FANDOM: X-Men (Movieverse)
SUMMARY: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.”
RATING: R (for language)
CHAPTER ONE: Ratfinks, Suicide Tanks and Cannibal Girls
CHAPTER TWO: Two-Lane Blacktop
CHAPTER THREE: How to Make a Monster
CHAPTER FOUR: The Devil's Rejects
Elizabeth passed most of the next day on her own at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Ororo and Kurt tried to be friendly, inviting her to join them for breakfast in the dining hall and introducing her to some of the students, but once classes started for the day she was left to fend for herself. There was nothing to occupy her in her dormitory-style room, so she spent most of the morning wandering the school grounds.
In many ways, the Gothic Revival mansion reminded her of her childhood home, a fact that was simultaneously comforting and disconcerting. While the sense of familiarity helped her to find her way around, she’d left Braddock Manor for a reason, and it was unsettling to find herself in its American doppelganger now.
Eventually her explorations led her to the school’s library, a quiet, comfortable room that seemed to be mostly ignored by the students. Elizabeth selected a couple of books from the shelves and settled into a comfortable armchair. She was still there late in the afternoon when Xavier found her.
“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity,” he said from the doorway.
She looked up. “Sorry?”
He gestured to the copy of Walden in her hand. “Thoreau. It’s one of my favorite lines. Such a delightful turn of phrase.”
“Some would argue he was diminishing the suffering of the slaves in that passage,” she said, intentionally baiting him.
His mouth quirked in amusement. “Yes, but you and I both know his intent was to raise up the slaves by encouraging the emancipation of the mind and spirit as well as the body.” He glided into the room, maneuvering his wheelchair with effortless grace. “I’ve arranged to have the belongings you left outside the bus station in Lexington sent to you here at the school. The car you, er, borrowed will be returned to its original owner.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m really very grateful for everything you’ve done for me.”
“It’s my pleasure. And you’re welcome to stay here with us as long as you like.”
Elizabeth wasn’t sure what to say to that. She didn’t relish the idea of hanging round Xavier’s school like some useless stowaway. On the other hand she didn’t really have anywhere else to go, either. And for all she knew the Brotherhood still wanted to get their hands on her.
“Have you made any headway with the Project Wideawake files?” she asked, changing the subject.
Xavier’s expression darkened. “Some, and what I’ve found is extremely troubling. I’ve decided to consult with a colleague in Washington.”
Elizabeth stiffened. “Do you think it’s wise to be showing those files around?”
“Believe me, I would not risk sharing them with just anyone. Dr. McCoy is a trusted friend and I find I am greatly in need of his counsel at the moment.”
Elizabeth nodded. She had elected to trust Xavier with the stolen files, she had to hope that his judgement was sound.
He looked at her, his eyes seeming to search her face. “I knew your father, you know. Many years ago.”
“Did you?” She hadn’t known, but she wasn’t all that surprised, really. Her father and Xavier were two of a kind, in more ways than one.
“Elizabeth, I feel I owe you an explanation for my repeated attempts to penetrate your mental shields when you first arrived here.”
This ought to be good, she thought. She set the book aside, giving him the courtesy of her full attention, and waited.
“My primary responsibility is to protect the people who’ve come under my care at this school,” he said. “There have been multiple attempts to infiltrate our ranks in the past, both by humans and by other mutants with less ... noble aims than ours. There are also those who, because of their gifts, may pose a threat to the people around them, even without intending to do so. It’s not their fault, and they may not even realize the danger they present, but I must always be cautious when someone new is admitted to our community. Do you understand?”
“Of course,” she said. “You were worried I was a Brotherhood mole and you wanted to find out if you could trust me. I get it. I’m still not letting you snoop around in my head, but I get it.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “As it happens, I don’t believe you’re a Brotherhood mole.”
“Lucky for me, I suppose.”
“I’m not entirely convinced you don’t still pose a threat to this school, however.”
She found herself unaccountably affronted. “What do you mean by that?”
“I couldn’t help but notice your reluctance to use your mutant abilities. In my experience, when someone is hesitant to use their gifts, it’s because they don’t entirely trust their own control over them.”
“I see,” she said neutrally, unwilling to admit how close he’d managed to hit to the truth. And that was without the benefit of his telepathy. The man was bloody unsettling.
