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Father Figure
Chapter 2

Logan could feel eyes boring into his back, as he sat on the crate, chewing on a slice of pizza, extra cheese. He knew, sooner or later, the kid would come out into the open, giving in to either his curiousity, or his hunger. So he sat, quietly, slowly devouring his pizza, waiting.

The old warehouse was on the verge of collapse. Logan could hear the creaking and moaning timbers. A loud fart would bring this place down, he thought. He allowed his eyes to take the place in. Dark, dirty, strewn with garbage. Logan figured the kid probably raided trash cans for food. Outside of the building, Logan found much of the same. Garbage, a burned out car, two arm chairs and an old sofa, surrounded by hundreds of condom wrappers and nearly as many spent condoms. Cheaper than a motel. This is where this kid lived. He found himself hoping that the boy was in no way connected with those wrappers. A thought that tightened his stomach. A kid like that was the perfect target for every sicko around. Logan felt it better to concentrate his thoughts elsewhere, for now.

He looked down at the remaining slices of pizza. "You better hurry up if you want any of this. It's great." He reached for another slice, taking a large bite, only to have the cheese slide off the slice and down his t-shirt. "Shit! Fuckin' cheese!" He glared at the stain on his chest, making an attempt to clean himself up, when he heard a faint footstep behind him. He continued wiping his shirt, while focusing on the sound. He could hear breathing; heavy, labored breathing. That worried him. Perhaps the kid was injured more than he thought. He could still smell blood. Maybe the kid was just plain scared. It was difficult to tell. He made no movement that would scare him off again, and went about cursing the pizza and his shirt. "God damn, mother fucker." Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the boy, creeping ever closer.

As he held out the shirt in front of him, Logan spoke softly. "Would ya look at that? Brand new fuckin' shirt." He turned to look at the kid. "Help yourself. Watch the cheese." The boy kept at a safe distance, but grabbed a slice, shoving it in his mouth. He watched Logan intently, ready to bolt if need be.

Logan noticed that the boy's eyes would occasionally shift to his hands. With each glace, his eyes lingered longer and longer, studying. Logan did a bit of studying as well, trying to determine the kids injuries. He favored his right side, but did not seem to be in too much distress, indicating bruised rather than cracked ribs. He had an inch long gash below his chin, and various bruises and abrasions on his exposed skin. Any internal damage was up to Jean to find. All in all, the kid looked a bit battered, but he would survive.

He had finished his pizza in record time, wearing most of it on his face, and now he repeatedly glanced at the pizza box. "Go ahead. I'm full." Logan pushed the box toward him, and he snatched it away, taking it to the far wall, and slumping down to the floor, grabbing another piece. Logan removed a cigar from his jacket pocket, and lit it, giving the kid time to finish his meal, and to complete his full study of him. He was a bit more relaxed now, the smell of his fear not quite as evident as before. It appeared he was intriqued by the man before him. Curious as to who he was, what he was, and how he achieved his earlier feat.

Logan leaned back, taking a long, slow inhale at his cigar, exhaling a thin blue/grey stream, eyes closed. He could hear the kid's breathing ease a bit. He was finally beginning to show a bit of trust. Logan at last opened his eyes, to find the boy now not staring at his face, but at his hands, his eyes narrowed in confusion.

He racked his brain, trying to find a way to explain what he had done earlier, so that the kid would understand. He was a bit startled when the kid broke the silence.

"How?" His voice was very soft, and a little shaky.

"How what?"

"How'd you......." his voice trailed off.

"How'd I what?"

The kid's face wrinkled a bit. He simply indicated Logan's hands with a point.

Logan looked at his hand, and shrugged. "It's just something I do. You afraid of me?"

"Uh huh."

"Look, if I was gonna hurt you, don't you think I would have by now?" Logan was getting a little impatient, and he wanted to get all this overwith. He had enough of all the niceties. Now down to business.

"I was sent here by some people who think they can help you. They won't hurt you, or force you to do anything you don't want to do. They have helped other kids just like you. What do you say, would you like to meet them? No pressure. No obligation. Just a meeting."

The kid listened to him, taking in every word. "Did they help you?"

"In a way. I guess so."

"Are you one too? Like me?"

Logan paused and sighed deeply, before answering. "Yeah."

The kid sat up on his knees now. "And that's how you did......what you did?"

"Sort of, yeah."

Logan watched as the kids eyes grew wider. "Are they real, or a trick? Like a a....lu...jin?"

