Icheb and Marie walked into the kitchen.
"We're going to have lasagna tonight. Turn the oven on to four hundred degrees and I'll get the lasagna out of the freezer." Marie said and walked to the far side of the room.
Icheb looked at the stove and turned the knob until it pointed to 400. He turned back to Marie.
"Do you know how to make salad?" Marie asked as she pulled four family size lasagnas from their boxes.
"No, I have never prepared any type of food before... I do not eat." Icheb said shyly.
"How do you keep from starving?" Marie asked as she put the four foil pans in the oven.
"At night I am connected to a device called a regeneration alcove that recharges my systems. It provides the nutrients that my body needs." Icheb said hesitantly.
Marie noticed the expression on Icheb's face; the feeling of being abnormal, an outsider. She put a gloved hand on his arm and said quietly, "Don't worry about it. Everyone here is different, that's why we're here."
Icheb reached up and put his hand on her exposed arm.
"Don't!" Marie said and pulled back as if she had been burned.
"I'm sorry." Icheb said immediately with horror.
Marie looked at Icheb's expression of terror and forced herself to calm. "I just don't want you to be hurt. If anyone touches my skin, I absorb their energy. I didn't mean to scream at you." She said timidly.
"I wish to understand, could I touch your arm again, just enough to know what you're talking about?" Icheb asked with hope.
"Yeah, but if you pass out, I'm going to wait for you to wake up before making the salad, you're not getting out of helping me that easily." Marie said and waited for Icheb to touch her.
He hesitantly placed a hand on her bare arm and waited for a reaction.
And nothing happened.
"I do not feel any draining sensation." Icheb said quietly.
"You can touch me?" Marie asked in wonder.
"It would seem so." Icheb said with a smile.
* * * * *
Ronny looked around the room and saw that it was different. The floor was littered with packages and medical instruments. The light was dimmer and the door was standing open.
"Where are you mutie fag?" Ronny called out and noticed a strange echo quality in his voice.
Slowing he got off the bed and walked out of the room, looking in windows as he went. The silence was bothering him; there weren't any sounds around him. Even his footsteps didn't make a sound.
He looked into a window and saw a pile of dead bodies in the center of a room. They were so decomposed that he couldn't make out their features and identify them. He continued on in silence until he reached the elevator that he had come down on. He looked around and could not find a button to press to call the elevator.
"Shit." he muttered as he began looking for the stairs.
* * * * *
"So tell us about your time away. From the new additions to your family, I have a feeling that it is a tale quite beyond the ordinary." The Professor said to Andrew and Alan.
"Let's see... Alan was hurt, I found a vortex that was hanging open in space, on the other side I could just barely make out a ship that had an advanced medical lab so I took a chance and jumped us through." Andrew said.
"The jump caused Andrew to have a massive stroke that destroyed over seventy percent of his brain and I was near death from the explosion. Our new hosts on the ship healed us." Alan said with a fond smile.
"After some fine tuning, we made friends and decided to go ahead and get married." Andrew said and hugged Alan close.
"It was near that time that my siblings and I were found on a ship that was about to fall into a collapsing star." Trey said to the group.
"We volunteered to watch the children the first day they were on the ship and found that we really liked them." Andrew said happily.
"And on the day of our wedding, we realized that we loved them and wanted to adopt them all." Alan said with joy.
"We asked the ship's first officer what we would have to do to adopt the children and the Captain took over and held a hearing." Andrew said and glanced at Trey.
"After interviewing everyone involved, she decided to let us be adopted and we officially became a family." Trey said with a smile.
"For the next two months, I studied to be a field medic while Alan worked as an administrative assistant to the first officer." Andrew said fondly.
"Icheb and Jimmy worked as Anchorman and reporter on the ships news program, William and Robert worked in the mess hall helping out and Janine attended classes." Alan said then looked to Trey to tell his part.
"I worked in engineering. It was my responsibility to oversee and maintain the bioneural gelpacks for the ship." Trey said with pride.
"Then Dawn found a way to bring us home." Andrew said happily.
"I will assume that you have just given me a greatly condensed version of your time away." The Professor said with a fond smile then asked Trey. "You worked with bioneural circuitry? Are you familiar with the filtration of nutrients and interface protocols?"
"Yes, they are essential to the job I was doing." Trey said, impressed that the Professor knew about such things.
