"So what kinds of things do you like to do Clark?" Bobby asked with interest.
"Football, Astronomy, Archeology, um... I guess I like to read a lot of sci-fi stuff." I said as I considered my interests.
"We don't play much football here. Since most of us have special abilities, it usually turns into an all out battle of powers and we forget about the ball." Bobby said, then took a bite of his salad.
I thought about that before saying, "Everyone here has special abilities?"
"No, not everyone. Some of the people here are just average people... did you meet the guy with the eye patch?" Bobby asked while I was tasting some really good clam chowder.
"Yeah, in the bedroom." I said, barely remembering with all the new people we'd seen in the past half-hour.
"That's Xander. He doesn't have any special ability, but he lives here and is as much one of us as anyone." Bobby said, then grabbed a sandwich from the platter in the middle of the table.
I looked at the sandwiches and noticed that there were tuna fish sandwiches, so I grabbed two while I was saying, "So if everyone here doesn't have special abilities, Why are they here?"
"This is a place where people with gifts can be accepted. We can be ourselves. The only thing that we have to do is respect each other. That means respecting people regardless of their gifts or lack of gifts." Bobby said, then took a drink of tea.
"Do you have a gift?" I asked hesitantly. It seemed it might be... wrong to ask, or something you just didn't talk about.
"Yeah, um... but I'd better not show you at the table. Remind me and I'll show you after lunch." Bobby said seriously.
I nodded as I took a bite of my sandwich.
"Nobody introduced us. I'm Chris." A boy said from my other side.
"Hi Chris, I'm Clark." I said, looking at the boy who was about my age.
"I'm new here too. I'll be starting classes tomorrow, so if you want, you can hang around with me." Chris said seriously.
"Thanks Chris, I may do that." I said, impressed by his kind offer.
"Don't worry Chris, we're going to have a lot of new people tomorrow. Robert and all his brothers and his sister start school tomorrow, so do John and Ronny." Bobby said as he leaned to look around me.
"So just about everyone here except you is a new person?" I asked Bobby as I looked around.
"Yeah, I guess so." Bobby said, noticing that I was right.
"That makes me feel better. I won't feel like I'm in the spotlight if there are other new people." I said, thinking that this might not be so bad.
"Yeah, that first day can be tough. But you don't have to worry about a lot of things here that you have to face in regular schools." Bobby said, then took another bite of salad.
"Like what?" I asked. I couldn't think of what could be so different here.
"Well, we don't have any bullies or cliques. I mean, the girls kind of gather to themselves sometimes, but that's as close as we come to separating into little groups. Everyone gets along pretty well. There's no pressure about drugs, drinking, smoking or any of that stuff. I think everyone here has seen enough to know that those things will destroy your life. Um... it's basically a pretty friendly place. If you don't hassle anyone, no one will mess with you." Bobby said in thought.
I thought about his words as I absently ate my soup. No bullies, no drug pressure, no one trying to get me to sneak a drink, no cliques dividing us... "It sounds wonderful." I heard myself say, before I realized that I spoke out loud.
"Well, it's still a school. We have homework, research papers, stuff like that. But compared to my last school... yeah, I guess it is pretty wonderful." Bobby said as he stacked his empty dishes.
Robert came over and picked up the dishes immediately. I noticed a look pass between Robert and Bobby.
"What's with you two?" I asked curiously. It looked like they had a secret or something.
"He's my boyfriend." Bobby said shyly.
I don't think I said anything, but I'm not sure.
Either way, Bobby looked me in the eyes and said, "Yeah, I'm gay. Is that a problem for you Clark?"
I was stunned to the point that I couldn't answer. I'd never known anyone who was 'that way' before. I'd never really thought about it, I mean, the subject just never came up.
"I can find someone else to show you around if you want." Bobby said in a quieter voice.
That snapped me out of my thoughts. He thought I didn't like him because he was gay.
"No, no Bobby. That's fine. I just got stuck in my thoughts... that happens to me." I said, not knowing how else to explain.
Bobby smiled and said, "It happens to all of us sometimes."
I nodded and finished the last few bites of my lunch.
William came up beside me and took my plates as soon as I was finished.
"Do you want to go to the mansion with us? A friend of ours is sick and we're going to take him some food from lunch." Bobby said as he looked at the other boys.
