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Part 1


Warning:  This is dark, though I wouldn’t call it, in the end, a tragedy.  Nonetheless, I strongly recommend reader discretion.  There's a character death, but it occurs at the outset so you don’t have to wonder when it’s coming.  There's also a lot of plain, brutal nastiness:  the horrible things that people can do to each other.  The inspiration for this story is – very loosely – the Iliad.  Hey, if you’re going to cop a theme, you may as well cop Homer.

Notes:  In highly traumatic combat situations, the ties between men exceed the term ‘friendship’ by modern usage.  I direct readers to Jonathan Shay’s splendid Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character.  He says, "Modern American English makes soldiers' love for special comrades into a problem, because the word love evokes sexual and romantic associations.  But friendship seems too bland for the passion of care that arises between soldiers in combat" (40).  This is a love story.  It is not a sex story.

Feedback is not the mythical city of Shangri-la. :-)  Please sign the comments book and/or send me email.  One of these long pieces takes time to write, and it's nice to know if folks are reading it, although I'm not sure if 'enjoying it' is quite the word for this one.  
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Archiving: Scott & Logan and Red Shades have permission to take this one.  Otherwise, due to the dark nature of the tale, I’d ask that if you want to archive it, especially on personal pages, please let me know.  I just want to keep track of where it’s going – and please be certain that the warning remains attached.

Notes:  I'd like to thank both Crys and Katta, who read drafts of this.  Katta's been over this same tread before, albeit in different fashion.  Oh, and I’m allergic to uneducated Logan.  The professor didn’t talk down to him in the film, and for the most part, his English was good.   Movieverse Logan isn't Logan of the comics.

"Logan ­ left tunnel. Jean, you're with me. We'll each go down three hundred feet, then retrace. Do not go farther. We're not in a hurry. Look for signs of passage or occupation, then come back and we'll decide what to do next. We should see something down one or the other by three-hundred feet. I don't want to split us up for long."

That was how it began.

We'd had a report of trouble from mutants in the Baltimore subway ­ a few muggings and worse, a few disappearances, feared it might be a group of renegade Morlocks. The professor had sent us to investigate. Just Cyclops, Jean and I. No one sent the Storm Queen underground. One, she can't call the lightening there. And two, she's claustrophobic as all hell. She'd stayed at the mansion with that blue fuzzball they name a Beast. This little trip was more likely to be days than hours, and there was still a school to run. Listening to the Lovebirds argue the final details for a wedding less than two months away wasn't my idea of entertainment, but at least it gave me some quality time to razz the Boy Scout.

We'd driven, not flown, and after dark suited up to find an access down into the subway near the area we'd been informed by our FBI contact was the site of the most assaults. The trains were still on, so we had to be careful. We'd done reconnaissance as a group until we'd come to a fork in the tunnel: one still in use, one not. Cyclops had given me the one still in use. Now, I made a careful sweep of my tunnel. I might have been irritated to be sent off alone but I recognized it as a back-handed compliment. He knew I could take care of myself.

Still, I sometimes wonder if what happened next would have happened if Jean had gone with me down the unused tunnel. But I don't blame Summers.

He does enough of that for himself.

Water seeped in from the sea and the subway walls were damp with it. It stank of mildew and rot and old piss. There was occasional trash ­ dirty pages of the Baltimore Sun blown off platforms by the passage of trains, green Wrigley's gum wrappers, a stray condom. Strange place for a tryst. Something had dragged a cat down here, eaten half of it and left the rest to decompose. I stepped around it, wrinkled my nose. I'd been in worse places. Hell, I'd slept in worse places. That didn't make the sweet-stink better.

I wasn't, however seeing ­ or smelling ­ any signs of recent occupation and I'd reached the 300 foot mark. Hoping Cyclops and Jean had faired better, I turned, took about three steps.

That was when I heard an explosion and Jean screamed; it cut off abruptly. Another explosion and then a crash like a wall caving in. Summers shouting. Other sounds of struggle. I was already moving.

I have metal in my bones; it slows me down. I've learned to adjust, learned agility and balance ­ but I'll never be fast again. I don't know if it would have made a difference, though, had I been a minute quicker. By the time I got back to where the tunnel divided, the sounds coming from up the other tunnel were consonant with a minor war. Lots of red flashes. Fucking idiot. He was going to bring down the tunnel on top of them. I headed for them anyway.

