Bobby was keeping pace with Piotr, actually enjoying the feeling of jogging around the track when he noticed Marie standing at the side, watching.
"I'm sorry Pete. I'm done." Bobby said and waited for Pete to answer.
"You have done well Bobby. Perhaps we can run again tomorrow." Piotr said, keeping his pace.
"I'll be here. Thank you for letting me join you." Bobby said with appreciation.
"You are always welcomed. I believe Marie wants to speak with you." Piotr said.
"Yeah." Bobby said and jogged away from Piotr.
"Hi Marie." Bobby said and stopped before her.
"Hi. I got the flowers." Marie said cautiously.
"Good. I hoped you would like them." Bobby said and began to stretch to cool down.
"I just need to know why. What do you expect, since you've given me the flowers?" Marie asked and watched Bobby's reaction.
"I don't expect anything. The flowers were my way of saying I'm sorry. I wanted you to know. I don't expect you to forgive me or be my friend. I just want you to know that I'm sorry I treated you wrong and will never do anything to hurt you again." Bobby said seriously and stopped his stretching.
"If you're sorry, then can you tell me why you used me? I know, but I need to hear you say it." Marie said quietly.
"I used you because I didn't want to admit to anyone, even myself, that I was gay. I went through the motions of caring for you because I didn't care about your feelings, and it was the easiest way to get what I wanted... the perfect cover." Bobby said honestly, with a look of shame.
"What changed?" Marie asked, looking into Bobby's eyes.
"Jean. She showed me things that I'd tried to forget and... she changed me. It's like she tore me down and rebuilt me... inside. Marie, if you want me to stay away, I'll never talk to you again, I swear it. And if you ever want anything, all you have to do is ask and it's yours. I hurt you so much that I can never undo everything I did. I've screwed up my life so bad..." Bobby finally trailed off.
"It's okay Bobby. Let's start over. Since you've been rebuilt, let's just say that whatever the mean old Bobby did is gone with him. I can't say that I'm ready to be your friend yet, but I'm not your enemy. Can we leave it like that for a while?" Marie asked hopefully.
Bobby smiled and said, "Any way you want. This is more than I could have hoped for, and a lot more than I deserve. Thank you Marie."
"Go shower, you're all sweaty." Marie said and walked away.
* * * * *
"Jean, do you have a moment to talk with me?" Orroro asked with concern.
"Of course Orroro, what's got you so upset?" Jean asked and took a seat at the kitchen table.
"It's Hank. He won't talk to anyone or come out of his room. I am worried for him." Orroro said and let the concern show on her face.
"I know. I can't help but pick up his emotions... We need to let him deal with this in his own way. There is nothing we can do or say that will cause him to snap out of this, he has to do it for himself." Jean said seriously.
"But left to himself, he might become so despondent that he will... hurt himself. Jean, I cannot allow that to happen." Orroro said with a note of fear.
"Okay Orroro, I know of one thing that might help, but it will take me some time to get it together. Can you hold on till we get the kids back?" Jean asked in an almost pleading tone.
"I can do that. As long as I know that something will be done, I can endure." Storm said, forcing herself to calm.
"Good, once the kids are back, I'll start working on it. Mr. Giles is probably done by now, I'd better get back to the others." Jean said and got up from the table.
"How are *you* Jean? You seem to have been going non-stop since you recovered from the virus." Storm asked with concern.
"Thank you for worrying Orroro, but I'm fine. The virus actually made me stronger, increased my abilities and my clearness of thinking. It's like being truley awake for the first time in my life." Jean said with a joyful smile.
"That is good. But take care, you have been ill for days, do not overtax yourself." Orroro said gently.
"I'll be careful, now I've got to go." Jean said and bounced out of the room.
* * * * *
"All the supplies will arrive by this time tomorrow." Giles announced to the group.
"Even the Grue's milk?" Dawn asked with a grin.
"Yes." Giles said absently then got a mischievous smile, "Don't tell me that someone..."
"Yup. My sister Buffy." Dawn said with a chuckle.
"Would you let the rest of us in on the joke?" Charles asked with curiosity.
"Go ahead Dawn, it's your story." Giles said and settled back to listen.
"Okay. One time back in Sunnydale, someone was about to open the hellmouth and Giles... our Giles, sent Buffy out to get Grue's milk as one of the ingredients to close the gate." Dawn said with a smile.
"Um, what's a Grue?" Tara asked quietly.
"It's like a troll, but slimier. And they're all female." Dawn said quickly.
"Go on." Giles said, trying to contain his laughter.
"Buffy finally tracked down a Grue, living in a junkyard outside town. She fought... fought the thing for nearly three hours... trying... trying to milk it..." Dawn said, really trying not to laugh... and failing.
"Xander and Anya were with her, and finally... Anya says, 'She probably keeps it in her refrigerator.'" Dawn said and burst into laughter.
Giles saw that the others weren't getting it and said, "Grue's milk is a concoction that they brew and drink, not something that they produce..."
