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The Death of the Hired Man
Chapter 8

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.

Hank was only three feet up the fence when he heard shots, saw lights flash on, and then was nearly blinded by the shower of sparks that Wolverine caused when he sliced through the electric fence. He gave a brief thought that their element of surprise was no longer a consideration, then dropped to the ground and took off at a run.

Fortunately, when Logan had severed the fence, he'd also short-circuited the deadly barrier. Hank tucked himself through the opening that Wolverine had made, picking up the unconscious man as he did so.

Jubilee and Remy followed Beast through the opening in the fence, but Rogue was too far advanced in her climb to abandon it. With the electricity down, she decreased her caution and grabbed for the fence rather than the cotton rope that she had been using. Her rubber bottomed-shoes served her well as she neared the top, but it was Bobby's ice barrier that saved her from the snipers.

Iceman had formed a wall of ice that separated them from the rifle shots. He formed an ice-slide beneath him, and shot up and over the fence, coming to the ground just behind Beast's running form.

Hank kept one arm wrapped around Logan's waist, hauling him over the terrain with surprising speed given the added weight of the adamantium. Jubilee ran behind Hank, clutching her injured arm with the other. Remy glanced back just in time to see Rogue dive from the top of the barbed wire fence, gracefully tumbling before landing on her feet and joining their escape.

Iceman kept the barrier coming, keeping a solid wall of ice between the team and the high-velocity bullets that threatened them. As they finally reached the cover of the prison itself, Beast dropped Logan to the ground. Remy went to work on the door to the prison, while Hank focused his attention on Logan.

Hank placed his fingers at Logan's neck to check for a pulse. He cursed quietly as he bent down and pinched the man's nose closed, and sealed his mouth over Logan's to give a strong breath. He turned his head to the side, felt the breath rush out of Logan, then gave another breath. A second check of Logan's pulse assured Hank that the Wolverine would recover.

"Got him," he said quietly, moving Logan to his side just in case he decided to vomit.

"Is he alive?" Rogue asked, her voice frantic. She moved over to Jubilee, seeing the girl clutching her arm, while she waited for an answer.

"Alive and discovering the benefits of his healing ability," Hank said simply. "Once I got him some oxygen, his own body took care of the rest."

Logan began to struggle against the grip that held him, his return to consciousness evident, and adamantium claws finally withdrew into his fist.

"That was fast," Bobby remarked, adding a bit more ice to the barrier that protected them. The shots had stopped, but he wasn't taking any chances.

"Shit," Logan groaned. "Remind me to ask for a lethal injection if I ever get sentenced to death."

"How do you feel?" Hank asked quietly.

"Like I've been electrocuted," Logan replied with a glare. "Damn, I feel like I'm still frying from the inside out."

"Jubilee?" Hank called out, choosing to ignore the ranting of the Wolverine.

"Present," she said, pain in her voice. Rogue was binding the wound on Jubilee's arm, trying to stop the bleeding.

"How bad," Hank asked, standing to check her.

"Took out some meat," Rogue answered. "Help me get this tighter. I can't tie worth a damn with the gloves."

Hank reached over and tugged the cloth tighter, then knotted it efficiently. He didn't bother to ask where the torn white material had come from, but he caught Rogue re-zipping the front of her uniform out of the corner of his eye.

"Status?" Logan asked, moving to a sitting position as he got his breath back.

Hank glanced around him. They were on the north-facing side of the ancillary prison, where Logan had suggested they try to go in. The door before them was large, and designed for deliveries rather than general traffic, and as such was less accessible to the guard towers. "We're at the entrance you requested," Hank told Logan. "You were only out for a few seconds."

"Back me," Remy called behind him. "I've about got this open."

Logan stood, moving out of the way even as Hank and Bobby moved to either side of the large door. Remy checked to see that they were in place, that Rogue and Jubilee were clear, then put two wires together in the computerized locking mechanism. The door slid to the side, and Bobby took out the first barrage of gunfire with a wave of ice.

