You run as fast as you can, thrusting yourself bodily through the forest and not daring to look back. Your breath is burning in your lungs like molten lead, but you’ve managed to avoid any cuts and scrapes so far. You know that anything like that would make this easier for her, and you don’t want to do that, even if that makes it harder for yourself.
You keep pushing yourself, glad that you listened when your foster father, Logan-kun, taught you how to run through the pain. He hadn’t wanted to but he knew how dangerous he could be, during that troubled period especially, and he wanted you to know how to escape. It wasn’t all he taught you, but it’s proving to be the most useful currently.
It’s a good thing, you reflect as you push forwards, that you know this forest like the back of your hand and that she has only been here twice before, although you have known her for over a year. Both times were with Logan-kun, and the first time was the first time you had ever seen her. It made you curious, that connection she has with him. It made you want to find out more.
You tumble, realising that you should have been paying more attention to the ground and your surroundings. This section of the forest has always been treacherous, as you well know. You stifle a groan as you try to get to your feet, not wanting to give away your position, and realise that your ankle is sprained at the very least. Luckily you haven’t heard any movement from her in a few minutes, which gives you some time. You hope.
Hobbling now, you head towards your destination, a lake. You know that if you can just make it to the lake, make it into the water and out the other side you can…
A crunch close by brings you back from your plan. You remain silent, just as he taught you, listening. Another crunch. She’s close. Moving slightly faster, you curse your injury causing the amount of noise that it does, and you curse your curiosity even more.
You got close to her after the first time that you met; after all you had some things in common, like Logan-kun. In the past year you had even begun to form a friendship with her, as much as she would allow you. You had begun to care about her, as you dared care for so few others.
Then you had to go and spoil it all. This was the third time that she had come to visit you here, at Logan-kun’s forest retreat, and he had left the pair of you alone for a while to take care of some business. You were curious, you just had to push her, you just had to see how like him she was.
You push yourself faster; you must not let her catch you, not now, not while she is like this. All you have to do is get to the lake, and you keep that thought in your mind. Your ankle is agony and despite the few seconds respite you got you are still out of breath and wheezing slightly.
You hear a third crunch, from behind you, and now you know that she is playing with you. She is naturally stealthy enough not to make the smallest of noises, let alone one that loud and obvious.
Knowing Logan-kun the way you do, having watched him interact with Yukio, and knowing from that how to push his buttons was a very useful thing, you thought. After all, he would normally only get a little angry. He had more control and would stop you when he’d had enough.
But pushing those same buttons on her, well you weren’t expecting the results. And now not only is she hunting you in a feral temper, fit to kill you, but she will probably never want to talk to you again. There goes the friendship and the chance at anything more.
You trip again, distracted at that thought, and this time you know that your ankle is broken. Despite yourself a scream rips itself from your throat, and you know it was the worst things you could possibly have done. One of Logan-kun’s first lessons was Don’t. Ever. Scream. It only makes the feral side worse.
You hear growling and as you turn yourself over you see her emerge from between two trees. Scrabbling backwards, dragging your leg and hissing in pain, you feel your back collide with stone and realise that you made it to the lake shore, although you know it will do you no good now.
You start to shake as you watch her approach, half from adrenaline and half from fear, both of which you know she can smell as she scents the air. You flinch slightly as she looks straight at you, and you notice the distinct lack of humanity and control in her eyes. She’s hunched low and continues to scent the air, all without taking her eyes off of you, always growling.
“Laura-chan,” you try, holding your hands up in front of yourself, although whether it is to be non-threatening or to defend yourself you don’t know. “Laura, I’m sorry. Please.” She leaps for you, and another scream involuntarily bubbles up.
Now she is straddling you, forcing your back further against the stone wall and putting uncomfortable pressure on your broken ankle. You whimper, and that is when you hear a sound which both comforts you and fills you with fear.
You wait for the claws to pierce your skin, for an end to this hunt which your curiosity brought about; your eyes squeezed shut and your breath held tightly. But the pain doesn’t come; the claws never meet your flesh. Instead, as you open your eyes, you see her watching you, head cocked to one side and the feralness still wild in her eyes.
As she moves a hand towards your face you flinch as much as you can, and she retracts the claws on that hand with a snakt. Again her hand moves towards your face, and as she wipes away a tear you realise that you were crying. She sniffs her finger, and tastes the tear and you can almost see her thinking, calming slightly.
The tenderness of her touch surprises you, but the hand that travels to your breast surprises you even more. You yelp in surprise as she squeezes hard, and again as she squeezes harder. You can still hear her growling slightly, although it is now a low rumble more than anything else, something you are glad of. Her other hand moves to your other breast, claws retracting quickly.
It is then that you remember something that Logan-kun told you about the Wolverine, once he thought you were old enough to hear it. “It burns itself out kid, the feral rage. Burns itself out in one of two ways, violence or sex. Sometimes both.” And you realise with a start what she is doing.
