How good are your surgical skills?
They were getting back in the car when he felt it. A sharp sting against his shoulder. Then one at his side.
Logan scented the air, his hand tight on the car door handle as he shifted in the passenger seat.
Now another in his arm. His vision started getting fuzzy as he let out a low growl.
“Logan?” Max frowned, reaching out to him. “Ow!”
She then slumped over in her seat.
Logan, frustrated that he hadn’t been able to track a telltale scent, turned to look down at her.
Fuck. She’s already in now, whether she wants to be or not.
He began clenching and unclenching his hands, hoping that his healing factor would burn the tranqs out quickly. He felt somewhat groggy, but was still capable of fighting if it came down to it. And it looked like that was definitely in the cards in the next few minutes. At least the retrieval team wasn’t immediately going for the kill. They wouldn’t be using the darts, otherwise.
Logan relaxed back into the seat, closing his eyes; playing ‘possum. Perhaps this group hadn’t believed everything they’d been told about previous encounters with him. He hoped not. It would give him the advantage he needed. Through slitted eyes, he watched as several men in forest camouflage slowly crept towards them. Two broke off in flanking positions, making their way around the back of the car. The other two kept their weapons trained on him as they edged closer. He couldn’t chance Max getting hit again. Logan knew that he could take a fair barrage of bullets, but he didn’t know how much damage her healing could counteract. As she stirred beside him, he hoped that she would provide enough of a distraction for him to take the other two out.
Max frowned as she craned her neck to look up at Logan, who now appeared to have passed out in the passenger seat. She was still a little dazed. It was almost as if she was experiencing the afteraffects of a drug of some kind. The feeling was rapidly fading.
What the hell?
“The girl’s up. Move in and close them down. Now.”
The voice had come from off to her left and she frowned, her eyes narrowing to slits. The wolf urged her to action and Max quickly responded, opening the door with all her strength and slamming it into one of the soldiers who’d taken it upon himself to peer into her window. The man flew ten yards back into the brush as Max then ripped the door from its hinges, using it to slap the other soldier back into the woods
Several painfully loud fireworks and a roar sounded off to her right. She turned in time to see Logan spring from the car, his claws popping out with a distinctive sound as they sheared cleanly through the barrels of the weapons the soldiers before him were holding. Pieces of metal dropped to the ground; the grass starting to smoke beneath them.
Both men went sheet white before Logan slammed his claws into their chests with another roar, forcing both of them to the ground.
Max yelped out as something sharp and hot slammed into her leg. She then heard a loud crack.
Something inside her shifted and she screamed as her body responded, forcing her into dire form.
One of the men she’d thrown back was now pointing a pistol at her and she dodged as she felt something whip by her ear.
Shit! Did he just shoot me?
In moments, she was at the man’s side, laying his dominant arm open with four deep slashes. He immediately dropped the pistol and began shrieking as she moved in closer, taking his scent in. Were these the same guys that had hurt Logan in the first place? The ones who had left him here?
She pressed down on the man’s chest with her claws as she leaned in to look at him, startled when she felt his ribcage collapse beneath her furred hand. Shit. She’d forgotten how fragile they were.
Max then whirled around to find Logan looking down at her, spattered with bits of bone, gore and blood. His eyes were different now; sharper – feral. He was breathing hard, his mouth turned down in an ugly scowl. Max stayed in a crouch over the man, moving slowly. It was like dealing with any other wild animal; as long as you didn’t run, or didn’t show fear, they wouldn’t attack.
“Logan.” she murmured, the word sounding strange with an extended muzzle full of razor sharp teeth. Max closed her eyes, feeling her body shift back.
He was still staring back at her as the change completed, his breathing labored now. Max slowly stood up, keeping her hands at her sides. Logan flinched and she saw the claws slide back into his knuckles. He had a distant expression now, his eyes almost lost. She took a step towards him and he flinched again. He looked almost as if he were having a mild seizure.
“Logan.” she breathed as she reached out and touched him, then slowly wrapped her arms around him. She felt him shiver, then felt his hands slide around her waist, resting on her lower back.
