Guide Me To The CentreStarted by Shaali Evans at Apr 21, 2020 3:38 AM
November 4, 2023
"Please let me help. I can heal you."
She did not anticipate exactly how hard navigating this puzzle without the proper tools was really going to be. When learning the school had its very own rather sizable hedge maze, the healer had become so excited she’d almost gone to have a look at it then and there. Back then it was a little too late in the evening to be traversing high-set hedge plants along narrow walkways around twists and bends all by herself, and, in the dark. Not a good idea, especially considering she did not wish to use the ‘How-To’ write up on the school’s webpage. Shaali was somewhat old-school with any sort of puzzle, online video games included. She’d work them out for herself or die… okay, so maybe not literally die. More like take a long time trying until she got there in the end.
In this case, she’d found a few of the smaller areas, the special little gardens with water features and outdoor seating perfect for relaxing in, only about five minutes ago leaving one spot full of so many different varieties of roses she wondered how in the world those looking after them had the time to keep them so beautiful. Then she remembered, she was in a school full of mutants. she was pretty sure those with some sort of affinity to nature were helping to keep even the hedge maze as a whole always looking so healthy and vibrant.
Running her left hand over the leaves she took yet another turn right and, in seeing the dead end up ahead, let out an exasperated sigh. “You're just going to have to face it. If you don’t get help from someone soon you're going to be here all day,” she said to herself. “I could climb up but that…” she paused, looking closer at the hedge and shaking her head. “Not built for that. At least, not for me.”
Backtracking, Shaali decided to try again, this time taking a left when she’d previously taken a right and going straight ahead instead of turning, the scent of familiar roses soon filling the air. “Okay, that does it!" she said, moving over closer to one of the stone bench seats and sitting down. After a few moments of admiring the sheer amount of red coloured roses on the bush right next to it, taking in another whiff of an aroma she was certain could be smelt all over the school grounds, Shaali sighed, resigning herself to needing help.
"Hello, is anyone out there?" she finally called. "Could someone please come and guide me to the centre so I don’t have to spend all day looking for it?”
Quite often there would be the desire to go somewhere quiet and tranquil, to immerse oneself in nature or as close as one could get to it and that was an urge Logan could feel more strongly than most. Like his namesake, he was at least in part a solitary predator driven as much by instinct and emotion as rational thought and for a long time that part had dominated. Even now after all these years, it was as much about maintaining a balance, being socialised and civilised and keeping those instincts in check and thinking before acting on impulse. Over time the stresses could build up and so he would have to withdraw back into the wild to be at peace with himself until he was ready to immerse himself again.
Fortunately, with the mansion's extensive grounds and gardens it wasn't all that hard to find the quiet particularly later the evening when it was getting close to nightfall. Keen senses weren't impeded by the darkness, Logan having pretty good night vision and as much reliant on hearing and smell as anything else. Even when his eyes were closed as he knelt in quiet meditation he was still very much aware of his surroundings on a subconscious level, in fact immersing himself in every scent like the rich heady aroma of roses and every slight sound like the gentle gurgling of the fountain.
The hedge maze was familiar territory, one of Logan's favoured places for meditation particularly this time in the day. Every inch was long since familiar, a mental map of sounds and scents and the texture of the ground underfoot, as well as the best areas, to go to depending on his mood. He'd chosen one of his favourite spots, with the white roses and the fountain with the griffin statue nearby, slipped off his jacket and kicked off boots and socks and then just let himself relax.
The only distraction was a memory of when he'd first come across this particular spot, the one time he'd let himself get talked into joining one of Lawrence's gaming sessions, Ruins and Goblins or something and 'live-action' where he'd been an orc barbarian or something and had kidnapped the princess Deirdre. Oh, and he'd gotten in trouble when he was supposed to play dead after getting whacked a few times with a plastic sword and they didn't buy his argument about a healing factor. Fun times, fun times.
Logan blinked, opening his eyes as he heard the call, taking a sniff of the air and picking up on a scent as he took a moment to recall the identity. He recognised the voice, the scent as well now that he'd gotten it, Crystal's mother the healer whom it seemed had decided to make her first visit to the maze and whom Logan was sure would be a lot more hindered when it got dark than he would. Crystal would probably be quite worried as well if her mother was lost in a maze and not there for her when it was bedtime and in any case, he never was one not to come to the aid of a damsel in distress. Not that he would call her that, though maybe he might have a word or two about perhaps it being better to try out a maze earlier in the day.
"I hear ya. Stay where ya are and I'll come to you. We can go ta the centre but then I'd better get ya back...soon be yer daughters bedtime I'd think," Logan called out.
Getting to his feet, he considered a moment but decided to leave his boots and jacket for now, coming back to retrieve them after he'd located Shaali. Fortunately, he had her scent and it was only a matter of a couple of minutes before he was coming into view of her on sitting on a stone bench near some rose bushes. A crooked grin on his stubbly face, the feral shook his head a little as he neared her.
"Maybe better ta try a little earlier in the day next time, huh?" he asked in his slightly gruff gravelly voice, though there was some good-natured humour in his tone.
