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FIC: Home (1/1, PG; Logan)

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  • jordi@mpinet.net
    Title: Home Author: Jordanna Morgan Author s Email: librarie@jordanna.net Website: http://www.jordanna.net/librarie/xmen Archive Rights: Please request the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2004
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      Title: Home
      Author: Jordanna Morgan
      Author's Email: librarie@...
      Website: http://www.jordanna.net/librarie/xmen
      Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
      Rating/Warnings: Mildly PG at most.
      Characters: Early Logan and an original.
      Setting: 1945, roughly one year after the events in "Dogtags".
      Summary: Christmas Eve, 1945: the War is over, but for one mutant,
      there is little peace.
      Disclaimer: Logan belongs to Marvel and Fox. The other character is
      mine.
      Notes: This story follows up two previous pieces, "Sole Survivor"
      and "Dogtags", which explore my own concept of Logan's past. I
      recommend at least reading "Dogtags" before you read this one.


      HOME


      Christmas Eve.

      My hometown was just the way I remembered it, a quaint little holiday
      postcard dressed in evergreen and red ribbons. Filtered now through
      senses that belonged to nothing human, it was familiar, yet
      frighteningly alien. A part of me recognized every sound and smell I
      was never aware of before, and I wasn't sure if it was the instinct
      of the animal, or the memory of the man.

      Maybe there wasn't a difference anymore.

      Standing still in the shadows beneath a tree, I watched the snow
      fall, and remembered. It wasn't by choice, really. I could never look
      at snowdrifts anymore without my mind painting them in splashes of
      red, the way they were on *that* day. The day one year before, on a
      German killing field, when the monster inside me had awakened.

      I'd sworn I would never come home, never let anyone who knew me look
      into my eyes and see what wasn't there. For months I'd wandered,
      sometimes fighting the Germans, always fighting myself... but then
      the War ended, and another Christmas rolled around, and I just had to
      know if Ma was alright. She hadn't been well, the last I knew. If I
      could just see her from a distance, know that someone was taking care
      of her, then I could whisper a goodbye and walk away. That was all I
      wanted. All I needed.

      My breath steamed in the air as I slowly moved forward. The sun had
      been down for three hours, and it was bitterly cold, but I didn't
      care. All that mattered was that no one saw me. Not because I'd be
      recognized--which I wouldn't--but because that quiet, close-knit
      neighborhood would be spooked by a strange drifter taking a leisurely
      stroll along the sidewalk.

      It might have been a kick to get caught. That was a conversation I
      had played in my head for laughs now and then. *Hey, don't you
      remember me, the kid from down the street? I went berzerk and spent
      the last few months of the War living like an animal, slaughtering
      any German soldiers I came across. I'm fine now, thanks... except
      that I'm not quite human.*

      I sighed and shook my head. The things I'd done, to say nothing of my
      changes, should have been enough to make me crack--yet in certain
      ways, tied to the sharp new awareness of my senses, my mind was
      clearer than it had ever been. It was a tradeoff for the madness of
      my killing times.

      I couldn't count the lives I'd taken, because I wasn't even sure I
      remembered them all.

      The only one I regretted was a Wehrmacht corpsman named Becker. After
      I took out his two comrades, I let him live for nearly a day while I
      questioned him. He had no medical explanation for what had happened
      to me. One of Hitler's occult fanatics, he was a firm believer in
      werewolves... which might have amused me, if it weren't the closest
      thing I had to a logical theory. Yet his curiosity was greater than
      his fear. That made him dangerous--and likeable--and it made what I
      had to do a lot harder. I was tempted to let him go, but by then he
      knew too much. Whatever I was, and however it happened, I was too
      deadly a secret to let fall into Nazi hands.

      He was typically German to the end, with bitter pride in his last
      words: "One day, you will turn to men like me for answers."

      Like hell I will.

      As for the rest, they were soldiers, as I had been. I was never quite
      sure whether I was serving raw instinct or some remaining traces of
      duty, but the bloody results were the same. Those men would never go
      home... but then, neither could I.

      Except as a ghost, looking for closure on a cold winter night.

      The moonlight was stifled by snow-heavy clouds, but for me, it might
      as well have been daylight. I saw the familiar white picket fence
      ahead, and unconsciously picked up my pace. A part of me still
      resisted, but now that I was so close, there was no turning back from
      my home.

      The small, humble house stood dark; maybe Ma had already gone to bed.
      That was for the best. Above all else, the last thing in the world I
      wanted was for her to see me. The thought of her grieving had
      tortured me for all those months, but even the belief that I was dead
      would be better than the truth.

      If my new instincts had given me one useful skill, it was stealth. Ma
      would never know that I was there. Just to stand for a moment outside
      her door, and listen to her breathing, would be enough.

      My smile faded a little as I saw the depth of the snow piled on the
      walkway--but it returned when I picked out the shape of the doghouse
      in a corner of the yard. My dog Logan was gone now, the news of his
      death a strange foreshadowing of my own fate, but nothing could
      darken my memories of my pet and best friend. Thoughts of his sweet
      nature helped to still the restless passions that were now part of
      me. I even took his name for a while, as I worked my way back across
      the Atlantic on an old freighter.