The blood on him was quickly cooling and the wolf wanted to lick him clean. She looked over to see the remains of the others. Pieces of the men were strewn about in rather large chunks. It had taken him moments to carve them up with those claws of his. They had sliced through bone and flesh as easily as the metal of their guns. Logan trembled against her and she pulled back to look into his eyes.
“They’re gone, Logan. I’m here. It’s OK.”
He was stunned. Not only had she easily taken care of herself, but here she was comforting and reassuring him. He wanted to speak, to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. That dark, cold place in him was still struggling to fight and it was all he could do to force it back down now that the threat had been eliminated. Her tone helped more than he thought it would and the darkness slowly receded. It became a little easier to breathe. As the tension finally slipped from him he pulled her close, holding her tightly.
Finally, the words came out, almost choking him. “Where’d you learn to fight?”
Max relaxed, laughing now, knowing that the worst of it was now past.
“Eight brothers. We’d all beat the holy hell out of each other. It was good practice. It’s just a good thing that humans aren’t as resilient as they are. I would have gotten my ass handed to me. I’ve been years out of practice.”
Logan looked back at her, still unable to believe that she was taking this as well as she was.
“C’mon. Let’s get you cleaned up.” she murmured, grinning as she began leading him back to the river.
Feeling extremely disoriented, he nodded and followed, letting her take control. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling.
As she scrubbed the blood out of his hair, she asked, “So – how often does that happen to you?”
Logan let out a weak laugh. “More often than I’d like, although a part of me enjoys it.”
“What are you, a bullet magnet?” Max gently extracted another piece of metal from his shoulder, relieved that he was recuperating so quickly. As she tossed it behind her, the wound closed up.
Logan laughed then, looking up at her. She was glorious, even with her clothes in bloody tatters. Her skirt seemed to have survived the shift, but the tanktop was practically hanging off her.
Max smiled and continued checking him over to see if there were any more bullets embedded in his skin. There were only about four more, going up his side. Logan waited patiently as she plucked them out, one by one. He figured that she either wasn’t fazed by what had just happened, or she was in shock.
He frowned, hoping it wasn’t the latter. She did seem to be lucid, though.
Max gave him a strange look and dropped her hand back into the river to wash the blood from it.
“What is it?” she asked, reaching back up to place her hand on his chest.
“I been runnin’ a long time, darlin’ and even I ain’t okay with everything that happens after the claws pop.”
Max frowned back at him, asking, “What are you getting at?”
Logan paused for a moment, his eyes capturing her gaze with an intensity that sent a chill through her.
“You sure you’re okay with what just happened back there?”
She chuckled and explained, “Well, yeah. Growing up Turnskin isn’t exactly easy at times. I’ve gone through my share of hunts and the aftermath that follows.”
Max sobered a little as an old memory resurfaced.
“Well, what the fuck do you expect me to do, Z? Piss on it so that folks steer clear from it now? Maybe bury it under some leaves? This ain’t no deer you killed, son.”
Her father’s voice came out in an angry southern drawl, his mouth tight as he crossed his arms. Her brother looked up at their father with wild cornflower blue eyes as her other siblings crowded around the corpse. It had been an accident from what Zane said, but the boy stank of fear in a way that seemed to indicate that something else had happened.
The chest cavity looked as if it had been torn open; the remains of the boy’s ribcage left to rot beside one of his booted feet. The ants and various other bugs were just starting to come to dinner. The innards had been mostly consumed, but thick drapes of intestine spilled out of it, off to the side. Blood slicked the surrounding leaves and she could easily spot the signs of a brief but passionate scuffle in the ground at their feet. Large chunks were also missing from the boy’s arms and legs.
Her brother had apparently had himself a fine little feast here after his little ‘accident’.
Max wrinkled her nose, unable to imagine that the pink creatures that smelled so strongly of chemicals could taste anything but tainted.
“You cain’t play with ‘em like you play with pups, son. Ah told ya that more’n ah care to count, now.”
