Picking Up Strangers - by Darlin

Disclaimer – Marvel owns the X-Men and I make no profit from this.

A/N – As of April 10, 2009 orrections have been made so this reads a little better and the horrendous mistakes have been fixed. I have to apologize for the first version I posted, copied the wrong version which sometimes happens when I work on a story for so long and keep sending it back and forth to myself at work then home.

-xox-

I Ororo Munroe swear off men forever, by the Bright Lady so help me!!

Anger after all required two exclamation marks. And for added effect she signed her name to the statement, written just as angrily in dark blue ink. She was so angry in fact that the pen tore through the sheet of paper in Ororo's journal. And just for good measure a swirling flourish, also slashing into the paper, underscored the hastily scribbled signature.

After a bad break up with her fiancé she was fed up with relationships. Men were selfish. They were over protective, egotistical, insensitive, irresponsible little boys. If she wanted to raise a child then she'd have a baby which would inevitably be easier than raising a grown man. And was that an oxymoron? Was there such a thing as a grown man? The way she felt she doubted sincerely doubted it though she'd never find out she was sure. She swore off men entirely from then on. Screw them, she thought, who needed them?

A month passed, a year, two years and, well her anger had finally subsided and, well it was innocent really. She took a quiz online and it led to a dating service site. They had a lot of other fun quizzes. It was free. She joined up with a giggle. Why not? She wasn't looking for anyone but still, just maybe. Well, you never knew. She took more quizzes and filled out a profile then uploaded a picture. There was no harm in just seeing what kind of men were out there, right?

She met guys. Lots of guys. They inundated her with e-mails. Some with pictures others without. No one was really unattractive, even those who later sent pictures. That surprised her. None seemed desperate, another big surprise. They were all lonely. Many fed up with games. And busy. Like her. Or they worked too much and weren't interested in the dating game scene of bars and questionable pick ups, wanting more than something casual. So they said.

Jean, her closest friend and someone who didn't know the meaning of loneliness because she'd been with her man forever, told her all the men contacting Ororo were psychotics, to be careful. She took a chance anyway. Amazingly she found laughter and friendship. Internet friendship that is. She e-mailed and instant messaged like she was a computer expert. She wasn't. But the thought made her feel good. The one who made her laugh the most she took a big chance with. She gave him her phone number. It wasn't a mistake. They laughed and talked through the night. For hours. Every day. He did sound a little odd the way he dragged out his words sometimes but he was so funny and endearing she didn't say no when he asked her for a date. Her first in years.

His picture hadn't been a close up but she could see he wasn't a skinny man, still he wasn't large. He was leaning on the rail of a cruise ship and grinning – she thought, it was hard to tell – the picture wasn't very clear, taken too far away. One hand under his chin, his arms blocking his upper body to some extent and he looked a little uncomfortable – maybe. How could you really tell? He was so nice though that she put her doubts aside.

Have you ever felt a sudden sense of panic, that clenching in the pit of your stomach? That's how Ororo felt when she got out of her car at the book store where they'd agreed to meet. There was only one man browsing through the table of books on sale outside the store though there were several women. Her stomach clenched even tighter.

"Please don't let that be him," she prayed but she walked up to the book store anyway.

That was her first mistake.

She perused the books while glancing around every so often hoping against hope that that wasn't him. But it was. He came up to her grinning so wide her heart sank. He'd written in his profile that he could stand to lose some pounds but he'd neglected to mention how many.

"I'm Fred, are you Ororo?"

"Hi," she said and held out her hand.

He took it and held it saying, "You look just like your picture!" He was obviously stunned.

She shrugged because she didn't know what to reply to that. Why would she not look like her picture? But then she realized he didn't. There'd been no date on his picture either though he had mentioned it was taken on a vacation some time ago. Five or ten years most likely she now thought as she pulled her hand free. She wished she'd paid more attention, thought to ask more questions but she'd always believed one's heart matter more than looks so she smiled and thought of something to say.

"You're beautiful!" he gulped.

"Uh . . . thank you," she stammered.

What else could she say? He was nice looking. He wasn't unattractive but, well he was humongous. He wasn't fat; he was obese, unhealthily obese, so obese she wondered how he would fit into the booth when they went inside to eat.

She wished she'd turned around and gone back to her car as soon as she'd seen he was the only man there but she simply didn't know how to stand someone up. It went against her nature.

Would she be considered prejudice? Against the weight challenged? Besides, he had her phone number and would call her. At home and at work. Oh, and her cell phone number too. They'd had so much fun talking. She had to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Laughs had been plentiful, that was a large part of what she wanted in a man, someone that could make her laugh. And what could she say if she changed her mind based upon his appearance and made a hasty retreat? I saw you and I was appalled? I'm a coward, you're obscenely obese and I can't imagine myself in bed with all those folds of flesh?

