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More than Genetics

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Logan let the bike idle and kicked the stand to the ground, stretching his legs and arms out until his bones crackled. His boot heels dug into the icy ground as he surveyed the landscape in front of him. The hardest months of winter had already passed, but spring would be some time in coming. The few deciduous trees had long ago added a layer of decayed brown leaves to the dormant grass peeking through the snow layer, and the grey sky leached all color from the countryside. The city squatting in the valley below him added no cheer to the vision, its equally grey structures and dingy streets only accentuating the monochromatic chill. But then, Conklin wasn’t known for uplifting the spirit. Come to that, it wasn’t much known at all outside the province.

Good thing I’m not lookin’ to have a fun time. Hope their beer’s better than their building.

He settled his pack on the seat behind him and leaned back, shaking out his limbs one last time before heeling the stand back up and resuming his course. Just below the hill, the road curved around to approach the city from the north, and as he rounded the bend a flash of color caught his eye. Surprised, he picked out bright yellow and red banners flapping cheerily in what breeze there was. As he got closer, their purpose became clear, and he raised one eyebrow, incredulous.

What kind of idiot brings a circus up here in the winter? But the canvas tents and multihued trucks were unmistakable.

However crazy it seemed, though, apparently there were plenty of willing patrons for the place. Assorted vehicles parked in the mud to either side of the highway, with more lined up trying to find space as close to the entrance as possible. He growled and braked as the traffic thickened, hampered further by the stream of people heading for the promised entertainment but apparently in no hurry to get there.

He glanced over the place as he drew up beside it — an old-style operation, no midway rides or other fair-style trappings, just a modest row of games and food kiosks and several smaller tents leading up to the big top.

The crawl of traffic slowed further as some idiot in an SUV tried to squeeze in between two other cars, blocking both lanes in the process, to the accompaniment of horns all around and sharp words from mothers ordering their children out of the way.

A barker stood on the corner of a booth just inside the entryway, his shouts barely loud enough to be heard over the noise of his audience.

“Step right up, folks, try your luck at our shooting gallery! Test your skill and win a prize! Only one dollar gets you five tries! You, sir,” he accosted a middle-aged man walking past with two children in tow, “why not try your luck, win a toy for the kids? Only one dollar.” The man shook his head and walked on with a smile.

The huckster turned to the next person in line. “You, ma’am! What about you? Come on, show these men what it’s all about — you know you can do it! One dollar to prove women’s superiority!” He grinned at her, but she rolled her eyes and kept on going.

Logan watched with a grin for a second too long, and caught the man’s eye as he looked up. Quickly, he winced and looked away. Too late, his instincts told him, though.

“You!”

I knew it, Logan sighed, and determined to ignore the man.

“Come on, sir, step right up! You look like a man with a good eye. Come and win one for the lady back home!”

He snorted derisively and turned to continue before the wicked thought struck him. Why the hell not? Jeannie’d get a kick out of it, and it’d piss off eye-boy like crazy.

He thought about it for a second longer, then gunned the motor, startling pedestrians out of his way, and made it the three feet to the entrance, hand in his pocket before the bike finished powering down.

 

He grinned as he swung around the entrance arch to the “shooting gallery”. Game’s probably rigged. Bet I can beat it anyway.

The huckster hopped down behind the counter and smiled ingratiatingly at him as he relieved Logan of the dollar. “Thank you very much, sir. Right this way — choose your weapon.”

He waved at the assorted pellet rifles on the counter, and Logan raised an eyebrow. Weapon? He examined them all, though, finally choosing one that seemed in slightly better repair than the others. Sighting it on a few of the targets, he decided it would do.

His first shot went high and left, but he noted where it did hit and compensated for the “weapon’s” bias, hitting every other target dead-on.

The huckster’s smile turned less sincere, if that was possible. “Nicely done, sir! Which one would you like?” He gestured at the middle row of stuffed animals.

Logan was tempted to go for one larger, just to see the man’s face (not to mention one-eye’s), but regretfully concluded that he’d better stick to something that fit on the bike. He brought the blue bear back to the bike, stowing it in his pack out of sight as quickly as possible.

The sun was approaching the horizon, and he straddled the bike hoping to find a cold beer and a warm room before night came in, but as he surveyed the road, he realized that wouldn’t be happening any time soon.

Don’t these people have anything better to do? He scowled at the traffic and eyed the circus reluctantly. Wonder if they’re serving beer.

 

He threaded his way along the edges of the crowd, fruitlessly examining one food kiosk after another. At the end of the row, he was ready to conclude that he was out of luck, but made one last attempt. “Hey, Bub.” He snagged the sleeve of a worker as he passed by. “There any beer around here?”

“In there.” The kid nodded over his shoulder at a fully enclosed tent, then hurried back to his tasks. Logan headed for the tent with a purposeful stride.

As he approached the front of it, though, his steps slowed. Wonderful. Apparently, they wanted to make sure that you were a big enough sucker before you could drink. Fabulous Freak Show! the sign read. Mistakes of Nature to Confound and Astonish!

Logan snorted, fists clenching. I oughta show ’em a real freak of nature. They’d probably piss their pants. Ah, what the hell; probably just a midget and fake bearded lady.

Forcing his hands open, he walked up to the tent flap. A bored kid on a stool sat sentry.

“Three dollars to get in, the first beer is free, no alcohol outside the tent. No pulling the lady’s beard, no feeding the performers, no touching the demon.” Logan scowled at paying three bucks for a beer that was probably watered down, but handed it over, just wanting to get a drink and get out.

 

He paused just inside to let his eyes adjust to the dimness. The late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the canvas and a few dim bulbs swung high overhead, but probably not enough to make things bright for a normal human.

Logan scanned the interior quickly, then ignored the alcoves to either side, and made a beeline for the refreshment stand at the back.

Beer in hand, he downed half of it quickly. Better than I’d thought. A boy about ten years old jostled him and he scowled, then stepped back out of the milling bodies, looking for a quiet place to stand and finish.

Around the perimeter of the tent stood “cages” — those bars wouldn’t hold a determined raccoon — and inside each sat or stood one of the promised “freaks of nature”. He passed by a midget that laughed as he dove at young children, who shrieked in delight at their bravery in facing him. The bearded lady was flirting with everyone in sight, and he hurried past, catching a whiff of horsehair and glue as he did.

Nearby, one of the tent poles broke up the displays, and he leaned against it in the shadows, torn between wanting to waste as much time as he could before facing the traffic and wanting with a desperation that startled him to be out of sight of this place that put even fake freaks of nature in fake cages.

He scowled at himself. I faced down Magneto and his goons, I can damn well handle a circus freak show. He was surprised to find himself at the bottom of his beer faster than he’d have cared for, though, and growled at his own feeling of relief, tossing the cup to the ground and perversely heading back to get another.

The line was longer this time, curling around the opposite side of the tent. There were more “performers” on this side, but Logan studiously ignored them. The people in line around him, though, gawked and pointed and whispered, and he in turn watched them, disgusted.

A young boy in front of him tugged at his mother’s sleeve, pulling her toward the display nearest them. “Mommy, he looks cold!”

His mother snatched him back in exasperation before he jumped the ropes. “He’s a demon, Tommy, he’s probably used to being warmer. Now come on and let’s find your father.”

Demon? Logan snorted. Yeah, right. What, they find Sabretooth somewhere? He glanced over in spite of himself, blinked, and froze.

The man did look cold. He wore only a kind of loincloth that covered barely enough for modesty, and though he looked to be peacefully asleep, his arms were wrapped around his chest in search of warmth.

So was his tail.

His hands where they lay on his shoulders had two fingers and a thumb each, and his feet matched them, one toe opposing the other two like a bird’s foot. From the base of his spine, his smooth tail curled up in front of him, its pointed tip barely visible where it rested on his hip. His hair was long and shaggy and parted around one pointed ear, a silver hoop dangling from the lobe.

And from head to foot, he was blue. Not the same color Mystique had been, but darker, a dull almost-black that blended into the shadows. Where the light did catch him, it showed smooth indigo skin over harshly protruding bones.

The sign next to him proclaimed him to be A Demon, Caught by a Powerful Magician in the Old Country! For once, Logan was tempted to believe it.

Then the man opened his eyes. Their slits showed yellow, glowing in the near-dark. Logan was once more reminded of Mystique, but even from this distance he could see that her eyes had had things these lacked — fire. Confidence. Purpose.

The man in the cage paid no attention to the crowd staring at him, only stared ahead dully or closed his eyes in the semblance of sleep. And Logan noticed for the first time that his cage was a cage — the bars were solid metal alloy and the door was locked securely.

Logan’s vision hazed over in red. Whoever he was, whatever he was, he’d been locked up to be humiliated in front of countless people for the profit of this place. And call me crazy, I don’t think he had much choice in the matter.

His chest rumbled in a suppressed growl, and he fought the desire to pop his claws and slice something or someone to shreds. Spinning on his heel, he stalked out of the tent and down to his bike, beer long forgotten.

 

It had been dark for several hours, and the outside entertainments had locked up some time ago in favor of the big top’s attractions. The performance lights spilled out into the darkness sporadically, turning a patch of ground golden or red for a moment before moving on. Cheers and shouts followed as each act was properly appreciated.

Logan left the bike in the shadows of the trees and made his cautious way closer to the back side of the freak show tent. He’d been watching the place long enough to determine that the demon-man was alone in there.

I oughta have my head examined, pickin’ up strays like baldy’s group. But somehow, he couldn’t let it go.

The tent’s heavy canvas, dull brown in the darkness, was held down firmly by the stakes all along its length. Guess they don’t want anyone sneaking inside without paying. And if I loosen the wrong one, the whole tent could come down.

He smiled in satisfaction and extended the claws on one hand with a snap. The tent cloth ripped with disappointing ease, and he shouldered the remnants aside as he sheathed his claws and entered.

The light filtering in from Logan’s makeshift door provided the only real illumination as he made his way to the one cage still occupied. The man lay on his side against the bars, facing away from Logan, and gave no indication he’d heard the tent ripping.

Logan looked around one last time before stepping up to the bars. “Hey, you.”

He’d spoken softly, but the blue-skinned man spun around to face him and backed against the far side of the cage with a speed Logan was hard-pressed to keep track of.

Damn, he’s fast. “Hey, whoa.” He raised his hands. “I’m not here to hurt you or anything.”

The man stayed where he was, pressed up against the far side of his cage, yellow eyes wide, his thin chest heaving with the force of his gasping breaths.

“Don’t worry; I’m here to help.” I feel like an idiot. Logan took the opportunity to look over his mutant-in-distress from closer in. His indigo skin proved to be covered in a fine layer of short fur the texture of velvet — at the moment, very ill-kept velvet. It was matted and patchy over most of his body, and old scars showed through in a number of places. He went beyond thin almost to emaciated, and after his initial burst of adrenaline faded, his eyes dimmed again and his shoulders slumped. He still watched Logan warily, but there was plainly little fight left in him.

Now what? Logan searched for something to say to get the man’s trust, to figure out what he wanted and what they should do.

Ah, screw it. I’ve never been good at this crap. “D’you want to get out of there?” The man stared back, wary and confused. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

An odd tingle ran through his hand as he grabbed the bars to brace himself, and he let go, frowning, then surged forward with a snarl. The metal lock screeched satisfyingly as his claws made short work of it. So much for stealth. He yanked the door open. “Come on.” The man twitched but sat there, staring at him wide-eyed as Logan waited impatiently.

Voices and running footsteps from outside broke their tableau. Fuck. “Come on, damn it!” The man shrunk back and stayed where he was.

Growling, Logan ran for the entrance he’d cut, leaving the door open behind him. If the idiot wants to stay there, let him. He pushed aside the loose flaps and peered through, checking with every sense to be certain the way was clear.

Behind him, the cage door creaked, and he turned to see the man inching his way out as if every second he expected something to pounce on him. His feet touched the ground just as the voices reached the front of the tent. “…I’m telling you, it came from in here…”

The blue-furred man turned to run, but made it only a few steps before his legs collapsed under him, tumbling him onto the frozen ground. Swearing under his breath, Logan darted back and swung the gasping man over one shoulder just as the circus guards pushed aside the entrance flap.

“What the…hey, who’re you!?”

Crap. Logan dove for his own entrance, the confused shouts from behind following him out as he ran for the bike. The men themselves took a moment longer and weren’t in the shape that Logan was, but they weren’t carrying anyone else. They won’t be far behind us.

He put on as much speed as he could, entering the trees at an angle, losing the men in the shadows. He tipped his surprisingly co-operative passenger to his feet by the bike, steadying him with one arm as he straddled it. He let go to crank it up as he stomped the gas pedal and the powerful machine roared into life.

“Get on!” he shouted over the engine noise. “You’re busting out of here!” He held one arm out to the man, who finally seemed to be shaking off a bit of his daze. Wide yellow eyes blinked at him, then darted back to the circus workers turning their direction now. Then, tentatively, one three-fingered hand clutched Logan’s arm and the man swung himself onto the bike behind Logan.

Logan balanced and took off, bursting onto the packed ground the tents had been raised on, shooting past the circus guards now shouting angrily at them. He chuckled as several ran for their trucks. “Hang on tight!” he called over his shoulder.

With a grin that would’ve had most men blanching in fear, he punched the button.

 

They headed southeast past the town and kept on going. As he roared down the highway with his passenger plastered to his back, Logan ran his maps through his mind. Looks like we’ll be spending the night in the forest. He shrugged mentally. Could be worse. Get a few feet off the road, they’ll never find us in this cover.

He kept his attention on his companion as well as the road, but the man kept his balance like a seasoned motorist, leaning easily through each turn. By the time his grip began to falter, arms shaking with the effort, Logan estimated they were well over one hundred miles away, and their pursuit was long since dust.

He shifted down smoothly, bringing them to a halt by the side of the road. The long blue fingers let go of him slowly and his passenger stumbled as he climbed off the bike. Logan shook the numbness out of his limbs and walked the bike deeper into the trees until he was satisfied they couldn’t be seen from the road.

“Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment rescue, huh?” He turned to his rescuee confidently and frowned to notice him still shaking. “You okay?”

He reached for the man’s arm; his icy skin flinched slightly at the contact, but he didn’t protest.

“Shit!” Logan quickly unzipped his jacket and bundled it around the nearly naked man, chafing his arms through it as best he could. Idiot! he berated himself. Damn it, Logan, for a bright man you can be really stupid sometimes. Should’ve wrapped him in the blanket before we left.

He sat the man down on a patch of grass and snagged his pack from the bike, folding him in the thick thermal blanket and rubbing the cold limbs with his own as best he could. Eventually, the man’s shivering calmed and his breathing slowed until he seemed ready to drop off, apparently unconcerned with where he was or what was going on.

I’m not one for long conversations, but a thank you’d be nice. Or any word, as far as that goes. “Guess that fur’s not as warm as it looks, huh?”

The yellow-eyed gaze rose to meet his, and the man blinked.

Logan sighed. “You okay now?”

The man stared at him for a long moment, then slowly nodded.

Well, that’s an answer, anyway. “You got a name?”

Another slow nod, then his throat worked, a throaty voice emerging in near-whisper. “Kurt.”

He nodded in acknowledgment and stuck out a hand. “Logan.”

Kurt gazed at his hand confusedly for a moment before taking it, slender fingers wrapping his own for a few seconds before dropping. His eyelids looked ready to drop, too.

“We should get some sleep.” He propped his pack up as a pillow and opened his sleeping bag to serve as a mattress for both of them. “You mind sharing that blanket?”

Kurt started guiltily and hastily pulled it from around his shoulders to shove it at him.

“Hey!” Logan stopped him exasperatedly. “You want to freeze to death out here? I said share, not give up.” Sighing, he threw one end back and pulled the other around him, turning his back to his companion and settling in. After a minute, the blanket rustled and Kurt timidly crawled in to join him, huddling as close to his warmth as he could without touching him. Priming his internal clock to wake him after daybreak, Logan sank into sleep.

 

Chapter Text

The sky had cleared a bit by morning and glowed pink, sending bright streamers through the trees as Logan woke. He rose stealthily to avoid disturbing the other man, but turned to find Kurt looking up at him as wide awake as if he’d never slept at all. For all I know, he never did. Hell, I’m surprised I did with someone else so close.

Logan opened his pack and pulled out a bag of beef jerky. “Breakfast?”

They chewed in silence and followed that with a shared beer before Logan folded the bedding and packed it away, pulling out an extra set of sweats from Xavier’s, which he tossed to Kurt. “May not look the best, but they’ll keep you warmer. You ready to blow this joint?”

Those wide yellow eyes blinked at him uncomprehendingly. Great. Be just my luck if he’s brain-damaged and liked being locked in that circus. “You speak English or not?” He scowled.

Kurt flinched from his expression but nodded quickly, his hoarse voice sounding worried. “Ja. I speak a little English.”

It was Logan’s turn to blink as he kicked himself. Never even thought of that! “You German?”

To his surprise, the shaggy head shook “no”. “I am Bavarian Romany.”

Logan shrugged. “Whatever. You don’t understand me, you say so; I hate guessing games. Put on the clothes and we’ll get going. You think those men’ll come after you?”

Kurt’s brow furrowed as he worked the question over in his head, his hands picking absently at the pile of clothes in his lap. He looked down as if surprised, then glanced at Logan furtively before hurrying into the shirt. “I do not know. Yes?”

Logan nodded. “You got some place to go to? A home? Or you on your own?”

Kurt shrugged uncomfortably as he pulled on the pants, long hair hiding his face as he turned away. “Der Jahrmarktnein, I have no home.” His whisper was choked.

Logan grunted. Reckoned as much. “I know a place that’ll take you in; I suppose I was heading there anyway. Come on.” He secured his pack to the bike. “Be a while till we get there; might as well get started now.”

He slung himself onto the bike and waited for Kurt to finish dressing. He was half a head taller than Logan, but weighed practically nothing, so the clothes fit him fine. Logan watched bemused as the long tail curled itself down the right leg of the pants before Kurt settled them high on his waist. “A whole new problem in which way to dress?” Kurt looked at him, puzzled. “Never mind. Hop on.”

 

The thin blue arms clutched around his chest tightly as they travelled, but Kurt’s strength was limited, and they stopped more often than Logan cared for in order to give him a rest and to warm up. He couldn’t help but wonder just how long the man’d been in that cage, and how badly he’d been treated to get him to this point. He pulled over at the first sign of weakness, though; he was running the bike at its max, and at those speeds if Kurt fell off he’d end up a furry blue pancake miles before Logan could stop.

By their sixth or seventh break, Kurt seemed as impatient as Logan with their lack of progress. His muscles twitched as he paced in tight circles, and Logan imagined he could see the pointed ears twitching beneath their shaggy curtain. He puffed on his cigar and watched Kurt from the corner of his eyes, having smelt the fear if he stared at the man for too long.

“You got nervous energy, elf?” Kurt started and looked over at him. “Relax. Speed we’re going, they can’t have caught up to us yet.” Kurt returned to his nervous pacing.

Logan sighed and strolled over to put himself in the path of his next turn. Kurt slowed and backed away from him and he sighed again, grimacing as he firmly grabbed one arm and steered the man down to the icy grass. I feel like a baby-sitter. “Sit.”

Kurt sat, confusion and fright warring on his sharp features. “Was ist?” He swallowed. “What do you want?”

“I told you, relax. Better yet, you have that much energy in you, might as well strengthen your muscles. Hold out your leg.” An idiot, a baby-sitter, and a physical therapist. I gotta stop hanging out with visor boy and the rest.

 

They covered a few hundred miles that day, finished the jerky and most of the beer, and discovered the bike wouldn’t run turbo-charged for eight hours without overheating. They limped into Shellbrook at an almost-sane speed early in the evening, keeping an eye out for a motel without too many outside lights.

Kurt squirmed against Logan’s back as they sat at a red light, the hood of his sweats pulled up and his hands buried inside Logan’s jacket. With their heads that close together, Logan could hear him swallow nervously, but he kept his silence.

First time I’ve ever been the chatterbox with anybody. That I know of. Kurt made a pretty restful companion, though, when he wasn’t fidgeting. And the exercise Logan had prodded him into took care of that extra energy like a charm; by the time they reached Xavier’s, his muscles might even be in decent shape.

The light turned green and they continued until they found a place, rolling into a dark corner of the lot. “Wait here. I’ll go get us a room.”

Kurt looked ready to protest, but nodded instead, and waited for Logan to return. They hurried to the room, Kurt still bundled up until they shut the door behind them firmly. A small moan sounded as Logan set the locks, and he turned to find Kurt shaking, huddled in on himself. What now? Can’t be claustrophobic, he came in just fine until I … locked him in.

“Whoa, it’s okay!” He grabbed Kurt around the shoulders, pulling the shaking man to him. “You can leave any time, all right? That’s just to keep other folks out, not you in. You understand?” Kurt hunched over and clutched his shirt, chest heaving in panicked breaths. “Kurt?” He shook his shoulder, waiting for an answer.

Kurt nodded convulsively. “Ja … Yes. You do not keep me here.” But the hands never loosened and the shivering continued as he burrowed into Logan’s chest. Logan winced but held him.

They stood there for some time until Kurt was breathing more evenly. Logan patted his dark hair awkwardly, then grimaced and patted his back. “You need a bath. So do I, but you need one worse.”

He steered Kurt into the bathroom slowly, carefully not closing the door behind him. He debated with himself for a moment. Ah, hell, he’s a grown man. “I’m going for food. I’ll be back soon, okay?” Kurt nodded absently as he eyed the tub. Logan left him to it and returned to the main room, calling over his shoulder. “Don’t use all the hot water!”

 

Logan waited until he heard the water begin running. At least he can do things for himself if he has to. I was beginning to wonder. Since they’d met, Kurt had yet to speak without being spoken to or do anything without being told. Once again, Logan spared a moment to snarl a curse at the men who had decided a mutant belonged in a cage. Bastards.

He hurried to the closest gas station, not wanting to leave Kurt alone any longer than he had to. Guy’s so messed up, who knows what could happen? He grabbed some sandwiches and more jerky and lamented the lack of beer, grabbing some Coke instead. He picked up and put down different snacks, not knowing what else to get. How the hell do I know what he likes to eat? He paused and scowled at himself. Why the hell do I care what he likes to eat? Just keep him well, get him over to Xavier’s, and get on with your life, Logan. You’re a loner, remember?

But he grabbed a couple candy bars as he stood at the counter. Well, why not? He needs to put on weight. It’s just food, it’s not like I’m marryin’ him.

He ran the bike as fast as it would safely go and kept himself to a brisk walk across the snowy lot, dreading what he might find when he got back to the room. By now, Kurt could be insensible with panic, or gone, or…

He sat at the foot of the window, right next to the heater, wrapped in towels, fur growing fluffy as it dried, a dreamy smile on his face. He looked up at Logan’s entrance, and the smile lit up his entire face, transforming him instantly from a cowed demon into a radiant young man.

Logan blinked. Hmph. Whaddaya know. He shook his head as he put the bags down on the dresser. “Dinner, elf.” He held out a Coke and a sandwich. Kurt hurried over to relieve him of them.

“Yeowch!” Logan jumped back as the spark of static leapt between them. He put the food down and waved Kurt toward it, raising an eyebrow at the crackling fur. “Worse than a cat. Shoulda bought you a pair of rubber shoes.”

Kurt cocked his head at him, grin becoming apologetic. “Entschuldigung.” Logan raised an eyebrow at him. “I am sorry.”

“No problem,” Logan answered dryly. “If the starter on the bike quits, I know where to go.” He shook his hand out, bones still tingling. Great. A natural electric generator and a bag of metal bones. What a combination.

He grabbed food and a soda for himself and lit up a cigar, finishing both and waving Kurt toward the rest of the bags. “Eat whatever you want.” He headed off for his shower.

 

The hot water lasted long enough, but Logan sighed as he struggled with the one remaining towel. One more problem with all that fur. Well, at least he seems happy. Guy deserves a bit of luxury.

He pulled on clean briefs as he toweled his hair and considered flipping on the TV, but decided against it. “We should get an early start again tomorrow,” he informed Kurt, who sat by the heater once more, watching him happily, soda in one hand. “It’ll be a few days yet — faster we get going, faster we’ll get there.” He tossed aside the towel, crawled into the bed furthest from the door, and closed his eyes. “Get the light when you go to sleep.”

The light went out and Logan waited for the sounds of the other man settling in. A moment later, the bed dipped and Logan snapped his eyes open, startled. What the hell…? He opened his mouth to tell the man in no uncertain terms that he had his own bed now, but the words died on his lips as the warm, furry body coiled itself against his side.

Damn it, it’d be like telling a kid no. I slept okay last night; haven’t had a nightmare in almost a week now. If he feels better, no skin off my back. Warmer with company, anyway. Placing a reassuring arm around Kurt, he drifted off to sleep.

 

His waking in the morning was a repeat of the day before, and he stopped himself from frowning as he stared into the yellow eyes a few inches away. “Did you sleep?”

Kurt smiled and nodded, studying him with a look that hovered somewhere between lustful appraisal and the study of bugs pinned to cards. Patting him on his shoulder awkwardly, Logan levered himself up quickly. “We can make Ontario tonight if we run the bike normal speeds for about twelve hours; add a couple for avoiding cities, shave a couple off running extra hot. Think you can handle that?” He looked back at Kurt as he lit a cigar and rummaged through the bags of food.

Ja, I think so.” Kurt nodded happily.

“We’ll go for it, then. We can always run hot half an hour if we have to. Hm. See you found the chocolate.”

“Yes, thank you. It was very good.”

Logan grunted in welcome and tossed him a packet of doughnuts, breaking another open for himself, along with another Coke. He held one out to Kurt, who accepted it with a wrinkle of his nose and a laugh. “Coke and Berliner together?”

“Breakfast of champions,” Logan informed him, taking another swig.

They finished breakfast in silence, though Logan swore he could almost hear Kurt humming in happiness. What the hell got into him this morning? No, he realized, last night. He was jumping at his shadow when I left; when I came back, you’d think nothing bad had ever happened to him. Wonder if amnesia’s contagious. “How’d you end up in the circus, anyway?”

Kurt smiled sadly. “I was always in the circus, from a very small child…” His voice and his smile trailed off.

Shit — since he was a kid!? Logan forced down the rage he felt building again. No wonder he’s messed up. Scratch amnesia, though. Heck, maybe he just really likes being clean.

Whatever its cause, Kurt’s euphoria did not wear off when they faced the icy trip once again. As they headed further east and south they encountered less snow on the road, but the weather was never warm, especially on the back of a bike. Kurt seemed enamored of their journey, though, leaning into the wind until his indigo hair whipped Logan’s face, turning about in the seat to see everything. Logan found himself torn between enjoying his enjoyment and strangling him with his bare hands, finally deciding upon silent resignation.

As the day wore on, Kurt’s excitement waned with his energy. He chafed at his own lack of strength, running through the exercises Logan had shown him and more he devised himself diligently but without enthusiasm when they stopped, and sat the bike behind Logan still and silent.

 

A sudden peal of laughter startled Logan from the meditative state the road lulled him into. He risked a glance over his shoulder, squinting against the late afternoon sunlight. Kurt gazed back at him, a small, ironic smile quirking his lips, and shrugged.

Logan turned back to his contemplation of the road. Kurt’s arms tightened around him, his chin coming to rest on Logan’s shoulder as he, too, watched the gleaming asphalt stretch east out of sight. Logan brushed strands of long, dark hair out of his face and drove on.

They were late stopping that night.

Chapter Text

Whatever realization or decision he had come to at that moment, Kurt seemed to settle in normally afterwards. Gone were both the paranoid jumping at shadows and the suspiciously excessive giddiness. He still did or said little without being asked to, but he seemed content with whatever they did do and began to show some interest in his surroundings.

As they paused mid-morning on the third day of their trip, Logan watched him breathing in the crisp air with evident relish. Wonder if this mood’s for good?

He turned his attention to searching his pockets for a cigar as Kurt glanced his way furtively before resuming his stretches and exercises.

They’d each settled into a routine on these roadside stops — Kurt ran his body through its gradually improving paces, and Logan smoked and pretended not to watch him, in deference to his continued unease at being scrutinized. Hate to make him nervous, but damn he’s fascinating.

It might be weeks before Kurt approached a more normal weight, and some of his scars might never heal, but already he looked healthier. Cleaned and well-fed and happy, his fur gleamed sleekly in the morning sunlight. The loose curls of his hair, a shade darker than the fur on his body, brushed his ankles as he leaned forward in a stretch, and the silver hoop in his left ear flashed brightly.

Something about that nagged at Logan, but he pushed it to the back of his mind while he enjoyed his surreptitious Kurt-watching.

He'd nicknamed him “elf” without even realizing it at first, and it wasn’t just the pointed ears. Even hurt and unsure of himself, he’d had a nimble way of moving, quick and poised, like a dancer or a gymnast. Now that he’d grown more secure, a natural grace shone through as well, long-neglected muscles flowing under his tight-stretched skin as he moved from one position to the next. Like a velvet sculpture come to life. I bet once he's healed he'll be beautiful.

He stubbed his cigar out on the ground and pocketed the butt, brushing dead grass from his jeans as he stood. Kurt smiled up at him as he finished his routine and followed him back to the bike, no words needed between them.

 

They stopped that night just outside of Dryden. Logan scowled at the motel prices, which seemed to get higher the further they went. Wasn't planning on payin' for two this trip, either. Be hard to stick around somewhere long enough to make money, with Kurt to look after. And no way I'm asking Charley and his gang for more help. Some ‘X-Man’ I’ll be if I can’t even take a road trip without calling for help.

He mentally calculated his remaining cash and the miles left to go, weighing both against the prices on the chart behind the desk. Well, there’s one way to cut corners, anyway. He set his cigar between his teeth and thumbed though his bills, slapping the right number down by the bored-looking clerk.

“Gimme a single.” No sense payin’ for a bed nobody uses. “And extra towels.”

He collected the key with a nod and headed for the room at the end of the building. Kurt joined him, carrying the pack, and Logan preceded him into the room, laying an arm about his shoulders even as he bolted the door. Kurt’s expected shudder and accelerated heartbeat were less dramatic than the first night’s panic attack, but Logan held him anyway until he moved forward on his own accord. Wonder if he’ll ever get used to locking doors. Wouldn’t blame him if he doesn’t.

When he could manage on his own, Kurt made a shaky beeline for the bath. Logan shook his head indulgently and thumbed the TV remote, flipping desultorily through the channels available. What the hell’s the point in watching someone else fish on the tube?

A knock interrupted him, and he made sure Kurt was out of sight from the door before opening it enough to gather in the extra towels that the housekeeper had brought.

He leaned against the bathroom doorframe and brandished the towels at Kurt. “Here ya go. Leave me a couple, would ya?”

Kurt looked up at him from water made murky from soap and the dust of a day on the road, hair dripping into his eyes and the fur across half his body pushed every which way by the suds.

Logan chuckled. “You look like a drowned water rat, elf.”

Kurt’s brow creased in confusion, and Logan shook his head. “Never mind.”

Kurt began fidgeting, his gaze darting around the room and back to Logan, and Logan belatedly realized he was staring. He straightened and shook himself.

Kurt started at the sudden movement and tightened his grip on the soap, which immediately squirted out of his hand and skittered across the tile.

“Whoa!” Logan laughed and made a grab for it, picking it up on the second try. “Floor’s clean enough, pal.”

He held it out to Kurt, who held up one hand tentatively at the same time he shrank back. Logan frowned, then immediately blanked his face as Kurt cringed further from him.

“What?”

The moment stretched in edgy silence.

Logan dropped to his knees beside the tub and held out the soap again, for want of anything better to do. “Here.”

Kurt’s thin neck moved visibly as he swallowed, his fingers creeping closer to Logan’s, eyes never leaving his. Logan held himself still as if hunting, only moving to open his hand enough that Kurt could pluck the soap from his fingers.

Logan smiled crookedly as the blue hand left his. “Hey; friends, right? It’s okay.” He nodded seriously. “Sorry I stared.”

Yellow eyes blinked up at him, disconcerted.

“Entshooldegun. Or whatever. Right?”

If anything, Kurt's eyes grew wider. “You…to me?”

Logan nodded. “Yeah. I’m sorry to you.” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “Just finish your bath, okay? I’ll be out there.” He stood briskly, wiping his hand on his jeans as he shook off the sentiment and returned to the main room. He scowled as he grabbed up the remote again. I’m going soft in my old age. How much further to Xavier's?

 

Kurt took almost half an hour in the tub, but he seemed to have shaken off his fright by the time he was finished, and smiled happily as he rubbed himself dry again next to the furnace.

Logan glanced at the clock and assessed his companion’s mood out of the corner of his eye. “I saw a restaurant on the corner that should still be open. You stay outta sight, and I’ll bring something back for you. Hamburger okay?”

There was the standard moment’s pause as Kurt assimilated what he’d said, then he nodded.

“Good.” Logan tossed him the remote. “Here. Maybe you can find something better on. Just stay away from the pay channels; I’m not shelling out cash for you to watch bad wrestling or sex orgies.” He left to the sight of one last puzzled look.

 

Logan breathed in the greasy smell of frying beef as the bell hanging from the door announced his arrival. Two pairs of men and three loners matched the five semis parked outside, and one cook and a lone waitress moved behind the counter. All eyes flicked to him briefly, then as quickly turned away, except for the waitress’. She pulled a plastic menu from behind the bar and slapped it down between them. “What can I getcha?”

Logan snagged the menu, but gave it barely a glance. “Two burgers, the works, with fries.” One item caught his eye. “And a chocolate milkshake.” He stopped himself as she turned away. Damn, that’ll melt. Should have her bring his food out later.

He called to her before she put the order in, but found himself telling her, “Better make it to go.” He debated with himself while he waited for the food. Trust your instincts, Logan. Yeah, but he’s doing fine; why not let him spend some time alone? He certainly felt no imminent danger to either of them; why not just enjoy his dinner here? But he didn’t call the waitress back, just grabbed the bag of food when it was ready, handed over the money, and headed back for the motel room. What the hell. Couldn’t hurt to be careful.

He hurried back, more to keep the food warm against the icy wind than anything else, and let himself in gratefully to the almost overheated room. Good thing we’re not payin’ for the gas in this place. Kurt was curled up on the bed, arms and tail twined around his knees, watching the TV screen enraptured, though he looked up at Logan’s entrance.

Logan lifted the bag at him. “Food.” He set it down on the dresser and pulled out one styrofoam package. Kurt’s tongue darted out to wet his lips, but he waited for Logan to put the box down before heading for it. He afraid of me now? Somehow, the thought hurt.

He lectured himself against caring too much, especially for someone he knew next to nothing about, but couldn’t stop himself from parking on the bed close to Kurt, and was satisfied when the other man smiled at him and didn’t draw away.

Logan turned to the TV and raised an eyebrow. “You like old movies?”

Kurt beamed at him. “Douglas Fairbanks viele Gespür hat! Erm…he has much…ach, ich weiß nicht was Mann aus Englisch sagt. He is very good!” His face lit up, and he seemed to forget Logan looking at him as he split his attention between the black and white movie and his own remembrances. Logan used the opportunity to his advantage.

Kurt’s golden eyes glinted like a cat’s at the flickering film, and Logan suspected he might see as well in the dark as they did. The fur on his face grew progressively finer and more like normal human hair, though it kept the same indigo colour of the rest of his body. His tongue was a shade lighter blue, and his canine teeth — Hm. Need to get him a toothbrush — longer than normal and ending in sharp points.

Kurt blinked and returned to himself, and Logan quickly turned toward the film, picking up his burger. His thoughts, though, stayed on the man sitting next to him. Taken as a whole, Kurt was probably the most mutant-looking mutant Logan’d ever met, or even heard tell of.

That I remember, he reminded himself. And the real freaks like that bastard Kelly would probably put him right back in the cage just because of that. Charley’ll love him; he’s practically the poster boy for mutant rights. He frowned to himself. The man’s got good intentions, but he’ll take advantage of the kid over my bleeding corpse. The spotlight’d kill him, and he’d be too frightened to say anything. Looks like you just picked up another protectee, Logan. Life gettin’ too dull for you?

He shook his head at himself, then abandoned all seriousness for the evening, and the two of them sat munching burgers and fries in front of The Mark of Zorro until it was time to go to sleep.

Chapter Text

Logan woke the next day at what his internal clock told him was soon after dawn, although no light filtered into the room. The cascading noise of water over the roof and down the gutters provided the reason. He grimaced. Looks like our travelers’ luck just ran out.

Kurt was still asleep this morning, his thin limbs twined with Logan’s own, giving and receiving heat. Between the chill air brought on by the rain and the soft warm body curled against him, Logan was hard-pressed to get out of bed. Haven’t seen anyone chasing us yet. What could a few hours’ extra sleep hurt?

Unfortunately, he could think of too many answers to that question, and reluctantly disentangled himself from Kurt, waking him in the progress. “Sorry, elf. We’d better get moving, though, if we want to make any headway in this weather.”

Logan lifted the drapes and peered out into the storm. Rate that’s coming down, we’ll be soaked in the first minute. And the direction we’re going, we’ll probably be moving along under it all day.

He dressed and packed up their things and made sure the waterproof canvas was fastened tight, then they finished a couple more packets of doughnuts and another beer.

Logan chuckled as the sugar powder scattered over Kurt’s dark fur, showing sharply in contrast. “Have to get you something else next time, or you’ll end up lookin’ like a leopard in reverse. Dark with white spots,” he answered in reply to the enquiring look that got him.

Kurt merely grinned, shrugged, and proceeded to lick the powder off his fingers methodically. Logan shook his head and grabbed a damp cloth, tossing it into his lap. “Unless you’re more limber than you look, there’s some parts you can’t clean with your tongue.”

As Kurt finished cleaning himself and got dressed, Logan brought the bike onto the walkway in front of their room and secured the pack to its back. He shook himself as he walked back in the room, shedding water as best he could before wiping himself down with a towel. Cold and wet as promised.

He looked up to find Kurt grinning at him, almost a silent laugh, and raised an eyebrow sardonically. He unzipped his heavy leather jacket and tossed it to Kurt. “Here. You need it more’n me. This ain’t gonna be fun. You start gettin’ too cold, you tell me, okay?”

Kurt caught the jacket and looked down at it as if in awe, running one hand over it reverently, but made no move to put it on.

“Kurt? Kurt!”

He looked up, startled.

“You gonna put that on so we can get going?”

Kurt hefted it and settled it awkwardly around his shoulders, still treating it as if it were gold, instead of the most broken-in jacket Logan owned.

Exasperated, Logan stepped up to him and grabbed the bottom, zipping it up as far as it would go. “You get too cold, you let me know, okay?”

Kurt nodded earnestly up at him, smiling once more.

 

They were traveling southeast now, the road a bit more open, and the wind whipped through the sparse cover around them, fighting Logan for control of the bike. He gritted his teeth and held on to it, but was forced to slow as the day wore on. The rain was near freezing, and in a couple places was closer to sleet.

Kurt never did complain, but the extra effort taxed his atrophied muscles more than they could handle, and the cold was dangerous. Logan stopped as often as he could find a somewhat sheltered place, but the only thing their breaks seemed to accomplish was getting his back and Kurt’s front wet, and the weather rapidly washed away both Kurt’s endurance and his own good temper.

By the time they reached the outskirts of Thunder Bay several hours later, Logan was ready to down a few whiskeys and punch something, not necessarily in that order, and was wondering if he could ditch Kurt long enough to go find a good bar fight. Or hell, bring him with me if he wants.

He growled as he powered down the bike outside the first motel he found, coasting under the edge of the building to try and avoid the rain. “You ready to call it a night?” He sighed at the lack of response. “You want to stop?”

“Mm.” The grunt could’ve meant yes or no, but Logan felt the nod against his back where Kurt had huddled out of the wind.

He put the stand down and swung off the bike. “Be right back.”

Kurt stepped shakily over to lean on the wall, his legs seeming none too steady and his soaking form shivering in the cold.

Logan hesitated. Screw it. “Haven’t seen anyone after us yet; chances are by the time they could find we stopped here, we’ll be long gone.” And if we’re not, I could use a good scrap. “Why don’t you come inside out of the rain?”

Kurt looked over at him, and Logan hoped he’d understood enough to answer. Then, slowly, he walked over to where Logan stood. He held the glass door open, and Kurt preceded him in.

Once they passed the first door, though, and were out of the wind, he seemed unwilling to go further into the small lobby, eyeing both sets of doors warily.

Logan caught himself just before growling at him. “Fine. You wait here. I’ll be right back out.”

For a moment he wondered if he’d still spoken too angrily to the fragile man, but Kurt only nodded in understanding as Logan walked into the building proper.

 

They were heading into more populated areas now, and there were several other miserable-looking travelers in front of him at the desk, though none of them were quite as wet. He returned their stares stonily, satisfied when each of them turned away uneasily. Their presence gave him pause, though.

Up till now we’ve managed to avoid the cities, but if we head the way we’re going, that’s gonna be near impossible. We could head east a bit, take to the backroads, but that’ll take longer. Kurt’s gonna have to decide if he’d rather keep hiding, or take a chance soon. If they haven’t found us yet, though, I don’t think they will. Who’d connect us with some podunk circus a few provinces west?

He was in the midst of checking in when he heard the commotion. Turning, he saw through the glass doors to where he’d left Kurt. Two other men were with him now, hovering and leering at him as he curled up in a ball and tried to melt into the corner.

Pocketing his wallet, Logan strode to the doors with deceptive calm, letting them swing slowly shut behind him. “I’d suggest you boys leave him alone.”

They sized him up; each was almost a full head taller than he was, and they apparently decided he wasn’t a threat. Bad mistake, boys. He clenched and unclenched one fist in anticipation.

They stepped to face him, and he circled to his left, taking them farther from Kurt.

One of them looked down on him, a condescending smile on his face. “What’re you, shorty, the RCMP?”

He stepped around once more, putting Kurt and the wall at his back. “What’re you, jumbo, the redneck patrol?”

They both scowled at him. “Hey, asshole, before you get your face smashed in, you should take a look at what you’re saving.” Jumbo waved at Kurt.

Logan didn’t look. “The man’s with me.”

“Man?” Jumbo Two’s laugh was disgusted. “That ain’t no man! It’s a freak or something!”

Logan grinned wolfishly and clenched his right hand. “You care to rephrase that, bub?” -snikt- They looked down at the noise, paling at sight of his claws.

They were persistent, he had to give them that. Jumbo One took a step back before flushing angrily, then refused to back up any further. “You’re a freak, too, aren’t you? You think you can just walk in like you own the place? You belong in a zoo!”

He lunged before he finished speaking, undoubtedly hoping to catch Logan off-guard. One hand went down as if to keep him from using his claws, and the other swept up toward his chin in a roundhouse punch.

Logan swept his hand back out of the other man’s reach, but took the punch, still smiling. His head snapped back with the force of the blow, but he shook it off and turned forward again. Jumbo yelled in pain, doubling over his hand.

Logan’s lips twitched in amusement. “My turn now?” He grabbed the man’s collar and brought his arm back, claws still extended, and savored the man’s panic as his fist advanced. At the last second, he retracted his claws and decked him. The man fell to the floor dazed, and Logan smelled more than fear on him. Pitiful.

He turned half around, lowering a hand to Kurt. “Let’s get outta here, buddy.” He kept half an eye on their erstwhile assailants as he helped Kurt up, but neither made a move toward them. He pushed Kurt gently through the door before him, turning back for one last parting shot. “I’d clean your pants before that stains, if I were you.”

 

Kurt followed him silently, but seemed to be shaking off the incident. Then they stopped by the bike, and Logan glimpsed his blank face. “Shit. Kurt?” There was no response.

Logan shook him gently. “Hey, elf, it’s okay. Snap out of it.” He tried to free his hand, but the thin blue fingers clutched his when he tried to withdraw them. He’s aware of something, anyway.

From the corner of his eye, he caught movement, and glanced over to see the redneck patrol gesticulating angrily at the motel desk clerk. Crap. Well, we can’t stay here.

“Come on, Kurt, we need to get moving.” He pondered the logistics for a moment, then sat Kurt on the front of the bike, prodding him to lift one leg over its body. He swung himself up behind him, tucking the taller man’s head back against his shoulder awkwardly and prying his hand free to grasp the handlebars.

“This ain’t gonna be fun, elf, so any time you want to wake up’d be fine with me.”

The rain was still pouring out of the sky, and Logan started out just fast enough to balance the bike, cursing out loud at the wet, the idiots at the motel, and the awkwardness of a catatonic bike-mate. But whatever portion of Kurt’s mind was still operating, he still balanced on the bike instinctively.

“I’d love to know how the hell you learned to ride a bike so well, elf.” He spoke his mind near one pointed ear, wondering if the man could hear him wherever he’d gone off to. He stopped on the side of the road as they reached the highway, looked both ways, then sighed and headed back northeast, following the signs for the 11. “Think we’d better stay away from cities for a while. Sure hope you like camping.”

 

After several miles, the rain faded to a cold drizzle that stung Logan’s face with the speed of their passing. He ignored both it and the cold of his already soaked clothing, focusing on the road and on getting Kurt safe, warm, and dry.

His own preference would’ve been for a nice, dry cave or remote campground, but without knowing the area around here, his chances of finding one soon were slim at best, and the night was getting colder. At length, Logan reluctantly pulled off at a small motel along the highway.

It occurred to him that it might be smarter to leave Kurt out of sight this time, but he still hadn’t come back to himself. And there’s no way in hell I’m leaving him alone like this. “Come on, elf, we’re staying here. If they don’t want to rent us a room, you’d be amazed what metal claws do to a door.”

He lifted Kurt free of the bike and planted him on his feet, holding him steady until he gained his balance. He still gave no outward response, but he accepted Logan’s arm around his shoulders and followed where he was led.

Logan brought them into a small, dingy lobby that looked too much like the last one for his peace of mind, but was thankfully empty. He hit the bell on the counter and waited impatiently until he heard signs of life in the room beyond the office door.

“Just a second!” From the sound of the half-growled exclamation, the man was only half-awake, and his yawning appearance confirmed that. “Caught me just on the way to bed,” he explained. “Another five minutes, you’d have been too la…”

He stopped short as he came in full view of them, his eyes widening. His throat bobbed as he swallowed, then he cleared his throat. “Erm…you’ll be wanting a…a room?” he concluded weakly, still staring.

“Yeah.” Logan slapped his wallet down on the counter, startling the man and dragging his attention off of Kurt. “One night, one bed. How much?”

“Erm…” the man cleared his throat again and pulled out the forms with shaking hands. “It’ll be ninety bucks, in advance…” He trailed off again, nervously, as though expecting them to refuse.

Logan winced but nodded and handed him the money, signing the forms. “We’ll need extra towels, too.”

The clerk glanced over them both and smiled weakly. “Yeah, it’s…erm… awfully wet out there, isn’t it? Erm…just a moment…” He backed into the office hurriedly, and Logan heard him rushing through another door at the back. He tensed, but the man was back shortly carrying a stack of towels far larger than they were likely to need. “Here you are.”

He made a few shaky notations on the card Logan’d signed, then reached under the counter once more and came back up with a key. “Room six,” he pointed, “right around the corner there and down three doors. Furnace’s been a bit dodgy sometimes; if it doesn’t work, kick it.” He chuckled feebly. “Looks like your friend’s already gone blue from the cold, eh?”

Logan raised an eyebrow at the man’s joke, but the shaky smile pointed Kurt’s way seemed genuine. He nodded at the clerk as he picked up the key and towels. “Thanks.”

The man ran a hand through his hair and nodded back, but seemed relieved at the prospect of their leaving his presence. As Logan steered Kurt out the doorway, he heard the man collapse into his office chair, accompanied by a mutter. “Man, the guys at the league’re never gonna believe this one.”

Logan hurried Kurt down the covered walkway as quickly as possible to the room they’d been given. He shut the door thankfully behind them, flipped on the light, and winced at the decor. “Nice. When’d they last decorate, ’53? Good thing we’re not stayin’ here too long, elf; you clash with everything.”

He pulled his sopping shirts and jeans off and shook out his hair, then started on Kurt, peeling off the jacket and sweats, rubbing him briefly with a towel as he removed each layer. “No sense you freezing to death before I can get you in the shower. Come on now, buddy. Those two assholes are long gone. You’re safe again, and this’d be a lot easier if you could help.”

He kept up the litany as he finished stripping Kurt and led him into the bathroom. “This did wonders the first time; let’s see if it works again.” He tried several different maneuvers to get Kurt under the water, then shrugged, finished undressing, stepped into the shower and hoisted Kurt in with him.

The lukewarm water stung his cold-numb skin, and he increased the heat gradually as he grew accustomed to it until the water pouring off their bodies steamed and turned his skin pink. He turned Kurt gently beneath the spray, running his hands over him, replacing the cold rainwater with the comforting heat of the shower.

“You’re still too thin,” he informed Kurt absently. “Don’t imagine they fed you too well, and we haven’t exactly been eating like horses. Hang in there another day or so, though, we’ll have you eatin’ the only decent school food in the Western hemisphere.” Kurt’s short fur seemed to shed the water a little, and Logan ruffled the fuzz on his bony arms and chest to be sure the heat reached Kurt’s skin. Soft, he noted. Does feel like velvet.

He caught himself stroking Kurt’s arm and back, and stopped in embarrassment. Get a hold of yourself, Logan; he ain’t some teddy bear. He carried on more briskly, keeping his mind on getting his friend warm. Friend? Yeah, I guess he is that, as much as he can be the way he is.

“Don’t mind me, just come back to the real world before we’re parboiled, will ya?” He sighed and kept up his warming and talking.

Finally, Kurt shuddered convulsively and drew in a deeper breath. Logan grasped his shoulders reassuringly. “’S okay, elf. Just you and me here. It’s safe.” Kurt blinked up at him as if half-awake. “Understand?” Kurt smiled a little, dreamily, but said nothing.

Logan sighed. Back to this again, buddy? “Come on. If you’re awake, let’s go get dry.” He turned off the water and grabbed several towels. He draped one over Kurt’s head and another over his shoulders, then tucked a third around his waist before grabbing another to rub him dry with.

Tentatively, Kurt reached out to help guide the towel and seemed to become more physically aware. He gazed blankly around the room, though, and made no effort to speak. Not that he was Mr Talkative before.

Eventually, Logan managed to get them both dry with minimal help. He rifled the pack and tossed a pair of dry sweats on the bed. “Last ones clean. Sure hope these dry out by morning.” He bundled their wet things and hung them over the rod in the shower to dry.

He stopped in the doorway back to the main room. “Hm.”

His startled grunt snapped Kurt’s eyes toward him like a deer in the headlights, and he stopped his slow, almost ritual dressing.

Logan smiled at him, pitching his voice low to avoid startling him. “It’s okay. ’Least I don’t have to dress you. You doing better now?”

Kurt relaxed slightly but noticeably. His strange golden eyes seemed to focus on Logan as he drew closer, and he smiled a little, bending to place his head against Logan’s shoulder as Logan patted his back awkwardly.

“Come on, elf. It’s been a long day.” He coaxed Kurt into the bed and followed him with a sigh, settling the blankets around both of them. Kurt curled himself around Logan as he’d become accustomed to, but his grip seemed nervous and his thin fingers dug into Logan’s arm and hip and he seemed reluctant to sleep.

Logan stroked his back, soothing, and murmured platitudes into his ear, and he slowly faded into a normal slumber. The soft fur and warm body soothed Logan, too, and he followed Kurt into sleep not long after.

Chapter Text

Logan woke with the dawn, blinking blearily in the dim light. Mmph. Be glad when this running all day crap is over. He had rolled onto his side, and Kurt was folded close around him from behind. He tried to extract himself, but the arms around him tightened, hands clutching at him. An attempt to roll over to face his bed partner brought the same response.

Logan sighed. “Kurt, you awake?” He felt a nose burrow in between his shoulder blades, but got no response. “Hey, can we leave the compromising positions for some other time?” he grumbled. “Come on, let’s get going.” He slapped Kurt’s hip lightly.

Kurt shifted again, his movement finally allowing Logan to roll onto his back. Kurt’s eyes were open and his face no longer blank, but fear shrouded it instead. Logan reached out a hand to him slowly and his gaze shot to follow it with a look Logan couldn’t interpret. He placed the hand on Kurt’s shoulder and stroked him gently, soothing. “Kurt, you okay?”

Kurt shuddered, his eyes widening at the contact, and he gasped. “L… Logan?”

Logan arched an eyebrow at him. “You expecting to wake up with anyone else?”

Kurt lifted one hand to Logan’s face, touching it shakily, fingering his brow, running his fingers down one sideburn to his chin as though blind. “Du bist hier,” he whispered. Then, as he slid that hand back up into Logan’s hair, “It is you. You are here.”

It seemed to be a revelation to him, and he closed the small distance between them with a cry, hugging Logan close and babbling low in German.

“Oof.” Logan patted Kurt’s chest awkwardly, all he could reach with his arms squashed between them. Figures. He says more now than he has since we’ve met, and I’m damned if I know a word of it. “It’s okay. It’ll be okay.”

After a few moments, Kurt seemed to wind down. His grip slackened and his breathing deepened. Logan backed away enough to stretch and patted one arm to get his attention. “We should get going now. Gonna take a longer way around, but we can still be in New York state by the end of the day, if we make good time.”

He slid out of bed, and Kurt let him go. He hovered close, though, and it was all Logan could do not to growl at him after the third time he turned around and had to backpedal to avoid him. But the hands that touched him whenever possible still showed a slight tremor that was enough of a reminder to keep himself even-tempered, and he merely sighed at the frightened man with him. I don’t know if this trip is helping you any yet, but it’s doing wonders for my self-control.

Once they were back on the bike, Kurt plastered himself against Logan’s back again and seemed to relax gradually until he was almost completely limp. As the sun broke through the clouds and glinted off the rain-slicked pavement, he turned his face into Logan’s neck, and to Logan’s astonishment soon fell asleep. Hell, elf, no-one sleeps on the back of a bike goin’ this fast! You got some kind of mutant power lets you balance anywhere?

He slept maybe a quarter of an hour, turned his head to watch the wet landscape fly by silently, and eventually drifted off again, catnapping like that until their first break. He stretched contentedly by the side of the road when they stopped, though never taking his eyes off of Logan for more than a second.

By the time they were ready to head off again, Logan was feeling antsy himself from the constant regard. I’m starting to know how you feel, he grumbled to himself. Leave off, will ya? He grabbed Kurt’s arm to help him back on the bike and paused, holding him still for a moment. “I’m not leaving you anywhere. Not unless you want me to. Got it?”

