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Empire

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Take off all of your skin
And breathe when you are free
Shake off all of your sins
And give them to me
Close up, let me back in
I wanna be yours wanna be your
Hero 
--Shakira

 

Westchester, New York
2023



He could hardly breathe. Before him stood a man he had never seen before, though so achingly familiar it made his heart clench in his chest. For thirty years, he had followed this one man’s every wish, following a dream he had adopted as his own, a dream that gave him a reason for living, a reason to fight.

But he was so changed. The mutant known as Wolverine could see it in the kindness of those startling blue eyes. Gone were the dark, heavy depths of despair. Here, he could see, there had not been the horrors of war. He hadn’t watched them all fall, like so many snowflakes, to melt into the pavement.

Storm. Jean. Cyclops. Beast. Forge. Rogue. Nightcrawler.

There were countless others, millions. All of them were gone, each of the deaths taking more of the kindness, more of the warmth from his friend’s cerulean gaze. It was something so subtle that not until he had taken that last, harrowing mission, did Wolverine really see it.

Mind a muddle of the future, the past, Wolverine found his favorite chair in the Professor’s office. It hadn’t looked this way in over ten years. When the Sentinels came crashing through the night in 2014, they destroyed the only home Wolverine had ever known. Here, in this antique and teenage mutant-filled mansion he had set aside the beast to become the man known only as Logan.

Now, he could see no evidence of war, devastation. Sensitive ears picked up the sound of children laughing, sneakers squeaking on the polished wood floors. Sunlight beamed in brightly from the uncovered windows, beckoning to come outside and enjoy the chilled autumn air.

And the man before him…

“I’ve waited fifty years for this moment.” Charles Xavier said in that soft, warm tone Logan had not heard for decades. 

“Welcome back.”

Chapter Text

Weschester, New York
1999



The security wasn’t as tight as he thought it would be, not for a mansion with its heavy iron gates and expansive grounds. From his perch on the balcony of the home, he could see the evidence of wealth all around him. Manicured lawns gave way to carefully sculpted gardens. Heavy stone fountains lay quiet and still, though he imagined they were beautiful in bright sunlight.

To the north, there lay a long swimming pool, likely open for business during the daylight hours, this late in spring. Across from the carefully placed furnishings, there stood a sizable tennis court, complete with nets that swayed lightly in the breeze.

Cloaked in black as was fitting his trade, the mutant made a mental note of several balls littering the great lawn, along with abandoned flipflops, towels and various other leavings that spoke of children. 

Children.

Looking back into the window where his target lay, Wolverine sniffed. His preternatural senses could smell them, not a one of them tinged with fear. As a mutant, he knew the pains most of his species were made to endure when their powers came to them. It was the history of mankind to blame problems on the weakest, to claim the power for strength. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t pretty, it was just the way things were.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Startled by the presence in his mind, Wolverine balled himself more tightly from his perch on the balcony.

The soft metallic grating that was as much part of him as his hands, brought to life his signature weapon. Claws, nine inches long and razor-sharp, erupted from the back of his hands. Wolverine turned, seeing no one and scenting no human had passed in some time. Whoever was trying to break into his mind was not nearby.

Where are you going?

He moved on silent feet from the railing to the cool stone under his feet. The French doors had remained open, as was the usual for the man he had come for. Wolverine took tentative steps inside, his sensitive nose finding no one in the immediate area.

Where are you going? This way.

That soft whisper returned. Wolverine flattened his body against the wall, surprised to find the bedroom tidy as a pin. He had seen the schematics, of course, but he knew nothing of the man they had sent him to destroy.

On the dresser, Wolverine noticed were photographs. Lovingly framed, each held a snapshot of a child or young adult, most of them smiling. A bald man sat in a wheelchair in almost every shot. Portraits, he thought, of a man and his family, not the sycophantic followers Smith had spoken of.

This way.

Unable to deny the urge, Wolverine opened the bedroom door, following his impulse to move silently down the hallway. He wasn’t an idiot, he knew that the man he was to kill harbored intense telepathic powers. The man was probably in his mind now, manipulating him into some sort of trap.

The presence was so familiar, though, Wolverine could not deny it.

He saw none of the fine furnishing or thick persian carpets on his way toward the elevator. Only that soft presence in his mind, the entreating whispers to giving him direction seemed to matter.

As the elevator doors opened, Wolverine came face to face with Professor Charles Xavier.

Claws still extended, Wolverine offered a toothy, menacing smile.

“You know why I’m here, Chuck.”

To his credit, the Professor merely smiled, looking casual in his crisp grey suit. “Oh, yes. I’ve been waiting.”

“So, you know how this ends.” Wolverine took one step out of the elevator.

“I hope it won’t,” the aged mutant said quietly. “What if I were to offer you another way, another life?”

Wolverine paused, still smirking. They always tried to bargain, to run, to plead. It fell on deaf ears. Wolverine was a trained killer, an assassin. He didn’t carry mercy in his heart like so many others. It was why Smith always sent him.

“Ain’t another way.”

The Professor smiled more broadly. “There is always another way, Logan.”

Wolverine startled, a growl rising from his throat. “How did you know that name?”

Charles Xavier sat forward in his chair, looking cool and calm in the face of Logan’s feral rage.

“You’re not the only one with gifts.”

***

Westchester, New York
2023



“That night, I made you an offer. I asked for twenty-four hours, to change your mind, to join my X-Men.” Charles Xavier sat in his wheelchair, pulling his hands from the sides of his old friend’s face. “Inside of twelve, you agreed and resigned from Weapon X.”

Though the man before him looked as he had yesterday and the day before that, Charles knew the differences. He could see the hollow loss in Logan’s eyes, the weariness of a traveler who had lived two completely different lives. For fifty years, Charles waited to see this man again.

The man who had saved his life. Twice.

“I came here to kill you.” Logan said with a sardonic smile. “And you offered me a job?”

“Well, I had a few advantages.” Charles remarked slyly. “I, after all, had been looking for you since 1973.”

His old friend gifted him with a weary smile. For the better part of an hour, Charles had taken to explaining all that had transpired in the last fifty years. There was so much to cover, and he hoped, a great deal had changed. Logan had the gift of hindsight, having seen what the world would be like if one key moment in history was not averted.

Though Charles did not know over-much about the life Wolverine led in that avoided future, what he did know was enough. How awful must it have been, indeed, for Charles to send his friend on such a perilous journey through time itself?

While Logan recovered from his trip into Charles’ mind, he felt a familiar presence outside of the door. He knew he could not keep her at bay for long, no matter how selfishly he wanted to keep his friend to himself a few moments longer.

There was, after all, a lot to catch up on.

The thought brought amusement bubbling to his lips. Nearly every day since 1999, Charles and Logan had spoken, often in this very office. He was, to Charles’ pleasure, a true friend, an equal. Logan had started out as a cold-blooded assassin, but turned into a man anyone would be lucky to call friend.

“I fear our solitude is over.”

Let her in, Elizabeth.

Knowing this was going to be incredibly difficult for Logan, Charles sent a brief, calming nudge toward the man’s mind. It was unavoidable, as the decisions his younger self made in the altered timeline were now converging with a consciousness that knew nothing of them.

“Logan.”

As the door swung open, Charles winced. The woman entered with the grace of a goddess, tears staining her dark cheeks. Wolverine looked up, confused when the slender woman known as Storm crouched in front of him.

Her hands went to his face and it was with great sorrow that Charles watched Logan flinch.

“Storm?”

Rain pattered at the windows almost immediately. Charles reached out, taking his adoptive daughter’s shoulder with one hand. He could feel the tremble there, even as Logan looked between them with a mixture of confusion and terror on his face.

“Logan.” Ororo’s voice was hollow, filled with a million things she could not, would not, say. “It’s happened.”

The statement forced Charles to squeeze her shoulder gently. “I’m afraid so, Ororo.”

“What’s happened?” Logan questioned, though his mental link with Charles provided him with an empathic glimpse of what he was feeling. Already the reality was dawning on him. He had an entire life that was, once again, robbed of him by forces outside of his control.

Storm slowly stood, the fingers of her left hand habitually twisting the gold band that rested there. It was a nervous quirk she developed about three minutes after her wedding. Charles watched with his hands in his lap, wondering if all of their preparations were going to help her in this trying time.

“I’ll...check on the children.” It seemed that Storm would leave as quickly as she arrived. Charles shared a soft, sorrowful look with the woman standing in the doorway, her soft brown eyes watching Storm as she tried to escape.

“Storm.”

Logan’s hand shot out, grasping her left wrist before she was out of his reach. Because he was watching them closely, Charles noticed how she grasped his hand, as though the extended limb was a link to the man she shared her life with.

“Wanna tell me why that ring matches mine?”

Raindrops fell more forcefully against the windows of his office. Though the forecast had called for sunny skies, Charles had not the heart to tell Ororo to internalize her feelings. This would be the most difficult time of her life, after all. She deserved to feel every moment of it without scorn.

“I will.” Ororo said, her soft cocoa gaze on the floor. “When it’s time.”

She pulled her arm away, sweeping from the room without a thought to Charles or Elizabeth.

Logan’s eyes followed her, staring at the spot where she vanished into the hall. Charles hid a smile. Perhaps Storm was worrying herself over nothing. Logan couldn’t take his eyes from her. Even the passage of time, the bending of realities could not shake the feeling Charles had that Ororo and Logan were meant to be together.

“Chuck?” Logan’s voice pulled Charles’ mind back to the present. “I need information and I think I’m gonna need it fast.”

Exhaling sharply, Charles motioned for his wife to enter the room. She did so silently, closing the door with a quiet snap behind her. Logan turned to look at the woman, the lack of recognition forcing Charles to wonder if he had ever met the woman in his former life.

“This is Elizabeth Braddock-Xavier.” The telepath answered the unspoken question. “My wife.”

Wolverine looked so startled that Mrs. Xavier burst into laughter. The auburn-haired Englishwoman patted Logan’s shoulder in a familiar fashion, shaking her head as she came to perch familiarly on the arm of Charles’ wheelchair.

“Looks like I am your one and only,” she drawled in an accent reminiscent of her homeland. “You call me Betsy, or Bets, most of the time. My codename is Psylocke.”

“You’re married?” Logan asked, the shock on his face still very much evident. 

“Since 1975,” Charles offered casually. “We met when I reopened the school. Betsy teaches English here.”

“And the occasional telepathic defense class.” She tapped her head with one manicured nail.

At this, Logan seemed to have finally reached overload. He leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees so he could cover his face with both hands. Charles rubbed the small of his wife’s back gently, a soothing habit he had developed in their 47 year marriage.

