For Purple Mountain's Majesty
for Purple Mountain's Majesty
no worse than the series & movie
disclaimer: I do not own anyone from BtVS or Marvel's X-Men, comics or movie.
distribution: Bite Me, WLS, NHA, WWW, quickie challenge, Twisting the Hellmouth. Anyone else ask.
notes: going AU from Season 5. Glory killed Tara, Buffy didn't die. Set after X-Men the movie, while Logan is away searching for his past.
Buffy had managed to defeat Glory, and save Dawn. None of the good guys had died in the battle... but Tara had died before the confrontation, victim of Glory's predatory diet. Glory, the evil that fed on the minds of people, not by literally eating their brain, but a more mystical way that they couldn't quite explain.
Tara was dead. Buffy was alive, and so was Dawn. Xander and Anya had decided that life was short, so they had gone to Vegas to elope. Willow was left to try to come to terms with her grief, and she couldn't seem to manage that in Sunnydale.
Fortunately, she had an option. Her parents owned a cabin in the mountains. If she went there, she could try to sort out her feelings without everywhere reminding her of her friends, or how much she had lost in Sunnydale. She could set her own schedule, and have no need to worry about vampires rising in the cemetery, or demons seeking to kill the Slayer. The cabin was remote, isolated, and as she remembered, had a splendid view.
It didn't take her very long to pack some things in a suitcase and get ready. A few minutes was all it took to leave messages with Buffy and Giles about where she would be, and that she promised to take her cell-phone with her. Ten minutes to pack some weapons just in case there was anything dangerous. No more than an hour at the store to pick up some groceries to take with her, and she was off for the cabin.
The cabin wasn't quite as impressive as she remembered, although the view was breathtaking. The walls were unpainted weathered wood, and the inside was spacious enough, if a bit impersonal feeling. There was no heat. The water was from a well, so while it was plentiful, it tasted different than she was used to water tasting. The lights were rather dim. She sighed as she put the groceries away in the clunky looking refrigerator. She had come here to think, not to surround herself with the wonders of technology.
She spent several hours cleaning the cabin and straightening things up, fussing with things until she got everything situated to her satisfaction. Her weapons were carefully placed, no matter where she was in the cabin, there was a weapon fairly close to her. There was a crossbow with a generous quiver of bolts. Two swords, a big knife and an axe were also in the house, as well as the hatchet in the wood pile and the poker at the fireplace. She would rather not resort to using the kitchen knives in a fight, that would just be... gross. She was planning to prepare her food with those.
Eventually, Willow decided to try to go to bed, feeling unexpectedly bored with the peaceful quiet of the mountains. She changed into a pair of pajamas, and settled into the bed, trying to lull herself to sleep. Perhaps it was a combination of the quiet, the isolation, and the sheer emotional exhaustion of the recent weeks, but she found herself nodding off in a fairly short time.
She was jolted from sleep by the sound of something roaring. It definitely didn't sound friendly, whatever it was it was very close, and fighting something else. She slipped out of the bed, grabbing the short sword that she'd left on the nightstand. She had no idea if it was a wild animal or a demon of some type, but it couldn't hurt to be prepared. Her hand was shaking and her heart beating rapidly as she moved down the stairs and across the large room. Resting her hand on the doorknob, she had a moment's internal debate of did she really want to open this door?
Taking a deep breath, Willow flung open the door, looking to see what on earth was making all the commotion. There was growling, snarling, and the slightly quieter sounds of fists hitting flesh. There was a large person, probably some sort of demon with a reddish blond mane of hair and dressed in rough leather and fur, growling with sharp teeth at the smaller man, one hand upraised in preparation to slash with wickedly sharp claws. The smaller man was currently laying with his back on the ground, the larger man with one hand wrapped around his throat. Things did not look good for the smaller man, who actually looked human.
She gathered her power, the magic that had served her so well in Sunnydale, and created an almost painfully bright light above the fighting men, hoping that it would startle Red-Mane enough to let the poor guy go. It worked, and with a startled noise, Red-Mane let go of the man, recoiling from the light, his dark eyes blinking furiously. It was obvious that the light hurt them. With a snarl, he backed away from the man, and he seemed to be glaring at Willow.
"Laterrrr" His voice was practically a growl, and there was no mistaking that the simple word was a threat. He nearly vanished into the darkness as he retreated.
Still trembling, Willow approached the other person, a man dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. She offered a hand to him, and was nearly pulled off her feet when he managed to use her help to stagger to his feet. He leaned heavily on her shoulder as she went back up the two steps and into the cabin. There was no resistance at the door, so he wasn't a vampire, and the ragged breathing was a double assurance that he was in fact, a living, breathing man.