"Buffy spent three hours trying to milk that poor thing, and there was a jug of the stuff not twenty feet away from her." Dawn said and broke up into uncontrollable laughter.
"Your sister must have upset my counterpart quite a bit to elicit such a vindictive reaction." Giles said with a smile.
"Yeah. I think that was when she barged in on him and Ethan... a friend and then told *everyone* what she saw." Dawn said and cast an apologetic look at Giles.
Giles tried to look nonchalant as the slightest blush could be seen creeping up his face.
"Mr. Giles, Miss Ololafhey, would you join us for lunch? It is a little past time and we'd enjoy having you." Charles said graciously.
"Thank you. And we didn't take the time to make accommodations before we left, so I could do that while lunch is being prepared." Giles said and moved back to the phone.
"Please stay here with us. I insist. There is plenty of room here and you are both welcomed." Charles said and moved for the door.
"Thank you Charles. I believe I'd like to accept your invitation." Giles said.
"I be stayin too, but only if you call me Kendra. Nobody call me by de last name but de lawman an de doctor, an I don wan to tink bout bein wit eider of dem." Kendra said with ferocity.
"Very well Kendra, please come in the dining room and have lunch with us. I believe there is little else we can do until supplies arrive." Charles said and led the way.
* * * * *
There was a knock on the door and Xander ran to answer it.
"Come on in guys, lunch is almost ready." Xander said with a happy smile.
"Xander, introduce me to your friends." Aunt Vada said happily.
"Aunt Vada, this is Alex Summers and his brother Scott. They are the ones who drove us down here." Xander said as he radiated joy.
"Xander, you go in and turn the chicken, we don't want it to burn." Vada said and motioned Scott and Alex into the living room.
"Thank you ma'am." Scott said shyly and took a seat.
"Take your sunglasses off inside the house." Vada said sternly.
"I'm sorry, I can't. I have a medical condition." Scott said quietly as Alex took his off.
"Oh, alright then. Nothing serious I hope?" Vada asked and took her own chair.
"No, I've had it since I was a kid. I can't stand the light. Thank you for inviting us to lunch." Scott said, trying to change the subject.
"I enjoy having company. So you two are brothers? How did you come to be at the institute?" Vada asked pleasantly.
"I'm a teacher there... and a student. Alex is visiting me from Hawaii." Scott said and relaxed into the couch.
"Hawaii... Oh I've always wanted to go there, but Mr. Jeffers and I could never seem to make it happen." Vada said with a dreamy look.
"It's just as beautiful as you imagine. I love living there." Alex said with a gentle smile.
"I bet. A handsome young man like you must have a dozen women chasing him all over the islands." Vada said with a chuckle.
"Not even one... but I'm just eighteen, there's plenty of time for that." Alex said and took a deep inhale of the aroma of cooking chicken.
"Listen to your Aunt Vada. There is never enough time for that. I had fourty-seven years with Mr. Jeffers before the good Lord took him from me and it wasn't nearly enough. I know people are always saying to wait till your older and financially secure, but I'm telling you to find it now, hold on with both hands and don't let go for anything." Vada said strongly.
"I'll remember that." Alex said quietly.
Xander called from the kitchen, "I think the chicken's done."
"Chickens are sneaky, they'll lie to you. Give it a few more minutes to be sure." Vada called out over her shoulder.
"Yes ma'am." sounded from the kitchen and Vada turned her attention back to Scott and Alex.
"I need to know something about Xander and Remy. I'm a pretty good judge of people and can tell that they're both good men, but they haven't said anything about what they do for a living..." Vada said while watching Scott and Alex carefully.
Scott remembered the bio that the Professor had written for Xander and said, "Xander inherited quite a bit of money from his adoptive parents, so money isn't a big problem for him."
"And he has a job waiting for him at Worthington industries as soon as he's ready to take it." Alex threw in, not wanting Xander to sound like a spoiled rich kid.
"Hmmm. How did he get a job like that?" Vada asked with genuine curiosity.
"Warren Worthington is a friend of ours, he used to go to the institute and stops in every now and then. He and Xander got to talking and Warren offered him a job." Scott said, glad that Alex had thought to mention that.
"What about Remy?" Vada asked curiously.
"Well, he was completely blind until... yesterday. I don't know what his plans are. He probably hasn't had time to make any." Scott said with a shrug.
"I think it's ready." Xander called from the kitchen.
"Then bring it out to the table, hot pads are in the drawer by the refrigerator." Vada called out and got up out of her chair.
"Let's all go into the dining room and enjoy this meal." Vada said with a smile.
Alex and Scott obediently followed.
* * * * *
Jean, Tara and Dawn went to the kitchen to quickly prepare lunch for the group as Bobby entered.
"Hey, do you need any help?" Bobby asked shyly.
"Sure Bobby, would you put together a salad while we make the sandwiches?" Dawn said as she was pulling things from the refrigerator.
