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Minisinoo


 

CLIMB THE WIND 3

Please Read the Warning and Notes at the beginning of Part 1
Part3 Notes: This particular chapter deals with what you're rarely told in fiction: the physical aftermath of rape on a man. It's done from a medical perspective, but folks, it's not pretty. If you are a survivor of violent rape (male or female), I recommend caution in reading this. I was intentionally vague on the rapes themselves; I don't believe in titillation by violence. But I think it important to tell what happens to people. If we saw more consequences, maybe our violence would lessen. Okay, getting off my soapbox now. I really, really could not have done this chapter without Crys' pragmatic medical knowledge. Grazie, lady.

Although I often write Warren as being among the younger set with Bobby, here, I make him part of the original group, just as in the comics. Francesco Placido, also mentioned as an early student, is not, of course, part of comic canon, and Ororo is added to the mix. Ororo's affection for Scott is strongly based on the ending of the comic special, "God Loves, Man Kills." I'm surprised more hasn't been made of those scenes! And, while this is NOT an X-Files cross-over, I couldn't resist a little reference. ;>

Regarding Hank (Beast):  I realize that many movieverse people are unfamiliar with Hank.  Always among my favorites, he tends to find his way into my stories.  Yet as he's (supposed) to be in X-Men II, consider my movieverse fiction anticipation.  Putting up a comic image in-text along with pictures of real people would be jarring, but for those who would like to see what Hank looks like, here's a scan.  Please note that I tend to imagine the more human version (how Hank looks depends somewhat on who's drawing him).



The Blackbird settled down into the hanger like a cat curling itself into a box; metal doors slid shut above and bright lights stabbed on. Storm got busy with the plane shut-down while McCoy slipped out of the pilot seat to check the kid. Summers had finally fallen asleep somewhere over Manhattan, from an exhaustion as much emotional as physical, but I'd found myself waking up the closer I got to home. Now, looking out the cockpit window, I could see Marie waiting with the professor near the door to the hanger, and bad hip or no, I couldn't get out of the damn plane fast enough. As soon as she spotted me, coming off the stairs, she was running forward to throw herself into my arms. I caught her, crushed her tightly. Something clean, something innocent to hang on to. My heart was pounding with forty kinds of feelings. "Hey, kid. You miss me, or something?"

Sobbing, she hit at me in frustration, couldn't even speak. I just hugged her again. "I'm home," I said into her hair. "It's okay, Marie. I'm home now." I don't think I let go of her for a full minute.

When I did, it was in time to see the imperturbable Charles Xavier slumped in his chair, weeping without a sound. He'd motored forward while I held Marie, and now Hank McCoy stood in front of him, face impassive, an unconscious Cyclops in his arms. McCoy must have given Summers something to keep him under before he unstrapped him because the kid's head lolled in a way that said he was far more deeply out than mere sleep would render. He looked like a doll in McCoy's grip. A broken doll ≠ all bruises and filth, old blood and starved boney angles. The full hanger light was unforgiving, and beside me, Marie sucked in breath. Even that echoed in the space.

"I need to get him to the infirmary," McCoy said, then glanced at me. "Logan, I should examine you as well, and we must remove the bullet. Please follow."

I nodded once. But I wasn't going down there for me. I was going for the kid. There were things McCoy needed to know, things that he should check before Summers woke again and refused to let him.

Fortunately, the infirmary wasn't far. My hip hadn't let up at all. One hand clasped firmly around my waist, the other gripping my elbow inside the sleeve of the FBI jacket, Marie helped me walk out the door and down the hall. Her eyes were huge and liquid with a pity I didn't need, and there were dark circles beneath. "When's the last time you slept, Marie?"

"When's the last time you slept, Logan?"

"I heal, Darlin'."

She didn't reply to that. My limp said that even the Wolverine had limits.

After a moment, she nodded towards McCoy's back, as he carried Summers in front of us, and she asked, soft, "Is Cyclops going to be okay?"

Okay? The question was ludicrous. He wasn't going to be okay for a long time, if ever. "He'll live." It was more brusque than I'd meant, but I didn't want to explain to her the extent of what had happened ≠ wanted to protect her from all that. Not this child. I'd never let anything happen to this child. I'd failed Jean, and Scott. I wasn't going to fail Marie. "I may need to spend some time with ol' Old Eye over the next few days, kid. You understand?"

