The Heart of a Warrior

Disclaimer: I don't own the X-Men, yada yada yadaδ

"Rogue to Beast, come in!" the intercom screamed as the command center came alive with activity. "Rogue to Beast ‚ come in. This is an emergency!"

"Beast here Rogue, what is your situation?"

"Storm's hurt. . . she's hurt bad. We're comin' in fast ‚ 'bout 5 minutes, meet us at the landin' pad and bring 2 stretchers."

"Two? Who is the other one for?"

"Unknown mutant ‚ a little girl, she was injured with Storm"

"What is the nature of their injuries?"

"A bomb blast ‚ way too close to them. Storm shielded the little girl and paid the price for it. She lost a lotta blood Beast ‚ a lot!"

"I read you Rogue, I'll be waiting for you when you land."

The Blackbird came in 3* minutes later. The hasty and unorthodox landing alerted Beast, Professor Xavier and Jean to the severity of the situation; but nothing could have prepared them for the injuries they saw. The child was awake and in fairly good condition. She was 8 or 9 years old and had several cuts and bruises on her ‚ one being on her forehead, which immediately gave Hank a reason for concern. Other than that and a little dehydration, she looked to be in pretty good condition.

Storm on the other hand, had taken the brunt of the blast - which judging by her injuries was an incendiary bomb. Rogue and Gambit placed the unconscious field commander on her stomach to tend to all her injuries on her back and side. Her injuries were brutal and significant; what remained of her pure white uniform was covered in blood; and scarred tissue showed through everywhere her uniform had been burned away. Beast's hasty preliminary estimate put 3rd degree burns over 25 ‚ 35% of her body. Her loss of blood was also significant ‚ so much so that Beast didn't wait to get her to the med-lab before initiating treatment ‚ he started right there in the Blackbird. He sprayed an organic epoxy over her wounds to help stop the bleeding - something he created a while ago, but was hoping never to get the chance to test. Though his wish hadn't come true, he was glad he had created it as it quickly slowed her bleeding and aided in blood clotting. He then started a blood transfusion and quickly prepared to move her to the med-lab.

The other X-Men wanted to ask Beast how bad her injuries were but knew enough not to interfere with his work. They instead assisted him in moving her and the little girl to the med-lab and assembled outside awaiting word. Hank and Jean worked feverishly to stabilize Storm's vital signs and bandage her injuries. She remained unconscious the entire time, which really worried Beast. Rogue told him she had been unconscious since the blast ‚ which immediately put the fear of a severe concussion or possible brain damage in his mind. As soon as he stabilized her injuries, he wanted to run a CAT scan to see if there was any neural damage.

The awaiting X-Men that had assembled outside the med-lab looked intently at both Jean and Hank to gather any bits of information that would indicate the severity of the situation. Hank kept a straight face the entire time, and although Jean wasn't an MD, she knew the sturdiness in his face wasn't one of optimism ‚ something she unfortunately transmitted to the other X-Men. Beast wasn't one to give up though ‚ if there was a way to save her, he would find it; he was sure of that. . . and so was everyone else.

"What happened out there?" Betsy asked, looking at Rogue and Gambit ‚ the two that accompanied Storm on their mission.

"It was an ambush by the FOH."

"The Friends Of Humanity? I can't believe Storm could have been done in by one of those lame-brained idiots! She's much too smart for that."

"Of course she is!" Rogue snapped ‚ quick to defend Storm. "The FOH has been on a rampage ever since Creed and Senator Kelly were killed ‚ an' they've gotten a lot more support ‚ especially with weapons. They're also a lot more ruthless ‚ using that little girl as bait. No one coulda seen that comin'."

"Could have seen what coming?" Betsy asked.

"De petit. Dey strap a bomb to her and tie her up. . . then dey wait for us t' come save her."

"That's when Storm was injured?"

"Stormy smarter dan dat Betsy!"

"So what happened?"

"We counter 'ttack ‚ Stormy took out de one wit de transmitter an' sent 'im flyin' with one o' her energy blasts. We went after de rest."

"If she took out the transmitter, how did the bomb go off?"

"Like I said ‚ it was an ambush. Storm went after the little girl to disarm the bomb, and had it off o' her in no time flat; but the FOH had a second transmitter ‚ that's what did it. Ah yelled to warn her but it was too late. Ah thought fer sure she was gone ‚ ah don't know how she survived that blast."

"Stormy's a tough one ‚ de man she datin' will tell you dat!"

"Omigosh! Has anyone told Wolverine yet?" Betsy asked, knowing how close they were.

"Wolverine, Bishop and Cyke are still out ‚ they were monitoring Magneto and some of his chronies before we went to Michigan. The last ah heard, they were still somewhere in the Rockies. Remy, could you get a message to him and tell 'em ta haul his hairy hide back here?"

"Sure t'ing Chere ‚ but he not gonna like dis." I t'ink maybe de frans o' humanity piss off de wrong animal dis time."

Gambit went to the Control Room to contact Wolverine while the other X-Men continued to wait. He wasn't looking forward to the conversation. Logan was sometimes known to take on a "shoot the messenger" attitude, and this was the kind of message that tended to get people in trouble.

"Gambit to Wolverine. . . Gambit to Wolverine, come in mon ami." Gambit waited patiently for Wolverine's response; nearly a minute later he got it.

"This ain't the best time Gumbo! Me and the boys are knee deep in the brotherhood; we're dishin out a world o' hurt ta Snaggletooth, Blob and a few other 'less than savory' types!"

"Logan, dis an emergency. You gotta get back t' de mansion right away."

Wolverine responded nearly 2 minutes later. "What's so all fired important that it'd take me away from smackin' down on Sabertooth and Fat-ass?"

"It's Storm, Wolverine. She been hurt ‚ real bad. You gotta get back 'ere fast."

"Storm's been hurt?! How bad?! What happened?!" Gambit could hear the tone in his voice change and knew he had Wolverine's undivided attention. Wolverine was one of the only people that could do that ‚ fight off enemy after enemy while still concentrating on the issue at hand. As the battle continued, Gambit gave him some of the details he had and reiterated the importance of returning to the mansion as soon as possible. Unfortunately his conversation was cut short ‚ interrupted by an all-too-familiar voice on the other end of the intercom.

"Wolverine ma boy! I'm disappointed in ya. You're more worried 'bout yer frail than ya are about me? You should be givin' me yer UNDIVIDED attention." Having similar mutant abilities to Logan, Sabertooth overheard every word of his conversation with Gambit. Unfortunately for him, he picked the wrong time to eavesdrop on a conversation. . . or remind Logan of proper fighting etiquette. If he wanted Wolverine's undivided attention, he was about to get it.

"Pipe down ya egg-suckin' piece o' gutter trash! Didn't anyone ever tell ya that it's rude ta interrupt someone in the middle of a conversation?" he yelled as he gave Sabertooth a blood curdling uppercut followed by a size 10* boot to his right temple ‚ a hit that even Gambit could feel in HIS teeth.

"What did you say Cajun? She was hurt by a bomb? How bad?"

"She got burned pretty bad Logan. Hank and Jean are workin' on her right now, but you bett'r get back 'ere quick."

"You sayin' she ain't gonna make it?"

"Gambit don' know Logan. . . Gambit jez don't know."

Wolverine could tell Gambit was trying to be optimistic, but the fact that he called him "Logan" instead of "Wolverine" told him that he was also trying to be a friend ‚ the kind that no one wanted.

With Sabertooth temporarily subdued, there were only 3 other mutants left to worry about: Blob, Toad and Hairbag. Hairbag was new to Magneto's group. Looking for a change of scenery, he left Sinister a few months prior. Although he now had a new boss, the scenery hadn't changed much. In fact, the view of Bishop's fist bearing down on him convinced him that it hadn't changed at all.

Bishop - not being one to step down from a challenge - had engaged Toad and Hairbag together. Neither presented much of a problem for the futuristic time cop as he toyed with the two of them much like a matador would with a bull.

Cyclops on the other hand wasn't fairing as well. His optical blasts weren't sufficient in neutralizing Blob ‚ in fact, they were entertaining him. Cyclops dodged Blob's clumsy attempts to hit him, but still tussled with finding the right level of energy to subdue the enormous mutant ‚ after all, drilling a hole in him wasn't an option for the upstanding field commander.

"Cyke, quit playin' around with doughboy and get over here. We gotta get back to the mansion. Storm's been hurt."

"Wolverine, I'm a little busy right now, or have you been too busy chit-chatting with Sabertooth to notice?"

"Can it One-Eye. Gambit said Storm was hurt pretty bad and we gotta head back now, so quit playin' and get rid o' doughboy so we can get goin'."

"Well if you care to help. . . perhaps we can get this done a little faster!"

"Two of you?!" The Blob yelled out as Wolverine began his approach. "Makes no matter to me, I'm more man than all of you put together!" he yelled as he turned to face Wolverine and absorb his incoming drop-kick. Wolverine's left foot and leg sank halfway into Blob's stomach before the rubbery mass bounced him out like a giant trampoline. Wolverine slid into the ground doing 3 rolls before coming to rest against a large tree.

