"...And the feeling was like having my electrolytes replenished after days of inadequate regeneration." Warren finished in wonder.
"I am told that it may also be likened to taking a drink of cool water after a long dry day at work." Jimmy said with a smile.
"Zat vas some adventure. Unt you vere ze one zat thought to make an egg around ze ship. Your Father must be proud." Kurt said in wonder.
"Yes, my father was quite proud of me, but not only for that. He was also proud of my interest in going, and my telling of the experience." Jimmy said happily.
"So your father encourages your writing?" Warren asked.
"Yes, but only as long as I enjoy it. He has said on more than one occasion that if I feel that the writing has become a burden, that I should put it aside for a time. He says that childhood should be for doing what I enjoy, and that obligations will come later and limit my choices." Jimmy said frankly.
"That they do. But I don't think you'll have to worry about that. I'm sure with your talent that you'll be a famous writer someday." Warren said with a smile.
"Perhaps, but Dad suggested that I might also be a bricklayer who indulges his love of writing by doing so in his off-duty hours. He posed the question to me of who's life is more fulfilled, the full-time writer or the bricklayer. I am still pondering that question." Jimmy said and looked to both adults.
"I think a convincing argument can be made for either one. The writer has the freedom to write all the time, but if it is his only job, then it might become a chore, whereas the bricklayer lacks the time to write all that he wants to but is doing what he enjoys in his spare time and indulging his passion." Warren said in speculation.
Jimmy smiled and hugged Warren.
"What is that for?" Warren asked as he enjoyed the hug.
"For seeing me as a person instead of a child. My fathers understand me and treat me as a person, but most others treat me as a child incapable of having meaningful thoughts or relevant feelings." Jimmy said as he finished his hug.
Warren thought about the words and finally said, "I have to admit that when I first met you, I did think of you as a child. But now that I've spent some time talking with you, I understand that you are an intelligent, insightful person who deserves appropriate consideration."
"Ja, Warren unt I haf been judged by our appearance. It vould be unfortunate if we could not look beyond ze surface to know ze person inside." Kurt said honestly.
Jimmy moved to hug Kurt and said, "Thank you Uncle Kurt. I was worried that no one would understand me here. Father has chosen his friends well."
Kurt enjoyed the hug and saw Warren's look of tenderness directed at them.
"Perhaps ve could read another story?" Kurt asked as Jimmy released the hug.
* * * * *
Alex and Scott walked in silence to the hanger bay.
"So what's up Alex?" Scott asked as he took a seat on the bench.
"I'm worried about you bro. You don't seem to be happy." Alex said as he watched Scott for a reaction.
"Yeah, I'm adjusting to things. I've been feeling like I'm not fitting in with the intergalactic branch of the family." Scott said quietly.
"I thought you liked the kids." Alex said, not understanding the statement.
"I do. They're great. I'm just having trouble seeing my part in their lives. You know how we were raised. I don't know how to form a relationship with them. It's different with Andrew and Alan, they're adults and I can relate to them, but I'm only used to relating to kids as their teacher." Scott said with difficulty.
"Oh, I didn't think of that. I can see your problem." Alex said in thought.
"How about you, this can't be easy for you either." Scott said honestly.
"I don't think it's the same for me. Icheb is only about two years younger than me. I can relate to the kids as peers more easily than you can. But, yeah, it's not easy." Alex said with worry.
"I talked with William today and he asked me a question that threw me for a loop." Scott said and looked up at Alex.
"What's that?" Alex asked as he looked curiously into Scott's glasses.
"When I told him a little of what our family was like, he asked me if that was the kind of family I wanted to have. Alex, what if we're doomed to raise our kids the way we were raised?" Scott said seriously.
"Not going to happen. If I believed that was going to happen, I'd never have kids." Alex said darkly.
Scott nodded his head.
"So what are we going to do?" Alex asked carefully.
"We?" Scott asked in surprise.
"Yeah, we're in this together. I'll help you, and you'll help me." Alex said with a smile.
"I've got a list of chores to do. William thinks I need to share in the interests of the children to become more included in their lives." Scott said tentatively.