"Please let me help. I can heal you."
Oh, thank goodness! Shaali inwardly sighed with relief as the voice reached her, then not very long afterwards the owner of it entered the clearing. Glancing around at his words, the healer just leaned her head to the side a little, a look of “Yeah, yeah, rub it in,” on her face before she seemed to just pause and really take in whom she hadn’t recognised until now was the one they called Wolverine, or, Logan.
Yet to actually meet the man and not at the mansion long enough to really pick up on any other mentions or feelings on him, Shaali just sat there studying his face, something she always did, most times very discreetly, whenever meeting someone new. It was just who she was, growing up with a mother who was exactly the same. The two of them having this inner ability to just know when another was not doing very well, whether emotionally or physically and, from what Shaali could tell, for this man, it was both.
“Yes, next time I’ll also download the offered map too instead of assuming I won't need it,” she agreed, now standing up and taking in the darkening sky above. “Sorry to interrupt whatever you were doing but thank you for helping,” she added, catching his gaze. She wanted to ask if he was alright but held back. Who would even want to say as such to a stranger? Still… she couldn’t help herself. When she saw someone was suffering in some way she needed to at least offer her help. “You can tell me to mind my own business, but, are you okay?” she asked, carefully.
Easy enough to tell emotions by scent, in this case, that she'd been relieved and grateful someone had come, even if she did give him a look at his attempt at humour. Then it seemed abruptly that her demeanour changed and Logan felt that slightly prickly feeling, purely instinctual response to getting looked at intently though that wasn't that unusual. This was the first time that they'd met and he was quite a distinctive individual in appearance, a 'slightly dishevelled wolfman' as Deirdre had once put it.
"Least yer not way out in the woods but yeah, lack of preparations can kill ya," he replied to Shaali as she stood up. "No problem, I was just meditating, and yer welcome," Logan had been on the cusp of turning to let Shaali follow him back out of the maze when she had to go and ask him that question, the same one that everyone always seemed to ask him at some point and that was always the most difficult one to answer.
When had he been okay? Honestly, he couldn't recall a time when he'd have considered himself to be entirely fine or at least by most people's definition. He could heal from almost any injury, no scars visible on his skin but in his psyche, probably one knotted mass of figurative scar tissue. Some days he almost longed for the time when he'd had no real memories of his past, even as he'd been so desperate to learn the truth he had to admit that much of it just brought more pain in the end. Was it really then so much to wonder that in a way he'd almost found it a relief in those last seconds as he felt himself crumble away to dust? Or that he felt conflicted since coming back.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be?" Logan replied, shrugging his shoulders and hoping that would satisfy her.
"Wow," Shaali thought. "So not okay." She gave him both a curious and genuinely concerned look. "Doesn't sound like it," she finally said. "But, hey, I didn't mean to pry. I'm a healer, we tend to care too much sometimes. That, and body language, yours is currently telling me a lot." Green eyes looked at him up and down as if to emphasise the point. "I can shut up, leave it alone. Maybe... just... you've probably heard this a million times already, it does help to talk and since you don't know me that well, nothing to worry about in being judged or possibly hurting anyone's feelings," she glanced away for a few moments. "Goodness knows we all have something weighing on our minds since it happened. What is it, almost nine months ago now?"
Of course, it hadn't satisfied her, it never really did with those who were genuinely compassionate or concerned. There had been so many similar conversations in the past, the words might be different but the tone and the look and he could still recall Xavier, Jean, Ororo or at one time or another probably just about everyone...even Scott if he was honest about it. There had been a lot of them these last nine months especially in the early days since his… return.
"Yeah, I've heard it...must be getting on fer not a million but thousands, tens of thousands, hundred thousand or more and yeah, yer scent, body language, yer one of those who really mean it, ya really do care so I guess even if ya did shut up and leave it alone ya wouldn't. Least, not in yer head," Logan muttered, giving a slight shake of his head.
He'd have to do what he did those other times, open up a little, see what could satisfy her and maybe even with what she said being true, he could tell her what he couldn't tell the others. That didn't mean of course he'd come straight out with it, though he'd start somewhere.
"How old would you say I was? If ya had to guess my age just by looking at me."
The healer had been studying him enough already to come back with, “I honestly couldn’t say,” almost straight away. “These days a 15-year-old can look 20, a 20-year-old 15 and with all the varying types of regenerative abilities out there, you could be well over 100 years old and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” she told him. “I’m thinking you’re hinting at the latter, right?” That would mean he probably wished he’d stayed dusted, maybe? If that was the case, she could hardly blame him. She hadn’t gotten past that point yet herself but had a feeling her own healing abilities would stop her from feeling the full effects of old age long after the average life span of 80.
Logan nodded his head, "Yeah, yer right Darlin'. Ain't like I really know myself to be honest. Kind of hazy for the most part, just some snatches but the first really clear one I do have. I was with him; we were still brothers back then. Yeah, Gettysburg and first time I got t'feel shrapnel shredding my guts. I know I was still as young as I looked then, least I felt young... maybe thirty a little more or less."