"Whoa! Guess I won't be trying that again!" he said to himself as he shook his head and regained his composure. "Well if I can't beat 'em, I'll perforate 'em." He said as he unsheathed his claws and headed back to the now laughing giant. Blob was distracted by Cyclops' optical blast as Wolverine made his second approach. As nimble as he was, Blob didn't see Wolverine until he was almost underneath him. Wolverine speared all 6 claws into the Blob's enormous leg ‚ much to his surprise. Logan was sure this would bring the 8ft. giant tumbling down but much to his surprise, it barely had an effect on him. When he withdrew his claws there was barely a drop of blood on them. With Blob's mutant ability, the punctured skin sealed up like play dough.

"Cripes!" Wolverine yelled. "What the hell does it take to bring this guy down?"

"Hey ‚ what's that behind me? A bug clawin' at my leg?" The towering giant yelled as he turned to get a glimpse of Logan. "You know what I like to do with annoying bugs? I squash 'em!" he yelled as he reared down on Logan. Only Logan's quickness saved him from what was sure to be a humiliating defeat ‚ sending Blob crashing down on nothing. Logan could feel the ground shake as the nearly 1,000lb behemoth hit the ground.

He could see the headlines now ‚ "Crack Kills!" The thought almost made him laugh as he prepared for another strike. He couldn't imagine himself being the butt of the Brotherhood's jokes ‚ literally. With that in mind, he readjusted his strategy yet again.

"Come here little man!" the Blob yelled as he clumsily climbed to his feet.

"That'll be the day!" Logan replied while using the Blob's head as a launching pad to climb over and in front of him. "Well, kickin' and punchin' ain't doin' a thing ta stop ya, so I guess I'll have to try slicin' and dicin'" he yelled as he rubbed his six claws together creating the unmistakable sound of sharp metal against sharp metal.

"We'll see who gets sliced and diced." Blob yelled as he lunged at Wolverine.

"You gotta be kiddin'!" Logan laughed while easily dodging Blob's attempt and diving between his legs, emerging behind him unscathed. It was then that he took a swipe at the Blob's backside, carving out a good 3 or 4 lbs. of flesh.

"Arrrgh!" the Blob yelled as he reached behind himself and felt his backside. Seeing the blood on his hand, he took off running in the opposite direction ‚ nearly trampling Cyclops in the process. It wasn't Wolverine's most impressive victory, but it would suffice.

"Now that I'm through cleanin' up yer mess Cyke, let's get back to the mansion."

"Where's Bishop?" Cyclops asked.

"Right here!" he yelled running back up to the group. Toad and Hairbag won't be giving us any problems for awhile ‚ they're a little tied up at the moment."

"What did you do to them?"

"Never mind that ‚ did I hear something about an emergency back at the mansion?"

"Yeah, get in the Blackbird ‚ Storm's been hurt, we gotta get back to the mansion and check up on her."

The three X-Men loaded up and headed back to Salem Center. The somber mood Wolverine was in prompted Cyclops to expedite their trip. As they lifted off, they all got a bird's eye view of the combat zone. They could see Sabertooth still lying unconscious; a trail of downed trees leading up to Blob ‚ who was still fleeing the scene about a quarter mile ahead - still holding what was left if his ass; and what looked like Hairbag and Toad unconscious and tied to a tree ‚ by Toad's tongue. Bishop truly had a sick and twisted sense of humor ‚ which was often the source of great laughter from some of the other X Men.


As soon as the Blackbird's flight path was programmed into the nav computer, Wolverine contacted Gambit to get an update on Storm's condition. He didn't like what he heard.

"Remy, what's the word on Storm?"

"Beast an' Jean are still workin' on her Logan. Dey haven' come out yet."

"You haven't heard anything new on her condition?"

"Non mon ami ‚ Gambit wish he had better news but he don't."

"We're leavin' now ‚ ETA 2* hours ‚ sooner if Cyke puts the petal to the metal and gets this bucket movin'."

"Wolverine, we're going as fast as we safely can."

"Then let's go as fast as we UNsafely can."

"Let me speak to Scott. . . " Rogue interjected over the comlink.

"Rogue! Any word yet?!" Wolverine yelled ‚ thinking Rogue's entrance may have brought news Remy didn't have.

"No Sugah, no word yet. Beast is doin' his best. . . that's all ah can tell ya. Let me talk to Scott."

"Scott here ‚ what is it Rogue?"

"Scott. . . " she whispered in an attempt to try to prevent Logan from listening in. "Put yer headset on."

Scott did as he was told and put his headset on ‚ cutting off communication between him and the other 2 X-Men.

"You need ta get back here as soon as possible."

Cyclops detected the underlying message in her voice and immediately took action. He pushed the Blackbird's engines to 125% of their recommended thrust. The fact that the Blackbird was rarely pushed beyond 75% made him feel a little better. He'd rather tach out engines in good shape as opposed to engines that were routinely stressed.

Unfortunately for Rogue, her attempt at concealing Storm's condition just agitated Wolverine more. As soon as Scott increased speed, Logan grabbed a second headset.

"What are you sayin' Rogue? Is she dying?!" Wolverine yelled.

"Ah didn't say that!" she yelled back ‚ surprised by his outburst. "Ah just think ya need to get back here quick. She's hurt bad and I know she'd want you here."

"What happened?"

"It's all mah fault Logan. . . ah didn't warn her in time, ah couldn't stop him."

"Whaddya mean ya couldn't stop him? Stop who?"

Rogue started telling Logan, Scott and Bishop the entire story.

"You guys had already left for the Rockies when Jean picked up 3 mutants in trouble on Cerebro: two adults and a little girl located somewhere in Detroit. . . they had been kidnapped by the FOH."

"The FOH! Them slimy lowlifes? What did they do?"

"They were holding 'em hostage in an old abandoned tire factory just outside city limits. We left immediately ta rescue 'em. Ah keep playin' it over and over in mah head ‚ tryin' ta figure out what ah coulda done to prevent it. Ah just wasn't fast enough." She said as she thought back on the night's events:


"Gambit, I need you to go to the roof and enter through an access point. Reconnoiter and report back."

"Sure t'ing Stormy ‚ an' if I run into any rif' raf'?"

"Breakin' inta places and runnin' inta rift raft should be like goin' home to you Swamprat! Ah'd imagine you could handle somethin' like that without too many problems."

"Chere, you talkin' sweet t' me. I t'ink mebbe you gonna miss me up dare."

"Cut the chatter you two ‚ remember why we are here. . . we have to rescue the 3 mutants and get them out of harm's way. . . with as little resistance as possible. Are you ready to go Remy?"

"Whenever you are."

Storm flew Remy to the roof then rejoined me as ah was just about ta enter a door by the receiving dock. We weren't in more than a couple of feet when they jumped us.

"Rogue, look out ‚ it's a trap." She yelled to me as she lit up the room with a lightening bolt ‚showin' off the 7 FOH approaching us.

"These guys want a fight? Well, ah aim ta give 'em one." ah yelled as ah flew at 3 of 'em, knocking 1 to the ground and grabbing the other two by their jackets and depositin' them in a large empty smelting pot. While ah looked for something to properly secure the two in the pot with, Storm went after the remaining 4, disarming all 4 of them as she dodged their firepower. She was good Logan ‚ she knocked all 4 of 'em 3 ways from Sunday before they even realized what was happenin'!

"Rogue, what's the situation?"

"One down, two in the pot ‚ all in all ah'd say things are lookin' pretty good."

"Good, Gambit report in."

"Hold on a sec Stormy, some frans invited Gambit t' a game o' "fi card stud " and I in the middle of dishin' out a royal flush."

"As long as you have everything in hand Remy."

"Got a royal flush in hand and 3 aces up my sleeve. Life don' get much better dan dat."

By the time we finished our scan of the loadin' dock, Gambit was through playin' with the boys up top.

"Stormy, look like it clear sailin' to the 'ssembly line, but dare be lots o' frans dare. Gambit can see the petit, but de two adults nowhere in sight."

"Where is the little girl located?"

"She in de southwest corner, look like she tied to a chair. Hold on a sec, look like dare somet'in tied to her. Lemme get a closer look."

Gambit used his night-vision goggles ta zoom in on what was tied ta the little girl.

"Stormy, you not gonna like dis."

"What is it?"

"Dey got a bomb tied to her. It look like dey can set it off wit a transmitter, but I don' know who holdin' the trigger. It could be anyone of dem. Gimme a minute to find out which one callin' de shots."

Though it seemed like forever, Gambit responded about 3 minutes later. . .

"Stormy, come in. I found de man wit de trigger. He hidin' in de southeast corner. When you come in you and Rogue be in the northeast ‚ about 150 feet away."

"Sugah, there's no way we can get that far without him settin' off that bomb. What are we gonna do?"

"Okay Gambit, we're outside the entrance to the assembly line. They already know we are here, but they it sounds like they don't know about you. The one with the trigger won't set it off until we are in range, and they probably think we are going to head straight for the little girl once we enter. If you have 3 aces up your sleeve, I want you to play them all and take out that transmitter. I'll do the same from my location; but I also want you to come down on top of him. He should be confused enough for us to get to him before he sets off the bomb. Are you clear on what I want you to do?"

"Sure t'ing Storm, you wan' me to take out de transmitter ‚ if Gambit can't do dat, distract him while you take it out."

"That's right ‚ wait for us to enter before you fire. Are you in position?"

"Oui Chere, Gambit in position."

"Good, Rogue - you are pretty good at making an entrance, why don't you lead the way?"

"What do you want me to do once ah'm in there?"

"Well, you have a way with men. . . so have your way with men."

