Male and female, they were created... takes place after the movie where Logan goes back up north for clues to his lost past. He finds a woman looking for the same thing. This is the first story in the "Tigress" trilogy and is rated R for some adult content.

The world of Logan and the X-Men are the property of Marvel Comics and 20th Century Fox. The rest of the characters and I were just visiting for fun and not profit.

Logan shook the snow out of his hair as he entered the bar- not the same one he had met Rogue in- but similar to it as a lot of them were in the Canadian Rockies. He was in the area of Alkali Lake where Professor Xavier had located an abandoned military compound. It might hold the key to his past, but it was getting too dark to go on. A beer and a hot meal sounded good and he was hoping someone could direct him to a cheap place to stay for the night. He almost wished he still had his beater camper, but it had exploded in the accident after he picked up Rogue.

Rogue... Marie was so much prettier. Marie had been the catalyst that had ultimately lead them to Professor Charles Xavier's school and the "X-Men". He idly wondered what she was doing now when he saw her sitting there with her back to the door. He couldn't believe it: same mass of lovely long dark hair shining under the bar lights, same tight jeans perched on the stool, and the same huddled look of someone out of their element. Damn, what the hell was wrong with her following him up here like that? He promised he would be back. She should have stayed put at that school where she belonged.

Annoyance turned to anger as he strode up to the bar right behind her. "Hey, kid, what the hell are you-" he realized his mistake when he got close enough to smell her entirely different scent. He apologized as he backed off. "Sorry, thought you were someone else."

No response.

She kept her head down over her beer so that her hair falling forward veiled most of her face. Logan regarded her briefly then shrugged as he took a stool several spaces down from her. He got the sense that she was acutely aware of everything around her, but was obviously keeping to herself. He could respect that.

He ordered a beer and pulled out a cigar. He was about to light it when he caught another whiff of her natural essence. Very intriguing. He glanced over and saw she had barely touched the bottle so she wouldn't be leaving soon. A slight smile curled his lips as he stashed the stogie away. There was no contest between enjoying a smoke or the sweet smell of a lady's company, however silent.

In the meantime, he studied the surroundings. The place was mostly empty except for an old man sitting in a dark corner, watching them all, and two sleazy scumbags at the other end of bar. He noticed how the bartender would glance at the old man occasionally, but made no move to serve him. The scumbags were openly eyeing the lady. Focusing his hearing on them, he caught part of their whispers.

"See? Even that stranger didn't get any where with her. I'm telling ya, cold as ice."

"Well, that's gonna change once we get her outside..."

"Not a chance, bub," Logan snorted under his breath, "hope you can handle rejection."

Suddenly, she lifted the bottle, threw back her head and downed the contents in one swallow.

Curious, Logan couldn't help but look as her hair fell back from her face. The porcelain complexion common to the north was flawless, but her eyes were a nondescript hazel that could be dazzling with a bit of makeup. She wasn't what you would call "gorgeous", or even "pretty". She had what he thought of as a intriguing, striking beauty that could grow on you given half the chance to know her. She slid off the barstool, briefly facing him and he appraised how well she filled out the wool sweater before she zipped up the parka. That kind of figure would greatly grow on you real quick.

She walked out without acknowledging anyone.

Over his shoulder, he watched her walk out with the confidence of a woman traveling alone who could take care of herself. He sighed as turned back to the bar and took another swig of beer. Now he wished she had said something to start a conversation. He hadn't meant his statement of mistaken identity to be a line, but he could easily have turned it into one.

The scumbags were up as well and he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. The smarter looking one was pointing towards the front entrance and the back door, and then brought his fingers together in a wide circle. The other one nodded eagerly and they split up.

"Damn..." he hissed as he hastily fished money out of his pocket and threw it on the bar. He didn't care whether she could take care of herself or not- no one should be ambushed like that. He headed for the back door, ready for a fight.