"Perhaps you could look at Cerebro and help me with the bioneural gel. It was contaminated some months ago and I haven't been able to purify it adequately. It has been necessary to purge the system at least once a week since." The Professor said with worry.
"I would be glad to help." Trey said with delight at the prospect of being able to contribute to his new home.
"Father, could you port me to my room for a minute. I want to teach Rachel, Theresa, Clarissa and Artie to play Kadis'ka." Janine asked hopefully.
"Go through that wall over there." Andrew said and pointed to an empty space on the wall between two bookshelves.
Janine ran through the wall and returned less than a minute later.
Theresa turned and led the way out of the room.
"I hope they get along okay. Janine can be vicious when she plays Kadis'ka." Andrew said with worry.
"Only when she plays with someone at her own level. Remember when she helped me learn to play? She was very patient until I was able to play on her level..." Alan said but was interrupted.
"...then she swooped in for the kill." Andrew said with a frank expression.
"I hope they'll get along." Alan said with the beginnings of worry in his voice.
* * * * *
Jimmy was laughing and clinging tightly to Warren as they glided through the air. Whenever they would come to rest on the roof or in a nearby tree, Kurt would teleport to join them.
"Can we rest for a minute? That was fun. What else do you do for fun?" Jimmy asked as he worked to make his breathing normal.
"What do you mean?" Warren asked in confusion.
"I mean, what do you do to have fun? Flying is great, but I wouldn't want to do it all the time." Jimmy said and looked at Warren with question.
"I like to read and watch old movies." Warren said as he pulled Jimmy close for a hug.
"What's that for Uncle Warren?" Jimmy asked as he enjoyed the warm hug in the cool breeze.
"That's because you treated me like a person instead of a pair of wings. So many people see the wings and believe that they are all that I am. You just naturally assumed that there was more to me, that I enjoy other things. That's why." Warren said as he continued the hug.
"Can you fly me to the boathouse? I have something to show you." Jimmy asked hopefully.
"Can Kurt come too?" Warren asked kindly.
"Of course." Jimmy said and snuggled close as Warren launched them into the air.
Kurt smiled and teleported directly to the boathouse roof so he could watch Warren and Jimmy approach.
* * * * *
Angel became silent and allowed the boys to think about his story and formulate their questions.
"If Spike was a demon, how could he love Buffy?" William finally asked.
"Because even when he lost his soul, he never lost his capacity for love. The heart of the poet continued to live on in him. He loved Drucilla and Buffy... even me in his own way. But his demon led him to express his love in some interesting ways." Angel said with a pained smile.
"You miss him, don't you father?" Chris asked quietly.
"Yes. Even though my demon isn't in control anymore, I feel his absence. But what I feel for Spike isn't the same as what I feel for you Chris. You are my son, Spike was my childe. I don't know if I can explain it, but it's like Spike was the offspring of my demon and you are the offspring of my soul." Angel tried to explain.
"If I understood correctly, Angel is your name since you have control of your demon, Angelus. What was your human name?" William asked shyly.
"Liam. Liam O'Rourke. I don't expect you to understand, but I'm not him anymore, not since the demon was added." Angel said with a sad smile.
"Before I was called William my designation was Four of Seven. I took the name William to show that I am no longer what the Borg made, but what I made of myself." William said honestly.
"You do understand. What was your name before you were Four?" Angel asked while looking into William's eyes.
"I do not know. Icheb is the only one of us who has any memory from before the Borg. The rest of us were... deconstructed and remade into what the Borg wanted us to be." William said with a regretful tone.
"Can I have a new name?" Chris asked from the bed.
"Do you know what name you'd like?" Angel asked carefully.
"I'd like the last name O'Rourke so I would really be your son." Chris said with certainty.
"Michael Christian O'Rourke?" Angel asked in confirmation
"Michael Christian O'Rourke." He said with a happy smile as he said the name.
"I'll talk to the Professor and see if he can help to change your name. I don't know how much trouble it will be, but we'll get it done." Angel promised.
"And I will tell my family that you have decided to change your name, they will all understand, all of us have had at least three different names so far. My dad has had more with his mutant names." William said frankly.
"I guess I need a mutant name too... how do I get one of those?" Chris asked with confusion.
"Allow me to help you with that." William said and left the room.
