Jean Grey stormed out of the mansion. Her date with Scott had just ended in disaster. The evening had started out quite pleasant, and promising. Scott had been constantly talking about the difficulties he was having with the team. Jean was well aware of the fact that the decision that she, Bobby, Warren, Lorna, and Alex had made to leave the X-Men had been hard on Scott, and that he had his hands full getting adjusted to the new team. A night on the town with her was just what Scott needed to relieve all of his stress and tension. The dinner and movie had been pleasant, but on the way home they got into one of those fights that couples often get into. One of those fights that begins over the tiniest, most insignificant detail and then quickly devolves into a grudge match where each person tries to score points by pointing out the faults and infuriating quirks of their companion. This fight had begun over which radio station they should listen to in the car. When they arrived home, shouting at one another, Jean had decided she just couldn't take it anymore, and went out. Maybe a walk in the woods would take her mind off things ...
Jean walked gingerly down the dirt path that leads into the woods behind the mansion. When she was young, the woods had frightened her. They were dark, foreboding, and seemed to go on endlessly. Her great fear as child was that one day she would go out too far into the woods, and that she would get lost and that no one, not even Professor Xavier would be able to find her. Then when she had read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", the woods had become even more sinister. At night she would hide under the covers of her bed, lest the Headless Horseman see her and decide to take her head. But, that was then, and this is now. Now, she was an adult. Ghosts did not frighten her. She was more than capable of taking care of herself (and choosing a good radio station, damn it!), no matter what Scott might think. And being lost from the others didn't seem so bad right now. She entered the woods.
The cool night felt good. The air was clean and the smell of pine surrounded her. The sky was clear and the stars smiled down upon her. Jean wasn't sure how far she had come, as she had lost track of time a while ago. She didn't care. The woods were beautiful at night. As a child she had been too frightened to appreciate their beauty, but now, it was nothing short of breathtaking.
"Ya best be careful when you're out in the woods, Red. Ya never know what ya might run into."
Jean nearly jumped out of her skin. She spun around. A dark silhouette of a man leaning on a tree came into view. How come she hadn't sensed the presence of that man? The shadow began to move towards her. As it moved out of the woods and onto the path, the darkness that engulfed the shadow melted away. Soon, an extremely well built man wearing jeans, a white t-shirt and hiking boots stood before her. The man was somewhat short, had wild black hair, and cold brown eyes that glinted in the starlight. There was something about those eyes that bothered Jean. Her discomfort faded as she finally recognized the man.
"Wolverine! You startled me! I didn't recognize you out of uniform."
"What are ya doin' out here, Red? Somethin' wrong with you an' leader-boy?"
"Now what makes you think that there's something wrong?"
"Well let's see, stormin' about in the woods, late at night, and dressed to kill. Ya sure as hell ain't out here for no nature walk."
"It's that obvious, huh?"
"So what are you doing out here, Wolverine?"
"More at home in the woods than anyplace else, Red. I got no use for civilization."
"Really? Is civilization that bad?"
Wolverine didn't answer. He stood and looked at Jean for a bit, and then moved passed her and proceeded down the path. Jean watched him as he walked passed her, then deciding that she was tired of being alone (and being a tad bit curious), caught up to him.
"Um, you know Wolverine, I never got the chance to thank you earlier. I mean, for helping us when were trapped on that island."
"Don't mention it."
They walked together in silence. Jean couldn't help noticing that Wolverine made absolutely no noise as he walked, while every step she took seem to shatter the tranquility of the forest. He certainly seemed to be at home in the woods. In fact, it was almost as if he belonged here, like he was a part of the forest. There was something primal about this man, Jean thought to herself. And then there were those eyes ...
"You don't talk much do you, Wolverine?"
That's what you think, thought Jean, I'll get you talking, just wait.
"Professor Xavier told me that you're from Canada."
"So what do you think of the States?"
"It ain't bad, Red. Ya got your moments here. Like that."
