Zero Plus One by Azurine
Date Completed November 11th, 2002
Logan remembers how strange it was at first, just being around people who were so happy. It would have been easy to dismiss them as naïve or simple, but he’s seen what they do and how serious they are about it. Which makes the happiness seem even stranger to him, but he likes it.
He sits in the shade and drinks his beer and watches, soaking it in. The laughter, the playful taunts, the horseplay. All things that did not exist in his former life, the life of cages and cattle prods and casual abuse.
He’s not sure he’ll ever join in, but it’s enough to know he’s welcome to.
Aside from his brief relationship with Jean, he's kept mostly to himself here. He’s the odd man out. He did not come here as a young mutant who lost his way; he’s different, and they all know it. He was a soldier and a killer and a machine. He is still all those things, but they don’t use those words here.
Things have changed a little, since their run-in with Weapon X. Though he’d give up their newfound empathy in a heartbeat if it meant sparing them the first-hand knowledge of what that place was like.
His bum luck that Jean and Scott ended up sharing a cell. It’s obvious that something happened there, is still happening. Logan has chosen not to interfere. He could have loved Jean deeply, given the chance, but as he watches her grow closer to Scott he knows he will never have that with her now. That doesn’t stop him from wanting it.
This is new for him, this yearning. Logan has been turned down by damn few women in his life, and never has he had to live in the same house with one of them, see her every day. He’s decided it stinks.
He’s spent some time with Peter, but they don’t talk much during their late-night forays. Not much to say, really. They understand each other, and what they don’t understand, they accept.
And then there is Bobby.
Bobby adores Logan. Stands in the garage and jabbers at him when he’s working on his motorcycle. Follows him around the mansion on the occasional off day. Asks him questions. Constantly. How much did that cigar cost? If you could be someone else for one day, who would it be? Have you ever used your claws to open a can of tuna? Do you even eat tuna?
Once, late at night, he’d even talked him into playing video games. All those damn buttons on that little controller. How the kid keeps them all straight, Logan will never know.
“How far back can you remember?”
“’Bout eleven, twelve years.”
“Yep. Hand me the needle-nose pliers, wouldya?”
"Do you even know how old you are?”
“Wow. That must be weird."
He’s only been gone for three weeks, but Bobby’s racing down the stairs like a bat out of hell. “Logan!” God, that makes him feel so good. Has anyone ever been that happy to see him? If so, that memory’s been stolen, and might as well have never existed for all it’s worth to him now.
“Hey, kid.” Ruffles his hair with a grimy hand, and Bobby beams. Young and fragile, but fearless in his own way, when it matters. Not a boy and not a man. Still switching back and forth, rapidly and often, as he finds his way through the years in between. A rocky place that Logan is usually glad he can’t remember.
“I got a new game! Do you wanna see it? It’s really cool!” Sometimes Logan thinks the kid never says anything that doesn’t end in an exclamation point or a question mark.
“Yeah. Little later though, okay? I gotta—“
He feels his face turn to wood as Jean comes out of the den. Bobby takes a step back, looking from Jean to Logan to Jean to Logan. Unsure if he should leave.
“Hey, Jean.” He puts a hand on Bobby’s shoulder, gently turns him toward the stairs.
“How was your trip?” She’s wearing the shirt she was wearing the day he snuck up on her in the hangar, took her from behind in the Blackbird. Almost told her loved her when he came, one hand cupping her breast, holding her to him so tightly, the other working smoothly between her legs. “Logan?” He still shivers sometimes when she says his name.
“Huh?” She’s looking at him funny, and Bobby’s shoulder is tense under his tight grip.
“I asked how your trip was.” Strange expression on her face, and for a second he’s worried that she knows what he was thinking. Then he decides that it doesn’t really matter.
“Fine.” He pushes Bobby toward the stairs. “I’m gonna check out Bobby’s new game.”
“Okay. See you later.”
“Yeah. See ya.” He’s already halfway up the stairs, one hand urging the kid along ahead of him. Bobby glances at Logan over his shoulder, but keeps moving.
Later, as the kid kicks his ass at _WWF Smackdown_ for the third consecutive time, Logan can’t even remember what was so important that seeing Bobby’s game wasn’t the first thing he was going to do.
At first, everyone chalked it up to hero worship brought on by Logan’s involvement in their escape from Weapon X. Logan surprised them all by tolerating the attention with what passed for good-natured humor, Wolverine-style. He’s not sure what amazes the others more: Bobby’s attachment to him, or the fact that he appears to reciprocate.
And they don't even know about the time he turned down a one-nighter because he'd promised Bobby he'd wake him up at 2:30am to watch a meteor shower. Instead of getting laid, he finished his beer, got his ass back to the mansion, and practically carried a very sleepy Iceman up onto the roof. Kept an arm around him the whole time, because he was afraid the kid'd doze off and topple onto the tennis court.
