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Fic: Caliper: 1/1: Logan

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  • victoria p.
    Title: Caliper Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@att.net] Summary: Logan nodded firmly, congratulating himself on handling the kid. He could do this. Hell, this
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2002
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      Title: Caliper
      Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@...]
      Summary: "Logan nodded firmly, congratulating himself on handling the
      kid. He could do this. Hell, this kid was a cakewalk compared with some
      of the kids he saw at Xavier's."
      Rating: R - language
      Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of
      fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.
      Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool.
      Feedback: Rings my chimes
      Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. Meg came up with most
      of the good ideas, I just wrote the story. Thanks to Khaki for all the
      links that helped me research leg straightening/stretching.

      ~*~

      Caliper

      Logan shifted uncomfortably in the hard, plastic, waiting room chair.

      He hated hospitals. Hated the sterile, antiseptic scent that couldn't
      quite cover the stench of disease, death and decay. Hated the bright
      fluorescent lighting that gave everything a greenish-yellow cast and
      made even the healthy look sick.

      But mostly he hated that he could remember being strapped down on a
      metal table and experimented on, in a setting much like this.

      And he hated that he'd passed that onto Rogue, that she now bore his
      nightmares and probably would for a long time, even though the healing
      factor she'd absorbed from him had faded quickly.

      It was only because Rogue had asked him that he'd come. Apparently, some
      world-famous neurologist friend of Jean's had a super-duper new machine
      that Jean thought could help determine the origin of Rogue's mutation
      and, perhaps, some means of controlling it.

      Rogue had asked him to come -- she didn't like hospitals any more than
      he did, and having Magneto's memories of the malevolent Nazi doctors
      didn't help -- and he'd been powerless before her big brown eyes. Since
      she so rarely asked for anything, he couldn't say no, especially to
      something as important as this.

      And then they hadn't let him stay with her. The nurses had hustled him
      out of the exam room, nattering on about how the young lady had to
      remove her clothes and he couldn't be there while she did. When he
      protested, Jean patted his arm and quickly said something about how the
      adamantium in his body might screw up the test.

      It was only that last comment that assuaged his annoyance; he didn't
      want anything to go wrong, and he certainly didn't want to be the cause
      of any problems for Rogue. So, he found himself sitting in the hallway
      for forty-five minutes, cursing the people who'd created the torture
      devices known as waiting room chairs.

      He shifted again.

      This whole thing was taking far longer than expected, and he was getting
      antsy. He'd already reconnoitered and found absolutely nothing of
      interest in the dun-colored hallway. He hadn't wanted to stray far at
      first, in case Rogue needed him, and then because he thought she'd be
      done soon. But now he wondered about going back out to the jeep. He was
      going to claw the next person who smiled condescendingly at him, or,
      even worse, looked past him in an effort not to have to recognize the
      pain and illness all around, of which they thought he was part.

      The double doors swung open and he jumped up, on alert.

      A kid on Canadian crutches, heavy metal braces on his legs, attempted to
      stomp down the hall, but his mobility aids got in the way. He flung
      himself into the chair next to where Logan had been sitting and released
      the crutches with a grunt, sending them flying across the hall.

      Logan looked away, not wanting to make the kid feel self-conscious, but
      it was too late.

      "You got a problem, mister?"

      Logan bit his lip to keep from smiling. The kid had guts.

      "No."

      "Then what are you looking at?"

      Logan shrugged. "You've got a pretty good arm."

      The kid snorted. "Don't matter, since my legs are all fucked." He
      watched Logan, waiting for a reaction.

      Logan didn't give him the one he was looking for. "Too bad."

      "I never liked baseball anyway."

      "Like watching paint dry," Logan agreed, sitting down again. He could do
      this. He could handle one scared kid. And Rogue would be out soon, he ho
      ped, and he could leave before they got to the heart-to-heart stage of
      the conversation. "Hockey. Now, there's a sport for ya."

      "Won't ever get to play that either."

      "You never know. You get those things off, you'll be able to do all
      sorts of shit, right?"