She nodded, emphatic and quick. "Of course! It's Mr. Summers." As if that explained something. Maybe it did. Summers enjoyed a strange status with the kids, especially among the older ones like Marie. "Logan, the professor said that Dr. Grey ≠ That Dr. Grey is ≠ " She cut off, as if she couldn't quite find the nerve to spit it out.

Voice flat, I said, "Jean's dead." I didn't look at her. I couldn't feel it yet. I'd seen Jean die. Twelve days ago. But I still couldn't feel it past the superficial.

Marie had put up the back of a hand to her mouth, sobbed once. And as much as I loved her, I was suddenly annoyed ≠ annoyed at a display that wasn't real, or at least wasn't personal. I knew kids tended to melodrama; everything was a crisis. But I had less patience for that just now than usual. Marie cried for the general shock of death, not because she'd particularly miss Jean. Remembering Summers' tears on the plane, quiet and helpless, this was vulgar.

We'd reached the infirmary, stopped inside the door. To avoid saying something I'd regret to Marie, I watched McCoy lay Summers on the center exam table and start cutting the coverall off of him while Xavier assisted. "Go on up to your room," I told her finally. "Get some sleep. I need to talk to Dr. McCoy. I'll see you tomorrow, kid." And I brushed a thumb over her cheek ≠ too fast for her deadly skin to register it ≠ to make the words seem less like a dismissal. "You really need some sleep."

"Ain't no one sleeping in the mansion tonight, Logan." She looked off at the table, too, her eyes infinitely sad. Maybe I'd misjudged her. Whatever she'd felt for Jean, she genuinely liked Summers; she could grieve for him. "They're all upstairs, in the den and the kitchen, mostly, or out on the basketball court. We been waiting."

I focused my attention on her instead of the table. "What'd Xavier say about what happened?"

"That a mission'd gone wrong, and you, Cyclops and Dr. Grey were missing. He told us that right after, and he's been looking for you ever since. There's hardly been class at all, or much else. It's been weird, like living in limbo. God, Logan, I was so scared ≠ we all were ≠ but at the same time, it was ≠ I don't know ≠ abstract. We didn't have a clue what'd happened to you. Didn't know if you were alive or dead or what. I didn't let myself cry, because if I cried, it meant you were gone. It would've took me apart, so I just didn't let myself. Y'know?"

I nodded. I knew exactly what she meant. Exactly.

"Tonight, about midnight, the professor called me ≠ you know, like in my head. He woke me up to say you'd been found, told me I could come down to meet you. I got Jubes and Kitty up, and Jubes called both the Johns, Bobby and Kurt. Bobby got up everybody else. Kurt went down to the chapel, to pray." She glanced at the floor. "The professor didn't tell me about Dr. Grey. He didn't tell me until you were on the way back in the jet."

Given McCoy and Storm's reaction, maybe he hadn't known, though surely he'd suspected. I glanced back at him. McCoy was working over Summers while Xavier watched, one hand resting on Summers' greasy hair. Xavier wasn't going anywhere for a while, and the kids needed to know. But I needed to be here. Where in hell was Storm? Still with the jet? "Kid, I hate to stick you with this, but can you tell the rest? Or you want me to come do it?"

"No, Logan." Her voice was soft. "I can do it. What do I tell them?"

I stared hard at the back of the professor's head. I had no idea what he wanted them to know, but it looked like it was up to me to make that decision. I was a firm believer in honesty. I might not tell Marie everything that had happened, but I wasn't going to hide the essential truth, either. "It was a set-up, the mission a couple weeks ago. They were waiting for us down in the subway. They ambushed us. We were prepared for a few renegade mutants, not government firepower. Jean was killed in the initial fight. It happened fast. Scott and I were captured and held prisoner for eleven or twelve days. They were testing the limits of our powers, seeing what it took to neutralize us. We finally got a chance to break out ≠ left a lot of dead guards along the way."

I looked back at her. Her chocolate eyes were wide. "This is what happens in combat, kid. Jean's gone, and take a good long look at Cyclops. I'd look the same if I didn't have this healing factor. You tell them that, as well. If they want to join the X-Men, let them think about the last two weeks. This ain't no game, eh?"

Flushing and frowning at the ground, she nodded. "I'll tell them, Logan. I'll bring you some clothes, too." Then she raised up on tip-toe to kiss my cheek through her scarf, and ducked out.

