Magneto strode in without knocking, but then, Logan reasoned, there
was nothing to knock on. "Get on the bed."
"Wha . . . for?" Even though Logan sat carefully hunched over in the
rickety wooden chair it was still difficult for him to get a full
"I'm going to examine you, of course. Toad told me what happened. He
rather enjoyed telling me, as a matter of fact. Now, lie down."
Logan grimaced, sucked in air. "'M . . . fin'."
"I'll be the judge of that. Lie down."
"Lissen, bub, . . . I don' . . . need" A whirlwind picked him up and
threw him on the bed. The impact knocked out the little breath he had
hoarded and he panicked, writhing and twisting as he tried to snatch
"Relax." Magneto stood over him. "You're wasting your oxygen by
Relax? The guy's nuts! Logan rolled his eyes around the room
searching for he didn't know what, gulping down every little swallow
of air he could grab. The next moment he went rigid, head and legs
pulled straight out from their curl, arms stretched crosswise.
"I said 'relax'", Magneto repeated, lips quirking a little at Logan's
Relax! He felt like a sacrificial victim! How could he relax
when . . . But the air was finally trickling in now that he'd stopped
thrashing about. He took a shaky breath, a second.
"Okay. 'M . . . okay. Lemme . . . go."
Magneto smiled, amused. "Yes, I can hear how 'okay' you are. But I
believe I'll just make my examination now, while you're so docile."
"Why you sneaky bas"
"I can clamp your jaw shut just as easily! I suggest you exhibit
patience and restraint for once in your life."
After a wild look for non-existent help, Logan scowled at the
ceiling, mouthing obscenities, but uttering none. He gritted his
teeth as the man's fingers probed the tender ribs and stomach muscles
which had not yet absorbed the injury and healed.
"Does this hurt? This?"
It all hurts, dammit! "Unh! Yeah. Yeah, that's the worst. "
"Hmm. Yes, here's the problem." A cool hand passed over the lower
part of his rib cage and the pain stopped.
The sudden, unexpected relief took Logan's breath away for a
moment. "Whawhat did you do?" He stared in awe at Magneto, who with
a wave of hand now released his patient from the induced paralysis.
"One of your floating ribs was . . . floating, to use a layman's
term. I've anchored it for now. I'll repair any damage later."
Logan had swung his feet to the floor and was on the point of
thanking the man when the 'later' brought home that the man was
Magneto, and that the 'later' would be a time of more pain. Hell! He
wouldn't even have been hurt if Magneto hadn't caught him and kept
him prisoner. Was he supposed to thank the bastard for that too? He
looked away, found his bare feet of absorbing, visual interest, and
concentrated on nursing his midsection.
"I did warn you about Toad," came the man's voice.
There was a long silence, then Logan heard retreating footsteps cross
the room and echo down the hall.
"Thanks," he muttered to his toes.
Logan had thrown the mattress on the floor and was studying the army
cot's metal frame and springs, an idea shaping in his mind, when a
timid "Hello?" caused him to spin around, claws at the readyonly
"Hel-LO!" He relaxed from his defensive, spread-legged stance and
switched on his smile as he strolled over to the girl standing in the
doorway. She was young, just a kid, but he was bored, and she was a
damn sight prettier than Toadwhich wasn't much of a compliment when
he came to think of it.
But her pale, straw hair and her skin just a shade lighter made her
dark brown eyes look enormous in her heart-shaped face, and her
clean, fresh scent of crushed grass laced with pine made her smell
like she'd just come in from the woods. He puffed out his bare chest
and hiked up the wattage of the smile. "You lost, darlin'?"
She looked alarmed, unsure, and embarrassed all at once. A blush
colored her pale cheeks as her forehead creased. "Uh, you are
Wolverine, aren't you?"
Used to be. He scowled. "Yeah. So?"
She retreated a step from his glower. "II'm Fawn. I brought your
For the first time he noticed the tray she held. "Thanks. Lunch time,
eh?" Damn windowless room! With the lights always on he didn't know
if it was night or day.
"What are you doing here, kid?" He took the tray from her and set it
on the table that once held the pills.
"Dr. Lehnsherr thought I ought to bring your food instead of
Dr. Lehnsherr? Logan frowned. Where had he heard that name?
Lehnsherr . . . That was it, Chuck's old buddy who becameMagneto!
