Title: Alchemical Currents
Fandom: Marvel Cinematic Universe, X-Men
Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Slash
Relationship(s): Logan Howlett/Steve Rogers
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Explicit Sex, Violence-Canon-Level, Medical Procedures
Author Notes: Set after X-Men: The Last Stand and Marvel’s The Avengers
Beta: Terry Smith, Jlencre
Word Count: 52,815
Summary: After the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers went on a journey to figure out where he might fit in a strange and uncertain world. He didn’t just find a place for himself in the future, he also discovered a face from his past. Now he just had to figure out how to keep both.
Steve made his way to the kitchen. He could really use a shower, but he wasn’t sure he was ready to go back to their rooms yet. He had just enough time to pour himself some orange juice before the elevator opened and Tony strode out.
“J told me you were done hitting things,” Tony said frankly. “We have a problem that you should have some input in how we handle.”
Steve set down his glass and leaned back against the counter, folding his arms over the knot that had lodged itself in his chest since he and Logan had talked in the early morning.
“It’s Logan’s decision to make. I’m not going to push him.”
“Oh,” Tony said and stopped mid stride for a moment before continuing to the coffee maker. “He must have told you. Yeah, that’s a problem, but I already have a solution for that if he wants it. I meant another thing.”
Steve tried to take a deep breath and pushed back his current turmoil to focus on this new problem.
“What is it?”
Tony gave an exasperated sigh. “Nick Fury won’t stop calling.”
Steve shouldn’t have been surprised by that, but he’d been so focused on recovery and Logan that SHEILD hadn’t really crossed his mind again until right now.
“I figured I’d have to debrief at some point, but I’ll be honest and say I hadn’t really thought about it. You told me the team got back safe and SHIELD cleaned up the bunker, so I considered my obligation ended there and I would get back in touch with them once we’d figured things out.”
Tony made a clucking noise with his tongue. “SHIELD doesn’t just let people go like that, much less Captain America. I think Fury knows you’re smart enough to realize something went wrong, and he wants to do damage control. Why else would he come out from his cave and show up at my doorstep?”
“He came here?” Steve asked with raised eyebrows.
“Yep,” Tony popped the P as he replied. “Waltzed right up to the reception desk on the ground floor and asked for you by name. Don’t worry, I handled him before he even knew he was being handled.”
Steve was a little skeptical. “How does someone handle Director Fury?”
“Oh, I totally pulled a classic walk and talk,” Tony said nonchalantly as he took a sip from his freshly brewed coffee.
Steve had no idea what Tony meant by a walk and talk, but apparently his blank expression conveyed that without words.
“You don’t know what a walk and talk is? Of course you don’t. Oh man, that’s classic Sorkin television right there. We’ve got to watch some West Wing together, buddy.”
Tony paused and set his mug down. “It’s just a fast-paced way to get characters on TV from one place to another. They talk while they walk. That sounds ridiculous. We all talk while we walk. I’m not explaining this well.”
Tony shook his head and made a few vague gestures in an attempt to restart his explanation. Then he seemed to give it up for the moment.
“Okay,” Tony summarized. “I swept into the lobby in my best suit and said a lot of nonsense about a board meeting and Stark Industries business and took him by the arm while I talked and swept him into a waiting car with me. Wouldn’t let him get a word in edgewise. Then I talked his ear off about more fancy sounding garbage until we’d gone a few blocks. I had the driver pull over and I stepped out, still talking the whole time. I closed the door and the car was pulling away with Fury still in it before he knew what happened.”
Steve was kind of stunned as he tried to imagine this scene, but when he pictured a confused Fury being chauffeured away from Tony, he couldn’t keep from bursting into surprised laughter. Tony smiled as if pleased as punch with his successful diversion.
“Didn’t he have bodyguards or agents with him?” Steve managed after he’d stopped laughing.
“Either he did and he didn’t have time to signal them to follow, or he didn’t think he needed them. Personally, my money’s on him being so arrogant as to think he can defend himself against most threats.”
Steve nodded. “I’m starting to learn that. So, he called and came here?”
“Yes, and he sent Natasha here on one occasion, but she left without fuss when Jarvis reported to the receptionist that you were unavailable. My guess is she was instructed not to push too hard,” Tony reported.
Tony continued. “When I called SHIELD in after we picked you up, I reported that you were injured, but alive. I’m sure Fury wants to see that for himself. Don’t worry though, security for these floors is the best. Private elevators, lockdown protocols, the works. No one is getting you out of here against your will.”
Steve was taken aback. “Do you think that’s a real possibility?”
Tony shrugged. “Well, I don’t think we’re there yet. Right now, SHIELD doesn’t have control of someone it considers an asset and/or liability with the knowledge you have of the last mission, and Fury will want to bring you back into the fold.”
“I just…” Steve broke off and shook his head. “I find it hard to believe they’d force someone into service. When I was told of the Avengers Initiative, I got the impression I’d be able to work with SHIELD at my discretion between Avengers missions. I figured that’s why they let me go off on a road trip for the past few months. Now it feels like…well, it just doesn’t feel right.”
Tony crossed his arms and leaned against the counter across from Steve. “Look, you know the story of Logan’s life the past few decades, but Bruce’s isn’t all that different. Certain people in the government don’t want him free. They want to either contain him or wield him as a weapon. Why do you think he’s holed up here?
That gave Steve pause. He didn’t really know much about his teammates beyond what SHIELD had told him. He had no idea that Bruce was in danger of being held or used against his will. If SHIELD had conveniently left out information like that in his briefings, what else had they withheld? In just the last couple weeks, he’d learned more about who Tony Stark really was than in a supposed summary of his life and accomplishments furnished by SHEILD.
“I’m beginning to think SHIELD might have some problems we don’t necessarily know the extent of yet, but Fury has always been the kind of man to manipulate people toward his own goals. You have to decide if you can work within that framework or not. And if you consider my opinion worth anything, I think you should keep some distance until we figure out what’s going on over there that FUBARed a mission so badly it almost killed you. If you were anyone but, well, you, you’d be dead, Cap.”
Steve was quiet for a moment, taking in what Tony had said.
“I do, you know,” he broke the silence.
“Do what?” Tony asked.
“I value your opinion. I know I let myself be influenced by a first impression of you that wasn’t great. I’m sorry for that.”
Tony sighed and ran his hand through his hair. “You’re a good guy, Steve Rogers. Thanks.”
After a slightly awkward beat of silence, Tony moved to pour himself another coffee.
“So, you and Wolverine have a little chat?”
“Yeah,” Steve acknowledged. “I don’t think I took it very well.”
“Eh, don’t sweat it,” Tony said between sips of coffee. “I think pretty much anyone would be upset in your shoes.”
“I want to ask you how you’re going to fix it, but he’s the one I should really be talking to,” Steve admitted.
“Yeah, yeah. Communication is important in relationships, and all that. Go,” Tony said while making a shooing motion with his free hand, his coffee clutched like a lifeline in the other, “have a little heart to heart with your man, Rogers. We’ll keep stalling SHEILD until you’re ready to deal with that.”
Steve chuckled. “Yeah, okay.”
Steve found Logan lounging on the couch in their suite watching the morning news.
“Crazy they do this every day, huh?”
Logan looked over at Steve and sat up. “Yeah, the public appetite for what they call news these days is something else.”
Steve huffed a laugh and sat down next to him. He leaned back into the couch, tilting his head to look up at the ceiling.
“I’m sorry,” Steve started.
“Don’t worry about it.”
Steve placed his hand palm up on Logan’s thigh and was happy when it was grasped in return.
“I’ll support whatever decision you make, you know.”
“I know,” Logan acknowledged.
They sat while the news played quietly in the background for a few moments.
“Do you want to go meet my people?” Logan asked, seemingly out of the blue.
Steve turned his head to look at him. “Yeah? You’d want to introduce me to them?”
“Well, yeah. I’ve already told them about you, and they know why I’m here now, so nothing to worry about.”
Steve chuckled. “Yeah, I guess. Just feels like you’re taking me home to meet the family or something.”
Logan leaned in for a kiss then.
“I am,” he said when he pulled back. “That’s my home and my family now, and I’d love to show you all of it.”
Steve smiled. “I’d love that too.”
Logan’s expression sobered after a few seconds. “I don’t want you to think I’m stringing you along by not telling you my decision, but I honestly haven’t made up my mind yet.”
“That’s okay. I know you’ll talk to me when you do.”
After one more quick kiss, Steve stood.
“I’m going to clean up, then let’s touch base with Tony before we go.”
Steve showered and dressed, and they both packed to be gone for a few days. Steve shouldn’t have been surprised to find some extra clothes in his size in the room Tony had set up for them. He was genuinely grateful that Tony was a such a thoughtful guy.
Jarvis instructed them that Tony was available in his lab when they inquired, and they made their way there.
“Well, if it isn’t the super boyfriends,” Tony greeted.
“Hey,” Steve said as they walked over to the workbench Tony was sitting at. “We’re leaving for a few days.”
Tony turned from the holographic display he seemed to be manipulating and looked at them.
“Where to? A honeymoon already? I didn’t even get a wedding invite. I’m hurt.”
Steve flushed a little. It was a nice thought, but neither he nor Logan had really been the settle down types. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, they had other things to worry about right now.
“We’re heading to Xavier’s,” Logan explained.
“Ah,” Tony acknowledged. “Tell Chuck I said ‘hi,’ okay?”
Logan gave a little smile of acknowledgement.
“Thanks for everything the past few days, Tony,” Steve praised. “I’m glad I didn’t land back with SHIELD or worse after that mess.”
“Anytime, Cap. I’ll keep Fury running circles until we decide what we want to do about that situation,” Tony replied as he turned back to his work.
Steve looked at Logan who shrugged. Steve was starting to realize Tony wasn’t all that comfortable accepting compliments or thanks. They turned to walk out, but Steve remembered something.
“Is Dr. Banner around? I’d like to say goodbye to him as well.”
Jarvis answered. “Dr. Banner is currently meditating in his room.”
“Bah, there goes Green Bean being all healthy and shit,” Tony said without turning from his work. “I’ll tell him you said goodbye. I’m sure he’ll be sticking around for a while, so he should be here when you get back.”
Right before they reached the elevator Tony called out again. “Hey, Logan.”
“Yeah?” Logan answered.
“Maybe talk to your people about your situation, okay? I’m not saying you have to air all your laundry with everyone, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have someone you trust look things over. Just have them get in touch with me for all the data.”
Logan didn’t really acknowledge what Tony said, and just stepped onto the waiting elevator.
“Thanks again, Tony,” Steve said as he joined him.
They pulled up to the mansion in late afternoon. Steve had let Logan drive his bike and enjoyed the views of upstate New York while riding curved against his back. He was surprised, but realized maybe he shouldn’t be, to see young people of a variety of ages playing on a basketball court in the yard and a few sprawled in groups on the grass enjoying the unseasonably warm autumn day. The property seemed cheery and inviting. Steve could already see why Logan liked it here.
They drove slowly down the main drive, and around to a garage where, once inside, they descended a ramp to a lower level that turned out to be a hangar for a jet and a few other vehicles. As they parked, they were approached by a graceful woman with otherworldly white hair. They dismounted and had just grabbed their bags when she greeted them.
“Logan, good to see you again,” she said with a smile.
Logan swept the woman up in a warm hug. “Ororo. Good to be home.”
He stepped back and gestured to Steve. “This is Steve Rogers.”
Steve held out his hand. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”
“Captain Rogers, of course. So glad to have you,” she said as they shook hands. “We were so happy to hear that you and Logan found each other again after all these years. Logan talked so much about you in the couple of days he was here last that I feel like I know you already. I trust you’ve recovered from your injuries?”
It took Steve a moment to remember that Logan had been back here while he was at SHIELD and had kept in touch throughout his recovery. He was used to people knowing who he was when he walked into a room though, so this wasn’t all that different. Except it really was, because this was Logan’s family now, and Steve wanted to impress them.
“Please, call me Steve. And yes, I’m back in fighting form.”
“We’re so glad you could come visit with Logan,” Ororo said as she turned and lead them into the facility. “He was pretty worried about you for a while there.”
They didn’t linger in the lower levels, but Steve could see it was a high-tech facility not dissimilar to Tony’s floors in Stark Tower. As they entered the mansion proper, it took on the feel of a school. It was too late in the day for class to be in session, but students were milling around either relaxing or appearing to be off to study.
“Charles thought you might like to join him for dinner tonight,” Ororo said as she led them through the halls.
“That would be great, thanks. Are you joining us?” Logan asked.
She nodded. “Yes, and Hank is as well.”
“Furball’s in town? Well, damn. It’s a party,” Logan said with a chuckle.
Steve shot Logan a questioning look.
“Ambassador McCoy. Used to teach here back in the day,” Logan explained.
They walked a little further down a side corridor and then entered a moderately sized sitting room. When they entered the other two occupants of the room turned to them. A bald man in a wheelchair approached them with hand outstretched.
“Welcome back, Logan. Captain Rogers. So glad to have you with us,” he greeted Steve.
“Steve, this is Professor Charles Xavier,” Logan introduced, “and American Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Hank McCoy.”
Steve shook Xavier’s hand and then McCoy’s. Seeing him, Logan’s nickname of Furball suddenly made sense. The man was blue from head to toe and what wasn’t covered in a sharp suit was quite hairy. McCoy was probably the most outwardly obvious mutant Steve had met so far, but he seemed admirably comfortable in his skin.
“Thank you for all you did in New York, Captain,” McCoy commended.
Steve nodded. “It was the least I could do. I’m so glad to meet all of you. Logan’s told me some about all of this,” Steve said, gesturing around them, “but the reality is quite something to behold. All the children here have powers?”
“Yes, indeed. Most are born with them thanks to what we refer to as the mutant gene. We help them learn to use or manage their unique abilities and provide them with a safe community,” Xavier explained.
Steve nodded. “Logan said you also have a team that uses their powers in a professional capacity?”
“That’s true. Your Wolverine is part of it. Storm here is also,” Xavier said gesturing to Ororo. “Dr. McCoy was years ago as well.”
“I’d love to learn more about what you do here, and more about the team Logan has backing him up these days.”
“Well, dinner is ready,” Xavier announced, “so we can get to know each other better over some good food.”
The time spent over the meal was pleasant and conversation was easy and interesting. They asked questions of Steve, but nothing to make him feel like he was being interrogated. It was clear that Logan had been through a lot with these people, and they’d formed a bond not unlike the one they’d shared with the Howling Commandos. This one might not have been forged in war, but there were elements of the same kind of warrior brotherhood here.
Steve could definitely see the appeal. This was much more than the cursory relationships he saw at SHIELD. He had once hoped the Avengers could be a brotherhood like this, but they’d all gone their separate ways and didn’t have anything to hold them together beyond a call to assemble. Steve had started to think that he just wouldn’t find a solid team to work with in this new future, but maybe he had just been looking in the wrong places.
When dinner was finished, Ororo stood and said her goodbyes as she left to do rounds of the dormitories before curfew. When she had gone, Xavier leaned forward in his chair and rested his arms on the table.