When she was gone, I surveyed the room, recalled the first time I'd seen it, peeping out of slitted eyelids, flat on my back, the scent of a woman strong in my nostrils. That scent still pervaded despite disinfectant and McCoy's beast-smell and Summers' blood and almost two weeks of absence. Jean. With time, it would fade completely. How bereft we were, missing one. My borrowed boots echoed as I approached the exam table where McCoy worked over Summers as the professor looked on.

He'd gotten the kid undressed now, stripping him all the way down to filthy underwear. Summers looked terrible. And I didn't need to explain a damn thing. The cotton briefs were caked with old blood in strategic places while fresh had darkened it further. McCoy's fierce face was even fiercer and the professor ≠ I couldn't begin to describe the jigsaw puzzle of emotion there. Hank saw with the knowledge of how to heal the damage. The professor saw only what he'd sent the kid in to suffer. "What do you know about this?" McCoy snapped at me as he got the briefs off. "When did it happen? How long ago?"

"Our guards' idea of afternoon entertainment. They'd strap him down to the bed with cuffs." I helped Hank turn him over. "Then each took a turn, one right after the other. The last time was two days ago."

Stupefaction on McCoy's face. "You mean this occurred more than once? Shit!" Vocabulary of twenty-five cent words aside, he understands the value of the pithy Anglo-Saxon obscenity. "I'll have to test him for everything from Hepatitis to AIDS." And with a gentleness one would never have expected from those big, clawed fingers, he examined the abused area. I'd seen it before, but the professor had turned away, his face pale and shocky.

"Charles, get out of here," Hank said, brusque but kind.

"I cannot. You know, I cannot."

"You're in my way, Professor. And excuse my bluntness, but you cannot, physically, assist. I need Logan for his strength. If you do not wish to leave, please move back from the bed. Logan, how is your hip?"

"I'll live."

"I would prefer better than that." While he talked, Hank had begun making his way around the room, assembling a variety of testing equipment, including a long snake-like thing with a clear tip and a tray of implements that looked sharper than I wanted to think about. "First," McCoy said, "I wish to remove the bullet from Logan's hip; that will take the least time. Then I must suture the wound in Scott's side and wrap it, sponge him down, put Silvadine on the burns inside his left arm. They're starting to infect. The damage to the rectal region has gone days already. Another hour won't make much difference."

So with Charles in his chair backed against a far bed ≠ quiet in his horror ≠ Hank got me onto a second table, freed me from that goddamned, stained coverall, gave me a local and swiftly cut the bullet out, dropped the bloody slug metal into a tray. My wound was closing almost before he was done. The procedure had taken minutes, and in minutes more I was healed completely.

Not a scar to show for the past twelve days.

That's obscene.

Ororo arrived as I was redressing and had the good grace to blush when she caught me in the midst of pulling on the pants that Marie had dropped off a few minutes ago. Then she gathered herself and approached. Hank, I noticed, had twitched up a cover over Summers' lower body. Mere concern for the kid's modesty, or was he protecting her from the full truth? Her eyes were red. She'd been crying. Hard. But she gave me a little smile, the kind one found on faces in hospital waiting rooms, the kind which bad cliches called 'brave,' and I called pain. She laid her hand on my arm to squeeze gently. "How are you?"

"A lot better without metal grinding my bone. Well, foreign metal."

That same small smile again and, impulsively, I put an arm around her shoulders, hugged her quick. "Ro, go up and help Marie talk to the kids. They're all still awake." I glanced at the professor, a statue by the far bed, his eyes distant. I wondered what he was thinking, if he was thinking. Maybe he was rummaging around in Summers' unconscious head, though I doubted it. Telepath ethics. He seemed unhinged by everything that had happened and immediate decision-making had fallen to Hank and I. But then Hank's medical knowledge gave him purpose and focus, kept him from helpless incapacitation. Nor did he suffer guilt. He hadn't been the one to send us to Baltimore.

"I'd tell you to take him with you" ≠ I nodded towards the professor ≠ "but I don't know if he'll leave. You can try."

"I will try," she agreed. But she wasn't looking at the professor, she was looking at Scott. McCoy had turned him back over so he was face up, to work on the wound in his side. The sheet covered him from the hips down. Ro approached to run a palm over his forehead. The Storm Queen can be as hard to read as Cyclops, even though her whole face shows. I came to stand behind her. She threaded fingers through his greasy hair. "When I first arrived here," she said softly, "he was the one who met me. There weren't many of us, then. Scott and Frank, Warren. Hank and Jean, but they were older." She smiled faintly and McCoy paused in what he was doing to touch her shoulder briefly, then went back to his sutures.

