AN: This story uses most of the original storyline and then branches off. I wanted to write a "what-if" scenario where these three characters were not only able to interact with each other more, but also experience a happy ending. Some story elements from the comics are also included, mostly from issues relating to Earth 616 (the primary continuity). For example, while Logan is aging, the adamantium isn't necessarily poisoning him like it is in the movie.
Logan frowned and wrinkled his nose as he caught the smell of roadkill. Despite his blemished past, there still were certain smells that he couldn't get used to. Rotting flesh was one of them, and it didn't help that his sense of smell was so keen. He rubbed his nose and glanced at the glove compartment to his right.
"Hey Charles, do me a favor and hand me a cigar. They're in the glovebox."
"I am not letting you smoke in this car." Charles said. Logan took his eyes off the road to give him an incredulous look.
"We picked this truck up from a junkyard, and you care about its interior?"
"Logan, you forget that I'm the only one in this vehicle who doesn't have a healing factor. I'm not getting any younger."
He sighed, "Right." The thought of Charles being in his 90s was one that he often tried to repress. There weren't many things that scared Logan but losing one of his few friends and mentor was one of them, and it was high on the small list.
"I'm not dead yet." Charles said, reading his mind. He turned on the radio to fill the sudden silence. "I know smells can get to you, but maybe we can pull-off somewhere so you can smoke one outside."
"There's an exit coming up in a mile—"
"No, I'm talking about actually stopping somewhere." Charles turned in his seat to address Laura. "Have you ever stood on top of a mountain?" She shook her head and her eyes lit up with interest.
"We are not here to sightsee!" Logan snapped.
"Taking a two-hour detour isn't going to kill us. Look," the telepath picked up the map from the dash and unfolded it, "Pikes Peak Highway isn't too out of our way. We would be able to take Route 24, to 67, back to 25."
"Can we? Please?" Laura asked. She eagerly braced herself on the middle console to look at the map.
"You can stand on all the mountains you'd like when we get to Canada." Logan pushed her back. "Now sit down and keep your seatbelt on, kid. The last thing we need is to be pulled over for a seatbelt violation."
"Don't you want to stretch your legs and get your smoke in? Besides, there's only one Pikes Peak." Charles said. "Do it for Laura."
Logan swore under his breath. "Fine, but you two only get a couple hours to sightsee."
The three of them had compromised on stopping only twice along their scenic drive for the sake of time. Logan was thankful that the road they drove on was quiet and empty. The less people they encountered the better. As they rounded a bend, Charles pointed at a pull-off up ahead.
"Let's stop up there."
Logan slowed down and pulled over to park on the right shoulder of the road. As he helped Xavier into his chair, Laura jumped out and ran over to the stone wall that bordered the edge. Charles joined her as Logan lit the cigar he had grabbed from the glovebox. His eyes cautiously scanned the winding road behind them as he smoked. Unfortunately, they didn't have the privilege to let their guard down and someone had to keep an eye out. As he let out a puff of smoke, he felt a tug on his sleeve. Logan looked down and saw Laura with a wide smile on her face.
"You've gotta see this!" She began to pull him over to the scenic overlook that was just to the left. He humored her and let her pull him over to the stone wall. After living for almost 150 years, there were few things that amazed Logan. Yet, the sight that he saw before him took his breath away. The view of the valley alone was beautiful, but it was the sense of nostalgia that stood out to him. Shadows of distant memories flickered in his mind, just far enough to be out of his reach.
"And we aren't even at the top yet." Logan was pulled from his thoughts and looked down to see Charles smiling at him. "How does it compare to Canada?"
"It's been a while, I can't say."
"Agreed, but that's all going to change soon."
"Thank God, I was getting tired of all that sand."
Charles chuckled. "Most importantly, we won't have to deal with Transigen or the like."
"Damn right we won't." Logan agreed.
"He's said worse." Laura said. She was now standing on the two-foot stone wall, peering dangerously over the edge.
