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"Mr. Kenyon?" Matt asked a man accompanying a young boy carrying a pet carrier.
"Yes." Paul said in surprise.
"I'm Matt Logan. I'm here to drive you to the Wagner Institute." Matt said professionally.
"Nice to meet you Mr. Logan, I'm Paul Kenyon and this is Louie Deverou." Paul said formally.
//A-HEM// sounded loudly in everyone's mind.
"Oh yeah, and Jesus is in the pet carrier." Paul said with embarrassment showing on his face.
"This is Trey Summers, he'll be attending classes with Louie." Matt said and noticed that Paul was only carrying two moderate sized suitcases.
"The van is over this way." Matt said and offered to take one of the suitcases from Paul.
//Can I get out now?// Jesus asked impatiently.
"Not until we leave the airport. We talked about this." Paul said sternly.
"Louie? Are you okay?" Trey asked carefully.
Louie looked at Trey with wide frightened eyes and didn't answer.
"I think Louie's a little... "Paul began.
//...terrified.// Jesus interrupted.
Trey hesitantly put an arm around Louie's shoulder and said, "It is appropriate to be frightened of change. Try to recognize that some changes are good and watch carefully for them."
"I will." Louie whispered.
"Everybody in. The sooner we're out of the airport the sooner 'someone' can get out of his cage." Matt said as he unlocked the van.
//Thank you. At least someone's concerned about the poor abused rodent.// Jesus said dramatically.
"I think it'll be okay to let him out now." Paul said with a chuckle.
The cage door swung open of it's own accord and the biggest rat anyone had ever seen crawled out of the cage.
"He's as big as a dog." Matt said as he started the van.
//Yes he is. I'm right here. Please don't talk over me, it's not polite.// Jesus said huffily.
"Neither is pointing out other's failures in etiquette." Trey said succinctly.
"Please forgive Jesus, he's a little grumpy from having to ride in the plane like an animal." Paul said in an apologetic tone.
"I guess I would be too." Matt said as he paid his parking fee at the exit gate and left the airport.
"Louie, are you excited to be attending a new school?" Trey asked cautiously.
"I'm kind of..." Louie trailed off in a whisper.
//...terrified. I think we already covered that.// Jesus said firmly.
Trey put his arm around Louie's shoulder and quietly said, "I came here from very far away. Until recently, I did not have any friends and felt very alone. If you feel alone, you may come to me and we will talk. I will understand."
Louie looked into Trey's eyes and whispered, "Thanks."
Paul looked back on the scene from the front passenger seat and smiled.
* * * * *
"This is it." Beau said with apprehension.
"Let's just do it." Marc said assertively.
Beau opened the door to find Josh settled into his usual squalor.
"You bring your mutie friends to beat me up?" Josh asked, obviously not believing it to be true.
"Moving out." Beau said shortly and started to gather his belongings.
"You moving in with the muties?" Josh asked as he watched Beau pulling clothes out of his dresser.
"I'm moving into the pre-college dorm. That doesn't mean they're mutants, it just means they're young." Beau said and closed one suitcase.
"Yeah, right. All you guys are muties, ain't'cha?" Josh asked, looking at the group.
"I'm not." Clark answered immediately.
"Neither am I." Marc said next.
"And the word is mutant." Scott said seriously.
"Come on Beau, don't do this, us cowboys gotta stick together." Josh said in a whine.
Beau stopped his packing to look at Josh, then said, "I'm not a cowboy Josh. I haven't earned the right to be called a cowboy because I've never worked on a ranch. Real cowboys aren't about dressing in western clothes, listening to country music and drinking beer. Real cowboys are hard working men and women who take care of cattle and horses for a living. And I've got a little secret to tell you. Most of them aren't beautiful people. Their skin is like leather, their hands have calluses and they look older than they are because they work hard to make a living... Josh, have you ever actually touched a cow?"
The room fell into silence as Beau closed the second suitcase and walked into the bathroom.
"What the hell do you know about it anyway?" Josh finally sputtered.
Beau walked out of the bathroom carrying a plastic bag and said, "I know because I lived in Texas and knew some 'real' cowboys. And seeing that you're a bigot, you'll love the next part. Most of the cowboys I knew were Mexican-Americans. Whites were in the minority. But you go ahead and play dress up and pretend to be whatever it is you think you are. Just leave me out of it. I'm not a cowboy, I never pretended to be one. I dress like this because these are the clothes I brought with me, it's not a fashion statement, it's the way people dress where I'm from."
"Is that it?" Scott asked with a smile.
"Yeah, that's it." Beau said as he took one last look around.
"Beau?" Josh said with a helpless tone in his voice.