He had always wondered if Betsy had found him in the timeline Logan destroyed by stepping back into 1973. Much as Logan had with his return trip and the harrowing adventures in Washington, Betsy brought him to life. Logan restored his hope, his dream, Betsy brought him love. He credited both with keeping both himself and the dream alive these many, long years.

“You’re gonna have to give me basics, Chuck.” Logan said, using the familiar endearment. “I can’t walk out there and know nothin’.”

He can handle it, Charles. Betsy’s warm, welcome presence in his mind spoke in her usual soft tone. Especially about Ororo and the girls.

I only hope the same can be said for those girls.

They will be alright. You prepared them well.


“Chuck? Bets?” Logan’s voice was muffled by his hands. “Just hit me with it. Like pullin’ a knife out of your gut. Just do it.”

Betsy shifted a little on her perch, obviously wanting to comfort her old friend. She stayed in her place, though, with Charles’ hand on her back for support.

“You and Ororo married in 2010.” Betsy said quietly. “You dated for around two years before that.”

Logan did not look up. “Married Storm. Got it. Next.”

Charles cleared his throat. “You have two daughters. Laura and Anna-Marie. They are 12 years old.”

At this, Logan dropped his hands, giving Charles a pitying look. Unable to help himself, Charles chuckled. Betsy hopped from her perch with the gusto of a woman half her age, pouring Logan two fingers of whisky before handing it to him. The grateful mutant downed it all in one swallow.

How odd, Charles thought, to be in this situation. Logan had lived two full lives, but had only the memories of a dark, terrible world he risked his life to undo. No one else would know the pain of those turbulent times, because a group of mutants, one brave man, had ever altered the course of history.

Now, though, was the time for Logan to be here, in this time, in the life he so utterly deserved.

Tuning back into the conversation Betsy was having with Wolverine, Charles sighed. Logan was going to have a tough time adjusting, but that was what he was there for. When his friend vanished that fateful day in 1073, he had a promise to keep.

Remember these names. Storm. Jean. Scott. Rogue.. We’re going to need you to lead us, guide us. Promise me.

Logan did not know that Charles amended that promise. He swore that he would find Logan, he would teach him, lead him, guide him. And, when the time came, he would explain this new world in which he found himself.

The time for that was upon them. Charles had never broken a promise to Logan. He certainly wouldn’t start now.

***

“Well, this is just stupid.”

Laura Howlett had her father’s temper, Ororo thought with a smile. Anna-Marie was more in touch with civility, but Laura had always walked a little more on the wild side. She couldn’t help it. The preternatural beast that slumbered inside of her father had bred true in his youngest child. 

It certainly made things interesting.

Both of her girls were beautiful, Ororo thought for the millionth time. They took after their father, with short statures, jet black hair, and obsidian eyes. Ororo’s heritage marked their features only a little, in the line of their chins, that noble brow, and the creamy caramel hued skin. 

They were halfway to thirteen, which continually gave Logan and Ororo fits. It was soon, so soon, they would know if their daughters were mutants. 

“Daddy is still Daddy.” Laura continued her rant as she paced. Ororo watched cautiously, with Anna-Marie cuddled close. Her eldest child laid her head in her mother’s lap, where Ororo stroked her long, dark hair soothingly. Anna-Marie had a temper of her own, it merely took more for her to show it. Laura, on the other hand, was quick to rage and difficult to diffuse. 

Scott once likened the girl to a nuclear warhead.

“He just doesn’t remember us.” Anna-Marie’s quiet tone shot through the blustering Laura’s emotional armor. 

Most thought the loud, brash younger twin to be dominant, but the truth was exactly the opposite. There was nothing Laura lived for aside from her sister. It was Laura that spoke of ‘we’ instead of ‘I’, Laura who immediately cowed to Anna-Marie’s wishes. Anna-Marie, for all her gifts, never abused her power over the sister she loved.

“Well, yeah.” Laura said, deflating a little. “But he’s still Daddy.”

“We knew this would happen,” their mother chimed in calmly, though she felt anything but calm. “We knew the year. It just happened faster than we anticipated.”

“We’ll help him, won’t we, Mama?” Anna-Marie’s voice was tiny, afraid.

“When he is ready, we will tell him everything.”

Ororo looked up when there was a light, slightly metallic knock upon the door. Her heart constricted with pain in her chest. She knew that knock intimately, felt the ringing of adamantium against wood in the pit of her stomach.

Laura cautiously opened the door, her labored breathing telling Storm that she, too, knew who had come to the boathouse.

***

For two hours, Logan insisted that the Professor and Psylocke - what kind of codename was that? - fill him in on the important details. He just needed the basics, could only handle the basics. He wanted to know who was alive, who had died, and where they all were.

Once that was ironed out, Logan quietly asked the pair where Storm and the twins lived.

It was a little boathouse out by the expansive lake to the far north of Xavier’s property. He noted that there were a few little homes along the lakeshore, probably the homes of X-men and their families. Logan felt his heart warm a little at this. The X-Men hadn’t been able to have families in the time he’d come from. They were all bound to a war they hadn’t wanted, fighting enemies they couldn’t defeat.

Happiness was a cup of coffee. A good night’s sleep. A lover who might not be there come morning.

This...this place resembled that life not one iota.

The front steps to Lake House #1 was covered in plants. Crawling ivy, flowers he couldn’t name, big, bushy trees he couldn’t even describe. It was a place filled with life, the scent of fresh earth and cool rain. On the front door, a small wood plaque declared that the ‘Howletts’ lived here.

Howlett. Charles had told him they discovered his surname. They were going to delve into that later.

He needed courage to knock, but he knocked. The man Logan suddenly replaced had a family, a family that was going to miss him. Charles didn’t know if he might recover the memories of James Logan Howlett’s life. It didn’t matter. Logan had to discover the truth of his missing years himself.

The door opened a beat later and two familiar black eyes peered into the sunlight. Logan’s breath caught in his throat, seeing himself in that dark gaze. She opened the door a little wider, revealing a slender, petite girl that could be no one else’s child.

Winded, Logan took a moment to merely look at her. She had on a pair of faded jeans, a tank top with the words “Xavier’s School for Weirdos” printed across the chest. Her long hair fell down her back, one long lock caught on her forefinger as she twirled it with nerves.

“Hi, Daddy.”

Her little voice peirced his heart. She said the words as though she had a million times, the phrase worn with love, trust, and reverence.

“Laura, let him inside, dear.”

Storm’s voice was soft, gentle as a spring breeze. The girl named Laura moved to the side, opening the door. Logan’s eyes went to the sofa, where Storm sat with the other twin’s head in her lap. Anna-Marie, that was her name. Anna-Marie sat up with a small smile, offering a little wave.

So, they knew. Good.

“Hey, girls.” Logan said, because it felt right. “Think I can borrow your mother a minute?”

“Sure.” Anna-Marie stood up, kissed her mother’s cheek. There was warmth, affection, a sense of belonging in the simple gesture. Logan understood, in that one moment, that he and Storm had done well with their family.

“We’ll go pester Aunt Jean for a while.” Anna-Marie offered, hooking her arm through her sister’s. “I have my cell.”

“We’ll have dinner at the mansion, Mom.” Laura headed for the door, but stopped to quickly embrace him.

Her scent was unmistakable. Damp earth, a hint of the wild, mingled with the innocent fragrance of childhood. Before he could return the gesture, Laura and Anna-Marie were out the door.

Alone, Logan looked across the room. Storm had not moved, her posture straight and her face revealing nothing. Clearing his throat, Logan hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans.

“So.” The mutant man said softly. “I think we need to talk.

Chapter Text

Everything’s gonna be alright
Just lay down by my side
Let me love you through this life
-Jason Aldean



Jean Grey-Summers watched with a heavy heart as two raven-topped girls walked across the Great Lawn. Though there were plenty of boys and girls their own age splashing in the lake and playing basketball, the girls did not look up. Their trek across the grounds was made arm in arm, huddled together in sadness. Jean frowned, wondering what the poor girls were thinking as their father was, in essence, yanked out of their lives.

Ignoring her husband as he set about to make dinner for the family that ran the school, Jean moved to the fridge and removed a pint of ice cream. Reaching around her handsome husband, she kissed his cheek, then dipped her hand into the drawer beside him to remove three spoons.

She settled at the cheerful breakfast table, waiting as the Howlett twins came in from the lawn. Both girls made a beeline for their ‘Aunt’, who opened her arms eagerly to hold the girls close as she had since they were born.

Without a word, Jean kissed the girls’ dark heads, rubbing their backs as they cuddled into her embrace. Scott’s ruby-red gaze met hers over the girls, the line of his mouth pulled tight in sorrow. They knew next to nothing about Logan’s former life, before he stepped back in time. 

Scott’s worry about losing his best friend didn’t need her telepathy to be palpable.

“Come on, girls.” Jean said soothingly. “I got some Bovinity Divinity for you.”

Anna-Marie’s face was burrowed in Jean’s shirt, muffling her voice.

“Mama says no ice cream before dinner.”

Jean rolled her eyes. “Uh-huh? Mama’s not here. Just you and me and Uncle Scott. And he’s a softy, he won’t tell.”

Laura sent her uncle a mischievous look, before she and her sister slid into chairs opposite Jean. They were going to be attached at the hip for a while, as they always were when their parents fought or were on a mission or something sad had happened. It was common knowledge that the Howlett twins were as close to being one person as humanly possible.

After slipping the top from the ice cream, Jean settled into the chair. Scott made himself scarce after dropping kisses on the girls’ cheeks. Since their son had gone off to NYU last year, it was the girls that got most of Scott’s attention. He doted on the girls from the day they were born and Nathan Summers was no better. He called every three days to talk to his psuedo-sisters.

“Daddy’s talking with Mama.” Laura offered after a moment of silent contemplation and chocolate overload. “He looks the same.”

“But he isn’t.” Anna-Marie whispered miserably. “He didn’t know us. I could see it.”

Heartbroken by the admission, Jean reached out to touch little Anna-Marie’s hand. She remembered the day the girls were born. Ororo had a blissfully uncomplicated pregnancy, even with the heightened risk of carrying twins. Logan held her hand when the worst of the pains hit, commenting a hundred times that she should have gone to a hospital instead of delivering the twins at home, with only Jean’s medical training to aid her.

Luckily, the twins were born without issues and Ororo basked in the glow of having done well. Jean recalled handing the once-feral mutant known as Wolverine two tiny baby girls, watching as he reverently clutched them to his chest. He had just stood there, Jean remembered, for several minutes, staring down at his daughters. 

No one had spoken. When he finally looked up, he had eyes only for his wife. Ororo smiled bashfully under the pure, unabashed adoration shining from her husband’s dark eyes.

“Nothin’s ever been this perfect,” he had said, handing each twin to their mother as though the minute separation was painful. “They’re so beautiful, ‘Ro.”

