He inhaled, checking to see if he could smell anyone following them, and got only the scent of snow and woods. That was a good sign. He started walking forward again.
"I'm cold. And it seems like we're walking in circles."
He almost said 'So?' The word hovered on the tip of his tongue and he actually wanted to say it. But he didn't, because he knew who was responsible for the way her teeth were chattering. And he knew where they were going and hadn't told her. He dropped her hand and turned around to face her. "You want my jacket?"
"Yes." At least she didn't act reluctant, like he was half afraid she was going to. He wasn't good at negotiation or convincing or even conversation and although he wanted her to be warmer, he wasn't sure of exactly how he'd get her to wear his coat if she'd had said no. He didn't feel like he could just grab her and stuff her arms inside it.
"You look angry," she said. "Did I...Are we...?"
He took his jacket off then, sliding it down his arms as fast as he could. "Here. Put this on."
"But...uh..." She slid her arms inside his coat, zipped it up, and then shifted from one side to the other.
"Come on. We've got to keep moving."
"What?" God, he was no good at this kind of stuff. What the hell had he been thinking? What kind of person dragged a beaten girl into the frozen woods, and then asked her to walk for miles, anyway? That thought made him mad, and then he started wondering exactly what kind of girl trusted someone like him, and that made him even angrier. And then he hated himself for his own logic. It was so easy for him to blame everyone and get angry. It was so hard for him to actually do anything, much less something worthwhile.
"Where are we going?"
He turned away from her then. It wasn't about the coat at all. He was such a jackass. She thought that he'd changed his mind and was going to take her back or...who knew what she thought. He ran a hand through his hair, exhaled. "North. Magneto will figure out we're gone real soon and he'll send someone out after us." Sabretooth, to be exact. And while Logan didn't respect Sabretooth's intellectual powers, he did respect the guy's fists.
"Ok," she said. And she leaned towards him, rested her gloved hand on his arm.
He stared down at her for a moment, looked at her pale and bruised face, looked at how pitifully she was protected from the weather. She was wearing sneakers, jeans, and his jacket, which wasn't even much of a jacket. It occurred to him that she might die before he ever got her to safety. The skin at the base of his hands cracked open, just a little bit. He ignored it and started walking again, heard her footsteps behind him as his flesh healed over, closed.
Now what? "Yeah?"
"Where are we?"
"You don't know where we are?"
"How could I?" She sounded almost challenging when she said that, and he smiled.
"Alaska. There's a town near by--Hooper Bay--we'll be there soon." Luckily, he'd been through it. Once. He hoped it was still where he remembered it being.
"I always wanted to go to Alaska." Her voice was wistful. "Not like this, of course, but when I was little..."
"You really wanna hear this?"
He thought about it for a second. Did he? Usually he stopped listening the second anybody tried to tell him personal stuff. What did he care about another person's past when he couldn't even remember his own? But he heard himself say "I do," and was surprised to find that he actually did.
She laughed and it didn't sound much like her. He turned back and looked at her for just a second. "What?"
"Magneto. He thinks that you wanting to hear about me is funny."
"Well, tell him to shut up and start telling me about you and Alaska." He hadn't fully realized all the implications of having her with him till then. It wasn't just her with him. Magneto was there too, inside her mind, and was going to be there for god knows how long. "Wait a second. How long does this absorption thing last? And can Magneto make you do something you don't want to?" God, he really should have thought his half-witted idea out more. What if they'd come this far only to have her signal Magneto or something like that as soon as she got a chance?
"I don't know. A while, I guess. It's real strong at first, but it fades away over time. And it's not like they control me or anything, I just sort of...borrow them for a while. Their memories and powers, if they have them."
"So you've got Magneto's powers?" He knew he sounded skeptical.
"Yeah." He heard the skin around his claws rip open a second before they came out. It startled him, to see the metal emerge as answer to someone else's will, and he turned around and grabbed her shoulders, shook her. "Don't do that again. Ever."
She nodded and her eyes were wide, frantic. "I'm sorry, I really am, I was just..." She sounded terrified.
He dropped his arms away from her as fast as he could and he walked a few feet away, felt his claws slide back into his hands. She'd sounded like she did when Magneto was talking to her--afraid, horrified.
She was afraid of him.
It hurt, that realization. But it was so, so easy to act like he always had. His body was still stiff with rage. He was a piss-poor savior, and he knew it. But he swallowed, forced himself to speak. "You ok? Did I hurt you?"
He could smell her fear as she lied to him. "I'm fine. Really."
He let her lie stand, and they started to walk again.
"So tell me about Alaska." He finally trusted himself enough to speak again. They'd been walking in silence for several hours and he'd finally managed to shove all of his worries away, at least for a while.