Kurt nodded, though his expression suggested he wasn’t entirely convinced. But he swung behind Logan on the bike the same as he always had, and rested contentedly behind him as they wound their way eastward.

The air was still heavy with the promise of storms, but a fitful cold drizzle was the worst they encountered, and that only briefly. They made good time, Logan pushing the bike as fast as he could to make up for the time they’d lost the previous day.

They stuck to smaller roads as much as possible, avoiding the scattered towns along the highway, but they were rapidly approaching the one place they wouldn’t be able to avoid people. Only so many ways over the border without swimming. And how the hell am I gonna get him through without any ID?

Logan worried the problem until it was ragged, but came up with no good solution. Never had US customs be a problem before! He growled to himself. But slack as they are, I don’t think they’re likely to let an anonymous mutant in, no questions asked.

The grey sky dimmed to black as they approached the bridge near Prescott, and still Logan had thought of no good way over the border. Kurt had picked up on his unease and huddled nervously behind him, hood pulled up, clutching Logan’s jacket around him. Logan pulled up on the side of the road and eyed the customs booth, the small line of cars waiting to be passed through, the bridge around them, and the river below.

He sighed and eyed the gate over the road, then half-turned to meet Kurt’s yellow gaze. “Hang on tight, buddy; this could be some ride.”

He gunned the engine, gauging his timing with an expertise he wished he knew the origin of, and roared forward as the next car was cleared, passing under the swing arm of the gate before it closed, swerving to avoid the other vehicle, and cranking the throttle open to the bike’s full potential, Hopefully before they see Cyke’s license plate…they don’t arm these jokers, do they?

Apparently they didn’t; angry shouting sounded and died behind them as they sped over the bridge, but no shots followed them. A second later a siren sounded, but he kept going, knowing this bike could easily outpace any cop car on the road. He grinned in relief at the ease of it as the sounds of pursuit fell away.

Then a second siren sounded, and a third, and lights flashed out before them, sweeping the road before pinning the bike down in their glare. Crap. “Hang on!” he yelled again to the man behind him, and he swerved off the road out of the path of the cars cutting them off.

The spotlights followed them as they sped away, but the rocky ground slowed the cars more than their bike, and the jostling ride combined with sporadic tree cover to hide them from view. As the lights scanned to recapture them, Logan cut his own lights and switched direction, circling wide around their pursuers to return to the road heading south.

They ran without lights the rest of the evening, Logan’s eyesight more than sufficient to show him the road in the weak moonlight. Twice, lights in the distance showed him a roadblock and he detoured around it, running alongside the silenced bike while they were within hearing distance. There’s no telling if they’re looking for us or not, but I’m not taking any chances.

They stopped that evening inside the vast wilderness of Adirondack Park. In a repeat of their first night together, Logan hauled the bike off the road far enough to avoid detection, and the two of them curled up beneath the thermal blanket together. The return to a mountain climate meant a return to colder weather and frozen ground, but this night Kurt snuggled into Logan’s arms without hesitation, twining close as any lover, and their shared heat warmed the air around them comfortably.

They woke to the sun inching over the mountains, moderating the effect of the chilly wind whipping around them. Kurt sat and pulled the blanket around himself as Logan dug out the last of the doughnuts and beef jerky. “Here you go.”

He pulled out a map as they munched, less certain of the local roads than of the highway. He marked the way to Salem Center with a finger, committing the roads there to memory and eyeing the distance. “Looks like we can be there in three or four hours max, even on these mountain roads.” He folded the map as Kurt tucked the blanket back in the pack. “Hope you can make it that long; with any luck, we ain’t stopping again till this little adventure is over. Come on.”

Logan took the loops of the mountain road as quickly as he dared, restless now the end of their trip was in sight. The air was crisp and the sky a brilliant winter-white; it was a beautiful day for riding, if you didn’t mind the cold. Logan didn’t, and though Kurt shivered a little, he didn’t seem bothered, either. As before, he balanced behind Logan with innate grace as they weaved from side to side around the mountain curves. Logan caught glimpses of his face in the mirrors and found himself staring longer than was safe.

The dazzling sunlight struck blue sparks in the light fur of his upturned face and gave a violet glow to the long, dark hair whipping around it. His teeth flashed in a wide grin as he craned his head about, straining in the seat to take in all the scenery. And more striking than anything else was the matching light that shone from within him, filling his eyes with happiness and wonder and…Life. That’s what was missing before, even when he was acting happy. There’s a presence there now, like he’s really alive.

Logan returned his attention to the road before them, and he realized his own smile was almost as broad as the one on the dazzled face of the man behind him.

Chapter Text

As they left the higher peaks behind and passed through the occasional cities, man’s landscape taking over from the natural one, Kurt shifted closer and lay his head on Logan’s shoulder with a wistful sigh.

Logan smiled down at him, raising his voice to be heard over the wind. “Nice, huh?” He patted one blue arm that curled around him. “Maybe we’ll have to come back for vacation.”

He frowned at himself as soon as the words left his mouth. Vacation from where? Who says I’m staying at Charley’s place, anyway? I got a life of my own, things to find out and places to go. Helping out some guy in trouble is one thing; settling down and doin’ it for a living is something else — mostly stupid and suicidal.

He studiously ignored that subject in favor of the road as they skirted by another town. They drew numerous looks from the other motorists around them, but the few shouted comments were all variations on, “What are you guys, nuts?” and, “Aren’t you freezing your ass off?” so Logan merely grinned back or flipped them the bird, depending on the tenor of the comment, and drove on.

Luckily, there were few such cities along the route he’d chosen, but a few couldn’t be avoided, and Logan sped through each as fast as he dared, always keeping an ear out for sirens, wondering how far down the news from the border made it. As it turned out, they had to stop once more to stretch, but they kept it as brief as possible, anxious to be moving again.

They crossed the line into Westchester county early in the afternoon, and reached Salem Center soon after. Logan skirted the small city center and headed west to the school with a sigh of relief. Should be clear sailing the rest of the way. Be good to get off this damn bike for a while, eat some real food.

They left the nearest neighbors behind, and light flashed through the canopy of trees as they turned onto Greymalkin Lane. Logan slowed the bike in case there were students around, and Kurt shifted behind him, raising his head from its customary resting place on Logan’s shoulder.

“Almost there,” Logan called back to him. “We’re on the grounds already; house should be just around the bend.” As they drew nearer, the high stone wall approached the road, growing visible through the trees. Then the road cleared the corner and bent back at an angle, and the wrought-iron gate of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters was in front of them.

The gate stood open already, as if they were expected. Probably are, between the professor, Jeannie, and all that equipment down there. Whatever the reason, he spared a moment of thanks as they passed through the entrance. Probably give Kurt a heart-attack to have to go through a barred gate.

As when he’d left, a group of students were chasing a soccer ball around the field in front of the mansion, shouting encouragement and insults at each other. Logan put a name and power to one of the kids — John, the firebug — who waved as they passed, but didn’t recognize the others. He nodded briefly back to them and followed the driveway down to the smaller garage. It was empty at the moment, though he could hear an accented male voice shouting over mechanical noises in the adjacent classroom.

He parked the bike in its customary spot between the professor’s Rolls and the door to the mansion’s residential wing. There, he smirked down at the muddy, dust-covered, and road-weary machine, Visor-boy’ll never know it was gone.

He stood and reached around Kurt to grab his equally battered bag, watching as Kurt dismounted and gazed around, taking in the spacious garage and its various expensive vehicles. “The guy who runs this place is loaded. Rich,” he clarified to Kurt’s quizzical look. “He’s okay, though, don’t worry. Come on.”

He guided Kurt into the cool, dark hallways of the house and up the back stairway to the room he’d used while he was here the last time. He plopped his pack down at the foot of the bed and headed for the bathroom. “Be nice to get clean, but we should probably meet Charley first, make sure he knows we’re here.”

He ran a washcloth under the tap and scrubbed the worst of the grime from his face and hands. In the mirror, he watched as Kurt followed him. Wringing out the cloth and running it through the water again, he turned and handed it to him. “Here ya go; better than nothing. There’s probably some clean clothes, too.”

There were; a search of the dresser turned up sweats, T-shirts, jeans, and assorted socks and underwear, all in Logan’s size. He shook his head at the optimism of whoever’d stocked the place. Pretty sure I’d come back, weren’t they? Then again, looks like they were right.

He gratefully stripped off his grimy clothing and pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a T-shirt, leaving another set out for Kurt, who was still scrubbing clean at the sink. While he waited for him to finish, Logan grabbed the pack and began pulling out the laundry. Halfway through, something tumbled from a bundle of clothing, and he looked down as it hit the floor.

Huh. He bent down and slowly lifted the stuffed animal. The damn bear that started all this. If I hadn’t stopped for that shooting gallery… If I hadn’t, Kurt’d still be trapped in there, and nobody’d ever know the difference. Turning back to the dresser, he set the bear on top of it. Time enough later to give it to Jeannie.

Kurt stepped out of the bathroom with the pleased expression he always wore after getting cleaned up. Logan grinned at him and tossed him the clean clothes, and he smiled back as he caught them.

Logan went back to unpacking to avoid staring at him, and tossed the empty pack into the bottom of the closet when he was done. Kurt settled back on the bed as Logan put away the few items that were his and gathered up the dirty clothes. Logan looked up at him, glanced at his shirt, raised an eyebrow, and snorted. I am not short – My feet reach all the way to the ground! “Thanks, guys,” he muttered. Kurt cocked his head, questioning. “Never mind. You can keep that one, if you like it.”

He opened the door and nodded for Kurt to follow. Kurt looked startled, but stood and tentatively peered into the hallway before stepping into it. Logan closed the door and led him down the hallway, pausing mid-way to dump his laundry down the chute. “Charley’s probably somewhere downstairs right now. If we can find out where he is—”

In my office at the moment, Logan, the answer rang in his head. Would you care to introduce your friend before we head to lunch?

Logan snorted. “I should know better than to ask.” He headed for the long stairway that led to the main level. Kurt stared wide-eyed at the polished wood and thick rugs, the heavy-framed paintings and the fresh-cut greenhouse flowers — everything around them spoke of tasteful wealth. The scrapes, scratches, and dents in almost everything, and the occasional difference in wood grain that indicated patches, gave testament to years of occupation by boisterous and often powerful children, but the repairs were done skillfully enough that you could only see them if you knew to look, and Logan doubted Kurt was noticing any of the wear and tear.

Logan steered them toward the professor’s office slowly, giving Kurt a chance to look around. He rapped a cursory knock before opening the large, wooden doors, and blinked in the light from the large picture window as he looked toward the professor.

Xavier looked up from the pile of mail he was sorting and smiled. “Logan. Welcome back. And I notice that you’ve brought another friend to us?”

Logan turned to Kurt, who was hanging back in the doorway, squinting as his eyes adjusted to the light. The professor pushed his chair backward with a smile and reached to pull the blinds half-shut. Kurt remained where he was, though, close behind Logan, and made no move to come further into the room.

“It’s okay,” Logan soothed him, placing one arm around his shoulders. “This is the man I was telling you about. Professor Charles Xavier; he runs this place. Professor, this is Kurt.”

He prodded Kurt forward gently, and the professor wheeled slowly around the rest of the way to meet him. Logan caught a brief flicker of startlement and intrigue in the professor’s eyes as Kurt moved further into the light, but Xavier greeted him normally, as if he dealt with skittish, outlandish-looking mutants every day of his life. Which, of course, he does.

“Welcome, Kurt.” He held out a hand, still smiling gently. Logan could feel the calm the professor exuded, and beneath his arm Kurt’s muscles relaxed noticeably. Slowly, Kurt reached out and grasped the professor’s hand and returned a small smile.

“Won’t you please have a seat?” Xavier turned to Logan and included them both in the invitation before speaking gently once more to Kurt. “I would like to speak with you, and I’d rather not crane my neck.”

Kurt settled on the edge of one chair and Logan moved to sit in another. Kurt glanced up quickly as Logan left his side, and clutched his hand convulsively, fear stabbing through the professor’s induced calm. Logan sat on the arm of Kurt’s chair instead, patting him on the shoulder. “Okay. It’s okay.” He glanced apologetically at the professor, who was frowning in concern at Kurt, who alternated between watching him warily and keeping an eye on Logan.

“You are among friends here, Kurt,” the professor soothed. “You have been through much, haven’t you?” He spoke with the same sincerity that had worked on Logan. “It can be difficult to trust others, particularly when they have done nothing yet to be worthy of that trust. All I ask is you give me — give us — a chance.”

Kurt stirred restlessly under the professor’s intense regard. Back off, Charley, Logan thought at the man, you’re makin’ him nervous.

Whether Xavier had heard him or figured it out for himself, he pulled back a little and turned away, wheeling his chair to the window. “Look,” he nodded outside, “do you see them?” He held out one arm to beckon them over. Kurt looked at him uncertainly, but made no move to stand until Logan did, and kept Logan between himself and Professor Xavier as they joined him at the window.

The professor opened the blinds a little further and gestured to the backyard. A fair-sized group of teenagers and some younger children were chasing each other and a frisbee around a patch of lawn; here and there, small knots of children sat on benches or stood and talked with varying degrees of enthusiasm; despite the chill, a few of them even sat on a blanket munching sandwiches. The picture of normality, if you ignored the occasional odd-colored hair and glowing body and the fact that half the students going after the frisbee seemed to be flying.

The professor gave them a moment to take it all in before speaking. “Every child here is a mutant, different in one way or another. So are most of the adults. Many of them have had difficult lives; some have been disowned by their families or caused harm to people they care for. But here, in this place, they have a family, and they can learn to harness their powers. And because everybody is different, no one is. There is no need to hide or to fear what might happen if somebody finds out the truth.” He glanced at Kurt and returned his attention to the children. “I would like to help you find that same safety. Will you allow me to?”

Kurt watched the children, transfixed, and gave the professor no answer. Logan shook his shoulder gently. “Hey.” Kurt blinked up at him, startled. “What do you say? You wanna stay here a while?”

Kurt looked around at the yard, the well-appointed office, and the professor, taking everything in as if to weigh his answer. He looked back at Logan, and his shoulders raised in an almost imperceptible shrug. Logan raised an eyebrow at him and grinned. “That a ‘yes’?”

Kurt smiled back at him in answer.

The professor turned towards them. “Welcome to my home, Kurt.” He moved to put a friendly hand on Kurt’s back, but Kurt shied away from him, stepping half behind Logan once more. Xavier smoothly withdrew his hand, though Logan spotted the worry in his eyes as he smiled. “I’m sorry. Please,” he gestured to the door, “will the two of you accompany me to lunch?” He turned to Logan with a softer smile. “I know of at least one young lady there who will be glad to see you again.”

“How’s she doing?” Logan asked as he led the way to the door.

“Quite well, actually,” the professor informed him. “She missed about a half a year of schooling in her travels, but she should be caught up fairly soon. She’s made several friends among the other students, as well. She seems happy. Thank you,” He nodded as Logan held the door for him and shut it behind them.

Logan grunted in acknowledgement. “Yeah, well, the kid deserves it. ’Specially after what she went through to get here.”

Professor Xavier nodded. “Hm. Still, she…”

“Professor!” a lanky Asian boy pounded down the hallway toward them, followed by what seemed to be an entire class of young teenagers, all talking — or yelling — at once. Logan jumped out of the way as one boy flew a bit too close before landing with an embarrassed apology. A second later, he found himself surrounded by schoolchildren arguing indignantly over something that seemed to have to do with a turtle, a garden hose, and someone’s powers.

Head spinning, he extricated himself from the unruly band, only then realizing that he had lost sight of Kurt. He attempted vainly to see over or around the children, as Xavier tried equally vainly to get them to calm down and talk one at a time. Good luck, Charley, he snorted. Kids’re kids, no matter what.

You should probably go on ahead, Logan, Xavier said. Jean is on her way, and I’ll join you then. Two rooms down is a study; wait there, please.

The children began to quiet a bit and stopped milling around enough that Logan caught a glimpse of indigo fur against the far wall; he nudged Kurt away from the confusion towards the direction Xavier had indicated. He found the study and peered inside, relieved to see it empty. He looked around at Kurt, who’d hung back at the doorway.

“Looks good; come on. We’ll wait in here for a bit, keep out of the way of —“

And around the corner came another knot of curious students.

“Hey!” The boy in the lead grinned, practically bouncing in enthusiasm. “Are you new?” The noise level picked up again as the children behind him crowded forward to see who the boy had spoken to. They crowded forward, surrounding him, and Logan’s heart sank as Kurt shrank back and he lost sight of him. If just Charley was almost too much, what’ll this do to him?

“Coming through!” He tried to get their attention and push back to Kurt, but short of popping his claws and slicing a few, he couldn’t find any way through the dense knot of bodies. And somehow, I don’t think the prof’d appreciate me cutting up his students.

Logan sighed in frustration and picked up the nearest boy by his waistband and the scruff of his neck, moving him to one side before putting him down again.

“Hey!” Logan cocked his head and raised an eyebrow at the protest before picking up the next student. He’d worked his way about halfway through them when he caught sight of Kurt again, crouched back against the wall, looking wildly at the staring faces surrounding him as every student tried to introduce themselves to him at once. Damn it!

As they crowded him closer, he pressed further back into the wall, shaking visibly, and they began to realize something was wrong. Unfortunately, the arguments over giving him some room were just as loud and chaotic as the introductions had been, and most of them were still staring at him curiously. One girl tried to grab him supportively, and he gave a small cry…and vanished.

A couple of the students shrieked in surprise, and the ones nearest where Kurt had been jumped back. A cloud of sulfurous-smelling smoke formed with a pop and dissipated, and Logan wrinkled his nose at the odor. The students’ chatter died down for a moment, then resumed excitedly at an even greater volume.

Children!The telepathic shout rang through their heads, and Logan winced. Thankfully, though, the external noise died down almost immediately. In the dawning stillness, Logan hurried to where Kurt had been, but the area seemed no different from any other in the mansion, and Kurt was definitely no longer there.

What happened? Professor Xavier asked them all. Then, as it seemed everyone would begin at once again, Logan?

Logan scowled. “I don’t know. One minute he was here, probably getting scared out of his skin, and the next he was gone.”

“He just vanished!” the girl who’d touched him piped up. “Right from under my hand!”

The professor frowned for a moment, gazing at nothing, then looked up in surprise. “Logan, he’s in your room.”

“What?” How the heck did he get there?

“He’s a teleporter!” A red-headed girl announced happily.

The boy next to her snickered. “Hey, maybe it goes with the ears!” He tugged on one of the red-head’s own, which were also pointed. She stuck her tongue out at him.

Logan ran for the stairs and hurried to his room, halting for a moment with his hand on the doorknob. Careful, he told himself, no sense scaring him even worse. If he really is in there.

Kurt’s distinctive scent hit him the moment he entered, and frightened breathing from the corner of the bed told him where his friend had fled to. Damn! Elf blends right into the shadows. Only the white T-shirt Kurt wore was visible in the dimness of the interior room.

“Kurt?” Logan rushed to crouch by the cowering figure. “Hey, come on, elf.” Kurt flinched at the gentle hand Logan put on his back, but made no effort to move or respond. Shit. “Don’t go all distant again, okay? Just a bunch of kids, and you got away from ’em; it’s just us. Besides, I keep showering with you, people’ll talk. Kurt?”

Kurt huddled in on himself, rocking in place and muttering. The words were indistinct and low — Probably couldn’t understand him if I did speak German — but he caught what sounded like his name. “I’m right here, buddy.” He sat with his back to the wall and caught the panicked man up in his arms, holding him tight despite his struggles. “Hey, hey. It’s okay. Kurt! It’s me, it’s Logan. See?” He grabbed Kurt’s chin and turned his head upward, forcing the wildly staring eyes to focus on his face.

Kurt fought him a few long seconds more before it registered. A moment after his eyes widened in recognition, he threw himself at Logan, clutching him tight.

“Oof.” Motion in the open door drew his eye. Oh, great. A fucking audience. The professor sat there, Jean standing right behind him, and a concerned buzz of voices sounded from down the corridor just out of sight. Logan scowled at them and shifted uncomfortably as Kurt gasped brokenly into his shoulder. All right, already; all this drama’s getting a little old now. He patted Kurt’s back and watched warily as the professor and Jean inched slowly closer.

Before they’d covered half the distance, Kurt whirled toward them, terror on his face. Jean took a step back, but the professor kept coming. Kurt tried to shrink into Logan’s skin with him, and Logan could feel his pulse racing, smell the fear pouring off of him. Damn it, Charley!

Don’t worry, came the professor’s mental voice, though whether it was in response to him or directed at Kurt, Logan couldn’t tell.

Kurt watched the professor warily, and the professor stared back in turn. As before, Logan could feel the tension draining out of Kurt’s muscles as Xavier’s calm flowed over them. Slowly, he relaxed against Logan’s chest, his breathing evening out as his eyelids fluttered and closed.

Professor Xavier wheeled up to the bed and stretched to lay a hand on Kurt’s head. “He should sleep for some time now. I suspect that he needs it.” He glanced back at Jean.

The doctor kneeled on the bed beside them and checked Kurt’s pulse with one hand, pulling one eye open gently with the other. She glanced over him and ran her hands over one thin arm. She frowned. “He seems undernourished; I can feel scars, too; old and new, from the look of them. Would he sleep through an examination, Professor? It might be easier on him if I take care of it now.”

Professor Xavier nodded. “I can see that he does, if you think it best.”

Jean nodded back at him, then raised her voice to be heard in the hallway. “Sam, would you bring me the kit under the desk in my office, please?”

“Yes, ma’am!” a boy called out.

Jean smiled hello and reassurance at Logan as they waited for the boy to return, but Logan just nodded, not in the mood to flirt with or bait her just now. Less than a minute later, Sam flew in the door and landed to hand Jean the medical kit she’d requested. He withdrew politely and Jean closed the door behind him with a look, switching the light on as well.

She took a pad of paper from the box, making a few swift notations on it, then turned to the examination. Blood pressure, temperature, blood sample…with professional efficiency, Jean measured and noted, speaking calmly to Logan. “The professor said he seemed to have some kind of panic attack. Has anything like that happened before?”

Logan watched as she listened to Kurt’s heartbeat and breathing. “The panic, yeah; the teleporting, no. He just kind of didn’t do anything, like he wasn’t there. He came out of it later.”

Jean nodded. “It sounds like he was badly traumatized at one time. Catatonia’s not uncommon in situations like that. Do you have any idea what could have brought it on? Has he had problems with crowds before?”

Logan scowled. “I found him in a cage in a freak show; you tell me.”

Jean’s head snapped up, her eyes wide. She read the truth of it in his expression, and her own face darkened. She put the last of her equipment away and banged the case shut with more force than necessary. “I’ll help him all I can physically,” her lips thinned as she stood, “but he’ll need more than that. And until he’s a little more comfortable with strangers, a psychiatrist wouldn’t even stand a chance.” She turned her gaze to Logan earnestly. “Is he comfortable with you?”

Logan shrugged. “He has his moments. I ain’t a shrink, though, and I won’t act like one; I’m just a friend.”

Jean shook her head. “That’s what he needs now more than anything, I’d guess. Just be there for him, show him he’s not alone. If he could get out and meet some of the children, that might help, as well. Some of the ones we bring in improve amazingly once they find out there are others with similar problems; maybe it will work for him.”

Logan grunted noncommittally as she and the professor left. Great. Still stuck being a baby-sitter. Sighing, he lay Kurt back in the bed and got up long enough to snag his book from the dresser and kick off his shoes.

He turned back to the bed and frowned at the sight of Kurt, even in his sleep, curling in on himself again. With one strong tug, he yanked the blankets out from under him, then crawled in and pulled them back up, covering Kurt to his chin.

He propped a pillow up and leaned back against it to read. Sandwiched between Logan and the cold wall, Kurt gravitated towards him, and it was not long before Logan found himself with a head on one arm, trying to turn the pages one-handed. With a tolerant scowl, he hauled Kurt closer, draped his arm over him, and grabbed the book firmly, reading around him for the rest of the afternoon.

Chapter Text

The light stayed the same in the windowless room, but Logan’s internal clock told him it was early evening when the professor “knocked” mentally.

Logan finished his sentence and dog-eared the page. “Come on in, Charley.”

Professor Xavier opened the door and wheeled over to the bed. Logan glared, daring him to say anything accusing him of being “soft”, but the professor only smiled down at Kurt.

“How has he been doing?”

Logan turned him a sardonic look. “He’s been sleeping.”

The professor shook his head tolerantly. “I can make him sleep, but I can’t make him sleep well.” He shrugged. “Not unless I stay with him. Any nightmares, restlessness?”

Logan grunted in negation. “Been a bit twitchy once or twice, but he seems mostly okay.” He raised one eyebrow at the professor. “You could probably tell more than I can. Why don’t you just look in?”

Professor Xavier shook his head once more. “I could disturb him by my very presence in his thoughts. If he seems to be doing well, it would be best to allow him to sleep.” He watched Kurt compassionately for several long moments. “You said you found him in a freak show?”

Logan nodded. “I was heading back from that military base—” The professor glanced up at him inquiringly, and he shook his head. “Nothing, not even any recognizable scents. Place is long cold.” He shrugged. “Day and a half out, I ran into a circus. They had him in a cage in a tent. I busted him free and we headed back here.”

The professor reached one hand out and gently tucked unruly blue-black curls behind one pointed ear. “I got no sense from him that he could not speak; I take it he has spoken to you in the past?”

Logan blinked, realizing that Kurt hadn’t said a word since they’d arrived at the mansion. “Yeah, he can talk. Just doesn’t say much. An’ I don’t know how good his English is, either. You speak any German?”

“Yes, a bit.” He smiled somewhat sadly, then drew a deep breath and shook himself. “If he consents, I can impart to him telepathically my knowledge of the English language. It won’t be as good as if he’d learned it himself, but it should give him reasonable fluency.”

Logan raised an eyebrow skeptically. “Whatever. I wouldn’t expect him to run at the mouth, though.”

Professor Xavier smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He glanced down at Kurt once more. “How much do you know about him?”

Logan shrugged. “He told me he’d been in the circus since he was a kid. Said he’s Bavarian something. Doesn’t like to be stared at, doesn’t like crowds.” The professor kept his eyes on Kurt but listened intently, and Logan could practically hear the gears in the other man’s brain turning. He crossed his free arm over his chest, his tone turning sardonic. “Enjoys hot baths, cold beer, and Douglas Fairbanks. Think we can get him a date?”

The professor looked up with a small smile. “Well, perhaps we’ll have to hold that thought until he can stand to be around people. Relax, Logan. I just want to do whatever I can to help him. The more we know, the better the chance to avoid a repeat of today’s panic.”

He seemed sincere, and Logan did relax a bit. And remembering the scene earlier in the hallway, he was reminded of something else as well. “If he can just jump from one place to another, how’d they keep him in that cage? Why didn’t he just teleport out?”

Professor Xavier raised an eyebrow at him. “That, Logan, is a very good question, and one that bears asking.” He eyed Kurt thoughtfully a moment longer. “Perhaps he didn’t know that he could, or maybe they held something else over him. When he wakes up, perhaps he will tell us.”

Logan cast a narrow-eyed look at him. “You seem pretty uptight about reading his mind, for someone who rifled my brain before I even knew where I was.”

The professor had the grace to look abashed, at least. “When you came to us, we had every reason to believe that Magneto was after you, and no way of knowing when you would recover. It was imperative that we discover as much about you as we could. Allow me to offer a rather belated apology for my intrusion. But in this case,” he waved a hand at Kurt, “so far as we know, there is no imminent danger, and particularly with someone as … damaged as Kurt, I would prefer to proceed as slowly as we are able.”

Logan settled back, somewhat mollified but determined to give no inch he didn’t have to. “So what does that mean? What now?”

The professor looked at him expectantly. “I was rather hoping that you could tell me that. Will you be staying with us for the time being?”

Logan shrugged, forcing a casual air. “Not like I’ve got any burning plans elsewhere.” He eyed the professor sharply. “Just don’t expect me to buy into your little police force. You need me for a scrap, I’m there, but I ain’t cut out to save the world.”

The professor smiled knowingly. “I think you underestimate yourself, Logan.” He nodded at Kurt, still lying under Logan’s arm. “You already are helping to save it, one mutant at a time. That is all that any of us can do. I don’t insist everyone here run off to save world leaders every day; I’m not looking to police the world. All I want is a world in which people like Kurt aren’t caged to be gawked at; in which people like you aren’t considered fair game for ruthless experimentation.”

Logan managed not to flinch, blinking in remembered pain as he clenched one fist, feeling the claws strain at his skin. If Xavier noticed, he gave no sign. “You don’t have to agree with me all the time, and you don’t have to fight at all if you don’t wish to; I’m not looking for an army of mindless zealots. What I offer you and all the others here is a chance to use the abilities you have been given, to realize your full potential as a human being, as well as a mutant.

“I will consider it an honor should you fight beside me and my X-men in this struggle, but I will hardly insist on it. And should you wish to leave, you have only to say so.”

Logan looked him up and down in grudging admiration. “Damn, Charley, you practice that speech? For someone who says they don’t want me agreeing, you sure do a good job of convincing.”

Professor Xavier grinned widely. “I never said I didn’t want you to agree with me at all. I just don’t want you to agree mindlessly.”

Logan eyed him sardonically, then shook his head, chuckling. “Whatever you say, Charley.” The look on Xavier’s face made him laugh harder.

The professor’s lips twitched, and he looked heavenward as if asking for patience. “And Logan? Please don’t call me ‘Charley’. ‘Professor’ or ‘Charles’ will do just fine, thank you.”

Ah, lighten up, Charley. “Whatever you say, Chuck.” The professor just sighed as Logan snickered once again.

Under his arm, Kurt shifted a little, one hand tightening briefly on Logan’s waist as the yellow-on-yellow eyes fluttered open. His glance darted about the room, taking in his surroundings quickly. He stiffened slightly at the sight of the professor, but he seemed calmer than before and made no move to flee. Either he’s back on an even keel, or Charley’s still messing with his head. But a sharp glance at the professor revealed nothing but gentle concern.

Kurt sat, coiling his legs underneath him as he pressed close to Logan’s side. Where the thin chest pushed against him, Logan could feel his heart beat quickly but steadily.

For an awkward moment, Kurt and the professor watched one another expectantly, Logan’s attention divided between the two of them. Okay, somebody say something, and make it good.

The professor smiled very softly, speaking as gently as possible. “Guten Abend, mein freund. Wie geht es Ihnen jetzt? Fühlen Sie sich wohl?”

Kurt blinked, wide-eyed. He shifted up slightly and flicked a glance to Logan before nodding tentatively. Then softly, shakily, “Ja.

The professor beamed in approval, as if that one word were a triumph. Maybe it is. Heck, at least he finally did talk to somebody else. Strangely, that fact only intensified Logan’s protective instincts. It’s not just him and me anymore. He’ll have to learn to deal with other folks. A whole new minefield, now.

For the time being, however, this field seemed to be clearing. Though Kurt clung hard to Logan’s arm, he listened to the professor.

“Ich möchte mich für die Kinder entschuldigen. Sie freuen sich nur so, dir zu begegnen. Sie möchten, daß Sie ihnen verzeihst. In Ordnung?”

Kurt nodded once more, licking his lips nervously. “In … in Ordnung.”

“Wir alle hoffen, dass Sie trotzdem noch bei uns bleiben wollen.”

Kurt made no answer to that, though the professor looked at him expectantly; Logan wondered what he’d been hoping for. ’Course, if I knew what they were talking about, it’d help! He sighed.

Both of them glanced at him, the professor quickly turning his attention back to Kurt, who kept his eyes on Logan.

“Kurt?” Kurt’s attention turned to Xavier before his eyes dragged reluctantly away from Logan’s own. The professor waited patiently. “Logan hat gesagt,” Kurt’s concentration wavered back to him as the professor continued, “daß Sie ein bisschen Englisch sprechen. Stimmt das?” The professor explained in Logan’s mind a moment after, I just apologized for what happened earlier, and asked if it’s true he speaks some English.

“Ja, stimmt,” Kurt conceded reluctantly, “ein kleines bisschen.” Yes, the professor continued to translate, just a little.

The professor smiled soothingly. “Wenn Sie wollen, kann ich Ihnen telepathisch Englischkenntnisse übermitteln?” If you like, I can telepathically transfer knowledge of English to you. “Würden Sie mir erlauben, das zu tun?” Will you let me?

Kurt’s eyes widened further, and he pulled back a little. Professor Xavier stretched out a hand to him slowly. “Bitte?” Please?

Kurt stared at that hand for long moments, flicking little glances at Logan as if for guidance. With difficulty, Logan kept his expression blank. I feel for ya, Elf, but if you don’t make your own decisions now, you never will. This thing’s a big choice, and I won’t make it for you.

Kurt’s heart sped up, and beneath the jeans he wore, Logan could feel his tail twitching in agitation. Logan rubbed comforting circles on his back, and Kurt ducked his head into Logan’s chest.

The professor simply watched them, his hand still outstretched patiently. After several minutes, Kurt drew a deep breath, then another, seeming to draw strength from Logan’s nearness. His head lifted, then his hand twitched toward Xavier’s. It shook as he reached out halfway; then, swallowing, he grabbed the professor’s hand decisively. Eyes wide, nostrils flared, jaw set in a grimace, he more resembled a frightened wild animal than anything, but his hand stayed in the professor’s even while the other clutched Logan convulsively.

Compared to all the build-up, the actual event was somewhat disappointing. All that angst for a ten-second staring contest? The professor folded both his hands around the one that Kurt had given him, and they stayed like that for maybe half a minute with no visible change.

Eventually, Kurt blinked and shook his head, and the professor drew a deep breath and stretched his neck. Logan eyed his new friend dubiously. Did it even work? “Kurt? You okay?”

Kurt’s brow furrowed a bit, but he nodded. “Ja…I mean, yes. I am…okay…” His always quiet voice trailed off. He shook his head again and caught Logan’s concerned look. “It is…strange. Like an echo in my head.”

Professor Xavier spoke up. “It should fade over time, as you incorporate the knowledge into your mind, as it becomes more natural.” He nodded at Kurt as they both turned to face him. “Thank you. That took a great deal of faith on your part, perhaps even more than you realize. I am gratified you could place that kind of trust in me, after some of the difficulties you must have been through.” He smiled at Kurt, who looked back solemnly. “Let me say again, now that I know you understand me: welcome to my home; I hope that you will make it yours as well.”

Kurt nodded, seeming a little less wary than he had been. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” The professor included Logan in his smile. “I’ll leave you both alone now. Logan, perhaps you’d like to show Kurt a bit more of the grounds? Or if you’d care to head down to the kitchen, it should be empty right now. Jean has left instructions that you,” he directed Kurt, “are to eat carefully, but as much as you feel able, as often as you feel able. I have no doubt she’ll be a bit more specific later on.”

Kurt seemed confused and speechless once again, so Logan answered for both of them. “Thanks. We’ll figure something out.”

With one last nod of acknowledgement and encouragement, Professor Xavier turned and wheeled himself out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Logan’s stomach rumbled at the thought of food, reminding him that it had been a while since he, too, had had a full meal. “Kitchen sounds good to me, elf; you game?”

After a moment’s pause, Kurt, wide-eyed, nodded tentatively.

“Great.” Logan thumped him on the back. “Up.” Kurt sprang back off him as if burned. Or like he thinks I’m gonna beat him if he doesn’t listen to me. Damn. “Hey, don’t go gettin’ all paranoid on me. I’m your friend, remember? I just can’t get up until you do, that’s all.” He leaned closer and put a hand on one still-tense shoulder. “Listen. I don’t know what folks’ve done to you in the past, but I won’t ever hit you or hurt you,” his mind flashed an image of his claws buried in Rogue’s shoulder, and he flinched, “not if I can help it. And I won’t let anyone else hurt you, either. I promise. You got that?”

Kurt looked at him with something akin to awe, only the barest hint of disbelief marring it. “You are serious? You can do this?”

Logan snorted. “Well, I can try, anyway. That good enough?”

Kurt nodded and twined himself around Logan in a tight hug. His smile when he pulled back was radiant once more.

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Logan patted his shoulder one last time and scrambled out of the bed. “Come on. If I’m hungry, you must be starving. Let’s go find some food.”

Kurt slid off the bed to join him, but hung back skittishly when Logan opened the door. Logan examined the hallway. “Don’t worry, it’s empty; looks like everyone must be back in classes or something.” Kurt advanced a bit, still seeming reluctant.

A thought struck Logan. “Wait a second.” Kurt looked at him expectantly. “You could just go on down there, avoid everyone.” Kurt’s brow crinkled in puzzlement. “You know, just,” he waved a hand, “teleport straight down there.”

Kurt shook his head and smiled wistfully. “I cannot.” He shrugged at Logan’s questioning look. “I must know the place I am going; I have never been there.”

“Hm. Makes sense. We’ll just head down the old-fashioned way, then; come on.”

With one of Logan’s arms around him, Kurt slowly edged out of the room, eyes darting ceaselessly over their surroundings as though he expected more children to come out of the woodwork. Far as I know, only one of ’em does that, Logan snorted to himself, but he herded Kurt down the back stairs to the kitchen with alacrity, before anyone needed something from their room or got curious.

A quick check of the huge kitchen proved that it was indeed empty. This section of the house was newer, having been remodeled and added to when the place was converted into a school. A walk-in freezer and cooler held enough food to sustain the fifty or so adults and growing children who ate here daily, and industrial-sized ovens allowed the cook and whoever was on kitchen duty to prepare everything. Down at the other end, though, were a normal-sized fridge, stove, microwave, and dinner table for what Ororo, Logan’s tour guide through here, had called “spontaneous meals”.

Logan headed for the fridge. “Come on, elf, let’s be spontaneous.” With a quizzical look, Kurt followed him. Logan rifled the shelves, grumbling. Damn rules. What kind of man doesn’t have beer in his fridge? He pulled out a loaf of bread and every lunch meat and cheese in the drawer and set them on the counter, then grabbed the mustard and mayonnaise to join them. He looked back at Kurt and waved a hand at the food. “You got a preference?”

Kurt glanced over the food and shrugged. Logan sighed and rolled his eyes as he turned away in search of a knife. Wonderful. You gonna let me make all your decisions for you, then? Isn’t there anything you like or don’t? Then he kicked himself mentally. Asshole. Of course there is. Movies, showers, other things. But after most of his life bein’ fed scraps or whatever, any food probably looks good. He turned back to Kurt with a smile. “No problem; we’ll just use a little of everything.”

 

Their sandwiches turned out excessively thick, bits of the roast beef hanging out of the edges and sharp cheddar flaking out from under the bread, and they were delicious. Logan scrounged a couple cans of Coke, too, grimacing once more at the lack of beer. Kurt had no such complaints, though, and wolfed his food down enthusiastically, finishing when Logan was little more than half done and picking up the bits of meat and cheese that had landed on his plate.

“You want another?” Kurt looked at him as if he still couldn’t understand what he’d said. Logan nodded at the empty plate. “You want another sandwich? Go make yourself one.”

Kurt glanced at him, glanced at the food, and his eyes flew back to him again. He sat poised as if to stand. “Wirklich?” He wet his lips. “You mean this, really?”

Logan nodded towards the food. “Knock yourself out.”

Kurt blinked, looking both startled and confused, and his lips moved as if repeating the words to himself. Logan laughed. “It’s just an expression; you’re not supposed to punch yourself or anything.” Guess there’s some things Charley didn’t cover. “It means, go to it. Yes, go eat anything you want.”

Kurt sighed and smiled in relief and hopped up, heading for the food. Logan shook his head in amusement. “Don’t forget your plate.”

He finished his sandwich as he covertly watched Kurt make another. He inspected the food reverently before he began, and handled it with an almost religious care that made Logan see red. I ever meet any of the bastards that did this to you, elf, I’ll carve ’em up good.

They finished up together and dumped their dishes into the washer; Logan brushed the crumbs off of the table and stuffed the food back in the fridge as he considered where to go from here. A glance out the window gave him an idea, and he poked his head out the back door to be sure.

“Looks like everybody’s inside for the moment. Come on, let’s go for a walk.” He gestured at Kurt to precede him out and closed the door behind them.

The sky was winter-grey but bright, enough to warm them without a need to squint, and the trees were still bare from the remnants of winter, but the ground had long been cleared of snow and ice. Logan stretched and breathed in the crisp air as he headed across the clearing surrounding the mansion and into the woods on the other side. Perfect. Rather be away from people myself, and unless I miss my guess… he flicked a glance Kurt’s way and watched him relax as they passed under the branched canopy. Bingo.

They walked slowly at first, Logan fitting himself to Kurt’s stiff pace, but as the other man loosened up, his pace quickened, almost dancing. He looked all about them, trying to take in everything, touching tree trunks and branches as if to assure himself that they were real.

He smiled delightedly at Logan, darting in for an unexpected hug. Logan allowed it, patting him on the back with a chuckle. “Not as if I made the place for you, you know.”

Kurt pulled back, keeping one of Logan’s hands in his. “Nein,” he agreed. “But, if not for you, I would not be here. I know this.” Yellow eyes gazed soulfully into his. “I cannot thank you enough.”

Logan grunted. “Hey, think nothin’ of it; anyone’d do the same, right?” He thumped Kurt on the back. “Thought we were walking?”

He felt the quizzical look on his back for a few steps, then Kurt caught up with him, and they walked side by side for a while. Kurt paced him silently, a serene smile on his face, and at some point his hand crept into Logan’s.

They wandered about the grounds until sunset, which Kurt, after a questioning look at Logan, enthusiastically climbed into a tree to watch. Logan rolled his eyes and followed him up.

View’s worth it, he reluctantly admitted, trying not to think about the fact he spent as much time watching Kurt’s rapt expression as the sunset itself. Eventually, though, the last fiery glint disappeared under the horizon, and Logan shifted himself to climb down. Kurt sighed happily, and Logan glanced over indulgently, just in time to see him topple backwards off the thick branch he’d been sitting on.

“Shit!” Logan dove around the trunk for him, and Kurt glanced up, startled, hanging from the branch by his knees. Logan let out his breath explosively as his heart skipped a beat.

“Was?” Kurt craned his neck, looking about. Deftly, he somersaulted around his branch and caught another, swinging from that one to bring himself next to Logan. “What is wrong?” He peered around as if expecting something to jump out at them.

Logan shot him a dirty look. “Never mind.”

Kurt followed him worriedly to the ground. “Logan?”

Logan glanced at his friend’s anxious face and shook his head, throwing an arm around him as they headed back to the house. “No problem, elf. Just let me know next time you plan something like that, okay? Just so I don’t break my neck tryin’ to catch you.”

Kurt smiled in relieved comprehension. “Ja. I am sorry to worry you.” He curled an arm around Logan’s waist. “It was so beautiful. I only wanted to….” He shrugged.

Logan grunted acknowledgement. “Sometimes you just have to move, right?”

Kurt beamed at him. “Yes! That is it exactly. There is so much happiness, you need to let it out.” His face turned upward to the dark branches above them, his voice returning to the quiet tones that he normally used. “I do not remember when I have been happy.” He hugged Logan tight.

They took a step forward, and Logan found himself catching Kurt’s weight as his legs crumpled under him and he sat down hard with a startled yelp.

“Kurt?” Logan crouched next to him, concerned. “You okay?”

Kurt looked up at him embarrassedly. “My legs, they are numb, I think.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve used ’em a lot more today than before. Maybe you oughta rest for a minute or two.” He narrowed his eyes as he studied the other man. “How long’ve you been hurting?”

Kurt hung his head, and Logan was sure he was blushing under that fur. “I did not want to stop.”

In other words, a while now before you pulled that stunt. Logan sat down facing him and massaged one leg gently as Kurt worked on the other himself. “Hope it was worth the pain.”

“It was,” Kurt swore softly. Logan glanced up to find those shining eyes fixed on him. He smiled and stroked Kurt’s knee, soothing the aching joint.

Leaves crunching underfoot startled them both, and Logan rose to one knee, both hands flying to his sides, fists clenched and claws ready to extend. A light filtered through the trees showed someone moving towards them.

“Logan? Kurt?”

Logan relaxed, a hand on Kurt’s tense shoulder reassuring him. “Over here, Jean.”

The redhead turned in their direction, playing a flashlight over the ground in front of her. “It’s getting late; I wanted to check on you.”

She stopped ten feet away and squatted down to their level, her eyes on Kurt. He had leaned into Logan, but was at least not poised for flight. Guess we’re makin’ progress.

“Hi, Kurt.” Jean smiled gently at him. “I’ve met you before, but you haven’t met me. My name is Jean Grey; I’m a doctor. I examined you while you were asleep. Are you feeling okay?”

Kurt shifted nervously, but nodded. “I am…okay.”

“Good.” She smiled again. “I’m glad to hear that. You’ve been through a lot lately, haven’t you?” He shrugged, looking uncomfortable. “Well, you hang around here, we’ll soon have you good as new.” She glanced up at Logan, addressing them both. “I just came out to see if you’d like dinner sometime. Everyone else will be eating in the dining room in about half an hour. If you don’t feel up to that, the professor’s suggested we set you up at one of the tables in the library. How does that sound?”

Logan stayed silent, letting Kurt make the decision. “The library?” There was an indefinable edge to his voice, but he nodded.

“The library it is. I’ll tell the professor.” She stood. “Are you heading back now?”

Logan nodded. “Yeah, we were about to.” He gave Kurt a hand up and the other man stood shakily, most of his weight on Logan.

Jean eyed them speculatively. “Are your legs bothering you?” Caught out, Kurt nodded, looking like a deer in headlights. “Well,” Jean began mock-sternly, “I’ll save the ‘don’t overwork yourself’ lecture for another time, seeing as this is your first day with us. Please try and be careful in future, all right? For right now, maybe I can help.”

She held out one hand their direction, and the weight on Logan’s shoulder lessened. Kurt’s eyes widened in shock and he clutched Logan tightly. “Scheiße!”

Jean giggled, and Logan glared at her. “Sorry.” She straightened her face. “It’s okay, Kurt, don’t worry. That’s just one of my powers; I can move things with my mind. I’ll put you down any time you like; all you have to do is tell me to. All right?”

Wide-eyed, Kurt nodded. “Bitte…please, put me down!”

Looking startled and a bit hurt, Jean dropped her hand, and Kurt leaned back on Logan again, shaking.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you. Are you okay?”

Kurt was still staring at her, but his trembling faded quickly, and his grip loosened as much as he was able. “You…” He looked at Jean with a mixture of fear and astonishment. “You…”

She smiled at him. “I’m like you, a mutant.”

He shook his head, and Jean had to lean in to hear his soft words. “You put me down.”

Jean cocked her head at him. “I said I would, didn’t I?” She took a step closer. “I really am sorry I frightened you. I sometimes forget what it’s like on the other end of somebody’s powers.”

He nodded slowly but made no other reply. They continued back towards the mansion in silence, Jean leading the way. It would’ve taken a fork at least to cut the tension in the crisp night air, but the repeated looks Kurt threw Jean’s way seemed more speculative and thoughtful than anything, and when she held the heavy door open for them, he tensed but brushed by her without flinching away.

Chapter Text

The downstairs hallway was empty once more, and Logan was beginning to think the Professor had warned everybody off. He glanced around in speculation, and Jean caught his eye.

“This is why I came and got you when I did. It’s a study period right now.” She opened the library door and waved them through. “Everyone’s in their rooms taking care of homework.”

“Logan!”

The happy shout from the top of the stairwell made him turn suddenly, and Kurt stumbled against him. “Sorry,” he mumbled, and he quickly helped the man into a thickly upholstered chair. Logan glanced back and forth between his latest rescue and the staircase Rogue was barreling down. Damn. He squeezed Kurt’s shoulder strongly. “I’ll be right back, elf, promise.” He stepped away, relieved when Kurt didn’t stop him. A glance back from the door showed him gazing about the room, wide-eyed but as calm as he ever was.

Logan stepped back into the hallway and shut the door softly behind him as Rogue flung herself into his arms. He patted her on the back awkwardly but with real affection for this girl who’d wormed her way into his life. I always seem to find ’em, don’t I?

Jean cleared her throat. “I stand corrected. Almost everyone is in their rooms studying right now.” She crossed her arms and gave Rogue a pointed look. “Or have you already finished your French, young lady?”

Rogue gazed back, at once both pleading and defiant. “Jean-Paul said he’d help me later, and Jubilee said that Logan was back, and I promise I’ll have it done in time, okay?”

Jean shook her head and smiled at Logan over Rogue, a look that clearly said, Teenagers. “Well, if you don’t, you’ll have me to deal with.”

Rogue turned back to Logan, eyes shining. “I knew you’d come back. Are you staying this time? At least for a while?” she pleaded. “I got so much to tell you…”

Logan ruffled her hair. “Yeah, I’ll be around for a bit. Catch you later, kiddo, okay?” He smiled ruefully at her obvious disappointment. “I got another friend that needs some help right now. Hey; you still got my tags?”

Her face brightened and she held up the item in question from its place around her neck. “I’ve been keepin’ ’em safe for you.”

Logan patted her back again. “Well, I’ll have to get ’em back sometime, right? Go on, finish up your stuff; I’ll see ya later, I promise.”

She hugged him again. “Okay. If you promise.” With one last smile for him, she ran back up the stairs.

He watched her go and spoke to Jean when she was out of hearing. “She really doing okay here?”

Jean nodded. “Yes, I think she is. It’s difficult, with a mutation like hers, to connect with the others, but she’s handling it pretty well. She’s made several friends, she’s doing well in her classes — with the notable exception of French,” she noted wryly, “and, you will be happy to know, she seems to have largely transferred her crush on you to Bobby, who’s at least little closer to her age.”

Logan frowned. “The ice-cube, right? Is he a good kid?”

Jean laughed. “Don’t worry, he’s very nice. No need to scare the boy off. His worst fault is not really taking things seriously, which could be very good for her in the long run.”

Logan nodded, not entirely convinced, but glad he could at least leave Rogue in competent hands. “Whatever you say.” He waved back at the library door. “I better get back in there.”

Jean nodded in understanding and turned professional. “Listen, whenever you think he’s ready, I would like to do a full physical examination. Just let me know?”

“Sure thing, doctor.” He saluted humorously and spun on one heel as she turned to go. “Oh, and Red?” He looked back over his shoulder at her. “Better tell your boy to keep a better eye on what’s his.” He raised an innocent eyebrow at her crossed arms and indignant stance. “Stealin’ that bike was way too easy.”

He was through the door before she had a chance to respond.

 

To his surprise, Kurt wasn’t in the chair where he’d left him; a glance around the room didn’t turn him up, either. What the—? Logan opened his mouth to call out when a brief rustle of paper reached him from the far side of a heavy mahogany table.

He detoured around the table and chair legs that blocked his view to find Kurt sitting on the floor, knees crossed in front of him, head bowed over the book propped on his legs, tail holding the pages open.

“Kurt?” Logan spoke softly so as not to startle him.

His face tilted up to Logan’s, and Logan was surprised to see tears making wet tracks down the blue-furred cheeks. Come to think of it, he hasn’t ever cried since I picked him up. Why now? Worried, he kneeled down next to his friend. “You okay?” He glanced at the book, but couldn’t tell what it was or why it might have affected him. “What’s wrong?”

“It…” he began hoarsely, his voice breaking. He cleared his throat and tried again. “This…it is all real, is it not?” He gazed around the room intently, then turned the same regard on Logan, as if seeing him for the first time. He put one hand on Logan’s arm, squeezing as if to verify his existence. “I am free.” It was almost a whisper.

“Yeah, Kurt,” he put his own hand over Kurt’s, “you’re free.” He looked at the other man questioningly. “What brought this on?”

Kurt’s smile was shaky with the strength of his emotion, but his laugh was genuine. “The rest…it is all like a dream. I have dreamed so often before, I did not know for sure if this was real…” He shook his head. “But never could I dream this; I have waited for years to see the ending of this one!”

He laughed in pleasure, and Logan joined him, their heads pressed together. He slung one arm about the stringy frame and closed the book halfway to see its cover. The Count of Monte Cristo. He laughed again. “What, a swashbuckling fan like you, no Three Musketeers?”

Kurt looked at him reprovingly. “Bitte, mein Freund — that one I have finished already many times!”

That set them both off again, Kurt’s pleasant laughter turning slowly into tears as he released the pent-up horror of god-only-knew how many years. Let it out, elf, Logan urged him silently, rubbing soothing circles over his back. And fer chrissakes let’s hope no-one walks in on us, he winced at the thought of an audience. But he held Kurt tightly as long as he needed and didn’t let go.

Somewhere along the line, a corner of Logan’s mind registered the door opening and the sounds of dishes clinking against wood. Beneath the smells of dinner, a scent of perfume and antibacterials said Jean. To his relief, though, she left without saying anything.

Eventually, Kurt’s sobbing quieted to dry gasps and then died away on its own. He drew deep, shuddering breaths and sagged back as Logan loosened his hold. Tired eyes met his in wordless thanks, and Logan smiled in answer.

“You think you’re up for dinner, elf?”

“Dinner?” He gazed tiredly at Logan, then registered the question. “I would like food, I think.”

Patting him on the shoulder, Logan stood and gave Kurt a hand up. He weaved for a moment, then caught himself with an arm around Logan’s shoulders. He glanced down and snorted humorously.

Logan raised an eyebrow at him. “Something funny?”

Kurt rubbed the fingers of one hand over the shoulder of Logan’s shirt. “I have made you damp. I —” he squirmed a little, “I do not know why that should happen; I apologize to you.”

Logan snorted in return. “If you can worry about that, yer feelin’ better already. Shut up and eat your dinner.”

 

The food was, as Logan had promised, perhaps the only decent school food on the continent, even half-cooled by the delay, but it was doubtful that Kurt tasted any of it; he looked as if any second he might nod off over his plate. By the time he managed to finish half his portion, his fork was trailing in the dish more than it actually made it to his mouth, and his head weighed heavily on one hand, eyes drooping half-closed.

Logan finished his own meal and rescued Kurt’s plate before he ended up face-down in it. He watched amused as it took Kurt several moments to realize that the food was no longer in front of him.

“Was?” He blinked in sleepy confusion as his fork scraped the table.

Logan laughed. “You’re out of it, friend. Better give up and hit the sack before you fall flat on your face.”