He stepped out quietly, hoping to sneak up on them sneaking up on her. It was already dark out, but he could see tracks in the dim light of the bulb over the door. He eased up to the corner and heard the thud of someone being shoved against the building and the unmistakable snikt of a blade being extracted. He whipped around to the side, and then froze solid in his tracks.

The smarter one was already down and out cold while she had the other one up against the wall with a blade at his throat. Logan gasped, trying to get his mind around what he was seeing: she wasn't holding a knife. Under the stark light of the building, he could clearly see her fist clenched underneath it. The blade was between her knuckles. It occurred to him that she might be gripping something like brass knuckles with a spike on top it, but she heard him and as she turned his way, the blade undeniably disappeared into her hand. She finished the guy off with hard right to the jaw- and Logan swore he heard bone breaking from the strength of it- and took off at a dead run.

Her form fading into the darkness shook him into action and he bolted after her. Coming around the front, he saw her dash for one of the few all-terrain trucks in the lot. "Wait! Stop!" he shouted into the falling snow.

He picked up speed as she fumbled with the keys. Frustrated, she raised a fist to break the glass when he caught her wrist in the air. "I saw that, lady! I saw your hand!"

"You saw what!" she snarled as she spun around. He sidestepped her swing while maintaining an iron grip on her wrist and she lost her footing in the snow. Taking advantage of her lost balance, he hauled her over closer to the electric post. He forced her fist up into the light, being careful to keep it pointed away from him. The light illuminated three neat slits between her knuckles. He glared at the glove too shaken to speak.

"You saw nothing, let me go," she demanded in a hushed husky voice. She regained her footing and tried to pull away, but he gripped her even harder.

"No, I saw something all right. I know what I saw. I saw this." He brought up his other hand in front of her face. He wasn't wearing gloves so she could see his bare knuckles. He made a fist and popped his claws out. She recoiled back in shock and he let her go. Slowly, she reached out, grabbed his wrist and turned his hand in the light. He retracted them and she saw how the split skin healed instantly.

"Oh my God..." she whipped her gloves off and popped the claws out of both hands for him to see. "How? I- I thought I was the only one. Who the hell are you?"

"Logan. Who the hell are you?"

"Loreli. I can't believe..." she lapsed into stunned silence as they stood there staring at each other's hands.

Suddenly, the door of the bar banged open. They retracted their claws automatically before anyone else could see them.

"I'm closing up." They stood there awkwardly as the bartender gave them the once over. "You folks plan on moving it along off my property soon?" He eyed them suspiciously as he rattled his keys with impatience.

Logan smiled obligingly and waved him on, but the owner wouldn't budge until they were on their way. "Where can I find you?" he anxiously asked her.

"Is that your bike?" He nodded. "Then follow me."

They talked while Logan started a fire and Loreli warmed up some stew. Her one bedroom cabin was simple but cozy. He didn't know whether it was finding someone else like him or the warm, serene surroundings nestled in the mountains, but he felt right at home. He told her how the Professor had directed him to the area as she placed two heaping bowls on the little table. He sat down as she poured out two steaming mugs of coffee and joined him.

"I've already been there. It's nothing more then a some stripped down buildings with no trace of who had been there- big waste of time."

He studied the bowl, disappointed. He was hoping she would take them there, but it sounded like she didn't want to go.

"Is something wrong? Oh, I should have asked you if you liked venison. Here, let me get you something else." She reached for the bowl, but he blocked her hand.

"No, no, this is fine, I'm sorry. I was just hoping- I guess I'd still like see it for myself."

"Oh sure, I understand. We'll go there first thing tomorrow. I heard there were tunnels running under it, but I didn't look. I figured they were abandoned, but maybe we'll find something in them."

"Maybe," he nodded in agreement and took a bite of the stew. It was actually as good as it smelled and he started bulking it down without stopping.

"You know, most people like to savor some of the flavor instead of just sucking it all down."

