Who the hell are you people? A dance company?
Max grinned and chuffed happily as she tore a chunk out of the hind she’d run down earlier. Logan sat across from her, cutting large pieces of meat from the carcass and quickly choking them down.
The meat tasted good. Clean. It was reassuring in a way that few things in life were.
Boosting the car had been a bit of a rush. They had chosen to snatch an innocuous white economy car from a poorly lit parking lot after dumping her car several blocks away. Logan had easily broken into it and hotwired it, as well as switching the plates with a similar car that they’d found farther down the highway.
They’d driven for several more hours before finally deciding to stop and hunt down some food.
Blood dripped down Logan’s chin as he chewed, his eyes closed. He looked almost meditative. Every once in a while, his body would shake slightly.
Max quickly ate her fill, leaving the rest of the meat for him. He looked like he needed it a great deal more than she did.
She moved a few feet away from the kill and sat down on her haunches, keeping a watchful eye on him.
The raw meat slid down his throat and Logan’s stomach worked quickly to process it and get the protein out to his fatigued muscles. Sure, he’d been hurt worse, but it always sucked coming back from it when the danger had passed. Logan could feel his core temperature rising as his body worked to utilize the food as efficiently as possible. His body was capable of repairing damage at a staggering rate, but it always ended up having a rather high protein cost. Several times after previous encounters over the last year, he’d come to his senses nose deep in raw meat from something he’d chased down and torn apart.
The first time it happened was disconcerting, but over time he’d found that raw, bloody meat just tasted better. It was also more efficient and was easier for his body to process.
He hoped that the military goons wouldn’t run them to ground again so soon. The gnawing hunger in his gut finally abating, he cracked one of the femurs, sucking at it to get the marrow out. He then tossed the bone onto the rest of the carcass and stood up, ready to head to their makeshift campsite and pass out. The impromptu surgery had taken a lot more out of him than he had initially thought.
Logan quietly snaked through the woods, back the way they’d come, hoping that Max wasn’t in the mood to ask too many questions. He was simply too tired to answer.
Max started after him, hoping that he was all right. He had been awfully quiet since they pulled in. She could smell the exhaustion on him and worried that he was pushing himself too hard. Unfortunately, given their situation, he probably didn’t have much of a choice. She watched him slide into the sleeping bag and let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding when he held it open so she could join him. She quickly shifted and slid into the sleeping bag, settling back against him. He’d been too tired to get out of his clothes, and it felt weird having a layer of fabric between them – especially since heat was rolling off of him in an almost overpowering wave.
He was burning up.
Max let out a soft sigh as she felt his arm wrap around her waist, pulling her close; his face buried in her hair. Within moments, he was fast asleep and Max soon followed.
Logan was awakened in the middle of the night by a loud snapping sound. Immediately alert, he began tasting the scents in the air, but couldn’t pick out anything distinctive. Another snap. Didn’t sound like an animal making that noise, either. He felt Max rouse beside him and he quickly clamped a hand over her mouth.
Max, disoriented, looked up at him and frowned when she saw him give his head a single shake, holding a finger up to his lips.
~Logan, it’s OK. We’re not here to hurt you.~
He sat up, ramrod straight at the sound of the voice in his head. His eyes narrowed and he gave his head a rough shake before looking around, trying to find the source. He looked down at Max and could tell that whatever was happening – the way he was reacting to it had her spooked. She stayed quiet, though.
~Just ease down. We’re not here to hurt you. ~
Logan frowned, wondering where the hell it was coming from. Had he finally cracked?
He tensed as a woman in a tight black leather outfit stepped into his line of sight.
“Logan? I’m Jean.”
Her voice sounded different now that it wasn’t ringing around in his synapses.
There was a growling sound behind him and he turned to see Max in wolf form now, baring her teeth at the woman, her hackles rippling. Logan blinked as the wolf began slowly floating on the air, letting out a frightened whine, eyes wide with alarm.
“Max!” he cried out, moving to catch her and pull her back down.
“Oh!” he heard the woman behind him exclaim.
“I didn’t know it was with you, I’m sorry.”
As Max’s feet touched the ground, she began backing away quickly, growling and barking.
“What the fuck?” Logan whirled on their unexpected visitor, angry now.
The woman winced, then took a step forward and said, “Hey, I said I was sorry.”
Logan walked over to Max, kneeling at her side and gently running his fingers through her fur at the back of her neck.
“You okay, darlin’?”
Max leaned into him, giving his chin a nervous lick.
“Is he yours?” the woman asked, moving towards them. “He’s beautiful.”