By the time I got there, he had brought down half the tunnel, cutting off the enemy retreat, and was crouched behind part of a fallen wall. He had a clear retreat himself, but wasn't taking it.

Jean was sprawled on the ground between them, and us.

The 'them' were not Morlocks. Morlocks didn't have grenade launchers and automatic weapons. Shit. "Who the hell are they?" I yelled at him over the sound of rifles as I slid down in the wet muck at his side behind his makeshift defense wall.

"I have no idea," he shouted back, shooting again, screaming, "Jean, dammit! Crawl this way! I'm covering you!"

Weakly, she raised her head, and at her movement, my heart stopped pounding quite so hard. Then it started up again. I saw what Cyclops was too busy to see. What he didn't want to see.

She was cut nearly in half.

Her face was white from pain and shock, blood glistening around her in the muck, spilling from her mouth and over her chin. She shook her head at me. I felt a brush on my mind, a little like the professor's but much fainter. Get him out! He won't listen to me. Logan, please! Take care of him. For me.

She lowered her head again, coughed once, and stopped moving.

No one had bothered to explain to me that she and Scott had some kind of permanent mental link. He had a piece of her in his head, for God's sake, and the reverse. No wonder he'd been so damn cocky when I'd made a move on her after I'd first gotten to the mansion. I'd ticked him off ­ but not as much as I should have. Later, I understood why. How the hell do you fight mental fusion? I'm sure in battle the link was useful, too, let them move as one creature.


He knew the instant she died. He felt her die.

And he just went berserk.

Letting out a sound that wasn't really human, he ripped the visor off. Pure, uncontained energy blasted down the tunnel like a tsunami of red, knocked open the seal he'd put on the enemy retreat just minutes before, and took some of them with it. Took a lot of them with it.

Not enough.

I don't think he noticed, or cared. Visor back on now, he was over the top of the fallen wall and running. To her.

At the time, of course, I had no idea what the hell was going on. I remember shouting at him, "She's dead, Summers! Get the hell out!"

He wasn't listening to me. He flipped her over and picked her up like she weighed nothing. She's as tall as he is, and he doesn't have augmented strength. Instead, he had desperation. Adrenaline is an amazing thing.

He got her most of the way back before the few remaining goons in the tunnel recovered wits enough to shoot at him. It's not that easy to hit a moving object unless you're good. So they went for the large target: his back, not his head. Luckily, the uniforms have built-in kevlar. He took a hit in his shoulder and square in the middle of his back. Kevlar or no, the explosive blast of an automatic weapon knocked him senseless over the top of the broken wall, dropping Jean's body at my feet. He landed beside it, all breath gone out of him. I could see now what had been done to her. It looked like a grenade had torn through her, and I wondered later ­ when I had time to wonder ­ how she'd managed to live for the few minutes she had. She must have held on by sheer cussedness, to get through to him, drive him away. As soon as she saw me arrive, she could let go. Damn, she must have been in pain. Brave woman. But love is a powerful thing. I don't think I realized until her death just how much they'd loved each other.

But that came to me later. Right at the moment, we had a little problem. Our 'gunman' was flat on his back and I had no weapon besides what lay in my hands.

That's how they caught us.

Oh, I put up a fight. Summers tried, but he was so dazed from grief and the pain of taking two bullet bruises that he wasn't much use and they were in too close for him to get good effect from his visor anyway. He tried to rip it off again ­ he wasn't too worried about body count right then ­ but they'd seen what he could do visorless, so they grabbed his arms and knocked him to his knees, immobilizing him. And then they used him against me. Yanking his hair back, they shoved a gun muzzle so far into his mouth that he choked.

'Take care of him. For me.' Jean's last words.

I stopped fighting.

They got my hands behind my back, handcuffed me. I could get out of it, but not instantly, and not before the goons could blow my brains out ­ or his. No fear on his part, though. He just didn't seem to give a damn. I've seen shock like that before. No reaction until they hauled him up and started to force-march us up the tunnel.

Then he fought like a leopard, twisting and bucking, screaming, "Jean!" over and over. Hysterical. He was trying to get to the body.


