Bobby walked into the main hall on his way to the common room in time to see Robert walk through a wall.
"Good morning Robert. Are you ready to go running?" Bobby asked happily.
"I am unsure. I have not engaged in this activity before." Robert said hesitantly.
"I know that feeling, I just started running last week. But it's a good feeling to get the heart rate up and get the sweat flowing. It's very cleansing." Bobby said and motioned for Robert to follow him upstairs.
"I can consciously control the rate of my heart, and I believed that perspiration was something considered to be unclean and to be avoided." Robert said in confusion as he followed.
Bobby stopped outside his bedroom door and thought for a second before saying, "I guess it depends on the situation you're in. If you were standing in line at the movie theater, perspiration would be nasty, but when you're running around the track, it's your body's way of cooling you and feels good. Then it's okay." Bobby said and entered the room, then thought to ask, "You can control your heartrate?"
"Yes, it works automatically like yours, but I can change the rate at will... the same way you can consciously control your breathing if you choose." Robert said and watched as Bobby pulled some clothes from his dresser.
"I keep forgetting that you aren't human." Bobby said and handed some clothes to Robert.
"Why do we need to change clothing to participate in running?"
Bobby thought about the question before answering. "The shorts and tank top are cooler than regular clothes, so you aren't so likely to become overheated. And you don't want your regular clothes to get all sweaty if you're going to have to wear them the rest of the day."
"What of this?" Robert asked as he held up a pair of briefs.
"I noticed that you wear boxers. Briefs are better support when running... and you don't want to have to wear your damp underwear later." Bobby said with a shrug.
Robert thought about that and began to change.
Bobby turned in time to catch a full view of Robert's naked body before casually turning away.
Robert noticed the action and said, "I am sorry Bobby, I should have realized that being same gender oriented, you would be uncomfortable. I will change in the adjoining room next time." Robert said as he continued to change.
"That's okay Robert. You can change in front of me if you want. Warren talked with me the other day and I realized something... I'm not a gay man, I'm a man who is gay." Bobby said in thought
Robert thought about the statement and finally said, "I fail to see the distinction."
"A gay man is gay first, everything else is second to his gayness. Everything in his life is colored by the fact that he is gay. I'm a man who is gay. I'm me first, I make my choices and decisions according to what I want and my gayness is just my orientation." Bobby said with difficulty, never having had to put it into words.
"And this is the preferable way to be?" Robert asked as he finished putting on his shoes.
"For me it is. For someone else the other choice would be right... What size shoes... never mind, I have some old shoes for you to try on. Those aren't for running." Bobby said and went to his closet.
"They simply cover the foot, there is no difference." Robert said as he looked at his shoes.
"These offer arch support and cushioning. Try these on and see what you think." Bobby said and handed Robert the old shoes.
Robert tried them on and said, "I feel no difference."
"Of course not, you have to walk in them to feel the difference." Bobby said with a smile.
Robert took a few steps and said, "I can feel the additional cushion. Are we ready to go?"
"Just a minute, go ahead and gather your things and put them in this gym bag." Bobby said as he put his own clothes in.
"Do you think your Father would send me to Ronny's dimension after we run? I'm worried about him." Bobby said as they walked from the room.
"He is going to be in his dimension all day. He may be able to do so tonight." Robert said as they walked down the hallway.
"Oh, okay." Bobby said absently as he worried for his brother.
* * * * *
"Good morning love. How are you and the babies doing today?" Andrew asked as he sat on the side of the bed.
"We're all fine. We just missed you." Alan said with a tender smile.
"Do you still want me to go to my dimension today?" Andrew asked quietly.
"Andy, I don't want you to be away, but you need to do this and now is the time. But first... will you help me out of the bed?" Alan asked in a small voice.
"Sure love." Andrew said fondly as he helped Alan to stand.
"I don't have anything to wear." Alan said with concern.
"Just put on a robe for now... Come here, you need to see this." Andrew said quietly.
Andrew led Alan to the bedroom door and opened it quietly to reveal the living room.
Before them they saw Alex, Jimmy and Scott wrapped in one blanket as Icheb, William and Trey were wrapped in a second blanket.
"We need a picture of that." Alan said as he retreated into the bedroom.
"Xander took a couple pictures already. I'm going to have to go soon. Are you sure you'll be okay?" Andrew asked with obvious worry.