"Um. I don't know. I should probably stay with mom." I said in thought.
"Clark, I'm going to need your mom to sign a few papers before she leaves... permission slips and stuff like that. If you want to go with Bobby, you can catch up to us in the office at the mansion." Mr. Summers said as he walked to our table.
"Oh, um... Okay, I guess so." I said, a little nervous about leaving mom.
"Go ahead Clark. I'll see you there." Mom said with a comforting smile.
I nodded and got up from my place to follow Bobby, John and Ronny.
"Can I go Dad?" Chris asked from his seat.
"Hank, do you think Chris is up to a walk back to the mansion?" A man, Chris's father, asked the big blue furry man.
"Will the rest of you watch out for Chris? He may need to rest on the way to the mansion." Hank asked all of us.
"Yeah, we'll take care of him." John said seriously.
"May we go too?" Robert asked from the kitchen doorway beside William.
"Go ahead. But be back before dark." Andrew said to the twin boys.
"I'm going to watch the babies so Xander and Remy can have some lunch." A man said from beside Andrew. He looked just like Mr. Summers, but without sunglasses.
"Go ahead love, just call if you need anything." Andrew said, then kissed the man... on the mouth... right in front of everyone.
No one seemed to care. Mom had a surprised look but no one else even seemed to notice.
I felt a touch on my arm as Bobby said, "Let's go. I don't want Matt's soup to get cold before we get there."
I felt myself nod and followed Bobby automatically to the kitchen.
* * * * *
The group of us left the house and I remembered what Chris' father had asked the big blue furry doctor. I asked him, "Are you sick?"
"No, I was stabbed a few days ago. My dad is worried that I'll get too tired walking all the way back to the mansion." He said as we walked.
"Stabbed?" I asked, and looked at Bobby.
"Long story. The woman who stabbed him is gone now." Bobby said, obviously wanting me to drop the subject.
I couldn't think of anything to say to that so I let the subject drop and we walked in silence for a minute.
"We need to get the camping supplies put away." John said to Bobby.
"Yeah, when Scott brings the truck back to the mansion we'll take care of it." Bobby said in thought.
"Camping?" I heard myself say in excitement. I'd only gone camping a few times, but I loved it.
"Yeah. Scott took us camping last night... well, we put up a tent and built a fire. It was cool." Ronny said with a smile.
"I grew up in the city, I've never been camping." Chris said, obviously taken with the idea.
"Next time you can come with us. It was a lot of fun." Bobby said and smiled at Robert.
"Bobby... do you think I could borrow some clothes for tomorrow? I don't really have anything." John asked shyly.
"Sure... but I don't know if my clothes will fit you." Bobby said seriously.
"They will not. John is a size larger than you are." William said as a statement of fact.
"Who's clothes would he be able to wear?" Bobby asked with concern.
"Clark is nearest his size." William said after looking at all of us.
"You don't have any clothes?" I heard myself ask.
"Just what I'm wearing." John said shyly.
"Me too." Ronny said in realization.
"I have clothing that you can wear Ronny." Robert said with assurance.
"Yes, both Robert and I can provide you clothing." William said seriously.
"Thanks guys." Ronny said shyly.
"Perhaps we could get some clothing for you after we have given Matt his food?" Robert suggested.
"Yeah. That'd be good." Ronny said with a smile.
"And when Mom brings the car back to the mansion, we'll look through my things and find something for you John." I said, trying to sound like it was no big deal.
"Um... thanks Clark." John said shyly.
"Has Scott said anything about who's getting what room?" Bobby asked the group.
"No. It hasn't come up. When Logan gets released, we're going to move in with him." John said and looked to Ronny.
"Okay, if Scott says it's okay, we could double up until then... I mean, if you guys want to. Ronny could room with me and share my stuff." Bobby said hopefully.
"Would you want to John? I mean, since we're the same size?" I asked hesitantly. Not sure if I was presuming too much.
"Really? I mean, yeah. Thanks Clark. It won't be for very long, Logan should be out of isolation in a few days, then he's going to find a house for us." John said a little nervously.
"I think it will be good to have some company in this new place." I said honestly, trying to let him know that it was really okay with me if he shared my room.
John seemed to think about that for a second, then said, "When I first came here, I remember how scary it was... especially when I was alone. We'll be fine."