"And what do you think?" Alex asked without emotion.
"I don't know. I'm willing to try. I just want to do right by the kids, I'm afraid I'll screw it all up and end up being the sour old uncle who the kids can't stand to see on the holidays." Scott said with dread.
"Yeah, I don't want to be the uncle all the kids don't take seriously because he's almost their own age." Alex said with his own darkness.
Scott stood suddenly and said, "Then let's not be."
"How are you going to stop it from happening?" Alex asked, still in his funk.
"Hard work, dedication, help from my brother..." Scott trailed off with a smile.
"It looks like you got a plan." Alex said with a look of question.
"Not exactly. But I'm going to try to think of this as a dry run for when I have kids of my own. I'm going to do everything I can to be the best uncle those kids could ever want. And when the time comes that I decide to settle down, I'll know if I want a family or not." Scott said with conviction.
"I'm with you bro. We'll face this challenge together." Alex said strongly.
"Good, I'm going to be counting on you to help me. You've got more of a sense of fun than I ever did. I'll need you to tell me when I'm being oblivious to what's going on around me and focusing on the practical matters." Scott said seriously.
"And you gotta tell me when I'm being more of a kid than the kids." Alex said with a smile.
* * * * *
Xander, Remy, Logan, Alan and Andrew walked into the common room to find Ronny and Logan watching a black and white movie.
"You guys mind some company?" Xander asked with a smile.
"Scott? Remy? I didn't think you'd come so soon." Logan said with uncharacteristic happiness.
"We came as soon as we knew you were here." Alan said with a smile.
"So who are these guys?" Logan asked with a bit of a growl, trying to hide the fact that he had just had a joyful moment.
"This is my husband Andrew." Alan said proudly.
"An dis be my husband Xander." Remy said with equal pride.
"I'm not too surprised with Scott, I figured he was gonna marry Gene. But I figured that the Cajun would find a slinky little blonde to settle down with." Logan said with a quirked eyebrow.
"De slinky blondes be fun to play wit, but Remy found sumthin a whole lot better for keeps." Remy said and tried to put an arm around Xander, only to have it pass through.
"I should have warned you about that, we're in a state of flux. We don't have substance here." Andrew said sheepishly.
Logan moved from the back of the group and looked curiously at his counterpart on the couch.
"Xander? You're the not-mutant?" Ronny asked carefully.
"Yeah, no X gene in me." Xander said simply.
"Can I talk to you for a minute? I mean, alone?" Ronny asked hesitantly.
"Um, sure. I think Remy wants to visit with Logan anyway." Xander said and followed Ronny out the door.
* * * * *
"What an extraordinary tale. I don't mean to sound as if I don't believe you, but could I meet Angel and Chris? Their part in the story should be easiest to confirm." Wesley asked carefully, not wanting to offend.
"Sure, I'll take you down there now." Dawn said with a bounce.
"I'll go too." Tara said and followed.
* * * * *
Bobby and Robert walked to a table and sat with Peter.
"Are you well Bobby?" Peter asked with worry.
"Yeah Pete. I'm just worried about Ronny. I know he's going to be okay, but I feel... responsible for him, like I need to watch out for him." Bobby said quietly.
"Try not to worry. I will help if I can." Robert said in a comforting tone.
"You are Robert?" Peter asked.
"Yes, and you are Pete?" Robert asked in return.
"Yes. And we will both help Bobby care for his brother." Peter said with strength.
"Thanks guys. With your help, I'm sure this will all work out fine." Bobby said with a smile.
"We will do our best." Robert said and placed a hand on Bobby's shoulder.
* * * * *
"What's that?" Logan asked, pointing to Alan's stomach.
Everyone looked down to see two small lights glowing from within Alan's transparent body.
"The babies." Andrew finally said with a smile.
"These are my sons, Chakotay and Thomas." Alan said to Logan with a smile.
"Okay Scott, you gotta tell me how you managed that trick." Logan asked and drank some beer.
