I've lost my template, so please bear with me...
Title: The Birthday Present
Rating: mostly PG... part 3 will most likely be R (or higher)
Summary: Logan makes the mistake of offering Marie ANYTHING she wants for her
birthday... and then gets stuck giving it to her.
The Birthday Present
By Crystal Wimmer
How the hell had he gotten himself into this mess?
Granted, he'd been out of town for Marie's birthday, and things had been too
busy to do any shopping. He hadn't forgotten, but he hadn't made it to a
telephone either. When he'd arrived back from the mission, she'd been
twenty-three and had looked to him like she'd just turned ten.
She'd smiled at him, told him it didn't matter, and that her birthday had
been fine. Logan had looked into soft brown eyes and had been lost.
That was what had gotten him into trouble.
"What do you want for your birthday?" he'd asked her. "Anything goes."
"I don't need anything," she'd answered.
"Of course you don't," he had said with a smile. "That's what makes it fun.
Tell me what you want, not what you need."
Her tentative smile had almost been worth the sacrifice. Almost.
"Anything?" she had asked softly, her slight drawl almost gone after so many
years away from the South.
"Anything," he'd confirmed. Shit, what had he been thinking?
With a smile the size of Texas, Marie had consigned him to hell.
Perhaps it wasn't everyone's idea of hell, but it came close to his.
The first hours had been bliss, sitting in the front of the SUV and driving
down the interstate. The early summer weather had been mild, and the
sunshine both bright and clean. Marie had chatted about this and that while
he drove, and when he had put his mind to it he was able to block out the
destination from his mind. Almost.
They talked about everything and nothing, sat in silence, and ate greasy fast
food when the need arose. It had been Logan's idea of heaven, both that he
had some time alone with Marie, and also that the professor had not only
sanctioned, but had encouraged the trip. It was as close as they were likely
to see in the way of approval from the powers that be.
Seventeen hours of driving, mostly done by Logan, had landed them in
Charlotte, North Carolina. It had taken more than one of the professor's
connections to secure an empty hotel room, and Logan could have sworn that
the man had a gleam in his eye when he'd told them that one room was the best
that he could do.
It hadn't been a big room. It had two beds, a vanity, a two cup coffee pot,
and a bathroom with tub and shower. It was a standard Super-8 room, the type
Logan stayed in when he felt like treating himself to a clean bed and a real
shower. Marie had been charmed.
Despite having only a few hours sleep during the drive, on the one occasion
that Marie had insisted she drive and give him a break, Logan hadn't felt
tired. Marie had been throwing enough energy into the room to power a
nation, so he hadn't found a reason to tell her, "no". He wished that he'd
So here they were, in hell. They, along with seventy thousand race fans. It
was exactly the situation Logan most dreaded: two mutants amongst seventy
thousand drunk race fans, all shoved together in a confined space while cars
boasting five hundred decibel engines buzzed around a circle.
God, his head hurt.
Marie had wanted to go to a NASCAR race. While Logan had never seen the
appeal of fifty cars driving in endless circles, Marie had been raised in the
South where such spectacles were the stuff of legends. She'd wanted to go to
a race - the type that her family had gone to when she'd been living at home
- and that had seemed a reasonable request. Still, if it were so reasonable,
why was he so miserable?
Marie was having the time of her life. Her ears were covered with the
headphones that Xavier had given her, which both blocked the obscenely loud
volume and fed a steady race commentary from her radio. The radio had been a
gift from Scott once he'd found out where they were going. Apparently, Logan
hadn't been the only one late with a birthday gift, but his excuse had been
that he hadn't known what she wanted.
Even with the headphones that had amazingly appeared for Logan, the sheer
volume of the race was overwhelming. This, combined with a few thousand
screaming fans who couldn't comprehend that they wouldn't be heard over the
cars, had conspired to give him a headache that he was having trouble
tolerating. Logan was used to pain, had experienced more than his share in
what he remembered of his life, but that was of the sharp and short variety.