Which was just fine with Bobby, who's the most affectionate damn kid Logan’s ever seen. Like he just can't help it, like he's bursting with it. This is new to Logan, who has not known much touch in his life that was not sexual or abusive in nature. Not that Bobby let Logan's initial reticence stop him. He's never content to sit by himself when he can be practically on top of Logan or Hank. And he never gets tired of being wrestled or chased or held upside down by his feet.
Caught up in the novelty of it all, it takes Logan a little while to realize that over the past few weeks he's become the sole focus of Bobby's attention. It doesn't take him long to figure out why.
Hank, Bobby's best buddy, has a girlfriend.
“How many people have you killed?”
“Why do you wanna know that?”
“You don’t hafta tell me if you don’t want to.”
“I’m just wonderin’ why you think you want to talk about that.”
“Does it bother you?”
“I don’t know how many. That bothers me.”
It's a slow afternoon, the kind Logan likes to spend in front of the TV with his feet up on the coffee table and a beer nestled in his crotch. Bobby's on the floor beneath his outstretched legs, sprawled on his stomach in the narrow space between couch and table. Blonde head propped in his palm on one side of Logan's legs, bare feet waving in the air on the other. He reads his magazine and bangs his heels on Logan's leg in a rhythm that feels suspiciously like "Jingle Bells." Doesn't the kid ever wear shoes?
Commotion erupts in the foyer behind them, footsteps and laughter. Hank's voice draws Bobby's attention and he's up like a shot. Good time to get another beer, and maybe a sandwich. Logan lurches to his feet and follows.
Bobby skids to a halt in the doorway, stares at the group heading for the front door. “Where are you going?” he asks. A little disappointed that Hank's going out, a little hopeful that he’ll get to go along.
“We’re going to a movie,” Hank says. His eyes flick to Ororo, then back to Bobby.
“Kind of a double date,” Scott adds as Logan comes up behind Bobby. The two couples, he means. Scott and Jean, Hank and Ororo. And left behind, Logan and Bobby. There’s a moment of awkwardness where everyone is aware of the way things used to be versus the way they are now.
“Oh," Bobby finally says, quietly. The word is loaded with dejection. He turns away and heads for the kitchen.
Logan waits until the others are gone to go find him. He’s sitting at the edge of the lawn, freezing blades of grass and snapping them in half. Bobby looks up at him. He looks so young, so small. He looks that way a lot when they're here at home, Logan's noticed. Almost like he's doing it while and where he still can.
“Hi.” Another piece of grass turns to ice.
“Can I have a seat?”
He shrugs like he doesn’t really care, but Logan can tell that beneath all the gloom and doom he's relieved that Logan has sought him out, that Logan wants to sit down with him. That someone wants him at all.
Logan takes a seat at the base of a nearby tree, and Bobby scoots back, wiggles his way under Logan’s arm. Logan isn't exactly sure what he’s supposed to do, but it looks like Bobby isn’t afraid to let him know, so he goes with it. Squeezes him briefly, lets his hand dangle over Bobby’s shoulder. Tiny little bones, like a bird, poking his wrist through the kid’s T-shirt.
Bobby leans against him, and Logan can feel how cold his breath is, tickling his chest through his shirt. His mutation getting away from him a little because he’s upset.
They sit quietly. Bobby pulls a blade of grass from the lawn and picks it apart, then chooses another. And they sit. An ant scales the mountain of Logan’s boot, rests briefly on the top of the toe, then descends the other side. And they sit. Logan tips his hat down over his eyes and lets his mind drift.
When he wakes up, Bobby’s curled up in the grass, head on Logan’s thigh, staring up at him. Logan’s hand is wrapped around the back of his knee. He squeezes gently, feeling sinew and bone through the faded jeans. “You okay?”
Bobby sits up, shaking his head in response to the question as he crawls into Logan’s lap, wraps his arms around his waist, burrows into Logan’s chest. Logan folds his arms around the kid. He feels so cold. He feels so insubstantial. He feels so vulnerable.
He is so, so sad.
Logan drops his head, nuzzles that blonde hair. Fluffy and soft, like a baby chick. He smells like shampoo and grape candy. The gesture of affection draws a deep, shuddering breath from Bobby, the kind you take right before you start to cry.
“We can go to a movie if you want," Logan says. He knows that isn't the point, but he feels like he should offer.
Bobby shakes his head, and when he turns those big eyes on him again, Logan sees what’s really there: heartbreak. He sees that Bobby is hurting over this far more than he, or anyone else, suspected. Now his own heart is breaking for the kid, and Bobby sees it.
And just like that, those huge blue eyes fill with tears and his lower lip starts to quiver. He’s stubborn about it, though. Wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, bites his lip, squinches his forehead down in a glower.
Logan feels completely unprepared for this, and he hates it.
“He never—he never has t-time to do anything with me anymore. He was my best friend and now he doesn’t even *care*.”
“That’s not true.”
“Yes it is.” Spoken with the kind of certainty that only comes from being fifteen and angry. A tear falls on Logan’s arm, ice cold and delicate.
Logan doesn’t argue. He just squeezes him a little tighter and holds on.
