This story contains strong language and violence. If you wish your children or younger siblings to read it, please, feel free to edit the parts you do not want them to read. [This is not permission to reprint on WebPages of your choice] If you have any questions, contact me at [email protected].
These are not my characters. Don・t sue.
Current time frame:
My own. These stories were developed from actual role playing with Havock, Uncle Evil and Lady Lark, so the time frame is NOT concurrent with Marvel. However, some things have been kept [i.e. Inferno] and some things have not [i.e. Onslaught], and some things are yet to come [i.e. Zero Tolerance?!?!?! Or at least something similar.].
KITKU AND VIPER ARE CREATIONS OF HAVOCK AND USED WITH HIS PERMISSION.
METALLICA IS A CREATION OF LADY LARK AND USED WITH HER PERMISSION.
Traffic jam. The pollution was thick today and it was cold. The tiny Chinese girl with the cherub face looked into the window of the pastry shop. She stood on her tiptoes, pressing her face against the cold glass. She licked her lips and sighed, turning from the window. She pulled her thin Yankees jacket closer around her tiny body, tightened the rag on her head that substituted for a hat, and double-checked that her baseball glove was still with her. Out on the streets, if you had any prized possessions, you kept them with you. These were hers. She looked around briefly, making sure no one was watching. Coast was clear. The skateboard materialized under her feet and she pushed off weaving in and out of the crowd.
Traffic jam. His hand tightened on the steering wheel. He inhaled on the cigarette and flicked it out the jeep's window. His eyes watched the streets, why was he so on edge? It was cold out, but at least the heater in the jeep worked. He turned the setting down a bit and unzipped his sheepskin jacket. A bit too well. He eased the jeep forward and stopped again, played with the radio, and lit another cigarette. He scanned the streets again. Something was up; something was making his instincts on edge. He could smell it. He tilted his cowboy hat back and inhaled deeply on the cigarette, and exhaled the smoke out of his nostrils. But why and what?
Since traffic wasn't moving, no sense in waiting for the light. She looked first to her left and then to her right and skated her board out into the traffic jam. She cruised across the first lane and then the second. The jeep stopped. She stopped. Their eyes met. She waited for him to start screaming and yelling. He gave a small smile and waved her across. She paused for a moment, stunned. Recovering herself, she nodded and gave a smile back to him. She skated past the jeep and froze.
Christ, kid, he thought to himself as he hit the brakes. He looked at her. She was as surprised as he was. She had the deepest green eyes, Chinese decent and rich black hair. Tiny little thing, frail, small for her age, probably no more than ten. She was grubby, obviously homeless and in need of a good meal. He looked in his mirrors, seeing if he could pull over and feed the kid or at least give her some money. After waving her across, he smelled it. The scent. Not here. Not now. He looked over his shoulder and there he was. Omega Red.
"Shit," she looked up into the face of the meanest, biggest looking person she had ever seen. Not even the biggest brute in the Tong came close to this guy. He was blonde, dressed in blood red colors and had steel tentacle・s coming out of his body. She swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat. Without even thinking, an aluminum bat appeared in her hands and her skin changed to aluminum. She hoped and prayed that her armor would hold. It did against bullets. Why couldn't she move? She opened her mouth to scream as the big guy in the red jammies turned his attention to her.
"Shit." He jumped out of the jeep and dove on the kid, knocking her clear of the tentacles. He covered her body with his as Omega Red's missed and shattered the back window of a taxicab. He turned the kid over and checked her out. Not a scratch. Obviously mutant. Some sort of body protection. She was scared stiff. He covered her again, tucking her small frame underneath his broad chest. Without his encouragement, she curled into the fetal position making her even smaller.
She felt herself hit the ground, hard. It didn't hurt, but still it shocked her out of her fear. A guy was covering her body with his. The guy from the jeep. He was short but broadly built and muscular. He held her tight against him; she took the cue and curled her body into a tight ball against him. Small target, grasshopper, she thought to herself. She opened her eyes when she felt the pressure of his body let up a bit on hers. She looked up into the face of her rescuer. He was a rugged looking man, black hair, blue eyes and a certain wildness about him that she couldn't place.
He turned his head and looked at her. She was a tiny, little thing covered with an aluminum coating. Her innocent eyes met his and seemed to ask 'What now? Am I gonna die?' He smiled down at her, trying to reassure her but how do you assure someone with Omega Red trying to kill you? He pulled her close to him and turned her head into his chest, stood up and make a break for the alleyway.
Too late. Damn. He set her on her feet and pushed her behind him. "Get outa here, kid."
"But..." she started to protest. He couldn't possibly take this guy by himself.
"Go on!" he snarled at her.
She shrank back from him and clutched her baseball bat to her chest. She looked up and down the street. People were running for cover. Panicking, knocking each other over and shoving their way to any safe haven. She stepped back into the alleyway and waited.
"So, Wolverine," Omega Red said in a thick Russian accent as he made his way towards Wolverine, "again we meet and this time you will not be so lucky as to escape me. I will enjoy this moment, this moment of your death."
"Yeah, take your best shot, bub." Two sharp snickt were heard as metal claws popped from the top of his hands. "Lets do it!"
Wolverine leaped forward and Omega Red rushed to meet him. Wolverine with incredible speed twisted in the air, slashing Omega Red's back. Omega's forward attack missing Wolverine by mere inches. Wolverine landed and immediately tried to dodge the onslaught of Omega Red's tentacles. He leapt and tumbled, missed twice, hit once. The blow sent him hurling into a Cadillac.
Wolverine shook his head trying to clear his head. He caught a glimpse of light reflecting off something metallic.
Crazy kid, he thought and leapt to his feet. The kid had skateboarded behind Omega Red and as she passed she pulled back her bat and slammed Omega Red to the back of the knees. Omega Red buckled slightly but regained his balance quickly. He turned on the girl and snatched her up in one of his tentacles.
"So, little one, you want to play with the big boys, eh?" He laughed bringing her closer to him.
"Yeah, I'm gonna be the first girl playing for the Yankees. You're just in the minors, chump," she snapped back trying to sound less terrified than she was and failing miserably. She tried to squirm out of his hold but to no avail.
"Minor league, little one, I think..." She would never know what he thought, he screamed in pain instead as the one called Wolverine jumped on his back and slashed him deep. Blood splattered her and she turned her eyes from the scene. Omega Red dropped her and she skated back to the alleyway.
Omega Red shook Wolverine off his back and pinned him to the ground with his tentacles. "It ends now, little man."
"Like I ain't never heard that 'fore." Wolverine slashed at the tentacles and twisted his body managing to get out from Omega Red's grasp. He felt his body weaken, he knew what happened. Omega Red had done, the death field. He felt himself slipping. Only one chance.
She watched from the alleyway. Her bat at the ready. The one called Wolverine was pinned and hurting badly. He managed to get free and crawl away. She tried not to look but she couldn't help herself. She watched as his face twisted into a rage and a scream escape his throat. It was a horrible scream of a wounded animal. He stood and turned to face his opponent. He leapt and slashed and torn at his opponent, rather victim. She turned her head from the scene unable to watch any longer. It was a brutal fight. She could hear the tearing of flesh and the growling. The big guy in red was yelling in Russian and crying out in agony and anger. Then nothing.
She looked up just in time to see Wolverine standing over her. There was no recognition of humanity in his features. He scooped her up under one arm and ran down the alleyway with her. She wanted to cry out and make him stop but she figured it would do no good. She let him run until he could go no further, he fell to his knees, still cradling her in his arms. She slid out his hold with ease, stepped back from him and held her bat up in a defensive posture. He made no move towards her, just knelt in front of her. He finally raised his head a bit and growled softly and coughed, blood sputtered from his mouth.
"Hey, mister." She lowered her bat and knelt down in front of him. She supposed she should be afraid but wasn't. She reached out and brushed his matted, bloodied hair from his face. "Ick. Nasty head wound and you・re bleedin' inside. I gotta get you to a doctor."
Wolverine snarled and shook his head.
"No? Then what? Let you bleed to death?" She stated matter of factly.
He just shook his head again.
"Okay, okay, not like I can make you go where you don't wanna." She sat down and eyed the bleeding man. "So, Wolverine is it?"
He looked at her blankly. He tried to remember, but he was in a state. He knew he was a man but he couldn't get in touch with that side of himself. They'd be coming for him soon. They'd follow and they'd hunt him until he had no where else to run. Gotta keep her safe, he thought, gotta keep her from them. Protect.
"I'm Kitku." She sat for a minute trying to think of what to do. "Come on. I gotta place where we can hang out for a bit."
Kitku stood up and held out her hand. "Come on, before the big guy in the jammies shows up again."
He took her hand and let her lead him down the alley. The pain was excruciating. He couldn't hold out for much longer. He stumbled drunkenly along side her. She held him up as best as she could.
"God, you weigh a ton." They walked for awhile longer until they came to a small hole in the wall of an abandoned apartment building. She helped him through the hole and lit a candle.
"Welcome to my house." It was a closed off room, except for the hole from outside. A mattress that
some one threw out in the corner of the tiny area with old, tattered blankets. A crate with an old lace curtain with a candle on it served as her table. An old chair with a cement block replaced the leg that was missing was next a battery operated radio on another crate. She balled up some newspaper and set it into an old metal canister, put some small pieces of wood it in and lit it with a match.
"Come on." She led him over to the bed and stripped off his jacket and shirt. "Ick. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."
Before he could protest, she was out the hole and on her skateboard.
Kitku made her way down the alley and out onto the street. She needed to get him some stuff for his wounds. She skated down to the local Mom and Pops store. She kicked her board up and caught it and went inside. The old lady looked up from behind the counter and smiled. Kitku smiled back and greeted her in Chinese.
"Good evening, Kitku," she replied in broken English. That was their little deal. Kitku learned Chinese from her and she taught her English.
"Good evening, Mrs. Chang." She walked over to the counter and leaned on it. "I'm sorry I've got to speak English. It's very important."
She paused for a moment. Now what? Oh, excuse me, Mrs. Chang, a friend of mine is hurt. He got beat up by this big guy with tentacles and is totally out of it and won't go to a doctor, got anything to help him? Sounds real good, Kitku, real smooth.
"Um, I found this dog, and he's hurt and I need some bandages and stuff."
"Oh, I see." Mrs. Chang smiled at her as she moved from behind the counter. She went down one of the isles an got some peroxide, bandages, iodine and tape. "This help clean wounds. This keep infection out."
"Thank you, Mrs. Chang." Kitku dug deep into her pockets. Well, there goes her dinner money. She pulled out the two-dollar bills and a bunch of change. "Is that enough?"
Mrs. Chang looked at the money and took one of the dollars and two quarters. "That enough."
Kitku smiled. Maybe they would get to eat tonight. She waited until Mrs. Chang put the stuff in a bag for her. "Thank you, Mrs. Chang, you're a life saver."
Mrs. Chang waved a hand at her and tilted her head down. "Oh, you stop. Don't forget this."
She reached under the counter and handed Kitku a thermos. "Maybe friend need some soup, yes?"
"Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Chang." She smiled and waved as she left the store. Next stop food. Something fast, something easy. Something cheap. She skated past the local McDonald's. Cheeseburgers just forty-nine cents. Cool. She waited her turn in line and stepped up to the counter. She breathed a sigh of relief. A familiar face.
He was tall with red hair and freckled face.
"Hi, Josh. I need," she paused digging into her pockets and pulling out her money once again, "as many cheeseburgers as this will get me."
Josh counted out the money, glanced at her, and shoved half the money back. "This will get you around fifteen burgers."
"Cool, I'll take it. Thanks, Josh."
"Not a problem, Kitku." He slid the money into the draw and called in the order. When Kitku's back was to him, he slipped the rest of the cost from his own pocket into the drawer. Her order came up and Josh handed her the bag. "Take care, kiddo."
"Will do, Josh," she smiled and waved. "You, too."
Kitku made her way back to her home, paused briefly outside the door to make sure she wasn't followed. She climbed in, reached back out and pulled the garbage can in front of the hole, blocking the opening from the night breeze. She stepped back and tripped, falling flat on her back.
"Son of a..." She sat up to look accusingly at whatever got in her way. The man, Wolverine, was lying face down on the floor in a pool of blood. "Shit."
She scooted back from the sight. She tried to gather herself together to go over to him. Finally, taking a deep breath and holding it, she inched her way to him and poked him with her finger. He groaned and tried to move.
"Christ, you scared me to death. I suppose you think this is funny? It's not. I'm never gonna make it to the big leagues with you pulling this kinda crap on me," she scolded him. She folded her arms across her chest intending to continue with her verbal assault, but he coughed up some more blood and looked at her with his one good eye. Kitku immediately went to his side. "Sorry. I'm sorry. You...Just don't do it again, okay?"
He closed his eye and grunted.
"Well, at least you ain't dead," she scoffed at him. She stood and tried to drag him back to the bed. He lifted himself onto his hands and knees and leaned on her for support and together they got him in bed. She opened her packages and took out the peroxide, grabbed a jug of water from the corner of the room and began cleaning his wounds. He looked bad. His face was bashed to hell and back. Purple and black. His gut was cut open and his scalp was torn down to the bone? Metal? She gasped and sat down hard on her backside. "Metal? I saw the claws but your head too? No wonder you・re so stubborn."
He looked at her and snarled weakly.
"Sorry." She finished cleaning him as best she could and tried her best not to gag. She put on the iodine and his reaction almost sent her running for the hills. He growled and snarled but didn't stop her from continuing. "I know it hurts."
She put more on and he snarled louder. "I'm sorry."
Kitku poured it on his head wound and he twisted from her, growling ferociously at her. She jumped back from him, scared and then slowly, became angry.
"Hey!" she yelled.
He stopped. The loudness of her voice startled both of them.
"I know it hurts," she said trying to sound calmer, "but it's for the best. The sooner I get done, the sooner we can eat, 'kay?"
He tilted his head and stared at her for a moment then nodded. He laid back down, grabbed hold of the side of the mattress and closed his eyes. Tentatively Kitku reached forward and finished cleaning his wounds. He snarled quietly as his face twisted in pain. She bandaged the wounds as best she could, urging him to sit up so she could finish wrapping his stomach. He swayed from the loss of blood.
"Easy there, big guy." Kitku wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and put some blankets behind him to give him some support. She touched his face and then hopped off the bed and began digging through the rest of her bundles. "I hope you like cheeseburgers."
Wolverine watched her, shaking his head. He knew he should be healing faster, but his body was over taxed. He tried to communicate but the pain wouldn't subside long enough for him to speak. He looked at his surrounding. Abandoned building, kid by herself, and little to nothing to live on. He reached into his back pocket taking out his wallet. His hands were shaking; he tossed the wallet at her feet.
Kitku looked at the wallet and looked back up at him. "What's this?"
He tilted his head, he had the words. He had to push past the wounded animal to the man inside. He reached for the control but it was nowhere near him. He tried to tell her to take the money but a whimper was all that escaped his lips.
She slowly reached for the wallet and picked it up. "You want me to hold this for you?"
He nodded his head and growled.
"Okay." She put the wallet in her coat pocket and turned her attention back to the food. "Here."
Wolverine took the wrapped burger and sniffed it. Meat. He looked at the wrapping.
"Oh, here." Kitku climbed up next to him and opened the wrapping. "Eat."
He didn't have to be told twice. Wolverine stuffed the food into his mouth and chewed quickly. He wolfed down the next burger as quickly. The little girl just kept handing him food until he noticed she had not eaten. He handed her the burger back.
"Done?" She took the burger back after he nodded and took a bite. "Damn."
Kitku hopped off the bed and went back to her bundles. She returned with a thermos. "Here, drink this. It fixes everything."
Wolverine sniffed the contents of the thermos. Chicken. Chicken soup? He looked back at her. She stood in front of him, arms across her chest and tapping her foot. He looked back a the thermos and then once more at her.
"Drink it," she demanded.
Wolverine did as ordered. It was lukewarm but warmed up his insides. He drank over half and handed her the thermos in an insistent manner. Kitku smiled at him. God, she was so innocent looking. Angelic. Untainted by the cruelty of the streets. She climbed up next to him, leaning against his less bruised left arm and drank the soup. When she finished she closed the container and put it back on the little crate that served as her table. She climbed back up on the bed next to him.
"Oh," she looked around her room, the wrappers from the burgers were stroun across the floor and then waved a dismissive hand, "I'll clean up in the morning. Let's get you situated here, 'kay?"
She helped him lean forward, fixed the blankets and pillows, and gently helped him lay back and covered him with the blankets. After she put the fire out in the can and blew her candle out, she crawled into bed, curling up next to him. "Don't you worry 'bout nothin', 'kay? I'll keep an eye out for us tonight. You get your rest. I should probably wake you up every couple of hours, so you don't die in your sleep. That would be gross."
She snuggled down next to him. "I saw that on TV. Guess it must be true."
Wolverine chuckled. She had made sure that his back was to the wall and that she faced the opening. She was going to be his guardian angel. He closed his eyes. He couldn't keep them open any longer. Sleep overtook him quickly.
Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters was currently in chaos. In the war room, one known as Cyclops paced the floor. He ran his hand through his brown hair and touched his other to the ruby red quartz glass that covered his eyes. He stopped in front of the beautiful, red hared woman whose head was currently covered by a helmet like devise known as Cerybro.
"Anything, Jean?" he asked quietly.
Jean was sitting with her eyes closed in concentration. As a telepath this should have been easy to contact anyone, especially with the Cerybro unit amplifying her powers, but reaching Wolverine was a different story, even for Jean Gray. She opened her eyes, sighed and shook her head. "Nothing."
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"Well, mien friend," a German accented voice started, "this is not ze first time zat Herr Wolverine has been in trouble before, ja? And he always seems to make it back okay."
Cyclops looked to the speaker. An indigo, fur cover man with three fingers on each hand and a tail. His features could be construed as demonic but to those who knew Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, just considered him a fuzzy, blue elf. "I know, Kurt, but what if...I mean, this time Omega Red was in the area. We all saw it on the news."
"Ja. Zis is true, but, Scott, Wolverine was no where to be found. We went and searched and found nothing." Nightcrawler shrugged. "Please do not think for a moment that I am taking this lightly, either, mien friend, but I believe that he is all right. Granted, he has us all worried sick and when I get my hands on him...Well, anyway, zat is to say..."
"He still owes you the beer he went to buy." Jean said turning her attention to Kurt.
"Well, ja." Nightcrawler smiled easily, but both Scott and Jean could see past the facade and read the deep concern the he had for his missing friend. A concern that was reflected in all their faces. Jean looked further and saw the guilt.
He looked away from her and towards a monitor. "I can't help it, Jean. I feel responsible."
Jean wrapped her arms around Nightcrawler and hugged him. "You have nothing to feel responsible for. It could just have easily been you or any of us."
"Ja, I know." He returned her hug. "Well, enough of zis. We should be doing something."
"Agreed." Cyclops pressed a button and a three dimensional image appeared, hovering above the table. All three XMen gathered around. "Okay, last time Wolverine was seen was near Chinatown. He could be anywhere by now. We have to assume that he got away and is badly wounded from the what the news showed and from Jean picked up telepathically. We've searched the area as best we could. Jean did a complete sweep of the area and nothing."
"What about the little girl?" Kurt asked suddenly.
Jean and Scott looked at him. "What?"
"The little girl." Kurt leapt up from his chair, did a mid-air somersault and landed in another chair across the room. His fingers flew across the keyboard and brought up the newsreel from the night before. He fast-forwarded it, suddenly stopping the tape. "There."
The other two XMen leaned forward over his shoulders and inspected the tape. It was a young girl, no less than eight but no more than ten. She was very petite, so age was hard to guess by her size, including the fact that she was covered in some sort of alloy. Cyclops shook his head and ran a hand through his hair as Kurt slowly advanced the tape. The girl attacked Omega Red, covering Wolverine long enough for him to recover from a blow. Then
disappeared down an alleyway.
"So all we need to do is find the girl and maybe..." Jean started to offer.
"Wait there iz more." Kurt slowed the tape again to the ending of the fight just before the Avengers arrived and Omega Red took off. Wolverine had run down the alley, leaving Omega Red's torn up body, and grabbed something. Kurt zoomed in of the picture and lightened it.
"He grabbed the kid," Cyc said.
"Ja and if that iz so then we should be looking for a missing girl and then we vill find Wolverine." Kurt paused and then added, "Maybe."
"All right, what we need," Cyc straightened up, "is some good, old fashion detective work. Kurt, look for anyone reporting a missing child, female between eight and ten, no eleven years old in the past thirty-six hours. Jean, keep trying with Cerybro and I'll see if there are reports of any John Does at the hospitals or police stations. If Wolverine is that badly hurt, he may try to seek medical attention or may have been picked up by officers."
The two XMen nodded and immediately went to work.
Kitku woke early as her normal schedule and slid carefully out from underneath his arm. She stretched and tried to work the kinks out of her neck. He had held onto her all night, whimpering and shifting in his sleep. She was tired, but he needed food. She opened her little change purse. Not much money, she wasn't sure how much but it wasn't enough. She opened his wallet, hesitantly. No information, the parts holding any ID were gone. Musta fallen out, she thought to herself. She felt guilty going through his wallet like that, but heck they needed to eat and she needed to find out where he was from. She opened the back part. A wad of cash. She had no idea how much but to her it was a gold mine.
He stirred but remained asleep.
She pulled on her coat and quietly moved the can from the opening. It had snowed a bit but not enough to block them in. She thought to leave him a note, but she couldn't write and in his state, she doubted he could read. Well, she'd be back before he woke up. If she was tired, he must be exhausted. She made her way outside into the alley. As she started to stand, she felt a hand grab the back of her coat and shove her face first into the
opposite wall of the alley.
What a way to start the day, she thought.
She slid slightly down the wall, shaking her head and touched a hand to her face. Blood. She looked at her attackers. There were about five of them and they were armed, knives and chains. Kitku had faced them before and was beaten for standing up to them. She'd rather face the guy in the jammies than these guys. She wanted to use her powers but the last kid that had done that, they killed by beating and stabbing him to death.
"Hey, girl," the leader, a Chinese kid of seventeen stepped forward, grabbing her collar and lifting her up, "you're late with the rent."
"You don't own this building," Kitku whispered quietly, trying to hide her fear. Her stomach churned, she was going to be sick.
"Are we gonna have to teach you another lesson, bitch?" He slapped her hard in the face and punched her in the stomach, letting her fall to her knees while the rest of the Tong wanna-bes watched and laughed at her plight.
Kitku wretched, successfully hitting his boots and paid dearly for that act of defiance.
"Oh, that's gonna cost you, worm-girl." He pulled back his leg to kick her in the face.
Kitku wrapped her arms around her head and curled up in a small ball, waiting for the blow. It never came. She heard a solid thud and sneaked a peak, the thug was on the ground and Wolverine was standing over him.
He growled. The other gang members moved in and swarmed him, but they were no match for him, even in his wounded condition. In a matter of moments, it was over. Those that could run, did. The others laid unconscious near him. The leader was trying to make good his escape but Wolverine leapt. Kitku didn't think anyone was capable of such movements. He went from a standing position to the air and on the guy. She shook her head and stood to follow.
Wolverine landed on the leader and tumbled with him to a standing position, slamming him against the wall. Wolverine held him by the collar and pulled back his fist, three metal claws popped from his hand. The kid screamed. Wolverine snarled. Kitku limped over and touched Wolverine's arm. He looked down at her.
