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I'm Gettin' Out Of Dodge (I Feel Alive, I Feel Free)

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It was probably a form of deep-seated hysteria that was at the root of it, and she was sure some pencil-nosed SHIELD psychologist would tell her just that in a droning voice, secretly judging her for her behavior. But as explosions started riddling the small town and she could actually see people swooping, without the aid of a suit of iron or a jetpack, the first thing Darcy did was hug her iPod to her chest and vow that she wasn't handing it over for anybody.

Later, she would try and tell herself that it was completely normal; she'd just downloaded three new playlists and they were the only thing keeping her sane in this crap-hole of a town. There was no Jane or Erik to keep her company; SHIELD had deemed her disposable and after she'd signed the papers that she wouldn't say a word or publish a detailed memoir on all things rainbow bridge and cut gods, she'd been released back into the general populace. After finishing up school, she took her shiny new political science degree and found a job working for a small time wannabe mayor. He was rude, just this side of red-neck, and he spent too much time staring at her chest, but it paid well and somehow he managed to come off charming to the masses.

Personally, she figured that was mostly her good work showing. He'd been in need of a serious spit shine when she first met him, all too coarse and loud and reminding her somewhat of the gun-wielding hick off The Simpsons who constantly shot off into the sky to show any kind of emotion. She also blamed the dollar signs in her eyes and the fact that she'd been living off of ramen and staring dismally at the last warning to pay her rent or get out that caused her to pack up and move to Nowheresville to work for the jackass.

Now, she was regretting that even more. Because chaos had come knocking in the form of a small scale mutant war and all she could think about was SHIELD blowing into town and upsetting what little good she had in her life; her iPod. She should probably be more concerned about the flying, shooting, exploding battle that was creeping ever closer to her front door, but she was pretty sure that deep-seeded, but silently manifesting, hysteria had bypassed the frozen button and shot her straight into Jurassic Park's crappy instruction of 'don't move and it won't see you.'

Yeah, that didn't work for those scared kids and it totally didn't work for her either.

Someone with oddly pale green skin and creepy lizard-like eyes came flying through the front window of her campaign office, using a long, slimy, frog-like tongue, to grab onto the window ledge to slow him down. And crapcakes, she'd just shelled out a buttload of money to have the name and year of their impending Mayor-hood printed on that last week. He rolled himself over into a crouch, his knees bent and fingers splayed against the carpet. His eyes darted around the office before he started toward the window, readying to leap back out, before his gaze landed on her and a smirk tilted his lips as his head cocked thoughtfully.

Darcy's eyes went toward her bag on her desk and she lunged for it, hand stretched. In the same moment his grotesque tongue wrapped around her waist and pulled her toward him while he leapt through the window back toward the fight, she curled her fingers around her trusted tazer.

It was probably ridiculous – another thing the SHIELD psychologist would tell her, except in smarmier words – that she felt as capable and smart as she did with just a tazer and an iPod in hand. These were not the tools that one wanted when faced with a fight between far more advanced foes. Seriously, some woman was hovering in the air, chanting, and controlling the damn weather! Darcy barely remembered to watch the weather channel in the morning to dress appropriately, and this woman was kicking up wind storms and sending lightening at people.

But she did; she felt far more in control than she actually was. And she really, really wasn't in control. Like she wasn't sure what this guy did with his tongue; she didn't think there were really weights for that kind of thing, but he was carrying her behind him, nearly ten feet off the ground, not even bothering to look at her as he surveyed the fight around her.

She wasn't sure if she should feel like a war prize or bait, but either way she was not appreciating the behavior. Damsel in distress was so not something she wanted added to her resume. When the giant metal monster out to kill and destroy showed up and Thor had to go face it head-on, Darcy had been of the few people who didn't race out of town, crying for their mommies. She'd found a stray dog and handed him off to one of those people before joining Jane and Erik to watch the truly insane fight skills Thor had to show for his God-dom.

So yes, she froze up when the mutant war suddenly decided to wake up the sleepy little cow town she wished she didn't live in, but that didn't mean she wanted to be treated like she couldn't handle her business. She was a city girl at heart; she wielded a tazer like a boss!

"Hey! Frog-face!" she shouted, kicking her legs. "Not that the view isn't awesome here on the front-lines, but drop me or I drop you!"

Slowly, his eyes made their way up to hers and, apparently in answer, his tongue squeezed around her waist. Whether to shut her up or do some serious damage, she wasn't sure. What she was sure of, was her aim.

The tines of the tazer hit Frog-Face in the forehead. She probably should have considered how far off the ground she was, but all things considered she figured falling ten feet was better than being squeezed until she popped. That didn't stop her from cursing like a sailor when she hit the ground, rolling onto her butt and rubbing at her knees as she glared at the convulsing mutant asshole.