Logan looked back at her in annoyance.
“You usually this much of an ignorant bitch with people you’ve just met?”
Max chuffed beside him, chuckling in her own way.
The woman’s expression grew bewildered as he continued, “And what the hell did you do to her anyway?”
“..Her?” the woman asked, as she looked closely at Max.
After a moment she took a step back and spluttered, “Oh shit. Is she really what I think she is?”
Logan looked back at her as if she were addled.
“Lady, are you crazy? What are you talking about?”
“Jean?” Another voice – this one male, echoed out of the darkness. “Is everything alright?”
Logan watched as a man in a similar outfit started walking towards them. Christ, how had he missed both of them? Was he losing his senses entirely? The guy had some strange sort of protective eye gear on his face.
“Who the hell are you people? A dance company?”
Logan growled, keeping his hand on the back of Max’s neck. “And how the fuck do you know my name?”
“Jean..” the guy sounded wary and was reaching a hand up to the strange piece of equipment on his head.
“Scott, I’ve got it.”
The woman composed herself, then turned to Logan and mentally explained, ~ I’m a telepath. That’s why you can hear me in your head, and I how I know your name. We’re not with the guys who are trying to hunt you – I promise. We’re here to offer you an alternative solution to running. ~
Max grew uneasy as Logan’s hand froze at her neck. The woman had stopped speaking and she felt a thread of unease slide through her as Logan pulled her closer. What was happening? She didn’t want to shift in front of the strangers. It was better to let everybody think that she was just a pet, rather than showing her hand too soon and losing them the advantage if they needed to fight and escape.
~ I’m sorry if I offended you. I didn’t realize.. ~
The woman’s voice echoed in Max’s mind and she began barking frantically, trying to get away from it.
It stopped and she could hear the sounds of anger. Logan was on his feet now, facing the woman down.
The expression on his face was ugly, his voice cold as he spat, “Get the fuck outta my head. And leave her the hell alone. Now.”
The woman gave a pained sigh, her voice tired as she murmured, “Shit. I really suck at this.”
The man with the strangely bulky eyegear came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder, murmuring, “This is what – run number four? Did you expect that it would always go easily?”
Max caught the scent of cordite before her right flank flared bright with pain. She let out a yelp as she heard Logan and the man cry out.
Pain blossomed in Logan’s ribs, and he growled. The sounds of bullets hitting trees and the ground beside them echoed in the night air, and he quickly dove to the ground, covering Max. It sounded as if she’d gotten tagged in the first volley.
The woman screamed, and then Logan heard a strange liquid thumping sound. He frowned and turned to see the woman now standing with her arms stretched out to her sides, her eyes glowing. The guy with the headgear was slumped at her feet. Logan couldn’t tell if he was breathing. He could no longer hear the bullets slapping into the ground and trees around them, but could still hear the quiet pops of the suppressors. They’d been clean enough with the first few shots – why were they now missing their targets entirely? Did it have anything to do with the strange woman and her companion?
He felt Max stir beneath him. Her fur was receding back into her skin, her bones shifting. It was a vaguely unsettling feeling, and he quickly sat up and gave her a little space. Her scent changed slightly as he watched her slide into the form he preferred her in. He moved to check her over when she finished the shift, growling at the bloody hole he found in her upper thigh.
“Max. You okay?”
He touched her gently and she gave him a weak smile and a thumbs up, her body shivering.
“Bullet’s still in there. I can feel it. It burns.” she groaned and he nodded, pressing his fingers around the wound.
“Want me to dig it out?” he asked, wondering how long it would take her body to push the metal out on its own. The wound was already closing up. Max nodded and braced for the cut, startled by the sound of his claws coming out. She closed her eyes and the pain burned, making her cry out as he cut into her leg, pulling the skin apart and plucking the hot hunk of metal out. Her eyes watered and she let out a sigh of relief.
Logan rested a bloody hand gently against her arm, his voice soft as he leaned in and murmured, “It’s out. Better?”
“Yeah. It hurts like a mother, but it’ll close up soon enough. Did you get hit?”
Logan gave a quick nod. His body had already pushed the bullet out of his side and was busily working on sealing the wound. There were the sounds of weapons dropping to the ground, followed by the sounds of bodies hitting the earth. Just how many were out there? And what the hell was happening?
“What’s going on?”
Max turned to look back at the odd woman in the leather outfit. A strange nascent aura curled around her, almost like a mini aurora borealis. The expression on the woman’s face was one of intense concentration.
