A Peace of His Mind
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The wood-paneled halls of the mansion were quiet, almost all the mutant children asleep in their beds, but a careful listener might have heard Jubilee's snores, the tinny sound of Jono listening to music through headphones, and Logan groaning.
He clawed his way out of another nightmare, heart trying to escape from his chest and sweat making the sheets stick like they'd been glued. The flash of residual images behind his eyelids--needles and faces and lights--warred with the waking world for dominance.
He shook his head, dispelling the ghosts, only then catching the sound and scent that told him he wasn't alone in his bedroom. Automatically, his claws extended and he sniffed past the familiar iron tang of his own blood--but he relaxed even before he heard the voice.
"It's all right, Logan, it's only me," Professor Xavier said, rolling closer to the bed. In the faint light coming around the door from the hallway, Xavier looked uneasy, and that bothered Logan somehow.
"Why're you here?" Logan pulled his claws back in and swung his feet onto the floor. He looked at Xavier, but when the other man only pursed his lips, Logan grunted. "Whatever. I'm fine. Didn't skewer any kids. They're too scared to come in."
He got up, surprised to find himself a bit unsteady, and went to the bathroom, where cold water on his face pushed back his nightmare world even farther. He thought about turning on the light, but didn't.
Xavier turned his chair to face him, and Logan paused in the bathroom doorway. "So, why're you in my bedroom?"
"Your nightmares have changed."
"What the hell?" He just barely restrained his claws this time. "You're snooping in my dreams? Just because I've let you in my head a couple of times--"
"Logan!" Xavier snapped out his name and Logan stopped. "I was not...snooping. *You* were projecting. Besides, as I recall, you came yesterday asking me to search your memory again."
"Which you didn't...projecting?"
Xavier sighed and rolled his chair to the light switch, with one click illuminating the room. His face was tight, mouth pinched, and if he'd had hair, Logan was sure it would be rumpled. But Xavier closed his eyes for a moment and the lines of pain in his temples smoothed a bit. When he opened his eyes, he had regained a hint of his customary calm and good humor. "You have an extraordinarily strong mind, even if your gifts are not psionic. I apologize for my sharpness, but for some reason I've been finding it difficult to shield against your nightmares."
Still a bit annoyed, Logan waved away the apology and cracked his neck, not quite willing to look Xavier in the eye after their conversation the previous day.
"Your dreams have changed," Xavier said finally. "Besides the nightmares of the experiments performed on you, there are now flashes of other things. Things, perhaps, that happened recently."
Logan found his jaw clenching and he consciously relaxed it, moving to sit on the bed again.
"Logan, you know I only want to help you."
Anger burned his chest and throat. "Then give me my answers! Magneto said--"
"And you trust whatever Magneto tells you?" Xavier's voice cut through the rising anger. "You didn't let me explain before you stormed off. I won't deny I had some inkling of a military involvement, but that was a logical deduction. I had no evidence and I don't know where Erik got his information. Perhaps Stryker said something while interrogating him."
Guns, champagne, Jean limping, Stryker smirking, fragmented memories flashing in his head. Logan swallowed sharply, nervous energy making him twitch. He jumped up, pacing the few steps back and forth across the room, Xavier's concerned eyes following him.
"I want to help," Xavier said. "You've touched my mind, just as I've touched yours. Surely you know I'm telling the truth."
"Yeah." Warm blood trickling down his back, soldiers shooting, adamantium streaming out of dark eyes, delicate nose, open mouth. Logan wanted to smash his fist through a wall, he wanted to beat the crap out of someone, he wanted a cage fight. Xavier wanted to help.
"I saw a face tonight," Xavier said. "The face of the young lady who accompanied Stryker. When he imprisoned me, I saw her confusion as she momentarily awoke from his control."
"She was Stryker's pet bodyguard. He left her to kill me while he escaped." Breathing a little faster, Logan leaned against the bedroom door, trying to look casual and doubting he was fooling the other man.
"What happened to her?"
"Please tell me."