“You’re exceptionally skilled at shielding,” he said. “There are only a dozen or so telepaths in the world strong enough to withstand my menatal probe. Yet I suspect you’ve barely begun to tap the full potential of your power. Mental gifts are not so different from physical ones. Telepathy, like any ability, mutant or otherwise, requires constant exercise in order to build skill and endurance. It’s no different from running or swimming in that way. Your shields are strong because you use them all the time, but I’m willing to bet your other abilities are much weaker and occasionally unpredictable, yes?”
Elizabeth didn’t say anything. Xavier wasn’t wrong, and most of what he was saying made sense, but she wasn’t going to admit it. Her trust in him didn’t extend far enough for her to start revealing her own weaknesses.
“If you like, I could work with you,” he said. “Help you to bring your gifts under control and unleash some of that potential inside you. What would you say to scheduling some private lessons?”
“I’m fairly certain I’d say no,” she replied stiffly.
Whatever problems she might have controlling her mutant powers, she could handle them herself. She wasn’t about to invite Xavier into her head. She’d already put herself under the power of one mutant cult leader with an ambiguous agenda; she wouldn’t be making that mistake again. No matter how benevolent Xavier pretended to be.
“I’m simply making an offer,” he said genially. “You’re under absolutely no obligation to accept.” He rolled to the door and paused, looking back at her. “All I ask is that you think about it.”
Much later that evening, after Elizabeth had gone back to her room, Logan showed up at her door. “You know what the worst thing about this place is?” he asked when she opened the door. “No beer. You like beer?”
“I’m English,” she said. “So yes.”
He inclined his head. “Come on, then. Let’s get out of here.”
She grabbed the jacket Ororo had loaned her and followed Logan downstairs. “So we’re allowed to just leave?” she asked.
He shot her a look. “Ain’t a prison, it’s a school, and we’re not students. What’s the professor gonna do? Give us detention?”
Most of the students seemed to have descended upon the common rooms on the ground floor to watch television, play games and socialize. As she and Logan pushed their way through the crowded foyer someone grabbed Elizabeth’s arm from behind—hard—and spun her around.
It was Scott, the guy with the sunglasses, and he didn’t look any happier than he had yesterday. “Those are Jean’s clothes,” he snarled at her. “Where did you get them?”
The front hall, which had been full of chattering students only a moment ago, got extremely quiet. “Ororo gave them to me,” she said, meeting his gaze evenly. “You want to let go of my arm?”
Logan laid a warning hand on Scott’s arm. “Take it easy, man, she didn’t know.”
Scott jerked out of Logan’s grip and gave him a good long glower before stalking off. A gaggle of wide-eyed students pressed themselves against the paneled wall of the corridor to give him a broad berth as he passed.
“That guy really does not like me,” Elizabeth said, rubbing her arm where he’d grabbed it.
“It’s not your fault,” Logan said, watching Scott walk away. “It’s just a case of dislike by association.”
“What’s his problem, anyway?”
Logan turned and started walking again. “His wife died.”
“Well that’s terrible,” Elizabeth said, hurrying to keep up. “Jean would be his wife, then?”
She saw the muscles in Logan’s neck tighten. “Yeah.”
“So what’s his problem with you?”
“He thinks I had a thing for her.”
“Ah,” she said. “Did you?”
“It doesn’t really matter now, does it?”
“He obviously thinks it does.”
“He’s just looking for someone to blame and I’m a handy target.” He stopped in front of a metal security door at the far end of the corridor and opened an unobtrusive panel in the wall. Inside was a retinal scanner. Dead impressive security tech for a “school.” The scanner approved him and the door unlocked with a low beep.
Elizabeth followed him into a garage that looked like a luxury auto dealer’s showroom. Apparently Xavier had quite the car fetish. “Please tell me we’re taking that Bentley,” she said.
Logan chuckled. “Not where we’re going.”
Logan took the Charger because it didn’t call too much attention to itself, which was a plus in the kind of neighborhood they were going to. Also because he knew for a fact it wasn’t one of Scott’s. Fucking with Summers wasn’t nearly as much fun when the guy was so obviously and publicly losing his shit.
Kenneally’s Bar was in a plain, uninviting building that looked like a concrete bunker someone had painted white in a misguided attempt to add a little cheer. Logan liked it because it was dark and quiet. Also because it wasn’t the kind of place that had karaoke nights or “craft beers” or frat boys on the make. This time of night on a Tuesday there were only a few sad souls in the place drowning their sorrows in Guinness and Bushmills.
Elizabeth claimed a table in the back while Logan went to the bar for the first round. “Exactly how drunk are you planning to get me?” she asked when he returned with four brimming pint glasses.