Shoving his tongue off from around her, she pushed to her feet. "Seriously!?" She swiped at her shirt. "You slimed me, you jerk." She kicked his tongue where it lay and it very suddenly retracted into his mouth.

Darcy didn't have long to rail at him, however, as a giant dude looking like a screwed up Gladiator, wearing leather straps over his thick, bare chest and a giant cement helmet was stomping down the street, his every step shaking the very ground, shouting about how he was the 'Juggernaut, bitch.'

She rolled her eyes. Inferiority complex, much?

She thought she might've said that out loud, or at least projected her disdain, because he turned his head, spotted her, and gave a grizzly smirk before he started in her direction.

Darcy immediately regretted constantly walking by the gym on her way home or to work and telling herself that she would sign up tomorrow before she picked up a slurpee and indulged in a box of frosted poptarts. Because running down the street, dodging the debris that used to be quaint little shops, trying to outmaneuver some dude who was acting like a raging bull and she was dressed in head-to-toe red was not working out well for her.

She promised herself she'd lay off empty sugars and buy a damn treadmill if she managed to live before leaping over a chunk of red brick that she was pretty sure was supposed to be part of the vet's clinic. She could hear him catching up and she muttered, "Fuck… Fuck, fuck, fuck," under her breath before taking an abrupt left.

Apparently, Juggernaut wasn't expecting that and he kept running while Darcy was able to make her way down a tight-fit of walking path in between buildings, her hands pushing against the cement walls the further she went, palms scraping, eyes darting. For all the time she'd spent here, the only part of the town she really knew was the main strip and her walk home, which brought her directly past a small general store and the one and only 7-Eleven. Exploring wasn't on the menu, and she seriously regretted that now that she was running away from some super jock-head.

When she heard the crashing behind her, she stopped, her heart in her throat. Every few seconds there was a loud boom and she thought… Maybe… Juggernaut might not be able to fit comfortably in the small space of the piss-poorly designed alley, but it sounded like he was running directly through the building to her left, taking out walls as he went and never slowing. She backed up, hurriedly. She didn't know where the alley was leading, but she knew where it started, and since he couldn't see her (unless that was another mutant power of his she didn't know about), she thought it was her best chance.

Turning wasn't an option, so instead she was left struggling backwards, her footsteps much slower now, before finally she propelled herself back onto the street, stumbling, breathing heavily, her head darting side to side as she looked for another way out.

There were mutants on her left and mutants on her right, and telling which were good and which were bad, if there even was a distinction, was pretty much impossible. Some were wearing suits; tight leather with an emblazoned X on them. She tried to scratch her brain for some kind of memory but considering the news and government painted mutants in one all-encompassing shade of 'bad' she wasn't sure if they were supposed to be trusted.

They were obviously working together, in some kind of tandem, and their get-ups were kind of rad, if you were into that kind of thing. But basing her decisions off whether or not somebody looked good in a cat suit had never done her any favors in the past, so she thought it was probably smarter to stick with the 'avoid everybody, save your own bacon' line of thinking.

Suddenly, she realized that the town itself seemed to be empty of anyone except the mutants. Either they got a memo she didn't or they were smart enough to get out of dodge when the first explosion hit, but she was pretty sure she was the only civilian close enough to get stuck in the crossfire. Which, really, that was just her luck, right? Somewhere, Son of Coul was shaking his head, his eye twitching, feeling a headache coming on as if he had a sense for when somebody was causing enough trouble that he would be spending a lot of time filling out paperwork.

She was halfway down main street, with the familiar green and red of 7-Eleven in the distance, and yeah, she knew a convenience store wasn't exactly salvation, but it was familiar and it made her feel like she might actually get out of this alive and relatively unscathed. Even if her shirt would probably never be the same; ew, frog saliva.

But then, because her life sucked, really it did, Juggernaut came barreling through a shop just on her left, his giant, veiny arms curved as if he was trying to make himself flex and look bigger. Dude, put it away!

Darcy came to a stuttered stop, her feet tripping over themselves, her arms out to catch her balance. Mouth ajar and eyes wide, she stared at him, and then got herself into deeper shit.

"Listen, steroids aren't your friend…" She waved her hands at him. "I know you think crushing a tiny girl is going to make up for your shrunk junk and you'll be hailed all powerful, but I'm pretty sure your helmet's too tight. You should get it checked out, hit me back with the diagnosis, and we're square! Sound good?"

He bared his teeth and growled at her, hunching like he was going to run directly through her.

She squeaked.

Not her best response, but hey, she was about to be flattened and her brain kind of flat-lined for a second.

"You need a hobby!" she finally yelled before throwing her useless tazer at his head, hugging her iPod to her chest, turning tail and running.