Her father’s voice was dripping with barely restrained anger now, as well as an underlying current of fear. She knew that he would now have to do something fairly extreme to make an example of her brother so the rest of the Pack learned. If they were going to live this close to humans, they had to learn – or they’d be hunted down. It was as simple as that.
Max heard the beginnings of a rumbling growl building up in her father’s throat.
“Goddamnit Z, why the fuck did you have to EAT him?”
The sound of her brother begging and whining made her faintly ill. Whether they were blood kin or not, he’d shat in his own backyard. Their backyard. The least he could do was be a man about it and take his punishment as was his due. Zane began retching, then violently threw up in the grass beside the corpse. Max spotted what looked like the remains of a human finger in the wet red mess left behind.
She was disgusted – not with the aftermath of the meal, but with her brother’s behavior. Didn’t he understand that the rules were there for their own good?
That if they didn’t follow them, there would be deadly consequences?
Max shuddered as she remembered the vicious way their father had chosen to punish her brother. It was enough to almost make her choke. Since then, nobody had gone against the old Alpha, and it had changed him; twisted him into something she would never call family again. Breaking his own son like that shattered something inside him and he’d become brutal afterward, driving them further away from civilization. It had only been a matter of time before their mother left, and then he really went ’round the bend. Max had run away from home soon after and had been trying to make her own way in the world ever since.
“Max..?” Logan sounded uncertain as she met his gaze again.
“Just trust me when I say I’ve seen worse, OK?”
Logan nodded, wondering what had brought the brief shadow into her eyes. Sure, she seemed like a young, almost naive kid about some things – but there was something deeper in there. Something she didn’t want him to see. Hell, everybody had secrets. He saw no reason to begrudge the fact that she didn’t want to share hers. There were plenty of things about himself that he’d rather no-one ever knew.
He frowned and let out an irritated sigh. “They’re likely gonna keep comin’ after you after this. Knowin’ these military types, they probably wired back to their boss tellin’ him all about you since they spotted us together.” he explained, not at all happy about the prospect. Having someone constantly on his ass was tiring, but at least when it had just been him he knew he would be able to do anything to keep from getting caught again. With her in tow, it was going to make things much more difficult. More complicated.
“Then we stick together. I don’t think they had time to say anything to anybody about what I really am. If that’s the case, it gives us both an advantage.”
Max’s voice was soft as her knuckles gently stroked his cheek, but there was a feel of iron behind it.
Not liking it, but not seeing another way around it, Logan nodded.
“Makes sense. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I got you into this.”
Max laughed and suddenly his chest felt a little lighter.
“Are you kidding? I involved myself the moment I started following you around. I had a pretty good idea that you were the kind of guy that trouble followed. It was kind of obvious, y’know.”
Logan gave her a measured look, then sighed. “Darlin’, you really are somethin’ else. You sure ’bout this?”
Max eyed him with a wicked grin. “Don’t make me bite you.”
“What about the life – the place you’re leavin’ behind?”
He often wondered what it would be like to finally relax. To finally have enough time to get his bearings so that he could figure out the details of everything that happened to him. To find the fragments of his past that would help him piece it all together. Why would anybody give that up, willingly choosing the life that had been forced on him? A life of running and constant searching.
“What life?” Max rolled her eyes and curled her hair behind her right ear. “Honey, I’ve been working retail for almost no pay, for misogynistic bosses who just love to harass their female employees. I’ve been scraping my life, what there’s been of it, together since I left my Pack. If I go with you, I have the chance to feel that connection again – the feel of blood, of family. Pack.”
Logan frowned again and she shook her head.
“Hey – I’m fine. More than fine. This is exactly where I want to be and if we don’t get out of here soon, more of those soldier boys are going to come looking for the guys that you just sent to Carneios.”
“Point taken.” he murmured.
As they began making their way back to the shoreline, he asked, “Carneios?”
Max flushed briefly, wondering why she’d used the old god’s name as well. All this time she’d spent in the human world, and it had taken less than two days for her to get back into the habit of using old Pack terminology.
“Carneios is like..it’s our version of your grim reaper. Death.”
She began squeezing the water out of her skirt. At least she had another tanktop in the car. She had gotten most of the blood off it in the river.