I looked away, felt my eyes sting. Not for her. For him. I'd cry for her later.

They finally had to drag him back by the hair and knock him out. He just wasn't sane.

It finally occurred to me to ask one of our captors, "Who the fuck are you, anyway?"

I got a fist in the teeth for my trouble. Then someone knocked me out, too. They must have figured it would be easier.

I woke alone. In an empty room. White. Completely white. There was absolutely nothing there except a pail in one corner. Also white. Perfect florescent light spilled from four fixtures in the ceiling, too high to reach even if I jumped. I wasn't dressed in my uniform. Instead, I wore some kind of coverall with a zipper down the front. As white as the rest. The whole room smelled of Lysol. Getting my (bare) feet under me, I paced off the space. Eight by eight, roughly, and about eight feet high: all proportional. It was cool enough to be uncomfortable, not cool enough to give me frostbite, even if I'd been able to get frostbite. No sound at all seeped in from outside.

A White Room. Very effective. The shitheads knew what they were doing.

Whoever they were.

And where the hell had the put the Boy Scout? Was he even alive?

I'm not sure how long I spent in the White Room. Long enough to lose all sense of time. Long enough not to be fastidious about using the pail, either. They fed me. Water and bread but nothing else. No meat. It weakened me, even in that short time. Occasionally, they emptied the pail. It was all done while I slept, and I must have been drugged because I never woke in the midst of it. I'd still like to know how they managed the drugging. Probably through the ventilation system.

I exercised, I paced, I wondered what Xavier and the others were doing, worried over how Marie would be handling this, and just fretted generally until I reminded myself how little good it was doing. I also replayed that macabre scene in the tunnels. Over and over. Sometimes I wept.

Goddamn, Jean. How the hell did you get in the way of a grenade?

I blamed myself, too, for failing in her final request to get Summers out, even though I'd had no clue what losing her would do to him. I'd never have pegged the Boy Scout for a berserker. At that point, I still didn't understand entirely what had set him off.

After what I later learned was about five days, I finally came face to face with my captors.

A near-seamless door in one wall opened. I'd been dozing. The sound ­ after so much silence ­ yanked me to consciousness and my feet both. I was attacking before the door was all the way open. Element of surprise.

A stun stick met me. Like they use on zoo animals. Knocked me five feet backwards on my ass. Hurt like hell, too. Four guys entered. "Don't try it again, freak," one said.

I popped the claws. Instinct. "Who are you, where am I, and what the fuck do you want?" Predictable questions but I had to start somewhere.

Another man ­ dressed in a suit not a uniform ­ stepped past the guards. He was good looking in that refined-man-in-his-late-forties kind of way. Even features, attractively greying hair, good teeth a little yellow from nicotine, or coffee, or both. Dark eyes had a glint that screamed intelligence, but it felt wrong, like snow that will blind a man if stared at too long. Lazy-cruel.

"You still have your wits about you" he said, sounding vaguely surprised.

"What'd you expect? That I'd be climbing the walls?"

"They informed me that you have animal senses." His quick glance took in the white emptiness.

Had this been some kind of fucking experiment? "Anyone will start to lose it, if left alone long enough without much sensory input. Animal senses or not. I'm a man, pal. Not a wild animal. I ain't talking to myself yet or hearing voices."

A cold smile. "How charming. I wish I could say your . . . companion . . . had fared so well."

My gut went cold but I didn't move a muscle. Lunging at him would accomplish nothing. Keep him talking, find out what I could, don't resist needlessly, and most of all, try to make myself human to him. Those were the rules of a hostage situation. How I knew that, I had no clue, but I knew it. "What happened to him? Where did you take him?"

"He is in a room." The cold smile again. "You surely didn't expect a map? As for what happened to him ­ he seems to be . . . ill. That's why I'm here; I thought you might be able to shed some light on the problem. Before he dies."

I stood up. "Let me see him."

If I could get out of the room. If I could just get out of the room ­

"That's not possible," the Suit said dismissively. "We'll tell you what you need to ­ "

"Look, pal, I can't say anything if I don't know what's going on. I need to see him, examine him, not listen to you recite some descriptive bullshit."

"Since when did you acquire a medical degree?"

"How do you know I don't have one?"