      "Don't try to comfort me."

      "I'm not. I'm just saying--"

      "Don't, all right? I hear about it all the time. 'This is for your own
      good, Ray. You'll feel much better after. You'll be *normal*. You should
      be grateful we can do this for you.'"

      "Fuckers," Logan said.

      Ray looked at him in surprise. "What?"

      "Nasty fuckers. It sucks. Being different. And it hurts. Having all that
      shit done to you. Believe me, I know. And people -- they tell you to
      suck it up, right? Be a man?" Ray nodded. "But you can't. You're not old
      enough to go out and get drunk, which is what most men would do. You
      just have to smile and nod, right?"

      "Yeah."

      "That sucks." Logan nodded firmly, congratulating himself on handling
      the kid. He could do this. Hell, this kid was a cakewalk compared with
      some of the kids he saw at Xavier's, even if he did look like a little
      old man, with his face lined and careworn, and braces on his legs.

      "How do you know?" Ray asked, breaking the silence.

      "What?"

      "You said you know how it feels. How?"

      <Shit.> He didn't like showing himself off as a freak. He didn't like
      trying to garner sympathy for what had been done to him. He preferred
      anger and hatred, and the desire for revenge, to wallowing in self-pity.

      But he knew the kid would smell bullshit a mile away, would know if he
      lied and would close off if he patronized. That made up his mind for
      him.

      *Snikt*

      "Shit," The kid jumped out of his chair, awkward on wobbly legs.

      "Yeah," Logan replied. "They fucked me up but good. At least your
      doctors are trying to help you." He retracted the claws and kept himself
      still as the kid leaned in to stare at his already-healed knuckles. He
      raised his hand so the boy didn't topple.

      Ray took his hand, and he forced himself not to flinch. He still wasn't
      comfortable being touched by strangers, though he knew this kid was no
      threat at all.

      "Why?"

      Another shrug. What to tell him? "Who knows? Because they could, I
      guess. They wanted to see what would happen. I don't know."

      "You didn't ask for it?"

      Logan made a sound that might have been a laugh. "I don't remember. They
      fucked with my head, too. I suppose it's possible. I don't like to think
      so, though. I mean--"

      "Maybe you thought they were helping you."

      "I don't think so. How could these things," he unsheathed a single claw
      and retracted it quickly, "be helpful? They make me a freak."

      "You like to drink and you hate hospitals. Seems pretty normal to me.
      And what happened to you -- that just made you stronger. Better. I'm
      *disabled*. I'm a freaking gimp. A cripple. Fucking Tiny Tim."

      "Hey, there are people who have it a lot worse than you, kid," Logan
      replied, thinking of the young woman whose request had brought him here.
      "My friend, the one I'm waiting for -- she can't ever touch anybody with
      her bare skin. And another guy I work with -- he has to wear special
      glasses all the time, or he could kill people just by opening his eyes.

      "So I'm thinking you don't have it too bad. Sure, the surgery sucks and
      the crutches are a hassle, but in a few years, you'll be fine. My
      friends live with their shit every day, and will for the rest of their
      lives."

      "Bullshit. I've seen all sorts of stuff about muties on the news. You
      get cool shit like X-Ray vision or super-speed, not killing people with
      your eyes and skin."

      "Everybody's got problems, Ray."

      "I don't believe you."

      Logan flashed the claws. "You think I live in the suburbs and work a
      nine-to-five job? Think again." His voice was low, intense. He felt a
      strong need to get through to this kid, or he'd grow up bitter, and
      Logan didn't want that. There were too many bitter,
      old-before-their-time kids running around in the world, and he found
      himself feeling for each and every one these days. "I've seen a lot of
      weird shit," he continued, "and lived through worse. Everybody's got
      problems. Everybody's fucked up in some way. It's how you deal with it
      that matters."

      "Yeah, but nobody knows -- nobody can see you're screwed up." Ray stood
      again. "Look at me. *Everybody* looks at me. Everybody knows my legs
      didn't grow right." He tapped the metal brace on his leg. "And nobody
      leaves me alone. I wish sometimes that people would just leave me the
      fuck alone, instead of always trying to make me feel better."