“Fair enough.” Logan murmured, his heartbeat jumping as she took his hand.
They walked back to the car in silence, Logan trapped with his thoughts and Max liberated by hers. She didn’t realize how much blood had saturated the area and was grateful that only a little had sprayed onto the car. She moved in to start wiping off the right front fender, watching Logan as he walked over to survey the remains of the bodies he’d unceremoniously taken apart.
He looked over at her, watching her fastidiously inspect the car for more telltale splashes of blood. Girl was smart. She’d probably make a decent soldier if she put her mind to it. As he peered back down at the soldier who had been calling the shots on the team that had found them, he cocked his head, then squatted down and began fishing through what pockets he could find.
It did him no good – no ID, no dogtags – just like the others. They were practically kids.
Seasoned soldiers who knew better would have shot him full of holes, then waited for him to wake up in a cell, hours later after his body had gotten the time to heal to a point where he would be useful. Were they just fuckin’ with him?
A year in and he still wasn’t used to seeing the aftermath of the carnage that followed the *SNICKT* of the claws. From the bits and pieces he could remember from before, he had been a killer back then as well – but that was different. Sniping, knifing or blowing people up was a good deal different than turning them into large kebab chunks with a few quick strokes. And it wasn’t so much the gore that followed, but the cold darkness that roiled inside him when they popped. It was as if something switched his brain to feral, shutting down anything but the instinct to survive at all costs. Logan was slowly getting used to coming back from that, but from time to time it was still disorienting.
This time it had been easier, though. He hadn’t kept running or fighting until he passed out. It was likely because of her. He had been able to come back to himself quickly because of the way she’d responded to him. If that was the case, it could end up being both a boon and a curse. He didn’t have any desire to tie his sense of sanity to something outside himself; it would make him vulnerable in a way that he didn’t like thinking about. Self contained. That was the way to go. Anything added only caused problems. Besides, he always worked better alone. Nobody to keep track of or to account for that way.
He turned to see her kick the tires to make sure that none of them had been punctured by a stray bullet. What exactly had she gone through that had been so terrible? He wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to know. He could already feel himself growing close to her; enjoying her company – but that could only last so long, right? It had been far too long since he’d actually been around people that weren’t in and out of his life in under a day. Life on the run didn’t afford much of a chance to take the time to get to know people, and it wasn’t exactly the wisest of ideas to start now, given his situation. He stood and walked back to the car, helping her inspect for damage.
Max smiled over at him and it knocked the breath out of him. Christ, she was just a kid herself. There was a strange innocent purity about her that made her seem so much younger than her body development reflected. And yet, there was definitely something inside her that matched his beast – his fury, in a way. It was a strange mix that made him wonder how she pulled it off.
“What?” she asked, her eyes shining with mirth.
He opened the door and slid into the passenger seat.
“We’re going to need to ditch the car. I don’t know how they tracked us this far from the drop point, but the car’s likely on their radar now.”
Max ducked her head to look across at him, frowning. “How are we supposed to get another vehicle? Steal it?”
Logan looked up at her with a bland expression.
“Okay, so we steal a car. Any suggestions as to where we’re supposed to find a car to snatch?”
He thought about it for a moment, not at all comfortable with the fact that they’d tracked him down again so quickly after the two of them had covered so much ground.
“You said that you tasted something electric when you touched your tongue to my skin, right?” he asked, looking back at her.
Max nodded and frowned.
“How good would you say that sniffer of yours is?”
If they had embedded a tracer in him, wouldn’t his healing factor have naturally forced it out by now? And if so, why couldn’t he sense it if she could?
“I was one of the best trackers in the Pack.” She admitted proudly.
“Good.” Logan reached into his backpack, pulling out an enormous knife.
“How good are your surgical skills?”
Max blanched, feeling the blood drain from her face as she looked down at the blade. It was razor sharp.
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
She met Logan’s gaze and sighed. The man was completely serious.
“I-I know a little first aid.” She stammered. The thought of cutting him open wasn’t at all appealing.