She made it all of three feet before she barreled into a very hard chest, ricocheting off of it, before an arm wrapped around her, flat against the small of her back to keep her steady.

When she looked up, she found a man, mutton-chopped to the extreme, cocking an eyebrow at her like he was exasperated.

"You think I woke up this morning and just decided to get into it with Schwarzenegger?" she snapped. "I was minding my own business when your little turf war broke out!"

His lips pursed and he turned his head, cracking his neck, before he directed his eyes at the huffing, snarling Juggernaut, who was just waiting for a fight behind them.

Darcy turned around, though she didn't pull away from her hair savior… He was a savior, right? She tipped her head back to look at him. He wasn't exactly Captain America, was he?

But he was wearing the leather x-suit, so that meant he probably wasn't on Juggernaut's team. And really, anything to get that asshole off her tail sounded like a good idea at this point.

And then, because the universe liked screwing with her, three long claws snapped out from the hairy savior's hands with a distinct snikt; slicing through between his knuckles and extending across her waist, where his hand was pressed firmly.

"Come to play again, Wolverine?" Juggernaut asked, smirking. "Last time weren't enough?"

"Don't think you learned your lesson, bub," Wolverine snarled.

Darcy looked between them. "I'm gonna leave you two kids to your pissing contest," she piped up, reaching down to pat Wolverine's hand. "Left my ruler at home; swear I'll grab it and come right back!" She held up two fingers. "Scout's Honor."

Wolverine was giving her that exasperated look again. "Go home, kid." He released his hand from her waist to let her step away from him. "Got a ruler of my own," he added, with his free hand giving the same snikt before it was just as lethally endowed.

"Bitch ain't going nowhere," Juggernaut said, shaking his head. Eyes bulging, he shouted, "Let's finish this!"

"God, I'm about to choke on the testosterone overload," Darcy muttered, but maneuvered herself so she was behind Wolverine and out of the way of their impending fight. Personally, she put her money on the hairy one before she turned on her heel and started back. And then realized that there were two options; the road they were blocking that led home, and behind them where the fight was still raging.

"Stupid SHIELD," she muttered under her breath. "This would be a good time to send in the Avengers…" She tucked her iPod in her pocket and crossed to the other side of the road, cringing when she turned at Wolverine's loud growl as he engaged a running Juggernaut.

Twenty minutes later, sitting cross-legged on the front counter of the 7-Eleven, with a green apple/blue raspberry slurpee in her chilled hands, Darcy noticed that the fighting had stopped, or at least quieted down. She couldn't hear anymore shouting or explosions and even the wind had seemed to calm down to its usual gentle breeze. Still, she stayed exactly where she was until there was nothing but discolored chunks of tasteless ice at the bottom of the cup, her tongue stained a dark teal, and her fingers frozen.

A bell rung and her eyes slowed moved over, brow furrowed.

The broad-shouldered, hairy man of before stood in the doorway, only now his leather suit was shoved down to his waist and he was wearing a white muscle-shirt stretched across him, showing off his oh-so-deliciously sculpted arms. A stub of a cigar was stuck between his teeth, smoke curling up from it.

"Snoball?" she asked, holding up an open pack of coconut and marshmallow covered chocolate, cream-filled, cakes.

He quirked an eyebrow but crossed the room and took one from the package. He took a bite that encompassed half of it and chewed, pink bits of coconut stuck around his mouth and chin. "White ones are better," he told her.

She shrugged. "I was looking for Ho-Ho's, but they were all out."

He licked his lips and leaned an elbow on the counter. "Got any jerky?"

She leaned back, grabbed a nearby jar, and brought it with her as she sat up, unscrewing the top and handing him three strips of jerky. For a few minutes, all she did was watch him chew while she tried to wipe off her sticky hands.

"Yer not freaking out," he observed.

Uncrossing her legs, she let them dangle over the side of the counter, swinging side to side. "You mean most people who get stuck in the middle of some weird mutant fight don't break into a 7-Eleven and steal junk food?"

He snorted, holding his cigar between pinched fingers. "What're you still doin' here? Most people ran off when metal-head's goons started blowing shit up."

She grimaced. "Yeah, well, most people probably weren't listening to music loud enough to drown it out, so…" She shrugged. "I just kind of looked up and realized main street was shot to hell…" She shook her head with a dramatic sigh. "All those pretty hanging flower baskets…" She tisked. "It'll never be the same."

Wolverine's lips twitched. "What's your name?" he wondered.

She looked over at him. "Nothing as badass as Wolverine," she told him, frowning. "Just average old Darcy." She stuck a hand out for him. "And when you're not going Freddy Krueger on testosterone junkies, you'd be…?"

