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The Death of the Hired Man
Chapter 2

DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are
used without permission for entertainment purposes only.

Rating note: For the whole series, I'm going to say R/NC17, as I tend to wander into sexual situations. Don't expect a "sex story" though ... that's always a sideline for me, a compliment to the emotional balance of the story as necessary, rather than a primary attraction. Still, the majority will be in the PG range, and I'll make those questionable areas "skippable" and well mark them if you'd rather bypass them ... they won't be "necessary" to read the story.

Kathleen was exhausted. She'd spent more than two hours going over the instruments and supplies, some of which seemed remarkably low, in the infirmary. This, combined with lingering jet lag and a steady stream of minor injuries, had kept her busy.

She had to give the students some credit. If it had been her going into a familiar infirmary and finding an unfamiliar face, she would have balked ... or at least complained. The kids, however, didn't care who bandaged their burn or stitched up their finger. She'd treated their ills, kept a neat list of their names, injuries, and treatments for Jean, and even managed to clean up after herself.

Still, despite the activity, only half her mind was on what she was doing. The rest of it remained on the man that had shown her down to the new infirmary. He'd been polite, considerate, and completely proper. He had also been broadcasting emotions at a rate that she was unable to ignore. There was more to Logan than met the eye, of that she was certain. She just wasn't entirely sure if she wanted to try digging through the confusing layers to find out what it was. Nor was she sure if he would want her to.

In the last few months, she'd been dealing more and more with the dilemma of whether or not to delve into emotions that weren't offered freely. She'd considered it a part of her job to keep tabs on her patients' stability, if nothing else, but she was beginning to reconsider the ethics of that practice. Even those that knew she was an Empath trusted her not to pry, not to violate their privacy. Now she wasn't sure it was appropriate for her to do so, even with mitigating circumstances.

Professor Xavier had been adamant in his teachings of privacy of the mind. It had been one of his pet peeves, and both she and Jean had listened to more than one lecture on the necessity of allowing others the dignity of private thoughts and feelings. She and Jean had laughed about it as teenagers, agreed with it as they became adults, and now they fought their own daily battles between what was necessary and what was inappropriate. A mutant had no gift if it wasn't used, and yet it might not be ethical to use it. It was quite a mental tangle, and she didn't have the energy to dwell on it at the moment.

"You still here?" The voice was deep and surprised. She didn't share that surprise, as she'd felt his presence as he'd approached. Broadcasting. There was no other word for it.

"Yup," she answered. "Had a couple of customers, so I'm glad I was here.

"Anything good?" he asked as he entered the room.

"There's a list on the desk," she told him as she returned the disinfectant spray back to the cabinet she'd taken it from.

"Cammie touched her curling iron. Devon pinched his hand in the what?" He looked up and met her eyes.

"Stereo cabinet," she replied. "The glass broke. Took about four stitches to put it back together. Not serious, but messy."

"Marie was in?" he asked in surprise.

"No, Marie," she answered, confused.

"Rogue," he clarified. "She's kind of selective about who knows her name."

"Oh, the pretty one," she smiled. "Yeah, she came in to pick up a muscle relaxant. I guess she's been spending too much time in the Danger Room, or the Gym, or wherever. She's got a minor strain in one leg." She moved around as she completed her cleanup to find Logan seated on the exam table and watching her. She couldn't block out the concern he projected for the girl he was referring to. Concern, interest, and something else that was too deeply buried for her to define even with the intensity of his feelings.

"She'll be fine," Kathleen assured with a smile, sending as much of a positive push as she could manage in her fatigued state. "She had a nice big guy with her to make sure she didn't overdo."

"The Cajun?" Logan asked as he deflected his eyes from hers.

Kathleen noticed the aggressive feelings, a near anger that bordered on hostility, and the immaterial feelings she'd glimpsed earlier took on a clearer focus. "He had quite an accent," Kathleen agreed. "Is it real?"

"So he says," Logan told her bitterly. "Not sure how much of what he says can be believed, though."

"Well, he seemed to care enough about her," Kathleen offered as she seated herself in the desk chair with a sigh. "And I didn't get any dishonesty from him."

"Hmm?" Logan's eyes met hers questioningly.

"I can usually tell when people are lying to me," she said simply. "I didn't get that from him. His concern was genuine."

