Last Minute Save (Or Let the Damsel Save You).
"Ya know ya should've done this days ago," Jake casually said as he leaned back in the passenger's seat of the old Jeep. It was less than comfortable with his tall, lanky frame, but he made it look good. "Twenty years with Mom an' you still don't remember her birthday?"
Logan looked over and gave his son a look, then back to the road. He'd heard this too many times to count already. "I remembered it," he grumbled.
"An' ya waited until her birthday ta get a gift?"
Jake grinned. Dad's answers always got short when he was feeling guilty. "Just so there aren't any more additions to the family."
"The woman is hard to shop for, even after twenty years," Logan added. "The only surprises I ever been able to pull over on her were babies."
"Like I said, no more sisters. We'll find somethin'. Shouldn't be that hard."
"If it was easy I woulda done it by now."
"How can it be that hard? It's Mom. Chocolate, tea, black boots, take your pick."
"One o' these days you'll be havin' the same problem. We'll see if it's still easy."
"No way, old man," Jake replied shaking his head. "I'm gonna have 'em all figured out."
Logan shot Jake a smirk. Spoken like a confident young man who thought he invited sex. "We ain't Mormans or Arabs; ya only get one wife."
Jake laughed. "I meant women in general. But I could always change my religion."
"Keep it up, boy an' your ma'll get grandbabies for her birthday."
Jake laughed, harder this time. "No way. None for me. Ever."
"Never say never," Logan chuckled. "I'll be the one tellin' ya I told ya so when I'm bouncin' one of your rugrats on my knee."
"So, back to Mom's gift." Jake had to get him off the subject fast. "Do you have anythin' in mind?"
Logan shot Jake a look.
"Right. Ya don't. Why didn't ya ask one of the girls to help?"
"I did. They said I was on my own on this one. Nagged me 'bout waitin' ta the last minute an' what not." Four daughters and not one of them would take pity on their father. What was the world coming to when a father couldn't bribe one of his kids to help pick out a birthday present, he didn't know. It wasn't hiding his poker losses or anything hard.
"I should've thought of that."
"So, wise guy, what did you get her?"
Jake's mouth stretched into a grin. "I'm not sayin'."
"Right. You didn't get her anythin' yet either."
"I was workin' on it!"
"You know we're not goin' ta get to the mall anytime today if ya keep slowin' down."
"Tell that to the other cars, smart ass. 'Sides, looks like someone could use some help," Logan said as he maneuvered the Jeep off the road and came to stop behind a disabled vehicle. The line of cars had been slow for the last fifteen minutes, but it didn't seem that anyone stopped to help the late model sedan get back underway. Not even a cop in sight.
"Damsel in distress...it ain't *my* birthday," Jake smirked, peering through the windshield. He couldn't see anyone sitting in the car, but there appeared to be someone working on the engine. "Not that I'm complainin'..."
"Keep talkin' like that an' I'm gonna tell Maggie," Logan shot back as he opened his door to climb out of the Jeep.
"Maggie knows I'm a flirt," Jake defended, exiting the other side.
"Dunno why she puts up you sometimes," Logan grumbled as the two of them slowly approached the stranded car.
"Could say the same about you an' Ma, especially when you keep forgettin' her birthday."
"I said I didn't forget it," Logan said, exasperated, as he walked around and looked into the engine compartment.
"Well, ya sure ain't the best at what you do if you call this remembering...." Jake walked to the other side and smiled at the pale, startled face.
"I told ya I was busy." Jake was almost as bad as the girls were when he asked them for help with Alex's gift. He knew he should've gone to Jean, Rogue or Storm for help, but knowing them, he would've heard the same things out of their mouths. Logan glanced back at the woman beside him. "Need some help?"
With a flip of brown hair, catching a lock behind her ear, the woman looked at him for a long moment and slowly nodded. Her eyes ran over his face several times, as if she was unsure of what to make of the man offering to help. She first thought the engine had overheated and shut down. Waiting for it to cool, she tried to start it several times, but it wouldn't turn over. A sinking feeling in her stomach told her she should've gotten it to the mechanic long before now. Hindsight was going to be expensive, she just knew it.
"Don't worry 'bout him," Jake tried to assure her. Dad was the original Wild Man, and sometimes his expression matched his mood. "He's not as mean as he looks, an' his bark is worse than his bite."
"I'm sorry, you just look…familiar to me for a second," she said with unabashed grace. Her voice was calm with an underlying edge, just like Alex's when she was in full Mom tasking mode.