The door had opened up on a warehouse area, where twenty prison guards were doing their best to defend the prison. Jubilee sent a shower of fireworks towards a group of guards that were preparing to fire, even as Rogue dove forward, turned a somersault, and knocked out one guard with a square kick to his chest. Rogue retrieved his weapon, a nine millimeter hand gun, and turned it on the remaining guards.

Bobby had plastered half the guards to a side wall with his initial wave of ice, but he took a moment more to thoroughly freeze them in place. Logan took out weapons on several more, adamantium flashing in the light of the setting sun, and groaned when he realized that they could have used the weapons themselves. Remy had pulled out his bow-staff, and was running towards several guards that were coming through a back doorway.

It took several minutes before they cleared the room of guards. Rogue collected all the ammunition that she could fit in her pockets, and placed a second handgun in the band that encircled her right leg. Jubilee turned down a weapon, deciding instead to stay with her fireworks. Remy cleared the doorway that led to the first corridor, mumbling under his breath.

"Somebody wanna tell them we're the good guys?" he asked sarcastically.

"Under the circumstances," Hank recommended. "I don't think that they would listen. To them, a mutant is a mutant."

"Same shit, different day," Logan agreed as he checked the corridor. "We're clear, here. We take this corridor to the end, make a right, then the third door will lead to Magneto's tunnel."

"Assuming we don't run into BoM along the way," Rogue added.

"Or more guards," Jubilee put in.

Bobby finished the job of icing-in the opposite side of the corridor, limiting the directions from which the guards could attack. He ensured that his wall of ice was secure, then turned to face the others. For just a moment, he let his body turn back to flesh, and took a few ragged breaths.

"Are you okay, Robert?" Hank asked quietly.

"Just taking a breather," Bobby replied.

"Don't rest too long," Logan recommended as he started down the corridor. "We're not out of this, yet."


They made it to the end of the tunnel, made their right turn, and were nearly to the third doorway. They had encountered no resistance, which caused Logan to worry more than it relieved him. Several dead guards had been in the corridor, but none had been attacking.

Logan, Jubilee, and Bobby took one side of the doorway, while Hank and Rogue covered Remy from the other. He fiddled with the locking mechanism for several moments before Logan stepped forward to pop a claw and pry the casing off of the lock.

"Thanks," Remy said absently, setting to work at rewiring the mechanism.

"No problem," Logan answered, stepping back to the side of the door.

Remy nodded, looked to either side to ensure that the team was ready, and then plugged a wire into an unintended area. The mechanism sent sparks flying, but the door slid open anyway. Remy shrugged as he moved to the side of the doorway. The corridor was empty.

Keeping to the sides of the corridor, they began what Logan knew was nearly a full-mile trek down to the plastic cage. The corridor was cut from solid granite, descending several hundred feet beneath the surface as it progressed. Logan spared a grateful thought that Ororo was back in the infirmary, as there would have been no way she could have remained sane in this tunnel. It was ten feet high, and twice that across. Room enough to move, certainly, but not nearly enough for her comfort.

They had gone more than half the distance to the plastic prison before they encountered any resistance. Logan wished fervently that Scott were present, because he could have told them how far they were to the foot. Scott's mind worked that way, judging space and distance with uncanny accuracy. Logan's mind did not.

Logan smelled trouble, literally, just before it dropped down on them from the ceiling. Mystique had disguised herself as air vent, of which there were hundreds, and if it hadn't been for her unique scent Logan might have been caught completely off guard. As it was, he called out just as she regained her natural form.

Bobby turned to ice her, being the closest, but she knocked him out of the way with a hard kick to the chest. He wasn't hurt, but he lost his balance and went skittering along the corridor on the thin sheet of ice he had formed.

Rogue stepped forward, raising her gun, but Mystique was too fast. She had the weapon away from the younger woman within seconds. Jubilee and Remy attacked in tandem, knowing that fair play was not going to get the job done. Mystique changed form, becoming another Logan, and reaching out towards them with claws.

