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Spike hurried into the living room to find Alex watching Janine and William hooking a box to the television.
"Do you know how to play that guitar I saw in your closet?" Spike asked hopefully.
"It's Scott's, but I know how to play. Why?" Alex asked in confusion.
"Go get it. I'd like to try something." Spike said with enthusiasm.
Alex hopped off the couch and ran upstairs.
Robert watched William and Janine hooking up the box as Alex quickly came back down the stairs with the guitar.
"Can you give me something folksy, or upbeat country?" Spike asked hopefully.
Alex began to strum the guitar. The children watched in wonder as he produced the music.
"A little slower, and can you do a G chord?" Spike asked carefully.
Alex nodded and switched to G.
"Robert, be ready to jump in and sing when I point to you." Spike said happily.
Robert nodded in confusion.
Spike cleared his throat and began to tap his toe in time with the beat of the music.
Janine, William and Robert stared in amazement. Spike noticed that Robert was in no condition to sing, so he held out the padd and pointed to the next verse so Alex could sing it.
Spike moved beside Alex, careful not to interfere with his playing and continued to hold the padd. He and Alex began to sing in unison.
Spike motioned to the children to come over and pointed to the next verse. He held up his fingers to do a countdown, and when it was complete, all five of them started to sing with varying degrees of ability.
Spike and Alex laughed as everyone finished the last line at a different time. Spike calmed and pointed to himself to indicate that he would sing the next verse alone.
Alex nearly choked with laughter but continued the melody. Spike pointed at Robert and made a shushing motion to Alex. The music became almost nonexistent as Robert sang in a clear voice.
Alex and Spike laughed and clapped at the wonderful tone of Robert's voice.
"That was... amazing." William said with wide eyes.
Janine went to Robert and hugged him.
"This music, these words were written by Robert?" William asked in shock.
"That's right. The lil bloke wrote 'im a song without knowin it. Bloody good one at that." Spike said with a great smile.
"What do you think Robert?" Alex asked, unable to determine Robert's emotions by his expression.
"My words, I just heard them come alive. I can't describe what I am feeling." Robert said in wonder.
"Is it a good feeling?" Alex asked carefully.
"Oh yes. I just never imagined... The music I listened to before. I didn't understand that the words were poetry put to music. It's like discovering a new color." Robert said in amazement.
"Spoken like a true poet." Spike said with a proud smile.
* * * * *
"Scott, get Alan." Bobby said with worry as he held Andrew's shaking body.
Scott stood silently, staring at the spot where Jean and Logan had been standing.
"SCOTT!" Bobby barked.
"Um, yeah... Alan. I'll get him." Scott said absently and left the BioLab.
"Tara, would you get Andrew some water?" Bobby asked with concern.
Tara nodded and ran to the sink.
"Can I do anything?" Dawn asked helplessly.
"No, just stand back and give him some air." Bobby said as he saw Andrew begin to come back to himself.
"What happened to him?" John asked with concern.
"Backlash. He tried to cut off the flow of power too abruptly." Wesley said quietly.
"What can we do for him?" Bobby asked and noticed Alan and Scott hurrying into the room.
"Nothing. Just give him some time to recover. He may be overly sensitive to magics for a few days. It would be best if he weren't around any charms or enchantments." Wesley said seriously.
"We don't have any of those things." Alan said as he took Bobby's place at Andrew's side.
Bobby looked on with worry and caught the look of gratitude from Alan.
"He'll be fine in a few minutes." Wesley said with assurance.
"Andy love. You'd better get up before Hank sees you, or you'll be confined to a week of bedrest." Alan said with a teasing smile.
Andrew got a smile at that and moved to give Alan a gentle kiss.
Everyone watched the tender scene of caring unfold... almost everyone.
* * * * *
Matt opened his eyes and blinked at the harsh lights.
Hank was picking up Matt's clothes and stuffing them into biohazard bags.
Matt turned and saw a single person watching through the window from the lab.
Ronny's tears glistened in the light and the worry could be clearly seen, etched into his youthful face.
"Doc, is there any way I can talk to tha kid?" Matt asked weakly.
Hank thought for a moment and finally said, "No, not easily. The biosuit has a microphone that is connected to the lab, but there isn't a microphone in here for you to talk to him."
"Then how about you stuff him into one of those yellow suits and get him in here? I need to talk to him." Matt asked as gruffly as he could manage.