She shivered at the thought as he held the door open for her.

There was a moment of awkwardness after the hostess of the bookstore cafe led them to a table. But then, rat-a-tat-tat, he let off with a stream of jokes and shortly she was laughing so hard people in the quiet restaurant were giving her odd looks. Laughter and a good meal would have been fine, given her something to think about after the date was over but he wanted more. A lot more.

He wanted to take her to the park in his convertible Porsche. She loved parks. They walked a lot, he sweated profusely, she admired the views. He took her to his house – it was on the way back to the bookstore. It was a beautiful Tudor she instantly fell in love with. He started regaling her of tales about the two of them sharing the house. She could come over and do laundry since her washing machine was on it's last legs, or she could sleep before she went to work or after work or when she came to watch movies and he with no further ado sat her down on the couch and laid his head in her lap while he showed her all the features on his new flat screen television that he'd had mounted above the fireplace which meant she had to crane her neck uncomfortably to watch. That is if she were going to watch television with him. She wasn't. She couldn't even think where to put her hand. It had wavered in the air, uncertain, then finally settled on his chest. She'd shuddered at the unwanted intimacy. Too soon.

She made a hasty exit after that. On the ride back she noticed she hated his taste in music. Another strike. Once back at the bookstore there was more laughter and a promise to call her later, a hug, more an enormous bear hug and they parted. He didn't get in his car and follow her. Jean had advised her to go in separate cars and to go in a totally different direction when they parted so he wouldn't have any idea where she lived. There was no need, he was a perfect gentleman otherwise she wouldn't have gone to his house though she'd been too polite to refuse. She hoped he'd lose all her phone numbers. It was far too much. He was too much. He was already planning a life with her.

But he called as promised. He'd had a great time. She had inspired him. She always ran in the mornings and after their walk in the park he decided he wanted to get back into shape. Could they run together? But start out slow? He used to bike frequently he said, serious biking even outfitted in those tight spandex shorts. He went on and on. She couldn't imagine it but when she went over to his house before the walk, never let him know where you live Jean had warned again, he showed her a picture of a young handsome man – thin. His brother? A cousin? She felt ashamed of her thoughts.

The walk turned into a leisurely stroll. She should've expected as much though he hadn't said he wanted to build up to walking. She was disappointed. Very. To exchange her run for a brisk walk was one thing but to forgo exercise altogether, a stroll did not constitute exercise, wasn't viable which meant she'd have to run later despite her heavy schedule. He huffed. And puffed. Seriously. His face was so brightly red that she wasn't sure if they should simply stop. She stupidly mentioned how exercise turned her on and he honestly said he wouldn't be able to help her there. He was sure he'd be dead by time they finished. So was she. But had he really thought she wanted sex from him? This might have been the second mistake, mentioning sex in an off hand remark and certainly venturing on a second date, if one could call a slow promenade a date, was a horrendous mistake. She vowed not to make any further mistakes.

Afterwards she refused to hug him. Her excuse was that he was soaked in sweat, unlike her. She got into her car knowing she'd never see him again. She put him off. Repeatedly. She was so busy she said. She was sorry but work was so demanding. She was working overtime every day. She didn't call or return his calls and eventually he stopped calling. Shouldn't he have expected it? In his profile he had neglected to mention that he needed to lose another whole person. Or two. She felt guilty. She hated the Internet. She confessed all to Jean and knew she was blushing in shame and was thankful Jean couldn't discern the flush. She felt sorry for Fred. Fred Dukes, a funny guy, good heart but not the man for her. She prayed that he would find the right woman. She neglected to pray that she would never run into him again.

A simple outing to the store to pick up a few things for dinner turned into the third mistake, the biggest mistake. How could you stop going to the store though? She thought about the joys of online grocery shopping the moment she saw Fred Dukes, pink in the face and in a big black t-shirt un-tucked to cover his huge stomach, walking a few yards ahead of her. His acid washed jeans were only slightly baggy. He didn't look bad. May have even lost some weight. She, however turned and almost ran to duck around the corner of the aisle. With a quick glance back she saw she'd escaped unnoticed. She looked at the blue plastic shopping basket on her arm, the thin metal handle digging into her bare forearm. Just for a second she considered dropping it and running. She gauged the distance from where she was to the front door. Too much open space. She could be seen from the aisles. A little voice inside her head kept warning her: Put the basket down and run! She listened, crouched slightly to do just that.

"Heyyyyy!" Fred cried out when he came upon her suddenly having turned around and back tracked.

"Oh! Hi, Fred," she said resignedly. She stood up, the shopping basket swinging slightly on her arm.

"I haven't seen you in a long timeeeee," he said. "How've you beeeennnn? What've you been up to?"

"Working as usual."

"Heyyyyy, you never called me backkkk!"

"Uh, well I was so busy you know." She refused to apologize.

"You wore me out that day," he said.

She remembered that day all too vividly. The run that had turned into a slow stroll then more of a shuffle. The memory stung, leaving her feeling guilty and annoyed. Why couldn't he have just ignored her like she'd tried to ignore him?

"We should get together again."

"What?"

Her hand stopped in mid air, just over a bottle of white wine she pretended to be considering. She looked at Fred's hopeful face and immediately felt sick to her stomach.

"We could go to that place you like; you know the one in the book store, have dinner."

"Oh, I don't like that place any more, they changed the menu."

"Oh? Well, we can go somewhere else. Why don't we have lunch right now, maybe get some coffee or something?"

"No, I don't drink coffee." She held up the bottle of wine, gave a goofy grin and placed it in her basket.

"No? I thought you diddddd! So you're a wine lover huh?"

"Look, I'm late, I really have to go. I'll see you later."

"That sounds goodddd. I'll call you."

"Oh. Okay." But it wasn't okay. Now she'd have to either screen her calls and chance missing important business calls or she'd have to change her phone number, either would be time consuming and inconvenient. Why couldn't a man accept no for an answer?

At the cash register with only the bottle of wine in her basket she realized she'd never actually said no to him. But how to tell him? Tactfully? Without seeming cold hearted so she didn't come off as stuck up? She debated the merits of dishonesty and the need to shop for groceries. What could she eat now? Working all the extra hours of late she hadn't been able to find the time to keep her refrigerator stocked. Fast food at this time of the day? It was too early for a burger and she hated those egg McThingies.

Stomach growling she took her cell phone from her purse and checked the time. Almost noon . It looked as if fast food would have to be the solution. She'd just leave her basket there on the floor, give the wine to the cashier and get out of there. Slipping her phone back into her purse she forgot diligence as she put her plan into action. A mass of pink and black flashed out of the corner of her eye and she realized she was trapped. Fred approached. Grinning and sweating and with nothing in his hands. Was he there for food or for women? She was undecided. She wanted to run. Couldn't. People would stare and, well it would be rude.

He smiled and waved, she looked at the cashier, at the man in front of her and then back at Fred. Men were supposed to be faster than women when it came to checking out and the man in front of her only had a pack of gum, a bag of beef jerky, a newspaper and two six packs of beer. Nothing was moving on the conveyor belt however. What the hell was taking so long?

The man was speaking to the cashier in an accent she couldn't place. Her own accent was something people noticed immediately since she wasn't raised in the States so she tried not to stare. She sneaked a peek back at Fred who was waddling along as fast as he could which wasn't fast at all. She could just put the wine on the magazine rack, the basket on the floor, wave a quick goodbye and leave. It would be so easy. Though it would look peculiar at best. Her fingers played over the label of the bottle as she looked for a suitable place to deposit it.

"How're you doing?" a deep gravelly voice inquired behind her.

Turning she saw a man some inches shorter than her.

"Hi," he said, grinning at her. She could have thrown her arms around him and kissed him she was so glad to see someone other than Fred behind her.

"Hi," she muttered and would have smiled but the way his eyes crinkled at the corners so sexily and the rakish grin he gave her left her starring open mouthed.

"Bad day?"

"So far, yes," she said. She felt a rush of warmth spread through her body.

"I bet I could make it a whole lot better, darlin'," he said with a smile so bold she took a half step back.

She stepped against the man in front of her. "Oh, excuse me," she muttered.

He wore a long brown trench coat despite the warm day and sunglasses which he now lowered with one hand to peer inquisitively at her.

"Oui, no problem, ma chère. Sil vous plait, bump into me any time," he said in what she guessed was some kind of French accent she wasn't familiar with.

"Hey, Ororo!" called Fred who was still coming. Had he forgotten to tell her something? Goodbye perhaps?

Hurry up, she mentally commanded the cashier. The girl was giggling, clearly distracted. The handsome man in the trench coat had already turned his attention back to the young girl.

"Yo' smile brighten my whole mornin', Pamela chère," he was saying.