"I was born in Mississippi," she said. "And you know, it's always warm and stuff, for the most part. Anyway, when I was about six or so, we had a snowstorm in January, which almost never happens. I still remember waking up and looking out the window. Everything was gone, totally covered, and the sun was hitting the snow and it was so bright...I don't know. I just thought it was pretty. And it was so different. So I started thinking that maybe one day I could go somewhere where it was different like that--cold, lots of snow...and I guess I finally have. It's not...uh..."
He could hear tears in her voice--he could practically smell them getting ready to fall from her eyes--and it made him feel panicked. He said the first thing he could think of. "You still live in Mississippi?"
She took a deep breath. "No. Not for a while. I live in New York now."
"They get snow there."
She laughed and she sounded so delighted and so surprised that Logan stopped. She bumped into him. "Sorry," she muttered.
Don't be, he wanted to say. Do it again. But all he said was, "It's ok," and started walking again.
"They do get snow," she continued. "But it's not like the snow I remember. It's always gray in like an hour or two and it just gets plowed over or piled up and everyone acts like it's a nuisance and nothing more. It's forgettable. I don't know-- it's just not like I want it to be. It's not everywhere."
He looked ahead and saw nothing but woods and snow. "Got your wish then, didn't you?"
"Yeah," she said sadly. "Guess I did."
The town finally came into view mid-morning, just when he'd almost started to worry. Rogue let out a little sigh when she saw the first house and he gave her hand a gentle squeeze.
"Now what?" she asked.
"Now we try to figure a way to get some warmer clothes and a ride to another town."
He looked over at her and almost wished he hadn't. He couldn't believe she'd made it all the way through the forest. "You did good," he muttered.
She smiled and it somehow changed her face, made all the bruises fade back, made them matter less. "Thank you."
"Yeah. Let's get going."
They walked into the town and he tried to figure out how he was going to get her a real coat--and how he was going to get them a ride to another town, a larger town. And then there was food and...it was a lot easier when he only had himself to look out for, that's for sure.
"I've got a credit card," she said. She made it sound like it was a really big deal. Her voice was more animated than he'd ever heard it.
"No, no, you don't understand. We could use it."
"And have Magneto find us in about thirty seconds."
She shook her head. "No. He wouldn't. He doesn't think you're stupid enough to let me do something like that. He thinks you'd rob an orphanage or something like that instead. So he's going to watch for reports of stolen property. Vehicles, especially."
It kind of galled him to know that a). Magneto thought he'd steal from orphanages and that (even worse) b). Magneto knew him well enough to know that he would, if he needed to. He looked over at Rogue again. She had her hands in her jean pockets and started carefully emptying them out. She pulled out a flat piece of leather, along with a few coins and, what looked like, an old movie stub. He watched as she turned the piece of leather in her hands, opening it. He saw what he thought was a driver's license or an id card in a plastic frame. She reached behind it and pulled out a credit card, looked at him and smiled. "Got it."
"Ok," he said. "Let's go be stupid."
They were able to get her a coat in Hooper Bay's grocery store/general store/bait and tackle shop. The whole thing was maybe the size of a very small house, but every inch of the floor and even the walls were packed full of stuff. He could tell Rogue didn't like the green color of the coats they had and that sign of normalcy, of her wanting something prettier or maybe in a different style--he figured that was a good sign.
They also bought a backpack--just one, he figured she didn't need to carry one as well --and a bunch of what were supposed to be energy bars.
"Get the chocolate ones," she told him.
"It won't matter--I've had these before. They all taste like dirt. Every flavor."
"Ok. But get the chocolate ones anyway."
A couple of bottles of water completed their purchases and Logan walked out of the store feeling marginally better about everything. They'd done ok so far. "Let's get a ride."
Ten minutes later, he'd downgraded his assessment of the situation. There wasn't a car to steal, much less get a ride in, in the whole town. Every vehicle they'd passed was either up on cinderblocks in a front yard or on jacks in the back. "We'll have to find a highway of some kind and hope that someone will stop and pick us up," he finally said.
She nodded and finished eating the energy bar he'd given her. "What do we do?"
He looked over at her and let out an exasperated noise. "Pretty much what I just said. First we've got to find something close to a road. Then you'll stand next to it and wait till someone stops. When they do, get in the car and tell them you're going where they're headed."
"And you? Where are you going to be?" Her voice had gone curiously flat and high-pitched and the smell of fear was suddenly rolling off her in waves. It perplexed him.
"Waiting. People'll stop for a single woman more than they will for a couple. Once they stop and you start to get in, I'll show up."
"Oh, ok." The smell disappeared abruptly and he looked at her, curiously. Then it hit him. She was afraid he was going to leave her. It made something inside him go almost frighteningly soft.