"Dr. Logan?" The cold smile grew thin, but surprisingly, he stepped aside. "I thought it was Dr. Grey. Unfortunately, the good doctor is past the point of performing an examination."

For three breaths, I considered running the Suit through before the goons at the door got me, but that wouldn't do Summers any good. And they knew our names. That was bad news.

"I will permit you to see him," the Suit said. "But if you try anything, we'll kill you both, starting with him while you watch."

I didn't reply to that. Of course I'd try something if I got a chance ­ but only if I knew it would work. "Take me to him."

They bound my hands behind my back again, kept me barefoot and the stun sticks at ready. One of those things could drop an elephant. We went down several corridors. Metal. Doors with keypads. Surveillance cameras at every juncture, and probably infrared trip wires and other fun tricks, too. Little was labeled. Rooms had no numbers. Nothing smelled distinctive, only of disinfectant and WD-40. This was a big facility, built for high security. Government type security. Fuck. We were lab rats in some federal-funded maze. Been there, done that, didn't want a repeat. Something small and cold folded up in my belly.

At least I was out of my personal little rat maze, and could see. If they'd been smart, they'd have blindfolded me.

We went down. I was pretty sure we were already underground in a bunker of some type, but we went down further by elevator, exited, took two corridors and stopped outside a completely unremarkable door. They put bodies between me and the key pad as the Suit punched in the code. But they forgot. I could hear. And it was the same damn tones as a touchtone dial. 44-23-*11. I committed it to memory. The door slid aside.

The Boy Scout looked like shit. "God," I whispered, completely against my will. They shoved me in.

The room was dim, and stank like day-old puke. There was a bed for him, and one of the familiar pails, but Summers lay against one wall, dressed in a similar coverall to mine but dun in color, and soiled, filthy with repeated retching. They had him blinded, too. Nothing fancy. Plain duct tape. Very slowly, cautiously, I moved forward. "One Eye?"

He raised his head, weak, turned it side to side, seeking, voice incredulous. "Logan?" His lips were cracked and bleeding.

"When was the last time you jackasses gave him water?" I snapped behind me.

"He throws it up," the Suit said. "He throws up everything." The man gestured. "High fever, inability to hold down food or liquid. He's dehydrating. That's why you're here."

I knelt down in front of Summers, but couldn't touch for the damn cuffs. "Take 'em off," I said, holding out my arms a little.

"I don't think ­ "

"Get the fucking cuffs off! You think I'm going to use the claws with six goons behind you?"

One of the guards stepped forward and released me. I held still till the man moved away. I didn't want to scare them. I didn't want to scare Summers, either. Despite the dimness of the room and his weakness, I could see him trembling, smell his fear. Strong, acid sweat. His face had a slack quality. He was drugged. I laid a hand on his shoulder. He flinched.

Under the tape, his face was covered with bruises, fresh and greening both, and I could see more on his body. They'd beaten the crap out of him, burned him with cigarettes down one arm. Carefully, I unzipped the front of the coverall and checked his torso, afraid he might have bruised kidneys or some other internal injury that could explain his illness. He tried to shove my hands away, but not with affronted modesty. The fear in him had spiked sharply. "Stop, Scott. It's me." No jokes now. No half-insulting names. "I won't hurt you." He quit fighting but the trembling grew worse.

This was crazy. Even drugged, this was Cyclops. What the hell had they done to him?

But as soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer. I examined him with new dread and too much knowledge. Bruises on his wrists from being handcuffed down. More bruises on his hips from the hard grip of fingers. I let my eyes drop. His coverall was dark brown between the legs. Old blood.

Goddamn motherfucking sons of bitches.

It took every ounce of control I had not to pop the claws and go on rampage. We'd have gotten free or gotten dead, and for ten seconds, either appealed. Then common sense reasserted itself. He wasn't going anywhere in this condition and I couldn't carry him, not and fight. "Hey kid, I ain't going to hurt you." I spoke softly, and felt over his abdomen and ribs with impersonal fingers, made sure I didn't go lower than his navel. He let me, or he was just too weak and sick and spaced to fight. When I was done, I carefully covered him up again. I spoke without turning. "If you didn't have him drugged out of his mind, he might be able to hold some food down. And controlling your guards is another good idea. I wouldn't think you'd want your test subjects contaminated." I finally looked back at the Suit. He knew exactly what I meant.

