After several days Amelia had almost completely forgotten about the strange midnight encounter. Aunt Jean didn't mention it again, no one else seemed to be aware of what had happened either - at least they didn't bring it up. So, she was a little startled to turn around, and suddenly see the same man standing in front of her again.
"Uh... do you want Aunt Jean?" Amelia asked tentatively, confused and a little wary as she watched the man again just stand and stare at her.
He shook his head slightly, before jerking his head, as if to tell her to follow him as he turned and began to walk away. She didn't move for several moments, until he was almost out of sight, before her curiosity got the better of her, and she jogged after him.
They made their way out to the gardens, specifically, Amelia's garden. Aunty Ororo had told her how, long ago, her mommy and daddy had made this garden for her. There was even a concrete bench, that had handprints pressed into it, a tiny set with the name 'AMELIA' written into the stone underneath it. A bigger set labelled 'MOMMY'. And huge hand prints, almost as big as Uncle Hank's hands, labelled 'DADDY'. She used to come out here herself sometimes, when she used to like to think about her parents, and what they might have been like. She didn't like to think about them anymore, as a result she hadn't come out here in a long time so she was surprised to see that the garden had been weeded recently.
Amelia watched the man, Logan she recalled his name being, as he made his way to the bench with the handprints. Curiously she observed as he lay his hands over the prints marked mommy, as if he was trying to hold the hands that made the marks. When he simply stood there in silence for several more long minutes Amelia began to get uncomfortable. Why did he bring her out here? It looked like he didn't want to tell her, so she was going to ask.
"Who are you?" she asked determinedly, hoping the man didn't hear the tiny quiver of fear in her voice.
He glanced at her sadly over his shoulder, before he gestured for her to come closer. When he deemed she was close enough he moved his left hand, laying his hand perfectly into the largest handprint, the one marked daddy. He then glanced back at her, to see if she understood.
Amelia couldn't breathe, she didn't dare to. This man was- was her daddy?! She had always assumed her parents were dead, she hadn't been able to think of another reason why no one would talk about them. This man was very clearly alive though, it seemed he had even been back to the school before. Why had he never even talked to her? Did he not like her? Where did he go? Why did he leave her here all alone...?
Hurt and anger swirled inside her, mixing with confusion and an overwhelming urge to cry. She wanted this man, whoever he was, to go away again, and take all these hurting feelings away with him. How could she make him leave again?
"Who is Marie?" she blurted suddenly, angrily. That question had made him leave last time, maybe it would work again.
Without a word the man moved his hand from the daddy handprint, back to the mommy handprint. This time his eyes were closed, and he didn't look at her for several moments before he spoke for the first time.
"Marie... is your mommy," he murmured gruffly. Several moments ticked by in silence, neither individual seeming to know what to say next, until Logan continued.
"I remember when we made this, Marie was worried the concrete - the chemicals in it - would hurt your hands so she got your oldest, dirtiest pair of gloves so you wouldn't get any wet cement on your skin - you can see the tiny seam lines-" he used a large blunt finger to trace the tiny baby-size finger prints- "Later she filled the ruined gloves with cement and posed them, when they set she had a tiny pair of hands that--" he broke off, glancing around the garden, before he moved to a flower bed and bobbed down, pushing back some flowers to expose a tiny pair of moss covered hands grabbing hold of flower stalks. "I guess the flowers grew," he commented with a chuckle.
"You had the tiniest little hands and feet but they grew so fast, every few weeks your mommy was making you new pairs of gloves, she used to get so frustrated with the tiny little finger creases but she stuck at it for hours until she got each pair perfect, she didn't like that you had to wear gloves but it was safer for you, you wanted cuddles at the drop of a hat, sometimes without any warning, and you were so little you didn't know to not touch mommy's skin; she didn't want poorly fitting gloves to hinder you learning your fine motor skills though," the man murmured softly, a smile growing on his face as he spoke more.
"Your mommy loved you so much," he eventually said, turning to Amelia with tears in his eyes.
"Where is she?" Amelia asked in return, her anger having faded away to be replaced by a deep longing for the mother she had never known.
"... How much did you hear the other night?" Logan asked, as he returned to, and took a seat on the bench, patting the space next to him for Amelia.
"I don't know, not enough to make much sense I guess," Amelia replied, taking a seat next to... next to her daddy.
"I suppose I should start from the beginning then," the man said with a sigh, taking a deep breathe before he began to speak. "When you were about two years old--"
"No," Amelia interrupted, "Start right from the beginning, start from when you met mommy, tell me everything," she begged.
"From when we met? Okay then, when we met... It was mid fall, in Canada, I was doing what I used to do back then, drifting from one town to the next, I was minding my own business in a b- place, when your mommy came in out of the snow, only, I didn't know at that point that she would one day be your mommy, I just knew she was the prettiest girl I had ever laid eyes on, way too pretty to be in that place, and way too pretty to ever like me... but, things happened, and the next thing I knew she was asking me for a ride, she didn't want to walk to the next town through the snow.
"So, I gave her a ride, it seemed like a good way to get to spend some time with the pretty girl, and I discovered real quick she wasn't just pretty on the outside, she was so pretty on the inside too - kind, caring, smart, and funny - perfect. Anyway, a little way down the road some big ugly fu-fella who had been following her attacked us, and that's when the X-Men came in, Scott and Ro, they showed up to stop the ugly guy and brought us here. Things happened, the guy the ugly one was working for kidnapped Marie, she almost died but we saved her, and she kind of found out I thought she was real pretty. She stayed here at the school to finish her studying, and when she was finished studying, me and her finished that trip she had been on back at the beginning, when we first met each other. Then we got married, and everything was so perfect, we were on the X-Men team together, we were best friends, and I loved her more than anything.
