|Tue, 2 Mar 1999
[Logan&Rahne] "Lupus" 1/1 PG-13
They're Marvel's. No money. Don't sue.
Something of a What If?, I guess.
Comments to email@example.com. Write me or suffer. :)
It was just after midnight.
She'd remember that time forever, she thought. Little hand a bare nudge past the twelve, big hand just shy of one. Not midnight, not twelve-oh-five... somewhere trapped in between the two, forever frozen. A second that lasted a lifetime.
The moment when she realized that the last rattling, fluid-heavy breath... had already come and gone.
Her eyes were dry as she sat there by the bedside, one still hand held gently between her own warm palms. She'd been sitting vigil -- others had volunteered, of course, but she'd requested that she be alone -- ever since early evening. Counting the breaths, judging how deep they were, worrying over the longer and longer pauses in between them. They'd known. Everyone. Her body had stopped absorbing the perennial nutrition a week ago, so she'd been without sustenance for days. Too weak to eat, too drugged and tired to feel hunger... she'd slipped farther and farther into a private world, taking that step in preparation for the biggest step awaiting her.
Near the end, the most she could give them to show she heard them at all was a distant, beatific smile; something that lit her eyes more than turning her lips... an expression so tired and innocent and peaceful that she'd brought more than a few of them to tears unwittingly with that single gesture.
The girl didn't let go of her hand. Sat there listening for a minute... two. Waited for another deceptively shallow breath to raise the wasted chest and let it sink again, guaranteeing another heartbeat or two of life.
One didn't come.
Finally she freed a hand. Marveling at its steadiness, she raised smooth fingers to rest lightly against the too-slim throat. No motion, no hint of breath, no pulse of blood. Still calm, still steady, she shifted her fingertips to the wrist of the hand she held. Another minute ticked by.
The oxygen whispered emptily to the air, pouring out its sustenance into lungs that refused to receive it. She listened to the unbroken hiss, finding the familiar drone of the machine comforting somehow. How many nights had she heard this sound? For how many mornings had she listened attentively for just this note to it, making sure that the tubing hadn't come disconnected, or the nosepiece out of place?
She stood convulsively, striding around the bed and turning the dial off. With a protesting murmur, the hiss quieted to nothing.
Her eyes found the motionless woman in the bed again. Scenes from movies, scenes from books, scenes she'd heard about... they played through her head, telling her what was appropriate to feel, to think, to do. She should sob and throw her arms around the dead woman. She should leak a single tear and keep her chin high, giving honor to the departed with her strength. She should scream in grief, sigh in relief, laugh in hysterics, collapse in numbness.
Instead she leaned over and pressed lips softly against a smooth, pale forehead. Several minutes had already passed. She needed to wake the others and allow them their opportunity to say goodbye. Arrangements had to be made. Phone calls to those who needed to be informed. So much work; a final drive before they could all truly try to move on.
But suddenly... none of that seemed to matter. They were still inside that frozen moment -- just past life, just short of death. And there was so much she hadn't said... so much she needed to say. Why hadn't she thought of all these words when there was a quick mind behind those flashing eyes to hear them? Why hadn't they seemed to matter so much then?
She rested her forehead lightly against the other's, russet hair cascading down to hide them for a moment in its crimson waterfall. So much to say. So much she hadn't told her. So much she'd never be able to say past this moment.
"Och, ye were so brave, Mum," she whispered, eyes closed tightly against the sudden burning in them. Her voice broke on that rusty whisper. Shoulders trembled once, involuntarily. "So... so brave..."
The clock ticked over, taking timelessness with it. Hot tears welled rebelliously in her eyes, creeping past tightly clamped lids to bead in her eyelashes and trickle down her cheeks.
"A swear A'll be as brave as ye would'a wanted... A swear..." And then even those words didn't matter. "Och, Mum... no no no... Mum..."
A broken word; the only one that counted.
From a distance. That's where he always watched things like this. Safely at a distance, handling things in his own way. He wouldn't wear grief like the others. He refused. It wasn't an outfit that suited him.