And he just shrugged with one shoulder. "He's not permanently damaged. And he's not drugged, either."

"Looks drugged to me, pal."

"He isn't. That's the point, and the problem. He has no serious injuries" ­ well, maybe not physical, but I didn't correct him ­ "yet he appears to be fatally ill."

I looked at Summers again. There was foamy spittle on his mouth; I wiped it off absently. Dehydration could also cause mental confusion, not to mention lethargy. "Bring me water."

"I told you, he ­ "

"Bring it!"

They did as I said, handed me a plastic bottle. Avalon spring water. I opened it and poured a little in the cap, dribbled it between his lips. His tongue moved, seeking. I would have raised him up to help him drink but I was afraid to touch him that much, afraid anything approximating a restraint might set him off, make him fight and hurt himself. I gave him more water, a capful at a time until he'd consumed about a fifth of the bottle. "That's enough. Scott can you understand me?" I didn't expect miracles. If it was a hydration problem, it would take half a day at the least for him to start coming out of it. "Can you understand me?"

He made some sound that was vague affirmative, but it might have been agreement just to get me to go away. "Do you know what's wrong with you?"

A long, long pause. Then, in a whisper, "Sun."



It took me a few minutes, then I remembered something that Jean ­ God, Jean! ­ had told me once. Summers' optic blasts were fueled by solar energy. "Theoretically, if he were out of the sun long enough ­ we think seventy-two to ninety-four hours ­ his eyes would go back to normal."

"Why only 'theoretically,'" I'd asked.

"Because the only time we tried, to verify the hypothesis, Scott got violently ill in less than forty-eight. He wanted to stay out the time, but Hank wouldn't let him. We don't really know what would happen to him if he was kept out of the sun long enough to drain the energy in his head."

This is what would happen to him, I thought.

"How long have we been here?" I asked the Suit.

"Why do you want to know?"

"Because it matters."

The man's expression was pure amusement. "Five days, fourteen hours. Give or take."

I nodded and reaching up, felt around the duct tape. It must have been there since they'd brought us in; it had a sticky-old quality and I knew I might rip the skin right off him if I didn't do this carefully. "Bring me some alcohol, please."


"I'm going to take the goddamn tape off, for starters."

The Suit actually laughed. "You must be joking. You think we'll let you do that?"

"His eyes aren't a danger now."

"And we should believe you?"

"Yes. You wanted to know what's wrong with him. But I think you already know." I glared up at the man who stood ­ just out of striking range ­ and watched with bird-bright interest. "You put him in here knowing. You wanted to see what would happen if you took him out of the sun. Just like you wanted to see what would happen if you slapped me in a White Room."

The man actually smiled. "What a clever little mutant you are." Then, to a guard. "Get him the alcohol he asked for."

I wasn't sure it had been so clever to let the man know how long it took to drain Summers' power, but done was done, and I wanted to get that goddamn tape off.

I owed Jean.

While the guard was gone for the alcohol, I said to the Suit, "If you want him to get better, you'll have to either take him outside or bring a sunlamp in here. I can't even say if a sunlamp will work. I don't know exactly how his power operates."

"No sun, no lamp. To expose him to sunlight would rather defeat our purpose."

"Then what the hell did you drag me down here for if you're not going to take my advice?" The man didn't reply, and in any case, the guard was back with the alcohol and a rag. I wet the rag and worked, carefully, at the tape, loosening it a bit at a time without letting alcohol get in Summers' eyes. When the tape was gone, I used the soaked rag to clean the cuts and burns as best I could. The Suit didn't object. Neither did Summers beyond an incoherent moan here and there from the sting, but his shaking was far worse. I wasn't sure how close he was to losing it completely.

When I was done, I moved to the side – just in case – and  said, "Scott, open your eyes."

"Can't," Summers whispered back, voice still rough but not as bad as before he'd had water. "I'll kill you. Jean says I'll kill you. I kill everything. Everything . . . . Jean . . . ." His voice broke.

Shit. Was he delusional and seeing ghosts, or just caught up in memory? "You won't kill me," I said. "It's been five days. You've been out of the sun for five days."

Obedient, or maybe just too dazed to care, Summers opened his eyes.

