Disclaimer: Everything that's not Marvel's is mine. And if you can't tell who belongs to who you have no right to even be reading this. :)
Author's Note: This is a sequel to my first fan fiction "Waking Nightmares", but you don't need to read that one to understand what's happening. I suggest you do it anyway, just to make me feel better! Please e-mail me at Neblina2000@aol.com. My mailbox craves sustenance!
Oh, and this ~ means telepathic speech.
Nightmares and Monsters
"How can you watch this stuff? It makes no sense," Wolverine asked his companion.
"Yes, it does," retorted Jubilee. The two were watching a movie in the New York mansion's massive living room. She was sprawled out upon the overstuffed couch with a bowl of popcorn snug in the crook of her arm. Logan was being his usual self and skulked in a recliner. "The blonde bimbette runs screaming through the house until the guy in the mask shish-kabobs her. Then that brunette kills him. Well, them."
"And that makes sense to you?"
"Duh Wolvie! Of course it does."
". . . Sure hope this is a phase you're gonna grow out of."
"Just shut up an' watch the movie," she said with a smile.
As Jubilee stretched in front of the TV, She lazily thought about the events of the day. The remarkably *uneventful* events of the day. It was one of those rare occasions where no spandex-clad weirdo or mutant-hating jerk was causing trouble. All of the X-Men had decided to relax. Storm was in her room playing with her plants, Rogue had somehow convinced Gambit to go shopping with her, Cyke and Jean had disappeared sometime after breakfast, and both the Beast and the Professor had been inclined to bury themselves in work. Jubilee herself had begged Wolvie to rent some movies.
Jubilee was startled out of her reverie by Wolverine's gruff voice. "I'm goin' fer another brew. Want anything?"
"Huh? Oh, some more popcorn please."
"That's your third bowl!"
"Yeah, I know. Point?," she said.
Logan only grunted and headed for the kitchen.
The screen caught Jubilee's attention. The killer had chased the blonde into her backyard. The doomed teen screamed for her life. "Aaaaa-"
Jubilee was on her feet and running towards the kitchen as she realized that the last scream had been real. She skidded to a halt, however, at the sight that met her in the doorway.
Beer and popcorn scattered along the linoleum where they had been dropped. Deep furrows scarred the door of the open refrigerator. Chairs were overturned and the dining table had been pushed back. Logan cringed in the midst of the chaos. Bone claws extended, he clung to his head as if it were threatening to explode. The pain in his cry was etched into every pore of his being. From the extreme pain on his face and in his scream, Jubilee thought it just might have been.
And then the mutant's face relaxed, his screams subsided, his claws "slacht" back into his forearms with a spray of blood, and Wolverine collapsed.
Jubilee sprang out of her shocked stupor and ran to her friend.
"Wolvie are you okay?!" she cried. "Hey, I need some help in here!"
The teen crouched over Logan's prone form and prayed for him to be all right. Her prayers appeared to go unanswered when she saw the blood running from his ears and nose. He didn't respond to her touch. She became frantic with fear.
"Help?! Professor?! Jean?! Beast?! Somebody?!" Only the emptiness of the house answered her.
". . . anybody?" she whimpered.
As she listened to the shrieking silence Jubilee realized that she had never been so frightened.
The bald man made his way through the hallway toward the Med-lab door. The hoverchair made soft mechanical noises as it glided over the Persian rug. The chair, like so many other things hidden in and under his mansion, was a gift from the Shia'ar Empire. Or rather, from his soulmate, the Empress Lilandra.
The Asian-American teenager looked up from her sentry post. "Professor! Beast took Wolvie in there like years ago an' I haven't heard anything from him an' I'm really startin' to worry 'cause he looked really bad an'-"
"Jubilee, take a breath. Calm down," Charles Xavier said reassuringly. "I am going in to see them now, all right?"
"...Okay. I just wish somebody would tell me what's goin' on."
"Do not worry, Jubilation. I'm sure everything will be fine."
Xavier left her standing there and went in to make sure that everything was fine. Hank McCoy met him at the door.
"Physically he's fit as a fiddle as far as I can surmise," the Beast rushed. "But as to his mental condition...let's just say I'm glad you're here."
Alarmed by Hank's vocabulary as well as at his disheveled state Charles entered the room with trepidation. Over the years, he'd gotten used to Beast's love of words and could read him very well without the use of his "talent". Such subdued tones usually meant that he was under an undue amount of stress.
The Professor's "talent" stemmed directly from an extra set of genes. These genes, besides making him one of the greatest psi-talents in the world, labeled him as a mutant, and thereby shunned and ridiculed by the world. Xavier chose to rise above the hatred and created a group that crusaded for equal rights. A group that of late had been turned to a more militaristic approach.
