Disclaimer: I own the entire Marvel universe, particularly Wolverine, but only in my dreams. I have but two brass pennies to rub together so suing me means I'll have to cancel my subscriptions to diverse Marvel titles.

This is my first ever piece of fan fiction. I have no idea how it will be received so constructive criticism is very welcome, especially from old hands of the fanfic game.

The story is Logan centric, written in first person singular and, although the first chapter is clichéd angst, subsequent chapters (providing you want 'em,) will explore a friendship based pairing that seems to have been ignored by fans. There is strong language because that's the kind of guy Logan is.

Chapter 1: Poetry

A barroom philosopher once told me that the world and its people are a poem. He was in the glorious state of falling down drunkenness at the time so I didn't laugh in his face too hard. Besides, he wasn't completely wrong. Just mostly wrong. Sure, you can convince me the world, especially the untamed wilderness, is poetry in action but you can stuff humanity and all the unnatural steel, plastic and concrete shit that comes right along with 'em.

I love the wild, solitary places. Places where you can suck in air as pure as nature intended. To me, this is the real world, not the suffocating towns and cities where people are packed too closely together with their cars and houses, domestic appliances and high-rises; where their heavier than air stink envelops them in a poisonous, choking shroud.

The wilderness is alive; rugged and vital. Every season has its own flavour; its own aroma; its own voice; its own textures. It defines life and defies human endeavour. It is my cocoon against hatred and prejudice.

Xavier's extensive estate has its own little piece of wilderness; a tiny stanza of poetry. Tonight the moon is new and faceless, the darkness sings softly with the furtive rustling of nocturnal critters and the dry creaking of branches. Concealed by the inky shadows cast by a stand of young elms, my greatly enhanced senses are alive, testing the breeze and savouring the transitional scents of life emerging from winter death. The breeze is sweet with the smell of fresh rain on grass, of rising sap and the production of chlorophyll inside the fattening buds. The world is waiting, poised on the cusp of exploding into life. Yet inside I am as cold and dead as the leaf-mould beneath my feet.

There's fucking poetry for you.

I can't sleep. The feral creature inside me is too restless, aggravated to the point of fury by the visual stimulus of my nightmares; nightmares that are growing worse. The familiar pain and anguish of the enforced adamantium process still haunts me but now too does the pale, dead face of Jean. She calls to me with her blue, dead lips. Tendrils of red hair writhe around her head and face like snakes. The water surrounding her is a sea of golden flames yet she is cold; distant; her eyes milky white pearls that sear my soul with their frozen acid stare. The stare is terrible, an accusation. I failed her and now she's there every damn time I close my eyes.

Don'tcha think my mind's fucked up enough Red? Ain't I done enough suffering already?

Seeing her dead like that I want to scream. I want to rend; to maim. I want to inflict pain and horror. I want to track down Magneto and flay him alive for the way his fucking machine warped changes in Jean's mutant DNA and almost killed a kid I swore to protect. More, I want to sink my claws knuckle deep into the bodies of the people who reduced me to an amnesiac psychotic killing machine and tear them inside out. Stryker might be dead but not the bastards who financed the Alkali Lake facility.

But I don't know who they are.

Xavier knows. I'd bet my fucking life on it. He knew Stryker. Taught his kid. He raided Stryker's files. Dollars against dimes he knows who Stryker's paymasters are. But he can't tell me. Won't tell me. He won't tell me because he knows I'll walk right out of here and hunt the motherfucking sons of bitches down and kill them like vermin. And no brainiac pacifist would want that on his conscience no matter how much the bloody retribution was deserved.

I can't help wondering what else lies undisclosed in Stryker's files. Does my past exist as hard copy?

A familiar sensation prickles my consciousness, like a honed blade sliding over silk. He must've sensed the outpouring of my negative emotions. I've learned to shield my mind from telepathic intrusion and detection by flooding it with feral thoughts. Apparently it renders me almost invisible on the psychic plane but I only have Xavier's word for that. He's a tricky, evasive bastard and I can't bring myself to trust him to the extent that Summers and 'Ro seem to. Cursing the intrusion, I allow my tattle-tale surface thoughts to slide into a deep, dark pool of feral sensory analysis.