Logan didn't see where Toad came from, but suddenly a long tongue wrapped itself around Logan's foot and pulled him to the ground. He landed on his butt just as the tongue receded, and saw Beast leap over him to attack Toad. The two were evenly matched in their agility, but Beast was larger and able to subdue Toad quickly.

Once on his feet, Logan stepped towards Mystique. She might look just like him, but her claws were merely an extension of her own body, and did not have the strength of his adamantium. Logan got her to the ground using sheer power, and then punched her in the abdomen using the claws. Mystique screamed, then her body withdrew to its natural blue shape. Logan retracted his claws, and seriously considered finishing her off. He remembered vividly how she had recovered the last time he had left her this way.

"Two down," Bobby remarked, his body returning to its ice-form. He picked up both of their enemies, dropped them into the corner formed by wall and floor, and froze them in place. He ensured that there was more than two feet of ice around them, which would take hours to chip through, and days to thaw. He might have done more, but the ventilated corridor had less moisture than he was used to. He really hated air conditioning.

"Somehow, I think that was just the warning crew," Logan said carefully. "The closer we get, the worse this is going to be."

"Let's get it done," Rogue said calmly, taking a step past Logan. "I'm ready to go home."

Logan nodded, and the six of them resumed their positions to continue down the corridor. After several-hundred more feet, the downward incline of the floor leveled out, and Logan knew from the schematics that they were getting close.

"This is it, people," he said simply as the corridor opened into a wider area. They found themselves on a platform of sorts, in a huge open area that was cut from the rock. It opened cavernously beneath them, around them, and after the confined area of the white corridor it was disorienting.

Logan looked towards the observation window on the far wall of the cavern, and was dismayed to see that it had been torn apart. The BoM had been here. The only question that remained was whether or not they were still present. Logan got his answer only a few seconds later.

They didn't have a moment to prepare. Suddenly, Logan's body lifted from the platform, and he found himself held against the upper wall. The only good from the situation was that he was suspended over the platform, rather than the cavernous drop only a few feet away.

"Magneto," Logan ground out, part as a statement and part as a warning.

Jubilee froze as she saw Logan rise into the air and then fly into a nearby wall. His body was pinned, twenty feet above the platform, effectively immobilized. Rogue felt something at her leg, then realized that the spare gun she had left there was levitating, and pointed directly towards her. The safety clicked off, the hammer pulled back, and Rogue found herself looking down the barrel of a very dangerous weapon. The rest of the team came to a complete stop.

Logan looked down on the scene with a feeling of disconnection, and not just from his distance. Rogue was in danger, and he was completely immobilized, unable to get to her. He could watch, and nothing more.

Magneto walked towards them. His form had been hidden by the plastic bridge that connected his cell with the cavern, but he was in clear view now. The team remained still, unwilling to put Rogue in further danger. They watched as Sabertooth pulled himself up from beneath the platform, where he had been hiding.

"How nice of you to come and visit," Magneto said with a flourish. "And you brought me such wonderful toys." He moved a hand, and Logan's body moved out from the wall only to slam back, knocking the breath from him.

"Let him go," Rogue called out, no fear in her voice.

"Now, why would I do that?" he asked.

"You're not a killer," she said simply. "Not like this. I know you. I've had you in my head. You don't kill for no reason."

"Perhaps," Magneto said with a smile. "But things change. I've been in this hellhole for over three years, and I'm not particularly fond of those that put me here."

"Let him go," Rogue repeated.

Sabertooth growled, moving towards her, but she didn't flinch. Rogue stood her ground, waiting for Magneto's reply.

"You like her," Magneto said softly, consideringly. "Very well. She certainly is interesting enough. You may have her, Victor." The gun turned to face away from Rogue, trained on Jubilee's head instead.

Sabertooth growled again, his arms sliding around Rogue and lifting her off her feet. She screamed once, and Logan called out in frustration, as the beast hauled her up against him.

Rogue tried to get away, tried to stay calm, but being pulled up against the hairy body of her enemy was almost too much for her to stand. She struggled slightly, found herself squeezed hard enough that ribs cracked and the world began to spin, and finally gave up her fight.

