Disclaimer: None of these characters would want me to own them.
Archive Rights: Just ask.
Author's Warning: I tried not to get too gross, but be warned anyway. There is unpleasant and perhaps even disgusting imagery in this story.
Summary: Why Logan can't remember his past. Basically, a thinly-veiled excuse for me to torture Logan and/or Rogue.
He returned in much the same way that he'd left. Unnoticed, except by one person.
Rogue stood next to the plate, her leather-gloved hands gripping the bat tightly. When the next pitch came, the crack of the bat filled the air as the ball hurtled up and away into an unprotected area of right field.
With a laugh, Rogue ran, speeding to first and then around to second plate. When she rounded second, her eyes widened in dismay and she almost tripped over her own feet before a smile broke across her face and she began running even harder. She ran past third and then off the field, extending her arms and barreling into Logan.
"You're back! When did you get back?"
"Rogue!" her teammates yelled at her, urging her back, but she only had ears for the man in her arms.
"Don't you wanna finish your game, darlin'?" Logan asked, cocking his head back towards the angry young adults.
"Nah, I can play anytime. I've missed you."
"I called ya every week."
"That's not the same as seeing you."
Logan's cock-eyed grin showed itself for a moment at her response, and he put his arm around her shoulders, leading her away.
The protests of the people on the field faded as Logan and Rogue walked into the woods, but neither of them spoke to fill the silence. They simply walked in mutual contentment until they reached the banks of the stream that cut through the woods.
Logan let go of Rogue and sat down on a rock while she did the same, facing him.
"What is it, Logan? What did you find?"
"What? But the professor told me..."
"Oh, I found an old army base all right. Just didn't have one thing to do with me."
"Logan, I'm so sorry. I know how much this means to you."
"You still got me in your head?"
"Well," Rogue said as she shifted positions. "It's kinda hard to explain."
"Try me," Logan said, leaning back and putting his hands on his knees.
"Ok. It's like, when I touch someone, I get their powers, memories, personality, that sorta stuff, but when they wake up, it kinda goes away."
"Kinda? You told me that kid you kissed was still in your head."
"He is, sorta. Even though the powers and everything go away, my own memories stay. So it's like I have my memories of his memories instead of his memories."
"So you have your memories of my memories?"
Logan paused, his lips pursed in a frown as he asked, "Any of the bad stuff in there?"
Rogue looked down, and answered in an almost whisper, "Yeah. They really hurt you, Logan."
"Aw, kid. I"m sorry."
Rogue looked up and held her hand out to him. "Don't be. I like it. It makes me feel closer to you even when you're gone."
Logan took her hand, rubbing it gently. "I'm back now."
"Does the professor have another lead for you?"
Logan let out a breath of amusement and met her eyes. "You think that's the only reason I came back? Haveta make sure the geeks are taking care of you."
"I'm fine. I... sometimes I really miss you, but I'm ok."
Logan's face broke into a grin once again, before he schooled his features back into place.
Rogue caught the swift expression and asked, "What?"
"Why do you smile when I say I've missed you?"
"Sorry, kid. It's just... no one's ever missed me before. It's really nice. I can't remember anyone ever caring whether I lived or died."
"Well, I care," Rogue insisted, "so don't go off dying anytime soon."
Logan nodded, looking down at their clasped hands. They sat for a while like that, listening to the babbling of the stream.
"What's the professor going to do to help you?" Rogue asked after a long time.
"He wants to go in my head and sift through everything. See if he can't make some sense outta this swiss-cheese memory of mine."
"Logan... but, that's terrible."
If Rogue had learned anything about Logan, it was that he was an intensely private man. A mind scan that deep would leave every memory, every thought, open and bare for Xavier's perusal.
"It's the only way I'll ever find out."
"Can't you just... just..."
"You know how long I've been lookin', kid. I've used up all my leads. This is my last chance."
Throughout her young life, Marie's favorite season had always been summer. There was no school, and she could go swimming with her friends almost every day during the sticky, hot season. However, when she grew up and became a mutant, her preference changed. Marie might adore summer, but Rogue worshiped autumn. In the fall, she could comfortably cover her skin in the crisper air, and yet still enjoy the outdoors. With the protection of clothing, she could play sports without much fear for her teammates. All that freedom, plus the lush, radiant colors only trees in New England could produce, made falling in love with the season easy.
In fact a few weeks after Logan's arrival, Rogue was enjoying the milder weather by playing a game of soccer when she saw him and the professor walking towards the woods. Well, Logan was walking; he was carrying the professor.