"Four guys and two girls, not counting the professor," Ororo went on. "The men were always leaving the toilet seat up. But the day I arrived, Scott was there with the professor to receive me. I'd been in jail, in Cairo, and been on the street for years. I thought I was tough. He looked so much like 'the boy next door.' I was vicious to him. He wasn't vicious back. Instead, he smiled at me. He has a beautiful smile."

Was the Storm Queen in love with ol' One Eye? That honestly had never occurred to me before, mostly because it was hard to imagine Ororo passionate about anything. She's usually the picture of transcendent calm.

"I called the winds and the lightning that day, thinking to frighten him, or awe him. But he didn't run from me, nor fall down and worship me as a goddess. He just said, 'Cool.' I have never forgotten that he was not afraid."

"Considering the fact that he could flatten you with a mere blink, he had little reason," said Hank, trying to lighten the mood.

"But he can't any longer," she replied, quietly, hand still on his hair. "He can't any longer."

"His power'll come back," I told her. "They didn't damage his eyes."

About the only damn part of him they hadn't damaged.

She nodded and breathed in. I could almost see her center herself, turn away to face the professor, kneel down and take his hand, speak to him quietly. McCoy was puttering now, starting a sponge bath on Summers' torso, waiting for Ororo to leave. Finally she did. And she got Xavier to go with her. McCoy sighed out when they were gone. "Bless Ro. I really didn't want to do what comes next with Charles in the room."

"So, how long has Storm been in love with Cyclops?" I asked, caught McCoy start, then smile.

"There are many varieties of love, Logan. Theirs isn't of the kind you mean. They have a unique bond based on their prize of control. Ro does love Scott, but she was in love with Francesco Placido. When he chose to return to Italy three years ago, Scott and Jean got Ro through it."

"Who's Francesco Placido? Relative of the cook, I guess?"

"Valeria's only son. She brought him here from Genoa when he was nearly out of his mind at sixteen. His power is precognition. He has glimpses of the future."

"So why in hell didn't he foresee this?"

"I don't know, Logan. He is no longer here. He went back to Italy to do what he can for the rights of mutants in the European Community. Frank is ≠ " Hank tilted his head as he worked at readying the equipment. "Talking to Frank is a bit like I would imagine it to be, talking to God. He has great compassion, but it's distant. He strikes as old, despite his youth, because he sees on a scale that is difficult for us to grasp ≠ and all in possibility. There are many futures, not one. That affects him. And he does not, in fact, see everything."

McCoy had removed the cover from Summers' lower body and proceeded to bathe him, disinfect all abrasions and put ointment on the burns. Finally, I helped him turn the kid over once more. The more I saw, the more amazed I was that Summers had managed to stay on his feet at all, much less fight. "Survival is a great motivator," Hank replied quietly when I voiced as much. "And adrenaline is our body's natural drug. But he will be a long time recovering. From many things. You will need gloves and scrubs, Logan. You may fetch them in the cabinet over there." He pointed. "Please wash your hands and arms and face as thoroughly as possible."

I did as he'd instructed and came back. This was the hard part: examination of the rectal area. I was grateful the kid was out. What Hank had to do to fix him up was as bad in its own way as what had been done to him to make him need the fixing in the first place. As I said, I'd already seen his wounds, but there's a difference between the dim of a cell and the bright lights of an infirmary. This was at once more ugly and more impersonal. "Severe tearing to the sphincter and rectal walls, bruising and muscle damage, repeated scabbing." Hank listed off a litany of physical ruin. "I shall need to irrigate the area; Logan, please hand me the saline bottle from that basin of hot water. Thank you." He fitted a syringe onto it and got to work.

