not his first rodeo. I turn to address my men. "Stand down."
In choreographed synchronicity they lower their rifles and the porch is thrown into semi-darkness. Only the light from the cabin's kitchen and the almost full moon lend the scene any visibility. The men take a step back, leaving me flanked by Barton on my left and Stark on my right.
Wolverine doesn't relax, though. In fact, he looks like a coil ready to snap. I realize now, he's tracking Hawkeye. Barton's got his crossbow pulled, with a notched arrow and laser sight resting over Wolverine's chest. While I don't want Barton to shoot, I also don't want him to stand down while Wolverine's still armed and dangerous. He's my last line of defense.
Rogue's eyes are also fixed on Barton, but her pose is casual and her tone belies a little playfulness. "You too, Katniss," she says with a little nod to him.
This is where I'm sure I made the right choice bringing Barton with me and not just Tony Stark. If Barton's in any way insulted by the taunt, he gives absolutely no indication or response. The arrow remains trained on his intended target. It's his staunch composure and stoic silence that can sometimes tip the balance in tense situations like these.
But of course the moment has to be ruined by Stark as he snorts in amusement. "Damn," he says under his breath. "I was saving that one."
Barton ignores him, which is something I've yet to master. Why did I think it would be a good idea to bring him here? A recognizable face, I guess.
"You first, Wolverine," I say motioning to his claws.
Wolverine smiles dangerously. He clearly likes these odds. Bow and arrow against his speed, claws, and superhuman powers. "Think an arrow's gonna stop me from turning you into a jigsaw puzzle?"
This is not really the best way to make a first impression, and I certainly can't have this conversation if everyone is on edge and armed. But I have to put this fire out now and that requires taking a huge gamble.
Just as we'd planned in the days leading up to this, Barton's laser dot moves from Wolverine's heart to rest over Rogue's. Even though the orders are clear that under no circumstance is she to be harmed, I hold my breath and hope Wolverine doesn't call my bluff.
Her posture is no longer casual, and all traces of amusement vanish from her face. "Um, Logan?" she calls in a small voice.
When Wolverine's eyes find the laser dot, the muscles on his jaw flex and his fingers twitch. He fixes Barton with a predatory glare and I'm absolutely sure it's only the immediate danger to Rogue that holds him back.
Rogue's eyes dart nervously between Wolverine and Barton, her breathing shallow as the two men continue their standoff.
"Just do it," she hisses to Wolverine.
Wolverine retracts his claws in an instant, though his eyes never leave Barton. Once Barton lowers his weapon, I breathe.
For a moment there, I wasn't sure how that was going to play out and from the waning terror on Rogue's face and the accusatory way she's staring at me, I'm not sure she knew either.
"You have ten seconds," Wolverine says curtly, his voice still laden with anger.
"Logan," I start. "May I call you Logan?"
I'm taken aback for a moment. I wasn't expecting this much resistance. This is Banner all over again. "Um, OK, Wolverine then. My name is Nick Fury, and I-"
"Good for you. Time's up, get off my property."
Rogue's eyes suddenly lock onto mine and I finally see full recognition there. For a moment, I think we're about to get somewhere.
Then Stark speaks.
"Listen, guys, we're getting off on the wrong foot here," he says casually, trying to break the tension with his trademark nonchalance. He takes a couple of steps closer to the couple and waves a finger in their general direction. "I'm sorry we crashed your…booty call, we-"
I close my eyes and shake my head. Sometimes I really do think Tony Stark is suicidal.
Wolverine's reaction is visceral. He lets out a deep rumbling growl but before he can pounce on Stark, Rogue's arm shoots out and her palm splays across his chest in an effort to presumably make him think twice about ripping Stark to shreds.
I've got her attention now.
"Nick Fury?" She asks, searching my face. "From SHIELD?"
I smile slightly. "Yes, Ma'am."
"What's SHIELD?" asks a confused Wolverine.
Satisfied he isn't about to brutally slaughter anyone, Rogue lowers the arm holding him back. "The strategic homeland intervention, enforcement, and logistics division."
He blinks twice and stares at her blankly. "The s-what?"
"Seriously?" she snaps back, clearly irritated. "You have to start coming to the briefings."
I wasn't sure it was possible but his scowl deepens. "I am hanging by a thread here, Rogue."
She rolls her eyes and sighs impatiently. "That thing a couple of years ago, in Manhattan, remember?" She turns back to me now, pointing a finger. "The Avengers. That was you."
"Mostly me," butts in Tony Stark with a haughty shrug of his shoulders.
"You took out half the city!" I sense a not-so-subtle hint of accusation in her voice. Somewhat true, I suppose.
"We saved the world!" Stark points out defensively.
"Big deal," she says, matching his arrogance and topping it with a haughty crossing of her arms, "so have we."
"Oh, please tell me you want to talk about San Francisco?" He bites back.
A shadow crosses her face and, beside her, Wolverine growls threateningly.
For the first time in the whole night, Barton chooses this moment to intercede and I'm not surprised. I know how much he hates wasting time. I sense most of his impatience is directed at Stark. "This isn't a pissing contest."