Curious, Rogue excused herself from the impromptu game and headed towards the two men.
"Logan, Professor, whatcha doing?"
Professor Xavier cleared his throat, and said, "Hello, Rogue. There are some places on the school grounds that I can't reach without assistance, so I simply asked Logan if he would help me..."
"She's ok, Chuck," Logan interrupted before turning his attention to Rogue. "Professor thought maybe being out in the woods'd get us past my memory block."
"But I thought he..." Rogue turned to the professor and corrected herself. "Sorry, professor. I meant, I thought you were just going to use your mutation to find..." Rogue paused again, trying to think of a tactful way to say it.
"You thought I'd just rip the answers to Logan's past out of his mind?"
Rogue looked down and shrugged. "Well, yeah."
"Unfortunately, Logan has very strong shields protecting those memories, and we've resorted to more traditional methods."
"Yeah," Logan said, reentering the conversation, "psychy-mumbo jumbo, and we should probably get going."
"Oh," Rogue said, taking a step back, and looking everywhere but at Logan.
Logan nodded and turned away, only to call over his shoulder, "You comin', kid?"
"What?" Then Rogue took a quick breath and shook her head. "But... that's... it's way too personal, Logan."
Logan grunted and turned back to meet her gaze. "You think I trust Chuck here more than you?" he asked with earnest eyes. He cocked his head in the direction he'd been walking. "C'mon."
"Slow your breathing, Logan. Focus on relaxing," Professor Xavier instructed from where he sat, leaning against a tree in the small clearing.
Rogue sat a few feet away from them, watching Logan intently as he was hypnotized. He sat in a lotus position that he insisted was comfortable, although Rogue couldn't imagine ever being able to relax with her legs twisted up like a pretzel. Somehow, though, Logan managed.
She watched as his muscles loosened starting at his feet and ending with his head. The lines of his body became softer and the few stern wrinkles on his face disappeared as he loosened up, making him appear years younger.
As she studied him, she wondered about the amazing openness he was showing. He didn't even know what he would find in this, the deepest and most protected part of his mind, but he trusted her enough to actually let her be present when he uncovered it.
She couldn't help asking herself if she would have the courage to be equally open to him. Could she actually expose to him her darkest thoughts and greatest dreams? Could she tell him all her secrets and know with a certainty that he'd never betray that confidence?
Well, wait a second. What had she been doing every week on the phone, but that? Logan knew all her fears, secrets, and desires. Well, all but one. The one that involved him. The one she held closest to her heart in hopes that some day it might become a reality.
She broke from her reverie when Professor Xavier asked a few innocuous questions, which Logan answered in a slow, almost monotone voice. The professor nodded to himself, then began.
"Logan, go to your safe place, your favorite hunting spot in Alberta. The sun is warm on your face as you prowl through the undergrowth. The game trails around your feet are fresh, and there are no humans for hundreds of kilometers. You are comfortable and secure."
Logan's blank expression turned up into a beaming smile at the professor's description.
"If there is any time during this session where we need to stop, I will say your safety word, and you will return to this place. Do you understand?"
"Do you remember your safety word?"
"What is your safety word?"
Rogue was so stunned she actually, leaned back as if she'd been struck. She thought he'd forgotten. He always called her, "Kid." She'd heard him ask other people about her, and then he called her, "Rogue."
But, he hadn't forgotten. He'd actually picked her name, of all the other words in the entire world, to mean safety and protection to him.
"That's right," the professor continued, unaware of Rogue's revelation, or at least pretending to be. "Whenever I say, `Marie,' you will return to this place."
The professor let out a deep breath, as if steeling himself for what was to come next.
"Logan, I want you to leave your safe place. Allow yourself to move backwards through your memories. Backwards through time. Back over 15 years ago, to the cave where you first woke up."
Rogue observed Logan's calm expression change to an almost animalistic grimace. He started breathing deeply through his nose and his head turned slowly from one side to another, as if he was taking in the scents of his new setting.
"Center yourself in the moment, Logan. What do your senses tell you?"
"It's morning. Sky's lightening, but not dawn yet. Ground's wet with dew.
"I'm crouched on rocks, gravel, in front of a small cave. Dead buck's lying in front of me. Most've the meat's gone, but there's enough for a couple more meals. Smells like it's still ok to eat. It's been skinned. Got the skin tied around my body. Keeps me warm."
"Go inside the cave, Logan."