"Then you came along, your mommy was so scared when she found out you were going to be born - you see, her mutation, it couldn't be controlled, and she was scared her mutation would hurt you, or she would never be able to cuddle you or kiss you like a mommy should with her baby, but she was so happy too, she loved you so much, we both did, you were so perfect, and Marie found ways to give you all the cuddles and kisses a baby needed from her mommy. Your mommy stopped being an X-Man when she found out you were coming, she wanted you have the best chance to grow big and strong, so she stopped going on missions for a while.
"When you were two years old, she went on her first mission after you were born... We had a big fight that day, I didn't want her to go, I didn't want her to leave you behind, I didn't want her to leave me behind, before when we were on the X-Men we were a team, we always went on missions together but she wanted to go without me this time, because one of us always had to stay with you, I was scared... She said it would be fine, she would tell me that again when she got back, and she left... And she didn't come back," he said in almost a whisper.
"What happened?" Amelia barely breathed, heart in her throat as she waited to hear, finally, what had happened to her parents.
"It was supposed to be an easy mission, just a basic pick up, to ease her back into the role... but it was a trap. The person they were supposed to be picking up tricked them, they were ambushed. Scott--"
"Uncle Scott?" Amelia interrupted to query.
"Yeah, Uncle Scott, he was hurt really bad, shot a few times in his leg and his ribs, he still walks with a bit of a limp sometimes because of it, even though your Aunt Jean did her best to patch him up... But what happened to Marie, no one knows, she wasn't there, whoever set the ambush, they must have known about her, they must have been there for her, she has a very powerful mutation, and they took her for it," Logan told her. "I've been looking for her ever since, I needed to get her home, to me, to you...
"I didn't realise how long it had been until I saw you the other night, the days, weeks... years, they all just blended together I guess. I knew who you were the moment I saw you, you look just like your mommy," Logan murmured, smiling at her as he pulled a photograph from his pocket, it was old and tattered, creased and a little faded, obviously well loved. "I'm sorry I haven't been here for you, you see, your mommy, she has a part of me, with her, and without that part... I'm not all of me, I can't, function, without her, I couldn't be your daddy when the rest of me was lost out there, I felt... I feel, so guilty, that I let Marie down - I should have been with her - that I let you down - I lost you your mommy - I knew I would be a shitty dad in that state so I resolved to find her. I have to find her, I have to get her back, for her, for you, for me.
"Please forgive me," Logan murmured softly. Though whether he was talking to her, or to the photograph still in his hand, Amelia wasn't sure.
"Why did you come back to the school the other night?" Amelia asked softly, consideringly; she wasn't sure if she wanted to forgive him yet.
"I got caught in a break-in while I was trying to find Marie, the X-Men came and busted me out and brought me back here, I only planned to stay until I had the strength to walk out the door," Logan admitted.
"Why did you never come to see me?" Amelia queried with a soft sniffle, as a tear dripped from her lashes and quickly ran down her cheek.
"Don't cry sweetheart, please baby, don't cry," Logan murmured, dropping onto his knees in front of her and wrapping his arms around her. "I'm so sorry baby, I truly didn't know how long it had been, it... it hurt me too much to see you, I was selfish, I couldn't handle the guilt that ate me up every time I saw you, so I stayed away... I know now that was wrong of me, I hurt you even more, and I am so, so sorry," he whispered into her hair, as she gave in to sob into his chest.
How long they sat there holding each other Amelia didn't know, a familiar voice calling her name finally broke their attention and their hold, just as Jean stepped into the garden.
"Oh, sorry, I-I'll leave you two alone," Jean hurriedly stuttered, before she backed away quickly.
When peace returned to their sheltered little spot Logan turned back to Amelia. "Can you forgive me sweetheart?" he asked, his eyes showing her how sorry he was to have been the cause of her pain and tears. "I can't promise I'll stay, I can't promise to be here, not until I find Marie, I won't ever stop looking for her, not until I have her home to both of us... I promise to be a better dad though, I'll call you when I can, I'll stop in and see you when I pass through or I'm close by... can you live with that?"
Amelia thought for a while. Yes, she thought she could live with that. At least she knew now. She understood, her parents weren’t dead, and they didn't abandon her, at least not for selfish reasons. Her daddy was doing this for her, because he loved her and her mommy so much. With a soft smile, she nodded. "Yes, I forgive you, and I can live with that," she agreed, wrapping her arms around him again.
When he pulled back from her finally, he smiled softly. "You are so much like your mommy, not just the way you look, you have her good heart too," he told her gently, tucking loose hair behind her ear, "I am so proud of you, and I love you more than you can ever know."
After a few more hugs and kisses Logan finally stepped back, taking her hand to walk her back inside. He paused at the door, and gave her one last hug before he sent her inside, where Amelia knew cake and birthday celebrations would be waiting for her. Somehow she just knew, daddy didn't like parties like that, so he wouldn't be coming with her but she didn't feel sad about that anymore. She stayed long enough at the doorway to offer daddy a final wave as he drove away, before she scampered inside.
When she opened her birthday presents, an unmarked present, wrapped in plain brown paper, caught her attention. She got one every year for her birthday, and one for Christmas. Suddenly she knew, all those presents had been from her daddy, proving even more that he hadn't forgotten about her. This year’s present was the most precious one of all; a photograph of her when she was only little, brown curls blowing in every which direction where she sat on her mommy's knee, as mommy laughed at Amelia showing her some bug she had accidentally squished. Daddy was sitting behind them, his hand resting on mommy’s hip as he watched over them, a soft smile on his face.
Later, as Amelia prepared to blow out the candles on her birthday cake, she knew exactly what she wanted to wish for:
'I wish daddy will find mommy, and they will both come home soon.'