5 YEARS LATER
Laura and Logan sat at the small, wooden dining table in silence. She glanced at the empty wheelchair that sat in the living room before looking at her father. For the past two days, he had been despondent and hollow. He'd hardly eaten anything, and his eyes had lost their luster. She looked down at her bowl of cereal and absentmindedly swirled the milk with her spoon. Charles' absence weighed heavy on both of them. He balanced out the two of them perfectly, and the void that he left them with was overwhelming. He had been the crux of the only family she knew. After his passing, nothing was the same anymore and her father had become the shell of a man she once knew. Logan sighed and rested his head in his hands, his cigar burning in-between his fingers. Laura couldn't stand the silence anymore and she set her spoon down.
"You said you saw his hair." She finally said.
Logan looked up, confused. "What?"
"Back when we were driving through Colorado, you mentioned that you had seen Charles with his hair. How old was he then?"
"He was forty-one. I was sent back to 1973 to alter the future."
"What was he like?"
Logan sighed as he ran a hand over his face. "He was an asshole at first, depressed and fucked up by an accident."
"The one that paralyzed him." He looked up at her with somber eyes. "But he found his way again. There were times when he lashed out, but he was hurt and afraid."
"From what I've been told, he sounds like you when you were younger." She mused.
A ghost of a smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. "I guess that's why he mentored me."
"Did you stay with him?"
Logan puffed his cigar and blew out the smoke. "I drowned, and then everything was taken away from me." Laura furrowed her brow, confused. A knock on the door interrupted them and he set his hard gaze on the door. Living out here, they rarely had visitors, let alone unexpected ones. Laura stood, her chair sliding back with a screech. She released her claws as Logan rose to his feet and cautiously walked over to the front door. When he opened it, what he saw took him by surprise.
From where she stood, Laura could see a redheaded woman standing at the door. She read her father's face and then and sheathed her claws. Judging by his reaction, he knew this woman somehow, and it looked like it had been a while since they'd last met.
There was no hiding the shock on his face. The last time he had seen this woman was years ago when he helped her in Madripoor. "Natasha? How the hell—"
"It really wasn't that hard to find you." She smiled. Logan's eyes darted past her, searching for any S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. He was mildly relieved when all he saw on his property was a small jet.
"I'm not joining any more teams." He snapped as his stare returned to her.
"I know you aren't. I didn't come to ask you," she nodded to Laura who was still watching, "I came to ask her. Are you going to invite me inside?"
Logan didn't budge from the doorway as he puffed his cigar. After a moment he glanced at Laura, wordlessly asking her to decide. This concerned her, not him. She hesitated before finally nodding and he stepped aside.
"Your place is very homey." Natasha said as she stepped inside and looked around. Her eyes settled on an empty wheelchair and she turned to Logan. "I'm sorry about Charles."
He narrowed his hazel eyes, "No, you're not."
Laura decided to break the awkward silence that followed. "You said you came to ask me something?"
"Yes, some friends and I are putting together a team we call the Avengers Academy." She answered. "How would you like to be a part of that team?"
"You'll have to tell me more than that to get me to join." Laura replied as she crossed her arms.
Natasha looked over at Logan. "She really takes after you."
"More than you know." He scoffed. "I'll let the two of you talk in private."
Logan sat on the wooden porch steps and waited. He stared at the granite, ice-capped peaks as his mind wandered. There was a part of him that selfishly wanted Laura to stay. She was all he had left. However, she was still young and fiery in spirit. Keeping her here in the middle of nowhere would most likely snuff out that fire. Logan also knew that it would be good for her to get to know other mutants her age. His involvement with the X-Men had positively impacted him in more ways than one. Perhaps it was her turn to experience something similar. He took another puff and blew out the smoke and watched the wind carry it away. If she went, he was going to miss her. She and Charles had brought so much joy to his life, and now he felt like he was losing both of them all in the same week.
An hour passed before he heard the door open and shut behind him. Laura sat down beside him and followed his gaze out to the mountains ahead. They sat together in silence, taking in the warmth of the mid-spring day. She fidgeted with her hands as she tried to think of something to say.
"If I join this Avengers Academy, I'm going to be gone for months at a time. Maybe years." She finally said. "There's training and—"
"Laura, don't let me hold you back."
She sighed and looked over at him. "I'm worried about you. You're not eating."