He eyed her hand for a second but then gave it a quick, hard shake. "Logan."

She shot a gun at him with her finger and winked. "Nice to meetcha…" She shrugged. "Or, y'know, it would be under totally different circumstances…"

He raised an eyebrow.

"Like the town wasn't blown up and we met in a bar and you bought me a Bud before I asked to pet your muttonchops, 'cause I have no brain-to-mouth filter even when I'm not drunk and there's no present danger…"

He offered her his last piece of jerky before putting his cigar back between his teeth. "This town even got a bar?" he wondered.

She snorted. "It probably doesn't now."

His lips curled at the corners.

She watched him a long second; he was handsome under all that gruff, male posturing, super testosterone cloud of masculine bravado. Not adorable like Thor was in an odd mix of cut God and golden retriever. Not pretty like pictures of Captain America she'd seen. But there was a rough and tumble appearance to Wolverine that hit her hard in the gut.

Hysteria, the doc would tell her. Hysteria and some weird drive to prove to herself that she was alive, she survived the attack, that was why she was suddenly thinking about what it might be like to shove Wolverine's suit the rest of the way down his hips and feel his muttonchops on her inner-thighs and not just her fingers.

"I'm gonna touch 'em now," she warned him, letting her hand reach out slowly, like a part of her was worried about spooking him. The tips of her fingers scrubbed down one side, feeling coarse, bristly whiskers against the pads. "How pissed would you be if I scratched you behind your ear and told you what a good boy you were for saving my life?"

Exasperation. She got the feeling he'd give her that look a lot.

She laughed. "Fine. But let it be known I considered it… And might still do it anyway if the urge strikes."

He shook his head. "Yer an odd one, darlin'."

She shrugged one shoulder. "I've been called worse."

He arched an eyebrow. "Never said it was a bad thing."

He turned his head to look out the window and Darcy saw the white-haired weather mutant walking with a few others.

"So what's the ETA on SHIELD?" she wondered aloud. "I need some time to hide Francesca."

He tipped his head back at her. "Who?"

"Not who, what." She dug her iPod out and shook it at him meaningfully. "They're not getting it this time," she told him in a severe, stubborn voice.

He snorted. "Don't know. SHIELD'll be here later, I guess." He shrugged. "I'll be long gone by then." His lip curled. "Paperwork," he said with a 'puh'.

"Awesome." Darcy shoved off the counter and told him. "You got a ride? You can drop me off in the next town or, y'know, anywhere with WI-FI and a wanted sign." She tucked her iPod away again. "I'm thinking my job here getting Shady Bird Johnson on as Mayor is pretty much moot at this point."

He looked her over like he wasn't sure what to make of her; and bonus points to him for not lingering too long on her chest. She knew it was hard not to. The girls were three shades of awesome.

"We don't really relocate civilians," he told her, lips frowning. "Witness Protection's a different branch, sweetheart."

"Cool. Then on the way, we can fill out the paperwork and you can hand me off to whoever runs that branch…" She paused. "Unless that's SHIELD, in which case, they can kiss my ass."

His eyes fell abruptly to the curve of her butt and she found herself somewhere between amused and proud; she was having a good jeans day, okay?

She snapped her fingers to draw his eyes up, but they took the scenic route this time, lingering on the flare of her hips and dragging slowly up to meet hers.

"So what's the deal with you and SHIELD?" he wondered.

She put her hands on her hips and cocked her head. "What's your deal with Jughead?"

"We got history." He blew out a cloud of smoke through his nose. "Your turn."

"You have history? That's not exactly a Wikipedia article, big guy." She leaned her hip against the counter. "Anyway, my history with SHIELD has confidential stamped all over it in red. With an added bonus of 'tell anybody what happened here and we'll have someone snipe you from a nearby roof.'" She frowned. "And I don't know about you, but having Robin Hood do me in is not on my bucket list."

He blinked at her. "Where'd you wanna go?" he wondered.

She shrugged. "I don't know…" She looked away. "I've got family in Connecticut…" She rolled her eyes, amending, "I mean we don't talk outside of the awkward 'hey, you're still alive, that's good' phone calls, but they're… there." She picked at her nails. "And I've got a friend in New York, but, hitch in that plan, SHIELD, so…"

He eyed her a long minute. "Yer human," he said.

"Far as I know… My mom used to say my snark was practically its own superpower though, if it counts, which, sadly, I'm pretty sure it doesn't…"

He snorted. "You took out Toad with your tazer." He bumped her shoulder. "Not bad."

"I knew that dude looked like a frog or something!" she exclaimed, before frowning. "Wow, what a lame mutation. I mean some people just don't have any luck."

He shrugged. "I've seen worse."