"Wake up Josh. See reality. Your hate is driving people away from you. I hope someone can get that across to you someday. Someone else, I'm done, I'm gone." Beau said and led the way out of the room.
* * * * *
"Here we are, what do you think?" Matt said as he pulled the van to stop in front of the dorm.
"Wow!" Louie said as he looked up at the large building.
Jesus hopped up on Louie's lap and crawled to Louie's shoulder to perch.
"The resident advisor will be arriving soon, we should proceed." Trey said as he grabbed a suitcase.
"Resident advisor? What's that?" Louie asked carefully.
"He's a senior student who lives in the building to make sure that everyone is following the rules. He'll explain the rules to you, but it pretty much boils down to 'act civilized'." Matt said as he led the way to the front door.
"Hey guys, wait up." Clark said as he approached from around the corner of the building carrying a suitcase.
"Clark, this is Louie, Paul and Jesus." Matt said as he noticed the others coming around the corner.
"Hi, let's get this upstairs and we'll introduce everyone else." Clark said as he walked in the door that Trey was holding open for him.
The group walked upstairs led by Clark, not noticing that Matt and Scott stayed at the front door.
"Where's Matt?" Clark asked as he reached the closed door.
"He stayed downstairs." Marc said from the stairs.
"He's got the key." Clark said in frustration.
"John's inside, he can let us in." Trey said quietly.
//Let me.// Jesus projected into everyone's mind, and the door opened.
"Cool." Seth said in wonder.
"Jesus seems to be telepathic and telekinetic." Trey observed.
//Do you always state the obvious?// Jesus asked.
"Do you always instigate confrontations?" Trey asked in reply.
//Not always. Only with people I like.// Jesus sent with a smile in his mind/voice.
"He must love me like crazy then." Paul muttered as they entered the room.
Louie walked to Paul and touched his shoulder to get his attention.
"I thought you said everyone here was going to be like me." Louie whispered.
Paul looked around and noticed that everyone had heard.
"They are Louie. They're all mutants just like you." Paul said quietly.
Louie got a questioning look then said with a giggle, "I thought you meant black like me, not a mutant like me."
Paul got a surprised look that melted into a smile.
Beau walked to Louie's side and said, "Don't worry about that. There are plenty of other black students here. They even have meetings that you'll be welcomed to attend if you like."
Trey walked to the door of one room and said, "Louie, you'll be sharing this room with Seth."
//Where is my room?// Jesus asked impatiently.
Trey looked at Clark and Bobby in question.
//Gotcha!// Jesus said with a chuckle in his mind/voice.
Everyone went into their rooms to start unpacking as the Xavier students sat on the couches in the living room.
"I thought Slash was coming with you." Clark said as he cuddled close to John.
"He was busy with Lee and Quaid. Lee said he'd bring him by later." Ronny said as he smiled at John, Clark and Trey cuddled together.
"Are you feeling okay John?" Bobby asked with concern.
"Yeah, just a little weak. As long as I don't have to get up and do anything I'm fine." John said peacefully.
"I think our work here is done. We'll just hang around for a while until the resident advisor has done his thing." Bobby said with a look of concern directed at John.
"Can someone help me with this computer?" Seth asked from his bedroom door.
"I will help." Robert said immediately.
"I'll watch." Bobby said with a smile and followed.
"What a surprise." Ronny said with a sarcastic chuckle.
"How are you doing Ronny? We haven't had a chance to talk in a while." Clark said quietly.
"I'm good. I guess Chris and William decided that us single guys need to stick together. We've been hanging out a lot." Ronny said happily.
"That's great. I'm sorry if our being together makes you feel left out." Clark said honestly.
"Actually guys, if you remember, I've seen what you guys do. I'm really okay with being left out." Ronny said with a chuckle.
Clark blushed violently, remembering Thanksgiving morning.
"How are you doing John?" Scott asked from the doorway, followed by Logan.
"I'm feeling better. Just a little weak." John said from between Clark and Trey.
"It looks like you've got plenty of support. Do you want to go home now?" Matt asked carefully.
"No. I'm good. I'll wait till the resident advisor does his thing." John said quietly.
"Just let me know." Matt said seriously.
"I'll need to be getting to the airport soon. My flight will be leaving in about an hour and a half." Paul said as he and Nick walked out of the first bedroom.
"Mine is in about two hours, so I'll need to be going too." Nick said with regret.
"I think Jan's going to need to be leaving soon too. Let's go get her." Matt said seriously.
"I can take them. It'd be better if you stayed with the guys." Scott said quietly to Matt.
Matt looked at Scott with question.