"Scott and Alex are here. I'll be fine, but I'll miss you." Alan ended in a whisper.
"I'll miss you too. I love you." Andrew said and pulled Alan close for a tender kiss.
"Ooof, I think Chakotay is awake." Alan said with a chuckle.
"Which one is Chakotay?" Andrew asked as he squatted before Alan to feel his belly.
"Right here, Thomas is over here, I think he's still asleep." Alan said with love.
Andrew pressed his face to the side of Alan's belly and said, "Chakotay, you behave for your Dad today. I'm going to be away and you need to be a good boy. And watch out for your brother."
Alan laughed and said, "I don't know how much of that he understood, but we'll be fine. You'd better hurry and go, so you'll be back that much sooner."
"Yeah, make sure you eat. You're eating for three." Andrew said with a smile.
"I will. Maybe I can talk someone into making breakfast for me?" Alan said in a considering tone.
"I'll do it before I leave." Andrew said immediately.
"No. You go ahead. It'll be more fun to get one of the boys to do it." Alan said with a smile.
"If that's what you want. Love you." Andrew said and pulled Alan close for another kiss.
* * * * *
"Trey, are you ready to go?" Andrew asked as he walked into the living room.
"Yes Father. Have you eaten?" Trey asked seriously.
"Yeah, just a little bit ago. Turn on your holo-camouflage and we'll go." Andrew said with a smile.
Trey pressed a button on his personal data node and his features altered to a human face.
"I just can't get used to that... Goodbye everyone, take care of Alan for me." Andrew said as he formed a portal.
"Don't worry, we'll be fine." Alan said fondly.
With a last look of desperation Andrew led Trey through the portal.
* * * * *
The phone rang and all the boys looked up with worry.
"Hello?" Alan said as he answered the phone.
"Alan? Would it be okay if Chris and I came by to visit this morning? He's been released from his bedrest and wants to visit your sons." Angel asked quietly.
"Sure, but it's just about light out... are you going to be okay?" Alan asked with concern.
"There's a tunnel that leads into your basement. I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't waking you up or intruding on private family time." Angel said with a note of worry.
"Don't worry about that Angel, we're all awake and you're part of the family. Come on over." Alan said with a smile.
"We'll be there soon. Bye." Angel said with a smile in his voice.
"Bye." Alan said and hung up.
Xander looked curiously at Alan from the couch.
"Angel is bringing Chris over for a visit." Alan said happily.
Xander looked around the room and asked, "Do you have any duct tape around here?"
"Um, yeah... in the second kitchen drawer... why?" Alan asked in confusion as he made his way to the couch.
"We need to make this place vampire friendly before he gets here. We need to tape those curtains down and... your bedroom door will need to be kept closed." Xander said as he looked at the room.
"What about the window behind the dining room table?" Alan asked with concern.
"No, it's facing north, it won't get direct sunlight, if we pull the blinds, it should be fine." Xander said and began to work.
"I wish to help you Uncle Xander." William said and followed him into the kitchen.
"Great, Icheb, would you help me too? I need someone tall enough to take the other end of the tape." Xander asked as he came out of the kitchen.
"Yes, of course." Icheb said immediately.
"Remy help too." Remy said and walkd to Xander's side.
"When Icheb and I have placed the tape in the right place, you press it down at the top. William can do the same at the bottom. We'll have this place vampire friendly in no time." Xander said happily.
"How do you know to do this?" William asked curiously.
"Spike was my roommate a few times when he needed a place to stay. I learned how to fix a house up for him pretty quick. It's rude for a host to have his guest burst into flames because he didn't think to cover a window... Who want's to welcome him into the house?" Xander asked quickly.
"What do you mean?" William asked curiously.
"A vampire can't enter a home unless he is invited in by someone who lives there." Xander said as he taped.
"I would like to be the one... what do I have to do?" William asked as he patted tape into place.
"Just say something like, "Come in Angel, you are welcomed here." Xander said as he stood back to look at the window.
"What about the doors to the dock?" Alan asked from the couch.
"I figure we can use one of these blankets to cover the doors and tape it down. I've never had to deal with double glass doors before." Xander said, looking at the doors in question.
"What is it about sunlight that hurts Angel?" Icheb asked curiously.
"I think it's the ultra-violet." Xander said unsurely.
"Perhaps we could alter the glass of the doors so that ultra-violet will be filtered out." Icheb speculated.
"You can do that?" Xander asked with surprise.