Wolverine pointed. Jean turned to see what he was pointing at. It was a clearing in the woods. Long, tall, blades of grass danced gently in the moonlight with cool autumn breeze that filled the night sky. Suddenly, a deer jumped gracefully from one end of the clearing to the other and then disappeared into the woods. Jean gasped. She had never seen such a sight.
"That was amazing."
"Yep. When it comes to the sheer beauty o' things, Red, ya can't beat Mother Nature."
"How did you know that that was going to happen?"
"Told ya, Red. Woods are my home. Ya see somethin' like that, an' ya wonder why I got no use for civilization? When man can paint a picture with the raw beauty o' that, maybe I will."
Jean studied her companion. He may have been talking about the beauty of nature, but he was thinking about something else. There was bitterness in his voice when he spoke the word 'civilization'. She could easily reach into his mind and find out exactly what he was thinking about, but that would be an invasion of his privacy and Jean wouldn't do that.
"The Professor told me that you used to work for the Canadian government."
"Nothing. I don't mean to be rude or anything. I'm just curious."
"I don't know. You seem to be an interesting guy."
"Is that so?"
They walked together in silence. Wolverine pulled out a cigar and lit it.
"That'll kill you, you know."
"Don't think so, Red. 'Sides, who wants to live forever?"
Jean decided not to press the issue. She had had enough fighting for the night.
"So what did you do for the Canadian government? Professor Xavier said something about the secret service."
"Yeah, I guess ya could say I was doin' a fair James Bond imitation."
"Was it dangerous?"
"What sort of things did you do?"
"Ya know I can't answer that, Red."
"I don't want to know anything specific, I just want to know what it was like."
Wolverine took a long drag on his cigar and slowly blew out the smoke. He raised one eyebrow and looked at Jean sideways.
"It ain't like the movies, if that's what ya want to know. It's a whole lot uglier, an' nowhere near as easy."
"What do you mean?"
"In the real world, Red, there ain't no good guys an' there ain't no bad guys. Just folks with different opinions. Everybody sees the world different. Nothin' wrong with that, 'cept when people decide that everybody else should see the world the way they do no matter what. That's when the killin' an' the ugliness start."
"Did you ever kill anyone?"
"Tell ya what, Red, I was spy an' a soldier before that. What do ya think?"
Jean was shocked. She was not expecting that answer. She didn't know why it shocked her. She had seen the movies. Still, she never expected to be walking in the woods with someone who had actually killed another living human being. The idea of actually intentionally taking another person's life was foreign to Jean. She really didn't know how to react. Didn't killing people make Wolverine a bad man? And yet, she knew first hand that he had risked his life to save the lives of people he didn't even know. Didn't that make him a good man? At a loss as to what to say, Jean finally spoke the words that finally made themselves coherent to her in her mind:
"How do you handle something like that, Wolverine? Killing another human being? I could never live with myself if I did something like that. Do you feel guilty or do you just figure that the people you killed had it coming and that they deserved it?"
Wolverine took another drag on his cigar, before he answered Jean in a low, dangerous tone of voice.
"We all got it comin' Red. An' 'deserve' ain't got nothin' to do with it."
Wolverine stopped walking. He turned and studied Jean's face. He could see the look of confusion on her face and he could smell the fear emanating from her body. And yet he could sense her curiosity as well.
"Ya know Red, sometimes it's easy. When yer up against a worthless shit eatin' bastard who likes to kill women an' children, well, then ya enjoy killin' the fuck. Sometimes yer wrapped up in a Class A genuine hard as nails cluster-fuck. Then ya don't know what the hell's goin' on. Ya just wanna make it out, an' when ya do, ya don't care if ya killed anyone on the way out. Those are the times when the animal in ya takes over, 'cause ya just gotta get mad dog meaner than all hell to make it out of those scraps and to put the fear in every fiber o' bein' in those women an' children killin' fucks so that they know what's waitin' for them on the other side."
Wolverine took another drag from his cigar, turned and stared out into the forest.