"Dark in here. Wet. Can smell moss, rotting leaves... feels like a bed of leaves."
"Ok, Logan, now that we've established..."
"Fever," Logan said in a ragged whisper, his forehead tightening as he tried to place the smells. "Blood. Death."
"Logan, you've never..." the professor said in dismay before he stopped himself. Lowering his voice to the calm cadence he'd had up until this point, Xavier said, "Logan, what died in this cave?"
"Don't... Scent faded. Been weeks, maybe months."
"Logan, how long have you lived in the cave?"
"Don't know. A long time."
"Ok. Logan, I want you to travel further backwards in your memories to the time before the cave. Stop at the place where you lived and slept before the cave and center yourself in that moment."
For a moment, Logan's expression didn't change, and then his eyes shot open in terror and he fell backwards onto the ground.
"Logan!" Rogue shouted, and scrambled towards him as quickly as she could.
The professor held up a hand at her and commanded, "Marie. Marie, Logan. Go back to the safe place in your mind. Marie."
The words had absolutely no affect. Logan's entire body tensed so tightly where he lay that his muscles shook in exertion. When Rogue reached his side, she saw his eyes still open and panic-stricken, and now his mouth, too, hung wide in a silent scream.
"Logan! Wake up, Logan!" Rogue yelled, then, taking a cue from the professor, she shouted, "Marie! Marie! Marie!"
Logan remained as he was. The muscles of his chest spasming like he was trying to breathe, but no air went further than his mouth.
"Stop this!" Rogue ordered the professor. "Use your mind and make him wake up. I think he's stopped breathing!"
Xavier leaned back and closed his eyes, his face a mask of concentration. Only after a few seconds, though, his eyes shot open again and he panted for air.
"His mind's... completely primal. There's nothing but emotion and sensation. Nothing I can link to."
"I've summoned Jean. She'll sedate him, and he'll recover."
Rogue nodded and turned her attention back to Logan, his every movement another glimpse into his agony. She couldn't help but try to ease some of it by gently stroking his hair with glove-covered hands, but he gave no indication of feeling her. He continued to struggle and gasp for air, his body locked in paroxysms.
By the time Jean arrived, his lips were blue from lack of oxygen. Her features widened in shock when she saw him, before she donned a mask of professionalism.
Having been briefed by Xavier as she ran to the scene, she quickly prepared and administered Logan-sized doses of anti-seizure medication and a sedative before she pulled out an intubation kit and started trying to work Logan's head into a position where she could secure his airway.
A couple minutes passed with no change in Logan's condition, and Jean couldn't get his head to budge, even using her telekinesis and Rogue's help.
"Dammit," she said in frustration. "His healing factor must've burned off the meds before they could work."
"What does that mean?" Rogue demanded. "You've gotta help him. He's not breathing."
Indeed, Logan's coloring had worsened to the point where his skin, not just his lips, had a distinctive blue cast.
"It's not just the breathing. His pulse is so rapid, he's going to stroke out if I don't sedate him, but I can't play willy-nilly with these dosages. If I overestimate, I could depress his body to the point where his heart stops."
Jean turned to Xavier. "Maybe if we combined our minds..." but Rogue was no longer listening. She knew of a foolproof way to knock Logan out, and hopefully save his life.
Moving quickly, she had a glove pulled off and her hand on Logan's bare cheek before either of her mentors noticed.
The fragments of this mind had no words to express the terror, the mind-numbing panic, but Rogue's did.
She was trapped, weight pressing on every inch of her skin until she could barely move a finger. She didn't know where she was, or even which direction led out, all she knew was that she had to escape.
Her skin rubbed against the smooth plastic enveloping her body, and itched against the few places where dirt and grit had made its way through the plastic. Opening her eyes and mouth only led to the sensation of more dirt, now falling in and mixing with tears and saliva.
There was no light. Her voice made no sound and nose detected no scents for how can a mouth yell or a nose smell when there is no air?
The miniscule remains of the mind she was linked to understood the terror of captivity and the need to escape. Claws sprung painfully from her hands, piercing the plastic covering. When more soil fell in filling the small space that had existed around her hands moments before, the mind forced an attack, piercing the enemy again and again, digging, stretching, and fighting for life.
Rogue's mind understood so much more than the one controlling this body. She knew what the captivity, lack of air, and abundance of earth meant. She'd been buried alive.
How her body survived without oxygen, Rogue couldn't understand, but survive it did. As her mind reeled at the knowledge that she was lying in a filled grave, most likely six feet under firm soil, her body kept fighting to escape.