"It's a long story, and I'll tell you, but first we have to figure out what we're going to do to get you out of here." Alan said as he passed an insubstantial hand over his stomach.
"I got the virus, it's still tearing me up inside. I'm taking pain killers to take the edge off, but it ain't gettin any better." Logan said seriously.
"We need to let Hank know what's going on. If anyone can help, it's him." Andrew said to the group.
"You wanna go find him now? We can wait here and talk to Logan." Alan asked quietly.
"Yeah, I'll be right back." Andrew said and faded from sight.
"Okay guys, you gotta tell me what all has happened the past four months to change you so much." Logan said and grabbed another beer from his six pack beside the couch.
"Four months? It's been three months for me." Alan said curiously.
"And it been a week for Remy." Remy said in a considering tone.
"Yeah, It's the beginning of March, the virus hit in November." Logan said from the couch.
"Logan, is there something else we can call one of you? It's going to get confusing with two Logans." Alan asked the pair.
"Since you changed from Scott to Alan, I guess I'll be the one to change... What about Matt?" Logan asked everyone.
"Why Matt?" Logan asked from the group.
"Why not? It's my name. Jonathan Matthew Logan." Logan asked from the couch.
"I don't know my name. Just Logan." Logan said from the group.
"Matt works for me. So Matt, you ready to hear the story of how I got pregnant?" Alan asked with a smile.
"Sure Scott, but you can leave out the juicy parts, I'm not feeling up to that now." Matt said with apology.
"Deal. Let's see... I went on a mission to destroy a data warehouse..."
* * * * *
"Xander, I need to talk to someone who's not a mutant to understand some things. Do you mind?" Ronny asked with worry.
"Just ask me whatever you want to know." Xander said quietly, clearly seeing the distress in the young man.
"Logan says that mutants are just people like everyone else, some good, some bad, but I've always been told that mutants are evil. I don't know what to believe." Ronny said in a shaky voice.
"Believe in what you see with your own eyes. Believe in the results you see around you. People lie, they'll try to trick you or mislead you. Watch the people around you and their actions will prove what kind of people they are." Xander said quietly.
"I figured you'd tell me to trust people." Ronny said with surprise.
"Hells no. That's a sure way to get screwed over. Find people who are worthy of your trust, then trust them. As time goes on, you'll find more people that you can trust. Don't be misled by labels like good and evil. People are rarely one or the other and even if they are, people grow and change. My ex-girlfriend Anya was a demon for twelve hundred years, but ended up sacrificing herself to save Andrew's life. Spike was a vampire who enjoyed torturing his victims with railroad spikes, but he eventually fell in love, regained his soul and sacrificed himself to save a lot of lives." Xander said with a note of pain.
"Sounds like you have a complicated life." Ronny said in wonder.
"You have no idea. But what it all boils down to is, you find one person that you can trust and let that person be your anchor. From there you can find others and decide if you trust them or not." Xander said simply.
"Okay, I get that. I got another question though. You said your ex-girlfriend, but you're married to a guy. How'd that happen?" Ronny asked hesitantly.
"It's pretty simple. I loved Anya. I love Remy. The rest doesn't matter." Xander said with a shrug.
"But are you gay or straight?" Ronny asked with confusion.
"Those are just labels. If you have to call me something, you can call me bi, but it doesn't really matter. Whatever label you pin on me, I'm going to love who I love." Xander said and noticed Ronny was deep in thought.
"Okay. I guess that makes sense. This is tough. No wonder I'm a bad person. It feels like everything I thought was the truth turned out to be lies." Ronny said as he continued to think.
"Yeah, I know that feeling. I didn't always feel like this. I used to think 'good guys' and 'bad guys' like anyone else. But now I understand that people are people and those labels just make it easier for us to judge people without getting to know them. There's a guy, Angel, who I treated like crap for years because he hurt me once. I know now that he's a decent guy, but I'm still not able to trust him because he hurt me one time." Xander said from distant memory.
"Yeah, I met him. How'd he hurt you? I mean, did you two date and he cheated, or did he beat you up?" Ronny asked with curiosity.
