Title: In Pride's Shadow
Author: lachlanrose
Disclaimer: The Wolverine belongs to himself, bub.
Feedback: Yes, please! With a pumpkin spice latte on top? The good. The bad. The ugly, welcome…
Summary: Monstrous dark things live in the shadows and the Wolverine is the darkest of them all. Marie works behind the bar. A certain cage fighter has caught her eye... AU. Dark. W/R W/OC (Marie POV)
Author's notes: In honor of Halloween, something a little darker than the usual for those of us who prefer tricks to treats. This one is just a little bit AU. Marie and Logan still have their gifts and still meet in Laughlin City, only she's been there a while working at her Uncle's bar. Logan's a cage fighter working the circuit. He takes an interest in the girl behind the bar, though I think it's pretty safe to say this particular Logan is a bit rough around the edges. He's the best as what he does, and what he does best definitely isn't very nice. Xavier and his band of merry do-gooders never enter into it. The usual warnings apply. (Hey, it's me!) I'd call it dark and twisty with a side order of dirty, and an extra helping of smut. You have been warned. Don't let the mention of an OC scare ya off. I promise she's fairly ancillary to the main W/R (ahem) action.

In Pride's Shadow

I am her. The unseen girl. The one their eyes pass over on the way to the girls whose smiles are just a little too bright and whose practiced laughter never quite rings true. Most are pretty, some are beautiful, but they all flutter about in the same salacious way. Chests heaving, manes flicking, tails shaking. They remind me of mares in rut, looking for studs to service them. And I've worked in this crappy fight bar long enough to know finding one's not difficult.

The young fighters come here to cut their teeth. The older ones come too, partly for the beer and the women, and partly to keep the young ones in line. It's a rough place filled with rougher men. Fighters mostly. Bikers and Skinheads. They keep all but the regulars away. Well, the regulars and the girls who come here looking for things they won't find with the boys at school. The men who come here? They're the kind girls are warned about as they get older. The kind their fathers forbid them to date. The kind they look for when they want a good time with someone bad.

And make no mistake, they are bad.

But I've also watched them long enough to see them as they really are. Most are lost little boys, playing at being men. They hide their fear behind ink and leather, behind crude words and cocksure bravado. It's not the ideology they subscribe to as much as it is the sense of family... Well, that and the chance to run wild and bash a few heads. Damned delinquents, the lot of them.

Alone, they're not really threatening. That's something that changes when they gather. Pack mentality, I guess. Still, even then, they're not the ones who give me pause. In the pack, there are always one or two who stand out, not because they act out, but because they have the power to keep the others from doing so. They never declare themselves leaders; the deference of the others does that well enough on its own.

Even after watching them, seeing them when they're not showboating, when they are simply men having a beer with the guys, I understand the draw. Just because their eyes don't linger on me doesn't mean I'm immune. I might not flick my hair or toy with my glass in a provocative way meant to capture a man's interest, but inside, I know I'm more like those girls than I want to admit. Truthfully, I think it's the nature of women to respond to such unfettered, unapologetic masculinity.

I know I do.

Those men, the leaders, they have the power to make me shiver both with fear... and with something else. Something darker and far more seductive. It's a strange feeling, but then again, women are creatures of contradiction. Part of me wants to nurture them, to kiss away their hurts and give them the softness they so desperately need, and part of me wants to submit, to be made to feel like a woman by experiencing the strength and power of their masculinity in the most base way possible.

In this bar, it's the Wolverine who stands out. He truly is a lion among men. Leader of the pride - in all its many connotations. His brutally beautiful body and fierce countenance mark him in much the same way. Above all others, he is masculinity personified. A male predator in the prime of his life. Potent. Cunning. Ruthless. And utterly without remorse. He is territorial and fiercely protective of his privacy. He frightens me, not so much because of how he is, but because of what he makes me feel.

The Wolverine knows his own power. And more disturbing still, he knows what that power does to women. I hate him for it, even as I press my legs together against the wetness his presence coaxes from me. It's unfair, but sometimes I think my gift has made my skin even more sensitive. Sometimes I want to touch him so badly it aches. Sometimes I'm thankful touching him is impossible. God only knows what I'd do if I could. It's safer for us both this way. I try not to think about it, except on rare nights like this.