"Get that?" Logan asked, then smiled. "You're a Telepath, too? Another one, like Jeannie and Chuck?"

"No," she corrected, deciding not to comment on his informality with names. "I'm not a Telepath. I'm an Empath. What I get is feelings, and then they're usually ambiguous unless they're really strong. I keep shields up, so you don't have to worry." She was used to reassuring those that discovered her mutant gift, so the words came out automatically. She saw no reason to add that his emotions seemed to be an exception to those shields.

"But, you still get into people's heads?" Logan asked with interest.

"Not usually, no," she said with a smile. "I've trained myself to pick up on certain emotions, if they're strong enough. Dishonesty is one of them, and pain is another. I also detect severe depression without much effort. Beyond that, a person has to literally broadcast an emotion before I'll know it's there." She gave the explanation simply, but she didn't bother to add that his own emotions, from surprise to anger, were broadcasting for her or anyone else to feel.

"Must come in handy," he finally said as he stood. "As a Doc, that is."

"It can," she said softly. Then, deciding to get it all out in the open at once with this man, she added, "But normally I work with minds instead of bodies. I'm a psychiatrist."

She wasn't disappointed by his reaction. Distrust, anger, bitterness, and more distrust battered her with enough intensity that she was glad she was sitting. What was it about men, she wondered, that was so threatened by psychiatry?

"Head shrinker," he muttered. "Great. As if having two people in my head wasn't bad enough, now there's one that's gonna wanna know what else is goin' on in there."

She actually laughed at that, more as a release for her own exasperated emotions than for any other reason. The last thing she needed was to get irritated, then push that onto him. He was aggressive enough.

"Your head is entirely your own business," she told him, her smile still in place. "I'm just here to administer Band-Aids and analgesics when Jean and Hank aren't able. If anything, I'm here to take a break from 'head shrinking', not to add it to my duties here."

Logan wasn't entirely reassured. He had a hard enough time dealing with Telepaths. Having an Empath at the school as well seemed to be adding insult to injury. With a deep breath to keep himself under control, he decided that it wasn't really all her fault. After all, he had no control over his own mutant abilities. He couldn't condemn her for putting hers to work.

"Whatever," he said dismissively, running a hand through his hair and sending it every direction. "I should go check on Marie and be sure she's okay. You gonna stay here or head back to your room?"

"I can find my way back when I'm ready," she told him. "I have a few more things to check here."

Logan nodded and strided towards the door. "Later, Katie," he said as he exited.

That brought a smile to her face. She didn't even think he realized that he did it, giving altered names to those around him. Still, she felt just a bit more comfortable that he'd done the same for her. Granted, no one had called her Katie in more years than it had been since she'd gone by Kate, but that was irrelevant.

She moved towards Jean's computer and fiddled around until she was able to access the basic medical records. It was password protected, but Jean hadn't changed her password in years, so Kathleen slipped right past that particular safeguard and into Logan's file. Intriguing didn't begin to describe her reaction to him, so she decided she would learn a bit more.

* * *

Logan didn't have the slightest clue why he'd been inclined to visit the infirmary. Granted, he was known for making an appearance down there when Jeannie was on duty, but that was more to upset One-eye than because he really had an affinity with the place. The truth was, his memories of anything medical were less than optimal, and thankfully less than clear. Still, he knew without any doubt that there was no part of anything resembling a hospital that he really wanted to spend time around.

Still, he'd found himself bored, and he'd wandered down to see if the new Doc had found her way around. He'd been surprised that she'd actually been there, and even more surprised when he saw how busy she'd been. There had been over ten names on the little paper she'd had on the desk. He might have paid more attention to the rest if Marie's name hadn't been one of them.

Okay, so she was way too young for him. So, she didn't worship him anymore in that way that had made him feel so important and worthy. So, she didn't come running to him every time she needed something or wanted something. She was still the kid he'd promised he'd protect, and he'd be damned if he'd let some smooth talking Cajun slip in and take advantage of her youth and innocence. There was too little innocence in the world, and he wouldn't see hers corrupted.

When he'd first returned from his useless trek to Canada, he'd been a little surprised to find her so attached to someone else. Initially, he'd been pleased. After all, he'd known of Marie's feelings for him and he didn't want to hurt her. The fact that she'd clearly fallen for someone closer to her own age had been a relief. That impression had held until he'd met the Cajun in question.