Salty water turned grainy and brown as it carried away dried blood, but the worst scabbing McCoy had to remove with a scalpel ≠ debriedment, he called it ≠ which caused even more bleeding. He also used a half-and-half mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. The whole area was bruised right up to the kid's balls. It was difficult to position him, out like he was, but better out than awake through this. When McCoy had cleaned the outer area, he inserted what he called an anal speculum ≠ a six inch tube with an interior plug and a cord for an electrical outlet. It was lighted, for crissake! They spared no expense at the mansion. But McCoy had moved big lights over, too, so he could see better. They don't call it "the place the sun don't shine" for nothing. Lubricating the speculum, he inserted it and removed the center part, then inserted and removed it again. I wasn't sure what the point of that was. Couldn't he just leave it there? I winced every time he pushed it in, though I knew the kid couldn't feel it. McCoy was mumbling mostly to himself. "Hemorrhoids, varicose veins, more tearing. I should check his lower bowel, as well." He pulled over the black snake-thing I'd seen before.

"What is that?"

"Flexible sigmoidoscope, what we use for a lower GI. It will tell me if there is damage to the colon, and also how impacted his bowel region is. Has he been able to defecate at all? I would assume not."

'Has he been able to defecate?' translated from medicalese into 'Could he shit?'' I watched McCoy lubricate and insert the sigmoidoscope. "No, he hasn't." I didn't elaborate. Summers had tried. Once. When I'd first gotten to his cell, he hadn't had anything in him to pass, from dehydration. But by the final few days, he'd had both some solid food and time for it to work its way through his system. Then he'd tried once, and only once. We'd usually turned away from each other while we took care of nature's business. But that time I'd heard his suppressed scream and jerked my head around to see, found him sweating from the pain, skin clammy with shock. He'd almost fallen from where he'd knelt over the damn pail. To hell with propriety. I'd gone over to hold him up and he'd looked at me from those flat-blue irises. "I can't. I just can't. Hurts." Then he'd closed the eyes. "Christ."

And now, seeing the tear which extended from his anus almost to the base of his balls, I understood why.

"We'll have to give him an enema," McCoy said as he pulled around the screen. Apparently the flexible whatchamacallit had a camera in the end. "Fortune smiles," McCoy rumbled as he studied the monitor screen. I couldn't make out much of what I saw except pink tissue, red blood, and darker masses. It didn't look like fortune to me, but McCoy said, "Impacted bowels, yes. But no damage to the lower GI area. It's confined to the rectal region, which means no internal surgery." Getting up, he removed the damn snake thing and cleaned it off with gauze, almost idly.

"This next part will not be pleasant, Logan."

"And what came before was?" I asked, incredulous. "Let's get on with it, Hank." For some reason, I needed to see this through, needed to be present and conscious for Scott's sake.

McCoy nodded while he double-gloved. Seeing my expression, he said, "I want no chance that my claws may scratch him."

Then he proceeded to cut away the hemorrhoids, cauterize the region. "I'll put an antibiotic ointment on the interior wall. Suturing there would be inadvisable," he said. "But the external tear ≠ that I will have to sew. It's too deep. When I'm done, we're going to have to give him that enema. I apologize for involving you, Logan. It will be a godawful mess, but there is no way around it. I will not subject Scott to this while he is awake ≠ not right now, not after what they did to him. Animals." For a moment, all the fury he'd been covering over with his professional demeanor escaped. "Or no, that isn't fair. Animals do not engage in such behavior. I think I prefer to be a 'beast' to a man, when I see things like this. In any case, we must get this out; there is more up there than fecal matter. This is the side of medicine they don't show you on episodes of ER. It tends to messy instead of flashy. Onscreen blood is one thing. Onscreen shit is quite another."

I laughed. I couldn't help it. Gallows humor. Sometimes it's all that saves us.

Hank got him sewn up and then rolled him onto his left side, right leg up while I fetched a whole stack of towels; we arranged some of the towels under him, then inserted the enema tube and hung the bag up high, like an IV, released the clamp. Gravity did the work, filled the colon with fluid: warmed water and antibacterial soap. When the bag level stopped going down, McCoy got hold of the tube and muttered, "Here comes the fun part." Pulling the tube out ≠ very gently ≠ the fluid followed . . . along with shit, blood, and pus. It was ghastly. We collected the towels and shoved them in one of those plastic bio-hazard bags, then repeated the process. Three times. It took three times before the fluid was empty and only a little pink still from current bleeding. "We'll keep him on a diet of clear liquids for a week," McCoy said. "He may not have much strength, but the tissue needs to heal before we give him solids again."

After that, antibiotic ointment was applied to the whole region, interior and exterior, and we dressed him in a hospital gown. "You know, Logan, if you ever tire of your current occupation, I believe you could have a future in nursing."

