Fuck or fight, old man. Pick one.
Professor Xavier sat behind his desk, his fingers steepling slowly as he peered over them at Max.
She felt the intensity of his gaze as he asked, “How long have you and Logan been travelling together, Max?”
She pulled her legs up under her as she replied, “About several days.”
The professor blinked and placed his hands flat on the desk before him, leaning forward. “I’m sorry – did you say several days?”
Jean shifted in her seat beside Max, looking perplexed as well.
“What?” Max wondered what the big deal was.
The professor leaned back, asking, “I’m curious. During this time, has anybody else tried to come after him?”
“Four men in military uniforms shot us with darts a day or two ago. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but he reacted as if they were enemies and I backed him up.” she explained.
“When you say you backed him up..” The professor raised an eyebrow in query.
“We killed them.” Max looked back at him, matter-of-factly.
The room stayed silent for a moment. Max felt a palpable wave of unease coming from both Henry and Jean.
Max let out a sharp bark of laughter and said, “Hey, if you want to try to stop him when he goes into that fine red rage he slides into when he’s being attacked, you go right ahead. Me?” She leaned back in her chair, placing her hands on the handrests. “My father taught me better’n to get between an Alpha male and his prey.”
Professor Xavier became very still as he said, “Max – I need to speak with Miss Grey and Doctor McCoy alone for a few moments. Would you mind? If there’s anything you find that you need, Miss Ororo Munroe should be able to help.”
Max nodded, relieved that she’d be able to leave the room now that everybody else seemed distinctly uncomfortable. She knew that pinks tended not to like it so much when one of them died. Her own father had drilled it into her family’s heads, over and over – you don’t kill the two-leggers. And yet – she’d had to, do keep them from killing her, or worse. She felt no remorse or guilt about it. It was simply what needed to be done.
Pinks were weird when it came to killing most things. They didn’t realize that it was a substantial part of life. It was all part of the struggle.
But then, that was the way of the Pinks, wasn’t it? They didn’t want to see where their meat came from – not wanting to rationalize that it had once been a living, breathing creature, enjoying its life. Everything killed everything else to live. That was the name of the game.
They didn’t call it survival for nothin’.
She let herself out and quietly closed the door behind her and made her way towards the sitting room, wanting to get outside for a bit to clear her head.
Killing other Turnskins was anathema, but almost everything else was prey. The wolf’s base instincts were always very clear cut: hunting, killing, fucking, eating, sleeping. The flip side was where the rules came in. They couldn’t all live like rabid, feral dogs, tearing each other apart every five minutes. Wolves in the wild had their own pack structure – their own rules to keep chaos from ripping the fabric of their society apart.
For Turnskins, it was much the same – although their rules were a great deal different from the Pinks.
They didn’t kill their own. There were only a finite number of Turnskins. Litters as large as the ones she’d been in were unheard of. Most mated pairs could only have a single pup at a time, if that. It made what her father did to her brothers such a betrayal of everything the Pack stood for.
It was also clear that you didn’t kill Pinks, unless you had a damned good reason. Nobody wanted to bring curious Pinks down on the pack. Their numbers were far greater and it would only bring disaster on the entire community.
Killing prey, however – that was another thing entirely. It was all part of the life cycle they all lived within. She never tormented her prey; always choosing to deliver a swift killing blow so that the animal wouldn’t suffer. There were others in her Pack that loved the taste of terror in their meat, but she had never been overly fond of it. To her, it always had a faintly bitter taste to it. It ruined the taste of her meal.
Max stood before the doors in the living room, peering out at the yard beyond. The sun was just slipping down behind the treeline, throwing long shadows along the grass. The expansive grounds made her want to shift and run, to feel the wind rushing along her muzzle. The sweat outfit was uncomfortable. It felt constrictive and the wolf wanted to be let out to play. Max ventured a quick look around before quietly opening one of the doors and ducking outside. The night air was delicious with smells that alternated between sweet and musky. She quickly stripped and shifted, tearing across the yard with a happy chuffing sound.