“Now, Logan. Are you going to tell me what has your thoughts so preoccupied? I’m guessing it has something to do with the email I received today from Tony Stark with his updated personal phone number, should I have need of it.”
Steve took Logan’s hand under the table. They hadn’t really talked about this much themselves, so he didn’t know if Logan really wanted to involve others. Either way, Steve was here to support him, and he wanted Logan to know that.
Logan sighed and sat back in his chair. “You know I’m an open book to you, Professor. You could have just gone digging.”
“No. I could tell this was personal. I didn’t want to intrude like that,” Xavier said.
“Here you are making me do all the hard work. Now I gotta talk about it like a responsible adult,” Logan grumbled.
Steve smiled. Logan was always so reassuringly himself and Steve wasn’t too ashamed to admit he clung to that now.
Logan let out a long breath. “I’m dying.”
Steve looked at Hank when he gasped.
“That’s impossible,” Charles murmured.
Logan let out a small, bitter sounding laugh. “Oh, it’s not only possible, it’s happening. Sorry to drop it on you like this though.”
“What’s going on?” Hank questioned.
“Stark has technology that scanned me and found high levels of adamantium.”
“Of course, that would be true,” Charles replied, “but there’s more, isn’t there?”
Logan nodded. “He didn’t just find my adamantium skeleton, he found it in my blood. The fact is that it’s slowly poisoning me from the inside out as it decays and increases my blood toxicity.”
“And your healing factor cannot compensate for this?” Charles asked.
Logan shook his head. “Only to a certain point.”
“Unfortunately, that makes sense,” Dr. McCoy said with a frown. “The effects of many toxins are cumulative. Your healing factor has likely mitigated the amount of damage over the years.”
They were all quiet for a moment while Charles and Hank seemed to fully digest the news. Steve didn’t interrupt. It wasn’t his story to tell, and these were Logan’s trusted friends.
“I presume Stark has a solution?” Charles said after a moment.
Logan snorted. “Got it in one.”
“And you aren’t sure if having an expiration date might not be a bad idea, are you?”
Logan seemed to tense at Charles’ quick assessment. “You’re a mind reader even when you aren’t reading minds.”
“No one here would judge the choice you make, you know,” Hank said quietly. “You know I’ve faced a similar choice myself a time or two.”
Steve could imagine that being blue and covered in fur wasn’t always easy, even in the seemingly more open and accepting modern times. If Hank had an opportunity to be “human” again, Steve imagined it would have been a difficult decision.
“Do you want me to take a look at Stark’s work? Give a second opinion?” Hank added.
Logan seemed to relax and nodded. “If you have the time, I wouldn’t mind. Just want to make sure I’ve got my head on straight with this.”
Xavier looked Logan in the eye then, and spoke sincerely. “I know you’ll do what’s right for you, Logan. We will support you in whatever way we can.”
Logan nodded and Steve could see the relief in his expression.
“Thank you, Charles. That means a lot.”
“Anytime. You should know that by now,” Xavier pushed back from the table and the rest of them stood. “Now, Hank and I will contact Mr. Stark and have a look at your test results and his ideas. You two enjoy your evening and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
Hank turned to them. “It was nice to meet you, Steve, but I’ll be heading back to the city tonight after we’re done. Perhaps we can arrange to meet up when you’re there next.”
Steve held out his hand and Hank shook it. “That would be nice, thank you.”
With that Logan led him back into the hall. “Would you like the nickel tour?”
Steve smiled. “I’d love to see where you work now. It’s still hard for me to imagine you teaching in a classroom. Not that you don’t have the smarts for it, but I just didn’t think you could stand still that long.”
“Well, I’m not exactly known as a disciplinarian, and I wouldn’t say my lessons are always conventional either. It works,” Logan finished with a shrug.
“I’m glad,” Steve commented as they walked down a hallway that appeared to have classrooms on either side. “We met in a world of fighting and violence, and it was hard to imagine ever having a normal life again, you know? And I know that wasn’t the first war you fought in. I don’t regret it. We were doing the right thing, and I couldn’t have ever sat and watched it happen if I had the power to do anything to help. I’m just…”
Steve trailed off in thought as they entered a classroom. It was obviously Logan’s judging by the comfortable way he walked up to the desk at the front and sat down in the chair. Steve followed and trailed his hand along the oak desktop as he came to a stop next to Logan.
“I’m just glad that I woke up to find life did go on and the good guys mostly won. I mean, it would have been nice if I didn’t end up fighting aliens in Manhattan so soon after that, but it’s something I’ve really appreciated these last few months on the road,” Steve finished.
Logan grabbed his hand and pulled him from where he’d been leaning on the desk to straddle his lap. Steve settled with his arms resting on Logan’s shoulders.
“I’m just glad you woke up. I’m glad we’re here right now,” Logan said softly before leaning up for a kiss.
They lingered for a moment just enjoying the contact before moving and kissing with lips and tongues. Steve was so lost to the moment that he was surprised when they were interrupted.
“Mr. Howlett, I—”
Steve jumped up off Logan’s lap and stood trying to look composed, while Logan flailed for a moment in the unbalanced chair before standing. Steve would have laughed if he wasn’t so concerned about a student finding them like that.
“I’m sorry. I heard you were back and had a question about the assignment and Mary said she saw you headed to the classroom and I thought I could just come ask you now,” the lanky kid said in a rush.
He was obviously nervous, and Steve watched with interest as the teen began to hover several inches off the floor as he talked.
Logan held up his hands. “It’s fine, William. I’d be happy to help you.”
The student, William, must not have realized he was using his powers, because he suddenly dropped to the floor and stumbled, dropping his armful of books and papers with the unexpected jolt. Steve walked over and picked up a textbook he had dropped.
“Are you okay?”
“Oh, ah, yeah. That happens, a lot actually. I’m used to it,” William said as he gathered the papers that had scattered on the floor.
When the kid looked up from where he had been kneeling on the floor he froze.
“Oh,” William said with awe in his voice. “You’re Captain America.”
Steve smiled. “I am. Steve Rogers, at your service.” He held out a hand to help the boy up.
“Wow, you’re really cool!” William said, getting to his feet. “Wait. Is Mr. Howlett your boyfriend?”
The question threw Steve off kilter because he didn’t really know how appropriate it was to talk to one of Logan’s students about their private life. He looked at Logan but got no indication of what he should do.
“Um, yeah. I guess you could say that,” Steve offered.
“Cool,” William said again. “Um, could I still get help on the assignment?”
“Of course,” Logan finally stepped in to say. “What was your question?”
Steve took the few minutes that Logan was speaking to William to wander around and look at more of the classroom. He paused in front of a framed vintage Captain America poster. Logan had several vintage posters in the room, but it was interesting he had this one among them. Steve heard Logan say his goodbyes to William and approach.
“Interesting choice,” Steve said gesturing to the poster.
“Something in me must have known you were important,” Logan murmured.
Just then they were interrupted by Charles’ voice.
“Logan, Steve. Please meet me in the basement lab. I’d like to discuss some things with you both.”
Steve gave Logan a questioning look.
“I heard it too. A handy little trick for communicating that the Professor can pull off with his powers,” Logan explained.
Steve tried to explain the sensation. “It felt a little odd. Like listening to something through headphones, but not quite.”
“Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Come on, let’s go see what’s up,” Logan said as he headed for the door.
They made their way through the mansion to the lower levels where Logan led him to a lab in which Xavier and Dr. McCoy were quietly discussing something on a large computer screen in front of them. They stopped when Logan and Steve approached.
Hank smiled at them. “I’m still here. I confess, it’s hard to tear me away from an interesting problem, especially when it concerns a friend.”
“Don’t lose sleep on my account,” Logan said gruffly.
“Steve, could I speak with you a moment?” Charles asked.
Steve didn’t know what the professor would have to talk to him about alone. When he spared Logan a questioning look, he just shrugged. He had a moment of worry over the incident with William in the classroom just now, but everything he’d learned about gay rights and the apparent acceptance of him and Logan so far wouldn’t indicate a problem related to their relationship.
Steve followed Xavier out into the hall. When the lab door had closed behind them and they had gone a few paces down the corridor, Xavier stopped and turned to face him.
“You’ve no need to worry about your relationship with Logan here. I don’t actively read everyone all the time, but I couldn’t help but catch that from you. I want you to know we don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind in the school or amongst ourselves. With so many unique individuals in one place, how could we?”
Steve blew out a breath. “Yeah, thank you. That makes sense. I know that things are different now, but for me, it’s only been a few months since Logan and I couldn’t kiss in public. Hell, we were still breaking the law in some places being with each other even in private back then.”
“Understandable. Even in this day and age, some places are more tolerant than others. Now,” Charles changed the subject, “there was another reason I wanted to speak with you. I’ll admit that this is of a more personal nature, and though you and I don’t know each other well yet, Logan and I have been dear friends for many years. That being said, I hope you will consider this the advice of a friend, and not the meddling of an old busybody.”
Steve nodded, interested to hear what Charles had to say.
“Hank and I think Mr. Stark’s plans to cure Logan will work. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible,” Charles paused and let out a sigh. “I can’t truly understand Logan’s circumstances. Yours either for that matter. My body will fail me someday despite my powers. But that’s the crux of it. You have each other.
“Steve, you are probably the only person in Logan’s life that can rightly give him council on this decision, and I would encourage you to do so. I understand that you want to allow him the choice. I do too. But don’t let that prevent you from speaking your feelings on the matter either.”
Steve didn’t know what to say in response to that. Who was he to beg Logan to stay? Did he want him to? Yes, desperately, if Steve was being honest with himself. That didn’t change the fact that Steve wouldn’t feel right asking this of Logan.
“Look,” Charles interrupted Steve’s spinning inner thoughts, “at the very least, he deserves to know the depth of your feelings for him. Make that clear, and if you feel you can, let him know how you feel about his future. That’s my advice, and I’ll let you decide whether to implement it or not.”
“Okay, I’ll think about it,” Steve agreed.
With that Charles headed back into the lab. Steve followed a step behind. They found Logan and Hank in a casual discussion, which quieted when they were all standing together in front of the large screen.
“I’ll cut to the chase,” Hank started. “Stark’s science here is sound, and I think this would work. He’s developed a way to change the allotropic form of the adamantium to one with long-term stability. I will warn you though that this won’t be easy or without pain. From what we know of the process that bonded the adamantium to your skeleton in the first place, this may share some similarities that could be unsettling.
“Mr. Stark is the best person to explain all the details, but if you’re asking for my opinion, I think this is the best solution. I don’t know that I could come up with any other scenario that would work to cure the toxicity. I think you can trust Stark to do right by you should you choose to go through with it.”
Logan nodded, then turned to Xavier. “Charles?”
“I concur with Hank’s assessment. The process may be difficult and both physically and emotionally painful, but I don’t know any other way to fix this,” Charles stated plainly.
“If it helps in your decision at all, when we spoke to Stark, I offered my services to assist in the procedure. I’m based in New York and can arrange the time that would be necessary,” Hank offered.
“Thank you,” Logan said quietly. “Thank you both. I’ll think about it.”
Logan turned and left the room, leaving Steve to say a hasty goodbye and follow. When Steve caught up to Logan in the elevator, neither of them said anything. In truth Steve didn’t know what to say. There were a thousand things he wanted to say, but none he felt were right. Steve just stood next to Logan and after a moment took his hand. Logan gave Steve’s hand a squeeze in return.
They walked down a long hallway that was appropriately quiet for the time of evening. Logan opened a door into a small suite. They passed through a sitting room to a bedroom with attached bathroom. The warmth of the room was accentuated by the rich woodwork and deep colors. It looked very comfortable and had the sorts of items scattered about that indicated a lived-in space. A few books, a couple photos that appeared to be of Logan with students or colleagues, a couple clothing items waiting to be put away. Steve liked it immediately.
Logan remained quiet as he grabbed some clean sweats out of his bag and went into the bathroom. Steve heard the shower turn on and sighed. The other man was clearly working some things out. A part of Steve wished he would just talk about it, but a part of him was glad he hadn’t yet because Steve didn’t know what he would say either.
Steve found his bag and changed into something comfortable for sleeping. He pulled out his tablet and sat on the bed. It was still sort of a novel concept to share a room like this, and the utter normal domesticity of it was satisfying. Steve scrolled through the news absently as he waited for Logan.
Logan took his time in the shower but seemed to have lost some of the lines of tension in his face by the time he emerged.
“Hey,” Steve greeted when Logan crawled into bed.
“Hey,” Logan returned before leaning in for a brief kiss.
Steve set his tablet aside and turned to look at him. “You okay?”
Logan huffed and rolled his eyes but smiled. “Yes and no.”
Steve’s answering smile was affectionate. “I figured as much.”
“What did Charles talk to you about?”
Steve let out a shaky breath. “He told me I should tell you what I think about the treatment.”
Logan waited a moment quietly, but when Steve couldn’t come up with anything else to say, he prompted him.
“And? Are you going to tell me what you think?”
“That’s such a complicated thing.” Steve paused and scrubbed his hands over his face. “I don’t know if I have the right to tell you what I think. I don’t know if I can say anything here without it being manipulative in some way.”
They had been sitting next to each other leaning back against the headboard. Logan shifted and pulled Steve with him until they had rearranged themselves to be lying on their sides facing each other. Logan left enough space for Steve to look at him when they talked, but he tangled their legs together and had an arm draped over Steve’s waist. Steve didn’t know if the added contact made this easier or harder.
“I want to know what you think. Will it weigh in on my decision? Yes, but that’s okay. I love you, and I will consider you part of this decision whether you actively participate or not. This thing between us, I don’t see a day when I don’t want it. I know we haven’t really talked about it, but my heart is fully committed to you for however long we get to have this.”
Steve had to take a moment to swallow down the lump of emotion that stuck in his throat at Logan’s words.
“I thought I was the one that was supposed to make emotional confessions here.” Steve finally managed in a rough voice.
Logan chuckled softly and moved his hand to caress the side of Steve’s face. “What can I say? These modern times where we vomit our feelings all the time are rubbing off on me.”
Steve laughed at that and leaned in for a kiss. It was the kind of kiss that held a lot of passion but didn’t move into something sexual. Neither of them were angling for that right now.
Steve took a deep breath and laid his heart bare. “I don’t want to lose you again, Logan. I know nothing is a guarantee, especially in our line of work, but I want this with you for as long as I can have it. I love you so much. I—I’m trying not to embarrass myself here by revealing how much I’ve come to depend on the idea of having this part of my life back. Of having you back.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Logan said without hesitation. “You think I don’t feel the exact same way about you? After all the shit I’ve been dealt the past 50 odd years, I knew I was missing something big. There were other people I was drawn to and other things that distracted me, but even when I couldn’t remember your name or face, I knew that I had lost the best thing in my life somewhere along the way. I just thought the nameless grief was my status quo. I’ve had you back for a just a couple weeks and you’ve already healed me in ways I didn’t think were still possible.”
The depth of Logan’s revelation had Steve speechless with emotion. Before he could gather himself, Logan continued.