"You mean illusion? Nah, they're real."

"Can I see'em again?"

Logan saw expectation and awe in this boy's eyes. After all he had been through, after the way he had been living, after what he had seen earlier, his eyes looked like a child's eyes at Christmas. He could see no more of the unease, uncertainty, wariness the boy had just moments before. He decided to show the boy what he wanted to see. Without even consciously thinking about it, he made the three claws on his right hand appear once again.

The child jumped at the suddeness of it, and his eyes grew wide. With his mouth hanging open, he inched forward, to get a better look. Logan could see that all the kid's fear was gone now. His eyes held only amazement and wonder, and a bit of disbelief.

Logan watched the kid approach, still very careful not to make any sudden movements to startle him, until he was only a few feet away. He glanced at his own hands, and the appliances present there, turning his hand over and back again. The kid leaned ever closer, finally forcing a slight whisper from his throat.

"Wow....that's......wow......" He swallowed hard. "That must hurt, huh? Do they come right through the skin?" He glanced at Logan's other hand, which was resting on his knee, holding the smoldering cigar. "Where are the holes? How come there aren't no holes? Where do they come out from?"

These were questions Logan was familiar with, but he always, without fail, felt uneasy about it all. He rarely talked about his abilities, unless asked, especially this one. For he was uncertain where he acquired this particular "trick", save that it was man made, and not a natural mutation, like ole Blinky's eyes, or Rogue's skin. This was unnatural, a modification, and as for the purpose of it, only those who did this to him knew the answer.

He leaned forward slightly, before speaking. "Here, watch." A split second later, the claws retracted back into his arm, and the holes closed up, showing no sign they had ever been there.

The kid sat back on his heels, and wiped his nose with his sleeve. "They're gone! How'd you do that? How'd they go away?"

"I'm just full of surprises I guess." He watched the kid as his face scrunched over all this new information. Logan could almost see the thought process written on the kids face. He wondered to himself if the kid had the capacity to fully understand what he saw.

"So when the knife things go back inside, the holes close up." This was a statement, not a question. "Where do the knife things go? Do they fold up inside your hand?" The kid leaned closer, mere inches away from Logan's knuckles, seemingly examining every pore, every crease. Logan could feel the kid's warm breath on his hand, and he could also smell just how dirty he was. It was repulsive, and he involutarily winced and pulled away slightly. He realized the kid could probably sit there all night and look at his hands, but he had different plans, like a good night's sleep in a warm bed for a start.

He was about to speak, when the boy did something that took him by surprise. The boy took his hand, grasping it tightly, turning it over and back again, rubbing the spots between the knuckles from where the claws emerge. Logan was more than a little shocked. This kid, who was very nearly afraid of his own shadow, who had been chased down and throttled, openly and freely took the hand of a man who was a walking Cuisinart. There was no fear, no anxiety, just the openness and curiosity of a young child. However, Logan was a bit dismayed by the dirt, grease, and leftover pizza sauce the boy deposited on his fingers.

"Uh, kid?" He tried to pull his now filthy hand away, but the boy wouldn't let it go. "Can I have my hand back now?" Finally, the kid reluctantly released his grasp. Logan mentally kicked himself for using up all the napkins wiping up the mess on his shirt, as he absently wiped his hand on his pant leg. "So, I'd love to hang around here, but I think it'd be a good idea to go. What do you say? Comin? I got a room, you can have a nice hot-"

The kid was on his feet before he could finish his sentence. "Let's go. Can I have some more pizza? It was really good." The little guy began to walk away, but turned, and spoke. "What's your name?"

Logan stood slowly, looking at the empty pizza box, deciding to just leave it. "Uh, you can call me Logan. What do I call-"

"Francis. With an 'I'. 'E' is a she, 'I' is a guy. Get it? Or you can call me Frank. Either way. Can I have a shower? It's been a long time. Can I have some more pizza, or how about ice cream? I like vanilla, or chocolate, or even strawberry. Can I have a cone? Triple dip? I haven't had a ice cream cone in so long. Do you like ice cream? Everybody likes ice cream........"

Logan paused as he watched the kid walk away. He was still talking, even as he slipped outside. What the hell happened? He began to get a bad feeling, that he had started something here, that would prove to be very difficult to stop. He slowly followed behind little Francis, with an "I", feeling his muscles tense as he did. It was going to be a long night.

Chapter 3

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