"Then what is this?" She seems equally eager to get to the point. "I would have thought you'd…Oh my God." As the realization hits she turns to Wolverine. "They're here to recruit you." Wolverine remains impassive against her declaration and stares at her vacantly. Unruffled by his silence, she turns to me again. "I'm sorry, did I steal your moment?"
Yes, she did, but I'm not gonna call her on it. Not when I need her on my side for this to work. "It's OK. She's right, Wolverine," I say to the larger-than-life mutant before me. "I would like to offer you the opportunity to join our Initiative."
Finally, Wolverine finds his voice. "Is this a joke?" he asks Rogue.
"We need your help, Wolverine. We could really use someone with your…talent," I explain. "You'd be a great asset to our team."
"Get the fuck off my property!"
"Logan!" Rogue cries. I'm not sure if she's horrified at his rudeness or his cursing. Or both.
"Are you kidding me, Rogue?"
"I think you should hear them out."
And suddenly it's as if we've all just ceased to exist.
"Do you, now?" He asks with mock interest and a lofty raised eyebrow. "I don't do teamwork."
"That's what you said about the X-Men," she points out.
"And how did that work out?"
She seems to visibly shrink from that comment, as if it physically hurt her. She lowers her voice, but not so much that I can't still make out what she says. "That's not fair." she smiles weakly, though it never quite reaches her eyes. "It's not that bad, is it? I'm still here."
Some of Wolverine's resolve seems to melt as guilt flashes across his face. I feel like we might be intruding on a private moment.
When Wolverine speaks again, I had no idea that he could ever sound so gentle. Or curious. "Why are you taking their side, Marie?"
Marie? I never came across her real name in my research. That detail has been as closely guarded as the location of Wolverine's cabin.
"We're on the same side, Logan."
"Are we?" he says studying her face closely. "I remember Erik saying something very similar."
Her posture stiffens. "I'm saying it, not Erik," she says angrily.
Our presence is acknowledged again as Wolverine turns to me. "How did you even find me?"
It was hard; I'll give him that. Using Rogue to find him was actually Hank McCoy's idea. I'm not sure if I should disclose that, but I have the feeling he'll know if I lie.
"We followed her." I say with a nod to Rogue who, in addition to rewarding me with a withering glare, takes a subtle but significant step away from Wolverine.
He turns to her with suspicious eyes. "I want everyone off my property. Now!"
"Wait, Logan!" Rogue starts.
"No! Everyone out!" He barks and turns around to go back in the cabin. Rogue tries to follow but he quickly stops her. "You too, Rogue. Go."
"Take her home." He calls out. To me, I guess.
"Logan," she tries again as her hands fumble for his arm. He shakes her off.
"Go home!" With that the door slams shut in her face.
She continues to stare at it for seconds after it closes, her hand floating inches away from the doorknob. She pulls her hand away only to reach for it once more. She does this twice as she seems to think carefully about barging in after him.
"Come on," Barton says gently, "we'll give you a ride back."
She finally realizes she's not alone and when she turns to us, I see a similar Wolverine-like anger reflected on her face. The same scowl. The same posture. It's uncanny.
"This was your brilliant plan?" She asks in weary accusation. "To follow me here?" She turns to Stark with a look so full of smug condescension I can only wish to ever duplicate it. "I thought you were supposed to be smart?"
"Yes well," Barton starts with a smirk, "we're starting to have our doubts, too."
She rolls her eyes and takes a deep breath as she turns away and reaches for the door again. I feel like this opportunity is about to slip from my hands.
Unfortunately, it's Stark who manages to speak first, quickly bounding up the steps and grabbing her by the arm to stop her from going in. "Hang on, where are you going?"
"I'm going to go talk to him," she says simply, pointing to the door. "Unless, of course, you want to. By the way, he's really pissed."
As if to punctuate her last comment, the sound of shattering glass is heard from inside. Accompanied by some very expressive grunting.
This soundtrack, together with her last comment, seems to give Stark pause. He lets go of her and eyes the cabin with distrust. "Are you sure you're safe?"
She laughs. Not forced or ironic but a real laugh. Like he's really just made a very funny joke. "That's cute," she says. "Listen," she says, turning to me, "I know how to talk to him when he gets like this. Give me a few minutes, OK?" She glances fleetingly at Barton and opens the door. Before she disappears inside she turns to me one last time, "hang tight."
"I like her better," Barton says once she's gone. "Can we take her instead?"
I smile because I like her better, too. But, no, she can't help us.
"You wanna take the science teacher back with us?" Tony asks.
I could tell Stark that looks can be deceiving. Especially when it comes to the so-called X-Men. Rogue might be a science teacher now, but that's not all she is. I've done my research on her. I know the kind of people that live in her head. I know Wolverine is one of them.
"That's no science teacher," I say, walking back to the car. The men follow suit.
"What do you think?" Barton asks when we are sitting back in the car, staring intently at the dark cabin.
I lean back into my seat. "I think it's in her hands now."