He liked how her throaty, Lauren Bacall-ish voice made everything sound seductive, but that wasn't the kind of attention he wanted to attract. Embarrassed, he looked up sheepishly, grabbed a napkin and wiped his mouth. "I guess I didn't realize how hungry I was until I started eating. I was going to get something at the bar, but this is very good."

"I'm glad you like it." Her smile was warm in the glow of the firelight. Either the bar lights didn't do her justice or she was growing on him. "Besides, it would have been a fate worse then death to eat at Dudley's."

"So what were you doing in dump like that?"

"Actually, I was hoping to find the old man who owns it- that was Dudley junior there. I heard he's lived around here for a long time and I was hoping he'd know the history of the compound."

"The old man at the bar?"

"What, where?"

"You didn't notice him sitting alone in the dark?"

"Damn, I didn't see him. Maybe, we'll have to find him later. I was also going to check with the military and see if they have a record of who was stationed there. I think the military is the best bet."

"Why is that?"

She got up and retrieved something from the mantel place. She dangled a chain in front of him with a dog tag hanging from it. She dropped it into his open palm and sat down again. It looked exactly like his with a series of numbers stamped into it above a single name. "Tigress?"

She turned up her hands questioningly and shrugged. "I know it's odd, but I have no clue about it other then it was around my neck when they found me. I assume it's mine, I guess it fits with the claws and all like some sort of code name. It's weird, but it's obviously military."

"I have one just like it. "

"You're kidding."

"No, it-" he reached up to his neck and then remembered he had given it to Marie as a keepsake. "Um, I left it back there, but mine says "Wolverine".

"Ooooo animalistic," she breathed in a sultry whisper as she leaned over the table closer to him. Her voice dropped even lower, arousing him.

He leaned over to meet her. "So I've been told," he whispered back.

"Is that before or after you leave them begging for more?"

"That's getting personal."

"And more direct then...what was is it? Oh yes, "sorry, I thought you were someone else," she finished mimicking him, her eyes a twinkling tease. "More stew?"

She gathered up the bowls and stood up. He stood up as well and stepped right into her personal space, so close that he was practically on top of her. She didn't flinch or back away. Was it getting hot in here?

"What about you, Tigress? Are you wild and untamed?" he baited with a sexy smile.

She let the tension build between them for a moment before she ran her tongue over her upper lip. "I don't beg."

With that, she turned away. The smile never left his face as he watched her put the bowls in the sink. Loreli was proving to be more and more irresistible.

"Why don't you put another log on the fire and I'll join you there." She called over her shoulder in a normal, conversational tone. "More coffee?"

"No, thank you. I don't sleep well as it is." He went to the fireplace. She had a comfortable little grouping arranged it front of it with a couch, chair and a big bear rug to complete the picture. He smoothed out the chain on the mantel. Tigress... Wolverine... the military. He wondered what kind of a connection there was as he bent down and proceeded to build up the fire before settling on the couch.

Slouching down into the comfort of the cushions, he imagined himself holed up here every night with her, cuddling by the blaze until she drifted off to sleep. And then, best of all, he would pick her up and carry her into the bedroom. I'd probably sleep better then...

His eyes drifted down to the head of the bear. The rug was laid out in such a way that it faced the door, but it looked like it was sleeping with its eyes and mouth sewn shut. He was surprised it was even there. Most women didn't like having dead things in their houses. "Nice place you got here, bub," he said to it.

A growl grumbled from behind the couch. "Thank you," she answered in a deep bearish voice. Smirking, she came around the couch and sat down facing him. She curled one leg under her with her back against the armrest. "Do you always talk to stuffed animals?"

"Lions, and tigresses, and bears, oh my!"

She laughed and then took a sip of coffee. Peeking at him over the rim of the mug, she asked him why he didn't sleep well. "I had hoped you would be comfortable here."

He sat up straighter and more proper, like a raw ranch hand being invited into the main house for the first time. "Oh, I didn't want to impose, I'm sure I can find a place-"

"Don't be silly, you're staying here. That is, if you want to."

"Oh this is very nice. I couldn't have asked for better accommodations."