"Sure thing Sugah, but no kissin' before the second date. . . "

Ah went through the door first, making my presence known. . . Storm was right behind me. As soon as we came through, Remy rained down on the one with the transmitter. Storm's plan worked like a charm ‚ he didn't know what to do or who to look at. All he knew was he was in a heap o' trouble. Gambit blasted the transmitter outta his hands and Storm destroyed it. She then took off toward the little girl ta get the bomb offa her while we took care of the rest of the FOH. There were 12 in the room and me and Remy just split 'em right down the middle while Storm did her thing. It didn't take more than a couple minutes.

"Play time over so soon? Gambit jez getting warmed up."

"Heh, looks like we got this situation all wrapped up."
Rogue yelled to Storm. "How are you doin' over there Sugah?"

"I've almost got the bomb off of her ‚ just a few more seconds. . . "

"The only thing that's gonna be wrapped up is your rotting X carcasses in a body bag!"
someone yelled from behind me.

"Who said that?" Ah yelled as ah turned around.

"I did!" said a FOH as he popped out of a metal bin.

There were six more hidden in metal bins. They popped out and caught us all by surprise ‚ especially the one doin' the talkin. It was clear he was the ringleader, but what caught mah attention more than anything was what he had in his hand ‚ another transmitter. Logan, ah tried ta warn her ‚ ah tried ta stop him from setting it off but ah wasn't fast enough. She had just gotten the bomb off the little girl and thrown it when it went off. It was so close to her ‚ ah thought for sure she was dead. Gambit took out the last 6 FOH while ah went ta check on Storm. We grabbed her and the little girl and high-tailed it outta there. Ah'm so sorry Logan ‚ ah'm so sorry...


"Self-pity never got anybody anywhere Rogue ‚ ya did what ya could. . . that's what counts. Do what ya can and let the chips fall. . . don't blame yerself fer where they fall."

"Wolverine's right Chere, you can't blame yourself f'r dis ‚ no more dan you can blame me."

"Thank you Logan, Remy. But it doesn't change anything ‚ she's still laid up in med-lab with a mess of burns on her back and she ain't woke up yet."

"What happened ta the other two mutants?" Logan asked - thinking about the original objective of the mission.

"They didn't make it Logan. The FOH killed them before we got there. They wanted the little girl ‚ they wanted to use her as bait and her parents just got in the way."

"Bait? Whaddya mean?"

"They knew who we were. They even know about our mutant powers. Ah think that's why they were hiding in them metal bins with another transmitter ‚ because they knew we would probably take out the first one before they could detonate the bomb. Ah think the only reason they didn't detonate it while it was still on the little girl was because they wanted more of us ta be around it when it went off."

By the time Rogue finished telling Wolverine what happened in Michigan, the Blackbird was on its final approach to Salem Center. The storm brewing around that particular part of New York was a true indicator of how bad the situation was and all the X-Men knew it. They knew how the weather changed when Storm was in a bad mood or just plain lost control, but being unconscious was uncharted territory for the former weather goddess. If things kept up, the whole state of New York might end up as victims of that FOH attack.

The Blackbird had barely touched down when Wolverine jumped out and headed to the med-lab. He turned the corner just in time to see Beast and Jean exiting and approaching a very anxious crowd of X-Men. Bishop was close behind with Cyclops in a not too distant third ‚ opting to do away with the proper flight shutdown procedures.

"Beast!" Logan yelled before he had a chance to address the group. "How is she?!"

"Logan ‚ I'm glad you're back. Correct me if I'm wrong; your blood type is AB-positive right?"

"Yah ‚ what do you need my blood type for? How is she doing?"

"She lost a lot of blood, and on top of that; the phosphorous burns have made it nearly impossible to recirculate her reserves. I think I may have a bead on the phosphorous contamination, and if so she should be okay with the reserves we have on hand. If not, we'll need to find another source. . . by tomorrow morning; but that's not why I need your blood type. I want to get some plasma from you."


"It really helps 3rd degree burns."

"Do what you have to ta save her Hank ‚ take as much as you need."

"I'm glad you are so willing to donate Logan, the fact that you're AB makes this easier; your plasma can be used in anyone. We can set up a continuous drip, and with your unique regenerative abilities, I'm sure we can take as much as we need without causing any physical harm."

"What if you can't control the phosphorous effects? Can you use my blood?"

"I don't really want to run the risk ‚ mutant blood is so unpredictable. For now, I'll stick with the plasma. It's effects are much more stable and predictable. We'll cross any other bridges when we get to them.

"How is SHE Hank?"

Logan's question prompted raised eyebrows from everyone. Burns and blood loss aside, they wanted to know if she was going to make it and if she would ever be "Storm" again.

"Honestly, I don't know. The blast did a lot of damage and hit some vital organs but there were no significant head injuries, and outside a concussion; everything checks out. She hasn't regained consciousness though, and that worries me. I think the next few days will be the deciding factor in how well she does."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" Betsy asked.

"You can all give another pint of blood. For those of you with matching types, I can use the plasma. For the rest, this just reinforces the idea of keeping a good supply of YOUR blood around for emergencies."

"How's the little girl?" Xavier asked

"TASHA is fine." Beast reported. "Storm protected her from harm quite well."

"Does she have any family we can contact?"

"I don't know ‚ right now she's asleep. We can ask her in the morning after a bath and a good breakfast."

"What if she wakes up tonight?"

"Don't worry about that ‚ I'll be here all night." Hank said ‚ trying to reassure Xavier that the giant blue-haired mutant would be able to comfort her.

"Are you sure?"

"I've battled mutants more powerful than imagination - I'm sure I can handle one little girl ‚ if not, I'll call for backup."

Though nobody wanted to leave, Beast and Jean reassured everyone that there was nothing more they could do. Once she regained consciousness, they could visit and raise her spirits; but for now the only thing they could do was sit and wait. Slowly but surely, they all left ‚ all except Wolverine. Hank immediately prepped him to withdraw plasma. He also asked Remy to bring in a comfortable chair. He had a feeling Logan would be in the med-lab for a long time.

Outside the mansion, the weather remained unpredictable ‚ howling winds one minute, pouring rain the next. The earth truly longed for Storm's presence.


With a large combo pizza and a half-gallon jug of orange juice for nourishment, Hank collected a significant amount of plasma from Wolverine. That didn't stop him from leaving Storm's side though ‚ he sat there all night holding her uninjured left hand and talking to her; taking a break only to relieve himself. As the others filtered in the next morning, He remained ever so vigilant by her side. Unfortunately, nothing had changed ‚ neither that day nor night; except the unpredictable weather.

A little after 11pm, Rogue stopped by to visit.

"Sugah, you okay? Why don't you go get some sleep. Ah'll stay with her tonight and come get you if there's any change."

"That's alright Darlin', I couldn't sleep anyway. Besides, she's close to beatin' this thing ‚ I can feel it."

"She's a tough gal."

"Yeah, and she ain't goin' out by the hand o' no FOH gutter trash."

"Ah know. Damn, ah wish there was somethin' else ah coulda done. If only ah was a little faster."

"Don't go beatin' yerself up over this Rogue. It ain't yer fault, and Storm'll be the first ta tell ya that as soon as she wakes up."

"Thank you Logan ‚ ah just really hate ta see her like this. She's mah best friend. . . been there for me so many times ah can't remember 'em all."

"She's been there for all of us more times than we can remember. That's the way she is."

"The little girl alright?" Logan asked ‚ thinking about the one redeeming quality of Storm's ill-fated mission.

"She's doing fine ‚ considering her world just came crashing down. She's copin' with the loss of her parents as well as she can ‚ been doing a lot of cryin' and sleepin'. Professor Xavier is keepin' a close eye on her."

"Charlie gonna keep her here?"

"Ah don't know ‚ he's havin' a pretty difficult time finding any relatives. The family musta kept to themselves ‚ being mutants and all. Everyone we've contacted has wanted nothing ta do with her."

"What's her name? Tamra?".

"TASHA, Tasha Jordan. Ah can't say ah blame her relatives. . . considering how her parents died, they probably want ta stay as far away from her as possible."

"Figures. . . blood may be thicker than water, but fear and hatred rot clear to the bone." Logan grunted "Why don't you get some rest Darlin' ‚ I'll let YOU know when things change."

"Yeah Shug, it is getting' kinda late. Ah'll check back in the morning. You need anything? A pillow? Blanket? Cup of coffee?"

"That's alright ‚ um fine. G'night."

Hank came in bright and early the next morning to check on Storm. Wolverine greeted him before he was even fully in the door.

"No change Hank. She's still unconscious." he said in a low disappointing voice without turning around to look at the entering physician.

"Logan, have you been here all night? Have you gotten ANY sleep yet?"

"Don't worry about me. Worry about her ‚ SHE'S your patient."

"I worry about ALL of my friends."

"Whatever floats yer boat Hank ‚ whaddya gonna do about Storm?"

"I must admit ‚ I'm at a loss. I wanted to have her in the fluid regeneration tank by now but I was hoping she would be conscious ‚ it makes the transition so much easier."

"Whaddya wanna put her in there fer? She ain't no fish."

"The flu-gen tank has been known to significantly help tissue regeneration. It's had limited success on burn victims, but I believe it WILL help Storm out ‚ at the very least, it will make her more comfortable and the circulating fluid will keep her injuries clean."

"I ain't too good at all that medical mumbo jumbo but if you think it'll help, go for it."