Kurt rubbed a hand through his hair sheepishly. “Ja, vielleicht. Kommst du mit?” Logan raised an eyebrow at him, and Kurt cocked his head in puzzlement, then shook himself awake as he realized. “Erm…do you come?”

You’re losing your English, elf. Logan grinned to himself. “Nah, I’ll just help you back; I’m gonna stay up for a bit.” He stood and helped Kurt up with a hand to his elbow.

Kurt shook his head even as he leaned into Logan’s chest for a brief embrace. “Nein…no, it is sehr weit. I can go myself. You will come later?” Logan nodded at his earnest look, and Kurt smiled. He stroked his cheek against Logan’s almost like a cat, stepped back, and was gone.

“Whoa!” Logan backpedalled from the sulfurous cloud that apparently meant Kurt had teleported again. Sheesh. Isn’t there somethin’ you can do about that smell, buddy? He wrinkled his nose, shook his head, and stacked their dishes to bring to the kitchen.

He doesn’t eat more than this, he won’t gain much weight back. Still, he thought approvingly, he went someplace on his own. Voluntarily, no crisis. Wouldn’t’ve bet on it hours ago. Despite himself, Logan was impressed. All the shit he’s been through, and he’s bouncing back from it fast. Damn, elf; you’re strong where it counts. Elbowing the door open, he strode down the corridor toward the kitchen.

“Logan.” Not nearly as welcome a sound as when Kurt or Rogue said it, his name came out as more a demand than an acknowledgement.

“Scott,” he mimicked, and didn’t stop walking.

The X-Men’s leader had to scramble to catch him up, despite his longer legs, and Logan hid a smile behind cool disdain.

“Welcome back,” Scott started, curt tone belying the words. “Next time you want to borrow something, ask. Fortunately, no-one’s using the garage right now; you won’t have a problem cleaning and tuning the bike.”

Logan raised an eyebrow at the assumption, but didn’t contradict him. Shit, I may as well do it. Bike like that, be a pleasure to work on it. ’Sides, it’ll confuse the hell out of the kid.

Ultimatum offered, Logan expected the younger man to retreat for the time being, but he followed Logan into the kitchen, waiting until he’d dumped the dishes in the washer and had no other excuse not to give him all his attention.

Logan stood, hands on hips, and simply looked at him. A staring contest was rather pointless with someone whose eyes weren’t visible, but he determined to wait for the other man to speak first.

Eventually, Scott sighed and gave in. “What’s your friend’s story?” He crossed his arms in front of him. “I don’t mean what happened to him — Jean and the Professor told me that. Just how jumpy is he around people? What’s he likely to do if somebody gets too close? What abilities does he have, and how good’s his control? Will he want to stay here, or get better and move on?”

Logan snorted. “Trying on your fearless leader thinking? Don’t strain yourself, boy.” Scott opened his mouth for an angry reply, but Logan continued over him. “His only power’s nothing dangerous, the most he’s likely to do if he’s pushed is run, and people make him nervous. Whether he stays or goes is his decision. Anything else?”

Somewhat mollified by his answer, Scott nodded his head. “If you think he has a problem, let me know about it. It’s my job to make sure the school is safe. Some of our nicest students are the most dangerous — it’s nothing personal.”

“I’ll let you know,” Logan promised, overly grave.

Scott sighed. “You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?” Logan gave him his most innocent look. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Are you staying this time? Or should I plan to build another bike?”

Logan smirked. “I’m stayin’ as long as I’m staying. Build another bike anyway.”

Scott smiled smugly. “Build another one yourself and you won’t have to clean mine. Frame and blueprints are in the garage classroom. It’s almost half-finished already. Class is at ten tomorrow; the kids’ll be waiting for you. I already told Sean you’d be taking over.”

He spun on his heel and left before Logan could pick his jaw up.

Chapter Text

Ten a.m. saw Logan scowling down at the group of high-school students that were what the school called the “advanced vehicular engineering” class. What’s that supposed to make me, an advanced vehicular engineer? Pretentious shit. I know my way around motors. Five young faces gazed up at him with varying degrees of expectancy and trepidation. He’d never felt less like a teacher. But I’ll be damned if I let visor-boy see me sweat. He reined in his temper and determined to get through this without casualties. “All right, so where’d you leave off?”

Two hours later, they broke for lunch, the students chattering relievedly as they filed out. That makes six of us, he thought sourly. Still, all things told, it hadn’t gone that badly. Any landing that you walked away from…

He stretched and shook out his arms, fancying he heard the metal clang as his bones realigned themselves properly. His stomach growled hungrily, and he debated actually sitting down to a real lunch, but the thought of having to make nice with a room full of students crushed that idea flat. The few he’d dealt with already had stretched his goodwill far enough, and an all-but-sleepless night hadn’t given him much to start with.

As if triggered by his presence in this house, his nightmares had returned. Not to the point of violence, thank God— yet—but enough to wake him up about once an hour, like clockwork. And worrying about what might happen if he did wake and mistake Kurt for an enemy made it harder to get back to sleep.

He hasn’t got my faster healing, and he can’t just “borrow” it like Rogue did. He’d stopped just short of suggesting they sleep apart, though, beset with reluctance that he told himself had everything to do with not wanting to hurt Kurt’s feelings, and nothing to do with the comforting feeling of waking up next to another warm body.

He smiled to himself as he skirted the outside of the mansion toward the kitchen. Kurt had woken when he entered the bedroom last night, and was dead to the world again by the time Logan’d stripped to T-shirt and briefs to join him.

The first two times Logan had started awake to find Kurt watching him, he’d worried he was keeping the other man up, but a shake of the blue-velvet head and a shrug had told him that his concern was unfounded. The third time he woke, he watched beneath hooded lids as Kurt drifted from deep sleep to wakefulness several times over, resting in short intervals Logan came to realize stemmed from survival instinct. Never go too far under—you don’t know what might happen.

The fifth time he woke, his nightmare had just started, not enough yet to account for his waking, but the cool air on his left side and faint stench in the room gave him reason enough. He lay there tensely for a long minute until Kurt returned, nervous and guilty-looking, book clutched in both hands. He faltered a moment seeing Logan awake, but Logan’s smile calmed him, and he settled back to read in the dim light filtering under the door. The remainder of the night had found him either reading, or curled close into Logan’s side, open copy of The Count of Monte Cristo hugged to his chest preciously.

And he’ll probably still be in that room waiting until I show up. Wonder when he’ll decide that he’s ready to come out? That image staying with him, Logan hurried to pull out the makings of sandwiches and the previous night’s meatloaf and set about turning it into lunch.

“Hey.”

Logan looked up from piling sliced meatloaf on the bread. Jean walked in and leaned against the table behind him. Dressed in a grey skirt and suit jacket with reading glasses tucked in the pocket, she looked every inch the doctor. Old before your time, Jeannie, he thought, not for the first time. “Hey yourself, gorgeous. What’s up?”

She ignored his flirting. “I was going to ask you that.” She smiled politely. “How’s Kurt?”

Logan shrugged and grabbed another slice of bread. “He’s doing okay. Not ready to face people yet. Do you blame him?”

She shook her head. “Not at all. I do worry about him, though. He will need to learn to form normal relationships with others, and the longer it takes, the harder it will be. I’d really like to get him comfortable enough to introduce him to a specialist.”

She combed her hair back behind one ear and sighed. “I have to confess, I’m a bit out of my depth here. Abuse and neglect on a moderate scale I deal with on a daily basis, but someone who’s never had any normal contact or socialization…it’s amazing he can even talk.”

“Yeah.” Logan frowned and munched on a meat crumb distractedly.

Jean looked inquiringly at him. “What is it?”

He shook his head. “That’s just it— he doesn’t just talk a little. I mean before the professor even did that little mind trick, he already knew German and some English. He reads, he knows what kinds of movies he likes,” He blinked as something he’d noted some time ago snapped into place. “You think those assholes who caged him up cared if he got his ear pierced?” He waved a fork at her, then drummed it on the counter in thought.

Jean nodded speculatively. “You’re right. And it would also explain why there’s much less physical atrophy than I’d expected. His muscles,” she explained, “are fully formed and his bones mature. In fact, I’d venture to say that at one point in his life he was probably fairly athletic. But I thought you said he’d been in that circus his entire life?”

Jean held out the mayonnaise before Logan asked for it, and he raised an eyebrow at her as he grabbed it. “Thanks. That’s what he said,” he confirmed. “Since he was a small child. And I don’t think he’s the type to lie.”

“Well, then,” Jean said, “I think we have a mystery on our hands.” She smiled. “But I think it’ll wait until after your lunch. And, Logan?” She wrinkled her nose and gestured at his crumb-covered claw. “Next time, use a knife.”

He grinned at her and speared another slice of meatloaf.

By the time they finished lunch, the kids were back in classes, and they snuck out once more into the woods. Logan watched Kurt carefully this time for signs of fatigue, matching his pace to Kurt’s as it slowed, pausing for rest when he could tell Kurt needed it, despite the fact that the man himself would cheerfully have continued until he dropped.

The questions Jean had brought up continued to nag at him, though. Who taught you those things, elf? Someone was good to you, once. You escape for a while? How’d you end up in that circus, anyway? And what are you gonna do now you’re out? For some reason, that last one bothered him more than any of the others. Admit it, Logan, he told himself, you really like the furry blue misfit. You want him to make out okay. Well, sure. That was no surprise. And you want to be around to see him do it. That was. And he wasn’t at all sure it was entirely a pleasant one.

You’re a loner, he reminded himself firmly. Get him back on his feet, say good-bye, and get out. Best that way for everyone.

When Logan finally began steering them back toward the mansion, Kurt looked for a moment as if he would protest, but Logan shook his head. “Don’t push yourself too hard. You’ll get there.” With a sigh and a nod, Kurt capitulated.

They arrived back just as dinner began again, and Logan wondered if he could convince Jean to set them up in the library once more, but a mental call from the professor diverted him. Logan, Kurt, would you two please meet me in my office?

Kurt jumped a little at the contact, but shrugged when Logan looked over at him, though he bit one lip nervously.

“Don’t sweat it—still freaks me out, too,” he informed Kurt wryly as they headed for the room in question.

Professor Xavier smiled at them as they entered, almost a repeat of the day before. Has it only been one day? Logan wondered. It was amazing how easy it was to slip into a feeling of routine here.

“Good evening to both of you. I trust you’re settling in smoothly?”

Logan shrugged. “We manage.”

The professor’s smile broadened. “You do much more than manage, Logan. Danielle informs me you are quite a formidable instructor.”

Logan frowned and crossed his arms. “You want easy, trick someone else into doing it.”

“On the contrary!” The professor looked surprised. “She respects you for it, as do the others. Remember, Logan, this is no ordinary school—the skills that you teach them may someday save their lives, or others’. The last thing they need is to be gone easy on.”

“Hm.” Logan nodded in surprised satisfaction. They really think that way, we might get along after all.

“Kurt.” The professor smiled more gently at the blue-furred man who was, at least, not hiding quite as far behind Logan as he had yesterday. “I understand you’re rather taken with our library.” Kurt’s eyes widened and he took a step back, but the professor emanated calm as he shook his head. “No, it’s quite all right. I’m glad you’ve found something you enjoy. Please, feel free to spend as much time in there as you like, or take books with you to read. That is, after all, what they’re for, isn’t it?”

Kurt answered his smile tentatively with one of his own.

“In any case,” the professor continued, “the reason I asked you to join me is so that I could show you,” he nodded at Kurt, “a bit more of our facilities here, other rooms you might care to make use of. If you don’t mind,” he addressed them both, “dinner-time is one of the few times the students are busy and I’m not. Allow me to show you some more of my home now, and you can eat on your own or with me later on. How does that sound?”

Canny, Chuck, Logan thought, wondering if the telepath could hear him. Show him around when everyone’s somewhere else, and we can eat alone again, no fuss. “Sounds good to me. Kurt?”

At Kurt’s nod, the professor beamed approval. “Wonderful. Please follow me.”

The tour of the upper mansion was fairly straightforward--girls’ dorm, boys’ dorm, study rooms, classrooms, computer rooms, garage. The kitchen they’d seen; the dining room they avoided. There were several small lounges, the great room with its huge TV and adjoining game room, and innumerable bathrooms. “The perils of turning one’s home into a boarding school,” the professor informed them wryly. All of it cosy, well-heeled, and decidedly normal.

Then they stepped back in the elevator, and the professor pressed the button for the first underground level. When they stopped, the doors slid open on the section of the mansion that had been Logan’s introduction to the X-Men. Starkly white and brightly lit, it was the antithesis of the soothing comfort upstairs, and Logan placed a steadying hand in the center of Kurt's back, watching him carefully in his peripheral vision.

Kurt squinted and raised one hand to shield his eyes against the light, but stepped forward showing more curiosity than trepidation. Turning slowly, he took in the uniform cases and storage area to the left, the curved X design of the corridor itself, and the huge steel doors closing off each end of it. Brow wrinkled in confusion, he turned at last to the professor, who had sat silently through the scrutiny. “What—what is this?” His wave encompassed the whole level.

“This, Kurt, is the other reason this school exists. The classes and housing are designed to help the mutants that come here—they give them a place to stay and an education that will help them when they leave. The x-levels are designed to help those who choose not to leave, those my students call the X-Men. Those of us who choose to use our abilities for the betterment of everyone, mutant and human alike.”

Logan shot a sideways glance at him. Fancy way of sayin’ you help people in trouble, Chuck.

Kurt seemed both impressed and taken aback at the grandiose statement. “What do you do?” he asked confusedly.

“Mostly,” the professor glanced at Logan with a twinkle in his eye, “we help people in trouble. Children having difficulty controlling their new powers need somewhere to go for guidance; normal humans need to be protected from those mutants who would use their advantage to terrorize them. And when there are problems between the two facets of humanity, we try to rectify them, whether that means lobbying for mutant rights or rescuing a child from an abusive household.” He looked up at Kurt apologetically. “I’m afraid that even with all our resources, we cannot be everywhere at once. Had I known of your predicament, we could have rescued you some time ago. I am very sorry not to have found you before now, and very grateful that Logan found you when he did.”

Kurt nodded as if in acknowledgement and understanding, then paused and slowly shook his head. He opened his mouth to speak, and shut it again.

“Yes, Kurt?” the professor prompted gently. There was a moment of silence as they waited for him.

“Why?” He looked from the professor to Logan and back again in confusion. “Why—me? Why,” he gestured at the complex, “this?”

“Because no-one deserves to go through what you did,” Logan growled. He glared at Professor Xavier's smile. “What?”

The professor shook his head, amused, and turned to Kurt. “Logan is right. Your experience is worse than many, but far too often mutants are feared or hated simply because they exist. It is as wrong as any other form of bigotry, and only by working to overcome the injustice and intolerance on both sides can we ever achieve unity as a species.”

Kurt looked a bit overwhelmed by the rhetoric. Logan put an arm around the taller man’s shoulders and urged him down the hallway. “Yeah, whatever, Charlie. Let’s finish the tour, okay?”

The professor nodded in understanding and led them through the locker rooms—fairly normal-looking if you ignored the fact that the grates on the lockers and the knobs on sink and shower faucets were all shaped like Xs. Still haven't figured out if you're the biggest egotist in the hemisphere or just have a decorator with a weird sense of humor, Chuck, Logan thought, but the telepath either wasn't listening or chose to ignore him.

Their next stop was the medical lab, which wasn't much to see with all the equipment retracted into floor and walls, but Kurt still acted suitably impressed. From there, they passed along the curved outer hallway to a heavy door with an elaborate electronic lock. The professor keyed in a code, and a light over the number pad glowed green. “We’ll get you entered into the system, if you like, and you will get your own codes,” the professor said to Kurt. “You, too, Logan, if you’re staying.” A few more digits, and a second light switched on to match the first.

Logan snorted. “We just saw yours, Chuck. So much for security.”

The professor shook his head. “This is not so much for security, as safety. There isn’t really much in this room that needs to be secured, and the control room is as secure as we can make it.”

“You mean like Cerebro?” Logan reminded him wryly.

“Yes, well,” the professor cleared his throat, “we are currently in the process of upgrading that security in the aftermath of Mystique’s little game. In any case,” he changed the subject, “that is neither here nor there at the moment.” He punched one last button, and both lights flashed out as the heavy steel door—another circle with an X in it—cycled open. The professor waved at them to precede him. “Welcome to the Danger Room.”

His words echoed through the room as Logan turned to take in all their surroundings. It didn’t take long. “All I see’s room. Where’s the danger?”

Kurt looked puzzled, too, craning his head to peer around the bare room.

The professor smiled. “There isn’t any at the moment. Part of the code I keyed in at the door shut off all of the systems. It’s always safest to enter that way, even if nothing dangerous is programmed. You never know.”

“Programmed?” Logan picked up. “You mean, this is another big computer, like Cerebro?”

“Not exactly, though a good deal of the technology is similar.” He nodded. “This is more of a…” he thought for a moment. “It’s difficult to explain. Basically, you can program the room to be anything from an ordinary gymnasium to a completely alien environment. Complete with aliens.” He grinned. “Some of our students are quite inventive.”

He wheeled back to the door and started it closing, then punched another sequence of numbers on the inside keypad. Nothing seemed to happen, but a slight electric tingling tickled at the back of Logan's neck. He turned around and took a quick step back, startled to see a waist-high, futuristic-looking control panel right behind him in the formerly empty room. He glanced from it to the professor, then back. Kurt approached tentatively and stared at it wide-eyed. Shit, I probably look just as bad. Where the hell did that come from?

The professor chuckled. “Activating the basic program brings up the control console in here, which allows you to activate any existing program and alter a limited number of parameters.” He wheeled to the panel and lowered it to his height with the press of a button. Another few presses, and weightlifting equipment flashed into being in the centre of the room. Logan walked over and picked up a bar, which felt as solid as if it were real. He dropped it, and it fell with a clang.

Another sequence of buttons, and the weights were replaced by the promised alien landscape—rocks, trees, even a red-tinted sun; the room itself was no longer visible at all.

Unglaublich,” came an awe-struck whisper from behind him.

“You said it.” Logan picked his jaw up from around his knees. “Shit.”

Then, in an eye-blink, that strange world was gone, this time in favor of a twisted maze of bars, pillars, and swings that looked like nothing so much as a huge jungle gym. Logan raised his eyebrows. “You train monkeys here, too?”

The professor laughed. “This program is Hank’s workout. He’s incredibly agile,” he explained. “Henry McCoy is our resident physicist and computer expert. He recently completed a year at Oxford after his third Ph.D., studying advanced artificial intelligence.” He smiled proudly. “He was my first student, and he helped build much of what you see. We have some of the most advanced computer facilities on the planet. I'll admit some of it,” he waved around the Danger Room, “can be a bit startling at first, but you'll soon get used to it. I have hopes that you both will be spending some time in here.”

“What for?” Logan eyed the controls dubiously. “There’s a gym upstairs that works just fine. And I ain’t planning on fighting aliens any time soon.”

“Perhaps not,” the professor conceded. “But the Danger Room is not named lightly—it can test your abilities in ways that would normally be impossible outside of an actual battle. It can create opponents that fight back and situations that test split-second decision making. You may find it very useful.”

“Yeah?” Not bad. Logan looked around a bit more appreciatively. If it performs as advertised.

“Mm.” The professor nodded. “And,” he tilted his head inquiringly, “this is where the X-Men work on their abilities as a team.”

Logan gave him an admonishing look. “I told you, Chuck, I'm not looking to turn into a permanent fixture.”

The professor just smiled. “Be that as it may, what could assisting us hurt? While you are here, you might as well make the most of it. We could always use the benefit of your experience.”

Logan sighed. He was being manipulated, and he knew it. Damn it, I’m getting too soft for my own good. “Okay. All right.” He threw up his hands. “Just as long as I'm here.”

The professor nodded. “Good. Thank you. I'll have Hank set you up with your own codes and introduce you to the system. Kurt,” his voice softened, “I think it would prove beneficial if you joined us as well, when you can.”

Logan looked to Kurt, who was staring up into the aerial maze as if mesmerized and gave no answer.

“Kurt?” the professor prompted.

Logan grinned and put a hand on his friend's shoulder. Kurt turned to him, an indecipherable look shining in his eyes. Logan’s smile turned quizzical. “Hey. You okay?”

Kurt nodded slowly, his gaze drifting back to the bars. “Ja. Yes.”

“Kurt?” the professor asked again, gaining his attention this time. “Will you come back here and work with us once you’re fully healed?”

Kurt drew in a deep breath, and his lips slowly twitched upward into a real smile. “Yes! Please.”

The professor returned his smile and held out one hand tentatively. Logan watched closely, but though Kurt twitched slightly, he grasped Xavier's hand strongly for a moment in agreement before stepping back.

“Thank you.” The professor nodded at them both. “Well, I still do have a few things left to show you, and then we’ll go and see Hank.” He deactivated the room and the control panel and headed for the door. But as they stood waiting for it to slide open, Logan couldn’t help but notice Kurt glancing back to where the gym had been, as if waiting for it to appear once more.

Chapter Text

After that, the remainder of the tour was somewhat prosaic—until they met Hank McCoy, who was anything but.

The door on the level immediately below the medical section opened onto a scene of only nominally controlled chaos. Electrical cables, circuit boards, and unidentified metal bits lay strewn over tables and in bins beneath them. Machines, only half of which Logan could even begin to guess the function of, hummed encouragement at the mess, looming over it like mother birds in the nest of a hatching brood. Almost archaic in this science-fiction setting, paper printouts flowed over the end of the nearest workbench and defied gravity on the edge of one further down.

Their entrance sounded a chime somewhere out of sight, and an almost immediate crash from that direction was followed by a stream of very mild but inventive cursing.

“One moment, please!” Scurrying and scraping noises attested to things being shoved aside. “Coming!” More shuffling. “Ah!” The scuffle gave way to a satisfied grunt, then heavy footsteps approached from a far corner of the room as the man himself strode into view, wiping his hands on an oddly-stained cloth. “Professor! In what manner may I be of assistance?” He smiled at Logan and Kurt. “I don’t believe I've made the acquaintance of your companions.”

He didn’t so much offer to shake as grab their hands momentarily. Kurt shied briefly, but McCoy himself registered not the slightest reaction to Kurt’s appearance and immediately improved himself in Logan’s eyes, despite his over-exuberant greeting. Logan scrutinized him appraisingly as the professor made introductions.

Whatever he’d been expecting in an agile, multiple-Ph.D. scientist, this was not it. The man was, to put it succinctly, a lump. Shorter than Logan, he was nearly as broad as he was tall, though little of it looked like fat. His posture was odd, almost hunchbacked, and his arms hung low at his side, ape-like. The hands that had engulfed theirs were large in proportion to his arms, and his feet were similarly oversized, and bare. Must be a bitch to find shoes that size.

Logan shook himself back to the present as McCoy invited them to the back of the lab. As he led the way, the scientist periodically picked up or shoved aside things to make way for the professor’s chair. “My sincerest apologies for the unruly appearance of my foremost laboratory. Since my repatriation a mere fortnight ago, I have been attempting simultaneously to integrate my foreign acquisitions and rediscover the locations of existing equipment—I’m afraid I’ve made a bit of a mess.”

The area he led them to was a model of neatness compared to the front lab. An old-fashioned wooden desk sat next to an overstuffed sofa; a pillow and blanket attested to the fact that the latter doubled as a bed. Beyond that stood two long, marble-topped tables with assorted chemical equipment in tidy rows across them.

McCoy waved them to the couch and perched himself on the wooden desk chair as Logan and Kurt sat down.

“Hank,” the professor told him, “Logan and Kurt will be joining us for a while. I’d like to get them added to the Danger Room roster, if you would. And they’ll need someone to show them how to use it, as well.”

McCoy beamed at them. “Magnificent! It’s always a pleasure to welcome new compatriots. The codes won’t take a moment. Is either of you very knowledgeable about computers? The programming routines are remarkably flexible; if you like, I can instruct you in the intricacies of the material composition subroutines. They really—”

“No, thanks,” Logan interrupted. “You just show us how to turn it on, okay?”

The scientist’s face fell for a moment, and he sighed. “Very well. You will actually need to know a little more than ‘on’ and ‘off’, but I will spare you the scientific minutiae. I’ll have one of my assistants instruct you, just as soon as I’ve enquired as to their schedules. I’m afraid I am not always the best individual to expostulate to those of a non-scientific bent.”

Yeah, no kidding, bub, Logan thought. He glanced at Kurt. His yellow eyes seemed a little glazed over, and the confused look to his face bordered on comical. “He’s gonna have someone teach us who uses smaller words,” Logan explained to him wryly. Kurt flicked him a small smile of gratitude.

McCoy had turned from them and was busily typing at the computer on his desk. “It is generally considered optimal to select a numerical sequence you will find it effortless to recollect. Perhaps the date of your birth?” He looked expectantly at Logan.

“Right.” Logan looked back. “Isn’t that supposed to be bad for security, or something?”

“For a financial account, perhaps,” McCoy acknowledged. “However, these codes are designed for simplicity of identification, rather than security. There are different sequences for that purpose. Simply select a number you will have no difficulty in remembering. Or, if you prefer, I can randomly assign a sequence to you.”

Logan shrugged. “Sure, fine.”

McCoy nodded and made a note on a sticky pad. “Kurt?” He turned to the other man. “Do you have a number in mind?” Kurt shrugged. “Very well.” He turned back to the computer. “This will only take a moment.” He began typing away again.

The clacking of computer keys was interrupted by the sound of voices from the front of the lab. “Hank? Doctor McCoy?”

Logan frowned; he hadn’t heard the door open, and it had certainly been quiet enough to.

“Back here, my intrepid assistants,” McCoy called.

Kurt shifted closer to Logan on the couch, pressing into his side. Too many people. Logan slung an arm around him supportively.

With remarkably little noise, the two students made their way back, halting at the edge of the cleared zone.

“Hi, Professor.” The girl smiled at Xavier and nodded at Logan, and he remembered her. The one that walks through doors. No wonder I didn’t hear them. Maybe he does, too?

The boy whose hand she held was unfamiliar and almost startlingly normal in this place. Young, blond, pleasant-looking. He greeted the professor almost shyly and Logan nervously before his gaze passed to Kurt and froze. He nodded a quick greeting and looked over at McCoy, trying almost comically not to stare. The girl had no such compunction, her wide-eyed scrutiny glued to Kurt in mingled fascination and nervousness.

Kurt began to fidget in response, and Logan scowled at the girl. She jumped slightly and glanced quickly over to the professor, then Logan, flushing in embarrassment. Her eyes flickered back to Kurt momentarily before she, too, fixed her gaze on McCoy. “Sorry,” she spoke over-brightly, “we didn’t know you had company. We can go—”

“No, no, not at all,” McCoy assured them. “We’ll only be a moment. In fact, your presence at this precise time is quite fortuitous. Logan and Kurt here have need of an instructor in the finer points of the Danger Room computer. Should either of you have the opportunity to add this instruction into your already overburdened schedules, I would greatly appreciate it.”

“Actually,” the professor broke in, “I would prefer that you not make a decision just yet. I have some matters I’d like to discuss with you two that I’m afraid must take precedence.”

The students looked slightly startled, but nodded at him; McCoy simply shrugged and turned back to his computer.

After another minute, he scribbled on a pad of paper and handed the sheet to Logan. “This is your personal code.” More scribbling, and he held the paper out to Kurt, who took it gingerly. “And this is yours.” He was up and moving again. “You will also need a list of the basic command codes and syntax.”

He began shuffling through papers. “I’m certain there was one loitering about somewhere…ah!” He waved a sheaf of papers triumphantly. “Eureka.” He plopped the pile down on top of his desk and whisked the top two off for Logan and Kurt. “Here you go. Now,” he admonished them, “please don’t hesitate to contact me with any inquiries you may have. And welcome to Xavier’s!” He surrounded their hands with his once more, smiling enthusiastically.

Relieved at what was clearly a dismissal, Logan stood, Kurt sticking close to him. The professor thanked McCoy, who was already deep in conversation with the kids about something electrical, and the three of them filed out.

The professor turned to them in the hallway. “I believe that concludes the tour. What do you think?” The last was directed at Kurt, and Logan stifled his own opinion.

Kurt shifted from one foot to the other, looked to Logan, and smiled tentatively. “It is very…much,” he finished awkwardly, and shrugged in apology. He swallowed nervously.

The professor smiled back at him. “I understand. I do hope that you will enjoy it here, once you get used to it. I’d like you to remember two things, though; will you do that for me, Kurt?” Kurt stared back, a little frightened. “Please?” Kurt nodded hesitantly and steeled himself as for something unpleasant.

The professor’s smile turned softer, but his eyes bore into Kurt intensely. “Remember that if you have a problem with anyone or anything here, you must let me, or Logan, or somebody else know. And always remember that any time you want— for whatever reason—you are free to leave here. We will help you or leave you alone, whichever you prefer, but we will never stop you.” The professor nodded good-night to them and left.

Kurt watched him go, still and silent, but the watchful tension that never left him lulled a little in the professor’s wake, and he looked merely thoughtful. Logan put a hand on his shoulder, and Kurt looked over at him.

“Hey.” Logan nodded back over his shoulder. “Kitchen should be empty. What do you say we go grab some food?” Kurt smiled in assent and they started back up.

They walked in on chaos. The institutional end of the kitchen still hummed with activity, students and a few adults bustling back and forth to finish cleaning up. Logan cursed silently at his misjudgment, and Kurt tensed.

Several faces turned their way, and a couple nudged their friends and pointed. Logan scowled and spun, pushing Kurt back out the door. He tried to steer the terrified man to a chair, but Kurt collapsed before they reached it, crouching in the corner against the wall. Logan pulled the shaggy head onto his shoulder, and Kurt curled into his side, shaking in reaction.

“Logan!” Rogue followed her exuberant voice into the hallway. Kurt flinched.

“Not now, Rogue.”

She ignored Logan and kept coming. “Daria said you’d just been in. You’ve been back a whole day, and I haven’t hardly seen you. I mean—” She paused, catching her first sight of Kurt. “Wow.” She looked about to say something more, then frowned and spoke, more softly than before, “What’s wrong with him?”

Logan tried not to scowl at her. “He ain’t too good around people, kid.” Get the hint?

She hesitated, then kneeled just within arms’ reach of them. “Oh. And he went in there with ya?” Logan nodded tersely, and Rogue scrunched her face in a grimace. “I guess it’s a bit much if you’re not used to people, huh?” She sat there quietly a few moments, biting her lip as she looked at Kurt. He had not yet released his death grip on Logan, though his shuddering had lessened.

Rogue scooted carefully closer to him as Logan tried to keep one eye on each of them. “Hey,” she spoke softly, “um…” she looked at Logan, a question in her eyes.

“Kurt,” he mouthed.

“Kurt? It’s no problem; a lot of folks don’t do so good in crowds.” She put out one hand as if to touch him, faltered, and instead held it out in his line of sight. “It kinda helps sometimes if you know who the people are. My name’s Rogue.” He stared at her gloved hand, but made no effort to take it. She watched him worriedly. “I don’t bite, I promise,” she prompted gently.

His gaze flicked to her face and back to her outstretched hand. She took it back slowly, twisting both hands in her lap. “The folks here are all real nice, once you get to know ’em. But dinner-time’s probably the worst if you don’t like crowds. Hey,” she straightened up, “I bet y’all were in there to pick up some food, right?” Logan nodded confirmation. “I can help out—just a second. Y’all wait right here!” She climbed back to her feet and ran off at full speed.

Logan watched her go with bemusement. “Suppose we should take the girl at her word; hate to disappoint her and leave before she gets back. You okay with that?” No answer. Logan growled silently. “She means well, you know. She’s just a kid.”

“The children…” the hoarse whisper came from his shoulder, “the children were often the worst. They stare, and they laugh, and if the keepers are not too close, they poke at me and pull my hair.” He shifted, and Logan adjusted his hold, hugging Kurt as the blue arms went around him. “They believe what the others say,” the broken voice whispered into his jawline. “That I am not human, that I deserve to be caged, that I am a creature less than nothing. I see it in all their eyes, even those who try to be kind, till I stop looking. If I look, I start to believe it myself.”

Logan tightened the embrace, rubbing Kurt’s back in soothing circles. Damn. No wonder you don’t like ’em. “Kids are the worst”, and I just brought you to a whole school of ’em. Nice going, Logan. He smoothed down the curls behind one pointed ear, petting the soft dark hair as he searched for words.

“It’s just…” human nature. Yeah, that’ll help. “Anybody…” anyone different gets stared at. He sighed. Anyone…

“When I found you in…that place,” he couldn’t keep the disgust from his voice and tightened his hold on his friend, “there were other people, too—the bearded lady and the others. And they all got stared at, too. But, it wasn’t the same for them, because they could leave whenever they wanted to, and they all knew,” he squeezed Kurt’s shoulder, “that no matter what they looked like, they were basically the same as everybody else. Right?”

A nod. Small, but at least he knew he had Kurt’s attention. “Well, here, you can just walk out whenever you want, remember? And you still look different than most of the others, and they might stare and point, but they’re all mutants, too—here, you are just the same as everybody else.”

Logan shrugged. “Yeah, sure, some of ’em are probably jerks,” the name Scott Summers springs to mind, “but most of them are just curious. They do know you’re a person, though. And a lot of them know what it’s like to have problems just because you’re different.” An image from his first day at the mansion flashed through his mind. “There’s at least one other kid around with blue hair, too. Dunno if it’s natural or a fashion statement, though.

“Look, the point is, try to give ’em a chance, okay? I bet you find these kids’re nothing like the ones you’ve known.”

Kurt picked his head up and stared at him from inches away. After a few seconds, it was Logan’s turn to squirm uncomfortably under the scrutiny.

Kurt opened his mouth to speak, but whatever he had been planning to say was lost as Rogue thudded back down the corridor to them as fast as she could, grinning. She stopped a few yards away, her face growing more solemn as she looked at Kurt. “Okay, come on. Y’all follow me.”

Logan raised an eyebrow, but stood. Kurt copied him, and they followed her outside and around to the other kitchen door. Logan frowned. “Look, kid—”

Rogue smiled mischievously at him. “Don’t worry! Watch.” As they hovered outside the door, she strode into the kitchen, imperiously moved a couple other kids back onto the far end “so we can have some privacy”, and raised her hands.

A roiling darkness like inky smoke swirled out of nowhere and quickly spread to form a wall between them and the bustling activity. Rogue beamed back at them. “Pretty cool, huh? Jared has algebra in a couple minutes; he reckoned if I borrowed his power for a good cause, he could skip it excused. I was gonna borrow Bobby’s, but he said he wouldn’t help me mop up after all the ice melted.”

Logan stepped up to the barrier and rapped on it; it thudded dully and held. “How long will it last?”

“Until I take it down.” She shrugged. “Or Jared does. He won’t be out too long; I’m getting pretty good at controlling how much I take.”

She sounded proud, and Logan patted her on the shoulder. “Good work, kid. And thanks.”

She smiled up at him, then looked over at Kurt, who had stepped into the room behind them. “I should get going. I still have to help out, and I should probably explain about the wall before anyone gets mad. But you’ll come see me some time, right?”

“Yeah, kid.” Logan smiled at her, and she hugged him fiercely. “We’ll talk later.”

Rogue turned to go and nearly stumbled into Kurt, who had come up close behind her. They both backpedalled. Then, as she stood there, Kurt raised his hand jerkily towards her. “Thank you,” he managed, voice no steadier than the hand.

Rogue smiled broadly in return and shook his hand. “You’re welcome. Any friend of Logan’s is a friend of mine. It’s nice to meet you.”

He looked up slowly from their joined hands to her face and blinked. “It is…nice to meet you, as well, Rogue.” He bowed a little over her hand before letting it go. Rogue chewed on her lip and, to Logan’s surprise, blushed.

“I should get going.” She gestured to the door, then got her feet to move and edged toward it. She grinned at Kurt, smiled radiantly at Logan, then turned and ran out.

Kurt watched her go, bemused. “She meant that? She does not know me, but she said that I was her friend, and when she looked at me…it was as if she saw a person.”

Logan slung an arm over Kurt’s shoulders and shook him gently. “See? Told you.” A “person’s” not all she saw; girl’s hormones must be going wild. Someone better have a word with her, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be me. With a brief hug, he let go of Kurt and clapped him on the back. “Come on, let’s get some food. I’m starving.”

Chapter Text

Jean had left a note for Kurt tacked to the fridge with a pink flamingo magnet. Along with general encouragement and welcome were a “suggested foods” list and directions to a cupboard shelf bearing an entire battalion of vitamins.

Kurt looked bewildered but pleased by the letter and obediently sought out the prescribed vegetables and fish while Logan pulled out some fried chicken and potato salad that looked left over from a picnic.

Remembering where the plates were, Logan pulled one out for Kurt and stood munching his chicken cold as he searched once more, fruitlessly, for a beer. He slammed the refrigerator door in disgust, eyed the small portions Kurt had dished out for himself and immediately doubled them before sticking the plate in the microwave.

Kurt devoured the broccoli and brussels sprouts with gusto that made Logan grimace—what kind of decent school serves brussels sprouts?—as Logan stuck a fork in the potato salad. He downed the pills methodically and without question, but Logan scrutinized the bottles dubiously. Not that he didn’t trust Jean, but somebody had to care what she was giving him.

Kurt managed to stay awake through dinner this evening, but it was a near thing; by the time he finished, his eyelids were drooping noticeably. He stirred enough to help put the dishes away, but made no protest as Logan prodded him upstairs and into bed. The day’s exhaustion pulled him into a deeper sleep than usual, and he didn’t even stir as Logan stood from his side and quietly made his way into the hall, pulling the door shut behind him.

Logan headed down the hall to Rogue’s room, only to find her gone. One of her roommates, a young Asian girl he recalled seeing around but couldn’t put a name to, was heading out just as he got there. She smiled up at him as she locked the door. “I think she went into town with Miss Grey’s group. Some movie. They’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

“Thanks.” Figures. I finally find some time for the kid, and she’s busy. A part of him was relieved, though. She’s a good kid, but she’s a kid. What do we talk about, now we’re not fighting for our lives anymore? I ain’t cut out to be a father figure, and I doubt she wants to talk cigars and sports.

Restless, he headed back out to the woods. Stretching and shaking off the concerns of the day—damn, things move at breakneck pace here—he kicked off his boots, comforted by the uncompromising, uncomplicated cold dirt under him. Stripping off his shirts, he let the similarly cool air of early spring flow around him, ruffling the hair on his chest and arms. He breathed in deeply, brought some of that calm chill into himself. Then he ran.

His feet pounded the hard-packed earth and decaying loam under the trees, eating up the distance. He picked up speed and sprinted full-tilt for several minutes, reveling in the wind in his hair and the dizzy wheel of the trees and stars above him, then settled in to a sustainable lope.

When he reached the stone wall that bordered Xavier’s property, he turned, heading back into the forest at an angle to put the sign of human habitation behind him.

He ran for what his time sense told him was nearly an hour, speeding up again to enjoy the faint burn of lactic acid in his muscles before his body healed it away. Then he moved into the open, heading at a more leisurely pace along the wooded verge and back to where he’d left his clothes. The sweat the night hadn’t dried on him, he wiped off with his overshirt, then pulled on his undershirt and headed back for the mansion.

I needed that, he thought appreciatively. He stretched again, this time in satisfaction. Too bad Kurt’s not up for much running yet. There’s nothing like it for clearing your head.

His thoughts drawn back to his companion, he quickened his pace as he climbed the stairs. Kurt was still in bed, though, still asleep. Looks like he hasn’t even moved. Maybe if we get him to do enough during the day, he’ll sleep the night through. Hell, one of us ought to.

Not wanting to chance the noise, he grabbed a change of clothing and headed down to the locker room to shower. Afterward, he wandered back up to the great room; Storm, a man he didn’t recognize, and a few of the older kids were there, watching the news. He nodded at them and leaned up against the back wall to watch. Nothing much new—politics and crime, not much to tell between the two.

As one program ended, they switched to another, catching some movie’s end credits. A couple of the students said good-night, and others milled around and talked over the commercials that followed.

The unfamiliar man walked over to him and smiled politely. “You’d be Logan, I take it?” His voice, Irish brogue with a hint of times spent elsewhere, matched his sandy red hair and discerning green eyes that evaluated Logan with a look that said threat assessment. In turn, Logan noted the military bearing and the aura of a man who’d known too much. This one’s seen action. He nodded. “Yeah, I’m Logan.”

The redhead stuck his hand out. “Sean. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Logan shook his hand. “You’re the one I took that bike class from, right?”

Sean nodded. “Wanted to thank you; I’m always a mite overworked around here.” He grinned. “I’ve no illusions it was your idea, mind, but you’ve my thanks just the same.”

Logan snorted. “You’re welcome.”

Sean clapped him on the back. “That’s the spirit. Come on.” He waved at the couch. “Eleven o’clock news is next. Get yourself a seat before Peter gets back with the snacks.”

Faced with the other man’s open friendliness, Logan traded his patch of wall for an end of the sofa. Sean took the cushion next to his, and they chatted a bit over the mad rush for seats as the program began. Sean seemed to enjoy having someone new to talk to, and expounded on many of the news stories with a keen eye to their undercurrents. An off-hand remark about bombers’ tactics evinced a more than passing knowledge of counter-terrorism. Add to that the body of a man who kept himself active and a hand with gun calluses…

What the hell is this guy doing teaching mechanics in some podunk private school? Even a school like Xavier’s? Logan kept his questions to himself, though; everybody had their secrets. Who was he to pry? Man might bear watching, though. Just in case.

After the news, he made his excuses and headed up to the room. Kurt stirred a bit as he entered and smiled sleepily up at him as he climbed into bed, then curled around him and went straight back to sleep. Logan shook his head indulgently. Hope I make a good pillow, buddy. Reaching over, he snapped out the light and settled in for the evening, rubbing lazy circles over Kurt's back, the motion of his fingers through the short fur soothing them both to sleep.

Chapter Text

Logan woke to the dip and sway of the bed as Kurt clambered out. Nice while it lasted, he grumbled to himself, pulling the sheets over his head and sinking into a doze as he waited for the click of the desktop lamp. Instead, the waking corner of his mind registered the creak and close of the hallway door. Hmm?

He lay there a moment or two, fully expecting Kurt to pop back in immediately. He lay there longer wrestling with himself.

He finally walked out on his own. Good for him. Let him have time alone.

Yeah, but what if he runs into someone, or something else happens? He’s not exactly all there yet.

It’s the middle of the night, everybody’s asleep, this place is safe. He’ll be fine. What could happen to him?

Unfortunately, Logan’s conscience could come up with too many answers to torture him with. Sighing, he kicked off the covers and headed out of the room. Near-invisible in the shadows, Kurt was just disappearing down the stairs. Logan shut the door behind him quietly and closed the distance between them just enough to keep an eye on him.

Kurt moved slowly, as though expecting to be waylaid at every turn, but he continued bravely on as Logan silently cheered. You can do this, buddy. Just floors and walls, all perfectly normal. Nothing’s gonna jump out at you. Make it through this, you’ll be the life of the party in no time.

At the main hallway, Kurt peered carefully in both directions, then turned toward the back of the house. Either he was going for a midnight stroll outside, or The library. Logan grinned. Turning out to be quite a bookworm, elf.

Kurt turned down the first left, confirming his destination. Logan hurried to keep him in sight, hanging back to look around the corner as Kurt reached for the door.

And a hand reached out through it and into his chest. Kurt staggered back with a cry, hit the wall, and sat with a thump. The hand was snatched back equally fast with a matching yelp.

Logan’s claws were out as he took a step forward; then he stopped himself as he realized what had happened. That ghost-girl. She was sitting on the ground now, she and Kurt wearing almost identical expressions of shock and fright.

A part of Logan wanted nothing more than to rush in and rescue his friend. Damn it, he was terrified by Rogue with less reason. He hesitated. But that was when he was already spooked, and he did come around. This girl may be strange, but she hasn’t done anything yet. Instinct’s saying hang back, see how this plays out. Besides, he’s got to meet other folks some time. Staying at the ready, he settled back to watch.

“Oh, gosh!” The girl’s hands flew to her mouth, and she continued in a whisper. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.” Kurt stared back at her, and she swallowed nervously. “I really am very sorry. I’m usually good at looking where I phase, honest, but I didn’t think anyone would still be up down here. Um…” she floundered, her eyes flicking over him nervously. “Your name’s Kurt, right?” She steeled herself and stuck out a hand. “I’m Kitty. Kitty Pryde.” She bit her lip in thought. “Mein name ist Kitty Pryde. Only that’s pretty much all the German I know. Sorry.”

Kurt blinked at her hand, then took it, bemused. “Kurt Wagner.” Logan started, realizing he’d never known Kurt’s last name, or that he even had one. Some friend, he chastised himself.

Kitty beamed shakily back at Kurt and let go of his hand. “Nice to meet you. Well, I already met you before, I guess. Nice to, um…”

“…run into you?” Kurt suggested with a timid smile.

Kitty blinked, then giggled loudly. “Shoot!” She clapped both hands over her mouth and glanced around the hallway wildly. “Come on!” She clambered up and ran out to the main hall.

Logan ducked behind the nearest pillar as she snuck into the hallway, Kurt trailing behind her. She ran lightly across the hall and disappeared into the far wall, then reappeared after a moment and gestured to Kurt. He approached her uncertainly and she smiled to reassure him, eyes twinkling as she took firm hold of his hands. “Take a deep breath,” she cautioned him. He frowned as he did. Then, with a tug on his hands, they were both gone.

Shit! Logan rushed up to the spot they’d vanished into, despite knowing they weren’t there. Drawing a map in his head, he determined where they’d have gone if they went in a straight line. The kitchen. Backtracking, he followed the more normal route there, dreading what he might find.

Kitty’s quiet voice led him on as he got closer, and he slowed at her matter-of-fact tone. “…about twelve,” she was saying. “I used to just be able to do it to myself, but the professor and Hank have worked with me for a couple of years. I can even take a couple of the smaller kids at once now.”

Logan crept up to the doorway, kneeling in the darkness to assess the situation. He swept his gaze over Kurt fiercely. He looked okay, and the knot of tension at the base of Logan’s neck dissipated as he drank in the sight of his friend, confused but uninjured. Currently, Kurt was staring as Kitty bent over and rifled through the fridge without opening the door.

“Jackpot!” She grinned as she straightened, her head reappearing. A moment later, she pulled her hands out, clutching a box and waving it with a dramatic flourish. “Pizza!” she proclaimed gleefully. “Midnight snack of champions. Someone must’ve had leftovers from the field trip, and anything not labelled’s fair game.” She set it on the counter and flipped the top open. “Pepperoni and mushrooms and—eew!—black olives. You like olives?”

She looked over her shoulder at Kurt. Taken aback, he shrugged. Kitty turned back to the pizza, picked off a few olives, and held them out to him. “Here. Try these.” He stared dubiously at the small black circles in her hand, then delicately plucked them up and popped them into his mouth. “Well?” she prompted after a moment. “You like ’em?” He smiled a little. She sighed audibly as she turned back to the box. “No accounting for taste. No problem, you can have mine. You want one piece or two?”

“I…” Kurt fidgeted and cleared his throat. “I am not hungry,” he finished timidly.

“You,” Kitty told him sternly, “are way too skinny.” She nodded at his thin frame. He was dressed for bed in drawstring pants and an oversized T-shirt that hung on him loosely, clearly showing his too-prominent collarbone. “You need to eat,” she continued. “Tell you what: I’ll make you a couple pieces. You just try a few bites, and if you don’t want the rest that’s okay, but you have to try it.” She finished transferring the olives, put four slices on paper towels, and stuck them in the microwave. “Deal?”

You tell ’im, girl. The teen immediately rose in Logan’s estimation. Whatever her problem with Kurt had been that afternoon, she appeared to have overcome it. She still seemed a little spooked, and she chattered nonstop, but at least she was making an effort. And anyone that gets him to eat more wins points in my book. He ignored the little voice that whispered jealously that that was Logan’s job.

Whether or not Kurt had actually agreed to her deal appeared immaterial. She stopped the microwave one second before it went off, pulled the pieces out carefully through the door, plopped them down on the table, and gestured for him to sit opposite her.

Kurt sat and eyed the pizza, then gingerly reached out and poked it. “Is it safe?”

“Huh?” She looked up at his quiet question, cheese stringing from her mouth. She swallowed. “What do you mean?”

Kurt shifted sheepishly. “After…” He gestured vaguely. “After what you did. Like with the wall.”

She giggled. “You mean phasing it? That’s what we call it,” she explained. “See, I don’t really go intangible. I just kind of temporarily rearrange the spin of the electrons to neutralize the repulsive force….” She trailed off. “Sorry.” She grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, of course the food is safe. You already ate the olives, remember? No excuses now; just take a bite.”

Kurt slowly picked up a slice, fingers flinching slightly at the heat, and took a tiny bite. He fumbled a bit with the stringy mozzarella, then chewed with a growing look of surprise.

Kitty grinned at him. “Good?”

Kurt nodded vigorously. “It is much better than what I remember.” He examined the pizza as if dissecting it.

Kitty sobered looking at him. “Hey, Kurt?” He looked at her. She bit her lip, blushed, and looked down, picking at her food. “I’m really sorry about this afternoon. About staring, I mean. The professor told us a little bit about you, afterwards. About what you went through. It must’ve been really awful.” She shrugged. “I’m really sorry if I kind of brought it back for you, you know? But I’d really like to be your friend, if you’ll forgive me. Okay?”

She looked back up at him at last. Kurt met her eyes for a long moment, then nodded slowly. “That you apologize to me….” He shook his head, a wistful smile on his face.

Kitty quirked the corner of her lips in a tiny smile. “I guess not a lot of folks did that, huh?” Kurt shook his head again. Kitty’s grin widened. “Well, if you ever want an apology, just come to me. I apologize great.” Kurt smiled back at her. “Now eat your pizza.”

They both settled in to eat. Kitty wolfed hers down, while Kurt ate slowly, savoring every bite. Consequently, she had finished both her pieces before he’d done away with one. She shook her head at him. “I hate to rush you, but you probably should hurry a little, before we get caught.”

She didn’t sound too worried, but Kurt swallowed, stricken, and stopped eating. “We are not supposed to be here? If they catch us, what will happen?”

Kitty shrugged. “Depends who it is.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “Mr Summers, he’d make us go to bed now, and assign some stupid essay about the value of sleep to a proper education or something. Doctor Grey, she’d send us to bed, but no essay. ’Roro, she’d let us finish the pizza first, but probably give a lecture to go with it. The professor,” she grinned again, “he’d give the lecture first, then he’d help us eat the pizza. And Sean sleeps out in the guardhouse and Hank’s asleep in his lab as usual, so they wouldn’t come up here.”

She finished her litany and finally noticed Kurt’s panicked expression. “Hey, it’s okay!” She hurried to soothe him. “It’s just curfew. They won’t do anything really bad—they’re all really nice here! Actually,” she shrugged, “You’re probably okay anyway, since you’re not taking classes. It’s just me that’s supposed to be asleep right now.”

Kurt still looked doubtful, and Logan itched to rush in there and…

And what? Punch that little girl in the face? Snatch him outta there and frighten ’em both even more? And how’re you gonna explain spying on them, anyway? Scowling, he stayed where he was.

Timidly, Kitty stood and inched her way around the table. She pulled out the chair next to Kurt and sat down. “I guess where you were, it was pretty bad, huh?” She spoke haltingly, and carefully didn’t look at him.

“I had it pretty easy mostly, until my powers kicked in. I mean, I’ve always kind of been a geek, you know? Too smart for my own good sometimes. But that’s normal, I guess, and I had other geeks for friends, anyway. And my mom was pretty cool.” She hesitated. “I can’t imagine not having anyone, ever. I think you’re really brave and amazing for managing so long.

“But you’re not alone anymore,” she told him firmly, curling a hand hesitantly around one long blue finger where it lay on the table. “We said we were friends, remember? And I know Mr Logan’s your friend. And all the folks here only want to help you. And they’ll never, ever hurt you on purpose, okay?” She looked up at him, earnest and wide-eyed as only a kid could manage.

He still seemed a little dubious, but nodded. She smiled at him again. “Okay, so who cares if I get an essay? You eat your pizza before it gets cold, and I’ll get the ice cream!”

With a glint in her eye, she dove through the table and stuck her head into the freezer. She was back out in a second, brandishing a small white box with “Kitty Pryde – Hank’s class” written in huge block letters over a bright orange biohazard sticker. She grinned. “Jubes’ll eat almost anything chocolate; gotta keep her out of it somehow.”

She opened a drawer and grabbed a couple of spoons, then rested her hands on the box and leant her chin on her hands. “No dessert until you finish dinner, though,” she told him mock-sternly. “Eat up.”

Kurt obediently finished off his first piece and started in on the second, a little faster than before. Kitty looked pensive for a moment, searching for something to say to fill the not-quite-uncomfortable silence.

“Hey,” she realized, “you still need someone to help you out with the Danger Room, right?” Kurt nodded, his mouth full. “I have a couple tests tomorrow, but I can help you out after that, if you want. Or I could help you get to know Doug, if you’d rather. He might really be better,” she conceded reluctantly, “since he could speak German.”

Kurt swallowed and cocked his head at her. “You speak German.”

Kitty giggled. “Yeah, a very little bit. But Doug’s fluent in it. Doug’s fluent in everything; his power’s languages.”

Kurt looked worried. “I know you already. Unless you do not want—”

“Stop that right now.” She scowled at him even as she squeezed his hand reassuringly. “I’m trying to give you a choice, not get rid of you. I’m being helpful. That’s what friends do, right?” She sighed. “I guess it’s a big change to get used to, huh?”

Kurt gave her a tiny smile and nodded. She smiled back and watched as he finished the last few bites of pizza. As he finished chewing, she handed him a spoon. He took it but frowned at the box.

“Will it not be melted?”

“Nope!” She flipped the lid open, and steam billowed out. “I plan for everything. Just in case the labels don’t work on their own.” She scooted the box toward him and waved the steam away. He looked in and drew back, grimacing. Kitty laughed. “Don’t worry. Just some dry ice and a bunch of colloidal…um…frozen goo, mostly. Keeps the ice cream cold and keeps everyone out.”

She tilted the box and shook it, then reached in and pulled out a pint-sized purple tub, brushing stuff off the top. She pried the lid off and set the tub down between them. “Ben and Jerry’s—food of the gods.” She dug her spoon in and savored the chocolate-colored treat, a blissful look on her face. “Mmm.”