"You were a student here before?" I asked, I thought he was new like me.
"Yeah, for a while. Some stuff happened... anyway, I'm back now. It'll be fine." He said, and I could tell from the look in his eyes that he believed it.
"How are you doing Chris?" Bobby asked.
"I think I need to rest for a minute. I felt fine when we left the house, but now I'm feeling really tired." Chris said with apology in his voice.
"The field house is right over there. We can sit in the locker room and rest for a few minutes, it's heated." Bobby said in thought.
"Okay." Chris said shyly as we changed direction.
"Bobby, you said that you'd show me your gift when we left the house." I said and noticed the look of gratitude from Chris for changing the subject.
"Oh, yeah. Let's get Chris to the field house, then I'll show you." Bobby said with a smile.
"I want to show you mine too." Ronny said happily.
At my curious look, Bobby said, "He just learned how to use his ability a few days ago."
"Then you're doing better than me... I haven't figured out how to use mine yet. It just happened without warning." I said shyly, feeling like 'one of the guys' since I had an ability too... even if I couldn't use it.
"I haven't learned to use mine either." Chris said with a relieved smile at me.
"I guess we'll both learn together." I said, feeling that it would be easier to learn how to control my ability if there was someone with me who was doing the same.
"You guys can do that tomorrow. I don't know if they told you, but new students aren't supposed to try to use their abilities without supervision. It's just too dangerous. Ronny kind of figured his out on his own, but we're really supposed to have one of the teachers around to help us." Bobby said as we entered the field house.
"What can they do?" Ronny asked seriously as he took a seat on one of the long benches of the locker room.
"It depends on your ability. Ms. Munroe is the one who helps me. Her ability is something like mine, so she can give me advice and help me to focus because she understands what I'm feeling." Bobby said seriously.
"Yeah, she helped me too, but from what I saw yesterday, I think Andrew would be the one to help me now. He does fire really good." John said in thought as he also sat down.
"What's your thing Clark?" Bobby asked curiously.
"I don't know what it's called, but heat... like lasers or something... came out of my eyes and started a fire." I said, not knowing how to describe it.
"Optic blasts... Scott and Alan could help you with that. They both have that." Bobby said casually.
"They do?" I asked, not ever considering that someone else might have the same ability as me.
"Yes. Dad and Uncle Scott both have that ability. My uncle Alex has the same ability but it comes from his hands and my brother Chakotay has it from his mouth." Robert said seriously.
"Chakotay... the baby?" I asked, remembering the unusual name.
"Yes, he and my brother Thomas were born with their abilities active." William said off-handedly.
"Wow, that's going to be tough. I mean, since they're too young to understand control." John said in thought.
"They only seem to manifest their abilities when they are angry, so we try to keep them fed and changed." Robert said simply and moved to pull Bobby into a casual hug.
"Um... if you guys don't mind me asking... I mean... if you're gay... what do you... I mean, you're so young." I heard myself ask. I couldn't help it. It was really eating me up. I wanted to know.
Bobby chuckled at my nervousness and said, "Don't worry Clark. We're all friends here, you can ask stuff like that when it's just us."
I looked around quickly and noticed that everyone seemed to be in agreement.
"And to answer your question. We hug and kiss a little. That's all. We'll do more later, when we're ready for it but until we are... this is all." Bobby said and squeezed Robert with affection.
"Um... so... if you don't mind me asking... who else is... um... gay." I asked nervously.
"Why do you want to know?" Ronny asked curiously.
"Um... I don't know?" I answered, not having a clue about *why* I wanted to know.
"Okay, I guess that's honest." Ronny said with a shrug.
"I am opposite gender oriented." William said without embarrassment.
"Huh?" I heard myself ask.
"Straight." Bobby said to me, obviously translating.
"Gay." John said as he raised his hand.
"Undecided." Ronny said without concern.
"Um... I never even thought about it." Chris said shyly.
"Me either." I said to Chris.
"From what my brother Icheb explained to me, your orientation will make itself known when it is appropriate. If you are in a relationship and your orientation has not made itself known, then you aren't at a point where sexuality should be a component of your interaction." William said seriously.
"I guess that makes sense." I said, thinking that it sounded like a smart way to go.
