TITLE: “More Human Than Human”
FANDOM: X-Men (Movieverse)
SUMMARY: Logan probably wouldn’t even have noticed the girl if it hadn’t been for the purple hair.
RATING: R (for language)
NOTES: I started writing this story way back in 2001, after the first X-Men movie came out. I've since updated it to incorporate the events of X2, and it picks up several months after that movie ends. The events of The Last Stand haven't happened, nor will they in this alternate version of the universe, but I did incorporate some of the canon presented in that film where it suited me. As for that Wolverine Origins movie, I've tried to be vague enough that you could take it or leave it however you prefer. You'll also notice I've brought in a character from the comics who hasn't appeared in the movies yet (I don't care what Brett Ratner says, that was not her in X3), rebooting and reinventing her on my own terms. And I may bring in some other folks from the comics eventually.
All my fics are also archived on AO3. Read it there instead.
RATFINKS, SUICIDE TANKS and CANNIBAL GIRLS
Logan probably wouldn’t even have noticed the girl if it hadn’t been for the purple hair.
He was crammed into the corner booth of a truck stop diner in bumfuck, West Virginia, the remnants of a plateful of truly awful steak and eggs in front of him. The girl was sitting up at the counter nursing a cup of coffee and nothing else.
You didn’t generally get a lot of purple-haired girls in grimy truck stops at two o’clock in the morning. Or a lot of girls, for that matter. Mostly the place was full of tired-looking truck drivers fueling up on greasy eggs and silty coffee before hitting the road again.
Logan wasn’t the only one who’d noticed the girl, either. The two men sitting across the counter from her kept shooting surreptitious looks in her direction. The purple-haired girl didn’t seem to notice, though. She didn’t seem to notice much of anything around her, in fact. Just sat there at the counter hunched over her coffee mug.
Logan leaned back in his seat and pulled a stogie and a nickel-plated Zippo out of his shirt pocket. The girl was pretty, he decided, although it was hard to tell the way she was dressed. Her jeans were loose and faded, her sweatshirt baggy and nondescript, and her hair cut so that the lank layers fell down into her eyes, effectively masking half her face. Pretty much everything about her said “don’t look at me.” Everything except that incongruous purple hair.
The waitress came by to drop off his check. “More coffee?” she asked.
Logan shook his head. “I’m good, thanks.”
He puffed on his cigar and watched the girl, wondering what her story was. Not that he cared, really. But she was an anomaly. This particular joint was one of the seedier truck stops along this stretch of I-64; it wasn’t the kind of place a woman traveling alone tended to stop in the middle of the night. And he knew for a fact there was a big shiny Love’s Truck Stop two exits back with a Chester’s Chicken, a well-lit parking lot and a somewhat higher class of customer.
The waitress moved over to the girl and topped up her coffee cup. “Sure I can’t get you anything else, darlin’?”
The girl looked up for the first time since Logan had started watching her. She had cobalt-blue eyes that somehow managed to be both shy and piercing at the same time. She was also older than he’d thought at first: approaching 30, or maybe on the far side of it already. “Is there a pay phone around here?” she asked.
“Outside. Around the back, by the showers.”
She rummaged around in a big canvas purse until she came up with a couple of dollars and a handful of change. She left the bills on the counter and headed out the door, presumably in search of a phone. A moment later the two men sitting across from her got up and headed out as well.
Logan watched them thoughtfully, chewing on his cigar. After a moment he got up too, slapped some bills on the table, and exited.
He paused just outside the front door of the diner and stretched, pulling his head down toward each of his shoulders until he felt the joint in his neck pop. Big rigs roared down the interstate, close enough to make the asphalt tremble beneath his feet.
Logan sniffed the exhaust-choked air. He turned to the right and walked around the side of the building. The sound of his steps were muffled by the rumble of an eighteen-wheeler pulling into one of the oversized spaces out front. As soon as he came around the corner he could see that the two men from the diner had the girl with the purple hair cornered by the pay phones. None of them had noticed Logan’s approach.
“Just give up the bag, lady,” said one of the men. He was a weaselly-looking guy in a red gimme cap and a plaid flannel shirt.
“Yeah,” said the other, a tall, barrel-bellied fella wearing an old green army jacket. “Hand it over, or things’ll get ugly.”
“Please don’t do this,” the girl said. She was backed up against the wall of the diner. The wan yellow security lights in the parking lot glinted off the whites of her eyes.
“Guess we’ll have to do this hard way,” said the guy in the army jacket. He held up a switchblade and flicked it open menacingly. “Hard way’s more fun for me, anyway.”
He started to advance on the girl.
“Don’t you punks have anything better to do than pick on a poor helpless girl?” Logan said loudly.
The two men spun around, startled. Then the one in the red hat smiled an oily smile. “Hey, look, Richie, I guess this guy wants to give us all his money, too.”
“You want my wallet?” Logan said. “Tell you what, if you can come over here and take it from me, you can have it.”
The big guy grinned. “You think I can’t take you?”
Logan gazed at him, the cigar hanging crookedly from the corner of his mouth. “I don’t know, bub, why don’t you try it and find out.”