Hank looked at Matt, then at Ronny. Finally he said, "Very well. But you have been through a traumatic experience, he cannot visit for long."
Matt turned himself with effort to look at Hank and said, "You get him in here or you're going to have a traumatic experience. And if you try to throw him out before he's ready to leave, you'll answer to me."
"There is no need to become hostile. I was simply saying..." Hank began.
Matt extended the claws on his right hand and asked, "He's not here yet?"
Hank turned and left the containment room.
Matt turned and saw that Ronny hadn't moved an inch. He was still staring through the glass.
* * * * *
Ronny carefully walked into the containment room in the ill-fitting biosuit and made his way to the chair beside Matt's bed.
"How ya doin kid?" Matt asked weakly.
"Better than you." Ronny said with a forced smile.
"Don't worry bout me. I heal fast." Matt said assuringly.
"I heard that about you." Ronny said quietly.
"Why don't you tell me what you been up to." Matt asked as he turned to look at Ronny.
"Just trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my life." Ronny said airily.
"Oh, that's all." Matt said with a smile.
"Yeah. Mr. Summers offered to pay my way through school... as far as I want to go. But I don't know... I'd be like, on my own. Doing it all myself. I'd live in a dorm. I'd have to get myself up every day, keep myself going, make all the decisions... it's too much." Ronny said in a helpless voice.
"How old are you kid?" Matt asked carefully.
"I just turned fourteen." Ronny said quietly.
"And you don't think you're ready to face it all alone?" Matt asked in confirmation.
Ronny shook his head.
"Then don't." Matt said in thought.
"But what choice do I have? If I try to go back to mom and she finds out I'm a mutant, she'll either throw me out or turn me over to the 'Friends of Humanity'. The only other thing I can do is move in with John and eat out of dumpsters till I'm old enough to work in a fast food joint." Ronny said in a defeated tone.
"Ain't gonna happen kid." Matt said with certainty.
At Ronny's questioning look Matt said, "I been alone for four months, sick as hell. That's given me time to think about what I want out of life. This being all alone crap ain't working. You an me, we can make this work. You need someone to give a damn about you and I need someone to give a damn about. Instead of you figuring out what you want to do, let's figure out what we want to do. Maybe that'll be easier."
Ronny thought about the words, then asked in a small voice, "So you want to be my dad?"
Matt remembered what Ronny had said about his dad earlier and said, "I'll never be anything like your dad, kid. I don't know what we'll call it, but we'll be two guys who watch out for each other. I don't know if that makes us friends, brothers or what. It don't matter what we call it. We'll make it work."
"So I'd live with you?" Ronny asked curiously.
"We'd live together. It'll be your house too, and you'll have a say in the decisions." Matt said seriously.
"So I'd still be making decisions, but you'd be there to help me make good ones." Ronny said in thought.
"Yeah, and it goes both ways. I don't always make the best decisions either. Maybe having someone to talk it out with will keep me from making some stupid mistakes." Matt said with a smile.
Ronny thought about what Matt was suggesting and finally nodded.
"Does that mean you wanna give it a try?" Matt asked hopefully.
"Yeah. We'll get you out of here and then we'll work on getting us a place of our own." Ronny said with a smile.
* * * * *
"Hank, is Matt doing well enough that you can take a look at the babies?" Alan asked hopefully.
"Yes, since he is recovered enough to threaten me, I believe I have time." Hank said and motioned toward the door.
Alan and Andrew walked through the door, followed by Hank, Wesley, Tara and Dawn.
* * * * *
"John, would you mind talking with me for a minute?" Scott asked gently.
John looked at Bobby, then through the window at Ronny before saying, "Sure, let's talk."
Bobby walked to the window and watched Ronny in the biosuit talking to Matt. He wondered what they could possibly have to talk about.
Scott led John out of the BioLab and down the hallway.
* * * * *
"Will you sing my song to Bobby?" Robert asked shyly.
"You want us to sing the song? Why?" Alex asked curiously.
"Because your voices compliment each other. My own is inadequate to the task." Robert said quietly.
"You have a fine voice mate. That last bit you sang was perfect." Spike said honestly.
"Then perhaps I can sing the last verse of the song, as before." Robert said in thought.
"Oy, if he don't know that you wrote it, that'll make him take notice." Spike said with a chuckle.
"What should we do next?" Robert asked with increasing excitement.