Blinking back tears at the memory, Jean focused on the nearly-thirteen year old girls sharing her favorite ice cream at the kitchen table.

“He’s still your father, even if he can’t remember it.” The telekinetic said softly. “He still loves you. Once he’s gotten used to the idea of having girls all his own, he’ll come around.”

“What if he doesn’t?” said Laura moodily, her melting ice cream dripping from the spoon. “What if he decides he wants to leave? Or what if he was in love with someone else, had babies with someone else? Then what? Mama can’t live without Daddy.”

That was true. There was no way ‘Roro could live without Logan. For 13 years, they functioned as a unit, even on X-Men missions. It was never a doubt that Storm and Wolverine were made for one another. They were good people, exceptional teachers, both carrying that hint of the wild they explored in one another. 

Just as there was no Jean without Scott, there could be no Ororo without Logan.

“They’re soul-mates,” Anna-Marie shot back to her sister angrily. The quieter twin didn’t get riled up often, but when she did, it was with flair. “They’re forever. They’ve both said it, Daddy more than Mama. There’s no way Daddy will leave Mama.”

Shushing the angry girls quickly, Jean reached out to take one dark hand with each of hers. These were her goddaughters, her nieces, a part of her family that was chosen for love, not blood. It hurt her to see them hurting.

Thinking of Ororo, Jean sent out a soft, silent thought.

’Roro?

Yes, Jean?

I have the girls.

Are they...how are they coping?

Like teenagers. Are you alright?

No. I’m talking with Lo- Wolverine. I’ll be up shortly to collect the girls.

Alright. I love you.


“Is Mom ok?” Laura asked when Jean tuned back in, gently pulling her thought from Ororo’s.

Telepathic thought was as natural to the Howlett girls as the spoken word. They knew when one of the three resident telepaths was talking to someone. Jean and Ororo in particular, had an acute bond.

“Yes. She’s speaking with your father and she’ll be up here shortly.” Jean eyed the ice cream, a slow, sly smirk on her lips. “So, we had better finish this up quickly, loves.”

Anna-Marie managed a smile as she and Laura went back to the chocolate.

***

In Lake House #1, Logan stood across the room from the woman he had apparently been married to the better part of 13 years. She was a good looking thing, but that wasn’t a shocker. Since the day he had met Storm all those years ago, it was obvious to anyone with a pulse that Ororo was attractive.

Much like her alternative universe self, she wore her age well. There might have been a few lines about her eyes, from years of laughter instead of war. Her eyes were bright, warm, and tinged with new sorrow, not worn down by the horror of watching friends die.

She wore a pair of pressed khaki slacks and a soft silk blouse in stark white. It matched her hair, which was cut short and had the black streaks she liked so much.
On her left hand was a gold band, simple, tasteful, engraved with a series of symbols, slightly worn by time. Logan looked down at his own hand, having noticed the ring about 30 seconds before she walked into the Professor’s office.

Removing the ring, Logan noticed his healing factor hadn’t touched the groove in his flesh that came from wearing his wedding band for so long. Inscribed on the inside of the band were the words: “For Logan, my love.”

Swallowing the lump in his throat, Logan slid the band back on his hand. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t remember this life. He had lived it, breathed it, made decisions. His loss of memory changed none of that. He hoped. He didn’t want to inadvertently destroy what looked like a happy family.

A family. His family.

“I’m sorry.”

Logan spoke without really thinking about it. The woman in front of him had already stood, adjusting the cushions of the well-loved sofa she’d been sitting on.

“For what?” Storm turned to him, confusion crossing her face. Logan found he could read her emotions by the flickering of facial muscles. Right now, she wore an expression of confusion, hurt, and minor irritation.

How do I know that?

“Logan,” Ororo’s voice was sharp. “I’ve been preparing for this for almost 15 years. Charles did not want me to wake up one morning to find my husband doesn’t know me.”

“I know you, darlin’.” Logan said softly, unable to help it.

Storm gifted him with a smile he had never seen directed at him, one of soft understanding and overwhelming love.

“So, you knew me? I’m not some strange woman running around claiming to be your wife?”

Startled by the warm humor in her tone, Logan smirked. “Well, you’ll always be strange.”

“Touché,” the beautiful woman finished fussing with the pillows, turning to Logan with her hands in the back pocket of her pants. “Can you tell me how well we knew one another? Were we enemies? Friends? Lovers?”

Logan did not have to search his memory for a recent one of Storm. He could see her standing beside the Professor and Magneto, that look she gave him as he agreed to the craziest plan in history, knowing she might never see him again.

He saw her in his memory, flushed with desire, chest to chest, breathing his name as they lost themselves in the only escape they could find in war. Logan recalled her taste, her breathy sighs and wondered if the woman before him was at all the same…?

“Logan?”

Looking up, he found that the woman occupying his thoughts had moved closer. She rested one caramel-hued hand on his forearm, the touch at once very familiar and completely alien. This was going to be a long rest of his life.

“We were lovers,” Ororo said without hesitation, her dark eyes searching his face. Logan found that when he met her gaze, it was almost impossible to pull away.

“Yeah.” Logan admitted with a nervous clearing of his throat. “Wasn’t roses and moonlight, ‘Ro. It was war, it was sex, it was something to get us through the night.”

To his surprise, instead of being sad or insulted, Storm tossed him a particularly naughty look.

“Well, you didn’t ask me to wear your high school pin in this lifetime either, Wolverine.” Her snowy brows wriggled saucily, a blatant invitation that went directly to his nether regions. No matter what was wrong with his head, his body definitely knew this woman in more ways than one.

When she did step back, a quick sniff brought Logan the scent of saline and ozone. The familiarity of the scent could have been a memory from either life time. The Logan that married this woman had seen her cry, he had to. Logan himself had seen it too many times to count.


He reached for her, the act of grasping her shoulder bringing him a feeling of being home. He hadn’t wanted to upset her, but he had to know.

“What kind of man am I?” Logan asked gruffly. “You married me.”

“I would again.” Storm turned toward him.

“We have kids.”

“They may not make it, they keep acting like you.”

Logan arched a brow of his own. “You always a smartass in this ‘verse?”

Ororo bit her bottom lip saucily. “Why, yes. I am. I had a good teacher.”

There were still tears swimming in her eyes. She missed him, Logan realized. She could see her husband in front of her, but he didn’t know the stories. He didn’t know how they started their affair, or which of the twins broke a bone first, or the color of her wedding dress. All of that was gone or locked in his mind, perhaps forever.

“You love me.” Logan said, almost in awe. “Don’t you?”

“Yes.” Her answer was simple, her gaze honest. Logan gave in to the pull, reaching up to cup her cheek.

He smiled, feeling the characteristic hum of her mutation under her skin. In the relationship he could remember, that hum had lulled him to sleep more than once.

Ororo’s skin kept the nightmares away.

She leaned into his touch, reaching up to cover his hand with hers.

“Will you help me?”

Ororo closed her eyes, turning her head so she could kiss his palm before they opened once more. The fierce determination in her eyes was humbling, thrilling.

“I’ve never let you down, Logan. I won’t start now.”


Without another word, he reached for the woman that was his wife, pulling her into his chest for a quick, desperate embrace.

He would learn about the man he had been, maybe he could be that again.

Had life really given him a second chance?

***
Scott Summers tucked blankets around the girls that were his goddaughters, before he stepped out onto the porch of Lake House #2. Low murmurs of familiar voices greeted him, an easy smile covering his lips when Peter handed him a beer.

It was a tradition, every Wednesday after dinner. The core X-Men, the regular teachers, gathered on one of the porches of a house, had a few beers and talked.

Something Charles had instilled in them all was a need for family, the need for one another, to remember what they were fighting for. Since Scott and Jean became his first students so very long ago, they were a family.

He glanced around, smiling a little as he took up a post against the railing of the porch. Kitty Pryde was talking with Jean, who sat in the wide swing with Marie. Kitty glanced at the silent, solid block of mutant that was her fiancé, that beautiful smile lighting her youthful face.

They were the first of what Scott liked to call the Second Generation X-Men. Backed up by Marie and Bobby Drake, it was something to be proud of. Xavier’s Institute for the Gifted had a solid reputation among the mutant community for tending the wayward, training for peace.

Little else could have brought him more pride.

“So, Wolvie finally caught up, huh?” Kitty asked, raising her beer to her lips. “Did he explain how he did it?”

“No.” Scott shook his head. He still hadn’t seen the man that spent twenty years as his best friend. What did he remember of Scott? Were they friends? Was he even alive?

“I talked with Storm earlier,” came the Southern drawl from Rogue. “She said they had a nice talk, but it’s harder than she thought.”

“Of course it is,” Jean chimed in softly. “She’s looking at her husband who has a completely different set of memories. I don’t know how the weather’s held up.”

A smattering of the gathered mutants glanced at the sky. It was warm for this time of year, and the cloudless heavens assured that their resident weather goddess was holding on to her wits.

For now. Scott took a silent pull from his drink, wondering how the rest of them were going to proceed.

They lapsed into a sort of comfortable quiet, though Scott saw several sets of eyes dart toward the little white boathouse nearby. They all wondered what was happening over there, how the Howletts were handling this new struggle.

“Does anyone know who’s taking Logan’s history class tomorrow?” Bobby asked, his arm thrown carelessly around his lover’s shoulders.

“I am,” chimed in Piotr Rasputin, earning him another of Kitty’s heart-stopping smiles. “He was suspicious several weeks ago when I asked for copies of his spring terml lesson plans.”

“He was even more suspicious when I asked for them over Christmas.” Marie chuckled. “At least that part of hiding is over.”

“Has Charles told you how much we’re allowed to tell him?” Jean questioned Scott, reaching out to squeeze his hand. 

“Everything.” Scott shrugged one shoulder, regarding his friends through the ruby-haze of his quartz glasses. “We aren’t changing the future here. What Wolverine did is already done. There shouldn’t be any problem with giving him the memory of his life.”

“Is there anything our telepaths can do?” Kitty questioned as she continued to swing with Jean. “Maybe we can each give him a few memories of him? It’d be from our side of things, but he’d be able to see it.”

Jean chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. Scott knew she had spoken with the Professor about such a thing. “We can do a bit, we think. We don’t want to confuse his head further with someone else’s thoughts and feelings.”

Marie sat up with interest. “Why not just Storm? Her memories are the ones that really matter.”

Noticing that his wife was glancing at him, Scott offered her a small, soft smile. He didn’t know the right answers, since this had never happened before. More than anything, Scott wanted his old friend to be in love with his wife, hold his daughters, be the man he was grateful to call his friend.

“I think that’s a decision Logan and Ororo need to make.” Scott said, finally. He tossed the empty beer bottle to Colossus, accepted another from Kitty.