She hummed. "Yeah, well, you've got kitchen knives popping out of your knuckles, so that can't be fun."

His lips twitched. "Little sharper than kitchen knives."

"Noted," she said on a sigh. Turning her head, she peered out the front windows of the store. "I think the native's are getting restless."

He followed her gaze. "See the dude with the weird shades."

"Geordi LaForge with the blind VISOR?" she asked.

He paused and then shrugged. "Sure," he dismissed. "That's Scooter. It's his team." He ticked his cigar and the ash fell to his chest. "He's a dick."

"Okay…" she drawled. "Are we introducing me to them, or was there a reason you were pointing him out?"

"You want a ride anywhere, yer probably gonna have to talk him into it…"

"Hmm…" She considered it for a moment. "Think he's a fan of Snoballs?"

"Sure. His balls are packed away in a vice with Property of Jean written on them, so he'll probably take any balls you got to offer."

She blinked at him before a grin cracked her lips. "Is there any guy out there you don't have a masculinity complex against?"

He scowled at her. "'m a complicated guy."

"I bet the psychologist would mark it down as 'doesn't play well with others'."

He looked her up and down again and smirked. "I can play nice when I want to."

"Not so fast, mutton-chop. You still haven't bought be a beer," she reminded, before moving to walk past him. "Which you aren't going to get to do unless we get the hell out of dodge before SHIELD comes swooping in with all their paperwork and 'keep it quiet or we keep you quiet' clauses."

Logan sighed, pushing off the counter to follow her. "Scooter's never gonna let you on the jet," he told her.

"Any chance there's a car around here you guys didn't blow up?" She raised an eyebrow. "I mean, I haven't hotwired in awhile, but…" She stretched her fingers. "I'm willing to try for ol' Francesca!"

He rolled his eyes as they stepped out of the store and onto the street.

"Logan, good of you to finally join us," Scooter said, frowning.

"Just doin' my civic duty," he returned lazily.

"Speaking of, how's about the team who slaughtered an entire farm to make their nifty catsuits gives a girl a ride to the next town over to make up for blowing up her home," Darcy piped in, offering a hopeful grin.

She was met with stone-faced blinking. Jesus, they were worse than Coulson.

"Told ya," Logan said.

She glared at him over her shoulder. "And to think, I shared my Snoballs with you…"

With a snort, he nudged her in the back, making her stumble forward. "Kid wants a ride. She's the only one left in town and since Juggernaut was hot on her heels before he skipped out, we should probably keep an eye on her… 'Least get 'er out of here."

"SHIELD radioed in; they'll be here in an hour," a blonde haired boy who couldn't be much older than her said, arms crossed over his lean chest as he looked between Logan and Scooter.

Darcy didn't get a chance to argue that SHIELD really wasn't who she wanted to be with when Logan's fingers pressed insistently at her back like he was telling her to shut up. While not exactly her default setting, she thought she should see what he had to offer.

"Hour's a long time to wait…" Logan's lips turned down. "We don't know what they were doing here in the first place… Shouldn't risk it."

Scooter looked between Logan's carefully disinterested expression and a hopeful Darcy before finally sighing. "Fine. But we're dropping her off in the next town over and letting SHIELD know that she was here." He turned to look at her. "Your name?"

"Francesa," she lied.

Screw Coulson and the SHIELD laws he hid behind!

She was pretty sure Scooter didn't believe her, just by the subtle twitch of his lips, but he shook his head, gave a sigh, and started down the road, his team behind him.

Darcy turned to look at Logan and grinned. "Not bad, mutton-chop."

He rolled his eyes. "Just call me Logan."

"Call me thirsty…" She started down the road backwards, so she was facing him. "You owe me a beer!" With a grin, she turned back around to follow after the leathered x-team.

It wasn't until she was sitting in their jet, which they called the Blackbird, that Darcy reconsidered what the hell she was doing. They hadn't left the ground yet, but damn if she didn't suddenly feel like she was seriously afraid of heights. Never mind that sitting on the roof of the lab back in Puente Antiguo had been her favorite pastime. Flying who-the-fuck-knows how high was a whole other deal.

She was distracted, however, when Logan's hands were suddenly all up in her space, playing with straps, his knuckles grazing her cleavage. "Watch the paws there, pops."

His lips twitched and he yanked on a strap of her seatbelt until it was nice and snug. "One thing I learned the hard way, twice, you gotta wear your seat belt…" He nodded down at her. "You ain't goin' anywhere, so calm down."

She looked down, gave the straps a tug and, at feeling just how strong and firmly locked in they were, gave him a grateful smile. "All right, help appreciated, apology offered."

He took a seat next to her and strapped himself in. "So what's the deal?" he wondered. "How'd y'know we were the good guys?"

