Logan crept up to where Francis was hiding. He could hear him, hiding just behind a fallen tree, whimpering, and sniffling. He carefully approached, circling around the tree, careful not to startle the boy.
"Francis?" He spoke softly, gently, reassuringly. He saw the boy jump, and curl up into a tight ball. "Hey, kid. It's ok. It's me."
"M-Mr. L-Logan?" He squinted in the darkness, trying to see the dark figure before him. "I-I was looking for you." He started breathing even harder, as if he were building up to a big cry. "I didn't know where you were."
"Come on, kid. Let's go home." He to several more steps forward, so that Francis could see him more clearly. "Why did you leave the mansion?"
Francis finally saw Logan, and in a flash, he ran toward him, diving into him, wrapping his arms around the man's waist. Logan reached down without thinking, and took hold of the boy, holding him tightly.
"I heard them say bad things about you. They said that you left, and you weren't coming back." Francis spoke into Logan's stomach.
"Who said that?"
"Mr. Scott said you left. That you were a bad man. That you weren't coming back. I wanted to go with you. I don't want to stay there. I want to go with you." Francis pressed his face even deeper into Logan's stomach, and began to cry, uncontrollably.
Logan could feel his shirt dampening, full of tears and snot. He sighed and lowered his head, speaking softly to the sobbing boy. "I told you that Scott is a bag of wind. Don't listen to him, kid. He was just mad at me for something again. He's always mad at me for something." He rubbed the kid's back, gently, surprising himself when he did. "Nobody wants you to leave. I thought you liked it there?"
The snuffling child only let out a breathless "No."
Logan shook his head. "Bullshit. Don't lie to me."
The kid finally lifted his head. "I wanna go with you."
Logan looked into his puffy, red-rimmed eyes. "I ain't going anywhere. I only left for a couple of hours. That's all. I woulda been there when you woke up."
"You ain't goin' nowhere?"
"But Mr. Scott said-"
"He was wrong." He glared into Francis' eyes, to get his point across. He was not going anywhere. However, a thought rushed into his mind. What was going to happen when he did leave? He could not spend any length of time at the mansion, without needing to get away. He had been at the school for several weeks now. He suddenly knew why he had begun to feel the way he felt: tense, moody, uptight. He needed to get away again. To hop on his bike and go. To rest, to drive, to search, to be alone. He looked down into those big green eyes, and he felt his stomach knot. Those eyes looked so hopeful, so innocent, so hurt by what had happened. And when he did leave, to go on his merry way once again, he was going to hurt the kid all over again. How the hell did I get mixed up in all this? he thought. I didn't ask for this. I didn't want this. He had to do something. But what?
"Hey kid. I'll tell you what. Let's go back home, because everybody's worried about you. Then we can have a nice long talk, and I can kick Scott's rosy red ass. I'll even let you get a good kick in. What do you say?"
Francis sniffled and snorted a bit more, before answering. "Ok."
The two college boys emerged from the woods, near the blonde's van. Jean and Storm were waiting there.
"Did you find him?"
The boy in the windbreaker stammered out an answer. "Uh, no. We got lost. We got separated from our buddy........" His voice trailed off.
Jean narrowed her eyes, picking up something. These guys were being deceptive. "What is going on? Where is your friend?" She took a step closer, probing with her mind, trying to pick up any more.
"I told you lady, we got lost and-"
"Don't lie to me. Where is your friend?" Storm could see Jean's concern, and growing anger.
The boy in the windbreaker was near panic. Both boys showed their nervousness. Jean began to feel her fear grow.
"Tell me what is going on!"
The boys began to back away from her, looking for an escape. Both women followed the boys in their retreat.
"Lady, I don't know where he is. I guess he's still out looking for that kid, and your friend."
"DON'T LIE TO ME! WHAT IS HE PLANNING?" Suddenly Jean began to pick up images in her mind. Images of these three boys. Images of past actions. Images of future actions. She stopped, the blood draining from her face. "Oh God.......Logan!"
Logan pushed Francis away from him and noted the wet spot on his shirt. "Shit! Don't you have a handkerchief or something? Jesus. It looks like you blew your nose all over me."
Francis just sniffed some more, and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. Logan winced and let out an "Ugh," and started walking back the way he came, with Francis trotting behind him.
"Mr. Logan? Are you mad at me? I'm sorry I made you mad. I didn't mean to make you mad."
"I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at-" He stopped short, and held his arm out, which Francis ran into. "Shh." Francis froze in place. Logan listened, and heard leaves rustling behind them. He spun, and spotted Brian behind them, wearing a smile.
"Oh thank God you found him. Hey, little guy, we were all worried about you."
Francis darted behind Logan, who eyed the stranger carefully. He mentally kicked himself for not paying closer attention. He should have smelled this guy coming a mile away, with his trendy after-shave. Instead, he was able to approach undetected.
"Yeah. I found him. You can go now. We're fine." He continued to watch the stranger carefully, sensing something wasn't quite right. He placed his hand on Francis' shoulder.
"I'll walk back with you. I think I'm a little lost." He took a couple of steps closer. "I think it's safer for us all to walk back together, don't you? We don't want to get any more lost."
Logan immediately tensed. This kid was up to something. He could sense it. He felt Francis grasp his thigh ever tighter. Maybe the kid could sense it too.
"No. I don't think we should walk back together. Get the fuck outta here."
The smile on the young man's face faded rapidly. "He sure is a cute kid. You said he wasn't yours?"
Logan sneered, and turned to walk away. The guy continued to talk, and began following them.
"He seems to like you though. Jeez, some people would get a little suspicious, you and that kid out here in the woods, alone, in the dark."
Logan came to a sudden stop, turning slowly. Francis still had hold of his leg, and he was beginning to tremble again. The guy was only a few feet away from them now. Logan glared at him, wishing Francis wasn't there. He would have chewed this kid up and spit him out without breaking a sweat.
Brian stopped, noting the look on the big man's face. "Hey, it's cool, sir. I know you weren't doing anything to him. Sorry I even brought it up. I'll keep my mouth shut. Lead the way." His smile returned.
Logan felt himself growl slightly. He could read something in this guy's eyes he didn't like. He tried to pry Francis off his leg, so that if anything happened, he would be free to move fast. Francis wouldn't let go. He then felt something. He felt lightheaded again, as he had earlier, when the professor was trying to contact him with a Cerebrogram. But this time it was different. It was a mere tremor in his mind. A slight fog. He tried to focus on it, while keeping an eye on the smiling young man in front of him.
Jean tried to focus her mind, trying to reach Logan, to warn him. Storm watched her, trying to read her progress in her face. The two young men were sitting on the ground now, tears flowing from their eyes. They rambled non-stop.
"I thought we were just gonna look for the kid."
"I didn't know he was planning on robbing that guy."
"We didn't do anything."
"You can't pin this on us."
Storm continually tried to shut them up, but they were too far gone to reason with. She finally told them, simply and plainly, "You had better pray for your friend. If he tries something with Logan, he's going to end up very bloody." She returned her attention to Jean, whose face was showing her strain.
She whispered her frustration. "I.....can't......reach.....him."
"Please keep trying Jean." Storm turned her attention to the woods once more.
Logan reached deep inside his mind, searching for the source of the tremor. He couldn't nail it down. Was the professor trying to reach him again? Why was it so hard to focus on it? He became aware of the young man moving toward him, and in one movement, he pushed Francis to the ground, and placed himself square in front of his unwanted guest, only to see a gun, pointed at his head.