A small rabbit caught her eye and she leapt after it, laughing as she chased it around the yard. It darted from hedge to hedge, its heart racing as it tried to get away. Not being hungry enough to actually catch it and eat it, Max let it scamper off, happy for the exercise. Besides, half the fun was knowing that she could easily catch her given prey.
Something off to her left caught her attention. It was over by the fence that surrounded the grounds.
Max stopped, cocking her head and looking over at it. It looked like a person just standing there watching her. The figure took a step back from the fence, as if surprised that she’d seen it. She started a brisk trot over to where the figure stood and it turned and ran off, heading for the treeline across the road. When she reached the section where it had been standing, she tried to pick out a distinct scent. It smelled like a Pink, but there was an edge to the scent that made her hackles rise.
What the hell?
Max watched the figure retreat as it darted into the trees. Whatever it had been, it was gone now.
She decided to give the grounds a quick run to see how much room there was to cover and was surprised at the sheer size of the place. She first encountered a large square of very tall, pristinely maintained hedges that had a small opening in them. She peered inside, seeing another hedge wall. Max wrinkled her nose, not caring for the feeling that the hedges gave her.
She continued her curious quest, coming back around to the pool she’d seen the first night they’d arrived. A sizeable basketball court was just behind it.
Beyond the pool lay the edge of a lake. She padded over to the shoreline, the sounds of the water lapping at the rocks calming her. Max sat back on her haunches, just watching the moonlight glitter on the surface of the lake. There was a reassuring quality to the sound of the gentle waters.
This place had a good, healthy feel to it. She found herself wondering how far the trees that surrounded the mansion extended back into forest that was still included within the property. Were there things she could hunt here? And if so, would they mind if she did?
“Hey, I didn’t know the professor had a dog around here!”
Max’s ears perked up and she turned back to see two boys walking towards her. She quickly stood up and they paused, stopping in their tracks.
“Holy crap.” one of them said. “That’s one big dog.”
It sounded like the boy she’d met earlier, John.
John took a slow step forward and his companion quickly said, “Don’t! Dangerous.”
John shook his head slowly and said, “No – not dangerous, Jason. Pretty.”
The boy John had referred to as Jason shifted from one foot to the other. Max noticed that his skin had a strange green color to it; almost blotchy. The boy looked sick. Suddenly, Max found herself smiling and trotting over to John, bowing her head so he could easily pet her. The boy gently ran his fingers through her fur and she plopped down in front of him, rolling over now so he could scritch her belly. The wolf in her balked, wondering what the hell was going on.
“John. Jason. Get back inside.”
“But..” John stopped petting her and Max let out a disappointed whine.
Max looked up to see the woman with the dark skin and white hair watching her as the two boys made their way back to the house. A large brown towel was draped over one arm.
“She never lets us have any fun.” Max heard John grumble.
Max quickly stood, giving her head a shake. The boy had used his gift on her again.
“Max.” Ororo addressed her in a stern tone. “It probably isn’t the wisest of ideas to walk around in this form while you’re at the school.”
Max shifted and stood with her hands on her hips, irritated both at the woman’s tone and the fact that she had so easily been drawn into the boy’s fascination again.
“Look, I hate to sound ungrateful, but do you have anything other than those horrid sweat outfits that I could wear? They’re really very uncomfortable.”
The woman gave her a small smile, then handed her the towel and said, “Come with me. I believe I can help.”
Ororo nodded appreciatively as Max turned and checked herself out in the full length mirror. She’d given Max an emerald green tiered gypsy skirt with glittering bangles on it and a black vest.
“The style is no longer to my liking, and I would rather the outfit go to someone who will appreciate it.” she explained.
Max smiled and looked back at her, touched.
“Thank you, Ororo. This means..a lot.”
The woman smiled – the regal smile of a pleased queen. The woman had seemed haughty at first, but Max was beginning to learn that she just carried herself differently. There was a subtlety and economy of movement that Max had simply never encountered in anybody else before. The woman was grace personified.
Suddenly, Ororo frowned and stood up. “We need to go.”
Max perked up, concerned at her tone. “What’s wrong?”
“Your companion seems to be in distress.”
Max was across the room in the blink of an eye, opening the door and running through the corridor as fast as she could. Was he having another nightmare?