There was another liquid thumping sound and then the woman was immediately crouched at the man’s side, crying now. Max slowly sat up, wincing through the pain as she looked over at the two interlopers, bewildered. Somebody was going to have to explain all this to her. At the moment, though, she couldn’t stay angry at the woman who’d imposed her presence on them; she literally stank of fear and pain.
“Max..” Logan murmured as she stood up and started limping towards them. Logan was immediately at her side, helping to hold her up.
The woman was trying to check him for injuries, but she was clearly hysterical. Had she ever seen anybody get shot before? Max didn’t think so.
They stepped up to her and Max quietly ventured, “Can I take a look at him?”
The woman looked up at her with pleading eyes, nodding quickly. She obviously loved the man very much. It was likely why she was flipping out so badly.
“Can you get her something to drink? It might calm her down a little.”
Max crouched at the man’s side, realizing that he was much younger than she initially thought. He looked about nineteen. His chest was rising and falling in quick, shallow breaths. She reached forward to remove the gear on his head and was startled when the man grabbed her hand, stopping her.
“You don’t..want..to do..that..” he said in between breaths.
“Okay. I won’t touch it.” She replied softly, leaning in to sniff him.
“What are..you doing?” he asked, trying to move away from her.
“Trying to figure out where the bullet is,” she explained, moving closer to his upper left arm.
“Think it..passed through..when..it hit.” The man explained, surprising her. He was remarkably lucid for somebody who had just taken a shot in the arm.
“Logan, can you..?” she turned to find Logan already handing her several strips of fabric that would help her patch the wound.
Pinks didn’t heal like her kind, and they tended to bleed a whole lot. If they lost enough blood, they’d die, but other than keeping the red stuff from coming out of them, she really didn’t know what she was doing. Max hoped the cloth would keep him from bleeding so much. She smiled back at Logan and watched the corners of his mouth quirk in the ghost of a grin. He then handed her the knife.
“You’re becoming an old pro at this, see?”
Logan turned back to check on the woman who was now shivering and drinking down a bottle of sports drink.
Max was relieved to find that the bullet had indeed passed through the muscle of the man’s shoulder entirely. Good. She wasn’t going to have to dig it out of him.
“I’m either going to have to rip this fancy jacket you have, or we’re going to have to get it off you by moving your arm.”
The man nodded, and she saw his jaw clench as he steadied himself. She thought it very brave of him.
Max cocked her head as her fingers lengthened into sharp claws. She carefully tore a large section off the sleeve so that she could check the wound. There was a substantial amount of blood on the ground, if the shiny patches were any indication. They all looked black in the low light, though. She looked over at Logan as the woman stood up and looked off to her left, closing her eyes.
Max gave Logan a look that asked, What the hell?
He shrugged and made his way over to her, asking, “Kid gonna be alright?”
“The pinks are a lot more fragile than us. That basic first aid I told you about? I learned it on others like me – not on pinks. I only know a little about them.”
“Pinks?” he asked, frowning.
“It’s ah… one of our terms for folks who aren’t fuzzy on the inside.” she explained, looking back down at the man as he tried to control his breathing.
The wind picked up in the trees, then a large gust of wind rushed past them.
“I am sorry I’m late. I brought as much as I could carry.”
A dark skinned woman with long hair the color of spun spidersilk slowly descended out of the sky and Max’s eyes grew wide. The woman touched down and immediately started walking over towards them, turning on the flashlight in her hand. It completely wrecked Max’s night vision for a moment.
“Can you warn me before you do that next time?”
The woman nodded and the bright splash of light moved to illuminate the man beside her.
“I have also brought a first aid kit as well.” the woman explained, her accent exotic and soft – not something that Max could easily place.
Logan reached up to collect the kit and the odd floating woman turned from them to talk quietly to the woman who had called herself Jean.
Max quickly patched up the man with the odd headgear, then closed the kit.
“You probably want to get him to an actual doctor sometime in the near future, but he doesn’t look too bad.”
The two women, both in similar looking leather outfits walked over to them. Was it a uniform of sorts? Jean’s eyes were red from crying and she looked strongly embarrassed. Her face was flushing almost as red as her hair.
“‘Ro, I got him shot.” she murmured softly as she looked down at the man, hugging her arms tightly around herself.
The white haired woman gently shook her head, her manner almost regal as she replied, “Do not tear yourself up about it. What is done is done. Scott will be fine, Jean. The girl seems certain of it.”
Logan chuckled and she swatted him.
“This thing we do is not without its risks, Jean. Some will go smoother than others.” The woman’s voice was smooth, cultured.