“Good. Get out of the car.” He murmured as he opened the passenger side door and stood up.
Ah, shit. Max left the door open as she walked over to his side of the car, placing the knife on the hood.
Logan looked at her strangely as she began stripping down and she explained, “Pink nose isn’t as sensitive as the wolf’s is.” She tapped her nose and quickly stripped before him, tossing her clothes on the roof of the car.
“And I don’t want to lose another outfit today.”
Logan watched her shift, fascinated as her features bled into the enormous bipedal wolf creature he’d seen earlier. He looked down at her wickedly curved claws and said, “Maybe you don’t need the knife, eh?”
He pulled his shirt off and turned around, tossing it on top of her clothing. A strange sound echoed out from her throat that sounded something like a laugh. Max took a step towards him and began licking him and taking his scent in, trying to find the spot on his body where the electrical contact was the strongest.
There. It was in the middle of his lower back, deep under the skin. Possibly in the bone.
This is going to get ugly, she thought to herself, wincing.
She shifted back, knowing her claws would be too unwieldy for the kind of cut she would need to make. She also didn’t want to shred him.
“Whatever it is, it’s in your back. I think it’s embedded in your skeleton or something.” She explained.
Logan leaned over, spreading himself out face down on the hood.
“Get it out.” He commanded, his tone rough as he steeled himself for the pain.
This was gonna hurt like a motherfucker. When he found the asshole that had tagged him, he was going to ensure that they never had the chance to do it to anybody else.
Max picked up the knife from the hood with shaking hands.
“Fuck..” she murmured. “I don’t know if I can do this, Logan. I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”
He turned to face her, chest still pressed to the hood.’
“I’ll heal. Trust me. I’ve come through worse.” His tone was soft, reassuring now.
A tear trailed down her cheek as she leaned in and pressed the tip of his knife to the spot.
“It’s OK, baby. You just gotta get it out, or they’ll keep sending kids in uniforms after me. Then we gotta run.”
Max tried her best to steady her hands as the knife jittered against his skin, opening up several shallow cuts. She heard him growl before he said, “That’s not helping. Just steady yourself and jam it in.”
Max took a deep breath, then cried out as she pushed the knife into his skin. Logan grunted and Max heard a metallic thunk as it hit something deep inside his back. Was that it?
“Now, quick,” he growled, “you gotta dig it out. Before it heals up. Turn the knife to give you more room to work. Can you see it?”
His breathing was quick and shallow and his legs were shaking as they tried to hold him up.
Max closed her eyes and gave the knife a savage turn, wincing as Logan let out a pained groan. She then began digging around in the ragged hole, her fingers searching for something that was supposed to feel like it shouldn’t be there. She grabbed his shirt to soak up the blood that was slowly oozing into the wound. At least he wasn’t a heavy bleeder. That helped.
After dabbing at it, she frowned as she peered at the strange, shiny metal that seemed to cover his his bones. There was a small piece that looked out of place on top of the smooth surface of the metal. She chipped at it with the tip of the blade until it finally broke free. She dabbed at the wound again and fished around for the bit, pulling it out and placing it on the hood along with the knife.
“That it?” he asked and she could hear the agony in his voice. He sounded almost constricted.
She could only imagine how much pain he must be enduring, and she started feeling slightly nauseous.
“Yeah. It’s out.” She replied before the world went fuzzy.
“MAX!” She heard him cry out as the ground rushed up to meet her.
MARVEL owns the copyright on their own characters, but I’ve fussed with and taken liberties with canon, and Max is my own creation.
Chapter 1 :: Chapter 2 :: Chapter 3 :: Chapter 4 :: Chapter 5 :: Chapter 6 :: Chapter 7 :: Chapter 8 :: Chapter 9 :: Chapter 10 :: Chapter 11 :: Chapter 12 :: Chapter 13 :: Chapter 14 :: Chapter 15 :: Chapter 16 :: Chapter 17 :: Chapter 18 :: Chapter 19 :: Chapter 20 :: Chapter 21 :: Chapter 22 :: Chapter 23 :: Chapter 24 :: Chapter 25