"I'll give her one more day ‚ if she hasn't regained consciousness by tomorrow, I'll prep the tank. I'd also like to get some more plasma from you. We can integrate it right into the tank."

"Hank, I'm really glad you're here takin' care o' her. I don't trust them medicos at the hospital. There's no tellin' what they'd do ta her if they found out she was a mutant. You might be a bit long-winded on yer explanations, but I know you're the best there is."

"Your gratitude and confidence in me is most appreciated my good fellow ‚ especially at this particular juncture in time." Hank replied with a slight smile.

"Heh ‚ that's the first thing you've said that sounds like YOU since all this started."

They both chuckled a bit and the mood in the room lightened for a few seconds. Hank set Logan up for another plasma donation then headed off to the kitchen to get some much needed food for both of them.

Logan stayed with her the rest of the day; leaving only for short periods of time to shower, grab a quick bite, and cut some fresh flowers for Storm. Although the med-lab wasn't the best place for fresh cut flowers, Hank didn't object ‚ opting for anything that might bring Storm out of her unconscious state. By the end of the day, the scent of roses and carnations hung heavy in the room.

The other X-men were quite surprised by Logan's reactions. Half of them expected him to have gone after the FOH in one of his berserker rages ‚ leaving them to clean up the mess and tend to Storm. The other half expected him to roam the halls of Salem Center in a bad mood ‚ which he had done all to often for far less. . . like someone drinking his beer. Nobody expected him to remain constantly by Storm's side; but then none of them really knew him like Storm, and she definitely brought out the best in him.

Logan ‚ WOLVERINE ‚ was a warrior plain and simple and nobody denied that. But the one thing people failed to understand about him or others like him was the driving force behind him. . . the heart of the warrior. It wasn't love of the battle that kept him going. It was the inspiration BEHIND the battle ‚ the love of the WOMAN. The other X-Men were finally starting to realize that and see the true nature of his heart and the immenseness of its depth. Deep in his heart, buried in the very essence of his soul was the core of his being ‚ his love for Storm. . . his motivation; quite possibly his reason for living.

Even Scott was impressed with his dedication. Seeing this new side of Logan gave him a different perspective on their coarse and sometimes down-right nasty friendship. For years, Logan remained a thorn in his side with his constant "attention" to Jean; but it was all starting to fall into place now. The peace Logan so often sought but never found until he started dating Storm, the resentment toward Cyclops for being the one that Jean loved all those years, the unpredictable behavior he always showed, even his berserker rages in a limited sense. . . all linked to his heart; his motivation. . . now his love for Storm. He had a new respect for Logan.

"Hey Cyke ‚ how's it goin?" Logan asked, again opting to keep his attention on Storm as Scott entered the med-lab.

"What? No brash remarks. . . no "Whaddya want One-eye. . . can't ya see she's sleepin'?!" I'm shocked Logan.

"Another time Scott. Right now Storm needs all the encouragement she can get. Pull up a chair and have a sitdown."

"Thank you Logan. I brought you some coffee."

"Thanks. I could use some right now."

"When's the last time you slept?"

"Can-it One-Eye. . . I've already heard it from Hank."

Scott opted not to tell him that THAT was the type of reaction he half expected from him.

"Okay Logan, I understand. The room looks pretty nice. I think Storm will like all the flowers when she wakes up - though she'll probably kick your butt from one end of the rose garden to the other when she finds out where they all came from."

The laugh they shared induced a very pleasant conversation about Storm and how she always managed to brighten up the mansion. They sat and chatted for about a half hour before Scott returned to his ever-vigilant duties of watching over mutant and mutant-related activities from the Control Room.

About an hour after that, Remy walked in.

"Logan, mon ami. Can you step outside f'r a minute? Gambit need t' talk t' you 'bout something tre important.

"Just for a minute Cajun."

The two X-men stepped outside the med-lab and Gambit handed Wolverine something ‚ a small box. . . it even had a ribbon on it.

"What's this? It ain't my birthday. . . but then again, it could be."

"Dat's jez a li'l present from Gambit. I trust you'll know what t' do with it when the time is right."

Logan opened the box and found a wallet.

"Whuzzat? You gave me a wallet? Somebody else's wallet? Storm's laid up in med-lab and you're out stealin' people's wallets?"

"B'cuz you haven't slept in so long, Gambit overlook dat last remark. Dis is a special wallet. It belong to Triggerman. Gambit grab it before we left ‚ figure it might come in handy sometime, no?"

"TRIGGERMAN!" Gambit could see the berserker rage starting to radiate off Wolverine's head ‚ but then he did something that left Gambit completely shocked; he stopped and calmed down. Just as fast as the berserker rage started, Logan put it in check, shook his hand and thanked him.

"Thanks buddy ‚ this'll come in real handy in the near future."

"No problem mon ami ‚ jez one t'ing. . . when you decide to use dat, you tink about takin' Gambit along wit you. Gambit got a score t' settle with dat particular fran."

"No problem Cajun."

"Dis jez one warrior to another. . . we gotta look out for each other."

Though he was a thief by heart, Logan acknowledged Gambit's "warrior" sentiment. He then returned to Storm's side.

As the clock passed 1:30am, Logan's head began to wobble. He hadn't slept in 3 days and was really beginning to feel the effects. His head flopped back and he was jerked awake by the momentum of the swing. Wanting to make sure he hadn't missed anything, he quickly looked at Storm and at the monitors keeping track of her vital signs. . . nothing had changed.

"Jesus Ro. . . "he whispered in a low voice. "Ya gotta come back. It just doesn't work without you."

He held her hand tighter as if he were pleading with her to respond.

"Don't you know what you mean to me? Don't you know what you've done to me and how you've affected my life? You're a part of me now.

Do you remember when we first met. . . I joined the team and most people shunned me because of my animalistic behavior, but not you ‚ you were so willing to look past that and give me a chance. You made me feel welcome.

Heh ‚ I remember all those training sessions we had after you asked me to teach you what I knew about hand-to-hand combat. During that first week you ended up on yer ass so many times I lost count. I told you ta put quarters on the floor every time you ended up on yer backside. By the end o' the week, I had enough ta buy me a CASE o' beer and a mess o' munchies. You were so mad I thought fer sure you were gonna blow me away with one o' yer tornados or sumpn. But you never did, you stuck with it and one day you told me that every time I ended up on MY ass, I would have to put a quarter on the ground. You got so good usin' them damn kendo sticks that I ended up payin' YOU $5. What a hoot that was!

What about the time when I was hidin' in the trees checkin' you out as you went for yer midnight dip in the lake. Every time there was a full moon, there you were ‚ givin' YOUR full moon. I still don't know how you knew I was up there ‚ musta lost my touch or sumpn, but that gust o' wind that knocked me outta that tree came outta nowhere. . . it HAD ta be you. I couldn't look you in the eye for a week ‚ but you never said anything about it. You just snickered, gave me a smile and kept it our lil secret. Even back then I fell hard for you ‚ literally!

God Ro ‚ I really miss you. You remember our first date ‚ that night we went to Paganini's? I remember the look on yer face when I kissed you the first time. You were so surprised. What about that second kiss ‚ the one where you lifted me off the ground. Heh ‚ what is it with you knocking me off my feet? Later on that night when we went on that motorcycle ride, I remember how nervous you were at first; but later on you really got into it and enjoyed yerself ‚ once you dug your nails outta my sides. On the way back, you asked me to teach you to ride. Who woulda thought it. . . you ridin' a Harley? Nobody knows you sometimes take my scoot out late at night for yer own little ride. . . that's still our lil secret.

Hah ‚ I remember that night in San Francisco after the Raiders game; we were havin' drinks at the Hyatt and those guys kept starin' at you. . . couldn't blame 'em fer that though. They came over and one of 'em asked if you wanted ta hang out with some REAL men instead of a shrimp like me. I started to get up and you stopped me and told me you'd handle it. You turned to them and said "Do you want to know what kind of man turns me on? A man that has a 9th degree black-belt in 7 different forms of martial arts, knows his away around high explosives, is an expert in all forms of small arms fire and can hit a bullseye in high wind from 1500 yards out. Can you do that? MY man can! On top of that, he has a quick temper and keeps 6 razor sharp blades on him at all times. I don't think he's the kind of guy you want to piss off ‚ do you?" What a hoot that was ‚ they were back-steppin' so fast they almost tripped over each other!

What is it about you Ro? You always make me feel good. You never look down on me because of my wild side, in fact; you embrace it. Maybe that's why we get along so well ‚ you never try to change me. Ro! You gotta come back to me! I don't know what I'd do without you. I love you so much!" he slowly bent over and kissed her hand in silent remorse.

"And I. . . you. . . " she weakly said. Wolverine's head shot up in attention.

"Ro?! You're awake?! The smile on his face stretched ear to ear as he jumped to his feet ‚ still clutching her hand and looking intently at her.

"Can't sleep. . . " she said in a slightly stronger voice "not with you talking so much." Then she let out a faint smile ‚ just enough to let him know it was a joke.

"I gotta get Hank ‚ I'll be right back!" he yelled as he took off through the corridor.


The thunder outside cracked so loud the walls rattled. If anyone was still asleep, they were either deaf or dead. . . .

"Something must have happened to Storm!" Jean yelled as she sat up in bed.

"What do you mean?" Scott asked, putting his glasses on and focusing his attention on her.

"That thunder ‚ that was no ordinary strike. . . something must have happened. Wait ‚ do you hear something?"