      I pushed open the gate, frowning at its rusted latch, and slowly
      moved up the walkway to the porch. It was hard to keep myself from
      bounding. The animal in me was skittish, but its caution was swept
      away by the eagerness of my higher mind.

      With my heartbeat loud in my ears, I crept up the porch steps, and
      peered into the front window.

      The living room was empty. The furniture was gone, and on the bare
      wood floor, my sharp eyes detected a layer of dust.

      I turned away with a flinch, breathing in deeply to still the sudden
      surge of anxiety. The animal didn't react well to confusion, and I
      forced it down, briefly shutting out my senses. It was something I
      had learned was surprisingly easy to do, even with the intensity of
      my perceptions. Just close my eyes and focus, and there was nothing--
      nothing except for impulses and emotions that were not human. These
      never went away, but they were a little easier to deal with when I
      cut out the sensory riot in which I now lived.

      The worst possibilities, of course, were the first to arise, but I
      couldn't accept them. Ma was not in the best of health, but she was
      still fairly young. It was difficult to believe she would have moved
      away, leaving the home where I was born and my father had died--but
      that was far easier than the thought that something had happened to
      her.

      *Think.* I cursed my raging instincts and tried to concentrate on
      where Ma could have gone, but I came up short. Fears that weren't
      just primal but truly human made me feel caged, trapped by a kind of
      threat my animal nature had no defense against. It was a dangerous
      state to be in.

      Only one name rose above the turmoil.

      A sense of despair welled up inside me, because I knew then what I
      was about to do. It was unforgivable... but I had to have an answer
      for this empty house, no matter how much it cost.

      Clearing the porch steps with a single bound, I set off in search of
      *her*.



      A few blocks and a few layers of society away, I found the house I
      was looking for. It was perfectly neat and impersonal, nice to look
      at but without any character--which also described the lawyer who
      owned it. He lived there with his wife... and a daughter.

      The lights were out, but the house still showed every sign of being
      lived in. Even in those days, a rich man with a few enemies knew
      enough to lock his door, but that was no problem; a long time ago,
      I'd learned of the spare key hidden in a crevice under a windowsill.
      It was still there, and I used it to let myself in. The air in the
      blandly decorated living room was choked with the smell of furniture
      polish--something I had even noticed before, but now, it was enough
      to make me nauseous. I almost held my breath as I made my way down
      the hall.

      Her bedroom was at the opposite end of the house from her parents'.
      The door was half-open, and I stood hesitating for a long time before
      I silently slipped in and shut it.

      No smell of polish in that room. Instead it was the scent of lilacs--
      her favorite, the one she always wore. It tickled my nose. It did
      other things too, and the animal stirred, reacting to something it
      never had before. I fought it down quickly.

      I could hear the soft, steady breathing of a sleeping woman. The
      curtains were thick, and even for me it was dark in that room, but I
      could see the outlines of the furniture well enough. When I stepped
      over to the bed, I could even make out her beautiful face. I'd
      thought I would never see it again--and now I knew it would have been
      better for us both if I hadn't.

      Very slowly, I reached down, and placed my hand over her mouth.

      She started awake with a soft gasp. I leaned close to her ear to
      whisper a sharp "Sh-shh"... and *that* was when it hit me. Through
      the lilac haze, I caught the true scent of *her*, of her skin and her
      hair. Some part of me remembered it, but not like this. It was more
      powerful than any drug I could have imagined.

      Before I knew what I was doing, my lips had taken the place of my
      hand.

      For a single moment her body tensed, her scent harsh with fear. The
      she made a small, sharp sound--a cry of recognition.

      Her arms slid around my neck, and for the first time, I knew the
      smell of desire.

      I threw back the bedcovers and took her in my arms, eagerly caressing
      her. The animal pushed me further than I'd ever dared to go before--
      and she responded to it with an unexpected heat, kissing me, touching
      me in ways she never would have in our innocent past. Whether she was
      reacting to my own primitive passion, or simply the discovery that I
      was alive, I didn't know or care. Everything she did sharpened the
      animal's desire... yet *something* in my still too-human heart didn't
      want this to be happening, for reasons I was in no condition to
      understand.

      Finally, with a physical effort, I tore myself away from her.

      If I didn't, I was afraid I would hurt her.

      We both needed to catch our breath. I sat on the edge of the bed with
      my back turned and my head bowed, trying to quiet the urges running
      through my veins. The part of me that could still think was
      frightened and confused. Beneath the animal's newfound lust, I
      couldn't find the genuine emotions I once felt for her. The changes
      in me had heightened my rage, my fear, my pain--but of love as I once
      understood it, there was nothing.

      Behind me, she stirred. I felt her reach for the bedside lamp, and
      seized her wrist. "No."

      Her hand caught mine and held it tightly. I could feel her fingers
      trembling.

      "They told me you were dead."