He recessed his claws and looked back at the leader. A foul odor wafted to his nostrils.
"Look," Kitku addressed the leader, "I'm willing to make a deal with you, okay?"
The boy nodded.
"You leave me alone and I won't let my friend kill you, deal?"
"I didn't hear you," Kitku said quietly, getting a perverse sense of justice from this confrontation.
As if he could sense her pleasure, Wolverine leaned his face into the kid's and snarled, baring his teeth.
"Yes!" he shouted. "For fucking Christ's sake, yes!"
"Ever! Call him off!"
"Okay, works for me." She touched Wolverine's arm again. "It's okay now. Let him go, please."
Wolverine dropped the kid none too gently to the ground. The leader sat there for a second until Wolverine growled loudly at him. He ran, knocking into garbage cans and tripping himself trying to get away from this whole nightmare.
Kitku laughed as she watched him run, causing her split lip to hurt and bleed even more. "Ow."
Wolverine knelt down in front of her and took her face in his hand. He looked at the wound, torn a piece of his bandage and as gentle as possible, he wiped her lip. His efforts won him a small smile.
"Well, since your up, we need to eat and get you some clothes." She ushered him back inside the room. "Wait here, I'll get you some clothes and I'll be back shortly, 'kay?"
He grabbed her wrist, shaking his head. He had no intentions of letting her go off by herself.
"Look," she said rolling her eyes, "you can't go with me, not like this. It'll only be a minute. There's a mission up the street, 'kay?"
Wolverine looked down at himself, nodded and sat on the bed, looking very displeased with the situation.
"Come on, you know I'm right." She smiled and ducked out of the room, moving the can in front of the opening before she left.
Wolverine sat on the bed. He had to get himself together. He wasn't an animal. He knew that. He had needed his bestial side to survive Omega Red and get the kid to safety. Time to come back and let the man takeover. He moved from the bed and sat in a lotus position. He couldn't remember his name or where he was from or where he was going to, but he knew he could reach the answers through meditation. He cleared his mind. Tried to focus. He opened his eyes and lit the candle on the crate in front of him. He focused on the candle.
She made her skateboard and skated/skied down the alleyway. She wasn't sure how her powers worked, only that she could skateboard on any surface. Walls, ceilings, ice, snow and even water. That's just the way it was and she couldn't argue the point. She made her way quickly to the Mission, passing by the food line and directly to the back door. She dissipated her board and went in.
"Hi!" she called out to Merv.
He looked up and gave her a lopsided smile. "Hi, Kitku."
He bounded over to her and hugged her. He was a man in his fifties, rather handsome with his salt and pepper hair and beard. He had the deepest brown eyes that seemed to sparkle with untouched innocence. Merv was a bit slow and worked here in exchange for room and board. He had been staying with his family but they had died. The Mission workers found him wandering the streets and the city gave him a job here, repairing small appliances. He enjoyed the work and felt he was doing something for the betterment of the world.
Kitku returned his hug and gave him a small smile, trying not to resplit her lip.
"Ooh, you got hurts." His eyes registered the pain that she was in. "Big owie."
"No, not really. You should see the other guys."
Merv looked at her, trying to grasp her meaning. Suddenly he laughed, a deep rich laughter. "I get it. Very funny."
"I'm not kidding," she mumbled. "Merv, I need some clothes."
"Well, 'kay." He stopped laughing and led her over to a couple boxes that had not been processed yet. "Try here."
Let in the flame and clear out the blackness. He focused, stared and felt his body begin to float. He let the feeling consume him. His mind was cleared. He reached into himself just as....as....what the blazes was his name?...he had taught him to do this, to help control himself when he was in Japan and the other man who helped him at....Home?
He viewed the scenes around him as if he were looking at a museum. A woman with red hair, she was beautiful. He felt a surge through his body. Love? Admiration? Why couldn't he remember her name? Was she a lover? Wife? Friend? He felt himself longing for her. No, not a lover or a wife.
He wandered further into his mind and searched for more answers. Friends and enemies flew past him. A couple furry males, a young girl, a black lady with white hair. A female cyborg. Omega Red. A bestial male...Sabertooth. A man in a uniform, wearing a helmet. Another male with an eye patch. A blonde woman in some sort of spandex uniform.
Why could he remember his enemies and not his friends? Was the need in him to hate so much stronger an emotion than the love of his friends? Or was his mind trying to protect them? But from whom and why?
This was not getting him any closer to leaving behind his bestial side. He moved further down the halls of his mind.
Kitku shifted through the boxes, they were all for little girls. "Oh, Merv..."
"You don't like?" the hurt in his voice was overwhelming.
"Oh, no, it's not that," Kitku said quickly, "They're wonderful, but I need men's clothing. For a new friend of mine."
"Friend? Like me?" He looked at her in a hurt way.
Heck no, no one can replace you, Merv. You're my bestest friend." She gave him a hug, quickly reassuring him. "I found him, he's very hurt and needs clothes. His got messed up in a fight."
"Oh, 'kay." He went to another box and shifted through it, pulling out sweatshirts, sweatpants, jeans, jackets, underwear, and anything else he could find.
There was a woman, small, petite, Greek looking. Wolverine moved towards her. She looked up at him and smiled. She had long, black hair and her scent was jasmine. She bent the metal in front of her forming it into two figures intertwining.
"What's the matter, gorgeous? You lost?" She stood and walked over to him. She tilted her head and studied him. "Been in another scrap, huh, Logan?"
Logan? Was that his name?
"So typically you. Well, it must of been a bad one, babe, otherwise you wouldn't be here lookin' for yourself." She walked over to a painting and covered it. She explained, "We haven't finished that one yet, Wild Thing."
He smiled. The nickname. She called him that once upon a time, but when?
"Oh, now don't go worrying yourself over me. You'll remember when you need me the most. Right now," she moved back over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek, "Right now, there's a little girl who needs you more. You're on the right track, gorgeous, just keep going that way."
She pointed down the hallway. It was pitch black. "Just remember, babe, don't stop and fight on the way or you'll loose yourself, possibly forever. And, Logan, I just couldn't stand not ever seeing you again. Now, run along and take care of this mess."
She turned, blew him a kiss, and shut the door to her memory.
As he moved further down the halls, he heard the memories of his past battles. He felt claws rip into his back. He turned and faced the one called Sabertooth. He popped his claws, frothing at the mouth, his beast ready to kill. He forced himself to turn around, trying to regain his control.
"Come on, runt," the memory called. "Let・s finish it."
"Yeah, lets." Wolverine stopped, started to turn, "No, I won't."
"You're the best at what ya do, runt. From what I see, it's runnin', ya coward!"
He felt his control slip. He fought to regain control, she had warned him if he turned and fought the memory, the man in his mind would be lost, possibly forever. He forced the door to shut on that memory, just like...Charley?...taught him.
He reached the last door and opened it to the man inside. The beast looked upon the man.
"'Bout time, bub," he said and moved to the beast. The beast and the man became one.
Wolverine closed his eyes. Okay, he wasn't complete, but it was better than before. He knew his name was Wolverine and Logan. The beast and the man?
Kitku checked each one over, trying to guess Wolverine's size. She finally settled on a Celtic's sweatshirt, a black t-shirt, a trenchcoat, work boots, and a pair of jeans. As an after thought she grabbed the sweats in case the jeans didn't fit.
"Thanks, Merv." She stuffed the items in her backpack. "I'm gonna bring him by for breakfast so you can meet him. Let me know if he's okay with you."
Merv beamed at her. "You bring him here and I'll have breakfast waitin', 'kay?"
"Sounds good." She gave him another quick hug and left, waving over her shoulder at him. He stood at the entranceway, waving until she was out of sight.
The clothes fitting went well. The jeans were a bit long, but Kitku rolled them up a bit. The boots, surprisingly were a perfect fit. And a person can't go wrong with t-shirts and sweatshirts. Once he was dressed they made their way down to the mission and true to his word, Merv had breakfast waiting.
As they approached, Merv looked upset. He was pacing. Kitku stopped and looked at him. His eyes met hers. He was scared. She stopped Wolverine who was sniffing at the air. Merv shook his head. Wolverine was already backing her away from the mission.
As they approached the mission, Wolverine sensed the fear coming from the man at the backdoor. He sniffed the air. Not good. Something was wrong. He could smell the gun oil, the metal, and...something else, something from his past. He couldn't place. He should know the scent. He stopped and listened. The sliding of a bolt. He scooped up Kitku and ran. "Come on."
Kitku was staring at Merv when suddenly Wolverine had her under his arm and was running down the street away from the mission. Great, now I'm a sack of rice, she thought to herself. The small attempt at humor did not alleviate her growing fear. She cringed as Wolverine ran down the street with her, the bouncing aggravated her sore stomach muscles. Kitku covered her eyes when Wolverine suddenly spun, backtracked and made a sharp turn down an alley. He paused and let her down. She slid down against a wall, trying to catch her breath, holding her stomach.
"Mind telling me what that was all about?" she gasped between breaths.
He put his hand over her mouth. The urgency in his eyes and the ferocity on his face, startled her. Shaking, she nodded. He let her go and peered around the corner, he ducked back quickly, gesturing for her to go up the fire escape. She materialized her skateboard and went up the side of the wall, stopping just at the cuspid of the roof. Wolverine had made his way up the fire escape, indicating for her to follow him. He took her onto the roof, staying low made their way to the edge.
Kitku looked onto the street beneath them. Several men in dark sunglasses and business suits were walking quickly in their direction.
"Well, aren't they a bit cliché," she whispered. She glanced at Wolverine, he was watching them intensely. Kitku shrugged, turning her attention back to the scene. They were closer and she could pick out their features. They were Chinese decent, Kitku gasped. The Tong. "Oh, shit. I gotta get outa here."
She panicked, backing up from the edge. She looked around her wildly, trying to think of her best escape route. Her mind fogged.
Mom was shoving her into the rice bin, hiding her daughter.
"Quiet. Don't move. Don't come out," she ordered.
Kitku nodded. She closed her eyes tight. Then the shouting and the sounds of breaking things. She could hear her Dad arguing and pleading in Chinese with them. She opened the bin just a crack to get a view. They were hitting her Father. A man in red and black with a sword stood in front of him. He made an order to one of his thugs. The thug grabbed her Mother and pulled her head back exposing her throat. Then her Dad was throwing his body over his wife. Both were looking towards her. Kitku was frozen. She couldn't move. She was captured by her parent's eyes and then an explosion.
She felt her body being shook.
Wolverine watched her back away from the edge. She was in a state. Wolverine had to get himself together and quick, otherwise he'd loose the kid. He knew he was getting better. He was feeling himself, more human, more of a man. He tried to grab her once, but she slipped from his grasp.
She was screaming silently, holding her ears, trying to hold out some unheard noise. Her eyes squeezed tightly together, trying to block out an ugly memory. She was heading for the edge. Jeez, what did they do to her? And so young, Christ, he thought to himself. He grabbed her as she started to go over the side. "Gotcha."
He held her in his arms, backed up and took a running start. He dove for the other roof, he tucked and rolled, protecting her with his body. He stood up and held her at arms length. "Come on, kid," the voice growled. "Relax, darlin'."
She opened her eyes and took a quick inventory of her surroundings. They were on a different rooftop. Wolverine was kneeling in front of her. She flung herself at him, hugging his neck tight. His first instinct was to bolt, but slowly he returned the hug, patting her back softly.
"It's okay, darlin', shhh. It's okay," he counseled her as he felt her tears run down her face and onto his cheek. "Come on, Kit, it's gonna be all right."
"They're gonna kill me, Wolvie, kill me dead!" she sobbed, "Ya gotta help me, Wolvie."
He sniffed at the air, to see if they were close, not close enough to worry about. He had to get Kitku back on track, otherwise, she'd be a liability. He sat back and pulled her onto his lap. "Why are they gonna kill you?"
"'Cause I saw 'em kill someone," she whispered, wiping her eyes with the back of her hands. She looked at him, her green eyes reflecting absolute terror and questioningly for help.
"Don't worry, sweetpea, ain't gonna let no one hurt ya. Ya got my word, kiddo, ya got my word." He pulled
her closer and hugged her tight, trying to absorb some of the fear from her.
"Yes, my name is Scott Summers and I'm looking for someone. Yes, I'll hold," he sat back, feeling his spine crack from leaning over too long. "Ow, felt good."
The operator came back on, "Yes, sir, I'm looking to see if a man around five feet, five foot three, broad build, black hair, blue eyes, has been admitted to your hospital. His name is Logan, but he may have been listed as a John Doe. Yes, I'll wait."
He reached for his cup of coffee, made a face at the taste of it. Cold. "Yes, I'm still here, sir. No? No one? Are you sure? I'm sure you are very efficient. I'm sorry. Yes, thank you for your time."
He hung up the phone, carefully lifted his visor, wiping his eyes. Cyclops looked at his watch, it was only eight o'clock. Why was he so tired? He looked back at his watch, eight p.m., Friday? They had been up for over thirty-six hours? He looked around the room, stacks of dishes, cups, and other assorted foodstuffs had been shoved to the other end of the war table. He looked over to Jean, she was still on Cerebro, and her eyes squeezed shut. Kurt was asleep over his keyboard, the printer humming next to him.
Cyc stood and stretched, the rest of his spine cracked and popped. He went over to Jean and
gently touched her shoulder. "Jean, love?"
She opened her eyes, her beautiful green eyes were bloodshot. "Yes?"
"Come on, love. Lets get some sleep."
She nodded, removed the headpiece, and stood. Her legs ached, her back was sore, and her backside was numb. "What time is it?"
"Seems like it should be later." She yawned.
"Friday?" Her eyes were wide with surprise. "We've been up for thirty-six hours?"
"Yes." He had walked over to Kurt and touched his shoulder. Nightcrawler jumped to his feet, parrying an imaginary sword.
"Back, foul scourge of the sea, least ye...Oh, hello, Scott." He looked away sheepishly. "I guess I fell asleep."
"It's okay, Nightcrawler, it's late and we need to get some sleep. Come on. We'll get a fresh start in the morning." He glanced over at the printer, something caught his attention. He grabbed up the papers and began reading. Most of the children listed were missing recently. None were mentioned missing in Chinatown. "Kurt?"
"These kids, that you have listed, they're missing recently?"
"Ja, within the past week. Why?" Kurt suddenly was more alert.
"What about in the past year..."
"Year?" Kurt snapped, "Mien Gott, Cyc, look at the pile of papers from just this week. You vant me to go into the past year?"
"Specifically in Chinatown, Kurt, just Chinatown."
Wolverine and Kitku had made their way from rooftop to rooftop, finally stopping near a less crowded area of Chinatown. The only thing on Wolverine's mind was to get her out of here and away from the Tong. He was sure that the Tong or at least the person with them, was also after him. So, now, it was a matter of survival. Wolverine spotted a kid on a motorcycle, he had just stopped and was waiting for the light to change.
"Get down there, Kit. We're gonna get some transport."
She spotted what he was looking at and smiled, "Gotcha, Wolverine."
She skated down the wall, keeping to the shadows. Wolverine jumped to the pile of trash beneath him. His landing was near perfect, but his gut hurt. He still wasn't wholly healed yet. He'd have to be more careful, not keep pushing his healing factor. He rolled out of the trash and came face to face with Kitku's skateboard.
"Oh, you're gonna smell good," she snickered waving a hand under her nose.
"Shaddup, kid." Wolverine stood and ran over to the guy on the bike, it was a Yamaha. Crap. But it would have to do, beggars can't be choosers. The guy started to move, Wolverine shoved him off the bike.
"Hey, you son of a bitch!" The kid jumped to his feet, taking a swing with his helmet.
Wolverine snatched the helmet from the kid's hand and landed a solid kick to his chest. "Here, put this on."
Kitku took the helmet, started to protest, his growl hushed her. "All right, already. It's on."
Wolverine revved the bike and sped away, out of Chinatown. No particular destination in mind, just as far from here as possible. That was not exactly a true statement, he had an idea of where they could go, just that he wasn't sure of the exact address and the name of the person he had in mind. The woman from his memory, the woman who warned him. He knew she could help protect Kitku and give them a safe place to stay for awhile.
Wolverine pulled into a gas station just outside of New York City, taking his wallet from Kitku, he checked their finances. They would be fine for the moment. He had lost all his other ID and, if he had one, an ATM card to withdraw more funds. He filled up the tank, bought a pack of cigarettes, a lighter and grabbed a beer and a soda, and a candy bar for the kid. It would have to tide her over until they found a place to eat. He wanted to make more time on the road before stopping for the night.
He walked out of the Quick Mart, Kitku was coming out of the bathroom. She had tried to comb her hair and clean up her face. He handed her the soda and opened his beer.
"Thanks, Wolvie," she opened it and took a long drink
"You doin' okay, Kit?"
"Yeah," she replied quietly looking at her feet.
"Here," he handed her the candy bar. Her eyes got wide. "What?"
"Well, I just...I haven't had candy in awhile," she took the candy and put it in her pocket. "I mean...I just never spent my money on that kinda stuff."
Wolverine put his arm around her shoulder as they walked to the bike. He lifted her up on the back of the cycle. "Don't sweat it, kiddo. You deserve it."
"Thanks, Wolvie," she smiled at him. He ruffled her hair and handed her the helmet.
He pulled the bike out onto the highway into the sparse traffic. He had bought a map and was staying to the least traveled highways, figuring that whoever was after them would not be able to track them so easily. He felt Kitku wrap her arms around his waist and lean against his back. He hoped against all that he was doing the right thing. They traveled until twilight and rode into a town off the main highway. He pulled the bike into an
inexpensive clothing store. They went in and Wolverine purchased jeans, tee-shirts, thermals, and sweatshirts. He found a leather jacket and Yankee's baseball cap for Kitku. He also grabbed a duffel bag to carry their newly acquired clothes.
Outside the store, Wolverine removed the tags from the leather jacket while she packed the duffel bag. He helped Kitku put the jacket on. It was a little big, but warm. As they started to cross the parking lot Kitku took his hand. The next stop on their route was a small diner for dinner. Wolverine opened the door for her and found a booth. The waitress, a tall brunette with dark brown eyes, her name tag read 'Myrtle' came over to their table and handed them menus.
"Hey," she said. She looked at Kitku and said in a slight Southern drawl, "Well, aren't you a pretty little thang."
Kitku giggled, blushed and buried her face into Wolverine's arm. He looked down at her and smiled, squeezing her hand. He gave the waitress a small smile, "Thanks."
"Sweetheart, you're gonna have to beat the boys back with a stick when your little girl gets older." She grinned at Kitku.
Wolverine stared at her uncomprehending of what she meant, then slowly it dawned on him. "Yeah, a big stick."
Mertyle laughed, touching his shoulder, "Can I start ya with something to drink, hon?"
"Yeah, a coke and an iced tea," Wolverine said looking at her. She was a good looking woman, long legs, a bit on the thin side, but the way she carried herself, she made it clear that she was no pushover. She could handle any rowdy trucker that came her way.
"Comin' right up, hon." She cracked her gum, gave another smile and went to the next table, "Hi, Joe, what'll it be today?"
Wolverine disentangled Kitku from her hiding place. "Come on, kiddo, lets order."
Kitku, reluctantly picked up the menu. She frowned and set the menu down. "Just a burger."
Her reluctance did not escape Wolverine's eye. "Don'cha wanna see if there's somethin' else ya want?"
She lowered her head and whisper, "I can't."
"Come 'ere, Kit." He pulled her up onto his lap and opened his menu for them to look at together. He read the kid's meals to her.
"Chicken," she said, smiling up at him.
"Chicken it is, darlin'."
Mertyle brought them their drinks, Kitku slid off his lap and turned her attention to her drink. "Ready to order?"
"Yeah, kid's chicken dinner with fries and the special." He handed her the menus.
She nodded and went to place their orders. Wolverine pulled out a pack of smokes, lit one, inhaling deeply. Suddenly he felt Kitku slide off the bench and onto the floor. He peered under the table about to ask her what she thought she was doing when a commotion at the register caught his attention. Two men, and with guns had entered the diner. One was a blond, well-built kid, obviously the brains had his weapon pointed at the manager. The other was dark hared, slightly overweight kid, not yet out of his teens, had Myrtle and was forcing her to take a sack and
go to the customers and get their wallets and other valuables. They stopped at Wolverine's table.
"Come on, come on," the dark hared kid ordered, he was sweating and scared. "Give it over."
Wolverine didn't move. Mertyle looked at him like he was crazy. Maybe he was then again maybe not.
"Didn't you hear me?" The pistol wavered. "Give it to me."
From under the table, Kitku smashed the guy's shins with her bat just as Wolverine grabbed the kid's wrist and in a fluid motion twisted it, the sounds of breaking bones could be heard. Mertyle twisted out of the As the kid started to fall, Wolverine grabbed his hair and smacked the boy's forehead into the table, knocking him out cold.
"Hey!" the blond yelled, "What the hell? You playin' hero today, asshole?"
"Me?" Wolverine pointed to himself. "Not me, kid. Heroes have a short life span. So, the question is, bub, are you willin' to play hero?"
The blond was at the table now, the pistol pointed at Wolverine's head. "Smart ass. Now, you're gonna pay for it."
Wolverine's eyes narrowed. He felt his blood starting to rage, a soft growl escaped him. "Do tell."
Too scared or too stupid of himself to realize what or whom he was dealing with, the blond cocked back the hammer. Kitku shoved her bat into his crotch. Wolverine quickly put his hand over the muzzle in case the weapon fired as the blond doubled over in pain. Wolverine grimaced in sympathy.
"That's gonna leave a mark." He easily twisted the gun out of the blonde・s hand and knocked him out with a well-placed punch to the back of his head. He set the pistol on the table next to the first one, stood, took off his belt and tied up the blond. The man seated behind him copied Wolverine's actions on the dark haired thug.
"Thanks, mister," he said after they finished. He extended his hand to Wolverine.
"Ah, yeah, no problem." Wolverine shook the guy's hand and tried to accept the applause and thank yous with a gracious attitude but he was more concerned with Kit.
Kitku was peering over the top of the table, checking her surroundings. She hopped up on the bench and threw herself at Wolverine, giving him a big hug. "Good job."
"Thanks," he said gruffly, "You weren't so bad yourself, kid."
A few moments later the sheriff and a couple of deputies arrived and surveyed the scene. The deputies took the two men out to the cars and then came back to finish questioning everyone. Their stories were all the same and all pointed to the man with the little girl as the hero.
The sheriff, a slightly overweight and underworked man, walked over to Wolverine. "I'm Sheriff Bradkey."
Wolverine nodded at him.
"It's my understanding that you took these two guys down by yourself, that true?" He puffed on his cigar.
"Guess so." Wolverine wasn't sure where this was leading, but he didn't like it. He slid Kitku down beside him.
Kitku looked from Wolverine to Bradkey. She could feel the tension and was scared. She took hold of his hand and squeezed. The sheriff drew himself up to his full height looking down at Wolverine.
"Well, sir, I'm not saying we don't appreciate what you've done, but you could have been seriously hurt or worse yet, killed. Then where would your little girl be, huh?"
Kitku squeezed his hand harder as a soft growl emitted from his chest. He looked down at her and nodded, he got the message. He always had a problem with authority, especially when it was directed at him. "I get the message."