* * * * *
Bobby and Robert finally released their hug and sat back in the chairs.
"Thank you. I do not know you... but I feel as though I have known you for a long time." Robert said with embarrassment and confusion.
"I know what you mean. I can't relate with all that you've been through, but I've known enough pain in my life that I can understand what you're feeling." Bobby said with assurance.
"Can you speak of your pain? I will promise as you did, never to tell another." Robert asked shyly.
Bobby thought about it and finally said, "Okay, but tell me if you want me to stop. It's bad."
"Okay, come here." Robert said as he stood and held open his arms.
"It was my father, he hurt me. I loved him and he hurt me." Bobby said as he held Robert close.
"Go on." Robert said and began stroking Bobby's back.
"He used to be sorry afterward and give me all kinds of attention and love... but later he just hurt me without caring. I wanted to love him so bad and I wanted him to love me. But he didn't." Bobby said as he broke down into tears.
"Then you need a new dad like mine. They love me and would never hurt me. I was hit with an electrical discharge, Father breathed for me and forced my heart to start working again. If you asked, I know that you could be part of my family too." Robert said in a comforting tone.
"Your Father already told me that I was part of his family. That I am his friend and that you were named after me. And it helps, just sometimes, the old hurts come back and I can't get them out of my mind." Bobby said as he pulled out of the hug.
"When that happens, come to me and tell me. We will do this for each other and make each other better." Robert said with certainty.
"You've got a deal. When either of us feels a black mood coming on, we'll get together and tell each other our feelings. That way neither of us ever have to be alone." Bobby said with a pained smile.
"We are part of a family who love us. We are never alone." Robert said absolutely.
* * * * *
"Can I kiss you?" Marie asked hopefully.
"What?" Icheb asked in shock.
"I haven't been able to kiss anyone without causing them pain in years, could I please kiss you?" Marie asked hopefully.
Icheb remembered all the times he had seen his fathers express their love and moved in to give Marie a full deep kiss. After a moment's hesitation, she gave into the feeling and allowed Icheb's exploring tongue into her mouth.
She felt alive and wonderful and... normal... for the first time in years. She moved her hands around Icheb's back and pulled him into a crushing hug. Years of unspent desire and passion went into her kiss.
"Do you need any help?" Peter asked as he walked into the kitchen.
Marie and Icheb pulled away from each other quickly and both blushed.
"Um, yeah Peter, I think we could use some help with the salad." Marie said in a flustered, absent tone.
Icheb stood silently and watched Marie go back to work on making dinner.
After a few minutes of standing in shock, Icheb was startled to hear Marie's voice next to his ear. "I'll talk to you later."
* * * * *
Ronny was sitting on a bed, doing nothing. He couldn't open any doors, he couldn't touch anything. He realized that he was a ghost.
[Mutie fag killed me... I guess I didn't have him by the balls after all.] Ronny thought with disgust.
He settled back on the bed and began to think about the events of the day that had led him here.
His father had raped him... again.
He had called his brother for help... and Bobby came to help immediately.
He was hurt, and his brother had made sure that he was taken care of.
He was afraid and his brother took a shot to prove that he wouldn't be hurt.
His brother had promised to never touch him again without permission. And the rest of the day, he never broke that promise.
He had trusted his brother before and promised himself that he'd never make that mistake again, but everything Bobby had done made Ronny think that maybe he'd give Bobby one more chance... if he wasn't really dead.
Ronny heard a sound and turned to see a shifting shadow in the hallway.
* * * * *
William entered the common room and conversation stopped as everyone looked at him.
"Uncle Scott, could I have your help for a minute?" William asked hopefully.
"Sure William, what do you need?" Scott asked as he got up from his chair.
William led the way out of the room and once they were away from the common room he said, "Angel's son would like to have a mutant name. As I understand the process, as team leader, you are the one who bestows mutant names." William said as he approached the elevator.
"Yes, The Professor and I give out the names." Scott said as he thought.
"Will you give Chris a name? He has decided that he wants to start his new life with his new father in this new school by having a new name." William said as he stepped off the elevator.
"I don't know anything about his mutant ability. That usually has something to do with what name a person is given." Scott said honestly.
