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As Jimmy, John, Kurt and Warren approached the door of the boathouse, Jimmy said, "We must knock on the door and wait for it to be answered. The sun is at an angle to come in the door and Uncle Angel will have to seek shelter before we enter.
John looked at the others in puzzlement when Kurt said, "I can teleport us into ze room. Zen ve vould not have to open ze door."
"With so many people in the house, I am concerned that you would teleport in on top of someone." Jimmy said seriously.
"Ja, zat is very possible." Kurt said quietly.
Jimmy walked up to the door and knocked firmly.
* * * * *
Andrew went to the door to open it and felt that someone was holding the knob.
"Is Uncle Angel out of the path of sunlight?" Jimmy asked through the door.
Andrew looked back to see that Angel had moved into the basement stairway.
"Yes, he's hidden." Andrew said through the door.
Jimmy opened the door and walked in followed by Kurt, Warren and John.
"Wow, you guys look great! Who's your new friend?" Andrew said with laughter in his voice.
"This is John Allerdyce, also known as Pyro. He wishes to speak to Bobby." Jimmy said as he walked into the room.
"Nice to meet you John, and Bobby is in the basement, just go down those stairs." Andrew said, pointing.
"Thanks." John mumbled and walked quietly to the stairway.
"Looking good guys!" Scott called out with a smile.
"Yes, the new look is very becoming on all of you." Vada said as she looked at the three with a happy expression.
"Thanks everyone. I guess we weren't too late for lunch then?" Warren said as he walked to a footstool and took a seat.
"No, I think Remy should be done any minute." Andrew said, still a bit stunned by the transformation.
"Kurt, you look fantastic. I can't believe the difference." Faith said in wonder.
With a purple blush, Kurt forced himself to say, "Jimmy unt Warren thought new clothing vould be good for me."
"Yeah, but that's just the beginning. You're stylin. The hair, the jewelry... and the sophisticated thing you've got going on... the look just works." Faith said in appreciation.
"Thank you." Kurt said shyly.
"And you're looking pretty daring too Warren. The green and gold just... it's like finding the perfect frame for a picture." Ken said in wonder.
"And Jimmy looks like he's ready to model in GQ." Scott said through a chuckle of amazement.
"Thank you Uncle Scott." Jimmy said with a proud smile.
"Jimmy, why don't you go in the kitchen and show your dad." Andrew said with joy in his eyes.
Jimmy was nearly glowing with happiness as he ran into the kitchen.
* * * * *
John walked down the stairs and could feel the tremble of fear turn into pure anxiety.
"Hello?" Chris said as he noticed the feet coming down the stairs.
"Hi. I'm... uh... looking for Bobby." John said unsurely to the boy in the wheelchair.
"He's over there with Robert and William." Chris said and pointed to the far side of the basement.
"Thanks." John said quietly and forced himself to take the next steps.
Trying to keep the tremble out of his voice, he said, "Bobby?"
* * * * *
Jimmy walked into the kitchen to find his dad, Uncle Alex and Uncle Remy all intently working on the family meal.
Alan was the first to look up and he said, "Look at you Squirt. You're looking great!"
Alex looked up at the statement and said, "Jimmy, that looks fantastic. Now I'm going to feel underdressed for lunch."
Remy added, "You be making all de men in de house look uncivilized."
Jimmy looked to his dad with concern.
"Don't worry about it Jimmy. If they don't have the sophistication to dress for a family get together, it's not your problem." Alan said warmly and opened his arms to invite Jimmy into a hug.
Jimmy moved into the hug and felt that his world was complete.
* * * * *
Bobby looked around the room, everyone but Trey was watching him and John. Ronny had a look of question in his eyes.
"Robert, is there someplace John and I can talk privately?" Bobby asked quietly.
Robert nodded and walked a few feet away and pressed the concealed door release into the tunnels.
"Cool." Ronny said as he saw the door open.
"Come on John, let's talk." Bobby said in nearly a whisper.
John hesitated for a moment, then followed Bobby into the tunnel.
* * * * *
"What's all that about?" Ronny asked as everyone went back to work.
"They used to be lovers." Peter said as he brushed the paint evenly onto the surface of the wood.
Robert's eyes went wide and he glanced back to the closed tunnel door.
"Oh... I didn't even think about that." Ronny said and looked around.
"Ronny, if you wouldn't mind, I could use your help." Peter said carefully.
"Sure, what can I do." Ronny said and walked to Peter's side.
"First, open a window. The fumes from the paint are getting strong. And second, hold this wood by the edges so I can paint the underside." Peter said as he finished the first side of the wood.
Ronny opened the window and silently thought about his brother, talking with an ex-lover.
* * * * *
"Magneto said you were sorry." John said quietly.
"Yeah. I really am." Bobby answered, just as quietly.