“How are the twins?” Bobby asked as Marie shifted to sit in his lap.

“Sad,” Jean answered honestly. “I think they expected him to look different.”

“I did, too, really.” Scott threw the comment into the wind, shrugging one shoulder. “He’s the same, just…different.”

Jean reached across the meager space between them. Scott remembered last year, when the Professor told the X-Men about meeting Wolverine in 1973. It made sense, now, the quick trust the Professor set in the assassin sent to kill him. Scott hadn’t trusted Logan for years.

When they learned that Wolverine had changed time, Scott was humbled. They had almost no details as to why the history had to be changed, but whatever it was couldn’t have been good. Scott wondered if Logan would tell him about that now-defunct timeline. What could it hurt?

“We’re all gonna ask him, aren’t we?” Kitty chuckled from her seat beside Jean. “I can literally see everyone wondering when they can corner him.”

Bobby let out one of his trademark easy laughs, relaxing the group enough that they all chuckled. 

“It’s hard to resist,” Jean said thoughtfully. “A look through to the other side, a real sense of what might have been.”

Kitty hopped from the swing, bouncing up to the hulking mutant that was her intended husband. Scott rolled his eyes at Jean, who slightly psi-slapped him in retaliation. 

“Well, I don’t wanna know.” Kitty said as she wriggled into Poitr’s embrace. “I have what I want and who I need. I don’t need to know if I died or turned into Magneto’s sex slave.”

Bobby spit beer across the porch, which was relatively good distance since he propelled it from his nose. 

Marie thumped her boyfriend on the back with one gloved hand, shaking her head at Kitty’s antics.

“You’re damaged.” Rogue observed clinically. 

“I know.” Shadowcat said impishly. “But right now, I’m going to have my hunky Russian take me home so we can break some furniture.”

“Yeah,” Scott drawled with a roll of his eyes. “That was an overshare, kid.”

Before she could retaliate, Piotr covered her mouth with one hand, lifting her teeny form over his shoulder. With as much dignity as a blushing, over six-foot-tall mutant could manage, he bid the others goodnight before carrying his fiancée back to Lakehouse #3.

“Ah,” Jean giggled. “I love that girl.”

“Never a dull moment,” Scott chimed in.

***

Lying on the sofa in the boathouse, Logan was awake long past midnight. Open windows had brought him the murmuring of voices, though he couldn’t pick up individual words. He recognized the tones, the inflections, the laughrter. Pete. Bobby. Rogue. Kitten. Scott. Jean.

He hadn’t had the balls to ask Ororo about Jean. Had he come into his mansion as Charles showed him, then fallen for his first love all over again? Had his attraction to Storm come after that? How in the hell had he convinced a woman to marry him?

Was he worthy of that kind of love, that determined faith that radiated from that beautiful woman? 

And kids? Seriously? What in the name of hell convinced that arguably intelligent woman to breed with him? It hadn’t been an accident. No. Something in his gut told him they walked into those two hellions with eyes wide open.

The girls worshipped him; that much was obvious. They hadn’t come back to the house, which Ororo said didn’t surprise her. When the twins were upset, they bailed out. They were at Scott and Jean’s place, staying in their son’s room, probably trying to figure out how to jog his memory.

As Logan was lost in thought, he found himself twisting the ring on his left hand. It was a habit, Logan thought. He worked the ring off of his finger with a thumb, tapping it against his fingertip in thought. It seemed to be a well-worn tick, something he did when consumed by thoughts and lost in his own mind.

Wasn’t it weird? He felt familiar things, as though he knew what he should be doing; as though he had done them before.

It was that feeling that jarred him from his thoughts when he smelled saline on the air again.

From his position on the couch, Logan looked up at the ceiling. The boathouse was a loft style, probably due to his wife’s claustrophobia. The kitchen, living and dining rooms were all located downstairs. Down a little hall, was the girls’ room.

Upstairs, where he had not the heart to tread, was the room Logan shared with Ororo.

A glance outside told him the weather hadn’t shifted, but he knew.

Without any idea why he made the decision, Logan untucked his arm from behind his head and kicked the blanket off. Silent feet met the hardwood, bringing him to the airy staircase that would lead to the spacious bedroom upstairs. 

As he reached the landing, he noticed with a pang that this was the room of a couple. A soft white bathrobe lay over the post of the large bed. Dirty boots sat beside a pair of feminine heels, probably kicked off after a long day. The bathroom door was open, a drying towel tossed over the edge. 

Pictures dotted the dresser, depicting a happy couple, goofy friends, and the growth of two raven-haired girls. On the bed, however, lay the one thing Logan could not ignore.

He could see the outline of her slender body, curled up on the left side of the bed by habit. The right side, his side, was empty. Ororo wasn’t crying. She made no sound. Anyone who didn’t know her would assume she was fine, she was sleeping.

For some reason, Logan knew better.

Out of pure instinct, he crossed the room soundlessly. He stared down at the woman’s back, noting the almost imperceptible tremble in the muscles under soft yellow sheets and silk nightclothes. Swiping his palms on the sweats she’d brought him earlier, Logan contemplated what to do.

He didn’t know how he knew it, but when Ororo cried, her husband held her. Reaching out, he pulled the back the coverings and slid into the bed behind Storm. Following the same instinct, Logan scooted closer, draping one arm over Ororo’s waist. 

There was no surprise when she reached back, tucking his arm into hers with the ease of someone who had done it a million times. Logan rested his head on the pillow, breathing in the scent of Ororo’s hair.

It was then the tears started. Her body trembled with it, as gentle rain peppered the windows of the skylight above them. Not the torrential rain that poured after the death of her mentor. It wasn’t devastation, just a sort of slow, lingering sadness.

“I’m here.” Logan whispered, curling his arm to bring her closer. “’Ro, I’m here. I swear.”

She did not respond, except to wriggle closer, burying her face in the pillow.

“Shh.” Logan soothed. “Sleep, ‘Ro. Just sleep.”

 

Chapter Text

“So, uh, when I…if I make it back, I’ll be the only one who remembers any of this.”

Her dark eyes welled with tears. He didn’t have to hear the raindrops outside to know that this was hurting her. For the last several years, it was just them and now, he was abandoning her, too.

When she spoke, her voice was low, tinged with emotion she did not have the time to process.

“Then, I won’t have to miss you.”

That simple phrase punched a hole in his gut. Logan could say nothing, reaching for her as he had every night for the last three years. Storm went willingly into his arms, kissing him with the wild abandon that first drew them together in the midst of war.

When they parted, Logan felt his heart ache at the single tear falling down her lovely cheek. There was so much he wanted to say, so much he needed to tell her. He couldn’t find the words, though. In the end, Logan could only muster three words:

“I got this.”

The sound of clinking dishes and soft, feminine voices brought him away from the memory. It was the last time he remembered seeing Storm, the war-hardened hero sending him off on an impossible mission. He could still remember the feel of her in his arms, the taste of her lips against his.

Logan had told Ororo, this Ororo, that it was only war and sex. Was that entirely true, though?

As he opened his eyes, the time-traveling mutant realized the woman haunting his dreams lay beside him. One of his arms was tucked under her head and her back rested softly against his chest. From the steady rise and fall of her breathing, she was still asleep.

That seemed fair, since she’d spent half the night crying.

Deciding to see what the twins were up to, Logan slid out of bed. He moved carefully, with the ease of someone who often woke before their lover, ensuring his motions did not wake her. Ororo could use some more sleep.

He found a soft yellow bathrobe in his size on the banister, hesitating only a moment before pulling it over the tshirt and sweats he slept in. Once he was sure Ororo was comfortable where she lay, he crept silently down the stairs.

“Two eggs or four?” He heard one of the girls whisper from the direction of the kitchen. “Think Daddy might want some?”

“Just do two,” replied the second twin. “Mama probably needs some time to think or something.”

As he rounded the corner, Logan paused to stare at the dark haired preteens moving about the kitchen. Both girls were dressed for the day in plain t-shirts and jeans with boots strapped onto their feet. Long hair was up in a ponytail for one girl, loose around the shoulders for the other. Logan had a wayward thought: Had he ever learned how to brush a little girl’s hair?

Though he was content in watching them, he found that he wanted to talk with them. What kind of father had he been? Did he chase the monsters from under the bed? Was it he that kissed scraped knees? Had he ever done something completely undignified to get a sad girl to laugh?

Logan desperately hoped the answers to those questions were yes.

“Hey.” He kept his voice low, pushing off of the doorjamb where he had leaned to observe the girls. “What’re you two up to?”

The twins both turned as one, looking up with matching smiles. The kitchen was already a mess of eggs, orange slices, and bacon. Logan arched a brow in question, wondering why the girls seemed insistent on making breakfast.

“Whenever Mama’s sad or worried, we make her breakfast,” one of the girls said carefully. He thought this one was Anna-Marie.

“Huh.” Logan nodded, stepping a little further into the kitchen. “Just you two or do I usually help?”

Laura, the twin with a slightly more…Wolverine air to her, chewed on her bottom lip nervously. “Usually, you help, unless Mama’s sad because you’re on a mission or being a butt or something.”

“Laura!” Anna-Marie hissed, a blush rising on her dark cheeks.

Chuckling, Logan shook his head. These two must have driven him and Ororo insane in all the good and bad ways.

“Ok, so what’s my job?”

Laura and Anna-Marie shared a look. Logan was sure they probably expected the worst from all of this. Maybe they even feared the end of their parents’ marriage. Logan didn’t want that. He hadn’t saved the world to destroy someone else’s family.

Would this version of him, the man that built this life, hate him for what he had done?

“Coffee.” Anna-Marie answered, her silent conversation with her sister finished. “And bacon. Laura makes eggs and toast. I usually get the fruit and Mama’s smoothie ready.”

Logan nodded, clapping his hands together. “OK. Coffee and bacon. Step aside, girls, man in the kitchen.”

To his great delight, both girls giggled.

 

They worked in general quiet for several minutes. Logan was content to watch the girls out of the corner of his eye, admiring the strength in those teeny bodies. Part of him hated that he couldn’t remember them, that he felt a keen disconnect between himself and the daughters Ororo had given him.

Still, there was something familiar there. A lift of the brow, the way Laura moved, the intensity in Anna-Marie’s concentration. They were a mirror of some of Logan’s more charming attributes. He couldn’t deny that there was a part of him, however slender, that knew he was connected to the girls.

When Ororo’s breakfast was ready, Laura put it all on a tray and carried it up to her mother. Anna-Marie poured Logan a cup of coffee before she sat at the kitchen counter with a bowl of some sugary cereal.

For his part, Logan watched the girl as she watched him. It was disconcerting to see a familiar facial expression that wasn’t actually on Ororo’s face.