"Hey, get down from there!" Logan was by her side in one stride and pulled her down from her perch. Laura frowned up at him, but he ignored it. "And Charles I think you forget that I'm older than the two of you combined."
"I'm not saying you can't swear, just don't do it in front of Laura." Charles retorted, but Logan had stopped listening when his ears caught the low hum of a vehicle approaching. Laura had heard it too and was staring down the highway. He took hold of his friend's wheelchair and quickly headed back to the truck.
"Logan, what's wrong?" Charles gripped the armrests of his chair to brace himself against the abrupt movement.
"Sightseeing's over for now, someone's comin'." He grunted as he helped Xavier into the passenger seat. Once Charles was settled in, he folded the wheelchair and tossed it in the backseat next to Laura. The engine turned over a few times before finally starting, and Logan pulled back onto the highway. While the approaching vehicle was most likely harmless, Logan preferred to play it safe. Their overall journey had already included a few bumps in the road. Between trying to prevent Charles' seizures and avoiding the agencies that were looking for them, it was impossible to have a trip that was 100% smooth. As Logan glanced at the speedometer, he realized how white his knuckles were from gripping the steering wheel. He took the cigar out of his mouth with one hand and loosened his grasp of the other. Charles noticed the movement and he placed a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Logan, I'm sure they're just tourists."
"I'd rather be safe than sorry." He glanced in the rear-view mirror, eyes peeled for the smallest sign of danger. "You never know nowadays."
"You're going to keep getting gray hairs with that mindset."
"Like you would know." Logan smirked.
"Oh piss off," Charles huffed, "there was a time when I had hair, you know."
"I know, I saw it in all its glory, remember?"
"You had hair?" Laura asked.
"Yes, and I wish I still had those pictures." Eventually the car that they had heard passed them and Logan forced himself to relax. Charles was right, they were just tourists.
It only took them thirty minutes before they reached the summit. Logan pulled into a parking spot and scrutinized their surroundings. There were only a handful of cars in sight and even fewer people enjoying the view.
"We're clear," he finally said. Laura eagerly left the car and ran over to a tower viewer. Charles chuckled at the sight as Logan lowered him into his wheelchair.
"Look at her, look at how happy she is, Logan. Isn't that worth losing two hours on the road?" He asked. Taking a puff from his cigar, Logan watched her as she tried to figure out the machine. "My assignment for you today is to take some time to enjoy this."
"The first assignment you give me in years is to enjoy myself?" Logan asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Is that too difficult for you?"
"For fuck's sake, go sightsee already and stop worrying about me." He smirked. Charles rolled his eyes.
"You may have been the Wolverine, but you're no party animal, that's for sure." He muttered as he started to go over to Laura. "And please finish that cigar before we leave."
Logan gave him a mock salute and eyed his surroundings once more. His hazel eyes met another man's who had been watching him. The man couldn't have been older than forty-five and was wearing hiking gear.
"Family vacation?" The stranger asked.
"Yeah, and you?" Logan eyed the man suspiciously and he squared up his shoulders.
"We're out here on vacation too, except we hiked all the way up." The man replied with a smile, completely oblivious to Logan's bristling.
"Kudos to you, bub." His attention was taken away from the man when he heard Charles call his name. Logan curtly excused himself and walked over to Charles' side.
"You have got to see this, Logan! Look through here." Logan did as he was told. His eyes adjusted quickly, and his vision was filled with a zoomed in view of a herd of elk. The sight was incredible, and Logan found that he was at a loss for words. "Laura found them." Charles added.
"I've never seen a herd of elk this large." Logan looked over at Laura to see her smiling proudly. He couldn't help but smile back at her. "Good job, kid." He said as he ruffled her hair. She laughed and pushed his hand away. Logan backed away from the tower viewer and Laura quickly took his place.
"Just twenty more minutes and we'll be ready to go." Charles said.
Logan placed his cigar back in his mouth and puffed, "ten."
"That's ridiculous, fifteen."
"Fine," gray cigar smoke drifted from his mouth as he glanced at his watch, "when was the last time you took your meds?"