“I’m going to do the treatment. For me. For us. My life is as stable now as it has ever been, and I want to be able to enjoy it. I deserve that at the very least.”
“You do,” Steve replied softly. “You’re a good man, Logan, with a bigger heart than most realize, and you deserve every bit of it.”
“You deserve this little slice of happiness we’ve carved out together too, you know,” Logan countered.
Steve smiled. “Yeah, well you just gave me everything I could ask for, so no complaints here.”
They kissed again, and this time let the passion carry them into something more. The relief and joy of it all created the kind of moment Steve would remember for the rest of his life.
Steve and Logan enjoyed spending a couple days at Xavier’s school. The kids were over the moon to meet Captain America, and Steve didn’t mind indulging them. The way some people fawned over him got old, but the genuine excitement and interest of the kids was enjoyable.
Logan was able to catch up on some work and arrange for his absence for the treatment. They’d contacted Tony the day after they arrived and scheduled the treatment based on when Tony could finalize building the necessary equipment and triple check all the numbers and processes. Logan had also contacted Hank and arranged for his help with the treatments, since he would be in the city as well and could arrange some time to be available.
Steve knew that Logan felt more comfortable having a long-time friend and colleague involved. They’d both come to trust Tony in the short time they’d known him, but Logan was placing his life in the man’s hands and that, understandably, didn’t come easily.
While Logan was busy, Steve spent some time observing and sometimes helping with training some of the students. He and Logan even did a hand to hand combat demonstration for a group of older students who had their eye on becoming X Men someday. The crowd of onlookers had grown considerably larger by the time he and Logan finished sparring. Steve was sure he heard a teenage girl cooing in delight when he pulled Logan in for a brief hug when they were done. Logan just laughed and slapped him on the ass as they headed for the showers.
Over their visit there, Steve had gotten to spend more time with Ororo and found her to be a friendly and calm presence. The students adored her, and it was easy to see why. Steve had also had a few interesting conversations with Charles about the mutant gene and the school in general. He found it refreshing that Charles’ goal was to help the students become happy and well-rounded. Steve had already seen circumstances where enhanced people had been used only for their power, so it was nice to see someone not pushing an agenda or conscripting children into a certain organization or career.
Steve was spending their last morning walking the grounds enjoying the warmth of the sun on a crisp autumn morning while Logan met with the substitute who would teach in his place for the next few weeks. Steve had initially been worried about Logan missing so much class, but he was reassured that they often had to rearrange teachers because many also served as X Men. Both of Logan’s jobs would be waiting for him to return when he was able.
Ororo approached from across the lawn and Steve smiled as she came to walk beside him.
“Beautiful day, isn’t it?” she greeted.
Steve nodded. “I really love the property here. So much green and open space. It’s a lot different than the city, even compared to when I was a kid growing up there.”
“I’m glad,” Ororo said as she smiled at him. “I hope you’ll come back to visit or stay a while when Logan is here.”
“I don’t want to be just hanging around waiting for my boyfriend to get done with work every day. I’m sure I’ll come visit though,” Steve replied, the lack of confidence in his voice betraying his concern over his unknown future.
Ororo stopped walking and turned to look at Steve. “Did Logan tell you about Jean?”
Steve couldn’t help but furrow his brow at that question. Logan had told him the story. How he had thought he could love Jean if things had been different, but they had instead become good friends. Logan also told him how he was eventually forced to kill her.
“Yeah, he told me that he had to kill her. If I know him at all, I’m guessing it messed him up for a long while, but he didn’t really say,” Steve acknowledged.
Ororo nodded and looked away before she spoke again. “He went to ground. I went to find him. He was living in Canada and in a pretty dark and vulnerable place. I think he felt responsible for Jean’s death, even though he saved lives by ending hers. He’d been in contact with an old acquaintance about a project, and later when Charles heard about it, it sounded like it wouldn’t have led to anything good.”
Ororo paused and sighed.
“I’m telling you all this because I want you to know that I’m glad you’re here for him. I know he’s not doing the treatment for you, but I’m glad you were here to work through this with him. People like us, we end up seeing a lot of the worst of the world. We see the best too sometimes, but it’s a burden we live with. It’s important to have people in our lives that keep us grounded, and the Logan I see with you is different than the Logan I’ve known for years.”
Ororo turned to look out across the expansive lawn. Steve was grateful for the reprieve as it gave him time to process what he considered to be a great compliment. Well, maybe compliment wasn’t the right word. He was glad to know that he had a positive impact on Logan’s life. He didn’t want to just take and give nothing back, and he wanted them both to be better for being together.
Steve cleared his throat. “Thank you for bringing him back. If he hadn’t been where he was that day when I ran into him, he may never have remembered me. I would never have known he was still alive. Having him in my life again is a great gift.”
Ororo smiled brightly at him before gesturing back toward the mansion. “Charles wanted to have lunch with you both before you left.”
“Will you be joining us?” Steve asked.
“No,” Ororo shook her head. “I have to supervise a lunch period, but I’ll see you off afterward.”
Steve nodded and enjoyed the rest of the walk to the mansion in companionable silence. When they had almost reached the building, Logan came out and strode toward them with a casual gait. Ororo split off to go inside with a smile and wave.
“Hey there,” Logan said as he walked right up to Steve and stopped to plant a kiss on his mouth.
Steve pulled Logan in for a moment and their kiss turned a shade more passionate than was probably appropriate for school grounds during the day. Fortunately, all the students were inside in class or eating lunch. When Steve finally pulled himself back, he had to take a couple breaths before he could reply.
“Hey, yourself. Come to find me for lunch?”
Logan smiled. “Yep. Let’s go find Charles.”
When they made it to the professor’s study, they found a modest lunch set up on the table in the corner. Charles moved out from behind his desk to greet them.
“Steve, Logan. Thank you for joining me.”
“Thank you for having us,” Steve said, ever ruled by the politeness his mother instilled in him as a child. “It’s been such a nice visit. I’m glad I was able to come see where Logan lives and works.”
“And I was very glad to be able to get to know you, Steve,” Charles replied as they settled at the table.
“Hopefully we’ll be back before too long,” Logan said before grabbing the sandwich off his plate and taking a bite.
Steve nodded his agreement as he dug into his own meal, but had to wonder what his life would really look like after Logan’s treatment. They hadn’t really discussed their future plans beyond that yet, either together or apart. The SHIELD issue was still hanging over Steve’s head. It made him feel adrift both in where his allegiances should lie and what he should be doing with his life. Steve was shaken out of his internal thoughts by a question from Charles.
“What will you be doing while Logan is undergoing his treatment, Steve?”
The question was uncomfortably close to Steve’s thoughts a moment ago, but he had gotten used to that kind of thing from Charles in the short time he’d known him.
“I plan to be available to assist in whatever way I can,” Steve answered. “I’ll be by his side the whole time.”
Charles nodded and smiled. “Your commitment to Logan is to be commended. You clearly care very deeply for one another.”
Steve blushed like he did when he was a boy at such a compliment from a respected person. Logan just smiled and grabbed his hand for a moment in a quick affectionate squeeze.
“I’m pretty damn lucky he’s mine,” Logan agreed.
They finished most of their meal while enjoying comfortable small talk, mostly about the school. Charles set his napkin down and sat back in his wheelchair.
“I’m glad we could share a meal together before you leave, but I confess that I had ulterior motives for asking you here today, Steve,” Charles admitted.
Steve wasn’t sure what to make of that and didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing. He waited for further explanation.
“I want to offer you a position here if you’re interested. What that job entails and what schedule you’d like to keep could be flexible based on what exactly you’d like your involvement to be. I think you’d make a superb teacher or tutor. I also think you’d be an incredible team member for the X Men if that’s something you would consider.”
Steve was taken aback by the offer. He honestly hadn’t expected anything of the kind. He didn’t really know if he would fit here, but it was reassuring to know he had the option. He looked at Logan to gauge his reaction. Logan smiled at him encouragingly but revealed nothing else.
“Thank you. That’s a very generous offer,” Steve replied after a moment. “I’ll definitely consider it.”
He didn’t feel like he could say anything else at the moment. There were too many unknown variables in his life right now.
“Please do,” Charles continued. “I think your talent and leadership skills would fit well here. And, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t mind if it worked out as an incentive to keep Logan around as well.”
“Stop pressuring the man, Charles,” Logan chided good-naturedly.
Charles held up his hands. “I’ll leave it at that, but I couldn’t very well let you both leave without letting you know you’d be welcomed back.”
“Thank you,” Steve said again, placing his hand on Logan’s knee when he looked ready to reprimand Charles again.
“Well,” Charles said, pushing back from the table, “you boys better get on the road if you want to make it back to Manhattan before rush hour.”
Logan stepped up to give Charles a hug. Steve shook his hand and thanked him again for lunch. With that done, they went back to Logan’s room and grabbed their gear. Packing the bike didn’t take long, and soon they were in the front drive ready to leave.
A few students called their goodbyes in passing as they went on about their day. Ororo came out the front entrance to see them off. She smiled as she approached.
“Drive safe. Keep in touch,” she instructed them.
Logan pulled her into a hug. “We will, don’t worry.”
She pulled back, but held Logan by the shoulders a moment.
“Let Steve take care of you, okay?”
Ororo looked between the two men as she spoke. Steve gave her a nod and she looked back to Logan for an answer.
“Okay, okay,” Logan grumbled, but smiled.
Steve was a little surprised when Ororo came over and hugged him next.
“Don’t let him push you away. If he’s hurting, he’ll want to. Just be persistent,” she said quietly.
“Yeah, thanks,” Steve agreed as they pulled back from the hug. “I’m so glad I got to meet you.”
Ororo’s smile was luminous. “Same here. Don’t be a stranger.”
With that they were off. Steve drove and enjoyed the warmth and strength of the body wrapped around him and he guided the motorcycle down increasingly busier highways as they approached New York City. They arrived late in the afternoon and parked the bike in the lower level of Stark Tower.
Tony wasn’t around when they arrived, so Jarvis directed them to the guest suite they had previously stayed in. Logan seemed to grow more withdrawn the closer they had gotten to New York. Steve didn’t blame him. They didn’t know exactly what Tony had planned for the treatment, but they’d been told it wouldn’t be easy.
Logan made himself busy unpacking and headed for the shower. Steve puttered around unpacking his own small bag, but with nothing else to do, he retreated to the gym to work off some of the energy from sitting on the bike all afternoon. He started on the treadmill and had only gone a couple miles when he saw Bruce step off the elevator and start to make his way across the large room.
When Bruce approached, Steve slowed his pace.
“Jarvis told me you’d arrived, so I thought I’d come say hello.”
Steve wasn’t winded when he replied. “Hey. Everything been okay here?”
Bruce folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against the neighboring treadmill.
“Yeah. Tony’s been working hard on the adamantium problem. I’ve been helping him out some. I think we’ll be ready to go in a couple days when Dr. McCoy is available. I’ve never met him, but I know some of McCoy’s work. He’s very intelligent, as well as both kind and diplomatic, from what I’ve heard.”
Steve nodded. “Yeah, that’s been my experience with Dr. McCoy so far. I really appreciate everything you and Tony are doing for Logan.”
“It’s the least I can do. I’m happy to be able to help someone out,” Bruce said as he waved off Steve’s thanks.
There was an awkward moment of silence as neither of them knew what to say. Bruce tended to keep to himself, and Steve didn’t really know the man that well despite spending some time together during his recent recovery.
“Is it going to be bad?” Steve finally asked after debating whether this was an appropriate conversation to be having. It felt a little like talking behind Logan’s back for some reason.
Bruce sighed before responding.
“It’s probably going to suck, yeah. Tony is going to go over all this with you both, of course, but in simplistic terms it will involve pumping electric current through his body. With his healing factor, there’s not really an effective sedation or pain management tool we can use.”
Steve frowned. He wasn’t expecting a bed of roses, but this sounded pretty bad. Bruce must have read the concern in his expression, because he quickly continued.
“If there’s anything we can do to make the process easier or less painful, we will. We’ll take it slow and make adjustments as needed.”
Steve took a couple deep breaths and nodded. “Thanks, that’s all we can really ask. By the way, where is Tony today?”
Bruce shrugged. “Malibu, I think? He and Pepper have been trying to spend some time together. I think they’re trying to figure out some personal things, but I’m trying to stay out of it. He said he’d be back tonight. Dr. McCoy is coming by in the morning, so I think we’ll all meet with you and Logan and get set up to start the treatments.”
“Okay,” Steve replied, “Thanks for keeping me in the loop.”
“No problem,” Bruce said with a small smile. “It’s good to be working together. I wish it were under better circumstances, but if we can help Logan in the end, it will be worth it.”
That reminded Steve, he had meant to ask if SHIELD had been bothering them while he’d been gone.
“Has SHIELD been in contact?” he asked.
Bruce huffed and took his glasses off, pulling out a cloth to clean them with as Steve was learning was his habit.
“Fury’s been persistent. He hasn’t shown up here again yet after Tony’s little diversion tactic the other day. I expect we’ll have to actually talk to him soon, but hopefully we can gather a little more intel before that happens.”
“Okay. Let me know if I can do anything to help,” Steve offered.
“Will do,” Bruce said as he pushed off from where he’d been leaning. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
Steve gave a wave of goodbye as Bruce headed back to the elevator. He ran for another half hour. Not really thinking about anything, just letting his mind go blank with the repetitive motions. After walking a bit too cool down, Steve headed back to their room.
He found Logan sitting in bed, tapping away at his phone.
“Checking in already?” Steve asked.
Logan shrugged. “Ororo’s already sending motivational emails.”
“She’s really nice. I’m glad I got to meet her,” Steve said with a smile.
“She’s a good friend,” Logan agreed.
“You want to get out of here?” Steve asked.
He could see Logan was still tense, probably with anticipation and/or dread over what was to come. A little distraction might help.
“What did you have in mind?”
“I haven’t been on the Brooklyn Bridge since I came back. It’s a nice night. Want to take a walk?” Steve suggested.
Logan looked intrigued. The Brooklyn Bridge had been miraculously spared of damage during the battle, and they hadn’t really explored New York together much. Hell, Steve hadn’t explored modern New York much in general. Between waking up and SHIELD and the battle, it didn’t really leave much time for just being in the city. Logan stood and grabbed his jacket.
“Have you eaten yet?” Logan asked.
Steve shook his head. “No, but we can grab something while we’re out.”
“Sounds good,” Logan said with a smile that was free of most of the tension from before.
Steve grabbed a baseball cap and jacket and they headed out of the ground floor of the tower. It was a cool fall evening, but still comfortable enough for walking. They took the subway a few stops and got off near City Hall. They walked a couple blocks before stopping to grab a slice of pizza at a small storefront.
“This has to be one of my favorite new foods,” Steve commented as they dug in. “I mean, there is a lot of stuff around these days that I’ve never even heard of, but I can see why pizza is so popular.”
Logan chuckled as he finished chewing his bite. “Yeah, and New York is a good place to discover pizza. They say the water here makes it taste better.”