"For what? I mean, sorry for leaving me? Sorry for not loving me? Sorry for ever meeting me?" John asked in a brave voice.
Bobby smiled tenderly and said, "I'm not sorry I met you John. I'm just sorry that I hurt you... Everything you said out at the rocks was true. I didn't know... didn't care... about your feelings. I was just in it for the thrill. Now I can't think of any way to make it up to you. The things I did... there's no way to make up for it all."
John thought about the words and looked into Bobby's eyes that were showing his true remorse. Finally he asked, "Do you love me now?"
"Yes John, but not like a lover. I love you like a friend, a brother... family. I'm sorry if that isn't enough." Bobby trailed off and tears welled up in his eyes at the thought of how inadequate it was.
John thought about the words and let a small smile form on his face.
At Bobby's look of confusion, John said, "That's what I wanted all along you big goofball. Sex was just the only way I could get close to you... even though it was only physically. Bobby, I've had time to think. When Marie told me that you never loved me, it woke me up. The sex, it was just a substitute for what I really wanted. I wanted someone to love me... and it didn't even have to be you. I used you too Bobby."
Bobby stood stunned, unable to speak.
"You used me to satisfy your physical desires, I used you to keep me from feeling alone. I think that kind of makes us even. Is that okay with you?" John asked hopefully.
Bobby snapped out of his trance state and said, "Yeah, I'm glad you've figured all that out... you really aren't mad at me now?"
"No. I'm mad at myself a little for being so pathetic. I asked you to do everything that you did, and the moment you stopped giving me what I wanted, I exploded like a spoiled kid. I just want to know where we stand now." John asked seriously.
"As friends, the friends we should have been all along. Come on. Let's get back to the others, I want to introduce you around." Bobby said with a smile.
"Sure." John said with a little surprise. He had thought they would have their own little 'Jerry Springer' type scene at the mansion today.
Bobby smiled and led the way back to the tunnel entrance.
* * * * *
"Everyone come upstairs. It's lunch time." Scott called from the top of the stairs.
Trey, William and Janine continued to work as the others went up the stairs, with Peter carrying Chris.
Scott walked down the stairs and said, "That includes everyone."
"But we do not eat. We can complete the iso-chip decoder while you enjoy your meal." Trey said from his work.
"That can wait. Your dad, Uncle Alex and Uncle Remy made food for everyone... including you." Scott said seriously.
"Food for us?" Trey said in surprise and actually looked up from what he was doing.
"That's right. They cooked food especially for you so you could try it. Now you'd better get upstairs and wash your hands before lunch." Scott said with a smile.
Trey quickly put away his tools and went to the stairs, followed by William and Janine. Scott was about to follow when he saw Robert standing at the far side of the basement, facing the wall.
"Robert?" Scott asked quietly.
Robert didn't acknowledge him, so Scott walked across the room with increasing worry.
When he reached Robert's side, he turned Robert to face him.
The look of stricken grief on Robert's face tore immediately into Scott's heart.
"What happened?" Scott asked quietly as he squatted before Robert and pulled him into a hug.
"Bobby... he's... he's... with his... love... lover." Robert forced out between hitching breaths.
"You love him?" Scott asked as he held Robert tightly.
"Yes, but I'm... I'm too young for him." Robert said, then broke down into heaving sobs.
Scott kept hugging Robert, and began a soothing rocking.
Robert buried his face into Scott's shoulder and let his tears flow freely.
Scott turned at the sight of movement and saw Bobby and John coming into the basement through the tunnel door.
Bobby hurried immediately to Robert and Scott, obviously worried.
Scott looked from Bobby to John, trying to decide what would be the best way to handle this.
* * * * *
The line of children at the bathroom prompted Aunt Vada to say, "Marguerite is going to have quite a wait in line when mealtime comes around."
"We'll make sure she gets a spot toward the front. The older kids can stand to wait a few minutes." Xander said with a chuckle.
"Xander, we need your help." Alex called from the kitchen door.
"Duty calls." Xander said and hopped up from his spot on the couch.
"Can you believe all these people?" Faith said in wonder.
"Child, I had fourteen brothers and sisters in a house not much bigger than this one. It seems like a lot, but I feel more at home here than I've felt in many a year. I'm glad Marguerite is going to be raised with a large family. I never knew what a blessing it was until I was away from them." Vada said as she watched the children waiting to wash up.
"I was one of twelve children. We're all still very close, in fact, we're having Thanksgiving at my sister Denise's house this year. All of us will be there." Ken said with a tender smile.
Peter pointed forcefully toward the couch and Chris hung his head and left the line.
"What's the matter son?" Angel asked with concern.
"Peter said that I was standing too long. He's going to call me when he reaches the front of the line so I can take my place." Chris said quietly.
"That's nice of him. Chris, Peter is concerned for you." Angel said seriously.
"I guess. I just want to be able to do like the other kids." Chris said sadly.