I stared at the back of the blue guy's head, not at all sure what I thought of that. "Thanks. I think."

"Don't mention it. In any case, you are free to go."

The dismissal, even though he hadn't meant it that way, annoyed the hell out of me. "And where the fuck do you think I'm going?" He glanced around. Overhead lights flashed off his little wire spectacles. Those damn things really did look ridiculous on the Cookie Monster. I gestured to Summers. "I need to be here when the kid wakes up. And I think it'd be a real good idea if nobody else was. We just put his body through hell, and I'll need to talk him down."

McCoy turned his head back and began setting up another array of equipment. He didn't seem upset. "I fear that you are probably correct. There was a reason I sedated him, but it will be several hours until he wakes. I made sure of that. While it may seem callous, I have a number of tests which I should run on his eyes while I have the opportunity. I have never been able to examine Scott while his power was 'off.' What I learn could be invaluable."

"And it keeps you busy, too, doesn't it?" I asked.

He glanced around again, gave a small smile which wasn't the least humorous. "I find it a more effective manner of catharsis than ripping out my bedroom walls, yes." He lifted Summers onto the gurney for the CAT machine. "Logan, he really will not wake for several hours, and I do not need your assistance for the next examinations. I advise rest. Doctor's orders. Or go debrief Charles, at the very least. And eat something. Food makes up for sleep. I shall call you when he begins to show signs of consciousness."

I paused a moment by the gurney and looked down at the kid's face, brushed a lock of hair off his forehead. "I'll be back," I told him, though I knew he didn't hear it.

Then I went upstairs.

Kids clogged the den and solar and hallways, clumped together in small bunches, speaking in hushed tones. Some cried quietly. They all stared when they saw me, dressed in my own clothes and looking hale. For the first time, I truly cursed my healing factor. I wanted them to know what it could cost to be an X-Man. Jeannie was dead, Summers looked like he'd gone ten rounds with a grizzly, and I didn't have a scratch on me, just dirty hair and a beard that was overgrown even by my standards.

Thinking of the beard reminded me of what I'd come upstairs to do and I headed for the room Scott had shared with Jeannie. The few kids in the hall melted away when they saw the look on my face.

The room was locked, of course. Sense would have had me wait, would have sent me to get keys from Ororo, or someone. But fuck sense. I was tired of waiting and fresh out of calm. If I went to Ororo, she might claim the right to do this. But it wasn't hers. Scott and I had spent twelve days in POW hell together, and shot our way out side by side. This was mine. Releasing a single claw, I slipped it between door and jamb and cut the lock, yanked the door open.

It smelled musty, the way closed-off rooms get. It also smelled of Jean, like the lab had. Some of Summers, but mostly Jean. I flicked on a light. The bed hadn't been made up, Summers' closet door was half open. I could see that his shirts were organized according to shade. He must have to do it that way, to know what color he was wearing. One wall held three bookshelves, stuffed to overflowing. There was a desk with a laptop left up, a nice stereo, and as many CDs as there were books. A bass guitar stood in a stand nearby, amp behind it, and more guitar cases behind that ≠ five, that I counted. He must collect instruments. Techno-geek.

On the bed, right in the middle of blue sheets, lay their travel scripts ≠ their bags. So, the Land Rover had been recovered, at least. His was black, hers was hunter green. I grabbed his and headed for the bathroom.

The counter was a mess. They must have left in a hurry. Lots of feminine stuff. Makeup, hot curlers, abandoned earrings, a jar of perfume. There was a spare case for contacts and saline solution. Obviously not Summers'. The room smelled strongly of Jean; I felt her all around me, like a physical presence, like the touch of her cream skin. On the counter, long, thin snakes of her auburn hair curled in figure eights and spirals. Hand shaking, I touched one with my fingers.

Jeannie, I am so fucking glad you didn't have to witness what I just did.

I picked up the hair and wrapped it around my forefinger, tied it there like a talisman. Then I picked up a few more strands and deposited these in a small blue porcelain pill box that she used for rings. I dumped the rings out on formica and put the hair in there. He might want it, later.