"Good, good." Bradkey waved a deputy over and had him take his and Kitku's statement.
An hour later, when the sheriff and the deputies had left, Mertyle brought them their food.
"Don't listen to that airbag," she said to Wolverine, "He just goes on sometimes. I think ya did great, hon. You should be proud of your daddy."
"I am," Kitku beamed at her.
"No charge for the meal, sweets, and if you're here in the morning, samething goes. The manager figured it was the least he could do."
"Thanks," Wolverine replied, a bit uncomfortable with all the attention. He averted his eyes to his meal and began eating.
"No problem, hon." She ruffled Kitku's hair and went to take care of her other customers.
Kitku and he finished their meals in a comfortable silence. He left a generous tip and tried to pay for the meal anyway, but the manager would not hear of it and insisted that Wolverine and his daughter come back tomorrow for breakfast. He assured the manager that they would and left the diner.
He found an inexpensive hotel and got one with two double beds. They went in, checked the room out, and unpacked their clothing. Wolverine pulled out the pajamas that Kitku had picked out and laid them out in the bathroom with a toothbrush and toothpaste. She went in and took a shower, brushed her teeth and got dressed. She came out followed by a rolling cloud of steam, brushing her wet hair.
"Your turn, Wolvie."
"Yep." He got up from one of the two chairs, put out his cigarette, grabbed his clean clothes, "Hope ya left me some hot water."
Kitku covered her mouth trying to suppress a giggle.
The bathroom was a disaster. Wet towels everywhere, the floor was a puddle of water, and toothpaste was all over the counter. He shook his head and tried to find a not so soaked towel as he shut to door.
Scott Summers threw down Logan's ID. Nightcrawler had found it in the jeep between the seats. "Well, now we know he can't be identified."
"Ja." Kurt balanced himself on the back of the chair, his tail swishing through the air.
Jean smiled to herself, no matter how much time she spent around Kurt, he never ceased to amaze her with his sense of balance. "And he is without the ability to get money."
"True, but he's resourceful," Scott added. He sat down at the War Room table, rubbing his chin in thought. "The trail is cold. We've got nothing new to go on. The Avengers gave us their information."
"Which waz not much," Nightcrawler scowled.
"No, it wasn't. And the news has broadcast the fact that Logan and Omega Red went at it in Chinatown and now the tabloids are digging their teeth into it."
"Ja, my favorite vas the one vhere Wolverine and Omega Red vere duking it out over a voman," Kurt chuckled and the comment even drew a small smile from Cyclops.
"I'm going to try Cerybro." Jean went over to the telepathic enhancer, sat down, and put on the helmet. "I don't know what else to do."
"It's the best shot we've got right now, Jean. Just don't over do it." Scott stood and stretched. "Come on, Kurt, let's go see if there was something downtown we might have missed."
Nightie nodded and teleported from the War Room leaving behind a puff of smoke and a loud 'BAMF'. Scott waved his hand in front of his face and Jean wrinkled her nose.
"Brimstone," she muttered, "I'll never get used to that smell."
"No one will," he agreed. He bent down and kissed her gently on her lips. "We'll be back soon. And remember, don't stay on there too long."
"Of course not," she lied. She was going to stay on there as long as possible. She was worried about her friend and her teammate. Logan was one of her closest friends. She understood him better than anyone and even had felt a kinship with him. But she could never let herself get too close to him, there was an attraction between them that would never be resolved. It was too raw for her, he was too wild for her. Jean knew that Scott was the man for her, he was steady and strong willed. Logan was much too out of control for her and if she was involved with him, she would loose herself in his world and that could prove to be very dangerous for a telepath. But that didn't stop
her from caring or loving him from a distance.
She shook her head, clearing her thoughts. She leaned back in the chair and let her power reach out through Cyrebro to find Logan.
Kitku was watching the TV when Logan stepped out of the bathroom, dressed in a clean pair of jeans and a tee-shirt, toweling his hair. He paused beside the TV and watched Wily Coyote go over a cliff followed by a large boulder. He tossed the towel over his shoulder towards the bathroom and sat down on the edge of the bed next to Kitku and finished watching cartoons with her.
"You like the Roadrunner?"
Wolverine shrugged, "Never really watched it."
"I like it. I used to watch it down at Chang's TV Repair. He used to let me come in and watch for awhile. I'd help him sweep up around the store." She was sitting cross-legged on the bed, in her baseball styled pajamas. Her hair was shiny black, shoulder length with bangs.
"You clean up good, kid."
"So do you, mister." She gave him a sidelong glance. "You smell better too."
"Thanks," he snarled sarcastically.
"Hey, you weren't ridin' downwind." She shoved him playfully.
"Tomorrow you can drive." He pushed her over onto her side.
"Cool!" she yelled gleefully as she pounced on his back and tried to wrestle him down.
"What do ya think your doin', kid?" He flipped her over his shoulder and onto the floor in front of him, tickling her until she yelped, "Uncle!"
She jumped up and ran for the bathroom. Wolverine chuckled and shook his head. Who'd 'Ave. thought that I'd end up with a kid like this? Horsing around like this? he thought to himself.
He was sure that he once knew another little girl. He got a visual picture of a skinny, brown haired, just turning into a teenager. Kitty? Was that her name? He knew he had been close with Kitty and that they had been through a great deal together, something that happened in Japan. He had succeeded with her, saved her and hoped that he wouldn't let Kitku down. Those bastards that had been waiting at the mission were not going to let up, especially now that they knew she was alive. But would they pursue her outside of Chinatown or even New York?
Kitku interrupted his thoughts.
"'Kay." He pulled on his boots and grabbed his jacket. "Don't open the door for anyone? Hear me?"
"Yes," she said rolling her eyes.
"I ain't playin', darlin'."
The intensity of his voice startled her out of her snotty attitude. "Yes, Wolverine."
He nodded and shut the door behind him. Kitku made sure the door was locked behind him and heard the motorcycle start up and take off. She figured he was going to a store for beer as well as soda. She sighed and sat down in front of the TV, flipping the channels.
She was still changing channels when there was a knock at the door. She moved a chair in front of the door and stood on it and looked through the peephole. It was the sheriff.
"Yes?" she called out.
"Sheriff Bradkey. Open up."
"I'm not supposed to Wol...Dad told me not too."
"Smart man, but I'm an officer of the law, you can open the door for me." He puffed on his cigar and adjusted his gun belt.
"You can open the door or I can go and get the manager to do it for me."
Kitku climbed down, moved the chair and opened the door. Bradkey came in and started checking around the room, picking up their clothes and inspecting them, trying to look casual.
"So," he said finally, "your his daughter, huh?"
Kitku crossed her arms over her chest, narrowing her eyes, "No, I'm his sex slave."
Bradkey turned and glared at her.
"Yes, I'm his daughter, duh." Kitku rolled her eyes. "What is it that you want?"
"Just checking on people who come through my town. I like to know what everyone's business is, if you know what I mean?" He puffed on his cigar.
"Not really," she waved a hand in front of her nose, trying to get that obnoxious smell away from her. "I'm only ten."
"Yeah. Mind?" he gestured to a chair.
"I guess not, it's your town."
His laugh had a very snide sound to it and sent a chill up Kitku's spine. "That it is. That it is. So, where is your Daddy?"
"He went to the store. He'll be back anytime."
"So, how is it that your Chinese and he isn't?"
"Well, duh, my mom was Chinese." She paced a bit, getting nervous. He was studying her and she didn't like it, not one bit. Every instinct in her body screamed for her to run.
"Where is your mom?"
"Sorry to hear that." He smirked. She was hiding something and he was getting a perverse pleasure out of the fact he made her nervous. "When did she..."
"....And in other news, the search for the man who faced Omega Red is still on. The Avengers and the police, working in conjunction with each other, are looking for this man," a picture of Wolverine appeared on the news. It was a still from a video. "He's described as being between five foot and five foot four, black hair, wearing a black tee-shirt, a tan sheepskin jacket and blue jeans."
Kitku inched her way towards the door.
"This is a photo of the man taken from a video shot by a tourist. The Avengers and the police would like to question him about the fight and any possible information he may have."
"Well, well, well," Bradkey smirked. "I guess my instincts were right."
"Police and the Avengers also believe," the news continued, "that a little girl, who was at the scene, may also have some information. If you see them, please contact your local police or the Avengers' hotline number. In other news...."
Kitku reached for the doorknob when she heard the hammer being drawn on his pistol.
"Hold it," Bradkey ordered.
Wolverine pulled into a small grocery store, nodded to the old man behind the counter. He glanced at two other men playing checkers. Small town, simple folks, peaceful. He liked that, it was comfortable. He went to the cooler and grabbed a six pack of beer and a six pack of Coke, grabbed some chips and pork rinds and went over the counter.
"Evening," the old man said.
"Evenin'" Wolverine nodded.
"Hey," one of the guys called out from the checker game. Wolverine glanced over his shoulder.
"You're the guy from the diner, ain't you?"
The man stood, walked over and extended his hand. "Thanks, I just wanted to say that."
Wolverine glanced at the extended hand and tentatively took it. "Yeah."
"See, Mertyle, the waitress? She's my wife. I just wanted to thank you for saving her life."
"Ah, yeah, you・re welcome." He started to put the money on the counter but Mertyle's husband caught him by the wrist. Wolverine's head snapped up.
"Wait a sec, just wanted to pay for this for you. Least I could do and all." He pulled out his wallet and put the money on the counter. "Please."
Wolverine nodded as the old man put his groceries in a paper bag. "Much obliged, mister."
"Hell, I'm the one who should be obliged." He grinned.
"Yeah, well, don't sweat it. Evenin'." Wolverine nodded to all of them, went outside and climbed on the bike. He adjusted the bag and started the engine.
He involuntarily jumped and looked around. No one.
"I'm so glad I finally found you," the voice said.
"What in the blazes..."
"You need not speak aloud, Wolverine. I'm telepathically communicating with you," the female's voice continued, "It's me, Jean. Jean Grey."
"Yes, Logan. We've been..."
"Scott, Kurt and I have been looking for you for three days. Where in the blue blazes have you been?"
"What's it to you?" he snarled mentally. "And how do I know it ain't a set up or somethin'?"
"You don't. You'll just have to trust your instincts. Try to remember, Logan, you're an XMan. Your code name is Wolverine. Scott is Cyclops. Kurt is Nightcrawler. You've got to try to remember." She took on a mental picture of herself in his head. She was the red head from his memories, the one he had feelings for and had thought they were lovers. Her mental image blushed but quickly regained control. "So, you do remember me!"
"Listen to me, Logan, I'm going to tell the others I have found you and we're going to wire you your money and send out your wallet with your ID. You've got a lot of people out looking for you and some of them aren't looking to help you." Her image stepped closer to his image. "I wanted to warn you that the Tong is looking for that little girl..."
"Yes, Kitku and they want her dead. I found this out when I was scanning Chinatown for you. Be careful, Wolverine, a man by the name of Viper is very interested in her. I'll do what I can to throw him off your trail." Jean closed her eyes. "You need to get back to the hotel room. Kitku's in trouble."
Wolverine was already pulling onto the street at the mention of Kitku's name.
"I can't help you right now, I've exhausted myself looking for you, but I will let her know that you are on your way. Hurry, Wolverine, and be careful of that sheriff. Don't trust him."
Her image began to fade. "I'll be in contact with you later. Good luck."
"Luck ain't got nuthin' to do with it, darlin', just plain skill."
Jean smiled and faded out. Wolverine shook his head. Great, now I'm trustin' gorgeous women who just happen to pop into my head and start gabbin' at me.
Bradkey had waved Kitku away from the door and into a chair. The girl was about to transform and knock some sense into this country sheriff when a woman spoke in her head.
"Kitku. Don't be frightened."
She held her cool and didn't show her startlement. "What?"
"I'm a friend of Wolverine's. My name is Jean Grey. He is on his way. Don't do anything until he gets here. Do you understand?"
"I guess so." her mental voice quivered.
"Do you or don't you?" Jean's voice held an edge.
"Sheriff Bradkey is not to be trusted. Be careful what you say, Kitku."
"Good. I have to leave but don't worry, Wolverine's on his way."
"All right," she answered but the lady was already gone. Kitku turned her full attention back to the sheriff and sat where he indicated.
"Now what, sir?" she asked as sarcastically as she could.
"Don't go getting smart, young lady. You're in a lot of trouble and so is your Dad, if that's who he really is." He pulled back the curtains a bit and surveyed the parking lot. "I just knew there was something about the two of you the minute I saw you at the diner. Call it intuition."
"Paranoid is more like it," she muttered.
"I warned you once, I ain't warning you again, girl." He towered over her, glaring.
"Sor." Kitku swung her chair away from him, putting her back to him. She had to keep him away from the window. "You were saying?"
"Point is, punk, that I got a call from some friends of mine in the government and they said that you might be coming this way." He puffed up at the mention of government friends.
Kitku snorted, a small time man trying to be a big shot. He wasn't much different than the small time gangs that ran in her neighborhood trying to be like the Tong.
"So, I did and I called them back and they're on their way here." He walked in front of her, his back to the bathroom. "I wasn't sure until I saw your Dad on the news if I had the right people. Not many white Fathers running around with a slant for a daughter."
"Bite me," she snarled at the racial slur.
"You're being to grate my nerves, punk."
"Yeah," she glared at him, voice in her head or not, she had had it with this blowhard. "Well, you've just grated mine, you bigoted son of a bitch."
He grabbed her by the face, "You're not only a smart mouth but you've got a filthy one to boot. I oughta..."
"Oughta what, bub?" Wolverine growled near his ear. He grabbed Bradkey's pistol, easily taking it from the sheriff.
"You're...you're...un..under arrest," he stammered. He had not heard the man enter the room.
"Do tell?" Wolverine bent Bradkey's arms behind his back and handcuffed him. "Way I see it, bub, is that you're the one who's been cuffed. You okay, kid?"
"Yeah," Kitku stood up, faced the sheriff and kicked him in the crotch. "Slant that, jerk-face."
"You really like those crotch shots, don'cha, kid?" Wolverine smiled at her as she stomped by.
"Only on those that shouldn't breed," she glared over her shoulder. "Ever."
Wolverine grinned, "Get our stuff, darlin', we're outa here."
Jean took off the helmet and rubbed her temples just as Cyclops and Nightcrawler came in. She ran over to Scott and hugged him. "I found him, Scott."
He hugged her back. "Where is he? How is he?"
"He's in a small town about twelve hours outside New York." Jean pulled back from Scott. "He's fine."
"So ve go and get him, ja?" Kurt asked anxiously.
"It's not that simple."
"Logan's memory is shaky at best. He barely remembered me and he doesn't trust me. We've got to take this slowly." Jean paced for a moment. "There's something else. The girl that's with him, her name is Kitku, the Tong and someone named Viper are after her. They want to silence her."
"You mean kill her," Cyclops stated.
Jean nodded. "I think our best bet is to get Logan his ID and some money and try to close in on these guys from behind."
"Pursue the pursuers, eh?" Kurt nodded, grinning at the idea.
Cyclops took a deep breath and slowly released it. "I don't know. Maybe we should just go and get him."
"And if he doesn't recognize us, Scott?" Jean touched his shoulder. "He will turn on us and someone may end up hurt or worse."
"True," he conceded. He ran a hand through his brown hair, thinking. "Okay, here's the plan. First, we go with what Jean suggested and close in on these guys from behind. Second, we try to convince the Avengers to get the media to lay off all those pictures and stories. By now every enemy Wolverine has ever had, and I'm sure the list is immense, knows he's wounded and separated from the XMen. We've got to run interference for him and help him protect the girl. Agreed?"
Both XMen nodded.
"Kurt, you call the Avengers and see what you can do. Jean, keep a low scan out around Wolverine and the girl. I'll set up sending him some cash and his ID. After that, we start running interference. I don't care how small of a threat it maybe to them, we divert their attention."
Scott turned to leave, before the doors shut behind him, Jean was back on Cerybro and Kurt was contacting the Avengers.
After they locked the sheriff in the bathroom, they headed out on the highway until the early morning. They had come to another town, Wolverine pulled over to another hotel, got a room and put Kitku to bed. She was exhausted and he wasn't much better. Before she fell asleep, she told him what the sheriff had said about the government calling him and what they had told him.
"I doubt that they were with the government, darlin'." He covered her up and sat down on the edge of the bed, brushing the hair out of her face. "Probably the same guys that were lookin' for me."
"Sugarcoat it, Wolvie." Her eyes showed him she knew the truth. "They're after me."
"Could be, kid, could be. But they could be workin' with Omega Red."
"The guy in the jammies?"
"Yeah, the guy in the jammies," he chuckled. "Get some sleep."
He turned out the light, went and sat in a chair, watching the door and the windows. Maybe they were after her and maybe not. Bull, who was he trying to fool? They were probably the Tong and that Viper that that woman Jean had warned him of earlier. He rubbed the back of his neck, trying to relieve his tension. What he needed was sleep, but that would have to wait until they got further away.
"Yes," she appeared again in his mind. "Oh, I see it went well. No casualties."
"Yeah," he replied, looking her up and down. His memories of her were becoming more prominent and he remembered a mansion.
"Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters," Jean confirmed. "That's where the XMen operate out of and Professor Charles Xavier brought us all together."
Jean smiled. "He hates it when you call him that."
"Sorry," he apologized not too sincerely.
"We've Federal Expressed your wallet and wired money to the next city. First go to the post office and pick up your ID. We've set up a code word with them so you can get it. The code word is 'Trust'. Then go to the Western Union and pick up your cash."
"And, Wolverine, get some sleep."
"Love to, darlin', but I gotta keep an eye out."
"I'll watch for you."
"Don't this kinda stuff drain you?"
"I'll be okay for a few hours. I'll wake you at noon."
Wolverine eyeballed Jean's image, contemplating whether or not to trust her.
"You've got to start somewhere." She put her hands on her hips and glared meaningfully at him.
"Okay, okay," He crawled onto the bed and laid down.
"I told you, I don't remember. It's a blank." He was frustrated and getting angry. Bradkey stared at the four Chinese men. He tried to remember, but he just could not bring up the picture of the guy they were asking about, let alone the girl. He hated being made the fool of, almost as much as he hated anyone different from him. Especially these guys.
"All of a sudden you have no recollection of this man or the girl?" The Chinese man paced in front of Bradkey, fingering a butterfly knife.
"I'm gonna say this once more," he replied very precisely, "I don't remember!"
The man suddenly lashed out with his knife and cut Bradkey's face. "And I'm going to ask you once more, where did they go?"
Bradkey pressed his hand to his face trying to stop the bleeding. "The answer is gonna be the same, I don't know."
"Sheriff, I'm afraid that I cannot accept that answer." The blade flashed again, cutting Bradkey's other cheek.
"You son of..." He tried to jump out of his chair but was held back by two of the other men. "I'm an officer of the law! We're supposed to work together!"
"Has it not dawned on you, you stupid, little man, that we are above this so called laws of yours?" He leaned closer to Bradkey. "We are above your laws. We only answer to our boss."
"Your...your...not FBI?" Bradkey suddenly was aware that he was in trouble. Big trouble and his small town pull was not going to save him.
"Give the man a prize." The men laughed.
"Now, that we have that clear, Sheriff," he said reaching out and yanking off the badge, "perhaps your memory is much more clear now, yes?"
Bradkey began to sweat, he knew he was going to died and even if he did have the information, he wasn't going to give it to them.
"Make him talk," the man turned his back to the sheriff. His three companions nodded, two of them held his arms while the other one began hitting him with well placed blows that would cause the most pain. The first man allowed the beating to continue for awhile before holding up his hand.
"Are we ready to speak now, Sheriff? Or do you need more, how shall I say, convincing?"
Bradkey raised his head, his eyes were swelling shut, his jaw black and blue. He could feel the swelling in his face starting and his ribs were on fire. They had probably punctured a lung. He spit blood out of his mouth followed by a tooth. "Like I said before, I don't know! I don't remember anything since yesterday evening after your phone call. I know you called and spoke to me about looking for two people but I'm telling you I remember seeing them!"
The leader shook his head. "I grow weary of this game, Bradkey. You told us over the phone that they were here and now you say you do not 'recall' anything past the first time we called you?"
"Give the boy a prize," he snapped and was backhanded across his bruised face for his insolence. "I don't remember calling you back. What part don't you understand? Or isn't my English good
enough for you?"
The man sighed exasperated. "This is getting us nowhere, sir."
"I can see that, Kim," a voice from the shadows spoke.
Bradkey tried to get a view of the man, but his vision was blurred from the blood running into his eyes.
"What do we do now?"
"He has outlived his usefulness."
Kim bowed to the shadows and slowly turned to face the sheriff. He deliberately walked slowly towards Bradkey, hoping his actions would cause him more fear.
The sheriff smiled. Kim looked at him questioningly.
"See you on the other side, Kim." The sheriff continued to grin as Kim raised his pistol.
Wolverine tossed and turned on his bed. The dreams, the past was overwhelming. Faces and voices flashed by his mind, too quickly for him to retain. In the distance he heard a little girl crying. He ran to find her but he couldn't see her. He forced himself awake, sitting up in bed. The crying was in the room. He looked over at Kitku.
She was curled in the fetal position, crying, calling out in Chinese for her Mother.
Kitku could see her Mother, lying in a pool of blood. Her Father was on top of her, his face and the back of his head was gone. She didn't move. Mommy had told her not to move. She watched from the crack in the cabinet as the four men stood by laughing.
"That will teach these people not to cross us, eh, Viper?" said one of them.
"Yes, very good, gentlemen. We have set a fine example for the rest of the people who think to oppose us.. Is that all of them, Kim?" A man in a black suit of some kind. He had long, black hair and cold, black eyes. Eyes that reflected death.
She felt her bladder release and tried not to cry, hoping they would just go away.
"From our information, yes," answered the first man who had spoken.
Kitku continued to stare, the faces of the men burning an image into her mind. Finally they had left and Kitku came out of her hiding place. She made her way to her parents, slipping and sliding in her parent's blood. Her Mother just stared at her with lifeless eyes. She laid down next to them, sobbing.
She felt a strong hand on her shoulder and she screamed.
Wolverine touched her shoulder trying to wake her gently. She screamed as if she were in pain. He shook her, "Come on, darlin', wake up."
She sat up, looking around the room, tears running freely down her face. She swung with her bat at Wolverine but he caught it and took it from her.
"Kit, it's so 'kay. Easy, sweetpea, easy."
"Wolvie?" She blinked in slow recognition and then threw her arms around his neck, holding him tight and started sobbing.
He lifted her out of bed and set her on his lap and felt moisture on his leg. She had urinated. He ignored it and rocked her back and forth.
"Wolverine, can I help?" Jean asked him quietly.
"Nah, I got it. Give us some space, Red."
"Of course." She gently left his mind.
When her sobs had subsided, he carried her to the bathroom, grabbing one of his tee-shirts and a clean pair of her underwear. He sat her on the counter and wiped her face with a warm washcloth. He leaned over her, an arm on either side of her. "Wanna talk 'bout it?"
She shook her head, unable to look at him. She was aware that she had wet herself and was ashamed. She was supposed to be a big girl, not some crybaby.
He bit at his lower lip, unsure what to do or say. He wanted to help her, but didn't know how. "I'm here if you need me, Kit, you know that, right?"