You want to scream, want to fight her off and run again, you want to be rescued. You don’t want this to happen, not now, not like this. You want her, but not like this. You know though, that struggling or screaming would just make her rougher, or turn the rage back to violence. But there could be one way, if she’ll let you try.
A hand moving down to your crotch brings you back to the present, and you try not to yelp again as one of her claws cuts away the top you were wearing. As she licks your neck you begin to sing softly, praying to all the spirits that she can hear you under that rage.
“Pain… Yeah, I can’t sleep. Till I can hear, hear her calling for me.” Your voice is soft and your accent makes some of the words difficult and awkward, but both of you know this song intimately and you hope that in her feral state she can remember it.
You choke back another scream as she bites your shoulder, hard enough to draw blood, hard enough to leave a permanent mark, and continue the song. You know it may be the only chance you have to get her to stop, to get Laura back from the edge.
“Cuz I know that, I know that, I know that side of you.” You started to sing this song to her the first time you comforted her after a nightmare. You can still remember the terrified look in her eyes, the tears and the sudden tight hold she gripped you with. You remember Logan-kun telling you afterwards that she hadn’t let anyone other than him touch her until that point. He always sang away your nightmares with his rough voice; you drew your inspiration from him.
“I can help this, I can help this. I love this side of you.” You put emphasis on the last line, hoping that she understands what you are saying. Then you realise that the rough hands are no longer caressing you, that she isn’t touching you at all except where she has your legs pinned. She is just sat there on her heels, watching you.
When she starts to sing you begin to relax, to hope that nothing bad is going to happen now. Even though her voice is rough and scratchy from all of the growling it is a sound that couldn’t be more welcome. “I’ve loaded, I loaded up this gun. There’s a killer in me, hoping. Hope that you’re the one.”
You join for the last part, not noticing the tears streaming down your cheeks or hers. “But I never get to sleep. When you’re away. I don’t mind. I’ll track you down, run you down.”
When the last note dies away Laura is looking at you, X-23 banished back into the depths of her mind, no longer feral and once more in control. You hold your arms out to her, and she crumples into them still crying. You ignore the renewed pain in your ankle and hold onto her, comforting her. You hear her muttering “Sorry,” quietly, over and over again.
You pull her up to face you, shocked once again that she is barely your age and yet so beautiful with such ancient eyes. You also shift her slightly to the side, away from your ankle, before talking to her. “Laura-chan, you should not be sorry. I am the one at fault, I pushed you, angered you.”
“But I hurt you,” she sniffles at you.
“No Laura-chan, you did not. You stopped yourself.” Silently she looks at the bloody bite on your shoulder. “That,” you sigh. You think to yourself that she wouldn’t have turned it towards sex if she wasn’t interested in you that way at least a little. You sigh again. “As for that, I do not mind too much. I just did not want it to be like this.”
You gesture to the surrounding forest, and she nods, understanding dawning in her eyes. “You mean you’re interested?” she questions, almost slightly angrily. You hope that telling her was the right thing to do, that it doesn’t push her back into the feral rage.
“Yes Laura-chan. That is the reason I pushed you. I wanted to know more about you.” You wince as she punches a hand, claws extended into the rocky wall. This wasn’t the reaction you were hoping for, but she was still in control and that is one thing you are grateful for. “Sumimasen,” you apologise fervently.
She shakes her head at you, and you see renewed tears in her eyes which hurt you to the core. You did this. She blinks, the tears falling unnoticed and begins to speak. “You could have just asked, could have just told me. I could have killed you,” the last part is half-sobbed, half-screamed at you and you feel more guilt than ever.
Eventually she calms down, and you hold your arms out, again offering comfort. “If you had just told me, I would have told you anything you wanted to know, anything,” she says into your shoulder as she holds onto you again. You apologise once more, and are rewarded with a slight smile. “Maybe you could just tell me now, and we could pretend that this didn’t happen.”
You nod to her idea, glad that things can be so simple when you have lived through so much, glad that you both learnt to forgive and forget a long time ago. No, not forgive and forget, forgive and move on. “That sounds good Laura-chan.” You take a deep breath. “Laura-chan, there is something I must tell you.”
She looks up at you, eyes wide with mock surprise and you continue. “I am interested in knowing you better and in a way deeper than a friendship.” You smile, glad to have finally said it out load, and are again rewarded with a smile. And then her lips press against yours, gently, tenderly. You smile beneath them, and lean into the kiss.
Pulling back she stands up and looks down at you. “I wanna get to know you better too Amiko, and definitely as more than a friend. So let’s get out of here,” she offers you a hand up, and you remember your ankle. As you shake your head, she looks down and sees the swelling. Shaking her head, she bends down and scoops you up, leaving you slightly surprised at her strength.
“Logan’s gonna be pissed at us,” she growls gently and you nod. Your foster father will not be happy to come back and find you with a broken ankle. Thinking quickly, you try to come up with a plausible excuse, and a reason not to tell him that you and Laura are looking to take things a little further.
In the end it is Laura who comes up with an excuse. She shrugs slightly, careful not to jar you. “We’ll just tell him that we went for a little run.”