After a moment, Kurt stretched out his own spoon and tried a bit as Kitty watched him expectantly. He smiled his enjoyment and licked at it slowly.

Ears pricking at a noise behind him, Logan spun, then relaxed as sight and scent confirmed it was Jean. She looked surprised to see him, but nodded as he held one finger to his lips. She crossed the dark room silently and knelt behind him to see what was going on.

Jean watched for a moment, then laughed low in her throat, heating Logan’s spine. “Maybe I’ll let Miss Pryde get away with it this time, then. Kurt seems to have made a friend.”

Logan glanced at the two in the kitchen once again, then turned to face Jean. “Don’t think he had much of an option. She kinda steamrollered him with niceness.”

Jean smiled, either not knowing or not caring what it did to Logan’s libido. “Kitty’s good at that. She’s a really bright and friendly girl. One of our success stories.” She watched the pair over Logan’s shoulder for a moment. “When her mother brought her to us, she was so withdrawn she hadn’t spoken in weeks.”

Logan arched an eyebrow in disbelief and crooked a thumb over his shoulder. “Her?”

Jean grimaced. “Her powers manifested fairly young. She managed to keep it a secret from everyone at first. Like many of the children here, I think she hoped if she ignored it, it would just go away. But it didn’t, of course.”

She sighed. “Then, when she was thirteen, there was an ‘incident’ at her school. Kitty phased to save herself from serious harm, and the students involved told everyone about it. They got off with a slap on the wrist for their ‘practical joke’,” her voice showed her disgust, “and the whispers and jokes and violence just escalated.

“Then it went beyond the school. Any of her friends who didn’t desert her couldn’t get past the media circus camped out on her front lawn. Her parents are divorced—her father gave up all custodial rights and petitioned the courts to waive child support. Her mother tried her best, but simply didn’t know what to do with a mutant daughter. I think she was very relieved to receive our offer. She writes regularly now, but Kitty stays here for the holidays.”

Logan glanced at the girl now talking animatedly as Kurt listened and ate her ice cream. “She puts a good face on it.”

“What choice does she have?” Jean’s voice was resigned. “What choice do any of us have?”

Logan scrutinized her face, belatedly becoming aware of the shadows under her eyes, the deepened stress lines at her temples and mouth. “Trouble?”

She shook her head. “Just the usual. Only more so. Fighting for our future as a species isn’t easy work. But again, what choice do we have?” She smiled wryly.

“Doesn’t mean it has to be you doing it,” he told her firmly. Or me, he added to himself. “You need to give yourself a break.”

Jean shook her head decisively. “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Her gaze turned steely. “I disagree with Magneto in almost every respect, but he’s right about one thing—we can’t sit idly by and wait for a new holocaust. Anything I can do to help our cause along, I have to do.”

Logan frowned. “Subtle, Jeannie. Real subtle.” Hadn’t thought you the guilt-trip type.

She sighed, irritated. “That wasn’t a hint, Logan. I won’t deny, it’d help if you stayed, but one X-Man more won’t make or break us. We need to change the world; that means a lot of long, hard work, whether there are three of us, or four, or ten. And I know it’s not for everyone. Just don’t try to tell me I need to slow down.”

She squeezed his hand and smiled. “I take breaks when I can. And I do appreciate your concern, Logan. But right now’s not one of our more restful times.”

He stared at her, thinking of what she’d said and had carefully not said. That’s why it’d never work out between us, isn’t it? You and Summers both, you take the world on your shoulders. Maybe between the two of you, you manage it. But me, I need more balance.

Though he thought he could predict her answer, he asked anyway. “If you give up your life to save everyone else, what good does that do?”

She shook her head again, beautiful red catching highlights from the kitchen and moonlight, and she answered as he anticipated the words in his own mind: “This is my life, Logan.”

He nodded. And if we win tomorrow, you’ve already lost. I could love you, Jeannie, but I need more than that. I need a soul of my own, and if I’m gonna end up with anyone, they’ve got to have one of theirs to share, too. And yours is already taken. Reluctantly, he packed up his nascent love for her and consigned it to his memories. “We could’ve been good together, you know.” It took him a second to realize he had spoken out loud.

Jean seemed to realize what he meant, though, and leaned forward to kiss him gently on the cheek. “Probably. But right now, Scott’s waiting for me in our room, and I’ve already spent longer down here than I meant to.”

She nodded at Kitty and Kurt, their conversation now a whispered buzz behind Logan. “Make sure those two get to sleep sometime soon, okay? And keep an eye on Kurt. I know he needs to put on weight, but I don’t recall putting ‘Phish Food’ on his diet.”

She smiled at him one last time, then, with a swish of her robe, was gone.

Logan turned once more to his vigil. Kitty seemed to have completely forgotten her unease around Kurt, and he was returning her bubbly friendliness with his own shy variety. Whatever Logan’d missed talking with Jean, Kitty seemed to have discovered Kurt’s taste in entertainment and was busy filling him in on some pirate story, with accompanying dramatic gestures.

As the tale swept into the climactic battle, she batted at Kurt’s spoon with her own, and after his initial startled pause, an energetic spoon fight ensued.

Logan watched, an odd mix of emotions twisting through him. He’d seen Kurt happy, even laughing or making an occasional small joke, but this playfulness was new. It was wonderful to see; almost miraculous, all things considered. But it should be me in there.

The jealousy took him by surprise, and he berated himself. What, just because you rescued him, you think he’s gotta come to you for everything, not have any other friends?

Of course not, another corner of him answered. I just want— and stopped there. What did he want? Kurt for a friend, yes, but that wasn’t precisely it, either. And whatever it was, he couldn’t quite seem to pin it down. He sighed. Whatever. He pushed it aside for later.

Logan stood and lounged against the doorframe, waiting for the two in the kitchen to notice him. Kurt spun around in defense almost immediately, his look of fright turning to a joyous smile when he noticed who it was. Logan found himself answering with a smile of his own, proud despite himself at the intensity of his welcome. Kitty was a bit more wary of him, but nodded hello.

“You two having fun?” he asked deadpan as he wandered over to them.

Kurt nodded. Kitty just eyed him. “Um…is that a trick question?”

“Relax, kid,” he drawled. “I’m not gonna get you in trouble.” He spun a chair around and straddled it. “Bit late for sword fights in the kitchen, though, ain’t it?” He gestured at their spoons.

Kitty blushed; Kurt grinned and leaned toward him conspiratorially. “The forces of evil never sleep, my friend. We must be prepared at all hours to fight them!”

Logan snorted, eyeing Kitty dubiously. “I dunno, elf, she don’t look all that evil to me.”

“Elf?” Kitty looked back at him strangely. “You call him ‘elf’?”

Logan shifted in his chair. “What’s wrong with ‘elf’? You got a problem with it, buddy?” He reached out and tweaked one pointed ear affectionately. Kurt shook his head, bemused. “There ya go.”

“I guess,” Kitty admitted. “I just never thought of elves being so…blue. Or, well…fuzzy.”

“Ever meet any?” Logan asked her logically. “I bet he looks just like every other blue, fuzzy elf.” He quirked an eyebrow at the girl, who laughed at him. “You gonna prove me wrong?”

Kitty rolled her eyes at him. Logan smirked.

“I should probably get to bed anyway,” Kitty announced. She packed up the rest of the ice cream and pushed it back into the freezer. Standing, she saluted Kurt solemnly with her spoon. “You are truly a worthy adversary, sir. I look forward to crossing spoons with you in the future.”

Kurt stood and executed a deep bow over her hand, flourishing his tail. “It has indeed been an honor, my lady. I thank you for sharing your table with me.” He kissed her hand fleetingly and let it go.

Kitty blushed furiously, grinning in embarrassment and delight. “Oh, jeez, Rogue was right!” She dove forward and kissed Kurt on the cheek, then ran for the far wall. “See you later, fuzzy elf!”

Logan watched her go, then looked his friend up and down. Kurt cocked his head questioningly, and Logan threw up his hands. “What is it with you and the girls? Never mind; I probably don’t want to know.” He scrutinized Kurt more seriously. “You doing okay?”

Kurt nodded and sat back down next to him. “She was very pleasant. She gave me food and told me stories. The ice cream was delicious. She said we are friends.”

He pulled his feet up onto the chair and wrapped his arms around his knees. “These people, they do not hate me because I am different. Kitty, she is different, too. And the other, Rogue.” He fell silent, then frowned up at Logan. “Do they like me only because I am different? I have seen those before, as well—they think it is ‘cool’ to be friends with the freak.” He drooped a little, his voice growing sad. “That is almost as bad as the other.”

Huh. Logan eyed him with increased respect. Pretty astute. That experience or philosophy talkin’? And either way, where’d you have a chance to get it?

Kurt needed reassurance now, though, not questions. Logan made a disgusted noise. “Not likely, buddy. These girls definitely like you, mister charming. Didn’t see her kissing my cheek, ‘fuzzy elf’.” Kurt smiled a little. “I’m different, too, you know. I showed up, they helped me out then got me teaching classes. No kisses, no storytelling, and no ice cream. Hell, I can’t even get a beer,” he groused.

Kurt smiled, reassured by his litany, then looked at him, studying. Logan waited for him to speak, but he said nothing. “What?” Logan finally asked him. “I got food in my teeth or something?” Kurt looked down at his hands and fidgeted. “Kurt?” Logan asked more gently.

Kurt glanced up at him, then back down at his hands, pulling them into his lap and twisting them around each other. His tail twitched a few times, then wrapped around a chair leg. “Bitte…please, may I ask you a question?”

“Shoot.” Kurt glanced up, then down again. Logan reached out and threaded the fingers of one hand in between Kurt’s, holding them in reassurance. “Go on, ask. Whatever you want.”

Kurt held onto his hand for courage and looked him in the face earnestly. “You have said that you are different, too, stimmt’s?” Logan nodded. “I have seen— the others who are different, they can do things as well, but I do not know—what do you do?”

“That all?” Logan asked. Kurt nodded, and Logan shook his head. “I thought it was somethin’ real personal. Hell, you’ve already seen some of it, but you might not remember.”

He tapped his nose. “I’ve got really good senses. Smell, hearing, sight, you know. And I heal real fast, almost anything. Far as being different like you, bein’ a mutant, that’s it.” He shrugged uneasily. “The rest of it, that’s something else.”

He made a fist between them with his free hand and unsheathed his claws. Kurt jumped a little and stared at them, wide-eyed. Logan waited, very still, as he accustomed himself to the sight.

One hand disengaged from the tangle in Kurt’s lap and reached out tentatively. “Careful,” Logan warned him. One blue finger traced lightly down the flat of a claw, and Logan shivered at the faint vibrations transmitted through the tendons of his hand. Kurt’s fingers settled around his wrist, turning it slightly to examine the glinting metal.

“I remember, I think,” Kurt said slowly, a far-away look on his face. “This is how you freed me. You cut the lock upon the door, and then you pulled it open, and then I could leave.” The look of gratitude he turned on Logan came close to embarrassing.

“Yeah,” Logan confirmed the memory. He hesitated. No time like the present. “Can I ask you something?” Kurt waited expectantly. “Why didn’t you just teleport out of there? Just,” he waved his hand, “disappear when they weren’t looking?”

Kurt shrugged unhappily. “I could not. I do not know why. I tried at first, but I could not go past the bars, and it hurt.” He shivered. “Sometimes, I would try until I could not move. When I was sick, they gave me more water and better food.” He closed his eyes, shuddering at the memory of pain.

Logan restrained his killing urge and drew Kurt close. “It’s okay. You’re safe now, and you’re never going back there again, I promise.” He stroked Kurt’s neck and back soothingly. That’s one question answered, I guess. As much as it will be unless we find those bastards and pull them limb from limb. Which is starting to look better all the time.

“Come on.” Logan clapped Kurt on the back, and he looked up from the comfortable droop he’d fallen into on Logan’s chest. “What do you say we take this back to bed, okay?”

Kurt nodded and stretched. Logan stood and pulled him up, nudging them towards the door. After a few steps, though, Kurt stood rooted, a thoughtful look on his face. Logan looked back at him. “What?”

Kurt smiled at him. “Come with me?”

Logan stopped. “I thought I was.”

Kurt shook his head, still smiling, and held out both hands. “I will get us there more quickly.”

Logan raised an eyebrow skeptically. “You got something against walking?”

Kurt’s smile faded momentarily, then it was back, looking more pasted-on than felt. “Nein. Walking is good exercise, yes?” he asked brightly. “We will walk.”

Did I miss something? Logan wondered. Kurt’s reaction, so far from any other he’d shown, took him aback, and he reviewed the conversation. He cursed when it clicked into place. He offered to help; now he thinks you don’t trust him. The truth was, the thought of disappearing from the face of the earth, however briefly, made him more than a little uneasy. Well, do you trust him, or don’t you?

Logan growled and wrapped his hands around Kurt’s. “Just get us there in one piece, okay, buddy?”

Kurt’s smile turned genuine once again, and he nodded.

The next second, they were back in their room. Kurt turned on the light as Logan split the first minute between madly breathing in fresh air to replace the sulphur in his lungs, and trying just as hard not to puke up his churning guts. He collapsed on the edge of the bed.

He wanted to yell at Kurt, but he looked too worried to get mad at, so Logan settled for a glare. “Some ride there, pal.” He waved off Kurt’s effusive apology. “You ever taken anyone along before?”

Kurt shook his head sheepishly. “I had not thought to, before.”

Logan took one last deep breath, calming his reactions at last. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t recommend it in future, except as a last resort. Or if you need to induce vomiting.”

Kurt nodded. “You are not angry?”

Logan shook his head. “Nah. Not if you didn’t know.” He lay back and dug his legs under the blankets. “Quit looking so worried. I’m fine, you’re fine, and we learned something new. Turn that light off and get in bed.”

Kurt obeyed, crawling in behind him and curling up against his back. Logan settled himself for sleep and was drifting on the edge when Kurt spoke quietly. “Logan?”

“Mm?”

“Thank you.”

It could’ve meant any number of things: thank you for trusting me, for getting me out of there, for not being mad. At the moment, Logan didn’t want to try puzzling it out. And there was only one answer to all of those, anyway.

“You’re welcome.”

Chapter Text

The next day went much as the first had; after the breakthroughs of the previous one, it was almost anticlimactic. In the morning, Logan taught class; in the afternoon, he and Kurt walked through the woods before dinner. Aside from that, Kurt stayed in their room for the most part; the only sign he might be ready for anything more was an increased restlessness.

The second day after his night-time excursion, Kitty and Rogue poked their heads into their library mealtime and asked to join them, and Kurt agreed with barely a hint of nervousness.

Rogue sat next to Logan and split her interest between the two men, but Kitty seemed to have eyes only for Kurt. The two of them teased and played with each other in a way that woke Logan’s protective instincts. If she got a crush on him and did something stupid…. He didn’t have the heart to stop their horseplay, but resolved to speak with Kurt just as soon as he could.

They finished eating, and Rogue reluctantly headed off to do homework, after throwing herself into Logan’s arms and carefully hugging Kurt’s waist. He flinched but allowed it, earning a brilliant smile as the girl waved her good-byes. At Kitty’s suggestion, the rest of them trooped down to the Danger Room, where she took them through some of the basic controls.

Despite the unsurprising confession he’d never used a computer before, Kurt caught on fairly quickly. A bit better than Logan, in fact, who if he were honest, would have had to admit to a certain resistance to technology. When it didn’t do what he wanted, he had a tendency to kick it. Is any workout worth this trouble? he grumbled to himself after about the tenth time.

Leaning back in his chair, he gave in as gracefully as possible in favor of watching Kurt. His long blue fingers stretched nimbly over the keys to make up for their lack of numbers, and the scrunched-up look of concentration on his face was nothing short of adorable.

The best, though, was when he smiled. As it had from the first time, it lit up his face, erasing the worry lines and solemnity to let a truly beautiful man shine through. That’s the real him, Logan was convinced. What he could’ve been like without all the shit he’s gone through. Friendly, good; I bet he’s great with animals and kids.

Logan watched as Kitty led him through another bank of buttons, following Kurt’s careful, precise movements. Gentle, too. And some assholes decided that none of that mattered more than the color of his skin and the shape of his body.

He realized his fingers were digging into the armrests of his chair and stopped before he left holes in the plastic. He recalled his speech to Kurt and Xavier a few days earlier. No-one deserves to have that happen to them. He watched Kitty point something out on a huge screen. Not him, not her. If saving people like them is what this place is about, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad to help out, sometimes.

He sighed and leaned forward between the other two. “All right, all right. What did that last thing do again?”

 

They were there almost two hours learning “just the basics”. At the end of it, Logan sat back with a distinct feeling of non-accomplishment and eyed the end result. “Great. Now we can give someone the bird.” He stared nonplussed at the pigeon on the viewscreen, which seemed to stare back in equal disdain.

Kitty snickered. “Hey, don’t let that cute little face fool you. Pete here is harder than he looks. Flying things are a problem for the projectors, and all his behavioral algorithms are pretty complex, even just putting them together. You guys are doing great.” She beamed at them both, with a definite bias toward Kurt.

Logan gestured at the animal in question. “If it takes this long just to put it all together for one bird, how long’s it gonna take to do anything useful?”

“Oh, don’t worry!” Kitty assured him. “Most of the stuff you want is probably already programmed. All you have to do is put it together the right way. Like attaching Pete’s wings to his shoulders instead of his tail,” she teased Kurt with his one major setback. “You start with an existing setup and work from there.”

“Hm,” Logan grunted, not quite willing to concede that this was time well-spent. He opened his mouth to expound further, but the door opening cut him off. Kurt slid closer to him, wary. Not panicked, though. He put one hand on his friend’s back and smiled. Getting better all the time, elf.

Two boys about Kitty’s age wrestled themselves through the door. That’s the one Rogue likes, Logan realized. Bobby. He narrowed his gaze appraisingly. Following close behind him was John.

“Hey, Pryde, it’s our time now,” Bobby declared, elbowing the other boy behind him. “Oh!” He cleared his throat and straightened up. “Hi, Mister Logan. And, um…”

“Kurt,” John stage-whispered, feinting and dodging past his friend to hide behind Kitty, blocking the console. “Hullo!” He grinned in their direction. “It’s mine, duck-boy!” he crowed at Bobby.

“In your dreams, allergy!” Bobby pounced on him, and they tussled for control.

Kitty yelped and jumped out of the way. “Hey, guys!” she protested, but was ignored. She snorted in disgust. “Come on,” she waved at Kurt and Logan. “Let’s get out of here before the hot-and-cold twins trash the place.”

They followed, Kurt keeping a slightly nervous eye on the boys until the door closed behind them.

“What if they wreck the controls?” Logan asked dryly.

“They won’t really,” Kitty assured him. “The console’s pretty sturdy, and they do know better. They’re just always like that. The professor says it’s a good idea for them to work out together, since their powers are complementary. Personally, I think he just doesn’t want to inflict them on anyone else.”

 

The three of them parted ways on the main floor, Kitty waving to them as she phased through the wall. Kurt and Logan continued on to their room.

Logan glanced at the clock on the night-stand as he grabbed his book. Too early to turn in yet, but—he sighed and dropped the paperback on the table again—he wasn’t really in the mood to stay cooped up in the room. I want a beer and a game on the tube, he scowled.

He glanced over at Kurt, who was fiddling with the pens and pencils on the desk, tail twitching and legs kicking the chair, ignoring the book that sat by his hand.

That’s it. “Come on.” Logan grabbed his jacket and headed back out the door. Kurt looked startled, then jumped up to follow him.

“Where do we go?”

“Out,” Logan answered. “I’m tired of hanging around, and I need a drink. A bit of a drive’ll do us both good.” He headed for the garage, finding the keys to the bike on the pegboard by the door where he’d left them. He cranked the chrome monster to life as Kurt climbed on behind him, and they roared out into the night. He gunned the engine and sped down the drive and through the opening gates as soon as the gap was large enough.

This far from the city, there were no street lights, the pale moon filtered through the canopy the only illumination. The early spring air was warmer than it had been when they arrived, but still crisp as it whipped past, streaming their hair out behind them.

They leaned through a turn and hit the straightaway to Salem Center, and Logan turned back to yell over his shoulder. “You okay back there?” In the almost-invisible darkness of his fur, Kurt’s smile gleamed back at him.

Satisfied, Logan turned his attention back to the road. Kurt hugged him from behind, and they continued on their way.

Logan had no idea where the local liquor store was, but he counted on instinct to bring him to one, and it didn’t lead him astray. He circled, not slowing until he found a dark corner to park in. “You up to joining me, pal, or you want to stay here and watch the bike?”

Kurt hesitated, then took an uncertain step forward. At the opposite end of the lot, a car full of boisterous youngsters pulled up, and they piled out, laughing as they went into the shop.

Damn it, Logan cursed them as Kurt stepped back again. He sighed, and Kurt hung his head, forlorn and nervous. “Hey,” Logan patted his shoulder. “No problem. Probably shouldn’t leave this thing unguarded anyway. I’ll be right back, okay?”

Kurt grasped his hand in thanks and smiled wanly. Logan clapped him on the shoulder and strode quickly into the store.

The place had a good-sized selection, but at the moment, Logan didn’t really care. He threaded his way around the other customers, grabbed a box of some domestic pale, and headed for the register. Halfway there, he doubled back to grab a six-pack of a German stout. And, wonder of wonders, they even had some halfway-decent stogies behind the counter.

Two minutes later, he was back outside, stash in hand. He started for the bike and paused—Kurt was nowhere in sight.

Fuck! He ran for the bike, tension knotting his gut. “Kurt?!”

A puff of sulphur-scented smoke interrupted him. “Whoa!” He blinked at the man who’d appeared right in front of him. “What the hell happened? Where were you?”

Kurt flinched from his anger and pointed at the top of the building the bike was parked next to. “Es war—I see—keine Menschenich bin—” the words tumbled over themselves in his hurry to get them out.

Logan cursed again and forcibly calmed himself. “Okay, all right.” He put down the beer and drew Kurt’s head down to his shoulder, stroking the long hair “It’s okay. I’m not angry. Sorry I yelled. I was worried. It’s okay.” He murmured platitudes until Kurt hugged him in return, his shaking stilled. Logan stepped back and combed the hair out of Kurt’s face. “You okay?”

Kurt searched his face before nodding. “You are not angry? Echt nicht?

“Whatever that means. No, I’m not angry. I was worried about you. Let’s try this again, okay? Where’d you go?” he prompted.

Kurt pointed back at the building again. “Up there, where I am not seen. People come, so I must hide. I see when you come back, and they do not see me.”

Logan nodded. You need to face folks sometime, buddy; you can’t hide forever. Now wasn’t the time to go into that, though. “Good thinking. Come on, let’s head home.” He grabbed the bag he’d dropped and shoved it into Kurt’s arms. “You got the smokes and booze. Be careful with that, okay?” Kurt nodded solemnly and settled it as preciously as treasure between them on the bike.

Logan took a more circuitous route back, enjoying the freedom of the road as it relaxed them both. By the time they turned onto Greymalkin lane, Kurt was back to his usual boneless slump along Logan’s spine, and Logan’s muscles had finished untangling themselves.

He slowed as they pulled up to the gate, only then realizing he had no idea how to get back in The last time he’d taken the bike out, he’d driven back with the professor. He tried sliding the gates open, but they wouldn’t budge. He looked around for a button or intercom, and finally spotted one on the stone support. Impatient, he pushed it, waiting scant seconds before pushing it three times more.

“I’m coming, I’m coming! Hold yer horses already!” Sean’s voice called out of the speaker. A few seconds later, the man himself appeared out of the darkness, eyeing him balefully. He snorted when he saw who it was. “You hare out of here so fast, y’ forgot your remote?”

Logan scowled back at him. “Didn’t know I needed one. You gonna let us in, or not?”

Sean’s lips thinned even as he headed for the gate controls, glaring at Logan and Kurt impartially. “I’m letting, I’m letting. Get that great beast on in here so’s I can get back to the game.”

Logan turned to the bike just in time to catch the fading whiff of sulphur as Kurt disappeared. “What the—”

A cry from behind made him whirl. Just inside the slowly-opening gate, Sean struggled with a fierce shadow. Logan stared in amazement as he waited for the gates to open. Sean’s defense showed a good knowledge of hand-to-hand combat, but Kurt was fast. He attacked with the ferocity of madness, landing several blows before Sean could pin him, then teleported free behind him to start over again.

Logan launched himself into the fray as soon as he could, hauling Kurt out by his tail and getting an elbow in the gut and a nose full of foul-smelling smoke for his trouble.

It wasn’t long, though, before Kurt began to tire visibly. Sean waved Logan off and concentrated on defending himself from his weakening foe until Kurt slowed enough to grab. With a wince, Sean shoved him over to Logan, who held him, wriggling and cursing, still glaring at Sean.

Sean glared back, wiping a bloody nose on the back of his hand. “What the bloody hell d’you want to go and do that for, ye fuckin’ git?”

Kurt bared his teeth and tensed to spring, and Logan spun to put himself between the two of them. “Whoa, whoa!” He clutched Kurt tight. “Take it easy, buddy. And you,” he yelled over at Sean, “back off!”

“Me?” Sean asked incredulously. “Was it me jumped on me out of the blue?”

Logan ignored him in favor of trying to calm the lithe indigo bundle of rage in his arms. “Kurt!” His eyes were still fixed on Sean, and he seemed oblivious to anything but whatever had set him off. Logan winced in empathy. “Calm down!”

He lowered his voice, speaking into Kurt’s ear in as soothing a tone as he could manage. “It’s okay, Kurt. Snap out of it.” He shifted his grip so he could face his friend, blocking his view of Sean.

Kurt snarled, bending almost double in an effort to free himself and keep his foe in view. Logan clamped down on his arms, hating the bruises he knew he’d be leaving, and held him steady, continuing his steady litany of reassurance.

After a while, sense blinked back into Kurt’s eyes, and his knees buckled as he went limp. Logan lowered him carefully to the grass, following him down and rubbing gently at the arms he’d grabbed so tightly. “Kurt?”

Kurt turned his head slowly to look at him. “Logan?” He looked faintly bewildered.

Not all there yet? Logan smiled affectionately at the sleepy gaze. “You okay now?”

Kurt frowned in puzzlement, then raised one hand to his chest, grimacing.

Logan chuckled. “Sore?”

Kurt nodded. “Ja. Was ist…” He shook himself. “What has happened?”

“How much do you remember?” Logan countered.

Kurt looked around, taking in their surroundings. “This place I remember. We were to return to the house, yes?” He faltered. “I had the beer…”

Logan laughed. “Well, at least you remember the important stuff! We’ll probably need it, too.” He patted Kurt’s knee and rose to his haunches, holding his hands out to help Kurt up. “What do you say we start in on it?”

Kurt stared at him. “Why do I not remember? What has happened?”

Logan shook his head, finding himself curiously reluctant to discuss the incident. “It’ll keep till morning. Don’t worry about it.” He stood.

A long-fingered hand clutched his with a hint of the strength he’d shown only minutes ago. “Logan, bitte!”

He looked down reluctantly into those golden eyes, rounded in fear and reflecting back the light from the gate in a near-magical glow. Aw, crap. He growled as he felt himself melting. He glanced over at Sean, who watched them warily but seemed content to let Logan handle it himself. Logan sighed and quirked a thumb at him. “You remember Sean?”

Kurt’s brow wrinkled as he stared at the man in question. “He…nein. He is familiar, I think.” he conceded eventually.

Sean snorted and walked over to them. “I should bloody well hope so.” He squatted down in front of Kurt. “Would it help if I point out these bruises on my neck have three fingers each?”

Kurt stared at him, then turned to Logan, who nodded in confirmation. “He was letting us in, and you went for him. You know why?”

Kurt shook his head violently. “Nein! Ich weiß nicht, warum ich das getan habe! I do not even remember doing this!” He grew more agitated, and Logan reached out to hug him close.

Sean stretched out a hand towards him; Kurt eyed him with trepidation, but he merely patted one thin shoulder awkwardly. “Not to worry, a stór; we’ll soon have it sorted out. Come along, then, the both of you. Somebody mentioned beer?”

Chapter Text

They walked the bike down a short side-path to the guardhouse, a small stone building just inside the wall. Inside, most of the space was taken up in one room. A doorway led to a small bathroom, leaving the rest of the space open. A couch delineated the living space, a table marked the kitchen, and a neatly made bed stood in the far corner.

Sean waved them to the couch on his way into the bathroom. “Make yerselves at home.” He came back out wiping his face and headed for the kitchen. Logan met him there and dumped the beer on the counter, luckily none the worse for Kurt’s having dropped it.

“Here.” Sean opened the fridge and handed him a can. “Bung yours onto the bottom shelf, let it get cold.”

“Thanks.” Logan handed him the warm beer and cracked open the can. Sean put the beer away, grabbed a towel, and opened the freezer. Logan waved a cigar at him. “You mind?”

Sean shook his head. “Haven’t got an ashtray—grab a saucer.” He nodded toward a cabinet as he filled the towel with ice and spun it closed. Saucer and cigar in one hand, beer in the other, Logan followed him to the couch.

Sean clicked the large-screen TV off, sat next to Kurt, and handed him the towel. “Here you are, lad. Get this on those ribs. You hurt anywhere else? More than just sore,” he clarified. Kurt shook his head as he accepted the ice pack. “Good. Your chest gives you much pain, you’ll have Jean check it out for you,” he ordered. “She’ll likely give me hell, but I’m not having you come to grief on account of me.” He scrutinized Kurt. “You remember yet what set you off?”

Kurt shook his head and looked pleadingly up at Logan, who sat down on his other side.

“We were heading in,” Logan prompted. “I got off to ring the bell, left you on the bike with the booze.”

Kurt nodded slowly. “Ja. I think I remember this. And,” He thought a moment longer. “There was a man; he came out—you,” he realized, turning to Sean. “Yes?” Sean nodded. Kurt’s gaze turned inward, searching for memory. He shook his head.

“Nothing else, huh?” Logan asked. Kurt shook his head again.

“I groused about comin’ to let you in,” Sean filled in. “Asked about yer remote.”

“Said I didn’t know I needed one,” Logan continued. Kurt listened to them, but there was no sign it rang any bells.

“I was opening the gates,” Sean took up the story again. “Told you to get the bike in so I could get back to the game. The gates had just started opening…”

“Die Gitterstäbe,” Kurt whispered, remembering. “There were bars.” He hugged himself.

Logan gently uncurled his arms and put the ice back on his ribs, folding Kurt’s hands over it. “You’ve seen those bars before, buddy. What was different this time?”

“Did I remind you of someone?” Sean asked. “The way I looked, the way I sounded?”

Kurt stared blankly back at him, but Logan hissed, startling both of them. “That’s it, gotta be.” They looked at him expectantly. He grimaced. “What you said, about the bike: ‘get that great beast in here.’ If—” Kurt tensed, and Logan held him down gently. “Whoa, buddy. That was it, wasn’t it?”

Kurt settled into the couch, the tension shifting from aggression to nervousness. He nodded. “I think…it is not clear. I do not know why I should…” he reached one hand out to Sean, not quite touching the bruises turning blue under his weathered skin.

“I do.” Sean drained his beer and crushed the can, staring at Kurt. “Flashback,” he informed them curtly, walking off to the kitchen. He tossed the can into a bin, opened another, and started in on it without closing the refrigerator door. They watched him, but he said nothing else, drinking in huge gulps.

“That’s it?” Logan asked.

The second can followed the first, then Sean grabbed a few more and returned. He tossed one to each of them and cracked his own. “Does there need to be more?” He faced Kurt. “Just for a moment, you were back there. None o’ this,” His gesture encompassed the mansion, “was real. You weren’t here, you were back in a cage,” Kurt flinched, but Sean continued, “people callin’ you names and whatnot. So you attacked.”

Kurt’s face was blank, but his eyes confirmed Sean’s assumption.

Logan broke the silence. “About time.” They both looked at him. “At least you were standing up for yourself,” he pointed out to Kurt. “Nice to see you defending yourself.” He lifted his beer to Kurt.

Sean snorted. “Not much of a defense, I’d call it. I take your point,” he waved off Logan’s objection, “but if you’re to be helping out in this place, or even just lookin’ out for yourself,” he informed Kurt, “you should learn to defend yourself proper. You don’t want to take class with the others, you come here to me. We’ll work on some moves. Flexible as you are, I’m thinking you’ll be a natural.”

Logan raised an eyebrow at Sean. “Thought you taught mechanics?”

Sean rolled his eyes. “I do. And martial arts, and combat tactics. And who d’you think keeps that bloody spy-plane in the air? I’ve got a full enough schedule here for three men.”

Logan narrowed his eyes at him. Everybody had their secrets, yeah, but if he were this open about them—“So if you’re military, why aren’t you out there with the X-Men? We could’ve used you against Magneto.”

Sean’s expression turned stony. “Ex-military. Ex-army, ex-Interpol. And no use against bloody Magneto or any other bloody threat.”

Logan eyed him skeptically. “So why’d they put you in the guardhouse?”

Sean barked in mirthless laughter. “All done with mirrors. Or in this case, computers. All I do is press the buttons. Only thing I guard here’s my own sanity. Livin’ in a building full of noisy children plays merry hell with my nerves.”

“Yeah? So what is it?” Logan snorted. “You don’t seem like the cowardly type.”

Sean bristled. “Courage has nothing to do with it, boyo! You show me a way back into action, I’ll take it. I’ve already seen more than most soldiers can dream of, an’ I never ran away once. And that,” he jabbed a finger at them emphatically, “is the problem.” There was silence while he chugged down more of his beer.

“Flashbacks,” Kurt guessed in a whisper.

Sean raised his beer in a toast. “Give the man a prize. PTSD the docs call it; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Fancy bloody name for shell-shock.” He sighed. “Got it bad after some nasty time under. Thought I could handle it, kept going strong.”

He stared sightlessly into his drink. “Got a good lad killed, my last mission out.” He shook himself back to the present, his face implacable as his gaze pinned them to the couch. “It won’t happen again. ’Less I get this beat, I’m staying right here.”

Logan nodded, satisfied. “What about the professor? Couldn’t he just get rid of it or something?”

Sean shook his head. “I know Charles means well, but would you want him ‘fixing’ your brain for you?”

The idea made Logan queasy, and it must’ve shown on his face; Sean chuckled. “Aye, neither did I.” He rubbed his neck in obvious embarrassment. “The once I did get desperate enough to give it a try, I hit the roof soon’s he got inside. Took Jean and Hank both to hold me down till they could sedate me. Gave the professor headaches for a week.”

“The professor, he was in my mind,” Kurt pointed out. “He gave me English, and it did not bother me.”

Sean shrugged. “It’s different for everyone. Besides,” he tapped his temple with one finger, “not all the memories and damage are physical. You think they use a mutant for standard ops?”

He slapped his thighs as he stood. “And that’s enough of that talk. You come by,” he told Kurt, “I’ll teach you what you need to know. And if you think you’re up to it, we’ll find out just what sets you off. It’s hard on you, no lies, but it’s worth it to know yourself.” He headed back for more beer and brought another for Logan; Kurt hadn’t finished his first yet.

He picked up the TV remote on his way back. “Game’ll be over by now, but the west-coast feed should just be starting. You boys go for hockey? First of the play-offs,” he cajoled.

Logan was eager to take him up on it; Kurt shrugged and nodded. After some time searching, Sean crowed in triumph, and they sat back to watch the game.

 

Both the teams were American, and Logan amused himself pointing out their deficiencies, jeering at the fact half of the players were Canadian anyway, and pointing out how much better the Canadian-league teams were, naturally. Sean, in turn, argued amiably, hooted at the Canadian players’ errors, and cheered on the Americans. Between them, Kurt sat, worried, then amused, then snickering at their byplay.

By the third period, they’d finished off both Sean’s beer and Logan’s new-bought case. He snarled and defended the six-pack he’d bought for Kurt, more than repaid by the brilliant smile and warm glow it garnered him. Sean shrugged and brought out a bottle of Irish whisky and, after taunting Logan briefly, two glasses.

By the time the game was over and they were arguing with the post-game wrap-up, the whisky and Kurt’s bottles were mostly emptied; Sean’s brogue was decidedly more pronounced as he yelled at the screen, and Logan himself was feeling a bit euphoric.

Kurt had passed from snickering to giggling, tried juggling the empty bottles, sprayed the remainder of a half-full bottle over them all, then finally curled up on the couch into an impossibly small ball, head in Logan’s lap, hugging his legs with both arms. One foot was in Sean’s lap again, after having been unceremoniously pushed off twice; Logan was waiting to see when the Irishman would notice its return. Meanwhile, he was perfectly happy to argue with the sportscasters, finish Sean’s whisky, knead Kurt’s scalp soothingly, and ignore the fact that the contented buzz he felt couldn’t possibly be from the liquor.

It was near three o’clock when Sean turned them out to get some sleep. Logan roused Kurt, who yawned and blinked up at him, smiling. “Hey, partner, you ready to head back?” He prodded him to sit, then held out a hand to help him stand. “Up you go.”

Kurt smiled up at him, focused on his hand, and grabbed it on his second try. Logan shook his head and pulled, ending up with an armful of blue, fuzzy mutant. Kurt beamed up at him; Logan laughed and tried to set him on his feet. Kurt twined his arms around Logan’s neck and hung on.

Sean laughed and clapped Kurt on the shoulder heavily, sending him further into Logan’s grasp. “Stick wi’ us, laddie, ye’ll soon be learnin’ t’ hold yer booze be’er!”

Logan snorted. “You mean like you, Cassidy? Hope you haven’t got any morning classes.”

The look of terror on Sean’s face was near-comical, but lasted only a few seconds. Then he hooted and pointed accusingly at Logan. “Ya rotten bastard— ’s Saturday t’morrow! No classes on Saturday.”

Logan shrugged, unrepentant, and finally managed to get Kurt settled to one side and standing. He stuck out his free hand. “Thanks, for everything.”

Sean pumped his hand and saluted him with a wink. “Any time you boys like, you just come on back over.”

With a nod, Logan headed for the door, half-dragging Kurt along. Once outside, the brisk air roused him a bit, though his legs were still wobbly. He leaned heavily on Logan, almost pulling him over until Logan realized he was trying to head for the bike.

Logan shook his head. “No way, buddy, not with you like this; you’re havin’ it hard enough walking.” He tugged Kurt toward the driveway.

Kurt followed, his brow crinkling in confusion. He looked back over his shoulder, pointing with his entire arm at the bike. “Das Motorrad…”

“It’ll keep,” Logan assured him, not stopping. After a few steps, Kurt turned back to the front, more or less. He leaned amiably against Logan and gazed up at the stars, breathing deeply. Logan drank in his obvious contentment, the peaceful happiness catching, bringing a smile to his own face.

Kurt lowered his head and caught Logan watching him. Fangs flashed as he grinned dreamily back. Logan tightened his arm in a brief hug before turning back to watch the path. The feeling of eyes didn’t let up, though, and further glances proved Kurt was still staring at him. He sighed as he tried to figure out a tactful way of asking him to stop.

A minute later, they hit the driveway. Literally. Kurt stumbled on the verge and went down; startled, Logan tried to steady him and ended up joining him on the tarmac.

“Oof!” Logan got his free arm under him, catching as much of his weight as he could to avoid crushing Kurt. Golden eyes blinked up at him from the bottom of the tangled heap they’d landed in, and Kurt began laughing.

Logan rolled his eyes in long-suffering and extricated himself, offering Kurt help in standing. Levering himself against Logan’s hand, he rolled up nimbly onto the balls of his feet, moved smoothly into a theatrical bow, and promptly overbalanced, leaving Logan to catch him again.

Logan shook his head. “You’re a happy drunk, ain’t ya?” Kurt smiled blindingly up at him.

Eventually, Kurt got his legs working again, and Logan pointed them towards the house. Once on the level pavement, Kurt managed to stay mostly upright. He still leaned heavily on Logan, but Logan wasn’t sure if it was from lack of balance or exuberant friendliness.

Kurt split his time between watching the stars and Logan, and a part of Logan still wanted to tell him to cut it out, but since Kurt didn’t seem to mind him watching back, he couldn’t bring himself to say anything to make him self-conscious again.

Unfortunately, watching Logan and the sky meant that Kurt wasn’t watching the ground. About halfway to the front door, he tripped and went down again. Logan managed to stop him just short of the pavement this time, but after several tries, gave up attempting to get him back on his feet, and with a sigh picked him up in a fireman’s carry.

The air left Kurt’s lungs in a whoosh at the impact and surprise; then he started snickering again.

His attention on getting them safely inside, Logan jumped when he felt two strong hands grip his ass. “Hey!” He craned his neck to watch his passenger without dislodging him. Using his handholds for leverage, Kurt was bent horizontal, peering around Logan’s side. “Getting a little personal there, buddy?”

Logan used his free hand to bat Kurt’s away, dropping him back to a more conventional carry position. It lasted roughly three steps. Logan growled in frustration when the hands returned. “That’s not a shelf, you know,” he informed his friend sourly. He reached back and firmly removed the hands, pulling them around his waist to prevent them from drifting back.

Kurt grumbled something in German, then chuckled evilly. Logan barely had time to worry before pointed teeth nipped through his jeans. He yelled and barely restrained the urge to belt the source of the pain. Instead, the shook Kurt warningly and swatted the posterior in front of his own face. “You break it, you bought it,” he warned. “Not to mention you’re walking back.”

Kurt sniffed once disdainfully, but either cowed by the warning or having made his point, he settled limply back against Logan.

A few steps later, the face resting comfortably against Logan’s butt began vibrating. For a moment, Logan thought incredulously that Kurt was purring, but as sound drifted up, he realized the man was humming. A few bars later, he was singing in German, passable voice somewhat ruined by the lack of breath in his position and the fact that half the words were giggled more than sung.

He was still singing when Logan climbed the stairs and reached for the front doorknob, only to have the door swing inward to reveal Storm. Elegant as ever, she stood tall in a silk caftan, long white hair braided loosely behind her, and looked at them with a thousand questions in her eyes.

Logan glared back. “Don’t even ask.”

Raising one sculpted eyebrow at them, she stood aside to let them pass, watching silently as they headed for the stairs. They were almost there when she called out.

“Logan.”

He half-turned to look at her, not really in the mood for a lecture or the third degree.

She looked him and Kurt up and down, started to say something, then shook her head. “There are first-aid kits in every lounge; they have aspirin.”

Logan looked down at his still-musical burden. “Thanks.” She nodded back and shut the door as Logan headed upstairs.

The jouncing trip up left Kurt breathless and silent, and Logan hurried for their room before he could start singing again. He closed the door behind them with relief and tipped Kurt to his unsteady feet.

Logan started to push him toward the bed, but changed his mind as the smell of spilled beer invaded his senses. Ugh. We’re both covered in it, and it’ll be worse by morning. Instead, he pointed Kurt at the bathroom. “Let’s get cleaned up, okay?” He answered Kurt’s puzzled look.

Kurt smiled and let himself be led. Logan pushed him down to sit on the rim of the tub and turned on the sink as he grabbed a washcloth. He waited for the water to warm, soaped up the cloth, and turned back to find Kurt leaning dizzily over the tub, holding himself upright with one hand on the faucet and one on the hot-water knob.

“Whoa!” Logan pulled him back up as far as he could, since Kurt wouldn’t let go of the knob. He gently pried Kurt’s fingers open, settled him firmly and steadily sitting up, and grabbed the washcloth again.

Logan spun back quickly, just in time to catch Kurt leaning over again. This time, it was obvious the move was intentional. Logan grabbed him before he could turn on the water or fall flat on his face. “No bath tonight, buddy; just gonna wipe you down a bit.”

Kurt frowned at the hands restraining him, strained against them, then tried prying them from around him. He scowled in Logan’s general direction. “Ich will ein Bad nehmen!” Protest was clear in his voice.

“Nothin’ doing. You’re an accident waiting to happen. Don’t worry, you’ll be clean enough until morning.” He tried to wash one of Kurt’s hands, and was pushed off with more sullen-sounding German. He sighed and tried again. The result was the same but louder, and Logan winced at the thought of waking up half the household. He gestured at Kurt to calm down, but if anything that made him louder.

In frustration, Logan finally plastered one hand over Kurt’s mouth, shushing him. He quieted, but glared at Logan over the hand. Cautiously, Logan removed it. “Look,” he tried to reason, “You get in there now and you’re likely to drown. You can take one tomorrow, okay?”

Kurt stared up at him, eyes wide and guileless, and pouted.

Logan’s heart sank. Damn it, don’t do that. “Hey, tomorrow’s not that far away,” he encouraged, picking up Kurt’s arm again and steadfastly avoiding looking at his face. He washed the sticky beer off that hand. “You’ll be fine.”

He dropped that hand and made the mistake of looking. The pout was still there, more dejected than before, and Kurt’s head slumped on his shoulders, the picture of despair.

Logan groaned and threw up his hands. “Okay, fine! You can have your bath!” He threw the washcloth into the tub and turned on the water. Hearing it, Kurt looked up at him hopefully, then smiled, happy once more. Logan sighed. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enjoy.”

Kurt started turning to get in the tub. Logan halted him with one hand and gestured down at him. “You wanna get out of those clothes first?”

Kurt nodded decisively and started pulling the shirt over his head. It got tangled halfway up, and Logan helped him with it before he could get stuck in it permanently. The pants were easier, and Kurt flexed his tail in obvious relief at being unconfined. Logan steadied him as he slid into the filling bath and got one of those brilliant smiles in reply.

As they waited for the water to finish, Logan took the opportunity to get a good look at Kurt. He couldn’t have put on that much weight yet, but already the difference was visible, his ribs and collarbone no longer so sharply defined, his hips flowing in a smoother line.

The change was enhanced by his fur. Clean and well-kept, it had a smooth, healthy sheen interrupted only occasionally by old scars. The promise of velvet had become the reality, and Logan couldn’t resist reaching out, fascination masked by solicitousness as he ran a hand down one furred arm. It felt as soft as it looked, and warmer than any true velvet could ever be.

He smiled up at Kurt in reassurance and apology for his curiosity, to find Kurt smiling back at him dopily.

Logan turned the faucet off. “Take your bath already.” He splashed Kurt briefly in admonishment. Grinning at him, Kurt splashed back. Logan sputtered and drew back, already soaked to the waist. He pulled his shirt off and used it to mop his face dry, eyeing Kurt balefully. “Thanks very much, elf. I needed that, really.”

Kurt laughed at him, swishing his tail through the water. Still staring at Logan, he made no effort to clean himself. Logan fished the washcloth out of the water and dangled it in front of him in reminder. Kurt obediently grabbed it and washed up, but his eyes never left Logan.

After several minutes of this, interrupted only by occasional prods to get Kurt to continue, Logan sighed. “What’re you looking at? I got something stuck in my teeth, or you just never seen a hairy chest before?” Too late, Logan realized that he might not have, and cursed his careless words, but Kurt just kept smiling up at him.

“Du bist heiß.”

“Same to you, buddy. Come on, hurry up.”

Eventually, Kurt finished, and Logan left the water to drain as he got him out of the tub and sitting on a towel with a hair dryer, doing his drunken best to dry himself off.

Since he was half wet already, Logan skinned off the rest of his clothes and hopped under the shower, making a much quicker job of it than Kurt had. He dried himself and threw on sweat pants, then helped rub Kurt dry, as much hindered as helped by the man himself.

Mission accomplished, he helped Kurt up and into bed, assisting him into another pair of clean pants on the way. Hands on Logan’s shoulders to steady himself, Kurt stared earnestly into Logan’s eyes and pointed one finger at him with drunken over-sincerity. “Du bist der best Mann auf der ganzen Welt.”

“Whatever you say.” Logan ruffled his damp hair and held the blankets up for him to slide under. Not in a mood to do much, he straightened the bathroom perfunctorily, snapped the lights off, and joined Kurt.

Kurt was already half asleep when Logan crawled in next to him, but he squirmed closer, lying along Logan’s side, one arm thrown over him in a close embrace. Logan smiled tolerantly and put an arm over Kurt’s back in turn. Enjoy it while you can, he silently told his bed-partner. You’re gonna have one hell of a head in the morning.

Chapter Text

The morning, unfortunately, came sooner than it had any right to. Logan was woken rather abruptly by an elbow in the stomach as Kurt clumsily crawled over him. Before his sleep-muddled brain could register that Kurt wanted out of the bed, the weight left him and there was a thud as something heavy impacted with the floor.

Logan levered himself up on one arm and peered over the edge of the bed. Kurt was curled up where he lay, not moving.

“You okay down there?” A whimper answered him. Logan groaned and stretched, glancing at the clock, which showed five-thirty. Reluctantly, he climbed out of bed and sat next to his friend, gently petting the straggly curls off of his forehead. “You hurt?” An affirmative-sounding grunt. “Head or stomach?” Logan guessed.

Fangs flashed in a weak smile. “Both.” The word was barely whispered.

“You need water, or you going to be sick?”

“Yes.” He sounded so pathetic, Logan didn’t have the heart to tell him he hadn’t answered the question. Instead, he helped Kurt straighten up gingerly and half-crawl to the bathroom.

Even the brief activity proved too much for Kurt’s stomach. Logan held him through it, offering what comfort he could, then grabbed the plastic cup off the counter, filled it from the sink, and helped him drink.

Danke.” Pain turned his attempted smile into a grimace.

“You’re welcome.” Logan watched him sip the water slowly, trying to determine just how sick he was. How’m I supposed to tell if he’s pale or not? He’s blue! “You want some aspirin, or you want to wait till your stomach’s more settled?”

Kurt chewed his lip in thought. “Wait,” he eventually conceded wistfully.

Logan watched him droop miserably in on himself for a minute, then sighed and scooted around behind him. Leaning against the wall, he pulled Kurt back against him and stroked him gently and soothingly.

Kurt sighed a little in relief and cuddled further into Logan’s lap. “Just remember,” Logan warned, “you need to puke again, you turn the other way first, got it?” Kurt breathed a near-silent laugh.

They sat quietly like that for a while, interrupted a couple times more by Kurt’s stomach, until he finally declared himself well enough for the aspirin. Helping him back into bed, Logan strode briskly to the nearest lounge, hunted up the painkillers, and brought some back to Kurt.

He smiled gratefully and slid deeper into the bed. Logan crawled back in next to him, yawning. “Just don’t do it again, okay?” he warned. “Not my idea of a fun night. I wouldn’t do this for just anyone, you know.”

Kurt’s arm tightened around Logan in a hug of acknowledgement, and he dropped off almost immediately. Logan followed only seconds later.

 

The next time he woke, he bolted out of sleep disoriented, not knowing for a moment what had startled him awake.

Next to him, Kurt groaned. “My head pounds,” he whispered.

A second later, the noise that had woken them was repeated. Logan laughed despite himself. “It ain’t your head, elf, it’s the door.”

Yellow eyes opened the barest slit and Kurt grunted, unconvinced. Logan patted him on the shoulder and climbed out of bed, the humor leaving him at another insistent knock. “I’m coming!” he growled, scowling. Ready to slice open whoever had woken them at—he checked the clock—seven in the morning, he threw open the door. “What?”

He was met by Jean, looking equally furious. She pushed past him into the room, scrutinized Kurt, then whirled back to Logan, arms crossed. “What the hell do you think you were doing last night?” She queried, not waiting for an answer. “Did you think?” She gestured at Kurt. “He’s barely on his feet, suffering several different forms of malnutrition, and is severely underweight, and you took him drinking?”

“Hey, whoa!” He glanced over at Kurt, who was watching them anxiously, and continued in a softer tone. “First of all, lower your voice. Second, I don’t know what Sean told you, but we were all a bit uptight and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s not like I poured the stuff down his throat, you know; he is old enough to make his own decisions.”

Jean glared back at him. “Informed decisions? Based on knowing his own tolerance, the strength of whatever he was drinking, and how it would affect him?”

Logan winced inwardly, conceding the point, but refused to admit it. “Any time he wanted to, he could’ve stopped. So he was drunk, he has a hangover, so what? Not like it’s the end of the world. He’ll be all right. Right, pal?” He nodded to Kurt.

Ja.” Kurt smiled weakly at him, just a touch of pain left in the wrinkling of his brow. “I am better already,” he declared with bravado.

Jean turned to him, taking a deep breath to control her temper. “Fine. If you’re so much better, you can get your tail out of that bed and follow me down to the lab. I still have some tests to run on you, which now include making sure you haven’t done yourself lasting harm with this little stunt.”

Kurt looked at her apprehensively, and Logan snorted in laughter to break the tension. “You just like to run your hands over naked men, Doc,” he smirked. He gave Kurt a hand up and nudged his shoulder. “Don’t let her get too fresh with you,” he warned, grinning.

Jean’s lips thinned, either in disapproval or to avoid smiling, and she waited barely long enough to make sure they would follow before heading down to the medical lab.

The sterile brightness and antiseptic stench brought forward the unpleasant memory fragments that such places always did for Logan, and he tensed, hiding his reaction as best he could.

A hand settled on his back, and he turned to Kurt, wondering how he was handling it. The expression on his face was so far from what Logan expected, it took him a moment to place it—reassurance.

He’s helping me out, he realized, amazed. He smiled, touched, and was further surprised to find that he did feel better. Good with animals and kids, he confirmed his earlier assessment. You’re really something, friend.

Kurt’s acceptance of the situation bolstered Logan through it. More blood tests, weight and height measurements, reflexes, and scores of things Logan couldn’t begin to guess the reason behind were endured stoically; Kurt seemed more nervous about Jean than her needles. Makes sense, I suppose, Logan mused. It’s people he’s had problems with, not doctors. Guess we all have our hang-ups.

After about an hour of poking and prodding, though, Kurt’s tail was twitching and his muscles were tightened in discomfort. Jean hurried over the last couple of tests as Logan joked with Kurt to distract them both. Kurt smiled wanly and joked back in a whisper, but didn’t relax until Jean announced she was done.

He smiled at her for the first time as he slid off the exam table. She nodded back in acknowledgement but fixed him with a stern eye.

“From now on, I want you to take all your vitamins, eat slowly but as much as you can of those foods I recommended, and I’m going to give you a high-calorie mix; I want you to use it once a day. And no more drinking. Got it?” She included Logan in her scowl. “I don’t want to see you back here with more serious problems than you already have.”

She watched them narrow-eyed until she was satisfied they’d take her seriously, then shooed them off with a nod.

Kurt moved slowly as they made their way to the elevator; watching him in peripheral vision as they headed up, Logan recognized the fragile demeanor of a very bad hangover. And all o’ that can’t’ve helped. “Head botherin’ you?” he asked quietly.