She nodded, sniffing and wiping her eyes. She accepted the Kleenex from him and blew her nose. She tossed the tissue into the toilet.
"You wanna get cleaned up?"
She nodded, trying not to cry again. Her head was hurting from the sobbing and she felt tired.
He patted her leg and went out of the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
There was no reply.
"What・cha need, Kit?"
"Um, would you wait outside the door for me, please?" she asked in a tiny voice.
"You got it." He leaned against the wall next to the bathroom door until she was done.
The bathroom door opened, Kitku was dressed in his tee-shirt, her head down, carrying her brush. She did look up long enough to notice that he was standing outside the door like she had asked. She hugged him and whispered, "Thank you, Wolvie."
"Don't sweat it, kid." He hugged her back.
She let go, sat in a chair and brushed her hair, watching Wolverine. He was pulling the covers down on his bed. "Come on, Kit, you can still get a couple of hours."
She nodded, her head still hurt, and crawled into the bed. He covered her up and went to sit in the chair. "Wait. Lay down with me, please?"
Wolverine laid down on top of the covers next to her. She curled up against him and was soon asleep, her nightmares forgotten.
Cyclops stood by as Jean broke communication with Logan. She had a small smile on her face. He looked at her questioningly. "I think our hard-core loner has just discovered fatherhood."
"What?" Scott's jaw dropped, utterly stunned.
"You heard me, love. Mr. Tough Guy has been introduced to what it's like to be a daddy." She couldn't help grinning.
"Tell me you're joking, please."
Jean patted his shoulder. "I am very serious, Scott. This little girl has reached a spot in Logan that I don't think anyone has ever been. Well, that we know of, anyway."
Scott sank into a near by chair, shaking his head in disbelief.
Kurt came in and eyed Cyclops. "Vhat is with our fearless leader?"
"Oh, I'm not sure you could handle it, Kurt," Jean teased.
"Vhat? Vhat can't I handle?" He leaped up onto the table in front of her, anxious to hear the news that floored the normally iron willed Summers. He looked back at Cyc. "On zecond thought..."
"Wolverine. A Father?" Scott muttered.
"Vhat?" Kurt's eyes widened. "Tell me I heard you wrong, mien friend."
"Afraid not, Nightie," Jean smiled, "Seems that Kitku has wormed her way into Logan's heart and pretty much sees him as a father figure."
"Mien Gott!" Kurt slid into a chair, holding his head in his hands. "I don't believe zis. Och, you are pulling my tail."
Jean shook her head.
"Mien Gott," he muttered again.
She grinned again as she headed out of the War Room. "I think I'll leave you two so you can get used to the idea."
The two men looked at each other and simountainously shook their heads.
Wolverine parked the bike outside the bar on the edge of town. He surveyed the parking area, Harleys. Every type of Harley available. He took the duffel bag off the bike and helped Kitku down.
"Why are we here, Wolvie?" she asked taking his hand.
"Need new transportation, darlin'," he replied.
"So, we go to a car dealer or bike dealer, right?"
"Ain't got the cash for that. Gotta ditch this bike now, that's the one they'll be lookin' for." He led her into the bar.
It was dim and smoky. Loud music by The Rolling Stones blared from the jukebox. The walls were covered with various beer and whiskey advertisements, some neon lights, others were posters. There were two pool tables, a couple of dartboards and tiny dance floor that currently three women and one man were dancing on. The bartender and the patrons stopped their conversing and were suspiciously looking at the newcomers.
Kitku held on tight to Wolverine's hand. She tried to match his calmness, tugging her baseball cap lower over her eyes.
"Hey," the bartender called out, "you can't bring..."
The look in Wolverine's eyes cut off the rest of his sentence. He went up to the bar, "Give me a beer and a coke."
"Yeah, beer's for her. I'm driving." He tossed the money on the bar and took the drinks. He led Kit over to an unoccupied table and sat down. Slowly the bar noise picked up as the patrons returned to their own conversations. He watched the bar, the patrons, leaning on the table and drinking his beer. He glanced over at Kit. She was sitting on her legs, leaning on the table, drinking her coke. He hid his grin by taking another drink. The kid was something else.
"Come on, Dink, don't leave mad, just broke." The big guy at the pool table laughed as a bearded man gave him the finger and walked away from the table.
"I am broke and I am mad. How's that?" the bearded guy tried to look angry.
"Ahh, come on, I'll give ya points," the big guy offered.
Dink just shook his head and took his beer to his table.
That's it, Wolverine thought as he drained his beer. "Stay here and don't move."
"'Kay." She shifted in her chair and watched him carefully as he went to the bar and got another beer, making sure he passed the pool tables on the way there and back. Now what kinda trouble was he gonna go and get himself into? she wondered.
The big guy called out to him, "Hey, wanna play?"
Wolverine paused, eyed the table, and shrugged. "Sure, why not?"
A few people in the bar laughed.
"There goes another poor slob," the guy at the table next to Kitku observed.
"Yeah, Frank's gonna take him for everything he's got," his companion agreed.
Kit was nervous now. What was he thinking? Didn't he realize this guy was a shark?
Wolverine lost the break and the first game and handed him over his twenty dollars, setting down the pool cue. "Damn, you're good."
"Go again, double or nuthin'?"
"I guess." He picked up the cue again, lost the break and the second game. He handed over the money.
"Feelin' lucky?" Frank grinned.
Wolverine gave him back a similar grin. "Why not?"
Kitku couldn't watch after he had lost the fourth game. A waitress came by and set a soda down in front of her. She was a buxom, blonde woman. A tattoo of a rose with a snake curling around the flower started at her wrist and ascended up to her shoulder. She wore leather pants and a half shirt.
Kit searched her pockets for money.
"Don't worry 'bout it, honey. I gotcha covered. If ya need anything just give me a yell. Name's Carol, okay?"
"Thanks," Kit murmured staring down into her soda.
Carol gave Kitku a sympathetic look before she sauntered off to the next table.
Great, now he had people thinkin' he was some drunk draggin' me around to all kinds of bars. Like I need anymore sympathy and poor, pitiful child looks than I already have gotten.
"Hey, guy, why don't we raise the stakes a bit, huh?" Frank was gloating. He had just about cleaned this guy out and he was on a roll.
"Uh, how high?" Wolverine did his best to sound concerned.
"Whatcha got left?"
"That's it? Bummer."
"And a bike," Wolverine offered.
The bar hushed except for the groan from Kitku and her head hitting the table. Carol brought her another soda and some pretzels. She patted Kit's shoulder in sympathy.
"Thanks. Spare change for an orphan?" she asked, raising her eyes to the woman.
"You ain't an orphan."
"If he looses all our money and the bike I will be. Cause I'll kill him."
The waitress smiled and sat down next to her. "You're a sweet kid. Too bad we can't pick our parents."
"That's the sad part, miss, I did."
"A bike? What kind?"
"Oh, it's nuthin' special. Just a rice burner," Wolverine replied a bit sheepishly or at least he hoped it was.
The bar broke into laughter and rude comments about riding anything but a Harley.
Kitku wanted to die. Hi Sir, I know we haven't talked in awhile and I haven't asked You for anything lately and I'm sorry I was mean to You when my Mom and Dad died, but if You could find it in Your heart to just drop a meteor on this bar, please?
"But it's practically brand new," he added looking around the room.
Anytime now, Sir, I'm waiting.
"Okay, okay." Frank wiped the tears from his eyes. "What the hell, it'll make a good shooting target, right guys? Your bike Vs my bike and, what the hell, all the money I've got."
He laid down a wad of cash and a set of keys. Wolverine laid down his keys and his last twenty. Whoops and cheers answered him.
"I'm feelin' generous, guy, I'm gonna let you break."
"You sure, I mean, my luck could change?"
Frank laughed and smacked Wolverine on the back. "That's a good one."
The bar was still. Kitku held her breath. Wolverine smiled back and leaned over the table, lining up his shot. The break sank three solids. "Well, would 'cha look at that?"
The game was over in less than a minute. Wolverine called the eight ball and put it to bed. He set down his cue, reached for the money and the keys. Frank was not a good looser.
"You got lucky."
"Luck ain't got nuthin' to do with it."
"Then you conned me." His face was inches from Wolverine's.
"Yeah, junior, life's full o' surprises," he growled back, narrowing his eyes.
"Uh, oh," Kit slid under the table, reaching up with one hand, she grabbed her coke and with her other hand, she pulled Carol down next to her. "It's safer down here."
"Why? What's...oh," she understood as a body hit a near by table. She and Kit stayed down, only peeking up now and then to see who was winning.
Wolverine was holding his own against, well, pretty much the whole bar. Kit tried a couple of times to go to his rescue but Carol held her down.
"Just sit tight, sweetie." She patted Kit's shoulder. "Your Daddy seems to be doin' just fine."
They cringed at the breaking glass, wood and bones and ducked flying objects when necessary. Finally, it was quiet, except for the groaning and moaning of the wounded. They slowly came out from their hiding spot. Wolverine was at the bar helping himself to a beer. His face was cut and bruised, his shirt and jeans torn, but none the worse for wear.
Kitku ran over to him, leaping over bodies as she went and hugged him, then punched him in the thigh.
"What the hell..."
"Don't even start, buddy. You had me worried. You coulda let me in on this," she snapped indignantly. "I'm mad at you."
"Come on, Kit," he called after her as she flounced away from him.
She tried to find a chair that wasn't broken, without success. She finally settled on a barstool, away from him.
The waitress made her way around the bar and gave Wolverine a small smile. "Well, ace, you certainly did a job on the bar."
"Yep, one o' my better days." He winked and went over to Kitku, seating himself on the stool next to her. "How long ya gonna stay mad at me, darlin'?"
"I haven't decided," she sniffed at him.
"Oh." He finished his beer and waved the waitress over for another.
She stepped over the bartender and a couple of other unconscious patrons, giving him a fresh beer and a coke for Kit.
"I should・ve told ya."
"I could've help, you know." Her feelings were hurt and in a ten year old, that was not good because no one ever knew how long it was going to last or what exactly they were mad at or how to fix it.
"You guys had better split before these guys wake up," Carol warned.
"Yep." Wolverine stood and handed her a fifty.
"Jeez, thanks." She slid it in her shirtfront.
"You're welcome. Thanks for keepin' an eye on the kid."
"No trouble at all."
"You...You..." Kit stammered, jumped off the barstool and ran out the door.
"Hey, ace, Frank's bike. It's the third one from the door to your right. Good luck with your kid."
Wolverine nodded to the waitress and ran after Kitku. He caught up with her, grabbing her by the arm. "Hey."
She jerked her arm free. "Now, you got strangers baby-sitting me? Am I that much of a pain in your ass, Wolvie, that you got waitresses watchin' me?"
He just stared at her. "No, I..."
"I thought we were friends! Partners! I thought we were in this together! I watch your back and you watch mine!" She screamed at him, tears running down her face out of frustration and hurt.
Wolverine knelt down on one knee in front of her. "We are, kiddo. I thought I was watchin' out for ya. I asked the lady to keep an eye on ya with me. I knew where you were at all times, Kit. You were never outa my sight."
She folded her arms over her chest and glared at him. She looked away and kicked at the dirt. There was a long silence. Wolverine caught the sounds of sirens on the edge of his keen hearing, but it didn't seem as important as this was. "Kit, I made a mistake by not tellin' ya what I was doin' and I'm sorry. I can't make it up to ya, but I promise from now on, I'll let ya in on all the plans. Deal?"
She looked back at him, his hand was extended. "Promise."
"Double promise?" He looked at her, confused.
"Yeah, it's the bestest promise anyone can make and if you break it, you go back on your word and if you do that a cat'll take your tongue and you'll never be able to make another promise again," she warned him in a very serious child fashion.
Wolverine smiled, "Okay, kid, I double promise."
"Hey, kid, I just double promised, if ya can't trust that, what else is there?" He gave her a wolfish grin.
Kit tried not to smile back, but failed. She took his hand and shook it. "Deal. Partners, right?"
"You got it, kid. Lets find that bike and get the hell out've here."
They found Frank's bike right where the waitress told them it would be and it was a beauty. Wolverine let out a small whistle. Prime condition Chopper. He put the duffel bag on and lifted Kit onto the back.
"How'd you know to pick that guy?"
"Well, Kit, guys like that think that their the best at what they do and never expect anyone to be better. Frank had conned so many people for so long, he figured he was the best and never saw it any different." He handed her the helmet.
"What're you the best at?"
His eyes were suddenly cold and hard. Kitku knew that look. Viper had that look. Viper was that look. The difference was, there was remorse in Wolverine's eyes. Viper had no remorse. He had no feelings.
"Oh." She put on her helmet as he climbed on the bike and started the engine. She wondered quietly, which of the two was the worst? The one who regretted or the one who didn't care?
Kitku picked at her dinner with her fork. She pushed the mashed potatoes around and ate one kernel of corn at a time, scrapped the gravy on and off her chicken fried steak and made rings on the table with her glass. She leaned her elbow on the table, putting her head on her hand, followed by a heavy sigh. Her face was a mixture of a sadness and depression. She glanced up at the man across the table from her. He was not a tall man, but very muscular, and he carried himself with an air of self-assurance. He had black hair and piercing brown eyes. Lately he had let his hair grow long and was sporting a mustache. He had a roughness about him, but he had shown her gentleness when he comforted her with her nightmares. He was the first real influence in her life since she was five. Funny, just days ago, she was the one who took care of him and nursed him back to health.
He had finished his meal and lit a cigarette. "Not hungry?"
She shook her head. She felt guilty for wasting the food. On the streets you prayed for a meal like this and would do anything for food.
She nodded, "Not here."
Wolverine stood, left a tip, and held out his hand to her. She stood, grabbed her jacket and took his hand, looking back once more at the food she had wasted. She waited while he paid for the check and followed him out to the bike. He started the engine and pulled out onto the main road. He drove slowly, letting cars pass them until he came up on a pull out with an overlook. He parked the bike and Kitku slid off, walking over to the railing, looking over the side. It was a beautiful view of the valley below, the sun was setting on the hills. The shadows played on the ground while the sun's beams intricately weaving the in the tops of the trees.
She wanted to talk, but she couldn't find her voice.
Wolverine leaned against the bike, staring at Kit's back as she leaned over the railing. He lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply and ran a hand through his hair. She had not been hungry for awhile. She picked at her breakfast and her lunch. Unsure what to do, he just waited for her to speak. He thought back on the other girl, Kitty and tried to remember if there was a time that she had needed him and what he had done.
As he thought about it, a memory slowly surfaced.
She had been picking at her food, too. Wolverine remembered that the day before she had run into the mansion and up to her room, refusing to talk to anyone.
After dinner, he took Kitty by the arm, handed her a jacket and took her for a walk. They stopped and stood at the edge of a cliff overlooking the lake for a long time in silence. Then Kitty began to pace, kick at the dirt, and finally spoke, "Remember I told you I met a guy at Harry's and I wanted to get to know him?"
He nodded and waited for her to continue.
"Well, I went there yesterday and he was there. He's sooo cute and smart. Anyway, I finally got his attention and he waved me over to his table as I was walking by." She stopped and hugged herself, tears filled her eyes. "I guess I wasn't watching where I was going. Oh, Wolvie, I smacked right into the waitress, malts and fries went everywhere. I fell and was covered in ice cream and everyone was laughing. I wanted to die. I made a fool of myself. Now he'll never talk to me."
She buried her face in her hands. "I'm a laughing stock! I can't ever go back there again!"
"I told you!" She spun on him, "Wolvie, they'll make fun of me! I made a fool of myself! I'm never going outside of this house again!"
Wolverine cleared his throat and lit a cigar. Teenagers. This kind of stuff was like the end of the world to them. He glanced at Kitty, shaking his head. The girl was an XMan. Fought some of the most powerful villains in the world and was devastated by being covered in ice cream in front of some pimple faced boy.
Tipping his hat back, he finally looked at her, "Well, pum'kin, the real question is, who's the greater fool? The one who plays it safe, hiding from the world, so they won't be made the fool or the one who faces the world and takes the chance of being made a fool of? One o've them is just alive and the other is living. Your choice, darlin'."
Kitty nodded, "So, what you're saying is that I should just face it?"
Wolverine shrugged. "Like I said, your choice."
The next day, Wolverine drove Kitty to Harry's and dropped her off. He was about to offer to go with her, but the determined look on her face changed his mind. She was growing up and facing the world on her own. She would still need him in the future, but certain things were hers and hers alone to face. When she made the decision to stay on Muir Island and study under Moria McTaggart, she had asked his advice, but he just listened to her pros and cons. In the end, the decision was hers. As much as it hurt the two of them, they both knew it was the right choice.
He took a deep breath and brought himself back to reality. Kitku was still standing by the railing, looking forlorn. He walked over and leaned on the railing next to her and waited.
Kitku took a shaky breath and released it. "I'm sorry I wasted the food."
"Don't sweat it."
They stood in silence watching the sunset.
"My Mom and Dad died five years ago," she started, her voice catching. "Five years and I still see her. She was just staring at me. I can't get that out of my head, Wolves. She had no neck left. My Daddy was...he had no face and they just...just stood and laughed. It was... was...a joke...a damn joke to them!"
She pounded her fist on the railing, her body transformed to the aluminum coating. "The bastards just stood there and laughed!"
Her body was shaking, her lower lip trembled as she fought back the anger and tears. "When you... After we...I just want someone...I want to make them pay!"
She looked up at him, her eyes blazing with anger, "I want them to die, slowly and painfully, like dogs in the street!"
Wolverine nodded and listened. He felt his own anger starting to surface and tried to keep it in check. He could feel the beast trying to gain control, the burning to let loose and go after those bastards. But, he held it back.
"Why? Why did they....they killed my Mommy and Daddy? Why, Wolvie? Why did He let this happen to them?" She materialized her bat and pounded on the railing, "Why did He do this to me?"
He stepped back from her wild swinging and let her vent, realizing that this was the first time that she had ever been able to talk to anyone about this. More likely than not, she didn't trust anyone well enough to open up to and tell until now.
After a few minutes she stopped, breathing heavily and starting to sob. "I... I just...There was blood everywhere! She was just staring! And they laughed! I can't get it outa my head! It won't stop!"
She transformed back into the scared little girl. With her armor down, she had nothing to hide behind. She dropped to her knees, covering her ears with her hands, turning her elbows in and covering her eyes. Wolverine scooped her up in his arms. She balled up her hands and hit his shoulders with her fists.
"Why? Why? Why?" she screamed, glaring at him with hurt filled eyes.
He pulled her close to him, stroking her hair, "I don't know, sweetpea, I don't know."
The anger was red hot in his mind. He fought the beast back down. In his mind he allowed his animal side to rip and tear at their imaginary bodies. He tore their hearts out of their chests and crushed them in his hand. He envisioned their deaths in a variety of ways. On the inside his rage was free to run. On the outside, he whispered to Kit, holding her in his arms, her legs wrapped around his waist, he walked back and forth in front of the railing.
"Wolverine. Oh, dear..." Jean stood in his mind, viewing the carnage around her. "Bad time?"
"Yep," his mental voice snarled. Slowly the bodies began to fade and Wolverine's own self image returned from the bestial form to normal. "I ain't exactly in the mood to chat. What'd ya want, Red?"
"Well, at the risk of sounding cliché, there's good news and bad news, Logan. The good news is that your face won't be plastered all over the news much longer. We're still trying to convince the Avengers to let out the word that you've been found and are in their custody. However, convincing Captain America to lie...Let me put it this way, we'd have an easier time getting Juggernaut to change sides."
Wolverine nodded, "The bad news?"
"I've lost all trace of Viper."
"Indeed. I'm sorry, Logan."
"Not your fault, Red, it happens. 'Ppreciate what ya've done so far. Watchin' out for us and all." He paced a bit, his mental image reflecting what his physical body was doing. He was well aware that she was reading his surface thoughts and they were all about the little girl. "Bit private, Red."
"Sorry, sometimes when a person has such heavy worries, they can't hide them from a telepath. Especially when the telepath that is currently connected with the individual. Is there anything...?"
"Nope," abruptly cutting her off. The momentary hurt look on her face didn't go unnoticed. "Actually there is, Red. Look somethin' up for me. A murder, five years ago, in Chinatown."
"I'll get someone on it right away." She stepped forward and gave him a small hug. "Take care, Logan. Please be careful."
"Don't worry 'bout me, darlin'. It's those bastards when I catch up with them that are gonna have a mess full o' worries."
"That's what I'm worried about." She started to leave but added, "One more thing, we have reason to believe that there maybe others coming after you."
"Seems like I'm a popular guy."
"Lets just say, you make an impression on people that they find hard to forget." She waved and faded out.
Kitku laid her head on his shoulder while he carried her. She felt like an idiot for all this crying she had been going on with. She wiped her eyes and sniffled. She hadn't had these nightmares for awhile but since seeing those men, her greatest fears had resurfaced. Would they do to Wolvie what they had done to her Mom and Dad? She didn't think she could survive that, not a second time. Even though she hadn't known him long, she felt very close to him. Maybe because they had seen each other at their worst. He had unable to talk or think clearly and she had her nightmares. They had nothing left to hide from each other.
She felt better now that she had told him, but now she had another concern. Wolverine would go after Viper. She could sense it, she felt the tension in his shoulders and saw the murderous rage in his eyes. And she couldn't risk loosing him, not now, not ever.
"Promise me something?" she asked quietly.
"Depends on what it is, Kit."
She lifted her head and looked him in the eyes, "Promise you'll stay away from Viper."
He stopped at a bench and sat down with her on his lap.
"Please, promise?" she pleaded.
"No can do, darlin'. If he comes after us, I'm gonna take him down, hard."
She looked into Wolverine's eyes. There was a rage burning. He would face Viper and it would be to the death. She thought for a moment. "Then promise me that you won't go looking for him."
He shook his head, letting out a deep sigh. "I can't."
"You've gotta! If you go after him, he'll...He'll kill you just like he's did before when he...." She grabbed him by his jacket collar, and attempted to shake him. "Promise you won't go looking for him."
Her eyes were filled with fear and determination. She wasn't going to let this drop. She swore to herself that she would badger him at every waking moment until he promised not to go and get himself killed. If it took the rest of their lives, she was going to keep him alive and away from Viper. "You gotta promise. You might be the best at what you do, but he's the best at what he does and that's killing. He is worse that the red jammie guy."
Wolverine looked away from her. She knew he wanted to promise. But he wasn't about to lie to her and he knew he was unable to make that promise to her.
"If you don't promise, Wolverine, you will never have another peaceful moment in your life."
"As if I do now?"
"Those are just bad guys. You should be used to that. I will make your life miserable." She set her little jaw in the most determined fashion she could and gave him her best glare.
Wolverine raised an eyebrow, slowly his shoulders sank and he just nodded. "I imagine you'd be a pretty good pain in the ass."
"You don't got that good of an imagination, Wolvie." She tightened her grip on his collar. "Now promise! Or me and my Loui'ville are gonna have a talk with ya!"
"Whoa! Easy, kiddo," Wolverine chuckled. "All right, I promise I won't go outa my way to look for him."
"For Viper." She tried to shake him again. "Say it."
"Double promise? Ain't one good enough?"
"No. Double promise."
"Say it, damn it."
"Watch yer mouth."
"Look who's talkin'."
"You're changing the subject. Say it."
"You've gotta be one o' the most stubborn..."