“You’re a good dad.” Anna-Marie said suddenly. “Aunt Jean, she thought you might be worried about that.”

Logan swallowed the too-warm coffee, letting it scald his throat. Hearing her little voice say those four words meant more to him than he really understood.

“Am I?”

Anna-Marie nodded. “I mean, you’re kind of a butt when it comes to curfew and seeing PG-13 rated movies, but you taught us how to play baseball and you’re never too busy to help with homework.”

Logan felt an alien, emotional lump wedge itself in his throat. Could any of this be true? Had Logan really come into his life as an assassin only to find a woman he loved and children to adore? How was that his reality, after so much fear and doubt?

“And you love Mama.” Anna-Marie continued in a whisper, her gaze not leaving his face. “She’s really scared that she’s gonna lose you. I can’t lie, Laura and I are, too.”

He set his coffee down, warring with the strange impulse to hug the girl and known, accepted behavior to stay back.

“You’re my Dad.” Anna-Marie sniffled. “I still see you as my Dad.”

Giving up, Logan crossed the kitchen. He took Anna-Marie into his arms, shushing her softly as he hoped he had done in the past. He might not have remembered becoming a father or any of the important milestones that came with that job, but he could hold her. If nothing else, Logan could hold and soothe this scared little girl.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Logan whispered. “Cause no matter what, Anna-Marie, I’m still your dad.”

The little girl buried her face in his shoulder and Logan held on to her for a few minutes longer.

 

~**~

After breakfast, Logan ventured back to the mansion. For several minutes, he simply walked the corridors and hallways, enjoying the sound of children rushing to class. He hadn’t seen the mansion with his own eyes in almost ten years, since it was destroyed by the Sentinels.

His memory of the place seemed to have been eerily accurate. It still smelled of pine cleanser and dirty sneakers and chocolate. The sound was similar, all kids and arguments and “Hey! No powers!”

Outside of one classroom, Logan paused. Rogue was inside, standing in front of what looked like a new-aged display board, a small electronic device bringing up projections that seemed to be explaining key efforts in the Civil War.

“The blockade set up to keep the South from being resupplied, in hopes that the lack of food and basic necessities would force the Confederate Army into surrender.”

Rogue’s gloved hands manipulated the screen propped on her arm, showing drawn images from the period that depicted the series of blockade runners that became heroes of the Civil War.

“Blockade runners were hailed as heroes by the Confederates, but denounced as war criminals by the Union.”

A sniff told him someone was approaching before the other man spoke. Logan smiled a little to himself, turning as Scott Summers spoke.

“That’s your speech.” The X-Men leader said quietly. “And it’s one of her favorites.”

Logan shrugged a shoulder. “She’s from the South.”

“Yeah.” Scott chuckled, moving so he could lean on the doorway opposite of Logan. “How’re you holding up?”

For a moment, he could only stare at the man he had known so briefly in his long life. Really, Scott’s involvement with his time as an X-Man was so short, that it seemed ludicrous his memory was one that haunted Logan well into the war.

Where’s Scott?

Clearing his throat, Logan shifted a little uncomfortably against the doorjamb. He couldn’t resist the guilt that crept up his back. Scott was left alone in the world when he thought Jean had died and the creature that killed him had worn the skin of the woman he loved.

But none of that happened here.

“Can I ask you something?”

Scott turned that ruby-red gaze to him and Logan took a moment to map the other man’s face.

There were lines there that his memory did not have, especially around the eyes and mouth. Scott had aged well in the years within this timeline, years he’d not had where Logan came from. What was he like? What was his family like? Were he and Jean still ridiculously happy?

“What is it, Logan?”

At Scott’s question, Logan swallowed hard.

“You and me, are we friends?”

The smile that bloomed under Scott’s quartz glasses was something Logan couldn’t even remember seeing. A low chuckle came from the other mutant’s mouth as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, once you stopped chasing Jean around trying to get her to leave me for you, we became very good friends.”

Scott’s tone was an odd mixture of amused and irritated. Logan had the distinct feeling that was pretty normal between the two of them.

“Well, that part of my memory is in tact, then.” Logan said, half joking.

“It was only for a year or so, before Storm got back from Wakanda.” Scott shrugged it off. “She walked in and you were toast. I breathed easier, let me tell you.”

Interested now, Logan pushed off from the all, moving away from Rogue’s classroom. The children had noticed the elder two mutants standing in the hallway and were busily pointed and chatting under their breath. Logan stepped down the hall, with Scott moving beside him. They fell in step easily, as though they had done it a million times. How often had he and Scott walked this way down this corridor, talking of things both life-altering and nonsense? 

“Storm wasn’t here when I came to…kill Charles?”

“No,” Scott answered, looking just a little uncomfortable. “She was in Africa trying to help an old friend. She was gone about 18 months. When she came back, you completely forgot Jean existed.”

Logan wondered about that moment. Had he been swept away by her, and why? In the timeline he remembered, he had seen her beside Jean and still the red-haired woman held so much of his attentions. Storm was always there, on the sidelines, a friend and nothing more until the war left them adrift and alone.

Which was the true reflection of Logan’s feelings for Ororo?

Did it matter now?

“Look, Logan,” Scott reached out to take Logan’s arm, stopping them as they reached the Professor’s office. “We all know it’s confusing and hard. But I want you to know, we’re all here for you.”

Touched by the warmth in the other man’s voice, Logan thought back to everything he had done to Scott in the now-defunct timeline. If they all knew the choices he made there, would they still stand at his side now? The Wolverine that married Storm and had those children, who called Scott his friend, he didn’t seem to resemble the man Wolverine knew himself to be.

If they knew…

“Whatever you did, whoever you were, none of that matters now, Logan.” Scott said quietly. “The man I know is in there, you just had to make different choices, you lived a different life. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Astonished that Scott seemed to be reading his mind, Logan was too stunned to respond as the other man moved away. Chuckling to himself, the mutant known as Wolverine knocked on the Professor’s door.

Maybe Scott was right.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: Closer

I will follow you down

Wherever you will go

I am bound to you and you alone

Closer, pull me in tight

I wanna be yours

-Shakira

Westchester, New York

May 15th, 2000

“Come on, Jeanie. It’s been a rough week. Let’s head down to the lake, pop open a bottle of wine, watch the sunset.”

“Oh?” Jean laughed as she collected the books from her students’ desks. “And you think Scott wouldn’t mind this at all?”

His answering grin was positively ferocious. Winding Cyclops up happened to be the favorite pastime. If he wasn’t actively trying to hurt the other man in the training room, it was by trying to steal his fiancée from under his nose.

Logan’s attraction to her was well known, he didn’t exactly bother trying to hide it. Though he had refrained from ever crossing a physical line, it still distressed Scott. Of course it did. Who would be comfortable with someone openly pursuing their wife-to-be in such a situation?

Still, Jean had to admit it was flattering. How many women could say they had a wonderful, loving fiancé and a ferocious mutant drifter panting after her? She knew better than to entertain thoughts of the Wolverine, no matter how appealing he was in that tight white t-shirt and low slung jeans.

Damn it.

“I know you like stressing Scott out, but I am definitely not going to help you.” Jean countered as she finished collecting the biology workbooks. She stacked them neatly on her desk at the front of the class, then went to wiping the white board of notes for her ninth-graders.

Logan stood in the doorway of her classroom, leaning against the doorjamb as was his custom. There was, as usual, a cigar pinched between his teeth. A lone, sensual swirl of smoke drifted up from the lit tip. Wolverine, Jean admitted, was the perfect specimen of a ‘man’s man’, all rough and tumble with a more than subtle hint of the wild.

Truthfully, he couldn’t be more against her type if he’d outright tried.

“Aw, Jeanie. You wound me, darlin’.”

Jean smirked to herself, setting the white-board eraser into the holder before lifting a black marker. “Oh, I’ll do more than that if you don’t stop messing with Scott, Logan.”

She didn’t even have to turn to see the slightly exaggerated gasp of shock as she copied her lesson plan for the seniors onto her board with precise strokes of a dry erase marker.

“You’re gettin’ mean, woman.”

Jean shoved him a little with a well-placed punch of telekinetic force. Logan chuckled as he stumbled back, seemingly enjoying the idea of her fighting back. Honestly, Jean wondered if he’d been touched in the head at some point, the nut.

Jean! Get out here!

Scott’s sudden call to her in the recesses of the mind made Jean jump in her skin. She dropped the marker onto the floor as Logan turned away, drawn by a sudden commotion in the foyer. A quick scan of the vicinity brought her the familiar, expected psyches of the people with whom she shared her life. Logan, Scott, children, the Professor. But another, more intense, scan told her why the commotion.

“’Roro.”

Jean practically squealed her friend’s name, abandoning her classroom and almost plowing Logan over in her haste to reach the front door. He was hot on her heels, probably drawn by curiosity more than anything else.

She was back. After almost two years away, locked in the mysterious African kingdom of Wakanda, her best friend had finally returned. Jean could hardly keep hold of herself as she rounded the corner of one corridor in time to nearly bowl over a group of inquisitive teens gathering near the mansion’s main doors.

“Out of the way!” Jean called out, weaving through the throngs of young mutants with the ease of someone constantly surrounded by children.

Feeling Logan close to her back, Jean spared him not a thought. She could see Scott stood in the foyer, his arms around a very familiar female figure. White hair twisted into long braids glowed in the afternoon light, the gentle breeze flowing in from the still-open door brought the familiar, tinkling sound of laughter.

Jean blinked away the tears threatening to spill from her eyes, stepping up behind Scott so that she could yank Ororo into her arms.

“Oh! There you are!” The mutant known as Storm said happily. She smelled of spices and incense and that vanilla hand cream she preferred. They were the scents that Jean would always associate with the woman who had been her friend and confidante since they were young girls. “I’ve missed you so much!”

“I’m so happy you’re home! I wish you had called so I could pick you up!” Jean replied, squeezing her friend tightly.

“I wanted to surprise you all, a difficult feat among telepaths,” the other woman chuckled in return.

Ororo’s hug was strong, affectionate, and something that Jean had so missed over the last eighteen months. How had she managed to survive without the woman that was her sister in every way that mattered?

As they pulled back from the hug, Jean cupped her friend’s dark cheeks with her hands, grinning as luminous dark eyes met hers. Ororo looked refreshed, happy to be home and utterly gorgeous. It wasn’t a surprise, not really. Jean had always thought that Ororo Munroe was the most beautiful woman on the planet.

“Who’s this?”

Startled by Logan’s voice, Jean buzzed Ororo’s cheeks with kisses familiarly. As she stepped back, she found herself bumping into Scott, whom was staring overtly at Logan.

Logan, for his part, stared at the newcomer with something akin to awe on his face. Jean’s brow found themselves in her hairline as she watched Logan watch Ororo. The dark skinned mutant moved toward their feral houseguest cautiously, testing the air between them. Jean had never seen Ororo so focused on someone she did not know and Logan…Jean was sure she had never seen him look so confused.

It was there on his face, and when Jean opened her mind, she could feel what was churning inside of his mind. Curiosity, pleasure, lust, attraction, confusion, obsession. Jean funneled the feelings to her fiancé with a startled look. Scott didn’t seem to have any more answers than she did, preferring to stare at the pair as they exchanged greetings. Jean reached up and gently closed Scott’s mouth for him with a fingertip.

“Hello.” Storm said lightly, holding out a hand. “You must be Logan. Jean’s told me quite a bit about you. I’m Ororo.”

Logan nodded, pinching his cigar between his teeth once more. “Yeah? I’ve heard the name. Storm, right? Welcome home.”

His blue eyes bored into Ororo, but the intensity of his stare did not seem to put her off in the least. Ororo merely smiled, shaking his hand deftly.

“Don’t believe anything Scott says about me.” Ororo teased, making Jean cover a chuckle with a cough as she ignored Scott’s sharp look.

“Same goes.” Logan replied with a feral grin. He nodded toward the two suitcases standing in the doorway. “Those yours? How bout I carry them up for you and you can tell me all of Scooter’s little secrets?”

Ororo rolled her eyes, grabbing her duffel to sling it over a shoulder before she took the handle of her suitcase in one hand. “I’m perfectly capable of carrying my own bags, and if you call him Scooter, I will definitely not tell you about the time he got completely drunk and decided to streak through the grounds.”

Logan’s mouth dropped open. He turned to Scott, obviously alerted by the younger mutant’s flushed face that Storm spoke truth. At this, he inclined his head and followed Ororo promptly.

“I think I’m gonna like you, darlin’.”

 

~**~

San Francisco, California

2023

 

     “A little cover, please, Storm?”

At the soft request from the towering Russian beside her, Ororo offered a small smile. Piotr had always been one of her favorites. The tall, soft-spoken young man had powers beyond imagining, but he was still the sweet farm boy at heart.

Perhaps that was why he had chosen to fall for the brash-but-sweet Kitty Pryde. All of that sass needed a softening point, and Piotr needed someone to bring him out of his shell. They were, in her opinion, adorable.

Still, they were on a mission. Ororo lifted her hands, palms skyward, as she allowed a light sting to turn her eyes to their signature glowing white. The outward sign of her power mirrored the thick, reflective fog she rolled over the dusky Californian skyline, cloaking the city in darkness.

Since it was San Francisco, a sudden fog wouldn’t be too out of place along the rolling hills and distant lights. Storm stepped down from the jet’s ramp, with Wolverine at her side. He crouched low, his familiar body tensing as he checked the surrounding area for familiar scents.

“She’s here.” Logan’s gruff voice announced quietly. “Close.”

“Good,” said Jean acidly. “Maybe this time I’ll be able to put her over my knee.”

“Down, girl.” Logan replied as Ororo rolled her eyes. “Plan, Storm?”

His voice, still so familiar and yet, so changed, siphoned the steel from her spine. How she wanted him to look at her and see. It broke her heart as the days passed, as Logan tried to settle back into the life that had been theirs.

He could remember none of it, nothing of what made he and Storm ‘The Howletts’.

“You ok, darlin’?”

Ororo barely spared her husband a glance, trying to soothe herself as the team began to file out of the jet. It seemed to shock Logan when she referred to her team as ‘Gold’, which led him to reveal that the X-Men had not been broken into teams in his time. It was left unsaid that too many of them were killed long before they had so many members.

Storm did not have the heart to ask…

“Yes,” Storm responded softly, motioning for Colossus, Jean, and Iceman could take the point positions. Angel took to the air with one mighty beat of his pristine wings, taking him deep into the rolling fog above. “Stay with me.”

Logan nodded once, as though this arrangement was acceptable. He’d pulled his X-Men leathers on in their bedroom, stepping in as though remembering a part of his life. Ororo had not asked why he reverently touched the embossed “X” on the material. What kind of life had he lived in the midst of war that even a simple symbol of why they fought touched him so?

Ororo felt a swell of pride in her chest as she realized that Logan had changed that. Whatever hell had possessed him to take a trip back in time to change the world must have been dire indeed. He told her only a little, as they lay together in the bed they shared for over a decade. Logan revealed their final goodbye only the previous evening, telling her the simple ‘I got this’ that meant so much more than those three words should.

Because she knew him, Ororo understood. He’d wanted to tell her I love you, I need you, I’m doing this for you but the words had failed him. Ororo knew that her alter ego understood that as well. She sent him to face an impossible battle knowing that he loved her.

It was war, it was sex, it was something to get us through the night.

That mentality had followed Logan because of the precarious lives they led. Ororo knew, deep down, he hadn’t meant a blessed word of it.

“Hey.” Logan nudged her with an elbow as Angel called out in their comm. lines that a group of teens were just ahead. They seemed to be up to no good. “Focus, woman.”

Unable to help herself, Ororo grinned. She caught her lip between her teeth, shaking her head.

“Jean, see if you can scatter her playmates away. Bobby, make sure the southern exit to the alley is closed off, Piotr, the north.”

“Yes, Storm.” The choral sound of three voices replied as Storm lifted her arms. She brought a swift, sweet wind to collect both herself and Logan, depositing them on the nearby rooftop of a squat auto garage in desperate need of repair.

Below, Jubilee was difficult to miss. She had that coal black hair cut short, gelled to stand up at the back and lay flat at the front. A pair of pink-tinted glasses was pushed onto her crown, more of a fashion statement than to shield her eyes. The pink high-tops and yellow trench were another statement for the beautiful Chinese girl, though Storm wasn’t very certain about what statement she wanted to make. Beneath the coat, she wore the same cut-off shirts and too-low tank that were her uniform. Jubilee was all rebellion all the time and it proved to be exhausting on more than one occasion.

Ororo wasn’t sure she would survive the day her twins turned 16…

“So, this happens a lot?” Logan asked as Jean used her powerful mind to chase away the gaggle of delinquents huddled together in the dark alley. “The kid taking off?”

“Jubilation is troubled,” Storm replied, leaning over the railing of the roof to peer into the alley. “Her parents were unraveled by the thought of having a mutant child, so she ran away. I fear she was alone too long. Whenever she gets too comfortable, she automatically assumes we’re going to disappoint her.”

“I know something about that,” Logan replied as he lit his cigar with the Zippo lighter the twins bought him last year for his birthday. “She usually run this far?”

“No,” Storm frowned. Piotr had returned to his fleshy form as Iceman blocked her exit route with a wall of ice. “We have been distracted this week.”

“Yeah,” Logan responded lightly. “Sorry about that.”

Ororo merely smiled, sighing when the mutant affectionately called Jubilee shot multicolored sparks at the younger X-Men. “She always leads with that. I have taught her better.”

Storm jumped from the short rooftop, landing lightly as the wind gently deposited her. Jubilee, having set off at a run after blinding Colossus, pulled up short so swiftly she almost took a face-first tumble. Ororo arched a brow, shaking her head as Jean and Logan soon joined her.

“I’m not going back to that hell hole!” Jubilee shouted, stamping one little high-topped foot in dismay. “You can’t make me!”

“The hell I can’t.” Jean shot back, reaching out to take the girl’s arm. “I’m your guardian, Jubilation. You can’t just run away because you don’t want to go to class.”

“I’m an adult!” Jubilee squealed. The tone must have hurt Logan’s sensitive ears, for he clapped both hands over the offended appendages and swore violently.

“Oh, no you’re not.” Storm shot back, shaking her head. “Get on the jet, young lady, or so help me…”

“You’ll what?” Jubilee dared her.

Storm shot Colossus – whom had now recovered his sight and sheathed himself in metal – a glance. He immediately stepped forward, pinned the girl’s arms to her sides and lifted her as though she weighed no more than a wriggling puppy.

“Now, we’re going home.” Storm said flatly. “And if you say another word, I’ll let Jean suppress your speech function. Do you understand?”

Jubilation opened her mouth as though to reply, thought the better of it, and snapped her mouth closed tightly.

 

~**~

“So, you often take a team of professionals to capture one little girl?”

Logan watched as Storm unzipped her uniform, coming up the stairs behind her with only the faintest feeling of intrusion. It wasn’t his space, not really. He hadn’t picked out the bedspread or helped paint the walls, but he didn’t feel as though he were violating something anymore.

Storm threw him a baleful look over her shoulder, the pulled down zip of her uniform showcasing one long, lean line of dark flesh before she stepped into the bathroom.

He exhaled explosively, trying to get a handle on his own emotions. He knew her, this woman, in two lifetimes. And in both lifetimes, his heart had forsaken Jean in favor of Ororo. There was something to that, wasn’t there? It had to mean something.

Logan pulled the zip of his own inform, shrugging out of the heavy leather material as he searched the drawers she indicated were his. Logan found a pair of old sweats and a white tank top with little trouble. It seemed he liked his drawers the way he liked them, in any time line.

“The first few times she wan off, she wasn’t expecting us to follow. Once she realized we would, she started booby-trapping everything in sight. She almost killed Iceman once with one badly-aimed cherry bomb. Huge drama.”

He chuckled at her voice, the easy cadence of it. Since night had fallen hours ago, he’d checked on the sleeping twins before following Ororo toward the bedroom they shared. Since his session with Jean – where she revealed her memory of the moment he met Storm – was interrupted by their call to retrieve a wayward ward, he hadn’t had time to process it.

Lucky for him, Jean had funneled his feelings through her own memory, leaving him with a slight impression of what he felt for Ororo in that moment. The awe, the shock, the instant attraction…it was something he’d not felt for her in the war timeline. This was something new, something like a reward for what he had done.

It shocked him, thinking that in one moment his obsession with Jean Grey ended. Logan could see it in his own eyes, watching himself in the mental session with Jean. He had wanted her, wanted Ororo from the moment he clapped eyes on her. How was that possible?

The woman in question came out of the bathroom they shared a moment later, her short hair dancing around her face. She’d pulled on a little shorts and t-shirt combo in butter-soft yellow. The hint of her upper thigh displayed as she moved made Logan’s mouth go dry.

“Logan?”

He wasn’t aware that he’d been staring until Ororo called his name. She removed the lightning bolt earrings from her lobes, frowning at her husband. The worry furrowed her brow, creasing it just above her nose the same way it had in the time he could remember. He liked to kiss that little crease as she drifted to sleep in his arms, their bodies worn out from rounds of heated passion that left him breathless.

Had he loved her there? Had he known in that war-torn world what she meant to him and was too fucking stupid to understand it?

Did it matter?

“Logan?” She crossed the room to him, her dark eyes boring into his.