They kept walking at a leisurely pace as they ate and they’d both finished before they got to the bridge. Steve stopped when they reached the wooden pedestrian walkway and Logan paused beside him. The city and the bridge had changed so much over the decades, but standing here still felt eerily familiar. He was startled out of his reveries when Logan took his hand.
“It’s the same, but different,” Steve commented, looking up at Logan.
“Yeah, it’s funny how so many things in this world don’t really change,” Logan agreed.
They walked out onto the bridge slowly, taking in the sights. The sun was setting, and the view was beautiful. They had to dodge a couple people taking pictures of each other with their phones.
“For all that doesn’t change, a lot really does,” Steve said. “It’s still a little dizzying at times. I’m immeasurably grateful I have you in my life now, but I’m also glad I had a few months on my own to figure things out a little bit.”
They stopped about halfway and turned to look back at the lights coming on in the city. It was tempting to walk all the way to Brooklyn, but Steve was trying to focus on his future right now, not his past. Logan moved in close and placed a hand on Steve’s jaw. He leaned in for a kiss that was brief, but sweet and didn’t move away when it ended.
“You’re doing great, ya know? You’re figuring things out for yourself and staying true to who you are.”
Steve huffed and met Logan’s eyes. “I don’t feel like I’m figuring things out. I’m just trying to act like I know what I’m doing.”
“You’re doing fine,” Logan praised. “Hell, I’ve been muddling my way through this mess years longer than you and I barely have my life figured out.”
Steve thought Logan was selling himself short there, but it wasn’t worth arguing the point. He leaned in for another kiss that was hot an intense and left him unaware of anything except the feel of Logan’s mouth on his and the background noise of the city around them. When they finally broke for air, Steve laughed lightly.
“I must be a modern man if I can feel comfortable kissing you in public.”
“Hey, the future’s not all bad, right?” Logan smiled back at Steve as he spoke.
“Love you,” Steve said, leaning in for another quick kiss.
“Love you too,” Logan replied softly. “Want to get out of here?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.”
They walked hand-in-hand back to the train, and quietly made their way back to Stark Tower. The evening walk in the city lights had seemed to cast a sort of spell over them and as soon as they got to their room, they were on each other. Steve kissed Logan eagerly as they pushed and pulled at each other’s clothes.
They both ended up tripping at one point and laughed as they took a moment to catch their breath and untangle themselves from their remaining clothes. As soon as he was fully naked, Steve stepped back to Logan and pressed his body up against him as he stepped out of his pants. Steve pulled him in for a hard kiss, covering his mouth and thrusting his tongue inside.
Logan gave as good as he got and began walking them toward the bed as they continued to kiss and touch. When the backs of his legs hit the bed, Logan pushed Steve to fall backward onto it. Steve moved up the bed until he was lying comfortably in the center and watched as Logan started crawling over him.
Steve sucked in a ragged breath as Logan paused when his head was level with Steve’s straining erection. The breath was immediately pushed back out in a rush when Logan swallowed Steve’s cock in one go.
“Fuck, Logan. Yes!”
Steve’s hand went to rest on Logan’s head as he closed his eyes and tipped his own head back in pleasure. Logan’s mouth felt amazing, and he sucked Steve’s cock hard and fast, steadily moving his tongue up and down his shaft. Steve tried to relax and revel in the sensations, but it was quickly becoming too good.
“Slow down. I don’t want to come yet,” Steve said through panted breaths.
Logan looked up at him with lust-filled eyes and the sight of his own cock slowly being released from Logan’s mouth had Steve grabbing the base to stave off orgasm.
“So fucking hot,” Steve breathed out.
“Yeah? You like this?” came Logan’s rough voice.
“Hell, yes. Come on. Please!” Steve begged.
Logan shifted to his knees. “Roll over.”
Steve complied quickly, happy to let Logan direct how this was going to go. He turned and lay on his stomach with legs spread wide in invitation. Steve felt Logan smooth his hands over his calves and up the insides of his thighs and shivered in anticipation of more.
Logan spread his thumbs over Steve’s ass to expose his hole, and Steve couldn’t hold back the moan when he felt Logan’s hot breath ghost across his entrance. The wet warmth of his tongue on sensitive skin made Steve’s breath catch in his throat. Steve spread his legs a little further and made himself breathe deep as Logan began moving his tongue around his hole in earnest.
The little bit of stubble Logan was currently sporting was brushing against his skin with a delicious sort of burn in counterpoint to the soft lips and tongue. It was quickly becoming overwhelming and bringing him close to orgasm again. Logan seemed to read the noises and small movements Steve hadn’t been able to hold in and pulled back before it pushed him over the edge.
Steve had a moment to just lay spread out and wanton as he caught his breath, and then he heard Logan find the lube and felt two fingers push against his hole. Steve pushed back into them and took them smoothly. He was relaxed and ready and he told Logan as much.
Logan didn’t waste time before he was pushing his slicked cock into Steve in one smooth but slow stroke. Steve moaned loudly when he felt Logan stop just before he bottomed out.
“Lift up, sweetheart.”
It took Steve a moment to get his brain to cooperate enough to realize what Logan was asking and coordinate his limbs to move. Logan helped pull his hips back and put a hand around his chest to lift until Steve was sitting on his lap resting back against his chest. They paused for a moment there, just held suspended between one moment of passion and the next.
Logan leaned down to trail kisses down the side of Steve’s neck, and Steve leaned his head back on the other man’s shoulder.
“You ready?” Logan asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Steve murmured.
They both moved in sync without having to say any more. Steve lifted up a little and Logan pulled back before thrusting up. After a couple of slow thrusts, they found a rhythm, and Steve met each of Logan’s pounding thrusts with his own. Steve had one hand wrapped loosely around his own cock, and one wrapped back around Logan’s side for balance. Logan’s hand strayed to play over his nipple, and it had heat coiling in Steve’s groin.
A powerful thrust from Logan had Steve shouting as his orgasm rushed through him. Logan thrust hard a few more times, before he joined Steve in release and held him upright as he pumped into him. Steve slumped back into Logan and let the other man’s strength hold him up as they both breathed and shuddered through the aftershocks.
After a few moments, Logan moved to tip them onto their sides on the bed. Steve sighed as Logan’s cock slipped free with the movement.
“Have I told you lately how much I love your cock?” Steve said between breaths.
Logan chuckled and then let out a sigh of contentment. “That was really fantastic.”
Steve hummed his agreement and rolled away and off the bed to go clean up. He wiped himself up in the en suite and brought back a damp cloth for Logan. After they were both clean, they arranged themselves under the covers. Logan was relaxed from the sex, but Steve could tell his mind was still working. Most likely worrying over what would come tomorrow.
“Try to get some sleep okay?” Steve requested.
“I will,” Logan agreed. “Thanks for being here with me.”
“It’s really selfish on my part. You keep my feet warm in bed.”
Steve knew Logan meant so much more by “here” than the physical presence, but it didn’t need to be said between them right now.
Logan was just flipping the first pancake in the kitchen when the elevator doors opened and a tired looking Tony strode out.
“You boys sleep well?”
“I feel like I should be asking you the same question, bub,” Logan replied. “But, yeah. Thanks again for the five-star accommodations.”
Tony plastered on what was recognizable as his media smile. “I aim to please!”
He walked over to the coffee maker and started to make himself a cup. When he was done, Tony turned and leaned back against the counter.
“Now, let’s talk schedule for today,” he started. “Remus, if you’re still up for it, we can start treatment today.”
“You know wolverines aren’t at all related to wolves, right? Or werewolves for that matter?” Logan asked.
Tony waved the hand that wasn’t holding his mug. “Yes, yes, but wolverines don’t have as many fun references in pop culture. It would just be easier for all of us if you played along.”
“If it makes you feel better,” Steve chimed in from where he was sitting at the kitchen island, “I’m not getting these references anyway.”
“How is that supposed to make me feel better?” Tony said indignantly.
“I don’t know that you’re referencing the wrong animal?”
Tony pointed at Steve. “Fair point. I’ll take it.”
“Okay, so what do you say? Family meeting about fixing you up?” Tony turned to Logan as he spoke.
“When is Hank going to be here?” Logan asked.
Jarvis’ voice came from unseen speakers in the room. “Ambassador McCoy has just arrived and is checking in, sir.”
“There you go,” Tony said to Logan.
Logan nodded. “I’ll make more pancakes.”
“Jarvis, tell Brucie Bear it’s time for breakfast,” Tony said as he went to sit on a stool at the island with Steve.
Logan grabbed another pan and got more pancakes going while Steve got up to find dishes for their extra guests. By the time the pancakes were done and stacked high, Steve had pulled out some fruit and juice for everyone. Hank and Bruce had arrived and been introduced. They were already in deep technical discussion with Tony and on their way to becoming best science buddies.
“Grubb’s on,” Logan announced.
Hank gave Logan’s shoulder a squeeze as he came to fill a plate. “I’m glad you’re letting us do this for you, friend.”
Logan nodded. “Thanks for coming. I know Tony knows what he’s doing, but it helps to know you’ll be here too.”
They all filled their plates and sat around the large dining table to eat. Hank started in on a story about an amusing translation error he’d had to deal with last week involving the delegate from Portugal. That set the tone for breakfast and conversation was easy and comfortable and studiously avoided the elephant, or rather wolverine, in the room.
Logan couldn’t really stomach much with the knots growing in his gut. He figured that was maybe for the best if he was going through some sort of medical procedure later in the day anyway. Steve gave Logan a searching look, but when Logan could only muster a slight shrug in response, Steve gave him a reassuring smile.
In what felt like no time at all, they’d finished, cleaned up and moved to Tony’s lab where it seemed like a few new contraptions had been set up. Logan could admit to himself that he had been avoiding learning much about the actual procedure, but he was still shocked to see a tank containing an unknown liquid set up surrounded by various wires and equipment. He had an immediate visceral reaction to seeing it.
“No, no. No way,” he stammered, backing up a couple steps. “Hell, no! We are not doing this!”
Logan’s voice had risen almost to a shout, and the only thing stopping him from turning to walk back out the door was Steve’s solid body behind him.
“Yeah, uh—sorry, buddy,” Tony said, rocking back on his heels. “This is the only way to change the allotropic form of the adamantium. I know it unfortunately has similarities to your initial skeletal treatment. For that, I’m sorry. If you’ll let me explain it all, I think you’ll feel better about it.”
“We’re right here for you, Logan,” Steve said lowly in his ear.
Logan took a few moments to slow his breathing and calm down. When he felt a little more in control, he made a motion with his hand for Tony to continue.
“Okay,” Tony nodded and walked over to a table where he activated a holographic display that shimmered to life above it.
“Right now, the adamantium making up your skeleton is slowly decaying and increasing the toxicity of your blood. Poisoning you from the inside out. Generally, adamantium is a very stable metal, and I think its instability in your case is probably a result of its interaction with your healing power. I don’t think Stryker really knew what would happen to the metal when he did this to you, and we’re seeing the consequences of that now.”
Logan couldn’t contain the small shudder that passed through him at the memory, and he was grateful when Steve put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“So,” Tony continued, “I don’t actually think that adamantium itself is a problem. Just this form of it. My plan is to change it to a different allotropic form, specifically adamantium 14.”
“So how exactly are you going to change the adamantium while it’s in Logan’s body?” Steve asked.
“We’ll connect electrodes and pass direct electric current through both this ion-conducting polymer and Logan’s skeleton,” Tony explained while the hologram changed and moved to show the components he was speaking about. “We’ll have to maintain the correct voltage for a set amount of time to change all the metal in an area.”
Logan watched in fascination as the three-dimensional image of his skeleton changed to highlight different sections in different colors.
“I’ve divided it into the bone groups that I think will be reasonable to do in one session, but we can adjust this as needed,” Tony continued. “I figure two hours per session and seven to ten sessions. I tried to get some input from our resident Beastie Boy on what your pain tolerance might be.”
“I know you have a high pain tolerance, Logan, but I must admit I was conservative in my recommendations because it’s not necessary to push yourself in this,” Hank spoke up.
“Thank you,” Steve murmured.
Logan would agree to try it Tony’s way, but he really didn’t care about the pain. He’d endured worse before and getting it over with seemed just as good an idea. He was still concerned about the tank though.
“I have to do this in the tank then? There’s no other way?”
“For the volume of free ions we need available, the tank is really the only way,” Tony said apologetically. “Though you won’t have to be fully submerged.”
Tony used his hands to move and manipulate the hologram before continuing.
“We’ll attach two electrodes to the section we’re working on via a small incision, then you’ll need to keep the area with both electrodes submerged through the session. There nothing saying the rest of you needs to be under the special sauce. In fact, I’ve got it molded like a hot tub lounge chair. It’ll be like you’re at the spa!” Tony finished with a flourish.
Logan stood looking at the hologram for a few moments longer. Even if this was different, it was similar enough to his experience with Stryker that he was worried about what his instinctual reaction might be.
“Can you do this remotely?” Logan asked. “I mean, can you set me up in a secure room before you start the current? Maybe something tough enough to keep the Big Green in check? I don’t want to hurt anyone if…if I can’t control my reaction.”
“Hey,” Steve turned to him and stepped in close. “I’m not going to leave you to do this alone.”
Logan leaned in until their foreheads were touching and closed his eyes for a moment as he indulged in breathing in Steve’s clean scent.
“Look, you don’t understand. After they fused the adamantium to my skeleton, I went berserk. I don’t even remember it. I learned later that I killed a lot of people, but even now, when I have almost all my memories back, I don’t remember anything I did.”
Logan sighed and whispered, “I don’t know that you’ll be safe from me.”
“You think I don’t know what you’re capable of?” Steve challenged. “We’ve been through war together, or has it been so long you’ve forgotten what fighting next to me on the front lines was like? I know you, Logan. And I love you. And you’re not doing this alone.”
Logan let a small smile break through his tension-lined expression.
“You’re a stubborn ass, Rogers.”
Steve laughed softly. “It’s a personal flaw you’ll just have to accept in this case.”
“I can do that,” Logan gave in, “but I still want some safeguards.”
Tony cleared his throat as if he was unsure if he should interrupt them. It brought Logan’s focus back out of the intimate circle he and Steve had created between them. He spared a moment for being embarrassed about getting so caught up in Steve, but figured that among these men he was safe to let his guard down.
“My new suit will assemble itself around me if I call it. I should be able to subdue you if needed, but if I can’t, we could always draw you to the room I built to contain the Hulk. I don’t know if you realize this, but I’m very good at sarcasm and taunting,” Tony said casually.
Logan snorted. “Yeah, that could work.”
“Okay!” Tony announced. “Are we ready to get this show on the road? I want to have adequate time for set-up, then if all goes well, a couple hours of treatment, and then we’ll see how you feel afterward. I’m guessing this is going to be physically tiring as your healing factor counteracts the effects of the electric current on your body. Based on how you feel, we can decide when we do the next treatment.”
“That’s good by me,” Logan agreed.
At his agreement, Tony pulled Bruce and Hank over to explain calibration for the first treatment. It was all over Logan’s head, so he just stayed out of it. He wandered over to the tank containing a thick liquid substance that was a pale yellow color.
“You couldn’t find anything that looked less like mucus?” Logan commented when he heard Tony approach.