The next morning, Bobby sits next to Logan at breakfast. The kid doesn't see the shocked look on Hank's face, but Logan does. Logan also notices that Hank barely touches his breakfast that morning. Instead, he spends the entire meal watching Bobby and Logan, looking more and more miserable every second. He has the distinct look of someone who has just realized he's been replaced.
“And then he said that you were gonna show up and tear the place apart to get us out.”
“He said that, huh?”
“You believe him?”
“Yeah. But then they dragged you in and you were all burnt and stuff and I got a little worried.”
“Just a little?”
“Maybe more than a little.”
He's been gone for three weeks and this time he comes home at 2am. Wind-blown and weary. He’s half-hoping that Bobby is awake, and half-wishing he’d timed his arrival so he would be. He cocks an ear toward the kid’s door as he passes by, but all is quiet behind it.
A shower, and then a quick trip down to the kitchen to scrounge up some food. He’s been awake for 49 hours, and sleep comes easily to his tired body.
The sun is barely up when his door opens, and he’s rolling over before his eyes are even open, snarling at the intrusion. He hears quick footsteps and the bed jolts and someone’s pouncing on him and a knee lands in his groin like a fucking atom bomb. By the time he actually wakes up, he’s got Bobby pinned to the floor, one hand on his throat, claws poised to strike. Bobby’s hands on his wrist, awful choking sounds, ice pouring out of the kid’s fingers and racing up Logan’s arm.
“Oh shit! Oh fuck! I’m sorry, kid, I’m sorry. You okay?” He helps Bobby sit up, pats him on the back while he coughs and rubs his throat. Shakes the ice off his other arm. “I didn’t—you can’t sneak up on me like that, okay?”
“No shit, Sherlock,” Bobby says, scowling, but Logan knows he’s not really mad. He’s disappointed. He was so happy to have Logan back, so excited to see him, and now the mood has been wrecked.
“Let’s just call it even for that knee to the balls.” He stops patting his back, rubs his hand in a big circle instead.
Bobby has the grace to look sheepish. “Sorry. Got a little carried away.”
They sit in silence for a minute, listen to the soft rhythmic brush of Logan’s hand on Bobby’s T-shirt. Finally, Logan says, “You used to wake Hank up like that, huh?”
He hesitates before admitting, “Yeah.”
“I ain’t Hank, kid.”
“I don’t want you to be.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
Bobby’s quiet for bit. Logan’s hand keeps moving.
“Well, you’re almost hairy enough.” Mischievous little quirk at the corner of the kid's mouth.
Logan blinks as his hand grinds to a halt on Bobby's shoulder blade. He's got that whiplash feeling again, blindsided by Bobby's adolescent ability to hop from one emotion to the next with no warning. Sometimes it takes him a second to catch up.
“You’re in for it now, Drake,” he snarls. Scoops Bobby up and tosses him on the bed in a heap, then throws himself into the mix. Tickles him. Bobby laughs and shrieks and tries to tickle Logan back, but Logan’s too big and too heavy, and possibly not even ticklish. No one’s ever tried to find out.
Bobby resorts to hitting him in the head with a pillow instead, and they whack at each other with unrestrained glee until Logan manages to tear the pillow from his hands. Logan's elbow catches the nightstand, and the drawer spills its contents as it clatters to the floor seconds ahead of the table itself. They barely notice the noise. Bobby plants his bare foot on Logan’s face, an indignity Logan promises to return with the world’s biggest wedgie.
And that’s when Scott appears in the doorway, clad only in his boxer shorts.
“What was that—” He stops, surprise registering on his face. “—noise,” he finishes, absently, and even with the sunglasses on, it’s clear that he’s taking in every detail of the scene in front of him.
Logan and Bobby. Unmade bed, covers a tangle. Logan in his underwear, half on top of Bobby. Bobby on his stomach, hands pinned above his head. Shirt rucked up to his armpits, Logan’s hand down the back of his pants. Bedroom floor littered with beer cans, cigars and unopened condoms.
Bobby cranes his neck to peek at Scott, who looks like he’s trying to think of something to say.
Logan just looks annoyed. “Ya mind, Cyke? I’m right in the middle of givin’ Iceman here the king of all wedgies.”
Scott backs out of the room, closes the door. They hear him mutter, “Holy shit,” as he walks away. They sprawl on the bed like drunks on a bender and laugh until Bobby declares he's gonna pass out because he can't breathe.
Logan tries to catch his own breath and wonders if this is how the others feel when they’re tossing Frisbees in the yard and dunking each other in the pool. He wonders how they can stand to feel this good. Maybe it gets easier, the more you do it.
Logan's got an old disassembled truck sitting in the garage, the origins of which everyone will be happier not knowing. He's recently started working on it in earnest, and Bobby happily carries out any task assigned to him. They spend entire afternoons paging through books and manuals, calling around for spare parts, and making long lists of what they'll need and where they can get it.
At the moment, Logan is at the kitchen table, adding items to the most recent list. Copying them from a ragged sheet of paper covered in greasy fingerprints, both large and small, that usually resides in the garage.