Without any control over the urge, Logan’s hands lashed out. He took her by that slender waist, hauled her close to him. Storm gave in willingly, going boneless in his arms as though she’d done it a thousand times. Logan took her weight easily, his mouth finding hers for the first time since he’d awoken to find his entire world changed.

Ororo gasped against his lips, her hands finding their way into his hair. Her mouth opened as he swept his tongue across the surface of her plump bottom lip. She took him in easily, pressing her long, lithe body against his. Logan groaned in his throat, the sound reverberating as a growl somewhere deep in his chest.

She tasted exactly as he remembered. Ororo’s kisses were fervent and drugging, an addiction he never wanted to shake. The flavor of her coated his tongue: smoky and dark, like good red wine mixed with the deepest chocolate. Logan let his hands slide to her backside, squeezing so she was forced to fit more fully against his chest.

She felt the same, tasted the same, it was as though no time had passed. Logan realized, for the first time, that this was his wife. The change in time lines, the decisions he had made as another man, none of it really mattered.

Ororo was meant to be his.

When oxygen finally demanded they part, Logan relinquished her only far enough to provide lungs with air. Ororo stared up at him, those cocoa eyes glazed with passion. He knew that look; he had seen it a thousand times before. It was how she told him she wanted him, that she needed him against her, over her, inside of her. This part, this facet of who they were could not be changed.

Logan loved Ororo.

“Take me to bed.” Storm whispered, reaching up to nip at his lips. Logan’s hands reflexively tightened on her backside, holding her in place as though she might vanish in they relinquished their prize.

The thought of holding her again, loving her, baring himself in that way he only could with Ororo was too tempting to resist. He needed that connection, especially now that he could see the similarities in the woman he had known with the goddess before him now. He could not resist her during war, he would not do so now.

He nodded once.

“Yeah.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Six: Shockwave

It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head

It’s like I can’t stop what I’m hearing within

It’s like the face inside is right

Beneath my skin

~Linkin Park

 

Her scent clung to his skin, even after a long shower and a spray of what appeared to be a well-loved bottle of cologne. Logan could catch the faint hint of her signature fragrance as he stepped into the mansion, that telltale scent dragging his mind back to the previous evening.

A night spent in the arms of his wife, reminding himself why he loved her even in two alternate timelines, left her lingering on his senses. The way she melted into his embrace, how her body opened to him, the scream of her sacred winds thrashing the surrounding areas…it was all so familiar, yet startlingly new.

Logan let his mind wander to the miracle that was his wife, with his thumb twisting that familiar ring around his finger. He didn’t want to lose that memory of the previous night, when Ororo came so willingly into his arms. Their bodies seemed to recall every touch, every sigh as though there were no separations between them. Logan couldn’t recall anything feeling so familiar, especially in the days since he’d awoken in this strange time.

And yet, even the memory he had of her from the war seemed strangely the same. Ororo’s body bore fewer scars, a few more pounds, maybe, but that changed nothing. It was almost as though muscle memory had taken over, reminding them that they couldn’t be parted, not even by a hare-brained scheme to end a world war by altering time.

Taking another deep breath, Logan moved into the kitchen. He startled, finding that the kitchen wasn’t empty as he assumed it would be in the middle of the morning. There were classes to teach, kids to wrangle, after all.

Logan smiled absently to himself, thinking of the harried morning he’d been witness to. Apparently, even pre-teen girls had a hard time getting ready for school.

“Hey.”

Marie’s soft voice broke into his reverie. She looked up from the books, notepads, and highlighters she’d spread over the table in a sort of order that probably only made sense to her. Logan hadn’t had the chance to really catch up with his old cohort, so he eased around the marble-topped island toward the coffee pot.

“We were out,” he said by way of explanation. The cups were exactly where he remembered Jean liked them, the sugar and cream in matching containers that looked like little fat chefs. Some things never changed. “Need a refill?”

“Oh, please.” Marie replied brightly. She held out her cup, allowing Logan to pour the rich, decadent brew that was Scott Summer’s favorite Colombian blend. Marie took her coffee unsweet and black, exactly as remembered.

“What’re you working at so hard?” Logan asked as he finished preparing his coffee. He eased around the island again, sliding into the half-moon-shaped booth where Rogue had set up camp.

“Biology.” Marie answered, crossing her eyes by looking down her nose to show her confusion and displeasure. “Remind me I have one semester left before I qualify for my teaching license.”

“One semester left. Wow.” In his timeline, Marie was war-hardened before she could even apply to college. “You’ll make it.”

“Thanks.” The young woman replied, her nose scrunching a little as she smiled. It was his favorite of Marie’s smiles: sweet, a little silly, and far too young on her lovely face. “What’re you up to today, old man?”

“Old man?” Logan arched a brow, his cup halting partway to his mouth.

“Habit, sorry.” He didn’t believe she was sorry for a second. “More sessions with Jean?”

Logan shook his head, deciding to let what seemed like a fond nickname slide. For now. “Not today. I’m hoping I can sit in on Tin Man’s class. I feel like I need to get back into the swing.”

Marie propped her elbow on the tabletop, then dropped her chin into her palm. It was another familiarity. This happened to be the stance Marie took when she wanted the person talking to know they had her complete, undivided attention.

“Probably a good thing, especially if we want to jog your memory.” Marie offered earnestly. “Are you getting anything?”

Slowly, Logan shook his head. Just like before, it was incredibly easy to talk with Marie, to listen as her smooth Mississippi drawl. “No. Not from this timeline. Things are similar, people mainly. Well, similar to the way they were before the war. That makes it a little easier, reminds me that we changed the war, not necessarily the people in it.”

Her hazel eyes filled with warmth, as though the idea that not everything was different made her happy in some way. Logan focused on his coffee for a moment, remembering that harrowing night in Canada that led Logan to finding Marie in his trailer.

It was that day that forever changed his life.

“Hey,” he said suddenly. Thoughts of that day made him curious as to how that changed things here. When Magneto sent Sabertooth to collect her, Logan would have already been an X-Man. So, how did Marie end up in New York? “How did we meet?”

The softness that swept over Marie’s face gave Logan a feeling of warmth that bloomed in his chest. He’d only seen Rogue a handful of times since the day she took the Cure. Most of those were battle-weary and too swift for his liking. It wasn’t a shock to find he had missed his young friend.

“Laughlin City.” Marie said with a shrug. She clicked her pen to sheath the tip before dropping it onto her book. It seemed he was destine to interfere with her studies today.

“Laughlin City.” Logan frowned. “What was I doing there?”

“Lookin’ for me.” Marie grinned. “I’d put a boy in a coma by accident, decided it was a good time to take my dream trip to Alaska. I spent weeks hitchhiking after my parents tossed me out. You were in a bar, cage fighting for money. I guess it was a cover.”

Logan offered her a small smile. It seemed obvious from her expression that the memory was a fond one. It didn’t deviate too much from what he recalled of the past, except that he assumed Charles had sent him to retrieve young Marie, whose devastating mutation could not be controlled.

“Someone tried to stab you in the back, this huge jackass who didn’t like losing.” Marie rolled her eyes as she lifted her cup to her lips. “I don’t know if you wanted to see what I would do or what, but I shouted for you to look out. Of course, you handled it just fine.”

Logan nodded. “Sounds about right.”

“I followed you out of the bar.” Marie paused to chuckle. “I don’t know if I thought you could protect me or what, but I jumped into the trailer as you were pulling out. I stayed back there for hours, I thought I had you fooled. Turns out, you were taking me to meet up with Cyclops and Jean. You knew I was back there the whole time.”

Marie met his gaze across the table again, her smile soft. “I guess you knew if you tried talking to me about being a mutant, I would bolt. It was my best decision, jumping in the back of that trailer.”

“I know.” Logan smiled into his cup, thinking about the differences and similarities to the stories. Things happened for a reason, that’s what Jean and Ororo always tried to remind him. It seemed he was destined to meet this slip of a girl in the wilds of Canada, discovering her hiding in the trailer. For some reason, it was comforting to know that he and Marie had that special moment.

“It happen that way before?” Marie asked quietly.

Logan smiled. “Just about. I wasn’t meeting Scott, though, and you didn’t ride in the back too long. Sabertooth came after us, caused an accident. ‘Ro and Scott…they pulled us out of the truck.”

Marie smiled. “Close.”

“Yeah.”

They lapsed into a comfortable sort of silence, then, each pondering their own thoughts. The muffled sound of children rushing out of classrooms and into others drifted from the mansion’s hallways. The noise had been long-missed. In the abandoned timeline, Logan last saw the mansion as it was leveled by Sentinels, when so many of his friends died. Hearing it now, filled with children, was something like a miracle.

His head wanted to ache, though his healing factor made that sort of pain useless. His brain was becoming a muddled land of new information and outdated memories.

“I wonder what’s really worse,” he said with a self-deprecating chuckle. “Knowing all the dirty details of a life that doesn’t matter or not bein’ able to stop comparing what I know to what really happened.”

Marie went quiet, looking down at her abandoned textbook with a slight frown.

“Logan?” Her voice had changed from the soft tone that betrayed nostalgia to something that betrayed more tension than he hoped. As he looked up, he could see the tightening of her eyes as she contemplated how best to ask what she wanted.

“Yeah?”

She took another beat to gather herself. “Was it that bad? I mean, how bad was it?”

Immediately, flashes of useless memory trampled through his mind. He could recall that moment his claws slid into Jean’s soft flesh, the sight of the Professor’s empty chair, Sentinels tearing apart the only home he had ever known. War. Death. Devastation. Hopelessness. That was his reality. That’s what he had lived with for fifty years. It was real for him, every hurt, every tear, every loss was embedded on his heart and mind. He couldn’t escape it, even after giving everything up, destroying the man that lived in this time…and Logan would never be able to forget.

“Yeah.” The word left his mouth breathlessly. “It was worse than anything you can imagine. World War III on a scale unlike anything this planet ever saw. The whole world went to hell and all we could do was watch.”

Marie’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. Logan blinked, trying to shove away the thoughts that dragged him down to begin with.

It wasn’t real, not anymore. Logan changed history to protect the future. He wasn’t alone. People had lived. He had a family.

Logan suddenly wanted to see Ororo so bad, his fingers hurt.

“I don’t think any of us will ever understand.”

He shook his head at Marie’s simple statement. “No. Maybe, someday, I’ll show you my memory of it.”

She swallowed so hard, Logan was able to hear the gulp.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever be ready for that.”

Logan took another deep pull from his coffee cup.

“No one ever could be, kid.”

~**~

 

Things were starting to settle back into a sort of tepid normalcy.

After classes, Storm walked her twins home, listening as they griped about things that were life-shattering at twelve years old. She let the girls vent, then settled them both at the kitchen table with a snack while she went over a few X-Men related things.