It wasn't until he'd collapsed on her couch, apparently asleep that Willow remembered that 'living, breathing man' didn't always mean safe. Had she just done something incredibly foolish? Had she just brought an ax-murderer or someone equally dangerous into her cabin? She sighed, called herself an idiot, and went back to bed, the sword still firmly clutched in her hand.
She woke up early, almost in time with the sunrise. Her dreams had been filled with strange red maned men growling at her, and Buffy standing in the background, saying 'I have to keep Dawn safe, you're on your own this time Willow' as the man? demon? charged at her. Wiping at her face, she tried to erase the dreams. Pulling on some clothing, Willow decided that the best thing for this odd feeling would be coffee, and went downstairs. She took the sword, just in case.
He was still on the couch, one arm draped towards the floor, his dark hair shaped into a pair of peaks. Maybe he wasn't exactly human, but he looked as if he was still asleep. She went into the kitchen, eager for coffee. It would help her think clearly through this.
Willow was waiting impatiently for the old coffee-maker to brew. She could smell the coffee, it's rich scent filling the air, waking up her mind. Apparently, the scent wasn't just waking her up, because there was a groan from the other room. It sounded like her guest was awake.
"Where... why did you bring me inside?" His voice ws full of confusion. To her relief, his voice sounded human, and there was no apparent threat.
Willow looked over to the doorway, where her guest leaned against the wall, his face a mask of confusion. "I thought... you looked like you could use a bit of help after that red-maned thing tried to kill you. I've never seen anything like him... he was scary. So, what's your name? There will be coffee soon... assuming that this thing ever finishes brewing."
There was something, like a shadow of pain, when he spoke. "I'm Logan. That red-mane was Sabertooth, and he's a mutant. I'm a mutant."
Willow looked at him. "A mutant? Oh... so he wasn't a demon. Simplifies a few things I guess, but he was still scary. The coffee mugs are on the rack beside you, I think the coffee-maker is done now. There's sugar, and some milk in the refrigerator."
They drank coffee in silence, finishing a full cup and starting on their seconds before Logan spoke again. "You don't seem to be worried about the whole mutant thing."
Willow looked at him, thinking that he was an incredibly... well, not exactly drop dead gorgeous good looking, but incredibly male. "The town that I live in is built over the mouth of hell. I've spent the last few years helping my best friend kill demons and vampires and stop them from trying to end the world. I've seen things that are born to be evil, and it isn't mutants. Mutants... well, mutants are just humans with a few extra options. That doesn't make them evil. For all I know, I could be a mutant. Right now, I'm still trying to figure out if I did a dumb thing by bringing some strange man into the cabin."
He laughed, and Willow had the oddest impression that it wasn't something he'd done a lot of recently. "I'm not going to hurt you. I was just... I'm looking for an abandoned military complex that's supposed to be near here. Sabertooth just found me first."
"So, you're searching for an abandoned military base? Why?" She was looking at him, her mind bubbling with questions.
He looked into the mug of coffee, a small frown on his face. "I... I'm missing part of my past. Someone suggested that the base there might have a few clues. Figured that since I didn't have anything better to do, I might as well go check it out."
"Missing part of your past? Like amnesia? Whoa... umm, Logan? Would you like a bit of help searching for this base? I mean, I just came here to not be there, if that makes sense." She made her offer, not quite certain how well it would be received.
"Why not? You seem to be able to take care of yourself in a fight..." The words came out, and Logan looked as if he was a bit startled to find that they had come from him. But he didn't retract them.
After breakfast, Willow booted up her laptop, muttering that she really wished she'd brought a real computer. She then did something that Logan couldn't quite follow, and ended up with satellite images of the area, and using those, they were able to locate the base. It wasn't terribly far from the cabin, and they planned to go there the next day.
They drove for part of the way in Willow's car, but a tree had fallen over the road that lead to the base, forcing them to walk the last few miles. Willow was feeling curious, and also this odd prickling suspicion that Logan had left out part of his story, and the fear that some of those omissions could become problems. The air smelled of trees, and the sounds of birds and crickets and the wind rustling in the leaves made it feel oddly peaceful.
At the end of the road, they came to the base, the complex of buildings surrounded by a chain link fence that had vines growing over it. One side of the gate had fallen, making a sheltering place that looked as if it had been used by wild animals. Weeds were growing up through the concrete, and there were birds nesting in the gutters and on the broken antennae. It was easily apparent that this base had been abandoned and it looked as if it had been forgotten as well.
Logan was tense, and he kept clenching and releasing his fists. Swallowing, he lead the way to a building, somewhat smaller and towards the back. It looked as if the door had rusted shut. Looking it over, Willow wondered if it had been the base offices, or perhaps a medical facility. Logan yanked on the door, growling at it when it stuck. By sheer persistence, he opened it, the metal squealing in a protest that sent birds scattering to the sky with harsh cries.