Tony barked a laugh and slapped Logan on the shoulder. “Wasn’t going for aesthetics there, buddy.”
“As long as it works,” Logan replied.
Tony produced a pair of what appeared to be tight-fitting athletic shorts and directed Logan to go change in the restroom just off the lab. When he returned, Logan found Hank and Tony conferring together at a screen while Bruce prepped what looked like some sort of surgical kit. Steve was standing near the tank waiting for him.
Tony directed Logan to step into the tank and take a seat. The liquid was a little on the cool side but not unbearable.
“I thought you said this would be like a hot tub, Stark,” Logan quipped.
Tony shook his head. “Sorry, the electric current is going to generate some heat, so I didn’t want to start you out too warm.”
And wasn’t that a pleasant thought?
“Am I going to get burns from this?” Logan asked. His body would heal them of course, but he’d like to know what to expect.
“At the levels of current we’ll be working with, it shouldn’t be anything severe. There will be some tissue damage, but more likely on the level of a moderate sunburn,” Tony explained.
Hank turned away from the projected screen. “I’d expect your healing to be somewhat slowed by the process, but that kind of tissue damage should take no more than a couple hours to be restored.”
“I can handle that. Let’s get on with it then,” Logan stated.
He followed Bruce’s directions and lifted one leg out of the goo, and really mucus wasn’t too far off a comparison, to attach electrodes. Logan appreciated the kind, but no-nonsense approach Bruce took to medical care. It wasn’t the man’s primary training, so he would be excused for not having a bedside manner to speak of, but Logan didn’t want any coddling anyway.
“We’ll be starting with your left leg today. I’ll attach one electrode to the navicular bone in your foot and the other to your femur. It’s a large bone mass to start with, so if it’s too much we can stop and separate it into further treatments,” Bruce informed.
“The truth is,” added Hank, “that you’ll likely be able to tolerate more in the beginning and subsequent electrolysis sessions will get more difficult for your body to handle. It’s why we split the treatments in the first place.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” Logan commented as he watched Bruce clean a small area on his foot.
“I’m sorry we can’t do anything for the pain,” Bruce said as he picked up the scalpel.
Tony approached holding a wire attached to what appeared to be a metal ribbon a few inches long. He had the end held steady with a long hemostat.
“Bruce is going to make the incision, and I’m going to secure this little number with my patented metal touch fastener. It’s like Velcro, but cooler, and conductive. I’m thinking I’ll call it Stark Sticky, what do you think? It should maintain enough contact with your bone to conduct the electric current without causing much pain. Well, at least pain from the electrode. Everything else will hurt though, sorry.”
As Tony drew closer, Logan could see the end of the metal ribbon looked like it had tiny hooks similar to Velcro. He held it and stood by while Bruce made an inch-long incision. They had an X-ray Tony was able to produce through his advanced low-radiation scanning technology projected on a large screen they all could view, and Logan watched as Tony inserted the electrode and gently pressed it against his bone.
“Doing okay?” Steve asked.
Logan realized he’d had his teeth clenched in anticipation and released them before turning to Steve.
“Better than I thought. Pretty easy so far.”
Tony huffed. “Yeah, easy if you’re used to slicing yourself open on a regular basis. I’m pretty sure most of us would be crying manly tears of manliness at this point.”
That had both Hank and Bruce laughing lightly and brought the mood of the room up a bit. Steve stepped close and gestured to Logan.
Tony nodded. “Touch away, Cap. I’ll let you know when you need to step clear.”
Steve took Logan’s hand that had been gripping the side of the tank in both of his. He began rubbing his thumb over Logan’s knuckles in a random pattern. The sensation was calming, and Logan smiled up at Steve even though he was feeling more anxiety the closer they got to starting the treatment.
Next, Bruce had him roll slightly to one side, so the second electrode could be placed in his lower thigh. It went in as smoothly as the first. There was a little pain at the incision sites, but it was pretty reasonable so far.
“Okay, everyone stand clear and we’ll get his show on the road. Get comfy, Logan,” Tony directed.
Logan settled back in the chair. The liquid only came to just above his waist, for which he was grateful. He knew that by the time they got to his arms and torso, he’d have to be lower in the tank. Hopefully by then he’d be used to the process and it wouldn’t send him into a panic or worse.
“Your heart rate is a little elevated. Try to take some deep breaths before we start the current flowing,” Bruce advised.
“Yeah, well, turns out I’m not always cool as a cucumber. Who knew?” Logan said with a sarcastic lilt. “Oh yeah, everyone who’s ever met me.”
Tony snapped right back. “Can it, Wolfman. You’ll do fine.”
Tony’s sense of humor was exactly what Logan needed and he let out a tense laugh. He looked at Steve and found him smiling reassuringly, even though Logan could tell he was worried. He took a few measured breaths and then looked back to Bruce.
“Go for it,” Logan said, resolved to endure whatever was coming.
“Okay,” Tony said from his position at a computer. “I’m going to slowly ramp up the current until we reach the point of decomposition potential. Bruce is going to monitor your vitals, and Hank is going to work with me on determining when the transformation is complete.”
Logan nodded. Tony hit a few keys and then slowly raised some bars that appeared on the display above him. Logan felt the current immediately. He’d been mildly electrocuted before, so the sensation wasn’t totally foreign, but it wasn’t comfortable either. It was the kind of thing that set the hairs on the back of his neck on end.
“Good?” Tony asked.
“Peachy,” Logan quipped back.
“Okay, we still have a way to go,” came Tony’s apologetic reply.
Tony moved more level indicators and Logan gritted his teeth as the sensation of the current intensified. Some of Logan’s muscles felt like they were seizing up, but he was reclined as comfortably as could be expected. He had a moment to be grateful that at least this felt absolutely nothing like when the adamantium had been fused to his skeleton. Though, really few things were probably worse than molten metal being pumped into you. While Logan had been lost in his dark thoughts, Tony had apparently been continuing to adjust the current levels.
“We’re there,” Tony announced.
“With the readings we’re getting, all the bones in your left leg should be changed in about 140 minutes,” Hank supplied.
After a few minutes, Logan could start to feel the temperature rising in his leg. It wasn’t alarming but was another distinctly uncomfortable sensation.
“Talk to me, Wolfman,” Tony demanded.
Bruce looked at the readouts on the screen near him. “I’m getting a slight rise in body temperature. Heart rate is fast, but no fibrillation.”
“Yeah, things are starting to feel warm. Just my leg though,” Logan explained. “It feels weird.”
“I bet,” remarked Hank.
Logan snorted a laugh. “Thanks for that insight, Furball. Why are you here again?”
McCoy just raised an eyebrow at Logan in challenge. Logan rolled his eyes and went back to concentrating on not freaking out about the odd sensations in his leg. The more time that passed, the warmer it felt to the point where it was becoming painful in a way that was hard to ignore. So far, the background chatter of the three scientists had been distracting, but Logan was quickly losing that battle.
As Logan became more aware of the pain, he also noticed Steve had been quietly pacing. Once he noticed, he couldn’t—well—un-notice.
“Stevie, come here,” Logan called.
Steve approached him almost apprehensively. “You okay?”
“Hurts like a bitch right now,” Logan admitted. “How long we got left, Doc?”
Hank checked the timer before replying. “97 minutes.”
Logan hissed as the pain seemed to intensify with the knowledge that he still had a long way to go.
“What can I do?” Steve asked, looking helpless and out of his element.
“Talk to me? Maybe tell me a story from when you were a kid,” Logan suggested.
Tony rolled a stool toward Steve, who caught it and sat down, bracing his forearms on his knees. He blew out a breath and then smiled.
“Want to hear about how Buck and I snuck a whole pie out of the kitchen and ate it in one sitting?”
Logan laughed, but it was cut off by a grunt of discomfort he couldn’t hold in. “I bet your mom was mad.”
Steve’s worried looked morphed again into a small smile. “Oh, she had another one hidden away, so she still had enough for dinner with the neighbors. It wasn’t exactly the first time it had happened.”
“You guys were always trouble.”
“Pot, kettle,” Steve shot back.
Logan let out another hiss as the strange heated feeling in his leg intensified to the point that it was quite painful.
“Still good?” Tony asked.
“Fine,” Logan grumbled between measured breaths. “Stop asking and let’s just get this done.”
The pain had increased to a point that it was hard to concentrate on anything else. Logan closed his eyes and listened to Steve start in on another story. It was a good distraction and a good reminder of one of the reasons he was putting himself through this.
Steve grabbed some soft sweatpants and a clean towel and headed into the bathroom of their guest suite. Logan was standing in the shower, but leaning heavily against the wall with one arm as the water washed over him. His right arm was dangling at his side and the skin was bright red from the last electrolysis treatment.
It had become their ritual over the last few days to come back to their room as soon as the day’s treatment ended, shower, and take it easy for a few hours. The treatments seemed to be taking a strain on Logan over time. Each one more difficult to recover from than the last. Steve had expected as much, but it was still hard to watch. He hated the helpless feeling of being there, but not being able to do anything to keep Logan from having to endure so much pain.
“You need help?” Steve asked just loud enough to be heard over the spray.
Logan turned to look at him, blinking water droplets out of his eyes. “Yeah, actually. If you don’t mind.”
“Anytime, babe,” Steve replied.
Steve quickly stripped out of his own lounge clothes and grabbed a washcloth before stepping into the large glass-door shower stall. Steve started by soaping up Logan’s body. He worked methodically from top to bottom but avoided Logan’s right arm. It was a dark angry red, like he’d gotten a particularly bad sunburn. His left arm had looked the same the day before, but had since healed.
The treatments were going as planned. They’d conducted four so far, and Tony thought they could finish in just three more. The last three were going to be challenging though as they consisted mostly of the pelvis, spine, rib cage and skull. The legs probably had more bone mass, but Steve was worried about the pain levels in these areas and the cumulative strain of the treatments on Logan’s healing ability. Steve was anticipating a lot of downtime for Logan after those. Not that they had been doing much between treatments otherwise, but they had spent some time discussing the SHIELD problem with Tony and Bruce.
Steve moved on to washing Logan’s hair. The other man groaned as Steve massaged his scalp. When he was done, Logan tilted his head back into the spray long enough to rinse it, then leaned forward into Steve’s embrace. They stood there a few seconds before Steve reached to turn off the water and started to move them out of the stall.
Logan stood quietly while Steve dried him, careful to avoid too much contact with his right arm, and then helped him step into the sweats. Steve dried himself and dressed quickly. They walked slowly to the bedroom and Steve hovered as Logan lay down, sighing in relief once he was horizontal on the bed. Steve didn’t have anything to say that would make Logan feel better or heal faster, so he simply covered him with a blanket and sat on the bed beside him.
Logan closed his eyes in exhaustion and sighed when Steve ran his fingers through his damp hair.
“You don’t have to stay. I’m just going to sleep,” Logan mumbled.
Steve continued running his fingers through Logan’s hair. “I want to be here. It’s the least I can do.”
Logan just grunted in response and relaxed further into the bed. Steve stayed until his breaths evened out in sleep before getting up and going to the sitting room. He had just sat down with a book when Jarvis interrupted the quiet.
“Excuse me Captain, but Sir would like to speak with you.”
“Oh, uh-sure,” Steve answered.
“Cap, you got a minute?” Tony’s voice came over the hidden speakers in the room.
“Logan’s resting. Is it urgent?” Steve asked.
“Well, our favorite Director of SHIELD has decided to pay us another visit. I think we have enough information to talk things out. Do you want to do this now?”
Steve sighed. He supposed he’d have to deal with SHIELD sooner rather than later, but he was distinctly annoyed that it had to be now when he was worried about Logan and trying to be available for anything that might ease the man’s pain while he endured this.
“I guess we might as well talk to Fury before he truly starts getting heavy handed.”
Tony made a scoffing noise. “He knows better than to get heavy handed with me and mine, Grandfather Time, don’t you worry. I do, however, think it’s time we addressed some Avengers business. I’m going to put him on ice and bring Bruce over to talk strategy before we go in there.”
Steve was about to agree when Tony’s voice interrupted him before he could get a word out. “Oh, sorry about the ice thing. Should have used a better metaphor. Sit tight. We’ll put Fury in a fancy conference room, and we’ll have a little meeting before the meeting.”
Steve just chuckled and shook his head. “It’s fine Tony, I’ll be here.”
“Stark, out,” Tony said before ending the call.
Steve set his book aside and went to change into some more appropriate clothes for meeting with the director of a not-so-secret government organization. He chose the trousers and gingham shirt look he’d defaulted to after he’d woken from the ice. When he’d been on the road, he’d adopted a more casual look with jeans that he preferred, but he had a feeling allowing Fury to assume he was still fumbling around in his new future would come in handy.
Steve laughed to himself as he buttoned his shirt. He was still fumbling around in this future, but he had learned a lot over the last few months and Fury wouldn’t be accounting for that or the fact that Logan was back in his life. Add to that the actual friendship he was on his way to establishing with both Tony and Bruce, and Fury had no idea what kind of dynamics were at play.
He looked over at Logan who was still deeply asleep. He wasn’t sure if what he could see of Logan’s arm was slightly less red than before, or if it was wishful thinking on his part. He knew Logan would likely sleep another couple hours as his body worked. Hopefully they’d be done dealing with Fury by then, and Steve could enjoy a nice dinner with Logan and a quiet evening before he would tire again and sleep the rest of the night.
Steve heard a soft knock from the suite’s door and went to let Tony and Bruce into the sitting room.
“Hey,” Steve greeted.
“How’s Logan?” Bruce asked.
“Tired and sore. He’s sleeping now.”
“Sorry,” Tony said as he sat down on the couch.
Steve raised his eyebrows in question. “What are you sorry for?”
“Ya know, doing this to your boytoy,” Tony said with a shrug.
“Tony, you’re saving his life,” Steve assured sincerely.
Tony just shrugged again.
“So, what does Fury want?” Steve changed the subject.
Tony rolled his eyes. “World domination? A lifetime supply of leather duster jackets? Who knows what kind of schemes he’s cooking up, but for now he wants you back under his influence, that much is clear.”
“I don’t think he really knows anything about me if he thinks I’ll go with the first fella that calls,” Steve postulated.
“It’s clear he thought he knew how to work each of us he recruited for the Avengers, but his manipulations fell apart with the barest of provocation,” Bruce added.
“Right.” Tony agreed. “Add that to what Jarvis found digging through their files, and it seems Fury is too focused on his own agenda to understand what’s really going on. Either that or he’s complicit, which would be worse.”
Steve sat down in the chair opposite Tony and leaned forward resting his arms on his knees. “What exactly did you and Jarvis find?”
“I don’t know if we can figure out exactly who is behind it without some inside knowledge or more time, but it seems like there’s a major mole or multiple double agents in pretty influential positions in the agency,” Tony said gravely.
Bruce began pacing. Steve sat back and took a breath.
“I’m not going to feel comfortable working for an agency that might not be secure. I’ll also admit that I probably don’t know enough about the inner workings of a modern organization like that to be able to help ferret out the mole from the inside.”