"HAAAAAAAAANK!" Logan yelled running through the halls. "SHE'S AWAKE HANK ‚ GET DOWN TO THE MED-LAB. . . STORM'S AWAKE! HAAAAAANK!!!"

"I think you're right Jean." Scott said with a sarcastic grin.

The thunder, coupled with Wolverine's wake-up call, had every X Man in the mansion running to the med-lab inside 2 minutes. They all crowded around Storm telling her how glad they were she was awake. It wasn't until Hank yelled to get everyone's attention that they finally left and let him examine her.

"My dear, you gave us quite a scare. How do you feel?"

"Like a baked potato. My back feels awful. How bad is it?"

"I won't lie to you Storm, it's pretty bad ‚ 3rd degree burns over 30 ‚ 35% of your back, right arm and leg. But the worst has passed ‚ now that you're awake, we can begin tissue regeneration."

"Bring me a mirror ‚ I want to see for myself."

"Ro, I'm not sure that's such a good idea right now." Logan interrupted ‚ him being the only other X-Man remaining in the room.

"I want to see it!" Her voice was still weak, but her attitude convinced Hank and Logan that it was probably best to do as she said.

Logan grudgingly brought a small mirror to the head of her bed. Lying on her stomach, she could see the damage all the way down her body. She started to cry almost immediately.

"Baby don't cry ‚ it's gonna be alright."

"How can you say that? Look at me ‚ look at my skin! It's all burned away."

"Hank's gonna do everything he can ta fix you up real good ‚ just wait."

"Don't patronize me Logan ‚ I know what happens to burn victims. . . the damage is permanent!"

"No Storm!" Hank interjected. "A lot of work has been done in this area, I think I can help. I may not be able to get it back to normal, but I'm sure something can be done."

"My skin. . . " she sobbed "I'll. . . I'll never. . . " she started crying again, thinking about what her future would now be like. Both men knew what was on her mind. She was never one to worry about her looks; but this went way beyond that. They both knew what it felt like to be different - Hank more so than Wolverine; and neither wished it on another person. To see Storm face this painful future was unbearable for both of them, and it broke Wolverine's heart.

"Ro ‚ you're every bit as beautiful as you were before, and anyone that says any different will have to deal with ME." His statement didn't phase her one bit; but he knew it wouldn't. Kind words rarely helped in situations like this.

"That's enough for now." Hank interrupted. "Storm, I want you to rest up. Tomorrow morning I'd like to put you in the flu-gen chamber and get you started on tissue regeneration."

"The flu-gen chamber has NEVER been that effective on these types of. . . "

"Shhhh. . . " Hank interrupted. "Get some rest ‚ we'll talk about this in the morning. You too Logan ‚ let's leave her alone for now."

Logan stopped Hank outside the med-lab.

"Are you sure it's such a good idea leaving her alone tonight? She ain't too happy right now."

"I understand your concern Logan, but she'll be alright. She just needs some time to adjust to the things that have happened to her. She's a tough woman ‚ she won't do anything. . . crazy. If you're worried though, I'll keep the monitor on her tonight and if for some reason she DOES try anything, I'll know about it."

"If you say so Hank ‚ but you keep a close eye on her." Deep down inside Logan knew Hank was right. Storm needed time to sort through the things that had happened to her and come to terms with her current situation. He also knew she wouldn't do anything to hurt herself ‚ it just wasn't in her. . . no matter what the circumstances were.

With that, they both returned to their rooms and for the first time in 3 days, Logan slept. Although he only slept for a couple hours, it was a much-needed rest. It didn't stop him from getting up and meeting Storm in the med-lab at the crack of dawn though.

She had calmed down quite a bit by the time morning rolled around. Logan was now helping her come to grips with what had happened and had lifted her spirits quite a bit. Seeing all the flowers around the room also helped. It showed her that Logan loved her no matter what. Of course she knew that, but it was always nice to be reminded. Having kept the monitor on, Hank wasn't a bit surprised to see Logan when he walked into the med-lab. He was also very happy to see Storm's change in attitude as it would make the transition to the flu-gen chamber that much easier.

"My stars and garters ‚ what a wonderful morning it has turned out to be."

"Mornin' Hank." Wolverine said.

"Good morning Henry" Storm said ‚ turning her head to see the happy-go-lucky doctor. She tried to wave with her right hand but Hank quickly stopped her, convincing her not to make any movements that might aggravate her injuries.

Hank finalized preparations on the flu-gen chamber as Storm and Wolverine continued their conversation. As the electrical systems on the chamber hummed to life, He turned to her.

"Are you ready to give this a try?"

"I'm not sure. . . but if you think it will help"

"I think there is a good chance it will help. Not only will the chamber keep your injuries clean, it will also induce regeneration and give us a good prognosis on how serious the damage really is. From that point, we can decide the next course to take. Are you ready?"

"I am as ready as I will ever be. How long will I have to remain in there?"

"It's hard to say right now; once you're in there and we start monitoring your progress, we can. . . "

"HOW LONG HANK!" Logan interjected. . . the tone in his voice told him that the next words out of his mouth better involve some sort of time increment."

"I'd like to keep you in there for the next 72 hours. . . minimum. After that, depending on how well you respond. . . anywhere from 8 ‚ 16 hours/day for 6-8 weeks."

"You're kidding right Hank? You wanna keep her in that fishbowl for the next 2 months?"

"Storm," he said, looking directly at her and ignoring Logan for the time being. "your injuries are quite extensive. This is the best course of action I have RIGHT NOW. I'll tell you more once I KNOW more."

"I understand." She said. If there was a better course of action, he would have taken it and they both knew it.

Wolverine and Hank helped her get into the tank. Because of the lengthy period and Storm's history with claustrophobia, Hank suggested sleep induction during the entire time. She was quick to agree.

In her rather exposed state, access to the med-lab was restricted except for emergencies. The only ones allowed in were Hank, Wolverine and Jean. Even Xavier wasn't allowed in to check up on his second-in-command. Though he didn't like it, he agreed to abide by Storm's wishes.


"Okay Storm. . . " Hank said, in a voice that clearly denoted some bad news. "The fluid in the tank is very similar to the amnion you will be breathing. What I want to do is put this helmet on you so you can get in the tank first and get acclimated to it. Once you are comfortable, then we will fill the helmet." The expression on her face wasn't one of pleasure.

"The only difference. . . " he continued "is that the amnion we fill your helmet with has a higher oxygen content. This will speed up the process of getting air into your lungs. At first you will fill the urge to resist it ‚ like you're drowning. Don't worry. . . " she gave a very nervous and abrupt laugh.

"What I mean. . . " he corrected himself "is, you may feel the urge to panic at first, but that will pass."

"Hank, why don't you just put her back to sleep and do it then?" Logan asked.

"That is a LAST resort Logan. It is imperative to introduce her to this while she is conscious ‚ it increases the acclimation exponentially. If I did this while she was asleep, she might go into shock."

"How long will it take my lungs to fill with the amnion?" She asked ‚ thinking about the panic she might experience during the procedure.

"Not long ‚ after you the first breath, anywhere from 15 ‚ 45 seconds. During this period, you won't be able to talk. After it's complete, you MAY be able to say a few words, but not much. This is really important Storm ‚ you're going to have to concentrate your hardest right then and there. If you have a claustrophobic attack, I fear it will be at this particular moment. I'd like Jean to keep a psionic lock on you so we can monitor your stress level. Is that okay?"

"Yes." She said ‚ reluctantly. She hated it when people saw fear on her face. . . which wasn't very often. Reading the thoughts behind that fear was different though ‚ it robbed her of the ability to work through it herself and show the calm demeanor she was known for. Though she rarely had claustrophobic attacks anymore, she still didn't want anyone to know what she felt during them.

Hank went over each detail of the procedure piece by piece to ensure her that it would work. After about 15 minutes, she was finally ready. She donned the helmet and slid into the tank. Hank watched her only for a minute to make sure she was okay with being inside the thick fluid. He and Jean then left her alone with Wolverine for a few minutes. He thought 10 minutes might be a good enough period for her to adjust to the chamber, but didn't want to stand in front of her in her undressed state. When he returned 10 minutes later, he was glad to see that her claustrophobia wasn't giving her a problem. He started preparation to begin the amnion feed to her helmet, and once everything was ready, he asked Storm if she was ready to start.

"As ready as I'll ever be." she replied with an air of concentration. He admired her strength and determination.

Jean got into place and started concentrating on Storm's psyche. Hank turned the pump on and the helmet started filling with fluid. As soon as Storm felt the fluid encircle her neck, her heart started racing. Hank stopped it right away ‚ even before Jean could update him on her condition. He had already taken into consideration the initial shock and wanted to slowly introduce her to the fluid.

"What's wrong Hank ‚ why'd you stop?" Logan asked with a very puzzled look on his face.

"I wanted to give her a chance to get used to the feel of the fluid. That's all."

"I'm okay Henry" she said; with a hint of nervousness in her voice. "Continue." She wasn't one to beat around the bush ‚ she wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.

As the fluid lapped her mouth, her stress level started to rise; but she seemed to be in control. The procedure seemed to take forever ‚ much longer than Logan and Jean expected; but that was something Hank preplanned. His logic behind the lengthy process was to give her as much time as possible to relax and adjust. Jean reported every 5 - 10 seconds that she was dong okay. As the fluid touched the base of her nose, the drowning feeling started to sink in and she started to panic ‚ so much so that it was becoming difficult for her to talk. She nervously spit out the words "Keep going."