The man on the ground groaned and tried to sit up.
“We need to get him back to the jet.”
Jean’s voice sounded hollow; defeated. “Charles is going to tear into me for letting this happen.”
“Be bold, Jean. We have a job to do.”
The woman with the white hair turned to Max and said, “I am Ororo. If you like, we will leave you as we found you, or you may accompany us. Jean has told me that the soldiers will only stay out for so long. You are likely better off coming with us.”
Logan let out a harsh laugh and grated, “Are you kidding? How old are you kids, anyway?”
Jean frowned and Ororo quietly replied, “I am the oldest, at twenty.”
Logan let out a disgusted snort and Jean snapped, “Look, this may be new to us, but at least we’re trying to help. To make a difference.”
Logan grumbled and Max stood up, saying, “First of all, you’re not really making any sense. Exactly what is it that you’re trying to help us with here?”
The regal woman with the white hair took a step back, then turned to Logan and softly replied, “We are like you, Logan. Mutants.”
“But not like me.” Max murmured quietly.
The woman who called herself Ororo turned to look at her and gently shook her head.
“No. Not like you. We were sent here to find Logan, and to help him if he needed it.”
The man on the ground croaked, “And to let him know that we can help him remember his past.”
Max heard Logan growl, his voice ugly as he spat, “The fuck do you know about my past, kid?”
He sounded dangerously close to going feral, his tone dropping as his words trailed off.
“We know nothing, Logan. Honestly. It’s all locked inside you. The Professor can help you put the pieces together. He can help you figure some of it out.”
This from Jean, who now crouched by her fallen comrade’s side, looking up at them.
“Is he like you? Digs around in people’s heads without their permission?”
Logan was gruff. Angry. But Max could tell that he was suddenly interested in what they were saying.
“I’m sorry about that, Logan. Really. I promise I won’t do it again, okay?”
Max gently placed her hand on his arm and felt him flinch, but he didn’t pull away.
If he’d only had time to think; to figure things out. How had the soldiers tracked him down again so quickly? Transmitter on the car? He hated that she was right – that the quickest route of escape was to go with them, on the jet that they’d mentioned. From there, he would have a good head start – but he had no idea how the boys in green kept finding him. He supposed he could leave everything behind, if there were no more tracers in his body. Hopefully Max would have detected them if there were, but once the tracer was out, she’d said he no longer tasted electric.
“Where?” he asked, trying to reign in his temper. He was running out of options, and it felt like he was being caged in again – this time by circumstance. It didn’t sit at all well with him.
“Westchester County, New York.” Ororo replied smoothly. “It is a short flight.”
Logan paused for a moment, thinking about it before letting out an exasperated sigh. It was their best bet, and if this Professor could actually help him piece his past back together…
“Got any clothes?” he asked.
Ororo’s eyebrow quirked up and Max looked back at him.
“These assholes tracked us somehow, darlin’, and I ain’t about to bring whatever they’re followin’ with me if I can make a clean break from it,” he explained, then turned to face Max.
“We should leave everything here, ‘case they tagged it.”
Max nodded, then looked back over at their strange new companions.
Ororo frowned, as if wanting to say something, then thinking better of it.
Jean stood up and said, “She’s..she might as well be one of us, ‘Ro. We can’t leave her here.”
Max blinked as she felt Logan’s hand clamp down gently on her wrist.
“She comes with or we both stay. They’ve seen her with me, and they’ll hurt her to get to me. I’m not havin’ that.”
Ororo’s eyes narrowed, then she gave a brief nod.
“I believe that we have clothing that will be suitable back at the jet – but we should leave now.”
Max held Ororo’s gaze as she shifted, feeling a strange satisfaction when the woman’s eyes widened briefly. Max let out a short bark, happy to be covered in fur again. She didn’t know these people, and they’d seen quite enough of her furless form for her liking. With the shift, the remaining damage healed completely and she jumped up on two legs briefly to test it. Good as new.
Logan grinned and moved to run his fingers through the fur at her neck.
“Which way is it?” he asked, taking a quick step back as the body of the man with the strange headgear started floating, rising up to about waist height on the redhead.
Max shook her head, unsettled by the sight. Who were these people?
“Back this way,” Jean murmured as she turned to start walking back into the woods, looking over her shoulder and calling out, “See you back at the jet, ‘Ro.”
The wind quickly whipped up around them and Max watched, stunned, as the white haired woman rose into the sky, disappearing into the darkness.
“Yeah. I know.” Logan muttered, keeping a hand on her neck as they moved to follow the strange woman with the red hair.
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