Tony nodded at Steve’s statement. “I wouldn’t trust SHIELD with you right now either. Or anyone for that matter. This isn’t a problem you need to solve, Rogers. It’s Fury’s mess. My plan is to give him the tools to solve it for himself. If he doesn’t, then we’ll know we have a bigger problem.”
“That makes sense,” Steve agreed. “So, what’s our angle going in? Want me to play a part?”
Tony pointed at Steve enthusiastically. “Yes! Let’s do that. You be Mr. 1940’s innocent grandpa. Right now, Fury just wants to meet with you, so I think you go in there and see what kind of hole he digs for himself. Then when he thinks he has you, drop the info on him that Jarvis dug up and gauge his reaction.”
Steve nodded. “I can do that. Can you guys give me a quick summary of the evidence?”
Tony held up the tablet he’d carried in with him. “It’s all here.”
Tony spent the next ten minutes explaining the basics of what Jarvis had found in SHIELD’s system and what it generally meant. By the time they were done Steve was even more sure he couldn’t go back to working with SHIELD full time in whatever capacity Fury had in mind. There was definitely evidence of sabotage and leaked information. In fact, he wasn’t sure any of the Avengers should be associated with them, but each of them would have to make that decision for themselves.
There was something to be said for the way Xavier ran his team of X Men. No, they weren’t really sanctioned by the government, but they weren’t beholden to the same restrictions that placed on an organization either. Maybe Steve would talk to Charles about ideas for how the Avengers could operate independently like that. They’d been a good team when the chips were down, and if any of them wanted to continue working together, Steve thought it was worth a try.
“Okay,” Tony said as he stood. “You think you’re ready?”
Steve shrugged, but nodded his affirmative. “As I’ll ever be, I guess. Just feel free to interrupt us if you feel it’s necessary.”
“Don’t worry. Bruce and I will be watching from the other room. I’m recording this whole thing in case anything incriminating comes to light,” Tony confirmed.
“Jarvis, if Logan wakes up, tell him where I am please,” Steve requested.
Jarvis replied immediately. “Of course, sir.”
Steve followed Tony and Bruce out of the room and into the elevator. They traveled down several floors and emerged on a floor that appeared to contain various office spaces, though all were empty except for one near the elevator where a security guard sat in front of a bank of monitors.
“Everything good, Murphy?” Tony asked of him.
“All good, boss.”
Tony nodded as they walked past. “Thanks.”
They walked down a short hall, and Tony opened a door to a large office that held a desk with a couple computer monitors on it.
“Bruce and I will hang out in here. We’ll be watching if you need anything. Well, Jarvis will be too, but also us,” Tony said and then waved his hand. “You know what I mean. Come on, he’s in the next room.”
Tony led Steve back into the hall and to the next door and gestured for him to open it. Steve straightened his posture and opened the door to reveal Fury sitting at a long conference table. He looked back briefly to see Tony ducking back into the neighboring office before walking in and taking a seat opposite the Director.
“Director Fury. What can I do for you today?” Steve started.
“Well, Captain Rogers. You haven’t been back to SHIELD headquarters to debrief from your mission two weeks ago. I must admit I’m a little concerned about that,” Fury stated in his typical dry tone.
Steve affected a confused expression. “Why would you be concerned about that? After all, most of that time I spent recovering from injuries sustained on the mission.”
It was a small exaggeration, but Steve wasn’t above laying it on thick when he needed it was to his benefit. He was realizing that whatever image of himself he was trying to keep up would likely fall to pieces pretty quickly. He wasn’t going to last long allowing Fury walk all over him before he showed his cards. Steve just wasn’t in the mood after the past few days.
“Recovering from injuries? I didn’t think that sort of thing was much of a problem for you.”
“Not usually, no,” Steve admitted, “but the nature of my injuries in this case caused a lot of blood loss that would have surely killed anyone else. It almost killed me, but thankfully Tony got to me in time. That reminds me, where was my team? Or a backup team? I was held captive for hours before Stark showed up. In the Army we didn’t leave people behind like that.”
Fury looked like he was trying to hold in a scowl. He wasn’t entirely effective.
“It’s difficult to get a backup team into a situation like that,” Fury replied.
“A situation like what? An unsanctioned operation in a foreign country?” Steve admonished.
Fury stiffened with tension. “SHIELD has the means and authority to deal with potential international terrorist threats.”
“Within the US, maybe, but internationally? There’s no organization I know of that has that level of authority. Maybe I’m wrong though. After all, so much has changed in the last few decades while I’ve been away,” Steve replied with false innocence dripping from his last words.
“So, we’ll just ignore the fact that it’s okay for your buddies to do an unsanctioned rescue mission then?” Fury countered.
“From what I know, Tony contacted you about the mission and my whereabouts prior to staging any sort of action to find me. As far as I’m concerned, he was accounting for your organization’s failings and I’m grateful for it,” Steve replied coldly.
Steve watched as Fury adjusted his posture and seemed to affect a more friendly demeanor.
“It seems as though we got off on the wrong foot working together, Steve. I’d like to rectify that, because I think you’d be able to continue to make a positive contribution to the safety and security of America with SHIELD.”
Steve sat back in his chair and appraised Fury. He was done playing these games and was grateful in that moment for the information Tony had provided him. If he’d not followed his gut about the man, and trusted everything SHIELD had fed him, he’d probably already be entrenched in an organization with more issues than the New York Times.
Steve leaned forward again and braced his elbows on the table. “The fact that you’re here, trying to convince me of that, makes me think you’re either willfully blind or that you have interests that conflict with those of national security. I honestly can’t decide which is worse.”
Fury actually looked confused. “What are you talking about?”
“Why did my mission fail?” Steve challenged. “What was the factor that prevented it from being successful?”
“Well, a number of factors contributed. The lab techs releasing an unknown gas certainly played into it. The number of personnel there was also a variable we didn’t anticipate correctly,” Fury defended. “I’m surprised those things were enough to almost kill you though.”
That statement took Steve a moment to process, but the realization it led to was disconcerting.
“So, you expected me to, what? Come in and make up for any failings in your own intelligence gathering? Is that how you use your so-called valued assets? To take one for the team and mop up when things go wrong with brute force and convenient super-human powers?”
Steve’s voice had risen with his anger as he’d responded, but he took a moment to rein it in. When it looked like Fury was set to respond, Steve preempted him.
“Did it ever occur to you that something was wrong with your intelligence on this mission? Did you stop to think that maybe it was under-researched and further recon should have been done before mounting a mission? Or maybe that information was being held back from the team? Or did you question why this site was even a target at all? Because, I’ll be completely honest with you, it felt like a setup. One designed to get me or someone else killed, or to undermine SHIELD’s and by proxy the United States’ authority when the botched operation was discovered by international authorities.”
Fury was silent a moment. “What are you saying? You think I sent you on a bad mission on purpose? That’s quite the accusation, Captain Rogers.”
“I don’t know if you did or didn’t do anything, but I do know that there are signs of a security issue within SHEILD and I can’t work for you while that is the case,” Steve replied evenly.
“Oh, so you’d rather work for a group of vigilantes? Xavier’s little gang?” Fury snapped.
Steve huffed. He should have known Fury would keep tabs on his trip up to Westchester, like everything else. He was just surprised he hadn’t been confronted there or any point between. Maybe Fury was wary of offending Xavier? He’d have to ask Logan and Tony about that later.
“Say what you want about the X-Men, but at least I know they aren’t being sabotaged from within. It’s only more concerning to me that you chose to disparage another group instead of answer for your own problems.”
Fury crossed his arms over his chest. “What problems do you think SHIELD has anyway? You couldn’t cut it on one mission, and it’s all my fault? That’s a little childish, don’t you think, Rogers?”
Steve had to take a moment to swallow down his anger. He might not be the smartest man on the field or always make perfect tactical decisions, but he owned up to his mistakes and valued honesty.
“Tony discovered a backdoor into your database. He then wrote an algorithm to search through mission files for patterns. The fact is that there is an increasing rate of mission failure, and most recent incidents can be attributed to key intel misinformation. To be frank, we think you have a mole or double agent. In fact, it’s most likely more than one.”
Fury stood, silently, and Steve did the same. He tried to appear relaxed, but was poised for whatever was coming. After a tense moment, Fury spoke calmly.
“I’d like to see what evidence Stark has compiled. I’d also like your help in rooting out whatever we find. It would be a great advantage bringing in someone from the outside, like you, to help us clean house.”
“Tony has said he would provide you with everything you need, but I can’t in good conscience join SHIELD at this point,” Steve replied.
“You’re going to walk away from this? Leave other agents to get hurt or even killed?” Fury challenged.
Steve raised his eyebrows and gave Fury a hard look. “The failings of your organization are regrettable, but ultimately not my responsibility. And while I would really like to be able to help, I know I would be a hindrance. I’ve realized recently that I just don’t know enough about modern intelligence, security or warfare to do the job you’re asking of me. I don’t want to get more people killed because I didn’t understand something. You need to solve your problems without me.”
Fury nodded. “Well, it seems you’ve made your decision. I’ll let you get back to whatever it is you’ve been keeping yourself busy with.”
Steve watched Fury take a few steps toward the door but stopped him with a question.
“That’s it? You’re really going to let me go?”
“What kind of question is that?” Fury said, turning back.
Steve shrugged. “I thought it was pretty straightforward. I just find it hard to believe you’re not still trying to reel me in.”
“Who says I’m not? Maybe I’m playing hard to get,” Fury said with a smirk he probably thought looked clever.
Steve rolled his eyes. This guy’s ego was bigger than the entire island of Manhattan.
“Please look at what Tony found. If you don’t figure this out, more good people are going to get hurt,” Steve implored.
Fury turned and walked out the door of the conference room without another word. He wasn’t sulking, but it was obvious he wasn’t happy either. Steve followed him and they were met by Tony casually leaning against the security desk with a tablet in hand. When Fury approached, Tony laid the tablet on the edge of the desk and tapped it with his finger.
“This has everything I found so far. You want more help, just give me a ring.”
Fury took the tablet and stepped onto the elevator when the doors opened. The security guard joined him, and Tony gave them a jaunty wave as the doors closed, then turned back to Steve.
“I’m surprised you didn’t punch him, to be honest. What a dick.”
Steve barked out a surprised laugh. “Yeah, he’s not my favorite person, that’s for sure.”
Bruce had just come out of the office to join them. Steve didn’t blame him for trying to stay off Fury’s radar.
“Isn’t punching bullies kind of your thing though? I was sorta hoping you would,” Bruce ribbed.
Steve smiled. “Well, maybe I’ve matured a little in the last 70 years.”
“Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up, kids. Let’s just hope Fury figures his shit out and we don’t have to get any more involved. Not that I won’t if I must, but it would be better if they cleaned their own house,” Tony said. “Let’s take this party up to the kitchen. I feel like we deserve snacks after that.”
They made their way to the kitchen on the guest floor, and all grabbed snacks and drinks from the well-stocked fridge and pantry.
“Thank you again for hosting us, Tony,” Steve said as he popped open a can of Coke and sat on a stool along the kitchen island. “If there is every any way I could return the favor, please don’t hesitate to ask. What you’re doing for Logan is amazing.”
Tony sighed. “Yeah, well we still have a long way to go on that front, so don’t go mooning over me yet.”
“So you really think Fury will leave me alone now?” Steve asked.
Bruce snorted. “I don’t think people like us ever get that luxury. Someone will always want to use or control you, Steve. That’s the world we live in.”
“Brucie Bear, don’t be such a downer. I’ll protect you,” Tony said, walking over to where Bruce stood leaning on the counter to lay an arm across his shoulders.
Steve watched some of the tension leave Bruce at the contact. He figured that man didn’t have many people in his life he could trust, and Steve was glad Tony seemed to be that for him. Just then Steve heard a door open and close from down the hall, and a moment later Logan walked into the kitchen. Steve held out an arm and Logan made his way over and slumped into him for a hug.
“You okay?” Steve murmured quietly into Logan’s shoulder.
Logan grunted and just stood there a moment, the stool and Steve holding his weight. After a few seconds he moved to stand, and Steve leaned up for a quick kiss as he did.
“I’m okay,” Logan assured. “Still tired.”
“You should sleep some more,” Steve admonished.
Logan shrugged and walked over to the cupboard to get a glass. He filled it with orange juice and drank it in one go, refilling it and bringing it back to the island before replying.
“I woke up and you were gone, so I wanted to know what fun I was missing out on.
Steve shook his head. “Nothing actually fun at all. Fury came by for a little chat.”
Logan gave Steve a look of concern. “And what did he have to say?”
“A whole lot of nothing, if you ask me,” chimed Tony. “The guy is in denial about the control he has over his own agency. Let’s just hope Steve’s little talk got through to him.”
“Do we need to do anything about it?” Logan asked.
Tony shrugged. “I’m willing to wait and see what Fury does, but I have some contacts in mind that can better handle the situation if need be. Clearly there are security problems and possibly something more nefarious at play. I’m not really qualified to deal with that, but I know some people who are.”
Steve sighed. “It’s hard for me to walk away from this, but it looks like that’s all we can do for now.”
“Why do you feel any responsibility to SHIELD at all? You certainly don’t owe them any loyalty,” Bruce questioned.
“I guess when I woke up here and learned about how Peggy had been involved in starting SHIELD, I figured it was the right place for me.” Steve paused and looked at Logan. “I mean, it was Peggy. She was a dear friend and I had so much respect for her.”
Logan took Steve’s hand a gave it a gentle squeeze. No doubt he was thinking back on the times they’d shared working alongside Peggy too.
“It’s difficult to accept that not only do you have absolutely no idea what’s going on around you, but any semblance of the players you once knew are gone and different now,” Steve finished.
“I think you’re smart to admit that. I know it’s not easy, especially when everyone expects Captain America to know what he’s doing,” Tony praised. “I understand that struggle to admit that you don’t have the answers sometimes and ask for help.”
Bruce gave Tony a look. “Like you’ve been so good at lately?”
Tony waved him off. “Yes, all us super dudes need therapy. Blah, blah, blah. Go do your mediation and leave the rest of us to our unhealthy coping mechanisms.”
Bruce rolled his eyes at Tony, but his expression was one of amusement not annoyance.
“I actually would like to go get a few things done. I’ll see you all tomorrow morning,” Bruce said as he made his way to the elevator. He had his own lab space and suite of rooms, so he would likely spend the rest of his afternoon and evening between the two.
In the moments of silence that followed, Steve’s thoughts circled back to something Tony had said earlier.
“So when you say you have contacts that could handle the SHIELD situation, what do you mean by that?”
“When you’re as rich as I am you end up rubbing shoulders with a lot of powerful people, both in the government and in the private sector. Add to that the contracts SI used to have with the Department of Defense, and there’s a lot of important people in the US government that I have a working relationship with,” Tony answered.
“What do you think would happen to the Avengers if the government had to intervene with SHIELD?” Steve posed the question. “I’m not comfortable working for SHIELD right now, but I would still help if the call to assemble was made.”
Tony blew out a breath and appeared to be taking a moment to think about his answer.