"Let's us practice singing the song a few more times, so's we can get the timing just right." Spike suggested.
Robert nodded and listened as Alex began to play again.
* * * * *
Jimmy walked into the library and went to Warren.
"I am ready to work Mr. Worthington. Would you instruct me in my duties?" Jimmy asked professionally.
"Of course Mr. Summers. As my office assistant you will be expected to run errands, see to the basic comforts of the people in the meeting by providing coffee and observe the meeting in case I need to ask you about something later." Warren said as he finished binding his wings tight against his body.
"I can do that. Where will you want me to sit?" Jimmy asked, looking around the room.
"We're going to have our meeting at this table, I will have the center position and Dr. Hoffman will sit opposite me. Kurt will sit to my right and you will sit to my left." Warren said as he pulled on his suit jacket.
Jimmy moved to his seat and sat down his padd.
"Do you know where the kitchen is?" Warren asked to be sure.
"Yes, if you do not need me, I will go and make some coffee now so that it will be ready when we need it." Jimmy said in thought.
"Good idea. I'll finish setting up for the meeting while you do that." Warren said and went back to work.
"Thank you." Jimmy said quietly and walked out of the library.
Warren stopped and smiled for a moment before continuing to prepare.
* * * * *
Ronny was dreaming about the future when Matt forced himself to a sitting position.
"Are you feeling better?" Ronny asked hopefully.
"Yeah, better than I felt in months." Matt said honestly.
"I'm glad." Ronny said with a smile, then got up suddenly.
"What'cha doin kid?" Matt asked as he watched Ronny looking through crates.
After a minute of silence, Ronny came back to Matt with a beer in his hand and a triumphant look on his face.
"Thanks kid, but I don't want you doin that no more." Logan said as he opened the beer.
"Why not?" Ronny asked as he took his seat again.
"Cause I don't ever want you thinkin that you've gotta do anything like that for me. If you ain't gettin one for yourself, then don't get one for me." Matt said, then quickly continued before Ronny could say it, "And you ain't gettin one for yourself."
Ronny thought about that and asked, "So if I'm making dinner, and I think you might like some too, that's fine. But if I make dinner for you, you'll be angry?"
"Something like that. I just want you to know that you don't gotta do stuff for me. That's all. It'd be too much like me taking you in to be my house-boy, and it ain't gonna be like that. If I make a mess, I don't expect you to clean it up. And if you make the mess, you'd best clean it yourself." Matt said gruffly.
"Yeah. That sounds fair." Ronny said as he nodded his head.
"Good. That's all I'm goin for. Fair." Matt said, then took another drink of beer.
"So where are we going to live?" Ronny asked hopefully.
"Dunno. I guess we need to talk to someone about that." Matt said in thought.
"Do you want me to get someone?" Ronny asked enthusiastically.
"Naw, we got time for that. Right now, I wanna hear about what happened at lunch.
Ronny smiled and said, "You're not going to believe some of the people I met today."
* * * * *
"What's wrong Hank?" Alan asked with worry.
Hank saw the expression and said, "Nothing to worry about, the babies are just slightly larger than I expected."
"What do you mean? Are they aging abnormally?" Alan asked in panic.
"Not that I can tell, maybe it's just a side effect of the incident last night. For whatever reason, you could give birth at any time. I would estimate three to five days at the minimum, but wouldn't be surprised if they arrived sooner." Hank said professionally.
"I was supposed to have six and a half months to get ready for this. It's too fast." Alan said with a crease of worry in his brow.
"Don't worry love, you'll be fine. When the babies are ready, they'll come and everything will be fine." Andrew said with assurance.
"And what if they're full grown by Thanksgiving? They're supposed to be three and a half months along, they're nine months along. What if our babies don't get to have a childhood? What if they age and die before the end of the year?" Alan asked with tears beginning to flow.
"We'll deal with whatever comes. We have future technology, Borg technology, mutant powers, magic, and a huge family. With all that, we'll find a way." Andrew said with assurance.
"I know just what you need. A baby shower." Dawn said happily.
Alan looked at her with tearful, questioning eyes.
"Okay, then how about we just go upstairs and look at all the baby stuff I got?" Dawn asked with a small smile.
Alan nodded and looked at Andrew, who helped him off the table.
* * * * *
Icheb and Marie walked by the boathouse and heard music.
