Title: Complicated Peaces
Word Count: 1000
Rating: PG
Summary: Character study. Of entanglements, complications, and peace - dreamed, actual, and imagined.
Author's Notes: In the animated X-Men series from the 90s, there's a scene where Wolverine drops to his knees in the middle of a snowfield and cries out "There's no peace for me! Even here!". That moment has never entirely left me. So this is an examination of Logan in light of that remembered moment. Also as per usual there are a couple of cloaked shoutouts to comics canon in it, because I think I'm a lot cleverer than I actually am.

As always, I own nothing. I am a Textual Poacher.

Not all his dreams are violent ones.

He still has nightmares, dark and bloody flashes of agony and tanks and human lives being snuffed out at the end of his claws; but on some nights he dreams of tundra, clean and cold and silent. The featureless white snowfield stretches off in all directions, chaos and tumult swept away by the wind or buried by the snow, and it swallows even the echo of his voice, wraps it in white cotton wool and gives it back to him as a peculiar muffled murmur. It is clean and empty and peaceful, and when he wakes he is always filled with a longing to go back.

He knows what Xavier would say about the tundra – that it's his mind's alternative to the other dreams, the refuge his subconscious dredges up from memory as a brief respite to nightmares. Or else that it is an embodiment of his longing, of some craving for peace and absolution that killing William Stryker did not bring him.

This is why he rarely elects to discuss his dreams with Xavier. The tundra is beautiful in its simplicity, the one simple dream he ever has, and the last thing he wants is for Chuck to muddy it with needless if well-meaning analysis. Logan has enough well-meaning complications in his waking life as it is.

Magneto and his boys have been lying low, but the X-Men haven't had the same luxury. They've responded to half a dozen incidents in the past eight months, ranging from the merely irritating (what kind of nutcase takes over an abandoned amusement park?) to the worrying (the one-man nuclear reactor who launched an attack on the U.N). On any given Tuesday he might have to drop everything and help save the world, and he can't help feeling that should seem stranger than it does – but despite the objective oddness of the very concept, it's starting to become almost routine, just part of being one of Xavier's people.

Every once in a while he can't help thinking that he has gone from being Stryker's weapon to being one of Xavier's. It's a stifling thought, the kind that makes Logan's hackles rise with the impulse to bolt; but he wrestles it down. It's true that the complicated entanglements of camaraderie and duty that keep him with the X-Men are their own kind of restraint; but Stryker was only concerned with using him. Xavier's given him a place to be of use, and that's a different thing altogether.

He teaches, now: self-defense and phys ed to the younger students, tactics and close combat to their elders in the "special class". Teaching is harder than it looks; harder, in a way, than fighting is, because he's less suited to it. It's a long and laborious process trying to get them to listen when he talks, remember what he says, and practice what they've learned (especially Pietro Maximoff, the little motormouth – who will probably never know just how many times he has come dangerously close to snapping the Wolverine's last nerve) and it grates on him sometimes.

But he wrestles back the impulse to snap, drills them again and again, is exacting but fair and as patient as he is capable of being. It's demanding and often frustrating, but has its payoff in the knowledge that they'll be even a little bit more ready for the next time. None of them can afford the comforting illusion that there will never be a next time.

So when he isn't teaching or fighting, he patrols. This is partly to keep the kids in line; they're less likely to try anything that will result in broken rules or broken bones if they risk crossing paths with Logan by doing so. It's partly because Logan has a nocturnal streak (a trait he's discovered he shares with Kurt, and the two of them have formed an odd and easygoing friendship simply by virtue of being the only ones awake on a regular basis). But for the most part, he patrols for his own peace of mind; because he can't fall asleep until he's done just one more sweep to make sure all is well. Or because one of his darker dreams has jarred him into wakefulness, and he can't entirely shake it off until he's had just one quick look around.

His nightmares are no longer only memories. Sometime, now, they're what-ifs, and in them the people he's come to think of as his are the ones doing the hurting and the dying. They're distressing, even as nightmares go, and they tend to be hard to shake. They are, he knows, the price he pays for a life tangled up with the lives of others.

There are days and nights when he craves solitude – a real solitude, one with fewer smells and voices and complications, one with fewer distractions and fewer entanglements – and a restless part of him whispers Go North, and a faint vision of the tundra rises up in his mind's eye. Go North, you could find it, it's there somewhere. Part of him envisions the roads he'd have to take, roads he's driven before; never entirely past the reach of human presence, but he knows they lead there eventually, knows how fast and how far he'd have to go to get there.

But he never does. Something in him knows that even if he did – even if he started North alone and kept going until only snow surrounded him and the only sound was the wind – something would happen. Some ugliness from his past, some entanglement from his present, some hidden darkness from within himself would rise up, sooner or later, and break the stillness. That kind of peace is destined not to last – not for him, anyway.

So he stays. He fights, he teaches, he keeps watch; he lives with the entanglements and complications that this life of his entails.

And sometimes when he sleeps, he dreams of tundra.