The headache was dull and throbbing, and constant. It was a different type
of pain to manage, and he wasn't familiar with ailments that couldn't be
Trying to get his mind off the nagging pain, he focused his attention on
Marie. If there was one saving grace to this day, it was that he had never
seen her so happy. She was dressed in a thin, long-sleeved cotton shirt and
blue jeans. The beige silk gloves she wore were nearly invisible, giving her
the appearance of one more race fan who didn't want to submit to the ravages
of the sun. She wore a baseball cap sporting a memorial for a driver who had
died earlier that year, and she was chewing bubble gum. Laughing and
pointing, listening intently to whatever was being said on the radio, she was
the picture of youth and vitality.
Logan suddenly felt very, very old.
He offered her another Diet Pepsi from the cooler she'd insisted they carry.
Once he'd seen the price of beverages at the concession stands, he'd
understood her reasoning. She took the plastic bottle gratefully, twisted
off the top, and took a long drink.
It wasn't as hot as it could have been, and the clouds had shielded them from
the worst of the sunshine for most of the afternoon as they had talked,
walked, and shopped in the trailers that the race sponsors had set up. Those
clouds had begun to take on a gray cast as the race finally began, and Marie
had murmured that she hoped the race wouldn't be called due to rain. Logan
felt a brief moment of hope at her statement, then felt unaccountably guilty
as he looked at Marie's face. This was all she had wanted, he reasoned. He
could tolerate one day of people before he went completely insane.
It was amazing what he could do for this girl. Woman. Shit.
Logan did his best to keep his body under control, changing his attention
from Marie's lovely form to the most current action on the track. An orange
car had bumped into a blue one, and both had gone spinning. The roar of
engines dimmed as the cars were called under caution, and Logan breathed a
sigh of relief as his headache receded minutely.
"Isn't it great," Marie yelled at him, her smile covering her face.
Logan couldn't help but return the smile. She was so beautiful, sitting
there with a smile that spread from her face to her body, relating itself in
a thousand nuances that could only be seen if a person was really looking.
He was looking.
As the race progressed however, Logan's patience began to waver. The fan
behind him dropped one too many beers, splashing the foul smelling liquid
down his T-shirt. The rushed apology was met with a growl, and it was all he
could do to keep the claws contained. The last thing they needed was to be
pegged as mutants in the midst of this size of a crowd. It wasn't the first
time Logan had considered the potential danger to their situation, but it was
the moment when his instincts began to war with his need to give Marie all
A few other minor incidents did nothing to improve his mood. They were
roughly stepped on as fans made their way past them to the aisle in the
confined space of the bleachers. He was leaned on, yelled at, bumped into,
and otherwise annoyed to the point that he wasn't sure how much he could
stand. Just as he was ready to pop the claws on a drunken fan who had been
stupid enough to throw a hat down the stands, hitting Logan in the head, and
then spew numerous obscenities when he tossed the hat into the aisle rather
than handing it back, he noted the change in Marie's face.
Her shining smile was gone, replaced by a concerned frown. He felt as though
he had killed his best friend. He forced a small smile, really no more than
the lifting of one corner of his mouth, and tried to turn his attention to
the race in progress.
Moments later, the entire situation was irrelevant. The rain that had been
sprinkling lightly from the darkened sky above finally got down to business.
The deluge was enough to call a halt to the race, at least for a time, and
the roar of engines was silenced.
Logan sat next to Marie, waiting to see if she would decide to take cover
under the cement stadium or remain in her seat. She'd donned a bright pink
rain poncho when the sputtering had begun, and only her face was visible.
Logan had declined the poncho she'd offered him, not willing to be confined
if he finally lost his temper, and was soaked.
With a sigh, Marie removed her headphones. She'd been listening for a report
on the weather, and apparently she hadn't liked what she heard. "It won't
last," she said, surprising him. "The wind is pretty steady, so it should
blow right through."
"That's good news, isn't it?" He didn't think so, but he felt obligated to
"You tell me."
Damn, she read him too well. "Are you having a good time?" he asked, trying
to get her to cheer up. He might not like the race, but he wanted to see her
having a good time. One of them should be enjoying this.
"I'm fine," she answered. "The rain is a part of the sport. That's why I
had the ponchos. Some things you don't go to the race without."
"So, your family did this a lot?"
"Enough that I have it down to a system," she said, a small grin slipping
through her gloom. The rain had turned to a mere drizzle, so she took off
the hood of her poncho. Her hair was mussed, and he wanted nothing more than
to straighten it.
"You drove all the way to North Carolina?" he asked.