“That one’s for you,” he said, pushing a glass toward her. “These three are mine.” He raised his first glass and drained half of it in one long draw.
“Right, then.” She lifted her drink and tilted it in his direction. “Cheers.”
He swiped a hand across his mouth. “So what’s the deal with the purple hair?” he asked.
She smiled. “An act of rebellion, I suppose. When my modeling career went balls up I realized I could do anything I wanted—gain fifty pounds, shave my head. So I dyed my hair purple. And then I sort of liked it, so here I am, a walking blueberry.”
Logan liked it too. It occurred to him that he had a thing for girls with brightly colored hair. Which was exactly the sort of thought he didn’t want to be having. He downed the rest of his beer and reached for the next one. If he drank them fast enough he could almost start to feel a buzz before his healing factor kicked in.
“You know, if you’d told me a week ago there was a prep school for mutants I’d have said you were barking mad,” Elizabeth said.
“It’s a funny old world, ain’t it?”
“So you’re what? A teacher or something?”
“I look like a teacher to you?”
He reached into his breast pocket for the Corona he’d stashed there. “Mind if I smoke?”
“I don’t, but I suspect the State of New York might.”
He popped a claw under the table and sliced the cap off the cigar. “Pretty sure I don’t care about them.” The bar reeked of spilled whiskey, warm beer, and piss. Cigar smoke would be an improvement. He flicked open his Zippo and held it under the end of the cigar, puffing and rotating until the tobacco around the outer rim began to glow. “I gotta ask,” he said, pocketing the lighter. “You seriously never used your Jedi mind tricks when we were on the run? Tell the truth.”
She shook her head. “I never did. Those sheriff’s deputies were just that thick.”
Logan’s eyes flicked reflexively to the door as it opened. It was a habit that had been ingrained during a past he couldn’t remember, as instinctive to him as breathing. A guy in a faded jean jacket wandered up to the bar and greeted Robbie the bartender by name. Logan looked back at Elizabeth, shifting the cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other. “Not even on me?”
“Worried I was sussing out your deep dark secrets, are you?”
“Something like that.”
“Why does everyone think their private thoughts are so special and fascinating that I’d even want to eavesdrop on them? You know what I’ve learned from being a telepath? Most of the stuff that goes on in people’s heads is astonishingly banal, petty and mean-spirited. Mind-reading’s not generally something I like to do for fun.”
That struck him as a pretty bleak fucking view of the rest of the world, especially for someone Elizabeth’s age. Most people took a good fifty or sixty years to work up to that kind of misanthropy. You had to admire her initiative.
“Now, Xavier, on the other hand,” she went on. “That man seems to have no qualms about poking around in anyone’s head whenever he likes. I don’t know why you tolerate it.”
Logan grunted. “It’s not like most of us have any choice in the matter. The professor’s okay, though. He’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but he means well.”
Elizabeth was silent for a while, staring into her pint glass. Logan watched her, puffing on his cigar. Eventually she said, “Xavier thinks I’m afraid to use my powers because I can’t control them.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Is he right?”
“I couldn’t protect myself from Sabretooth. I ought to have been able to get away from him easily, but when it really mattered I couldn’t seem to tap into my power.” She spoke without looking up, avoiding his eyes. “Then after you were shot it’s like something uncoiled inside me and ... I did something to those policemen. Something bad. I thought you were dead and I was so angry, I just let go for a second and—I don’t even know how I did it, really, or what I did.”
Logan felt bad that she’d seen him get shot up like that. It was easy to forget that for most people, something like that was actually a big fucking deal. “It wasn’t your fault,” he said.
She looked up at him. In the dusky light of the bar her blue eyes were dark as storm clouds. “Sure it was.” She smiled ruefully, then shook her head. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any cigarettes?”
“I can get some.” Robbie always kept a few packs under the bar that he sold at a criminal markup. Logan got up and used his menacing glare to negotiate a reasonable price for a pack of Marlboro Reds.
“Thanks,” Elizabeth said when he tossed the pack on the table. Her hands shook as she tore at the cellophane wrapper. When she’d gotten a cigarette out, he flipped open his Zippo and leaned over to light it for her. She took a long, deep drag, leaned back and closed her eyes as she exhaled. “Lovely. I can always quit again tomorrow, right?”
“You know,” he said, watching her, “if you’re having trouble with your powers you’re in the right place. If anybody can help you, it’s Xavier.”
“He already offered to give me private lessons. I said no.”
“Because it would mean letting him into to my mind. All the way in. And I don’t trust him enough for that. The very thought of it terrifies me.”
