Title: A Life Found and Lost
Disclaimer: As of this moment, I don't own any of these characters, but after the next lottery, who knows?
Archive Rights: WRFA, XMMFFC, and the Med Lab. Otherwise, just ask.
Author's Warning: Character death ahead. Yep, I'm back to those again.
Acknowledgements: Mega thanks and scantily clad Logan clones go to Peggy and Claire for betaing. You gals are wonderful, and the story's so much better thanks to you.
Summary: A "Logan Returns" story with an unexpected twist.
Logan smiled as the mansion came into view. It'd been a little more than two months since he'd left, but it felt like years.
Before his encounter with Rogue, he'd barely noticed the passage of time. It had always seemed like one day he was pulling off a sweaty shirt that was clinging to his body under the hot summer sun, and the next day he was searching the racks of a second-hand shop for a coat better suited to the raging blizzard outside.
In fact, the seasons were the only thing that changed in his life. He traveled from one bar to another, one fight to another, and one woman to another. All different, but for his purposes, exactly the same.
Then, he met Rogue. Marie. She stowed away in his trailer in Laughlin City, and he'd been too busy chastising himself for showing his claws in the bar to notice.
The cage fighting circuit existed on word of mouth, so he had no doubt that within a few hours, every fan, fighter, and cage owner would know about his mutation. If he showed up at another match, everyone would go for his blood, taking their lost bets out in his hide. He needed to figure out another way to make money.
So consumed was he by these thoughts that it was only when Rogue dislodged the stack of firewood in his trailer that he'd noticed something was wrong and stopped the camper.
She said that she thought he would help her. Yeah, right. She'd seen his claws, and knew what he could do. Besides, if she was so sure about him, why had she hidden in the back instead of just asking for a ride? She'd probably been trying to steal his bike. Just like everyone else, she was only interested in what she could get from him.
He tossed her duffel bag out of his trailer and walked back to the driver's side door of his camper.
"I saved your life," she called in one last attempt to manipulate him.
He denied her statement, pulled his door closed, started the camper, and drove away. Or at least, that'd been his plan.
He'd spent years in bars, hearing the drunks rant about their problems, and knew he'd suffered more than anyone. Lost your job? He'd bled for every cent he'd ever earned. Problems with your family? He didn't know his family, if he'd had one at all. The damned kid he'd just kicked out of his trailer had more years of memories than he did. Running from the law? He was hiding from, yet at the same time searching for, the people responsible for the metal on his bones and the holes in his memory. He did what he wanted to whom he wanted, and he never had regrets. As far as he figured, the world owed him.
Leaving the girl behind in the snow, however, caused the unfamiliar sensation of guilt to tighten in his chest, and he had to stop. He sighed and cursed himself as he reached across the seat and unlocked the door to let her in.
He did more than open his camper to her that day, though. He opened his heart. In less than a week, he cared so much that he offered everything he had, including his life, to save her.
Once she was safe, though, he had to leave. He couldn't wrap his head around all the emotions she'd dredged up within him, not to mention his growing respect for Xavier or the beginnings of camaraderie with the X-geeks. Hell, Scooter even loaned him his precious bike, leaving it by the front door with the keys and a good luck note. How was he supposed to feel about that?
He returned to life on the road, checking out one fruitless lead after another in an effort to find his past. It was different, though. The days didn't blend together like they used to. Thoughts of Rogue kept interrupting.
It was a relief when the last clue he'd found at Alkali Lake didn't pan out. After sixty-three long days, he could finally return to her and the only other people he'd ever given a damn about. He hadn't found his past, but he was ready for his future.
"What's this about, Chuck?" Logan asked with a sigh as he followed Xavier into his private office. He hadn't gotten the chance to see anyone else or even put his bag down before the professor beckoned him.
"It's about Rogue."
With those three words Logan's demeanor changed.
"What's wrong? Did someone hurt her?"
"No, Logan, it's nothing like that," the professor said, holding his own hands up in a calming manner.
"I'm merely concerned for her. She's distanced herself from the other students, spending most of her free time away from the mansion, and has refused every opportunity to learn about her mutation."
Logan didn't know what to say. The social problems of a teenaged girl were too far from his experiences to even begin to know how to help. He dropped heavily into one of the professor's office chairs, worried.
"What can I do?"
Xavier smiled paternally.
"Rogue seemed to connect with you during your stay here. Go to her. Offer a friendly ear. If we know what's been bothering her, then we can take steps to help."
"You're psychic, and you don't know what's wrong?"
The professor's expression turned stern. "I won't use my gifts to invade a mind unless others are in danger and it's the only possible solution. Otherwise, it would be an inexcusable invasion of privacy. Just because a mutant can do something, Logan, doesn't mean he should."
Logan sat on the couch closest to the front door, pretending to watch TV.