"Say. It." she interjected, enunciating each word.
Wolverine threw his hands up in the air signaling his defeat. "Fine, I double promise."
"Not to go looking for Viper."
"Jesus H., kid."
"Wolverine," her voice had a warning edge, a bat materializing in her hand.
"Not to go outa my way to look for Viper. Happy?" he asked starting to loose his patience.
"Well," she paused for a moment.
A low growl emitted from his chest.
"Okay, I guess it'll have to do." She hugged him around the neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, Wolvie."
Frank was at the pool table, glaring at his buddies.
"Hey, Frank, wanna make a bet?" one of the guys asked. "I'll bet you don't make the next shot."
"How much?" Frank asked.
"How's about your bike?" The three men laughed.
"Hey, come on, don't get pissed. The guy won fair."
"I know," Frank conceded. "But it don't hurt any less."
He paused on his shot as four Chinese men entered the bar. They split up and began inspecting the area. The bar was silent watching the suits invade their territory.
Kim, the leader, went to the bartender.
"Excuse me, I am looking for this man and this girl, perhaps you have seen them?" He laid down a picture of Wolverine and Kitku.
The bartender glanced at the photos and back at Chinese man. He was slender, but muscular, with long black hair tied back in a braid, and a long, thin scar from his left eye to his jaw. The bartender shook his head.
"Nope, can't say that I have."
Kim narrowed his eyes, the bartender was lying. "You are sure?"
"Look," the bartender leaned on the bar, his biceps were twice the size of Kim's, he was a tall, heavy built man with a tattoo of a naked woman on Harley on his forearm. "I ain't seem them. Even if I had, suit boy, what makes ya think that I would tell you?"
Kim was about to answer when he felt a presence over his shoulder. He looked up. He was a huge man, taller than the bartender and twice as built. He was clean- and holding a pool cue.
"What's up?" he asked.
"These suits wanna know if we've seen these two," the bartender nodded towards the pictures.
Frank looked at them, picking one up and then the other. "Oh, yeah, I'm sure I've seen him."
The other three men stopped and turned their attention to Frank. Kim smiled, "Finally, someone with common sense. And when, pray tell, did you see him."
"Well," Frank grinned, "last night, snugglin' with you in the corner. Ain't he your boyfriend?"
The bar broke into laughter. Frank tossed the pictures down at Kim's feet. "Get lost, asshole."
Kim looked down at the photos and then back at Frank as he took one step forward until they were almost nose to nose. "You are a very funny man."
His hand moved so quickly, no one saw the blow coming. The patrons saw Kim move forward, speak and then Frank was flying across the room landing on the pool table, his chest caved in. "And very dead."
Guns, knives and chains came out from every place imaginable. The four men were as good as dead. Even if the patrons would have given up the information, they sure weren't going to cooperate now.
Kim sighed, unimpressed by the firepower. With a flick of his hand, darts flew across the room, several of the patrons fall to the floor in convolutions from the toxins on the darts. He looked around the bar. His eyes speaking volumes to the bikers who slowly lowered their weapons. Two of Kim's people began gathering the weapons and tossing them off into a corner.
After he straightened his tie, Kim clasped his hands behind his back and walked amongst the patrons. "Does anyone else wish to oppose me? Any more funny people? No? Good. I wish to know if any of you have seen this man and this girl. Please, take your time. I am in no hurry. At the moment."
Kim stopped walking, one of the men, the largest of the three, grabbed a chair and set it behind him. Kim sat, removing his gloves. He handed the gloves to the man behind him, who put them in his jacket. "Nang, hand out the photos to these good people so that they may help us with our endeavors."
Nang bowed and reached into his jacket for a small stack of photos and began handing them out. The other two men followed his example. The patrons looked at the photos but said nothing.
"Come, come, people. Someone must wish to aid us in our quest." Kim stood, straightened his silk suit coat and once again started walking about the room. "I must admit that I believed myself to be a patient man, but I feel that I am reaching my limit."
He stopped behind one of the patrons. An older man with salt and pepper hair and beard. Again Kim's movements were so quick, no one saw the attack coming just the end result. The older man's throat was cut, ear to ear. The old man tried to grasp his throat in a desperate attempt to keep himself alive. The blood sputtered and flowed quickly. It was over in a matter of moments. Kim released the man and let him fall face down onto the table. He wiped the blade on the dead man's jacket. "Pity you should have allowed his death. If only you would have cooperated, he would still be alive."
Nang was showing the photos to the waitress, Carol. She barely glanced at it and shook her head. Kim caught the exchange. The woman didn't look long enough at the photos to get a proper look. She knew them and they had been here. With barely a movement of his head, Kim ordered Nang to bring her to him.
Nang grabbed her by the arm and brought her before Kim.
"So, you know these two, yes?" Kim asked in a sickeningly sweet voice.
"No," Carol replied. She jerked her arm from Nang, faked him with a right jab and planted her stiletto heel in the top of Nang's foot. Nang retaliated with a quick jab to her chin, knocking her back from him. Carol fell into a table, a biker caught her.
"You are a full of fire, aren't you?" Kim was amused. He held his hand up to Nang, stopping him from continuing his assault. "Your actions speak loudly, my dear, you are trying to protect them and your friends. Come, sit down, and speak with me."
"Bite me," Carol spat her blood at him. It splattered Kim in the face and on his immaculate shirt. Kim chuckled as he wiped the blood from his face with a handkerchief. He pulled out his butterfly knife with his other hand and expertly opened it. His attack was swift, but an audible 'BAMF', a puff of smoke and Carol was gone. The patrons and Kim's people looked around in shock. Everyone started asking each other what they had just seen or rather didn't see. Kim held up his hand to silence them without success.
"Quiet!" he finally yelled. The patrons quieted down, but a few were now standing and moving towards the exits. Without looking in their direction, he ordered his men, "Anyone leaves, kill them."
"Now why would you want to do that?" A voice spoke from the front entrance.
Kim turned slowly and faced Cyclops of the XMen.
"Ahhh," Kim nodded slowly, "Now it all makes sense. The XMen to the rescue, eh?"
Cyclops did not reply. Jean had covered their entrance with a telepathic illusion and the XMen had the advantage of surprise. Cyc's main objective now was to get these people out of here with no more bloodshed. He silently regretted the fact that they had not arrived sooner to save the those that had perished.
"Why waste your efforts, Cyclops? You can not possibly..." Kim never finished his sentence. The back wall of the bar was torn open. Cyclops blasted the sidewall with his ruby blast making another opening. With his second shot, he knocked Nang back into another of Kim's people. Nightcrawler teleported in and in three swift ports, punched the last of Kim's people, knocking the man out cold. Jean telekinetically bolted Kim, slamming him into the bar.
While Kim and his people recovered from the assault it gave the patrons a chance to escape. They quickly left the bar with not so much as a glance back. Nightcrawler teleported on top of the bareback, Jean stepped through the hole she had made and Cyclops turned and faced Kim.
Kim stood, tugging at his silk suit trying to straighten it, smiling. "Bravo. I am impressed."
"We're not here to impress you, scum. We're here to stop you from causing anymore harm!" Cyclops snapped, his face twisting with anger.
Kim laughed, clapping his hands together. "Oh, you are truly the epitome of a hero, right down to the cliché comments. I suppose next you will be telling me that you're going to take us to the nearest authorities and turn us in for murder?"
"Bet on it, mister." Cyc touched his visor increasing his power and fired at Kim.
Kim leapt into the air, twisting and tumbling keeping ahead of the blasts. Nightcrawler took his cue, leapt in a double kick move and teleported in front of Kim, slamming his feet into Kim's chest. Kim fell back and was blasted by Cyc.
Nang and the other two henchmen regained their sense and drew their weapons only to have them telekinetically ripped from their hands.
"I don't think so, boys." Jean smiled sweetly at them.
"Get her!" Nang ordered.
The two men jumped, somersaulting through the air and completed their movements with spin kicks as they landed. Jean threw up a TK shield, protecting herself and then grabbed them in a TK hold.
"Boys, this just isn't your day."
A sharp blade touched her neck, through her shield. Jean stiffened at the touch of the cold steel.
"Perhaps, young woman, it is not your day," a raspy voice whispered from behind her. "Call off your friends."
Jean reached out with her rapport to Cyclops. "Scott, we have a small situation here."
Cyclops quickly assessed the situation. "Understood, Jean. See if you can get the one behind you. Nightcrawler and I will take down the others as quickly as possible."
"Nightcrawler," Cyclops spoke verbally.
Nightcrawler paused from teleporting Kim around the room, noted the situation and released Kim from his hold. He teleported once more to the rafters and dropped next to Cyclops' left side. "So, ve seem to be at an interlude in our discussion, ja?"
A tall man with long, flowing black hair, a lithe muscular build, sharp, angular Chinese features, stepped from the shadows. He was dressed in a long, black Chinese collar jacket and black pants. He looked directly at Cyclops.
Cyc returned the man's unwavering stare. The man's eyes were an endless sea of black. Over the years, the XMan leader had learned to read people to gauges their actions and reactions to all situations. He knew immediately that this man was going to kill Jean, no matter what he said or did.
The man stared at his opponent. He disliked this XMan. He could not read the man's features, that accursed visor covered his eyes. He could not know what actions the XMan would take so that they could be countered easily.
"We have not been introduced," the man stated as a small smile played across his lips.
Cyclops tilted his head, his eyes shifting beneath the visor. "I was not aware that this was a social gathering."
"Ja, I would've worn my nametag," Nightcrawler added taking a silent cue from Cyclops and preparing for a renewed attack.
"Then I shall introduce myself, I am Viper," he said inclining his head to Cyclops, ignoring Nightcrawler's banter. His blade did not move from Jean's throat. Kim and the other three men had gathered their wits and were now in attack positions, waiting for their leader's command.
"We seem to be at an impasse, Cyclops," Viper noted. "But that is all about to change."
Before Nightcrawler had the chance to teleport and grab Jean, Viper reached through Jean's TK shield and grabbed her hair, pulling her against him. "Cyclops, tell me how much do you value your teammate's life?"
The two leaders stared at each other. No one moved. "Remove your visor and throw it to the side or your...lover may have unexpected surgery."
Cyclops did not move. Nightcrawler shifted.
"Don't." Viper glanced at the teleporter. "Do it, XMan, or do you wish to see how she looks in red?"
"No, Cyclops," Jean pleaded.
Cyc reached up, closing his eyes tightly, and slowly removed the visor, tossing it to the side. He listened to the movements. One of Viper's men walked over and picked up the visor. Nightcrawler stepped forward and placed a hand on Cyc's shoulder. There was another noise. In the distance. He tilted his head, it sounded like distant thunder.
"Now, you, Nightcrawler, on the ground."
"Very well, but I must varn you zat I'm not that kind of fuzzy elf," he joked as he laid face down on the barroom floor and Viper's men moved in and handcuffed Nightcrawler's hands and feet.
The sound of the distant thunder grew louder, the ground vibrated. Light poured into the bar from the doorway, windows and busted walls. The bikers had returned in force.
"Ah, ze Calvary haz arrived." Nightcrawler teleported leaving behind the shackles. He reappeared in front of Nang, who had Cyclops visor. In one swift move, he punched Nang twice, grabbed the visor and teleported to Cyclops, shoving the visor into his leader's hands.
"So it seems that our impasse has ended." Viper cut into Jean's neck leaving a small wound, lowering her into a chair. "Now, you have the choice, XMen, let the poison from my blade take its toll on the woman or fight us."
"Jean!" Cyclops yelled, his visor back in place just in time to see his lover slump in the chair.
"Bastard!" Nightcrawler snarled as he disappeared in a puff of brimstone, appearing fraction of a second later at Jean's side.
Kim made a guesture, smoke filled the room.
"Nightcrawler?" Scott called unable to see through the smoke.
"I've got her, mien friend," he replied from the other side of the room.
Cyclops heard the sounds of footsteps entering the bar. Slowly figures appeared as the smoke cleared. A large number of bikers stood in the bar. Cyclops made his way over to Jean and Nightcrawler, who was administering first aid.
"Nightie?" Scott's jaw was set firm, but his voice betrayed him.
"I...I don't know. Ve got to get her back to ze medical facility."
Cyclops nodded, then noticed the group of people. They were a vicious looking lot, big men and women with a varying degrees of weapons, from bike chains to ouzis. He stood, drawing himself up to his full height and faced them, unsure of how these people were going to react. This was one of the rare times that he was never sure of people. The time when humans were face to face with mutants.
An older man stepped forward, his eyes burning with rage. He looked from Cyclops to Nightcrawler to Jean. When his eyes rested on Jean, his facial features softened. "She gonna be okay?"
"We don't know," Cyclops replied, his shoulder relaxed a bit.
"Sorry we didn't get here in time to..." he gestured at Jean's limp body.
"I'm afraid our timing was off as vell." Nightcrawler nodded to his left.
The older man followed Nightcrawler's eyes to Frank's body. He walked up to Cyclops. "You get those bastards."
Cyc nodded. "We'll do our best."
"See that you do." He turned and then added, "If you need help, you know where to find us."
"Hope your lady's gonna be okay."
Cyclops nodded again and picked Jean up. Her breathing was shallow and her complexion was pale. The people cleared a path as the XMen left the bar then turned to take care of their own wounded.
Viper sat in an over stuffed chair of the hotel suite, watching Kim casually opening and closing his butterfly knife. Viper was not pleased. The situation should have been simple and should have rectified by this time. They had the girl in Chinatown, but they had not planned on that person interfering.
"Kim," he broke the silence.
"My lord?" Kim stopped his knife play, turning his unswollen eye towards Viper. His face was bruised from the beating at the hands of the one called Nightcrawler. His ribs and back ached from Cyclops' optic blasts. The pain shot through his body as he forced himself to sit up straight to show that Viper had his full attention.
"Find out who travels with the girl. He must be associated with the XMen." He paused, his cold black eyes meeting Kim's. "And call the Doctor. I want one of the Dogz sent out immediately."
"As it pleases, my lord." Kim bowed and turned for the phone. A sweat broke out on his forehead at the mention of the Dogz.
"A small one shall do the job," Viper said. "It shall be less conspicuous than an adult."
"As it please you, my lord." Kim bowed again and reached for the phone, placing a one sided call to the Doctor. "This is Kim. One small Dogz is to be sent to us, immediately."
He set the phone back in its cradle and turned to Viper.
"You wish to say something, Kim?" Viper regarded his aid.
"My lord, we are very close to retrieving the girl, why call the Dogz in now?"
"Because, Kim, in case you have not noticed, the XMen have a telepath." Viper paused and then added, "Excuse me, had a telepath. That has been taken care of and now all we have to do is hunt these animals down, kill the male, and get the girl. Our task will be complete and the XMen will not be able to interfere."
Kim nodded, the Dogz were unreadable by telepaths. They obeyed orders without question and died without reason. They placed themselves in the hands of their Master and lived only for their Master. Much as Kim did for Viper. Perhaps that is why Kim hated the Dogz, they were beneath him but they were kindred. There were other reasons he despised these Dogz, which he voiced for the hundredth time to Viper, "But, my lord, with all due respect, they killed without finesse and have a tendency of eating their prey. It is not a pleasant experience."
"Agreed, Kim, but that is the nature of this beast, would you not agree?" Viper stood, clasping his hands behind his back, pacing as he spoke, "After all, we are not much different from these Dogz. We view those who oppose us as prey and we, Kim, you and I, we enjoy the hunt. But above all else, we enjoy the kill."
Kim smiled in a vile way as if recalling the pleasure he gained from another's death. "Quite so, my lord, quite so."
"The only difference betwixt you and I, Kim, is that you enjoy trying a variety of ways to kill." Viper stopped at the large double doors opening to the balcony. "While I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy testing my prey and matching my skills against their skills.・
"Alas," he sighed turning from the view of the city lights, "I have yet to meet anyone who can match the level of skill that I have obtained. I have surpassed all. Perhaps, there is still someone who can match blades with me, but I doubt that possibility."
Kim watched his master and felt a pang of anguish for Viper. He felt sorry that there was no one left to present a challenge. The hunt and the kill were what his master desired and lived for and without it, Kim feared Viper would no longer have a desire to continue in this life.
"Perhaps, my lord, someone will show themselves worthy of you," he offered.
"Perhaps." Viper shrugged. "I once heard of a gaijin that would have been worthy of me, but he is surely dead by now."
Viper regarded Kim thoughtfully and allowed himself a small smile. Kim and he had gone from street urchins to the upper crest of the Tong. Throughout all their time together it was Kim who had always been loyal, and who pledged his life to Viper. It was Kim who never questioned Viper's orders but would offer suggestions. Kim took care of their underlings and disposed of any that he felt could be a threat to Viper. Kim, who on more than one occasion had stopped an assination on Viper by some young punk who wanted to move up in the ranks. And it was Kim who was Viper's only true friend. Viper trusted no one but Kim with his back.
He thought back to one of the times that he had been wounded and Kim kidnapped a doctor, stood over the doctor with a pistol while he operated and when Viper was out of danger, Kim disposed of the doctor and continued to keep watch at Viper's bedside.
Kim handed Viper a cup of tea, as was always Viper's routine to have a cup before retiring. It was Kim's way of saying it was late and they needed rest.
"Thank you, Kim," Viper said taking the tea. He never drank or ate anything unless Kim supervised the preparations or Kim tested it first.
"We shall remove this blemish from our slate, my lord," Kim stated. "You have my blood oath on this."
"Oh, yes, Kim," Viper whispered as he stared into the cup of tea, watching the leaves settle to the bottom, "and this little girl shall rue the day she was born."
Nightcrawler reset the autodoc and reread the readings. Jean had been poisoned and there was no known cure. He cursed softly in German. The tests did show something positive, she would not die but she was in a deep sleep, a coma. He sighed, checked her vitals, double checked the IV and fixed her covers.
He looked at Cyclops, who sat beside Jean, holding her hand. He had been here all night. "You need to get some sleep, mien friend."
Cyc glanced at Nightcrawler and then back to Jean. "I did sleep."
"Ja?" Kurt crossed his arms over his chest, leaning against a counter. He scrutinized his leader. "Vhen?"
"Off and on last night."
"You need to sleep."
"I will, Kurt."
"You are not helping eitzer of zhem, Scott." Kurt stood, took Cyclops by the arm and ushered him to the door. "At least get zomething to eat and I vill set up a bed down here for you, 'kay?"
Scott nodded and touched Kurt's shoulder, "Thanks."
"Och! Not a problem. Now go on." Kurt watched him leave and then returned to his patient.
Cyclops stood in the kitchen, staring into the refrigerator. There were a variety of sandwich meats, cheeses, and leftovers, but it was a blur to him. He couldn't seem to distinguish one item from the next. He finally grabbed some type of leftover, removed the plastic wrap, tossed it on a plate and put in the microwave. He poured a glass of iced tea and leaned against the counter waiting for the food to heat. He sipped at the tea, not really tasting it. He stared at the floor, not really seeing the patterns of the tile.
He relived the battle over again for the hundredth time, and still found no way he could have prevented what Viper did to Jean or the other patrons. He knew he was not to blame, but it was his nature to take the world on his shoulders. He could be forgiving to others, but not himself. The ride back was the worst.
Jean's body was lifeless, pale, and barely breathing. He flew the Blackbird while Kurt struggled to keep her alive. He had to fight to keep the burning tears from blurring his vision. He pushed the jet to its maximum potential. He had broken at least five FAA rules trying to get his lover back to the infirmary.
When they returned to their headquarters, he half expected to see Professor Xavier waiting to take over and heal Jean, find a miracle cure. Instead, he and Kurt swiftly got Jean to medical and worked with their limited knowledge to save her.
The annoying beep of the microwave brought him out of his reprieve. He took the plate and sat at the table. He stared at the food, unsure what it was. He crinkled his nose and shoved the plate away, leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes against the tears.
The pain of possibly loosing Jean was unbearable. He had lost her in the past, not once or twice, but several times and each time she survived and was returned to him. Maybe this was the last time and he would have to face his life without her with no reprieve of her coming back to him.
He leaned his head on his hands, pressing his palms into his temples. Why did life have to be so cruel? Why was it always Jean and he who had to suffer at the hands of some mad man? Why now? Things were going well for them, they were finally going to get married. It was all planned, the rings, the invitations, her wedding dress and everything else they needed. But now, she laid in a coma.
Try as he willed, he could not stop the sob that escaped his lips, hot tears flooded his eyes. He dropped his head onto his arms, venting his sorrow and pain.
Wolverine and Kitku walked out of the Western Union office with the cash that had been wired to them. They had already picked up his ID and a couple of credit cards but Wolverine immediately dismissed the usage of the cards. It would leave paper trail.
The next stop they made was to a camping store where they purchased two sleeping bags, a flashlight, matches, and a few other incidentals. Wolverine had decided that they would be better off that they stay out of hotels and keep off road as much as possible.
Finally, Wolverine stopped so they could get a bite to eat. Kitku opened the package from Federal Express, going through the contents that Wolverine had left inside.
"What's this?" she handed him a piece of paper.
Wolverine took it and read it. "It's a note from Jean tellin' us that their workin' on keepin' our backs clear."
He shoved the paper into his pocket, his conscious began to nag at him. He had lied to the girl. The note actually contained information about Kitku's parents・ murder but he just couldn't tell her. Not here, not now. It would have to wait until all this was over. He caught Kitku thoughtfully staring at him. "What?"
"Nothing. Okay, actually, I don't think you're telling me the truth," she said bluntly. "I think you're using the fact that I can't read and telling me what that note really said."
Wolverine leaned back in the booth. It was his turn to regard her thoughtfully. "Kit, do ya trust me?"
"Do you have to ask?" she questioned followed by a snort. "Duh, Wolvie."
"Then don't ask me about the paper. I'll tell ya when I think ya oughta know."
They stared at each other. Kitku was torn between being angry and understanding. Wolverine showed no emotion, just cold hard fact that he felt he knew what was best.
"If you think that's best," she conceded.
"But I don't gotta like it," she added.
"No, ya don't," he agreed.
They finished their meal in silence and while they waited for the check, Wolverine lit a cigarette and Kitku asked to see his wallet.
"Just wanna." She scooted closer to him and waited expectantly for him to show her his wallet.
He smiled and supposed that all kids wanted to see what adults kept in their wallets or purses. Why? He had no idea. He just remembered see other kids do the samething to their parents. Kitty used to do the samething to him, Kurt, Jean and the others. Whoever they were. He supposed they were people that lived at the mansion. He handed her his wallet.
She sat up, tucking her legs under her backside and began going through the wallet. "What's this?"
"My driver's license."
"What's it say?"
Wolverine leaned over and looked at the id and read it to her.
"Your name's Logan?"
"I suppose." He shrugged. He signaled the waitress again for the check. She brought it to him, apologizing. "Not a problem. Thanks."
The weather was pleasant even as the clouds began to gather above them. Wolverine checked the sky, figured it would not rain and pulled off the road onto an overgrown road. He maneuvered the Harley carefully, avoided as many potholes as possible, receiving much thanks from his passenger. He found a small clearing and parked.
"We're staying here?" Kitku asked in an unsure voice, rubbing her sore bottom.
"Yep." He tossed the sleeping bags on the ground along with the duffel bag.
"Where's the bathroom?"
"Look around ya."