They were blue. Very blue. Somehow, I hadn't expected that. "Hey, kid," I said. Summers blinked. The pupils were highly dilated. I watched sense chase confusion across his face, and confusion chase sense. The return of his sight had helped pull him back from the brink a little, but only a little. He looked so damn young. And while I knew what he could do, had been following him in combat for the better part of eight months since I'd returned from Canada, I still felt irrational anger at Xavier for sending out children to play at superhero.

Then he closed his eyes again, whispered, "Jean." And I watched as one tear squeezed out of the left eye to spill down his face. His lips had gone thin, the jaw hard. It was coming back to him; he was coming back to himself. It would take time, but he was clawing his way out of the fog. The tremors were back, but I was pretty sure these weren't from fear. This was rage. I gripped his hand, felt a little burn in my own eyes.

"You want some more water?" I asked, hyper-aware of the goons and the Suit behind me.

"Better not," Summers whispered. "My stomach ­   Just . . . better not."

I turned to look up at the Suit, asked for what I didn't think I'd get. "Let me stay with him. He's going to need water and he's too weak to do much for himself."

He cocked his head and gave me that damn smile again. "For now, you may remain with him. For now."

He left abruptly, the guards filing out behind. "Shit," I said to air. "I didn't think he'd agree."

Summers said nothing. I bent to try and lever him up. "Let's get you on the bed, at least."

"No!" It was almost desperate and he actually fought me a moment with some hidden reserve of strength. Then, more calmly, "If I get sick and soil the sheets, they don't change them for hours."

And they cleaned up the corners faster?, I wanted to ask, but didn't. Let him have his pride.

Casually, I rose to examine the bed. Changed the sheets my ass. These hadn't been changed at all. There were bloodstains along one edge, in patches further apart than could be explained by twisting. They'd done it to him more than once. They must have shoved him face down and cuffed him to the rail on the opposite side while they had their 'fun.' I glanced back at Summers, who'd curled around himself in a fetal position, though I doubted he realized what he was doing. The kid was too pretty, even with duct tape on his eyes. At least I was here now and the guards weren't likely to try anything while a guy with nine-inch knives in his hands was watching over him.

I was wrong.

Rape is just as effective at dehumanizing men as it is at dehumanizing women ­ maybe more effective. When women have been held hostage, they're often asked if they were raped. Men usually aren't. It's not supposed to happen to us. If it does, it calls a lot of things into question, starting with our masculinity. And when one suffers but the other doesn't, it's that much worse.

They didn't rape me, not physically. They just forced me to see what they did to him. That's rape, too.

The details aren't important. Essentially, they came in and immobilized me, really before I understood what they were getting ready to do. He knew. He'd been dozing, but he never let himself go under completely. Hypervigilance. Now, he woke with a start and actually scrambled up (amazing what a little water can do), tried to get away. I was up and moving but they had the stun sticks ready. I couldn't even get near them. He fought, probably harder than he had in days because I was there. He bit one of them and got slugged halfway across the room, kicked a few times. Then they forced him down and cuffed him, just like I'd guessed, while they held me at bay. It took four hits from the stun stick before I was flat against a wall and too woozy to fight further.

But I did turn away. I couldn't block out sound or smell, but I didn't have to watch. I could give him that much. I heard them, but I didn't hear him. He didn't whimper, didn't cry, didn't scream, didn't protest ­ and not just because he was insensate.

They finally left. Unshackled him, dumped him on the floor, and left. They didn't dress him. I did that. After I cleaned him up. He tried to fight my hands like he'd fought them, but he was far too out of it. I didn't want to waste water but I was going to get him as clean as I could, dammit. His lips were bitten through. I realized now that it hadn't just been lack of water that had cracked them before. He'd done this every time. No sound. Nothing to give himself away. Goddamn idiot. What did that prove? But underneath my anger was awe, and respect. He'd resisted in the only way he'd been able to.

I dribbled a little more water into him, then sat with him on the floor, not touching. Just there. He lay with his back to me. He didn't weep, but he shuddered sometimes. It wasn't grief. It was fury. I could smell it. Periodically, it shook his whole frame. I tried touching him once but he jerked away and I didn't touch him again. We didn't say anything at all. What the hell was there to say? What words could begin to encompass what he'd suffered in front of me? The leader of the X-Men had been kicked around, spat on, and gang raped. They'd taken everything from him. His wife (or as close as made no difference), his power, and now his dignity. He was twenty-eight years old and stripped down to nothing. Except his rage.