“It’s not so bad.”
She looked surprised. “You’ve done it?”
He nodded. “Something wiped out all my memories a few years back. Most of my life is a just a big fat blank. The professor thought he might be able to help, so I let him dig around in my head, looking for clues to who I was.”
“Did he find any?”
Logan shook his head. “He said he couldn’t. And that some secrets were meant to stay buried.”
“Do you believe him?”
“The way I figure it, either he really didn’t find anything, or he did, and it was so bad he didn’t want to tell me. So maybe I don’t wanna know so bad anymore.”
His eye moved to the door as it opened again. This time he knew the people who walked in. “Get a load of these two,” he said.
Rogue and Bobby stood uncertainly by the door, trying and failing to act like they weren’t somewhere they knew damn well they weren’t supposed to be. When she saw Logan and Elizabeth, Rogue broke into a smile and dragged Bobby over to their table.
“It must be our lucky night,” Rogue said, plopping down in a chair. “Now we won’t have to rely on my charms and Bobby’s good looks to buy beer.”
“What makes you think I’m buying you beer?” Logan asked.
“Because you’re cool.”
He snorted. “Not that cool. Anyway, the next round’s on Betts, you’ll have to suck up to her.”
Elizabeth spread her hands. “I’m just a poor, penniless waif dependent upon the kindness of strangers, remember? At least until my things get here.”
Logan sighed and shoved back his chair. “One beer, that’s all you’re getting,” he grumbled.
When he got back with the drinks Rogue was busy quizzing Elizabeth about her modeling career and all the celebrities she’d apparently rubbed noses and other assorted body parts with. “Did you really date Johnny Depp?” the girl asked as Logan set a light beer down in front of her.
Elizabeth smiled faintly. “For about five minutes, a million years ago.”
“Oh my god, that is so cool!” Rogue squealed. Logan and Bobby shared an eye roll across the table. “What’s he like?” she asked.
“He was a perfect gentleman,” Elizabeth said. “Although his personal hygiene was rather in need of improvement.”
Rogue wrinkled her nose. “Ew, that’s two strikes against him.”
“Yes it is,” Elizabeth agreed. The two women laughed, the sudden burst of merriment cutting through the quiet gloom of the bar.
Logan sat back and watched them, content to drink his beer in silence while the girls chattered about a bunch of shit he couldn’t care less about. Bobby joined in the conversation occasionally, but mostly he just sat there nursing his one beer and looking bored. Whatever the kid’s plan for the evening had been when he snuck out with Rogue, it probably wasn’t this.
“How about another one?” Bobby asked hopefully when he’d finished his drink.
“Keep dreaming,” Logan said.
Rogue had hardly touched her beer. “Do you miss it all?” she asked Elizabeth. “You must. All those parties and the celebrities and everything.”
“Sometimes,” Elizabeth admitted. “But the truth is I was starting to get too old for all that shit anyway. Sorry, I probably shouldn’t say shit in front of you two.”
“I used to miss my old life all the time,” Rogue said. “Being a normal teenager and going to a regular school with friends who didn’t have superpowers, you know? But then I got used to it here and I made new friends and now I don’t miss it at all. My old life seems really faraway now, like it happened to someone else. I barely even remember being that girl.”
“What about your parents?” Elizabeth asked. “Don’t you ever miss them?”
Bobby frowned and reached for Rogue’s beer. Logan felt a pang of sympathy for the kid. His folks weren’t exactly in the running for family of the year.
“Not really,” Rogue said. “I mean, they don’t miss me, so why should I waste time missing them, right?” She reached over and squeezed Bobby’s hand with her gloved one.
Rogue almost never talked about the family she’d left behind. Logan didn’t know anything about them except they’d never come looking for her. He’d even checked to make sure Rogue’s face wasn’t being printed on milk cartons somewhere. It wasn’t. Some people didn’t deserve to have kids.
Bobby finished off the rest of Rogue’s beer and Logan decided it was probably about time for someone to start acting like a responsible adult. “Time for you two to call it a night,” he said. “How’d you get here, anyway?”
“Hitchhiked,” Rogue said proudly.
“Jesus,” Logan said. “Are you out of your fucking minds?” At least Bobby had the sense to look guilty about it.
“What’s wrong with hitching?” Rogue asked, pushing her lips into a pout. “That’s how we met, remember?”
“That’s exactly what’s wrong with it. Also, you didn’t hitch, you stowed away.” He finished off the last of his beer and stood up. “Come on, I’ll drive you home.”