Despite humanities overall outlook towards mutants, Xavier chose not to use his gift other than in the most dire circumstances. He perceived it as morally wrong, worse in some cases than rape or murder. However, there are some things a sensitive mind just can't shut out.
The emotions in the room were so palpable that Xavier felt nauseous. A wave of anger hit him first, rolling across his brain. The Professor could sense the underlying tones of fear and pain and knew that the anger was just a mask. A wall of rage to cage the hurt.
Logan had awoken in the lab five minutes ago. Judging by the debris on the floor and tables, he hadn't been happy about it. Wolverine himself paced the littered area like a trapped animal.
Radiating waves of calm, Xavier slowly approached him.
~ It is all right Wolverine. Whatever happened is over now- ~
Charles recoiled from what was roaming around Logan's skull. It was as if he'd stepped into a pit of horrifying nightmares blistered with a fire of hate. His brain went numb with the brief contact.
"Logan...what-what happened to you?"
The Wolverine had stopped pacing and was staring at the strange creature him. At first the wheeled thing was confused him and the temptation to run or attack was very strong. Slowly his mind came back into focus. At least, he remembered how to speak, and why he should do so.
"I don't know Chuck...This one was definitely worse than the last, though."
"'The last'? This kind of attack has happened before and you didn't tell any of us?"
Logan straightened and looked directly into Xavier's eyes. His voice was quiet but firm as he said "When a man's brain falls apart piece by piece he doesn't really care for his friends ta witness it. I'm sure you can understand that."
Xavier told himself he shouldn't have been surprised that he would keep this to himself. Wolverine was known for being a loner. Charles also ignored how much it hurt to know his friend kept him in the dark about something like this.
"How long?" was all he said.
" 'Bout three weeks ago was the first. Nightmares came every night since."
"What sort of nightmares? Are they like the one a few weeks ago?"
Wolverine looked away. "Just nightmares."
"Logan, I think we'd better talk about this. Let Hank examine you thoroughly and then we will-"
The wall of anger was back. "I've 'bout had my fill o' examinations. And bein' here, Charlie!" Wolverine growled as he headed for the door.
"Logan, wait! It is important that we-"
"Wolvie!!!" Jubilee squealed grandly as the door slid open. "You're okay! You had me scared silly, you hairy little fire plug-Oof!"
Logan stalked past the girl without a backwards glance, almost knocking her to the floor. For once, a stunned Jubilee had nothing to say.
The Professor hovered into the hallway to sit next to her. As they watched Wolverine's back descend down the staircase.
"What crawled up his butt?" Jubilee muttered to herself.
Xavier had to give pause to wonder the same.
“How often do we get the chance to just sit and be together?” Jean asked her husband.
“Far less than I’d like...” Scott answered.
The pair snuggled together under a quilt, although it wasn’t especially cold outside. They were watching the stars on their bedroom balcony. There seemed to be so many out tonight; every inch of the black sky was littered with sparks of diamond.
Cyclops was gazing into his wife’s emerald eyes when he said “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is-”
The two sighed and broke apart as Jean acknowledged the Professors call.
~Wolverine has had some sort of attack. I’m worried, but he won’t speak to me about it. Perhaps, if you try...~
~All right Professor. What happened?~
After he had related to her the story of the “attack”, Jean broke contact and looked towards Scott.
“The fun never stops at the School for Higher Learning.”
“Professor Xavier should put that in the administrations brochure,” Cyclops smiled.
“I have to go. The Professor wants me to talk to Wolverine.”
Scott looked away, the moonlight glinting off his visor. Jean didn’t think the two men would ever get along. They were teammates and she knew that each one would die for the other without hesitation... but drinking buddies? She thought that asking a bit much. Scott knew that she loved him with all her heart, but there’d always be something between herself and Wolverine. A bond of friendship, attraction, love, anger, protection; she felt all of those things towards Logan at any given time.
“We’ll continue this later,” Jean whispered, placing a hand on her lovers chest. She kissed him on the cheek and left him there alone, to gaze at the stars and consider the possibilities.
* * * * *
The woods surrounding the Xavier estate held a number of surprises, not the least of which was the man resting in the utmost limbs of his favorite oak tree. His raven-hued hair swept into wolfish peaks above either ear, and his face was ragged, as if chiseled out of granite by tired hands. Despite these features, and the fact that he was only a little over five feet tall, the most amazing thing about the man was his eyes. The blue orbs at times held the wildest rage, spearing all who dared near. At others, they showed a compassion and tenderness somehow exotic to his rough exterior. Their gaze was slightly humorous though as he looked through the branches at Jean Grey-Summers approach.
“They send you out here to make sure I wasn’t eatin’ the neighbors?” Logan asked.
“Yes,” she smiled. The red head squinted into the tree. “Are you going to make me sprain my neck or are you coming down?”
“...Why don’t you come up?”