Kurt winced. “Everything bothering me.”

Logan snorted and rubbed Kurt’s back. “Come on.” He led the way to the kitchen; there were a number of students in there, but Kurt looked more disturbed by the noise and movement than the kids themselves, for once. The visit to Jean still fresh, Logan collected Kurt’s vitamins and handed them to him, headed to the fridge for a carton of orange juice, and hustled Kurt upstairs.

The trip up the stairs made Kurt visibly queasy, and he sat on a couch in the lounge carefully as Logan headed to the first-aid kit. He got out a packet of Tylenol and turned back around to find Kurt lying in a fetal position. Logan knelt down in front of him and uncurled one blue fist, adding the new pills to the pile already there.

“Get these down, you’ll feel better.” Logan grabbed the orange juice, only then realizing he’d forgot to get glasses. Shrugging inwardly, he opened the carton and handed it to Kurt. He sipped gratefully as he swallowed the pills, then handed the juice back to Logan and folded his arms around himself, making no effort to move.

“You gonna be okay?” Kurt nodded slightly. “You want to stay here for a while?” Another careful nod.

Spying a blanket thrown over the back of the couch, Logan dragged it down and tucked the edges around Kurt, then grabbed the TV remote and sat down next to him. Kurt shifted a little to lean his head into Logan’s thigh, and Logan rested one arm over him.

Logan turned on the TV, keeping the volume low, and flicked desultorily through the channels, not really looking for anything in particular, focused more on the man at his side. Getting him drunk probably wasn’t the brightest idea, he conceded. He needs looking out for, and I fell down on the job. Hell, how did I get the job in the first place? I got Mutant Nanny scrawled over my forehead in big letters?

He gave up all pretense at the TV and watched Kurt instead. You’re getting a bunch of friends now, elf; good people. Any one of them would help you do a better job settling in. And if you latched on to one of them, I’d be free to head out again. But disturbingly, the sense of freedom he expected wasn’t there; he felt only regret and a strange wistfulness that he shied away from, hardening his resolve.

We’re gonna get you attached to someone better suited, then I’m outta here. Best plan for all involved.

“Aw, bloody hell!” Kurt winced at the speaker’s volume, and Logan glared up at John, who looked confused for a moment, then took in Kurt’s huddled and miserable appearance. “Sorry, mate,” he continued in a near-whisper. “What’s his problem?”

“He ain’t feeling good,” Logan told him tersely, not in a mood for explanations.

John hesitated. “Hate to bother you fellas, but this is the last free telly in the place. D’you mind if we watch? We’ll keep it quiet, swear.”

“What makes you think this one’s free?” Logan gave the boy his best “do not disturb” glare.

John raised an eyebrow, barely fazed, and nodded at the screen. “Hadn’t thought you the home shopping type, mate.”

Logan cursed the random chance that had stopped him on that channel, but Kurt’s weak laugh at the image forestalled his dismissal of the boy.

“Who’s ‘we’?” he asked suspiciously.

John leaned out the doorway and waved frantically down the hall. In answer, the sounds of a stampede of caribou came towards them. John waved again and made a cutting motion across his throat, then a “shh” sign, and the pounding was replaced by quieter footsteps. Bobby, Rogue, Kitty, their Asian roommate whose name Logan still hadn’t caught, a slightly older dark-haired boy, and a model-perfect blonde joined John in the doorway.

Logan frowned at the sight of the crowd. But Kurt had met most of them… “What do you think, buddy?” He squeezed Kurt’s shoulder. “Is it okay if they join us?”

Kurt nodded slightly. “Quiet,” he pleaded in a whisper.

Logan fixed them with a steely gaze. “You can come in, so long as you keep the noise down, got it?” The students nodded and filed in as quietly as a large group of teenagers could. Logan sighed.

Kitty made a beeline for the couch and kneeled by Kurt. “You okay, fuzzy elf?” she asked with an encouraging smile. Logan raised an eyebrow at the nickname, but Kurt nodded, his eyes drifting closed again. Kitty looked up at Logan for reassurance. “Will he be okay? You could take him to Doctor Grey—”

“Already been there,” he interrupted her. “Nothing some aspirin, food, and a lot of water won’t cure.”

Kitty cocked her head, puzzled, then broke into a grin. Putting her hands on her hips, she glared at Kurt mock-sternly. “You’ve got a hangover, haven’t you?” Kurt’s eyes slitted open and he gazed at her pitifully. She giggled. “Wait here.”

She ran the couple steps to the kids gathered around the TV changing channels manually since Logan still had the remote. She leaned down and whispered to Bobby, then tugged his sleeve to get him to follow her back to the couch.

“Bobby’s the best cure for headaches,” she vowed as he sat on his knees in front of them.

Bobby eyed Kurt for a moment. “Never tried on anyone with fur before, Pryde. It might not work as well.” He reached out tentatively; Kurt watched his hand and tensed a little, but let it come to rest on his forehead.

A second later, a ghosting of frost spread out from Bobby’s hand, coating the fine blue hairs in a thin layer of ice that melted almost as soon as it formed. Kurt’s eyes widened briefly, then sank closed in relief. Bobby’s hands drifted to his temples, down the side of his face, and to the back of his neck, stilling there for a moment before retracing their path.

Bobby leaned down, tilting his head sideways to match Kurt’s. “Better?”

Kurt’s eyes stayed closed, and his smile answered for him. Bobby smiled back and rejoined the others at the TV. After a brief hug for Kurt, Kitty did the same.

Everyone was just settling in when heavy galloping footsteps announced a new arrival.

“Has it begun yet?” Hank McCoy asked anxiously.

“Shh!” a roomful of people admonished him. Startled, he complied, sitting on the floor with the students. Doug entered a little behind him, made a beeline for Kitty, and sat between her and the dark-haired boy, earning himself a disdainful glare.

Whatever it was they’d been so anxious to watch, it apparently involved busty, animated teenagers saving the world. Loudly. Logan leaned down to ask Kurt if he’d rather go back to their room, but after a moment he shook his head, though he did burrow his face a little further into Logan’s lap. Logan twisted a bit to make him more comfortable and stroked the long curls lightly.

They were left alone until the first commercial, when the dark-haired boy loudly proclaimed that he had “no intention of watching a bloody doll advert,” and John pointed him toward the remote.

He eyed Logan warily before heading over; Logan entertained the idea of making him work for it, but in the end settled for handing it over with a slight growl and reminder not to make it too loud. The boy paled but stood his ground long enough to nod before heading back, gratefully muting the commercials.

When the show ended, the blonde, Hank McCoy, and Bobby and John all left, waving their good-byes. Rogue looked indecisively after them, then came and sat on the floor at Logan’s feet. The dark-haired boy asked Kitty if she wanted to go, scowled at her no, and plopped back down. Doug smiled and stayed.

Logan watched this byplay from the sidelines, amused. Teenagers. He looked down at Rogue, realizing he still hadn’t really spoken with her, despite the almost nightly dinners together. “What you been up to lately, kid?”

She shrugged. “Not much. Classes, mostly. It’s been pretty quiet since you left. I’ve been learning how to fight a bit, though.” She perked up. “I haven’t had a chance to learn much yet, but Sean says I’m making a good start. He’s way harder than my karate instructor back home,” she shrugged, “but he says he’s gotta be, on account of he’s training us for real fights.”

“He has said that he would teach me,” Kurt piped up from Logan’s lap.

Rogue smiled at him. “Yeah? You should take him up on it. He’s real good.”

Kurt shrugged, his eyes drifting closed again as he edged toward sleep. Logan opened his mouth to ask if Kurt wanted to return to the bedroom, when a loud and intermittently pyrotechnic argument broke out over the remote. The Asian girl, noisy sparks flying from her hands, was facing off against the dark-haired boy, who had sprouted a quieter but more deadly-looking glow from his. A few steps behind them, Kitty looked nervous and uncomfortable.

Rogue looked over at them both and sighed. “Can’t you two cut it out for a couple of hours?”

“He started it!”

“Like hell I did! You got a problem, Jubilation, out with it.”

“You want to know my problem?” The girl scowled. “You! You come in here, you think you’re better than everyone—”

“Not everyone, Jubilation, just you,” he sneered.

“Ha! You don’t even rate kissing my boots, you low-life. Or Kitty’s,” she added nastily.

“You little bi—”

“Children!” The boy cut off abruptly at the interruption from Jean, who stood in the doorway, arms crossed. She assessed the situation through narrowed eyes, then nodded at the antagonists. “The professor will see you two in his office, pronto.” She stood aside and pointed out the doorway, watching them go with baleful looks at each other.

Chapter Text

Jean sighed and turned to Logan and Kurt, her face softening. “When I didn’t find you in your room, I thought maybe I’d run you off with all the tests,” she joked.

Logan raised an eyebrow. “You looking for us?”

Jean nodded. “Mm. Well, Kurt specifically.”

Tensed already from the students’ argument, Kurt looked up at her a bit apprehensively. She crossed the room to them and sat on the edge of the couch. Kurt pulled his legs in to give her more room, and she smiled gratefully.

“I’ve had an idea, and since you seem a little more comfortable around people now, I thought it might be a good time to try it. Kitty says you’re learning the computer fairly quickly.” She waited for his suspicious nod of confirmation before continuing. “How would you like to have one of your own to work on?”

Kurt blinked, either too surprised or too confused to offer an opinion.

“We can set up a computer in your room,” Jean explained, “get you an e-mail address at the school; Kitty can show you how to work some of the software.” Kitty nodded enthusiastically. “It would mean that you could meet more students, get to know them first without having to see each other face to face. Maybe even meet some people other places. I have a friend from the city who’d like to speak with you online. You could find out a bit about the world outside, too. What do you think?”

Kurt shrugged, hesitant, though his eyes gleamed.

“If you like, we could ask Henry to set you up with equipment right now. Would you like that?” she prompted. When he didn’t answer, she continued. “We could do it later, if you’d rather. Or you don’t have to do it at all, if you don’t want to.”

“No!” He shrank into Logan’s protective embrace, looking to him for reassurance. “Please,” he pleaded with Jean, “I would like to do this.”

She smiled gently at him. “All right. Would you like to do it now, or later?”

Logan scowled at her. Stop pushin’ him, Jeannie! Her gaze flicked to him briefly, and he wondered how far her telepathy had come. She shook her head minutely, and he narrowed his eyes but held his peace for the time being.

Kurt looked up at him, then back to Jean. “Now!” he blurted out, seeming startled at himself. “Please…”

Jean’s smile broadened, and she patted his knee carefully. “Okay, then. Let’s head down to the lab, and we’ll get you set up. Kitty,” she addressed the girl, who like the others had been trying to pretend ignorance of the drama on the couch, “would you like to come with us and help pick out what you think is best suited to Kurt?”

She bounced up. “Sure thing, Doctor Grey. It’ll be great, fuzzy-elf! We’ll get you state-of-the-art everything; you’ll love it. Do you know what you want for your e-mail addy? We could just use your name, or—”

“Whoa, kid!” Logan cut her off. “One thing at a time, okay?”

She swallowed and took a deep breath. “Right. Slowly.” She shrugged sheepishly at Kurt. “Sorry.” He smiled back slightly.

Rogue stood, brushing lint off her jeans. “I’m gonna head out, then. I try to avoid that lab,” she explained to Logan, “like every other sane person here.” She grinned at Kitty, who stuck out her tongue and grinned back.

“Yeah, but I don’t have to navigate that mess. Believe me, phasing’s the only way to do it. You still gonna meet us for cheesy films later?”

Rogue rolled her eyes. “How could I miss it? Bobby’d never forgive me.” She turned back to Logan for a quick hug and squeezed Kurt’s hand before leaving.

Kitty turned to the last other person in the room. “You gonna come down with us, Dougie, or stay here?”

“I’ll come with you,” he answered quietly. “Can’t leave you to fiddle in Doctor McCoy’s things alone, can I?” He grinned. “You’ll never get everything back just the way it was.”

She groaned. “You are the only one who could possibly understand his organization. Come on.” She nodded them towards the door. Doug switched off the TV and headed out with her. Logan nudged Kurt up, and they followed with Jean in tow.

True to her words, Kitty phased herself and Doug through the chaos of the lab, which was only slightly more organized than the last time they’d been there.

“Thought he said he was cleaning it up,” Logan muttered.

Ahead of them, Kitty giggled. “He’s always cleaning,” she explained. “He’s also always getting interrupted, or getting new things, or trying to find something. It never gets finished. I can come back and phase you through, if you want.”

“No thanks,” Logan answered firmly. Kitty shrugged and continued on.

Hank McCoy was curled on a stool peering into what looked like a microscope attached to a huge black box. Despite their noisy trek back, he gave no indication of knowing anyone was there.

Jean chuckled. “He’s very…focused,” she explained sotto voce. “Good morning, Hank!”

He jumped at her voice, then spun towards them. “Jean! Good morning. Is it time…” he glanced over at a clock above his desk. “No, never mind, saw them already this morning.” He shook his head and looked at them again. “Quite a gathering to be gracing my domain on a Saturday. To what do I owe this pleasure? Do you require assistance?”

Jean gestured at Kurt. “We thought we might get Kurt set up online.”

“If we can take your old tower and finish up with some parts from the cabinet…” Kitty prompted him.

The big scientist smiled at her. “Certainly, Katherine; an excellent idea. Please, help yourself. Don’t forget to make note of the components you use,” He raised an admonishing finger.

“Sure thing, Doctor McCoy. Thanks!” Kitty looked like she was stifling laughter, and even Doug appeared amused. The two of them headed back out along one wall, gesturing to Kurt and Logan to follow as Jean sat down to talk to McCoy.

After a bit of shuffling around under a table, Kitty emerged with a computer that appeared to have been scavenged for parts and handed it to a skeptical Logan.

“Don’t worry,” she laughed at his expression, “that’s why we need to get parts from the cabinet. I got the RAM, Doug got the hard drive, I think Bobby, John, and Neal ended up with the graphics card,” she rambled on as she opened a full-length door on a wealth of computer parts.

“The normal finished bits are mostly in here. And the list,” she grinned and nodded at a piece of paper tacked to the inside of the door, “hasn’t been updated since about a month after I got here. It’s pointless, ’cause Doctor McCoy never marks down what he uses or fixes.”

Doug glanced over the electronic mess several times, then rummaged through them, handing bits to Kitty as she told him what she wanted.

“Hold these for a second,” she told Kurt, shoving the assorted pieces into his hands. She examined the box in Logan’s hands and called out for a few more pieces.

“Hmm.” Doug searched through the cabinet for a few more minutes, apparently fruitlessly. “I think that’s all there is.”

“We’ll have to ask where the rest of it is, then. Come on,” Kitty led them back to the open end of the lab. She nodded at a space on the floor for them to set the equipment down, and bounced over to where Jean and Hank were talking, waiting for an opening. “Do you know where there’s a spare SATA cable?”

Hank thought for a moment, staring at the ceiling, then pointed off to the left. “Upon the second table, in the corner furthest from the door, I believe.”

“Thanks!” She smiled and darted off for it as Doug sat cross-legged on the floor to begin work. Logan and Kurt settled down on the couch near the other adults, out of the way while the teens worked.

Hank smiled at them, leaning towards Kurt eagerly. “I’m delighted to hear you are apparently a natural with our computers. It is always a pleasure to meet another with an interest in such devices. Have you considered perhaps learning some of the more advanced applications? Xavier’s Institute stands in the forefront of advanced artificial intelligence and holography.”

He sounded like a hopeful kid asking a friend to play ball; it seemed a pity to have to burst his bubble. Apparently, Kurt felt the same. He fidgeted for a moment, then spoke tentatively to the big man. “I am afraid that I am only learning.”

Hank sighed, his smile dimming only a little. “Ah, well. Perhaps when you have progressed further in your studies. You are welcome to audit any of the classes here at the school. Or if you prefer the acquaintance of others closer to your age, there is a surprisingly excellent technical institution in Salem Center; I could enroll you in a course or two there, if you prefer.”

Kurt looked startled and uncomfortable; even Jean shifted uneasily, looking for something to say. Logan narrowed his eyes at the scientist, but his eager expression and guileless scent spoke of genuine innocence rather than casual malice.

“Hank,” Jean finally spoke up gently, “Kurt has difficulties in dealing with large crowds.”

“Ah. My apologies.” He nodded at them and turned back to his conversation with Jean, which involved some facet of science that Logan was bored enough by to ignore their attempts to include him. Kurt looked bewildered at Hank’s words, and shrank in closer to Logan.

Logan put an arm around him, murmuring into his ear. “I don’t think he gets anything past his computers, buddy. I wouldn’t worry.”

Kurt nodded a little, and they simply sat there, distractedly watching Doug and Kitty, who’d returned, build the new computer. Between the two of them, it didn’t take long to finish whatever it was that needed to be done.

Another dash into the wilds of the lab, and Kitty was back with half a mile of tangled mess that she declared was the requisite cords. She dropped them into Kurt’s lap, where he picked at them dubiously, and bounded off again.

“Here,” Jean laughed as she interrupted her conversation with Hank, “let me help.”

A wave of her hand brought the tangled mass up to hover in the air. It stayed there momentarily, twisting slowly as Jean closed her eyes, a look of serene concentration on her face. Then she smiled, and the huge knot unfolded and untwisted itself like a black plastic flower, the straightened individual cords drifting to a stop in front of Kurt once more. He raise his hands to touch them, and they collapsed over his arms, their borrowed semblance of life gone. Jean smiled.

“Nice.” Logan nodded at the cords. “You do windows, too?”

“Only when I have to,” she informed him wryly.

Kitty came back again, saving him the necessity of replying. Doug grabbed up the finished computer and they both thanked Hank and headed out, waving at them to follow.

“I need to speak with Hank some more,” Jean told them. “I’ll see you all later.”

There was a box waiting at the entrance, and Kitty quickly grabbed it up and handed it to Logan, then hurried them out the door. “Good thing Doctor Grey didn’t come out with us,” she said mischievously. “If we hurry, we can get it set up before anyone notices. Those’re supposed to be going to the labs,” she nodded at the box in Logan’s arms, “but who wants a huge, heavy TV-thing in their bedroom?”

Doug looked at her, appalled. “Kitty, you didn’t!”

“Oh, lighten up.” She punched his arm. “It’s not like we can’t put another together.”

“Yes, but—”

“Douglas Ramsey,” she turned on him, poking his chest with a stern finger, “the world will not come to an end if you don’t follow all the rules, okay?”

He looked dubious, but conceded the point. “What if someone else sees us with it, though? They’re bound to complain.”

Kitty shrugged. “That’s why I gave it to him.” She hitched a thumb at Logan gleefully. “You think they’ll try and take it away now?” She grinned at Logan, then mock-scowled in demonstration. “Just look fierce.” Argument apparently over, she started walking again, and they had no option but to follow.

“Look fierce”? What does she think I am, some kind of watch dog? Logan growled, all too conscious of the fact he was doing just that. Kurt looked at him a little worriedly, and he shook his head, smiling wryly. Never mind. I’m used to being the savage loner; might as well be good for something.

 

Though some of the students did look curiously at their little procession, no-one seemed to care what they were carrying. They did do double-takes at Kurt, though; apparently, he was still enough of a novelty to wonder at. He stuck close to Logan, and they quickened their pace as much as they could.

Kurt flinched back from the first curious looks as though from physical blows, but as they continued, his reaction changed; by the time they reached their room, he stood tall, glaring back at those who stared, baring his teeth in an angry defensive snarl that quickly caused most to look away.

When the four of them were alone, Kurt curled on the bed for a brief moment, then jumped up and made a beeline for the bathroom. Dumping his box on the desk, Logan headed after him, leaving the kids to set up the equipment. He caught the door and shut it firmly behind them.

Kurt was perched on the closed toilet, visibly shaking. Logan stepped in front of him and put an arm around his shoulders; Kurt hugged Logan’s waist, buried his face in his chest, and held on for dear life.

Logan sighed and combed the long blue curls back with his fingers, letting his hand linger at the nape of Kurt’s neck where long hair trailed off into short fur, the textures soothing even as his mind was racing.

Damn it, Kurt, what am I supposed to do about this? You have a problem, you still look to me for support. And worse, The second I see you’re in trouble, I drop everything to help out. What are you gonna do when I leave? He looked down at his fingers rubbing circles at the base of Kurt’s skull. What am I going to do? the faintest of voices whispered in his head. He ignored it with the ruthlessness of practice longer than memory.

After a few minutes, Kurt’s shaking subsided, and he relaxed into Logan, pushing his head up into the caressing hand with a murmur. Logan chuckled, then turned the motion into a massage that he moved to one shoulder before patting it and stepping back. Kurt looked up at him, gratitude and something indecipherable in his eyes.

“You okay?”

Kurt smiled and nodded.

“Great.” Logan hooked a thumb at the door. “You want to get outta here before the kids wonder what we’re up to?”

Chapter Text

The computer was a mass of wires when they walked out, and Doug was frowning at its insides. Kitty looked up long enough to give them a quizzical look, then wiped it off and shrugged, going back to her cheerful self. “Just a few minor adjustments to make. Then we…” she glanced around for a moment, frowned, stood up and hunted around the components, and bit her lip. “Shoot, we forgot the software!” She looked over at them pleadingly. “Would one of you guys mind getting it? Please?”

Logan looked at her, looked over at Kurt, and sighed. “Where is it?”

“In a shoe box on Doctor McCoy’s desk, marked Installation. You can’t miss it.” She assured him.

“Fine. I’ll be back in a minute.” He looked at Kurt a second longer, quizzing him with one raised eyebrow. You gonna be okay here with them?

Kurt smiled tentatively and sat on the bed, tail and arms curled around his knees. Logan nodded and headed off.

As promised, the box was easy to find, even in the mess that was the lab. Logan wasted no time in snatching it up, thanking Hank—who was back to staring in his box and had barely noticed Logan was there—and heading back up.

The computer was back together when he returned, all its cords and components properly attached. Kitty looked up at him and took the box, thanking him over-brightly. He glanced at Kurt, who was frowning and picking at the blanket absently. Uh-oh. What now? He frowned himself, shifting to stand by Kurt, who looked up at him and smiled slightly, but still looked a little troubled.

Oblivious to them, Kitty chattered on. “Well, the easy part’s done, anyway. Now we just have to install all this stuff. It’ll only take a couple hours, though.” She opened the box to reveal a wide assortment of CDs.

Logan grimaced. “Looks like fun. You need us here for that?”

Kitty cocked her head at him. “No, not really…”

“Good.” He nodded. “Come on, elf, let’s take a walk.”

Kurt brightened at the idea, then looked dubiously towards the door. He reached down and took Logan’s hand, looking a question at him. Logan sighed, then gave in and growled his assent. Kurt smiled brilliantly once more, and with a brief moment of dislocation, they were just inside the forest.

Ugh. The aftertaste at the back of his throat was no better than the first time he’d done that, but the nausea was nowhere near as bad, knowing what to expect. Thank heaven for small favors, he thought wryly. He nodded his thanks to Kurt, though, and they set off on their typical circuit.

He watched Kurt closely; he didn’t appear to be traumatized, but he fidgeted with the edge of his shirt, and his tail was twitching nervously. “What’s up, elf?”

Kurt looked up at him, then back down, and after a minute he shrugged.

Logan scowled. “Don’t give me that. Something’s up. What’d those kids do?”

“They did nothing!” he protested quickly. “Only…”

Logan waited, hands balling into fists. If they did something to hurt him…

“Kitty,” Kurt answered slowly, “she knows it is your room that we are in, but it is mine also. She wished to know…she said that it is strange, if we share a bed, and yet we are not lovers.”

Logan stopped dead. What the hell? His first reaction was to head back and give that girl a piece of his mind. What business is it of hers? His second was to think that there was nothing odd about it at all— so what if Kurt needed the company? He didn’t mind. But he’s a grown man, isn’t he? They don’t know how it is. Guess it would look kinda odd from the outside.

His third thought was to wonder if there were more to it than that. Maybe… He scrutinized Kurt closely. “This mean you want your own room?” It felt curiously like a rejection.

“Nein!” Kurt’s eyes widened in shock at the suggestion; for some reason, Logan was comforted by it. “No, please.” He looked down at where his fingers were firmly wrapped in his shirt. “Only…”

Logan waited, but he said nothing more. “‘Only…’?”

Kurt shook his head, shrugged self-deprecatingly, and resumed walking. Shaking off the question, Logan followed suit.

He felt his muscles loosen and his thoughts quiet as they settled into the customary silence that accompanied their forest walks. The green calm worked its way inside him, carrying other concerns away.

Beside him, Kurt let out his breath and stretched up his arms, joints cracking. As Logan gazed at him fondly, he leaned over and flipped into an easy handstand, walking a few steps on his outstretched palms as he stretched his legs out, toes pointed, popping yet more bones into place. Then, arching neatly, he landed once more upright, shaking himself out as his tail tied itself into a huge knot and straightened with a snap.

Logan snorted, eyeing him sideways. “You done?”

Kurt hummed happily and smiled. Logan eyed him dubiously. “You start singing again, and I’m taking you back to Jean. How’s your head, anyway?”

Kurt rubbed his neck, thinking about it. “Mostly better.”

Logan grunted his approval. He took in the trees around them and gazed down the length of relatively clear and even ground their shade afforded, and his legs itched wistfully. Without turning his head, he focused his attention on Kurt, looking closely at the way he moved, watching for any twitches or stiffness. He might not be as strong as he should, but he seems to have healed up nicely, he thought with satisfaction.

“Hey.” He stopped Kurt with a hand on his arm. “You up for a run?”

Kurt stared back for a moment, startled, then looked in the direction they were headed. “How far?”

Logan shrugged. “Long as you can.” He pointed a warning finger in Kurt’s face. “You have to say stop when you start feeling it. I’m not having you hurting yourself again, or having Jean blame me for it. Can I trust you to do that?”

Kurt had the grace to look chagrined, and nodded seriously. “I will say when it is enough.”

Logan nodded decisively, then clapped Kurt on the shoulder with a broad smile. “Come on!”

They started slowly, and true to his word, Kurt stopped them when his wind or his legs began faltering. And in between those times, they ran.

Runs were a solitary pleasure for Logan; tracks were pointless, trails still too artificial, and not many other people went on mad dashes through unbroken wilderness—which was one of the reasons he did. It was freeing to leave behind everything man-made. All the assumptions, expectations, judgements. To just be him.

Even here, in a wilderness bounded by walls, there was a measure of that peace. Past the first few hundred meters, it was apparent that no-one got out here that much. The growth was untamed and beautiful, and gave him a feeling of belonging that he never had indoors.

He watched his companion as they ran. The presence of another should have broken the tranquil excitement of the moment, but instead it seemed only to intensify it. He belongs here, too. If anyone needed time away from people…

As he’d predicted, Kurt was a restful and welcome companion. If anything, watching the stress and civilization drop from his shoulders made Logan feel better than ever. Even the stops they made to accommodate his weaker body were refreshing for the opportunity to relish his enjoyment.

They ran far from the mansion, far from everything. The time didn’t matter, the place didn’t matter; and Logan let himself lose track of both. As they stopped yet again, he leaned against a rough pine as Kurt lounged against a similar tree bonelessly, catching his breath and moving his feet to avoid cramps. Face turned up to the heavens, his smile was radiant.

Logan couldn’t help but grin back. “You tryin’ to light up the city with that smile?” he teased.

Kurt looked over at him, smile never dimming. He stretched out fully, then hissed and drew back one of his legs sharply.

Logan hurried over, dropping to one knee. “Cramp?”

Kurt nodded as he sank to the ground next to Logan. Together, they massaged the offending muscle until it loosened its grip and Kurt sighed in relief, relaxing once more.

“You think maybe that’s enough for one day?” Logan asked gently.

Kurt sighed wistfully, but nodded, turning his head to Logan. “It was lovely.” Placing a hand on Logan’s shoulder, he leaned in.

Logan rubbed his back. “Yeah, it was. Have to do it again some time, right?”

“Mm.” Kurt smiled at him from inches away. And moved closer.

It was the most natural thing in the world to kiss him, this beautiful man that had so quickly become one of the few Logan called friend. His lips were soft and his tongue was warm as it curled with his.

Oh, fuck! Logan pulled back abruptly, shaking his head to clear the haze. What the hell am I doing?

Kurt blinked up at him questioningly, brow wrinkling in puzzlement. Logan stared back, thoughts crashing back into his head all at once. He kissed me I kissed him It’s right It’s wrong Who cares Who knows I care…I care

Kurt tilted his head close once more, leaning in for another kiss, but Logan caught him after the faintest brush of lips, holding him back with open palms on his chest, feeling the too-fast flutter under the cotton shirt and soft fur.

The confusion in Kurt’s eyes edged slowly toward hurt, and Logan ransacked his brain to put into words his knowledge that this should not happen, in spite of the bone-deep rightness of it.

“Kurt,” Damn it, I’m no good at this! “we can’t do this.” It’s right but it’s not, you don’t know what you’re doing, what all of it means really… “It wouldn’t be right.” He moved his hands to hold Kurt’s shoulders gently, but the hurt flashed bright in yellow eyes. “You’re my friend,” he hastened to reassure him, “but,” —you’re damaged, and you’re innocent, and it would be like taking advantage of a kid— “you’re…”

The thin blue shoulders yanked out of his arms with surprising strength, the hurt in Kurt’s eyes matched by bitter anger. “I am different, yes?”

Logan opened his mouth, mind spinning as he struggled to change tracks, this was so far from what he’d been thinking, but it took too long, and Kurt spoke first.

“Danke.” The word was spat out. “Ich bitte um Verzeihung. Forgive me. I would not mean to force myself upon you.” A laugh, more acid than the words, but his eyes brightened further with unshed tears. “Only, for a moment, I felt…human.” He shrugged jerkily. “I will not do this again. Bitte entschuldige.” He backed away a step, half-fumbling in his haste.

Damn it! “Kurt, wait!”

Even as Logan stretched out a hand, he was gone, the acrid stench of his teleportation an appropriate match to the sour taste in Logan’s throat. He threw out every curse word that he could imagine, and screamed out his frustration, smashing his head into the nearest tree.

Fuck. He winced, brushing off bark and blood. Get a grip, Logan. Just ’cause you’ll heal doesn’t mean that ain’t a dumb thing to do.

Logan? The professor’s startled voice sounded in his head. What’s wrong? Do you need any help? Logan snarled back wordlessly and could almost feel Xavier’s contrite withdrawal. But whatever else happened, he didn’t need anyone else to screw things up further.

No, you did that well enough on your own, asshole. What now?

Now? He thought back at himself. Now I get to find him, try and tell him what I really meant without making him go more ballistic, and figure out what the fuck I’m gonna do about all this once we’re speaking again.

He set out determinedly for the mansion; Kurt wasn’t likely to go off the grounds, and before when he’d wanted to be alone, he’d always gone back to their room.

Our room. Not likely he’ll be there, is it? How the hell did we get an “our room”, anyway? He guiltily let his steps slow to a plodding pace, knowing he should find Kurt as soon as he could, but still trying to wrap his brain around what had happened back there.

He kissed me. I kissed him. Why the hell did he do that? Why the hell did I?

He did it because…fuck if I know. I did it because… He stopped just short of banging his head on another tree. Well, hell, it felt good! So what? Do I need another reason?

Kinda sudden, isn’t it? He jeered back at himself. Since when do you get off on men?

It brought him up short. Since when do I? Stuff like that doesn’t come out of the blue. Does it? He scrubbed a hand through his hair as he ruthlessly dragged every thought and feeling he’d had about Kurt out into the light and examined it. Somehow, the sun slanting through the trees brought a whole new light to it.

I do. I’ve been touching him, watching him, wanting to be by him. I’ve been attracted to him almost since I saw him. How the hell did I miss that?

He shivered with more than cold. Is this something new, or is it something else that I’d forgotten? How much do you have to fuck with someone’s brain to get them to forget something like that?

He took a deep, shuddering breath. Save it. That’s a different problem. Truth is, you’ve been attracted to Kurt all along, and you didn’t notice it because you didn’t want to. Because he looks to you for everything, and he’s got no idea about living with people, or all the shit that comes with it. So you shoved it down so deep you didn’t see it. But he did.

Which brought him right back to where he’d started. Now what?

Find him first. Explain things. Try and make him understand why it’s wrong. He sighed. Even if we both want it.

The fact it’d be easier to leave if Kurt didn’t want him around any more flitted through his head, but he pushed it away angrily. No way. I’m not leaving him thinking I see him as some kind of freak. He deserves better. He snorted. Hell, he deserves better than me all around; he’ll find that out soon enough.

Seeing the edge of the woods, he stepped up his pace, hurrying back to the mansion to start his hunt. And that’s what I’ll tell him, too. Not like he’ll argue, after my little demonstration back there. Maybe this’ll be the break we both need to get on with our lives on our own.

All on our own. Alone. The words echoed emptily through his thoughts, and by the time he reached the lawn verge, he was running.

Chapter Text

Despite his doubts, he checked their room first. Nothing. He wasn’t in the nearby lounge, either. Several kids in the library looked up curiously as he prowled through, but no Kurt. Not in the kitchen. He growled and thought for a moment, then headed off at a run for Sean’s place.

He pounded on the door and was answered by grumbling, followed by a scowling Irishman. “Ah, it’s you. Stop thumping on the bloody door already.” Sean waved him in and returned to the kitchen, where he’d apparently been reading the paper over copious amounts of coffee.

Sean groaned as he slumped back into his chair, and looked up at Logan darkly. “Remind me never to try keepin’ up with you again. Bike’s outside; you picking it up?”

Logan shook his head. “Kurt. You seen him?”

Sean grunted. “Not since ye left. ’S there a problem?”

“He ran off. I’ve got to find him.” Logan headed for the door.

Sean called after him, sounding startled and slightly offended. “And a very good day to you, too. Is it all that important?”

Logan snarled. “I’m sorry I’m bein’ rude. Better? Look, he took something I said wrong, he got angry, he popped outta sight, and now I gotta find him before something happens, okay?”

Sean arched a brow at him blearily. “Thought you were glad he was gettin’ angry now?”

He wrenched the door open. “It’s not the same thing this time. See you around.”

From the guardhouse, he followed the wall, settling into a loping run with his senses stretched out for the slightest whiff or twig-snap that would proclaim something other than four-legged animals. But always, a part of his mind nagged at him.

Why is it different now? Because he’s angry with you ? Didn’t you want him to be independent?

I want him to make his own decisions, I don’t want him to think I’m a heartless bastard.

Well, aren’t you? Isn’t that what you’re always telling people? Besides, what do you care what he thinks about you?

And there wasn’t an answer that he could think of that didn’t involve too much he couldn’t think of right now, so he dropped it and settled into the routine of his hunt. He quartered the woods searching, but found no sign of Kurt.

Damn it, where else would he go? He headed back for the house, thinking maybe Kurt had come in while he’d been searching. The sun was low in the sky by the time he returned, but their room was still empty.

Most of the school’s residents seemed to be at dinner, so Logan followed the stairs to the walk-in attic and methodically searched every empty room from there down. He startled the blonde girl from that morning necking with an equally blond guy with wings in one lounge, and interrupted a bizarre mutant game of keep-away in another, but Kurt was nowhere.

After a moment’s thought, he headed for the elevator. Don’t think he was too fond of it down here, but it’s the only place I haven’t tried. Damn it, elf, if you’re not here, I’m gonna have to call in Charley to find you. He winced.

The lockers were empty, Cerebro’s room and the medlab were both locked. The Danger Room was… In Use, ID KWAGNER. Bingo. Logan slumped against the door for a minute in relief. He keyed in the stop code and waited.

Nothing happened. Logan frowned at the keypad, punched in the code again, and waited. Still nothing. Angrily, he banged his fist against the casing. It beeped at him, and the display lit up. In the corner above Kurt’s name, tiny words declared SAFETY OVERRIDE.

Aw, fuck, what now? As quickly as possible, he keyed in his own code, not caring what he walked into if Kurt was okay. The last light above the keypad lit, and the doors slowly began cycling open. Come on, come on…

He slipped through as soon as the gap was large enough, stepping into—he blinked. It looked like one of the scenes they’d seen their first day here, multi-width bars and swinging lengths twisting over and under and around each other through the top half of the room like a demented playpen. It didn’t take long to find Kurt.

Is he trying to kill himself? The first impression Logan got was of a dark blue body careening madly between the bars, bouncing off of them like a ricocheting bullet in a too-small room.

A second more of dumbfounded scrutiny showed a kind of control in the madness; what seemed like a series of bone-jarring impacts was an intricate dance of acrobatics. He spun his way around one bar on his hands, folded in to roll around another, leapt for a third, pushed off with his legs, and caught a fourth with his tail, somersaulting into a different trajectory, moving with a blinding speed and grace that belied both his physical condition and his freak-show upbringing.

No way moves like that are untaught! No way he can keep it up long, either.

As if Logan’s anxious thoughts had been a catalyst, Kurt’s smooth flight faltered on the next push-off, one leg folding too far, and he flailed to catch another bar as his angle slipped off true.

“Kurt!” Logan yelled in useless warning as he ran to get under him, knowing he wouldn’t be in time, but trying anyway. He nearly made it there, only a lightning-fast recoil of his head saving him from being struck by a net that extended from the wall, catching Kurt safely in its folds.

“You okay?” Logan hurried to help him stand. Kurt accepted his aid until he was out of the net, then pushed him away, nearly toppling himself over in the process.

“Whoa, wait!” Logan caught Kurt before he could fall and tightened his grip on arms he could feel shaking. “You can hardly stand up on your own, so just let me help, will ya?”

“Your help I do not need!” He looked ready to run, or break down, or collapse on the spot, standing proud with an effort.

“Bullshit. Hey, this is me, remember? Logan? You can trust me!”

“I trusted you, before. And it ends up that you are like all others.”

Logan’s jaw tightened as he restrained the urge for sudden violence. “I oughta knock some sense into ya, but I promised I’d never hurt you, remember? You think I’d pull that crap on you like you said?”

“You did.” Kurt’s voice was uncompromising.

“No, you think I did. You never let me finish talking. You think I give a shit if you’re different? What the fuck does that matter? You’re my friend!”

Kurt wavered, and Logan helped him sit. He cast an accusing glance at Logan, though, his lips twisted in an expression too cynical to be a smile. “You would not be first to think I am a pet. Fine to have around, but not truly a person.”

Logan scowled. “You’re a person. You’re a damn good person, when you’re not being stubborn as a mule. I’ve been trying to apologize here, okay? I didn’t mean what you thought, and I’ve been looking for you for hours to try and explain. You want to give me a chance?”

Kurt cast him a sidelong glance, skeptical. “You have looked for me for this?”

Logan nodded. “Since you bolted outta there. You been here the whole time?”

Kurt shook his head no, looking up at the bars. “A little time only. It is helpful.”

Logan followed his gaze dubiously. “If you say so. How the hell did you learn all that, anyway?”

Kurt smiled very slightly, his voice wistful and low but proud. “Herr Sabu himself, he showed me, and I was his favorite, the best flier in Der Jahrmarkt.”

Logan blinked. “Wait a second. You fly, too?”

Kurt looked at him, puzzled for a moment, then laughed, and Logan had to smile in return; whether it was at his expense or not, it was nice to hear again.

Nein! Not flying, but a flier. A…erm…” he gestured up at the bars. “A trapeze artist. Verstehst du?

What? Taken aback, Logan stared at his friend, trying madly to realign his thoughts. “I thought you said you’d been in … that thing since you were a kid?”

Kurt stared back, apparently just as startled. “Überhaupt nicht!” He swore vehemently, eyes wide. “In the circus, yes; but it was not always like that!”

“Then what…” What happened? How’d you get in that cage? How long were you there? Logan’s thoughts whirled. And that’s why you can read, and why the earring, and I’m an idiot for not thinking of that sooner, and what now? Great. Right back where I started.

Logan shook his head. “Never mind. Look, let’s relocate this to someplace more private. I’ll apologize, and you can explain, and we’ll just start everything over, okay?”

Kurt looked puzzled and still a little wary, but nodded his agreement. With Logan’s help, he managed to stand. Logan eyed his shaky stance and winced.

“Looks like we have two choices, pal: I can carry you up, or you can take us both there. What do you think?” Kurt reached to pull Logan closer. Logan grimaced. “I was afraid of…that,” he finished, already in their room. He huffed a few breaths out to clear his lungs, and dropped back onto the bed, making room for Kurt.

Kurt curled up in the opposite corner, watching Logan with a hurt look that said he wasn’t yet forgiven. Logan sighed. “Look, I didn’t mean what you thought I did out there.” He waved a hand in the direction of the trees. “I’d have to be a damn big hypocrite to think like that; I’m a mutant too, remember?” He unsheathed the claws on one hand in demonstration. “I’m no more human than you are.” He retracted them, flexing his hand at the usual pain. Kurt watched him as though he wanted to be convinced but didn’t dare.

In the silence that followed, Logan slid closer, putting one hand tentatively on Kurt’s shoulder. “I’m sure I’ve done some stupid things, but have I ever made you feel like I thought you weren’t a person?” Kurt looked up, and Logan met his eyes with searing intensity. “You tell me if I have.”

Kurt gazed back, then his eyes flicked away, faltered, and fell to look at the bed. “You have not,” he whispered.

Logan nodded. “Good.”

“I am sorry,” Kurt continued, wincing. “I should not have thought you would do that. You say I can trust you, and I should believe that.”

Logan shrugged. “Doesn’t matter sometimes what anyone does—trust comes hard. I won’t take it personal.”

Kurt’s lips twitched for a second, then he curled up a little tighter. “But…” he licked his lips, “if not for that reason, then why do you stop?” His voice faded until even Logan had to strain to hear him.

“It’s—” Logan cast about for a way to explain gently. “It’s kind of… complicated,” he finished lamely. Well, maybe not nearly as much as I thought. “Can I ask you something first?”

Kurt eyed him, but nodded reluctantly.

“Can you tell me what happened? I mean, how you ended up…where I found you?” He had other questions, too, but that one loomed foremost.

Kurt shuddered. “They…there were people, and they wanted me, and I said no, but they did not believe…” He clutched his arms around his shoulders as if he were freezing.

Logan closed the rest of the distance between them and held him, and Kurt hugged him close, taking deep, shuddering breaths.

“Try starting at the beginning.” Logan chuckled.

Kurt’s breath hitched, equal parts laugh and sob. He buried his face in Logan’s neck, breathing in his presence. Logan was beginning to wonder if he was falling asleep, when he spoke.

“I do not know my parents, but the circus raised me from a child. They are many of them different, too, and so they see it to be a thing of pride. And I am very quick, and my balance is good, and so I learn the wire, and the trapeze, and the ropes, almost when I learn to walk. And the people who watch, they think I wear a costume, and there is no trouble.” He shrugged and shifted restlessly. Logan caressed his neck and shoulders, and he calmed himself once more before continuing.

“And then a man, an American, he buys the circus, and he says he will move us to America. And some do not wish to go, and they find other work; and some he does not want, and he tells them to leave. And there is me, and I say I will stay, but he says,” his voice cut with venom like a razor, “acrobats he has, he does not need another, but he will have me in the freak show, a monster.”

Even knowing what had most likely been coming, hearing it shoved icy fingers into Logan’s spine, and the only thing between him and the circus owner’s slaughter was his anonymity.

It took him some time to notice that Kurt had stopped speaking and was looking at him with a mix of awe and trepidation. He realized a nonstop growl rumbled in his throat, and he forced it down, gentling his steely grip on Kurt and deliberately relaxing his muscles.

“Sorry,” he managed. “It ain’t you. Tell—no,” he corrected himself, “don’t tell me his name. Don’t ever tell me his name unless you want him dead.” He wasn’t sure if he could listen to much more, but knew he had to hear it all. “You didn’t take him up on it.” Somehow, all evidence to the contrary, he knew that. This proud, gentle man in his arms would not do that.

“No,” Kurt confirmed bitterly, resting his forehead against Logan’s cheek. He stroked Logan’s arms and back, whether to comfort or be comforted, Logan didn’t know. “I did not. I thought I would instead travel, find another fair or circus, or maybe try something else.

“I left to go into the nearby towns, and I thought,” he shook his head, “I do not know what I thought. I did not think that they would hate me so, not knowing me. They saw only a monster, as he did; an animal.” The bewildered confusion in his voice was heartbreaking.

“They chased me, and I tried to talk to them, and they struck me from behind, and then they beat me, and I do not remember…” He trailed off and shook his head. “He said he paid them for me, and so I was his. And they gave me drugs, and then there was the—that place, and I could not leave.”

They sat like that a while in silence, heads together, arms draped loosely around each other. Kurt’s knees pressed against Logan’s chest, and he stroked the long legs as Kurt ran one hand over his arm and shoulder, the other grazing his neck and back, each of them taking comfort in the closeness.

“How long ago was that?” Logan murmured, not wanting to shatter the peace, but needing to know.

Kurt shrugged. “The time—what is it today?”

“April something,” Logan answered, “Two thousand one.”

Kurt shuddered once, from head to toe. “It is…more than four years.”

Logan carded one hand through the unruly blue curls behind one ear. “Well, you’re out of it now. And if anyone tries it again, I’ll carve their guts out.”

Kurt chuckled faintly. “I will hold them still. I am not leaving you.”

Logan shifted uncomfortably. “You could do better, you know. Other places, other people.”

Kurt stilled completely. Logan looked over at him and found himself facing an expression of the sheerest disbelief.

“What?” Logan squirmed under Kurt’s unflinching gaze.

Kurt shook his head. “How you can say this…” The hand on Logan’s shoulder moved to cup his cheek reverently, and the other drifted to the back of his neck. And then his arms were full of Kurt, and his chest was pressed against Kurt’s, and Kurt’s mouth was surrounding his, and his tongue was in Kurt’s mouth and Kurt’s tongue was in his, and there was no question of anyone leaving.

Their kiss was less gentle this time, more urgent. Kurt clung to him fiercely, as if he could erase the demons of his past by melting into Logan’s skin. In the tiny portion of his brain that could still think beyond warm, wet, soft, good, Logan realized that this was not the kiss of the innocent he’d thought Kurt to be, and the main portion of his doubts were swept away, and he devoured Kurt’s mouth enthusiastically.

The dark tongue entwined with his matched its owner, slender and supple and sweet, with a hint of roughness like a cat’s. It brushed the roof of Logan’s mouth and teased between his teeth and lips before plunging back to taste him.

Logan stroked along one lengthened incisor in answer, curling his tongue around the point of fang, and Kurt’s breath hitched in his throat. Hands curling in Kurt’s hair, Logan stole the initiative, slowing just enough to thoroughly learn the other man’s taste. Clean and salty, an unfamiliar sharp edge that arrowed straight to Logan’s heart, like a hint of the bitterness he’d been through.

The soft fur of Kurt’s neck tickled Logan’s palm as he stroked it backwards, and Kurt shivered. Logan chuckled into his mouth, and Kurt nipped his lip with sharp teeth before licking it in apology.

The kiss slowed further, gentling, gradually trailing off into nuzzles and rubs of cheek against cheek. Kurt yawned, and Logan smiled at him. “Am I keeping you up?”

“It has been a long day.” Kurt shrugged, looking sheepish.

“Yeah,” Logan agreed. “And Jean’s gonna kill me for letting you overexert yourself. And you’ll probably wish you were dead, once those muscles tighten up.”

Kurt looked down at the blankets, picking at the fabric. “Mm.” He glanced over at the bathroom and brightened a little. “A hot shower will help.”

Logan leaned back against the wall, laughing. “You and your baths!”

Another shrug, and Kurt rubbed at his arms. “I sometimes think my fur will never be clean again.”

Logan pulled him into a brief hug, then tousled his hair. “Go to it, then. Plenty of water here.”

Kurt stumbled heading for the bathroom, and Logan stood to help him. He set Kurt on his feet and stepped back, nudging him on. Kurt hesitated for a moment, looking at Logan, and asked hesitantly, “Will you come with me?”

Logan blinked, stared back, and tried for a nonchalance he was far from feeling. “Sure. Why not?”

They undressed themselves without fanfare as they waited for the water to warm, then stepped into the shower. Kurt luxuriated under the hot stream of water, letting it beat against badly overtaxed muscles. He leaned against Logan for support, and Logan ran soothing hands down his arms and legs.

They kissed and touched lazily, pursuing closeness rather than arousal, staying under the water until Kurt declared his muscles relaxed. Logan’s hands had long since turned to prunes, and Kurt, apparently immune to the effect, sniggered at him. They toweled off themselves and each other, threw on the sweats they’d been sleeping in, and crawled into bed.

Kurt immediately took up his accustomed position plastered to Logan’s side, Logan’s arm around his shoulders. Despite the familiarity, the new sexual awareness between them lent a different feel to it, and they lay for a while refamiliarizing themselves with each other, Logan stroking Kurt’s shoulder, Kurt ruffling and plucking the hairs on Logan’s arm.

“Logan?” Kurt asked quietly without looking up.

“Yeah?”

“If this is not a problem, then why did you stop me before?”

Logan shrugged horizontally. “I thought that…well, I thought when you said you’d been there your whole life, that you meant you’d been caged up the whole time. And I thought you …”

Kurt snickered into Logan’s chest, and Logan thumped his shoulder with a fist. “Well, how was I supposed to know?”

Kurt rubbed his face against Logan and sobered. “You are right. I am only glad that it was not as you thought. To have been in that…place for my entire life, it would have killed me, I think.”

“I don’t know,” Logan answered. “You’re a pretty strong person. Look how far you’ve come in just a few weeks, after all of that. But I’m glad I was wrong, too.”

Kurt tightened his arm around Logan, and when he spoke, Logan could hear the grin in his voice. “You will be more glad when I show you how you were wrong in other things, also.” Any attempt at lechery was ruined by another jaw-cracking yawn.

Logan laughed and settled further into the pillow. “Sure, elf. Go to sleep.”

“Mm.” His hand slowed on Logan’s arm, and he dropped off shortly.

Logan lay there for some time, cradling his friend—lover?—in his arms. The beautiful, strong, gentle, unexpectedly funny man that had decided for some reason to start up with him. What have I gotten myself into?

Chapter Text

Eyes snapped open, breath heavy, heart pounding. Where? Heavy weight pinned him down; he shifted, tensing to throw it off. It moved and murmured, warm fur rubbing his arm, soft hair brushing his face.

Kurt. Memory came rushing back, grounding him in the here and now. He let out his breath, collapsing into the bed as his muscles relaxed.

“Mm?” Kurt raised his head from Logan’s neck and blinked at him sleepily, brow wrinkled in concern.

Logan shook his head. “Nothin’.” He patted him on the back. “Go back t’ sleep.”

Kurt stared a moment longer, then settled back down, his breath evening out once more. It took Logan longer to quiet his mind, and he lay there for some time, staring at the ceiling in search of answers or comfort.

I almost tossed him into the wall before I knew where I was. If I hadn’t recognized him in time…what if I don’t, next time? These dreams aren’t getting any better. If they don’t go away, what are the chances I’ll spear him like I did Rogue? It scared him more than anything had in a long time. And that scared him even more.

He woke once more during the night, strobe-images of pain and terror fading to obscurity before he opened his eyes. Faint light turned his lids red, and he lifted them to see Kurt sitting over him, knees curled into his chest, a book in his lap and his eyes closed, asleep.

Gazing indulgently at the sight, Logan relaxed again. Sleep anywhere, huh, buddy? Kurt’s tail lay coiled against Logan’s hip, and he curled his hand around it, stroking gently. It twitched, and Kurt drew in a quick breath as his eyelids snapped open.

Damn, Logan thought, disappointed, as Kurt raised his head and focused on him. Didn’t mean to wake him up. “Hey.” He squeezed the tail affectionately. “Want to try that lying down?”

A blink and a stretch, the tightness around the yellow eyes suggesting pain, and Kurt turned out the light and slowly crawled back under the sheets.

Logan turned toward him and found his arms filled with soft, cool fur, one long, thin leg crooking between his own. One cold foot brushed Logan’s shin, and he grunted and flinched. Kurt nuzzled his hair in apology and removed the foot. Reaching out with his own, Logan pulled it firmly back where it had been. Kurt squirmed a little closer to him and went boneless. Logan shook his head mentally and followed him to sleep.

 

Logan woke in the morning as fresh as ever and silently thanked his quick healing for the lack of exhaustion. Scent and hearing determined he and Kurt were alone before he opened his eyes. Kurt was still asleep, back turned to him now, head on Logan’s arm. Logan watched him breathe for a moment, then, moving as slowly and carefully as he could, disentangled himself and moved to sit at the desk.

He grabbed a cigar out of the jacket he’d slung over the chair and lit up. He was tempted to turn on the desk lamp, but knew the noise would wake his light-sleeping bed partner; even the scratch of the match had made him shift. Instead, he catalogued what his sharp eyes could see in the morning light filtered around the door.

The T-shirt Kurt slept in had been meant for Logan’s broad shoulders and was far too large on Kurt’s thinner frame. Not as big as it was, though, he noted. He’s not exactly filled out yet, but he is gaining weight.

His pants were low-slung on his hips, pulled down even further in back for his tail, which snaked around his waist and out of sight. Logan frowned a bit, remembering Kurt’s relieved stretching each evening. Regular pants weren’t exactly designed for him. Kinda like me and gloves.

The sheet slid lower as Kurt moved restlessly onto his back, then rolled to face Logan. Grinning wryly at the obliging display, Logan ran his gaze over one cotton-covered shoulder and up the smooth fur and long muscles of his neck. The dim light played over the ends of his fur as Kurt shifted once more and leaned up on an elbow, blinking at Logan.

Logan shook his head and walked back to the bed. So much for getting a good look. Kurt struggled to sit, wincing, and Logan sat next to him and helped him up. “Still sore?”

Kurt nodded and gingerly straightened his legs, heartbeat speeding. Logan frowned at him. “No sense hurtin’ yourself more,” he said reasonably.

Kurt frowned down at his recalcitrant limbs, but humor tinged his voice. “To not hurt, I must not move.”

Logan grinned at him. “What’s wrong with that?”

The look Kurt turned on him was pathetic, and Logan was torn between holding him and patting him on the head like a spaniel. “Don’t give me those eyes.” He poked his cigar at Kurt in emphasis. “Moving too much is what got you into this.”

Despite himself, he found his spine dissolving under that gaze, and he sighed. What the hell happened to big, bad loner Logan? he whined in the privacy of his own mind. Crap, even my brain’s gone soft. “Go soak and loosen up, and I’ll rub you down afterwards.” He squeezed Kurt’s shoulder and stood. Kurt smiled at him in near-awe, and he waved it off. “Yeah, yeah. You need any help gettin’ up?”