"But then, Red, there are times when ya come up across someone who's just like you. Just doin' what he's been told ta do just like you. Doin' it cause he thinks his side's right, just like ya think yer side is. See, that's when the man has ta do the killin'. 'Cause that's a senseless killin'. Another time, another place you an' him would be knockin' back brews together at the bar. But one of ya has to die, 'cause of differin' opinions. An' that really ain't no reason is it, Red? Animals don't ever kill without a reason, so the man's gotta do it. An' he's gotta live with it. After a while, the man starts seein' things. Everyone tells ya that those commie bastards are all that's wrong with the world. But then some folk down in Latin America that had their land raped and their resources stolen while they was Banana Republics will tell ya that Capitalism and the West are just as bad. Hell, you try tellin' a little Vietnamese girl who had her face burned off by napalm that it was all for a good cause. See Red, when it gets down to it, it's all about money and power. Those who got it, wanna keep it, an' get more of it. Most folk don't care about that. They just wanna be left alone an' in peace. But 'cause some folk feel the need o' greed an' power they can't be left alone in peace. An' then you gotta ask yerself, if everythin' you did was worth it, if the lives of all your dead friends and enemies were worth it just so some fucks in a corporate boardroom or a commie party meeting can get a better percentage on their profits- so that they can get off on their power trips. Ya know what civilization is, Red? It's a shithouse for the man."
Wolverine fell silent. He turned back towards Jean.
"It's a helluva thing, killin' a man, Red. You take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have. An' for what?"
Jean reached out and touched Wolverine's face.
"Is that why you're here with us, Wolverine?"
"Yeah, I guess Red. I'm tired o' the lies, an' hypocrisy; I'm tired of bein' a tool. Yer big daddy Xavier says he wants a world where mutants and human can live together in peace. Can't say I care much about that. But if it means makin' a world where everyone can be left alone to live life how they an' they alone wanna live it in peace no matter what, then I'm all for it. An' if we have to cut through some greedy, power hungry fucks to get that, then that's bonus."
"Wolverine, the X-Men are not about killing. We won't be cutting through greedy, power hungry, uh, people as you put it. That's not our way. We're supposed to represent something better."
"You, yer pretty boy, an' yer friends may not be about that. But I am. Someone's gotta do yer dirty work. Or did ya think since ya'll are heroes an' all that there'd be none?"
"Not if we can help it. We're the good guys."
"Grow up, Red. You ain't the good guys. Yer just another group with an opinion. An' in the real world, whoever wins decides who the good guys an' bad guys were."
"I thought you came here to change your ways, Wolverine."
"What for? Ain't no redemption for the likes o' me. I'm here 'cause I don't wanna work for the man no more. I wanna bring him down. Hard."
"Then you shouldn't have joined the X-Men."
Wolverine laughed out loud.
Maybe, Red, maybe. But ya know, given that none o' ya'll got the balls to be a pacifist like ol' Mahatma Gandhi, ya gotta ask yerself a question, Red. Can you afford not to have a guy like me around? When yer knee deep in the shit, Red, who's gonna pull you out? Pretty boy? Don't think so. He's so twisted around he wears his ass for a hat. The others? Maybe Irish. Ol' Banshee's been around an' knows somethin'. But he ain't got the sand to finish it. The rest? Kids: all too young or too stupid to know what the real world's like."
Before Jean could respond, Wolverine turned and headed into the woods. Soon he had completely vanished without a trace. Jean stood in silence and stared into the woods. She turned and headed back towards the mansion. She thought about the encounter she just had. It was certainly a... unique experience. She couldn't remember when she had had such a conversation. Wolverine was certainly different from all the other men that she had ever met. He clearly didn't have the idealism of Professor Xavier or the morals of Scott. He lacked the innocence of Peter, the heart of Kurt, the charm of Warren, and the playfulness of Bobby. He shared no traits with Hank, Alex or Sean. No, Wolverine was angry, cynical, jaded, vulgar, brash, and arrogant. He was also extremely dangerous and violent. That much was obvious. And yet, there was more to him than met the eye. Wolverine appreciated the beauty and the gift of nature. She had heard guilt and remorse in his voice as he had spoken of past experiences. And there was something else, she couldn't quite explain it, but she was sure that she felt an inner goodness and nobility in him. He had integrity and was brutally honest. He was undoubtedly a complicated wild man. And then there were those eyes...