      Logan nodded. "Believe me, I get that. I don't get to be alone as much
      as I'd like anymore. There's always people around, getting in my shit."
      Which wasn't true, exactly. Nobody interfered with Wolverine unless they
      were willing to face the claws. Well, nobody but Rogue, and where the
      hell *was* she, anyway? She'd handle this a lot better than he was. And
      Jeannie could do her Comforting Doctor routine, and it would all work
      out okay.

      Except that he knew this boy wouldn't be okay, not for a long time. And
      he understood what not having control of your body -- what having your
      body betray you -- felt like. Every mutant did.

      "I used to live alone. Traveled a lot, you know? Lived hand to mouth for
      a lotta years." He was almost nostalgic for those days, and Ray picked
      up on that.

      "Do you *want* to be alone again?"

      "Yeah, sometimes. There are too damn many teenagers around, and they bug
      the hell out of me." Then he thought about it. "But not really. The good
      stuff outweighs the bad. And I've met some people who mean a lot to me.
      "

      "Like a girlfriend?"

      "Uh--" He shifted uncomfortably. This was territory he wasn't prepared
      to get into with some strange kid. "Not exactly."

      "There's this girl I like at school. Tricia," Ray confided. "She's not
      the prettiest, or even the smartest girl, but she has the best smile."

      Logan nodded. "I hear ya. Why don't you talk to her? Tell her how you
      feel?"

      Ray rolled his eyes. "That's what adults always say! 'Just talk to her.
      Be yourself.'" His voice rose. "It doesn't work like that. It's all
      bullshit. I can't even say 'hi' to her. I either stutter or say stupid
      stuff. And you want me to tell her how I feel?" He snorted. "I'm not old
      enough to have a cool car to impress her, and obviously I can't play
      sports!" He thumped his legs against the floor, the metal of his braces
      clanging hollowly against the plastic chairs, underlining his point.

      Logan felt himself measured and found wanting, and for one of the few
      times in his remembered life, he cared. He cared what this squirt
      thought of him, and he wanted to make the kid feel better somehow.

      "Yeah," he said finally. "It's hard to talk to the girl you like. Even
      if you're perfectly healthy and normal-looking. I get that.

      "But if you really like her, you've gotta tell her. Because what if she
      likes you back and you never say anything? Then you're both unhappy.
      And that's not good."

      "Is that how you got your girlfriend?"

      "Uh--" This was not the time to explain fight groupies and one-night
      stands to the boy. "I--" He thought about Rogue and all the obstacles in
      the way of his ever being with her, starting with his own reluctance to
      admit that that's what he wanted. "No. I don't have a girlfriend right
      now."

      Another snort and eye-roll from Ray. "See? If *you're* too scared to
      tell a girl you like her, what chance to *I* have?"

      "Hey, I didn't say I was scared--"

      "Well, you like the girl, right? You said you did. But she's not your
      girlfriend 'cause you're too scared to ask her out." The kid raised his
      chin, daring Logan to argue with him, but he couldn't, because he
      realized the kid was right. He had finally found someone that meant a
      lot to him -- who could mean everything -- and he was so scared of
      screwing it up that he'd been ignoring it.

      He'd never believed in that "brothers under the skin" crap that both
      Xavier and Magneto peddled, but suddenly it seemed to make sense. Human,
      mutant, teenager, adult -- all men trembled in the face of love.

      His mouth quirked in a half-grin. "I've got an idea. What do you say we
      make a deal? I'll talk to my girl if you talk to yours."

      Ray's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "How will you know if I talk to her?"

      Logan kept his face blank. "Superpowers, remember?"

      "Oh, yeah. Right. But how will *I* know if *you* talk to your girl?"

      Logan bit back a low growl of frustration. Damn kids always had an
      answer for everything. "You're here a lot, right? Pretty regularly?" Ray
      nodded. "I'll come back and see you. We can, uh, compare notes."

