FF: Empathy (B) PG-13
- 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.
Shed been coming for the past five weeks, never staying long, never moving
much, never trying to communicate, but listening. Somewhere along the way
hed started to talk to her, as if she were a diary, and he the little girl
that kept it. Shed become his silent companion. He guessed that he
didnt mind that much. It helped take the sting out of the loneliness that
even an assassin was prone to.
No matter where he travelled, shed 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 didnt have a scent, never ate, and
appeared and disappeared without a single trace.
She continued to stare into the fire. Thinking that she hadnt 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.
Its all right, he said soothingly, not knowing why he cared if she ran
and never came back. Now that he thought of it, hed 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, Im not going to
hurt you. When she didnt change her posture, he tried again, If it
makes you feel better, I wont try and touch you. She still didnt 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
If this didnt 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, Masterminds 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?
Im here about the loading job. I saw your ad in the paper.
Im 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 dont you just check in that nice
little computer of yours?
Something strange passed across her face. Ill 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. Youre in luck, she said. Turns out someone quit
this morning, so there is an opening after all. If youd 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 receptionists sudden change in attitude
and story felt suspicious.
Almost like shed received instructions.
*Screw the job. Something is seriously wrong here,* he thought, turning to
Hey! Yelled the receptionist. Arent 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 hed gone to get in, they
wouldve 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. Itd been a while since hed
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 guards 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
couldnt see her eyes.
Youre getting good, Aurora, he said gruffly. Surprised, she looked up
at him. Seeing that he wasnt teasing, a grin split her face like nothing
hed 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. Hed 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. Ill be fine, he grunted.
She held out her hand, demanding that he offer his up for her inspection.
Logan hesitated. He hadnt tried to touch her since shed shied away from
him all that time ago. Her eyes bored into him, telling him not to be such
a baby. When he still didnt 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
"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. Shed only come a few times since hed 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 wouldnt come, he turned to rise from the log,
leaping to his feet as he saw her sitting on the end, well out of arms
You keep that up, and one day youre going to end up dead, he said. You
cant always count on my not skewering you. She didnt even look at him.
Look, I cant just keep calling you You or girl. You going to tell me
She continued to watch the flames dance around, inching forward to absorb a
little more of the warmth.
If youre not going to tell me, Im just going to think of something to
call you. And since Im not very good at the name game, chances are, you
wont 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 dont see them much, but up in Saskatchewan, where I
think Im from, theyre magnificent. It okay if I call you Aurora?
A slight nod on her part was the only sign that shed even heard him.
You know, Aurora, fires in the woods with dangerous old men isnt 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 wasnt 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, hed done the same things to many others.
Empathy wasnt 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 hadnt 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 theyd 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
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.
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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