Sabertooth started for the corridor, followed closely by Magneto. Logan remained pinned to the wall above them. The team remained silent, and immobile, until Sabertooth was nearly past them, Rogue held tightly in his grip.

Remy moved silently, striking out without warning. His bow-staff extended, and he jammed it between Rogue and Sabertooth, breaking the animal's grip on her. As she fell to the ground, Remy stood to face his enemy, eyes glowing red.

Magneto smiled slightly. "This is more entertainment than I've had in years," he said. "It looks like you'll have to fight for her if you intend to keep her."

Sabertooth growled, then lunged for Remy. He fought calmly, keeping the killer as far from the team as he could manage. Hank inched towards Magneto, looking for an opening as everyone's attention focused on the battle at hand.

Just as Hank got close, thought he might have a chance to grab Magneto, Logan's body came hurtling at him. Hank ducked quickly, keeping himself clear of the claws that had just popped out, and Logan's body rotated in the air to come back for another dive.

If Logan had the most significant advantage against Mystique when fighting the BoM, then he had the most significant handicap when battling Magneto. The older man could do anything with him, with very little effort. The adamantium grafted to his skeleton made him nothing more than a target, and at the moment a weapon. He had no defense against Eric Lehnsherr's gift.

Logan's body was used to batter the rest of the team, one by one, knocking them off the platform where they could only scramble for purchase against a fall into the chasm. As Remy was attacked, his victory over Sabertooth seeming almost possible, he grabbed Rogue around the waist and tugged her to him. She cried out in pain, broken ribs protesting his grip, and together they were dashed over the side of the platform.

Logan came to a stop, slightly dizzy from the motion of his body and his fruitless efforts to at least keep his claws pulled in so that they wouldn't damage the team. The platform contained only Magneto and Sabertooth. The former stood, shaking his head.

"I should kill them all," he told Sabertooth regretfully. "But I suppose I owe Charles something for his years of friendship." He turned his face up to Logan, who was still trying to regain his bearings. "Still, I can't have you following me." He tossed Logan through the air, suspended him over the chasm, and finally tossed him into the plastic prison that he had just escaped.

Sabertooth walked over to the bridge, and used all his strength to tear it apart. With effort, Logan might be able to make it across, but it would be dangerous. The rest of the X-men were still over the side of the platform, doing their best not to fall into the chasm. He looked at them, growled in feral warning, and then followed his master into the corridor.


Hank was the first to make it to the platform. He pulled his large body over, and then took a moment to regain his breath. He reached for Bobby first, pulling the younger man to safety. As a team, the two of them lifted Rogue's body from Remy's tight hold, and then aided his ascent as well.

Jubilee crawled over the side of the platform just as Logan began to tear apart the plastic prison. It took him nearly an hour to get through the damage that Sabertooth had imposed, but he finally managed.

Just as Logan was reaching the final area of the bridge, the large plastic structure began to pull away from the platform. Remy moved quickly, using his bow-staff to brace the connection, and offered Logan a hand. If Logan hesitated a moment before clasping the Cajun's arm, their grips locking in a firm hold, then no one mentioned it.

Logan reached the solid platform, and his first steps took him towards Rogue. She was breathing roughly, clutching her abdomen, and Logan suddenly understood why the team hadn't attempted pursuit. Beast was not going to leave a patient, and she was in too much pain to move.

"Hey, kid," Logan said softly as he bent down to reach her.

"Her ribs are destroyed," Hank said softly. "I don't know how much lung damage has been done, but I'm sure it's significant."

As though to confirm Hank's diagnosis, Rogue coughed lightly, leaving a trace of blood on her lips when she did so.

Quickly, Logan took stock of himself. He was sore, but he hadn't suffered any real damage when Magneto had tossed him around. He had hit the wall a few times, but no real injury had occurred. He came to the decision that he could make it out of there without healing. Rogue might not be so lucky.

"I'm sorry, Chere," Remy said gently as he knelt down beside Logan, taking one of Rogue's hands in his. "I couldn't let him take you."

