Logan walked into the bar and looked around, his eyes adjusting easily to the light. He immediately decided he liked the place. It was one of those bars you could easily overlook, tucked in between a couple of small, family owned stores. It was one of those hole-in-the-wall places, small, and kind of cozy. The place was called Doolies. A single pool table stood in one corner, and as single dart board, with a chalk board score board, hung on one wall. An old jukebox sat on one side of the bar and tables lined the walls. The bar stood against one of the walls, liquor bottle lined up. But unlike most bars, there were no mirrors in the place. Lining the wall behind the bar were dozens and dozens of Polaroid's, pictures of people chugging drinks straight from a pitcher. Some had already spilled, other had it tipped back and were drinking steadily. In the white part under the picture was a simple number. In a special place of honor in the center of the wall, in it's own wooden frame was a single picture, one of Thomas Reynolds chugging a pitcher, with the number 34 underneath. There was only one other customer in the bar, and old man with salt and pepper thinning hair, who was bent over his beer like he was sleeping, and Logan guessed from the smell of him, that he's probably been there long enough to grow cobwebs.
"Good day to ye, lad." A cheerful Irish voice sounded from behind the bar. It belonged to a solid looking man of middle years, with bright red hair and green eyes that . . . twinkled. There was the hint of a belly on the man and dimples in the chubby cheeks, under the long, pork chop side burns. Logan had not seen anyone so typically Irish since his last visit to Cassidy Keep, in Ireland.
"Hello, Irish." Logan replied, stepping in and letting the door close behind him.
"The name, me laddie, is Colin O'Doole." The man replied. "But ye can call me Doolie." The man finished wiping down the bar and smiled. "Feel free to be takin' a seat, lad." He gestured to the barstools and Logan took one.
"Name's Logan." He said, sitting down. "From Ireland, aren't ya?"
"Aye, that's the right o' it." Doolie confirmed. "Why d' ye ask?"
"No reason." Logan said. "Been there, though."
"Have ye, now?" Doolie exclaimed, and leaned over an arm on the bar. "D' ye know Patrick?" he asked, deadpan.
Logan laughed, and Doolie laughed with him. Logan decided he liked the man already. There was an honestly and mischievous air to him. Logan nodded. "Yeah I do." He said, then finished the joke. "And don't worry, I'll tell him that you asked me to tell him hello from Sean." It was silly joke, considering the number of people named Sean and Patrick in Ireland, but there were many times, especially in Irish pubs, that people would ask "Patrick who".
The two laughed for a time before Doolie asked him "What'll ye be drinkin' this fine evenin', lad?"
"Moose Head." Logan replied, and Doolie ponied up the brew in the bottle. Logan paid him and sipped at the brew, looking at the pictures. He made note of the fact that it seemed that every member of Hades had apparently made it into the bar, as they all had pictures on the wall. All the numbers differed and all had met with varied results.
Doolie saw him looking and Logan nodded to the wall. "What's that about?" he asked, and Doolie smiled.
"That, Lad, is the initiation wall." He said, and smiled.
"On your first night here," came the soft, dove-like tones, and Logan turned to see Terri in the doorway, blond hair falling free around her shoulders, dressed in jeans and T-shirt, cowboy boots, and a jeans jacket. He hadn't heard the bell over the door let her in, but there she stood, nonetheless. Terri smiled and nodded at him, continuing, "you get handed a pitcher of your beer of choice." She sauntered slowly toward the bar. "You then proceed to drink it. If you don't spill any, you get another pitcher. You keep going until you either spill, or . . ." she grinned, blue-green eyes sparkling "you have to go to the bathroom. Doolie keeps track of how many you drink, and takes your picture, posting it and the number. The record holder gets his own special place. But regardless, what you can drink in one sitting without spilling, you drink on the house. Isn't that right, Doolie?" she smiled at the bartender.
"Aye, that's the right o' it, lass." Doolie smiled.
Logan looked back at the wall and found her picture. 9. He raised an eyebrow at her. "Impressive." He said. She smiled a cool little smile and slid onto a stool. Doolie didn't even have to ask, he served her up a shot of tequila and a mug of beer. Then he walked out from behind the bar, apparently taking some sort of cue from Terri, and went to sit down in the table across from the old man to work on some books. She slammed the shot and then smiled at Logan.