"In my case, my orientation made itself clearly known when I saw Meghan Delaney in the mess hall wearing her off-duty attire. I felt such attraction and desire that I was unable to process other information properly for days afterward. Since then I have appreciated the female form and been attracted to the feminine attributes." William said in thought.
"For me, it was different. I am not attracted to males, I am attracted to Bobby. No one else has attracted me before or since." Robert said to the group without shame.
"I guess I'm like William, but with guys. I just like the way guys look and feel. Girls don't do a thing for me." John said in thought.
I guess I had a look of terror or question or something because John looked at me and laughed, not maliciously but with understanding.
"Don't worry Clark. I'm not some horny gay rapist who's going to try to jump you or seduce you. I'm just a guy who likes guys. If I know you're not interested, then I won't make a move on you." John said honestly.
"It's just so new to me... I mean where I come from... I never met anyone who was gay before." I stammered.
"What's more likely is, you just never met anyone who could admit to it publicly before." John said frankly.
"Yeah, even here, it takes a lot of courage to let people know something so personal." Bobby said to the group.
"Not that you had to do that... Marie took care of that for you." John said with a teasing smile.
I guess I had a curious look because Bobby turned to me and explained, "Marie accidentally read my thoughts and announced to everyone that I was gay. I never even admitted it to myself and she announced it to the whole school."
"And outed me in the process." John said with a sympathetic look at Bobby.
"Did Marie tell everyone because she wanted to hurt you?" Chris asked from beside me.
"No, she was just surprised and blurted it out. We're friends now, there are no hard feelings." Bobby said with a tender smile.
"Okay, that's cool. I just wanted to know if there is anyone I should watch out for." Chris said with a note of worry.
"No. Everyone's pretty nice around here. Some of the younger kids are a little hyper, but they're nice." Bobby said seriously.
"I think I'm rested enough to go again." Chris said timidly.
"Okay. Let's go outside and I'll show you my ability, then we'll go." Bobby said with a smile.
* * * * *
Bobby concentrated for a second and I saw a mist forming before him. Then the mist became solid and ice began to form into a pillar.
"I can control water and ice." Bobby said in explanation, then looked to John.
After a moment of thought, John flicked his lighter and a small flame popped up. The flame began to grow bigger and then started to take form. It finally resolved into a large flaming ball that hovered above us.
"Fire's my thing." John said, then looked to Ronny.
With a look of concentration directed at the ice pillar, Ronny said, "And I think my thing is gravity."
The pillar floated into the air and away from us. It stopped, then exploded, but backward. Instead of blowing out, the pillar collapsed in and became a small dot hanging in the air.
"I can't show you mine, but I make things fall apart." Chris said as we began to walk toward the mansion again.
"Like how?" I asked curiously.
"Things just get old and tired. Wood gets weak, metal becomes brittle, skin..." Chris stopped, obviously not wanting to finish the sentence.
"I guess I'll get to see for myself when we try to learn our abilities." I said, trying to change the focus a little.
"Yeah, I really want to learn to use it. I think it'll be cool when I can make it do what I want." Chris said hopefully.
Silence fell over our group as we continued to walk. Finally I thought of something to ask.
"What's wrong with the guy that we're taking the food to?"
"He had a virus, a really bad one. We have to make sure that it's gone before he can leave the isolation room." Ronny said seriously.
"Um, how bad?" I asked, it seemed like they were holding something back.
"Logan's ability is healing. He's had the virus for four months and it nearly killed him. He's the only one who ever got it who's still alive." Ronny said quietly.
"Wow. I guess that's a good reason to keep him in isolation." I said in thought as the Mansion came into view.
"Yeah, I think he's better now. But we have to wait to be sure." Ronny said hopefully.
"So you said you're going to live with him... how did that happen?" I asked, just wanting to keep the conversation going.
"Everyone around him died and he was alone for four months. So now he doesn't want to be alone. I'm new here and I'm not ready to be on my own. So I don't want to be alone. It just worked out to be the best thing for both of us." Ronny finished with a shrug.
"And he's your friend." Bobby added.
"Yeah, he's a really good guy." Ronny admitted.
"What about you John?" I asked, wondering how he figured into this.
"I dunno. I didn't really have anyplace to go or anyone who cared. Ronny asked me if I wanted to move in with them and I said okay." John said honestly.
I thought about what he said and could hear the sadness under his words.
