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FF: Empathy (B) PG-13

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  • Cherry
    Disclaimers, etc: See part A AN: Yes, I know that At least I ve chosen as side is an Ororo line, but we re talking dreams here. * Logan pushed his way
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 9, 2001
      Disclaimers, etc: See part A

      AN: Yes, I know that 'At least I've chosen as side' is an Ororo line, but
      we're talking dreams here.


      Logan pushed his way through the throngs on the sidewalk, cursing the lack
      of parking spaces which had made him leave the bike chained up three blocks
      from his intended destination. He glanced at the want ads in the paper,
      making sure that he was in the right area. All of the circled ads were
      crossed out with red pen, save for the last one. Dock worker for a
      shipping company. All of the other interviews had been the same. The
      personnel recruiter would look at him strangely, ask him with distaste
      what his name was...

      “You have a name, girl?” Logan asked the blonde in his campsite again.
      She’d been coming for the past five weeks, never staying long, never moving
      much, never trying to communicate, but listening. Somewhere along the way
      he’d started to talk to her, as if she were a diary, and he the little girl
      that kept it. She’d become his silent companion. He guessed that he
      didn’t mind that much. It helped take the sting out of the loneliness that
      even an assassin was prone to.

      No matter where he travelled, she’d find him, somehow keeping up with him,
      even though she looked all of eight.

      He wondered if maybe he was going insane, if he spent his nights confiding
      in a figment of his imagination. She didn’t have a scent, never ate, and
      appeared and disappeared without a single trace.

      She continued to stare into the fire. Thinking that she hadn’t heard him,
      Logan reached out to touch her wrist. She reacted violently, jerking away
      from him, stumbling backwards. She stood, ready to take flight, her eyes
      wild with fear.

      “It’s all right,” he said soothingly, not knowing why he cared if she ran
      and never came back. Now that he thought of it, he’d never touched her.
      Now he knew that she was substantial, at least. He wondered what had been
      done to her, to make her so afraid of human touch. “Look, I’m not going to
      hurt you.” When she didn’t change her posture, he tried again, “If it
      makes you feel better, I won’t try and touch you.” She still didn’t react.
      “Fine. You want to stand away from the fire, and me, go ahead.” He sat
      back down and pulled his shoes off. When he turned around, she was gone.
      Cursing, he threw his boot at a tree.

      People gave Logan a wide berth as he swore and threw a newspaper down the
      sidewalk. He stopped himself before popping his claws. Raising his hands
      to his head, he leaned back against the office building he found himself in
      front of.

      If this didn’t get better soon, by the time he found out who was
      responsible for this, someone was going to be in for a world of hurt.

      Biting back his anger, he walked over to the curb, where the paper had
      skidded, and picked it up. He started to ask someone where he had wandered
      while he was on autopilot, so he could get to the one business left in his
      list of possible employers. He glanced at the building, grunting at the
      sight of the sign hanging above the door.

      Frost Industries. He pushed through the revolving doors and into the

      He was right where he was supposed to be.

      Upstairs, Mastermind’s eyes shot open at what his scan revealed.
      //Security.// He called, alerting them. //The target is down at the front

      Logan smiled gruffly at the receptionist, a woman in her mid thirties,
      trying to look twenty-six. She took in his clothes, and the stubble which
      had grown up on his face since his last shave that morning, pursed her
      bubble gum pink lips, and forced her voice to be pleasant. “Hello. How
      may I help you?”

      “I’m here about the loading job. I saw your ad in the paper.”

      “I’m sorry,” she said, expression belying the comment. “The position has
      already been filled.”

      “Since this mornin’ darling? This paper is brand new,” he said, holding it
      up. She grimaced slightly. It was looking a little worse for the wear
      after its trip down the road. “Why don’t you just check in that nice
      little computer of yours?”

      Something strange passed across her face. “I’ll take a look,” she said,
      suddenly more pleasant. She typed something into the keyboard, then turned
      to him and smiled. The smile was more unnerving than her earlier thinly
      veiled hostility. “You’re in luck,” she said. “Turns out someone quit
      this morning, so there is an opening after all. If you’d just like to go
      up to the thirteenth floor, then Mr. Masadu will give you an interview,”
      she said brightly.

      Logan felt his hackles go up. The receptionist’s sudden change in attitude
      and story felt suspicious.

      Almost like she’d received instructions.

      *Screw the job. Something is seriously wrong here,* he thought, turning to

      “Hey!” Yelled the receptionist. “Aren’t you going to go up?”

      Logan lengthened his stride, keeping his hands at the ready. The elevator
      behind him pinged, discharging its passengers. He turned to see a group of
      uniformed guards standing there at the ready. If he’d gone to get in, they
      would’ve gotten him for sure. A guard was blocking his way to the door
      now, another coming at him from the side. He stopped and dropped into a
      fighting stance, a smile curling at his lips. It’d been a while since he’d
      had a good tussle.