"Honestly…?" She shrugged. "I was 63 percent sure when I noticed the matching outfits…" She motioned at a few of them, though they weren't looking. Logan had apparently found some jeans and a plaid shirt, rolled up his forearms, since leather 'chafed'. "I don't think bad guys generally go for the Letterman's jacket appeal… And, y'know, they usually consider each other pretty disposable, so why shell out the cash from their super-villain bank account to fund matching outfits?"

He hummed, brow furrowed. "Only 63 percent?"

She nodded. "Yup. The other 37 percent was filled in when you dropped in to check on me."

His face was carefully blank. "Could'a just had a hankerin' for jerky."

She grinned. "Then you wouldn't have stuck around or helped me get a ride."

His eyes turned away, narrowed.

"Don't worry," she stage-whispered. "I won't tell anyone you're going soft."

He snorted, lips twitching. "Nobody'd believe ya."

When the jet finally lifted up off the ground, Darcy's attention was forced back toward the idea that her and heights were not friends. Or, maybe just her and flying. Even with the seatbelt very much strapped around her, she felt panic clouding her vision and making her chest ache with a lack of air.

Holy shit.

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit shit shit.

"Yer not breathin', darlin'."

Her eyes cut toward him, but she couldn't force her lungs to expand. She couldn't make herself draw in any deeper than the erratic, panicked breaths she was taking.

With a grumble, Logan undid his seatbelt, stubbed out his cigar on the armrest, and started toward her, rolling his shoulders before he knelt down.

Darcy was stuck somewhere between wanting to recite the seat belt safety monologue her driving instructor gave her back in high school and admiring the way his muscles rolled under his skin. Holy shit took on a whole new meaning when she focused on just how cut Logan was. Christ on a cracker, his muscles had muscles and they were all stretched and on display.

"You spend a lot of your free time making friends with your Bowflex?" she wondered idly.

Rolling his eyes, he took her hands from where they were clutching the X of the seatbelt straps over her chest. Needing to hold on to something, her fingers gripped around his hands, nails biting into his palms.

"Scooter's a dick, but he knows how to fly," he told her, an eyebrow arched. "It ain't gonna take us long to set down in the next town." He lifted his chin, head cocked slightly. "But if ya don't start breathin', you ain't gonna make it."

Her eyes darted, searching his, trying to focus. Instead of something snarky, she blurted out, "You have really nice eyes."

He blinked. "Nice isn't a word usually used to describe me, sweetheart."

"So far you've saved me life, shared my junk food to calm me down, got me a ride out of town so I can avoid government assholes, checked my seatbelt for me, and you're currently trying to stop me from having a totally unnecessary panic attack, so yeah, I think nice is a word you can add to the shortlist of adjectives that apply to you, all right?" she said, before dragging in a deep breath.

His lips twisted up at one corner, looking as close to a smile as she'd seen on him yet. It made his eyes, already attractive, crinkle at the corners, which was even nicer.

"How much longer?" she wondered.

He shrugged. "Should be landin' any minute. Blackbird's fast."

"If I wasn't trying to keep my stomach from crawling into my throat, I'd make a warp speed ahead joke," she told him on a choked laugh.

He snorted. "You spend a lot of time watchin' TV?"

She rolled her eyes. "Did you see the town you just decimated? The highlights involved 7-Eleven, poptarts, and dollar matinee movies on the weekends!" She shook her head. "And it wasn't even the good movies! It was all those lame straight-to-DVD, why'd you even make this, movies!"

"Hard up for some hobbies, Darcy?"

She paused before she snarked back; that was the first time he'd used her first name. She liked it. She liked how rough his voice was and how it wrapped her name up in a deep, growly drawl. Seriously, if she lived through this, they were taking that beer he owed her right into a motel room. She didn't care if the psychologist told her it was some weird savior complex, wanting to screw the brains out of the person who intervened before she was splat on the pavement.

"I read," she argued. "And none of that Harlequin smut shit, either."

He raised an eyebrow. "Never?"

She blushed against her will. "Okay, so I might've read a couple, just to make fun of them."

His lips twitched.

"Shut up," she complained. "You look like you could be on one of the covers, He-Man!"

He scowled then and turned a glare over his shoulder when it seemed someone else on the team had heard and wasn't able to stifle a laugh.

"All burly-chested and hairy," Darcy continued. "You're a Harlequin artist's wet dream."

He frowned. "Can't tell if that's a compliment or an insult… Pretty sure it's the latter."

"If we live through this, and we manage to hit up a bar, I'll clear it up for you."

He snorted a laugh. "We're not gonna die."

"Don't jinx it!" she cried, realizing quite suddenly that her hands were still in his, and squeezing tighter than ever.