Kurt shook his head no, then failed miserably at standing up by himself, ending up hunched over the bed, knees buckling. Logan slung an arm around his waist and half-carried him to the tub, sitting him on the rim.

Reaching down without comment, Logan sliced Kurt’s shirt from neck to hem, noting with discomfort that Kurt didn’t even flinch at the sudden appearance of blades so close to his skin. One more short slice along each arm, and the rags fell down around Kurt’s waist.

“There. Easier’n reaching over your head. Can you handle the rest yourself?” He nodded at the tub. Kurt smiled and nodded back. “All right. You know what you want for breakfast?”

Leaning carefully over to turn on the water, Kurt shrugged. With a sigh, Logan left him to it and headed down to the kitchen. The house was much emptier than it had been yesterday, the vague sounds and smells of life behind closed doors testifying that roughly one-third of the mansion’s populace was out already.

Ororo was the only one in the kitchen, and Logan nodded at her as he headed for plates. She was dressed in faded, almost threadbare jeans and a bright green and blue tank top, a matching scarf tying back her hair.

She nodded back, eyeing his cigar disapprovingly. “Good morning, Logan. Would you like some tea?” She raised the pot she held.

“No, thanks.” He grabbed a mug and poured himself some coffee. “Nice outfit.” He indicated her clothes with his cigar. “You working on the car today?”

She shook her head with a tiny smile. “Gardening. It will be a lovely day for it.”

“Guess you’d know.” He grinned at her.

Her smile broadened, her eyes twinkling. “What makes you think I would change it to suit me?”

Logan snorted. “Everyone else around here uses their powers, why shouldn’t you?”

She shrugged elegantly. “As it happens, I have not today; I simply monitor the weather, for the most part. I only change it when I must; to alter its currents too much is not wise. All the earth is connected, and changing one part affects her all.”

Logan raised an eyebrow at her. “Whatever.” He peered in the refrigerator, searching for something to eat.

“There are pancakes and bacon and eggs in the dining room,” Ororo told him, turning to leave.

Logan paused and frowned for a moment. Thought I was smelling someone’s earlier breakfast. Ororo caught his quizzical look and answered his unasked question. “The Christians go to church this morning; many of the rest of us choose to spend time outdoors or sleep late. Serving breakfast as a buffet makes it easiest for everyone.”

Logan grunted in acknowledgement and grabbed the plates and his mug, nodding good-bye as they went their separate ways. The food was set out hotel-style, with little burners under each covered tray. He piled the food high on the plates and brought it back to the kitchen, adding Kurt’s health stuff and some juice and coffee and finding a tray to put it on.

Kurt was still in the bath when Logan returned, so he carried the tray into the bathroom. Kurt looked up at him from the steaming water, hair and fur plastered damply to his face.

“Breakfast.” Logan raised the tray in demonstration.

Kurt smiled gratefully and steadied the tray as Logan balanced it on the side of the tub. They ate in companionable silence, Kurt stretching once just enough to replace the hot water. Logan put the tray on the small counter next to the sink as Kurt settled back with a sigh.

“Feeling any better?” Logan asked, sitting back down next to the tub.

“Mm.” Kurt nodded even as he winced. “Better. I still hurt, but not as much.” His eyelids drooped lazily for a moment, and Logan thought he might have a chance to take a good look at him for once, but Kurt shifted restlessly, slanted a look at him, and rolled to grab hold of the rim. “I will get out now.”

Logan frowned. “Why? You looked pretty happy a second ago. Stay put if you want to.”

“No, that is fine. I will get out now.” Definitely a nervous edge to his words, and Logan sighed.

“Okay, come on, then; you need a hand up?”

Kurt accepted the help, and the towel Logan handed him, but kept darting little glances at him until Logan was hard-pressed to keep his calm facade. Thought we’d got past all this?

After only the most cursory drying, Logan stopped Kurt with a hand on his shoulder. “You keep twisting like that, you’ll throw something out for sure. ’Sides, we wait for you to be dry, you’ll be cold. Just put the towel under you so the sheets don’t get wet.” He motioned Kurt onto the bed, and he went, a curious mixture of eagerness and reluctance.

“Relax,” Logan told him as pleasantly as he could. “This is me, remember?” He thumped Kurt a little heavily on the shoulder with his fist. “You don’t relax, none of this’ll do any good.” Kurt nodded and made a visible effort to obey as Logan sat next to him.

Gently, Logan reached out and brushed the long hair off Kurt’s neck to start there. He kneaded the tense muscles, feeling out the sorest spots with a skill part born of an active man’s knowledge of strain and part out of something in the depths of his blank past.

He worked on Kurt’s neck and shoulders for some time, running his hands up behind the pointed ears to massage his scalp as well. Kurt’s eyes drifted shut, and he leaned into Logan’s ministrations, letting him turn his head to either side as he smoothed over the corded neck till all tension was gone.

From there, Logan moved down to the lean back, rubbing between the still-too-prominent shoulder blades. He took his time there and with each arm, finally able to really look at Kurt, so long as he didn’t linger too much in any one place. Every time he tried, Kurt got twitchy again, though how he could tell was anyone’s guess, so Logan eventually gave up and just took in what he could.

The scars still left under the indigo fur were a lighter, almost lavender, shade, many of them ridged in a way that showed the lack of proper medical attention they’d had. The almost complete lack of any body fat was disturbing, but it highlighted the long muscles—gymnast’s muscles—still evident despite the years of abuse and inactivity. He must have done what he could when they weren’t looking. Otherwise, he’d be in even worse shape.

Kurt’s arms went limp as Logan massaged each of them down to the tips of those strange-fingered hands. His palms and fingers were smooth and hairless, the skin a scant shade lighter than the fur that tapered off on the backs of his hands. Each big knuckle bent further than most people’s, though Logan was careful not to stretch the tendons too far. The blood under his nail beds turned them a purple Logan supposed was healthy, though the nails themselves had probably seen better days.

Logan set each arm down carefully in turn and worked his way back to Kurt’s sides and back. The muscles here, too, were unlike what his innate knowledge said they should be, Kurt’s body almost as different under the surface as on it. More connections to bone, denser despite disuse than a normal human’s would have been, and they flowed in directions that most people’s couldn’t have.

His spine was disconcertingly odd, too, moving under Logan’s hands, the vertebrae only loosely connected to each other. He frowned uneasily. “Hey, Kurt?”

“Mm?” a drowsy enquiry answered.

“Is your back supposed to move like that?”

“Mm?” A slight wrinkle of his forehead accompanied it this time.

“Like this.” Logan raised Kurt’s hip with one hand and pressed down on his back with the other to demonstrate.

“Mm.” An almost-laughed smile in his voice.

Logan nodded curtly. “Okay. Just let me know if I hurt you.”

“Mm.”

Logan continued down, learning Kurt’s body an inch at a time, a twitch of muscles or the scent of pain or relief telling him what he needed to know. He finished just above Kurt’s tail and hesitated.

“This thing get strained, too?” he asked, shaking the appendage in question. Avoid his ass, avoid the complications. Like he wasn’t the one who started it. But he was still so jumpy in the bathroom…

Kurt drew in a sharp breath and roused enough to turn the corner of a yellow-eyed gaze back on Logan. “Ja. And it is attached to me,” he reproved.

“Sorry.” Distraction accomplished. Logan ran his hands over and around Kurt’s tail, trying to figure out how to massage it. “Why do you do that?”

Kurt grunted as Logan hit a knot, moaned a little as it loosened. “Was meinst du?”

Logan’s sardonic look was wasted, Kurt’s eyes still being closed. “That. I know Chuck’s English took. So how come you hardly ever say ‘yes’?”

“I am sorry.” Kurt frowned a little. “I will try to say it in English.”

Logan sighed and reminded himself to keep his temper. “It’s not a problem, I just want to know why it’s the simple words you still say in German.”

Kurt hitched his shoulders slightly in a relaxed shrug. “I do not know. Perhaps…those are the words I am most used to?” He groaned as Logan found the last kink, his tail draped over Logan’s arms like a huge, wet noodle.

Logan chuckled and let it fall gently next to him as he started up Kurt’s legs. He abandoned conversation to concentrate on one three-toed foot. Long and flexible, his toes bent together almost like a bird’s; each knuckle stood out prominently, though Logan couldn’t tell if that was how they should be, or because of Kurt’s weight loss.

As he moved to sit between Kurt’s legs and started up one lean, furred calf, the sexual overtones of what he was doing became harder to ignore. He wrestled with himself all the way up that thigh and over the other foot to the back of the second knee.

He said he wants me, but he still won’t let me look at him. Even if he isn’t a total innocent, how ready can he be for something like this? But if I turn him away, how will we ever know? And what would it do to him to be rejected? He scowled. I will not start anything with him just because of that. I may be crazy; I ain’t stupid or cruel.

He stroked strongly up the final thigh to loosen the muscles, then softened his grip to a caress before scrambling to one side, risking a light slap on Kurt’s ass. “All done. Feel better?”

“Mm.” Kurt opened his mouth, hesitated, then grinned. “Yes.” Slitted eyes twinkled mischievously. Logan snorted and leaned back against the headboard.

Apparently too comfortable to move much, Kurt tilted his head to keep Logan in sight and slid his nearer arm over Logan’s legs. Logan sunk his hand into Kurt’s hair, expecting the other man to fall almost immediately from utter relaxation into sleep.

Instead, Kurt roused a bit and turned onto his side, tugging on Logan’s legs. “Come down here?”

Logan obeyed, grumbling about being used as a teddy bear, and what did Kurt’s last slave die of? He grinned to show he was only joking, and Kurt laughed back at him, a throaty, relaxed chuckle that was infectious, and Logan couldn’t help but join in.

The hand that had never left Kurt’s head drifted forward to stroke his cheek, and Kurt smiled as he leaned into it, wrapping an arm around Logan’s waist and pulling himself closer. Faced with the beautiful smiling mouth in front of him, Logan’s concerns somehow stopped mattering, and he leaned forward for another kiss.

The dry chill of the air had cooled Kurt’s fur as he dried, and he shivered, pushing closer to Logan for warmth. Logan wrapped an arm around his waist and covered Kurt’s long legs with one of his own, rubbing them warm.

Kurt’s arms snaked up under Logan’s T-shirt, moulding them closer still, his chest pressing into Logan’s as he deepened the kiss with passion that seemed born of more than affection and hero-worship. The subtle hint of static between their bodies crackled at the edge of Logan’s nerves, adding an electricity that both encouraged and set him on edge.

Kurt seemed to have no such ambivalence, all the quiet confidence he possessed focussed on this one act of kissing, getting closer in any and every way possible. Despite the fur-covered limbs blanketing him, the hardened nipples and lax genitals snuggled against his cotton-clothed body, Logan felt somehow that he was the naked one here.

When did I get to be the nervous one? Who’s taking advantage of who, here? Perversely, Logan threw himself into the contact with renewed vigor, determined not to be outdone.

Eventually, the kiss smoothed to a gentle pull of lips and teasing licks, barely tasting, then ended in a gentle brush of breath whispered over Logan’s mouth.

Ich bin verliebe in dich.” Kurt rubbed his cheek against Logan’s contentedly. “I am in love with you, Logan.” He buried his nose in Logan’s thick hair, and settled into a cosy embrace, oblivious to the frozen shock in Logan’s arms that held him close.

Fuck. He— He looked down at the contented blue-furred body wrapped around his. That’s it? He was torn between incredulous laughter and snarling rage. You fucking tell me…you drop that on me, and then you curl up and lay there? He forcibly unclenched his fists and took several deep breaths. His lips still tingled from the kiss, but his mind whirled independent of his body.

He doesn’t worry about this at all. Was he always like this, or is it only that anything’s good after what he’s been through? How can he just accept all of this? He doesn’t know anything about me! Hell, I know more about him than me. I could have a wife, or be an escaped con, or anything. How do you fall in love with somebody you barely know? And a treacherous voice whispered, How do you fall in love with anyone when you barely know yourself?

His tenseness communicated itself to Kurt, who lifted his head to give Logan a quizzical look. Logan sighed and forced himself to relax. “You…look, I rescued you, I like you, but there’s more—you can’t just…”

He pounded the bed in disgust at himself and took a breath to try again, but a hand on his face stopped him. Kurt stroked his cheek, running a thumb over his lips, gaze solemn and content.

“You saved me,” he agreed. “Many people saw me every day and they did nothing. You are a man who saves others; why should I not love you for this? And you are good to me, you help me always, and you kiss nicely.” He leaned in for a demonstration, fingers running back over Logan’s sideburn to sink into his hair.

As Logan relaxed, Kurt slid on top of him, legs falling open around his waist. Logan brought his arms up to hold and stroke the still-thin hips astride his, and Kurt undulated along his body, stealing what breath was left and swallowing Logan’s groan in his own mouth.

It felt good, so good…he couldn’t remember having sex with a man before, but the flat-muscled chest meeting his, the musk-smell, the cock beginning to harden against his leg, all had him harder than he’d been in some time. More than that, the soft pelt under his palms, the salty-sharp taste and smell of Kurt, spread heat through his body, a burning ache that centered in his chest and headed rapidly downwards.

Kurt slid his hands to the hem of Logan’s shirt, sliding it up to his armpits, tugging impatiently until Logan lifted his arms, breaking the kiss just long enough to tear the T-shirt off, throwing it across the room with abandon.

Each hair on Kurt’s chest stroked along Logan’s as he settled back down, and Logan couldn’t help but think of that feeling other places. He thrust his tongue deep into Kurt’s mouth as he reached to push his sweatpants down and off. Kurt helped him, hooking his toes in the waistband to push, twining his own tongue with Logan’s greedily. Then they were together, nothing else between them.

They struggled for a moment for a rhythm, and then Kurt hooked his ankles around Logan’s knees, and Logan clenched his hands into Kurt’s ass, and they were moving against each other steadily. It felt every bit as good as he’d imagined.

Then his last thoughts scattered in favor of touching and feeling and tasting and smelling, and one of his grasping fingers sank just inside Kurt, and Kurt hissed in pleasure and bit his ear and Logan came, gasping. Kurt rode his spasms until they ended, then moved against him with increasing urgency as Logan kissed him and coaxed him higher, until Kurt stiffened and cried out, and his own fluids joined Logan’s between their bodies.

They lay there for some time, catching their breath and regathering their wits, trading lazy kisses and licks. Kurt rolled off of Logan and snuggled up against his side, and Logan turned his head to nuzzle Kurt’s neck, breathing in their scents mingled in his fur.

That brought on a thought, and Logan chuckled softly. “Good thing you like baths, ’cause we both need another one. I don’t think you want your fur drying like this.” He rubbed his fingers in the sweat-and-come-wet hairs of Kurt’s belly. Kurt hummed in laughter and smiled at him.

Eventually, they got up the energy to make it to the shower, and managed to separate long enough to clean themselves and each other. It was soothing, just being close, no need to chatter on or put on some kind of front. After the shower, they mock-fought with towels, wrestling and laughing like a pair of kids, and that was great, too; that he had someone to joke around with, and that Kurt was secure enough to fake a fight.

Logan sobered up a bit when they finally left the room, but Kurt was almost giddy. The halls were near-empty, and the few children that did pass them by earned no more than an uneasy glance, barely denting Kurt’s mood.

They walked a bit, Kurt finally working off his excess energy and settling into a calm joy that shone out of his eyes to match the sunlight silvering his fur.

Logan drank in the sight, glad to see him looking healthy. More than that… “Hey.” Logan stopped Kurt with a hand on his back and turned to face him. “Anybody ever tell you that you’re gorgeous?”

Kurt blinked, startled, and Logan shook his head. “Didn’t think so. Just thought you should know you are.” He started walking again, and Kurt put an arm around his shoulders tentatively, settling it there when Logan let his own drift around Kurt’s waist. “You getting hungry yet?”

Chapter Text

Kitty and Rogue caught up with them at lunch and cajoled them into playing soccer on the lawn. Kurt seemed unsure, but most of the players he’d already met, and his good mood and enthusiasm for the game overcame the rest of his reluctance.

Their team was the four of them; Bobby; the blue-haired kid (whose name was Kevin, and who took to Kurt like a long-lost brother); Hank McCoy; a large, quiet boy he’d seen around named Peter; a boy and a girl with matching freckled faces and Southern accents so heavy he wasn’t sure he’d caught their names; and a black girl, a friend of one of the students, who warned them she wasn’t a mutant so they’d better go easy, but looked able and willing to take on any of the other kids.

They faced off against Jean; Scott; Sean; John; Kitty and Rogue’s roommate (who, he was told, hated her name and preferred to go by “Jubilee”) and the boy she’d had the fight with (another Pete); Doug; two of Logan’s students, Dani and James; a boy Rogue pointed out as Jared, the one she’d taken power from that once; and a blond kid that looked like a juvenile delinquent but that Pete dragged into the game because “If I’m doing this, mate, so are you.”

It was probably the oddest ballgame Logan had ever been in. For one thing, no other game had had the declared rule “no use of powers likely to harm other players or destroy the ball.” For another, it was damn hard to beat a goalie who could block any kick quick as thought. Then again, their team had one of the only two players who flew, and the only one who could pass the ball to himself. Kurt even managed to make a goal that way, prompting a gleeful hug from Jean that he allowed with no more than a slight flinch and a bemused smile.

In the end, they won by two points, and it was decreed that they pick the toppings on the pizza they ordered. Rather than head to the dining room, both teams flopped down in the main lounge, draping themselves over various bits of furniture or floor. Most of their team insisted on hugging them or slapping them on the back, and the other team teased them all; they endured both with equal stoicism.

Kurt sat close to Logan, their legs pressed together, and winced occasionally at the sheer volume of the conversation, but managed to hold his own in both talking and eating, and even relaxed enough to laugh once or twice at jokes the children made. Pete’s blond friend stared intensely at Kurt a bit until Pete punched him in the arm and scowled at him, but Kurt seemed to not even notice.

If I hadn’t seen him a few weeks ago, I’d never even guess the shit he’d been through. Logan couldn’t restrain the pride and respect that thought brought and didn’t try, smiling at Kurt and resting a hand on his shoulder as he leaned back, earning a smile in return.

Scott begged off after a while, stopping to congratulate them once more on a game well-played, and Logan grinned at Kurt’s near-smug acceptance of the praise.

A few minutes later, a chorus of greetings announced Professor Xavier’s arrival. He smiled and nodded at the children before turning to Logan. “May I speak with you for a moment? I have some news I think may interest you.”

Logan looked to Kurt, who smiled reassuringly, and patted him on the thigh before he went to join the professor.

“What is it?” He didn’t sound worried, but if it’s something he can’t say in front of the kids…

“Oh, it’s nothing bad, I hope,” the professor reassured him. “I’ve had Hank running some queries through various databases, and I may have found some information to help in your search.”

It took Logan a moment to process what he meant, a moment longer to recover enough to speak. “What did he find?”

“A number of people who used to live in the town closest to that abandoned base. They’re all listed as low-level civilian government employees, all have Ph.D.s in various sciences, and all moved out of the city shortly before the base was closed down.” He held up a slip of paper. “Two are currently listed as residents of a nursing home in the countryside on Vancouver Island.” He shrugged. “It may, of course, be coincidence; however…”

“It ain’t likely,” Logan finished for him. “Thanks.”

“Not at all,” the professor assured him warmly. “You’ve been a great help to us; I’m pleased to be able to return the favor.” He turned toward the lounge, joining the after-dinner revelry.

Logan watched him go, then turned to the paper the professor had handed him. It held two names and a set of coordinates.

Scientists. And if it was that base I was at, it’s good odds they were the ones pulling this crap on me. He clenched one hand, feeling the claws shift under his skin. I could finally get some answers.

Kurt bounded into his field of vision, and he shook himself. The grin on the other man’s face was contagious, and he returned it as Kurt grabbed his hand, tugging. “You are coming back in?”

“Yeah, I’m coming. Hold yer horses.” He shook his head and let himself be dragged back to what had become a giant game of Uno. Kitty explained the rules to them and they shared a hand, picking the rest up as they went along.

Jean, who was dealing and straightening the cards but not playing herself, dropped onto the couch next to them, smiling at them both. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Logan returned her greeting, and Kurt nodded.

“I just wanted to thank you both for spending some time with the children,” she continued softly. “I know neither of you cares much for crowds, but I hope you both had a good time. I know the kids did.” She smiled at their assurances. “Good. It’s nice to see you belonging.”

She hesitated, then lowered her voice so only they could hear. “It’s nice to see you together, too.” Logan tensed, surprised, but she just smiled and blushed a little, hanging her head. “I’m not eavesdropping or anything, I promise, but some thoughts leak out kind of strongly.” She laughed a little, embarrassed. “And that’s enough of that. I just wanted to let you know, we preach tolerance of all kinds here, so if you don’t want to keep it private, we will back you up officially.”

Kurt thanked her with a shy smile; Logan just nodded, uneasy for no reason he could put his finger on. They played another round of the game, but he was growing increasingly restless, and they made their excuses after that and headed out for another walk alone.

Kurt looked concerned for him, but Logan slung an arm around him in a brief hug. “Just extra energy, Elf.” Kurt hugged him back, and they strolled on for a bit.

In a glade a little way into the forest, Logan backed Kurt into a tree and devoured his mouth, searching under his clothes with eager hands for the warm body they covered. His exploration was met with equal fervor, and he gasped as one long-fingered hand opened his jeans and closed around his cock, then returned the gesture eagerly.

The trees swallowed the groans and cries that escaped their locked mouths as they thrust into each other’s hands, and it didn’t take long for the passion to finish them both off. They slumped against one another, panting, gentle fingers sending aftershock shudders through them, until they gathered themselves enough to move.

Logan cleaned Kurt gently with the tail of his shirt, tucking him back into his pants before doing the same for himself, and they headed back for their room at a leisurely pace.

 

Kurt slipped easily into sleep, but Logan lay for some time staring at the ceiling before giving up and easing himself out of bed. Kurt roused enough to make an inquiring noise, but Logan caressed his hair and he fell back to sleep with a smile on his face.

Logan spit the end of a new cigar into the trash can and pulled the smoke into his lungs savagely, relishing the burn. The paper the professor had handed him gleamed coldly on the dresser where he’d cleaned out his pockets, and he glared at it.

Damn it, why now? Things are going good. He had a lover who cared about him, friends to fight beside and play with, a good place to stay… Fuck it, Logan, get to sleep; there’s class again tomorrow, and Kurt to think about. What’s the point? The old geezers’ll wait till you can spare a few days away from home.

He froze, the bottom dropping out of his stomach, then moved as quickly and silently as he could.

 

He didn’t stop till he was back in Canada.

Chapter Text

He drove on major highways, hitting as many cities as he could, deliberately avoiding the routes he’d travelled with Kurt, but that didn’t stop his brain going over the same damn old territory. Around Oshawa, he pulled into the roughest place he could find and ordered a beer.

He eyed the patrons calculatingly as he swallowed the drink down and called for another. A few blue-collar and corporate types, a couple kids who barely looked old enough to drink, and a loud group of obviously military types. Not half as tough as they think they are, but not a bunch of pansies, either.

As the bar filled, he picked a table not far from the worst of the bunch and slouched into a chair. After that, it was easy: a shift, a spilled beer, a few insults, and a fist came flying at him. They always thought they could take him—a short guy with no friends; just enough trouble to make them want to bother.

He gave back better than he got, grinning ferally as he wiped the floor and tables with them, making his way out as the fight spread to the whole room and he heard sirens in the distance, zooming off at the bike’s insane top speed, reveling at the adrenaline coursing through his veins, the high of pure freedom running through him.

But he fell asleep horny, and the nightmares still came.

 

By the time he got to BC, he wasn’t sure what he wanted any more. He was tired, strung-out, and hyped up; it had been nearly a week since he’d even bothered to try sleeping, and he’d been on the road almost two, driving miles out of his way in huge loops, spending days in each city getting drunk and starting fights and screwing nameless bodies.

He couldn’t pretend even to himself any more that he’d left the school to find his roots. He’d wanted to escape the trap that life at the mansion felt like, and he’d run. And while he was fighting or fucking, it all went away; but when he came back to his senses, the trap was still there.

And no matter how far or fast he drove, he kept wondering how Rogue and Kitty and the rest were doing, worrying Jean was working herself too hard and Scott wouldn’t know when to stop either of them, hoping Sean wasn’t too pissed at getting the bike class back. He told himself it’d stop; he’d forget them all soon, like he’d forgotten everything else, and he could get on with his life. Whatever that meant.

He wanted more than anything to forget pure golden eyes shining up at him with love, and the feeling of velvet fur under his hands and on his body. Wanted to let it go and not think about it any more.

But when he felt good, he wanted to share it with Kurt; when he felt bad, he wanted to crawl into his warm arms and never come out, and neither distance nor time was dimming the memory any. Finally, he just pushed everything to the back of his mind in favor of working on something he could do, and headed for the nursing home after all.

He stopped in Vancouver, picked up a map of the island at the ferry terminal, and barely noticed the girl flirting with him as she gave him directions to Sooke. From there, he checked the map and followed the only road northwest out of town, keeping an eye on the bike’s GPS. Some miles out, he landed on a barely-visible winding road that eventually dumped him at a gate that told him he’d found the place he was looking for. He climbed off the bike and strode closer for a look.

The building beyond was a flat, grey structure with architectural flourishes that made it look more pasted-together than elegant, but the lawn between it and the fence was meticulously groomed.

The guardhouse just inside the gate looked more like a tollbooth than Sean’s cosy cabin, but the man that walked out screamed military every bit as much as Sean had when they’d first met.

“Can I help you?” He was polite but not friendly.

“I’m here to visit Doctor Moore.” Logan eyed the man warily, but he gave nothing away.

“Just a minute.” The man returned to his booth, consulted a clipboard, and picked up a phone. His monosyllabic responses told Logan nothing; the soft click of a safety and a spot of warmth between his shoulder-blades spoke louder.

Logan dove for the bike, pulling back sharply, the thud of a projectile behind him echoed by bullets in front of him and the whine of silenced weapons. He feinted towards the trees at the roadside and tried for the bike again, barely stopping before it exploded in front of him. He rolled with the concussive force, springing to his feet as he processed the noises of the weapons around him.

A rocket launcher? What the fuck kind of nursing home is this? He feinted again, steeled himself, and ran into the hail of bullets, pushing through them and into the forest canopy. He registered the pain and ignored it, heading for the coast and rockier ground, counting on it to hide his trail. Behind him, the weapons fire died down, and he soon left the shouts behind.

He headed steadily away from the home, keeping well ahead of pursuit, but the rocks grew steeper, and he was forced back into the forest. Still, he kept them on the run for an hour or two, doubling back and looping his own track. He soon realized, though, that the now-sheer cliff was sloping back toward the road, and he cursed softly, remembering the narrow pass he’d driven through on the way up. They block that, and I’ll have to cut my way out, he thought grimly. Or climb. He eyed the cliff dubiously but decided he’d check the pass first. Nothing ventured… Heck, if they’re as dumb as most army grunts… And if I can’t get past ’em, maybe I’ll just head back and shake some answers out of someone, he thought darkly.

He smelled them before he saw them, and grimaced as he spied the area from the branches of a tree. Not far from his perch, the forest died out altogether, leaving a bare few feet of rock and scrub between the road and cliff; on the opposite side of the road, the land dropped away sharp and sheer to a tiny beach and water crashing over rocks that promised a grisly death. For two hundred meters at least, there was no cover or outlet, and in the middle of this stretch, three heavy trucks closed the gap, men with machine guns facing every direction around them.

Logan swore and visualized what he’d seen of the area, trying alternate routes in his mind. There was a point to the northwest, if he could make it back there—there was enough forest, it might take them a while to find him. Unless they have security devices I haven’t spotted. Or air cover.

As if in answer, the roar of a light jet became audible, coming in fast. Just my luck, he thought wryly, dropping to the ground and searching for as densely treed a spot as he could find.

With a whine and roar, the jet shot overhead and banked sharply, and Logan glanced up, then did a double-take. “What the —” He laughed silently. Son of a bitch. There was no mistaking the X-Men’s highly modified Blackbird, and he’d never thought he’d be so glad to see it. Though how they thought they could pick him up in that thing… They’ll need to clear those guards out first, if nothing else.

Apparently, the same thought had occurred to them. They circled back toward the road, and he ran as close as he could to the blockade, waiting in the underbrush to make a run for it.

The plane dove at the soldiers, hoping to scatter them, but they closed around their vehicles and fired on it, giving no ground. The X-Men circled around for another pass as the men on the ground brought a SAM to bear on them; a steep loop saved the Blackbird, but put it over the water, doing a wide 180 to bring it back to the battle as they dove again.

At the last moment, the plane dipped one wing and climbed quickly, raising sand and dust in its wake. Rather than settling when the plane soared high, the dust storm picked up, whirling around the soldiers on the road, and Logan tensed, ready to run. Way to go, Storm! But even as he stood, barked orders made the men fan out, a human wall across the pass. Logan cursed once more, then clenched a fist. Screw it. These assholes knew what they were in for.

A jet roared again, sounding different from the Blackbird, but though Logan dove for cover and searched the skies, he saw nothing but the X-Men’s plane high overhead.

Shouts and a red flare brought his attention back to the ground—a rolling mist was engulfing the soldiers, a flickering red light barely visible through it.

Cyke? When did he hop off? Logan wondered, but wasted no time in making a dash for it as the soldiers finally broke ranks.

Halfway there, he was grabbed from behind; he whirled around, startled, claws already out, the face in front of him making him pull back so fast he nearly dislocated his shoulder. “Kurt?”

Kurt grabbed him by the shoulders, and with that disconcerting lurch, they were somewhere else. Still on the road, and a quick glance behind him showed a wall of flame and steam between them and the soldiers.

Two shapes raced toward them, then a third ran from the flames. Silhouetted against the fire they were indistinguishable, but as they drew nearer, Logan was surprised and dismayed to recognize, not the X-Men, but Bobby, John, and Kitty. He frowned. “Hey, what —”

“Come on!” Rogue’s voice behind him, and he turned to see her step down out of thin air. “They’ve got helicopters on the way; we’d better hurry.”

He put aside his questions as they ran for the far side of the pass. They made it to the bend where the road headed back to the forest, then the kids pulled up, stopping Logan with them.

“Cover your ears,” Rogue warned them. She stared intently at the cliff behind them, then opened her mouth and screamed. The noise that came out, though, was far from the yell of a teenaged girl, the inhuman wail piercing his ears. As he winced at the volume, the cliff above the road rumbled, quivered, and fell, blocking the pass completely.

Rogue turned back with a grin, sucking in air. “Not bad, huh?”

“You should join Chorus,” John joked. “They could use you.” She stuck her tongue out at him.

“Great,” Logan interrupted them. “Now where do we go to get picked up?” The kids looked at each other, not answering. Logan sighed. “You did set up a rendezvous, didn’t you?”

“Well, um,” Kitty faltered, “actually…”

“The plane kinda left when the helicopters showed up,” Rogue continued. “The professor was keeping a check on you, and I guess they reckoned since you were safe, they didn’t want to start an international incident.”

Logan scowled. “You’re saying they just left you all here on your own, and they flew off to safety?” What the fuck kind of assholes would walk off and leave kids in danger?

The children looked at each other again, not meeting Logan’s eyes. Finally, Kurt was the one to answer. “They do not know we are here.” His voice was flat, determined.

“What? How do —”

“We stowed away,” Kitty broke in with a rush. “It was probably dumb, but we really wanted to help, and they wouldn’t let us, and we’ve been training for years anyway, we’re not defenseless,” she nodded at the chorus of agreement from the others, “so we snuck on board, then we snuck off to help you, and they never even saw us, so they don’t know we’re gone yet.” She flushed under Logan’s scrutiny, but didn’t back down.

Logan looked around at the others for confirmation, finding the same resolve on all their faces. Rogue lifted her chin and crossed her arms to stare at him defiantly. “And we’d do it again, too.”

“Yeah,” the others backed her up.

“Besides,” Kitty pointed out, “I bet Professor Xavier knows we did it. He would’ve told them if he thought it was dangerous.”

Logan sighed, bringing a hand to his forehead. If I didn’t know it was impossible, I’d think I had a headache coming on. “All right, whatever. No matter what we do, we’d better get away from here, and unless one of you can build a car out of nothing, it’s a long way back to the nearest city. Let’s get going.” He headed back towards the main road, and the others followed silently.

Chapter Text

Logan expected the kids to start griping before the first mile was past, but they kept their spirits surprisingly well. They took turns with Kitty pulling them along through trees when they needed a rest, giving her rides in turn, and Bobby managed to ice over the bottoms of his feet and skate over the smoother patches of ground.

They kept quiet for the most part, speaking in undertones and listening for pursuit, but there was none that they could discover. Kurt teleported ahead of them to make certain that the way was clear and behind them to see if they were being followed, but after he carried each of them forward once, the kids opted not to travel that way, reacting to it as badly as Logan had the first time. Kurt just shrugged, nodded, and left to check their way again.

Something about Kurt’s behavior bothered Logan, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He’s barely said a word since we met up, was all he could think of, but Kurt had never been very talkative, after all. And we’re back out in the world now, back closer to where I found him. But with Kurt’s back-and-forth hops, he had no time to pull him aside and ask him if that was the problem.

It had been midmorning when Logan’d arrived at the home; they made it back to Sooke late dinnertime. They didn’t see any military presence, but Logan was wary of showing his face, so he hung back in the forest as the kids headed into town to use a phone. Kurt agreed they shouldn’t draw attention this close to the home and stayed with Logan, but there was an almost reluctant edge to his agreement that set the gears in Logan’s head whirling again.

Did he finally latch on to one of them instead of me? He ruthlessly strangled his surge of jealousy at the notion. Good for him if he has. I hope it’s Kitty; she seems like a stable kid.

With the kids gone, their little corner of forest settled into silence, but the welcome calm of their times together was missing, the air uneasy with something. Kurt paced, tail twitching, arms hugging his chest. Watching him, Logan couldn’t help but notice he looked good — thin, but more slender than gaunt, hair and fur sleek and shining. His movements were jerky, but from emotion rather than soreness.

“Relax,” Logan soothed him. “They’ll be fine. They’ll be right back.”

Kurt whirled to face him, expression fierce. “I know that they will be — people do not simply leave friends, do they?” The ferocity in his voice took Logan aback. “Friends do not abandon others with no explanations, no good-byes, only leaving them to guess where they have gone and why.”

He advanced on Logan, hands clenched and eyes flashing. “I know the children will return; they are my friends. But I do not know any more — are you my friend, Logan?” He stopped inches from Logan, half a foot taller as he stood poised on the balls of his feet, chest heaving as he caught his breath, still-long hair blown into both their faces by the breeze.

Logan caught the errant strands and pushed them back, pulling Kurt’s mouth down to his, devouring it with brief but intense kisses. “You,” managed in between, “are beautiful when you’re angry.”

He got one more kiss in before Kurt pulled back and decked him.

Logan barely registered the powerful fist that connected with his mouth, knocking his head hard enough against the tree behind him to make him see stars. The fact Kurt had punched him stunned him more than the impact, and he sank to one knee, carefully not shaking his head. Fuck. What the hell was that?

As he blinked and his vision cleared, he focused on Kurt, just a few feet away kneeling on the ground, curled around his arm and hand. Logan winced and inched his way over to him. Damned metal bones. “You okay, Elf?”

Kurt glared over at him, pain and anger warring in his face. “Now you care?”

Logan winced again, looking away. “Yeah, I care,” he answered softly. “I just — ah, never mind. We can talk later. How’s your hand?”

“My hand is bruised, it will be fine,” Kurt answered stonily. “We will talk about this now.”

Logan chuckled. “You turned into a stubborn cuss, didn’t you?” He reached for Kurt’s hand, but Kurt jerked it away, hissing in pain at the sudden movement.

Logan sighed, his humor draining away. “Look, I don’t know what to say, okay?” He lapsed back into an awkward silence, fishing for words, and prodded at his already healing jaw. “You pack a hell of a punch,” he added lamely, trying to recapture their easy humor.

Kurt simply looked at him, unblinking, and the silence returned once more. “I’m no good at this shit. I like you; I’m sorry I never told you I was going away. What else do you want to hear?”

Kurt’s looked shaded into confusion and hurt, and he opened his mouth to reply, when a flurry of footsteps announced the kids’ return.

“We’re good,” Rogue announced breathlessly, and Logan tried not to scowl at her.

Shit timing, kid. “Yeah?”

She nodded. “We got the professor. He says to just go get a couple rooms somewhere tonight, and he’ll wire us some money and we’ll have it in the morning. Once we get somewhere private, he’ll talk to you and make some plans. But he says Kitty has to pick the hotel, or you — not John or Bobby.” The boys grumbled at the restriction, and Kitty snickered.

“Sounds good, kid. Thanks.” Here we go again, babysitter to the world. He kept his face neutral, though, and Rogue beamed at his praise. “I guess we should find a place.”

Kitty waved some papers at them. “I stole some pages from the phonebook. A couple places have ads with directions in them. This one and this one.” She pointed them out.

Logan skimmed the descriptions. “Hm. Bed-and-breakfast is too small, not easy to lose ourselves. Hotel’s in the middle of town.” He glanced over the other ads. “Here. This one’s on the same street as the B&B, and it’s got separate buildings. Let’s try it.”

The desk was closed when they got there, but eagerly opened at the prospect of renting rooms off-season, and the lights were dim enough Logan had hopes of not being identified should anyone come looking for him.

Kurt stayed outside with the boys, ostensibly as lookout, but Logan wondered if he was still angry or if he didn’t want to face other people yet. Still, they had no problems, and a short time later, they were all headed a few buildings down, to a converted house that boasted a common lounge and four hotel rooms.

They’d had to get three rooms, as it turned out; the only options were two single beds or one queen-sized. The last room in the building was thankfully unoccupied, and they all relaxed a little bit.

The girls took one room and the boys another, leaving the last for Kurt and Logan. Maybe I should’ve got us single beds, too? he wondered belatedly as Kurt eyed their bed and looked at him. Ah, screw it. “Look, Kurt, if you don’t want to sleep together, I’ll just take the floor, okay? I’ve slept on worse.”

“As have I,” Kurt answered coolly. “But not by my choice. Where would you rather sleep?”

Logan threw up his hands. “I’d rather sleep in the bed, but not unless you do, too; I’m not kicking you out!”

Kurt looked at him silently for a moment, expression inscrutable, and his voice was quiet when he spoke. “If you wish to be with me, then why did you leave?”

Shit. “Damn it, Kurt, it wasn’t you!” He breathed deep and let it out explosively, sinking to sit on the bed. “I just had to get out; had to remember who I was.” He laughed bitterly. “And ain’t that the biggest crock of shit.”

Kurt sat next to him, not touching or looking at him, but it was a start. “I do not understand.”

Logan shook his head. “I don’t know who I am. I don’t remember anything before I woke up in the snow somewhere almost fifteen years ago now. For all I know, ‘Logan’s not even my name; it’s just the only one I could remember.”

“But, the professor…” Kurt shrugged apologetically, hanging his head. “I wanted to know where you had gone. He said that you were perhaps looking for someone who knew you long ago.”

“Yeah,” Logan confirmed. “Eventually, anyway. Remember these?” He tapped the back of his hand. Kurt nodded. “I don’t know how I got ’em. Sometimes I get —” he hesitated. “flashbacks. Nightmares, mostly. Chuck’s been trying to help me track down who did it, maybe get some answers.”

After a hesitation, Kurt nodded. “For this, I understand why you would leave,” he admitted. “Do you have a reason, then, why you would leave without telling me this?”

Logan groaned and flopped back on the bed. Just let it drop. He sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face. “I don’t know, Elf. I wasn’t thinking. I just had to get out of there!”

The room fell into silence until Kurt’s soft voice broke it. “You tell me that it is not because of me you left; but if not me, then why? Why does he go and say nothing, I ask myself. And I find only one reason: because he thinks if he tells you that you will stop him, or follow. So, why then does he not leave a letter for after he is gone? Because, I think, he has nothing to say. You will understand or you will not, it is nothing to him.”

He took a breath to continue, but Logan laughed into the break, startled. Kurt looked at him finally, emotions warring on his face, and Logan silenced him with a shake of his head. He raised a hand to Kurt’s cheek, and to his relief Kurt allowed it.

“I didn’t even think about leaving a letter. You may have noticed I ain’t the best with words. But if I’d thought of it, I would’ve.”

“Yes?” Kurt met his eyes, less hostile now. “And what would you have written?”

Logan thought about it, opened his mouth to answer, and shut it again, mind utterly blank. He tried again. Shit, I’d say… I have no fucking idea. “This is why I didn’t leave a note,” he joked feebly. To his relief, Kurt actually grinned at that.

“I would’ve told you I was going off to do some things, that I might be back later. Maybe told you to get out some more, meet new people, hang out with the kids. Which I guess you did anyway, or you wouldn’t be here. You didn’t need me for that.” He sat up, frowning. “How’d you find me, anyway?”

“There was a…tracking beacon? On the bike. But we did not follow until it disappeared. The children were helpful,” he continued, not to be sidetracked, “but I wanted you with me.”

“Yeah, I —” Logan squirmed but forced himself to say it. “Me, too. I missed you,” he threw out defensively. “I thought about you all the time.” He tried for a smile, afraid it came off more as a grimace. “Can we do all this later? We’ve got a long trip back, and I just want to get some sleep.” And maybe it’ll all work out and we won’t have to talk about it.

Kurt nodded. The silence was still charged, but not as bad as it had been, and they simply sat for a few minutes. “I should take a shower.” He stood.

Logan mustered a grin for Kurt’s fastidiousness. But as he turned to go, Logan grabbed his hand, prompted by something he couldn’t quite figure out. “Hey.” Kurt looked down at him. “You want some company?” Kurt stared back, returned his grip, and took a step away, pulling Logan after him without a word.

Logan slept soundly that night.

Chapter Text

Logan scowled at the phone. “This is a joke, right?”

“No joke, I’m afraid, Logan,” the professor’s voice answered. “The Canadian government is less than pleased at having a US-made military jet attacking a supposedly secret installation. I do have friends in both governments, but until they can smooth things over, I’m afraid the Blackbird is grounded. However, I have managed to ensure they’ll take no further action against you until this is all sorted out.”

“Wonderful.” Logan grimaced. “So what now, we fly commercial?”

“Actually,” the professor sounded apologetic, “I’m not entirely certain that would be the best idea, for a variety of reasons. I’ve found a hire agency; they should have a van waiting for you some time this morning. I’m afraid you’ll have to drive back.”

“No problem,” Logan grumbled. “I ought to know these roads well enough by now.”

“Excellent,” the professor enthused, far too happy about it for Logan. “Just see you get back as quickly and safely as you’re able. I’ve overnighted you everything you should need; you can pick it up at the local post office. Is there anything else?” His tone clearly said he didn’t expect there to be.

“That’ll do.” Logan gave in.

“Good. Keep me apprised of your progress, and I’ll see you all when you get back. Good-bye.”

Logan grunted and hung up the phone. He brought the handset back to the hotel desk and nodded his thanks to the clerk. “Where’s the post office?” She gave him directions, and he called a cab, taking the time before it arrived to head back to the room.

Kurt was still sleeping when he closed the door softly behind him; he seemed not to have moved the entire night, nor did he stir when Logan stroked his side gently. It’s not like him to sleep this deeply. Wonder how much rest he got sleeping alone. Logan acknowledged and set aside the stab of guilt. About as much as me, probably. How the hell did we get so used to each other so fast?

“Hey, Kurt.” He shook his shoulder a little, and Kurt’s eyes opened wide immediately. They drooped a little when he recognized Logan, and his face brightened, though he didn’t quite smile.

“I gotta go out for a few minutes. The kids’re still asleep. Thought you might want to get a head start on a bath,” he joked.

Kurt met his eyes for a moment, then finally smiled a little. “Danke.”

“No problem. Be right back, I promise.” He leaned down for a quick kiss that turned into another, slower one, Kurt’s lips still soft and lax with sleep, his tongue lapping gently at Logan’s, then tracing his lips as they parted. Logan looked at Kurt from only a few inches away, tempted, so tempted, to lean in just once more…

He breathed in sharply and sat back up grinning ruefully. “Any more of that, and I’m not going anywhere any time soon.” He squeezed Kurt’s shoulder and headed out the door, turning back one last time before it shut, for a smile that Kurt returned tentatively.

Luckily, the trip didn’t take that long, but the kids were awake by the time he got back, and there seemed to be some kind of trouble already.

“Logan!” Rogue dashed up to him as soon as he opened the door to their building. “Did you talk to the professor already?”

“Yeah.” He frowned; she seemed really upset. “What’s up?”

“Is Sean okay? Is he gonna wake up? Did he say —”

“Whoa, whoa.” He held up a hand. “He didn’t even mention Sean; what’s wrong with him?”

“It was his power I took yesterday, but I’ve still got it, and it never lasts this long, except when I took yours, and you almost died! And I didn’t take that much, I swear I didn’t!”

She paused for a breath, and Logan pulled her close. “Hang on. Calm down.” She buried her face in his chest and held on tight. “I’m sure if something was wrong, he would’ve said. You can go call again if you want, okay?”

“Please!” She nodded.

“Okay. There’s a phone at the desk.”

“I’ll go with you, okay?” Bobby piped up. Logan gave the boy a stern look, and he nodded solemnly and took her gloved hand. She blushed up at him a little, but let him escort her out.

Logan dropped onto the couch and extended a claw to slit open the large, heavy envelope the professor had sent. Whatever was in it was more than just some traveling money, and he’d hesitated to open it until he had some privacy.

What felt like a book proved to be an entire set of passports — he put Rogue and Bobby’s aside, handed Kitty hers and “— Saint John?”

The boy blushed furiously. “It’s just John, okay?” He grabbed the folder out of Logan’s hand and stuffed it in his pocket.

There were two more as well, both US and obviously new. More friends in the government, Charley? He sneered at the “Logan Smith” on his. Not very imaginative, are they? He opened the last one and frowned. Or maybe they are.

The name was Kurt Wagner, everything about it looked proper, but no way in hell is Kurt gonna pass for that! The facial structure looked about right, but the man in the photo had white skin, dark hair, and — he checked the listing — blue eyes. I don’t get it.

“Logan?” Kurt was looking at him quizzically. Logan shook his head and set both passports aside. “Something’s up. Let’s finish going through all this stuff first.” Hopefully, there’s something to explain this. He fished around until he found a folded piece of paper and drew it out, reading the neatly typed letter.

Logan —

You will find enclosed three things: first, there are passports for each of you to facilitate your re-entry to the U.S. Next, the means for financing your travels. It seemed both safer and more practical to furnish you with a credit card billed to the institute; at Jean’s suggestion, I have placed it in Kurt’s name, and enclosed a photo I.D. for him as well.

The last item is a present from Hank, something he has been working on in conjunction with a number of scientists for the convenience of our more unusual students. When activated and clipped to the belt of the person using it, it projects an interactive opaque hologram that allows an individual to look more or less any way they wish. This particular one has been programmed to emulate the appearance on Kurt’s I.D. and passport. I hope that he will find it useful.

I will see you all upon your return.

Sincerely,

Charles Xavier

 

Logan reached in and pulled out a wallet, which opened to reveal a New York state driver’s license and Visa card in Kurt’s name, a card stating he was faculty at the Xavier institute, and an assortment of bills and change. He flipped it closed and handed it to Kurt along with his passport. “Looks like you’re the one in charge, Elf.”

Startled, Kurt took the wallet from him and looked through it. He blinked at the cards, looking a bit overwhelmed, but frowned at the picture, his pleasure disappearing. “I do not understand. Why would it show I look like this? I …” He trailed off, shaking his head. “I do not,” he finished softly, sounding both wistful and hurt.

“Damn right you don’t,” Logan growled, stabbing a finger at him. “And I’m glad you don’t. The guy in that picture looks boring as shit, just like everyone else. Don’t you dare ever be ashamed of how you look, just because some assholes can’t deal with it.”

Logan glared at Kurt until he fidgeted, but didn’t back down until he got a nod, however reluctant. “Good.” He relented a little. “But apparently Chuck thinks you ought to try being boring for a while.”

He held up the hologram-thing, which looked like nothing so much as a foldable cell-phone, but with a lot more buttons. “However this thing works.” He examined it very briefly before giving up. “Kitty, can you figure out how to turn it on?”

The girl had been sitting quietly during all the drama, but hopped up to take the device from him. She bit her lip and looked it over, then pressed a button and flipped it closed. The front glowed, but there was no other noticeable effect.

They frowned at the thing, then Logan reread the professor’s note. “He says he has to clip it on his belt.”

Kitty turned to Kurt and reached out, then paused. “He doesn’t have a belt.” She shrugged. “Well, this ought to work anyway.” She grinned up at Kurt. “I hope.”

She clipped it onto his waistband, and Kurt disappeared immediately. In his place stood the man in the photographs — good enough looking, the same size and shape, but pale skin instead of fur, black hair with no trace of blue covering rounded ears, and eyes put together like anyone else’s, irises the only thing left that showed the color his body was supposed to be.

His clothes were the same, his earring was still there on one pale earlobe, his feet looked human but were still bare. Logan shook his head, the logic of the thing beyond him. “Weird.” Kurt cocked his head at him, and Logan waved at a mirror on the wall above the fireplace. “Take a look.”

Kurt glanced in the mirror and froze, raising one hand to his face, then staring at the hand. He murmured something in German, and those strange blue eyes watered as he blinked.

“Hey.” Logan put his hands on Kurt’s arms, meeting his eyes in the mirror. “You okay?”

Kurt nodded slowly, then spun around and hugged him close, clinging desperately. Logan held him silently, not sure what had brought this on or what to say. Despite his new looks, Kurt still felt the same, and Logan worked one hand under his shirt, stroking the invisible fur gratefully.

Eventually, Kurt pulled back, breathing deeply and straightening his clothes and his wrong-colored hair with a shaky smile.

The door swung open with a clatter, rapid footsteps following.

“Hey, it’s okay!” Bobby announced. “They don’t —” He stopped short at the sight of Kurt, Rogue barreling into him with a yell of protest. They blinked, glanced around, and looked back at him.

“Kurt?” Rogue asked, incredulous. Kurt nodded.

“It’s some kind of holographic projector the professor sent,” Kitty explained.

Rogue squinted at Kurt. “Cool. He looks pretty cute, I guess.” She shrugged. “I like the real Kurt better, though.”

Kitty nodded emphatically. “Me, too. You’re more interesting and mysterious-looking normally,” she told Kurt, blushing.

Logan couldn’t stop his huge smile, cheering silently at the girls and squeezing Kurt’s hand. “Told you.” Kurt clutched his hand, not letting go, and it was odd. Two furred fingers, his touch insisted, while his eyes said differently.

“What did the professor say?” he asked Rogue, ignoring what the kids might think of them holding hands.

Rogue sighed and smiled. “Sean’s okay! He woke up yesterday, not long after we left. They don’t know what happened; the professor says Jean’ll have to do tests when we get back.” She wrinkled her nose.

“When are they picking us up?” Bobby piped in.

“Forget it, duck-boy, we’re flying back on our own,” John told him, chucking Bobby’s passport at him.

Logan cleared his throat. “Not exactly.” Five pairs of eyes looked at him curiously. “We’re driving back; he’s sending a truck.”

The reaction to a few days cooped up for a cross-country trek was not what Logan expected.

“Woo-hoo! Road trip!” Bobby yelled, high-fiving a grinning John.

“Cool!” Kitty joined in. “All the way to New York? Can I drive part of the way? I’ve got a learner’s permit. Please?”

“This could be pretty fun,” Rogue allowed. “I mean, it’s not like a haven’t been traveling before, but not with money or anything.”

Logan shook his head. Kids. On the verge of telling them they were supposed to head back as quickly as possible and wouldn’t be having much fun, he stopped. Screw you, Chuck. You should’ve sent tickets. “Sounds good to me. No reason we shouldn’t take our time getting back. When else’ll you get to drive the whole continent for free?”

John and Bobby cheered, Rogue grinned, and Kitty’s brow furrowed. “I have a midterm on Friday.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, Pryde, live a little!” John exclaimed.

She frowned back at him, but shrugged. “Hey, it’s not like I haven’t got a reason to be out, right?” She didn’t seem totally convinced, but she nodded decisively. “Let’s do it.”

 

They cleared out of the motel rooms and trooped over to the lobby to let Kurt pay for them. He was still a bit twitchy in front of the desk clerk, but her detached politeness didn’t waver, and he even managed to return an almost-smile before hurrying out of there.

Kitty hugged him for his bravery, and Bobby gave him a high-five. He smiled a little at Logan before schooling his expression and nodding decisively. Logan nodded back before Kurt turned away. Guess we’re not quite there yet, are we?

Chapter Text

Another cab ride later, they faced the vehicle they’d be taking all the way to New York. Logan grimaced at the bulky, industrial-white box. Not much chance of getting everyone on a bike, though, is there? At least it’s better than my last one.

The kids piled in noisily and with quite a few near-arguments, ending up with Bobby and Rogue in the back, Kitty and John in front of them, and Kurt in the passenger’s seat.

Logan scowled back at them impartially as he climbed into the driver’s seat, and they all settled down. “Before we start out, just remember I’m nobody’s dad, and whatever your professor might think, I’m no babysitter, either. The first argument while I’m driving, I make my own way back without you. Got it?” A chorus of yeses answered him. I reckon that’ll keep it quieter at least a day. He sighed.

As they hit the highway, Logan tuned the radio to country. Bobby apparently decided retching and choking noises didn’t actually count as an argument, but Logan turned it up and ignored him until he gave up.

Slowly, the conversation in the rear of the van picked up, the kids chatting away, but in the front, it stayed quiet, Kurt staring out the window at the passing scenery. Logan watching him from the corner of his eye, disconcerted by the hologram’s projected image.

Eventually, Logan reached out and put a hand on Kurt’s shoulder. “Hey.” Kurt turned to look at him, unnatural blue eyes showing less expression than his normal featureless ones. “Do me a favor?” Kurt hesitated a second, then nodded. “Turn that thing off.”

Kurt’s brow wrinkled for a moment, then one hand drifted to the metal box at his waist. “This?”

“Yeah.” Logan nodded.

“Why?” Kurt glanced around the road, taking in the light traffic they shared it with.