Bobby extends a finger, freezes a drop of condensation on the side of Logan's beer can. "Did you know that salt water freezes slower than regular water?" He forms a circle of ice around another quivering drop. It's amusing, how much the kid knows about ice. The only part of chemistry class Hank didn't have to force him to study.
"Nope." Logan squints at the list, frowns. Bobby's handwriting can be a challenge.
"It's true. And when it freezes, it pushes out the salt. So if you ever get lost in the Arctic or something and run out of water you can eat frozen ocean water because it doesn't have any salt in it hardly."
"I'll remember that." He points to a particularly unintelligible word. "What is this? Is that an 'e' or an 'a'?"
Bobby leans over, peers at it. "That's an 'a'," he says. Points to the next letter. "And that's an 'n'."
Logan harrumphs, looks at it. "That says 'oil pan'?" He raises a brow at Bobby. "Your penmanship stinks." As soon as he says it, he wonders when he started to turn into Ward Cleaver.
The kid rolls his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Hey, did you know that water and ice can coexist at zero degrees? If the temperature goes up or down one degree it all melts or freezes, though." He writes Logan's name on the side of the can, printing it out in slightly crooked ice letters.
"Huh." Logan eyes the writing on the can. "That's a little better. Readable, anyway."
Bobby gets that little quirk at the corner of his mouth again. His finger keeps moving. "Isn't that weird? That one degree makes a difference?"
"Yeah, pretty weird. I'm goin' to the scrapyard. You comin'?" Rhetorical question.
"Yeah! Can we stop for Big Macs? I'll get my shoes. Don't leave without me!" He races away, bare feet slapping the kitchen floor.
Logan reaches for his beer, laughs when he sees what's on the can. After his name, which is now melting and running onto the table, written in letters so perfect they'd make a grade-school teacher swoon, is the word "stinks."
“Logan? Are you awake?”
“Come on in, kid. Promise I won’t try to kill ya this time.”
“Can I sleep in here?”
"I kinda froze my bed."
"Oh. Climb in, then."
“Is this okay?”
“Do you ever dream about—about what they did to you?”
“All the time.”
But Bobby doesn't really sleep, not on those nights. He curls up against Logan's side and talks. This is when he whispers about all the things that bother him. This is when he seems both younger and older than he is. Scared, world-weary, innocent, and distrustful.
He talks about what happened to him. About what Rogue did to him. About how real it felt when that imaginary scalpel slid into his stomach. About what Weapon X did to him. About how they made him kill people.
Weapon X is a subject Logan loathes with all his being, but the kid’s trying to work it out in his head, so he’ll help him. No matter what it costs him. No matter how gruesome his own memories.
Sometimes, he wonders if he can make enough good memories with Bobby so that the bad ones won't be so noticeable anymore.
“How did you stand it?”
“I dunno. Just did. Kept thinkin’ about gettin’ out someday, I guess.”
“Didn’t you want to make them pay for what they did to you?”
“Hell, yeah. But mostly I just wanted to get away and never see that place again.”
“You went back for us.”
“Yeah, I did.”
“I don’t know if—I don’t think I could do that. Even for you or Hank.”
“I hope you never have to.”
Eventually, Bobby talks about Hank. Hank, who plucked him from certain death at the hands of a Sentinel in Times Square. Hank, who used to toss him around like a rag doll until Bobby laughed so hard he thought he’d throw up. Hank, who taught him to play chess and eat baked bean sandwiches, and a silly song that helps him remember the periodic table of the elements.
He talks about how he locked himself in his room and cried when they all thought Hank might die. He talks about how he cried for him again, months later, when they dragged Hank past his cell, suddenly and horrifyingly *blue*. About how he refused to cry when the guards beat him, because they told him if he did they’d beat Hank twice as hard. He talks about how he can’t understand why he’s not as important to Hank as Hank is to him.
“If I have room, I might get two desserts.”
“Get whatever you want.”
“Did you ever come here with Jean?”
“I think she still likes you, a little.”
“Do you miss her?”
“I see her every damn day. Kinda hard to miss her.”
“You know what I mean. I see Hank all the time, but I still miss him.”
“Did you love her?”
“Not even a little?”
“I think you’re lying.”
“Eat your salad.”
He's been gone for three long weeks, and this time he makes sure Bobby'll be awake when he gets home. The kid follows him to his room, practically hopping with excitement. Where did you go? How long did it take to get there? Can we work on the truck tomorrow? I think Jean and Storm drank your beer!
As soon as Logan opens his door, Bobby makes a beeline for the bed. He's learned to stay out of Logan's way while he's getting settled. He flops on his back, then sits up and bounces on his knees. Stands on the mattress, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he rattles off his latest round of grades and video game scores. Ignores the hairy eyeball Logan is giving him until a big hand wraps around his ankle and pulls his feet out from under him. He hits the bed with a squawk, then continues his rapid-fire delivery.
Logan digs through his duffel bag until he finds what he’s looking for, tosses it on the bed. Bobby pounces on it, fingers scrabbling at the brown paper bag. Is this for me? Cool! What is it? Where did you buy it? This is a first, Logan bringing him something, and he’s almost shaking with eagerness. He tosses the ripped bag aside, stares at the trinket. And laughs.