The guy had been too smooth. Remy LeBeau was a professional thief with enough charm to get Satan himself through the pearly gates. The problem, Logan had decided, was just what the devil would do once he managed to get into Heaven.

Perhaps he was being overprotective, but he had reason for concern. Marie's gift was a legitimate danger to any relationship, and he couldn't help the feeling that this sweet talking bandit just might try to steal more than Marie's fragile heart. You just didn't get involved with someone that dangerous without an ulterior motive, and that was a fact.

Logan was no exception to that rule. He had negated the dangers of being near Marie because her very goodness made him feel a little less jaded about the world. It was a risk, both to her heart and to his body, but he couldn't help the need to stay close. Perhaps it was selfish, but at least it was a motivation that couldn't harm her. He had wondered if she'd ever start to see him as the big brother he'd wanted to be, the friend that would always be there, no matter what. Now that he had that, he was more worried than he'd been in the first place.

Stopping at her door, it took only a couple of deep breaths to realize that she was inside and alone. He could hear blankets rustling as well, so he assumed she was in bed. He knocked gently, although the rate of her breathing didn't indicate sleep.

"Come in," she called out. "I don't think it's locked."

Logan turned the knob and pushed, and found that the door was indeed unlocked. "It should be," he told her with half a smile.

"Remy left it open so he could come back and check on me," she explained. "I'm in a low-crime district."

Logan smiled and walked over to the bed. "That should keep him away, then, right?"

"Logan," she said with an exasperated sigh. "Leave it alone."

"I just don't want to see him walking out with your stereo," Logan justified as he seated himself carefully on the edge of the bed. He didn't detect any odor of pain, but he still looked her leg over for any marks. "I was down at the infirmary," he explained. "Saw that you'd been in."

"Yeah," she agreed with a wince. "I tripped in the Danger Room. It was an easy program, too. Remy made me go down and get it looked at. It really doesn't hurt," she insisted.

"Never hurts to get it checked," he grumbled, agreeing with the blasted Cajun's caution. "Katie said it's a sprain?"

"Strain," Marie corrected. "All it needs is a little rest and a muscle relaxant until it heals. No real damage done."

Logan looked at the leg that was propped up on a couple of pillows, encased safely in a snug pair of leggings. He couldn't see any obvious swelling, and Marie didn't appear to be in any obvious pain, so he decided that the new Doc must be right.

"You need anything?" he asked as he carefully stood, not jarring the bed.

"Not really," she sighed. "Remy left me a book to read, the TV remote, and two cans of soda."

"You sound real thrilled about that," Logan said with amusement.

"Can I ask you something?" she said abruptly. There was fear in her scent, now, he decided. Uncertainty. She either was worried about asking him something, or was worried about what his answer would be.

"You can ask me anything," he said simply, meaning it. He lowered himself back down to the bed.

"Why ..." she began, then stopped. She took a deep breath, then tried again. "What is it with guys?" she finally asked.

"You're gonna have to be a little more specific than that, Darlin'," he told her with a grin.

"Remy wouldn't stay," she explained. "I asked him to, but he said he was afraid that someone might say something or think we were ..." Her voice trailed off again.

"Sounds like good judgment," Logan agreed, once more annoyed that he and the Cajun were of a mind on anything.

"But he knows we're not, and I know we're not, and what's so bad about someone thinking anything anyway?" she rambled quickly. "I mean, it's not like I'm such a bad idea, am I? He doesn't mind being seen with me, so why is he so afraid anyone might think that there's more going on than there is?"

"The Cajun has quite a reputation with the ladies," Logan said carefully. He knew he was on murky ground, but he also felt that Marie deserved an answer. He decidedly disliked the idea of defending the Cajun. "Maybe he doesn't want that reputation spreading to you."

"I know he isn't a saint," Marie said with exasperation. "Hell, 'bout everyone knows he's not a saint. Why would he think I'd want them thinkin' I was?"

Logan looked at her a minute more, just taking in her righteous indignation, her flushed cheeks, and the pure innocence in her eyes. She had no clue how rare that was, how precious. She had no clue how a man would want to protect that, treasure it. Or plunder it, depending on the man. He'd really believed that Remy LeBeau was one of the latter, but he might have to reconsider his assumption. Just because the man had moved in during Logan's time away, and just because he had a rather flashy history on the streets of New Orleans, it didn't have to mean that he was an idiot to the bone.