His hands were warm, rough, and seemed stronger somehow. His fingers were long, his palms wide, and she imagined they'd feel amazing working their way up and down her body, gripping and kneading. Parting her legs, hitching them over his hips, cupping and squeezing her ass before they delved down and sunk into her from behind, stretching her. The rasp of his rough palms against her nipples, of his fingers plucking and scraping against them. Oh God…

Suddenly, the jet swooped, and Darcy felt her stomach drop out, her eyes wide. "All your fault. Totally and completely your fault. I take it back; you're not my hero, you're the devil!"

He snorted.

And then just as quickly as they'd swooped, they'd leveled out, and were setting down comfortably on a grassy field.

Slowly, Darcy pried her eyes open, not even remembering when she'd shut them. An amused and smirking Logan was staring at her. He stood then and released her hands so he could unbuckle her from the seat belt straps. She breathed a little easier without them heavy across her chest. When she stood, her legs felt like jelly, and she gripped onto his bicep for balance.

"Wow, okay…" She looked past him to the team sitting in their chairs. "Thanks for the ride; you could probably sell tickets, make some real dough…" Her eyebrow arched. "Get outfits that breathe better."

With a low chuckle, Logan wrapped an arm around her waist and helped her walk toward the back.

"You're welcome… Francesca," Scooter called after her.

She waved a hand back and watched as the door to the hangar swung down to form a ramp. Logan walked her right down it and onto the field. He looked at her a long second, as if coming to a conclusion, and then back at the jet.

"Ya can take off. I'll meet ya back at the mansion," he shouted behind him.

There was silence for a minute, although she thought she could hear someone arguing with someone else.

"Logan, are you sure?" the white-haired woman asked, standing just short of the ramp. She glanced at Darcy and then back to him. "We can wait until you bring her into town."

"I'll hitch a ride back," he assured. "Let Chuck know."

She stared a moment longer before finally nodding. With a wave, she turned to return to her seat and the ramp rose up to close.

Logan started walking again, bringing her along with him, but she watched over their shoulders as the Blackbird picked up and swept off into the air. At least, she watched until it started to blend in with the sky and clouds like it had Harry Potter's invisibility cloak draped over it.

Shaking her head, she looked back at him. "Do I even want to know who you people are?"

He didn't reply right away, focusing instead on maneuvering them off the uneven ground of the field and onto the highway leading into the small town. "You ever heard of the X-Men?"

She paused, lips pursed. "Is that like a mutanty-version of The Avengers?"

He snorted. "Sure," he said, in a tone that meant quite honestly he thought The Avengers had nothing on them.

Not interested in an argument and not even sure why she felt any allegiance to a team that Coulson would probably have her head for even saying the name of, she shrugged.

"So you're an X-Man… That explained the monogrammed suits."

He offered up a nod but no more.

"And you're all mutants?"

"There's a school, fer gifted kids… Some of 'em grow up, train, join the team."

"And you? Did you go to this school?"

He scoffed, a bitter edge to his face now. "No…" He ground his teeth. "No, I woke up with amnesia and wandered around for awhile… Got roped into things when I met a girl, had Metal-Head and his goons on her tail…" He shrugged. "Next thing I know, Chuck's got me on the payroll and I got my own leather suit."

She looked him up and down. "You don't strike me as the leather type…" She paused. "Except for motorcycle chaps; I can see that."

He glanced at her, lips twitching.

She nodded and amended with a smirk, "Ass-less chaps."

He let out a gruff laugh and shook his head.

Darcy noticed that despite now walking on the level pavement of the road, Logan's arm was still wrapped around her waist. It was a nice weight though; all heavy muscle banded behind her back, hand splayed over her hip. Made her feel smaller, even delicate somehow, in comparison to his stocky build. Her own arm was curved around his shoulder; she flicked her fingers up to drag down his mutton-chop. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye but didn't comment or stop her.

"So how do you know I'm not a bad guy?" she asked him. "I mean, I could be a plant, right? Make you think I need saving, get in your good graces, seduce you, kill you, that kind of thing…"

"You wanna seduce me, I can smell that on you," he told her, lips curled in a smirk. "But you don't got killin' on ya…" He turned to look at her. "If you were bein' deceptive, I'd know…"

Her eyebrow arched and she let out a vague laugh. "That's a lot of stock to put on your sniffer."

"Not your average sniffer," he said, his thumb absently stroking over her side. She tried not to focus on the touch, on how the movement made her shirt ride up and her skin warm with awareness.

"Not average like… You can smell really, really well, or not average like, holy shit you can smell everything?"

"Second one."

"So when you say you can smell that I want to seduce you…" she trailed off, her eyes narrowed.

"I can smell your arousal."