"Pick a tree, kiddo." Wolverine knelt down and began digging a small fire pit.
"And do what with it?"
"What'd ya think?" He turned his back to her hiding a grin.
"Are you high or what?" she snapped. "Or did that wonderful road jar your brains?"
"What's the problem?" He looked at her, his grin under control.
"The problem is you've chased too many parked cars. No bathroom, not staying." She picked up the duffel bag and took it back over to the bike and began strapping it back on. "Ain't no way I'm stayin' where the animals can get to me. Lets go."
He sat back on his heels, trying hard not to laugh. "What'd ya think the sleepin' bags were for, kid?"
"To sleep in the bathtub when you snore. I don't know! I thought we'd be sleeping in the park or something, not where Bambi could take a dump on me!" she snapped, her face flushed red with anger.
Wolverine tried to hold back the chuckle but failed miserably. The woods were suddenly filled with a deep laughter. He tried to explain his reasons, but was unable to get a breath.
"It's not funny, Wolvie!" She watched him laugh even harder. She reached down and picked up the rolled up sleeping bag. Calmly, methodically she walked over to him and slammed his head with it, knocking him over. He was laughing too hard to stop her. She glared down at his prone, hysterical figure and stomped back to the bike. "It's not funny!"
Wolverine sat up, wiping his eyes. "I'm sorry, kid, it was the Bambi comment. It did me in."
Kitku contemplated giving him the finger but thought better of it. Wolvie was cool as a general rule and put up with alot of her crap, but she figured he may take that guesture a bit poorly. She settled for sticking her tongue out.
He stood and walked over to her. "Come on, darlin', relax. Ain't nuthin' gonna happen to ya out here."
She looked up at him. "Promise?"
Wolverine rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I promise."
"If I wake up dead, I'm never talking to you again." She undid the duffel bag and tossed it near the semi-finished firepit. "And it'll be your fault."
The rest of the early evening went fairly smoothly, except for a few scraps and bruises acquired by Kitku as she attempted to gather wood for the night's fire. Other than her occasional loud swear and Wolverine's chuckle the night was fairly quiet.
The only other major event of the evening was when Kitku could no longer wait to relieve herself.
"Turn on the bike, Wolvie."
"Why?" he looked up from tending the fire.
"I gotta go." She stood with crossed legs and hopping in place.
"So, ya gotta the flashlight, use it."
She pursed her lips and gave her best-annoyed look. "Just do it. Or I'll go right here and now."
He sighed, stood and turned on the bike.
She followed the beam, checking the ground and the surrounding areas carefully. There could be anything waiting to jump out at an unsuspecting girl the minute she dropped her pants and she was taking no chances. She stepped behind a tree, took down her jeans and squatted. An audible sigh could be heard as she found blessed relief from the pressure on her bladder. Moments later she stepped back out from the tree and returned to camp.
Wolverine turned off the bike, hoping the darkness would hide his spreading grin.
"We'd better not be doing this tomorrow."
"Well..." he started.
"You're shitting me, Wolvie, come on!" she pleaded. "We got a wad of cash from your buddies and we're living out here!"
"Kit, we gotta stay outa sight. It's better this way." He sat down on the log beside her. "Here."
He handed her a somewhat squished bag of marshmallows.
Kitku stirred, a sharp pain dug deep into her side. She kicked in her sleep. Someone was trying to knife her and had obviously succeeded. She jerked awake, the dream gone, but the pain lingered. She sat up, the sleeping bag still wrapped around her. She looked down and found the offending 'knife'. A sharp rock. She sneered at it, picked it up and threw it into the woods.
"Jerk," she called after it. She looked around, there was a mist covering the forest. A stillness that she had never experienced before was all around her. She tilted her head and listened to the cries of the morning birds and the rustle of the small animals. It was peaceful and relaxing. She could see the dawn rays playing in and out of the tree limbs. It was a beautiful sight. She climbed out of her bag and searched for Wolverine who was not in camp. She shrugged and thought to herself, Probably out taking a leak.
She stretched and yawned and felt the call of nature herself. She quickly took care of business and went back to the campsite. Wolverine still was not back. She tossed a couple of small sticks on the embers, not really trying to start the fire, but just for something to do. She felt a chill from the morning air and grabbed her sleeping bag, opened it and wrapped it over her shoulders.
Suddenly there was a breakfast bar in her face. She fell backwards off the log and armored herself. "Damn it, Wolvie!"
"Sorry, Kit." He smiled.
She snatched the bar from his hand after he helped her up, and began eating.
"So, where were you?" she asked between mouthfuls.
"Just lookin' around. Soon as you're done, we're outa here." He began to gather their items up and load the bike. "We'll stop and get breakfast later."
"Wolvie?" she asked after a bit.
He had finished packing the bike and sat down beside her.
"Where are we going?" she asked in a small voice.
"Right now, darlin', I ain't exactly sure. We're just tryin' to stay ahead of Viper."
"Can't we go to your friends?"
"That'd mean backtrackin' right into Viper," he answered truthfully. He had decided not to pull punches with her anymore. Jean had not contacted him in two days. Something was terribly wrong. He could sense it and the kid deserved to know the whole situation because tomorrow might not come.
"Can't they come and get us?"
"Nope, they're coverin' our backs. If they come get us, we're all a target." He did not tell her that he thought they could not come and help them. If Jean had broke contact, then he had to expect the worst had happened to them.
"Don't you have other friends?" her voice quivered with fear.
"Yep, I think I've got one or two."
She smiled and hugged him.
Now, if he could only remember who they were.
Bozeman, Montana. Why the name stuck with Wolverine, he was not sure. He was positive he had been here before, but he did not know when or with whom. He parked the bike and suggested that he and Kitku stretch their legs and spend the night here.
"In a hotel, right?" Kitku looked at him with hopeful eyes. She did not mind camping out so much anymore, but would have preferred a tent or something.
"Yeah, we'll get a room." Wolverine ruffled her hair. "Lets have a look around."
She slid her hand into his as they walked, looking at the various tourist shops and antique stores. He bought her an ice cream cone and a soda as they made their way up one street and down another. They passed a tiny art gallery, Wolverine gave it a glance and then stopped. He let go of her hand and went back to the gallery.
"What's up, Wolvie?" Kitku asked crunching on the last bit of her cone.
Wolverine glanced down at her, handed her his handkerchief, and pointed at a statue in the window. "Not sure, kid, just seems familiar."
Kitku took the handkerchief and wiped her face. "Oh, yuck. Why didn't you tell me I was covered in chocolate?"
Not hearing her, Wolverine continued to stare at the statue.
She looked at the statue and then back at Wolverine. "Hey."
He stepped towards the window as if mesmerized by the artwork.
"Hey!" She tugged at his sleeve.
"Well, what do you think, gorgeous? You like?"
He looked up from his newspaper to the speaker. She was a petite woman of Greek-American origin with long black hair and an hourglass figure. She was holding a marble statue of a couple intertwined in lovemaking. The figures resemble her and he.
He smiled and nodded. "Not bad, Jas, one o' your better works."
She set the statue on the coffee table and stepped back from it. "Not bad. Marble is not as easy for me as metal, but hell it looks good."
"Ya gonna put it in your showing?" He put the paper aside and patted his lap.
"Maybe." She sat down on his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'm not so sure..."
"Come on, Jas, you're a hell've an artist."
"You're just saying that because you love me."
"Nope, I'm sayin' it 'cause your a hell've an artist."
She smiled at him, her eyes dancing mischievously. "And you, Logan, are an artist in your own right."
"Guess." She bent her head close to his and kissed him passionately.
He shook his head coming out of his reprieve. "Lets go in here."
She followed him into the gallery, shaking her head. "Men."
"Can I help you?" a thin, balding man asked as they entered the gallery. His eyes checking the two from head to toe, his nose wrinkling at their appearance.
"Yeah, that statue, in the window," Wolverine ignored the man's snide voice, "who's the artist?"
"That would be Jasmine Daniels," he said, rolling his eyes. Obviously these people were ignorant of the art world. "She is quite well known."
"How come I never heard of her?" Kitku asked, mimicking his snide tone. This guy needs more fiber in his diet.
He looked down his nose at her, "Well, little girl, perhaps if you were more inclined to arts, then you would know of whom I speak."
"Yeah, maybe..." Kitku took a step forward. She did not like this snotty guy.
"How much?" Wolverine cut her off, oblivious to the rude tone of the proprietor.
"Pardon?" His attention turned to Wolverine.
"Well, I'm sure that this is beyond your price range, however," he walked over to the window and read the tag. "The price is seventeen hundred."
"I'll take it."
The proprietor gave the scruffy, short man a tight smile, "We do not accept personal checks and only major credit cards."
"Ya take cash?" He took out his wallet and removed a wad of cash.
Kitku giggled at the balding man's face. He went from his constipated look to slacked jaw shock.
"But of course, sir," his voice taking on a sickly sweet tone. He picked the statue up and gestured Wolverine to follow him. He took them to the front of the gallery where his little desk was and pulled out his sales book. "Of course this is an original and you will have all..."
"This Daniels, does she live around here?" Wolverine interrupted.
"Oh, no actually, sir," he smiled, "she lives near Broadwater. Somewhere on Lake Winston."
His cold black eyes mirrored the animal's as they stared at each other. It looked away first. Viper smiled no man or animal could ever match his gaze for very long. He surmised that Cyclops had looked away, although he could not see the XMan's eyes.
"This one will do quite nicely." He stood and fixed his eyes on the one they called The Doctor.
The Doctor or Doctor Splice as he was sometimes referred to, was a small, frail individual with wispy graying hair. He tugged at his thin, long beard, pushed his wire rim glasses back up his hawk nose. "Of course, My Lord Viper, I created your Dogz and they would never be less than perfect."
Viper smiled coldly at The Doctor. "Be sure of it, Doctor. This prey that we hunt is very important to me and if failure were to incur, I will place all blame upon the Dogz and their creator, understood?"
"The Dogz will work as expect, My Lord," The Doctor slid his hands into his front lab coat pockets. "Now about that mutant genetic material...."
"I have not forgotten your payment, Doctor, it is being put into your lab as we speak." Viper turned from The Doctor in a dismissing fashion and focused his energies to the hunt.
Kim shook his head in distaste at the mutant joke before him. It resembled a canine, but was distorted in size and shape. "My Lord, while the trail is still fresh, might I suggest we..."
"Absolutely, Kim, unleash the hounds."
Kim nodded to Nang who immediately bowed and undid the Dogz' restraints. The Dogz sniffed around the hotel room, sticking its nose into the urinated sheets and following the scent to the bathroom. It whimpered and whined at the closed front door of the hotel room and then with a nod from Viper, it reached up with its front hands and opened the door, running into the darkness following the trail of the motorcycle.
Kim sighed and climbed into the front seat of the sedan. "This, My Lord, will be interesting to say the least."
"Yes, considering they have a two day head start on us." He climbed into the passenger side. "Remember, Kim, the Dogz do not rest and can cover much more ground at a greater speed. We will have them within twenty-four hours, give or take, but we will have them and their deaths will be... exceptional."
She stared at the painting in front of her. The canvas was not speaking to her and the paints were not flowing from her heart. She stepped back to get a better perspective. It was a pleasant enough picture, very bright and filled with colors. The sun was setting in the background over a valley filled with spring flowers.
"Ick," she said aloud. She wiped her hands on her shirt. It was a large man's shirt with sleeves rolled up. Because of her small stature, the shirt came down to the top of her knees. She wore sandals and no pants. She felt a warm nuzzle on her hand. She looked down to her German shepherd. "Not too imaginative, is it?"
The dog whimpered, flipped her hand with his head demanding attention. He sat down on his haunches and panted.
She returned the smile, he always smiled at her. Well, she liked to think that it was a smile. "Okay, Nugent, I'm done. For now."
She pulled a cover lightly over the canvas and cleaned her brushes. The room was a decent sized studio with large bay windows; letting in the sun's light from both the East and West. Cans of dirty water and turpentine cans cluttered the room. Dirty rags and old paper towers littered the floor. Four easels lined the back wall along with old and new canvases that leaned against the walls.
She pulled the tie out of her hair shaking her head, her long dark hair tumbling down just past her backside. She rubbed her eyes and stretched. "Come on, Nugent, lets eat."
Nugent followed her out of the studio and into the main living area of her log home. The living room was large; hand woven rugs complemented the wood floors. The furniture was rustic with over stuffed pillows with handmade afghans placed strategically with in arms reach of any chair or couch. Indian and Indonesian knickknacks from various parts of the country and her own metal erotic sculptures completed the ensemble.
On the walls, hung paintings of Jasmine's and other less known artists. She paused in front of her rock hearth fireplace and looked at the painting above it. It was one of her better pieces, the one that got her work noticed. One that she had been offered a substantial amount for but one she would never part with.
It was a picture of the dawn, giant trees lined one side of the painting, and a cliff over looked a waterfall, which fell into the early morning fog. It was a spectacular mix of colors, lights and darks, the composition was truly breathtaking, but it was the lone figure that stood upon the cliff that completed the painting. The wind whipping his long hair from his face, exposing his rugged features. A rugged face, a powerfully muscular build, but short in stature dressed in a simple loincloth. There was wildness about him. His dark eyes were focused on something unseen by the viewer. It was the eyes that attracted most people to the painting; the eyes held a danger to them, an animalistic danger.
She sighed, touched the frame with a loving hand. "Where are you now, gorgeous?"
In her kitchen, she made herself a sandwich and a cup of tea. The kitchen was decent sized, with a gas stove shaped like the old potbellied wood stoves. A butcher block served as an island in the middle with brass and bronze pots and pans hanging around the island. A breakfast nook was set off by a large bay window that overlooked the distant lake.
She got Nugent his food and set it on the floor for him. He sat down and waited until she was seated in her chair before eating his dinner. "Good boy."
She stared out the window at the lake and meadow as she ate. Her thoughts wandering about the man in the picture. She had met him several years ago on a cross-country drive. She had been selling her metal sculptures out of the back of her van to keep her in pocket change. When her van broke down in the middle of nowhere Canada, he stopped his Harley and helped repair her van. She made small talk but he was not much of a conversationalist. But his eyes spoke volumes. Those intense brown eyes. One thing led to another and they became lovers. He was
special to her and she was willing to do anything for him. She was sure he felt the same but he had a drive, a passion to release the beast within himself and the need to conquer it and soon, he left.
It was not until later that she realized that it was he who had been the wild man that she had seen as a child in the wilds of Canada. She had been on vacation with her parents and brother. The vacation that year was to hike as much of Canada as they could in three months time. She had wandered off from the campsite just at dawn, hoping to capture a deer drinking from the stream. Instead, she came face to face with human nature mixing with the animal of man.
She saw him twice more on that vacation and sketched him as much as possible from memory. Even then, she knew he was special. When she mentioned this to her family, her brother laughed and teased her, but her parents just nodded and smiled as if they believed her.
Darkness had fallen over the kitchen, she shook her head. "Good job, now you're loosing track of time."
She stood and set her plate and cup by the sink, went to the living room and started a fire in the fireplace, picked up her novel she was reading and curled up on her sofa.
Hours later, she was jarred awake by Nugent's insistent barking.
Nightcrawler sighed and reread the reports of Jean's condition. He was not at all pleased. He wished the Professor was here and then he could handle this problem. He looked over at Scott. The XMan leader was sitting in a chair, his head was resting on Jean's bed. He snored softly.
Nightcrawler shook his head and smiled slightly. It was a beautiful sight, save for the fact that Jean was hurt. But beautiful in the fact that they loved each other so deeply that when one was hurt, the other hurt too. He picked up a spare blanket, covered Scott's shoulders, and quietly left the medical facility.
He made his way to the kitchen and fixed himself a sandwich. As he ate, he found himself again wishing that the Professor were here. Although Cyclops was a great leader, he was not equipped to deal with Jean's condition. For that matter, neither was Nightcrawler. Sure, he had some medical training but not what was needed to save Jean's life.
He considered his options based off his newly found information. She was being slowly poisoned, but how was she being poisoned? He was sure he had gotten all the poison out of her system and now her vitals were down again.
Taking his dishes into the kitchen, he put them in the dishwasher.
"Ow!" he yelped, yanking back his hand. He had cut himself on a sharp knife. As he sucked on his finger, his attention was drawn to the blade. He stared at the knife. The knife that now had a touch of his blood on the blade. His pain forgotten he picked up the knife and brought it closer to his face. A smile slowly appeared on his lips.
"Zat is how she is being poisoned!" He tossed the knife back in the dishwasher and teleported back to the medical facility.
Wolverine stopped the bike outside the log home. It was a large home, two stories with a wrap around porch and two chimneys. The house seemed very familiar to him, like something from a dream.
Kitku yawned loudly and readjusted her grip on Wolverine's waist. She was exhausted and the trip had been long on her. They had circled the lake trying to find the house. There had been several homes and they checked every mailbox until they finally found the right one.
He slid off the bike and picked up Kitku, listening to the warnings of the dog. The dog was warning them not to come any closer or else. Wolverine chuckled, Makes sense. Dog's territory. We're just trespassin'.
The doors to the home opened and a large German shepherd ran out, ready to attack. Wolverine stood still and projected friendliness.
"Hey, buddy, don't mean no harm," Wolverine stated. The dog stayed on the porch, his haunches up, hair standing up on end, baring his teeth.
"Who's there?" a female voice called.
Wolverine paused, Now what? Oh, excuse me, but I think we maybe friends but my memory is a bit shot right now? Can ya help us out?
"Ah, excuse me, miss, we're lookin' for Jasmine Daniels."
"Do ya know where we can find her?"
"Depends on who is asking."
Wolverine smelled the gun oil and heard the cock of a double barrel shotgun. "Name's Wol...Logan."
"Logan? Is that you? Nugent, stand down." The dog sat at her command. She stepped off the porch and slowly approached with Nugent at her side. "Come closer."
He walked forward into the porch light. Kitku shifted in his arms and yawned again.
"We there yet?" she asked sleepily.
"Think so, darlin'."
The woman eyed him, a smile broke across her face as she walked over to him. "Well, well, gorgeous, you're looking mighty good."
She studied his face for a moment. "You got a big problem, don't you? I can see it in your eyes."
She looked at Kitku, who had lifted her head and stared at the new person with sleepy interest. "Hi there, sweetie. I'm Jas and you are?"
"Kitku," she said rubbing her eyes with a balled up fist. She laid her head back on Wolverine's shoulder, watching Jas.
"Come on in. Let's put her to bed." She turned on her heel and went inside expecting them to follow.
They took her upstairs to the loft overlooking the living room that served as Jasmine's bedroom. There was a huge four poster bed that required four small steps on either side to get onto the bed. Heavy Indonesian woven curtains were tied on the back two columns of the bed. An old sea chest sat at the foot of the bed. Two French doors on either side of the bed lead out to a balcony. An antique vanity, dresser and wardrobe closet were opposite the bed, and a chaise lounge beneath one of the two bay windows finished the decor.
One painting hung on the wall above the bedroom fireplace. The storm clouds were filled with lightening, a lone figure stood in the trees, the wind ripped through his hair and he was snarling. His eyes followed the viewer as they moved across the room.
Wolverine tucked Kitku in and followed Jasmine downstairs. She was in the kitchen making a fresh pot of coffee. He leaned against the kitchen doorframe and watched her climb up on a stepstool to reach the coffee filters.
"I don't want be forward..." she started.
"But you're gonna."
"Well, yes, damn it, I am. After all, Logan, it's been awhile since I last saw you." She plugged in the restaurant-sized coffee maker and hopped up on the counter, sitting to face him. "Years in fact."
"Well, I've been busy."
"So I've noticed," indicating with her head to the upstairs where Kitku laid asleep. "I mean you're gone all this time and well, she's about the right age...."
"Wait, hold it." Wolverine held up his hands to stop the onslaught. "She's ten."
"So," Jasmine cocked an eyebrow, folding her arms over her chest, "she's ten, which means...."
"Which means what?"
"You had some other woman pregnant when you were seeing me," her voice took an angry tone. "I know we weren't married or anything but Christ on a crutch, Logan, how could you do that to this other woman?"
Wolverine looked at her in stunned confusion. "What?"
"I don't care that you lied to me, saying you were single or anything but the poor thing you left at home with child, Logan, that's a new record of low." Her green eyes glared at him and her face was beginning to flush red with anger.
"You didn't what? Leave some lady knocked up somewhere..." her voice began to rise to a yell.
"No, I didn't. Kitku is a homeless kid that...It's a long story." He shook his head disbelieving this conversation.
"I've got time," she stated in a demanding fashion for the whole story.
"Obviously, My Lord, they have stayed of the main highways and camped for the past two nights." Kim stood up and brushed his hands off. The Dogz had tracked the prey to two campsites so far. He rubbed his eyes and stifled a yawn. They had been following the Dogz non-stop for twenty-four hours.
Viper nodded and walked the site himself, looking for evidence of just whom the girl traveled with and if he had left any trace of himself behind. There was nothing but the remains of the campfire. Their tracks covered but not their scents. The prey was good and thorough, Viper could not help but be impressed.
"We shall continue the hunt. By your calculations what is their probable heading?"
"We're in Montana. I would say that we are on a direct heading for Bozeman, My Lord." Kim studied the tracks. "We are very close. Less than twelve hours behind them."
The Dogz nuzzled Viper's hand and whimpered, indicating it was time to continue the hunt. Viper patted the Dogz's head. "Patience, my pet, we will have them soon."
"And that's how we ended up here," Logan finished. He stared into his coffee cup, turning it in his hands.
"Well, I guess that would be referred to as a 'no shitter' story," she commented. She leaned back in her chair, watching him. "Still having problems with your memory then?"
"I'm flattered you remembered me, Logan." She smiled at him and reached across the kitchen table taking his hand in hers. "I know you may not remember what happened between us but I want you to know that I'm here for you. No matter what."
He squeezed her hand back and returned the smile. "Thanks, Jas."
"Hey, don't sweat it, babe. I'll do whatever you need. Money, a place to crash, whatever." She patted his hand and reluctantly let go. It was becoming awkward. Old feelings were beginning to flare within her and she did not want to make him uncomfortable. "Come on, gorgeous, it's late. You need sleep and so do I."
She stood up, took the coffee cups, and put them by the sink. "Why don't you crash with the kid and I'll take the sofa. Hell, it's normally where I end up sleeping anyway."
Wolverine nodded and turned to leave. He paused at the door, "Jas, I just want you to know your helps 'priciated. I know my memory is a bit shaky and I'm tryin' but..."
"Logan, it'll happen in time. Don't push it, okay? Otherwise you might loose yourself in there and I want you back, whole."
He took a step back remembering her words from his meditation when she warned him not to stop and fight but to go forward.
"Even if it is as just a friend." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "Good night, wild thing."
She brushed past him and into the living room.
Cyclops stood beside Jean's bed, staring in disbelief at Nightcrawler. "What are you saying?"
"Vhat I am saying, Scott, iz zat, Jean iz zlowly being poisoned. Zat is vhy she is still in za coma. Follow?"
Cyclops frowned. His fellow XMan was about to burst with excitement about Jean being poisoned and in a coma.
"And this makes you happy?" he asked sternly.
"Of course not, Scott." It was Nightcrawler's turn to frown. "Vhat I am happy about iz zhat I have figured out vhy."
He pulled a recent x-ray and put it up to the light. It was of Jean's neck. "Zee, right here?"