"I get that all the time," Logan lied blandly as he flashed her a half grin before turning his attention to the open hood.
"Stop braggin'," Jake admonished. "Ma'am, if you'd give it a try we'll see what we can do for ya."
The woman stepped back from them and watched as both men spread out under the hood, each testing and poking various spots in the way shade tree mechanics tend to do. She was also presented to two back sides that were definitely worth looking at, although her brain informed her that if she could take the time to appreciate such a view things weren't that bad.
"Sure," she said and slid back into the driver's seat. "I'm turning the key at the count of three!" Between the gap between the hood and car, she watched as hands disappeared from view and turned the key.
After a few moments of listening to the car trying to start, Logan motioned for the woman to stop trying. "That's enough," he called.
"Sounds like the starter," Jake said as he leaned farther over the side of the car.
"Ain't the starter," Logan disagreed. "Didn't ya learn anythin' in all the years you've been workin' on cars? She was probably in the middle of drivin' when it stopped runnin'. The starter cuttin' out wouldn't stop a car."
"Ain't the battery," Jake observed. "Fuel pump?" he asked, blue eyes looking up and into matching blue eyes.
"Looks like the fuel pump went." Jake looked over his shoulder at her, watching the look on her face sink. His thinly veiled Knight-in-Shining-Armor impulse surged up. "Don't worry. We'll get a tow to a garage an' give ya a ride to wherever you're goin'."
A flood of thoughts washed over her face at his offer: alarm, suspicion, and cautious gratitude. "Thanks," she sighed heavily with a detectable slump to her shoulders. "I appreciate the offer."
"All part of the friendly service," Jake smiled. He pulled a cell from a pant pocket and began dialing. A moment later he was talking on the phone to Smitty, the man who ran a garage in Salem Center, one that Jake and Logan knew well. "A truck will be out in 'bout thirty," Jake said as he hung up the phone and stuffed it back in his jeans pocket. "You don't need ta stick 'round. Smitty's a reliable guy. We'll give ya lift to your next stop. "
"Just home," she replied. "I live on the other side of town. I was just out running some errands."
"Not a problem," Jake assured her. He pulled out his wallet and withdrew a business card. "Here. Smitty's card. You can call him 'bout your car when you get home."
"Thank you. I'll get my things."
Logan closed the hood and walked back to the Jeep, content to let Jake handle the woman for now. Digging a rag out of the Jeep, he started to wipe the grease off of his hands. He'd never hear the end of it from his wife if he came home with grease stains on another shirt. Grease stains and lipstick; they were the two substances on the planet that were guaranteed to send his wife into a snit.
"Ready?" he called out when he noticed it had been awhile and Jake and the woman were still fussing about the disabled car.
"We're comin'," Jake called back as he watched the woman grab a few things from the front seat.
Logan shook his head and climbed into the driver's seat. First order of business was getting their damsel in distress home and then on to a more serious problem. What to get his wife for her birthday. It wasn't like he hadn't thought about it, he had, but the woman was damned near impossible to shop for. He was going to take her shopping and let her pick out what she wanted, but then he'd have to hear about it not being a surprise. This from the same woman who had said countless times she didn't like surprises.
Logan started the Jeep as Jake climbed in to the back and the woman slid into the passenger's seat.
"Where to, darlin'?"
"The nearest bus stop would be fine," she replied a little wary about letting complete strangers know where she lived. The 'darlin' was nice to hear, though, easy on the nerves yet thick with promise for the right woman.
Logan shrugged and muttered under his breath about difficult women.
"You have to excuse my old man," Jake said as he leaned forward with a smile on his face to talk to her, "but his shorts are in a bunch because today's my mother's birthday an' he still hasn't gotten her a gift." The smile on his face grew when he heard grumbles come from his father. "Jake," he said extending a hand, "Jake Xavier. Grumpy's name is Logan."
The woman smiled for the first time since Jake and Logan had pulled over to help her. "Teri," she said taking the offered hand. "My name's Teri. And thank you so much for the help."
"Our pleasure, ma'am. We love helpin' out damsels in distress," Jake grinned as he released her hand.
She laughed. "Yeah, I guess I was."
"You know," Jake started as he turned to look at Logan, "you could always get her season tickets to the Symphony."
"Only as a last resort," Logan grumbled. "Don't want your ma thinkin' I wanna go."
Jake laughed knowing how much his old man hated going to the Symphony and how many times his mother had made him go. Mom was sly when it came to getting the old man to go, or at least she thought she was. She'd wait until he owed her and then she would make him take her to the Symphony as a payback, but his father fully expected it. It was one of the small games they played with each other over the years.