"Men like to take care of what's theirs," Logan finally admitted. "Maybe the Cajun is starting to think you're his."

"That explains the sodas, but not the attitude," she grumbled. "If he wanted to take care of me, he'd be sitting right here.

"There's different kinds of carin'," Logan said gently. "Much as I hate to say it, this is the good kind."

Marie's face turned away, towards the wall. Logan sat there a few more moments, thinking and wishing and remembering. It had been nice having someone look up to him. He was going to miss that. His Marie was growing up.

"Whatever he was thinkin'," Logan finally added. "I'm glad he was, 'cause I got to see you without having to trip over him. Now, you get some sleep and rest that leg, like the Doc says. You need anything, you call me." He reached out and tapped a shoulder to be sure he had her attention. "Got it?"

"Got it," she echoed. "Thanks."

He smiled genuinely at that. "Anytime," he told her.

* * *

Jean read quickly over the list that Kate had left her from the night before. If she'd had any idea the clinic would be so busy, she would have left Scott to cope with the biology exams and backed up the new resident ... old resident ... whatever.

It wasn't that Jean hadn't enjoyed her evening. In fact, after relegating twenty exams to the grade book, she'd been more than content to curl with Scott on the bed and watch a sappy romantic movie on TV. She and Scott so rarely had time for such luxuries.

She supposed there had been a time when relaxing had been a priority, rather than the treat it had become. Evenings spent in the TV room with the rest of the team had been a weekly occurrence, complete with popcorn, candy, and whatever raunchy jokes half a dozen boys could come up with to embarrass the two girls in residence. It had been a good time, she recalled.

Still, evenings like last night were even more rare. Scott never let his guard down when others were around, so it was only when she had him alone that she was able to glimpse his wry sense of humor and his open affection. She didn't mind his restraint, in context, but she was more than happy to see him let himself go with her. It was both a relief and a responsibility to her that he did.

Perhaps this was why she had been so annoyed when Logan had insinuated that Scott was too tame for her. Aside from the Professor, absolutely no one knew the person that truly was Scott. If he hadn't dedicated himself to control, to teaching others, to saving the world, he could have been a fine actor. He had a way of not letting anyone see who he really was or what he was really thinking. Even those that considered themselves to be his friends, like Bobby or Warren, would have been shocked if they'd ever glimpsed his mind.

Jean had determined long ago that this was the primary reason Scott had been so reluctant to allow a mind link between them. It wasn't a matter of not trusting her, or of not loving her, but rather admitting that someone would really see inside him. He wasn't a super-guy, and he wasn't perfect. He was simple, sweet, insecure, and amazingly loving. He was also the most fun she'd ever had horizontally, but that way held thoughts for another time... a time when she wasn't trying to sort out the infirmary supply list before teaching her eight o'clock class.

Jean loved to teach. She liked to work in the clinic, and she felt an enormous joy in helping others, but what she really loved was teaching. It wasn't even the teaching of biology that she liked, for that was merely what she knew the best, but the sharing of thoughts.

Jean shared thoughts on a constant basis with the rest of the world. More specifically, she received their thoughts whether she wished to share them or not. Projecting her own thoughts was something she simply wasn't powerful enough to do. The professor could do it, and even Kate could do it with feelings, but projection

was beyond her current capability. The closest she could come, the nearest she could be to actually sharing her own thoughts with a group of people, was to teach them.

Scott was the exception to this rule, and the professor of course. She could easily communicate with them telepathically. With the professor, she was certain that this was just an extension of his own abilities. With Scott, it was a combination of knowing her way around his mind from repeated readings, and an intense desire on his part. Still, while she could open her thoughts to his mind, he had to actively participate in order to know what she was thinking beyond single word, projected commands.

Early in her training, when the team had consisted of only herself, Scott, Storm, Bobby, and Warren, the professor had taught her to scan those around her and "send" messages to coordinate their efforts. It was exhausting, but she could actually project certain thoughts with effort. It had been an invaluable tool in battle, but it wasn't the same as sharing a series of thoughts, a lesson, with a classroom of eager minds.