"I guess it's good to be wanted somewhere. I mean, if they didn't want you, they wouldn't have asked." I said in thought.
"Yeah, it's cool." John said with a tiny smile.
* * * * *
We walked into the mansion and to an elevator. The thing saw us coming or something because it opened when we walked up to it.
We got in and Bobby pressed the button to make it go down.
"After we visit Matt, I'll take you to the Professor's office. Your mom will probably be waiting there for us." Bobby said casually.
"Okay." I said, as the door opened.
We walked off the elevator and I was surprised by the hallway.
Everything was shiny and sterile.
It seemed wrong to even talk in such an uninviting place.
Apparently the others felt the same way because we all went down the hallway without comment, with Ronny in the lead.
* * * * *
After going through a couple doors with airtight seals, we ended up in a room with a big window in one wall. There was a man inside the next room who was watching TV.
"That's Logan. We'll have to put on biosuits to go in and see him." Ronny said and walked to a door.
I wasn't sure what I should do until John said, "Come on Clark. I want to introduce you to Matt since I'm going to be your roommate for a few days."
"Um, okay." Was all I could think to say as I followed everyone into the small room that was between the two larger rooms.
"We have to put on the biosuits to go in and visit with Matt. Just put one on and then I'll check to see that it's all sealed up right." Ronny said as he began to put on the plastic suit.
I carefully put on the suit, glancing at the others to be sure that I was fastening everything right.
"Hold still and let me look." Ronny said as everyone was checking each other out.
He checked my gloves, the zipper and the hood before saying, "It looks good, we're ready to go in."
I followed the others into the room and the man in the bed pressed the button on his remote to turn off the TV.
"We brought your lunch Logan." Ronny said and carried the food to the table beside the bed.
"Thanks kid. There's a bunch of you today. What's going on?" The man asked as he got up to sit at the table.
"We brought Clark to meet you. Clark Kent, this is Matt Logan." Ronny said with a smile.
"Good to meet you. You gonna be a student here?" Logan asked before taking a spoon of soup.
"I'm just visiting for a few days to see if I want to come here." I said, feeling a little intimidated by the man. He was nice enough but just seemed to radiate aggression.
"These are some good people. It'd be hard to find any better." He said, then took a bite of his sandwich.
"Everyone's been really nice so far." I said, realizing that it was true.
"Clark invited me to share a room with him until you get out of here and we find a place." John said happily.
"That's good. If you're willing to do that then you'll fit in fine around here." Logan said before taking a bite of his salad.
"Robert and William are going to share their clothes with me... since I don't have anything." Ronny said and looked at the twins with a smile.
"When I get out of here, I'll take you to get the things you need. How are you doing for things John?" Logan asked casually.
"I'm wearing everything I have. Clark said he'd loan me some things till I can get my own." John said shyly.
"Thanks for that Clark. I'll see that he's taken care of when I get out. Between me and Cyke, we'll get him fixed up." Logan said, then took another bite of his sandwich.
"Clark's mother should be up in the office with Scott by now. I'm going to take him up there. Why don't you guys stay here and visit for a while and we'll come back when we're done." Bobby said to everyone.
"Yeah, go on and do what you need to do. When you get back, I want to hear all about your camping trip." Mr. Logan said with a smile.
"You got a deal Logan." Bobby said with a laugh to Mr. Logan, then said, "Come on. Let's go see your mom."
* * * * *
We walked into the office where Mom and Mr. Summers were talking.
"How are you doing?" Mom asked carefully.
"I'm fine Mom." I said with a smile.
"Good. I've just finished signing some paperwork so you can stay a few days. Just permission for Mr. Summers to act as your guardian on my behalf and a medical release in case of trouble." Mom said seriously.
"Don't worry Mom, I'll be fine. Bobby and the guys have been really nice, I even got a roommate for a few days." I said with a smile.
"You did?" Mr. Summers asked with surprise.
"Yes. John said that he's going to move in with Logan in a few days, and since he doesn't have any clothes, and he's the same size as me, and since I don't want to be alone in this new place... he's going to share my room." I said, not realizing till I finished that I was rambling.
"That was very kind of you Clark. I didn't consider that John didn't have anything when he came here. I'll see if we can't do something about that." Mr. Summers said in a considering voice.