"You did right," Logan told the Cajun. "She'll be fine."

"Logan," Hank interrupted. "I don't think it would be advisable to move her. She sounds as though one lung has collapsed."

"She'll be fine," Logan said again, more forcefully. "Won't you, kid?"

Rogue gave a frail smile, and then took another shaky breath. She nodded slightly, knowing what Logan had planned.

While Beast watched in confusion, Logan tugged off one of his gloves. He changed his crouch to a kneel, making sure that he was stable. Taking a breath to steady himself, he reached forward and laid his hand on Rogue's cheek, cupping her face.

Nothing happened.  Logan caressed Marie’s cheek for a minute, and then two, and still there was no response from her gift.  “We’re getting too good at this,” he muttered in frustration.

“I don’t understand,” Hank remarked, the confusion evident in his voice.

“Chere?” Remy whispered.

With a faint smile, Marie turned her face into Logan’s hand, her hands coming up to hold it in place.  “Hang on,” she told him softly.

Logan gasped as he felt his energy draining. He paused only a moment, giving Rogue all he could, and then pulled against the drain that held him more strongly than Magneto's grip had. He managed to get his hand away with Marie’s help before losing consciousness. He fell to his side, his breathing rough, and his body aching.

Rogue coughed once, then twice. She curled in on herself as her body mended. She felt Logan's touch, his physical presence within her, both familiar and startling at once. Remy moved up behind her, took her into his arms, and supported her while she caught her breath.

"Holy shit," she said softly. "Fuck, that hurt."

Remy laughed softly, knowing the words were not hers, but the sentiment was.

Belatedly, Hank realized what had transpired. While he had taken the time to research Logan and his gifts - his interest piqued by the man's obvious attention towards Ororo and satisfied by Jean's thorough records - he had not bothered to do the same with Rogue. Clearly she was able to absorb mutant gifts, and Logan's had most likely saved her life. Broken ribs were recoverable, but shredded lungs were not.

Logan stayed on his side, clearly in pain. For a moment, Hank wondered if Logan had absorbed Rogue's injuries in the process, but then he realized that Logan was simply battered. While he had allowed Rogue to heal, he was going to have to do the same in the old-fashioned way.

"How long until you recover your healing?" Hank asked as he unzipped Logan's uniform to check the bruising that the man was guarding.

"Depends," he gasped out as Hank ran his large hands over the worst of the bruises. "On how much she took."

"Quite a bit, asshole," Rogue answered. "Too bad you don't have a gift for anesthetic to go along with the healing. This hurts like a bitch."

"Don't it, though," Logan said as he grinned back. He had heard Jean mention Rogue taking on his personality traits, but he had never been on the receiving end of it. With the illness, she hadn't needed much to fight it. He'd held her hand only until he felt a light tingle, just enough to boost her immune system. Her injuries this time were more significant, so he'd had to give up a little more. Not as much as she'd needed when Magneto had nearly killed her, but more than he'd thought she would need.

Magneto. "How long since he got away?" Logan finally asked. He didn't have to specify who he was talking about.

Bobby checked his watch. "Ninety minutes," he answered.

"Shit."  He hadn’t realized that it had taken him that long to get out of the plastic containment and across the bridge.

"We'll need to clear out, too," Jubilee said. "They may have already blocked the tunnel, and I'm not in any mood to fight my way out."

"It is likely that they discontinued their efforts at distraction once Magneto was free," Hank agreed.

"Can you walk?" Logan asked Rogue.

She smirked before giving him a distinctive, "Hell, yeah."

Logan pulled himself painfully to his feet, and tried to straighten his body. Magneto had beaten the crap out of him by beating him into the walls of the chasm.

"Let's get going," he told the team. "Remy and Bobby have point, Hank and Jubilee take rear. Marie and I are gonna hang in the middle."

"Wise choice," Hank told him, patting his arm before moving to his position at the front of the team.

"Yeah," Logan muttered. "I'm a hell of a leader."

Chapter 9 (Coming Soon)

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