"Jimmy, can you emit the necessary particles to alter the glass?" Icheb asked.
Jimmy pulled out of his blanket and looked at the glass carefully.
After a long moment he said, "Yes, but it will take approximately forty six minutes to complete the process."
"Is it going to cause you pain or make you weak?" Alan asked with concern.
"No Dad, that only happened because I generated new hardware and used it before it was sufficiently charged. I can emit the necessary particles without discomfort." Jimmy said with assurance.
"Then go ahead, we'll keep Angel in the basement until it's done." Alan said with a smile.
Jimmy nodded and pulled a chair from the dining room.
He held his hand a few inches from the glass and began to move it slowly from left to right.
"I don't see anything." Xander said quietly.
"The emissions aren't in the visible range of light. I can see them with my ocular implant. They will alter the glass to filter all ultra-violet light from the spectrum that enter through this glass." Icheb said confidently.
"I will go to the basement to await Angel and Chris now." William said and ran to the basement doorway.
"I'll go with you, I don't remember what kind of windows you have down there." Xander said and followed.
"Alan, do you need something to eat?" Scott said with concern.
"Yeah, I will soon. Do you think you could show one of the boys how to make something for me? That way if you're not around and I can't get off the couch, I won't starve." Alan asked shyly.
"Sure... do you like omelets?" Scott asked quietly.
"Love 'em." Alan said with a smile.
"Give me a few minutes to see if we have everything we need. Then I'll start." Scott said and walked into the kitchen.
* * * * *
Andrew and Trey walked into Slayer Central to find Faith sitting on the couch, reading the newspaper.
"Um, hi. Sorry I didn't get to call in advance to let you know we were coming." Andrew said shyly.
"No problem. What's up Andrew... and who's your friend?" Faith asked with a pleasant smile.
"I'm going to try and find my father, I haven't seen him in about... eighteen years. And this is Trey, my son." Andrew said with pride.
"You guys look about the same age. But whatever. Um, I got me a father like yours, ain't seen mine in about fifteen years... hopin for at least twenty more." Faith said without concern.
"I know what you mean, but I'm going to try for the whole closure thing, bury the demons of the past, blah, blah, blah. Trey is here so he can see my world." Andrew said with a smile.
"Got it. Good for you. I don't know how all that psychobabble stuff works, but if that's what you're into..." Faith trailed off with a shrug.
"Not really, but I just figured out that my dad wasn't the evil bastard I always thought he was, he was just a guy doing what he thought was right." Andrew said and pulled Trey into a hug.
"Mine *is* the evil bastard I always thought he was, but he's getting paybacks in spades." Faith said and set her paper aside.
"Jail?" Andrew asked carefully.
"Worse, he married my mom last year. Jail would be like a vacation compared to that." Faith said with a chuckle.
"Wait a minute, I thought you'd be in... Kansas or around there on a bus right now... how come you're here?" Andrew asked suspiciously.
"I flew." Faith said simply.
"What about Robin?"
"He's here. He has a job and can't get up and go like the rest of us." Faith said in a considering tone.
"That makes sense. How are you two doing?" Andrew asked with concern.
"Five by five. I think we're going to be together for the long haul." Faith said with a happy smile.
"Cool. I'm glad to know that one of the slayers is going to get it right." Andrew said happily.
"Oh yeah. Queen B is still looking for the corpse of her dreams. The others just don't have a clue, they think it's all about a guy's cool car and his sexy ass." Faith said with a laugh.
"And when they finally realize that they have to get along with the owner of the car and the ass, there's a major wake-up call." Andrew said with his own laugh.
"Andrew, is there a computer I can use to begin our research?" Trey asked quietly.
"You can call me Father in front of Faith, she's family." Andrew said and hugged Trey gently.
"Yes Father." Trey said quietly.
"Ain't he just the cutest? Dawn told Cari and Rona that you had a brood of kids, I just figured she meant the little snot-nosed kind. This guy's a little stud." Faith said with a smile.
"Yeah, there's six of them, six to fifteen. Trey, why don't you turn off your camouflage so Faith can see the real you?" Andrew asked quietly.
Trey hesitantly pressed the button to turn off the holo-camouflage. He watched with apprehension to see Faith's response to his true appearance.
"Even better." Faith said, then got a considering look in her eyes. "Not a demon... are you a mutant, sweet thing?"
"No, I am a non-human from another planet." Trey said shyly.