Inch by painful inch, battles were won and ground was gained. Hours, days, even years could have passed during this sightless, soundless battle with death before her bloodied fingers broke through the surface of the terrain above.
Even then, more time passed before her head broke through and exited the tomb, or rather the womb of earth, and she rejoined life, taking a first, ragged breath.
With that breath, the damage inflicted during her prior life and death became apparent. Her lungs rattled with that breath, and her eyes, cloudy with putrid cataracts, watched as her mouth expunged black, viscous liquid, which had to be a mixture of blood and decay. Mixed in with the foul fluid were creatures that thrived in the dark depths of the world, gorging on the corpses of others.
Her arms shook under the force of each weak cough. The bloated, white limbs would be unable to bear the weight of her rotted body much longer, but still the shattered mind she was connected to struggled onward. It ruled her body, this shell of a human being, pushing it beyond all limitations.
Rogue's mind, overcome with revulsion, could barely focus on what her body was doing as she dragged herself through rows of rectangular stones. These stones had figures and symbols carved into them that the primitive mind didn't understand, but Rogue did. They were numbers, gravemarkers with numbers stretching at least a square mile around her. So many graves, so much death.
Her body struggled on, out of the field of death and onto the side of a paved road, a road with a sign. Somehow, the fragmented mind understood some of the symbols on this sign. Perhaps they were vaguely familiar to it, perhaps the mind simply wanted to come back here some day. For whatever reason, it made her body stop and her eyes squint at the sign. L... O... G... A... N... Then she dragged herself off the road and into the woods.
Rogue's mind had seen the sign, too, and where she'd been reeling with disgust, now she was pressed down by sorrow. It'd read:
Mt. Logan 30 km
The connection had been so visceral, so painful and frightening, she'd forgotten. The shreds of a mind she held onto was Logan's. This was his past, but it held no answers. He didn't even know his name.
Strong hands grabbed her arms, and Rogue felt a sudden transition as she lost the connection with Logan's mind.
"Good job, Rogue," Jean said. "He's breathing on his own now... pulse is dropping to regular levels."
"He isn't... I didn't hold on too long, did I, Jeannie?"
"It was just a few seconds. I think your touch shocked his mind out of whatever it'd been stuck in."
"I concur, Rogue," the professor added. "I can sense him now. He feels like Logan again."
Rogue sat vigil by Logan's bedside, sometimes crying for what he'd had to endure, sometimes crying for his lost, and according to Jean and the professor, unrecoverable past, and sometimes crying because she was so happy that he'd survived and come into her life.
Rogue looked up and met clear hazel eyes.
"Hey," she said.
"Chuck and Jeannie?" Logan asked, hesitation and worry clear in his voice.
"They know, but no one else does. They said it was your life and you could tell who you wanted."
"What're you still doing here?"
"None of that changes who you are to me."
"I'm a damned experiment that died on the table!" Logan countered, sitting up and jumping off the Med Lab bed. Pacing back and forth, he said "I didn't escape. I didn't take any of those bastards with me. I died, they buried me, end of story. I'm a freaking corpse, Marie! Why would you ever..."
Logan turned and froze at the look of astonishment on Rogue's face. He cringed thinking that she probably didn't know everything, and he'd just messed things up even worse, when she spoke.
"You called me Marie."
"Marie. You always call me `Kid'."
"Marie... Kid, you're not focusing on the bigger issue."
"Logan, I've had two days to think about this. You're not an experiment. You're not a corpse. You're Logan, and you're just as alive as anyone else. In fact, you're more alive than most. Jean said your healing factor was probably a lot stronger before the adamantium slowed it down. It must've kicked in and saved your life right after you died from the implantation."
"But if I can't die..."
"Oh, you can die. Jean told me that, too. The metal on your bones slows down your healing factor a lot. It might take more to kill you, but that doesn't mean you're Superman."
Logan sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
"Logan, you're the same man: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. All this means is that instead of looking for your past, you can start working on your future."
Logan grunted, "Never given much thought to my future."
Rogue smiled. "Well, from where I'm standing, you've got a good start. Nice place to stay. Plenty to eat." She reached out and hooked one of his hands in hers. "Friends who care about you," she added, gazing intently into his eyes.
Logan looked down thoughtfully at where their hands joined. Then, he lifted her hand in his and kissed it chastely, giving Rogue his broadest smile as he lowered their hands again.
"You're right, Marie. There's nothing better than... friends."