Logan returned from his meeting with Charles looking slightly worse for wear. Ororo shot him an arched brow in question, to which he shook his head. He didn’t want to talk. Somewhat pleased that their silent language developed over fifteen years seemed to be working properly, Ororo did not ask as they set about preparing dinner.

The twins seemed to be more settled with Logan now. As they ate their meal, the girls traded stories about his antics remembered from happy childhoods, including their various escapades with Nathan as their champion and hero. Ororo kept her body toward Logan, her hand brushing his thigh under the table, as a reminder that she was there for him.

Still, he was somber as they cleaned up and selected a movie for the night.

Once the girls were tucked into their beds, Logan excused himself to shower. Ororo readied for bed, holding her arms out for Logan as he slid in beside her once he was ready. His heart was steady, his body relaxed, but something was bothering him.

When he wanted to talk, he would.

Ororo drifted into a light sleep only to be awakened by the familiar sound of her husband’s nightmares. Logan turned fitfully under the sheets, his hands grasping at the fragile material as though it were a lifeline. Sweat beaded at his brow, at his lip, his eyes squeezed tight against reality. The sound of her lover’s whimpers and muttered cries tore at her heart as it had every time he went through this.

Some horrors, it would seem, transcended even time itself.

“’Ro.” Logan gasped against the pillow as Ororo sat up. “N-No. ‘Ro.”

“Logan.” Ororo said his name evenly, trying to draw him out of the terror keeping him locked away from her. “Logan, it’s Ororo. You’re safe. You’re at the lake house. Wake up, Logan.”

“Don’t hurt her.” Logan tossed his head against the pillow, his knuckles turning white as he grasped the sheet. “Don’t hurt her.”

Ororo shifted slightly, funneling a low voltage of electricity into her skin so that it hovered in the palm of her hand. It was a trick learned from years with the once-feral mutant. The electric hum under her skin could calm Logan even in some of his most terrifying states.

She rested her hand at his brow, clucking her tongue soothingly. Logan took a shallow breath, then two, following the pair with a deep inhalation that seemed to siphon away some of the pain. Ororo hummed lightly under her breath, a familiar old lullaby she’d once sung for the benefit of her daughters. Logan had always been soothed by the tune, it seemed to make her buzzing skin even more infallible as it pertained to soothing the Wolverine.

Slowly, Logan blinked his eyes open. They searched for her immediately, not bothered by the dimness of their bedroom. Ororo offered a small smile, continuing to hum as her hand rested at his brow.

“Thanks.” His voice was rough, with the demons that haunted his slumber and the pain of fighting them back.

“Anytime, tough guy.”

Logan smiled, reaching out with one trembling hand to touch her face. There was a sort of reverence in the touch, as though he couldn’t quite believe she was real. Ororo found herself flushing with the sentiment. Logan had always made her feel impossibly beautiful.

But their moment was broken a moment later. Logan dropped his hand, sitting up in the bed so quickly that Ororo lost her balance.

“What is it?” She asked, turning to flick on the lamp on her nightstand.

“Shh.” Logan hushed his wife, turning his head so his right ear – the one he claimed was the better of the pair – was aimed at the staircase that led from their bedroom to the main house. The expression that crossed his face struck Ororo as a mixture of fear, tension, and all-consuming dread.

“Laura.”

He was out of bed a beat later, racing for the stairs before Ororo could process the motion. She slid from the covers as quickly as she could, but Logan was already thumping down the staircase.

His thundering feet were followed almost immediately by a high-pitched scream:

Mama!”

“Goddess.” Ororo did not bother with the stairs. She flipped her long body over the loft railing, summoning a swift wind to cushion the fall as her feet hit the hardwood of the living room. Logan was still ahead of her, throwing open the girls’ bedroom so hard it nearly banged back off of the hinges.

Inside, Ororo could see only her daughter sheathed in moonlight. Laura’s hair was a wild mess as she hunched in front of the window. Rivers of something dark flowed from her hands and pooled at her feet. The expression on her baby daughter’s face was one of confusion, of terror, and a ferocity Ororo had only ever seen in one other gaze.

“Laura.” Logan said her name softly, stepping into the room as though swift movement would startle her. “Laura, look at me. Look at your Daddy.”

“It hurts.” Laura whimpered. “Daddy, it hurts.”

“I know, baby.” Logan took another step into the room, holding his hand out as though reaching for her. “It’ll be alright.”

Ororo moved a little closer, trying to swallow the gasp that threatened to escape. Little Laura shivered as she stood, as her father moved closer, with two long, jagged claws erupting from each of her delicate hands. A glance at her feet showed another pair that slid from her feet, a rounded claw that reminded Ororo of a velociraptor.

Laura was a mutant.

“Had a bad dream.” Laura was saying as Logan edged closer. “Bad dream. Anna-Marie came closer…”

“Anna-Marie?” Logan questioned, not taking his eyes from Laura.

Ororo stood in the doorway, unsure if she should move closer or turn on the light. Laura trembled in the center of the room, sliding back as Logan stepped closer. Anna-Marie, she could see from the corner of her eye, lay on the bed, keeping very still.

Everyone in the room seemed terrified they might do or say the wrong thing, send Laura panicking out of the house.

“I’m ok.” From the weak sound of her voice, Ororo knew. Her daughter was injured.

“How bad, Anna-Marie?” Ororo asked, using the voice that frequently startled her students into following whatever edict she had just handed down.

“Not bad.” Anna-Marie said evenly. “I’m ok, Mama. See to Laura.”

Ororo did step into the room at that, sidling along the wall so she wouldn’t startle her husband and their frightened daughter. Logan had the girl by the eyes, keeping her locked on him. Ororo could hear the strange grinding noise of bone on bone as the claws tried to retract and release every few heartbeats.

Anna-Marie remained still and Ororo’s light-adjusted eyes could see a small, bleeding gash on her forearm. It was deep, long and bled steadily. The lack of gushing told Ororo no main arteries were hit. It had likely happened when Anna-Marie tried to soothe Laura’s nightmare.

“Shh, it’s alright.” Ororo tried to reassure her child. “We’ll have Aunt Jean patch it up.”

“I hurt my sister.”

Ororo looked up sharply. Laura’s voice was elevated, trembling. She half-stood, wanting to go to her daughter when she seemed so lost. Logan motioned her back with one hand, though, trying to reestablish the eye contact that kept Laura from bolting a moment before.

“You didn’t mean it.” Logan’s voice was low, gruff. He took another critical step toward his daughter, not caring if the boney protrusions nicked him by accident. Unlike little Anna-Marie, Logan could heal from a cut in seconds.

“But I did it.” Laura said, her voice rising in pitch with the panic. “I hurt her. Look at this!”

“I’m lookin’,” Logan replied softly. “And I see a scared little girl, the same little girl that was here yesterday.”

“I’m not the same!”

The grating sound of bone on bone filled the air, followed by Laura’s weak gasp. They knew, of course they knew, what gifts their father carried. He had so seldom revealed his claws to the girls that they were a sort of taboo within the family. Ororo lowered herself to sit at Anna-Marie’s side, clutching her daughter’s hand in the darkness.

“I know what you are, baby.” Logan whispered. “It’s gonna be ok. I promise.”

“D-Daddy.”

Ororo breathed a sigh of relief when her child reached out for her father. Logan made no sound, aside from the grating when his claws sheathed themselves. If Laura cut him when she shifted into his embrace, Logan never gave any indication. He would heal before the lights came on.

Her maternal instincts kicked into gear, so Ororo reached out to turn on the lights. She had to see if Anna-Marie needed immediate medical attention. The room was doused with light a moment later, forcing Ororo to blink several times to disperse the stars dancing in her eyes.

“Oh, God.”

When her vision cleared, Ororo noted that Anna-Marie’s bed was splashed with crimson. The girl herself crossed her legs under her backside, cradling her left arm in her lap. The cut was long, slightly jagged, and wide. It reminded Ororo of an animal’s claw mark. She moved quickly, yanking the belt from her daughter’s robe that hung over the bedpost. Ororo fashioned a makeshift tourniquet above the cut, helping to stave off the bleeding before they could get to Jean.

“It’s ok, sweetheart.” Ororo whispered. “Aunt Jean will have this fixed up in no time. How much does it hurt?”

“I’m ok,” Anna-Marie said softly. “I just want Laura to be ok.”

Before Ororo could think of a reply, the sound of the window opening stole her attention. She looked up in time to see Logan reach the window, his hand reaching outside as though desperate to grasp something. Ororo knew without scanning the rest of the room that Laura was gone.

“You ok?” Logan asked as he glanced over his shoulder. “Anna-Marie?”

“We’re fine. Go get Laura.” Ororo said sharply. “Don’t let anything…”

“’Ro, I won’t. I swear.”

With that, her husband rushed from the room and into the darkness.

 

~**~

Jean was already waiting in the infirmary when Ororo brought Anna-Marie in. The phone call had been curt, to the point, and let Jean know she had to immediately psi-scan the area. She found Logan without much effort, the object of his search outpacing him only because he was letting her. Sometimes, Logan always said, the only thing you can do with emotion is work it out.

Or scream. Laura was doing plenty of both.

Ororo held a clean cloth over her daughter’s arm, where it appeared someone had sliced her. Jean, being a relatively intelligent human being, immediately realized that Laura had likely ‘powered up’. It wasn’t a shock, seeing how much like Logan Laura had always been that she would be the twin to have mutations that mirrored his.

“On the table, Ann.” Jean coaxed her goddaughter, pulling the instrument tray along with a tug of her telekinesis. “There we are.”

“How is Laura? Did he find her?” Her friend asked the question as Anna-Marie hopped onto the exam table.

“He’s behind her. Letting her run it out.” Jean answered, pulling gloves onto her hands.

“Good.” Ororo nodded once, sitting on the table beside Anna-Marie. “He’ll be able to talk her down.”

Jean used her mutation to switch the exam light on, adjusting the angle of the bulb with another tug of her mind. Once everything was in place, she reached out to pull the bloodied cloth from Anna-Marie’s injured arm.

“The bleeding’s stopped, that’s good.” Jean observed as she lifted the towel away. “What…”

Beneath the towel there was not the long, jagged laceration she’d been expecting. The skin appeared to be intact. Jean wiped at the blood with alcohol wipes, finding that the flesh was, in fact, completely healed. There was not even the hint of an injury, excepting the small pink scar that seemed to fade before her eyes.

“Oh, my God.” Ororo stood, moving around to stand beside Jean as they both stared at Anna-Marie’s arm.

The girl, for her part, looked slightly bashful, though not incredibly surprised.

“Well,” the teenager said softly. “I can’t let Laura have all of the fun, can I?”