The beauty of teaching at this particular school, she realized, was that the students honestly appreciated what she did. They weren't your standard middle and high school students, stricken by apathy and boredom. Instead, this was a group that wanted to be

accepted, wanted the education. It made her job easier. It didn't hurt that the majority of what they taught directly applied to the lives of her students. Even biology, a subject taught in ten thousand high school's across America, was different here.

The lesson she'd left for Scott had been on binomial nomenclature. Simply, it was the naming of living things by their scientific genus and species. Even this had special meaning here, in that they were not Homo Sapiens, per se. They were all Homo

Sapiens, Superior. Coined by Magneto, the term went beyond the biology that the world accepted and defined their lives. From there, the lesson was scheduled to diverge even further from the standard. Mutant High, as they had affectionately named their school, was just that. Physics explained why Kitty could walk through walls, Mathematics explained the formulas necessary to determine the progress of the mutant gene. Language Arts taught them how to express themselves intelligently through writing, so that they would not be thought of as ignorant. Science defined who they were, how they would develop. Psychology taught them to accept themselves, and understand the intolerance around them. Each subject, whatever it's original intent, taught them what they were and how to be the best possible person. For this, the students were beyond eager to learn.

Jean's mind wandered as she completed the supply list and faxed it to the Professor's office. She restocked what she could, filed the information in Kate's note into the appropriate computerized records, and organized her eight o'clock lesson in her head. Her mind was busy, as she liked it.

She was so busy, for that matter, that it took her a moment to realize that the voice in her mind was not her own. Shaking her head, she focused and let the Professor past the walls that she kept up for her own sanity's sake. *Yes?*

*I need you in the ready room. We have a problem.*

His voice was brusque, as usual, and allowed for no argument. With a sigh she closed out her computer and took to the hallway at a jog. She wouldn't realize until later that she hadn't even thought to lock the door to the infirmary.

* * *

"What's the damage status?" Bobby inquired, looking over Scott's shoulder at the map. "Any count on casualties?" Jean threw in as well.

"Ought to let them fight their own battles," Logan grumbled, knowing that no one was really listening to him anyway.

*Enough!* The command was firm, mental, and effectively silenced the room as the Professor wheeled in. "As you can see," he continued verbally. "The Friends of Humanity have once more overstepped the bounds of common decency. As yet, I have received no reports of injury, but it is only a matter of time."

"Full team or partial?" Scott asked simply, knowing instinctively that they would be going in to minimize the damage before innocent mutants and humans were hurt.

"Partial," Xavier said simply. "Also, lets keep this as low-profile as possible. Visually normal team members only, and the rest of the team can remain on standby. Civilian dress."

"Storm leads away team," Scott said loudly enough to carry to the group, his voice echoing the command in the Professor's. "Jean, Rogue, Bobby, and Logan can back up. Go get dressed." He looked up to face the group. "Everyone else suit up and be ready to roll backup. I'll monitor from here. Cancel your classes for independent study."

There were nods and movement around the room as the five chosen team members went to dress appropriately and the remainder went to get their uniforms on. They knew that if they were indeed necessary, it would be full out war and they would need all the protection the uniforms could give.

"One momen', Mon ami," Remy said softly as he stepped up to Scott. "I would like to be on this mission."

"Negative," Scott said as his face snapped up to meet the Cajun's gaze. "Your eyes would be a dead giveaway. The Professor wants anonymity unless it all falls apart."


Scott's words cut him off. "They won't hide mine, and they won't hide yours if you wind up inside. It's too obvious." He managed to read the look on Remy's face and he placed a hand on the man's shoulder. "I know how you feel," Scott said simply. "I don't like sending Jean out there, either. But, she's a big girl and she can take care of herself. If she needs me, I'll be there as fast as the Blackbird can fly."

"Non," Remy said softly. "Not as fast as if you were there already."

"I trust the team," Scott said simply. "They'll back her until I can get there."

"Oui," Remy agreed. "But Logan," his voice trailed off momentary. "He gives me cause to worry."

"Logan will do his job, and he'd give his life for either Jean or Rogue," Scott said honestly. "That's why he's on the team."

"He's dangerous, unpredictable," Remy argued.

Scott looked up and graced the Cajun with a rare smile. "So are you," he reminded him.

Chapter 3

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