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Caliper

by Victoria P.

Subject: [glass_onion] Fic: Caliper: 1/1: Logan (XMM) Date: Monday, July 01, 2002 11:36 PM

Title: Caliper
Author: Victoria P. [victoria_p@att.net] Feedback: Rings my chimes
Rating: R - language
Archive: Lists, Muse's Fool.

Summary: "Logan nodded firmly, congratulating himself on handling the kid. He could do this. Hell, this kid was a cakewalk compared with some of the kids he saw at Xavier's."

Disclaimer: All X-Men characters belong to Marvel and Fox; this piece of fan-written fiction intends no infringement on any copyrights.

Notes: Thanks to Jen, Pete/Melissa, Dot, and Meg. Meg came up with most of the good ideas, I just wrote the story. Thanks to Khaki for all the links that helped me research leg straightening/stretching.


Caliper

Logan shifted uncomfortably in the hard, plastic, waiting room chair.

He hated hospitals. Hated the sterile, antiseptic scent that couldn't quite cover the stench of disease, death and decay. Hated the bright fluorescent lighting that gave everything a greenish-yellow cast and made even the healthy look sick.

But mostly he hated that he could remember being strapped down on a metal table and experimented on, in a setting much like this.

And he hated that he'd passed that onto Rogue, that she now bore his nightmares and probably would for a long time, even though the healing factor she'd absorbed from him had faded quickly.

It was only because Rogue had asked him that he'd come. Apparently, some world-famous neurologist friend of Jean's had a super-duper new machine that Jean thought could help determine the origin of Rogue's mutation and, perhaps, some means of controlling it.

Rogue had asked him to come -- she didn't like hospitals any more than he did, and having Magneto's memories of the malevolent Nazi doctors didn't help -- and he'd been powerless before her big brown eyes. Since she so rarely asked for anything, he couldn't say no, especially to something as important as this.

And then they hadn't let him stay with her. The nurses had hustled him out of the exam room, nattering on about how the young lady had to remove her clothes and he couldn't be there while she did. When he protested, Jean patted his arm and quickly said something about how the adamantium in his body might screw up the test.

It was only that last comment that assuaged his annoyance; he didn't want anything to go wrong, and he certainly didn't want to be the cause of any problems for Rogue. So, he found himself sitting in the hallway for forty-five minutes, cursing the people who'd created the torture devices known as waiting room chairs.

He shifted again.

This whole thing was taking far longer than expected, and he was getting antsy. He'd already reconnoitered and found absolutely nothing of interest in the dun-colored hallway. He hadn't wanted to stray far at first, in case Rogue needed him, and then because he thought she'd be done soon. But now he wondered about going back out to the jeep. He was going to claw the next person who smiled condescendingly at him, or, even worse, looked past him in an effort not to have to recognize the pain and illness all around, of which they thought he was part.

The double doors swung open and he jumped up, on alert.

A kid on Canadian crutches, heavy metal braces on his legs, attempted to stomp down the hall, but his mobility aids got in the way. He flung himself into the chair next to where Logan had been sitting and released the crutches with a grunt, sending them flying across the hall.

Logan looked away, not wanting to make the kid feel self-conscious, but it was too late.

"You got a problem, mister?"

Logan bit his lip to keep from smiling. The kid had guts.

"No."

"Then what are you looking at?"

Logan shrugged. "You've got a pretty good arm."

The kid snorted. "Don't matter, since my legs are all fucked." He watched Logan, waiting for a reaction.

Logan didn't give him the one he was looking for. "Too bad."

"I never liked baseball anyway."

"Like watching paint dry," Logan agreed, sitting down again. He could do this. He could handle one scared kid. And Rogue would be out soon, he ho ped, and he could leave before they got to the heart-to-heart stage of the conversation. "Hockey. Now, there's a sport for ya."

"Won't ever get to play that either."

"You never know. You get those things off, you'll be able to do all sorts of shit, right?"

"Don't try to comfort me."

"I'm not. I'm just saying--"

"Don't, all right? I hear about it all the time. 'This is for your own good, Ray. You'll feel much better after. You'll be normal. You should be grateful we can do this for you.'"

"Fuckers," Logan said.

Ray looked at him in surprise. "What?"

"Nasty fuckers. It sucks. Being different. And it hurts. Having all that shit done to you. Believe me, I know. And people -- they tell you to suck it up, right? Be a man?" Ray nodded. "But you can't. You're not old enough to go out and get drunk, which is what most men would do. You just have to smile and nod, right?"

"Yeah."

"That sucks." Logan nodded firmly, congratulating himself on handling the kid. He could do this. Hell, this kid was a cakewalk compared with some of the kids he saw at Xavier's, even if he did look like a little old man, with his face lined and careworn, and braces on his legs.

"How do you know?" Ray asked, breaking the silence.

"What?"

"You said you know how it feels. How?"

<Shit.> He didn't like showing himself off as a freak. He didn't like trying to garner sympathy for what had been done to him. He preferred anger and hatred, and the desire for revenge, to wallowing in self-pity.