~Always trying to start something, aren’t you?~ Jean sighed and did as asked. Like Xavier she was telepathic, but unlike him she was also a strong telekinetic. With a thought she was airborne and floating towards Wolverine’s eye level.
When she reached him, she looked around. The mansion could be seen through a break in the leaves. She’d never seen it from this angle before. She could see into all of the back and side windows and observe the mini dramas that took place inside. She could see Ororo in her attic, Beast fixing what looked to be a monster sandwich in the kitchen, The Professor trying to observe them obscurely through his study window... and Scott waiting for her on the balcony.
Jean had a breakthrough as she watched Logan gaze at the house. Wolverine, the “consummate loner”, was watching his friends lives; observing all the little stories that played out between his teammates. He felt that he should be out here watching instead of in there, living. Wait- not just watching... but.... protecting? Protecting from what-
~GET OUTTA THERE JEANNIE~
With a start she realized she had been trying to scan Logan’s mind. It was disconcerting to say the least that her concentration could slip like that, even for a moment. Her mind felt slimy, as if she’d touched... tainted.
Something strange was happening to her friend. Almost as if...
Wolverine was watching her warily.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Logan. Sometimes you just think too loudly, I guess,” she said, knowing it for a lie. Logan was one of the most closely guarded people she knew.
The look in his eyes told her he knew more was troubling her but he would wait for Jean to feel comfortable enough to speak her mind.
“Logan... we’re all worried about you. The Professor tells me you haven’t been sleeping well. And these mood swings... Care to tell me about it?”
He stared at her hard. “No.”
~X-Men report to the Blackbird at once. You will be briefed en route.~
Jean sighed. That’s twice today that the Professor’s come between me and the men in my life.
"Oh, the life of a superhero,” she whispered as she followed Logan into the mansion.
Cyclops swayed slightly as the X-Men’s jet traveled through an airpocket. Bothered by the interruption, he turned back to the monitors and began the mission briefing.
“This news report aired live a few minutes ago on a local station.”
A screen came to life behind him. It showed a grainy image of a teenage girl fighting with a group of costumed people. The offenders were obviously mutant and the girl seemed to be more intent on avoiding them than hitting them. She ran ahead of the pack and the image was paused. The camera had zoomed in on her face. Her iris’ were white outlined in black bleeding into normal-looking pupils. The bones of her face seemed remarkably delicate, as if a strong wind would shatter her into a thousand pieces and her hair and eyebrows were white. She was a mutant, too.
Cyclops continued, all business. “The hostile mutants have been identified as the new Dark Riders.” His eyes flicked briefly to Wolverine as if it were somehow his fault. “They’re our x-factor, we don’t know what they’re capable of yet. What Apocalypse wants with the girl is still unknown; we don’t even know who she is yet.” He looked at each of them in turn. “But whatever it may be, we can’t let them hurt her.”
Storm turned from the cockpit. “We will arrive at the girl’s last known location in one minute.”
The gathered X-Men prepared themselves for the coming battle in their own ways. As Cyclops moved up to the cockpit, Phoenix sidled over to Wolverine. The Canadian was smoothing his mask over his face. She wanted to ask if he could handle the mission but decided on safer ground.
“Jubilee nearly had a fit when the Professor said she couldn’t come on this mission. She’s still probably pouting in her room.”
“Chuck knows what he’s doin’. She’ll get over it.”
She shook her head in agreement and allowed the “mother” tone into her voice. “I think what happened earlier today is still bothering her, though. You scared her and that brush-off didn’t help matters. Believe it or not she really cares about you.”
He looked away during the beratement. It was bothering him, too. He just wasn't feeling like himself lately... He’d have to apologize when the mission was over.
Wolverine was saved from an answer as the Blackbird landed smoothly.
It was time for battle.
The landing was not lost on the mutants fighting below. Fighting was an odd term for it, though- it seemed to be more taunting than anything else. As if on cue, just after the X-Men touched down the fighting escalated once more.
Being the first one out of the Blackbird, Wolverine wasn’t sure if the others saw or not. He meant to file it away in his mind for later consideration but the action propelled towards him and all thoughts of oddities were forgotten.
The girl had erected some sort of force field, keeping the attackers at bay. There were five Dark Riders; the number gave the X-Men a slight edge. A male surrounded by heat mirage stared intently at the girl. Another had strange membranous wings and obscenely reminded Logan of a flying eel. One tall female just stood hitting the field, the blows hard enough to shake the dust and dirt on the ground. One horrid looking creature was a mass of living... void. Wolverine got the impression that if stared at long enough, a person would be lost forever in the nothingness of the fourth Dark Rider. The last, a female, simply stood to the side, watching.
His brief sum up took place in the time it took him to step out of the door of the mini-jet.
Logan smiled. This is gonna be relaxin’, he thought, and stepped up to the battle.