Ororo rolled her eyes. Charm should be handed out more discriminatorily. With the way the cashier smiled at the guy she wouldn't be getting out of there any time soon. The shorter man behind her chuckled and she turned to see what was so amusing. He didn't look away but smiled so confidently she inexplicably felt her knees go weak. She smiled back, couldn't help it. He was ruggedly handsome. She'd never care for metro types like the tall one, she preferred the rougher ones that you could actually tell was a man, no guessing required. She imagined the tall one spent all day in front of a mirror. But the short one, a shower, maybe a shave, a rake through his deliciously wild hair and he was done. She bet he drove a Harley. Harley's turned her on. He was still staring and she was smiling stupidly. The little hot man was bold, she'd give him that. An additional turn on.

"Be right back, I won't be long," the cashier giggled and the next thing Ororo knew the girl was walking off.

"Where's she going for crying out loud?" Ororo exclaimed.

"Won't take long," the tall man drawled.

Ororo glanced back and saw Fred had been delayed. That was a relief. He was talking animatedly to some man. She debated whether to squeeze past the French man or to wait and pay for the wine as she stood on her tip toes to see past him. She could use a drink after her narrow escape but was it worth it? And then she saw what the cashier was doing.

Cigarettes! The girl was getting cigarettes! She hated when people had to send the cashier off to get cigarettes out of the locked case. It took up so much time. How selfish could they be? And why couldn't they buy their disgusting cigarettes where they bought their liquor and lottery tickets? That way no one would be inconvenienced except the other addicts. Besides, who in their right mind smoked nowadays?

"You get my Camels?" the short man demanded and she jumped.

"Oui, but of course, homme," the tall man replied and he smiled at her when he saw her looking from him to the shorter man. Again he lowered his shades but this time he actually winked.

"It a bad habit, non? But de patch don' work so good for Remy."

Who was Remy – the short guy? The name didn't fit at all. Well, at least Mr. Suave wasn't buying cigarettes for himself. She looked disapprovingly at the man behind her but he didn't look one bit apologetic.

"Heyyyy, Ororo!"

Ororo panicked and threw her arms around the man she believed was Remy.

"Please, help me, this guy's going to try to talk to me – I met him online – I'm not crazy!"

"Sure, we're play along," the short guy said and just in time.

"Welllll, Ororo who's your friendddd?" Fred asked, finally having made his way over. He gave her a sour glare.

"Remy," Ororo said immediately and glancing hopefully at Logan .

"Huh?" both strangers said.

"Remy, this is Fred," Ororo said.

"I'm Remy, chère," the tall man said.

"You're . . . ? Remy, right! I know that! This is Remy, a friend," Ororo said, fast recovering all while thinking he was one of those people, the type that spoke of them self as if they were another entity entirely. A third person speaker! His coolness, in her eyes, went down a notch.

"I'm Logan ," the short man said, his lips twitching slightly in amusement.

Both smokers. So not good, Ororo thought.

Fred looked at their hands as Remy did some kind of handshake that didn't include any shaking Remy finished with his knuckles striking Fred's open hand. It was interesting to watch Fred try to respond, balling his own hand up belatedly. Three bumps knuckle to knuckle, up, under and then some kind of loose finger clasp that Fred didn't comprehend. He decided it wasn't worth shaking the shorter man's hand at all and pointedly ignored Logan who merely shrugged and chuckled again.

"'Roro, who you say dis guy is?" Remy asked with feigned chagrin.

"Uh, this is Fred, Fred Dukes. We used to go out, it was only a few dates that's all," she said, words tumbling out in a rush.

"Oh, dis de man we got ta t'ank, neh?"

"You missed out, bub, shoulda held on to her, she's a keeper" Logan said.

"And who're you?" Fred asked as if they hadn't already been introduced.

"Her man," Logan replied, sliding an arm around Ororo's waist. She squirmed slightly but didn't move away.

"Finished shopping?" she asked Fred.

"No."

They stood in silence until the cashier came back with two cartons of cigarettes.

"So. Well, Ororo it was good seeing you again," Fred said. He glanced at the men before he retreated.

Ororo didn't dare watch to make sure he left but she did breathe easier.

"No need ta t'ank us, chère," Remy said.

The young girl was ringing up the carton of Marlboro's and Camel's. She smiled at Remy as seductively as a cashier clad in the requisite polo shirt emblazoned with the store emblem could. The girl couldn't be more than eighteen Ororo thought grimly. What was happening to young girls today? And men, she wondered as Remy resumed his flirting with the girl who was way too young for him.

"That's simply embarrassing," Ororo muttered to herself.

"He waiting for you, you think?" Logan asked.

"Huh?" Ororo looked down at the short man. What was he talking to her about?

"Your ex. He's just standing there lookin' at you kinda dumb like."