But he knew the kid would smell bullshit a mile away, would know if he lied and would close off if he patronized. That made up his mind for him.

Snikt

"Shit," The kid jumped out of his chair, awkward on wobbly legs.

"Yeah," Logan replied. "They fucked me up but good. At least your doctors are trying to help you." He retracted the claws and kept himself still as the kid leaned in to stare at his already-healed knuckles. He raised his hand so the boy didn't topple.

Ray took his hand, and he forced himself not to flinch. He still wasn't comfortable being touched by strangers, though he knew this kid was no threat at all.

"Why?"

Another shrug. What to tell him? "Who knows? Because they could, I guess. They wanted to see what would happen. I don't know."

"You didn't ask for it?"

Logan made a sound that might have been a laugh. "I don't remember. They fucked with my head, too. I suppose it's possible. I don't like to think so, though. I mean--"

"Maybe you thought they were helping you."

"I don't think so. How could these things," he unsheathed a single claw and retracted it quickly, "be helpful? They make me a freak."

"You like to drink and you hate hospitals. Seems pretty normal to me. And what happened to you -- that just made you stronger. Better. I'm disabled. I'm a freaking gimp. A cripple. Fucking Tiny Tim."

"Hey, there are people who have it a lot worse than you, kid," Logan replied, thinking of the young woman whose request had brought him here. "My friend, the one I'm waiting for -- she can't ever touch anybody with her bare skin. And another guy I work with -- he has to wear special glasses all the time, or he could kill people just by opening his eyes.

"So I'm thinking you don't have it too bad. Sure, the surgery sucks and the crutches are a hassle, but in a few years, you'll be fine. My friends live with their shit every day, and will for the rest of their lives."

"Bullshit. I've seen all sorts of stuff about muties on the news. You get cool shit like X-Ray vision or super-speed, not killing people with your eyes and skin."

"Everybody's got problems, Ray."

"I don't believe you."

Logan flashed the claws. "You think I live in the suburbs and work a nine-to-five job? Think again." His voice was low, intense. He felt a strong need to get through to this kid, or he'd grow up bitter, and Logan didn't want that. There were too many bitter, old-before-their-time kids running around in the world, and he found himself feeling for each and every one these days. "I've seen a lot of weird shit," he continued, "and lived through worse. Everybody's got problems. Everybody's fucked up in some way. It's how you deal with it that matters."

"Yeah, but nobody knows -- nobody can see you're screwed up." Ray stood again. "Look at me. Everybody looks at me. Everybody knows my legs didn't grow right." He tapped the metal brace on his leg. "And nobody leaves me alone. I wish sometimes that people would just leave me the fuck alone, instead of always trying to make me feel better."

Logan nodded. "Believe me, I get that. I don't get to be alone as much as I'd like anymore. There's always people around, getting in my shit." Which wasn't true, exactly. Nobody interfered with Wolverine unless they were willing to face the claws. Well, nobody but Rogue, and where the hell was she, anyway? She'd handle this a lot better than he was. And Jeannie could do her Comforting Doctor routine, and it would all work out okay.

Except that he knew this boy wouldn't be okay, not for a long time. And he understood what not having control of your body -- what having your body betray you -- felt like. Every mutant did.

"I used to live alone. Traveled a lot, you know? Lived hand to mouth for a lotta years." He was almost nostalgic for those days, and Ray picked up on that.

"Do you want to be alone again?"

"Yeah, sometimes. There are too damn many teenagers around, and they bug the hell out of me." Then he thought about it. "But not really. The good stuff outweighs the bad. And I've met some people who mean a lot to me. "

"Like a girlfriend?"

"Uh--" He shifted uncomfortably. This was territory he wasn't prepared to get into with some strange kid. "Not exactly."

"There's this girl I like at school. Tricia," Ray confided. "She's not the prettiest, or even the smartest girl, but she has the best smile."

Logan nodded. "I hear ya. Why don't you talk to her? Tell her how you feel?"

Ray rolled his eyes. "That's what adults always say! 'Just talk to her. Be yourself.'" His voice rose. "It doesn't work like that. It's all bullshit. I can't even say 'hi' to her. I either stutter or say stupid stuff. And you want me to tell her how I feel?" He snorted. "I'm not old enough to have a cool car to impress her, and obviously I can't play sports!" He thumped his legs against the floor, the metal of his braces clanging hollowly against the plastic chairs, underlining his point.

Logan felt himself measured and found wanting, and for one of the few times in his remembered life, he cared. He cared what this squirt thought of him, and he wanted to make the kid feel better somehow.

"Yeah," he said finally. "It's hard to talk to the girl you like. Even if you're perfectly healthy and normal-looking. I get that.

"But if you really like her, you've gotta tell her. Because what if she likes you back and you never say anything? Then you're both unhappy. And that's not good."

"Is that how you got your girlfriend?"