It’s a snowglobe.
Logan grins at the joke, and at the joy on Bobby’s face as he turns it upside down and shakes it with both hands. His chest feels tight.
They are in the garage, working on the truck, when Storm finds them. She's there to let them know that everyone is gathering on the back patio for a barbecue. The invitation is for both of them, but she looks at Bobby the whole time. Bobby pretends she’s not there.
She turns, meets Logan’s eye, and he nods to let her know they’ll be along shortly. She gives the kid one last look, but doesn’t say anything else before she leaves.
Logan gives Bobby a sideways glance. “That was kind of rude.” Oh, how the others would laugh if they could hear this.
“I hate her,” Bobby says after a second or two.
“Because Hank likes her?”
“Don’t you hate Scott?”
Surprise on his face, before the frown comes back. “I would.”
“Ain’t his fault. Just like it ain’t ‘Roro’s fault. Hatin’ his guts wouldn’t do anybody any good. And Scott’s the boss.”
“I think you should be the boss.”
“Nah. I’m not level-headed enough.” He smirks. “And no one trusts me anyway.”
“You trust Scott?”
Another frown. “He left us to be with Magneto.”
“Yeah, but he’s a better man for it now. And I’m not in a place to look down on someone for changin’ sides, am I?”
“Guess not.” Grudging agreement.
“You gonna wash your hands, or you plannin’ on eatin’ that grease for dinner?” He doesn’t even mention the option of not going to dinner at all. If the kid balks, he won’t make him go, but he’s not above bluffing.
“I kinda wanted pizza.” A half-hearted attempt to weasel out.
“You and me’ll go for pizza tomorrow.”
“Fine,” Bobby huffs. He scowls and scrubs at the grease on his hands as if it's personally insulted him, but he’s obviously more than happy to endure barbecue with the hated Storm today in exchange for pizza with Logan tomorrow.
Out on the patio, Bobby chatters at Pete while Logan mans the gas grill. Jean is snuggled up against Scott. She's wearing the shirt she was wearing the day she and Logan fought. When she told him that she couldn't ever trust him, couldn't ever forgive him. He'd tortured himself for weeks afterward, wishing he'd told her how he felt, wondering if it would have made a difference. He's almost convinced himself it wouldn't have.
He's starting to hate that shirt.
“I’m leaving in a day or two.” Somewhere along the way, he’s started telling Bobby first, instead of Xavier.
Bobby stops polishing. “For how long?”
Logan casts an amused glance in his direction. “I’ll be back for your birthday,” he assures him.
The kid grins. Not just because Logan will be back, but because Logan *remembered*.
“I was thinkin’ you and me could go camping. You wanna do that?”
“Yeah! Where? For how long? Can we go fishing?”
Logan laughs. All those question marks. “We’ll figure it out. Keep polishin’.”
Bobby returns to his task, grinning from ear to ear.
It’s a logistical nightmare. Meetings with Xavier, meetings with Bobby’s parents. The idea is almost killed four or five times, but Logan is a stubborn man, and he’s also dreading the look he imagines he'll see on Bobby’s face if he has to tell the kid it’s a no-go.
All the paperwork. Medical power of attorney, release forms and release of release forms, until everyone has sworn that if anything happens to Bobby, Logan is absolutely, solely responsible. By the time it’s all done, Logan wants to wrap the kid in bubblewrap and stick him in a dresser drawer.
They go shopping for equipment, which ends up costing Logan several hundred dollars more than he anticipated. He’s a bare-bones camper, but Bobby loves gadgets, so he indulges him. Too much, if Xavier’s raised eyebrow is any indication.
A compass, a lantern with three light settings, more waterproof matches than they'll need in this lifetime. A bright yellow multi-tool with pliers, wire cutters, four screwdrivers, a saw, a ruler, and a lanyard so the kid doesn't lose the thing 10 minutes after they leave the store. A new backpack with a million pockets, a bright blue sleeping bag, a canteen. And a package of freeze-dried ice cream, which Bobby eats in the truck on the way back to the mansion.
The trip to the grocery store is a memorable one and requires two shopping carts. His contains hamburger meat, buns, eggs for the egg carrier Bobby insisted they needed. Pancake mix, coffee, juice, fruit, jerky, lunchmeat and cheese. Butter, condiments, spices. A shitload of bottled water.
Bobby's is filled with way too many hot dogs and not a single bun, until Logan reminds him. Cookies, soda, candy bars. A 2lb box of Sour Patch Kids. Wonder Bread, peanut butter and jelly. Bobby is scandalized to learn Logan has never had a S'more, and immediately sets out to gather the ingredients.
Logan is sure they will never eat all this in a month, much less one week.
They raid Xavier's basement for the rest of the stuff they need—tent, canoe, camping stove, fishing gear. Some of it brand-new or barely used. In the realm of camping trips Logan has been on, this one is the equivalent of staying at the Waldorf Astoria.