"Oh, he always does that." Well, it was true. She wasn't being mean.

"Looks like you're gonna have to come with us then," Logan said grinning impishly.

What? She was flummoxed. Had he lost his mind? But then she smiled as wide as she could and fairly shouted, "You guys go on without me I'll meet you later." And she squeezed past Logan thankful that her charade had at least given her a reason to put Fred off. The very much needed by now wine was forgotten.

"Oh, we can wait, sweets, all day for you," Logan said, catching her by the wrist.

"What's goin' on?" Remy asked.

"Gotta go, let me go!" Ororo hissed.

"Aw, you can't just leave after Remy an' Logan been so helpful chère."

"Look, I appreciate everything but I don't need your help any longer okay?"

"You women! What we men gonna do wid you? First you want us den you don't. You just wanna make him jealous, dat it?" Remy said.

"It's not like that," Ororo said. "He, we weren't really together – more like blind dating."

"He is kinda fat," Remy said. "Still, dat no reason ta treat a man so shabby. What you t'ink, Logan ?"

"I think the lady deserves a real man."

"I have one!" Ororo shrieked, not wanting to get involved with yet another stranger.

"You're somet'ing of a drama queen, aren't you," Remy said.

"I am not!"

"Honesty will set you free," Logan said as he ran a comforting hand over her forearm.

The touch, light and warm, sent a jolt of pleasure through Ororo and she almost forgot to snatch her arm away. She felt the need to get away from him, from both of them. The last thing she needed in her life at this time was a man and another ill fated relationship. It didn't look good though. Fred had started towards them again. Things couldn't be worse.

"I'll get the beer!" She bounded off.

"I didn't know she drank beer," Fred said, coming over to them.

"Party. Need more," Logan replied.

"Oh." Fred's face drooped.

"More beer's always a good idea," Logan said suddenly perking up. "Hey, 'Ro wait up!"

Ororo looked over her shoulder and saw Logan waving at her. She saw his mouth moving but knew he couldn't be talking to her. She looked around to see whom he might be speaking to but no one seemed to be acknowledging him. He couldn't be talking to her could he? When she looked back he was still following her shouting over his shoulder, "Gumbo, we're getting beer!"

"Beer?" Remy said, snatching his credit card back from the pretty cashier. "Remy be back, Pamela, hold on to my smokes, oui? Don't you go forgettin' me now chère."

Shortly both men were following Ororo. She looked back at them nervously but didn't stop walking until they were down the aisle and out of sight from Fred.

"So, where's this beer blast gonna be?" Logan asked when he caught up to her.

"Wh-what?"

"You're buying the beer sweets where's the party?"

"Let's have a pool party," Remy suggested. "Remy like pool parties."

" Bikini 's," Logan murmured.

"Tiny little ones," Remy laughed.

"Sounds like a plan," Logan said. "Remy'll get the snacks me an' 'Ro'll get the beer – um you want anything in particular, darlin'?"

"No, I . . . hey!"

"Why you get ta go wid her?" Remy drawled.

"Possession – nine tenth of the law," Logan said as he held up Ororo's hand, now held securely in his own.

"Now wait a minute!" Ororo cried.

"We'll meet you at the checkout," the little man said.

"Hey, none of that light crap either! Some Molson, some Bud, some Miller for the girls, some Heineken too maybe you t'ink? Just don't get any dat light stuff, chère, you know us real men don't drink dat watered down piss," Remy said and she was certain he was entirely serious.

"But . . . but I'm – I'm not really buying beer," Ororo stammered.

"Aw, we're jus' messin' with ya, darlin' but if you're not busy . . ." Logan looked up at her with a hopeful look.

"I am," she said, freeing her hand.

"See you around then," Logan said. She didn't bother to respond.

"What you do dat for, homme?" Remy asked.

"Aw, just messin' with the kid."

"Dat's no kid homme she definitely of age."

"You don't have to tell me, you see those legs on her?"

"She got legs like a race horse."

Logan glanced at his friend not sure if that was a compliment or not.

"But Remy can see her usin' dem for more dan runnin'," Remy laughed.

"You got that right."

"Shouldn't've let her get away so easy."

"Next time I won't."

"Dere won't be a next time, t'ink we scared her off."

"Maybe you did but the way she was lookin' at me . . . there'll be a next time all right."

"Lookin' at you like she wanted to slap you, homme?"

"Like she couldn't wait to get ta know me better."

"An' dey say Remy full of himself!"