"And you will. It'll just take a little time. You look tired. After lunch you need to take a nap." Angel said with concern.
"But DAAA-AAD." Chris said in a classic cranky kid voice.
Angel smiled and fought back a laugh as he said, "We'll talk about it after lunch."
Chris nodded and looked back to the line at the bathroom.
* * * * *
"Robert, I know it hurts. And I know Bobby loves you." Scott said, looking directly at Bobby.
John looked questioningly at Bobby as he noticed that Bobby was nodding in agreement.
"Do you want Bobby to hurt?" Scott asked carefully.
Robert shook his head in Scott's shoulder.
"Then you need to be his friend. Let him know how you feel and support his decisions." Scott said quietly.
"I will." Robert mumbled.
Scott freed a hand and motioned for Bobby to take over.
Bobby quietly pulled Robert into a hug as Scott shifted him over.
"Robert, John and I are friends. That's all, that's all we ever should have been. Please don't worry. I'm not planning on looking for anyone else, and I know how you feel. What I said before is still true. If it's true love, it will wait for us." Bobby said and held Robert tight.
"Thank you Bobby." Robert said and tried to pull himself back together.
"Now, Robert Summers, I'd like for you to meet my friend John Allerdyce." Bobby said, trying to sound confident.
Robert pulled himself up straight and looked John in the eyes.
"I love Bobby. And if you are his friend, then I will try to be your friend too." Robert said with strength.
John stood stunned at the statement, then finally said, "I'll try too."
"Good. Now let's all get upstairs for lunch. This is going to be something." Scott said with a smile.
* * * * *
Robert wiped his eyes and made his way upstairs, lagging behind the others.
Ronny noticed when Bobby walked into the room followed by John and an obviously distraught Robert. He moved from his place in line to walk to Bobby's side.
"What's up Bro?" Ronny asked with concern.
"You know when I told you that I used people and hurt them?" Bobby asked quietly.
Ronny nodded carefully.
"John is one of the ones I hurt the most." Bobby said with shame.
"He looks to be in a lot better shape than that little guy." Ronny said, looking at Robert.
In a barely audible whisper, Bobby said, "If everything works out right, that little guy is going to be your brother-in-law in a few years."
"Really?" Ronny asked disbelievingly.
"Yeah. I don't want to make any promises to him yet. Too many things might happen between now and then, but if our feelings don't change before he's eighteen, I'm going to marry him." Bobby whispered.
"Bro, you're serious?" Ronny asked in astonishment.
"Yeah... I just hope I'm serious enough to keep my mouth shut and my zipper closed until he's ready. Self control isn't one of my strong suits." Bobby said with concern.
"It sounds like you're doing it smart Bro, taking it slow. If you feel yourself getting shaky, just talk to me... or imagine what his fathers will do if you hurt him." Ronny finished with a chuckle.
"Yeah, today I thought Andrew was going to port me to the middle of the desert, and Alan was going to fry me where I stood." Bobby said with a smile.
"Hey, freeze pop, You're holding up the line." John said from behind Ronny and Bobby.
Bobby and Ronny moved forward as Bobby said, "Don't get your pilot light in a twist."
* * * * *
Robert fought to maintain his expression as he listened to Bobby and Ronny's whispered conversation.
Joy infused every fiber of his being at the revelation that Bobby intended to marry him when he was old enough.
He absently took a step forward in line as Bobby's words replayed in his mind in an endless loop.
'That little guy is going to be your brother-in-law in a few years... I'm going to marry him.'
* * * * *
Alex and Xander came out of the kitchen carrying the table.
"Scott, have you put the leaf in the dining room table yet?" Alex asked as he tried to see where he was walking.
"Both of them. And all the chairs are at the table.
"Good. Ken, It's good that you brought your own chair, you might not get one otherwise." Alex said with a teasing smile.
"I hope that doesn't go for me." Vada said firmly.
"No Aunt Vada, even if there were a hundred people here, we'd always have a chair for you." Alex said reverently.
"What a nice boy." Vada said in a sweet, grandmotherly voice, then continued less sweetly, "He can really suck up when he talks himself into a corner."
Several people laughed as Alan made his way carefully out of the kitchen.
"And don't think I'm not going to ask you about how that happened Alan. I've just been waiting till we have plenty of time to sit and talk." Vada said as he passed her by.
Alan stopped, turned and went back to Aunt Vada.
"May I escort you to the table dear lady?" Alan asked formally.
Vada got a big smile and said, "Yes you may, kind sir."
Alan helped her up from the couch and extended his elbow to properly escort her into the dining room.
"Where do you want us Scott?" Alan asked as they approached the table.
"You're asking me?" Scott asked in surprise.
"You're the keeper of the sacred dining room. We will bend to your will while we are in your domain." Xander said with a flourish.