She actually laughed at that. "No, we usually hit Taladega. That's in
Alabama. One year we drove to Daytona for the five hundred, but it was so
expensive that we didn't do it again. It was pretty great, though."
He merely nodded, unsure of how to continue.
"What sports have you seen?" she asked him.
He shrugged. "I like hockey," he admitted. "I can stand football, although
I try to stay away from the professional teams. Too damn predictable, and
they're so busy being political that they forget to play the game."
"You and Scott watch that," Marie recalled.
He nodded. "Sometimes. He likes some of the college teams, and I like to
Marie looked around the stands, most of which had cleared out. "At least
it's quiet, now," she offered.
"Thank God," he said with feeling.
He took a deep breath and decided that honesty was probably his best route.
"It's loud," he admitted. "I knew it would be loud, but I hadn't realized
just how loud fifty cars would be when they buzzed around in a confined
She smiled at that. "I was surprised my first race, too. That was way
before they had the better equipment to block it, so I had to stuff these
foam earplugs in my ears, or just cover them with my hands. I had a serious
headache by the end of the race."
Realization seemed to dawn on her as he gave her a wry grin. "Too bad
aspirin doesn't work for me."
"God, Logan, I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't even think about what
it would be like with your hearing!"
She looked so contrite that he felt a wave of guilt. "I'm fine," he
reassured her. "No permanent damage. The headphones help some."
Her expression didn't change as she looked at him. "Why didn't you say
something?" she finally asked.
"We're here for you to have a good time," he said with a shrug. "Yeah, it's
a little uncomfortable, but I'll live. If you can handle being in the middle
of this crowd, then I can handle a little noise."
Marie shifted her attention from him once more, looking around the vacating
bleachers with confusion. The rain had stopped several minutes before, so
there was no reason evident for the lack of crowd. Not that he was
complaining, but he could agree with the confusion in her expression.
She slipped the headphones back on, and then fiddled with the radio for a
moment. The confusion on her face was replaced with understanding, and she
reached beneath their seats to grab the bag for the radios and other
valuables. "Lightning," she said simply. "They want us under cover."
Logan nodded as he helped her quickly grab the essentials, and then hurried
her to the cement stadium with an urgency that could only be achieved by a
man whose bones were covered with metal. He'd been hit by lightning before,
and it wasn't something he cared to repeat. It certainly wasn't something he
would want Marie to experience.
Once they were under the grandstands, he moved at a more reasonable pace.
Marie didn't seem to be put out by his manner, but rather was intent on
finding them a place to wait out the storm.
It wasn't an easy task. Seventy thousand people had crowded into an area
that could accommodate ten thousand with difficulty. They had to step over
people to move from one location to another, and even then they were jostled
into others at every turn. Marie especially seemed uncomfortable, and sighed
with relief when she found an out of the way spot behind one of the great
cement pillars that supported the bleachers above them. Tucked into the
small area, she huddled with her bag of electronics.
Logan settled in next to her. There was barely room for the two of them, and
he considered moving, but it was the first time he'd really been close to her
since they'd arrived at the track. Instead, he tried his best to give her a
little room. Ro was the claustrophobic one, but Marie was sending out some
very strange signals at the moment. Her scent showed fear, if he could
interpret it correctly amongst the stale popcorn and unwashed bodies around
him, all overlaid with the stench of exhaust and burned rubber.
"You okay?" he asked as softly as he could and still be heard.
She nodded, but her manner was still agitated.
Logan watched her a moment more. The air was cool, and despite the vinyl
poncho she was shivering. Her face was wet, and he wasn't sure how much was
tears and how much was the moist air that still held occasional raindrops.
Deciding that he couldn't make matters worse, he reached over and lifted her
until he could slip behind and beneath her.
Despite the weight of her, he found himself more comfortable once he had
rearranged their positions. He slipped his arms around her, moving the bag
to his side so that she wouldn't have to hold it, and tugged her into his
body. She finally relaxed some, and he settled in to wait out the delay,
however long it was. Her warmth seeped into him, and he realized for the
first time that he'd been cold as well. Gradually, she turned herself
sideways on his lap, and slipped her arms beneath his. She settled her head
on his shoulder and sighed softly, placing a quick peck on his cheek before
she closed her eyes and rested.
Logan decided that perhaps the day hadn't been a total loss after all.
(continued in part 2)