"Will you talk to him Uncle Scott? He is my friend and I want him to have what I do. My life has only improved since I received my name. It identified me to others as part of a family. If he gets his new name, he will be part of Angel's family and if he gets his mutant name, he will be part of the mutant family of the institute." William explained.
"You're very convincing William. I'll talk to Chris and see what I can do." Scott said with a gentle smile as he walked into the room where Angel and Chris were waiting.
* * * * *
Robert looked around the room, feeling uncomfortable with the silence. Suddenly he asked, "Can I see that green shirt? I like that color."
"Sure. Why don't you try it on? It's going to be big on you but you'll get the idea of how the color looks on you in case you think about buying one in your size." Bobby suggested.
Robert pulled off his shirt and pulled on the mint green button up shirt. Bobby saw something unusual and asked, "What is that?"
"That is my personal data node. It collects the data from my appliances, processes the data and stores the resulting information." Robert said as he finished buttoning the shirt.
"There is a full length mirror on the back of the closet door. Take a look and see what you think." Bobby said quietly as he remembered Robert's earlier words about having machines put into his body.
"I like the color, but not on me. I think this would look better on my brother Jimmy. It would draw attention to the color of his eyes." Robert said and began to remove the shirt.
Bobby fished in the closet for a moment before coming out with a pale yellow shirt and a black vest.
"'Try these on and see what you think. They never looked right on me, but maybe they'll look good on you." Bobby said in a considering tone.
Robert turned around to set the vest on the bed and Bobby noticed a piece of hardware at the base of Robert's skull and another at the base of his spine.
"What other equipment do you have? If you don't mind talking about it." Bobby asked hesitantly.
"I do not mind. The Borg modifications are part of who I am. I could either accept them as part of me or hate them. Some of my modifications are useful, so I accept them. The one at the base of my skull is my occipital implant, it is an interface node for my regeneration alcove. It takes the information from my data node and incorporates it into my internal memory... my brain. It would be impractical for all the sensory inputs from the day to be constantly feeding into my brain, so they are processed by my alcove, purged from my data node and relevant data is retained." Robert said and looked in the mirror.
"I don't understand about relevant data." Bobby said curiously.
"The window sill is point seven two meters wide. Every time I look in the direction of the window, my ocular implant will automatically scan the window sill and every time it will find that it is point seven two meters wide. At the end of the day, my alcove will take those redundant readings and record the fact once that the sill of your window is point seven two meters wide, thus eliminating the need for massive storage of useless redundant facts." Robert said then got an expectant look on his face and held his arms out to display the outfit.
"Uh, I guess the only thing that looks good on is the hanger. Here, try the pastel blue." Bobby said and handed Robert another shirt.
"The implant at the base of my spine is a spinal clamp. It is the external part of a large device that surrounds my spine like a cage. It's purpose is to give me increased durability and the ability to perform tasks that would normally damage a vertebrate's spinal column... I can twist and lift simultaneously without adverse consequences." Robert said as he tried to fasten the cuff buttons of the shirt.
"Here, let me help you with that." Bobby said and buttoned the cuffs.
Bobby took a moment to look at Robert and finally said, "It looks good, but not with those pants. Do you know your pants size?"
"In which unit of measurement?" Robert asked immediately.
"I'll take that as a no... Can you tell by looking if these will fit you?" Bobby said and pulled a pair of white pants from the back of his closet.
"They exceed my length requirements, but they are the proper width." Robert said.
"That's fine, we can do alterations on length without a problem." Bobby said and handed the pants to Robert.
Robert slipped out of his pants and pulled on the white pants. Bobby noticed the metal on Robert's right leg that went down into his sock.
After fastening the pants, Robert noticed that Bobby was staring at his leg.
Robert held out one of his hands and showed Bobby the thin metal strips that encased most of his left hand. It was like he was wearing a paper thin metal glove with places cut out to expose skin.
After making a fist, Robert pointed his hand away from Bobby and two metal tubes, over two feet in length, quickly extended from the back of his hand.
"These are my tubules, they can be used to interface with electronic systems or to inject nano-probes into biological organisms." Robert said before retracting the tubules back into the back of his hand.
"Injecting... like people?" Bobby asked carefully.
"Yes. That is how I was assimilated. A Borg captured me and it injected nano-probes into me. The miniature devices began to override my natural defenses and assume control of my body." Robert said and walked to the mirror again... with the pant legs flopping off the ends of his feet.