But who the hell was Mortimer? "Who the hell is Mortimer?"
"You know, the little man with the glasses?"
Logan's eyebrows shot up. "Mortimer! His name's Mortimer?" he
demanded when his howl of laughter had dwindled to a snigger. "No
wonder the little creep calls himself Toad!"
"That's a terrible thing to say! He can't help what he looks like."
Fawn lifted her chin and turned to go.
"Wait! I'm sorry. Can you stay awhile, kid?" He put on the mournful
look that he'd had considerable success with in the past. "It's awful
She hesitated. "Well, just a little while. I have to get back to work
Chalk up another one for the mournful look, he thought cynically,
ushering her to the chair before tossing the mattress back on the bed
springs for himself.
"You hungry?" he invited, waving a hand at the tray on the table
"Thank you, I've already eaten. But, please go ahead," she said
"Okay." He attacked the food, had downed several mouthfuls before he
noticed that it was stew and that it didn't taste particularly good.
It had that same faint bitterness as everything else he'd eaten here
as if it had been burnt. Considering that Toad was the cook he wasn't
But the taste hardly mattered. He was ravenous. His metabolism had
finally revved up. Gone was the tenderness of his ribs, gone the pink
streaks outlining his bones and the queasiness he had first awakened
withwhen? Yesterday? The day before? He'd wake, eat, then a yawn
would catch him unawares and he was out of it, for how long he didn't
know, and then he'd wake up again, starving. Time was all skewed. How
many days had he been in this cell? More important, how much longer
did he have before Magneto judged him sufficiently 'recuperated'?
He forced himself to put down the spoon and push back the
bowl. "Gee . . . Guess I'm not as hungry as I thought."
"Oh, aren't you feeling well?"
"The old tum-tum's acting up a bit." He patted his washboard stomach.
"I have some pills"
"No, no. I'll just take a nap and it should be fine. Probably." He
"I'd better go."
He saw that he'd overplayed it. "I'm not that tired just yet." He
caught her hand. "Talk to me awhile. It'll help me go to sleep," he
wheedled, seeing her vacillate.
"Alright." She settled back in the chair.
He lounged on the mattress Roman style, dipped a finger in the stew
bowl and licked off the gravy. "You say you work here, kid? What do
you dobesides lunch? Your dad a caretaker for this place or
something?" He hadn't seen a caretaker's house, but that didn't mean
there wasn't one. There must be another gate somewhere. After all,
Magneto had gotten in. Or maybe the bastard just waved his hand and
the fence parted for him like the Red Sea did for Moses. He snagged a
chunk of meat with his fingers and suddenly realized she was frowning
"What? My table manners?"
"You keep calling me 'kid'! I'm not a kid. I'm seventeen!"
Logan lowered his eyes to hide the smile in them. "Sorry. My mistake."
"And I'm not living with my father anymore. I'mI'm on my own now."
He heard the tremor in her voice and looked at her sharply, but she
took a deep breath and continued.
"I've got a full time job here with Dr. Lehnsherr, taking care of the
lab animals. He's working on an experiment that helps injured animals
heal quickly. Isn't that wonderful?"
"Terrific," Logan returned sourly. Using my bone marrow, the bastard!
"You know," she said hesitantly. "That night, that first night you
came here I heard you call. You wanted to help me. That was sweet.
His forehead wrinkled as he tried to understand what she meant, fit
her words into some sensible shape or form. Form. A still form on a
table . . . He struggled to remember and it was like wading in hip-
deep mud. Abruptly, a picture snapped into place.
The girl. The runaway. Fawn was that runaway? He hadn't seen her
since that night. And he hadn't actually seen her even then, just a
shape under a sheet. And the next morning she was gone and Magneto
began . . . began the work. He felt himself go hot with shame. He'd
forgotten all about her.
"I'm sorry I . . . couldn't."
"I know." She blushed and her smile was timid, bashful. "But I think,
maybe, I helped you."
"It works better if you close your eyes."
And suddenly he was exhausted. But he had to tell her something, warn
her about . . . His eyelids slammed down as if they were lead garage
doors. He sighed in relief as the peaceful dark shrouded him, and
mingled with that sigh, woven around and through it was a tuneless
crooning thread that drew him down deeper and deeper until he was
safe and snug and warm in the den with his littermates. And he was