      Then he found himself standing up and marching over to the elevator, which
      was being held open by one of the guards. He fought, but his body was out
      of his control. His legs moved against his will, and he found himself
      stepping into the elevator.

      The last thing he saw before everything went black was the stock of one of
      the guard’s gun slamming towards his temple.


      Logan moved his arms slowly, following the pattern Mariko had taught him.
      Feeling the twinge that told him the girl was there, he continued, letting
      nothing but the movement intrude upon his consciousness. Finishing, he
      glanced over his shoulder to see Aurora mimicking his motion. He smiled at
      her. She started a little at his gaze, hanging her head so that he
      couldn’t see her eyes.

      “You’re getting good, Aurora,” he said gruffly. Surprised, she looked up
      at him. Seeing that he wasn’t teasing, a grin split her face like nothing
      he’d ever seen.

      He sat down at the fire and reached for his supper. The pot of beans sat
      partially into the flames, warming slowly. Or at least, they should have
      been warming slowly.

      Swearing, he jerked his hand back, examining the blisters already rising on
      his skin from the pot handle. He’d lost track of time while doing Tai Chi.
      The pot had to have been in there for much more than a few minutes, judging
      by the severity of the burns written across hand. He growled. It was
      healing even then, but the pain was still shooting up his arm in jagged
      lines. Then Aurora was crouched beside him, as silent as ever. He could
      feel the concern waving off of her. “I’ll be fine,” he grunted.

      She held out her hand, demanding that he offer his up for her inspection.
      Logan hesitated. He hadn’t tried to touch her since she’d shied away from
      him all that time ago. Her eyes bored into him, telling him not to be such
      a baby. When he still didn’t move, she reached forward and grabbed his
      wrist, being careful to avoid touching the burn.

      She watched in shock as the blisters sank back into his flesh, not letting
      go until his skin returned to its natural colour. She released his hand in
      shock, stumbling backwards. She raised her eyes to his face, slowly,
      watching him carefully. Smoke from the fire stung his eyes, and a piece of
      ash or something caught in one. Squeezing them shut out of reflex, he
      fought the instinct to rub them, knowing that it would do no good. When he
      opened them, blurred with water, she was gone, leaving only one word
      echoing inside his head, bouncing back and forth in a soft, lightly
      inflected voice.


      "At least I've chosen a side," Marie called at him as he roared away from
      the school, gunning the bike. But no matter how fast he drove, her cries
      still reached his ears, Ororo still floated along beside him on the winds.
      He drove faster, not wanting to look at her and see in her eyes what he had
      denied himself for so long.

      And he waited in the campsite, years earlier, wondering if he could catch
      his mysterious visitor. She’d only come a few times since he’d asked her
      her name, tried to touch her. So he stared into the fire, hoping that he
      was finally rid of her, at the same time he sat vigilantly. When he had
      assured himself that she wouldn’t come, he turned to rise from the log,
      leaping to his feet as he saw her sitting on the end, well out of arm’s

      “You keep that up, and one day you’re going to end up dead,” he said. “You
      can’t always count on my not skewering you.” She didn’t even look at him.
      “Look, I can’t just keep calling you “You” or “girl”. You going to tell me
      your name?”

      She continued to watch the flames dance around, inching forward to absorb a
      little more of the warmth.

      “If you’re not going to tell me, I’m just going to think of something to
      call you. And since I’m not very good at the name game, chances are, you
      won’t like it.”

      She just rubbed her hands together, blew on them, trying to force some
      warmth into her long, pale fingers. Logan took a look at what she was
      wearing for the first time that night. A white t-shirt tucked into a pair
      of washed out blue jeans, and cream high top sneakers.

      Definitely not proper attire considering the temperature.

      “Sarah?” He asked, getting up and walking towards his pack. “Mildred.
      Augusta. Bess?” he asked, throwing a spare jacket to the ground by her
      feet. She quickly grabbed it and shrugged it into place. “Naw,” he
      continued. “None of ’em seem to fit.” He sat back down on the log,
      studying her. The colour of her eyes against her hair reminded him of
      something. He sat, trying to place it. “Aurora. Like the Aurora
      Borealis. I bet you don’t see them much, but up in Saskatchewan, where I
      think I’m from, they’re magnificent. It okay if I call you Aurora?”

      A slight nod on her part was the only sign that she’d even heard him.