Following him, Willow stepped into the building, immediately noticing the fact that the air didn't just smell as if it had been shut away for a long time. It smelled like a crypt, a distinct scent that combined a lack of circulation with something having rotted and decayed inside. Glancing around, she could feel her own muscles tensing, and she felt better about insisting on bringing the short sword with her.
It wasn't until they turned the corner that she saw the first visible evidence of something wrong. The walls were splattered with dark brown stains, some vertical splashes, others in curving arcs. There were scatterings of dry bones, some with withered flesh and tattered clothing still on the. The looked to have been in lab coats, and it was obvious that something had killed the, very violently.
Willow looked around with wide eyes, wondering if this had been some sort of precursor to the Initiative. There were deep gouges in the wall, as if something with claws had struck at them. "Well, with any luck, whatever did this left and stayed somewhere that's not here. I'm going to go with the thing had claws and stood noticeably higher than me, at least a foot."
"What if I did this?" Logan's voice was a harsh whisper.
Willow looked at him in startlement. "You? But... you don't look old enough. And umm, claws? I think it was taller than you anyhow."
He gave a bitter smile, and spoke a single word as he held up his fist, the back of his hand towards her. "Claws." Three sharp metal blades emerged from the back of his hand, causing a few drops of blood to trickle from the places where his skin had been sliced open by them.
Suddenly, it clicked for Willow. In some ways, there had been a precursor to the Initiative. Those had to have been surgically added. Experimentation on people... she shivered. "You were experimented on? But... you don't remember anything?"
"Occasional nightmares, but no real memories. I was their test subject... and I can't remember when it happened, or how I got out." His voice was bitter, filled with pain.
Willow could understand why he would be upset. "Do you think... maybe they had computer files? If they did, I can try to access them, see if they have any useful information."
There were more bodies, all equally old. NOne of them had died easily, and there were even some that had their arms feet away from their torso's. Willow had simply shaken her head, glad that she wasn't searching for computers when the bodies were fresh. Naturally, most of the ones they found had been trashed, although Willow decided to take some of the hard drives with her in the hopes that she could salvage something. She couldn't try to access anything here because there was no power.
It would be hard to say who was happier to leave, Willow with her stack of pilfered hard drives, or Logan with a handful of folders. Neither of them spoke until they had returned to the car.
"I think I've seen those halls. In the nightmares. The big glass tube was familiar." His voice was harsh, as if some inner pain had been scraped raw.
Willow had nodded, understanding some of his pain. She had her own ugly nightmares, and none of them were enjoyable to talk about. She drove them back to the cabin in silence.
There wasn't a lot of information that she could get from the old hard drives. Changing technology had made it difficult to access such older information, and there had been damage and file degradation. But she got a few things, a little of which was useful. There were notes on a metal alloy called adamantium, and a partial file on something called an 'adamantium bonding process' that made Willow feel very cold inside. It was apparent that they had been experimenting in this facility, and she had even found some files on early tests where they had bonded the adamantium to old bones, to refine the bonding procedure. Glancing at Logan, she knew that it had been refined and used at least once on a living person.
He was looking at the papers, glaring at them in frustration. "Half of this is too technical, and I don't know who any of these people are! This didn't help very much at all."
"Maybe you just have to make a new life? Find people who will let you in, make friends... and maybe I can help with the technical bits?" Willow looked at him, feeling something inside yearning to help him, to stay near him.
He glared at her, his blue eyes angry. "Who would want to help me? I'm a freak once fore being a mutant, twice a freak for having no past, and a freak again for these damn claws! What sort of new life can I make?"
Willow wasn't entirely certain what gave her the courage to do what happened next. But the next thing she knew, she was in front of him her face heated with anger, her finger poking into his chest. "You may be different but that doesn't mean you have no future! You can make any new life you please, and I'm not about to let you sit in a corner and wail that life isn't fair!"
"How are you going to stop me?" There was something in his eyes, something that might have been hope.
Then, Willow was kissing him, her lips on his, demanding his attention, her fury transmuted to something else entirely. Her fingers wound through his hair, trapping him there with her, holding him in place.
But no kiss lasts forever, and when it parted, he stood there, his arms around her, panting with the need to breath and something else. "Willow? What..."
She could feel her face turning red, and tried to hide against his chest. "I wanted to. I... I'm sorry?"
"Please don't be... but that... can we end every argument like that?" His voice was low, still stunned, and hoarse with passion.
She looked up, her eyes meeting his, and gave a small, hopeful smile. "That sounds like you want a relationship. A future. Are you sure that you want me? For a relationship?"
All he could do for a moment was stare at her, before claiming her lips again for another deeply passionate kiss. "I want. For as long as I possibly can get you to stay with me."
Sighing contentedly, she snuggled against him. "I can deal with that."
end For Purple Mountain's Majesty.