I wasn't sure what the hell I'd come in there for, really. Opening the script, I checked the contents. He already had a toothbrush and razor in there, Right Guard Deodorant Sports Gel, a travel-size bottle of shampoo. Aussie something-or-another. Expensive stuff. Then again, he had the hair to be vain of, not stiff and coarse like my own. He'd packed clothes in the script, too, and some book called Neuromancer. The edges were well-curled; he'd clearly read it before. SF junkie. But I didn't see anything obviously missing that he might need, so I shut off the bathroom light and went back out. On the desk sat a spare pair of his glasses. I grabbed those, just in case, and dropped them in the script, turned to find Marie standing in the door.

"Jenn said she saw you come this way."

I held up the script. "I thought he might want some stuff to clean up with. I'm going to take a quick shower, then go talk to the professor. Then I'm going back to the infirmary. How're the other kids?"

"Shook. Ms. Munroe came up, a little after me. She talked to us some, told us more of what happened. She's still with 'em. The professor ≠ We saw him, but he went to his office, then down to the Situation Room and ain't been out since."

While she talked, I'd been staring at the carpet by the bed. One of Jean's bras peaked out from under the trailing edge of the spread. Beige. She must have dropped it and forgotten about it. Or he had, getting it off her. But I didn't smell sex in the room, not recent sex.

Marie had moved back from the doorway. "I guess I'd better let you get to your room."

"Yeah." I moved out past her, dropped a kiss on her crown, and pulled the door to. Couldn't lock it, but I seriously doubted any of the kids would invade among the ghosts.

My "quick" shower wound up taking half an hour under hot water. I just stood there. It seems absurd, to think that water could wash away memory, but the combination of steam and pounding heat did something. I found myself crying under the spray. I couldn't cry in front of anyone else, but I stood in the shower stall and let the water come down on my head and just bawled. Only idiots think tears are for women. I'd seen men six-foot-two and two-hundred pounds cry like babies with the body of a friend in their arms. Grief is human, and irrespective of gender. I hadn't wept before because I hadn't had the luxury. I took it now, though I didn't really have it. Too many things to do, things Summers couldn't in his current state.

I got out of the shower, put on fresh clothes and went to talk to Xavier in the Situation Room.
 
 
 
 

"The FBI . . . ." Ororo muttered, rubbed at the bridge of her pretty nose.

Xavier had been waiting for me, as if he'd known I'd come. He probably had. Offering me a chair at the big central table, and some tea, he'd summoned Ororo. It had been nearly dawn outside, the kids slowly drifting off to bed. He'd looked every year of his age in the room's artificial light. When Ororo had arrived, I'd told them the whole story, from the ambush in the subway tunnels right up to the moment we'd heard the Blackbird. I skimmed some things about Summers' rampage ≠ wisely, I think. Even what I did tell disturbed them both deeply.

Throughout it all, while I spoke, the black jacket which McCoy had cut off Summers lay in the middle of the table. White FBI letters stared up like an accusation of adultery. CNN blared on a television in the background. Some perky blonde showing too much cleavage was blathering on about the explosion "in a government facility located in the Maryland countryside." They made it sound like a repetition of the Oklahoma City bombing, not the destruction of a secret, high-tech underground bunker. "It appears to have been an act perpetrated by unnamed terrorists . . ." Nice, blasť explanation prepackaged for media consumption. "One hundred twenty-seven dead," however, got my attention. Shit. This wasn't something they'd be able to sweep under a rug. Somebody was going to have to pay. At least they weren't, yet, pointing a finger at mutants.

The professor and Ororo both seemed at a loss. "They knew a hell of a lot about us," I said. "Our powers, our names ≠ How'd they know all that?"

Xavier had leaned his elbows on the table, face in his hands. "I told them."

"What?"

My claws erupted and I might have leapt the top to run him through, but Storm jumped out of her seat and flung herself on my arms like the claws weren't even there. "Stop, Logan!"

I snarled at her. "Get out of my way, weather witch." I was shaking with my fury.

"No!" I could see her fear of me, smell it, but she held her place. "Listen to him. Just listen."

I relaxed back into the chair. "All right. Talk, old man." But my own anger had darkened the edges of my vision and the claws stayed out. "Talk fast."

"Do you think this school, or the X-Men, could exist without at least the tacit approval of the government, Logan? You knew that I had contacts in the FBI and the police."

"That's not names and powers, Q-ball. They knew exactly how to hurt us."