Cyclops leaned forward to where Nightie was indicating. A tiny, slim white mark. "So?"
"So, it iz a piece of metal."
"A piece of metal?"
Nightcrawler sighed in exasperation. "From Viper's blade."
The two men looked at each other and slowly smiled.
"Ve need to extract it from her and she vill be fine," Nightcrawler finished.
"And we are not doctors," Cyclops said putting a damper on their excitement.
"No, ve are not. But Moria iz."
"And so am I," a voice from behind them stated.
Both men turned.
Kitku sat up, rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked around the unfamiliar room. "Wolverine?"
When there was no reply, Kitku climbed out of bed, got dressed and headed cautiously downstairs, bat at the ready. She vaguely remembered meeting a woman and Wolvie putting her to bed, but she had been so tired and her mind was still foggy with sleep. She walked through the living room and into the kitchen. A short woman was cooking on a pot-bellied gas stove. Kitku's stomach growled.
"Hi, hon, hungry?" the woman asked not bothering to turn around.
"Where's Wol...my Dad?" She knew nothing about this woman and was not about to drop the façade that she and Wolvie had created.
"Oh, Logan? He went to town to get some supplies." The woman finally turned around, coffee cup in one hand and a hot skillet of scrambled eggs mixed with onions, peppers and cheese in the other. "So, are you hungry, Kitku?"
She walked past Kitku, ignoring the bat held in an offensive manner by the girl and set the skillet on the table.
"OJ okay with you or do you prefer apple juice or milk." She went to the refrigerator and opened it. "Hope it's not milk, because I don't have any. Well, what's your poison?"
Kitku observed the woman with wide-eyed amazement. The coffee cup was never out of her hand and she drank the hot liquid as she spoke. Kitku could almost see the intense energy flow from this woman.
"Apple juice, mam," she said as she dissipated the bat.
"One aj coming up. Sit yourself down and dig in. Oh, I'm Jasmine by the way. You were pretty out of it last night when Logan brought you in and he put you right up to bed so I figured you wouldn't remember meeting me."
Kitku stopped in mid bite. The woman never took a breath. "Is that decaf?"
"What? Oh, this, no." Jasmine looked at her coffee cup. "Why? You want some?"
"Maybe you should try decaf." Kitku gave her a meaningful glance.
Jasmine looked puzzled for a moment and then laughed. "Wouldn't make a difference. I was born with this energy. My Mother said I practically came out dancing and talking when I was born."
"I don't doubt that, mam."
"Just call me Jasmine or Jas, okay?" Jasmine sat at the table with her and helped herself to some breakfast.
"Okay," Kitku smiled at her. "This ain't half bad grub, Jas."
Jasmine laughed. "Thanks."
Wolverine walked through the grocery store, picking up supplies for their journey and for Jasmine. He figured they'd be safe for a day or so at her place. Scratch that, he hoped they would be safe for a day or two.
He finished, paid for the groceries and loaded up her truck. He pulled out and headed back to her house.
As he drove, he watched the familiar landscape outside his window. It had been a long time. He had not realized how much time had passed until last night when Jasmine held his hand and he had poured out his story to her. They had been lovers and best friends.
He also didn't realize how much he had missed her. She was a lady with a wild side to match his wildness. They had been good together. He wondered what had caused them to loose track of each other. Was there an argument? Was there someone else?
He shook his head. His memory was still a jumble. Well, whatever the reason it doesn・t matter now.
Wolverine smiled as he thought about Jasmine. She was gorgeous and very well built. With Jasmine there were no suprises. She was honest, he'd give her that and made no bones about what was on her mind. Well, at least I always know where I stand and stood with ya, Jas.
Maybe, she and he should give themselves another chance. He shook his head.
"Ain't got time for that, bub," he said out loud, "ya gotta get yerself and Kit outa this mess first and then, maybe then, ya can think about that."
He pulled onto the cut off to Jasmine's house.
Out of well-honed reflexes, both men reacted before their minds fully comprehended who stood before them. Cyclops touched his hand to his visor as Nightcrawler teleported to an advantageous position. Just before they attacked, they stopped.
"Professor!" Cyclops exclaimed.
The bald, regal gentleman mentally urged his hoover chair into the room. "Scott, it's good to see you again, lad."
The Professor smiled at his first XMan and shook hands. Nightcrawler teleported to the back of the hoover chair and shook hands with the Professor.
"It iz good to have you home, Herr Professor."
"It is good to be home." He smiled at Nightcrawler and then turned his attention to Jean. "Unfortunately, I wish it were under better circumstances. You were right to contact me, Kurt."
"Pardon?" Kurt asked, confused.
"You were so distressed that I picked up on your mental projection to me through my rapport with you. But, of course, I was already enroute after Jean had been so seriously wounded. I felt all of your distress and returned as soon as possible," he explained as he checked Jean's vitals. "I left the others to finish our mission and returned home."
Storm, Beast and Archangel had gone with the Professor to check out a mutant disturbance in South America. Scott had thought of contacting them but their exact whereabouts were unknown and he had not had the chance to locate them. He had failed to considered all his options.
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Scott," Professor Xavier gently chided. "You knew what we were doing was important and extremely covert. You were right and were you not going to contact Dr. McTaggart?"
"Well, then, I do not see where you could have failed." His chair whispered across the room to the monitor. "But right now, our concern, naturally, is for Jean's health. Scott, if you'll excuse us?"
Cyclops nodded, with a final kiss to Jean's lips, he left the medical facility. He glanced back as the two men made preparations to remove the sliver of metal that was killing his lover.
Wolverine set the last of the groceries on the counter. Jasmine began putting them away and Kitku sat at the kitchen table, listening intently to a sports talk show. It was all comfortable. Wolverine shook his head. Who am I kiddin'? I can't even take care of myself under normal circumstances, how am I supposed to take care of some kid?
"She's quite a girl, isn't she, Logan?" Jasmine asked quietly.
"Yeah," he replied. He turned his attention back to the groceries and noticed Jasmine's thoughtful gaze. "What?"
"Oh, nothing. I was noticing how you were watching her. What is it, Logan, you don't think you'd make a good father?"
Wolverine did not reply as he put away the canned goods.
"Why not?" Jasmine leaned on the counter, her eyes intently on him. "Do you think that kids come with a manual? What makes you think you'd be a worse father than someone else?"
"Ain't my style."
"Oh, there's a macho answer." She opened the refrigerator and put the milk away.
"I'm not...I just can't take care of her, Jas." Wolverine lowered his head. "I'm not exactly what you'd refer to as an upstanding citizen."
"True, but you got morals and honor and a lot of other things to offer her." She put her hands on his arms and waited until he raised his eyes to look at her. "You've got a sense of responsibility that is enormous. Logan, you would never leave her, abuse her or anything like that. She needs someone she can count on and you, my friend, are the one she has chosen."
"I...Jas, what I can offer her ain't enough." Wolverine turned from her and leaned on the kitchen sink, staring out the window.
"You've got so much to give. And I'll tell you something, it's more than most, Logan, more than most."
Kitku listened to the radio, occasionally glancing at Wolverine and Jasmine as they put away the groceries. She was about to offer to help but the expressions on the adults faces change and their voices fell to whispers. Grown up talk. Ick.
She had decided that she like this woman, Jasmine Daniels and that she and Wolverine would make a good couple. Like parents, maybe for a little, orphan girl? Hey, who knows?
For a moment, Kitku envisioned what would happen after all of this. She and Wolverine would go off, live in a house, and be father and daughter. Jasmine would come live with them and they would be one happy family. Maybe even, stay here at Jasmine's house. Of course, they would have to add another room and...
Don't kid yourself, Kitku, he ain't going to go for it, she thought to herself. He won't want to be strapped down with a kid. After this is over, he'll dump you off at some orphanage or something like that. Yeah, he double promised we were partners, but that's because we need each other right now. Right now, we only got each other, but later, when he's with his friends, thanks, Kit, it's been fun. Glad ya didn't die. Later.
She turned her face away from Jas and Wolverine, not wanting them to see her tears. Never should have gotten this close to him. The Daddy thing was just a cover, not for real, she reminded herself. I guess pretend and real life can run together.
She turned her eyes back to the radio, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. Wolverine had better things to do other than taking care of her. She thought briefly of taking off but she had double promised herself that she would stay with Wolverine until this whole thing blew over. Besides, she would not be able to make it on her own and she knew without him, she was as good as dead.
Kitku shook her head and looked over at Wolverine.
"Where's your head at, girl?" He eyed her. She had a far, away look to her eyes.
"Obviously, else where, Logan," Jas chimed in. "There's a movie theatre in town, interested?"
"Yeah!" Kitku jumped up and clapped her hands together.
In that moment, Wolverine was reminded just how young this girl was. A child of no more than ten and looking more like eight. She had been resilient throughout this whole ordeal, like Kitty had been when he first met her. Kitku had been through so much. Alone on the streets for five years and never lost her innocence. And at this moment, more than any other, she was innocence. Eager to go to a movie, giggling with excitement, the harshness of the past few days forgotten in a moment and she was really smiling for the first time since they met.
"Please? Pleeeaaaasssseeee." Kitku had hold of his arm and was tugging at it, flashing her big, green eyes at him.
"I s'ppose," he said, a grin spread across his face. Her eyes were shining with excitement. He knew they were taking a hell've a risk but, life was a risk. "Go and get your jacket."
"Why don't you fill me in on what has taken place since I've been gone?"
"Well, sir, it seems Omega Red attacked Wolverine in New York and, well, that's where it gets complicated," Scott started and gave a detailed account of what had happened though out the week.
Professor Xavier nodded and listened, occasionally interrupting and asking questions. During the report, Professor Xavier sat behind his desk, staring intently at Cyclops.
"I see," he stated when the X-Men leader had concluded his report. Professor Xavier came out from behind the desk and headed for the door. "I believe, I shall contact Wolverine and inform him of what has been happening since Jean's injury. I'm sure he is wondering what happened to his contact."
"Do you think that is wise to let him know Jean's condition." Cyclops followed his mentor down the hallway to the war room. "After all, Jean did say that he was not quite...together."
Cyclops tapped his temple for emphasis.
Professor nodded in agreement. "Of course, I shall endeavor to take a look at how he is handling his emotions before I inform him of anything. After all, Jean is a close friend of Wolverine's and her condition could quite possibly set him off."
Cyclops followed in silence, not responding to the professor's comment about his fiancée and fellow team member being close friends. He knew how Wolverine felt about Jean and he was well aware of the reactions he could get out of Jean. He pretended to not notice and let people think he was dense, but he did know and it hurt.
Professor Xavier moved his chair beneath cerybro's helmet and pulled it down onto his head. He had no doubt in his mind that Wolverine would be fine. The XMan had more heart and courage than anyone Professor Xavier knew and the most stubborn. He smiled to himself, although he and Wolverine had butted heads more than once, he still had a fondness for the Canadian.
He closed his eyes and concentrated, searching for his wayward X-Man.
Wolverine slumped in the theatre seat and stared at the screen. Some guy named Jason was taking a chainsaw to some stupid woman who had been walking around half dressed checking out strange noises. He shrugged, if she was dumb enough to go checking without knowing what she was doing, she deserved to get hacked up.
He glanced at Kitku and Jasmine. They were sharing a huge bucket of extra butter flavored popcorn, Milk Duds, licorice, and two huge sodas. He shook his head, later they'd complain about how much they weighed and would wonder why.
Kitku jumped and grabbed Wolverine's arm. He caught Jasmine out of the corner of his eye, on the other side of Kitku, grabbing Kitku's arm. He looked back at the screen. Apparently, Jason reached through a wall, grabbed some unsuspecting, teen boy, and was proceeding to hack at the kid with an axe or something. He sighed as the blood flowed.
He was not so sure now that this was a good idea for Kitku to be seeing this kind of movie. He would have preferred her to watch the comedy on the other screen, but she begged and pleaded. Jasmine was no help, begging right along with the kid. He stood his ground outside the theatre, the two ladies hanging on each of his arms, flashing him with their big, green eyes and sweet, innocent smiles. He caved in two minutes flat.
Wolverine watched Jason chasing another half-naked coed into the woods and shook his head. How many more kids were there for this maniac to slaughter? The film made no sense.
Wolverine jumped. Kitku looked up at him with concern. There wasn't anything on screen to make him jump. He smiled down at her and winked.
"Terribly sorry for the start, Wolverine," the male voice continued. "I was trying to be as quiet as possible. Oh, my."
The images of the film were fresh in Wolverine's mind.
"Do you think that this was an appropriate choice of entertainment for the child, Wolverine?" the voice asked sternly.
"Who the hell are you?" Wolverine asked mentally. The voice was familiar, but he couldn't place it.
"After all, Wolverine, she is only a child and should not be subjected to such violence," the voice continued to reprimand Wolverine.
"Yeah? If ya don't let me know who ya are, there's gonna be some real violence," Wolverine mentally snapped. He glanced around the theatre trying to see who would be speaking to him like Jean Gray had done.
"Yes, well, we will discuss this situation at a later time. My name is Professor Charles Xavier. I'm also known to you as Prof...."
"Chuck!" Wolverine mentally smirked.
"Professor Xavier," the voice finished, in a sterner manner.
"Yeah, well, Jean mentioned ya. I kinda 'memeber ya, but...."
"Of course, lack of trust. I understand after your ordeal." He materialized mentally for Wolverine to place a face with his voice. He was a tall man, lithe build, and bald with strong facial features.
"Wolverine," Professor Xavier began, "the reason, Jean has not contacted you lately is because she was injured. Now, she's all right and is resting comfortably. So, there's no cause for alarm."
Wolverine narrowed his eyes and studied Professor Xavier. The man was telling the truth, or as much as he dared. "So?"
"Now, I am your contact with the X-Men." The Professor returned Wolverine's steady gaze.
Finally, Wolverine nodded. "I'm a little bit confused with who's who, lately, Charley."
Professor was about to object but caught the soft overtone of Wolverine's voice.
"I gotta trust ya, Charley, ain't got much of a choice." He looked up at the Professor's image.
"I promise you, Logan, that you will be all right. We will get you home safely."
"Ain't me I'm worrin' about. It's Kit."
"I understand, Logan. We will do our best."
Wolverine nodded. They looked at each other, both men knew that Wolverine and Kitku's chances were slim but they would both die trying to protect the girl. "So, lets cut this crap. Where do we stand, now?"
"Cyclops, Nightcrawler and myself are going to fly into the nearest city. We should be able to redevous with you sometime tomorrow or the next day," Professor said. "We believe that we should be able to get you back to New York with little to no problem. Then we can deal with this Viper."
"Have ya got a lock on 'im?"
"Unfortunately, no. I contacted you first. Now, I will be trying to find him."
"Well, Charley, he ain't far behind us. He should be an easy target."
"If I were familiar with his mind, it would be. It will take time."
"Time is somethin' we ain't got," Wolverine reminded him.
"I well aware of that, Wolverine, however, there is not much else we can do."
"Yeah, I know," Wolverine conceded. Part of Wolverine's mind registered that the film was over and the credits were rolling.
"I shall let you get back to Kitku and Jasmine. I'll let you know when I have Viper." Professor's figure started to fade.
"Yeah." Wolverine paused and then added, "Hey, Charley."
"Make sure none of ya get hurt out there, 'kay?"
Professor Xavier smiled, nodded and vanished.
Wolverine stepped out into the cold evening air out the back door of the theater. The ladies would meet him around front after they went to the restroom. The light above the door was out, but Wolverine had no problems seeing in the dark with his heightened senses. Wolverine paused to light a cigarette and stopped. He sniffed the night air. A familiar scent overwhelmed him. It was the scent from the New York shelter. The one he could not identify, but was so familiar.
He spun around, dropping the match and popping his claws.
"Well, well, look what the cat dragged in," a voice snarled from the darkness.
Wolverine sniffed and peered into the dark corner, a low growl emitted from his chest.
"Is that anyway to greet your oldest and best friend?" the voice taunted. "Come on, Wolverine, didn・t you miss me? Just a little?"
Wolverine・s instincts screamed for him to leap at the voice and rip its heart out. Tear at its flesh. Destroy it. Kill it. His body shook with rage; his breathing intensified as the adrenaline rushed through him. His mind began to feel out of focus as his rage increased. Rushes red color flooded his eye sight. He shook his head, trying to clear it and stay focused.
"I・m impressed, runt, you・re finally showin・ some backbone." A tall, muscular figure stepped out of the shadows. He smiled, his teeth sharp and canine-like. His hair was blond and his features fierce and hardened. "What・s the matter, Wolverine, don・t recognize me? I・m hurt."
"Not yet, but ya will be!" Wolverine growled.
"That・s the spirit. I like you much better like this, Wolverine. Instead o・ some whiny little XMan brat." The taller man leapt backwards onto the railing above his head.
Wolverine backed up the stairs away from the theater door, never taking his eyes off his adversary. Wolverine shook his head again and cleared his mind. It was the one from the dream walk. The one who was the hallway that had tried to stop him from going forward?
"Sabertooth!" he roared and leapt forward, claws at the ready.
"Come on, runt, lets do it!"
Kitku and Jasmine stood in front of the theater, waiting for Wolverine.
"He should・ve been out here," Kitku said, worried.
"Well," Jasmine looked up and down the street. "Maybe he・s just stretching his legs."
"I guess," Kitku conceded looking down at the ground.
"Hey, come on, kiddo," Jasmine put her arms around Kitku and reassured her, "He・s fine. He・s just being・Wolverine. Doing Wolverine like things. Don・t sweat it."
Kitku looked up and smiled. "Yeah."
Jasmine returned the smile. She wished she felt as positive as she had spoken. She had a terrible feeling about this whole thing. Just as she was assuring herself, they heard the ghastly roar, "Sabertooth!"
The two ladies looked at each other.
"Wolverine," they said at the same time and took off running to the back of the theater. They made their way around the corner, Kitku on her skateboard pulled ahead of a protesting Jasmine. Kitku skidded to a halt, her mouth dropped open as she surveyed the scene in front of her. Jasmine stopped at her side a moment later.
"Dear Lord," she gasped as she watched the battle that raged before her. As an artist, the speed and body movement, the muscles straining to overcome their limitations, the ferocity of their bloodlust and the energy fascinated Jasmine. There was a strange beauty in this conflict, almost like a dance. Circling, twisting, leaping, slicing, and tearing
On the other side of it, Jasmine was sickened and stunned by the savagery of the two men as they fought. Each was trying to cut the other as deeply as possible. They lost their humanity and the savage beast that preys within all of humanity, spewed forth with no compunctions. No quarter asked, and none given.
Kitku tried to move forward, but just could not seem to make her self until the big guy had Wolverine pinned on the ground by the throat. Wolverine was groggy and was trying to regain his senses. Kitku formed an aluminum baseball and threw it as hard as she could, hitting the big, furry guy square in the head.
"Get off him, you big weenie!"
Sabertooth looked up, his face bloodied from one of Wolverine・s claws. He casually licked the blood from his own lips. "When I・m done with him, sweet thing, you・re next. It・ll be slow and wonderfully painful."
"I seriously doubt that," Jasmine replied, stepping forward. With her arms out from her sides, energy began to radiate around her hands. "Come on, big boy, lets play."
As Jasmine began to rise in the air, Kitku took the opportunity to skate her way behind Sabertooth. Although Kitku had the feeling that Sabertooth knew exactly where she was, it could not hurt to try to get an advantage.
"Sure thing, sweet cakes, but I don・t play nice," he raised a hand to slice Wolverine・s throat.
"Me, neither, bud," Wolverine snarled, as he shoved his hand into Sabertooth・s stomach and released his claws.
"Runt bastard!" roared Sabertooth as he brought his own claws down across Wolverine・s throat.
Wolverine twisted his head. Sabertooth's deadly blow was lessened to a major wound that cut Wolverine down to his collarbone.
Kitku pushed off her board, materialized her bat, crouched down, sped at Sabertooth and swung her bat into his lower back, pushing him deeper onto Wolverine・s claws. As she did this, Jasmine went into action and began gathering metal, bending it and reshaping it, until she had what appeared to be a metal straight jacket. Wolverine could see the metal being gathered as well as feeling her magnetic waves more across his body. He brought both feet up and shoved Sabertooth back.
Sabertooth hit the wall, shaking his head and started to stand. Kitku swung by on her board and bunted Sabertooth in the crotch with her bat. Sabertooth slid to the ground and Jasmine engulfed him in the metal straight jacket.
Wolverine struggled to his knees and managed to stand. His eyes still focused on his adversary. His blood was raging and pounded in his ears. He vaguely could hear someone saying something to him, but urge for the bloodlust was too great. He leapt.
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>
Kitku maneuvered her skateboard in front of Wolverine as he was struggling o his feet. Kitku stopped in front of him and was reaching out to touch him when she saw his face. It was twisted in such a rage that she was forced back from him. The ferocity in his features were nothing like she had ever seen before, not even when she first met him.
"Wolvie?" she said tentatively. "Wolverine?"
He was oblivious to her presence. Kitku watched his muscles tense.
・Don't. Please," she whispered. She shivered from fear as his claws popped and he leapt for Sabertooth. Jasmine watched Wolverine as Kitku approached him.
"Not a bright move," she thought to herself. She pulled on her power in case Wolverine turned on the child. It was not necessary; he leapt at Sabertooth instead. She grabbed Wolverine in mid-air with her magnetics. He snarled and twisted, howling in rage. She centered her magnetics on his claws, holding them so he would not do any harm to himself as he struggled against her power.
Kitku had skated up next to Jasmine. In a quiet voice, she asked, "You're not hurting him, are you?"
"No, sweetie, just trying to keep him from hurting himself." She pulled Wolverine in to her, out of sight of Sabertooth. Still holding him above the ground, she spoke to him, "Logan, please, you have to calm down. You are not like that animal over there. You are above that. Please, listen to me and hear my voice."
From behind her, she could hear Sabertooth groaning. He was waking up and Jasmine was running out of time. She had to calm Wolverine down and get him out of here before Sabertooth could goad him into another fight.
"Wolvie," Kitku spoke up and moved into his line of sight. "Please, Wolvie, I need you here, now."
Jasmine could hear the emotion in Kitku's voice. The little girl was scared to death but still she faced her fear. Her own protector. "Listen to her, Logan, listen to your little girl."
As if picking up a cue, Kitku continued, "Please, Daddy."
Wolverine's head snapped over towards the sound of the voice. A child's voice. He stared hard at her, her image swimming in and out of focus. Did she just call him Daddy? Was she his little girl? He could not remember. He fought down the bloodlust, still staring at the little girl. She stood in front of him, trembling with fear and tears streaming down her face. Wolverine felt his rage start to subside. He took advantage of the moment and forced his will to capture his fury and push it back where it belonged.
"Kit," his voice barely above a whisper. His body relaxed as the adrenaline rush subsided. "Kitku."
He felt himself being lowered to the ground. With the adrenaline leaving his body, the pain from his wound burned throughout his body. He hit his knees and tried to keep from passing out. "What the hell・."
Kitku rushed to his side and started to hug him but stopped. Instead, she took a step back. Wolverine held out an arm to her, "It's okay, darlin'. I'm fine."
Kitku, hesitantly, moved into his hug. She held him for a moment and then leaned back to look him in the eyes. She slapped at his undamaged shoulder. "Don't do that again. You scared me."
