Title: Rivulets
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Storm and Wolverine.
Setting: Mid-X1.
Summary: Storm cleans up after the death of Senator Kelly.
Disclaimer: Marvel and Fox create the characters that sell. I’m simply playing with them.
Notes: This is a birthday present for Wabbitseason. She asked for a ficlet about Storm and Wolverine in relation to their “right side” exchange in X1. I probably would have written something a bit lighter as a birthday gift, but the conversation in question really called for a more serious approach, so here it is.



Soft light glistened off the pool of watery fluid on the medlab floor. The stuff was transparent and odorless, seemingly as innocent as if a sink had overrun somewhere; but Ororo Munroe shuddered every time she touched it. There were wet footprints trailing out into the corridor, and damp splashes on the front of her shirt, and she was sick to her stomach. She felt as stained by the water as if it were blood—and perhaps it might as well have been.

She was kneeling on the floor with a stack of old towels, mopping up a puddle that had been a man half an hour before.

From a child accidentally impaled by a spear in Africa, to a mutant murdered in hate on the streets of New York, the deaths Ororo had witnessed in her life were many and terrible… but somehow Senator Kelly’s death held a special horror. The others had at least left corpses to be buried, but for him, there was not even that. Ororo had watched his body simply rip itself apart in an agonizing gush of liquid, and now there was nothing his people could have carried home to mourn over. Even the rivulets that constituted his sole remains were quickly drying, evaporating into the air, to be lost as if he never existed.

Even he didn’t deserve that. No one did.

She wanted to burn the towels, in some instinct for a sort of ceremonial cremation. She wanted to take a scalding shower, and scrub herself until her skin was raw. She wanted to cry—and indeed, a few salty drops may already have mingled with the puddle on the floor.

Perhaps the tears weren’t exactly for Kelly, whose hate was born of a fear too much like her own. Perhaps it was because he died at the hands of a fellow mutant: someone she once knew as a teacher, an elegant and sophisticated man. Professor Xavier had felt his friend’s darkness, and tried to prepare his students for a day when they must choose whether they would stand against it, but some part of Ororo had always hoped it would never really happen like this. In spite of the suffering normal people had inflicted on them, surely mutants as a race were above returning horror for horror. In time they would find other, peaceful ways to make the world accept them, just like the descendants of the slaves taken long ago from her native land.

But Magneto had killed, and he intended to go on killing, with a growing number of followers to aid him. The teacher had become a general, and there was an army to await his command after all.

There’s a war coming. Are you sure you’re on the right side?

Ororo closed her eyes as she remembered Logan’s words. Her answer to him had been harsh because of her very hope that it wasn’t true… and because deep down, she knew it was true. She had known it long before that moment when the dying Senator Kelly fell into Logan’s arms in the front doorway.

At least I’ve chosen a side.

Until now, that choice was little more than lip service. Nothing like this had happened before; Xavier’s X-Men were still young and untried, not only physically, but mentally. In the past they had intervened in a variety of clashes between humans and mutants, but those encounters, while sometimes dangerous, were all on a relatively small scale. Foiling mutant bank robbers, or saving innocent mutants from human mobs, could not prepare them for the reality of facing a former mentor who plotted genocide…

Or settle within their hearts the same disquieting question Logan had asked.

There was no more doubt now for Ororo, after the horrific spectacle of Kelly’s death. In his zeal for mutantkind, Magneto had become the very thing ordinary people feared—a thing they had just cause to fear. Ororo herself knew fear, and the anger it led to, and she knew that to cause it in others could never be the answer.

When she thought of Senator Kelly ever afterward, it wouldn’t be his hate she remembered, but his fear. It would be his desperate grip on her hand, the terror in his eyes as his body melted away… and someday, Erik Lehnsherr would answer for that.

“Need a mop?”

Ororo started and opened her eyes at the sound of Logan’s voice. She found him standing just inside the threshold of the medlab, arms folded, regarding her with a mix of irreverent flippancy and uneasy curiosity.

“Don’t say that, Logan,” she snapped, in an even harsher tone than she’d intended. She faltered and dropped her gaze to the sopping mess of soaked towels in front of her. “This—this was a person. At least he deserves respect for that much.”

Her gaze was still lowered, but she noticed a stirring of Logan’s faint shadow on the floor, as if he were shifting his weight uncomfortably. In a more careful tone, he said, “I thought you were supposed to be helping Cyclops get that plane of yours ready.”

“I had to do this first. I… couldn’t just leave him.” Ororo finally looked up at Logan. “I watched him die.”

The feral raised an eyebrow, unfolded his arms, and stepped closer, appraising the innocuous pool of fluid on the floor with detached interest. At last he shrugged and said cynically, “I’ve seen a lot worse.”

“Yeah. Maybe you’ve done a lot worse,” Ororo shot back bitterly, lowering her eyes once more.

Even without looking at him, she could almost see his expression and the tilt of his head: wry and defiant, but in the depths of his eyes, just a little bit startled and pained. For an instant, she could have regretted her words. Yet there was only unflinching, factual bluntness in his voice when he answered.

“Maybe I have.”

Ororo winced and declined to respond, reaching for another towel. Logan continued to watch her. She felt the unsettling intentness of his gaze, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of meeting it.

Logan was an enigma, a puzzle piece that didn’t fit, a jarring note that had set nerves at the school on edge. With the one exception of Rogue’s welfare, he seemed indifferent to the entire world. Certainly he didn’t care about Magneto’s deadly plans for the machine that had killed Senator Kelly; all he was interested in was saving the girl. If they succeeded in rescuing Rogue, and he could see her safely settled at the school, Ororo was sure he would move on. She couldn’t imagine him remaining in a place that was dedicated to a real purpose.

She was conflicted about that. A part of her felt she would rest easier without his dark, restless presence in their midst… and yet, there was something compelling in him. He was a raw force of nature, and if only he did care, she wondered what he could have become.

After the space of a few minutes, Logan spoke again, and his words faintly surprised her.

“For what it’s worth, I can understand what you people are trying to do. I think you’ve got the right intentions.” He paused slightly, and shook his head. “I just don’t think there’s any way you can ever make a difference.”

For a brief moment, the pain of Ororo’s own years of silent doubt welled up… but the convictions she clung to fought back instinctively, and won. A stillness came over her, and she sat up straighter on her knees, meeting Logan’s eyes with a quiet, level gaze.

“Will saving Rogue make a difference?”

At those words, Logan almost flinched. He looked down at her with an expression that was difficult to read, but there was a softness in it that she hadn’t seen before. His eyes mirrored thoughts that seemed to leave him perplexed and uncertain.

Then he knelt opposite her, picked up a dry towel, and gently pressed it down upon the liquid rivulets on the floor.

Ororo caught her breath faintly and stared at him, but now his head was bowed over the task of wiping up the pool of wetness between them. His expression was hidden from her… and she decided that might have been for the best.

She didn’t want to mingle any more tears with the last vestiges of Senator Kelly.

Perhaps Logan would never believe in saving the world; perhaps he believed it wasn’t worth saving. Perhaps saving the world was more than the X-Men could ever hope to achieve, anyway. But Logan could care about one life—and that was enough. At least for now.

At least it was a start.

© 2009 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback