The Seventeenth of Tammuz

DISCLAIMER: Nothing is mine. Belong to Marvel. I don't make any money from this.

ARCHIVE: Yes to those who have my last story. Others please ask.

FEEDBACK: Certainly. But please keep in mind this takes place in the Azniverse, so anything that flies in the face of what you consider to be canon is simply my own personal preference. Examples include Logan's height and Remy's empathy powers. Flaming me about that sort of thing is a waste of time.

WARNINGS: Makes reference to character death.

THANKS: To Blu and Cass and Wren for the quick beta reads.

NOTE: In Judaism, the 17th of Tammuz is a day of fasting commemorating the fall of Jerusalem, prior to the destruction of the Holy Temple. It marks the beginning of a national period of mourning.

You walk out onto the porch and tip yourself into a chair, stretch your legs out so you can prop your feet on the small table. Too cold out here, really, but who gives a shit. A little colder and you'd maybe see your breath. After a minute or two you start to wish you hadn't left your boots in the hallway. The scotch is warm though. You fill your glass again and settle the bottle between your legs. Dark clouds float past an absurdly huge white moon, and you drink deep. You light a cigarette and let your head fall back against the back of the chair. You start to shiver and you tell yourself it's from the wind. That's all. Just the wind.


So much blood and screaming. Your own horrified cries coming fast on the heels of that final, gut-wrenching thud. A sob, someone shouting the word "no" over and over again, the sound of vomiting, moans of pain, a howl of rage, and yet more blood. More blood than a human body should conceivably hold. A lazy red river winding through the twisted metal and broken glass, creeping toward the toe of your boot.


You abandon the glass in favor of drinking straight from the bottle. You need an ashtray anyway. Tiny hiss when you drop the butt into the shallow puddle at the bottom of the glass. This is the last bottle in the cabinet. This is the second one you've had all to yourself this week.

It's only been a week.

It seems like it's been this way forever.


It's one thing to know the risks.

It's another to take them.

It's one thing to be aware of the possible consequences.

Another to actually suffer them.

There's plenty of suffering to go around. Always has been.

Death has come to call on the X-Men, and this time He was greedy.


It's the sound of the lighter that gets your attention. You have no idea how long he's been there. You open your eyes, lift your head in time to see the distinctive shape of his hair silhouetted in orange- yellow as he lights the cigar. The back of his shaggy head is the same deep black as his T-shirt, a thin line of dark skin at the nape of his neck the only indication of where he ends and clothing begins.

The satisfying snap of the lighter closing. A Zippo. You gave it to him for Christmas one year, the first Christmas after he'd gotten the adamantium back. When he was human again and back home. Handed it to him, unwrapped, in the foyer. He'd nodded, said a gruff thanks, but his fingers had gripped it tightly and the gratitude had flowed from him like honey. Such a small gift, but one an animal would have no use for. He's never forgotten, you know that for certain. He refills it, changes the flint, oils the hinge. It sits on his bedside table, next to his wallet, when it isn't nestled in his pocket. He never lets Bobby touch it, ever.


The mansion's been quiet the past few days. Big and quiet. It's so big. You never noticed how big and dark and still it is, even at mid- day. Hank is here, tending to the wounded in the MedLab. Bobby tries to help him, brings him food. Puts his arm around him when it gets to be too much.

You've never seen Hank look so helpless and so angry with himself.


He doesn't say anything for a long time, just looks out over the lawn and works at his cigar. The smoke curls around his head, wanders off into the darkness. It smells good. Smells normal. His back is ramrod straight, his booted feet planted solidly on the bricks. His left hand is thrust deeply into his hip pocket, and when he sways slightly in the night air you imagine you can hear the skin of his inner forearm rubbing against the smooth leather of his belt.

He probably can.


Scott was still in a coma when Jean was buried, but he knew she was gone before he was even fully conscious. He came back to this world screaming that she was dead and his head was empty and he wanted to die. He screamed until something in his throat broke and then he curled on his side and sobbed.

Somehow, his sobs had still sounded like screams.

Logan, driven from the house by the unsettling sound of Scott's grief, calmly and methodically destroyed the gazebo.

You've been waiting for him to flee this place, to run away and lose himself in the rugged wilderness or the grimy streets of some hellhole city. In the thrill of a hunt, the heat of a fight, the flesh of a woman. But he stays. Part of him can't go when the team is weakened like this. Part of him can barely stand to be here another minute. Part of him isn't ready to leave the ground where Jean lies buried. Part of him can't bear to be here while she rots.


"How's the arm?"  He doesn't turn around. His voice is like tumbling gravel, and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention.

"Good. Better."  You raise the bottle to your mouth as proof, swallow big.

He nods, flicks what's left of his cigar out onto the lawn. He heals quickly, is seemingly unafraid of any physical injury, yet he is always the first to show concern for anyone else's wounds. A cynical part of you says it's because of the team, because he wants to be aware of potential weakness. A different part of you knows that's not the only reason.

