Now we start to look at that history through the gloom of hazily-remembered flashbacks, as we find out that Wolverine isn't just some generic man of mystery, but actually cannot remember his past (if you know your Logan you'll be able to take a good guess where I'm going to declare the third phase of Wolverine to start). In this issue, Wolverine is in Madripoor, still going by the name of Patch (natch). He is attacked by some people on his birthday, and as he defends himself and his friends from them, he is surprised to find them turning up dead. He knows why when he gets back to base, to find a letter proclaiming that nobody kills him (especially not today), apart from the writer, Sabretooth.
This Wolverine/Sabretooth rivalry occupied a few pages of Uncanny's Mutant Massacre issues. As I wrote there:
In those two pages (issue #212 13-14), everything we need to know about their pre-existing relationship is lain in front of us. They're rivals, but Sabretooth thinks Wolverine is beneath him.
I stand by that. Those pages were a manifesto for the Wolverine/Sabretooth dynamic, which sprang unusually clearly right from that first appearance. If it were anyone other than Claremont I'd say it was surprising that it took so long to explore it. But... it's Claremont. He still hasn't explained the Mystique/Nightcrawler connection and that's been seven years. So by that standard, this is quite hasty.
Many years ago, we are shown in flashback, Sabretooth killed Wolverine's lover, Silver Fox. No particular motive is shown to us other than sadism, we don't even have the context of knowing when this took place (we know it's before he's been implanted with adamantium bones, and he doesn't have any claws), or anything about Silver Fox. In one way, she's just one of the many people Wolverine has known who has ended up dead (this time before we even met Wolverine).
But she's more than that: she's his first lover. Wolverine has always been - and make sure you're not drinking when you read this as I will not take responsibility for drowned keyboards - a figure with a touch of asexuality about him. And I don't mean that he reproduces asexually. He makes a show of lusting after Jean (Inferno has emphasised this), but back around 1980 he was more a soppy romantic - he picked up flowers for Jean in #101. His admiration for Mariko has been a little self-denying. And yes, I link him and Yukio on the roof; but let's remember the context here - Yukio was lusting after him and he was sating her so as to keep her onside. The man, to put in in a nutshell, fucks. Animalistically. But he has fuck-buddies, not lovers.
So for us to finally hear of an old lover of Wolverine. Someone he had given his heart to, only for it to be ripped out. Well, that makes sense of his gingerness around Jean and Mariko, then. As to Sabretooth? Well, we don't know much more about him and Logan than we did already. But I will note that his repeated use of "runt" implies a familial relationship, to me at least.