"Verde? I've been thinking."
"Have you? I thought we weren't supposed to be thinking."
"You know what I mean," Charlie shot him a glare. He ducked his head sheepishly.
"You're right, I do. Go on, tell me what you're thinking."
She stopped her pacing after another moments thought. "We should go to Vegas."
Verde couldn't help it, he burst out laughing. "You want us to elope? Find an Elvis look-a-like to oversee it? That'd go over great with your parents; no way would your dad skin me alive for that one."
"No, you big jerk," Charlie laughed despite herself. "Think about it, it's the city that never sleeps…I think, that could be New York…whatever. But everyone there is always thinking, their minds buzzing about the gambling, the shows, and the money, all of it. It's the perfect place to hide from telepaths. I mean, we'd still have to be careful, but it would buy us some time, give us a chance to plan so we don't fly in half-cocked."
"And give you a chance to rest," Verde added. Charlie opened her mouth to protest that she was fine, when it turned into a jaw cracking yawn and stretch.
"I guess a bit of a break from 'porting would be nice," she agreed. "Just once more to get us close to Vegas."
It was surprisingly easy, once there, to get a room for two at one of the less swanky hotels. In truth, it was a few steps above a dump, but they wouldn't ask many questions at the front desk, and Charlie and Verde would only be using it to sleep in for a few nights. They just had to hope the sheets were clean.
"Well, it could be worse," he shrugged, dropping his bag by the door. The room was rather dingy, and looked like it hadn't been redecorated since at least the 70s. But the sheets were relatively clean; a fact which Charlie was grateful for when she too set her bag down to flop face first on the bed and nearly immediately fell asleep. Verde smiled fondly at her and after toeing off his own shoes, pulled off hers and tucked both pairs under the bed. He set an alarm for a few hours later and curled up next to her to sleep.
"So, this is where we are," Charlie tapped at the worn map she had spread out on the bed. "This is where we need to go, about…damn, over 400 miles." She had woken before the alarm and immediately spread out her map and notepad. On the map, Arizona was circled, and throughout the state were small red numbers, numbers which coincided with names, addresses, ages, and if available, the mutations of the missing children in her notebook. More numbers spun off from Arizona in widening circles, stretching sparsely across the country. Charlie had of course asked the Professor if there was anything he could do with Cerebro, but it was as though the missing had vanished without a trace, he couldn't get a read on them.
Verde stretched from where he was still sprawled in bed. "Char, believe me when I say I know this is important to you, but seriously, you need to relax just a little bit. You get too fixated and honestly, you're gonna do neither yourself nor those kids one bit of good. Put the map and the notebook down, and come back to bed. A few more hours sleep won't hurt." He waggled his hands at her for good measure, even pooched out his lower lip in a pout. He could see her hesitating, looking between him and the map.
"Promise we'll get back to planning after a few more hours?" Charlie's stomach rumbled slightly. "And something to eat?"
"You have my word mi'lady. Cross my heart."
The waitress squinted at the picture, then glanced at Logan, standing stiffly on the other side of the counter. Were it not for the obvious family resemblance him and the girl in the picture he'd thrust at her, she'd have been concerned over this gruff stranger in the leather jacket, asking about the tired looking girl who'd stopped in with her boyfriend about a week earlier while his friend waited outside, idly shuffling a deck of cards.
"Yeah, she was in here. She and her boyfriend stopped for breakfast. He paid, cash and they left," she passed the picture back to him.
"They say where they were headed?"
"Sorry honey, they didn't. Didn't even see which way they left, seemed like they walked outside and just disappeared. I didn't see a car either, come to think of it..." The waitress frowned, then shook her head.
"Thanks," Logan sighed, tucking the picture back in his jacket pocket. She gave him a sympathetic look, wishing she could do more for what was clearly a father looking for a runaway little girl, but the lunch rush was starting, and she had her own little ones counting on the paycheck she scraped together. The bell jingled as he saw himself out and into the car, his friend sliding into the passenger seat after him.
Charlie lurched upright, a gasp cut off in her throat, her heart thundering in her chest. Her eyes flicked wildly around the room, wondering what in the hell could have woken her but found nothing; the tv was off, the door locked soundly, even the air conditioner was quiet. Figuring it must have been a dream, something powerful but fleeting, she turned to snuggle under the cheap comforter once more, pulling Verde's arms around her. Her eyes slid shut, and sleep started to pull her under.
Her eyes cracked open a sliver.
She sat up, flinging the comforter off and over Verde, who didn't stir. She started to pull on clothes, paying little attention to what specific clothes she grabbed.
She blinked rapidly, jerking her head side to side. "N-no…"
Without another word, she slipped out of the room, the door closing with a click behind her.
Verde did not wake.
Morning came, light slanting through the blinds and creeping across the carpeting to the bed. Verde sat up with a stretch, grinding at his eyes with the heels of his palms. He felt like he'd slept ages, a deep and dreamless sleep like none he'd ever had. He wasn't completely surprised that Charlie wasn't next to him, or apparently anywhere else in the room. He suspected she'd gone down to the hotel buffet, and would hopefully bring up some bacon. The comforter was kicked off as he swung out of bed, intending on a shower before she got back and their search continued on.