"I've been around for over 150 years, I'll be fine. Your future is important. If this is what you want, you have my full support." He said.
She was quiet for a while. "This…this feeling. Is it something that you've always felt?"
"Losing someone you love, and the ache that comes with knowing you'll experience it again." She clarified.
"Yes," he sighed.
"What's the point then if we're just going to outlive everyone we care about?"
Logan wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. "I'm not gonna lie to ya. You're going to see a lot of pain and suffering. But you're also going to see a lot of good things too. Things that will make that weight bearable."
"But how do you get over this pain?"
"You don't. The wound may heal but you'll always carry the scar." He paused. "For as long as I've been around, one of the most important things that I've learned is that choosing to feel nothing is worse than feeling pain."
"It sucks." She said. "Do you think I should go with Natasha?"
"This is your decision. If you want my input, I think it'll be good for you." He smiled and looked over at her. "I'm going to miss you like hell, though."
"You're going to need to get a dog or something." She chuckled. "I'm going to miss you, too."
"Charles would be damn proud of you." Logan said. She beamed in response.
"You really think so?"
"I know so." He heard Natasha join them outside and he withdrew his arm from Laura's shoulders. "It looks like your flight is about to leave."
"Unfortunately," Natasha began, "we have intel that indicates an attack may happen on D.C. next week, and we can't afford to lose any more time than we already have." Logan and Laura followed her to the jet. As Natasha climbed into the cockpit, Laura turned to face Logan.
"I'll be back to visit. You can't get rid of me this easily." She said with a bittersweet smile.
"I look forward to it." He grinned. He then pulled her in for a hug. Hearing Natasha start up the jet, he let go of her. "Keep in touch."
She nodded and then hopped into the other side of the cockpit. The engine roared to life and the aircraft took off into the clear skies with ease. Logan blocked out the sun with his hand and watched them disappear into the horizon. He stared out past the tree line until the landscape was saturated by the warm glow of the setting sun. As the daylight continued to recede, he finally went inside to retrieve the keys to the jeep before heading into town.
It was dark by the time he arrived at the local bar. He turned off the jeep and stared at the neon sign that read 'open'. His left hand remained on the wheel, debating if it was wise to enter the building. In the past, he had covered up his problems and pain with alcohol and barbiturates. Logan had come so far from that, and he knew that he would be flirting with the danger of relapsing if he were to go inside. In the back of his mind, he knew that if Charles was still there, he wouldn't approve of him turning to the bottle once again.
"Just two drinks," he said as he exited the vehicle. When he stepped inside, the familiar aroma of smoke and alcohol reached his nose. He took a seat on one of the barstools and ordered a whiskey. The bartender slid him his drink before he returned to polishing a freshly cleaned glass.
"I don't think I've seen you around here before. Are you new to town?" The man asked as he put the clean glass back. Logan looked up from his drink and eyed the man. He couldn't have been older than thirty and his light, messy hair indicated that he had been working a full shift.
"No, I just don't come into town that often." He replied.
"I understand, we have a few customers like that. What brings you in today?"
"Nothing special, really. I simply haven't had a drink in a while."
The bartender gave him a concerned look. "You aren't breaking your sobriety, are you?" Clearly, the man had been a bartender for a long while.
"Technically no but cut me off after a second round." Logan said before he took a swig. The bartender nodded and resumed wiping down the bar. Logan watched him for a moment before a flyer on a stool to his right caught his attention. He squinted at it and picked it up. The paper read 'help wanted' with a picture of a ranch. Logan read it over.
"The owner of that ranch came in yesterday looking for some new ranch hands. The place is less than twenty minutes away from here." The bartender said. Now there was a thought. Perhaps working an honest job would help him with this new stage in his life. The job would keep him busy while maintaining a low profile.
Logan looked up at him. "Mind if I take this?"
"Not at all." He said.
He thanked him and then ordered another whiskey. As he drank, it dawned on him that Laura starting a new adventure didn't have to be the end of his. While his old self wanted to become a hermit once again, he knew that doing so would make him a hypocrite. Applying for this job would be a good, small step for him. A small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. He could easily imagine Charles encouraging him to take the job. Logan picked up the glass and stared at the shot of whiskey that remained.
"Here's to you Charles," he downed the drink, "and to a new start."