When Jean returned to the mansion she found Scott waiting for her on the porch.
"Did you have a nice walk?"
"Yes, Scott I did."
"Anything interesting out in the woods tonight?"
"You might say that."
"Listen Jean, I wanted to apologize for tonight. I was acting like a jerk. I'm not going to try to make any excuses for the way I behaved. I just want to say I'm sorry, and please forgive me."
Jean walked up to the porch and leaned on the railing next to Scott.
"Well, I guess I'm equally to blame for tonight. Let's just forgive each other and move on Scott. I'll see you in the morning."
Jean turned and headed into the mansion, ignoring the disappointment she felt coming from Scott. She made her way to the kitchen and was flabbergasted to see Wolverine sitting at the table, bottle of beer in hand, talking to Sean. How did he get back here so quickly? Jean shook her head in disbelief and proceeded to help herself to some milk. Having poured herself a glass she made her way to her bedroom. On the way she ran into the Professor.
"Good evening, Jean. Turning in for the night?"
"Is something bothering you? I sense a great deal of confusion... about Wolverine. Did you two have an argument of some sort?"
"No we didn't argue; we just had a conversation. And I don't know what to make of it."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Professor, Wolverine is not like anyone I've ever met. He sees the world in a way different from what I'm used to."
"He certainly does that."
"Why did you ask Wolverine to join the X-Men? He's not like the rest of us. He doesn't share your values of your beliefs."
Professor Xavier rested his chin on his hands and took his time considering his response to Jean's query.
"You know Jean, I've been asked that question all too frequently. You're right. He's not like the rest of us. And he doesn't share our values or much of our beliefs. He comes from a totally different background than the rest of us. That's why we need him. He will see things that we would normally fail to notice. He won't blindly follow orders and he will constantly challenge both my authority and Scott's. Which is why we need him. If we are not challenged, if we fail to see the things that we need to see, we will become complacent and make disastrous mistakes with grave consequences for all. Every tribe needs a renegade heretic, Jean. It keeps the bloodline from becoming too inbred."
"But isn't he dangerous?"
"Yes, he is. And I don't think he will ever stop being dangerous. But, inside he is a good man, Jean. And in the end we will have to trust in that fact."
"I think I understand. Well, don't let me keep you from whatever it was you were doing. It's getting late. Good night Professor."
"Good night Jean. Oh and Jean?"
"Wolverine seems to have made quite an impression on you."
Jean sort of half nodded and then headed up the stairs. She found Wolverine waiting for her at her bedroom door. How in the world did he get up there without her or the Professor noticing?
"Hey Red. Listen, I just wanted to say I'm sorry if I spooked ya earlier tonight."
"You didn't spook me... much. Don't worry Wolverine, I'll get you back."
Wolverine grinned. He stepped aside to allow Jean access to her door. As Jean opened her door she realized she had forgotten something.
"Oh Wolverine, I'm sorry, but I never did ask you your name..."
Jean's voice trailed off as she turned to face Wolverine. He was gone, nowhere to be seen. Jean shook her head and entered her room. She turned on her radio and proceeded to get ready for bed. She changed into her nightgown, and headed into her private bathroom. As she started to brush her teeth she vaguely heard the DJ on the radio say something about dedicating the next song to the memory of the late Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame. She stopped in the middle of brushing as she heard the Thin Lizzy song "Renegade" being played over the airwaves:
Something forced Jean to move to her window. With her toothbrush still in her mouth she peered out the window. Outside she could see Wolverine standing next to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He was staring at something in his hand. She couldn't quite make out what it was, but it looked like a small leather pouch. She watched Wolverine jump on his bike, start it and speed away.
Jean finished brushing her teeth. As she climbed into bed and turned off the radio she realized why Wolverine's eyes had bothered her so much. They were the eyes of a man whose soul had been ripped apart and put back together more than once. They were the eyes of a man who cried from the inside. They were the eyes of a renegade.
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