She reached their room in moments, startling Jean.
The woman blinked and cried out, “How the hell did you get here so fast?”
Max ignored her, opening the door and finding Logan clawing at the bed with his hands, his claws extended. There were vivid splashes of blood on the sheets from where he’d cut his legs open over and over. As soon as one set of wounds healed up, he’d cut open another. He was growling and gnashing his teeth, as if he was wrestling with something.
Max turned to Jean and said, “You need to go. Close the door.”
The redhead looked back at her as if she’d suddenly grown a second head.
“Are you kidding? And leave you alone with him? He’ll kill you.”
Max explained, “Foreign scents will set him off quicker than anything else. Let me handle this.”
Max looked back over at Logan, hearing the door close behind her. She was relieved that she didn’t have to argue with the woman.
“Logan.” she murmured, taking a deep breath as she walked over and placed her hands on his shoulders. He reacted quickly, lashing out at her with those razor sharp claws of his.
She darted out of the way, changing her voice to a soft purr as she came back at him.
His demeanor changed and he began scenting the air. Max quickly stripped out of her new clothes, tossing them over onto a chair.
“Fuck or fight, old man. Pick one.”
She moved closer, tasting her own pheromones as they filled the room. She wasn’t going to give him much of a choice, if she had anything to say about it. Fighting wasn’t an option – not while they were still in this house.
The claws slid back into his knuckles with a metallic snikt, his hand darting out and grabbing her wrist, pulling her down to him. He was rough – moreso than usual. As long as he didn’t go feral, that was all that mattered. He flipped her over, pressing her into the bed. Christ, he was heavy. Had he been this heavy last time? She had forgotten. He jammed his nose behind her ear, giving her neck a nip as he scented her. His breathing slowed, becoming less labored as he nuzzled her neck now.
Max frowned, wondering what was happening. At this point, she would’ve expected to be tossed around a bit – possibly have a few bones broken. Alphas didn’t usually stop in mid rage and get all soft and gentle. What the hell was going on with him?
“Max.” she heard him murmur, feeling his hands grip her tightly, squeezing her.
“Max.” It was almost as if he was reassuring himself with her presence.
She moved to run gentle fingers through his inky black hair, feeling him calm down.
“I’m here, Logan. I’m here.” she murmured.
He turned onto his side, pulling her back against him and spooning up against her. He was shaking gently, but he was definitely past the dangerous stage now.
“Don’t go.” he breathed – so quiet that Max almost didn’t catch it.
She brought his hand up to her lips, kissing his knuckles, licking the blood gently off them. The taste zinged on her tongue.
“I’m not going anywhere.” she reassured him.
The nightmares. Why had they come back with such vicious force? At least she had been able to bring him out of it again. They seemed to be getting worse.
She felt Logan’s body relax as he slipped back into deep sleep. She would stay with him until he woke again, at this point. She couldn’t afford not to.
Yep. I’m fucked.
Logan watched Max as she slept, a strand of honey blonde hair trailing across her nose and cheek. He gently brushed it back behind her ear and her contented sigh eased something inside him.
“She’s turning me into a fuckin’ sap.” He grumbled to himself.
He rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. It was time to start figuring shit out. The idea of the brainiac in the wheelchair digging around in his head made him suitably queasy, but it was the only possibility at answers that he’d been presented with since this entire thing started.
Max was still out and he wanted to let her sleep, so he gently made his way off the bed and over to the bathroom. After a quick shower, he went downstairs and ran into Jean.
She looked at him strangely, then said, “You’re up.”
Logan’s brow furrowed as he replied, “Yeah. And?”
“Well, it’s just..” She looked almost flustered. “Are you feeling better?”
She shifted on her feet and smelled nervous as all hell.
Jean paused for a few beats, then stammered, “Ok then. I’ve got to..There’s a..I need to go.” She then turned back the way she’d come, walking quickly away from him.
Logan shook his head and pressed on, heading towards Charlie’s office.
She’s bugfuckingnuts. Gotta be.