      “You know, Aurora, fires in the woods with dangerous old men isn’t the
      safest place for a girl your age. Your parents must be worried sick about

      That last comment drew a look filled with such disgust and pain that Logan
      might have taken a step back, if he hadn't been seated. Her face closed
      over quickly though. It was something Logan had noticed her becoming more
      adept at over the past weeks, that layer of ice over her emotions.

      It wasn’t something a child should be able to do. Sometimes he thought of
      what must have happened to her to make her this way.

      He tried not to. Chances were, he’d done the same things to many others.

      Empathy wasn’t something that he could afford.

      A hand grabbed his shoulder, shaking him from his dreams. He snapped awake
      at the touch, cotton against his bare skin. He looked up at Marie.
      "Aurora's not here," she whispered, panic starting to fill her warm eyes.
      Logan untangled himself from Ro, who was just beginning to wake, sitting up
      in the bed.

      "What do ya mean, she's not here?"

      "Ah went to get a glass of water, and ah noticed that her door was open,
      and you know how she always makes sure that it's locked closed. So ah went
      inside ta check on her, and, and..." Marie started to stutter.

      "Take a deep breath, child." Ro watched as Marie took a shuddering breath
      and composed herself. "Now, try again."

      "Ah went to make sure that she was all right, and she wasn't there. She
      wasn't there. Her window was open, and there were scratches on the sill,
      like someone had jimmied the lock. Her bed was a mess and ah'm worried.
      Ah'm really worried. Ah don't think that she left."

      By the time that the girl had finished speaking, both Ororo and Logan were
      out of bed and dressed. Logan pelted out of the master bed room and down
      the stairs, heading for Aurora's room. Storm touched down at the same time
      as his feet hit the floor, having opted simply to fly.

      If Aurora had been sneaking out of the house, she just would have used the
      back door. Marie wouldn't have woken up, and she would have been less
      likely to make a noise that Logan upstairs would pick up as being unusual.

      He skidded to stop when he saw Aurora's room. Storm sidled around him,
      wanting to see what had startled him so badly. The normally meticulous
      room looked like a cyclone had hit it.

      How had he not heard the commotion that it must have taken to destroy the
      room this thoroughly?

      The cool air blowing in through the window destroyed the scent of the place
      a bit. If it hadn't, Logan thought that he might have thrown up. It
      smelled of decay and something horribly *bad*. Underneath it all, he
      detected something familiar. He followed his nose, ending up at the
      window. He reached out and touched the frame.

      "What is it?" Storm asked from behind him.

      His fingers came away sticky. "Blood." He heard Marie gasp behind him.
      By the looks of it, the blood had been there for a while. He felt the
      anger start to build inside of him.

      They'd never dared to come to his family's home before. Growling, he
      hopped out of the window, following the scent towards the woods. When he
      reached the shelter of the trees, something hurtled into him, and all he
      knew was darkness.

      He woke slowly, realizing in time that the pain suffusing his body did not
      come from being attacked in the woods. The press of cold against his side
      was the only thing that lessened the aches. As the girl danced behind his
      eyelids, Logan woke in a cold cell, no more than a few metres square. The
      brick walls were featureless, unbroken even by windows. The illumination
      in the room came from a single flickering bulb above his head. He was
      lying on a thin pallet, his side against the cool brick wall. Trying to
      move, he found that the sensations in his dream hadn’t begun to tell him
      just how badly bruised he really was.

      He must not have been out for long though. His injuries were just
      beginning to heal over. He winced as he rose, realizing that the guards
      had had a good go at him while he was unconscious. Logan began to pace,
      working out some of the stiffness.

      There was room for only a few strides before he had to turn around. The
      door was locked, of course. But it looked to be made of ordinary wood.
      Feeling a nasty expression cross his face, he moved so that he was just in
      range of it. The fools must not have known as much about him as they
      thought, for them to leave him in a room like this.

      Drawing back his fist, he popped his claws.

      Or, he tried to.

      A blinding pain shot up his arm and echoed inside his head, his claws still

      Maybe not so stupid after all. His claws were still there, he could feel
      them under his skin, but they’d found a way to prevent him from utilising
      them. His healing factor seemed to still be working, but at a slower rate,
      so he had no idea how long he'd really been out.

      Now all he had to do was figure out why he was being held captive, figure
      out a way to get out of here, and get rid of whatever was controlling his

      No problem.

      Then the air in the small room grew heavy, and Logan felt himself slipping
      back into dreams.

      He guided the motorbike through the light night time traffic, weaving among
      them as fast as he could. A sign hanging crookedly on orange posts flashed
      by him, remaining in his sight only long enough for him to read 'Boston
      City Limits, 20 Miles'. His head pounded to the beat of the machine.
      Faster. Faster.

      Time was running out.

      Then came the part that even now he couldn't remember, waking to echoes of
      pain, smoke searing his nose.

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