"It may not be my place to say something, but have you considered jewelry?"
Logan glanced over at Teri. "She ain't the jewelry wearin' type. Flowers are out too."
Logan shook his head.
"Chocolate is an everyday thing," Jake advised her. "Nothin' special about it."
"Costs me enough each month," Logan grumbled.
"What would work for me is a romantic vacation I don't have to arrange, just my husband and I, and no children," Teri suggested.
Logan thought about it for a few moments. It could be a solution to his problem and his wife might just go for it, if he kidnapped her and didn't give her a choice about it. It had been a while since the two of them have had any amount of time alone together.
"It's a possibility," he finally said.
"No cooking, no cleaning, no laundry..." Her voice trailed off in a dreamy haze. "I wouldn't care where it was as long as it had room service."
"I can hold down the fort an' keep Hannah an' Rowan in line," Jake added.
"You'd be the first one startin' trouble."
"I'll stay outta trouble an' tell Ma it's my gift to her."
Logan chuckled. "Ya know she ain't gonna believe that one. You haven't managed to stay outta trouble since the day you were born."
"I like ta think that I keep things interestin' 'round the house," Jake grinned as he winked at Teri.
"We could use a lil' less interestin'," Logan grumbled as he maneuvered the Jeep in and out of traffic. "'Specially when the five of ya got into it."
"Five!" Teri exclaimed. "Oh, your wife needs more than a vacation. She needs a personal slave!"
"That's what the old man is for," Jake beamed with a large smile on his face. "Or at least to hear Mom tell it." He winked at Teri again.
"Then you must have a reputation to protect, Logan. A romantic getaway, with the kids as a cherished but distant memory is every woman's dream for a break with reality."
Logan shrugged. A vacation sounded nice. He could handle a week or two being away from the headache that was the X-Men and a week away from the kids. The idea was sounding better and better, but he still had to convince Alex. That was going to be the tough part. Although if he played his cards right and got a little help from the kids, she'd agree to almost anything.
"It's an idea. Gonna keep the option open."
"So should the girls an' I cause a distraction so ya can get her to agree to go?" Jake grinned.
"Don't ya dare. She'll agree if I promise Summers will be babysittin'."
"You're talkin' like Scott an' Aunt Jean are gonna have their hands full. The twins an' I are gonna be at school, leavin' Hannah an' Rowan. Should be a cake walk."
"Like anythin' with you kids is a cake walk," Logan snorted. "Back me up here, Teri, kids always get inta trouble when they say they won't."
"Of course," she agreed. "They always find ways of getting into trouble, intentionally or unintentionally. I only have three, but they're a handful. I can't imagine having five to deal with."
"They're a handful, still are even though some are old enough ta know better."
"How old is the youngest?"
"Fourteen. Four more years an' they'll all be outta the house," Logan replied as a slow grin appeared on his face.
"You ain't gonna get rid of us that easily, old man," Jake grinned.
"You're all gonna be outta the house even if I have ta plant boot prints on your," he glanced over at Teri, "backsides. Then I'm gonna change the locks."
That got a laugh from Teri and Jake.
Logan slowed the Jeep and came to a stop in front of a bus stop. "Ya sure ya don't want a ride home?"
"I'm sure," Teri assured him. Her demeanor had lightened considerably during the ride. "You've done too much as it is."
"Glad ta be of help. Smitty'll take care of your car an' not charge ya an' arm an' a leg for it," Logan said as he fully intended to stop by the garage on the way home and make arrangements to take care of the bill. "'Sides, ya helped me out with that birthday problem."
"Your wife will love it," she assured him.
"I hope so. Don't like sleepin' on the couch too much," he joked.
Jake jumped out of the back and opened the door for Teri to step out of the jeep. He touched his forehead in a salute, grinning roguishly. "The old man doesn't sleep on the couch as much as he'd like people to think. Thanks for the idea, darlin'. Looks like I won't have to suffer at the mall with the old man cuttin' into my action."
Teri laughed as she climbed out of the Jeep. "I didn't think he spent much time sleeping on the couch considering he has five kids. Thank you again for the help."
"You're welcome. It was our pleasure. Take care of yourself."
Jake climbed back into the Jeep and took a glance back at the bus stop as the Jeep pulled away. "Looks like we earned our Scout badges for the day," he commented as he turned around and looked out the windshield. "The mall's the other way, old man."
Logan grinned. "My problem's been solved. You're on your own now, kid."