Finally free of the men Ororo let out a heavy sigh. Now all she needed was to get out of the store without Fred seeing her in the parking lot. Fast food for lunch didn't sound too bad now. She chose the feminine product aisle to go down on her way to the front door. She'd make a run for it; tell Fred, if she saw him, she was meeting up with her boyfriend later. She was ready to throw her computer out after all this, it just wasn't worth it.

"Heyyyyy, Ororo wait up!"

Outside in the parking lot, nearly safe Ororo jumped when she heard the familiar deep voice shouting at her. She'd almost made it. The key was almost inside the lock to her car. She refused to look. She'd pretend she hadn't heard him. It was rude but necessary if she was to make good her escape. But then she heard another all too familiar voice by now.

"Hey, sweets where's the beer?"

Not only had Fred seen her but so had the other two men. Her shoulders sagged. She didn't know whether she should be thankful the two were close on Fred's heels or to just pick up a rock from the side of the parking lot and smash her head in.

"Move on bub," Logan said when the three all came up to her at the same time.

Poor Fred had been rushing so much she saw he was even redder in the face than before. She cringed. He looked confused then, as if his pride wouldn't let him back down, he said, "Everything okay here?"

"The lady don't need yer help an' don't wanna talk to ya bub – beat it," Logan practically growled.

That was the worse thing he could've said, Ororo thought. She appreciated his help but he was fast becoming as much a problem as Fred.

"Heyyyy, I was just being friendlyyyyy, we're old friendssss that's all," Fred replied.

"You ever hear dat saying 'out wid de old in wid de new?" Remy said.

"He means you're old news so blow," Logan said when Fred looked even more confused.

"I – he . . ." Ororo couldn't find words. What could she say that would make any sense now?

"You sure everything's okay, Ororo?" Fred asked.

"Fine, fine, we're just busy," Ororo said, trying to soften the men's harsh blows.

Fred looked from the short muscular man to the taller one who was leaner but just as muscled it appeared despite the trench coat and decided Ororo wasn't worth it so he turned and walked away.

"Thank you," Ororo whispered more to the gods than the men. She barely spared them a glance. She quickly unlocked her car and opened the door.

"Dude's watching," Remy said. "What you t'ink he want?"

"You gotta ask?" Logan sneered.

"You say you met him on de Internet? Ain't dat where stalkers an' pervs hang out?" Remy asked Ororo point blank.

"Fred's not dangerous. I'm not that stupid," she said.

"Den why you actin' like you don't wanna be around him?"

"He's just persistent," Ororo said, annoyed that she was bothering to explain anything to them.

"Well, chère get in de car, we'll go wid you – protect you," Remy said.

"You don't need to do that. You've helped me out a lot already. Too much but thank you."

"What? Are you breaking up with me, darlin'?" Logan shouted, his voice carrying across the parking lot.

"Right here, right now, for real, chère?" Remy queried, fighting to keep a straight face.

Ororo looked at Logan . She couldn't deny he was handsome but he was also apparently nuts.

"Ororo, is everything okay here?" Fred hollered as he immediately started to scurried back towards her as fast as his hefty weight would allow.

"Everything's fine, bub, temporary insanity is all," Logan said.

"Huh?"

"Everything's perfect!" Ororo squeaked out.

"You sureeeee?" Fred questioned as he took a break, hands on his hips, breathing heavily.

"Yes!" Ororo cried, exasperated.

"Want me to drive?" Logan said and took her car keys from her hand.

"No! Give 'em back!" Ororo said trying to seize her keys back but he was already unlocking the car door and Ororo had to jump back to get out of his way.

"Heyyyy, you sure everything's all right?" Fred demanded. He was moving again.

"Fine, fine – peachy keen!" she squealed with false delight then fairly snarled at Logan , "I'll drive."

"Slut," Fred muttered as he took another break before he headed towards his own car.

"He – that . . . did you hear what he called me?!" Ororo bit her lip in anger. The nerve of that man! Calling her a slut!

"He jus' jealous we wid you an' not him," Remy said.

"Get in, darlin'," Logan said, holding the driver's side door open for her.

Ororo shook her head. "I don't even know you!"

"Told you already, name's Logan sweets," he said then pushed her into the car, one hand at her waist, the other on the top of her head.

"Logan Sweets, huh?" she smirked. "Well, Mr. Sweets – hey!"

The car door slammed shut and Ororo saw Logan hurry around the front of the car where he unlocked the passenger door with her keys a second before she could think to hit the lock switch. Suddenly she had a flashback. It was a flashback to the Oprah show, one she'd seen a year or so ago. Oprah had advised any victim to never get in the car with your attacker. Never let yourself be moved to the second location.

Logan was reaching between their seats and before she knew it he'd opened the rear door and Remy was putting his bags in the backseat then climbing in.