And the others just wouldn't understand why he chose solitude instead of companionship and comfort at a time like this.
It wasn't a funeral. She'd requested -- ordered, actually -- that her body be used for research... for understanding this thing that had finally killed her. Instead it was a memorial, and the cloud- heavy sky and biting chill made up the perfect weather for depression.
The grim bunch shivering on the rocky ground did nothing to alleviate the mood. Even from here, he could smell the tears and the grief and the rage on no few scents. The gathering was sizable, yet small compared to how many people _could_ have been here. She hadn't wanted a huge crowd. She'd made a point of that. So they'd set up two memorials -- one here on Muir, for those closest to her and the grievers, and one set for later this week in Westchester.
He fully intended to miss the second.
The girl stood up front and center, ponytail slapping against her in the wind, face still. Friends surrounded her; a surrogate family, even. People she'd come to know and love over the years she'd been with them. A support network that should have been enough to help her through this.
But she stood alone in their midst -- he recognized that in her as easily as he knew it in himself. Alone in the crowd, a step outside of what was shared by the rest.
He didn't want to see that in her. She was too innocent to ever reflect him and his life. He hoped.
Xavier spoke. Logan wasn't surprised to hear the catch in his voice or to taste the thick tang of remorse on his scent. Doubtless telling himself she'd never have gotten involved in this life if not for him. Wondering if she'd be alive today if things had been different. He was good at guilt, even when it had no place. Too good at it.
And Hank -- massive shoulders slumped, head hanging. Defeat. It cloaked him in a thick miasma. Never before had Logan seen the man so _beaten._
That limey Kitty was seeing wasn't there, either. If he watched from a distance, he had the sense to stay downwind. More likely he was at a bar, tossing back the hard stuff and fighting off emotion tooth and nail. Logan figured he'd had that guy pinned from the get-go. Man was like him in a lot of ways. Almost enough ways to warn Kitty off of him.
Logan hunkered down into his crouch, breath steaming, wishing they'd hurry up and say goodbye to her. She wouldn't have appreciated this production. A blunt, spirited woman with no patience for ceremony, that's what she'd been. He'd respected that in her, even if she and he had never been what anyone could consider close. She'd helped him when he'd needed help; unselfish, asking for nothing in return. And he couldn't remember now if he'd ever done more than offered her the barest "thanks" before throwing his bag back over his shoulder and heading off into the wind.
Thoughts skirted lightly over depth as he watched the proceedings. After a bit, the girl herself got up there to talk. She was silent in front of the group, head lowered in contemplation, for so long that he thought she might have forgotten whatever she was going to say. She'd been acting so spacey... so distant. Not dramatic in the least, just... quiet.
Then her head raised, and he thought that he could see the steady burning in her eyes even from here. The wind carried her words to him. Level words. Passionate words. The words of a woman, not the girl his mind kept insisting on labeling her as. What she gave was less a eulogy and more a tribute, and Logan rumbled softly in approval.
<Kid does ya proud, Moira.>
She didn't speak long. She didn't have to. For the moment, whatever shyness had been a part of her for so long was cast by the wayside, and she held the gathering with her voice, with her conviction, with this brief peek at the emotion she bottled so tightly up inside. In the gray and the mist and the gloom, she glowed.
And then the moment passed, and she was stepping away from them, feet taking the earth in sharp strides only a pinch shy of a run. Kurt called out to her. She ignored him. When it looked as if he would follow her, Xavier said something in a low, controlled voice. Logan couldn't quite make out the words, but the meaning was clear: 'Leave her be.'
And now, so far as Logan was concerned, the memorial was over. He turned, feet secure on the loose rocks that topped the cliff, and looked out over the wind-tossed ocean below. Whitecaps rolled forward in that predictable kamikaze run to dash their brief lives away against the cliff wall. The salt tang of the sea, the lonely cry of the seagull, the gray-green shifting of the water below...