"Uh--" This was not the time to explain fight groupies and one-night stands to the boy. "I--" He thought about Rogue and all the obstacles in the way of his ever being with her, starting with his own reluctance to admit that that's what he wanted. "No. I don't have a girlfriend right now."

Another snort and eye-roll from Ray. "See? If you're too scared to tell a girl you like her, what chance to I have?"

"Hey, I didn't say I was scared--"

"Well, you like the girl, right? You said you did. But she's not your girlfriend 'cause you're too scared to ask her out." The kid raised his chin, daring Logan to argue with him, but he couldn't, because he realized the kid was right. He had finally found someone that meant a lot to him -- who could mean everything -- and he was so scared of screwing it up that he'd been ignoring it.

He'd never believed in that "brothers under the skin" crap that both Xavier and Magneto peddled, but suddenly it seemed to make sense. Human, mutant, teenager, adult -- all men trembled in the face of love.

His mouth quirked in a half-grin. "I've got an idea. What do you say we make a deal? I'll talk to my girl if you talk to yours."

Ray's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "How will you know if I talk to her?"

Logan kept his face blank. "Superpowers, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. Right. But how will I know if you talk to your girl?"

Logan bit back a low growl of frustration. Damn kids always had an answer for everything. "You're here a lot, right? Pretty regularly?" Ray nodded. "I'll come back and see you. We can, uh, compare notes."

"Promise?"

Logan hesitated. He was a man of his word, but he gave it rarely and only when it really mattered. He recalled the last promise he'd made, the last time someone had asked him to promise, and how it had changed his life.

So, he looked at Ray and saw him looking like a kid, instead of the little, bitter, old man he'd resembled at the beginning of the conversation; saw the hope shining in his eyes, and said, "Promise."

Ray held out a hand and he shook it.

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, and then a woman who had to be the boy's mother came through the double doors. Logan could tell she was about to launch into a fearsome scold (he might have lost his memory, but some things are ingrained so deep they're recognizable even to the blind), so he stood and said, "You've got a fine boy there, ma'am." He felt big and dumb and awkward, but held himself loosely.

She blinked, her attention drawn away from Ray, who exhaled in relief. Again, he felt himself being weighed and measured. 'Thank you, Mr.--"

"Logan," he supplied. "Yeah, Ray's got a good arm on him. When he finally gets out of those braces, I bet he'll be a great ballplayer." He forced himself not to fidget under the woman's steady regard.

After a tense moment (in which she no doubt decided he wasn't a child molester, Logan thought grimly), affection won out over suspicion and she said, "He's a fine boy."

"Mom!"

"Let's go, Raymond."

"When do we have to come back?"

Logan hid a smile at the boy's apparently guileless question. He was a wily one, no doubt about it.

"Dr. Martin wants to see you next Tuesday," she said as she bent and picked up the crutches, which had lain on the floor of the hallway since he'd chucked them there earlier. Ray took them stoically, shot a wink in Logan's direction, and followed his mother down the hall.

About five minutes later, Rogue and Jean came through the doors. Neither looked happy, but he could sense Rogue's relief that the whole ordeal was over. Or he was just attributing his own relief to her, since he felt himself relax slightly now that she was in his sight again.

He slipped an arm around Rogue's shoulders and looked at Jean, one eyebrow raised in question.

"We have to wait for the results," she said. He noticed she looked almost as tired as Rogue did. He decided he didn't really want to know what the test entailed, glad he hadn't paid attention the first time Jean had explained it, back at the mansion. "It'll be a couple of days."

"Oh."

"Yeah," Rogue said, looking up at him with a smile. "Thanks again for coming. It really means a lot. I know how much you hate hospitals."

"Hey, anything for my girl, right?" he said, squeezing her shoulder and holding his breath. It was the first time he'd referred to her like that out loud.

Jean glanced at them and then increased her pace, smiling as she led them through the hallways.

Logan exhaled and took a deep breath. "Why don't we go out to eat tonight? Just you and me?"

Marie's smile lit the place up, causing his heart to do a little flip. "That'd be nice," she allowed.

"Yeah. There's some things I think we should talk about."

She leaned her head against his shoulder and he relaxed a bit more. Maybe this would be easier than he thought. He'd been weighed and measured, he thought, and finally lived up to someone's expectations of him. To Marie's expectations of him, which really, were all that mattered to him.

A week later, on Tuesday, he sat in that same hallway, trying to look inconspicuous as he waited for Ray to arrive. He'd almost given up when the double doors flew open and Ray came limping out. He raised an eyebrow and the boy smiled.

"She likes me," Ray crowed, darting a glance over his shoulder.

Logan grinned. "She likes me," he said.

They shared a conspiratorial look, and went their separate ways.

End


victoria

Fake Swami: "You're deeply ambivalent." Angel: "Yeah, well, I am and I'm not." Angel

The Muse's Fool - http://www.unfitforsociety.net/musesfool Unfit for Society - http://www.unfitforsociety.net


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