While the Dark Riders had an unrevealed edge, the X-Men outnumbered them slightly and had experience on their side. As Scott saw it, this would be an easy fight.
“Leave the girl alone!” he commanded.
“Sure,” said the woman pounding on the force field. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry now, anyway.”
She changed mind awful fast- but Cyclops didn’t have a chance to complete the thought as the shimmering man turned to him. He flung both arms at the X-Man and the concrete warped and buckled under immense heat in a direct route to Scott’s chest.
Cyclops ducked and rolled, thoughts of going through life as a maimed burn victim when-
-the wave went completely around Phoenix’s telekinetic shield.
~What? Don’t you trust me, lover?~
Safe inside the confines of his wife’s protective bubble, Cyclops aimed and fired an optic blast to stun the man. It scored a direct hit on his chest- but he somehow remained standing. Scott fired again, and this time saw the reason why. The force of his blast was redirected throughout the man’s body, adding to the shimmer.
All right, time to change tactics. “Storm!” he called. “Put this guy on ice!”
“With the ease of the falling rain.” Storm hovered ten feet in the air, reminding Scott of her previous title of “goddess”. She raised arms and face to the sky and dark clouds mauled away the sun. Lightning flashed as Storm rose higher-
-and was throttled aside by the forgotten eel creature. As flesh connected with flesh, an electric charge shot through Storm’s body. She was gripped by it’s claws and thrown to the ground. The gathered Storm was left to fend for itself.
“No!” Cyclops fired a strong bolt at the creature and sent it hurling off course. He felt the heat blast diverted from him again, this one stronger than the last, and chided himself for forgetting his attacker.
“Okay. Let’s fight fire with fire,” he mumbled a hand, reaching for his visor.
But instead of touching metal, he clutched at his temple as he heard the scream.
Phoenix observed more of the battle than her husband did; it was part of her job. After securing Cyclops’ shield she turned to the others.
Rogue and Gambit were tag-teaming (They did that a lot lately, she thought coyly) the “Strong Woman”. She didn’t seem especially fast and the two Southerners were running rings around her. The blonde didn’t seem bothered by Rogue’s blows; that was cause for concern. The only damage that Gambit was doing was to private property within the battle zone.
Beast was warily circling the fifth Dark Rider, the “Pensive One”. She just watched him calmly, as if he were some old TV show that she had already memorized the lines to.
Jean joined Wolverine beside the “Void”. Across the field from them, Cyclops was firing his second shot at the “Shimmering Man”.
“Together again, eh?”
As Wolverine charged the strange miasma of blackness, Phoenix went inside it’s mind. This procedure was highly irregular and potentially dangerous but she had a feeling that the fight would be over a lot quicker that way.
She expected a searing cauldron of hate, perhaps an inner void to match the outer one, even to learn that he was Sid Neyer from Jerkwater, Iowa. What she found however was none of those things; in fact, she found nothing at all. His mind was completely blocked.
“Hey, kid look out!”
Jean was jerked back to her body by Wolverine’s harsh grate. He was running full tilt toward the white-eyed girl. “Take care o’ this guy Jeannie!”
He tackled her just before the telephone pole, loosened by Gambit and Rogue, toppled into where she had been cowering. She lifted her head from under Wolverine’s protective body and looked at him. Startlement was plain in her extraordinary eyes and face.
“You okay kid?”
Her doe eyes were suddenly saddened as her face grew determined. “I’m sorry, Mr. Logan.”
In such close quarters he had no room to jerk away as her hands clamped on his temples. The teen began to glow a fuzzy white and Logan screamed as blood burst from his eyes, nose and ears. Jean reeled as she- and all of the others through her instinctual battle-formed link- felt his howl tear through the psychic plane. She knew what it felt like- so horrible a sound that no mortal being should ever have to hear or make it. It was a death cry.
In her mind’s eye she felt the scream subside and with her physical eyes she saw Logan slump in the girl’s arms.
Storms unconscious body hit the ground with a “THWACK”.
And, as if on cue, the Dark Riders attacked.
The Strong Woman exhibited a quickness previously unheard of and grabbed Gambit in one hand, Rogue in the other. She knocked their two skulls together with a sickening crack. Rogue was left stunned, Gambit was bloody and broken; both were down.
The Placid One’s eye’s gleamed and Beast, who’d been in the process of leaping, simply fell, dead asleep.
The living Void’s coils seemed to enwrap an unseeing Jean Grey-Summers face. Her body barley struggled as her air supply was shut off for a moment. The telepath slumped to the ground, unconsciousness mercifully invading her mind.
With Jean’s shield gone, a stunned Cyclops was easy pickings for the heat shielded man.
Staggered by Wolverine’s shared anguish, the X-Men fell within one minute of each other._______________________________________________________
Mini Author's Note: Oh, my God! What have I done?! >evil laugh< Don’t freak out, there’s still a few more chapters to go. ;)