"What do you think? I like the look, but it seems a little too bright for the autumn. It seems to have a summer feel." Bobby said in a considering tone.
"May I look in your closet?" Robert asked hesitantly.
"Of course Robert, that's why you're here. Help yourself." Bobby said with an honest smile.
"May I try this on?" Robert asked and pulled out a pair of rust colored pants and a gold shirt.
Bobby squinted as he looked at the loud shirt and said, "You can try, but that shirt is really bright."
"I know, that is why I want to try it. Why go to the trouble of finding attractive clothing if you do not wish to draw attention?" Robert asked as he put the shirt on.
"Yes, but if the clothing is too bright, it annoys people." Bobby said as Robert tried on the rust colored pants.
"Would you hand me the black vest?" Robert asked as he fastened the pants.
Bobby got the black vest again and handed it to Robert. He pulled the vest on and asked, "Would you tighten the back?"
Bobby adjusted the small clip on the back of the vest until it took up the slack in the waist.
Robert walked back to the mirror and looked as he turned right, then left.
"It looks great. And I'm surprised that my pants fit you so well, we just need to take up the length a little." Bobby said in an impressed voice.
"Yes, when we purchase clothing, I will try to find this combination, I find it pleasing."
"Robert, those pants are too small for me and the shirt is too bright. The vest has never looked good on me, I'm more of a sweater vest kind of a guy. You keep them and we'll get the pants altered to fit you." Bobby said, as he looked Robert over again.
"Thank you Bobby, but I do not have anything to give in return." Robert said with concern.
"Robert, when your family give you something do you feel the need to repay them?" Bobby asked carefully.
"No, the family is a collective. We provide for each other to support us all." Robert said reasonably.
"I'm part of your family and this is my contribution." Bobby said honestly.
"Even if my fathers hadn't made you part of our family, you would be part of my family. Thank you Bobby." Robert said and hugged Bobby tightly.
Bobby held Robert close and thought about Ronny, alone in another world.
* * * * *
Icheb watched as Marie and Peter worked on salad and garlic bread.
"Icheb, would you take this fruit and wash it? When it's all clean, put it in this bowl then take it out to the dining room." Marie said as she put the fruit and bowl on the countertop.
"Yes... of course." Icheb said and began to work. His mind was filled with the sensations that the kiss had stirred in him.
"I'm going to set out the plates and stuff in the dining room. Everything is cooking, so we're done for a while." Marie said happily and left the room.
"Peter? Could I ask you a question?" Icheb asked shyly.
"Of course, ask what you like." Peter said as he continued working on the salad.
"I do not know if it is appropriate to ask..." Icheb said with worry.
"Icheb, I came to this country three years ago. I understand that it is difficult to know what is proper. Please ask and I will not be offended." Peter said and turned his full attention to Icheb.
"I just kissed Marie and I felt... something. Do you know of anyone... male... that I could kiss to compare the feeling? I believe the comparison would allow me to be certain about my orientation." Icheb said shyly.
"I believe I know of someone who may be able to help. I am nearly finished here, help me clean up and we can go see him." Peter said as he put the last of the chopped vegetables into the large salad.
* * * * *
"Hello?" Ronny called down the hallway.
"Who's there?" called back in a gruff voice.
"Where are you?" Ronny called in panic.
Logan walked down the hallway and was confronted by the transparent form of Ronny Drake.
"You a ghost?" Logan asked as he sniffed the air.
"Yeah, I guess so." Ronny said weakly.
"Figures, the whole world dies and I get haunted by the little mutant hating puke that got me shot in the head." Logan growled.
"Yeah, sorry about that." Ronny said vaguely.
"Whatever. How come you're haunting the mansion?" Wolverine asked with slight interest.
"I don't know. I guess when I told mutie fag that I wanted to see his freak kids get dissected he must have got pissed off and killed me." Ronny said with a shrug.
"Some people are just touchy that way." Logan said and walked past Ronny into the MedLab's treatment room.
"Can I hang out with you? I'm kind of alone down here." Ronny asked with a pleading tone.
"Yeah, sure. But you start talkin any mutant hating trash to me and I'll leave you alone." Logan warned as he found the bottle he was looking for.
"Yeah, I can do that." Ronny said quietly and followed Logan to the elevator which opened as they approached.