“Well, that’s a tough question. SHIELD supposedly answers to a shadow-y arm of the United Nations called the World Security Council,” Tony started.
“The ones who decided to drop a nuclear bomb on New York City?” Logan said with clear disdain. “Those assholes are still in charge of anything?”
Tony scoffed. “I know, right? There’s no reason the Avengers have to stay under SHEILD, other than it started as Fury’s pet project. And I don’t want to work for the World Security Council in any capacity ever, so I’d actually prefer it if we could move out from under their umbrella. I think it’s becoming clear that some of us would prefer not to be associated with SHIELD, while some are completely ingrained in the institution. How we move forward from this as a group, I’m not sure.”
“Is there a way we can work independently? Maybe with government oversight, but not answering to any one person with too much power? Or could we work for an international oversight group, so we could legally conduct actions in other nations?” Steve asked.
Tony pointed at him. “You’re not just a winning smile and hot bod, Cap. You’ve got some good brains in there too. I think you’re moving in the right direction with that idea. I have a couple people in mind that could give us some good insight on this. Maybe we schedule a time for as many of us as possible to sit down and talk it out?”
“I’d like that. I don’t want to abandon the idea behind the Avengers Initiative just because I don’t trust Nick Fury or the World Security Council. It feels right for what I know of the world now. It feels like we could do some good,” Steve concluded.
While they’d been talking, Logan had rested his head on his hand with his elbow propped on the counter. He looked in need of more sleep. Steve rubbed a hand across his back.
“Let’s get some food in you and get you back to bed, huh?”
Logan gave Steve a small smile. “Sorry. I’m just beat right now.”
“No need to apologize, man. Enough boring talk of world domination for one night. Rest up. I’ll see you boys in the morning,” Tony said with a flourish and headed toward the elevator.
Tony was right. Steve’s priority right now was taking care of the man he loved. The rest could wait.
Steve rode down the elevator to the lab with dread sitting heavy in his gut. The last two treatments had been nothing short of horrific to witness. Tony had wanted to stop and take some time to figure out some way to make the process easier, but Logan was stubborn and wanted to push on. He’d eventually worn Tony down to agree to continue after Tony and Bruce worked out that waiting too long might start to reverse some of the previous work on adjacent bone structures.
Logan was standing next to him now, though leaning heavily into his side. That was even after he slept for almost two days straight. The most recent treatment to his rib cage and part of his spine, and the cumulative effects of the process had left Logan so weak, Steve had to carry him to their room afterward. Watching someone you love hurt like that without being able to do anything about it was one of the worst feelings Steve could imagine. He knew there was nothing he could do that he wasn’t already, but Steve Rogers was a man of action, and not being able to fix this for Logan was frustrating.
They entered the lab to find Tony and Hank talking quietly in front of a display. Tony had lines of tension etched in his face, and Hank looked equally somber. Hank hadn’t been able to join them for the last couple of treatments, but with Tony’s growing concern over Logan’s wellbeing, he’d returned for today’s. Bruce was fiddling with something at the electrolyte tank.
Steve and Logan made their way over to the tank, and Steve helped Logan step into it. He laid onto the reclined chair in the tank and Steve stepped back so Bruce could begin setting up the electrodes.
“Morning, Bruce,” Logan greeted as Bruce wheeled the tray of sterile surgical tools over to the tank.
“Morning. You okay to do this?” Bruce asked.
Logan shrugged. “It’s going to suck, but might as well get it over with. It’s saving my life, right?”
Tony and Hank had finished their conversation and walked over.
“Sorry to do this to you again. Last one though,” Tony commented.
“Seriously, stop apologizing,” Logan chided. “I’m willingly doing this and grateful for it, just accept it.”
Bruce instructed Logan to remain still as he made small incisions at either side of the base of his skull. Steve watched as Logan endured the process stoically. When Bruce was finished positioning the electrodes, they laid a bit behind each of Logan’s ears.
“Okay, now the part that’s going to be less than cool,” Tony started. “I need you to lay back and we’re going to have to submerge part of your head.”
“You gonna be okay with that?” Steve asked Logan softly.
Logan nodded. “You guys will keep me grounded. I can handle it.”
Steve was sure Logan was strong enough to take it, but he still hated that he had to go through this. He pulled up a stool and settled near the tank. Logan laid back and the chair was slowly lowered until both electrodes were adequately submerged in the liquid, leaving Logan’s face exposed.
“Ready?” Hank asked. “All you have to do is lay there and endure electrocution. A typical Tuesday afternoon, I’d say.”
“Ha. Ha. Very funny, Furball,” Logan responded dryly.
Steve could see Hank’s joking had eased a slight bit of the tension in Logan and was glad his friend had been able to make time to be here for this last treatment. He watched as Tony and Hank made some adjustments to the control panel. Then it was time, and the Tony slowly started ramping up the current like they’d done each time previous.
Logan clenched his jaw against the buzz of electricity, but he seemed okay otherwise.
“Want me to read?” Steve asked.
After Steve had talked himself out the first couple of treatments, he’d taken to reading aloud to Logan. Tony had decided they both needed to read the Harry Potter books, since Logan hadn’t before and Steve had been frozen when they were published. It had ended up being quite entertaining. Tony couldn’t help from inserting his commentary while they were reading. He was not a fan of Dumbledore at all.
At the slight nod from Logan, Steve grabbed the book and found the place they’d left off last time. He was able to read for maybe a half hour before Logan started looking very uncomfortable. Tony held up a hand to stop Steve and check in.
“You okay, Logan?”
Logan grunted and had to take a couple breaths before he managed a response.
Tony looked at Bruce who was monitoring Logan’s vitals on a separate screen.
“Normal for how he reacted to the other treatments so far,” Bruce supplied.
Tony gave Steve a nod, and Steve started reading again, though more slowly. He was distracted watching Logan start to wince and twitch with pain. For a man with the kind of pain tolerance Logan had, it was telling. Steve paused again when Logan let out a small groan through gritted teeth.
“Can I do anything?” Steve asked.
Hank shook his head. “We can only keep going, but you’re helping as much as possible right now.”
Steve kept reading, but after a few more pages, it was obvious that Logan wasn’t listening to him anymore. The skin on his head had already turned a light red and the color was spreading down to his shoulders. Steve looked over at Bruce, who seemed to be watching the readouts calmly. His attention was jerked back to Logan when he heard his name.
“Steve,” Logan whispered. “I don’t know how much longer I can keep going.”
Logan was looking at Steve and pain obvious in his expression. Steve hated this so much, but knew it was a means to an end. An end that Logan had chosen at that.
“Hang on. You can do this,” Steve pushed.
At that moment, Logan’s muscles seized and he let out an anguished groan. Steve jumped to his feet.
“Logan!” Steve shouted, but the man had his eyes clenched shut and wasn’t responding. Steve looked to Tony. “What’s happening?”
Tony was tapping quickly at a display and brought up a hologram of Logan’s body. Bruce swiped at his screen and Logan’s vitals appeared on the side of Tony’s display. Hank looked on with a concerned expression.
“His body temperature is increasing more rapidly than previous treatments, and it seems to be causing him more pain,” Bruce said.
“Can we do anything about that?” Steve questioned.
“Not without compromising the conductivity of the liquid solution,” Tony answered. “Sorry, Steve.”
“Don’t apologize to me! He’s the one suffering!” Steve couldn’t stop himself from shouting back. After a moment he got himself under control enough to apologize. He held up his hand. “Shit. I’m sorry, Tony. I didn’t mean any of that.”
“I know, bud,” came Tony’s soft reply.
Steve took a deep breath and paced back and forth for a moment to calm himself further. Steve came to a stop in front of Logan again, and looked down at the man. Logan opened his eyes and met his gaze.
“I can take it,” Logan ground out. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
Steve ran his hands through his hair in frustration, then blew out a breath. He looked back at Logan and smiled.
“You’re the strongest man I know. I love you.”
Logan’s answering smile was more grimace, but Steve could see his feelings reflected back. They passed a few more minutes listening to Tony and Hank discuss options. Steve didn’t really understand what they were saying, but it seemed the gist was that there were no other options and Logan’s weakened healing factor from the repeated treatments wasn’t responding well this time.
This wasn’t totally unexpected. They knew that the series of treatments with no break for full recovery would mean Logan’s body would have a diminishing healing rate as they went on. They’d spaced the treatments as much as Tony had determined was safe to ensure success, and Hank had confidence that with adequate healing time when they were complete, Logan would be fully cured. They just had to get through the next hour, and it would be done.
Just as Steve finished that thought, Logan cried out. His hand was gripping the side of the tank, and on impulse Steve reached and placed his hand over Logan’s. Pain immediately landed up his arm, and his muscles seized. He couldn’t let go.
“Shit! Rogers!” Tony shouted.
Steve couldn’t really think clearly through the pain. He didn’t know why he couldn’t let go, but somehow knew he needed to. He could hear commotion around him, but it was as if it was from a distance. He was having some trouble taking breaths and he didn’t really feel right, but maybe that was because of all the pain.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the pain stopped. Steve found himself pinned to the floor under Hank’s bulky form. As Hank moved off him, he took a few shuddering breaths as he tried to get his thoughts in enough order to figure out what had actually happened.
“He’s got fibrillation!” Steve heard Bruce shout.
Logan. Steve looked over to the tank to see Logan’s limp form.
“Has his heart stopped?” Tony asked.
Bruce shook his head. “Not yet, but this kind of thing could send a normal person into cardiac arrest.”
“I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about that right now,” Tony replied, tension clear in his voice. “Keep an eye on it and let’s hope he keeps ticking on his own.”
“What’s going on?” Steve finally caught his breath enough to ask.
Tony was alternating between watching the readouts on his screen and looking at Logan.
“Well, short story short, you did something stupid and Hank here did his best linebacker impression to save you.”
Steve realized Hank had picked himself up and was holding a hand out to help him up. Steve took it and carefully stood. Hank didn’t let go of his hand and used his other to place his fingers on Steve’s wrist, taking his pulse. Hank must have determined Steve was okay, because he let go after a minute without comment.
“Sorry about that. Are you okay?”
Hank snorted. “I should be asking you that. You’re the one who was just electrocuted.”
Steve felt like a fool. He’d done the one thing he knew not to do, touch Logan during the electrolysis. If he had hurt the man, he’d never forgive himself. Logan looked pale and unresponsive where he lay in the tank.
Steve looked to Bruce. “How is he really?”
Bruce shrugged. “His body is holding on. He seems to have gone unconscious.”
“Oh, god. Did I hurt him?” Steve asked, horrified.
Hank reached over and squeezed Steve’s shoulder. “Nothing you did caused him harm. His current state is probably due to his body’s inability to heal as fast as it would have had we not pushed him so far over the last week.”
Some alarming sounding beeps came from Bruce’s display.
“More fibrillation,” Bruce reported, staring intensely at the peaks and valleys of the line crossing the screen.
They all went silent as the line flattened for a few moments, before springing back to life with a jagged line showing Logan’s heartbeat restart.
“Tony? Is he okay?” Steve asked.
Tony typed a few things into his keyboard and moved a few windows on his display. After a few seconds he replied.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I’m worried for him. Hank? Got a hot take?”
Hank looked solemn as he replied. “I’ve seen Logan come back before when I thought he was dead, but I don’t want to test that theory.”
Tony cleared his throat. “I have a horrifying idea that might work.”
“If it’s what I think it is, you might be right, but it’s not a call I would want to make,” Bruce said ominously.
“What?” Steve demanded.
Tony sighed and ran a hand through his hair before he spoke. “If we increase the current, the electrolysis happens faster and we’re done faster. But we also risk a cardiac incident and further tissue damage. And it would definitely be more painful if Logan is aware of any of it.”
“I don’t know if I understand,” Steve admitted.
“Increase the levels of electric current, so Logan’s adamantium is transformed faster. It increases the likelihood of a cardiac response, but since he’s already experiencing some arrythmia, we just hope his body handles it as it has been so far. Slightly more risk while shortening the window he’s exposed to that risk,” Hank explained.
Steve blew out a breath. “That doesn’t sound like a great solution, but where we are now doesn’t look good either. How do we know he’ll stay unconscious?”
“We don’t,” Bruce stated honestly.
“So, he could awaken to more pain than he’s been in already? What kind of choice do you expect me to make here?”
Steve thought this all sounded awful, and he didn’t really understand why they were all looking to him. He didn’t feel like he was in a place to speak and make decisions for Logan.
“You’re sort of the next of kin here, Steve. What do you think Logan would want in this situation?” Tony asked.
Steve still felt a little shaky and his arm still burned with pain from his electric encounter with Logan, so he cradled his arm to his chest as he thought. Before he could respond, the heart monitor beeped again, and Steve watched in terror as Logan’s heart skipped a beat.
“I think we need to do this,” Bruce urged. “The more fibrillations he has, the more we risk a lethal incident. I think under the emergency circumstances we need to make the choice that’s best for Logan’s survival.”
Steve was almost relieved to have the choice made for him, but he was worried about how Logan would survive this, and if he did what kind of recovery he would face. Before he could formulate any kind of response, he realized Hank was guiding him by the shoulders to sit in a chair nearby, but not within reach of the tank. Bruce and Tony were conferring over the controls and Steve just watched feeling more helpless than ever.
“Ok, we’re ready. We need to do this now,” Tony directed.
Bruce stepped back to the monitor with Logan’s vitals. Tony taped a few screens, then put his hand on the dial.
“Stay sharp, everyone. Here we go,” he commented as he slowly turned the dial.
Just then, Steve heard Logan gasp and saw him open his eyes. He hissed in pain and spoke through clenched teeth.
Steve stood and moved into Logan’s line of sight.
“Your heart was having some trouble so Tony’s speeding up the treatment to get you out faster,” Steve explained quickly.
“Hurts,” came Logan’s rough reply.
Steve took a half step closer. “I’m sorry. I wish I could take it for you.”
“Hold on, Logan. We need to go a little further,” Tony called out.
He turned the dial again and Logan screamed and writhed in pain. Steve herd Bruce curse under his breath.
“Okay, we’re there. We need to hold this for another six minutes and we’ll be done,” Tony reported.
Steve didn’t know what he could do except watch as Logan was clearly suffering more pain than he had so far. He looked down at Logan and called his name. Logan was shuddering and moaning and didn’t appear to be aware of anything around him.
“Logan,” Steve tried. When there was no response, he tried again more forcefully. “Logan!”
“Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do for him right now. He’s endured this so far, and he’s almost finished,” Hank said calmly.
Anger rose up in Steve so quickly it made him dizzy. He turned on Hank.
“You’ve been his friend for years! You know what he’s been through! Now he has to suffer this just to stay alive?” Steve gestured toward the tank where Logan still lay twitching. “All this, and all you can say is ‘there’s not much we can do’?!”
Steve knew in the part of his brain still functioning under logic that he was yelling at the wrong person. That there was no enemy to fight and they were doing all they could to help Logan. It didn’t lessen his anger. He turned away from Hank and kicked the chair he’d been sitting on earlier clear across the lab.