      "Promise?"

      Logan hesitated. He was a man of his word, but he gave it rarely and
      only when it really mattered. He recalled the last promise he’d made,
      the last time someone had asked him to promise, and how it had changed
      his life.

      So, he looked at Ray and saw him looking like a *kid*, instead of the
      little, bitter, old man he'd resembled at the beginning of the
      conversation; saw the hope shining in his eyes, and said, "Promise."

      Ray held out a hand and he shook it.

      They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, and then a woman
      who had to be the boy's mother came through the double doors. Logan
      could tell she was about to launch into a fearsome scold (he might have
      lost his memory, but some things are ingrained so deep they're
      recognizable even to the blind), so he stood and said, "You've got a
      fine boy there, ma'am." He felt big and dumb and awkward, but held
      himself loosely.

      She blinked, her attention drawn away from Ray, who exhaled in relief.
      Again, he felt himself being weighed and measured. 'Thank you, Mr.--"

      "Logan," he supplied. "Yeah, Ray's got a good arm on him. When he
      finally gets out of those braces, I bet he'll be a great ballplayer." He
      forced himself not to fidget under the woman's steady regard.

      After a tense moment (in which she no doubt decided he wasn't a child
      molester, Logan thought grimly), affection won out over suspicion and
      she said, "He's a fine boy."

      "Mom!"

      "Let's go, Raymond."

      "When do we have to come back?"

      Logan hid a smile at the boy's apparently guileless question. He was a
      wily one, no doubt about it.

      "Dr. Martin wants to see you next Tuesday," she said as she bent and
      picked up the crutches, which had lain on the floor of the hallway since
      he'd chucked them there earlier. Ray took them stoically, shot a wink in
      Logan's direction, and followed his mother down the hall.

      About five minutes later, Rogue and Jean came through the doors. Neither
      looked happy, but he could sense Rogue's relief that the whole ordeal
      was over. Or he was just attributing his own relief to her, since he
      felt himself relax slightly now that she was in his sight again.

      He slipped an arm around Rogue's shoulders and looked at Jean, one
      eyebrow raised in question.

      "We have to wait for the results," she said. He noticed she looked
      almost as tired as Rogue did. He decided he didn't really want to know
      what the test entailed, glad he hadn't paid attention the first time
      Jean had explained it, back at the mansion. "It'll be a couple of days."

      "Oh."

      "Yeah," Rogue said, looking up at him with a smile. "Thanks again for
      coming. It really means a lot. I know how much you hate hospitals."

      "Hey, anything for my girl, right?" he said, squeezing her shoulder and
      holding his breath. It was the first time he'd referred to her like that
      out loud.

      Jean glanced at them and then increased her pace, smiling as she led
      them through the hallways.

      Logan exhaled and took a deep breath. "Why don't we go out to eat
      tonight? Just you and me?"

      Marie's smile lit the place up, causing his heart to do a little flip.
      "That'd be nice," she allowed.

      "Yeah. There's some things I think we should talk about."

      She leaned her head against his shoulder and he relaxed a bit more.
      Maybe this would be easier than he thought. He'd been weighed and
      measured, he thought, and finally lived up to someone's expectations of
      him. To Marie's expectations of him, which really, were all that
      mattered to him.

      A week later, on Tuesday, he sat in that same hallway, trying to look
      inconspicuous as he waited for Ray to arrive. He'd almost given up when
      the double doors flew open and Ray came limping out. He raised an
      eyebrow and the boy smiled.

      "She likes me," Ray crowed, darting a glance over his shoulder.

      Logan grinned. "She likes me," he said.

      They shared a conspiratorial look, and went their separate ways.

      End

      ***

      victoria

      --

      Fake Swami: "You're deeply ambivalent."
      Angel: "Yeah, well, I am and I'm not."
      _Angel_

      --

      The Muse's Fool - http://www.unfitforsociety.net/musesfool
      Unfit for Society - http://www.unfitforsociety.net
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