"Of course. Well if I wasn't already hooked up with Robin, I might wait a few years for you. You're a sweet little hunk of man." Faith said with a friendly smile.
Trey blushed and suddenly found his shoes interesting.
Andrew watched the scene fondly and finally decided that Trey had had enough of Faith's attention.
"Trey is right, it would be helpful if we could find a computer so we can get our search started." Andrew said with a smile.
"Right over there. But be careful, that's Willow's baby." Faith said in warning.
At Trey's look of panic and question Andrew quickly said, "It's just a figure of speech Trey. It means she treasures it like someone else treasures their child."
Trey nodded and said, "I will leave the device in the condition I found it."
"Good." Andrew said and glanced at Faith who was trying to contain her laughter.
* * * * *
William stood by the open passageway in the basement. He saw movement and waited impatiently for Angel and Chris to arrive.
"William, how are you doing?" Chris asked happily.
"I am well. Please come into my house Uncle Angel, you are welcomed here." William said with a big smile.
"Who told you to say that?" Angel asked with a note of caution.
"Uncle Xander. He is making the upstairs vampire friendly. We will need to remain here for a few minutes more." William said more seriously.
"Xander's doing that for me?" Angel asked in confusion.
"Yes, as soon as he knew you were coming, he began to make the upstairs safe for you. Give me a moment and I will check on their progress." William said quickly.
Angel watched William leave and noticed the windows of the basement were covered with cloth and taped.
"This means we are really welcomed, doesn't it?" Chris asked with a smile.
"Yes. It's an unusual feeling for me. You'll have to help me get used to it." Angel said as he squatted beside Chris' wheelchair.
William ran down the stairs and said, "Preparations should be complete in eight minutes. While we wait, I can show you my room and my alcove."
Chris nodded with excitement as William led them to the other side of the basement.
"This is my regeneration alcove." William said with pride as he pointed to the farthest alcove of three against the wall.
"Is this one Robert's?" Chris asked as he pointed to the middle alcove.
"No, that one belongs to Jimmy. We felt that he would feel most included if we positioned his alcove between ours." William said with a smile.
"So this is where you... sleep?" Angel asked, not understanding the function of alcoves.
"No Dad, the alcoves recharge, repair injuries, provide food and get rid of waste. The guys don't sleep, they just shut down." Chris said informatively.
"Correct." William said with a smile at Chris' accurate summary.
"That's really something. How does it work?" Angel asked as he looked more closely at the structure.
"Allow me to demonstrate." William said and began pushing a sequence of buttons.
"I will be in regeneration for thirty seconds, just to show you the connection." William said and took his position standing, facing out.
The alcove lit up and William's eyes closed. Several little screens came to life, some of which looked like medical readouts but in a foreign language.
Angel and Chris watched, enthralled by the display when the lights went out and William opened his eyes.
"Wow, you need to do that every night?" Chris asked with fascination.
"Yes, it is like your need to sleep, eat and use the bathroom as I understand the process." William said as he stepped out of the alcove.
"And this is your room?" Chris asked as he looked around.
"Yes, this space by the stairs is mine. Here is where I work on my graphic designs." William said and led the way.
"That's beautiful." Angel said as he saw a piece of metal cut into a pinwheel that was covered by a series of pinholes in a seemingly random pattern that meandered across the piece. He looked at the piece from a different angle and the pattern was gone, only the pinwheel remained.
"I have been working with non-computerized media for a time. I feel that sculpture is the most appropriate medium to express this type of design." William said speculatively.
"It's a galaxy, the little pinholes are stars, the speckles are planets... and the streaks... are movement." Chris said as he stared at the piece.
William looked at Chris with pride and said, "You are correct. You are the first to understand. I did not expect a terrestrial to grasp the meaning so quickly."
"Watch out who you're calling a terrestrial... alien." Chris said in a stern tone, but a twinkle of mischief could be seen in his eyes.
William looked carefully at Chris before saying, "Would you prefer ground-pounder?"
"Star Jockey." Chris countered.
"Boys!" Angel said loudly to stop the name calling.
"Don't worry Dad, we're just playing." Chris said with a smile.
"Yes, such banter allows us to give vocal expression to our differences, thereby removing the need to avoid the subject later. We mean no insult or harm." William said with assurance.
"Okay, I thought you'd just degenerated into namecalling." Angel said with a little confusion.