Wolverine gave her a weary smile, "Sometimes, I scare myself."
"I'd imagine with a face like that." She grinned back at him.
"Well, if we're all ready, I think we should scram before the local cops get here," Jasmine suggested.
Wolverine turned his eyes to her. "Thanks for the hand, darlin'."
Jasmine shrugged, "Hey, not a prob."
She helped Wolverine to his feet. He looked over her to where Sabertooth was being held. Their eyes met.
"Next time, runt, there won't be no skirts to save you!" With a roar, he tore out of the restraints and disappeared into the night.
Wolverine took a step forward, but Jasmine placed herself in front of him. "Not tonight, Wild Thing. Come on, let's get the heck out of here."
She led Wolverine to the truck and helped him up into the passenger side. Kitku hopped up between them and Jasmine drove them back to her home. Wolverine was asleep before they even made it out of town.
He waited anxiously for Master. He was being good and waiting. He sniffed the air again and tilted his head listening.
The buildings smelled of Prey. There was Prey everywhere.
He watched from the bushes as the Prey went in and out of the buildings.
This Prey was not the ones Master wanted. They lived in this crowded place.
Master would let him have his Prey. He had been promised.
He scratched at his ear and licked his paws watching the town before him.
He was a good Dogz.
Jasmine and Kitku managed to get Wolverine upstairs and to bed. Jasmine curled up in one of the bedroom chairs while Kitku collapsed next to Wolverine on the bed.
"Yes, sweetie?" Jasmine turned her head towards Kitku. The moonlight fell across the girl's face, giving her even more of an innocent appearance.
"How long have you known Wolverine?" She sat up in bed, wrapping the comforter around her shoulders.
Jasmine let out a sigh and thought for a moment. "A long time. Years."
Kitku chewed on her lower lip as she thought on how to phrase the next question. "Is he the man in your paintings?"
"Yes, he is," Jasmine replied serenely.
Kitku sat in silence and waited for Jasmine to continue. For a moment, she was unsure the woman would take the silence as a hint for more information.
"I was a kid, about your age, when my parents took a trip to Canada. We hiked all over the country for the whole summer." Her voice was taking on the tone of reminisce. Her eyes taking on a far away look, as if the memory was taking place in front of her. "I went out early one morning to see if I could sketch some of the wild life. Well, I tried to sketch, but I wasn't all that good back then. I was sitting by the stream, waiting for an animal to come out and take an early morning drink. I was careful to sit so they wouldn・t catch my scent. Anyway, I didn't wait long when I heard a noises off to the side. I didn't move and just waited, frozen. I was shocked when the animal I was hoping for was a human being・."
He was wild looking. Unkempt and in a ragged loin cloth. His eyes never stopped moving. He sniffed at the air.
Jasmine held her breath and tried desperately not to move. He terrified her and touched her at the same time. She wanted to reach out and help him but was too afraid to move.
He tilted his head as if listening. Jasmine was sure he could hear her heart pounding against her chest. His head turned towards her and their eyes met. His were furious and yet as frightened by her appearance as she was of his. He sniffed into the air again. Slowly, he started to approach her when her Father's voice cut through the quiet morning.
Jasmine turned towards the voice and then back to where the man was but he had disappeared into the forest.
Jasmine sighed. "I saw him twice more. It was like he was following something or us. Maybe he thought us to be trespassers on his territory, because once we hit a certain area, I never saw him again."
"Well," she said with a sly smile, "Not until years later, anyway. But that is another story."
Kitku nodded and settled back down next to Logan. "Good night, Jasmine."
"Good night, sweetie."
He watched the Prey go into the house. He sniffed the air and panted.
Soon. His Master would be here and the Master would let him play. He would play with the Prey before he ate.
He licked at his hands and wiped his face. Had to be clean. Clean for the Master. He did not like it when His Dogz were dirty.
His stomach growled and he whimpered. He had to wait. Wait for the Master. He was empty and needed to eat. But he had to wait.
He would wait.
He was a good Dogz.
Wolverine snapped awake, his eyes immediately focused on the room. He looked to his right where Kitku laid asleep and then to his left where Jasmine was asleep in the chair. Slowly, he got out of bed, careful not to wake either of the ladies. He grabbed his clothes and boots on his way out of the room. He dressed as he made his way down the hallway.
Something was not right and he could smell it, smell it in the air. He could feel it, every instinct in his body told him something was wrong. His gut twisted and his neck hairs stood on end. He went down the stairs and into the living room.
Nugent whimpered and paced in front of the door. He leapt and growled at the outside. The dog stopped and turned to Wolverine. His hackles stood on end and he barked once at Wolverine as he turned his attention back to the door.
Wolverine opened the door and Nugent bolted out but stopped at the end of the porch. He growled and snarled at something in the distance. Wolverine sniffed at the air and caught the scent of something like a dog but yet the scent of a human. He squatted down next to Nugent, put his arm over the dog's neck and stared at where the dog was focused.
"Nugent, go in and protect," he spoke to the dog. The dog barked once and ran into the house. Wolverine shut the door and turned back toward the area that Nugent had been staring at and where the scent drifted. "All right, bub, let's see what's out there."
Cyclops sat down behind the controls of the Blackbird as Nightcrawler took his seat beside him in the co-pilot chair. Professor X took his place behind the two X-Men and put on his portable Cerebro unit.
Moiré McTaggart had arrived early this morning to watch over Jean's condition. Professor Xavier had managed to remove the poisonous sliver of blade and Jean's condition almost immediately improved.
"All right, Professor, we have an idea of their co-ordinates and we are ready to go," Cyclops informed his mentor.
"Good." He set the portable Cerebro unit on his hover chair. "As soon as we are airborne, I・ll make contact with Wolverine."
Kim signaled the driver to stop at the fork in the road. He got out of the sedan and checked his tracking device. It showed the Dogz had stopped to the north. He got back in and ordered the driver to turn right.
"We will have them soon, My Lord."
Viper smiled approvingly at Kim. "Of that, my dear Kim, I had never had a doubt."
Kim returned the smile with a small one of his own. He was pleased to see that Lord Viper・s disposition had improved. Kim loathed when his Lord・s mood was less than perfect. If Viper was not happy, Kim was not happy and Kim would do whatever it took to make Viper content.
Wolverine circled around the area, careful to keep downwind of his quarry. He approached the prey with caution, he could smell the mix of dog and human as the stench flooded his nostrils. He caught a glimpse of the beast in front of him. It crouched on its・ hind legs and watched the house. Its・ front paws held up its・ massive chest and a second set of limbs protruded from the sides of the chest, but these limbs were humanoid. The face of the beast was a mix of dog and human, almost like a Pug dog but its・ fang protruded more pronounced than the average canine.
It continued to pant and stare at the house. Wolverine wondered briefly if this was a mutant or a product of a scientific experiment gone badly. He shook the thought as soon as it crossed his mind. It did not matter either way to
Wolverine. The creature had no business being here and Wolverine aimed to correct that situation as of now.
A small snarl and he leapt from his hiding spot toward his victim. The beast had just enough time to turn and look as Wolverine・s claws and body crashed down on it.
The Dogz howled in pain as Wolverine・s claws dug deep into its・ flesh. The animal twisted, managed to grab Wolverine around the waist and threw him to the ground. The two combatants warily circled each other before they rushed forward, each tried to slash the other.
The Dogz managed to bite into Wolverine・s shoulder as they came together in a frenzy of battle. Wolverine growled and gutted the Dogz in the stomach. The Dogz whimpered but refused to lessen his grip. He clawed at Wolverine・s back with his paws, his human hands squeezed Wolverine around his waist and he bit down harder into Wolverine・s shoulder.
As stubborn as the Dogz was in their death grip battle, Wolverine was worse. He arched his back in pain, but refused to give his hold. He shoved his claws deeper into the Dogz・ abdomen and with his other set of claws, he shoved them into the Dogz neck as it tried to rip through Wolverine・s throat.
After several moments of grappling, Wolverine felt the Dogz・ body start to slack. His own body was beginning to relax from the lose of blood, if it was not for his healing factor, he would have passed out sooner. He could smell the beast dying and feel its heart rate starting to slow. It was suffering. With a twist of his wrist, Wolverine ended the creature・s life, quickly and without anymore pain. Wolverine released the beast and let it fall to the ground. He paused long enough to catch his breath before heading back to the house.
Professor Xavier had locked onto Wolverine・s mind when the X-Man was stalking the creature. Professor Xavier reached out to touch the creature・s mind but could find nothing. He watched through Wolverine・s mind and saw the beast but it was invulnerable to his telepathy. He removed himself from Wolverine・s mind and made contact with the little girl, Kitku.
He quietly entered into her mind while she slept. "Kitku."
She stirred slightly and mumbled in her sleep.
"Kitku, wake up, my dear."
She tossed the covers off of her and mumbled, "Yeah, yeah, later."
"Kitku." Professor thought in a much more harsh tone.
"I・m up!" Kitku sat straight up in bed. Nugent was scratching at the bedroom door and barking. Jasmine was in the shower and someone was yelling at her in her head. She flopped back down on the bed and sighed. "So, which one are you?"
"You need not speak allowed, child. I am Professor Charles Xavier." He informed her and materialized a projection of himself within her mind.
"Oh, you・re the one Wolverine calls Chu・.Never mind." Her own mental image of herself cringed slightly at the displeased look on Professor Xavier・s face.
"Yes, I am, however, I would appreciate you calling me Professor Xavier or just Professor."
"Sir, is the word I would have picked."
"Yes, well," Professor said as he regained his composure. "You and your friend need to get out of the house as soon as possible. There is an intruder・."
He never got to finish, as Kitku jumped out of bed, turned into her armored form and ran into the bathroom. She flung the curtain back much to Jasmine and Professor・s dismay, exposing a very wet and very naked Jasmine.
"Oh, dear," Professor said as he averted his mental image・s eyes from Jasmine who was in direct line of Kitku・s vision.
"Come on, we have to go," Kit informed Jasmine and handed her a towel.
"What the hell・." she started to protest as she dried herself off.
"And hurry up, you・re embarrassing the bald guy." Kitku turned and left the bathroom.
"Bald guy? What bald guy?" Jasmine looked around the bathroom. "Kid・s popped a gasket."
Kim paused outside the house and silently ordered the men to converge on the home. He boldly approached the front door and was greeted by Nugent・s growling muzzle. Kim stood still and stared at the dog. Kitku came running down the stairs followed by a confused and damp Jasmine.
"What the hell・.." Jasmine started and stopped as soon as she saw Kim. "Whoa, buddy, so who the blazes are you? And what on Christ・s green earth do you think you・re doing here?"
She reached out and yanked Kitku behind her.
Kitku・s eyes widened as she stopped at the bottom of the stairs and came face to face with one of her nightmares.
While Kim and Kitku stared at each other, Kim began to smile and Kitku began to shake.
Kitku felt herself being pulled behind Jasmine. She tried to tear her eyes from his but she was too terrified. His black eyes danced with anticipation and held her firmly with in their hypnotic stare.
"I・m not asking you again, buster, who the hell are you?" Jasmine demanded.
"I am Kim and I am here for the girl."
Jasmine・s jaw dropped slightly before she regained her composure. "What are you smoking, buddy?"
"Step away from the child, miss and you will not be harmed." Kim・s eyes never left Kitku・s stare. His smile broadened ever so slightly as he continued his banter with Jasmine. "I suggest you step aside, you have no idea with whom you are dealing with, but you do, don・t you, Kitku?"
Involuntarily, Kitku nodded.
"I don・t care if you are the Devil himself, I・m not letting you have this child."
"That is a pity," Kim finally turned his attention to Jasmine, "I had hoped we could do this quietly and with out violence."
"Honey, I don・t do anything quietly," Jasmine assured him with her hands on her hips in a defiant pose.
Kim sighed, his face a mask of weariness at the task that laid before him. "You waste your life needlessly, woman."
With a flick of his wrist, several small darts flew at Jasmine・s heart and face. Kim froze. It was Jasmine・s turn to smile.
As the darts flew at her, she stopped them in midair and turned them towards Kim. The small, metal darts hung between the two adversaries.
"What・s the matter, buddy? Did this woman just ruin your day or what? So sorry, Clyde, but I told you, I don・t do anything quiet."
Nugent turned and barked at something behind Jasmine. Jasmine flipped the darts over her shoulder toward the man who had entered from the back door. He fell to the ground convulsing.
"Bummer," Jasmine smirked. "By the way, some people call me Metallica. Sorry, can・t wait for the finale."
She gathered Nugent and Kitku into a magnetic bubble and pushed through the roof of her house. Chunks of the ceiling fell on the gathering opponents below her. It would not kill them, but it would at least buy Jasmine some time for her to regroup and find Wolverine.
Professor Xavier opened his eyes. "Damn."
Nightcrawler turned in his chair and gawked at Professor Xavier. "Pardon, Herr Professor?"
"I said, Damn, Nightcrawler. As much as I despise crudities, it fit this particular moment." He turned his attention to Cyclops. "We need to get there as quickly as possible. They are in danger."
"ETA is about twenty minutes or so, Professor," Cyclops said, his face set in a determined line.
"Very good, Cyclops." Professor closed his eyes again and tried to reconnect with Kitku or Wolverine.
Wolverine made his way to the house, he could smell the men. The scent was familiar, the one from the soup kitchen in New York. He stopped and listened to Nugent・s protests to the intruders in the house. Wolverine was about to break his cover and rush the house when he saw the roof of the cabin burst apart and Jasmine rise above with Kitku and Nugent in tow.
Wolverine never heard him approach but he had smelled him. Wolverine spun on his heel and crouched, claws out, and faced the bearer of the scent.
He was a well built, Chinese male, with long black hair and the blackest eyes Wolverine had ever seen. But it was not the color that bothered Wolverine, it was the endless depth of blackness and hatred that reflected in this man・s eyes. His scent was that of a bringer of death, a hunter, and a destroyer. Wolverine locked his own eyes to the man before him and snarled deep in his throat as a warning.
Kim dug himself out from under the roof and made his way outside. He scanned the area for the offending female and spotted her hovering in the open yard. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she smirked at Kim as she cocked an eyebrow.
"Well, you did survive. I・m glad. I hope we・re not done playing yet." Her lip curled up in a sneer, "I・m just getting warmed up."
"Far from it, my dear woman, far from it." Kim glared at her from under his eyebrows and smiled mockingly at her. A burst of smoke and Kim was suddenly behind them. A strange energy formed knives in his hands and he held them with a practiced ease.
"Transform into your armor, Kit," Jasmine said over her shoulder, "We・re in for a bumpy ride."
Kitku nodded and brought up her armored form with her baseball bat. She had finally regained her self-control. Jasmine・s own self-reliance had given Kitku the burst of confidence that she needed. "Okay."
"Hey," she said addressing Kim, "you never did answer my question, who in the hell are you?"
"My name is not important, only my Lord・s name."
"And he is・.?" Jasmine encouraged sarcastically.
"Viper," Kim and Kitku responded simultaneously.
"Viper?" Jasmine raised an eyebrow. "How ostentatious of him."
"Huh?" Kitku looked at Jasmine. "Ostenwhat?"
"Enough! I tire of this game," Kim snapped as he lunged forward at Jasmine and Kitku. He leapt from his standing position and threw the knives at the hovering Jasmine. They penetrated her force field.
Jasmine stopped four out of the six knives. The fifth knife, Kitku hit with her bat and returned to where Kim was standing. With movements so quick, Kim caught the knife and flipped it in his hand.
He smiled. Neither of the women had caught the sixth knife.
Jasmine yelped in pain as the knife protruded from her leg. "Son of a bitch."
Kim concentrated on the knife. The weapon began to twist in her leg as it quickly sank in deeper and deeper. Jasmine frantically tried to grab hold of the weapon with her hands and her powers but to no avail. The knife tore free out the back of Jasmine・s upper thigh. Jasmine dropped to her knees in the force shield and tried to hold on to her concentration.
Kitku formed a baseball and hit it as hard as she could at Kim. Kim effortlessly dodged the attack but not Jasmine・s attack. As he dodged from the baseball, Jasmine sent out a magnetic bolt from her hand into his chest. Kim・s body hit the ground with a thud. He shook his head and tried to regain his senses.
"Tag, jerk face, you・re it."
Viper stared into the man・s eyes. He could see the beast raging with in this gaijin that stood before him. "Tell me, to whom do I do the honor of slaying?"
"Ain・t killed no body yet, bub," the little man growled in defiance.
Viper smirked and casually continued to stare into the man・s eyes. Viper was impressed, the little gaijin was not afraid. There was no fear of dying in this man nor was there a fear of combat. Perhaps, perhaps someone would be able to offer Viper the challenge he desired. He stared deeply into the gaijin・s eyes and saw something else. He cared about those around him. He cared about the two women. Pity, for by now they were surely dead.
"True, I have not yet killed you, however, it is inevitable," Viper said, "so, it would honor you to tell me your name."
"Earn the honor to know my name." Wolverine straightened his posture and stopped circling his opponent. He had been studying Viper as well as Viper had been studying him. Wolverine knew the man was looking for some one who could be his better and Wolverine was just the man to show him who was the best. "Why don・t we settle this the easy way."
"A challenge?" Viper was intrigued. It had been years since anyone had accepted one of his challenges, let alone offer a challenge to him.
"To the death?"
"And if I win?"
"You get the kid and the woman and I・ll be kickin・ up the tulips."
"And if you win?"
"You・ll be dead and we walk."
"Last man standing."
Kim twisted and rolled as Jasmine relentlessly hammered magnetic bolts down on him. Kitku joined her and threw her aluminum baseballs at him as well. Nugent barked encouragingly as the two women chased Kim through the front yard and toward the side of the house.
Suddenly their attacks ceased and in a given a moment of reprieve, Kim escaped with a explosion of smoke and appeared behind his assailants. He lowered his knives and distracted and shocked by the battle between his Lord
Viper and that small man.
Viper had drawn both his Chinese swords and Wolverine had both sets of claws as weapons of death. The two men were evenly matched. Parried and counter-attacked each move the other made and dodged each kick or sweep made by the aggressor. They both leapt into the air and had hoped to cut the other on the down blow but instead, each man blocked the primary weapon with their secondary weapon. They landed and twisted their bodies to counter the back attack. Only this time, Wolverine was faster. He earned first blood on Viper.
Kim gasped as he witnessed his Lord・s wound.
Viper stepped back from Wolverine and touched his wound. He brought the blood to his lips. "First cut to you, gaijin."
Wolverine grunted, his eyes never left Viper・s face. The eyes usually gave away where the next strike would be coming from but this Viper was a master and Wolverine had to be careful. He got lucky and he knew it and Viper knew it, too.
"So, you gonna whine about your scratch or are we gonna get down to business?" Wolverine growled.
Viper smirked and set his swords at the ready.
Professor opened his eyes and leaned forward to Cyclops. "I do hope we are almost there, Scott."
"Yes, sir, just a few more minutes," Cyclops assured him.
"Herr Professor?" Nightcrawler inquired.
"Wolverine has engaged Viper in a combat to the death," Professor stated grimly. "A combat that I don・t think he can win."
The two warriors circled warily, each waited for the other to show signs of attacking as the audience watched.
Jasmine had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that if Logan lost, it was all over for Kitku and herself. She would not go down with out a fight but if Logan lost, she would not fair much better.
Kitku tightened her grip on her baseball bat and prayed to whomever would listen to her that Wolverine would win. He had to win, he was her best friend and she needed him as much as he needed her.
Kim kept his breathing as even as possible and his muscles twitched with each movement of the combatants as if imitating their moves. The gaijin was good, very good and his Lord Viper would need to keep his wits about him if he were going to beat this little gaijin.
Wolverine leapt at Viper, Viper blocked the down swing of Wolverine・s but missed the side cut of Wolverine・s left hand. Viper・s left sword also made contact with Wolverine and Viper finally drew blood.
Wolverine jumped back, touched his wounded side and smelled the blood. Poison.
Viper smirked. "And now, little gaijin, you know why they call me Viper."
Wolverine・s vision blurred momentarily, he felt himself weaken, and his knees start to buckle then his healing factor started to cure him. "Yeah, good thing I heal fast."
Viper raised an eyebrow and then beckoned Wolverine to continue the battle. "Come on, gaijin, time for you to die."
"That・s original," Wolverine growled.
This time it was Viper who was the aggressor and attacked first. The two men locked weapons, shoved away from each other and attempted last moment slashing attacks. They continued to dodge and attack, miss and strike, until finally both were exhausted.
Wolverine waited until the last possible moment, he knew if he did not rest soon, he would die from the poisons that were coursing through his veins. He had to stop so his healing factor could do its job. He had thought about releasing his bestial side but realized that it may get him killed but now he had no choice.
"Uh oh," Kitku breathed. "This is not good."
She watched as Wolverine・s face contorted and the growl emitted from his lips. She shivered at his transformation from a thinking fighter to an enraged animal. She watched when Wolverine struck at Viper with no finesse or thought. She grimaced as Wolverine flung himself onto Viper・s sword so he could close in on his prey and deliver a killing blow to Viper・s throat. She watched as he raised his hand to deliver the final blow.
Wolverine felt the blood rise to his face, he saw the red and then the black. He sensed his prey, he felt the pain that his prey managed to deliver onto him. He felt the warm blood splatter his body and he felt the steel blade dive into his belly as he pushed himself forward trying to get to Viper・s throat.
In the distance, an airplane could be heard as it hovered to land. Opponents and spectators alike, ignored the vessel and those who approached the contest.
"Wolverine!" a stern voice thundered across the field of battle.
Wolverine blinked rapidly, he heard the voice in his head and felt a touch, a presence.
"X-Men don・t kill," the voice said softly inside Wolverine・s head.
"Not this time, Chuck," he growled at the voice as he raised his hand to finish his opponent. Out loud to his prey, he said, "Name・s Logan."
Viper・s eyes widened with recognition and then acceptance of his fate. He tried to speak but his throat wound was too deep and all he could do was gurgle and spit blood.
Kim turned and saw the approach of the other X-Men. "It has been a party."
He dove toward his Lord, he kicked Wolverine off of Viper and flung himself on top of Viper. "Bringing re-enforcements is against the rules, you know."
Wolverine snarled and leapt back at Kim and Viper but the two men disappeared behind a curtain of smoke. Wolverine hit the ground hard and grunted from the landing.
Kitku ran over to Wolverine・s side, her bat at the ready against the fuzzy, blue guy and the man with the funny looking goggles. She thought she recognized the bald guy but he was in a wheelchair and the one she knew from her mind, could walk.
"Don・t even get any closer!" she warned, her bat at the ready.
"Pardon me, Kitku, isn・t it? I・m Professor Xavier and we are friends of Wolverine・s," the bald man in the wheelchair assured her.
Jasmine put her hand over Kitku・s bat and lowered it. "I believe him, kiddo."
Wolverine raised himself to his hands and knees, coughing and spitting up blood.
"Well, aren・t you a mess --- again," Kitku chastised.
Wolverine looked up at her and smiled as she ripped her shirttail and wiped his mouth.
"Well, Wild Thing," Jasmine chimed in, "the kid has a point and you need to rest."
"And chicken soup," Kitku added as the ladies helped him to his feet.
Wolverine grinned as he put one arm around Jasmine and the other around Kitku, turned and headed for the
Blackbird. "Let's go home."