"He knows when you're lying," she said, gesturing to the head of the bear.

"Oh, right. Okay, I confess. I'm much more use to Jacuzzis and 24 hour room service. Come on," he rolled his eyes at the obvious, "do I look like that kind of a guy?"

Loreli laughed again and he knew right there and then he was in love with the sound of it. "No, you look like you belong out here in the rugged mountains: big and unconquerable- the mountains, that is. But don't even think of leaving or I'll hunt you down."

"And end up like him?" Logan gestured at the rug and gasped in mock terror.

"Well, I wouldn't skin you or anything- if you behave."

"Fair enough." He looked down at the bear head. "I guess I'm staying, Smokey. I can't argue with a bear and a tigress." He settled back into the couch as though he belonged there.

They watched the flames dance in the hearth in comfortable companionship.

"Do you really think after all this time we'll find anything?" he asked after awhile.

"Well there's two of us now. That's got to mean something, you know? Like two heads are better then one?"

"You don't remember anything?"

She shook her head. "Campers found me in the woods not to far from here- I woke up in the emergency room. I had the tag, but I knew my name was Loreli and that something had been done to me. And I knew how to use the claws."

He sighed, almost relieved. "It's probably just as well. I have nightmares, bits and pieces of things..."

"Ahh, that's why you can't sleep. Tell me about it."

"No, it's bad. Really, really, bad." He turned to see all her attention on him. She waited intently, not wanting to back down from it.

"All right," Logan agreed, taking a deep breath. He turned back to the fire to concentrate. His eyes closed as the images started coming. They were a little clearer now, as though Jean had brought them forward somehow when she read his mind. "They're all in masks, big heavy masks. I can't move...I'm trapped on this table- naked- I think- and they're drawing on my body. It smells like a foundry- the air is stifling. Then I'm in this tank... it's cold and I can't move and it feels like I'm drowning...I'm drowning in this tank under some sort of liquid- it's soooo cold. Then I can hear the torches. Big, heavy gloves come down on me with torches and then pain starts. I'm awake and I can feel everything, but they don't stop. I try to scream, but it doesn't stop. The pain never stops..." he drew in a shuddering breath.

He had broken out in a sweat, suddenly very hot by the fire. He ran the back of his sleeve across his forehead as he opened his eyes and turned to her. She was trembling, clutching the mug so hard her knuckles were white. Her mouth hung open in a silent sob as tears magnified the mortification in her eyes. He moved to her on the couch, got the mug out of her hands, and snatched her up in his arms. She was shaking so hard it felt like the metal in her bones was vibrating and would tear her apart. He held her in as tight as he could.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry..." he murmured. He shouldn't have gone on and on about the details and make her suffer through what had been done to them. Obviously, she had blocked the whole horror out as if it never happened. It was his nightmare; he should have kept it that way.

It took awhile for her to calm down and pull away from him. She ran forceful fingers through her hair to compose herself. "No, I'm glad you told me. I just assumed- I knew the adamantium had been grafted to my entire skeleton, but I just assumed- I thought it had been a surgical procedure. You know, anesthetics, an operating room-"

"It might have been for you. They might have done it differently for you."

She shrugged as she stiffly got up, hugging herself. "Maybe. I'll never know... maybe I don't want to know now."

He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees as he rubbed his knuckles decisively. He was still determined to find the answers. "That's probably best for you. I'm sure I can find the place on my own."

"No, I was kidding. I really do want to know. We'll go first thing tomorrow morning. You look tired." Actually, she was the one who looked exhausted. "Please make yourself comfortable here and help yourself to anything you need."

He stayed on the couch to keep his distance from her. Her body language spoke volumes of being completely withdrawn from him as though he was the one that had done it to her. He felt like saying it wasn't me, I'm just the messenger, but instead he thanked her for her generosity.

"If you'd like a nice hot shower, there's an extra set of towels under the sink."

"Sounds good. You go first."