She frowned. "Not fair!" she declared. "Not all of us can just take a big whiff and find out if someone's into us." She stabbed a finger through the air. "I demand a recount!"

A rough chuckle left his throat and he arched an eyebrow at her. "Darlin', I just told my ride to leave me in the middle of nowhere so I could buy you a beer… You really need a super-sniffer?"

She grinned. "Well, when you put it like that…"

He snorted.

She kicked a pebble as they walked. "So you've got claws and a kickass sense of smell, anything else?"

"I come back from the dead… Often."

Her eyes narrowed as she cocked her head. "'Cause people try to kill you a lot or because you randomly die like a narcoleptic just…" She snapped her fingers, "falls asleep?"

He was glib. "I get killed a lot."

"Okay…" She nodded slowly. "I once tazed a God." She frowned. "Which I shouldn't've told you…" She eyed the rooftops in the distance. "Listen, I know we just met and haven't even gotten to the bed-rocking portion of our friendship, but since you're kind of immortal and stuff, you think you can take an arrow for me if Robin Hood tries to knock me off for sharing secrets?"

He glanced at the sleepy town and then back at her. "Sure. But if I go down, I don't wake up right away, so you'll have to fend for yourself eventually."

She scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Lame. What kind of superpower has lag time?"

"Since ya don't have one, ya don't get to complain."

"Even lamer," she muttered. "And possibly even racist, I don't know. I'll have to do some research on that front."

He chuckled again; that husky growl from his chest that made her thighs tense and shiver and a familiar warmth spread low in her belly. She frowned. "You probably smelled that."

He scratched at his whiskered chin, eye set ahead of them. "I was bein' polite."

She snorted. "I feel like I should be touched that you're even trying."

"Haven't bought you that beer yet…" He side-eyed her. "Best behavior."

She fluttered a hand to her chest. "Be still my heart." She grinned. "So? In the interest of balance, you got any questions, 'chops?"

"You were working on the mayor's campaign…" he said, turning them down toward the main street of the small town, eyeing the store fronts for a bar. "Yer a little young, aren't ya?"

"I'm a poli-sci major, fresh out of college; it was either help out The Rich Texan or get evicted from my apartment and do my mama proud by showing her I did exactly what she expected by wasting my future and burying myself in debt…" She shrugged. "Job offered, job taken, job turns out to be in a town that gets shot up in a mutant v. mutant war… What a life I live," she sighed.

He hummed, giving a short nod. "And you got beef with SHIELD… which I'm guessin' has something to do with that God you tazed…?"

She mimed zipping her lips and then winked.

"So what're you gonna do now then? No job, no home, outrunnin' SHIELD if ya can…" He eyed her wonderingly, lips pursed.

Darcy turned herself toward him but didn't stop walking; they weren't far from the bar now. She dragged a nail down his mutton chop and admired the way his cheek twitched, subtle strength even in the smallest of movements.

"I'm a go where life takes you and hope it's not the edge of a cliff kind of girl," she told him. "So tonight, I'm going to have a beer and get laid, rock your world I just might, and tomorrow…" She smiled.

He nodded. "No cliff."

She turned her head toward the bar as he reached forward and dragged the door open for them to walk through. "Fingers crossed."

As she released him and walked forward into the smoky, dim-lit room, ACDC playing in the background and a man standing at the bar, wiping out a mug, nodding at them in that universal sign of, 'What can I get ya?', she felt a sharp slap to her ass and passed an arched eyebrow at Logan. He cocked one right back before pulling out a stubby cigar from his shirt pocket and then walking into the bar like he owned the place.

Shaking her head, she fell into step with him.

Maybe a different kind of cliff, she thought. One with a sharp, abrupt fall, and no idea where the end might be. She could try opening her eyes, even avoiding the edge altogether, but… Where was the fun in that?

Besides, she felt like she could breathe now. She felt better than she had in months. Freer. What counted as life one town over was stifling. It was crowding her in and reminding her that toeing the line wasn't something she felt comfortable doing anymore, if ever. It was probably why she'd changed her major so many times. There had been something missing in her life and standing where she was, aware of what had just happened, of who she was with, she felt like she was on the verge of finding it.

Hooking her arm with Logan's, she's grinned at the bartender. "Two beers," she told him. "And directions to a motel, if you got 'em."

Logan straddled a stool and took the offered bottle, chilled to the touch; he knocked it against the neck of hers and watched her throat as she took a long drag. When she dropped it back to the bar, she smirked. She might not be able to smell it on him, but Wolverine wanted her just as much as she wanted him. And as soon as that motel room door closed, she was going to see just how sharp those claws of his were as they tore away the only clothes she had left.

It would make for a hot night, a quandary of a morning, and a beginning that was long overdue.

[End.]