He plays with me just like he plays with all the rest. To the others, I'm a shadow, the girl who washes the glasses and empties the ashtrays. I am a part of the background, a fixture so familiar they don't even stop to look twice.

The Wolverine looks.

I hate that I know he will... and that I can't keep myself from meeting his gaze when I feel his eyes burning a hole in my back. That's all he gets from me, though. I've never followed him through the bar to the shadowy alley out back for a good hard fuck against the dirty, rough bricks. All he gets from me is the satisfaction of knowing that I'm not immune to his power. Let him get satisfaction of a different sort from those other girls.

He might get it from them, but I know he wants me like that too. This is the fifth summer he's passed through, following the fight circuit north and the third I've been legally old enough to work behind the bar, not that it stopped me before. There is fire in his eyes when he looks at me now, even though he knows that I won't ever be one of those girls on her knees in front of him or getting her back scraped raw against the bricks out back. Thankfully, he doesn't demand anything more from me than my unspoken acknowledgement of his presence.

My uncle owns this bar and we live upstairs, in the shitbox apartment above. While the Wolverine is certainly not afraid of him, even the stupidest animal knows not to soil its own drinking hole. One day this bar will be mine and like all intelligent men, the Wolverine knows that women tend to have long memories. I know he's not afraid of me either, but there is easier prey to be had, and for the time being, he's content with baiting me. I know he enjoys forcing me to acknowledge my awareness of him, even in my own space.

He is here tonight.

Like always, I feel the weight of his stare as surely as any touch. And like always, the moment I meet his eyes, flashing playfully at me from under his dark lashes, he looks away. I want to believe he didn't notice me shiver as I felt my nipples grow hard, but the knowing smile kicking up the corner of his mouth says otherwise.


My face heats and I notice his smile growing bigger. His smugness rankles and I want to chuck the beer I'm holding at his arrogant head, but I know if I fire the first volley, all bets are off. He wouldn't care of the First Lady herself owned this damned bar; he'd be up and after me before I could take two steps. I'm not stupid enough to engage such a formidable man, not even on my own turf.

Luckily, I know his eyes won't stay on me long. They never do. He is here for game of a different sort and I can see his interest has already been diverted by a girl at one of the booths in the back. Strawberry blonde with skin like milk. She's a little bit of a thing, pretty, but too skinny and too pale by half. Usually he prefers them a little older, with longer hair and more curves, but I can see how her frailty would attract him. It's that, I think, more than her face or form that piques his interest.

He's hunting tonight.

I can tell. He's also on edge, more so than usual. Something dark and dangerous is moving in him tonight. Now his choice makes sense to me. He wants someone he can run to ground. Someone he can devour. I'm torn between wanting to warn her and wanting to be her.

Stupid silly twit.

I notice him glancing at her with that sideways look he has, the one that makes him look part angel and part devil. Lucifer. The dark angel fallen from Grace. My palms sweat and I nearly drop the glasses I'm carrying. The Wolverine is focused so intently on her that he doesn't notice my near-accident. My uncle does, though, and turns from his stool to kick at me with one foot, muttering a warning under his breath.

"Clumsy bitch."

I sidestep it easily, used to the bitter ranting of a used-up old man. He's already three sheets to the wind and I know that after I've closed tonight, he'll stay down here with his cronies, remembering their own glory days fighting in the cage when their bodies were young and strong, when the pretty girls looked to them for a good time with someone bad.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the Wolverine leaning in to ask the bartender if he knows who the new girl is. His interest is a signal to the others to back off, to leave this one for him. I wonder if she's even aware of what's happening around her. Young girls without dates don't sit unmolested in bars filled with liquored-up cage fighters. That fact that she is should tell her something, and yet she remains strangely unaware. Her naïveté surrounds her like a cloud.

The Wolverine will feed well this night.

It is not long before she feels his eyes on her and is forced to meet them, the same way I was. Her body language changes, predictably. She touches her hair more, plucks at her natty clothing and pushes her tongue into the neck of her beer when she remembers to drink it. The display is vulgar, and for a moment, I see the Wolverine's interest waver. Not because of the crude gesture, but because he doesn't want it to be too easy. He likes the chase. On the other side of the bar, the young fighters get a bit rowdy and she flinches back, moving deeper into the booth and rubbing her arms nervously. The uncertainty in her gesture recaptures his full attention in a way no base flirting ever could.