      "They weren't wrong." I turned to face her halfway, afraid the animal
      might overwhelm me again if I looked at her directly. With the hand
      she wasn't holding, I reached out to stroke her hair, and absently
      wished I could see its golden color in the dark. Was that some shred
      of the emotion I was trying to find in myself? I wasn't sure, and
      maybe at this point, it was better not to feel it at all. I closed my
      eyes and looked for words instead.

      "I'm not who you knew... I'm not like anything you've *ever* known."

      She sat up further, saying my name, and my heart turned over. It was
      the first time in more than a year that another living soul had
      spoken it, and for a moment, I held it in my heart. It was the one
      thing left that was truly mine. As long as I had my name, I felt sure
      I would be sane and at least partly human.

      "They all came home different," she said anxiously. "It'll get better-
      -you've got to believe that. Whatever it is you had to do--"

      "No. It's not about that... not the way you think." I let go of her
      hand. "Something's happened to me. I've changed."

      Those words, and my refusal to be seen, must have given her the idea
      that I'd been disfigured. She reached up with both hands to touch me.
      I wanted to pull away, but instead I kept still, silently cherishing
      the sweet torture of it.

      Her fingers ran through my hair, finding the bristling ridges I'd
      given up trying to tame, then moved down my face to brush against a
      beard that was unfamiliar to her. From there her hands slid down my
      neck and shoulders to my chest, exploring the firm muscles neither
      one of us would have once imagined I could have. She made a small
      noise of approval, and I felt bitter amusement. It had come as a
      shock to see myself when I finally stumbled out of the wilderness.
      The thin, frail boy she knew had become a man, lean and rugged and
      powerful beyond reason... but that was only the beginning.

      Cupping my hand over hers, I felt something hard against my palm. She
      still wore the ring. It was a simple thing I'd given her when we were
      just kids, but I always thought I was going to give her a real one in
      its place someday.

      Now that could never be.

      Taking a deep breath, I put my finger to her lips. "Listen to me.
      You've got to forget everything I used to be, because it's all gone.
      I don't know what I am, but I know I can't stay. The only reason I
      came tonight is to find out... what happened to my mother."

      In the instant before she turned away, I felt her lips tremble, and I
      knew the truth before she spoke.

      "She died, last April. Losing you was too much for her."

      The swell of grief was sudden and savage, and I pushed myself away
      from the bed, crossing the room to lean against the wall. I needed
      distance to keep her safe from me. All the animal understood was that
      I was in pain, and pain meant the need to fight back.

      I heard the rustle of her nightgown as she rose and stepped toward
      me; I felt her hands on my shoulders. Her touch was now meant to be
      comforting, but I was numb to it. I'd never realized how much of me
      was really left, until that moment... the moment when it died, even
      to her.

      After a long time, she pulled gently on my shirtsleeve, turning me to
      face her. She reached up and touched my face. If she was looking for
      tears, she found none.

      "I want to see you," she whispered.

      A cruel recklessness filled me. Maybe this was the only thing that
      could make her understand, because I didn't have the words.

      I took her hand and lowered it from my face, rubbing my thumb against
      her palm. Then I turned and went to her nightstand. I found the lamp
      and switched it on; the room filled with light, and for a moment I
      stood still, giving her eyes time to adjust.

      When I finally turned to face her, she didn't move... but her scent
      sharpened with fear.

      She whispered my name again, this time in a confused and uncertain
      tone. Her gaze took in every line of my face, the sharp features
      hardened and haunted by animal shadows. At last, reluctantly, she
      looked into my eyes--a predator's eyes, no longer the brown she
      remembered, but a much lighter and more wolfish shade.

      She looked, and she saw all that lay behind them... and she knew that
      I was gone.

      There was nothing left for me here.

      She flinched away as I stepped past her--but she called my name as I
      opened the door. I turned for one last look at her beautiful,
      frightened face, and with a sad shake of my head, I said the only
      thing I could.

      "Goodbye."



      It was Christmas morning, and the sky was just starting to lighten.

      Since I last saw it, the cemetery had sprouted a wicked-looking fence
      of black wrought-iron spikes, and the gate was locked. That didn't
      particularly bother me. I found the closest sturdy tree, shimmied up
      it like a cat, and dropped down on the other side.

      I knew where to go. Five rows back from the front gate, three rows to
      the left of the maple tree. My father's grave was a familiar place--
      but the headstone beside his was new. Crouching in the snow, I ran my
      hand gently over the cold slate.

      *Goodbye, Ma.*

      So this was how it ended; the closure I came back to find. There were
      two women I loved, and in one night, I discovered I had lost them
      both.

      There was relief somewhere beneath the pain. I'd come full circle
      since that day the year before, putting the last of me to rest in the
      snows of another graveyard. It was a strange kind of funeral, with
      nothing to mourn. A life was over, and whatever I was now could begin
      its own with a blank slate. I was ready.

      And I was done fighting my changed nature. I would never again be
      ashamed of it, or treat it like something apart from me. There was no
      one left to hide the truth from--not even myself.

      Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath of the winter air, and finally
      accepted that the animal was me.

      It wasn't much, but I felt just a little more peace than I had in a
      long time.


      (c) 2004 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback
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