"I asked for help finding my past. I didn't ask for the headshrinking, so spare me."
Xavier leaned forward, quiet and earnest. "This is part of who you are. Until you accept your actions, you may not be able to break through the block on your memories."
A dull silver pool of bubbling adamantium--near indestructible when cooled--the only weapon able to kill someone like him. Someone like him.
Logan went back to pacing. "She's dead, okay? You know that. I had to kill her to get out."
"How did she die?"
"Why does it matter?"
"Because it obviously matters to you," Xavier said. "She's in your dreams, your nightmares, so it's on your mind."
"I killed her. So what. I've killed lots of people. I killed a bunch of the soldiers who attacked the mansion." Logan's chest was tight, his breathing unsteady.
"But you're not dreaming about them."
"Are you saying I don't care? Maybe you agree with Stryker, I'm just an animal with claws."
Xavier steepled his hands and peered at him over the tips of his fingers. "I didn't say that, Logan. If I thought you were an animal, I wouldn't have allowed you anywhere near this school. You would very likely be back in Canada with no memory of setting foot on these grounds."
Logan stared at him, astonished.
"I am not as unwilling to make the difficult decisions as you seem to think."
"Good to know."
"I believe you are a valuable addition to the team." Xavier paused, his face once again drawn and tired. "And I am deeply appreciative of your efforts to protect the children during our recent troubles. I'm sorry if no one has communicated this to you yet, but things have been a bit...hectic."
Logan squirmed a bit, uncomfortable, but feeling the need to say something. "I'm sorry about Jean," he said slowly. "She was pretty special."
"Yes." A tiny smile slid across Xavier's face and his thoughts were obviously elsewhere.
Logan thought about Jean, something he was slowly learning to do without an ache in the pit of his stomach. But he'd finally had to admit--to himself at least--that what he'd loved was the idea of Jean, not the woman, a woman he'd never gotten the chance to know. For a moment he could smell the fragrance that was uniquely hers: shampoo, perfume, her sweat, the diet Cokes she drank, all the little smells that added up to Jean.
He jumped when Xavier interrupted his thoughts. "I'm sorry, I was woolgathering. As I said, you are a valuable addition to the team."
Annoyed, although he couldn't have said why, Logan muttered, "Thanks."
"Tell me about this woman."
Logan rolled his eyes. "She was a mutant. She had these weird fingernail claw things. What the hell do you wanna know? It's not like we had a chance to exchange life stories."
"Why does her death haunt you? Why not the soldiers?"
"She was strong, almost as strong as me," Logan said slowly, seeing her empty eyes as they fought. "And..."
Xavier waited patiently, as if he had conversations like this every day. Although, Logan thought, with some of the students around here, maybe he did. Damn it, he was avoiding Xavier's question.
"She healed like me." Logan's fingers drummed against his leg, and he clenched his fist to stop them.
Xavier's eyes widened. "Fascinating."
"And she must've had adamantium on her bones. When I hit her, it was just like hitting a wall. Stryker said..." He paused and swallowed. "He said he used to think I was unique."
"So Stryker *was* one of those responsible for your transformation, and he continued those experiments." Xavier nodded slowly, sadly.
"But he didn't just wipe her memory," Logan said, suddenly angry that Xavier wasn't angry. "He took away everything, he controlled her, he turned her into a goddamn robot." Rage filled his throat, ate away at his insides, made it hard to breathe. "I didn't even know her name and I fucking well killed her!"
Logan could feel the snarl twisting his face and he turned away, unwilling to be seen at his most animalistic. Hands on the wall, he braced himself and willed the rage to subside. Behind him, he could hear Xavier's patient breathing, waiting for him to calm himself, the man seemingly unafraid of his rage. The muscles that controlled the claws twitched.
"I killed her," he said again, still facing the wall.
"She would have killed *you*."
"Not by choice."
"You didn't take that choice away, Stryker did."
"It doesn't matter." Logan spun around. "I pumped boiling adamantium into her, I sat there and watched as it killed her."