Their tactical error lay in leaving us together for any length of time. A man alone can be beaten down, but together, we were stronger. I'm not really sure why they did it, but then, I had no clue why we were there in the first place. (Of course, it's not usual custom to explain the experiments to the rats.) So why they made the mistakes they did was just as opaque.

I did figure out a few things. First, it was fairly clear that at least part of their purpose was to discover our weaknesses in order to neutralize us. But they already had us in their power, which meant they could just kill us and neutralize us that way. Finding my weakness or the Boy Scout's wasn't going to help them with Storm or McCoy or the Professor, or any other alpha mutant. We were each unique. Maybe they didn't realize that, I don't know.

Second, because breaking me had involved a White Room and total isolation, the guards had been ordered not to touch me, not even to let me see them. The kid was a different matter. They just had to keep him out of the sun, and alive. What they did to him beyond that was irrelevant. As for why they did it . . . . Well, why do some kids enjoy pulling the wings off flies? I might have memory from only seventeen years, but I'd seen enough to know that if accountability were removed, human beings were more inclined to mindless sadism than the optimists ­ like Xavier ­ wanted to admit. Pain and sex were both a thrill.

Why Summers was more of a question. Pretty face, sure. But it wasn't just that. I wasn't ugly. And I wasn't going to kid myself, either. Pile enough guys on me and enough stun sticks and they'd have been able to bring me down, too, and lock me across that goddamn bed. They hadn't even after they'd let me out of the White Room. Maybe it was fear of me. More likely, I just didn't give off the right vibe. Summers was young, and vulnerable. The stiff spine routine was a cover for it. I was old and cynical, and I knew enough about predators that when faced with a choice of prey, they went for vulnerable. Rape is not about sex. It's about power. They were proving that they had it and he didn't. Proving it over and over. But they proved it to me, too, because I couldn't stop it. I couldn't protect him. All I could do was clean him up afterward. Three times. After the first, he quit fighting me. He just kept his eyes shut and his face averted. And I said nothing. I was gentle and impersonal like a nurse, and I never said a word. After the third time, he let me hold him for a while. I don't know if I'd earned the right, or if he was just so desperate, he'd accept anything friendly with skin on, even me. He shook himself apart in my arms, but didn't weep. I stroked his hair and held on hard. Gentleness isn't always what's needed.

I was also observant, and not just of what this was doing to him. I was observant about the pattern of our "keepers." And I was observant about his health.

He was growing steadily stronger. Getting some water into him had been the turning point, and apparently, once the energy in his head had dissipated, he went back to normal, minus the powers. He was still weak, but that stemmed from physical abuse and lack of food. They brought me food, and I gave it to him. Soon, they were bringing us both food, and more than just bread and water. They gave us meat. A lot of it. So. They understood that I had high protein needs. How much they knew about us was starting to scare me, and baffle me, too. If they knew so much already, what in hell was the point of all this? Apparently, I wasn't part of an experiment at the moment, or not one that involved testing the limits of my powers. So they fed me. Maybe they were watching our interaction, to see what we'd do, but I wasn't into psych head games so I didn't even try to figure that one out. I had other things to worry over.

How long we were going to be together, for one. I had animal hearing, and this wasn't the White Room. It had normal insulation for high security, but my ears were better. I caught a few snippets of conversation, one of which included "sensory deprivation tank."

Shit. I was not going to let them put me in one of those. A White Room was bad enough. If I hadn't been climbing the walls before they'd had to interrupt for Summers' sake, I'd been close enough. No tanks. I'd be sure they killed me first, never mind my debt to Jean. I'd be no good to the kid insane. I could probably make sure they killed us both.

But that was a last ditch resort. I'd rather live to escape. And I was going to have to do it before they decided he was strong enough again and took me out of here. Trouble was, I'm sure they expected us to try something while we were together, so they watched us vigilantly. That's where observation of their patterns came in ­ particularly their patterns when they came for their 'fun' with Scott. They figured we were so psyched out already, they got careless. I hate it, that it took me three times to be sure, but after the third, I had my plan. And after the third, I was pretty certain that he was strong enough to go more than a hundred feet without fainting.