On the morning of their departure, everyone gathers to see them off like they're going away to college or something, standing around the truck while Logan ties the canoe down. Bobby comes bolting out of the mansion with a bag of warm chocolate chip cookies, homemade by Peter. Logan makes the mistake of asking if "the girls" made them, which earns him dirty looks from Jean, Storm *and* Peter. Scott gives Bobby a disposable camera. Hank gives Bobby a pat on the arm, then hangs back and doesn't say much, hands in his pockets.
At some point the battered silver flask in Logan's glove compartment was replaced by a yellow Gameboy, and they're barely out of the driveway before the cab of the truck is filled with mechanical beeps and cookie crumbs. Bobby talks non-stop around a mouthful of chocolate chips for the first hour of the drive, then abruptly falls asleep with his Gameboy in his lap. Logan uses the opportunity to gain control of the cookie bag. Pete's cookies are damn good. Who knew?
The week goes by fast.
They go for a long hike, toting a backpack stuffed with lunch and snacks and Scott's camera. Bobby never once questions Logan's ability to get them back to their campsite, no matter how far they roam. When Logan complains that they'll never see any wildlife if Bobby doesn't stop making so much noise, Bobby crawls up onto Logan's back; Logan grumbles about being a pack mule, but carries him anyway. Bobby rests his chin on Logan's shoulder and enjoys this Logan's-eye-view of the world.
The tactic works, and they sneak right up on a huge buck, antlers still coated with velvet. Bobby doesn't even dare blink, and his heart hammers against Logan's back as he watches the deer nibble at a tuft of grass. Logan watches the look on Bobby's face, and knows that the kid will always remember this.
Logan watches the look on Bobby's face, and knows that he will, too.
They fish from the canoe for an entire morning, which is just about Bobby's outer limit as far as sitting in one place. Logan teaches him how to gut and clean the fish, how to bread them and fry them up. Bobby proclaims them delicious, and eats them with a side of Sour Patch Kids.
They swim every day, sometimes more than once a day. In fact, Bobby seems to spend much of his time racing back and forth between the tent and the beach, coated in several layers of sunscreen and bug spray, towel billowing behind him like a cape. He makes Logan stand neck-deep in the water so he can clamber onto his shoulders and dive off. Images of all those papers he signed loom in Logan’s head as the kid somersaults into the water.
When he’s burned off some of that adolescent energy, Bobby makes himself a raft out of ice and floats in the sun while Logan sits in the shade with a book and a beer. Given the participants, it's a given that there's no shortage of cold beer on this trip.
Logan discovers he has a weakness for S'mores. Bobby nearly eats his weight in hot dogs.
Mostly, Bobby basks in the novelty of having Logan all to himself for a whole week.
Bobby has only one nightmare that week, but it's a doozy. Logan wakes up because he's cold, which isn't surprising. Bobby's turned his own sleeping bag into a cocoon of ice and already has a pretty good start on Logan's. The inside of the tent is thick and fuzzy with frost. Logan can see his breath.
They decide to pass the night in the bed of the truck, with some help from a few spare blankets.
"Sorry about the tent," Bobby says, once they get settled.
"Not a big deal. Once the sun comes up it'll dry pretty fast." Bobby scoots down so he can nestle against Logan's side. Logan rubs his back through the blanket, slow and heavy. "Bad one, huh?"
A nod that Logan can feel more than see. The kid curls up a little tighter, bony knees pressing against Logan's hip. Shaky fingers run over the landscape of Logan's ribs, feeling each one through the skin. Bobby does that sometimes, and Logan imagines that he's thinking about the metal there. He's right.
Bobby's voice is just a whisper, lighter than the fingers ghosting over the ridges on his torso. "I dreamt about you. When they put the metal in you. You were awake."
Logan's whole body goes cold, colder than it was when he woke up in the tent with icicles in his hair. He wills his hand not to clench into a fist around the blanket. He doesn't want to continue this conversation. He really, really doesn't. He wants to close his eyes and go to sleep and then in the morning he wants to make coffee and hot chocolate and pancakes and bacon, and it will be a normal day, just like all the other days they've had here. Not a day when a young boy who has experienced the psychic version of an anesthesia-free appendectomy dreams about what it's like to have every bone in your body coated with white-hot metal. He wants to stop this conversation right now.
Because he knows what Bobby is going to ask him next.
It's alarming, how hard Bobby starts to cry. Huge, aching sobs that don't seem to end. It makes his own eyes sting. Logan sits up and gathers him close, tries to hush him.
"I'm sorry I’m sorry I'm sorry, " Bobby repeats between sobs. Logan knows that he means he's sorry for what happened to him, and he doesn't know what to say to that. Thank you? Apology accepted? Oh, it was nothing, you should have been there when they used me for target practice?
So he says what he wants most: "Please don't cry." His throat is shrunken and tight. He has to force the words out, and he's not sure Bobby hears them.