"I think it was when we were at the diner this morning."
"Good, I'll be by the truck." Logan made his way over to where they had parked. As he leaned against the side of the truck bed, he searched for the stranger he had encountered earlier. His eyes quickly found the man looking over a map with a woman and two teens. Satisfied that he wasn't a threat, Logan shifted his gaze over to where Laura and Charles were. The young mutant had taken a seat on a rock that was close to the edge. While Charles had followed her, he stayed a foot or two back to keep from rolling forwards. Logan could make out the smiles on their faces and he felt a warmth in his chest. He smiled. It had been a while since they were all able to feel at ease, and it was clear that Laura and Charles were trying to soak up as much of it as they could. Logan was tempted to join them, but he couldn't just yet, not until they had crossed the border.
The wind picked up and Logan folded his arms across his chest. As he looked out into the horizon, he took another puff and savored the cigar's aroma. A part of him regretted giving them only fifteen minutes, but it was safer to keep moving. He had to keep reality in check in order to ensure their survival. Charles wanted Logan to enjoy himself, but the world that they lived in was cruel and unforgiving towards their kind. However, standing guard didn't mean he couldn't enjoy the view. Clear blue skies stretched for miles and he was thankful for the pleasant driving weather. Logan glanced at his watch and stubbed out the cigar using his heel.
"Laura, come on we've got to get going!" He called. She stood and began to wheel Charles back to the car.
"Thank you, for letting us all take a moment." Charles said as he was lifted into the passenger seat.
"Don't thank me yet, we have at least two more days left of traveling. Anything can happen." Logan replied.
"Would it kill you to be optimistic for once?"
Their drive back to Route 67 took them almost an hour. Rejoining with 25 took more than two. Logan sighed. The detour had cost them over four hours, four hours that they could've had on the road. Sure, it had been a while since they had run into trouble, but Logan knew their luck would run out eventually. It always did. However, he hardly had the chance to consider possible worse-case scenarios before Charles spoke up.
"We're going to be fine, Logan." He said.
"You reading my mind again?"
"No, I just know you well enough to know what that look on your face means."
"What look?" He scoffed.
"This one," Charles demonstrated by scowling. Logan rolled his eyes as Laura giggled.
"Just keep an eye out for a place to stop once we get to Douglas, Wyoming. We should be there in five hours."
As Logan drove, Charles passed the time by telling Laura all kinds of stories that were mostly true about their past. Every once in a while, Logan would speak up to correct him, but he let most of his mistakes go. They didn't impact the stories much anyway, so he didn't see the point in correcting every detail.
"I remember when Bobby told me about the time you single-handedly took out Stryker's forces to protect the students." Charles said.
"You did that?" Laura asked.
Logan sighed. "That was a long time ago, and you exaggerate. The students helped each other evacuate to safety."
"But it was you who kept Stryker's men distracted as they escaped."
"Charles," he rubbed his left temple, "I was just doing what I do best. I'm not a hero."
"Those students would say otherwise."
"How far are we from Douglas." Logan snapped. Charles sighed and looked at the map.
"Judging by the mile markers, maybe ten minutes."
The town of Douglas was smaller than Logan had expected. As he drove, he kept his eyes open for a Holiday Inn Express that the clerk at the gas station had mention. Laura's gaze was fixed out the window when something suddenly caught her eye. She pressed herself against the glass.
"Wait, pull over!" She exclaimed. Logan decided to humor her and pulled into a half-circle parking lot. Without hesitation, she opened the door and ran over to a statue of sorts. He watched her run over to what looked like a giant jackalope.
Logan leaned forward and squinted. "What the fuck is that?"
"Only one way to tell for sure." Charles replied. The two of them soon joined her in front of a thirteen-foot tall jackalope.
"Who the hell builds a statue of a f—"
"Language!" Charles interrupted.
"Can I climb it?" Laura asked, ignoring both of them.
