Disclaimer: The X-men and their world belong to Mavel/Fox. No profit or copyright infringement is intended. This is an X-men Shared Universe, orignally imagined by Tarchannon, Dark Legends is a dark future where the next generation of the Legacy virus has triggered disturbing changes in the X-men. For further stories by a variety of authors and poets, go here.

 

Gathering Shadows - Hank

"Do something! You have to do something!" Jean was screaming, flushed with fury while her red hair twisted in mid-air as if rising on invisible current of smoke. "Hank - I can't stand it anymore. I can't sleep. I can't eat. He won't stay out of my head!"

"Jean - please calm yourself." Hank stood very still as the bottles on the shelves rattled and his chair skidded across the floor to crash into the wall. "Jean. I completely understand your difficulty - but Scott is on as powerful painkillers as I dare give him. Further sedation could risk his life. The plague is taking a hard enough toll on his system."

"Understand!" Jean shrieked. "You don't understand anything you headblind freak! I don't have a thought to myself anymore! Scott - Logan - you - everyone battering at me!"

"Jean - Jean - my dear, please." Hank watched, worried as a trickle of blood seeped from Jean's nose. "Try to remain calm."

Jean screamed in wordless rage and the lights in the X-men's underground laboratory exploded, showering them both with bits of hot glass. Hank ducked and the dim emergency lights came on.

Jean covered her face, fingernails digging bloody furrows in her cheeks. "Hank - god, Hank. I'm losing my mind - I can feel it. I can't control my telepathy any more. It's like I'm a kid again, voices whispering in my mind. I can hear Rogue dying for god's sake!"

"Jean." Hank put careful arms around one of his oldest friends. She was burning with fever, thin, eyes sunken into dark circles. "Please - you've got the virus as well. We've seen how it interferes with our abilities and seems to affect emotional stability."

"It's not the damn virus, Hank -" Jean snapped. "It's watching your friends die. Watching your fiancée die! We're all dying!"

Hank tightened his hold. Yes, they were all dying - everyone but him. Kitty had been the first and Warren had gone to tell her parents, coming home sick himself - before they'd known how quickly the virus vectored. Since then, they had voluntarily quarantined themselves, dying alone while Hank prayed they had not inadvertently released the virus into the general population. Now, he was just praying. Despite his best efforts and millions of dollars of medical equipment, Warren had died, nothing more a bundle of bloody feathers. Rouge was dying. Charles and Bobby were both in the tiny ICU. Scott had seemed less ill than most and Hank had left him under Jean's competent care. Now Jean was showing symptoms as well.

They could not even call for help. The phone lines were out - it might be some kind of attack but no one had time to spare for it. Above all, they dared not call on their fellow mutants - Alpha Flight, X-factor, Gen-X. Charles had warned them all to stay away before he fell to ill to use Cerebro. Hank smiled bitterly, even the Brotherhood feared plague. Charles had warned Magneto of the danger over Scott and Logan's strenuous objections. Despite the X-men's undeniable vulnerability, their sometime enemies had not attacked.

"Please, come over here and lie down, Jean." Hank guided her to an exam table and helped her lie down. She began to shiver violently, pink tinged tears sliding down her temples. Hank pulled a warm blanket up to her chin and performed a rather cursory examination. Yes, of course - she too was ill, the course of her illness progressing quickly due to exhausting and stress. Hank gave her a mild sedative and hoped that would quiet the voices - for a while.

"God. God, Hank." Jean blinked up at him. "Is this it? After all we've been through, is this it?"

"No. We will find a way, we always have." Hank smoothed her tangled hair back, stroking her forehead until her bloodshot eyes closed. "Rest, my dear friend. Rest."

When Hank was sure she was asleep, twisting restlessly in fever, he made his weary way upstairs. He'd been in the lab, tending the sick, studying the course of the disease, for several days and he feared what he was going to find. The first person he met was Logan, with an armful of bloody laundry - Rogue's favorite pajamas, stained, were draped over his shoulder. The unkillable mutant looked exhausted but his head jerked up and he met Hank's eyes in desperate hope. Hank's ears sank.

"I'm sorry, Logan." He said. "I have no good news."

"Yeah." Logan nodded once. "So what d'you want?"

"Jean's fallen ill."

Logan closed his eyes and turned his face away for a moment. "Christ -"

"Only you and I seem immune." Hank sighed. "You - of course your healing factor keeps you well. Myself - I don't know why. If only I had time!"

"Well - " Logan said roughly, pushing dirty laundry into the washer. "Everyone's either gonna die or get well - you'll have plenty of time on your hands soon enough."

Logan straightened back up, poured protein busting soap into the washer and wiped his nose - then stared at the red streak of blood on the back of his hand.

"Fuck."

"Dear God."

Logan turned back to him with a weary grin. "Looks like y're gonna be on y're own."


END