After his talk with Xavier, he'd gone looking for Rogue, but she wasn't on campus.
Her yellow-clad roommate had told him she wouldn't be back until a little before the midnight curfew. Consequently, here he was at 11:37 p.m, sitting on a couch, flipping through channels but watching none of them, waiting for Rogue to show up.
He hadn't realized that he'd expected to see her standing by the door this morning, just as she'd been when he left, until it she wasn't there. Instead, Xavier had greeted him. In fact, he'd had to endure a day of greetings and questions from the mansion's residents while he waited for her. Sure, they meant well, but if one more person asked him what he'd learned about his past, he'd explode.
The click of the front doorknob brought him out of his musings, and he turned around to see the door open and a woman slip inside. It wasn't until her scent reached him that he realized it was Rogue.
To say she looked different would be an understatement. Her hair was smoothed into a severe bun, and her clothes were tailored and black. More important than her style, though, her whole demeanor had changed. Her posture was stiff and her movements cautious.
After taking a few steps into the foyer, she froze. She was facing away from him and he knew he hadn't made any noise, but somehow she still sensed him.
In a cool voice, she said, "Welcome back, Logan."
He wanted to say more, but she started walking towards the staircase at a brisk pace. He jumped up from the couch and jogged after her.
"Rogue, wait... Marie."
She stopped, but didn't turn to face him.
"Your dogtags are up in my room. You said you'd be back for them."
"They can wait," Logan said, walking up and placing a hand lightly on her shoulder.
She flinched, but didn't shrug off his hand, and he didn't remove it.
"Marie, look at me."
She took a deep breath and turned around, raising her eyes to meet his.
"What happened to you?"
Her brows knitted in confusion as she asked, "What do you mean?"
"Where were you all day and what's with the clothes?"
For a moment, her eyes turned darker, and he could smell her anger. Then, just as quickly, she schooled her features into passive detachment.
"I like my clothes, and if you must know, I was at the library all day."
"No. They closed 9. When I got back, I sat by the lake until curfew."
"But why not come inside, Marie? Xavier said that you hardly talk to anyone. Don't you like it here?"
Anger darkened her features again, but this time she didn't try to hide it.
"Why did you leave, Logan? Don't *you* like it here?"
Logan pulled his hand back, surprised and stung by her response.
"The professor gave me a lead on my past. You know why I had to go."
"I asked you to stay."
"I told you I'd be back."
"But you didn't say when. I thought I'd see you again in a week, maybe two. I needed you."
Her gaze dropped to the floor, and she answered in an almost-whisper, "The voices."
"What voi... You mean Magneto? Me? That kid you kissed?"
She nodded but kept her eyes on the floor.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"You said you'd come back. I thought I could control them until then."
"I already have enough people in my head, thank you. Besides, I don't trust them like I do you."
"I'm no psychic."
"When..." she hesitated for a second, searching for the words. "When you're close, he's quiet. The you in my head."
"I've been thinking about that a lot, and I figure you're somehow controlling him. He's just a smaller part of you, after all."
"So I'm helping?"
Rogue nodded. "He's quiet now."
"What about the other personalities?"
She hesitated before answering, "I want to go visit Magneto in prison."
"What? No way."
"If I got to talk to him, maybe I could do something or say something so he'd leave me alone for good."
"You don't know that'd work."
"I don't know how much longer I can take it. I have to do this, but I don't want to go alone."
"Marie, I can't go in. My metal skeleton, remember?"
"I think it'd be enough if you just take me there. Knowing that you're near, and you'll help me if I need you would help."
"I don't know. I don't like the idea of you being so close to him."
"How do you feel about him whispering to me almost every second of every day? Oh, Logan, the things he says..." Her voice caught, and she left the sentence unfinished.
His hands knotted into fists and his knuckles itched with the need to release his claws. He held them back as well as the growl building in his chest. His instincts were screaming at him to attack this threat, but there wasn't anyone he could fight.
"OK, Marie," he said after regaining control of himself.
Reaching out, he pulled her into a careful hug. "I'll take you. We'll go Monday."
Her body relaxed a little in his embrace, and for the first time since she'd walked in the door, she smiled.
Logan's voice was rough with fear, but he stood completely still next to his Jeep parked on the edge of the prison compound.
"Why?" Marie asked as she casually walked around the back of the vehicle to his side.
"I can't move. Magneto's here. He's free."
Marie stepped around Logan to face him. She was smiling.
"My dear boy, he's been here all along."
Logan eyes widened as he asked, "Marie?"
She shook her head. "My name is Erik, or if you prefer, Magneto."
"No! Marie, fight him. Fight back. You're stronger than... umph."
Logan's jaw clamped shut of its own volition, refusing to open again no matter how hard he strained.