"Don't worry," he told her. "You're stuck with me for a while, Rogue."
"Marie," she said, and the smile on her face was bright enough to make him wish that he was half as wonderful as she seemed to think he was. "My name is Marie."
They finally found what appeared to be a highway after another hour of looking. The time they'd spent in town was starting to worry him. He was sure Magneto had found Toad and discovered that they were gone by that point, and he had no desire to be found. Sabretooth would have assumed that they'd wander around the forest, heading east towards Anchorage, but that wouldn't buy them much time at all because Magneto would figure out what was going on soon. Despite what she'd told him, Logan wasn't so sure that Magneto thought he was stupid enough to drag himself and a girl through a forest in the middle of winter. But maybe that was ego.
He told Rogue--Marie--when was the last time he'd called someone by their real name, anyway?--to let her hair fall forward so it would cover her face (and all the bruises she had on it) a little. She asked him where he was going to be about a million times and he ground his teeth together, reassured her every time. There was actually something about it that got to him--someone wanted him around and not because of what he could do with his claws--but he still found it fairly irritating.
"Just stand there, stick your thumb out, and hope that someone stops, alright? Cause if this doesn't work I don't know what we're going to do. I'll be right over here, by this tree, like I've said, oh, about a million times now."
She nodded then, ducking her head down. "Don't be such an asshole," she muttered.
"You heard me," she said and a smile flashed across her face, briefly. It was worth putting up with all her crap to see that smile, he thought and then called himself a sentimental loser.
It was still worth it, though.
A car finally stopped after about forty-five minutes and she walked towards it. He waited till she'd started to get inside and then walked out from behind the tree, heading for the car. He went towards the side that faced the road, opened the back door and slid into the seat. The driver was still looking out the other side, talking to Marie. She was leaning into the open door, one foot on the floor by the passenger seat, like she was just waiting to be convinced.
"Where're you headed?" the driver asked her.
"Where're you going?"
The driver smiled as soon as she said that, his face creasing into a network of lines and wrinkles. Logan figured he was about fifty or so. "Well, looks like I'll have some company for the next couple of hours then, won't I? Hop on in, sit down. What's your name?"
Logan watched as she smiled at the man, sat down in the car. "Thanks. I'm Rogue." They pulled onto the highway.
"I'm Harold," the driver said. "Who's your friend in the back?"
"Oh." She sounded slightly taken aback. Logan realized that she thought that maybe she'd get to pull a fast one on the driver and that he'd be a surprise she could reveal. He looked down at the floor to hide his grin. "That's Logan."
"Hey there," Harold said, looking in the rearview mirror. "You always make the girl wait by the road while you stand back by the trees?"
Harold laughed, his face creasing ever more. "All right then." He turned on the radio and started humming along. He seemed to be pretty tone-deaf, as far as Logan could tell. But that was all right--he knew he'd heard things a lot worse than some guy humming off-key (and loud) enough to wake the dead. They'd gotten supplies, and a ride, and that was pretty damned good. He pulled a cigar out of his jacket pocket and bit the tip off, thought about tossing it on the floor. He figured that someone who'd recently decided that he was going to start saving people shouldn't do stuff like that. He threw the tip out the window instead.
He lit the cigar, inhaled, and let out a sigh. In front of him, Rogue--Marie, he reminded himself-- let out a little cough. "You ok?" he asked her.
"Fine. It's just...smoky. You know?" She turned around and gave him a look--a more than slightly aggravated look. "Maybe you should have asked before you started smoking," she whispered.
He shrugged. "Maybe."
"A man of taste," Harold said. "always smokes cigars, my dear. That's what my father always said, and my father was a wise man. So don't you worry about the smoke, Rogue." Rogue gave him one last look, her face turning bright red, and turned around. Harold continued, "Logan, right? You wouldn't happen to have another one, would you?"
"Yeah, it's Logan. And sure." He fished another cigar out of his pocket and passed it up front.
Harold bit off the tip, rolled down his window a little bit, and spit it out. The car wobbled when he did that, crossing the center line and then heading back onto the right side again. Logan smiled. Anyone who liked cigars that much had to be ok.
Marie turned around again. She looked a little worried till her gaze met his. She saw his smile and he watched as her face softened, as an answering smile curved her mouth. He realized she had a beautiful smile, a beautiful mouth.
He realized what he'd just thought and sat up straighter, turned away from her and looked out the window. She turned back after a moment; he heard the rustle of her clothes as she moved, heard the artificial brightness of her tone as she started talking to Harold, and he stared at the passing scenery till his vision blurred.
I would say that believing in something just makes it seem real
--from "Southern Discomfort: The Devil in You" by S. T. Shimi
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