"That too Dad, but it's all in fun. We're friends and if we couldn't make fun of each other's differences we'd always have that junk hanging between us... the stuff we can't talk about." Chris said frankly.
"Okay guys, it's safe to come upstairs." Xander called from above.
"We'll be right up." William said, then looked to Chris.
"I'm allowed to walk for five minutes at a time. If you'll help me, I'll take my five minutes on the stairs." Chris said quietly.
"No. You can walk when we get upstairs, but climbing stairs is too much work for your first walk since the surgery." Angel said firmly.
"Okay dad." Chris said and smiled.
Angel picked him up and walked up the stairs with William following close behind.
* * * * *
Angel walked into the living room and looked around carefully, still holding Chris in his arms.
"Don't worry about the glass doors, they've been treated so they don't let in any ultra violet light." Xander said quietly.
Angel nodded and hesitantly walked to look out the double glass doors.
The view of the lake was breathtaking with just the tops of the trees glowing in the morning light.
* * * * *
There was a knocking on the door.
Jimmy ran to the door and opened it.
"Please come in quickly. Angel cannot be in the light." Jimmy said in a rush, then smiled when he saw it was Uncle Warren and Uncle Kurt.
"Good morning Jimmy. Are you feeling better?" Warren asked and picked up Jimmy.
"Yes, I am well. Did you wait like you said?" Jimmy asked impatiently.
"Ja, ve have not opened any of ze packages. Zey wait for you in ze room." Kurt said with assurance.
"Please come in guys. Angel is here too." Alan said from the couch.
"Hi, we came to borrow your son for a while, so we can finish our shopping trip from last night." Warren said with a smile.
"Ja, ze shopping is not complete until ze purchases have been examined, unt I still have not seen zem." Kurt said with obvious frustration.
Alan laughed and said, "Sure, but first, have you met Angel and his son Chris?"
"No, I don't think we've had the pleasure... Angel huh? I guess one of us is going to need a new mutant name." Warren said with a smile.
"How so?" Angel asked in confusion.
Warren pulled off his coat and let his wings extend, "I'm also called Angel."
"No offense Warren, but I think Angel had it first... for about two hundred fifty years?" Xander asked in confirmation.
Angel nodded but said nothing.
"Two hundred fifty years old? Is that your mutant ability?" Warren asked in an impressed tone.
"Angel's not a mutant, he's a vampire." Xander said simply.
"Vampire?" Kurt asked dubiously.
Angel nodded, obviously not thrilled at the prospect of having to show game face again.
"Yeah, but he's a good guy now. You two can work on the rights to the name 'Angel' if you need to." Xander said quickly, before Angel had to prove his claim.
"Guys, Team Leader here. Warren, how about you get promoted to 'Arch Angel' and Angel, you get the codename 'Soul Angel'?" Scott asked the group.
Warren and Angel nodded in agreement.
"I guess that's why he's team leader." Xander said with a smile.
"That's right, and Xander, do you want to be on the team too?" Scott asked curiously.
"But I'm just a plain old human." Xander said plaintively.
"I've seen you in action. I'd be honored if you'd fight along side us if the need should arise." Scott said firmly.
"Yeah, sure." Xander said and pulled Remy close for a hug.
"Good, then welcome to the X-men, 'Axeman'." Scott said with a smile.
"Why you get da name Axeman?" Remy asked curiously.
"Because my favorite weapon is a battle axe." Xander said with a peaceful smile.
"What about me? Do I get a mutant name?" Chris asked with excitement.
"Yes, please welcome 'Shambles' to the X-men." Scott said with a smile.
"Shambles, like when things fall apart?" Xander asked.
"Yeah, that seems to be his mutant ability." Scott said, then decided to change the subject before someone could ask Chris to explain.
"Who would like some breakfast?" Scott asked quickly.
Scott looked around the room and asked, "Jimmy, would you take down everyone's name and what type of omelet they would like?"
Jimmy nodded and walked to Remy to begin.
"Mutant names only during the meal, just for fun." Scott said with a smile.
"We do not have mutant names." Jimmy said in a small, dejected tone.
"No, but you have Borg designations and no one else does... but me." Alan said with a grin.
"Very well... Uncle Remy, what is your mutant name?" Jimmy asked.
"Remy be called Gambit." Remy said gently.
Jimmy looked at Remy with a smile and asked, "So Gambit, how would you like your omelet?"