There were no surveillance cameras in the room, but I wasn't sure if the place was bugged. So I tore the bed apart and checked the rest inch by inch, to see. He figured out after a few minutes what I was doing, and helped. Then we examined each other, clothes and skin for implants, came up with nothing. "Clean, I think."

"Stupid," he said. "If they'd had any sense, they'd have bugged the room and put trackers in us."

"I don't think they think we can get away."

He just smiled. That smile scared the shit out of me.

I'd never been able to see his eyes before, so I couldn't know their normal expression ­ but I was pretty damn sure this wasn't it. Flat frozen blue. I'd seen the look on men before combat, men who'd lost too much. They fought like demons but they were as dangerous to you as to the enemy because they just didn't give a flying fuck if they lived or died, as long as they could kill along the way. I had no qualms about killing, not with these animals. But butchery on rampage wouldn't do either of us any good, and in his core, he wasn't a killer. What he'd done in the tunnel had been shock-motivated self preservation. But if I let him out in his current state, he was going to be an angel of deliberate death. Achilles dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy. They'd killed his Patroclus, and his pride.

God, Jeannie. Wish you were here. I don't know what the hell to do with your boy.

Not that we had much choice. We were going to have to get out before they separated us again.

"Listen," I told him, hunkering down as if they could hear us through the walls. He knelt in front of me. "I've noticed a few things about the goons." He didn't reply, just raised an eyebrow. He'd gone into leader mode like a flipped switch. "They have a pattern, when they . . . come."

"You can say it, Logan. When they come to rape me."

I winced. He gave me that cold smile again. I wasn't going to say it just to satisfy his need to hurt himself. "Three of them cover me with the stun sticks, four of them take you out. None of them covers the door."

He appeared thoughtful at that, then nodded. "Yes. They leave it open. And they come at the same time of the day, too. At least they do now. I'm not as certain about before. I was too ill."

"How can you be sure of the time?"

"I just can."

I wasn't inclined to argue with him. Summers could do strange things with numbers and patterns in his head. They almost had physical form to him. I didn't understand it, but then I couldn't explain some of my own senses either, those beyond the animal ones, like my ability to sense presence. It wasn't a psi-sense, quite, but I knew when I wasn't alone. I'd learned to trust such knowledge. So if he could track time without a watch, I believed him.

"Trouble is," he added, "even though they come at the same time each time, they don't come every day."

That was part of the torture, of course. To anticipate the horror that didn't arrive. But his flat affect was starting to creep me out. You'd have thought he was discussing the weather.

"They didn't come yesterday," I said.

"That doesn't mean they'll come today."

"No, but we should be ready." I studied him a long minute. "How far can you run, do you think?"

"As far as I have to."

"Scott ­ "

"Get me out of this fucking room, Logan. I'll manage. Get me out of this room and give me a gun. Preferably a pistol. The guards don't carry weapons beyond the sticks when they come in here. I don't know what that means, exactly ­ "

"Prevents us from any chance of getting a projectile weapon. I'd be surprised if they aren't armed out there, though."

He nodded absently; the thoughtful look had returned. "What'd you see, on your way down?"

"You know we're down?"

"Yes." He didn't elaborate. He knows directions, too. We both have that.

"They took me through about ten halls and then down an elevator three floors, two more halls to here. And yes, I can trace it back. Beyond that, though, we're left to guesses."

"I've got to find the computer core."

"No you don't. We've got to get the fuck out of here."

"Logan, it's not an option. We can't leave this place intact."

"And just what do you plan to do? Waltz in and ask to access their network, pretty please? I may not know a hell of a lot about computers, but I doubt you have the passwords."

He smiled again. "I don't need the passwords. I just need a gun and a couple grenades. I'm not trying to hack it, Logan. I'm going to destroy it. I'm going to bring this whole fucking place down around their ears."

My lips thinned. I should probably have counseled caution. Imagine that ­ the Wolverine telling Cyclops to practice moderation. But I didn't. I wanted to screw the sons of bitches, too.

"We're going to need more weapons, then, when we get out of here," I said, by way of reply.

Part 2

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