"Hello, Patch." She said, using the name he had used for himself when he had stayed in Madripoor. At the time, he had been hiding who he was, as the X-Men were thought to be dead, and no-one wanted them any wiser. When he had called up Hades and talked to her, he had used the same name, hoping she would recognize it. She had, and he had asked if they could get together. She had chosen the time and place. "How have you been?"
"Been all right." He said. "It's been a long time, Darlin'. How about you? Last time I saw you, you were all of six years old, and demanding a bowl of ice cream at the top of your lungs, standing on top of your chair in the middle of one of the finest restaurants in Madripoor, while your old man calmly told the leader of a major drug ring to take a hike, and your mother, Mitzie, I think she was called, kept trying to calm you down. And you were called Tasha then."
"You have an excellent memory," Terri smiled. "Mother was called Mitzie. Mitzie and Marcus Thompson, and their little darling, Tasha." She gave a disgusted snort and Logan watched her from his peripheral, curious.
Logan nodded and smiled slightly. "About some things Darlin'. I'm surprised you remember me at all. You were real young."
"It was a long time ago," she agreed. "But I still remember you. That self-same drug dealer tried to kill my father, and you calmly carried him outside. I didn't see what happened then, but I remember you stayed with us for the next six weeks while my father finished his business." She smiled at him, sipping at the beer. "I also remember crawling into your lap every night and demanding a bed time story." She put the beer down on the bar. "And I'm not called Tasha anymore. It's Terri."
"Or TNT to the Public." Logan said, broaching the topic which had prompted him to call her in the first place. He was hoping that he might be able to find out a little more about the team, and . . . "Why did you hook up with them?" he asked. "You were such a retractable kid, very sweet, very polite, had all the advantages that little rich kids had. A lot of potential. And smart. What made you join up with Hades?" This was honest curiosity on his part. He never would have guessed she'd grow up to join a group of mercenaries. He'd had her pegged for the hearth and home set.
"I had my reasons." She said, sipping her beer. "First and foremost that I grew up. As I said, Logan, it was a long time ago. I'm not the little girl you knew. I grew up, and discovered that what I knew of life was a waste of time. I was tired of being little Tasha Thompson. So I started calling myself Terri. And when I joined up with Hades, I called myself TNT. Terri Natasha Thompson, who can make things explode when she hits them. I thought it very fitting, so that's what I call myself. Speaking of which . . ." she said abruptly changing the subject. "I believe you are called Logan now."
Logan eyed her, wondering how she had found that out, and saw that she caught the look. She smiled, and shook her head slightly, then brushed a lock of blond hair out of her face. Logan noticed that Terri had grown up a lot over the years, and had grown into a stunningly beautiful young woman. There was a confidence to her movements, and a grace he knew probably came from the classes in grace and movement that all children of the extremely wealthy found themselves in when they were children, but it was not the typical grace of the properly bred young woman. There was a subtle difference. Her grace was fine tuned by being a trained fighter as well.
"You were checking up on me?" Logan asked, a little shocked that she would, as he hadn't seen her since she was but a child, and he hadn't thought he had made that big of an impression on her.
Terri snorted derisively. "Not hardly." She said, and Logan found himself feeling a little insulted, as her tone implied that he was not worth checking up on. Then again, considering his occupation, perhaps it was better that she hadn't. "I overheard you telling Doolie." At a slightly disappointed look, she laughed. "I was very young, Logan. And though I do remember you, I was not so struck by your charming personality and strong character that I felt the need to moon after you throughout my formative years, and then , once I was a woman, try to find you in the hopes that the childhood crush I had harbored for all these years would be fulfilled." She smiled at him, softening the words which had been somewhat bitter. "That only happens in fairy tales like the ones you used to tell me, Logan. And I haven't been told stories since you left, and stopped believing in Happily Ever After when I turned 13."
Terri laughed, and Logan recognized ironic humor in the clear, musical sound. "No, Logan, I didn't look you up, and I didn't check on you. I didn't even try to find you. Sorry if this disappoints you. But the life of a daughter of a prominent socialite like Marcella Thompson, the donator of millions to worthy causes, as all wives of prominent businessmen like Marcus Thompson of Thompson Pharmaceuticals do, was far too busy to allow for any time spent chasing after a childhood fantasy."
Logan raised an eyebrow at her. "Childhood fantasy?" He asked, not quite believing what he had heard.