Not here. I'm not here. Go dish out your cryptic shit to someone who appreciates it Charlie.

Like a sigh the prickling sensation sloughs away and I'm alone in the dark once more.

It's late. Through the trees the school's north wing, the dormitory block, towers over the landscape, its stone façade bathed in the silver glow of the ornamental security lights. Most of the windows are dark save for a handful whose drapes are backlit by the pale illumination of a reading lamp. I wait and smoke, idly watching my wispy grey exhalations dissipate into the night. One by one the lights are extinguished as the older kids finally turn in.

Rogue's room has been in darkness for some time. She's happy here, with new friends and a purpose in life. She has Mr. Frosty, a decent kid who worships the ground she walks on. So why does she hanker after a case-hardened killer whose mind is a desolate abyss brimful with pain and violence? Whose body has been twisted into something less than human? Does she really need a brute like me watching over her?

Since Jean's death the kid has tried to comfort me, tried her damnedest to distract me with her child/woman wiles and her innocence. I know that she loves me, that her affections are more than mere infatuation or gratitude or pity. Does she really believe that, in her sweet naivety, she could ever restore what has been reduced to cold grey cinders? Does she not realise I am unworthy, incapable of giving her what she craves?

For a brief period I bathed in Jeannie's radiance, revelled in the desire I knew she felt for me. With her voice she denied her feelings but her body, her scent, the taste of that one brief kiss, made her a liar. Having looked into the dark pit of my mind she hadn't flinched, just accepted the brutality of my life, what I am. This magnificent, flame-haired woman took my atrophied soul and infused it with hope. For the first time I had a reason to reach out to another living, feeling being; to shake off the cold shell insulating me from the pain of meaningful human contact and actually dare to love her. And in one devastating act of selflessness she destroyed me. Imprisoned in the 'plane and reduced to an ineffectual, horrified bystander by her will, I watched her die. I saw the life crushed from her by the floodwaters she'd held impossibly at bay and I died right along with her.

I fell profoundly in love with a woman I barely knew, a woman whose gentle touch awoke something inside me that I was too afraid to acknowledge. Now she's gone and the grief is killing me. How is it possible to suffer such pain and not go insane?

Before Laughlin City, before fate set Rogue and the X Men in my path, my needs were simple; fight, fuck, drink, move on. No past. No future. No regrets. Yet here I am in civilised Westchester, emotionally ravaged and vulnerable, unwilling to return to the cast iron numbness I'd worked so hard to achieve for fifteen years. And hating myself for my weakness.

The light in Xavier's study still burns brightly. I know he's waiting too. And 'Ro with him. She's been in there all evening. Waiting.

Time passes, an hour maybe. I hear the purr of the Jeep's engine approaching along Graymalkin Lane long before it arrives at the tall electronic gates that separate the school from the outside world. The soft whir of the gate's motor responds to the security code punched in by the driver and the vehicle accelerates gently through the gate, the twin beams of its headlights raking across immaculate lawns and stabbing through the stands of trees lining the sweeping curves of the drive.

The Jeep is one of a fleet of vehicles Xavier keeps on hand for school field trips and extracurricular domestic use. The driver is Scott Summers, boy scout, anal retentive and Fearless Leader of Xavier's X-Men, returning from whatever errand Xavier has sent him on. The Jeep disappears from view, hidden by the dormitory wing. Tyres grind on gravel indicating he's driven right up to the mansion's main entrance. The engine falls silent. A few moments later the hollow echo of three of the Jeep's doors slamming shut reaches my ears. I catch an inaudible snatch of Summers' voice and a soft female voice I don't recognise. Both voices fade as Summers and his passengers enter the mansion. Ten minutes later Summers returns to the Jeep and guns its engine to life; gravel crunches and the muted roar Dopplers off southwards of the mansion, toward the extensive garages and stables.

More time passes and eventually the light in Xavier's study goes out. He and 'Ro are obviously through waiting. Unwilling to surrender to the horrors of sleep I make my way back to the mansion, keeping to the shadows. On a whim I head towards the garage. There's an all night bar just beyond Salem Centre's city limits where the liquor is cheap, strong and strips membranes as it burns its way down a man's throat. Maybe I can sink enough to keep the nightmares at bay for a while.