“Look, Elf, no-one’ll see you for more than a second, if at all. I don’t want some stranger here, I want you with me.” He realized belatedly what he was saying, and winced. Maybe he won’t pick up on it.

“Truly?” Kurt searched his face, and Logan gave him as much attention as he could. “If you do not mean that, it would be best to tell me now.”

Logan turned back to the road and gripped the steering wheel tight in both hands. Damn. Now what do I say? Even I don’t know if I meant it like that. Kurt watched him patiently, and he tried hard to center himself, find some of the answers he’d been pursuing for weeks. He thought about the future, pictured how it might end up.

“I don’t know what I want, Kurt. I don’t think I can take being trapped at that school for long, but the wandering free gets old after a while, too,” he admitted. “But I think,” he swallowed and tightened his grip till the wheel creaked, “I think wherever I end up, whatever I do … I do want you with me.” He faced resolutely ahead, not daring to look at Kurt, hoping desperately the kids were still too occupied with their own talk to have heard his.

A blue hand crept over his thigh to rest there lightly. “I think I would like that as well.”

“Yeah?” Logan looked over at last, glad to see Kurt’s own face.

“Yes.”

If the smile alone hadn’t distracted Logan, the look glowing out of those eyes would have. He dragged his gaze back to the road reluctantly this time. “Damn it, if I didn’t have to drive…”

Kurt chuckled and squeezed his leg, leaving his hand there. Logan put his own over it, lacing their fingers, and drove like that as long as he could.

 

As the traffic got closer and they hit the line for the Victoria ferry, Kurt turned the projector back on. Logan grimaced, but kept his opinion to himself.

They parked the van and joined a trickle of passengers heading up the stairs. The kids were whispering behind them; it sounded like an argument, and Logan deliberately ignored them.

As a landing opened on to the main level, their own footsteps and voices were lost in the noise of a good-sized crowd, and Kurt balked. He steeled himself and made it out of the stairway, took a few more steps, and shrank back against the wall, shaking.

Logan put himself between Kurt and the other passengers, and the kids followed suit, sheltering him as best they could as he slid to a crouch, making himself as small as possible.

“Kurt, are you okay?” Kitty hugged his arm worriedly.

“Hey, buddy.” Logan put a hand on Kurt’s cheek, turning him gently to face him. Those damn blue eyes stared back wildly, flickering around the room, and the heartbeat under Logan’s hands was racing. “You with us?”

No answer, and he shook Kurt lightly. “Kurt?” His voice was sharper than he’d meant, but it worked, Kurt’s eyes snapping back to his.

Zu viele…too many people…” He squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face in Logan’s shoulder.

“Not that many more than at school,” Kitty pointed out. “You’ve been doing pretty good back there.”

“And with this thing on,” Logan tapped the holographic device at Kurt’s waist, “no-one’ll look at you twice. Hey, come on.” He ruffled Kurt’s hair, “You used to risk your life on some bar and a piece of rope half a mile off the ground; you can handle a little crowd, right?”

Kurt laughed weakly, with more than a touch of hysteria. “It is not the same thing.”

“Yeah,” Logan agreed. “There’s fewer people here than at a circus.” He frowned, thinking. “Before, when you were up there performing, those crowds didn’t bother you, right?”

Kurt shook his head. “Nein. That was … they liked me, they thought I was a person, that the way I look it was a costume. And if I did not like it, I could leave. It was only after … when I was a thing to them…”

“You are a person!” Kitty told him hotly. “You’re a better person than anyone who’d treat you like they did!”

Logan put a quelling hand on her shoulder. Damn straight, kid, but that ain’t what he needs to hear right now. “Anyone here ever treated you like a thing?” He waved at their little circle. Kurt shook his head. “We’re not going to, either. Anyone else tries, I’ll punch their lights out.” He scowled belligerently.

“Me, too,” Kitty vowed, echoing Logan’s scowl.

“Me, three,” Rogue chimed in.

“Don’t think I’m letting the girls have all the fun,” John added. He glanced over at Bobby.

“Who says you need me? I’ll just buy some popcorn and watch the action.”

Kurt hiccuped in laughter. “You are, I think, a bad influence on these children,” he told Logan.

Logan snorted. “Wasn’t me brought ’em here,” he pointed out, amused to see that the hologram image could blush. He grew serious again. “You think you can try this? We’ll be right with you.” Kurt looked at him nervously. “Just pretend you’re back at the school, or up on the trapeze, and everyone else thinks you’re just like them.”

“A performance.” He nodded slowly. “I can do that, I think.” He looked over the crowd and took a deep breath, lips twitching in a grimace more than a smile. “It is that or sit here always, yes?”

He worked his way slowly up and away from the wall, the kids closing in without crowding him. His heart was still racing, but he no longer smelled quite as strongly of fear. Logan relaxed a little.

They spotted some empty tables and made their way to one, dragging over extra chairs. While they’d been talking, the ferry had left the dock, and most of the passengers had settled down, the din subsiding to a dull roar of conversation and engine noise.

Logan settled with his back to the wall, and Kurt perched next to him, slowly relaxing a little into his chair. “See?” Logan pointed out softly. “You can do it. We can just sit here till it’s time to get off, if you want.”

The kids looked at each other and Bobby nudged Rogue, who cleared her throat. “Um, actually… we were talking. Any chance of breakfast, or lunch or whatever? They’ve got a cafeteria.” She nodded back to it.

“Thought you had breakfast?”

“Vending machine food ain’t breakfast,” she informed him, arms crossed. “Or dinner. Not if we’ve got a choice.”

“All right,” Logan conceded. “So go get whatever and bring it back here; we’ll wait.”

She shrugged apologetically. “Yeah, but Kurt’s the one with the money.”

Logan cursed, swallowing it as the kids grinned. Damn it, Jean, what the hell were you thinking? He ain’t ready for this! He dug into his pocket. “Hell, I’ve got enough for food.” He pulled out his wallet. “Just take —”

Kurt’s hand on his stopped him. “It is supposed to be me. I must do this some time, yes?”

“Some time,” Logan agreed. “Doesn’t have to be now.”

Kurt looked at Rogue and back at Logan, biting his lip. “I think I must not stop now, or I will not do this ever. And I would like real food.”

Logan laughed as he stuffed his wallet back into his pocket. “Not sure you’re likely to get that here, but it should at least hold you a while. You sure about this?”

Kurt swallowed, but nodded.

“Great!” Rogue tugged at Kurt’s hand, gently pulling him towards the food. “Come on, then.” He let himself be led, and Logan followed closely with Bobby and Kitty, leaving John to guard their table.

They did get a few odd looks, Kurt still skittish and clutching desperately to Logan’s hand, but the few who didn’t glance politely away were quickly glared down by Logan or one of the girls, as promised. Kurt seemed both reassured and amused by it, though he didn’t quite relax until they made it through the line and back to their table with sandwiches and no major incidents.

Even Kurt looked less than happy with the food, though he ate quickly and methodically. The kids chatted and teased each other as they ate, making up for his and Logan’s silence. As they finished, Rogue and Bobby eyed the tourist shops nearby and drifted off, assuring Kurt and Logan they wouldn’t be far. John chased after them with a wave.

Kitty eyed a rack of sweatshirts thoughtfully as she finished her soda. “We’re going to need to buy clothes some time soon.” She shrugged. “We didn’t really plan on spending time away from home.”

“Yeah, and most of mine got blown up yesterday,” Logan grudgingly admitted. He looked at her sharply. “But before you get your hopes up, you ain’t dragging us through every mall from here to New York.”

Kitty looked offended. “I wouldn’t think of doing that! You’re just lucky Jubes didn’t come with us. I’ll ask around, see if someone can point out someplace not too crowded that has what we need, okay?”

“Sounds good, kid.” You got a good head on your shoulders. “Thanks.”

She smiled at his praise, then hugged Kurt enthusiastically as she stood. “You did great, but I bet you still don’t want crowds, huh?” He shook his head. “You really are doing great, though,” she told him solemnly, and he smiled a little. She kissed his cheek. “See you guys later!”

Then she was gone, and Logan realized they’d been effectively abandoned. He examined Kurt. He looks a bit pale, but how much of that is real? He still twitched nervously any time anyone got too close, but he had settled down a lot since his panic attack.

“You want to sit down here some more, or head outside to the deck? You think fresh air might help?”

Kurt looked around. It was just as crowded either place. “Outside?” He chewed his lip nervously, not making a move to stand.

Looking around, Logan pulled him further back, into the shadow of a pillar, and dragged Kurt’s head down for a kiss, sucking that abused lip into his own mouth, soothing it with his tongue.

He closed his eyes to enjoy the senses that told him this was Kurt, stroking his side and deepening the kiss until Kurt relaxed against him, then pulling back gently. “Relax, before you put a hole in your lip.” Kurt smiled shakily back and nodded. “You wanted to go outside?” Another nod, and Logan helped him up and paced him as they headed quickly past the other passengers and out to the deck.

The people outside were mostly quiet, looking out over the water singly or in small groups, and it was easy to ignore them. Logan and Kurt staked out a corner far from anyone else and leaned over the railings, gazing down into the ferry’s churning wake.

The sun glared off the water and kept them warm despite the breeze and spray of their travel. Logan found himself wondering what Kurt’s fur would look like in this light, and sighed at the image next to him.

At last, the silence that settled over them was comfortable again, and Logan let it draw out, relaxing them both. It was Kurt that broke their reverie first.

“I feel very childish.”

“Huh? Why?”

Kurt shrugged. “They are only normal people. Before, I enjoyed the attention. In front of those faces, it was the best time!” He gazed into the water, unseeing. “If we went into a village, my friends and I, and others stared at me, we only ignored them, or we spoke politely and I smiled, and we did not often have a problem. Now…” he hugged himself, shivering. “Now I think about it, and I am frightened! And I know that it is silly, and I cannot stop!”

“Silly?” Logan echoed incredulously. “What’s silly is you feeling like a kid for being scared! Hell, it was ‘normal’ people like this that treated you like crap for years. I’m surprised you do as well as you do.”

“I suppose that is true.” He sounded far from convinced.

Logan snorted. “Don’t make me knock it into your thick skull, Elf.” He bounced his fist off Kurt’s head. “Just trust me.”

Kurt smiled at him. “I do.”

“Yeah.” Logan looked at him soberly. “Too much, maybe. I ain’t a saint, you know. I’m not even really a hero, like those geeks back at Xavier’s. I’ve just got a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, or something.”

Kurt was silent for a moment before answering. “I know that you are not perfect. I love you, but this does not blind me. When you left, when I was angry, still I loved you. I think you do not give yourself enough credit.”

“And I think you give me too much,” Logan shot back.

Sehr gut. Then it should balance.”

Logan chuckled. “If you say so.” He shook his head. “You don’t know everything about me, though. You can’t, ’cause even I don’t. Some of my nightmares — I could be some sort of killer, an assassin or —”

“You are not,” Kurt answered with conviction, stalling Logan’s protest with a hand over his mouth. “I do know you are not. It may be that you were, and that would be a bad thing, but you are not one now, and would not want to be, or why would you worry about this?”

“I’m not sure it’s that simple.”

“Then we will make it that simple.”

“Wish I had your faith.”

Kurt grimaced. “I am not certain I have faith any more, but I have love. And I will knock that into your head, if I must.” He grinned and knocked on Logan’s skull. “I love you.”

“Yeah, I can tell.” Logan grabbed his hand, giving him a look. “I… I meant what I said, back there. About wanting you with me.”

“Good.” Kurt nodded. “Because if you attempt to leave again, I will find you and punch you again.”

“Hurts you more than me,” Logan reminded him.

“Not where I would punch you this time.” Kurt grinned evilly.

“Ouch.” Logan winced. “Guess I’ll stick around, then.”

Logan went back to staring at the water, Kurt lifting his face to the sun. After a few minutes, Kurt slid down to lounge against the railings, feet stretched out along the deck. “I could fall asleep here, I think,” he declared happily.

“Yeah, as long as you don’t sunburn,” Logan pointed out.

“I do not.”

Logan watched him fondly, noting the anxiety lurking in the set of his shoulders and the tenseness in his muscles, but he was making a determined effort to relax.

After a while, the temptation to feel the sun-warmed fur he couldn’t see grew too great, and Logan turned to lean on the railing, one hand casually dropping to rest on Kurt’s collarbone, fingers sinking into his fur and stroking.

Chapter Text

Eventually, the kids found them like that, waking Kurt from a light doze as they pounded over the deck to the two men. Kitty plopped down on the deck next to Kurt, grinning; Bobby climbed onto the railing, leaning out into the slight spray that reached this far up and wrestling John for the best position as he and Rogue ran up.

So much for our peace and quiet. “Having fun?” Logan asked.

“This is cool.” Rogue smiled at him, pushing a lock of hair out of her face. “I’ve never been on a boat this big before.”

“It’s just a boat,” John informed her dismissively, then yelled in surprise as Bobby dumped a lump of ice down the back of his shirt. Bobby cackled, John jumped him, and they struggled for a moment, flailing legs narrowly missing Kurt’s head and Logan’s shins.

“Hey! Hey!” Logan glared at them, knocking one of John’s feet down.

“Sorry.” He looked genuinely chagrined and took a step away from Bobby, punching him in the arm once more as they separated. “Jerk.”

“Moron.”

“Boys.” Kitty sounded disgusted.

The two settled down with no apparent ill-will on either side of Rogue, who shook her head at them. “Y’all are insane.”

Kitty laughed. “You only just figured that out?” Bobby stuck his tongue out at her.

Logan sat next to Kurt and tried hard to pretend he didn’t know any of them, lounging back and pretending to sleep. Kurt shifted slightly so their legs and shoulders were touching, and Logan opened one eye long enough to smile over at him.

The kids calmed down after a few minutes, becoming almost suspiciously silent. Stifled giggles made Logan look up at them with a sinking feeling. All four now hung over the rail, looking at something off the side of the boat. It took him a moment to realize that Bobby, with Kitty’s hand on his shoulder, had his own hand through the side of the boat.

Rogue giggled again, clapping her hands over her mouth to stifle the sound.

“Show off,” John accused.

Logan sighed and glanced around, but no-one else was paying any attention to them, and as long as they kept whatever they were doing out of view, at least it was keeping them quiet.

He surprised himself by actually managing to doze a little, and the rest of their time on the ferry went quickly. They made for the parking deck early to head off the crowds, and soon they were back in the van alone and headed toward Vancouver.

One of the girls in the shops had directed Kitty towards a place at the edge of Richmond, just off the highway before the big city, and they pulled off there to find a good assortment of small shops and a Zeller’s that would have whatever else they needed.

They started at the Zeller’s, which carried just about everything under the sun. There were a few other shoppers in the place, but their little group warranted no more than a glance from any of them. Kurt stuck close to Logan, but made it through the whole expedition with no more than badly tightened muscles.

They left with new bags and packs and all the necessities but clothing, then Logan grabbed a gaudy-looking postcard from the nearest display and dug out the change to pay for it, tossing it in a bag. Might as well keep him updated like he asked. After that, they dropped by the liquor store next door for some half-decent beer. There was even a place he managed to find some cigars to fill his rapidly dwindling supply. He smirked as Kurt signed the slips billing it all back to the mansion.

From there, they headed down the street full of shops, peering in windows in search of clothing. The kids, still full of energy and confidence, ran forward and back along their route, checking out everything.

“Hey, guys!” John popped out of the side-street he’d jogged down and gestured to everyone before disappearing again.

The place they followed him to was just off the main street and boasted a small display window heavy with First Nations-design clothing and jewelry. Logan raised a skeptical eyebrow, but the kids exclaimed over the stuff and hurried inside, and Kurt’s attention was caught as well, his eyes shining. With a sigh, Logan caught the door and followed them.

The inside was more of the same, clothes, crafts, and assorted baubles everywhere. Kitty and Rogue were happily working their way through a small rack of skirts already; John and Bobby headed for a display of T-shirts. Kurt was a few steps off, running his hands over something, his back to Logan, and seemed quite content.

Not much here my style, though. Logan resigned himself to waiting for the others to finish. “Find something you like?” he called, strolling over to Kurt.

Kurt nodded enthusiastically; as Logan joined him, he saw what had caught his attention: a black wool waistcoat, cut conservatively but with a few decorative flourishes, some kind of stylized bird in crimson over the shoulders and down the back.

“Not my taste, buddy, but hey, if you like it…” he shrugged.

The woman behind the counter left off her worried eyeing of the children and walked over to them, smiling brightly. “Would you like to try that on, sir? All these items are hand-made, so the size may vary a bit. I’d be pleased to help you find what you’re looking for.” She smiled winningly at Kurt.

I bet you would, Logan thought wryly as Kurt reluctantly let himself be led to a nearby mirror. He held firm, though, against her suggestion that he’d get a better idea of the fit without his sweatshirt.

Logan deftly took the waistcoat before she could and helped Kurt into it. He caught a glimpse of the price tag as he did, and tried not to choke. Maybe she ain’t just being friendly for a pretty face. Wonder if she’s on commission? But it did fit, and Kurt liked it, so Logan buried his practical side. Sorry, Chuck.

If the woman was on commission, she did well off them. The girls each made off with a skirt and blouse outfit, Bobby and John got a couple shirts each, and Kurt got his waistcoat and more — standing at the counter to pay, he spotted a silver men’s bracelet with a tracery of animal figures etched around it. He waved off his interest, but only succeeded in getting the girls’ attention. They insisted that he try it on, the saleslady helped, and he ended up with it as well, while John found a leather one with a hematite carving in the same case.

They dropped all the bags back by the van before heading on; while the others were putting their things away, Logan ducked quickly back into the drugstore to ask about normal clothes stores. Or better yet, Salvation Army.

Directions in mind, he pointed them all in the proper direction. The kids eyed the consignment shop disheartened, but soon found enough bizarre things to keep them interested, and Logan was gratified to find some much more normal things for himself. They each made it out of there with clothes enough to last a week or so, and Logan slammed the van’s back door shut with a sigh of relief.

“Where to now?” Rogue asked brightly.

“They’re supposed to have a pretty rad beach around here,” Bobby offered enthusiastically. “Great sand, nice waves, girls with no tops on—”

“Man, Bobby,” John interrupted, “that guy was just yanking your chain.”

“You never know,” he protested.

“Y’all would think of that.” Rogue scowled, disgusted. “Besides, it’s too cold to swim.”

“Not for me!” Bobby grinned.

“Fine. Then we can push you right in and head on back where it’s warm.”

“No beaches,” Logan told them firmly. “That’s the wrong direction.”

“Yeah, but what’s the point in going places if we don’t see anything?” Bobby argued. “Besides, there’s nature walks and everything. It’ll be really educational.”

“Actually,” Kitty piped up, “there are supposed to be all kinds of migratory birds around.” She grinned at Logan’s incredulous glance. “There was a brochure on the ferry.”

“See?” Bobby grinned at her and turned hopefully to Logan.

“Yeah, and,” John added, “it’s still kinda early in the season, so it shouldn’t be too crowded. A nice, empty beach, we can all walk around a bit…”

“We’ll be cooped up in the van for ages,” Rogue pointed out. “We could use the exercise.”

Logan’s head spun as four sets of hopeful eyes turned to him, and he looked to Kurt for support. Aw, fuck. Five pairs of eyes. “All right, okay! Which way do we go?”

At least they were somewhat gracious in their victory, grinning widely but not cheering until they actually got there. They did find a spot that was mostly deserted, and the kids laughed and pulled their shoes off to splash through the chilly water as Logan and Kurt followed at a more sedate pace.

“Come on!” Rogue ran up and grabbed their hands, hurrying them along. Unfortunately, this left her with her back turned to Bobby, who plowed into the water behind her with a huge splash. She shrieked and turned on him as Logan and Kurt shook off the water that had got them as well.

Kurt giggled watching the kids, and Logan shook his head. “You’re one of those overgrown kid types, ain’t you?”

Kurt eyed him and chewed his lip a little nervously, not sure how serious Logan’s disapproval was. “It looks like fun,” he protested earnestly.

“Fun.” Logan snorted, giving no hint of his thoughts on the matter. “You think so?” He raised an eyebrow at Kurt, shrugged, half-turned away, then whirled back and pounced on him, diving into the water and dragging Kurt with him.

Kurt yelped in surprise and squirmed free, but Logan caught his hand and pulled him back down, laughing. The kids cheered at them and joined in, Kitty throwing her arms around Kurt’s neck and giggling. From there, it turned into a mad free-for-all.

John and Rogue were the first to give up, declaring they were all insane.

“Aw, come on, Rogue!” Kitty pouted.

“No way! It’s freezing in there. Y’all can freeze your asses off if you want to; I’m cold enough already!”

“You tell ’em, girl,” John agreed, draping his arm around her shoulders. “Can we have the keys?” he asked Logan, shivering. “We’ll go in where it’s warmer.”

“Better yet,” Rogue piped up, “we can go and buy towels. If your money ain’t too soaked.” She eyed Logan dubiously.

He returned the look for several seconds. He nodded and handed her his wallet and the keys. “You’re in charge,” he told her, looking at John. “Hurry back.” She beamed at him, and he watched them run off. We shouldn’t have any trouble here, and the girl made it cross-country on her own; she should be good for a few blocks.

A body pressed against his back brought him out of his worrying. He smiled back at Kurt and ruffled his hair, and Kurt’s arms tightened around him.

“You guys coming back, or what?” Bobby sounded impatient. Logan turned a mild glare on him, and the boy fidgeted for a few seconds, then pounced on Kitty.

Logan’s own mood was broken, though, and he sat in the sand at the edge of the surf, watching them but disinclined to horse around any more. Kurt looked back and forth between him and the kids, clearly undecided, then shivered in the wind and hurried to sit against Logan.

“It is cold.”

Logan shrugged. “I don’t notice it much. You be okay till they get back with the towels?” He pulled Kurt closer and rubbed his arms.

Natürlich. My fur helps a little, and it is not so long to be chilly.” Kurt smiled at him. “But it is better like this.” His arm and invisible tail snaked around Logan’s waist, and he leaned into him.

“Yeah,” Logan agreed.

 

The van pulled up about half an hour later, and they all hurried over gratefully for towels, though once there, Bobby made a show of freezing all the water on his body and brushing it off. Rogue laughed, and John made a “wanker” motion; Bobby smiled at her and pointedly ignored his friend.

The girls hopped in the back and pulled the doors closed to change. Logan pulled out the map and spread it on the hood as the rest of them waited, scrubbing at his hair with a towel.

We leave now, hit the highway… We’ll be in the middle of nowhere when it’s time to stop. Suits me fine, but the kids’ definition of camping probably includes tents and prepared food and all that crap. He weighed the shopping time and aggravation of buying the gear. We go through all that, we’ll still be in the city when it’s night. Might as well just spend the time having fun.

He walked to the back of the van where the boys and Kurt were sitting in the sun. Kurt looked up at him and smiled from under a terrycloth pink-flamingo-with-sunset. Logan grinned. “You know where you want to go next, boss?”

Kurt blinked at him, thought about it, and shrugged. “Some place that is warm?” he finally suggested.

“Sure.” Logan nodded. “Anything else?”

Kurt bit his lip. “I think…” he trailed off, looked up at Logan nervously, then met his eyes and seemed to draw strength from him. “I would like to eat again.”

Logan felt himself smiling, unable to stop it if he had wanted. “You want food? We’ll go for food. A nice, warm restaurant.” It was probably pushing it to ask, but — “anything you feel like eating?”

Kurt frowned and flicked his gaze over the boys and back to Logan; they sat waiting, and Logan tried to curb his impatience.

“I do not…” Kurt started to shake his head, fingers twisting in the towel slung over his shoulders. He looked back up at Logan and steeled himself. “I should like to eat meat.”

Logan put a hand on Kurt’s shoulder, kneading it reassuringly. “Sounds good. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a steakhouse in a place like this. We’ll ask around.”

Kurt relaxed, smiling back at him, and Logan was sure they could power Vancouver between the two of them. But damn it, who cared? This was an occasion!

The rest of them changed when the girls were done, and they headed out for food. They stopped at a station to question some locals and ended up at a steak-and-seafood place just off the main road. They overcooked Logan’s steak, but it had never tasted so good.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week passed in much the same way, a mixture of chaos and fun. There were a few frights, still, but Kurt seemed to get a bit more confident each day. Buoyed by his success, he was no longer nervous about giving his opinion when asked for it. He still didn’t speak up much, and he would flinch at an argument, but it’d come, Logan was sure.

They stuck to smaller towns and skirted the edges of mid-sized ones, avoiding crowds as much as possible; that plus Kurt’s new disguise ensured no major incidents like back on the boat. Kitty called Hank and they worked to adjust the programming on the device to give Kurt shoes, and he hardly got any second glances.

The kids weren’t bad, either. Logan wasn’t used to traveling in a group, and there were times he felt like just taking off, but they took care of themselves enough he felt like a bit less of a den mother, and the girls had no problem taking Kurt to task when he got too timid, or when he started putting himself down.

Just like he does for me, Logan thought wryly, eyeing Kurt as he stowed his things in the motel drawer. They’d never stayed more than a night in one place, but Kurt still insisted on everything being neat. Hate to think what the room back at Xavier’s looks like.

Kurt bent to the next drawer, and Logan grinned. Hard to get mad at an ass like that. He stepped over before Kurt could straighten and palmed one cheek, squeezing it through the fabric of the pants he wore.

Kurt made an approving noise and grinned over his shoulder at Logan. “Do you want something?”

Logan laughed. “Isn’t that my line?” He pulled Kurt up for a kiss.

“You have been asking me all the time.”

Logan shrugged. “I like to know.”

“I know why you ask.” Kurt smiled softly and a little sadly. “It is difficult, but I am trying.”

“Good. So,” Logan let his hands drift back to Kurt’s ass, urging him closer. “you want something?”

Kurt nodded. “I want a shower.” His eyes twinkled mischievously.

“A shower?” Logan asked incredulously.

“It has been many hours!” He squirmed a little. “I would like one, truly.” But he made no move to leave Logan’s arms.

“Maybe I could use one myself.” Logan gave him an arch look.

Kurt cocked his head. “You do not seem very dirty to me.”

“I will be in a few minutes.” He pressed against Kurt, leaning forward for another kiss.

Logan let Kurt take control, and he kept it slow, showing his passion in intensity instead of speed. Logan ran his hands up under Kurt’s shirt, feeling soft fur over the ripple of muscle and bone, and Kurt arched into him briefly before pulling back.

They undressed without hurry or delay as they waited for the water to warm. Under its spray, they continued exploring each other. The angles under Logan’s hands had changed from their first time and continued to change as Kurt gained weight and muscle, but already Logan was learning the important things.

Kurt laughed when the base of his tail was squeezed, gasped when you stroked the small of his back against the grain of the fur. Sucking the side of his neck made him whimper; touching his ribs too lightly was ticklish, and made him giggle.

Kurt was learning his weaknesses, too — where to rake his fingers hard, where to rub gently, where to lick or suck or bite.

They writhed together under the hot water, pressing close, drawing back enough to try to make it last. Logan gave out first, Kurt not long behind him, and they sagged against the tile for a minute before lazily cleaning each other, still kissing.

 

Logan paced a little as he dried his hair. His limbs felt pleasantly loose, his mind calm, but he found he still had a bit of nervous energy left from too much time lately spent doing nothing but driving. I’m not made to sit still, he sighed.

He glanced over at the clock glowing red on the nightstand — eight o’clock. He threw on a pair of jeans and strode to the bathroom, leaning on the doorframe as he watched Kurt drying his fur with a high-powered hair dryer they’d bought a couple of days ago.

Kurt caught his eye and looked at him questioningly, turning off the dryer.

“I need to get outta here for a bit. Wanna go grab a beer?”

“Okay,” Kurt agreed happily.

“Great.” He gestured at the dryer. You finish up; I’ll go tell the kids where we are, in case something happens.”

Kurt nodded and returned to his task. Logan pulled on a T-shirt and flannel and his boots and headed next door.

Rogue answered his knock, smiling at him. “Hey, Logan, come on in.”

He stepped in and nodded at Kitty, flipping channels on the TV. “Hey. Everything going okay?”

“Sure!” Rogue plopped down next to Kitty. “We were gonna find a movie or something. Y’all wanna come watch it with us? We got popcorn at the store today.”

“Sorry, kid. Look, we’re gonna go for beer or something. Get out for a while. Anything happens, we’ll be at that bar we passed down the street.”

She looked a little disappointed, but nodded. “Sure thing. Don’t worry about us; you know we’ll be fine.”

“Okay.” He felt like he should say something else, make sure they were really all right. She put on a good face, but Rogue was still worried about keeping Sean’s powers, which had shown no sign of dissipating. Sure, and what am I gonna say? I’m no therapist. Can’t exactly ask her out for a beer, either. He nodded a little awkwardly and headed back to his room, trusting they would tell the boys.

Kurt was buckling on a belt when Logan entered; a necessity, given the hole they’d cut in those pants for his tail. He turned to Logan as he finished and buttoned his waistcoat, and Logan stopped dead, almost ready to say screw the evening out, and suddenly glad that his jeans weren’t that tight. “Damn.”

Kurt’s were. Very tight. Black denim coated him almost as tight as his fur. The black-and-red native waistcoat he’d bought days ago framed his chest little looser. A white shirt under it showed a good amount of neck and chest through the open collar, the loose sleeves flowing to his wrists; the silver bracelet he hadn’t been without lately glinted against the dark fur of one.

“Logan?” Kurt was better now about being looked at, especially by Logan, but he looked a little uncertain now, and Logan realized he’d been staring for several minutes. He blinked and shook his head.

“You want me to beat the girls off with a stick, or just let them ravish you?”

Kurt sighed in relief and grinned. “You think I look nice?”

“Nice ain’t the word for it, buddy. Let’s get going, or you won’t be wearing that long.”

Kurt frowned a little nervously. “I hope…do you think I will get much attention?”

Logan tried to look at him impartially. “I don’t know, Elf. I think you look damn good, but that’s me. You might turn heads, yeah. We won’t be going anyplace too crowded, though; I wouldn’t worry.”

Kurt thought about it, looking at him, then nodded decisively. “All right.” He picked up his hologram device, hiding his true face, and and picked up his coat.

Logan sighed, taking a moment as always to get used to the young man beside him. “Ready?” Kurt nodded. “Let’s get outta here.”

 

The van sat right outside, squat and white and uglier every time Logan looked at it. He eyed it sourly and stuffed the keys back in his pocket. “Let’s walk.”

Kurt agreed readily, and they set off in the direction of the bar they’d spotted earlier. It was a lovely night, clear and cold, high wisps of cloud drifting fast, lit up by the moon a few days past full. It’d be a great night to go running. They were close enough to the edge of town to find a bit of wilderness, get away for a while. He weighed bar against run and the beer won out. Maybe later, he promised the night.

Next to the motel was a gas station, and a few locals talking and smoking outside watched them curiously as they passed. Kurt’s eyed darted over, taking them in quickly before he relaxed as much as he ever did in public.

Somewhere in the past, Logan had had martial arts training. Learning and instinct had taught him to stay alert, aware of everything around him without letting on that he was, ready for action without being tense. Kurt wore that same awareness whenever they weren’t in private, if anyone but Logan or the kids was around. He’d startled a few passersby who’d gotten too close and been nearly attacked.

Kurt sighed as they left the pool of light surrounding the station, then looked over at Logan a little ashamedly.

“What?”

Kurt shrugged and didn’t answer.

“Come on, why the look?” Logan pressed him.

“I… They were not even very near us. I do not need to be so… jumpy?” He sounded unsure of the word, a sure sign he’d heard it instead of learning it from Xavier’s mind-thing.

“Who the hell told you that?” Kurt looked guilty, and Logan realized it could only be one of the kids. “Hey, I’m not gonna be angry or anything. Who was it?”

“Bobby,” Kurt conceded reluctantly. “He said I need to ‘chill out’ some more, that I should not be suspicious of everyone.” He hunched his shoulders, folding in on himself. “And Kitty, she tells me that most people are good, that they would mean me no harm even if they saw me, and I should learn to trust them.”

“Bullshit.” Kurt looked over at him, startled, and Logan put a comforting arm around him. “Girl’s an optimist. I know she means well, but there’s a lot of folks out there that aren’t harmless and good, and there’s no harm in keeping an eye out for them. Paranoia can keep you alive.”

“You think so?” He sounded genuinely curious, and to Logan’s relief lost his unhappy posture.

Logan snorted. “Works for me.”

Kurt grinned, not quite as impressive a sight in his borrowed face, but still nice to see. “Then it is good enough for me, I think.”

“Thanks. I think.” Logan tried to figure out if he was being complimented or teased.

“You are welcome,” Kurt answered cheekily.

Probably both.

Chapter Text

A sputtering electric sign in the window proclaimed the place to be Smiley’s, though the cheeriest thing about it from the outside was the assortment of neon beer signs. It wasn’t quite dilapidated, but looked as if it had probably seen better days. Pretty much the same as the rest of this town, Logan observed to himself. It’ll do.

The wooden door creaked loudly as they entered, and the bartender looked up from restocking the cooler and nodded at them. “Hi there. What can I get you?”

Logan glanced at the draught pulls. “Gimme a Canadian.”

Kurt craned his head to read for himself, and his eyes lit up. “Guinness, please.”

The bartender nodded and started their glasses before ringing them up. Kurt looked at the register and put a twenty on the bar. Logan grabbed it before the barman could, stuffed it back in Kurt’s wallet, and fished out a fifty. “Let us know when that’s gone, okay?” The man nodded and grinned as Logan handed the wallet back to a bemused Kurt. “I’m a fast drinker.”

They took their glasses over to a corner table, both grabbing chairs with their backs to the wall and a view of the room. Logan raised his glass to Kurt and grinned in acknowledgement of their mutual paranoia.

There were only a few other people, all either drinking alone or talking in small groups, completely ignoring them. Most seemed, by the bits of speech Logan could hear, to be locals, though a nicely dressed couple in one corner was clearly just passing through.

Kurt looked at Logan thoughtfully as he finished his own survey and took a sip of his beer. “Logan?” he began tentatively. “If I ask too much, I will not continue…” Logan returned his look. “I have a reason, I know. Why is it that you do not trust people, either?”

Logan put his beer down with a thunk and sighed. “Old history, Elf.” He shrugged. “A lot of the company I’ve kept the last few years hasn’t been real trustworthy.”

Kurt frowned looking puzzled. “But the children, and the professor maybe —”

Logan cut him off with a shake of his head. “I just met them a couple months before I met you, pal. I’m not talking about them.”

“You do think they are trustworthy?” Kurt questioned, anxious for the answer.

“Yeah, it’s okay.” He nodded, then considered his automatic answer. “They are,” he confirmed. “I don’t know; I don’t trust easy, but I trusted them not long after I met them. Didn’t like ’em much,” he chuckled, “But I knew where they were coming from, and I fought next to them and trusted them with my life. They might go a little too far sometimes, though. Doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes open, but they mean well.”

They fell silent for a moment in thought, until Logan broke the solemnity with a snort. “’Bout the only other person I’ve trusted so fast is you. And I trust you more.”

Kurt smiled but shrugged. “When we met, I could not have hurt you if I had wanted to. And after that, I owe you everything.”

“Doesn’t mean much to some people,” Logan countered. “I’d’ve done the same for anyone, and most of them’d probably run off as soon as they were safe, or try to kill me for my wallet.” Kurt looked as if he wanted to object, but Logan shrugged it off. “It’s been done before.”

He shook his head and looked at Kurt, searching out all he could of the real man below the illusion and steeling himself for some things he knew he ought to say. “I don’t trust you because you owe me. You don’t owe me anything anymore. I trust you because I owe you.”

Kurt’s eyes went wide in astonishment, but Logan continued before he could interrupt. “I still don’t know why the hell you want to be with me, but I’m glad you do. I don’t remember any time when I was actually happy.” He snorted, gazing into the last of his beer. “Hell, sometimes I think the idea’s a myth.” He returned Kurt’s sober stare. “But I come damn close when you’re around.”

He gulped the last of his beer, fidgeted with the glass for a moment, and gestured at Kurt’s half-finished one. “You want another?”

Kurt shook his head, a bemused smile on his face, and Logan escaped to the bar. He ordered a pitcher for each of them to give himself a bit of time, then thought a moment longer and ordered another for himself. The bartender looked at him dubiously, but drew them all. Logan headed back more composed than he’d left.

Kurt eyed the pitchers. “You think we will drink this much?”

“I don’t know about you, but I sure will.” He filled his glass, downed half of it, and topped it off again.

Weighted silence hung between them for a moment, until Kurt broke it quietly. “I do not know what to say. But if I make you happy, then I am glad.”

Logan was torn between wishing he’d let it go and being glad to get this out. Hell, you only live once, right? “It’s not just that, it’s…” He floundered. “What Kitty told you, about most people being good? That’s the kind of thing kids believe. Far as I’m concerned, there’s almost no-one in this world that gives a damn about anyone else. A few months ago, I’d’ve said I didn’t, either.”

He gulped down some more beer, more scared of all this talk than he’d ever been of a fight. “I don’t know what it is about you. You’re a good person, and you make me want to stick around. Sometimes that scares the crap out of me. I guess that’s really why I left before.”

They drank their beer in silence for several minutes, Logan unable to force the rest of the words out. Eventually, Kurt spoke up. “I am scared as well. I am frightened now of many things,” his laugh was bitter, “but one thing scares me very much.” His hands gripped his glass white-knuckled. “If it scares you again, will you leave me again?” His look and tone were serious, but not accusatory. Logan took a deep breath and thought about it, knowing Kurt deserved an answer.

“I can’t promise I won’t run off for a while on my own. I need to be alone sometimes; it’s just the way I am.” He met Kurt’s eyes dead-on. “But I’ll try to let you know beforehand, I won’t take longer than I need, and I will always come back. Or let you know where you can find me,” he amended. “That’s the best that I can do.”

“Then it will be enough,” Kurt answered quietly. “I know that I spoke badly when we found you once more, but I will not have you stay with me if you do not wish it. It is only — I must know what you wish, yes? Make no promises to me you do not wish to keep, Logan.”

“I won’t,” Logan assured him. “I wish I could promise you I’d always be there. I wish I was the kind of guy that could do that for you, ’cause it’s what you deserve. But I’ve been through too much to change my ways now. No matter how much I —” his mind flinched from the word he wanted. “— I care about you,” he finished lamely.

Kurt smiled, a twinkle in his eyes. “And I love you,” he added teasing emphasis, then continued in earnest, “and I think I could do no better.”

Logan shook his head. “You —” his first attempt at reply was drowned in noise as a group of men entered. He leaned a little closer to talk under the din of their orders and settling in.

“Kurt, if you knew some of the things I’ve done…”

“Tell me,” he answered confidently. “Then I will know.”

“Elf …” Against his will, he laughed. “I wouldn’t know where to begin.” And I’m not sure if I really want to. He didn’t finish the thought out loud, but something in Kurt’s eyes softened as if he’d heard it anyway.

“You have stolen, maybe?” Kurt prompted. “Taken or tricked people out of their money?”

Logan snorted. “That’s some of the least of it, but yeah.”

“You have started fights and hurt people? Lied?” He cocked his head, still sounding more amused than anything. “Gone against other laws?”

“Yeah,” Logan growled. “All of that, too. Still think it’s funny?”

“Logan,” Kurt laughed, more cynicism than genuine humor. “The people of Der Jahrmarkt that raised me,” he grimaced and shrugged, “they were my family, they were wonderful in many ways, but they were not always good. Traveling, being strange in every place, it is not easy. And we were Rom.” He scowled. “People tell lies, and they treat us as dirt. Sometimes as a child you think, if I will be the one to take the blame, maybe I should at least have the good as well first.” He shrugged. “These things you think are so bad? I have done them as well.”

Logan was torn between surprise and laughter. Damn. You should remember by now he ain’t exactly an innocent, Logan. Get him down offa that damn pedestal.

“Yeah, okay,” he conceded. “That ain’t all of it, though, not by a long shot.” He took a deep breath and a long swig of beer, staring into the glass, unable to meet Kurt’s eyes. “You ever killed a man?”

Kurt looked down, tracing aimless patterns in the moisture from their glasses. “I do not think so,” he answered slowly. Startled, Logan glanced at him, and he shrugged.

“When I was first … imprisoned?” He grimaced. “There was a man who kept me. He stepped too close, within my reach, and I strangled and bit him, attempting to reach the keys.” His voice grew softer as he remembered, his eyes hollow. “The others came in, and they beat me until I could not still hold on. I hurt him as badly as I was able; I remember the sound and the feel of his bones cracking. I was very angry. I do not think he was badly enough wounded to have died, but I did not see him any more after they took him out.”

“Hey, buddy. Kurt.” Logan put a hand on his shoulder as his voice trailed off. “You okay?”

Kurt blinked, coming out of the memories with a start, and smiled wanly. “I will be.”

Logan nodded and poured the last of the Guinness into Kurt’s glass. “Drink up, and I’ll get some more. You look like you could use it, and if I’m gonna talk about my story…yeah.” He gathered up the empty pitchers, squeezed Kurt’s shoulder reassuringly, and made another trip to the bar.

The barman took back the empty pitchers and did some quick math on a piece of paper. “One more pitcher?”

Logan dug for his wallet and paid out another two twenties. “Just refill ’em all.”

“Hey, man,” one of the new rowdies at the bar called out, “you buying for everyone?”

“Sorry, pal.”

The man’s friends laughed at the exchange and returned to their drinks, but the one who’d addressed him wasn’t ready to let it lie. “Hey, no way you can finish all that by yourself. Come on, let us help you!”

Logan turned a baleful eye on him, but the bartender returned with the pitchers. Logan nodded thanks and went back to the table, ignoring the obnoxious guy.

Kurt was eyeing the group at the bar warily, having heard the exchange. “They want to make trouble.”

“Probably,” Logan agreed. He eyed the obnoxious one covertly — large frame, the kind of fit that came from gyms rather than work, thick over-moussed hair, expensive clothes; the kind of guy he’d normally love taking down, even if it wasn’t much of a challenge.

If I were on my own. He let the idea go with only a little regret. “Best to ignore ’em unless they start something, though. Here.” He poured them each another glass. “You back with me yet?” he asked more gently.

Kurt nodded. “The memory is hard. I do not think I killed him, but I intended to. I should not want to kill somebody; I know it is wrong. But if I did…” he hung his head, “I do not know that I am sorry.”

“I don’t think you should be,” Logan countered firmly. “After all the shit they did to you, don’t be anything but glad if you managed to get one of the fuckers.”

“I am not sorry that I hurt him. I would hurt them all if I could,” he snarled. “But I do not know if I want to be one who kills.” He sighed.

“That’s one place we’re different,” Logan began softly. “I am a killer, and I’m not often sorry. I’ve got a temper on me, and I don’t think you’ve really ever seen it. When I get good and mad, I can’t even think straight. I’ve come damn close to killing people, and I will again. One or two who tried to do me in, I have killed, and I’m not sorry for it. And those are just the ones I know about.”

He clenched one fist, feeling the bones shift under the surface of his skin. “I have nightmares sometimes — I think I’ve killed a lot more.”

“You do not know for certain?” Kurt asked.

“Not for sure. But I have some good guesses,” he answered grimly. “They did something to my memory till I barely know who I am. I don’t remember any orders or faces. But in my dreams, I’m killing people with these weapons that they gave me.” He stared down at his hand, looking for the telltale bulges at his wrists.

“Your claws, yes?” Kurt reached out a finger and ran it over the back of his wrist, feeling for one and tracing it.

“Yeah. The claws, the unbreakable bones — you don’t put someone through hell to give ’em that and erase their brain after if you’re not using them as —”

“Hey, fags! You wanna hold hands, take it someplace else, wouldja?” Mr Obnoxious, none the better for a few beers, strode up with a red face. Kurt flinched and drew back his hand, tensing.

“Easy, buddy,” Logan muttered to him, and reclined in his chair insolently, draping an arm over Kurt’s chair. “Why, bub,” he answered coolly, “jealous I wouldn’t buy you a drink?”

The man’s face grew redder, and he opened his mouth for an angry retort.

“Hey!” The bartender interrupted angrily. “You want to start something, do it somewhere else!”

“You standing up for these fags?” the man asked incredulously.

“I’m standing up for paying customers. Sit down and drink, or get lost!”

Two of the man’s friends joined him. “Come on.” One grabbed him by the elbow. “You heard the man.”

Mr Obnoxious shrugged him off. “And you’re gonna stand there and take it?” He advanced another step, looming over them.

Logan could feel Kurt tense further, ready to leap from his chair, and bit back his snide response. “We’re just here for a drink; we’re not looking for trouble. Look, you still want a drink, I’ll buy you all a round.”

“Why?” he sneered. “Your pretty boyfriend there getting nervous? I’m gonna wipe the floor with you both, man,” he called to Kurt. “You’re disgusting.”

Logan’s growl mixed with the crack of Kurt’s chair as he launched himself at the man. With no time to think, Logan slammed the nearest of the three and swung him across the room. He turned to see the bartender and a couple friends pulling the second guy off Kurt.

Kurt and Mr Obnoxious were entangled on the floor, but Kurt seemed to need no help. He was hammering the man the way he had Sean, but this guy didn’t have the benefit of special forces training. Reluctantly, Logan realized he might have to break it up before Kurt did permanent damage. More attention than we need.

“Kurt!” Damn it. He wasn’t hearing anything. With a sigh, Logan waded in to grab him, getting an elbow on the chin and a fist in the gut for his troubles. “Kurt, let him go!”

Kurt clutched a fistful of the guy’s thick hair and raised his other arm for a spectacular punch; Logan took the opportunity to dive in, hug his chest and waist, and drag him off the man. Kurt turned with a snarl, not letting go of his grip.

And the hair came with him, pulling completely off, revealing a full head of bristling green feathers.

Logan stared for a moment in shock, registering gasps behind him. He snapped himself back to the moment, but the unexpected revelation had stopped Kurt in his tracks as well, along with everyone else in the place.

Face twisted in rage, their antagonist lunged, but Kurt knocked him back easily. The murderous hate seemed to have drained out of him, though, and he contented himself with keeping the guy down. Logan noted with a cynical eye that the man’s friends weren’t struggling to get free and help him any more, either.

“Out!” the bartender yelled at them. “Get him out of here!”

While the man was occupied with Kurt, Logan grabbed him from behind and twisted his arm back between his shoulder-blades. He lock-stepped him to the door, kicking it open and pushing him out with as much force as he could.

He looked around to find all eyes on the door he’d just shoved the guy through, most folks looking as though they expected him to rush back in and kill them all. Several of the tables were already empty. Because of the fight, or the mutant? Logan wondered cynically, not wanting to place odds.

The bartender broke the silence, scowling at the man’s friends. “Out.”

“Hey,” one of them protested angrily, “we ain’t —”

“I don’t care. Get out.”

Sullen but still obviously shaken, they both got their coats and left without further protest.

Logan walked back over to Kurt, who had dropped the man’s wig and was gazing at the door in stunned silence.

Murmurs started up around the bar, and there were numerous calls for the bartender, who sighed. “You two,” he nodded at Kurt and Logan, “under the circumstances, I’ll give you a second chance. Start any more trouble, you’re out, too. Got it?” He waited for their nods and headed off to help the other customers.

Logan dropped back into his chair, and Kurt, righting his, did the same. They drank in continued silence, watching as one group after another paid their bill and left.

“This is what he meant,” Kurt said bitterly. “ ‘Under the circumstances.’ We may stay, because no-one else will wish to, now that they have seen a mutant. And he only is made to leave, because we seem human.”

Logan wanted to contradict him, say it was chance other folks were leaving now, and the other guy was kicked out for starting the fight, or just about anything else that would return the contented look to those shining eyes. “Probably,” was as far as he could hedge.

“And this is why he hides.” He gestured at the fallen wig. “As I do. And if I had not fought with him —”

“Hey, whoa!” Logan scowled at him. “He pushed your buttons, you snapped. If he hadn’t been an asshole, none of this would have happened.”

He sighed and poured the last of Kurt’s pitcher into his glass and refilled his own, leaving maybe a half-glass worth. “Finish up and we’ll get out, okay?” He nudged Kurt. “So much for a relaxing night out.”

Kurt grimaced in acknowledgement. “Perhaps we should not have come.” He stared darkly at the door. “I do not know who I am angrier with — the ones who will hate all mutants, or the mutants who will make it easy.”

“Plenty of anger to go around, I guess. And don’t tell me,” he admonished Kurt’s downcast look, “that you shouldn’t be angry. There’s nothing wrong with getting pissed off, long as you don’t let it eat you up. Got that?”

Kurt smiled wanly up at him. “I will try. Or you will be angry with me, yes?”

A weak joke, but at least he was trying. Logan returned the grin. “Nah. You’re too much fun to be friendly with.” He slung an arm around Kurt, then frowned. “Christ, you’re wound up tighter than Summers’ ass. What do you say to a good run before we head back?”

Kurt’s eyes lit up as he nodded. “I have missed our walking and running together.”

Logan hugged him and thumped his shoulder as he stood. “Come on, then, let’s get outta here.” They left a decent tip for the trouble and strolled out to the parking lot, taking in the night air as they decided on a direction.

The tree line behind the bar looked suitably dense, and they headed for it, not slowing down until they were out of sight or scent of human development. Logan kicked off his boots to feel the soil beneath him and could feel his muscles unwind, and Kurt met his questioning glance with a genuine, if small, smile.

Reaching down to Kurt’s belt, Logan fumbled for a moment and plucked the projector off. “I hate this thing,” he confessed to Kurt’s startled look. “I like you to look like you.” Kurt nodded and stuck the device in his pocket, his true face lit with happiness and wonder.

“Thanks,” Logan told him gruffly. “Now, how about that run?”

Chapter Text

A breeze had picked up while they’d been inside, and combined with the speed of their passage, it whipped around them, cooling and supportive. The moonlight was strong enough for both of them to see by, dim enough to smudge any sign of humanity. Their feet pounded at the ground, an occasional breath of laughter or frustration the only other sound.

They ran full-out for some time, and though Logan at first kept an eye on Kurt, he seemed to have healed rapidly in the weeks since they’d last done this, and eventually Logan gave himself up to the pleasure of the run.

Some distance from the town, Kurt finally broke rhythm and halted, pacing restlessly around a small clearing, his chest heaving from the exertion. His hair and fur were tipped with silver in the moonlight, matched by the golden gleam of his eyes, and coiled energy poured off of him in every movement.

Unable to resist the temptation, Logan prowled over to him, backing him up against a tree, hands pulling fiercely at his hair to lower him into a kiss.

Kurt responded with equal strength, devouring his mouth, drawing blood from one lip with his fangs but not stopping, pushing back against Logan, his hands thrusting up under shirts to feel skin.

Logan growled and yanked at Kurt’s waistcoat, determined to return the favor, stopping only long enough for Kurt to pull off his undershirt.

They surged back against each other, pushing their chests together but not pausing for a moment, stripping their pants off with the same abandon, groaning and gasping as they finally came together with no clothes between them.

They thrust against each other for long moments, and it was good, so good, but … not enough, and apparently Kurt thought the same, because he pushed, toppling them onto the ground, and braced his knees either side of Logan’s waist.

Leaving the kiss for the moment, he licked a heavy line up to Logan’s ear. He bit down hard for a moment, then pulled back enough to demand, “In me.”

The throaty voice and the words made Logan groan in reaction, his cock straining further. He grabbed Kurt’s ass, searching with a finger. Kurt hissed as he pressed in slightly, and that expression of pain brought a tiny piece of Logan’s brain back.

Not a good idea. Not without anything, in the middle of nowhere, when he hadn’t done this at least in years, and, “Oh, fuck!” he exclaimed as Kurt bit one of his nipples, stroking his side. “Don’t wanna hurt you,” he gasped out.

Kurt resumed his feasting on Logan’s mouth as if he’d disappear any moment. “Need you,” he explained, his lips moving against Logan’s.

Fuck, yes, Logan’s mind and body screamed, but you don’t heal fast … “In me,” he blurted out before he could change his mind, surprised to find he didn’t want to, wanted this more than he’d wanted just about anything in a long time.

Kurt whimpered, and Logan half-expected him to argue, but the cock pressing into his stomach jumped, and Kurt’s mouth left his as he slid back to kneel between Logan’s legs.

Kurt pushed with his knees, swirling his tongue along the line of hair down Logan’s belly, and Logan lifted up to drape his legs over Kurt’s thighs.

The pressure and stretching screamed across his nerves as Kurt pushed into him, winding its way through the rest of the pleasure, and Logan grabbed his balls, pulling to keep himself from coming.

Kurt rocked, pushing forward a little more each time, until with a sudden shock he sunk all the way in, both of them yelling at the sensation. Logan staked his claws into the ground to keep from grabbing Kurt too strongly, every muscle quivering in reaction.

Kurt folded forward over him, stroking his arms and side as they stilled and caught their breath. They kissed again, deeply and savagely, and then Kurt started moving.

The friction sparked like wildfire up Logan’s spine, and he ground back against Kurt until they were pounding together and there was nothing in the world but the blazing heat between his legs.

Kurt leaned forward, changing the angle and pressing his stomach against Logan’s cock, and Logan howled as he came, convulsing. Kurt gasped, speeding up, and Logan twitched, feeling his inner muscles grabbing at Kurt’s cock, the aftershocks making him even more sensitive.

He retracted his claws and held Kurt as he thrust, loving the feeling. It wasn’t long before Kurt froze deep inside him, quivering, and then relaxed utterly. He pulled gently out of Logan, who grimaced at both the sudden loss and the soreness, and crawled up to collapse half on top of him.

They lay there for long moments, lazily stroking each other and letting the breeze cool them. “We should be getting back,” Logan admitted reluctantly after a while. Visible through the canopy, the moon was almost overhead.

“Mm,” Kurt conceded.

Neither of them moved. After a few more moments, they met each other’s eyes and laughed.

 

They helped each other up and pulled on their clothing, dusting the leaves and straw off of each other. A brief twinge pinched Logan’s back before disappearing; by the time they were ready to go, he was almost completely healed. More relaxed now, they set a moderate pace back to where Logan had left his shoes.

He pulled out a cigar as they headed back around the bar, but he never got a chance to light it.

Fuck.

The bar’s lights had been turned off for the evening, only the moonlight and a streetlight down the way illuminating the parking lot, which was almost empty.

A few feet from one of the two remaining trucks, the bartender and the mutant he’d thrown out were tangled in a somewhat one-sided fist fight. Even as Logan and Kurt took in the scene, the bartender doubled over from a gut punch. The other man kicked him, shouting obscenities as he went down, and looked ready to keep it up.