He's only seen Bobby cry a few times, usually after a nightmare. But those are slow tears, the kind that slide silently down his cheeks one at time. Not like this. Never like this. And this time, Bobby is crying not for his own pain, but for Logan's. This is worse. This is much worse. He feels awful that the kid is so upset over him. But what's most appalling is that he also feels a warm fullness in his heart, for the very same reason. It's a pleasant ache. One that makes him feel like a complete bastard.
The crying goes on until Logan is nearly frantic. He tries to pry the kid off of him so he can look at him, but it just makes Bobby hold on tighter. When Logan tries to force the issue, he feels tendrils of ice bleed out of Bobby's hands, snake up his back and neck.
Okay. That's not gonna work. He takes a deep breath. He can handle this. He just needs to get them both calmed down. He swallows, tries to make his throat work. "Bobby." That gets his attention. Logan rarely calls him by his name. It's usually "kid" or "Drake" or "Iceman." He says it again, quietly, because the word feels strange and intimate on his tongue. "Bobby."
A few sniffles, a few deep breaths, and then, finally, a response. "Huh?" Thank God. Thank God. It's only one syllable, but thank God.
"Don't you worry about me, okay? I'm a tough old bastard, and I've had a lot of years to deal with all the shit they did to me there. So don't you worry about me."
Bobby pulls back and Logan knows as soon as he looks at his face that he's said the wrong thing. The entirely wrong thing.
"What, you don't want me to care about *you* either?" He scoots backward, pushes Logan away. There's a challenge in his eyes, something gathering there.
"What? What?" Logan fumbles for a response, reaches for him again. "No, I—"
Bobby bats his hand away. "Fuck you, Logan. Fuck you!" He's so mad he's shaking. He wipes at his eyes, and his fingers leave a thin layer of ice on his cheek.
Logan takes his hand back. "I just—you shouldn't think about that stuff."
A sarcastic laugh. He's never heard that from Bobby before. "Oh, that's right, just ignore it and pretend like it never happened. Is that how it works, Logan?" He gets the most horrible smile Logan's ever seen on his face. "Is that working for you?"
Logan flinches, and Bobby hesitates when he sees it, but it doesn't slow him down for long.
"I know what that fucking place was like. I was *there*. And no one will talk about it when I'm around. Everyone thinks they have to protect me from it, that I'm just little fragile Bobby. And then they turn around and treat me like shit and hurt my feelings like it's no big deal. What kind of fucking sense does that make? Maybe everyone should start worrying about the things that really hurt me, and let me deal with the rest."
He sits back and glares at Logan, waiting for a response. The one he gets is probably the last one he expected.
"You're right." Bobby blinks and opens his mouth to speak, but Logan continues. "And when we get back I think you should say all that to Hank."
Bobby narrows his eyes at him, unhappy with the turn the conversation has taken. "There's no point in telling Hank. Hank doesn't care," he says sullenly.
"You know that's not true. Stop feeling sorry for yourself." It comes out before he can stop it, and he regrets it for a second. Then he decides that it's high time he started being blunt.
Bobby looks away. "I’m not."
"You are. You think I don't know that when Hank asks you to do stuff you tell him no?"
"He's just doing it because he feels guilty."
"Bullshit. You're just turning him down to hurt him."
He gives up on the tactic of denial. Tries another. "So what if I am?"
"Then I guess you shouldn't point fingers at everyone else."
Bobby glowers at the blanket piled next to him. "I want things to be how they used to be," he says after a moment. Not as angry now.
"They aren't going to be like that ever again." That's not what Bobby wants to hear, and his face reflects it. Logan keeps going. "I know that sounds harsh, but it's true. And it's even more true for Hank. You think that he ever forgets, for one second, what they did to him? You think he doesn't know that his life will never be the same again? He wants to spend time with Storm because it makes him happy, but that doesn't mean he can't still be your friend. Deal with it. Figure it out."
Bobby sulks for a minute or two, refuses to look at him. Finally, Logan drops onto his back, pulls the blanket up around his chest. His back is wet from the melting ice, but it's a hell of a lot drier here than in the tent. After another minute or two, Bobby starts inching closer. Logan lets him get halfway over, then lifts the blanket up.
Bobby dives in, huddles under Logan's big arm. "This sucks," he says glumly.
"I'm sure it does. I've never had the privilege of knowing."
Bobby's a smart kid, it comes to him pretty fast. He stiffens under Logan's arm, starts to pull away, but Logan won't let him. Holds him to his side.
"Don't go gettin' upset again and thinkin' you should feel guilty or some shit."
"I feel like an idiot."
"Don't do that either."
"I shouldn't have been whining about Hank so much. I forgot that you don't—that you can't remember—"
"Don't worry about it."
"I'm sorry about those things I said to you."
"That's okay." A pause. "Just don't swear like that around Xavier. He'll blame me."
They're both pretty quiet the next day. They take a nap after lunch, tired from the night before. When they wake from a thankfully dreamless sleep in the late afternoon, neither is anxious to get up right away. They lounge in the tent, listening to the water lap against the shore.
"I'll try not to be such a big jerk when you get a girlfriend," Bobby says suddenly.