"Ronny doesn't have anything either. Robert and William are going to share their clothes with him." Bobby said quietly.
Mr. Summers smiled and asked, "What do you think Mrs. Kent? Should I take them shopping tonight or let Clark and the twins help them out and take them shopping tomorrow?"
Mom looked at Mr. Summers with a smile and said, "I think you already know the answer. The boys will feel that they were really able to help someone if you wait."
"If you don't mind, Ronny's going to room with me until Logan's released from isolation. It just doesn't make sense to give him a room for one or two days." Bobby said to Mr. Summers seriously.
"You two are brothers, if you want to share a room for a few days or a few years, I have no problem with it." Mr. Summers said with a kind smile.
"Thanks Scott. I just want Ronny to know that I want to have him around." Bobby said shyly.
"From what I saw last night, I think he understands." Mr. Summers said, then looked at me and Mom, and said, "Bobby, will you help Clark bring in his things from their car?"
"Sure." Bobby said and led the way out of the room.
"He makes me proud every day." I heard mom say to Mr. Summers as I left the room.
* * * * *
Bobby and I brought the luggage in and went back to the office when we realized that we didn't know where we were supposed to take it.
"Come on, I know the perfect room." Mr. Summers said with a smile and led the way out of the room.
I automatically fell into step beside Mom as I carried two suitcases. Bobby walked beside Mr. Summers carrying one larger suitcase and my backpack slung on one shoulder.
Finally Mr. Summers said, "Here it is." And opened the door.
"There are three beds in here." I immediately said in confusion. I don't always state the obvious like that, but... give me a break, it's been a hard week.
"Yes, a group of us were injured at the same time a while ago and we were all housed in this room. I thought that since you and John would be sharing a room, this would be most convenient." Mr. Summers said with a hopeful look.
"If you guys wouldn't mind, you can carry the other bed to Bobby's room so Ronny will have a place of his own to sleep." Mr. Summers said, knowing that we would do it.
"Sure Scott." Bobby said immediately.
"I guess you're pretty well set up. This is a nice room Clark." Mom said in a hesitant voice.
"Yeah." I said quietly, I knew what was coming next.
"I need to get going. You know I'm no good at driving after dark." Mom said with apology.
"I know. You've nearly scared me to death a few times." I said in a teasing voice.
"It'll just be three days. And remember that you can call us whenever you want." Mom said seriously.
"I think I'll be fine. The guys are really nice." I said, trying to show Mom that I really meant it.
Mom pulled me into a tight hug and said, "I love you. We'll see you on Thanksgiving. Don't worry about a thing."
"I love you too Mom. And tell Dad I love him and that I'm sorry." I said and felt tears falling down my face.
"I'll tell him, but he knows." Mom said and reluctantly pulled out of the hug.
I tried to wipe my eyes without being obvious about it. Bobby and Mr. Summers were kind of facing away, to give us privacy.
Mom pulled some money out of her purse and said, "Here's a little money in case you need anything."
"Mom, you can't. I don't need it..." I began to say.
"Shhh. Take it." Mom said in a whisper.
I took the money and put it in my pocket without counting it. Then pulled Mom back into another hug.
"Walk with me to the car. I really need to get back." Mom said with regret.
I nodded and let loose of her, but stayed right beside her as we left the room.
"Don't worry Mrs. Kent. You can call to check on Clark whenever you want." Mr. Summers said as he and Bobby followed us down the hallway.
"Thank you Mr. Summers. You've really gone out of your way for us. I appreciate it." Mom said, trying for a cheery tone of voice.
"We're here to help the kids." Mr. Summers said dismissively.
* * * * *
Too soon we were outside the mansion and standing beside Mom's car.
"I'll miss you." I heard myself say in a weak, trembling voice.
"I'll miss you too. Three days. Just remember that. Your father and I will be back here in three days to see you again." Mom said, trying to be comforting.
"I'll remember." I said and pulled her into another hug.
"I love you." She whispered.
"I love you too Mom." I whispered back and let her go.
Mom pulled in a shaking breath and got into the car.
I stood silently as I watched my mother, the most important person in my life, drive away.
I continued standing there long after the car had disappeared from sight. I only vaguely noticed that I was crying.
"Come on Clark, let's get you settled in." Bobby said quietly from beside me.
I nodded and followed Bobby silently back into the mansion.