"Now wait a minute!" she cried.

This was going too far! Any minute she expected them to pull a gun or a knife on her and tell her where to drive. She didn't wait. Instead she opened her car door and got out as quickly as she could.

"What're you doin'?" Logan asked.

Ororo looked for an escape route. Fred was standing in the parking lot beside his car just watching her. What did that man want now? She weighed her options. Fred, potential stalker who knew the area where she lived or possible kidnapping, rape and worse with these two strangers.

"I forgot the beer," she shouted.

"Damn," Logan said, getting out. He noticed Fred still observing them and he held back a laugh. "I forgive you, darlin' get back in, we can get beer anywhere," he said, his voice louder than necessary.

"We got a party to go to," Remy said, looking like a contented dog as he stuck his head out the window.

Ororo swallowed nervously. Logan was again pushing her back into the car, almost as if he did this regularly. Either he was a police officer, she thought, which didn't make her feel any better, or he was a professional kidnapper. She couldn't struggle – what would Fred think? She sat at the steering wheel, her hands gripping it as if her life depended upon it. Her brain wasn't working properly. She heard the engine turn over and looking down at the ignition she saw Logan 's hand on the key. The next thing she knew she was flooring the gas and speeding out of the parking lot, tires squealing on the hot asphalt.

"Women drivers," Logan muttered.

She heard him. "We aren't any worse than boys," she declared.

"You're the worse driver I ever saw," Logan insisted as she took a corner doing forty in a twenty-five mile zone. He fastened his seat belt. "Better slow down, darlin'."

She didn't care what he thought. She sped up. She'd drive to the nearest police station. Or she'd drive so crazily the cops would have to stop her. She let out a little yelp when Logan 's hands brushed her breast. He wasn't even going to wait!

"Slow it down," he grumbled as he pulled her seat belt across her chest then fastened it.

"Sorry," he added, glancing at where his hands had accidentally roamed.

Ororo looked at the seatbelt and felt very stupid. It didn't make her slow down however.

"You're gonna get a ticket you keep dis up, chère you might wanna slow down like my padnat said."

"I will if you get out of my car."

"Hard to get out if yer speedin', darlin'."

"Get out or I'll wreck, I'm not kidding."

"What's wrong with you, lady?"

"She t'ink we gonna hurt her, dat's what's up, homme."

"What? We were tryin' to save your pretty ass back there!"

Ororo glanced at him. Was that some kind of compliment?

" Logan 's right, chère you asked for our help."

True she had but still!

"Relax, okay? We're not going to hurt you, 'Ro. I'm an ex-Marine, honorable discharge an all an' he's, well the Cajun's a reformed thief but I guess I'm an ex mercenary so. . . uh . . . well . . ." Logan paused a moment as he considered that this wasn't the best way to reassure her.

"If you so 'fraid jus' let us out here an' we'll walk back," Remy said.

"You will?"

"Why wouldn't we? We were jus' tryin' to help you out chère."

"You didn't think we were trying to kidnap you in your own car with you behind the wheel?" Logan asked.

"No! No, I didn't. Really. No! Of course I didn't!"

"You're a piss poor liar, darlin'."

"I'll . . . I'll take you back to the store," Ororo mumbled, beginning to feel very foolish.

"Jus' circle de parking lot, make sure yo' friend ain't dere first," Remy directed.

Ororo slowed down though her heart sped up. She wasn't looking forward to running into Fred again. But when they got back to the grocery store she didn't see any trace of him. She almost breathed easier but then she was still in a car with two complete strangers and they were arguing now.

"We can't take her home, Remy. Remember Rogue? She ain't gonna be happy if we do."

"Rogue don't bite homme. Trust me, she won't mind."

"Rogue?" Ororo asked, was that the name of their dog?

"Rogue's his girl, she's the jealous type."

"You said Ororo wanted you not me, homme so Rogue ain't got nothin' ta be jealous 'bout," Remy replied with a sly grin.

"What?" Ororo cried.

"Don't try an' deny it, darlin' there's something goin' on here, you feel it too."

Ororo thought he had to be crazy even if he was just a little truth to his statement.

"You can let us out right here, chère. Remy jus' live across de street from de store."

Ororo's foot pushed hard on the brake pedal and they all jerked forward as the car came to an abrupt halt.

"See, always wear your seatbelt," Logan said, smiling as he unfastened her.

"Okay, you can get out now," Ororo retorted, pressing her body as far back against her seat as she could so he couldn't touch her again.

"There's Rogue," Logan said, pointing across the parking lot to a woman sitting on the steps of a small white house with two large oaks on either side of it.