"Fine, Xander and Remy can sit here. Andrew and Alan next... Ken, do you prefer to be at the end of the table or in the middle?" Scott stopped to ask.
"The chair fits best at the end." Ken said simply.
"Okay, Ken gets the end spot. Then Aunt Vada, Warren, Kurt, Angel... Faith and Lee, do you think you can share that end?" Scott said seriously.
"We'll manage." Faith said with a sultry look at Lee.
Lee saw the look, then mouthed, "Thank you." silently to Scott.
Scott chuckled, then said, "At the next table we'll have Alex, Icheb, Bobby, Me, John, Ronny, Trey and... Robert."
"William, Peter, Chris, Jimmy and Janine can use the coffee table." Scott said as he looked around, hoping he got everyone.
"One more person and someone would be eating off the floor." Alex said as he made his way to his assigned seat.
"It always seems that way in a large family, but somehow, you can always fit one more in." Vada said as she relaxed into her chair.
"Alex, Andrew, Scott, Xander. Come help Remy serve de food. If Remy try to do it all alone, de first person be finished before de last person start." Remy said with a chuckle.
The named individuals followed Remy into the kitchen, then came out a few minutes later, each carrying two bowls.
"Aunt Vada, here is some gumbo. Remy swears it's not spicy at all." Xander said and sat it in front of her.
"And something warm and AB negative for Mr. O'Rourke." Xander said as he sat a warmed mug before Angel.
"Icheb, here is some soup for you, and some for you too Robert." Alex said as he placed the soup before the boys.
"Trey and William, I have your soup." Andrew said as he passed Alex who was returning to the kitchen for another load.
"And here is yours Ronny, and John." Xander said and placed the bowls before the boys.
"Why is ours different from theirs?" Ronny asked suspiciously.
"Try a taste of theirs. If you want some, I'll bring it to you." Andrew said sweetly.
"You mind?" Ronny asked Trey carefully.
"Please do, I have not tasted it before either." Trey said and waited.
Ronny took a spoonful of soup and carefully tasted it.
"It tastes like nothing. It's hot water with little things floating in it." Ronny said with a wrinkled nose.
"Exactly." Andrew said and returned to the kitchen.
"I guess it sucks being an alien if you gotta eat crap like that." Ronny said, looking at Trey with sympathy.
Trey was about to give Ronny the 'alien speech' then decided that he wasn't insulted after all.
The soups were finally all placed and Kurt spoke to the room. "I vould like to bless ze food."
Everyone stopped with their spoons in mid-air, then collectively put them back into their bowls.
"Dear God, Bless zis food, Bless zose zat provided it, zose zat prepared it, unt ve who vill receive it. Thank you for providing a family for all of us vere ve can be accepted unt loved. Amen." Kurt said reverently.
Everyone started to eat their soup. Trey and Icheb looked at each other in question, then finally each took a spoon of soup and tasted it.
Trey had a look of wonder. He savored the taste of the soup until the flavor began to fade, then he carefully took another spoon of soup to his mouth, making sure to get every drop.
Ronny watched in wonder at the expressions of ecstasy on Trey's face.
"He acts like he never ate before." Ronny said in wonder.
"He hasn't." Icheb said as he pushed his bowl of soup away.
"You do not like it?" Trey asked in amazement.
"No. I find the underlying flavor displeasing." Icheb said seriously.
"Do you like yours Robert?" Bobby asked curiously.
"Yes, it is very good." Robert said with a dreamy smile (that actually had little to do with the soup).
A moment later Robert rushed to ask, "And how is yours?"
"Delicious. Remy is a good cook." Bobby said with a smile, enjoying Robert's happiness.
"Ronny, does all this seem a little sappy to you?" John asked frankly.
"Oh good, it's not just me. I thought I was having Brady Bunch flashbacks." Ronny said with relief.
"I'll bet you that there's going to be a group hug before the end of the day." John said gruffly.
"Given. No bet. What do you want to bet there's going to be a group hug by the end of the *meal*?" Ronny asked with a mischievous twinkle.
"Group being more than two people, not all of them?" John asked speculatively.
"Yeah, three or more people hugging, before the end of the meal." Ronny said with challenge flaring in his eyes.
"What marks the end of the meal?" John asked cautiously.
"Let's make it dessert, when it's served, the official meal is ended." Ronny said seriously.
"Okay, what's the stakes?" John asked with a grin.
Ronny thought and his face finally fell, "I got nothin to bet."
John saw the crestfallen look and said, "Then it's just for the satisfaction of knowing you were right."
"Okay, I can afford that." Ronny said with a small smile.
"We can't influence them in any way. We just watch and listen. If spontaneous hugging breaks out, you win bragging rights. If it doesn't, I win." John said confidently.
"It's a bet." Ronny said and took another spoon of his soup as he watched the others.
To Be Continued...