"See these scars on my neck, they're from him. We never dated. We've never really been friends." Xander said darkly.
"It's not too late. You're here, he's here. You feel bad about it. Maybe it's time." Ronny suggested.
"Yeah, maybe it is." Xander said with a smile.
"What's funny?" Ronny asked defensively.
"You just thought about my problem instead of your own. That's not good for your rep as a 'bad person'. Bad people are only supposed to care about themselves." Xander said with a chuckle.
"Then maybe I'll have to switch sides." Ronny said with a smile.
"I don't know everything, but I've lived a lot in a few years. If you need any help, just ask and I'll do what I can." Xander said honestly.
"Thanks Xander. I guess I've got some more thinking to do." Ronny said and looked off into the distance.
"I'm going to get back to the others now. Just ask if you need anything." Xander said kindly as he walked away.
Ronny nodded and continued in his deep thought.
* * * * *
Wesley, Dawn and Tara walked into the MedLab to find Angel holding Chris in silence.
"How's he doing?" Tara asked with concern.
"He just got upset when Scott asked him some questions... Wesley?" Angel asked in confusion.
"Yes, you know me too?" Wesley asked cautiously.
"You could say that. The Wesley from my dimension is a rogue demon hunter who came to work for me." Angel said, then looked back at Chris's sleeping face.
"I was led to believe that my counterpart was a watcher." Wesley said and looked to Dawn.
"He was, until the council withheld the antidote for a poison that was killing me. I guess he realized that they were operating with their own agenda and didn't care who got hurt as long as their objectives were met. That was when Wesley left the council and Buffy decided that she didn't need a watcher anymore." Angel said quietly as he stroked Chris' hair with a feather-light touch.
"I don't understand why they would refuse to help you." Wesley said with concern.
"Because I'm a vampire." Angel said quietly.
"Ms. Summers mentioned that fact, and that you have a soul. Would you mind if I saw?" Wesley asked shyly.
Angel looked at Wesley's timid expression and allowed his game face to flash on for just an instant. Then he turned his concerned gaze back to Chris.
"Good Lord. Then everything else she said was true. This young man took a stake in the heart to protect you?" Wesley said in a tone that was obviously his own thinking outloud.
"Yeah. Chris knew from the moment he saw me that I was going to be his father." Angel said with a quiet smile.
"Really?" Dawn asked.
"When all the children were brought to the hotel, he walked up to me and asked if I was his father." Angel said with a chuckle.
"Talk about an icebreaker." Dawn said with a tender smile.
"Thank you for your time Angel, I'll leave you to your son." Wesley said and turned to leave.
"Do you need anything Angel? Blood or a break?" Tara asked with concern.
"No Tara. I'm fine. But thanks for taking care of me." Angel said warmly before turning back to Chris.
"I'm glad to help." Tara said and went to Dawn who was waiting at the door with Wesley.
* * * * *
"Uncle Warren, are you going to have a family of your own someday?" Jimmy asked and looked Warren in the eyes.
"Yes, I suppose I will, someday." Warren said with a smile.
"When? I mean, I do not understand why you wait." Jimmy asked simply.
"I wait because I don't have a wife. I need to be married before I have children." Warren said in return.
"I understand that. But why do you not have a wife? You are of sufficient age, you are physically attractive, you are enjoyable company, I do not understand why you do not have a wife." Jimmy said curiously.
"Because I am attractive and wealthy, people seek me out. They make insincere overtures of friendship for their own purposes. Some want to be seen with a powerful man, some want to feel better about themselves by being seen with someone attractive, some are just weak and want to follow in the shadow of someone who is strong in hopes of getting my cast-offs. For that reason, I have trouble finding people that I can trust enough to form relationships that might lead to marriage." Warren said contemplatively.
"That is unfortunate, but I understand... And being in this place, where people attempt to see beyond the surface, you find acceptance because you know that we are dealing with you the person rather than you the image." Jimmy said speculatively.
"Yes Jimmy. That is why I choose to come here from time to time. I come to help when they need me, and it... nourishes my soul to be around people who aren't trying to get something from me all the time." Warren said with a peaceful smile.