Ororo saw a woman holding her hand over her eyes to block out the sun as she watched them.

"Dat Remy's girl, always on de lookout. You'll like her, Ororo."

"Uh . . . could you move out of my way I really need to go," Ororo shouted when Remy, in a hurry to get across the street stepped in front of her car.

Remy turned and grinned at Ororo. Logan was still in the car, chuckling in amusement. Though Remy couldn't see Rogue cross the street Logan could. She was walking fast and she didn't look like she was in an understanding mood.

"Who's this?" Remy's lady asked with a scowl on her face when she stopped in front of Remy and looked pointedly at Ororo.

A wide streak of white running down the middle of her brown bangs made the woman look older than she probably was, that and the angry frown lines that creased her forehead. Ororo started to back her car up.

"Chère, we jus' doin' a good deed helpin' out . . . uh Logan 's friend here."

"Oh, ah thought . . . well never mind. Hi, ah'm Rogue – ah know it ain't a proper name but that's my handle, had it ever since ah was a itty bitty crumb snatcher," the woman said as she walked towards the car. Ororo didn't miss the relief in the woman's voice.

"Hi," Ororo replied not wishing to be impolite.

"Ah love yer hair, it's beautiful," Rogue said.

"Oh, thank you. Your hair's . . . pretty too."

"This ol' skunk stripe?" Rogue laughed. "Makes me look like somebody's grandma but it ain't worth dyeing, can't stand the roots showing all the time, ain't got the patience."

"I know what you mean," Ororo said. She felt a pang of guilt at Rogue's compliment as her own hair was stark white and anyone would assume she'd gone prematurely gray.

"Told you you'd love her," Remy said with a wink. "Hmm, Rogue honey you gotta tell Logan 's friend here we ain't crazy."

Rogue laughed. "Girl, these are the two craziest son's a bitches yer ever gonna meet but besides that they're good people, just got no manners more 'n a dog let loose at the family table."

Remy came up behind Rogue and wrapped his arms around her waist. Rogue twisted in his arms and rested a hand on his cheek and the couple kissed like any normal couple Ororo noticed and she thought again that she'd been wrong about him and Logan.

"So, 'Ro you gonna come to the party or not?" Logan asked.

"Party?"

"It's always a party around here with these two. Yer welcome ta hang out if ya want," Rogue said. "Ah didn't catch your name – Ro is it?"

"It's Ororo not Ro."

"Now ain't that a curious name, purty though. Logan , bring her on in an' ya'll have a beer while ah make some sandwiches."

Logan put the car in park and pulled the key from the ignition. Ororo stared at him, her mouth hanging open. He winked. She felt that fluttery nervousness when you meet an attractive man you can't stop looking at and she looked away. He got out then opened her door for her and she found herself letting him pull her out.

Under any other circumstances Ororo might have been tempted. Despite his height Logan was handsome, buff, strong and confident just the way she liked her men but common sense and her past experience with Fred had made her leery. She was out of the car, his hand holding hers yes but she wasn't going to budge she told herself. Still, she was pretty sure Rogue wasn't a kidnapper and she had a good feeling Rogue wouldn't be involved with a kidnapper.

Ororo really wasn't planning on walking across the street or going inside the house. She didn't plan on having a beer. She didn't really like beer. She'd tried it once when she was a teenager, stolen sips from a can her friend had pilfered from her father and it was disgusting so no temptation there. She certainly didn't intend to be transported to a second location either but Logan took hold of her arm and looked as if he was prepared to drag her if need be. For a short guy he had a long stride and Ororo had to hurry to keep up. He sure wanted beer, she thought. Either that or he was in a hurry to rape and pillage her. For some reason she went with him anyway.

"So, how did y'all meet?" Rogue asked once they were seated in the living room drinking Budweiser and eating ham sandwiches.

Logan and Ororo looked at each other and suddenly broke out in laughter. They were still laughing a full minute later.

"Well, what's so durn funny?"

"You had ta be dere, ma chère," Remy said.

"You know, 'Ro if we told anyone they wouldn't believe it." Logan said. He was seated next to her on an overstuffed sofa.

It was the most natural thing for Ororo to let him rest his arm across her shoulders. She couldn't help feeling that a little pillaging of her own might be fun. And a year later after much mutual pillaging when someone asked them that very same question of how they met, Logan and Ororo burst into laughter just as they did ten years later when their daughter asked them how they met.

A/N - The gentleman I went out with a few times wasn't hardly as fat as Fred Dukes. He's a firefighter and they do have weight restrictions though not as stringent as the military used to I think. He actually spoke the way I wrote too, dragged out the last words.