Just as it covered her nose and she could no longer breathe normal air, she went into extreme panic. Her first thought was to try to climb out the chamber. She grabbed for the ladder but soon realized it wouldn't do any good. She looked to Hank and Logan for answers but they couldn't give her any. They both yelled into the mic to calm down but it had no effect on her. In her condition, she couldn't have heard anything.

"Hank ‚ you have to stop. She's having a claustrophobic attack. I don't know how much longer she'll remain conscious."

"No!" Logan yelled. "She can beat this ‚ finish it Hank!"

As the fluid started pouring into her mouth and filling her nostrils, she started pounding on the walls of the tank.

"Calm down baby - you can do this!" Logan yelled into the mic. "Hang on a little bit longer!"

With the fluid in her mouth, she couldn't respond; but everyone knew what was on her mind.

"Hank ‚ you have to pull her out NOW!" Jean yelled. "I don't know how much more she can take."

"NO!" Logan yelled back "She'll do it."

The anguish in her face convinced Hank that he should stop the procedure and make a second attempt later. He had never witnessed one of her claustrophobic attacks and it severely frightened him to see her like that. He reached to shut down the pump controls and Logan grabbed his hand.

"LOOK!" he yelled ‚ she's doing it!"

All 3 X-Men looked at her as the familiar motions of breathing started returning to her face. The enriched oxygen mixture had indeed set in ‚ something Hank was very glad of. A couple minutes later she had completely calmed down. She couldn't talk, but the keypad on the inside of the tank allowed her to tell Hank she was okay. Jean agreed.

From that point on it was smooth sailing. Hank started the anesthesia feed and inside 15 minutes, she was out like a light. Just before she faded off to sleep, Logan took the mic and softly whispered "I love you" into it. Her eyes fluttered a bit as she tried to respond, but she fell asleep before she could do so. He knew though. All her vital signs checked out normal and everyone was relieved the procedure was finally over.

"She's a tough one. . . " Hank said as he gave the thumbs up on the scanner results.

"As tough as they come!" Logan replied with a slightly smug smile.

Logan raised a drape over the lower half of the tank ‚ allowing only a view of her shoulders and head, then all 3 left the med-lab.


With Storm now out of immediate danger and asleep for the next 3 days, Wolverine turned his attention to someone else ‚ Triggerman. The way he saw it, someone out there took out 2 mutants and caused Storm ‚ the love of his life ‚ a whole lot of pain. It was time to introduce him to Wolverine's world ‚ a world o' hurt."

By the time he made it to the minijet, he had Triggerman's complete file. A quick call to his friend JOHN WRAITH gave him all the information he needed. Wraith was one of the few people Logan trusted from his past. He had proven himself time and time again to be a good person and friend; especially in combat. Wolverine also felt he owed Wraith something for helping him find the cabin where he buried Silverfox. Wraith was quick to remind him that HE owed Logan a large one for TERRY ADAMS and didn't mind using his vast government resources to help him out. After all, Storm was a friend of his too; and he hated the FOH just as much as Logan.

He was fully versed in Triggerman's file by the time he arrived in Michigan; from his size 14 shoes to his dishonorable discharge from the Marine Corps for fighting with a soldier he suspected of being a mutant. Logan grunted at the dishonorable discharge. "Looks like someone's been rotten to the corps" he said to himself. He was glad to see that the Eagle, Globe and Anchor still meant something to the Marines. "Too bad the rest of the world can't take hint from the Corps" he said, thinking about their time honored tradition of Loyalty, Honor and Integrity.

Logan thought about Gambit's request to come along to settle the score. He would have invited Gambit, but this was personal. Normally he enjoyed having another "warrior" along side ‚ it gave him someone to sit around and drink beer with after the battle - and Gambit was certainly worthy of such activity; but this was different. On a smaller level, he also wanted to protect Gambit from recrimination from the other X-Men; and more specifically, from Storm, Cyclops and Xavier. This wasn't going to be a couple of guys bustin' heads at the local bar; two were going in, but only one was coming out. Actually, if he could get the necessary information from Triggerman, a whole FOH chapter would pay the price.

He landed just outside the city limits in the forest, pulled his scoot out of the cargo bay and headed for the city. Triggerman (Timothy Ray Dalton) worked at Evan's contracting; and if luck was on Logan's side, he'd get there before they shut down for the day. Evans contracting was currently in the middle of renovating a downtown building ‚ a subset of the Renaissance Center that had been damaged during the previous winter when an extreme cold front burst several substandard pipes.

Wolverine arrived at the site a little before 5:30. Fortune was on his side that day as the Renaissance Center was the single most distinguishable building in the entire city. It couldn't have been easier to find Dalton if he had a spotlight on his head. Logan rolled up just in time to see Dalton heading for his truck.

"Triggerman's a big boy ain't he." Logan said to himself as he saw the 6'7, 300+lb. guy get into his truck. Well, the bigger they are the more ass ta kick!"

Logan followed him to a local bar ‚ the Chug-a-lug. He'd have to remember where it was in case he ever came back to Detroit. . . it seemed like a good place to grab a beer and some grub. Being so close to Canada, he could almost smell the familiar territory. Perhaps after Storm was feeling better, he'd take her to his old stomping grounds for some fun and recreation. As he sat down a few tables away from Dalton, his mind quickly refocused on the issue at hand ‚ dispatching Triggerman.

Wolverine observed Dalton for nearly 2 hours ‚ taking note of his mannerisms, the people he spoke to, and the things they talked about ‚ anything and everything that gave him insight into the man. Several FOH members came and went and Logan took note of every single one. He took down whatever information he could get ‚ first names, last names, nicknames. . . business information, sports ‚ everything that gave him a clue to the identities of Dalton's associates. If he couldn't get them all together, he'd hunt them down one by one.

Near the end of the second hour, Logan finally heard what he was waiting for ‚ a FOH meeting the next night at 7:30 in a warehouse on the other side of town. "That's one meeting you won't be attendin' Bub. . . " he said to himself "but I'll be sure ta send your regards." He grumbled as he donned his hat and walked out the bar.

Dalton left the bar nearly an hour later and walked out to his truck.

"Got a light Bub?" Wolverine asked him as he fumbled for his keys.

"Sure!" Dalton said, turning around to meet the short stocky stranger. "Just gimme a sec ta find my. . . "




"Wake up ya low-life piece o' garbage! We got business ta tend to!"

"Wha. . . What the hell?! What'd ya hit me for? Why the hell did you tie me up? Who are you?!"

"Shut it or I'll shut it for ya ‚ um the one askin' the questions here Bub ‚ got it!? So, is this where ya hid?" Logan asked, pointing to a metal bin.

Wolverine's question prompted Dalton to look around the very familiar place ‚ the abandoned tire facility he was in just 4 days prior.

"Untie me you. . . you coward!"

"There'll be plenty o' time fer that." Wolverine said as he crushed his cigar out on Dalton's forehead.

"Aaarrh! That hurt! Untie me and lets see you do that again!"

"That hurt huh? Did it BURN? You ain't FELT pain yet Bub ‚ not like I'm gonna give ya. My girlfriend is sittin' up in a fishbowl with 3rd degree burns over a third of her body because o' you. The way I see it, it's payback time!"

"Is that what this is all about? You one of them mutant lovers?!"


"Um a whole lot more than that!"

"Mutant scum! Garbage! You come to take me out cuz I hurt your little mutant woman? Mutant coward! Why don't you untie me and take me out like a real man!"

"Be careful what ya ask for Bub!" Wolverine yelled as he popped out his other 3 claws and took a swipe at Dalton. "Ya just might get it!" Dalton flinched and covered his face. He let out a yelp in anticipation of Wolverine's attack but was very much surprised when the only thing he felt was the rope being cut from his wrists.

"Oh, so you wanna fight like a REAL man eh shrimp? Well why don't you put them mutant-freak claws away and let's do this!"

"I don't need these claws ta take you down!" he yelled as he retracted them and pointed a recriminating finger at Dalton. "C'mon Triggerman ‚ show me what ya got!"

Dalton stepped toward Logan and swung at him with a left uppercut. Logan easily dodged it and laughed as the large man stumbled to keep his balance. He then took two more swings ‚ both as unimpressive as the first.

"Don't make me laugh Goliath ‚ you got all the grace of a rabid bull rhino."

"Who needs grace when you have STRENGTH?" Dalton yelled as he made several more attempts before stopping to catch his breath.

"What ‚ you tired already? I haven't even stretched yet!" Logan snickered as he yawned and moved in for his first swing. "I thought you were at least gonna get me warmed up for tomorrow night!" He yelled as he connected with Dalton's right cheek, sending him to his knees.

"I'll get you warmed up alright!" Dalton yelled back as he backhanded Wolverine, sending him to the ground. Before Logan could get up, Dalton had already grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and delivered another left hook, sending him sliding across the floor about 8 feet away. Wolverine was quick to react this time, springing to his feet and taking a defensive posture.

"Now you're talkin' my language Bub!" Logan yelled as he wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth. *Man ‚ I felt that one in my FEET! I gotta stop playin' with this chump. He may be slow but he was right about that strength thing.*

"Talkin' your language huh? Well let me introduce you to a few new words from MY language like 'ambulance' and 'intensive care.'" Dalton yelled as he lunged for Wolverine.