Richie moved toward him, knife raised to strike. As soon as he was within reach Logan's hand flashed out and grabbed the man's wrist, twisting viciously. The knife clattered to the ground and there was a sickening crack as one of the bones in Richie’s wrist snapped. He cried out in pain and fell to his knees.
What a couple of knuckleheads, Logan thought. He wasn’t even going to need to the claws the deal with these jokers.
Except that apparently the little guy in the red hat was the type to bring a gun to a knife fight. He leveled a .22 caliber revolver at Logan. “Nice kung fu,” he said, trying to maintain a tough facade even while his buddy writhed on the ground clutching a broken wrist. “But now you’re gonna toss over your wallet.”
“Or what?” Logan said. “You’re gonna shoot me with your little toy gun?” A gun that size would barely even slow him down, assuming the guy even managed to hit him. He didn’t exactly have the look of an expert marksman. On the other hand, Logan was wearing his favorite jacket and he really hated to get bullet holes in it.
“It won’t feel like a toy when there’s a bullet tearing your guts out,” the guy retorted in a transparent show of bravado.
“Go ahead and try it,” Logan said, a growl forming at the back of his throat. “See where it gets you.” He held his hands at his sides and extended his claws with an icy SNIKT.
Red hat took a shaky step backwards, eyes wide with fear.
The girl with the purple hair was still backed up against the wall of the diner, frozen in shock. Logan shot her a look. “Now’d probably be a good time for you to run, kid.”
She didn’t hesitate, not even a little bit. She was off at a run and out of sight around the far side of the diner without even bothering to throw a backwards glance in his direction.
“As for you,” Logan said, baring his teeth in a wide grin, “didn’t anyone ever tell you that violence only breeds more violence?”
“I was in fear for my life,” Elizabeth said. That was the key, a lawyer friend had once told her. As long as you could convince them you were legitimately in fear for your life, you could get away with almost anything. “One of them had a knife and the other had a gun.”
She didn’t like talking to the police. It made the backs of her eyeballs itch. And so far the state trooper questioning her hadn’t even bothered to write a bloody thing down on his little notepad. This was starting to feel like an enormous waste of time.
“What about the other one?” he asked impatiently. “Can you describe him?”
Elizabeth pressed her lips together in irritation. “I told you. He came to my rescue. They were trying to rob me and he interrupted. They threatened to kill us both.”
“They said he had some kind of metal claws or knives that came out of his fists? Is that right?”
She hesitated a split second before answering. “I didn’t see anything like that.”
Of course, that was what the idiot decided to write down. Her gaze wandered across the parking lot. Red and blue police lights flashed where they’d set up roadblocks at either end of the frontage road alongside the interstate. Officers from the county sheriff’s department and the state police patrolled a wide perimeter around the truck stop, the erratic beams of their flashlights bouncing around the uneven landscape.
“But you saw him break the big guy’s wrist?” the trooper said.
She brushed a lock of purple hair off her forehead and tried to tamp down her growing exasperation. “Only after the guy came at him with a knife.”
This was going all wrong. The state police obviously weren’t interested in what had actually happened; all they cared about was hunting down another mutant.
There was a crunch of gravel on asphalt as another man trudged across the parking lot toward them. “This the woman who saw the mutant?” he asked. He was wearing a suit instead of a uniform but judging by his brusque manner and cheap haircut Elizabeth assumed he was yet another member of the state’s esteemed law enforcement community.
“She says she didn’t see any claws, lieutenant,” the trooper said.
“Doesn’t matter, we’ve got two witnesses who did and one of them’s got a nice set of slashes across his face to corroborate. Bring her down to the command station, we’ll see if she can give us a better description of the mutant.”
“I really didn't get a very good look at him,” Elizabeth said. “It was pretty dark and it all happened so fast.”
“I still need you to come in and look at some photos, maybe sit with the sketch artist.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “Yeah, okay.”
The wind kicked up a flurry of dust and sent a crumpled tall boy spinning across the asphalt. “You got any gum on you, Slayton?” the lieutenant asked the trooper. “This goddamn weather is giving me a hell of dry mouth.”
“I think I might have a mint,” the trooper said, digging around in his pockets.
“Spearmint or peppermint? I can’t stomach the green ones.”
“Is it all right if I go to the bathroom?” Elizabeth asked.
The lieutenant nodded absently. “Sure.”
She walked off in the direction of the diner. On the way she passed a couple of sheriff’s deputies but they didn’t so much as glance at her. As soon as she was out of sight of the lieutenant and the trooper she paused and looked around. No one seemed to be paying any attention to her. She stepped out into the parking lot and slipped into the shadowy aisle between two parked eighteen-wheelers.
Her car was only a few rows away. If she could make it there without anyone noticing, she’d be home free. She’d seen them letting cars through the roadblock after a cursory search, and she was pretty confident she could bluff her way through it.
She walked toward her car, slowly enough to avoid making any more noise than necessary, but not so slowly she’d look suspicious if anyone happened to see her. When she was almost even with the cab of the truck to her left she stopped. Then she took one slow step back and peered up into the shadows.
There, crouched up on the rig between the trailer and the cab, was the mutant everyone was looking for.