"Sure. What's going on?" Bobby asked as he began getting things together for a salad.
"Mr. Giles and Kendra are here to help us open a doorway to get the kids back." Dawn said as she started assembling a dozen sandwiches.
"Great, it's been really quiet without them, I hope they're okay." Bobby said, feeling a stab of shame at his lack of concern for them earlier.
"Angel and Buffy will make sure they're alright. But I miss them too, I can't wait to get them back." Dawn said as she worked.
"Is this enough soup?" Tara asked quietly.
"I think so, with the salad and sandwiches it should be just about right." Jean said as she pulled a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator.
"Is there enough?" Dawn asked at Jean's look of disappointment.
"No. Someone put an empty pitcher in the refrigerator." Jean said with an exasperated look.
"Then we'll have to make some more." Dawn said and began putting the tops on the sandwiches.
"It'll be warm." Jean said with a sour look.
"Excuse me, Iceman here." Bobby said as he finished washing vegetables.
"Yeah, thanks Bobby." Jean said and began making the tea.
"Do we have some good tea for hot tea? Mr. Giles likes that." Dawn said quickly.
"Yes, I don't think Orroro would mind if we used a little of hers." Jean said and pulled the tea from the cabinet.
"It's not in tea bags is it? I don't want to hear the tea bag lecture from Giles again..." Dawn said and began cutting the sandwiches into wedges.
"No, it's real tea leaves. The water will be ready for it in just a minute." Jean said with a smile.
"The soup is ready." Tara said and turned off the stovetop.
"Since we have company, let's do it fancy and put it in the tureen. It's right over there." Jean said with a quick gesture to some shelves.
"Please let me get that for you Tara." Bobby said quickly and went to the shelves.
Tara cast a surprised look at Dawn who shrugged and began stacking the sandwiches on a platter.
"Bobby, I think I'm about ready for you to add your special touch." Jean said as she looked at the pitcher of steaming hot tea.
Bobby handed the tureen to Tara then focused his power very carefully on the tea pitcher. He could feel the excited molecules, rushing around, expending their heat. He caused the molecules to slow their dance a little at a time and just before they stopped, he stopped.
"Um, Bobby?" Jean said quietly.
"What?" Bobby asked and turned his attention to Jean.
Jean looked at him and he followed her gaze to look at his arm. His body had become living ice. Without knowing it, his power had transformed him.
"Sorry, I've got to get used to the new level of power." Bobby said in embarrassment.
"And you've got to get some weatherproof clothes." Dawn said as she watched the jeans and T-shirt flaking off his body.
"Oh shit!" Bobby gasped and ran from the room.
The women all laughed and began hauling the food into the next room full of hungry people.
* * * * *
As Vada took her place at the table heavily laden with food she said, "Dear Lord, thank you for your bounty and these good men who've come to share it with me. Thank you for sending them to care for the baby. I seldom pray for you to send me help, and I thank you for sending it this time. Amen."
Scott and Alex both looked in surprise at Remy and Xander.
"Did Remy forget to mention bout de baby?" Remy asked with an innocent smile.
"Yeah, you skipped that part." Alex said with a chuckle.
"Oh dear, you must have thought I was a nosy old woman, asking about Xander and Remy's jobs like that." Vada said with her own chuckle.
"Aunt Vada, if we can get everything in order to adopt the baby, you are still going to be her grandmother. If we're her parents and you're her grandmother, then that makes us family. And family aren't nosy, they're just concerned. Go ahead and ask whatever you want." Xander said fondly.
"Okay, since you offered, what happened to your eye?" Vada asked and picked up a piece of chicken.
"BB gun." Xander said without a moments hesitation.
"I knew it! I warned all my kids about that, and they never would believe me." Vada said in triumph.
"Xander be waitin for a new eye like Remy was." Remy said, then took a bite from his corn on the cob.
"Really? It's good to know that modern medicine can do that, I hope it won't be too long a wait." Vada said and took a bite of her macaroni salad.
"I'm on a list. The expected wait is a year. Remy was just lucky..." Xander began and regretted saying the words immediately.
Vada saw the stricken look come over Xander's face and said, "Don't worry Xander. It hurts, but it won't honor Maggie's memory to stop talking about her. She's still part of the family, now it's just the family history."
"Thank you Aunt Vada." Xander said quietly.
"So, if you two are going to adopt the baby, does that mean you're already married?" Vada asked and took another bite of chicken.
"Um, no. We aren't... we haven't..." Xander stammered.
"What Xander be sayin is dat we not do anyting official yet. We not been together dat long." Remy said smoothly.
"Before you try to adopt the baby, you probably should. I don't think the courts would grant an adoption to two single men without some kind of formal relationship." Vada said in speculation.
"She be right." Remy said and put his hand over Xander's on the table. "Xander, you wanna marry Remy?" he asked quietly.
Silence filled the room for a long moment.
The next sound that could be heard was Xander's head hitting the table.