Xavier took a deep breath and stared blindly at the television screen. "Yes, within limits. There are some things they do not know, or they wouldn't have needed to perform experiments at all. I don't understand what has occurred. And more, why it occurred. It seems to make little sense. I will need to speak with my contacts. But the arrangement which I made, years ago now, was FBI tolerance for our assistance. My X-Men have performed favors for the FBI in the past and in turn, they refrain from asking questions when we drop renegade mutants in their laps."

I let my claws retract. "Like at the Statue of Liberty. I thought talk of that had died down a little too easily afterwards."

"Yes, precisely. Since we left the offenders for them to arrest, the FBI did not look very hard for the ones who had left them. Our existence is known to a few who matter. Police reports were re-written and the others 'deep-sixed.'"

I leaned back in my chair and glared across the desk. "Sleeping with the enemy?"

"They are not our enemy, Logan."

"Were not. Past tense here. They seem to have changed sides on you, Chuck."

He shook his head, emphatic in his denial. "I cannot believe that of my contact. Walter Skinner is not that kind of man. Something else must have occurred." He eyed me. "Would you permit me to scan your thoughts, Logan? I may see something of significance which, at the time, meant little to you."

"I figured you'd have asked that a long time ago."

"It is not always productive. The mind sorts itself in ways that are not strictly linear. It is usually best to allow others to tell their own stories. Nonetheless, the very telling involves a certain amount of interpretation."

I shrugged. "Have at it, Chuck." And I rose to take a new seat by his wheelchair, swing it to face him. His hands came up to either side of my temples and I experienced a powerful flashback. The last person who'd done this had been Jean.

To have a telepath access your thoughts almost tickles, if there's such a thing as a non-corporeal tickle. Xavier was at once gentler and more powerful. I don't know exactly how long it took. Several minutes. I could hear the news report starting to repeat for the twentieth time in the background. The media made hay with incidents like this. Some idiot analyst was spinning out theories on who the 'terrorists' might have been. Two men fighting to get out of cages and we'd suddenly become a team of "at least" a dozen terrorists. Probably just as well. If they realized two guys had done that much damage between them, it wouldn't be possible to keep 'mutant' out of the conversation. It had probably been to our advantage that Summers had been using a gun.

Finally the professor withdrew, shook his head. "Aside from the evidence of the jacket, and the news reports, I would not even be certain that the FBI was involved. In any case, and until we can learn how the government will react to this, I want you and Scott to remain in the lower levels. They can be sealed, and are not easily detectable from the outside."

"You think they might come looking for us?"

"I do not know, Logan. It will depend on how the directors of the FBI choose to spin this one, but there was too much destruction done for it to be ignored." He indicated the newscast running behind him. It was the same thing that I'd thought myself.

"They know who they had ≠ who you are and, unfortunately, where you live. They will have to weigh the relative danger of what arresting you might expose, versus what they can feasiblely cover up. In fact, I have taken the precaution of asking Hank to take pictures of the damage done to Scott, should that evidence be required. Your clothing was also retained in evidence bags, though they probably would not admit it as such, given who collected it. We would have a difficult time pressing our case: photos and medical evidence can be faked. Even the jacket is not damning." He gestured to it, still on the table. "But I doubt that they will follow that track. They know that I have access to excellent legal counsel. And even if they won their case in the court, we could do severe damage with publicity. Despite the current fervor against our kind, this is a cynical country when it comes to the government. I do not think it would go over well, that the FBI had been holding prisoner and torturing mutants, especially mutants who had been on their side." A strange look passed over his face. "Were it not for our larger goal and the danger to you and Scott should we lose, I might take great pleasure in dragging this through the courts. Xavier versus the Federal Bureau of Investigations. A David and Goliath story." A breath of pause. "They killed Jean."

Even Xavier had a breaking point. Funny, how one auburn-haired woman had been that point for three men.

Before anything more could be said, however, the phone on a side table rang Interoffice. The lab: I could tell from the blinking light. Ororo hit the speaker switch. "Yes, Hank?"

"Please tell Logan that Scott is waking up. And as he previously suggested, I believe it would be advantageous, were he present."

That odd jigsaw puzzle of emotion reassembled itself on the professor's features: relief, anxiety, grief, guilt. "We shall be right there."

"No, Charles. Logan said that he wanted to do this alone. And under the circumstances, I think that his instincts are correct. We should absent ourselves until Scott is ready to see us."

I didn't see what expression took the professor's face at that. In fact, I heard the last of it half-way down the hall to the lab.

Part 4

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