“Hey!”

The man spun at Logan’s yell and sneered, though Logan could see the nervousness enter his stance as Logan strode over, Kurt only slightly behind him.

“What do you know? It’s the fags themselves. I missed you boys earlier; nice of you to come back to get your faces punched in.” He kicked the bartender viciously as he tried to rise.

“Big talk,” Logan shot back. “I’ve beat the crap out of tougher men than you.”

“You haven’t got his goons to help you this time, fag.” He nodded at the bartender and looked down on Logan from his considerable height.

Logan laughed. “Which fight were you in, bub? I saw Kurt mopping the floor with your ass.”

Snarling, the man jumped at him, fist cocked for a roundhouse punch. Logan stepped into his charge, landing solid punches to the man’s jaw and ribcage, knocking him back a few feet.

The man’s eyes narrowed as he worked his jaw, feeling with his tongue for loose teeth; Logan smelled blood. The man came on again, feinting low and grazing Logan’s cheek as he spun out of reach.

Logan used the momentum of his turn to elbow the guy in the kidneys, then knocked him flat with a shove between his shoulder blades. The man landed hard, skidding a little, and took a moment to get to his hands and knees, wiping a hand over his face; it came away bloody.

“Had enough yet?” Logan asked dryly.

The man glared over his shoulder at Logan, eyes poisonous. “I’m gonna kill you, fag.”

He started to turn around, but Kurt was on him with a shout, knocking away the knife before Logan even saw it. Kurt grabbed the man’s hand, twisting painfully, earning himself a few blows in the process.

The man wrenched himself free and tried for a kidney punch; Kurt dodged it, and the man’s fist flew past his waist — knocking off the hologram projector.

The shock froze both combatants momentarily; Logan dove for the man before he could recover, throwing him to the ground and kneeling over his chest, one hand on his throat.

The man clawed at Logan’s hand and pushed at him; Logan tightened his grip warningly before allowing the man some breath.

“Don’t up the stakes ’less you’re willing to play them,” he warned. “I was just gonna damage you a little. You wanna make this life and death? I can do that, too. I got my own blades.” He brought his free hand into the man’s view and extended his claws with a snap.

The man’s eyes widened, and after a moment, he renewed his fruitless struggles. Logan turned his head to look at Kurt. “What do you think, buddy? Should I gut the bastard now?”

Kurt met his eyes for a moment, then looked down at their antagonist. “He was the first to use a knife.” The fear Logan could smell on the man spiked. “But,” Kurt conceded, “we have beat him already. Perhaps if he apologizes. If he admits he is wrong for doing this, and then he leaves the city, you would not need to kill him?”

Logan turned back to the man, looking him up and down as if in thought. “I dunno; we’ve already given him one chance. All he did was up the ante. You think he’s likely to bow out this time?”

“If he does not, you can kill him then,” Kurt pointed out reasonably.

“True. How does that sound to you?” he asked the man. “Apologize to us for being an asshole, admit you were wrong, and you keep your guts in your body. Sound good?”

“I’m sorry!” the man gasped out, struggling for breath under Logan’s hand.

“For?” Logan prompted.

“I’m sorry for picking a fight with you.”

Logan looked to Kurt, who added, “And for insulting us.”

“And I’m sorry for insulting you. I was wrong, I won’t do it again, please don’t kill me!”

“Good.” Logan nodded. “Now you’re going to leave us alone, and leave this town, and not cause any more trouble, right?”

“All right!”

Logan stood, hauling the man up by his shirt, and pushed him away. “Fine. Get going before I change my mind.”

The man took a few steps backward, then sped up, not turning around until he reached the truck that was apparently his. He fumbled for the keys, gunned the engine, and left in a hurry.

Slow applause from behind them brought Logan spinning around. The bartender. He’d forgotten all about the start of this fight. The guy was leaning against his own truck, looking bruised and disconcerted but okay.

Logan’s gaze flicked quickly to Kurt, who was poised nervously. The bartender was looking between the two of them warily, as if he expected them to come after him, too.

Resigned to yet another round of bigoted crap, Logan retracted his claws. “You got something to say?” he asked wearily.

“I guess I should say thank you.” He nodded at them both, relaxing a little. “And maybe congratulate you.” He shrugged. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen good cop/bad cop done quite that well.”

Logan grunted noncommittally, though secretly he was pleased. At least he ain’t gonna attack us, too. “You’re welcome,” he added as an afterthought. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Probably have a few bruises, but I don’t think anything’s broken.” He paused uncertainly, then asked, “How about you two?”

“I’m good. Kurt?”

Kurt nodded, joining them. “I am fine.” He eyed the bartender warily, but if Logan hadn’t known what to watch for, he would’ve thought him almost completely relaxed.

Better all the time, and stronger than you think, he thought proudly and fondly. He smiled at Kurt, draping an arm around his waist. “Thanks, by the way.”

Kurt smiled back. “You are welcome.”

“Wow.” The bartender looked between them. “You’re really together, huh?” Logan glared at him, and he raised his hands defensively. “Sorry. It’s just — gay mutants? Talk about having a few strikes against you.”

“We manage,” Logan answered. He turned to leave, but Kurt stood his ground, looking at the bartender.

“You truly do not mind?” he asked quietly.

The man shrugged, only a little nervous at the scrutiny. “The way I see it, it’s not my call to mind anything. You mind I got brown eyes?” Kurt shook his head bemusedly. “We’re okay, then. Actually, I think brown is kind of boring, especially compared to yours, but you tip good, so I’ll forgive you.”

He grinned shakily, steadying as Kurt smiled a little back. “Listen, you guys are welcome back any time; first pitcher’s on the house, so long as you don’t start any more fights.”

“Sure,” Logan answered. “Next time we’re in the neighborhood.”

The man nodded. “Yeah, okay. Take it easy wherever you go, okay?” He shook Logan’s hand, then reached out to Kurt, who shook as well, a small smile still on his face. “Good night.” He climbed into his truck and drove off, waving as he left.

They watched him go, each lost in thought, until his tail lights rounded a corner out of view.

Kurt peered around the lot, then walked over to retrieve his gadget from where it had landed. He examined it closely as he rejoined Logan.

“Still work?”

Kurt shrugged, pressed a couple buttons, and clipped it back to his belt.

“Yeah,” Logan nodded, “it still works.” He sighed and started to turn for the walk to the motel, but something in the strangely vulnerable blue eyes stopped him. “What?”

Standard-length teeth chewed a pink lip nervously. Those strange eyes fixed at something over Logan’s shoulder, and Logan turned to see what he was staring at. Just visible between a couple trees and a concrete post was their motel.

Logan frowned. “Something wrong?”

Kurt shook his head, fidgeted, then reached down and removed the projector from his belt, stuffing it quickly in his pocket.

Logan looked him over carefully. Kurt’s eyes were wide and he was breathing fast, but his jaw and stance were set firmly.

“You sure about this?” It’d be great, but are you really ready?

Kurt nodded. “It is not far.” He stared back at the motel. “Only, maybe we should go before I am not. Yes?” He tried a shaky smile and almost succeeded.

“Yeah.” Logan lifted his arm to Kurt’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s get going, then.”

At this hour, the only thing still open was the gas station. They passed trees and darkened buildings in silence, focussing on the pool of light ahead.

Fifty feet before them, twenty feet, and they could see that most of the local hangers-out had left already. Only two younger guys and a girl were lounging outside, drinking beer, and Logan kept his peripheral vision on them as they got closer.

The two of them earned a few semi-interested glances as they neared, just a couple passing guys till they stepped into the light. Then the youths’ conversation died down, and Logan could see them staring. Kurt’s fists clenched and the pulse under Logan’s hand raced, but he kept walking.

The silent staring continued, and Logan restrained himself forcibly from telling them to get lost. They haven’t done anything; he’s gonna get stares anywhere, and he’ll have to learn to deal with it. He squeezed Kurt reassuringly and resolutely ignored the kids.

Kurt was still tense, though, and after a few more steps, whirled towards them, snarling.

The girl gasped, and all three froze, but they looked away after a moment, and the staring had stopped when the two of them continued. The conversation even resumed in whispers, and if the passing mutants were the subject, at least the kids were being discreet about it.

Kurt unclenched his fists and quickened their pace, but relaxed a little, and by the time they reached their room, he was breathing easily again.

Logan closed the door behind them and was immediately pulled into a full-body hug, Kurt wrapping around him tightly.

Logan hugged back, proud and worried, and they stood there for long minutes. When Kurt’s grip loosened, Logan pulled away gently. “We should probably get some sleep. Go on,” he waved, teasing, “I know you’ll want another shower.” They traded smiles, and Kurt headed for the bathroom.

Logan stripped off his clothes and tossed them on top of his bag, then stretched a bit before he crawled into bed. Not a bad night in the end, he mused. Bit of fighting, some damn good sex, he growled happily, and decent beer. The guy we helped didn’t turn on us, and Kurt — he still wanted to cheer at how far he had come. Not that he fooled himself this was the end of Kurt’s shyness, but damn, it was a huge step.

He was half asleep when Kurt, fur still warm from the dryer and damp in places, slid in next to him. Logan turned toward him, and Kurt cuddled in close, seeking his mouth. Logan welcomed him without opening his eyes, exchanging wet, lazy kisses.

Kurt stretched and settled, head on the pillow next to Logan’s, and Logan grunted in contentment. “You did good tonight,” he roused himself enough to mumble.

“Mm,” was his answer. “When?”

Logan twitched his shoulders in a shrug. “All night.”

“Mm.” Kurt couldn’t really cuddle closer, but he tried. “You are welcome.”

Chapter Text

The kids never asked about their night out beyond if they’d had a good time, and Logan and Kurt never told them about it, but it was hard to hide that something had happened.

When they were in the van now, or places they weren’t likely to be seen by many — like when the kids bullied them into seeing a movie, or in an almost empty restaurant — Kurt let his real face show.

Remarkably, they had no bad incidents. With every occurrence, Kurt grew a little more confident, though he still refused to turn it off in crowds of any size.

That was the good part. But some time during their altercation, he’d picked up the blade the jerk had pulled on Logan, an eight-inch steel butterfly knife, and he went from toying with it thoughtfully to practicing with it in their room at night.

After almost a week of this, Logan spoke up. “You work with Sean while I was gone?”

Kurt nodded, focussed on his moves.

“So why the practice now? You expecting trouble?”

Kurt shrugged as he tried another lunge.

“Hey.” Logan stepped in front of him. “Talk to me. We need to worry? What’s up?”

Kurt sat on the floor at the foot of the bed and leaned against it, and Logan joined him, waiting.

“I want … I try to be more often … me, yes?” He waved at his body. “And people so far, they look,” he winced, “but they do nothing else. But I know, the more that see my face, there will be one who will not do nothing.” He set his jaw. “I will not go into a cage again!”

He was shaking, with anger or fear Logan couldn’t tell. Logan put a hand on his shoulder, and after a moment, Kurt leaned in and let Logan hold him.

“Never,” Logan told him firmly. “They’ll have to go through me first. I can show you a few more moves, though. If there’s one thing I know, it’s fighting. Just remember you ain’t in this alone, okay?”

Kurt nodded. “I will try.”

 

The areas they were driving through, there was always some unwatched field or patch of forest they could pull over in for a bit of a workout. At least, that was the plan. As Logan was rapidly finding, any plan involving kids was likely to get changed without notice.

The first day, the kids watched silently as Logan showed Kurt a few moves — for about two minutes. Logan let them mimic the moves without comment as long as he could, but gave in when Kitty tried something that’d probably end her up dead. With a wince, he went over to correct her.

After that, he was teaching a class again. He studiously did not mention the daily lessons when he dropped another postcard to the institute a few days later. No sense in letting anyone know the kids were actually learning anything. Or that he was teaching. And, he admitted only to himself, enjoying it. Each of them learned differently, and Logan was finding out a lot more about them than he’d suspected he would.

Kitty was still in the gawky stage of growth, not always sure in her skin, and she questioned and analyzed everything. It frustrated both of them that he didn’t always know the reasons behind a move or remember learning it himself; he just knew it.

But sometimes her questioning would bring out answers he didn’t know he knew, and he’d get brief flashes of past instructors, so Logan gritted his teeth and put up with the interrogation. And the girl had good co-ordination, when her lack of confidence didn’t get in the way. If she could get past that, she’d make a good fighter.

Lack of confidence wasn’t John’s problem. That, he had plenty of. Maybe too much. He seemed not to take anything seriously; he treated the classes almost like a game, playing pranks and teasing everyone if Logan didn’t keep him busy. Which was hard sometimes, since he picked up almost everything immediately. Show him something once or twice and he had it; after that, it was all just refining his form. If he’d had the patience for it.

It didn’t take Logan long to figure out why the Professor had paired John with Bobby, and he suspected it had very little to do with their powers. Bobby took longer to learn things, but he had the focus that John lacked. He’d stick with one move until he had it perfect — and would needle John about his sloppiness until their one-upmanship demanded that John work harder. And with his instant grasp of things, John couldn’t help but return the jeers when Bobby got something wrong. Together, they worked much harder than either alone.

Rogue didn’t need to learn any new moves; she hadn’t said anything, but reluctantly confessed to Logan when they started that, like his powers, she still kept a good number of Sean’s memories, buried but triggerable.

In practice, this meant that, like Logan, she didn’t always know why to do something, but she knew what would work. Where she ran into problems was that those buried memories didn’t match her body. Blocks remembered from stronger arms, strikes from a different center of gravity and height, all had to be adjusted for her own ability, and learned well enough to supplant the unconscious reactions.

She kept at it, though; Logan suspected that she did even more in her room each night. And moves that Sean knew, worked for Logan and Kurt just fine; Rogue was able to show them a few moves he didn’t know.

Kurt was a natural; Sean had been right about that. His balance was instinctive and automatic, and he was lightning quick. He was also ambidextrous, and could do almost as much with his tail, and they didn’t invent martial arts for people as flexible as he was. Logan showed him all he could anyway, harsher on Kurt than any of the others, knowing that he couldn’t protect him from everything, couldn’t always be there for him.

Even if he wanted to.

 

They probably should have anticipated it, but it was a measure of how far they’d come that Logan hadn’t even thought about the possibility, and from the frozen stillness on his face, neither had Kurt.

They were sitting in a pizza place when it came up; they’d finished arguing over toppings and were chatting with the friendly and bored waitress, who was about the same age as the kids. They finished laughing over some joke, and Bobby spoke up.

“Is there anything fun to do around here?” They’d been on the road for several weeks, and the kids were starting to get bored as the novelty of dumping school wore thin.

The waitress giggled. “We don’t get a lot of anything right here. Mostly you need to go over to Moose Jaw.” She pointed with her thumb. “They’ve got a bunch of touristy stuff, but some of it’s kind of cool. Oh, and, hey — there’s a circus in town for a couple more days! I haven’t been yet, but it looks really cool.”

Logan and Kurt’s tension communicated itself to the kids, but Kitty and Bobby managed to finish the conversation normally enough to send the waitress back to the kitchen.

Rogue looked at them with wide eyes. “God, do you think it’s the same one?”

“I don’t know, kid,” Logan told her gruffly. How many could there be going through this area? his mind screamed. “We need to find out.” He faltered. And do what? Kill them all? Tear the place down around their ears? Tell the mounties they used to keep a mutant in a cage? “Only if you want to,” he told Kurt’s wide eyes. “You don’t even want to find out if it’s them, we won’t ask.”

“I …” Kurt looked around as if trapped. “Ich brauche …

Logan grabbed him just in time; a second later, they were back by the van. Kurt fidgeted, then started pacing rapidly. He ignored Logan at first, then on his return circuit quickened his steps to throw himself on him, crushing their mouths together frantically, clutching Logan to him with a desperation that had little of sex in it.

Logan kissed back, letting Kurt take whatever he needed, running his hands through Kurt’s hair, stroking his back, holding him closely. Slowly, Kurt took it in, gentling a bit, before he broke off the kiss with a choked sob and hid his face in Logan’s neck, breathing unevenly.

Logan held him. Are you okay? seemed like a stupid question, and he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“It is not right,” Kurt finally mumbled. “I feel sehr kindisch, to be so, and —”

“You’re kidding, right?” Logan asked, pushing Kurt back to look him in the eyes. “All the shit they did, you’re still upset you’re upset?”

Kurt shook his head. “We do not know it is them, niche kit Sicherheit. Und wenn ja, they are not here. And you are with me, and they do not know me so.” He waved at his his holographic appearance. “Es ist no danger here, aber I cannot stop Angst zu haben!

He looked so lost, Logan pulled him close again. He opened his mouth to speak, but Kurt interrupted. “Do not tell me das ist in Ordnung, that this is logisch, rational. Ich weiss, but it does not help!” He laughed, with more hysteria than humor.

Logan soothed him again, waiting until his pulse and breath had slowed and steadied before speaking. “What do you want to do now?”

“I wish to go away, very far,” Kurt whispered into his hair.

Logan nodded. “Then we will. You want to go now, or eat dinner first?”

Kurt hesitated. “I do not know if I can now eat. But the children, if we do not, will be hungry.”

Logan snorted. “They’ll manage. They probably won’t even mind, you know.”

Ja.” Kurt nodded, then straightened, trying to compose himself. “I think, I would like to sit still for a little time first, and the rest can eat. Maybe …” He swallowed. “We should find if it is them, this circus.”

Logan nodded. “Okay. Dinner, and we find out, then if it is, we drive straight away from that town, fast as we can, until you say stop.”

Kurt smiled at him, and Logan leaned in for a soft kiss. One lock of black-seeming hair fell into their faces, and Logan reached up to brush it back behind Kurt’s ear, missing the first time because of the point he could feel but not see. They both laughed a little, lightening the atmosphere.

“Come on.” Logan took Kurt’s hand. “Let’s go get some pizza before the kids scarf it all.”

 

The kids looked up and breathed a collective sigh of relief when they walked back in. Rogue rushed over, eyes wide and full of questions. “Are y’all okay?”

“Yeah, kid,” Logan answered her, stroking her hair briefly. Kurt nodded at her. Logan glanced at the few other diners, but no-one seemed to be paying them undue attention. “Anybody see us leave?”

She shook her head. “Nah, I don’t think so. Good thing it’s pretty dark in our corner.”

“I did not think,” Kurt confessed as they sat. “I only needed to get outside, quickly.”

“Hey, no problem.” Kitty, on Kurt’s other side, hugged him. “We kind of got that.” She smacked him on the shoulder. “That’s for scaring us, though.”

He gazed at her, startled and solemn. “I apologize for frightening you.”

She smiled back, then turned serious. “You do think it’s them, don’t you?”

Kurt shrugged.

“Probably,” Logan admitted. “But we need to find out for sure.”

“What was your circus called, Kurt?” Bobby asked.

“We were only Der Jahrmarkt. But the man, the one who bought it,” his voice was flat, “he did not want the German name. I do not know what he calls it now.”

Logan wracked his brain for memories of the day he’d first seen Kurt, trying to remember if he’d seen a sign or poster of any sort. A vague recollection of red letters on yellow was all he could bring up. If he could see it …

“Hey.” Logan grabbed the waitress as she came near. “That circus you mentioned, they got a poster or anything we could look at?”

She nodded over her shoulder. “Yeah, there’s a flyer up front on the board. Want me to grab it for you?”

“Yeah,” Logan answered.

“Please,” Kitty piped up pointedly.

“Okay.” The waitress grinned. “Just a second. Your food should be out soon, too. You need anything else?” She left at their negatives.

The food got there first, and everyone ate or picked at their food nervously. Logan was tempted to go get the damn flyer himself, but Kurt’s tail was wrapped firmly around Logan’s waist, and he couldn’t bring himself to break that contact.

As promised, eventually the waitress did bring it by. Logan stared at it, at the picture and list of enticements, until someone cleared their throat loudly. He looked up into a nervous ring of faces.

“Well?” Rogue asked for everyone. “Is it them?”

Logan reached under the table to where Kurt’s hands were clutched in his lap, and threaded his own fingers through them. “Yeah,” he said quietly, “it’s them.”

They tried to finish dinner normally, but the tension in the air was so thick, they were making the waitress nervous, so they finally just asked for a box and left, letting Bobby freeze the food for later.

Back at the van, Logan pulled out the map. Moose Jaw was almost twenty miles directly north of them; the road they were on went south another thirty miles or so, then turned east. Perfect.

“Let’s go.” He turned to Kurt, huddled in the passenger seat. “When we’re away enough, you say so. I’m not stopping till you do. Okay?” Kurt stared out the window, not answering. “Kurt?”

The word was so soft, Logan had to strain to catch it, and when he did, he wasn’t sure he’d heard it right. “No.”

“What?”

Kurt shook his head. “No. I need … I do not know. Only, I cannot run, as if it is me who has done the wrong thing. You understand? I will not be always in fear.”

“So, what do you want to do?”

“I want to see the circus.”

Logan did a double-take. “There’s a difference between running from trouble and not running into it, you know,” he protested. “You wanna walk in there and do what? Not that killing everybody in the place doesn’t appeal.”

Kurt shrugged uncertainly. “Maybe it is enough for me to see it now. To know I am not a part of it. I do not know. I know only that I am terrified.” He hugged himself tighter. “And I think that if I do not do this now, then I will always be.”

Logan still wasn’t too sure, but Kurt met his eyes steadily and refused to back down, and after a moment, Logan sighed and nodded. “Okay. If you’re sure …”

“I am sure.”

“Let’s go.” Logan started the van and pulled out, and they headed west in silence.

 

The quiet didn’t last long; Logan had a whole slew of ground rules he wanted to lay out for this insane venture: Kurt stayed with him, no solo exploring, no telling or showing anyone who he was unless he warned Logan first, no doing anything that would draw attention, and at the first hint of trouble, they all got out of there fast.

Kurt agreed to it all so readily that Logan scowled at him, suspicious. “You just humoring me or something?”

Kurt’s teeth flashed in an expression half smile and half grimace. “I already had planned to do all of this.”

“Oh. Well, good.”

Chapter Text

As it turned out, by the time they got there, the fairgrounds were closed for the evening. They couldn’t get anywhere near the circus without sneaking in, which Logan was all for, but Kurt declined. He was nearly paralyzed with fear just seeing it closed from a distance, but he claimed he wanted to see it open and working, to see the people that ran it and the audiences who enjoyed it. In the end, Logan grumbled but drove for the nearest motel.

The clerk eyed them curiously when they trooped into the lobby; Kurt was confident enough to pay for things alone by now, but Logan was damned if he’d let him out of his sight anywhere around this place, and the kids refused to be left outside, either.

“Three rooms,” Kurt said quietly.

The clerk nodded pleasantly as she fished out the paperwork and keys. “Field trip?”

Kurt glanced at the kids and nodded. “Yes.”

“Where are you folks from?”

He hesitated, covering it by reading the forms. “New York.”

“Wow!” she exclaimed enthusiastically. “You’ve come a long way. Seeing the sights up here?”

“Yes.” He finished filling everything out and handed it back to her, taking the keys as she placed them on the counter.

She seemed a little disappointed by his lack of conversation, but directed them to their rooms politely and wished them a good stay.

They found the rooms and told the kids good night before heading in; everyone seemed a bit subdued, well aware of the importance of tomorrow.

Kurt headed for his usual shower, and Logan joined him, not really in the mood for sex, but still unwilling to let Kurt out of his sight.

Kurt never questioned him, just welcomed him in with a kiss and a smile. They helped each other wash and dry off, Logan glad to do this now with the freedom to enjoy it, to know what it was he wanted and have that returned. The warmth and contact seemed to soothe Kurt, too, though he was still a bit stiff and tense afterwards.

“Little nervous?” Logan asked, wrapping his arms around Kurt from behind.

“Very frightened,” Kurt corrected him.

“You still want to do this?” He met Kurt’s eyes in the bathroom mirror, searching for any hesitancy.

But Kurt nodded. “Yes.”

“You’ve got more guts than anyone else I know,” Logan told him. “I just hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Me, too.” Kurt laughed nervously.

Logan gripped one tense blue shoulder, kneading it for a moment, then dropped his arm back around Kurt’s waist to steer him towards the bed. “C’mere.” He pushed Kurt down. “Let me relax you.” He rubbed Kurt’s back.

“I do not think I will be at all better until we have left,” Kurt told him reluctantly, even as he obligingly lay on his stomach and Logan straddled his ass.

“You saying you don’t want me to do this?” Logan asked, running his hands strongly up either side of Kurt’s spine. Kurt moaned, flattening into the bed, and Logan chuckled. “Good.” He lay full-length along Kurt’s back, murmuring in his ear. “ ’Cause I wanna have my hands all over you.”

A small shriek behind them made them both spin around. Rogue and Kitty were backed up against the dresser, blushing furiously. Kitty stared at them, growing ever redder, while Rogue tried to look anywhere else.

“Could y’all please put some clothes on?” she asked rather desperately.

“We weren’t expecting company,” Logan grumbled, rolling off the bed to grab some sweatpants and toss a pair to Kurt, who hurried into them gratefully. “You need something?” he asked pointedly when they were covered.

“Um …” Kitty looked at Rogue.

“Well, we kinda … just …” She trailed off and looked at them sheepishly.

Kitty spoke into the awkward silence. “We were worried. We know it’s not anything, really,” she hastened to add. “We just needed to know …” She shrugged sheepishly, looking from Logan to Kurt and back.

Looks like I’m not the only one who wants to keep an eye on him. It was touching, despite the intrusion, and Logan softened a bit. “Yeah, okay. You want to hang out in here for a while, then?”

“We can take the other bed,” Kitty blurted out. “You’ll never know we’re here! It’ll be fine if Rogue just wraps up really good, and we’ll be really quiet, promise, and —”

“Whoa!” Logan held up one hand, scowling. On the verge of telling them no way, he paused; they looked so earnest and concerned. He looked to Kurt, who nodded. “Okay, you can stay.” They both smiled. “But just for the night!”

“Okay, sure!” Rogue beamed at him.

“Yeah! Hold on, I’ll go get more blankets.” Kitty disappeared back through the wall and returned trailing linens. She and Rogue were setting up the second bed to accommodate them both, when there was a knock at the door.

Logan frowned and went to answer it, resigned to the sight of the boys on the other side. They were clutching their pillows. “Can I help you with something?” he asked wryly.

“We thought maybe you could use some extra guards,” John told him seriously. “Just in case, you know?”

Logan sighed. “At least you knocked.” He walked back in, the boys trailing behind him. The girls seemed slightly surprised, but quickly recovered.

“We got dibs on the bed,” Kitty informed them firmly.

“We hear ya, Pryde,” John answered her testily. She stuck her tongue out at him.

“You sleep wherever you want,” Logan told them collectively, “but I don’t wanna hear a peep out of anyone. Got it?”

A chorus of agreement met him, and he nodded and crawled back into bed. “Sorry about the massage,” he murmured to Kurt. “Maybe tomorrow night.”

“That is okay,” Kurt answered, watching as all the kids settled themselves. John lay in the narrow hallway, blocking the door; Bobby settled under the window. Kitty lay in the other bed, just a few feet from them, and Rogue curled on top of it in her own set of blankets.

Logan turned out the lights and slid under the covers, Kurt joining him, talking softly. “They care for me, they worry how I am.” He hugged Logan. “It is very long since I have had that.”

“Yeah,” Logan whispered back. “I know what you mean. Get used to it, though. I ain’t going anywhere.” His fierce protectiveness surprised him, but he refused to take the words or sentiment back.

“Neither am I.” Kurt’s tone was just as fierce.

They both slept uneasily that night, but neither of them moved, and they woke still in each other’s arms.

 

The sun peeked in and out of clouds, alternately lighting the circus into a frenzy of blinding color and muting the garishness to frantic grey bustle. Not surprising in a place that seemed to be a sort of hub, everyone in the town — and any other town within driving distance — appeared to have shown up.

Kurt was driving, and he clutched the steering wheel, resolutely paying attention to the traffic until they could find a place to park. He pulled over and cut the engine, breathing deeply as he pocketed the keys.

Eyes closed, he reached a hand out to Logan. Logan gripped it firmly, saying nothing. Behind them, the kids were all equally silent. Outside, the din of other groups and families carried over the calliope and hawkers of the midway.

In a surge of movement, Kurt threw the door open and jumped to the ground, slamming it closed behind him. Logan followed suit more slowly, heading around to the driver’s side. Kurt leaned against the door, eyes closed once more, frowning slightly. Logan stood watching him, until finally Kurt swallowed and spoke.

“It sounds exactly the same.” He opened his eyes, staring into the clouds. “I remember this sound always — when I was a child, and a part of the family, and … later.” He hugged himself, looking lost. “I miss this sound, and also, I hate it.”

“Understandable.”

Kurt smiled at him. “I am happy you think so, because I do not myself understand all of this.”

Logan snorted. “I ain’t claiming I understand your brain, buddy.” He knocked on Kurt’s head with his knuckles. “It just makes sense you got good and bad memories.”

Kurt nodded and pushed away from the van. “We should go in.”

“If you want.”

They headed back around the van to where the kids were waiting for them; they’d been remarkably discreet all day, which was a nice change after the invasion the previous night, but the occasional inscrutable look from Bobby, and Rogue’s refusal to meet Logan’s eyes for long had him a bit worried. They’d all been asleep when he and Kurt had gone into the bathroom and gone when they’d come out, but Logan thought they’d seemed okay about catching him and Kurt at it earlier.

They were okay last night, and it’s not like we’ve been hiding things before now, either. Anyway, what do I care if some kid’s got a problem with it? He glanced at Rogue, walking between Bobby and John, smiling shyly at something Bobby was saying. Right, Logan. Say that enough, maybe you’ll even convince yourself.

They joined the people heading towards the gates, and the kids automatically closed ranks around them as usual. Kurt twitched a bit, and his eyes never stopped scanning for trouble, but he kept moving forward.

As they got closer to the actual gateway, Kurt’s fists clenched and his expression blanked with the effort of continuing. Something brushed against Logan’s hand, and Kurt’s tail, invisible under the hologram, crept into his palm. Logan tightened his grip on it, careful to make the gesture look casual, and stroked it with his thumb.

Around them, the rest of the crowd hurried on. They skirted the edges, passed under the open archway, and stepped on to the hard-packed dirt of the midway. The smells of grease and sugar mixed with animal scents and the oiled machinery of the rides. Rock music blared from several places, combining with the ferris wheel’s music and the hawkers’ patter.

They let the still-moving crowd push them further to the side, and paused. Kurt looked overwhelmed, and Logan was torn between keeping his eyes on him and watching for trouble. No-one seemed to be paying them the least amount of attention, though.

Kurt scanned the area, taking it all in, but said nothing and didn’t move.

“Hey.” Logan spoke quietly. “You still with us?”

“It looks very different.” Kurt shook his head. “I had not realized how little of my home was left. I saw so little … before …” He faltered, shaking.

“Kurt?”

No answer this time, not even a sign that he’d heard.

Fuck. Glancing around quickly, Logan hauled Kurt behind the nearest tent, away from prying eyes. The kids started to follow, but he gestured back towards the crowd. “Keep an eye out.”

Rogue looked a little hurt, but at least she met Logan’s eyes. With a determined nod, she turned the others and marched them just out of view and hearing around the corner of the tent.

“Kurt?” Logan hugged him close, rubbing his arms and back. “Come on, buddy, talk to me. Damn it, this crazy stunt was your idea, don’t check out on me now!”

He realized his fingers were digging into Kurt’s arms hard enough to leave bruises, and loosened his grip.

Damn it, what now? He couldn’t bring himself to try slapping Kurt out of it, and he doubted pain would break through the old memories anyway. Probably just make ’em worse. He sighed. Maybe…

Grabbing Kurt’s head in both hands, Logan pulled him down for a kiss, pushing his tongue past the unresponsive lips firmly. He stroked one hand through Kurt’s hair and continued caressing him with the other, using all the knowledge he’d gained of Kurt in their time together to show him he was safe, cared for. To show him, damn it, that he was loved.

After far too long a moment, Kurt’s lips moved, returning the kiss, and his shaking subsided. Logan pulled back cautiously.

Kurt’s eyes were haunted, but he was there behind them, alive again. “Logan?” he whispered.

Logan raised an eyebrow. “You expect to be kissing someone else?”

Kurt choked on a giggle. “I —” his face blanched, and turning away quickly, he was sick. He hadn’t eaten much in the last day, leaving little but dry heaves; Logan held him through the spasms, then helped him a few feet away, to sit with his head between his drawn-up knees.

“Deep breaths.” He rubbed Kurt’s back slowly.

Kurt obliged a few times, drawing in huge lungfuls of air, and chuckled weakly. “It smells better here than I had remembered.”

Logan wrinkled his nose. “I don’t want to think about what you remember. Don’t you think about it either, okay? Just shut up and breathe.”

“Hey!”

Logan turned at the shout to see a thin middle-aged man stalking towards them, a forbidding scowl on his face. Kurt tensed again, his breathing rapid and shallow, and Logan cursed the intruder under his breath. Standing to put himself between Kurt and the stranger, he faced the man, arms crossed. “You got a problem?”

“You’re the one with the problem, pal. Employees only back here. Get lost.”

Logan didn’t budge. “Sure. Just as soon as my friend’s feeling better.”

The man pointed his finger in Logan’s face and stepped closer, trying to use his height to intimidate. “I said get lost, and I mean now! I don’t give a crap about your friend — I’m in charge here, and I want you gone. Now get going!”

Logan’s blood ran frigid. “You’re in charge here?” he asked quietly. “You mean you run this circus?”

The man’s eyes narrowed at Logan’s tone. “What’s it to you?”

Logan smiled ferally. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

His fist connecting with the man’s jaw was one of the sweetest things he’d felt in a while. He followed that up with another strike, and then another, letting his control slip as he hadn’t in far too long.

Surprise and ability both on his side, it wasn’t long before Logan found himself pounding the guy into the ground.

Motion at the edge of his vision distracted him, and he turned with a growl before realizing it was Kurt. He had risen and was staring down at Logan and the circus owner, an inscrutable look on his face.

Logan nodded at him, then turned back to the circus owner. The man was dazed but recovering, his face bruised and bloody. Logan met his eyes coldly and shoved his fist under the guy’s chin.

“No playing this time, Elf. You want him dead, he’s dead. You want me to hamstring him? Scar him? Cut off his balls? Just say the word.”

The man’s face drained of blood. “What the hell do you want? Who are you?”

Logan ignored him, waiting for Kurt’s answer.

“Stand him up.” Logan was surprised, but it didn’t sound like a kindness; Kurt’s voice was flat, low, and colder than Logan had ever heard it. He stood, hauling the guy up by his collar.

Kurt touched his shoulder, motioning him away, and Logan stepped back. Kurt brought his own knife up, backing the circus owner against the tent. He pressed the point to the man’s throat and stared at him silently. When he spoke it was to Logan, though his eyes still held the owner’s.

“He is not so much, is he? I had thought him,” he laughed bitterly, “a demon. But he is just one stupid man who was lucky.”

He dug the point of the knife under the man’s chin, drawing blood. The man gasped, eyed widening. “Look, whatever you want — I’ve got money —”

“Shut up,” Kurt interrupted icily. He dragged the knife a little, widening the cut. “You do not even know me, do you? I do not think we often spoke.” He deepened the cut further. “I could kill you now.” He smiled, wonderingly. “You are mine, and I can kill you if I like, and you will not even know why.” He sliced rapidly with the knife, slashing the man’s throat enough to bleed but not kill.

The man cried out and grabbed his neck as Kurt stepped back. Kurt laughed, and the man glared up at him, but it was more terrified than angry.

Kurt shrugged and stepped back to join Logan, wiping the blade on his jeans and putting it away again. “I think I am done.”

“Yeah?”

Kurt nodded.

“Come on, then, let’s get out of here.”

“Whoever you are, you’re not getting away with this!” the circus owner croaked behind them. “I’ll find out, and make you pay.”

Kurt smirked at him. “I do not think so.”

Logan kept his eyes on the guy until they were out of sight, but he just glared back impotently.

 

Kitty and John met them at the front corner of the tent; Logan frowned, looking around.

“Rogue said she saw something weird,” Kitty volunteered. “She and Bobby went to check it out.”

“Great.” Logan grimaced. “All we need is for them to —” he stopped as he saw the other two running towards them.

“Sorry,” Rogue offered breathlessly. “I didn’t mean to make you wait.”

“What did you see?” Logan asked, glancing around for anything suspicious. He started walking toward the gate, anxious to get out of there in any case.

“I don’t know.” She shrugged at Logan’s skeptical look. “Something rang a bell about the way these guys were talking, but I can’t put my finger on it. I think it might be one of Sean’s memories.”

“Anything we need to worry about?”

She chewed her lip as she thought about it for a moment. “I don’t think so.”

“Fair enough.”

Kitty hurried to catch up with Logan and Kurt and took Kurt’s hand. “Hey, are you okay?”

He smiled down at her. “I am fine now.”

“Really?” He nodded, and she hugged him.

“So why the hurry, then?” John asked, almost jogging to keep up with them.

“We met the guy who runs the place. I don’t think he’ll be too happy with us. I’d like to get going before he calls up his goons.”

Rogue scowled back over her shoulder at the circus. “You should’ve punched his lights out.” She crossed her arms defensively at Logan’s enquiring look. “He deserves to hurt for what he did to Kurt.”

Logan chuckled. “Don’t worry, he’s hurting.”

“Not enough, if he’s still walking.”

“Enough would be to put him in a cage to be laughed at,” Kurt agreed quietly. “But I am free of him; that will be fine.”

Logan eyed Rogue as they climbed into the van. “When did you get so bloodthirsty?”

She scowled. “Just as soon as I saw this place. All those people just walking through, not even caring. It oughta be a good place, a fun place. I think it’s horrible.”

Kitty leaned forward to hug Kurt again, and he leaned into the embrace. “Let’s just get out of here, okay?”

Kurt nodded and started the van. He turned it around and paused for a moment, looking at the circus pensively, then pulled onto the road and headed off, not looking back.

Chapter Text

By the time they stopped at a restaurant for some lunch, the kids were already chatting and teasing each other, only slightly subdued. Kitty convinced Kurt to try a malt, Bobby froze his coke to slush and blew frozen spit-balls at John, and John whipped out his lighter and burnt Bobby’s fries. Everything was almost surreally normal compared to the morning.

As they piled into the van to head back to the hotel, Rogue piped up. “Hey, guys? Can we just hang out today, not leave till tomorrow? I’m kinda tired of driving around all the time.”

Logan raised an eyebrow at her. “What happened to,” he mimicked their excitement, “ ‘road trip!’?”

“We’ve been on a road trip. I just want to stay still for a day. If that’s okay?” She looked hopefully between Kurt and Logan.

Logan shrugged and looked at Kurt. “Your call. We could always go someplace else first, if you want.”

“I am fine,” Kurt insisted firmly. “They can do nothing to me now. We will stay as long as you like.” He nodded at Rogue.

“Thanks!” She hugged him.

 

They headed back to the motel and paid for another night, the kids already planning a day of pay-per-view movies and various snacks, which necessitated a trip to the local grocery. Logan grabbed some beer to go with it all — if he was gonna be doing this, there was no way he was going thirsty.

Even so, he couldn’t make himself sit still through more than two movies, and his restlessness wasn’t helped by Kurt, who curled up in front of him and spent most of the second movie stroking Logan’s thigh with idle fingers. The moment the credits started to roll, Logan stood, tossing his empty bottle at the trash can.

“Come on, you.” He grabbed that teasing hand and pulled Kurt up, heading for the door.

Bobby coughed. “Um … guys?”

Logan and Kurt both turned to look at him. Bobby cleared his throat. “Uh …”

“What?” Logan asked when he failed to continue.

“Could … um.”

Rogue picked up the conversation, staring at Logan’s knees rather than his face. “Could y’all maybe try to, um, keep it down a bit?” Her gaze flicked to his face briefly and back down, and she blushed hotly. “I mean, there’s knowing, and there’s TMI, you know?”

“TMI?” Logan frowned. Not sure I like being lectured on my sex life by a bunch of kids.

“Too much information,” Kitty explained. “I mean, it’s cool you’re together, you know? We just don’t need to hear it.”

“It’s like your parents shagging,” John muttered.

Logan looked from one face to the next, thinking about just what he and Kurt had been up to in the shower that morning and how much the kids could’ve figured out from the sound. Suddenly, being warned about the noise didn’t seem all that bad.

“We’ll keep it down,” he vowed.

 

Kurt seemed bemused by the whole thing, but as long as he wasn’t traumatized about it, Logan wasn’t in much of a mood to explain. The second the door clicked shut behind them, he threw Kurt down on the bed and started stripping their clothes off.

Logan yanked Kurt’s jeans off a bit too fast, and Kurt yelped and slapped him with his tail.

“Sorry.” Logan kissed Kurt’s hip in apology and slowed down a little, but didn’t stop until they were both naked.

“Fast,” Kurt noted, though it didn’t sound like a complaint.

Logan shook his head in exasperation. “You and your damn wandering hands. You’re just lucky I didn’t pin you to one of the beds in there and have my way with you.”

Kurt grinned. “That would as well be ‘TMI’, yes?” He turned so Logan was below him and got that glint in his eye that meant the best kind of trouble. “If you do not want me to use my hands …”

He slid slowly down Logan’s body, licking and biting his ribcage, sucking on one nipple briefly, then trailing his tongue down to Logan’s navel. Logan held his breath in anticipation, hoping he knew where this was leading.

He wasn’t disappointed. Kurt nuzzled the thick hair at the base of Logan’s cock, then ran his lips up the hard shaft. Those golden eyes met his for a moment before Kurt’s lips parted to circle the tip. No suction, just caressing Logan with the insides of his cheeks.

Logan reached down and rubbed Kurt’s shoulder encouragingly, and Kurt lifted his head and pinned Logan’s hand to the bed. “No hands,” he declared gleefully.

Logan narrowed his eyes at the challenge in Kurt’s. “Two can play this game.” He grabbed Kurt’s nearest knee and hauled it up towards him. Kurt just grinned and returned to his slow teasing.

Okay, so maybe not quite as well, Logan had time to think before Kurt’s tongue painted a long swath up his cock and circled the tip. “Fuck!” he yelled, and quickly turned his face into the bedspread to muffle the sound. That tongue — almost rough enough for pain, better than anything he could’ve anticipated.

Logan stroked Kurt’s flank, then ran his cheek over the long cock, purple now with blood under the surface. Kurt’s fur thinned out around the base, soft fuzz on his balls. Logan gently sucked one into his mouth, and Kurt moaned, the vibrations of it sounding straight through Logan’s cock.

Oh, yeah. He hummed happily in return, and Kurt twisted to give him better access, sinking his mouth over Logan’s cock, taking in as much as he could.

Logan used every trick he’d ever heard of or experienced as his world narrowed to Kurt’s mouth on him and his on Kurt, the taste and smell of Kurt’s musk in his throat, the sounds of Kurt’s soft noises of pleasure, felt through his skin as much as heard through his ears.

He was getting close, he could feel it, and Kurt slid his mouth back, flicked his tongue quickly over Logan’s tip, and dove back down, taking Logan deep into his throat.

Logan clenched his jaw to avoid biting down or yelling, then pulled his mouth from Kurt and bit into the nearest pillow, giving himself up to the sensation as he came.

When thought returned, he took Kurt back into his mouth, sucking strongly with the rhythm of his still-rapid breath. Kurt gasped as his own orgasm hit, thrusting into Logan’s mouth. Logan swallowed his seed, deciding he liked the taste, and licked him clean, and they lay there, curled around each other limply.

Logan was on the verge of sleep when the phone rang. He eyed it evilly, knowing it could only be the kids. Crap. If they’re calling to say we were too loud again…

He watched it through the second ring, thinking about not even getting it. Kurt looked over at it, but didn’t move, either. Maybe it’s the desk, asking us about check-out or something. With a sigh, Logan stretched out his arm and picked up the receiver. “Yeah?”

It was Jean.

“Hi, Logan. Are you done yet?”

Logan choked. “What?”

“Are you okay?” She sounded confused.

“I’m fine. What do you mean, are — how’d you find us, anyway?”

Kurt picked up his head and gave Logan a worried look. Logan shook his head and smiled, and Kurt turned around to lie against him so he could hear the phone as well.

“The professor’s been keeping tabs on you,” Jean explained apologetically. “You didn’t think we’d really let you and the kids just run off without making sure you were safe, did you?”

Logan sighed; there really was nothing to say to that.

“I wanted to call you yesterday,” she continued, “but the Professor said it wasn’t a good time — that there was something you were in the middle of and that shouldn’t be interrupted. Are you done now?”

Logan rubbed his face. Thank god she didn’t mean what I thought. “Yeah, I think we’re done.” He looked at Kurt, who nodded. “We went to the circus today.”

Jean breathed in sharply. “Is everything okay? Kurt’s there with you?”

“I am here,” he spoke loudly enough for the phone to pick up. “I am okay.”

“Good. I’m glad,” she told him warmly. She paused for a moment. “The Professor says to ask you if you’d like to press charges against them, Kurt. The Institute would be happy to fund some good Canadian lawyers for you.”

Kurt grimaced. “To say what?” he asked. “That they treated a mutant badly?”

“We can charge them with kidnapping for a start — they took you in without your consent, brought you from Germany here — we can —”

“No.” He was shaking his head. “It would not work.”

“You don’t know that,” Jean argued.

Even you can’t say they’d convict, Jeannie, Logan noted.

“I have seen how it goes,” Kurt told her sadly. “They take Rom children and they bring them elsewhere, and nobody in the law cares, because they are Rom. And with mutants, it is as bad or worse. And I am both; nobody will say it was wrong.”

“Kurt,” Jean sounded apologetic, but she said it anyway, “what if they do this to someone else?”

Logan answered, hating the stricken look on Kurt’s face. “Isn’t that what the X-Men are for? Now we know about ’em, they can’t get away with it again.” We hope, he admitted silently. Jean sighed, but Logan pressed on. “What did you want anyway, Jean? What’s so important to show your hand and call us now?”

Her voice when she answered was all Doctor Grey. “We need to get the kids back here.”

“We can head back in the morning; I was wondering how long you’d give ’em off school.” Logan laughed.

“No. Head south out of town tonight, till you can’t see the lights any more; Scott will come in the Blackbird to pick you up. We’ll take care of the van later.”

Logan frowned into the phone. “Jean? Everything okay there?”

She laughed ruefully. “State inspection; we need everyone accounted for. If you and Kurt want to stay out, that’s fine, but we really need the kids back.”

“Okay.” He rolled his eyes; laws apparently applied to everyone when it was convenient. “We’ll head out soon as it’s dark.”

“Thank you. Will I see — never mind. Later, okay?”

“Sure, Jeannie. Later.”

“Good-bye, Logan.”

“Bye.” He hung up and looked at the sky through the gap in the curtains. “Won’t be dark for about another hour. You want to grab the kids now, or wait?”

Kurt stretched against him and yawned. “I would like a nap.”

Logan grunted and reached under them to pull down the covers. Kurt helped, and they both slid into bed and fell asleep entwined.

Chapter Text

Logan woke when Kurt got up to take a shower. It was full dark outside, the only light leaking in from the streetlights in the parking lot. He slipped some sweats on and started for the connecting door to the boys’ room, then thought better of it. He smelled like sex; a good smell, but if that ain’t “TMI” … Skinning off his clothes again, he joined Kurt.

When they were both clean and relaxed again, they dressed and knocked on the door. Logan frowned at the lack of answer, wondering if they’d moved into the girls’ room instead. He opened the door, found the room empty, and was turning to go when a piece of hotel stationery half-phased into the mirror caught his eye.

He walked over to read it, then rushed to the window to confirm what it said. “Fuck!”

Kurt joined him, alarmed. “What is wrong?”

Logan waved at the note.

 

Be back later. Took the van. Everything’s okay. Try not to be mad.

– Rogue

 

Logan stalked to the girls’ room and knocked loudly just to make sure, but there was no answer.

“Crap! Jeannie’s gonna kill me for this. Where the hell would they go?”

“Food?” Kurt suggested.

“I don’t know, but we’d better find ’em. Come on.”

They asked at the desk to see if the kids had got directions to anywhere, but they hadn’t.

“They must be somewhere we have been already, then, yes? Or someplace we have seen in passing,” Kurt suggested.

“Or they’re just out driving around.” Logan sighed. “Or they’re too smart to ask someone here.”

“We will find them,” Kurt reassured him, but he sounded worried himself. “I do not need a car to look places for them,” he reminded Logan.

Logan nodded. “We’ll have to be careful, though. Can you land in places people won’t see us?”

“I can try,” Kurt answered.

 

They checked out the restaurant, a theatre they’d passed, and the grocery and liquor stores. Logan was getting almost used to the disorientation of teleporting, but they still hadn’t found the kids. In desperation, they headed back to the motel, hoping the four would’ve have come back while they were out.

They hadn’t, but as the two of them tried to decide where to look next, the van pulled up outside.

Scowling, Logan ran out to meet it, Kurt close behind. Bobby climbed out of the driver’s seat; no-one else was with him. He held up his hands, wide-eyed, as they rushed up to him. “It was all Rogue’s idea! I’m only the messenger!”

“What was?” Logan grabbed the boy’s collar, pushing him up against the van. “Where’s everyone else? What happened?”

“Nothing! They’re fine — I’ll drive you there. Just don’t kill me or anything, okay?”

Logan growled but backed down. “What’s all this about?”

“It’s a surprise.” He held up his hands again. “Hey, she told me just to say that. Besides, if I tell you, you’ll just get madder at me. I’ll let her do it.”

Logan looked at the boy, annoyed. “Fine. Drive. And this better be good.”

He climbed into the passenger seat; Kurt leapt into the back, then kneeled between the front seats. Logan frowned at the ignition, realizing the keys were still in his jacket. “How’d you steal this thing, anyway?”

“Kitty hot-wired it,” Bobby mumbled.

He pulled onto the main road, heading back towards the edge of town. Towards, Logan realized, the circus. They wouldn’t do something that dumb, he fervently hoped.

Bobby passed the fairgrounds, though, and took a left down a gravel road through some fields. He stopped not far from a stand of trees and parted the wires to cut the ignition. “We have to walk from here.”

They traipsed over a couple hills, and the fairgrounds appeared again in the distance. Logan sighed. “What did you do?”

Bobby shook his head. “Nothing yet, I don’t think. Come on.”

From this side, they could see the campers and trucks that made up the traveling circus. Most were dark, a few still faintly lighted windows breaking the monotony. A little distance away, John sat watching it all. He turned at their approach.

“Where are the girls?” Logan asked him, tired of being led around by the nose.

“They’ll be back in a moment,” he assured them. “Did you call?” he asked Bobby.

Bobby nodded. “Before I picked them up.”

Logan opened his mouth to ask more questions, but the girls rose out of the ground in front of them. Rogue took a deep breath and panted as if she’d been holding it for a while; Kitty stumbled, John catching her before she fell.

Rogue looked up and saw them. With a small cry, she threw herself at Kurt, hugging him as hard as she could, careful to keep her face against his shirt. “Oh, god.” She gulped. “I’m so sorry for everything! It was so horrible —”

“What is?” he asked her, bewildered.

“What they did to you,” she whispered. “I saw it, all of it. That bastard.” She looked up at him and over at Logan, explaining. “The guy who’s in charge here — I had some questions, and I didn’t think he’d want to answer.”

“You touched him?” Logan asked, not sure if he was more worried or angry.

“Only a little. I don’t want him in my head any longer than he has to be!” She shook her head fiercely, as if trying to dislodge the memories.

“What was so important you had to pull a stunt like that?”

She bristled. “It wasn’t a stunt! What, you think you’re the only one who can help out?” She stared at him defiantly. “Y’all are family, Logan, and X-Men protect their own!” The other kids murmured in assent.

Logan stared back, not sure how to answer her. Then a wailing noise caught his attention; Rogue turned and looked at the scene below them. “Right on time,” she announced. “Good work, Bobby.” She turned to Logan and Kurt. “Watch.”

The wailing resolved into sirens, as a host of police cars pulled up around the campers. A few of the circus workers poked their heads out, but the cops headed straight for one particular trailer, which was showing no signs of life.

“The owner,” Rogue explained. “What I saw this afternoon? It took me a while to figure it out, with Sean’s help.” She tapped her head. “He was using this place, all the traveling, to smuggle and sell drugs. That’s partly how such a small place did so well.”

They watched as the police stormed into the trailer, and Rogue continued. “Kitty phased us in; we couldn’t find his private stash and records, so we waited for him to come back.”

She hugged Kurt again. “He’s a real bastard. But what you said about wanting to see him in a cage?” She nodded towards the scene as the cops half-dragged the groggy, handcuffed man to a patrol car. “The penalty for what he’s done is life in prison, and they’ve got all the evidence they need.”

She smiled nastily. “We did a couple other things, too. Let’s just say, he won’t be having a very good time in there, either.”

Kurt looked at her, concerned and awed. “You did this for me?”

“Hey, you’re an X-Man, too, right? Family,” she told him. She glanced over at Logan. “Are you still pissed off?”

He glared at her. “You’re sure he won’t get off?”

“Sure as I can be. They’ve got drugs, records, everything.”

He sighed. “You did good, kid,” he admitted. “Why didn’t you tell us? We could’ve helped, you know.”

She looked up at him solemnly. “You wouldn’t have helped; you’d have done it yourself. You’re not in this alone, you know. It doesn’t just go one way; we can help you, too.”

She hugged Logan carefully, and he returned the embrace, touched more than he could say. Family? It sounded terrifying, but strangely, he wasn’t as scared as he’d have thought. “You’re nothing but a bunch of senseless do-gooders,” he protested weakly.

She grinned up at him. “Nice, huh?”

He thumped her back and pushed her away, refusing to dignify that with an answer.

“Come on, heroes. We’ve been called back to New York.”

John groaned; Kitty brightened.

“Why?” Bobby asked.

“State inspection of some sort; Jean called, said to meet ’em south of town. We’re probably already late. Let’s go.” He slung his arm around Kurt’s waist and made shooing motions at the kids, who headed for the van obediently.

Kurt took a moment longer to drink in the sight of the milling police and the flashing lights illuminating the circus, and Logan paused to let him.

“You ready to go?” he finally asked.

Kurt smiled down at him radiantly as they turned to follow the kids. “I am ready to go home.”

“Yeah?” Logan looked at him and sighed, then smiled. “Come on, then. Let’s go home.”