Logan stood at the top of the rise, overlooking a now familiar sight. Far below, barely visible in the gently falling snow and thick overgrowth, the remnants of a former military instillation stood. He could feel the chill in the air deep in his bones as he stared at what was left of the buildings. The wind picked up slightly, flowing over his body like a shroud. He never quite understood his need to return here time and time again, for he had combed every square inch of the facility, and found painfully little in the way of clues to his life, what had happened to him. He found painfully little of anything, for the grounds appeared to have been swept clean. Not even so much as a scrap of paper, an old invoice, a paper clip. But he still found himself drawn here, to this place. Somewhere in the tangled overgrowth lay his life. That much he knew.
He could hear behind him the progress of his son. It had been a tough climb through the woods in the knee deep snow. Knee deep for Logan, impassable for Francis. But the boy was persistent, trying in vain to step in his father's footfalls. He grunted and swore, and finally found his way to where Logan stood, falling face first at the big man's feet.
Logan glanced down at the boy, partially buried in the snow. "Need some help?"
From deep below the snow came a muffled, "No. I'm alright."
Logan grinned, and reached down to grab the back of the boy's parka, lifting him to his feet in one fluid movement. The boy tried to wipe the snow away from his face. "I could have gotten up by myself."
Logan didn't respond, and remained still, his eyes scanning the horizon, his shoulders hunched against the cold.
When Francis was done brushing the snow from himself, he looked around. He looked down to the spot his father that had held his father's attention. He looked up at Logan, and studied his face. "Is that it?" Logan nodded slightly, his eyes still scanning the surroundings. "Are we going down there?"
Logan looked down in the valley once more. "No." His voice was uncharacteristically soft. Francis just stood and stared at his father. He remained very still and silent, watching his father carefully. Logan could feel his presence, and was warmed by it. It seemed the boy understood what was happening, or at the very least could sense Logans dark mood.
Just as Logan would never press the boy with a lot of questions about his past, the boy would never question Logan either. He was aware that his adoptive father was from Canada, and that something bad had happened to him, but would never inquire about it. Neither would discuss their past, and they seemed to like it that way.
It was at this moment, feeling the eyes of his son on him, that Logan realized that he was glad he was not alone. So many times he had trekked to this very spot, to do nothing but stare, his mind clouded with questions without answers. But now, there was someone who was there, sharing his silence, and possibly his pain as well. Next to him stood a person who did not, would not, say 'It'll be alright. I know what youre going through.' No one could know.
Logan knew that Francis had learned of Alkali lake and his father's past, or lack there of, from some of the people at the school. He had gleaned information from them, listening and learning, getting a better understanding of what made the man tick, and why, at times, he acted the way he did.
Logan also knew that the boy was aware of his nightmares, witnessing several, but never speaking of them. On more than one occasion, he had woken up bathed in sweat, yelling and shaking, and found the boy seated nearby, watching. Somehow, he knew enough to stay away, but was close by, a concerned presence. And then, when Francis was satisfied his father was ok, he would return to bed, and not a word was spoken.
He glanced over at the boy, who was now looking at the skeleton of what was once a vast complex. The boys eyes studied everything, darting over the landscape. His eyes squinting to pierce through the snowfall, to glean just a bit more from the sight. When Francis at last spoke, his voice was a mere whisper, distant. "You...were...here..." This was a statement, not a question, as if re-affirming that fact. He looked up at his father again, and their eyes met and held, for what seemed an eternity. The empty hole that Logan often felt in his soul was a bit smaller this day.
As they looked at each other, Logan heard a low growl. The boy's eyes widened, and his face blushed red. "Oops, excuse me." He grabbed his stomach.
Logan felt a rush of warmth. The boy was obviously hungry, and despite his dark mood, he began to chuckle. It seemed Francis had a unique talent, the ability to lighten a mood, often without trying. The boy always knew what to say or what to do to give his father an emotional boost, from using too much mustard, to putting two socks on one foot, to saying something that was from left field, to falling on his face in the snow. Logan was never certain if the boy knew he was even doing it, but was grateful that he did.
"Come on , Skippy. Let's go get lunch." He turned to make his way back the way the had come, this time going a bit slower, and trying to not take such wide steps in the snow with his long legs, making it easier for the boy to keep up.
"Skippy? That's a dog's name. I'm not a puppy." Francis plodded along behind him.
"Shut up and heel, boy." He grinned when he heard th boy mutter an insult under his breath.
The two made good time walking back down the hill, and were soon back at the RV. They climbed inside, and Logan immediately turned up the heater, for although he was not in any discomfort, Francis shivered uncontrollably. The boy started to peel off his outer wear, leaving it in a pile in the middle of the floor, and then worked on the rest of his clothing, finally clad in nothing but a t-shirt and underpants. He grabbed a set of warm sweats and pulled them on, adding the finishing touch of sliding on a pair of Logan's thick socks.
Logan watched this, while stripping off his outer wear as well. He raised an eyebrow when the boy pilfered his socks. "Ain't those mine?"
The boy ooked up as he gathered together his damp clothing. "Yeah, but they're warmer than mine. You got plenty. Don't worry, I won't touch your long underwear." The boy returned to his task, shoving his dirty clothes into a large duffle, and hanging his coat up to dry.
Logan watched the boy as he picked up after him as well, the image of the kid dressed in his long johns warming him further. He turned and rooted through the cabinets for something to eat, and opted for beef stew.
As the two sat and ate, in silence, the beep from the computer echoed through the camper. However, unlike previous times, when Francis would fly out of his seat to answer, now he sat seemingly oblivious to the insistent beep. Logan looked up from his meal, wondering if the kid had suddenly gone deaf.
"You gonna get that?"
Francis looked up, chomping his meal. "Naw. I'll call back a little later. I told Gran we would be out most of the day, and if I missed her, I'd call back before bed." The beeping stopped. "Looks like I missed her." The boy went back to his meal.
This confused Logan. They once again ate in silence, Logan occasionally glancing at his son. After a few minutes of this, Francis looked up. "Do you..." His voice trailed off.
Logan stopped in mid bite. "Do I what?"
Francis shook his head. "Nothing. Not important." He picked at his food, deep in thought. "It's just...I thought maybe...never mind."
"What?" Logan could not keep the impatience out of his voice.
Francis stared into his father's eyes. He seemed to be trying to find the right words. A raise of Logan's eyebrows, and he found them. "I...if you ever...you know...want to talk...about stuff...any stuff...I'm, you know...but if you don't...thats ok. I'm just...you know....here."
Logan stared at the boy, who watched his face, his eyes glowing in the dim light. He tried to work out what the boy had just said. It was an offer, an offer to listen, and quite possibly, an offer of help as well. Logan knew that the kid would come to him with anything he needed and wanted to talk about, for advice, assistance, or just to have the ear of someone who would listen. Francis was now offering his services, his ear, to someone he cared about, just to talk about stuff, any stuff, to help.
"I'll try to remember that." Logan saw the boy's eyes sparkle a bit more, and a wide smile form on his lips.
"Anytime, pops." he returned to his meal.
Logan nearly choked on his stew. "Pops?"