Small things to carry in memory of this day.
And now another sound; the faintest scuff of feet over shale. No, not feet... paws. The fickle wind turned to carry him a breath of scent. He hid his surprise easily.
She stopped nearby, conveniently obscured from the lingering mourners by the rock face he'd been using to shelter himself from view. Human skin and features had given way to lupine. She stood there on two feet, physically as much an animal as a young woman. Red-hued fur clung to her under the simple black dress, dancing slightly in the wind. Cheekbones had raised and sharpened... her nose had broadened to accommodate the complicated internal changes that heightened her sense of smell... her ears had sharpened, become more mobile... eyes were keen; blue-green, yet somehow animalistic. A werewolf standing there, looking at him, trying with everything in her not to cry.
She'd sought him out for a reason, he knew, but she didn't seem ready to say it. He leaned back against a wall of rock and pulled out a cigar, lighting it and taking a long draw as he waited for her to find whatever words she'd come here with.
Her voice had a rumble buried in it. "Mr. Logan..."
He snorted faintly. Eyed her through rising smoke. "Never did get used to you kids callin' me that."
"Logan'll do fine."
She hesitated, then nodded. "Logan. Thank ye for comin'..."
"That why ya came over here, darlin'?"
Burning, inhuman stare. Her brogue was heavier than usual, emotion thickening the accent. "A want t' learn tae fight."
His expression didn't change. "That so?"
"A want t' do everythin' A c'n for what Mum b'lieved in."
He almost said, 'Moira was no fighter.' But that would've been a lie, and they both knew it. In her way, she was as much a warrior as he could claim to be.
So instead-- "She'd've wanted you to use your head, kid. Not your fists."
She jutted her fur-covered chin skywards stubbornly. "It's muh decision what t' fight wi', innit?"
Another long pull from the cigar. "So you're sayin' you want me to teach you how to fight."
"To _really_ fight. Th' way _you_ fight." Finely furred hands extended. Fingers flexed, claws shining dully in the dim light. "A want tae learn everythin' ye can teach me. About fightin' on _every_ level." She looked at him again, and there was a wildness in her eyes that he recognized all too well. "A _will_ make a difference. Somehow. Wi' yuir help or not."
"I'm goin' back to New York."
"A'll go, too."
"I ain't babysittin' you, kid."
"A can take care o' muhself."
"Moira wouldn't be for this."
"Tha's where yuir wrong." She stepped forward and stopped again, shoulders back and proud. "Lady Moira knew th' life A was in, an' she cared very much that A got th' trainin' t' survive it. An' she respected ye, Logan. She told me so."
"What's this gotta do with me showin' you the ropes?"
Her lip curled, revealing a hint of gleaming canines. Not at him; at the past. "A've spent th' past six months o' muh life watchin' me mum die. Six _months._ An' b'fore tha'... A never chose what A really wanted tae do wi' muh life. For me."
"And you think learnin' how to kill people is whatcha wanna do."
Her eyes narrowed. He reflected distantly that she would have no trouble intimidating enemies with that look. "A've seen what ye did for Kitty an' wee Jubilee. Ye never offered that t' me. Why?"
"You never needed it like they did."
"A need it noo."
"I ain't so sure about that."
"Look'a me." She tried to keep her voice strong. She tried to hide the waver in it. She failed... but she tried. "A've never just lived for _me._ Not once. An' these past months... 'tis been a long stretch o' months. Part o' me thought they'd never end."
He held the cigar between clenched teeth, forgetting to puff on it. "And now that they have?"
The wind blew over them both, rocking her slightly on her feet. She stared at him, blue-green eyes wounded in some fundamental way, then turned and walked slowly to the cliff, staring out as he had over the temperamental breakers below. In that smooth transformation that was almost too quick to follow, fur withdrew, baring pale flesh dotted with chillbumps. No werewolf, no monster, no animal... just a young girl standing on a cliff-edge, black mourner's dress whipping around her, crimson ponytail lashing like a spirited whip.