"It literally has a sign right there saying 'no'." Logan grunted as he pulled her back. "We need to get going, the sooner we get to the hotel the better."
"And what name should I put this room under?" The lady at the concierge desk asked.
"James Howlett, please."
"Would you like a roll-away bed to accommodate the three of you?"
"That's kind of you, but no thanks." Logan said as he handed her some cash. She nodded and gave him his change. He picked up the duffle bag he had set on the floor and met his two companions by the elevators.
When they got to their room, Logan handed Laura the TV remote to preoccupy her as he helped Charles get settled. It wasn't until a commercial for a local restaurant aired that she realized how hungry she was. Her dark eyes looked around the room until a booklet on the dresser caught her attention. She hopped off the bed and thumbed through it.
"They offer room service until eleven." She called.
"Figure out what you want, and I'll give 'em a call." Logan replied from the bathroom. She sat down on the corner of the bed and looked through the options. When the two men re-entered the room, she passed the menu to Charles. Logan read over his shoulder. When they had all made a decision, Logan called in their order and then put his jacket on.
"Where are you going?" Charles asked.
"Out, I'll be back in thirty." Logan opened the door and looked at Laura, "don't let him forget to take his meds. They're in the duffle bag." She nodded.
"Has he always been like that?" She asked once she knew he was out of earshot.
"Yes and no, he's always been stubborn, but he used to be less…cynical." Charles replied. "He's seen a lot, Laura."
"Is that why he has nightmares?"
"Precisely," he turned his wheelchair to better face her, "he's fought in many wars."
She furrowed her brow in thought. While with Transigen, she hadn't been taught any history. Curiosity and a desire to understand her father more nagged at her.
"Can you tell me about the wars?" She asked. Her question made Charles smile.
Charles was in the middle of retelling World War I when Logan came back. The familiar smell of cigar smoke followed him in and he draped his jacket over the back of an armchair.
"Your dinner is on the desk, Logan." Charles stated. "How's the perimeter look?"
"There's only ten cars including ours and the hotel staff, nothing suspicious." He answered as he uncovered his tray of food. "I heard you talking about World War I."
"Laura was curious about the wars you've been in. You should share some of your stories."
Logan shook his head and sat down in the desk chair. "You don't want to hear the stories I brought back with me. Inhaling chlorine gas doesn't make a very good bedtime story." A heavy silence filled the room. "I was in the Second Battle of Ypres and witnessed the first time the Germans used gas. None of us saw it coming, and we lost over 2,000 men in forty-eight hours."
"I had no idea you fought in that battle." Charles said. Logan took a few bites of his meal before he took out a notepad and pen that was in the desk drawer. He began to scribble some things down and then tossed it to Laura.
"If you really want to learn about the first world war from those who experienced it firsthand, read these. Some are short stories, others are poems."
She ripped out the page and then looked over the list in her hands. There were eight titles in all. "Where can I read these?" She asked as she put it in her pocket.
"Most of them are so old that you'll be able to find them online. We can find a library or something once we get settled in Canada."
Charles smiled at Logan's wording. He could tell that the detour they took today worked the way he had hoped it would. While he had argued stopping for Laura's sake, his true intentions were to help his friend decompress from their stressful journey. He was concerned for Logan's state of mind. With Logan's reflexes and protective instincts, all it would take to wash away all their progress was for some poor soul to make one wrong move.
Logan finished his meal and stood up. "Did you take your pills?"
"Yes, of course. Laura and I can survive without your constant supervision." Charles replied. Logan chose to ignore the comment as he went over to him. Gently, he picked him up and tucked him into bed. It was this side of the 'Wolverine' that still amazed Charles. Here was a man with adamantium fused bones who could take out an army. Yet, Logan also had the capability to take care of a frail, old man like himself.
"You two need to get some rest. We have to be out of here by six in the morning." He took the remote from the nightstand and turned off the TV.
Laura scooted back and pulled the covers over herself. She watched as Logan settled himself into the armchair and couldn't help but wonder what his dreams would be about that night.