It's less than an hour before she's in his lap. He touches her as if they were alone, not sitting in a public place surrounded by people. His utter lack of disregard for social mores, coupled with his unshakable self-assurance, makes his appeal a hundred times more powerful... and observing them, I know what it is to want.

His mouth is on her, uncaring of who sees. I watch him lick her neck and feel myself grow wet. It's a sensual act, licking. Sensual and animal. It's like he's feeding on her right there, before us all.

It's another contradiction. He's so closed, so fierce about guarding his personal, private self and yet he has no reservation about revealing his sexual self, a part most men are uncomfortable revealing outside the bedroom. With the Wolverine, it is clear he curbs nothing. He is the same man whether he's behind closed doors or sitting in a crowded bar. His lack of decorum is as horrifying as it is compelling, and I'm thankful when the lion leaves my den.

He is back two nights later.

The girl is with him. The other fighters around them are rowdy and unmanageable, but spending enough that my uncle looks the other way. Frankly, I'm surprised he noticed at all. He's far too drunk already to make it upstairs tonight. And I'm glad for it. I recognize the Wolverine's body language and I know I will want to be alone in the apartment tonight. In the two days since I've last seen him, it's obvious he's claimed the girl. Her deference is clear and she is never more than an arm's reach from him. She is wearing a jacket that looks out of place here, like a colorful butterfly among black beetles. His hands are on her but his eyes find me, waiting until I acknowledge him before he looks away.

He knows what I am thinking and I hate him for it.

I can also tell the dangerous mood he was in a few nights ago has ripened. His big body is humming with feral intensity. The cage only makes it worse. He is brutal tonight. He will take her soon, most likely in the alley out back. An unwanted wave of heat burns a path from my brain to my womb and this time I do drop a glass, but my uncle is far too drunk to notice. The Wolverine notices, but then again, he's primed for such games tonight. I wonder, not for the first time, if he'll be able to wait. He's thirsty after the fights, but there's more than an hour until closing. I half expect him to drag her out without so much as a backwards glance, but he doesn't.

I should have known.

A hunter's patience knows no bounds.

Closing came and went. I left my uncle on the floor and the cleaning for the morning as I herded the last of the stragglers out and locked the doors. I did not want to miss so much as a single moment of the show. I climbed the stairs and left the lights off, moving silently through our spartan apartment with little difficulty. Our cat rubbed against my legs, wanting to be fed, but I ignored him as I dug my pack of cigarettes out of their hiding place and patted my pockets to be sure I had my lighter.

I know I'm going to want it later.

It's unseasonably warm outside and the windows are open. I climb easily onto the old fire escape. It's not like the others that overlook the alley – groaning heaps of metal grate and rusty iron bars. I have transformed ours with flowers and greenery. It is my sanctuary.

Or, rather, it was.

Now it is more a guilty escape than ever. In the wan moonlight, the vines make sinister serpentine shapes against the night sky. Though it's nearly black, I lie down quickly, not wanting to be seen. Careful not to make much noise, I slide a cigarette from the pack and slip it between my lips. The tobacco smells good and makes my mouth water. I let it sit there, unlit, while I listen to the voices of fighters below carry on the still night air as they disperse.

My sense of anticipation builds as they come closer, passing beneath me on their way to wherever it is they go at this ungodly hour. I try to slow my breathing and attempt to focus my attention on the night sky, wishing I could see all the stars, but the distant lights of the little town are still too bright and only the largest stars are visible. The others are hidden in shadow.

Like me.

I nearly jump out of my skin as I hear the Wolverine's voice directly below me, telling the others to fuck off. They know he's not a joiner, but it doesn't stop them from wanting to include him, to walk in his shadow. Good-natured catcalls and playfully crude sucky-slap noises follow. What he wants is no secret and I hear his low, husky chuckle blend with their ribald laughter.

The girl's high, drunk giggle rises above the others and someone quickly shushes her before she calls too much attention to the group. I hear the Wolverine's voice again, but it's so soft and low I can't make out the words and in less time than I thought possible the others have skittered away like spiders in the dark, leaving just the two of them.

And me.

Up next: The Lamb. Things heat up. Marie jumps from the frying pan into the fire. Any guesses what will happen next?