"You had no choice, Logan. You're not an animal, whatever Stryker said to you."
"He knew me before and he didn't seem to agree. Maybe you'd think the same if you knew what I'd done." He spit out the words like bullets. "Hell, for all you know, I could be some goddamn serial killer Stryker grabbed outta prison."
There, it was out. The words hung in the air, gaining solidity with every moment.
Xavier frowned. "I believe you're under a grave misapprehension about the nature of memory and what you lost."
"What?" Startled, he wasn't sure what to say.
"Stryker may have hidden your memory of who you are, but that information is still there, almost accessible. That is where your dreams come from--your subconscious and your healing factor doing their best to heal you."
"So what?" Logan shook his head, trying to clear it.
"The person you are now is not precisely the person you were before; environment *does* have a strong effect on personality. *But*, and this is important, I find it hard to believe that hiding your memories could change you from a serial killer to the man you are today. That would contradict nearly everything I've learned about the human mind."
Logan searched Xavier's face, expecting to find signs he was being humored. But they weren't there. A bit dazed, he sank down on the bed, anchored by the feel of the blankets, soft and comforting under his hands.
"I won't lie to you. You may not have been a nice person," Xavier said gently, "and it certainly seems likely you were a soldier, but I am quite certain you were not evil."
Logan closed his eyes, repeating the words to himself, willing himself to believe. His head spun--Stryker's face contorted with rage, the smell of disinfectant, the little choking sound the woman made as she died.
"Artie told me about finding Stryker," Xavier said.
His eyes shot open in surprise. "Artie?"
"The child you were carrying during our escape."
"Oh yeah. Yeah, Magneto left Stryker all chained up and I could smell him." Logan paused. "He wanted me to ditch the kid and let him go."
"Why didn't you?" Xavier's tone wasn't judgmental, just curious.
"I figured the kid had a hell of a lot more right to live than Stryker. And I'd..." The confines of the room started to get on his nerves and he stood, resuming his pacing.
"Nothing." Jean's soothing voice, retreating behind him as he abandoned the X-Men without a second thought; the scent of Stryker in a hallway, metallic and sweaty, luring him away from the team.
"Don't try that 'Father Knows Best' tone on me, Chuck. I'm not one of the kids, and I'm done with the free therapy session." He regretted the words as soon as they were out, but didn't quite know how to take them back.
Xavier didn't seem annoyed, though, more like amused, if the quirk of his lips was anything to go by. "Certainly. If you wish. For both our sakes, I hope your dreams will be improved." He paused his chair in the doorway, hand on the doorknob. "If you should wish to speak further, you know where to find me."
The door closed partway behind Xavier and Logan stared at it for a few moments, thinking about a late night visit to the gym. He reached for the doorknob, and felt phantom pain ghost through him. Ripping pain across his back and shoulders, adamantium tearing through his soft organs, his life dripping down into a pool of water.
Hissing, he closed his eyes, concentrating on banishing the image. Pain was replaced by an unfamiliar fear, but not fear for his life--he didn't value it all that highly. Fear for the others, fear for the team, fear for the lives of the students.
Just as he'd feared for Rogue on top of the Statue of Liberty, so he relived the fear for the team, the children, trapped beneath a dam about to collapse. Once again, he felt the knowledge that there was nothing he could do to bring Jean back to the jet.
Logan concentrated on creating mental walls, not wanting to share this particular moment with the telepath who'd just left his room. Xavier was right, he'd learned something about the other man while they were searching his own memory.
Xavier saw why he had to kill Stryker's bodyguard and the soldiers in the mansion, and he might assure him he wasn't evil, but Logan doubted Xavier would be so forgiving of the man who followed his own selfish needs and abandoned the students. And if nobody'd bothered to tell Xavier about his dereliction, Logan certainly wasn't going to.
The images, the memories, the fear, all took time to fade, leaving him feeling a bit hollow. When had it become so important that he be forgiven?
After a moment, he whispered into the night. "I'm sorry, Jean."