"I hope that you will find someone who can be your wife soon. You would be an excellent father." Jimmy said, then turned to look at Kurt.
"I suppose you vant to know why I am not married as well." Kurt asked with acceptance.
"Isn't it the same reason as Uncle Warren?" Jimmy asked curiously.
Kurt laughed and said, "I am not beautiful, powerful, or wealthy."
"I think you are quite attractive. Although I think you would look better in different clothing." Jimmy said honestly.
"You think I am attractive?" Kurt asked in disbelief.
"Yes. It is unfortunate more people do not look like you. Then you would understand how attractive your features and coloring are." Jimmy said honestly.
"No one has ever called me attractive before. I thank you for the compliment." Kurt said with a purple blush.
"Do you have a catalog here? I would like to look at some different clothing for you. I believe that we could find a combination that will compliment your coloring and features." Jimmy said in a considering tone.
"I haf one in mien room. One moment." Kurt said with excitement and disappeared in a bamf.
"You really made him happy. He feels ashamed of his appearance." Warren said tenderly to Jimmy.
"I said only the truth. I have Borg memories of many species, some attractive, some grotesque. I suppose that gives me a different perspective on who is attractive." Jimmy said absently.
"I suppose it does. I'm glad you're visiting with us. You've made what would have been a boring evening into an interesting and fun night." Warren said and patted Jimmy on the shoulder.
Jimmy thought about the words and said, "I think of you as a friend too Uncle Warren."
* * * * *
Andrew appeared in the common room and hurried to the dining room to find the professor.
"Where is Hank? We need for him to look at the Logan from Alan and Remy's universe." Andrew said in a rush.
"He is walking outside. I will call him for you." The Professor said with concern.
After a moment of silent concentration the Professor said, "He is on his way. Orroro is coming too."
"Good. Logan can use as many friends as he can get right now. You should see him, he's really drawn and sick. He said that four months have passed since the virus was let loose... and he's been sick and alone all that time. I hope there is something Hank can do to help." Andrew said with worry.
"Have faith Andrew. Hank is a talanted physician and Logan is a strong man." The Professor said confidently.
"Yeah." Andrew said and waited impatiently.
* * * * *
Kurt appeared in a bamf with a catalog in his hands.
"Vat should we look for first?" Kurt asked with excitement.
"I think an orange shirt would look good on you. It would compliment your skin coloring and bring out the color of your eyes." Jimmy said in a considering tone.
"Zat vould be a bright color for me." Kurt said slowly.
"Yeah, but we can tone it down with a vest... maybe something charcoal gray or black." Jimmy said as he leafed through the catalog.
"Vat about zis one?" Kurt asked as he pointed to an orange shirt.
"No, that print would be too busy, I think we need something solid. Uncle Warren, do you think Kurt would look better with silver or gold buttons on his vest?" Jimmy asked over his shoulder.
"Silver, definitely silver... and maybe some turquoise jewelry. Something small and tasteful." Warren said in a speculative voice.
"Here. Look at this and imagine this outfit with an orange shirt." Jimmy said with excitement as he pointed to a picture.
"Just a second." Warren said and went to his briefcase. He came back with several pens.
"Here are some highlighters of different colors. Here's an orange one for the shirt, and here's a blue one for the skin. Go ahead and color the picture so we can get a better idea of what Kurt will look like in the outfit." Warren said with excitement.
After a minute of coloring Jimmy said, "There, what does everyone think?"
"Ze colors look good. But I do not know of zis style." Kurt said hesitantly.
"It is Southwestern style clothing. I think they'll look great on you. What time is it?" Warren asked happily.
"It is seven fifteen." Jimmy said without looking at a clock.
"Plenty of time. Kurt, will you take Jimmy into the house and ask his Dad if I can take him to the store?" Warren asked quickly.
"Ja, comen ze." Kurt said, feeling swept up into Warren's enthusiasm.
Jimmy grabbed onto Kurt and they bamfed to the dining room.
Warren looked at the colored picture in the catalog and a tender smile fell over his face.