"Oh, yes, Logan." She said quite seriously, and her eyes softening, her voice taking on a serious tone, one laced with disappointment and broken dreams. "I had childish fantasies about you." Her blue-green eyes met his and held them. "You were my Knight in Shining Armor, Logan. My hero. You kept me safe, you told me stories, you carried me to bed at night when I pretended to fall asleep in your lap. You tucked me into bed and kissed my forehead. You held my hand when I crossed the street. You were the one who helped me learn to ride my first Bicycle, and put the Band-Aid on my knee when I fell and scraped it." She reached out and touched a spot on his left shoulder and smiled, her eyes somewhat distant. "You took a bullet for me, right here."
Logan sighed. "I didn't think you'd remember that." He said. He honestly thought she wouldn't. Most children had the tendency to block out unpleasant memories like that, and he had been careful to keep her face tucked into his chest that night, when the drug lord had sent the Yakuza after Marcus Thompson for refusing to deal with them and young Terri had gotten caught in the crossfire. He had managed to get the entire family on a plane to the States that very night, and then he had gone hunting.
"I remember everything you did with me, Logan." Terri said and returned to her beer. "You were my hero." Her tone was very matter of fact, and none of the disappointment of earlier was in evidence. "All little girls remember their hero's. It's part of being a little girl. You were my hero even after I found out that the reason you stayed with us was because my parents paid you to keep me safe. It didn't matter to me. I still idolized you. I even had an imaginary friend I called Patch who was just like you," she smiled at him and sipped her beer again. "and I believed he would keep me safe and be my friend, just like you. But part of growing up is letting go of the fantasy. Which is what I did. Mother and Daddy kept me very busy with all the lessons and the private schools and social little get-togethers. And I gave up on fairy tales and Happily Ever After."
Logan clucked his tongue and shook his head. "That's too bad." He said and took a sip of his beer. He wondered if this is what had happened, what had cause her to join Hades. Maybe this loss of innocence was what made her the way she is now, someone very grounded in the real world, perhaps too solidly, and somewhat bitterly disillusioned. "Every kid should have fairy tales told to them and believe in Happily Ever After, at least for a little while. Maybe it would have kept you out of trouble. Cuz that's what I think you might be in, Terri. Trouble." From what they had been able to find out about Hades, he believed that was exactly what it was.
"I did have it, for a while." Terri said, choosing to ignore that statement about getting into trouble "I had it while you were around. But that's it. You left, and the stories ended just as quickly as they had started." This was also said in that same matter-of-fact tone. No regret, nor disappointment. Just the facts.
"Really?" Logan asked, surprised. "I'm surprised. Didn't your mother ever . . ." he began to ask, but stopped when he saw Terri shake her head and laugh. There was a scent of denial, and disbelief as well as something that suggested the entire concept was foreign to her. "You're kidding." He said. "They never read you a bed time story after I left?"
Terri laughed, and now the tone was bitter. "They never read a bed time story to me, period! Not before, not after. They never told me any kind of story. If I wanted fairy tales, I read them myself. It's no wonder I learned to read when I was four." She finished her beer and helped herself to another, while Doolie just nodded at her from the back as she laid money behind the bar.
"So that's what did it?" he asked "That's what had you joining Hades Inc.? Because your parents never read you a bed time story?" he shook his head. "I don't buy it Terri. People don't turn into mercenaries just because their mom and dad lacked a little in the parenting department."
He found himself on the receiving end of an icy glare, the blue-green eyes frosty and hard. He knew then that he had stepped over the line. She was insulted and angry, and her hands were clenched into fists, and he belatedly remembered that she had a tendency to make things explode when she hit them.
"Listen, Terri," Logan said. "I did some checking on that team you are with. And there are some pretty shady characters in the group. Not the kind of guys your parents would want you around, I'm sure. More, not the type of guys I would want you around. They're trouble Terri. Real trouble." He watched as Terri finished her beer without another word and then stood.
"It's been real, Logan." Terri said and pulled her jacket on. "Call me again, maybe in another 17 years, and we'll do this again." She glanced at Doolie and waved. "See ya, Doolie."
"Aye, Lass." Doolie replied, then went back to the books.
The little bell over the door tinkled as she opened it and walked out.
Logan watched her go and sat at the bar. He had really made her mad. Not that this was new. He had been making women mad at him for decades now. But this felt different. Maybe it was a residual left over from when he had watched out for her when she was just a kid, but his gut was telling him that Hades was bad news, and the idea of that little girl he had watched over being with them was making his gut clench.
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