As he watched the chair smash a hole in the drywall and clatter to the ground, all the anger left him as quickly as it had come. Steve stood still taking deep breaths as he tried to calm himself. He suddenly heard Logan cry out in pain again. This time it was cut off and Steve turned back just in time to see Logan go limp in unconsciousness once again.
“Bruce?” Tony called out in question.
“Heart rate is fast but holding. I’m worried about his temperature and tissue damage, but I think he can make it.”
Steve looked up at Tony’s display to see the numbers still ticking down. Four minutes remaining. They all stood in relative silence as those minutes passed. Logan remained unresponsive, which Steve was especially grateful for as his skin started to turn a deeper red and even started to blister in some spots on his face and shoulders. It felt like hours, but finally Tony called out that there were ten seconds remaining.
Steve unconsciously held his breath as the last seconds counted down. As soon as Tony cut the power, he stepped up to the tank, but suddenly didn’t know what to do. He wanted to touch and comfort, but he didn’t know where he could do so without causing more pain, even if Logan wasn’t aware of it right now.
Before Steve could figure out what he should be doing for Logan, Tony was there giving them all directions.
“Let’s get him out of the goop.”
Bruce wheeled a gurney over and Tony pressed a button that raised the chair Logan was on out of the liquid. After disconnecting the electrodes and drying Logan a bit with towels, they worked together to lift him onto the gurney.
“I want to move him to the medical suite and make sure any wounds are okay,” Bruce directed.
Steve followed along as they took the elevator up one floor and past another lab to a short hall with doors to a few rooms. It was where they’d kept him for his own recent recovery. The fact that Tony had built it at all was an interesting testament to the hero lifestyle. When they got Logan in a room, Bruce got him connected to monitors again.
“What can I do?” Steve asked as the rest of them bustled around setting things up.
Tony paused and gave Steve a thoughtful look.
“Could you wash him? I’m sure he doesn’t want to wake up all sticky with goop.”
Steve felt immediate relief at the suggestion. This was something tangible he could do for Logan. Something that would keep him in contact with the man and provide him with some level of comfort. Steve stepped into the en suite bathroom to gather supplies.
“Start here, and I’ll check for wounds as you go,” Bruce suggested, gesturing to Logan’s head.
The act of gently wiping Logan’s hair and skin with a warm washcloth was soothing to Steve’s frazzled nerves after witnessing the treatment. Bruce seemed satisfied that the burns Logan had sustained would heal on their own with time. He applied a topical analgesic in case it helped relieve some pain when Logan woke. Hank was pretty sure Logan’s body would metabolize it quickly, but Steve was glad they were trying to give Logan any measure of comfort they could.
By the time Steve was finished washing Logan and they’d carefully changed the damp sheets and covered him with a warm blanket, he was feeling calm but concerned that Logan hadn’t yet woken.
Hank seemed to read his thoughts. “Give it time. His body is busy doing other things right now.”
With nothing left to do but wait, Steve grabbed a chair and pulled it close to the bed. He chuckled lowly as he realized he and Logan had now switched places doing bedside vigils.
“What’s so funny?” Tony asked.
Steve shrugged. “I don’t know. It just seems like we’re pretty good at doing this for each other lately.”
“Hey,” Bruce commented, “It’s a good thing to have someone like that in your life. We can’t all be lone wolves out there.”
Tony snorted. “This some advice you’re going to take yourself there, Big Green?”
Bruce just shrugged. Steve didn’t know Bruce all that well, but he knew that sticking around wasn’t always something the man felt like he could safely do. He hoped the friendship he had started with Tony would change that for the man. Maybe it already had.
After Tony and Bruce finished getting things settled and were confident Logan was resting as comfortably as possible, they left to take a break themselves. Bruce said something about meditating, but Steve was pretty sure Tony would end up working like usual. He looked to Hank, who was still lingering.
“Are you staying?”
“I’d like to, if that’s all right,” Hank answered. “I’d like to monitor his progress.”
Steve gestured to the other chair in the room. “Please. You’re his friend. He would appreciate you being here in any capacity.”
Hank sat, and a moment of awkward silence passed between them.
“I owe you an apology for what I said earlier. I’m sorry. You’ve been instrumental in all of this and I let my emotions get the best of me back there,” Steve spoke softly.
Hank smiled. “Apology accepted. From what I know of you, you’re cool headed in battle, but it’s hard to keep our emotions under control when someone we love is in pain.”
“Thank you. And thanks for being there for Logan when I wasn’t,” Steve replied with an answering smile.
With the air cleared, they settled in to wait.
Steve was currently taking his anxiety out on a heavy bag in the gym. Logan had woken up a few hours after his last treatment, and he’d spent the last four days healing and resting. Steve was grateful that the more time went on, the more his healing factor seemed to catch up and continue to work faster. They’d spent the time just enjoying each other’s presence and the relative calm reprieve they had from other concerns.
Today Steve’s stress was back in full force though. Tony was performing some tests to make sure Logan’s adamantium had fully converted and was no longer causing him any adverse effects. Steve had been too keyed up while they were waiting for the results to come back, so Logan had sent him up here with instructions to work out until he felt better. Steve snorted to himself as he thought about it. He wasn’t going to feel better until he knew Logan was okay.
With his next hard right hook, the bag broke off the chain and went tumbling across the floor. Huh, Steve hadn’t broken one of Tony’s bags before. Maybe he’d had enough for today. Steve picked up the bag and propped it against a wall before heading to the elevator and returning to their suite.
Logan wasn’t back yet, so Steve headed straight for the shower. The pounding hot spray was soothing to his muscles. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. It didn’t work, but at least he’d made an effort. Steve felt that after everything Logan had been through, in so many lifetimes, he just wanted a win. Yes, he had a selfish desire to keep Logan around as long as possible, but Logan Howlett was a good man who deserved something this big to go right for him.
Steve took his time and the bathroom was steamy when he finally stepped out to dry off. He wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out into the bedroom to find Logan sitting on the bed, arms resting on his knees and head hanging low. Dread pooled in Steve’s gut.
When Logan looked up at him his eyes were wet.
“It worked,” Logan said softly.
He got up and crossed to stand in front of Steve.
“It worked?” Steve asked dumbly.
“It worked,” he repeated with a smile, though a couple tears tracked down his face as he did.
Logan leaned in for a quick kiss before answering. “I’m okay. The treatment worked. No traces of toxicity in my blood.”
The relief was intense, and all Steve could do was pour his emotions into a deeply passionate kiss. Logan pulled him close and returned the kiss with equal enthusiasm. Steve lost long moments as the drugging sensations swept over him. When they finally pulled away to catch their breath, Logan let his hands rest on the edge of Steve’s towel just above his ass.
“Can I fuck you?” Logan asked between breaths.
Steve leaned his head into Logan’s neck and licked and sucked his way up to his ear before responding.
“Yes. Please, Logan.”
Steve felt Logan shiver in response and laughed as the man pulled his towel away and tossed it across the room. Steve stepped back and made a show of pouting at the fact that Logan was fully clothed.
“You’re wearing too much.”
Logan shook his head and smiled as he quickly shed his clothes until he was standing naked before Steve. His skin was once again as smooth and unblemished as it had been before the treatment. Steve was looking forward to feeling all that hair rub against him. Logan stalked forward and Steve took a few steps back until he was against the wall, Logan’s body pinning him there.
Logan swept him into a kiss again, and Steve moaned when he pressed forward, and their naked cocks rubbed against each other. They kissed and rutted against the wall for a while, but Steve wanted more.
“You going to fuck me here? Up against the wall?” he challenged.
Logan grunted and grabbed Steve’s ass, lifting him. Steve instinctively wrapped his legs around Logan’s waist. Logan smiled and kissed him again before responding.
“I would, but the lube is all the way over by the bed, and I can’t give you the hard fucking you so clearly need without it.
Steve thumped his head back against the wall behind him and laughed. He hadn’t realized how pent up they’d both been the past couple weeks.
“Yeah, that’s a good plan,” he conceded.
Steve dropped his arms to Logan’s shoulders as he pulled away from the wall carrying Steve. When Logan reached the bed, he gently tossed Steve onto it. Steve chuckled and leaned over the grab the lube off the nightstand while Logan climbed on the bed himself. Logan moved over Steve and began kissing his way across his chest.
Steve moaned in pleasure when Logan reached one of his nipples and gently bit down. Logan used his fingers on the other, and it was like a line of heat connecting his chest to his cock. While Logan was busy with that, Steve lubed up a couple fingers and began prepping himself. Logan moaned into his chest when he realized what Steve was doing.
Steve had worked his way up to two fingers by the time Logan finished playing with his nipples and started moving down toward his hard cock.
“Fuck!” Steve cried out as Logan swallowed it down without hesitation.
Logan’s mouth was fantastic. Too good when Steve was already so far gone. The feeling of Logan swallowing around him had Steve pulling at Logan’s hair to get him to stop.
“Come on! In me!”
Logan pulled away slowly and grinned up at Steve. “Whatever you want, sweetheart.”
“I want you to pound me into the mattress,” Steve demanded.
Logan chuckled as he positioned himself between Steve’s legs. “So bossy.”
Steve pulled his fingers away and Logan lined himself up with his hole. He let out a slow breath as Logan pushed steadily forward, not stopping until his hips met Steve’s ass. Logan leaned forward and met Steve in a heated kiss. Steve loved the feeling of Logan’s body over him, muscles stretching as his legs were pressed open. Feeling full and overwhelmed.
After just a few moments of this though, Steve was ready for more. Logan was too, if the stilted small movements of his hips were any indication. They broke away from the kiss and Steve looked up at Logan. The gaze that met his was full of lust and a reflection of the deep love and understanding they shared.
Logan slowly pulled back, and then pressed back in just as torturously slow. Steve let out a needy moan. Logan gave him a playful smirk and began powerful thrusts that lit up every nerve ending. Steve closed his eyes and cries of pleasure fell from his lips as Logan pounded into him again and again. Steve was suspended between that desire to go on like this forever and the pressing need to come. The choice was made for him when a change in position had Logan pressing into just the right spot to send pleasure coursing through him.
Steve’s guttural groan turned to a shout as the stimulation pushed him over the edge without another touch to his own cock. Logan slowed for a moment as Steve’s muscles pulsed and shuddered, but then began thrusting again faster. Steve moved his legs to wrap around Logan’s waist and moaned at the intensity of the feeling. It was almost too much after such a fantastic orgasm, but he loved feeling Logan like this.
With a few more strokes, Logan pressed in deep and grunted as he filled Steve. Logan collapsed onto him when he was done and they lay there together, panting as they caught their breath. Steve sighed when Logan slipped out of him. When the man didn’t make a move to get off him, Steve rolled them over with a playful laugh.
Logan was smiling up at him, and Steve felt a surge of love and happiness at the sight. All he could do was lean in and kiss him with all the intensity of the emotions he felt for this man. When they pulled apart, they wore matching carefree grins.
“So,” Logan said after a moment, “now what?”
Steve started laughing with relief and happiness and couldn’t stop. That was a good question, but one that was now filled with possibilities he didn’t have even a month ago.
“Jarvis, tell Tony there’s pancakes,” Logan said as he flipped another one out of the pan and onto a large stack on a platter.
“Sir says he’s in the middle of inventing something ‘really awesome’ and won’t be coming for breakfast,” Jarvis answered a moment later.
Steve rolled his eyes and Bruce laughed. They’d already tucked in to the first batch of pancakes.
“Please tell him he isn’t allowed to skip our goodbye breakfast,” Steve instructed.
“As you wish, Captain” Jarvis replied.
Steve and Logan had spent the past couple days reconnecting and talking about what they wanted to do, and the time had come to put those plans to action. Logan finished loading up the platter and took it to the table where Steve and Bruce were already eating. By the time he’d settled into his own chair, the elevator was opening.
“What’s this about a goodbye breakfast?” Tony demanded as he strode out. “Who’s leaving? Did I know you were leaving?”
“You didn’t know,” Logan reassured him. “This is the part where we tell you.”
“And it’s at breakfast because?” Tony asked.
Steve shrugged. “Everyone likes pancakes?”
“Your brilliant observations are clearly why you’ve been lauded as a great battle strategist, Captain Rogers,” Tony said dryly.
Steve chuckled. “Can it, Tony.”
“He already did,” Logan muttered, causing Bruce to choke on the juice he was drinking.
Tony came to pat Bruce on the back as he coughed through his laughter.
“All right, all right. Stop trying to kill Banner with your snark.”
Steve gave Bruce a chance to stop coughing and Tony time to get settled with a plate before making his announcement.
“Tony, I want to thank you again for everything you’ve done for me and for Logan in the past few weeks. I’ve really come to enjoy working with you. You too Bruce,” Steve added, glancing between them. “I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to spend some time at Xavier’s school. I think I can do some good there, and it’s close enough to New York that we can keep in touch about the status of SHIELD and maybe do some avenging if circumstances warrant.”
“Wow, Cap. You’re moving in with your boyfriend, we’re all shocked,” Tony snarked back immediately.
After a moment he continued. “Seriously though, I’m happy to help and you guys are good people.”
“Do you plan on making this a permanent move?” Bruce asked.
Steve shrugged. “I don’t know. Charles offered me a job, but I don’t want to abandon the idea of the Avengers all together. I’m hopeful it’s something we can come back to at some point. I think we need to wait and see if Fury takes care of his internal business at SHIELD.”
“You know,” Tony commented, “Xavier might have the right idea, funding a private super-group. Maybe that’s something we should think about for the Avengers.”
Bruce hummed thoughtfully. “A private group that works in conjunction with SHIELD perhaps? SHIELD could be our liaison to the government.”
Logan snorted. “You’d be okay trusting any government organization, Banner?”
“Well, no, not completely. We’d have to think about something though, because otherwise we’re just a bunch of unchecked vigilantes,” Bruce answered.
“Maybe your buddy in the UN, Hank, should be helping us with this,” Tony added.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Logan agreed.
Steve nodded. “You guys would know better than me, so I’ll follow your lead. You’ll know where to find me if you need me.”
After that, conversation naturally drifted to other things. Steve sat back and enjoyed listening to Tony and Logan banter back and forth. They gave up on that pretty quickly in favor of Tony discussing his latest project with Bruce. They got so involved, they wandered off to Tony’s lab without saying goodbye.
Steve and Logan cleaned up from breakfast and then went to their room to pack their bags for the bike. It might be one of their last rides before winter really set in, and Steve planned to enjoy it. He didn’t know what Captain America’s future would look like, but he had Logan and some new people he trusted and the time to figure it out. Steve figured he was entitled to indulging in a little optimism about it all.
They’d just about gotten everything packed on the bike when Tony and Bruce came out of the elevator on the parking level.
Steve held out his hand, and Tony took it in a firm handshake then pulled him into one-armed hug.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Tony said as they separated.
“You either. Keep in touch,” Steve returned.
Bruce moved in for a hug and they said their goodbyes as well. With that, Steve climbed on the bike and Logan settled behind him. With a last wave, they drove up and out. As they crossed the bridge out of the city, Steve took a deep breath. He felt like he was in the right place for the first time since he woke up to a strange future, and it was such a good feeling.