"Already heard 'em" Logan yelled back as he countered with a dropkick and an uppercut to the jaw. "They go along with 'rest in peace.'" he added as he drove the point of his elbow into Dalton's back, sending him crashing to the ground.

Dalton was slow to get up; Logan's last 3 hits took a lot out of him. He grunted as he slowly climbed to his knees.

"Get up!" Logan yelled as he delivered a devastating kick to the ribs ‚ one worthy of an NFL kicker. "I ain't threw with you yet!" he added while delivering yet another kick ‚ this one to Dalton's head. Much to Logan's surprise, he was still conscious.

"Damn Goliath! I gotta hand it to ya, you're tougher than I thought!" he said, watching Dalton slowly sit up on his knees. "That's okay though ‚ I got plenty more for ya. This one's for STORM!" he yelled as he delivered another devastating kick. "This one's for the little GIRL. . . and this one's for the little girl's PARENTS!" he yelled with the final and most brutal blow.

After delivering his barrage of kicks, Logan casually walked over to the large barrel holding his coat and hat, put them on, then lit a cigar. He casually leaned against the barrel as he took a few puffs and reflected on the night's events. *It's Miller time* he thought to himself, *think I'll go back to the chug-a-lug.*

"Wait. . . til I get. . . back on. . . my feet." a very weak voice muttered from the huddled mass of bloodied flesh and broken bones that used to be Dalton. "I'll. . . get you. . . you mutant son of a. . . "

"I don't think so Bub!" Logan said as he pulled a small object out of his coat pocket and pulled the pin. "Here's a little goin' away present for ya. . . " he said as he rolled it over to Dalton, "Courtesy o' me and Storm."

As he walked away, he heard Dalton gasp in realization of what the device was ‚ an incendiary grenade. The grenade went off just as Wolverine walked out of the building; he could feel the heat pressed against his back. He thought he heard one last scream as he took another puff of his cigar and tossed a second grenade into Dalton's truck.

"One down ‚ a mess of 'em ta go. I shoulda brought some beer" he said to himself as he started the long walk back to the Chug-a-lug to get his motorcycle.


The next evening Logan found himself outside the FOH warehouse counting the number of people going in and taking inventory of the types of weapons they had on them. He counted numerous handguns and knives but nothing of significant threat. . . to him. This particular warehouse was empty but not abandoned, just not in use by an established business. The FOH rented it out to store their weapons cache ‚ a very impressive one at that. Logan had already reconnoitered the area and knew the layout of the structure as well as the location of anything of importance ‚ including their high explosives and larger guns. He waited until 8:00 before he scaled down the side of the warehouse and started disabling the cars. By 8:15, all vehicles surrounding the warehouse were sufficiently crippled. With that behind him, he quickly scaled the wall and entered the roof access to the warehouse.

The FOH meeting was in full swing by the time Logan perched on top of his pre-established hiding place to listen in on their activities. Over the next 45 minutes, he listened in on virtually every scheduled FOH plan for the next month and a half ‚ not just those in Michigan, but up and down the eastern seaboard and sometimes further. He gathered information on some activities as far west as Los Angeles and south as Texas. *Won't that be a kick in the pants* he thought to himself as he pictured the expressions on the faces of the FOH members when all their well-laid plans went to hell. After they finished the organized details, they switched to something of a more personal nature ‚ local fun and games.

"I was hoping Dalton would be here to talk about last weeks 'activities' ‚ especially since he lead things off with such a bang, but seeing as how he's late and the meeting must go on, I'll take over in his absence. Congratulations to all of you that were in on the tire plant fight. We took out 4 ‚ one of them an X-Man!" the emcee reported.

The applause he received after making that last statement nearly made Logan sick. *These sick bastards ‚ they're applauding killing other people ‚ one of which happens ta be the woman I love!*

"We still don't know how many of these X-Men there are, but the woman with the white hair ‚ the one called "Storm" was apparently a bigwig. I'm sure taking her out set them back pretty far."

Another round of applause followed his last statement ‚ prompting Logan to spring into action.

"NOT FAR ENOUGH BUB!" Logan yelled as he jumped down from his perch on one of the ceiling supports.

"What the. . . ?" the man yelled as he looked up at the incoming X-Man. Those were his final words before Logan extruded his claws and sliced him lengthways in half as he landed.

"Party's over boys ‚ yer mutant hatin' days are finished!" Logan yelled as he lunged into the crowd and took out 3 more friends before they had the chance to collect themselves and react. The other 48 were ready though and attacked him like he was made of gold and they were ready to cash in. That just made him madder though. With that berserker rage crawling up his spine, he met each one with the ferocity of a madman bent on destruction. They tried everything but he wouldn't go down. Knives and sticks had no effect on him. . . he laughed as he sliced through them AND the people wielding them. Guns slowed him down but in the end, didn't stop him. Forward he went taking out one friend after another. Truly this was when he was the most dangerous ‚ by himself, surrounded by the enemy. He didn't go for the "fisticuffs" style of fighting he afforded Dalton ‚ with this many opponents, he went straight for throats and other vital organs.

"I got ya right were I want ya!" he yelled. "I can swing in any direction and still hit ya!" The thought of being completely surrounded by men that wanted to kill him seemed to please him to no end.

It reminded him of the many battles he had with the Hand. Though the Friends of Humanity were nothing compared to the Hand, it still brought back some interesting memories. He half wished he had brought Gambit along ‚ thinking back to the time they were ambushed by a small army of Hand ninja at the Ropongi police station in Tokyo. *Gambit woulda gotta kick outta this* he thought to himself.

**Wachoom** the all too familiar sound came ‚ as if on cue with Wolverine's thoughts.

Wolverine had made his way through 18 of the remaining FOH and was on his second wind when Gambit crashed the party throwing down a royal flush the hard way.

"Wolverine mon ami ‚ you started de party wit'out me." Gambit said as he landed and extended his staff, taking out two approaching friends.

"Sorry bout that Gambit ‚ this here was a personal thing. Glad you're here though ‚ we can go have a beer afterwards!" he yelled as he sliced through the jugular of an attacking friend.

They started in on the remaining FOH and mowed them down like a weed-eater in a flowerbed. The floor space around them started to clear, giving both X-Men a sense that the end was finally near ‚ which for Wolverine, meant there were only 15 or 20 left.

"Looks like we're almost done. . . " Logan yelled. "Good thing too ‚ the stench o' these fellas is startin ta offend my sense o' smell!" He laughed as 2 more friends ‚ twins at that ‚ attacked him.

"Get a load o' this! Twins!" He grunted. "I'll take Thing 1, you take Thing 2!" Gambit was all too willing to oblige.


A loud explosion rocked the warehouse from one end to the other. "Hah!" Wolverine laughed. "One o' yer boys musta found the SHAPED CHARGE I left in yer weapons cache! He yelled as he sliced through yet another friend. "Guess y'all won't be bringin' out the HEAVY ARTILLERY tonight eh? Too bad, I pack MY heavy artillery in my bones!" he yelled as he elbowed one friend in the back with his right arm and simultaneously gave another friend a left hook that separated way more than just his jaw.

The two of them together were way more than the FOH could handle. A few smart ones knew that and headed for their cars, but seeing as how Wolverine had already taken care of that issue, they were left 2-stepping it away from the warehouse. Unfortunately for them, Wolverine and Gambit had no problems tracking them down. Before the night was over, one FOH chapter had been completely scratched from the planet. The final step ‚ an impressive barrage of well-placed incendiary grenades ‚ removed all evidence of the X-Men's involvement and made the entire incident look like the weapons cache had detonated; destroying the warehouse and everyone, inside and a great deal around the perimiter.

Logan and Gambit ended up at Chug-a-lug's where they both downed a pretty large share of beer. . . among other things.

"So, how'd you find me Gumbo?"

"Wasn't easy ‚ you takin' off like dat, not tellin' anyone. Gambit figure you do sometin' like dat, so Gambit put a bug on y'r scoot."

"Thievin' sneak!" he laughed. "So why didn't you join me at the tire factory?"

"You left your motorcycle 'ere ‚ by de time Gambit figure out wat you up to, it was too late." he said ‚ referring to the rather "well done" Triggerman.

Logan smirked as he drank the last of his beer and reached for his coat and hat. "Ready ta head back to the mansion?"

"Sure t'ing mon ami. . . Gambit miss de petit sometin' awful."

"Yeah, and we gotta figure out some way to break this to the rest of the team ‚ they ain't gonna be happy with what we did. Perhaps you shoulda kept yer ass outta this."

"Gambit's ass was in dis the second dey det'nate dat bomb nex' t' Storm! She may be your woman, but she my fran. Whatever de consequences be - Gambit face dem.

"Whatever you say Gumbo!" Logan smirked ‚ he respected Remy's decision to come. . . loyalty like that was hard to come by, and Storm definitely earned it.


Wolverine arrived back at the mansion 17 hours before Hank was scheduled to bring Storm out of her induced sleep. Beast came running up to him as soon as the minijet landed.

"Where have you been?" Hank said with a great deal of excitement in his voice.

"I had some business ta tend to. Why ‚ what's the matter Hank? Somethin' happen to Storm?"

"Yes, I need more plasma from you ‚ right away." he said excitedly.

"Why? What happened? Did she take a turn for the worse?" Logan asked, fearing something bad.