It was only as his feet hit the floor, and he got a look at the room that Verde realized something was off. Charlie's pajamas were strewn about the floor, and a look through her bag showed her cell phone and wallet had been left behind. Charlie would never go anywhere, even around the hotel, without at the very least her phone. The fine hairs at the back of Verde's neck prickled as he surveyed the scene. It was like she'd gotten up, grabbed whatever clothes she could find and vanished, all without waking him. She hadn't even picked up her little notepad, which only further increased his unease.
"Okay Verde, number one thing is to not panic. That's…bad. Maybe she just got a lead, or she really did get hungry and storm the buffet. Grab a shower right quick, and bet she'll be back before you rinse and repeat."
Having given himself a pep talk, Verde dove into the bathroom for perhaps the fastest shower he'd ever taken, dragging the flimsy bar of hotel soap over his body and scrubbing shampoo from his hair before the water had even properly warmed. He barged out of the bathroom, towel held around his waist, and was dismayed to find it undisturbed, no sign of Charlie having returned. He swallowed thickly, tasting bile and something almost metallic that felt like fear and sat heavy on his tongue.
Storm rocketed out of the chair when the phone rang, nearly tripping over her own feet in her haste to answer it.
"Storm? Oh thank god, I was afraid it might be Logan, he'd never let me get a word in, just yell at me-''
"Sorry, sorry, just…I didn't know what else to do, I've been waiting around, pacing and looking everywhere within walking distance but, she doesn't have to walk…"
"Verde, calm down. Please," Storm soothed, trying to convey a calm she hardly felt. Hank looked at her from across the room, head to the side, silently asking what was happening. She gave a small wave, letting him know she'd tell him in a moment.
Verde was taking deep breaths on the other end of the line. "Alright, ok. It's like this. I woke up this morning and she was gone. She left her phone and her wallet, she didn't even take her notebook, where she'd written down all her theories."
"That's what I said, yes! I've been sat here, wondering how long to wait, if I should do anything, I just…I just didn't know what else to do," he finished, his voice breaking at the end. "Storm I'm honestly really scared right now, Charlie's just vanished and I don't know why or how."
"I know sweetie, but I need you to hang in there. Where are you?"
Verde put her on hold for a moment while he stepped out to check the name of the actual motel they were staying at.
"I'll let Logan and Remy know, they went out looking for you two."
"I was afraid of that. He's gonna kill me, isn't he?"
"Probably, but he'll at least wait until you've found Charlie."
"Oh what a relief that is," Verde sighed heavily. He at least sounded more reassured, calmer now they'd talked. "Thanks Storm."
"Don't mention it. You sit tight, I've got calls to make."
Remy looked over at the sound of plastic creaking in protest. Logan's fist has tightened around the phone as he has spoken to Storm until he was afraid it would snap in his hand. Remy tapped him on the arm, mouthing 'ease up' and motioning to the phone. Logan clenched his jaw, but eased his grip on the phone.
"Where did he say he was? Vegas? What in the hell were they doing there? I swear to…" Logan sighed heavily. "Alright, yeah we'll head that way. Let you know when we get there. Bye."
"Sin City then?" Remy asked, following Logan back to the car. The other man only grunted in response, jamming the keys into the ignition. However, he didn't turn the car on right away, only sat, a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel, staring through the windshield. Without warning, he let out a pained snarl, slamming his fist onto the wheel, setting off the horn. Remy started, hissing in pain as the seat belt jerked and dug into his neck. Warily, he watched as Logan slumped, breathing harshly through his nose in his seat.
"Fuck it," he muttered after a moment, and unbuckled. "Get out, you're driving. I…I can't right now."
Remy nodded, and they traded seats, taking off for Las Vegas with only the faint crack and hiss of radio static to break the silence between them. Logan gazed out the window, watching the sparse scrubland whip by.
Charlie woke to gentle fingers carding through her hair. She nuzzled into the hand, not yet ready to open her eyes. "Jus' a couple more minutes momma," she slurred, starting to roll over.
"Of course Charlie," a voice murmured, and it sounded so much like Kurt's when he tried to rouse her for school, always granting her just five more minutes. Charlie sighed softly, letting the hand keep up its tender petting. The fingers slid through her hair, pushing it back from her forehead, which was damp with sweat, almost like she had a fever. Which was odd really, she didn't feel sick, only so very, very tired. So tired in fact, it felt like there were weights on her eyes, on her limbs, dragging her down.
"M'so tired," she whined, and tried to sit up. Only the more she tried to sit up, the greater the force on her felt, until she'd exhausted herself and collapsed once again.
A/N: I know, I've said this before, and it's been a while. Truthfully, I'm hardly over at anymore but I just can't leave a fic unfinished, so I'm gonna do my best to finish these and my others.