She shook her head dismissively, even though it was exactly what she needed. "Nah, I'm just going to go right to bed. But please, make yourself at home."

It hurt to see the haunting hint of horror in her eyes as she hugged herself again. He looked away to the woodpile. Why, why, why did he have to tell her so much! "Mind if I keep the fire burning?"

"Not at all. Good night. I hope you sleep okay."

He nodded, not wanting to say anything more. He watched her go to the bedroom and softly close the door behind her without looking back.

The shower was refreshing, but it didn't wash the regret away. Logan slipped his jeans back on and came out to find some blankets and a pillow on the couch. The shirt he had whipped off and tossed in the chair was now neatly folded with his boots adroitly arranged next to it.

The slight smile at the womanly touch turned to dejection as he glanced at the bolted bedroom door, shutting him out. Not that he presumed to think they would have slept together- having just met- but he wanted to make sure Loreli was all right. He heartily hoped the apparent attraction building between them had not been lost. He 'd give anything to know if she was okay and was truly tempted to knock on the door. Obviously, she wanted to be left alone. She knew he was out here and he had to leave it at that.

He sighed as he stepped on to the soft bear rug. Bunching the feathery fur up between his toes, he contemplated the couch. He certainly wasn't going to fit on it unless he slept balled up on his side and he hated that. He preferred being stretched out. He grabbed the bedding and dumped it on the rug away from the head.

"Well, bub, it's just you and me."

He lay down on his stomach with his head turned to the fire. He had just started dozing when he felt furtive footsteps approaching. He looked up to find Loreli standing there wrapped in a blanket, shoulders bare, hair disheveled. The hazel eyes bearing down on him were wild and restless. Delighted, he rolled over on to his back and opened his arms to her. The blanket fell away revealing her fine figure as she came down on top of him.

His tongue was a talented treat that brought her to the edge even before they had gotten his jeans off. It was almost a ritual with him that he loved to do the first time he was with a lady. For him, it established the ground rules that he was not just in it for himself. No matter how feral he felt, he learned along time ago that a feast for one wasn't as satisfying as a scrumptious supper for two. He liked to make sure that he was giving as much as he was getting, if not more.

The delight, however, quickly turned into disappointment soon after. He had been with a variety of women in a lot of different circumstances, but she was coming on too hard and too strong to point of turning him off. His heightened senses amplified everything, making sex doubly delicious, but she was taking all the pleasure out of it with her desperation. She was forcing too much on him like she had to satisfy everything at once- a demand that would never be met. It felt like she was using him to purge the demons out of her... and replace it with something else. He paused as comprehension crystallized in his mind.

She stopped and held her breath, hunting his eyes for acceptance. Even though she didn't directly remember it, she still matched him pain for pain. They were two of a kind and she wanted to be taken to a new level that no one else in the world would ever be able to do, except him.

Now that he got it, he wanted it as much as she did. He would match her, pleasure for pleasure, passion for passion. A flash of understanding passed between them and then he took over.

His control and recovery were mind boggling and the releases were sensually soul shattering. For Logan, the final release was almost cathartic. He had never felt so contented in his entire life. And as she snuggled in his arms, he had never slept so sweetly and soundly. The nightmares never came.

The deserted, desolate compound was on the other side between the lake and the mountain. She drove the truck right on to the frozen water and skillfully sped across it. Logan tried to keep his mind clear of any preconceived notions and be open to any impressions that might come.

The buildings were arranged in a semi-circle and she stopped in the middle of it. He got out of the truck, flexing his hands into fists at his sides, ready to pop his claws out at the slightest provocation. He could sense they were alone, but every fiber in his being was on full alert as though the evil here would suddenly recognize him and take him captive. But he would not go down without a fight.

Loreli met him in front of the truck. She was much more relaxed and still basking in the afterglow from making love all night. With the desperation gone and both parties using heightened senses, it had been sweet, slow and superbly sensual.

She started pointing different things out like a historian conducting a tour. "They're completely cleaned out, but you can tell by the layout inside what they were. The barracks are on this side and the offices and supplies are on that side. You can tell that's the main building in the center here, you know, kind of official looking?"

He nodded staunchly, but she could see fear flickering in his eyes.

"Are you all right? Are you sure want to look around? There really isn't anything here."

"I don't recognize anything," he sighed in frustration. "Nothing looks familiar, but it feels..." he struggled with trying to label the feeling, "...real. It feels bad and it feels like this might have been a real place to me."

She nodded knowingly. "I felt the same way when I first got here, but it ended up not meaning anything to me. It might for you, though. Are you sure you're ready for it?"

"Ready as I'll ever be. Let's start with the official looking place."

As they got closer, Logan darted anxiously ahead with excessive energy. In spite of the ice on the steps, he took them two at a time. A padlock and chain for the door had been broken and tossed aside. "Your doing?" he asked admiringly, pointing to it.

She came beside him and smiled slyly. She put her fist up in front of her face and eyed him over her knuckles. "They do come in handy, don't they?"

He yanked on the handle, but it wouldn't budge. She pointed down at the ice and snow that had built up on the threshold. "They also work on the ice."

They stood clear of each other and popped their claws out at the same time. Logan blinked, trying to clear his eyes of the sight and then burst out in a nervous laugh. It was so strange to face someone else who could do the exact same thing.

She didn't get it but smiled with some consternation at his erratic behavior. This place was spooking him more then either of them had anticipated.

"I'm fine," he stated stoically, knowing what she was thinking.

"Okay..." It didn't take long to slice the ice up until the door opened with a push. She started to go in, but he rudely pulled her back.

"Uh-uh, me first." Indignation ignited on her face and he added a hasty "please". He didn't want her in front of him, blocking his first view of the place. Instinct and first impressions were important if he was going to recall anything.

Loreli stayed at threshold, watching him enter warily and look around. When he finally turned back to her, she saw a flustered, frightened little boy being made to go into the dark basement by him self. She wanted to go hold him, but before she could react, his pent-up energy exploded in frustrated fury.

"Damn it, I don't know!" he howled, looking for something to smash. "I don't know! I don't know if I've been here before!"

She went right up to him with her hands raised like a sparing partner blocking punches. "Go for it!" she snapped. "Give me your best shot."

Without even thinking about it, he let go with a one-two punch into both hands that would have knocked an elephant into the next continent. Adamantium connected with adamantium and easily absorbed the impact. The bruising healed instantly. He gawked at them, and then at her absolutely astounded. He couldn't believe what he had just done, that she had let him do it, and how good it felt.

"Feel better?" Loreli asked. He nodded, taking a deep breath.

"May I suggest something?" He nodded again, cracking his neck. "I think you built up way too much expectations for this place and expected to find everything here and now. But there's nothing here. We need to find answers some place else like government records, lists of military installations, talk to people about the history of this place, you know? That sort of stuff. And then maybe it will all make sense- it will all fit together and we'll find out what really went down with us."

He smiled ruefully, rubbing his knuckles. "You're right. I wanted instant answers because it's been a long 15 years without them. I can't believe you did that."

"But it felt good, didn't it? I like to smash things too sometimes when I get angry and I figured I made a good punching bag- just don't treat me like one."

"Never! Only the ones who are asking for it."

"Ooookaaay. Anyway, I wanted to know if my skeleton was as strong as yours, or if I had been short changed because I'm a woman."

"Oh my God, lady, you're unbelievable!" He gathered her up into his arms for a big bear hug. "There are probably better ways to find out something like that. What if I had been stronger? Did you even stop to think about that?"

"Well, the thought did cross my mind, but then I figured you would have been free to look around while my battered and broken body healed."

"Unbelievable..." he whispered as he kissed her lightly.

"Speaking of which, do you still want to look around or should we go back to my place for a romp on the rug?"

"Temptation, thy name is Tigress," he sighed as he released her. "But now that I am here, I do want to see it all and then never come back."