Visibly flinching, Shaali’s features fell into one of sincere sympathy. Regardless of having a healing factor, the pain before it kicked in would’ve been insane. “Gettysburg?” she asked, after working the maths out in her head eyes soon widening at the realization of exactly how old he actually was. “That was in 1863. My gosh!” and she went quiet for a bit. “Okay, I think I get it now,” the understanding clear in her tone.
Someone that old probably wished he could’ve died a lot sooner and from what else he’d just given away, he couldn’t remember everything about his past. Within her thoughts, Shaali fell into healing mode, wondering if that was something she could help him with. Guessing he might not welcome such an offer in the slightest. Still, she wasn’t going to give up without at least trying.
Logan managed a slight grin, as he watched Shaali working out his age and then reacting pretty much the way most tended to do when they realised for the first time. He gave a nod as he replied to her, "Yeah, I've been around a while though I ain't the only one you might meet who has. Ireland, pretty sure she's nearly as old as me and she comes round fairly often."
Of course, it seemed that Shaali wanted to know about his memories, a rather long story and considering how she'd reacted at the mention of his shrapnel experience it probably wouldn't be comfortable listening for her. Healers always did tend to be compassionate and caring, maybe a little too much for their own comfort but he could already tell she wasn't going to give up until he'd told her.
"Long story and it ain't a particularly happy one, just to give ya fair warning," Logan told her, looking Shaali in the eyes.
"Lemme show ya something," he continued, holding a hand up and with the familiar 'snikt' popping the three gleaming adamantium claws.
"I don't know if you're familiar with adamantium? That's the metal that coats these and the rest of my skeleton and it ain't a natural part of my mutation if you get what I'm saying."
Eyebrow raised, Shaali looked thoughtful. Exactly how many people had she met in her thus far very short lifespan by comparison that she didn’t even know were actually very, very old? A smile graced her lips, ever so tempted to tease him about it, but she wasn’t sure how he’d react to that; might not appreciate she was just trying to be funny. Those thoughts were soon interrupted by his warning about his life not being a pleasant one at times. She’d already guessed that. No one could live that long all happy and joyous.
Then came the sound, the healer jumping slightly then once again staring wide-eyed, not at his face this time, but at the shiny, metal blades coming out of his hands. She was torn between gasping in absolute awe and trying to portray empathy that such a thing definitely was not meant to be such a massive part of him. “Those are…” she paused, reaching out. “May I?” she asked, hand waiting in mid-air for his answer.
She seemed thoughtful but he'd caught the slight smile, that maybe she'd have been tempted to make a quip or some other remark. Maybe he would have mock growled though he'd have more likely let it pass, though he wasn't quite sure if Shaali would feel quite so like joking after she knew more of his story.
Most did tend to jump the first time, especially if they didn't know what to expect but she seemed more fascinated than anything by the blades. Not that many people would want to touch them, so Logan thought that he'd allow it this once though not without a warning.
"Alright, you can touch them if ya want, but ya better be careful. They're a lot sharper than they look, cut through pretty much anything so touch the sharp edge, and you could lose a finger or two. I'll keep as still as I can," Logan's tone was serious, wanting Shaali to be fully aware that she would need to be careful.
It was even more dangerous after all than if you touched the muttonchops without asking first.
“I’d imagine so,” Shaali said in agreement to the blades being very sharp as she reached over and touched the top of each one ever so carefully. “You know what?” she began, another examination given before her hand fell back down by her side. “I can stand here and say how absolutely cool those look but I know having something like that attached to your entire skeleton would not be good for you, even now. That’s got to be causing some sort of metal poisoning…” the healer’s words trailed off as she searched her memory for everything she’d read on the subject. “I haven’t ever healed someone with so much in their system and it’d have to be a continuous process but I could supercharge your own healing factor even more to stop the effects, if you like?”
If he hadn’t worked it out by now, that was Shaali Evans all over. From the moment she met someone, she was thinking about how she could help them and for her, it was beyond the normal emotional or physical support the average person could give. She had an ability that allowed her to fix what others couldn’t, or, in Logan’s case, further enhance what he already possessed.
Wolverine in a new post under his account now, please, Mark.
Logan was quiet for a few moments, having listened to Shaali's offer and giving it consideration. For as long as he could remember, at least for those last few decades where his memories were clear he'd been living with the adamantium. While it was true that it was his healing factor that would keep the poisoning at bay and that if for some reason it should fail him or be otherwise compromised then he'd either be in for a slow and painful death or an unpleasant bout of sickness. However his healing factor was what he was used to, let him heal quickly enough and he was satisfied with that.
"Thank ya for the offer, for someone ya only just met...that's rare. It's something I'd really need to think about though and only if it was a case where I couldn't deal with it myself," Logan replied.
He shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know what it involves when ya heal someone but very few things are ever free. Ya say it would have ta be continuous and if it took something out of you or if it caused ya pain, I wouldn't feel comfortable with that. It ain't like I've not lived with this for decades and can carry on doing so, so I'm okay."