"That's better," Magneto said using Marie's voice. "Now, I just have to practice a little before we go in. My powers are weaker in this body, and even though I've been practicing on horses at Charles' school, an entire skeleton is so much more complex than horseshoes."
Logan's body was forced through a series of fighting moves, muscles tearing when he resisted. He wanted to scream from the shooting pain of ripping flesh, but he forced it down, not wanting to give the bastard in Marie's head the satisfaction.
Magneto saw his pain, though, and decided to explain what had happened two months ago while continuing to manipulate Logan's body like a life-sized marionette.
"Charles and his ethics. He never even bothered to scan her mind once she returned to his precious school, and no one there knew the girl well enough to detect the truth.
"She died in my machine."
Logan grunted in denial.
"If you hadn't destroyed it, her death would have meant something, could have saved us all. Instead, she's just another dead mutant, unmissed and unmourned.
"Isn't it ironic that the life you saved on the Statue of Liberty was that of your greatest enemy?"
Logan started mumbling loudly in angry protests.
"Rogue's mutation steals life energy. My mutation transforms life energy into magnetic power. My machine converts magnetic power into a mutating cloud. A perfect combination, don't you think? With Rogue in my machine instead of me, there were four lives to drain instead of one. I was the last to be drained because it was my mutation that powered the machine.
"I never expected to survive, but Rogue did. She had incredible faith in you. In fact, her last thoughts were of you. How she'd been wrong to think you'd save her. That you hadn't come and hadn't cared."
Logan released a long, pained wail through his locked jaw. Marie had thought he'd... No. It wasn't true. It couldn't be true. She wasn't dead.
"Once she was gone, the mind-crushing pain of the machine consumed me, and I felt myself dying. Then you touched me, pulling me back as you healed her body and filled her mind. I thought you'd take over, but when you realized that she was gone, you were so distracted by grief and guilt that it was easy to defeat you.
"The most frustrating thing about this entire ordeal," Magneto said, stepping Marie's body out of the way before forcing Logan's claws out, "is that you left for two months."
Magneto pushed Logan's claws back in, and then began practicing at individually controlling each claw.
"If my powers were at full strength, I could have attacked this place at any time and shielded myself from harm. As it was, I needed someone to fight in my place. Someone I could control.
"Unfortunately, you'd gone to who knows where for no one knew how long. I had to keep my mental shields up and avoid all the telepaths whenever I was on school grounds, so I spent as much time as possible away, planning an escape for my other self. Without your abilities, though, it didn't seem possible. Until today."
Magneto smiled again and nodded to himself. "Practice over."
Logan heard every word that Magneto said using Marie's voice, but he didn't believe it. She couldn't be dead. Somehow, he would have felt it, would have known.
He clung to his belief in Marie's survival like a drowning man to a life preserver as Magneto walked him into the compound. Then, his mind blanked as it was engulfed by a world of terrible sensations.
Magneto's power agonizingly moved his bones in directions they didn't want to go. Bullets bit into his flesh as the guards fought for their lives. The sticky warm feeling of other people's blood flowed off his claws and down his arms. The scent of freshly slaughtered bodies coated his skin like a musk.
He didn't know how long it took, but by the time it was over and the real Magneto was free of his plastic prison, Logan was barely conscious. The pain was overwhelming, but if Marie was to have any chance of regaining control of her body, he had to stay awake and wait for a chance to touch her. He knew that if he could get in her head they could defeat Magneto's inner voice together.
Eventually, his opportunity arrived. For no apparent reason, Magneto and the copy in Marie stopped walking about halfway to the Jeep. They'd been talking ever since they met, but Logan was too distracted by pain to listen. Then, the magnetic fields that had been controlling his body disappeared.
Almost immediately, his legs gave out under his weight, but he forced himself to fall in Marie's direction, tackling her to the ground. With all the strength he had left, he grasped her head in his hands, their flesh touching where his palms met her cheeks.
For one minute, there were two Logans.
The outer Logan clung to his Marie desperately, willing everything he was into her mind, hoping it was enough. Rejoicing in the pain which made even his dreams of adamantium grafting pale in comparison, he barely noticed that neither the real Magneto nor the one in Marie were forcing him to let go.
Only the Logan that grew within Marie realized the meaning of their lack of resistance. He found himself surrounded by a dark, vengeful world. When he reached out, searching for Marie's light, hopeful soul, he found nothing but more of the same fanatical rage and stark, hostile environment.
Within moments, he was forced back from his exploration, compacted in on himself into a tight, cold, metallic box. He punched and clawed at the walls trying to escape, but there were no holes, no seams, in this prison.
He was inside Marie's mind, but she was gone, leaving no trace that she'd ever existed. Magneto had been telling the truth. She was dead, and with that knowledge, Logan was lost.