"Not at all ‚ quite the opposite. . . come, quickly, I'll show you!" Hank yelled while pulling him toward the med-lab.

They both ran to the med-lab and Beast nearly broke the door down trying to get in. The flu-gen tank was in the far corner ‚ a meager attempt to shield Storm from anyone entering the med lab without Hank's permission. Wolverine could tell Storm was still asleep but from that distance, couldn't discern any other difference in her. It wasn't until he walked to the other side of the tank to view her injuries that he saw the source of Hanks excitement.

"Hank! Her injuries ‚ they've started healing!" he said excitedly as he looked at her recovering body. Some of her lesser injuries ‚ the cuts and bruises ‚ had completely healed and the more serious ones had significant improvement. "How?" he asked, turning to his knowledgeable friend.

"Your plasma! Apparently it shares your unique regenerative abilities and if applied in the proper ratio, can be transmitted to other mutants."

"But I thought. . . I mean ‚ it's only worked a fraction of the time before!"

"That's because you were dealing with WHOLE BLOOD. Mutant whole blood is much more unpredictable than plasma ‚ differing as much as the mutant power itself. That's why the body is so quick to reject it. Not only is plasma is much more similar in its general effects, it's also much more stable and easier to work with. Its effects are more gradual, giving the body more time to adjust. Do you know what this means Logan? Do you know what a study of your plasma can do for mut. . . "

"Why didn't this work when you first started giving her plasma?"

"I don't know ‚ maybe because of the poor circulation through her injuries."

"So what's different now?"

"I was able to add your plasma directly to the amnion in the tank ‚ I didn't know if it would work, but I knew it wouldn't do any harm to her. Can you believe this? If this continues, I estimate a complete recovery ‚ 100%! I need more plasma from you. Now that her body has been acclimated to your plasma, a higher concentration should induce a more rapid recovery."

"How long?"

"Two ‚ three weeks. . . MAYBE a little longer! I'll know more when I increase the plasma drip. I was just about to bring her out of the chamber to tell her the good news when I heard your jet. It's only fitting that you be the first person she sees when she wakes up."

Hank summoned Jean to help with moving Storm out of the chamber. With her telepathic abilities, it was a piece of cake. She gently raised Storm out of the chamber and laid her down on her stomach on one of the hospital beds. After draining her lungs of the amnion, She and Hank then left the room for awhile and gave Logan a chance to dry her off and cover her up before they woke her.

"Storm. . . Storm, wake up" Logan said in a tone so low and gentle that it shocked Hank and Jean.

She awoke to Logan holding her hand and gently repeating her name.

"Mmmph" she said as she stretched and yawned. It wasn't until she finished her stretch that it dawned on her she should have been in a lot of pain, but wasn't.

"What happened?" she said as she tried to get up. Hank stopped her.

"Look!" Logan said as he held a mirror up allowing her to see her back. "Your injuries are healing!"

"By the goddess!" she yelled. "How?"

"Logan's plasma ‚ it started regenerating your tissue while you were in the chamber. I think another 2 ‚ 3 weeks will yield a complete recovery."

"Goddess!" She couldn't hold back the tears.

For the next 15 minutes, Hank rambled off one medical explanation after another. He talked about all the future research he wanted to do on Logan's plasma and all the things he thought it would be good for. For the most part, it went in one ear and out the other of all the people present. The only thing they really cared about at that particular moment was Storm's recovery.

After he finished his medical rhetoric, he refocused on Storm. He fully debriefed her on his plans for the next few weeks and answered all of her questions.

"You don't have to go back in yet. A day out of the chamber may do you a little good ‚ get your blood flowing. . . so to speak." Hank told her.

"Good. . . I would kill for some lasagna right now!" she said with a laugh. At that point, everyone in the room knew she would be alright ‚ mentally and physically.


Nearly a month passed since the attack on Storm and she was thoroughly enjoying her first few days outside the flu-gen chamber. Beast pronounced her physically fit to resume her normal activities; but told her to take it easy for the next week or so to give her body time to adjust to normal gravity. She took his advice to heart. . . as she neared the third mile of her run. Logan caught up with her just as she passed the mansion on her lap around the lake.

"This yer idea of takin' it easy Ro?" he asked as he matched her stride step for step.

"I only plan to run 5 miles today ‚ that is 3 miles less than I normally run."

"And about 4* miles more than you SHOULD be runnin' Darlin'"

"You would do the same thing if you were in my situation Logan."

"And you'd be right here tryin' to talk me out of it."

"TRYING being the key word."

"I get your point, well if I can't talk ya out of it, I might as well join ya."

They circled the lake once more before Storm finally stopped and walked out onto the dock. Logan followed her ‚ sensing there was something she wanted to talk about. He had an idea of what it was and was already starting to dread it.

"Sumpn botherin' you Ro?" he asked as he gently put his arms on her shoulders and started massaging her.

"I'm just thinking. . . "


"About Tasha. . . what she's going through right now. What those ANIMALS did to her - all because of the way she was born. She's such a sweet little girl, but those animals never saw that. . . never gave her the chance. I know how she feels ‚ I know EXACTLY how she feels."

"She'll get through this Ro ‚ just like you did. Charlie'll see to that."

"I just feel so bad for her. Why did they have to do this? They will pay for the pain they have caused."

Logan knew it was time to face the music for what he had done. He and Gambit had gotten off lucky ‚ nobody asked either of them about their trip to Michigan. Indeed, if anybody knew about it, they kept it under wraps.

"Ro, there's something I gotta tell you. . . something about the guys that did this to you and her."

"The Friends of Humanity?"

"Yeah. Um. . . well you see, while you were in the chamber. . . well, what happened was. . . "

"Were they brought to justice?" Her tone suggested something other than legal justice, but Logan was still weary of telling her what he did.

"Yeah, they were brought to justice. . . "

"YOUR justice?"

Logan's heart dropped. The one thing he didn't want to do was hurt or disappoint her. She was one of the few people he knew that saw past the beast to the man. He knew how she felt about killing but given his past and this particular situation, it was almost second nature to him. Still, he had to face the fact that he killed people. . . not only that; but he did it out of tribute to her. How would she take it?

"Yeah, my justice. . . " He said with a heavy heart. He knew what was coming ‚ so much so that he couldn't face her. He was glad he was still behind her where she couldn't look him in the eye. "Ro, you gotta understand ‚ I had to. . . they had. . . "

"Then it is settled!" she said, turning around to look him in the eye ‚ cutting him off before he could finish his confession. The expression on her face wasn't one of approval and he knew it. Clearly she was hurt by his actions; but she also understood the motivation behind what he did. He was Logan, he could do no less. To love him was to accept that in him and forgive him for it; and she did with all her heart. There were times when she truly amazed him, and this was one of them.

"But aren't you. . . "

"Shhh." She said, putting her finger over his lips. That was good enough for him. He pulled her close and hugged her tight, knowing full well what she had just done. He then whispered in her ear "I love you."

"And I you." She said to him as she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him back.

She started walking back toward the mansion but Logan grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the garage.

"Where are we going?"

"You'll see. . . got a surprise for ya. Been waitin' damn near 4 months for it ta come in. . . but it was worth it."

"What is it?" The anticipation in her voice could hardly be contained. Their relationship was laced with small surprises ‚ gifts here and there. . . romantic trips and the sort; the kind of stuff that two people in love really liked doing for each other. But every now and then one would do something that really surprised the other. Storm had a feeling this was one of those occasions.

They turned the corner to the garage and Storm came face to face with a brand new Harley-Davidson Softail Classic. It had been customized just for her ‚ from the airbrushed white hair on the fuel tank and fenders to the personalized license plate: ROS TOY. She couldn't believe her eyes.

"Logan! I can't believe. . . !" She was speechless.

"Like it Darlin'? I woulda gotten it to ya sooner, but these things are backordered; and with that paintjob. . . "

"I love it!" she said as she hugged him and quickly jumped on it. "I guess everybody will know my little secret now!" she laughed. "Let's take it for a ride!"

"I'm glad you like it Ro."

"Hey ‚ this isn't your way of saying you don't want me on the back of your scoot is it?"

"In a way I guess it is. It's my way of telling you I want you by my side." His words almost brought her to tears. He wasn't the mushy type, but when he gave a compliment. . . he REALLY gave a compliment.

The excitement in her face was unbearable. . . she couldn't wait to get it on the road. With a quick change of attire, 2 Harley's rumbled out the main gate. The almost-deafening rumble sent every X-Man in the mansion running to the window. They had to take a second look to make sure it was STORM on the lead bike.

They returned to the mansion nearly 3 hours later ‚ Storm with a smile so big her usually calm demeanor couldn't hide it. As they walked past Xavier's window, they saw him talking with Tasha. Although Storm couldn't hear what they were saying, she knew Tasha wasn't happy.

"She looks so sad. What is he saying to her?" Storm asked Logan ‚ hoping his mutant hearing could traverse the distance.

"He's telling her about Massachusetts. He's getting ready to send her there."

"She is too young to go there ‚ she is too vulnerable right now. I have spent time with her Logan ‚ she is such a sweet little girl, and she is so smart. I was hoping he would keep her here longer."

"Ro, you're not thinking what I THINK you're thinking are you?"

"I would like to spend more time with her."

"I figured ‚ you two seem 'connected' and you got that maternal thing goin' on."

"You should talk ‚ or should I mention a certain young firecracker?"

Logan laughed. "Let's go talk to Charlie. . . "

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