"All right," she smiled, taking his hand and guiding him to the first room. "I think this was an officer's lounge, or dining room, because there's a kitchen behind it..."

She finished the tour by going out the back door where the mountain loomed above them. Several warehouses were lined up back here, but the far one looked like it had been built into the side of the mountain. A huge smokestack dominated one side of it. On the other side, they found railroad tracks for rolling mining bins on coming out an industrial size side door and disappearing under two-story tall steel doors built into the side of the mountain.

"It looks like some sort of foundry operation."

"I know..." Logan whispered as that same feeling of evil coming to take him away made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Bad, bad things had happened in the mountain, he was sure of it.

Loreli tried different doors until she found one that wasn't bolted shut. "Logan, come on," she called out to him. "This one's open." She waited by the door as he jogged over so that he could enter first.

Light from the dusty windows revealed what looked like some sort of smelting laboratory. The more they looked around, the more the color drained from his face.

"Does this look familiar?" she asked quietly.

"It's a bad place..."

"An expensive place."

"What?" Logan asked totally thrown by the comment.

"Like an expensive operation, you know? Even for the military. What I don't understand is why they haven't come after us. You know? Fusing all that rare metal into us- you'd think we'd be worth big bucks. The claws are a sophisticated design with the muscle control behind it. There must have been a purpose to it all, so who could afford to let us go?"

He shook his head and shrugged. He had no answer for that.

Logan led the way towards the back where it got darker past the last of the windows. He stopped and peered into the blackness. "Flashlight?" She pulled the flashlight out of one of the deep pockets of her parka and handed it to him over his shoulder.

The light shown on room-sized steel doors that matched the ones outside. A padlocked chain secured the door. He popped the claws out of his other hand. One swipe shredded the links. He pulled the rest through the handles and tossed it aside. He opened one of the doors. Dusty, damp and bitingly cold air rushed past them.

The flashlight wasn't bright enough to illuminate the whole area, but it sounded like they were in a colossal cavern or a big, round room like Cerebro. They could make out some sort of darker ring in the center with something suspended above it.

Turning back to the entrance, they could see different sized openings cut into the stone walls circling off into the darkness on each side. Some of them had padlocked doors while the others had open archways that probably led into tunnels. Loreli shivered in her parka while Logan wiped the sweat from his brow. He knew it was cold, but there was a stifling feeling about the place.

He guided them up to the ring, which turned out to be a wooden railing around an immense shaft at least 12 feet in diameter. The dark shape above it was a crane and a pulley presumably to haul up whatever was mined below. He shined his flashlight down into it. The first few feet below the ledge were smooth, but beyond that, it was rocky. He fished in his pockets for a lighter and tossed it down into the center of the shaft. They watched it fall past the limit of the light and listened. Nothing.

"Bottomless," he whispered.

"Or," she said in a normal voice, "the lighter might have been too small to make a sound when it hit the bottom."

"Either way, I bet it's a long, long, long way down." He turned away and shined the flashlight on the nearest door when she grabbed his arm.

"Wait! Look."

"What?" He shined the flashlight to where she was pointing down into the shaft.

"See it down on that ledge? That glint of silver? It looks like a chain with a tag on it." She surprised him by snatching the flashlight out of his hand and dashing away.

"Hey, watch it! You could have just asked for it." He grabbed the railing for balance. It wobbled under his weight. He thumped it with his fist. The rotted wood shook in response.

"Come on, " she urged him from across the ring. He looked up. The silver sparkled directly below her on the other side.

"Loreli, wait. The railing-"

She didn't hear him; she was too caught up in her discovery. "It is a chain! And there's a tag on it!"

Her excitement echoed off the stone walls all around him. His heart started pounding in his chest.

"Come on, it's not too far down." She bent way over railing for a closer look. "It's got a name on it! I can see some of the letters. S-A-B- damn, I can't see the rest of it."

This was a bad place. The evil started closing in on him and he couldn't catch his breath.