He found the door open. The professor sat at his desk, sifting through a stack of papers. He looked up and said, “Ah, Logan. I presume you’re feeling better after the operation?”
Logan stepped inside, his voice low as he replied, “Good as new.”
The professor slid his paperwork off to the side, peering at him curiously. Logan waited for the man to say something, but it appeared that Charlie was going to wait him out.
Logan took another step towards the desk and quietly said, “You offered to help me. About my past.”
Xavier placed his hands on the desk, nodding once.
“I will do what I can, Logan – but I can make no guarantees. Everybody’s mental landscape is different and there are too many variables in active play that keep me from attaching a definite ‘type’ to a given person. In this, no-one is truly as they seem.” He paused for a moment. “Depending on the degree of stressors and other factors that may or may not have been applicable in your case, the memories can be anywhere from clear and easily read to almost painfully fragmented. With the indications that we’ve seen in the small amount of time that you’ve been our guest, I can only hazard a guess that this will be a daunting task at best.”
“Is there a chance that you could make it worse?” Logan asked, not entirely comfortable with the man’s explanation, but feeling a bit more reassured with the fact that he wasn’t just saying outright that everything would be fine. At least the man wasn’t bullshitting him.
“It is my honest opinion that the method that I utilize to attempt to piece together your memories will not fragment them further. It has the distinct possibility of being a slow process, however. The mind is both powerful and fragile. I will only proceed at a speed at which I feel best suits your current mental state.”
Logan frowned, slipping into a chair now. He watched Xavier relax just a touch. The man had likely been waiting for another confrontation – and Logan couldn’t blame him. He had openly challenged the man on his own turf. He would’ve been defensive and pissy too – to say the least. The fact that the man hadn’t immediately taken a snotty tone with him actually made Logan respect him a little.
It wasn’t perfect, but it might possibly be the best offer he was going to get in this particular instance.
He took in a deep breath, then asked, “Ok. How do we do this?”
Max woke to find Logan gone. She was relieved that he was up and around. Maybe he was scouting the place out, or getting cornered by Jean who still couldn’t figure her own feelings out. She smiled at that thought, deciding to take a short shower.
Afterward, she slid on the new outfit that Ororo had given her. It felt good to be in a skirt again. Ah, freedom of movement.
Downstairs, she ran into Warren who smiled and gave her an appreciative nod. She grinned and waved at him, following Logan’s distinct scent as she tracked him through the mansion.
She found him sitting out at the lakeside in a meditative position. He was staring at a far off point in the distance, his breathing deep and slow. She wondered what was going through his head.
Logan turned to look back at her, his expression focused.
Max walked over to him and quietly sat beside him. They sat in companionable silence for several minutes, before he said, “Saw Charlie earlier.”
She watched his expression close down as he continued, “Figured some things out. Still figuring other stuff out.”
“How can I help?” she asked softly.
He wouldn’t look back at her.
“Don’t know if you can, darlin’. ‘Fraid this is somethin’ I need to run down on my own.”
Max turned to watch the lake lapping at the shoreline. She had known it would come to this eventually, but she still wasn’t prepared for the almost painful vice grip around her chest now that it was happening.
She felt a hand on her knee and she looked over to see him watching her carefully.
Max took a long, slow breath and said, “You’re going to leave.”
Logan nodded, his reply gruff. “Got to.”
Max pulled her knees up to her chest, her voice quavering as she quietly breathed, “I don’t want you to go.”
She felt like a helpless pup again, hating how small her voice sounded.
Logan leaned in and wrapped his arms around her. “I know.”
“How soon?” she asked, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Tonight.” he replied softly.
“Don’t forget me.” she murmured.
Logan pulled away from her, his eyes glittering as he captured her gaze.
“I’m comin’ back, Max. Got it?”
She nodded, feeling numb. She understood – but still wanted to go with him, or wanted him to stay.
“C’mon, darlin’.” He gently picked her up, easily hefting her in his arms.
“Logan..” she breathed, feeling the first tears come.
“Yeah. I know. Me too.”
He gently kissed her forehead and started walking back towards the house.
“I wanna stock up on good memories before I have to confront the shitstorm I’m walkin’ into.”
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