This is killing him, you know. As surely as it killed Jean and Ororo and Kurt. More slowly, sure. It might take years, but it will kill him from the inside out.

He feels a strong sense of responsibility, for each and every person on the team. Just like Scott. More than Scott, if that's possible. He's indestructible. He throws himself between his teammates and danger as if it were nothing. Takes the risks, suffers the damage, heals the wounds, does it all over again. He thinks he should have done more, tried harder, taken more punishment.

It wouldn't have mattered. There were too many of them and they were too fast and too strong and too smart. Truth be told, it was a minor miracle there were only three casualties. Four, if you count Scott, who will never be the same again. Still, it's a miracle.

But no one tries to comfort Logan with that information. He'll never accept that, because he hates admitting there's nothing he can do. It makes him crazy. He's hanging by his fingernails right now, and everyone will do what little they can to help him hold on.


You screw the cap on tight and swing the bottle to get his attention. He turns and holds out a hand, catches it deftly by the neck when you toss it his way. His eyes fall on you briefly as he drinks, and suddenly you are sure that he's tasting you on the bottle, mixed in with the whiskey and the glass.

Something in that look tells you he likes it.

He replaces the cap and leans back against the low wall, crosses his ankles and tosses the bottle back and forth in his hands. He's not one for restless movement, so that means he's got something going on inside. He wants to talk.

And he does. He stands in front of you and smokes another cigar and finishes the bottle and talks about the loose tile behind the sink in the kitchen and the cracked window in the garage and the empty spot in the fridge where the orange juice should go. Things people wouldn't think he'd care about, but he does. Always has. Notices everything and fixes it if he can.

You wonder if he can fix you.


You, Logan and Bishop dug the graves.

Your arm was barely usable and it was agony, every second of it, but there was no way you'd ever complain, because Bobby and Hank were on coffin detail and you wanted no part of that. Never wanted to see Ororo like that. Her face. It was in your nightmares every night, her face.

She was your best friend, the only best friend you'd ever had in your life.

You were stunned to realize you'd never mentioned that to her.

You miss her so much you don't know how it will ever stop.


Logan's gone silent and your cigarette pack is empty and you can't feel your toes anymore. You stand up and try to take a step, but your feet are like blocks of lead and you lurch to your right at an alarming angle. A strong hand latches onto your arm, holds you upright while you get your balance back.

You get your balance back.

The hand doesn't let go.

He's in front of you. Got there in that eerie-quick way of his that you've always been a little jealous of. He's looking at you, holding onto your arm. So intense. So close. So warm. Heat radiates from him, soaking into your bones, making you feel lazy and light like the whiskey never could. You feel yourself sway toward him and you're not really sure if his hand is following the motion or causing it.

You in your socks, him in his boots, almost the same exact height. His eyes search yours and breathing becomes an impossible puzzle, a series of actions too complicated to perform. His brow wrinkles and you watch with reverence as his mouth opens slightly and his tongue curls across his lower lip. It's an expression you've rarely seen on this man: uncertainty.

You can feel his breath on your face, hot and cigar-sweet. His grip on your arm tightens, then relaxes, and he starts to take a step back. You take a step too, but forward, towards him. You can't help it, you're reading him before you even think about it. He's roiling inside, twisting in a mixture of want and pain and fear and hunger and desperation.

Or is that you?

His hand pulls you closer, no mistaking it this time, and all you can think about is what it would feel like to be kissed by this man. To be taken by this man. To be owned by this man. It doesn't even scare you that if he does the first two, the third is a certainty.

He lifts his chin and parts his lips and begins to lean in, plowing through those few endless inches that separate his mouth from yours. Your eyes are just slipping shut when suddenly his head whips to the side, all attention focused not on you but on the double doors to your left. His hand falls away from your arm and you take a step back that feels more like you're being pushed as he glances at you briefly before he turns on his heel and walks away.

He meets Hank at the doors, nods curtly in response to the request for a few minutes of his time. He doesn't look back as he disappears into the flat darkness of the house, but he's broadcasting what he's feeling, sharp and strong and loud.


For what did happen or what didn't?


You collect yourself and then you collect the glass and the bottle. Wander inside. Your body hums in the sudden warmth of the house, the numbness in your extremities an amusing contrast to the clarity in your mind. The stairs are a challenge for your frozen toes, but you've negotiated them under worse conditions.

You leave your door open. He doesn't have to come upstairs when he's done in the lab. He doesn't have to pass your room to get to his.

But he will.

All references to characters belonging to the X-Men Universe are (c) and TM the Marvel Comics Group, 20th Century Fox and all related entities. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication or distribution of these materials in any form is expressly prohibited. No money is being made from this archive. All images are also (c) and TM the Marvel Comics Group, 20th Century Fox and all related entities; they are not mine. This website, its operators and any content used on this site relating to the X-Men are not authorized by Marvel, Fox, etc. I am not, nor do I claim to be affiliated with any of these entities in any way.