He took a step nearer, casually, just in case.
"A'm afraid," she said quietly, voice not quite steady, but not quite tremulous. "A'm afraid that things willnae change, when perhaps they need to. An' what if A dinnae take anythin' away from this wi' me?"
That almost standard plea -- don't let this have been for nothing. Please don't let the suffering and pain and shattered hope have been for nothing.
"You still haven't said how it connects, darlin'."
"Oh?" She shivered, eyes distant. She wasn't looking at the waves. She wasn't looking at the horizon. Something... somewhere in between. Something that maybe he couldn't see. "A thought A made it as plain as it could be."
He knew, even without her finding the words. Death. Reevaluation of life. Facing that which hadn't been done... seeing possibilities that weren't really examined before. She'd probably gone through something similar when that boy, Doug, and the alien, Warlock, had died.
Or maybe she hadn't. The kid _had_ been more than a bit repressed. Maybe all of this was buried inside, waiting to come out when she lost the last person she'd truly allowed herself to lean on fully.
She wanted to find her own feet. And she wanted his help to do it. Others might do just as well... but he wouldn't _allow_ her to make him a crutch, and she knew it.
Some time back, he'd made a silent promise to this girl that should she ever need his help, she had only to ask and it was hers. She'd never heard those words. So far as she knew, she was asking for something he had no particular reason to give her.
But _he_ remembered the promise. And he remembered a stolen moment he'd seen... Moira and Rahne, when the girl had sat up through another sleepless night to watch over her adoptive mother's rest. The girl had been expressionless, quiet. Fingers had trailed with infinite gentleness over the woman's hair, smoothing the fine strands that had started graying early, combing them into place. She hadn't seen him -- she'd been in human form, and he was more than quiet enough to avoid being noticed without her enhanced senses helping her -- and he'd only watched for a moment. Long enough to see the naked compassion in her eyes.
Long enough to see the fury brewing below that... the helpless anger at the world that was stealing the only mother the girl had ever known.
She said she wanted to learn how to fight. He heard what was beneath it. She wanted to learn how not to feel helpless. She wanted to find that strength and surety in life again. To recover control... to believe that a person really could be in charge of a destiny.
It was wrong, and it was right, and he had no place in denying her this.
"What about your teammates?" he asked levelly.
Her indrawn breath showed that she understood his implicit agreement with those words. "A've been takin' care o' Mum for months, noo. Not workin' wi' th' team. They've gotten by perfectly well without me."
There were more questions he could ask her to judge how seriously she meant this... but they could wait. She wouldn't change her mind anytime soon. He could see the solid resolution in her squared shoulders and stubbornly set jaw.
So he took another drag from the cigar, watching smoke puff out to mingle with the pervasive fog of this island. "Suits me," he told her with a shrug, watching her assessingly from the corner of his eye. "If that's really whatcha want."
She swallowed. Another bone-tickling wind blasted up from the sea, carrying the scent of salt and fish and something older than time. A shiver passed through her, and she unconsciously shifted to her were-form again, fur cloaking her protectively against the cold.
"'Tis what A want," she said softly.
The wind kicked up another notch, tossing the clouds across the sky in a tumultuous tumble. He looked up, puffing out another stream of smoke to watch it be whipped away. The sky was anxious... angry.
"All right," he said.
Notes from Kaylee: I'm somewhat considering following this with a series. Haven't decided yet. Basically, an image came to me of Logan and a were-Rahne standing on the cliff, Rahne dressed in black, Logan looking stoic... and I wanted to write it. Not quite sure where the rest came from, but ::shrug:: it wanted to be written.
Oh, and Logan's promise to Rahne came at the end of "Wolverine: Knight of Terra." He was made a knight of Gesham by Queen Rain (Rahne's double), and he made a promise (mentally, of course, since he doesn't go in for that sappy stuff otherwise ;) to Rahne that should she ever need 'Sir Logan,' she just had to call. Ain't that sweet? ;-)