"What do you think is going on?" Marie asked curiously.
"Lets find out." Icheb said and opened the door.
"Icheb, Marie, come in and sit down. I need for you to hear something... be honest." Alex said with excitement.
Icheb and Marie walked to the nearest couch and sat as Alex began to play the guitar.
* * * * *
Scott and John walked in silence. Rather than lead John to the hanger bay, Scott decided to take him into the MedLab's conference room.
"Have a seat John." Scott said seriously.
"What's this about Mr. Summers?" John asked curiously.
"John, you can call me Scott." Scott said with a warm smile.
"Okay... Scott." John said hesitantly.
"I overheard you talking to Ronny at lunch and I have a few questions for you." Scott said quietly.
"Shoot." John said and put on an unconcerned expression.
"I thought Magneto was taking care of you. What happened?" Scott asked, letting his concern show.
"He does sort of take care of us. He got a house for us to live in. And he'll pay us good when he's got jobs for us... but the money runs out between jobs sometimes..." John trailed off.
"Did you mean what you said to Ronny about wanting to come back?" Scott asked seriously.
"Yeah. I didn't have a clue what it was like in the world." John said with a serious look at Scott.
"I've found a way that you can come back to this school, or go to the new school if you want to... but it's not going to be easy." Scott said darkly.
"What do I have to do?" John asked, the desperation showing in his eyes.
"3.0 average, 20 hours a month of community service, weekly UA tests." Scott said sharply.
"You think I'm on drugs?" John asked with offense.
"No John, these aren't my conditions. There is a scholarship set up specifically for mutants who need a second chance, but those are the conditions to get your tuition paid."
John thought about that, then nodded.
"But that still leaves the matter of books, housing, food, clothes... stuff like that." Scott said and waited for John to say something.
"Is there something we can do for that? I mean like, second hand books, room me in with someone else, maybe give me a kitchen job so I can get a meal?" John asked with hope.
"We won't have to go that far. But I'm glad to know that you're serious enough about this to consider it. I can make the Scholarship deal with you if you're willing to. As far as the rest... We can make a deal, just between us." Scott said shakily.
John got a frightened and lost expression on his face and said with as strong a voice as he could muster, "If this deal involves any part of your body entering any part of my body, then no deal."
Scott didn't betray any emotion and, after a moment said, "No John. Not that kind of deal. Let me spell it out for you. I've looked into everything that I can think of and I can't find any way to get you more money, not enough to do any good. If you got a 'paper hat' job, you wouldn't earn enough to pay for everything and you'd probably have problems with your grades because you'd be working all the time."
John nodded cautiously.
"So I'll pay for it." Scott said quietly.
"Why?" John asked suspiciously.
"John, before I came here... I was on the streets for a while... Just a month, it seemed like forever... I had to do things I never thought I'd ever do, just to survive. I ended up in jail and child protective services placed me with a family. A few months later I met Professor Xavier." Scott said in distant memory.
John had an expression half-way between fear and fascination.
"So I've been there. I've seen it. I've done it. If you'll let me do this for you, then all I'll ask is that someday, you find someone who needs help and do the same... that's the deal." Scott finished quietly.
"Scott, you seem so... I imagined that you had the perfect life. Two perfect parents that loved you, a perfect brother that adored you, you went to the perfect school and dated the homecoming queen." John said in thought.
Scott looked off into the distance and said, "My perfect life? My perfect family couldn't stand the sight of each other. It finally got so bad that I left... ran away... and left Alex there to face them alone. A week later I was in an alley, feeling my stomach gnawing on my backbone, and a guy offered me money to... I was so hungry..."
John had tears in his eyes and he nodded, letting Scott know that he didn't have to say it.
"After that, it got easier to not care. Fortunately I got picked up by the police and a child protection worker named Cheryl took the time to ask the right questions and give a damn about the answers. I didn't know that we were abused because our parents didn't hit us. Now I know that neglect is a form of abuse and hardly anyone gets help because there aren't any bruises or scars to tell people that you're hurting... but Cheryl saw them. I was placed in a foster home and Alex was taken away from our parents... it took me three years to find him..." Scott said as he relived his pain.
John sat silently, listening to the confession.
Scott finally smiled and said, "But after I settled into my new life, I did end up with the homecoming queen... that was Jean."
John smiled and said, "I love a happy ending."
"Good, then let's make one for you."
To Be Continued...