Logan smirks. "I'm not too worried about that," he says.
Bobby is quiet for a moment, then says, "Well, maybe if you didn't act like such a crabby dickhead all the time. . ."
Logan bites back a laugh. Apparently Bobby is under the impression that he has trouble attracting women. "But I *am* a crabby dickhead," he insists. Bobby rolls his eyes, obviously unconvinced, but he ignores it. "And why the sudden concern for my love life?"
Bobby shrugs. "Just thinkin'. I mean, you probably won't always be alone, you know?"
"I don't mind being alone."
"Uh huh." Clearly, the kid has his doubts. "Maybe you'll meet another girl like Jean."
The first thing to pop into Logan's mind is that he hopes to God there aren't more girls like Jean out there. He's not sure his heart can take it.
"Girls like Jean don't have boyfriends like me." At least not for the long haul. A haul Logan didn't even know he was interested in until recently.
"That's not true. Scott liked her for a long time before you showed up and she didn't care, but she liked you right away. Things just got screwed up."
"Yeah. . ." Did they ever.
"And you can't hide the fact that you're a nice guy forever." That familiar smirk is back.
"You're the only one who thinks I'm a nice guy, kid."
"That's because you make people work so hard to find that out."
"Why are you so intent on me finding a girlfriend anyway? You're not worried that the same thing will happen that happened with Hank?"
Bobby rolls his eyes. "Real smooth way to change the subject, Logan."
"Indulge me. Aren't you?"
"A little," he admits. He turns on his side and looks at Logan. "But I think you should have someone to like you and do nice things for you and stuff. You've got a lot of catching up to do in that department."
Later, while they're getting dinner ready, Logan thinks about what Bobby said. About him being a nice guy. He has no illusions about what kind of guy he is, but maybe there's room there for revision.
Because here's Bobby, a person he's built a relationship with that has absolutely nothing to do with sex or killing or personal convenience. So maybe it's possible. Maybe he does have some nice in there somewhere. And maybe the next time he meets a Jean, he won't make her work so hard to see it.
The rest of the week flies by. Contrary to Logan's initial prediction, they eat almost all the food. He's amazed by Bobby's appetite. The kid easily matches him in food consumption, and surpasses him by far in the sugar category.
They go fishing again on their last full day at the campsite, and Bobby has a lucky day. After only two hours they are out of bait, and out of room for even one more fish. Logan takes a picture of the proud fisherman with his catch when they get back to shore. A smile of pure triumph threatens to split the kid's face in two.
A week later, this picture will be stuck in the edge of the mirror that hangs over Logan's dresser, the only visible evidence that the room is his.
Later in the day, while Bobby is taking one last dip in the lake, Logan relaxes on the beach. When Bobby finally comes out of the water, Logan is stretched out on the sand, book open on his chest, arms behind his head. He's got his eyes closed to the fading afternoon sunlight and the slightest of smiles on his face. He looks relaxed and happy. Bobby tiptoes to his pile of belongings and grabs his camera. Logan opens an eye and snarls at him when he hears the shutter click, but says nothing.
A week later, this picture will be in a frame on Bobby's desk, next to a small collection of snowglobes.
“I think when we get back I’m gonna try not to hate Storm.”
“Are you sure you don’t hate Scott?”
“Most of the time.”
Hank comes bounding down the stairs when they walk in, scoops Bobby up in a big Beast hug. Bobby looks shyly pleased by this exuberant greeting, and Logan knows exactly how he feels. Peter wanders in from the den, and soon Scott and Ororo are attracted to the commotion in the foyer. Bobby returns Storm’s greeting with a mumbled hello.
Well, it’s a start.
Jean is the last to arrive, planting a big, noisy kiss on Bobby’s forehead. He makes a face and his ears turn bright pink.
She spots Logan standing near the door, and eases away from the group. She puts her hand on his arm. “Sounds like a great trip,” she says softly as they watch Bobby, sunburned and covered with bug bites and positively giddy as he relays their adventures.
"Yeah, it was," he says.
"So why don't you look happy?" she asks.
He finally looks down at her then. How can he explain? Explain that he wishes he’d had all this sooner. That he knows he’s caught Bobby as he’s turning a corner in his life. By this time next year he’ll be driving that old truck they’re fixing up. He’ll probably be a couple inches taller and a couple pounds heavier, and most of his boyish enthusiasm will be gone. Logan will never get *this* Bobby ever again.
It’s something he’ll have to get used to, being somewhere long enough to realize that people change over time, and that you have to change with them. "I've never had the privilege of knowing," he'd told Bobby. But even as he'd said it, he knew that he soon would.
And Bobby's probably right. It probably will suck, at least a little. Still, he's looking forward to finding out.
He takes Jean's hand in his and squeezes it gently, then lets go. "I better start unloading the truck." He grins. "It'll go faster than the packing did. Fewer hot dogs." Jean laughs, smiles at him as she returns to the group.
Later, as Logan is untying the canoe, it occurs to him that he didn't even notice what shirt she was wearing.
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