"I bet I could climb down and get it." She put the flashlight in her mouth and swung one leg over the rail. She was about to swing the other leg over when he screamed for her to stop.

Startled, she froze with her entire weight on the wood. It wobbled under her. She tried to swing back over and get a foot on the ground, shifting her center of gravity.

They both heard the snap. It shattered the silence like a shotgun. The railing broke, pitching her into the shaft. The flashlight flew from her mouth and smashed against the side, plunging the place into darkness. The last thing he heard was the snikt of her blades, but she was too far out in the air to snag the stone with her claws.

"Loreli, are you all right?" he called out as he dropped down on all fours. He felt his way to the edge of the shaft under the rail. The absolute blackness was blinding, the stillness deafening. "Loreli, answer me, damn it! Are you all right? I can climb down and get you, but I can't see. Say something to guide me. Say something, damn it! Say something!" he shouted louder and louder, trying to block out his own voice in his head, I bet it's a long, long, long way down...

Ultimately, the evil gave away to exhaustion and he stretched out on his stomach with his ear as close to the edge as possible. Maybe she was just unconscious now, but the healing factor would kick in and she would come around and call for him to come down and get her. Well, since she insisted on taking care of herself, maybe she would try to climb up alone, but he would hear that too and help her whether she wanted him to or not. Either way, he wasn't about to let her suffer a single anxious moment that he had abandoned her. No way would ever abandon her. Ever...

He gazed into the empty, emotionless hearth. Even though he hated it, he was curled up on his side on the rug, clutching the bear head to his heart. He was aware of the fluffy fur, but everything else was numb. He didn't remember how he had finally crawled out of the foundry, how he had stumbled to her truck, how he was able to drive and find the way back to the cabin. All he knew was that he was here, just him and the rug. Sometimes his eyes were closed, sometimes they were open. Sometimes it was dark out, sometimes it was light. He was absolutely, completely numb and he didn't care.

Logan, come home...

It started out as a vague whisper in the back of his head, but it gradually got his attention until he finally sat up. He recognized the appealing authority of the Professor bringing clarity back to his consciousness. It was time to leave.

He showered and got ready to go. He stood at the door, taking one last look around. Like him, she had no family or next of kin to notify. He thought of the authorities, but what would he say? The Tigress fell into the pit, never to return. No, that was too, too harsh. Loreli is gone, here's the keys to her place, help yourself. Who's Loreli? Well officer, we don't know that. That's why we were searching for answers, but she was about this high and fit me perfectly when I held her, and she had claws and a skeleton like mine. Then who are you? Never mind...

Maybe he should leave a note. To whom it may concern, please take good care of this place. It belonged to a very special lady with luscious long dark hair and a low throaty laugh that turned me on as much as any perfume would. PS: Be nice to the rug...

He shook his head sadly and took a deep breath. There was nothing more to do and he didn't know what to say- hell, there was no one to say it to. It was best to just leave everything be. He swallowed hard as his throat tightened up, but he wasn't about to loose it. He wanted to get going and hit the road.

He turned to the door and reached for the knob when he saw something sparkle out of the corner of his eye. Sunlight streamed in from the window on to the mantel and her chain. He stood their transfixed, watching the silver shine on the ledge, as tears started silently down his cheeks.

It was nothing more then a code name stamped with numbers, but it represented her life. It wouldn't mean anything to anyone else, but it meant everything to him. He should take it. It shouldn't end up in the hands of some stranger who wouldn't understand, but silver on ledge had caused her death, and he couldn't bring himself to cross the distance to get it. He had to leave that be as well.

Finally, he turned the knob so that it would lock and stepped out into the crisp, clean air. He closed the door behind him without looking back.


The glass shattered after several hard raps with the cane. A withered old hand reached in and turned the knob with some effort to get the door open. Slow, shuffling steps circled around inside looking for something and finally found it on mantel, right out in the open. With a grunt of satisfaction, the old man pocketed the Tigress chain, confident now that there were no more loose ends threatening to unravel his life.

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