"One of your guys isn't feeling well. Besides, we won't need the van. I can take them in the convertible." Scott said in explanation.
"Thanks Cyke." Logan said with a small smile.
"Paul, Nick, I'm ready to go when you are." Scott said more loudly.
"Give me a minute to say goodbye and I'll be ready." Nick said and walked back to the bedroom.
"Me too." Paul said and followed.
* * * * *
"Are you going to be okay?" Nick asked Seth with concern.
"Yeah Dad, I think I am." Seth said with a brave smile.
"I got this for you. You can call me anytime you need to, even if you just need to tell me about your day." Nick said as he handed Seth a cell phone.
"Thanks Dad." Seth said with a tight voice.
"I've got to get to the airport. I have to go to work tomorrow so I can pay for all this." Nick said with a smile.
"I love you Dad. Tell Mom and Junior that I'm going to be okay and that I love them." Seth said as he pulled his father into a hug.
"I'll tell them. And you can call whenever you want to tell them yourself." Nick said as he felt tears falling down his face.
"I will. Thank you Dad." Seth said in a whisper.
"Do good in school. If you need anything, just let me know." Nick said as he pulled out of the hug.
"I promise." Seth said as he watched his father walk toward the door.
"I love you." Nick said as he walked out.
* * * * *
"Are you two going to be okay?" Paul asked carefully.
//I'll take care of him. Don't worry.// Jesus said firmly.
"And take care of yourself too. I've grown to love you like a... rat." Paul said to Jesus with a smile.
//And I've grown to love you like a social worker... pretty much the same thing, isn't it?// Jesus said with a smile in his mind/voice.
"You got me there. How about you Louie? Are you going to be okay?" Paul asked carefully.
"I'm scared." Louie said quietly.
"You've got Jesus here to take care of you and all these people seem really nice. Just give them a chance." Paul said as he pulled Louie into a hug.
"I'll try." Louie whispered.
"Call me if you need anything. Do you have the number?" Paul asked in concern.
//I've got it. Don't worry, we'll be fine.// Jesus responded.
"I've got to go catch my flight. You guys unpack and get comfortable. You've got school tomorrow." Paul said as he stood to leave.
"Will you visit?" Louie asked in a small voice.
"I can't promise when, but yes. I will." Paul said and noticed that a tear had escaped down his face.
"I love you Louie." Paul said in nearly a whisper.
Louie looked up in surprise.
"Really?" Louie asked in amazement.
"Really. It's hard for me to say that, but it's true. Call me if you need me. I've got to go." Paul said and hurried out of the room.
* * * * *
A knock on the door startled the group out of the silence that no one realized had fallen over the room.
"I got it." Ronny said and pushed open the door.
"Hey guys, we're not too late are we?" Lee asked as he led Icheb, Quaid and Slash into the room.
"No, the guys are unpacking and we're just waiting for the resident advisor to show up... he's late." Bobby said from a couch.
"Quaid and Icheb wanted to meet the new guys so I brought them along." Lee said as he moved into the living room to take a seat.
Bobby got up and went to knock on both bedroom doors.
When both doors opened, Bobby said, "Come on out guys, we have company."
Beau, Marc, Seth and Louie walked out of the bedrooms.
"Guys, I'd like you to meet Lee, he's going to be hanging around here sometimes. He kind of works for the school. Next is Slash, he's going to be moving into the third bedroom, and finally Icheb and Quaid, Trey's brothers... they just wanted to meet you." Bobby said to one group, then turned to the other and said, "This is Beau, Marc, Seth, and Louie... Where's Jesus?"
"He's fixing a bed for himself. He's really picky." Louie said quietly.
Greetings went around the room, then an uncomfortable silence fell.
There was a rattle at the door and then it swung open.
"Helloooo." A falsetto voice said that was reminiscent of Mrs. Doubtfire.
"Oh well, there's a bunch of you. According to this there are only supposed to be four of you here." The young man said in a voice that left no doubt as to his sexual orientation, only slight questions about his true gender.
"Most of us are just welcoming them to the school." Matt said shortly.
"I'm Jamie, if the people living here will gather in a group, I'll pass out your keys and paperwork." The young man said in a demanding, yet somehow feminine tone.
Slash walked over to join the others between the living room and the bedrooms.
"Okay, Seth Oro... Ora... Or... Seth?" Jamie asked in frustration.
"Here." Seth answered with a smile.
"Here's your key to the front door, your paperwork, student handbook and housing rules." Jamie said and handed a packet to Seth.
"Marcus?" Jamie asked.
"Here." Marc said and was offered the folder of materials.
"Louie?" Jamie said next.
"Here." Louie whispered and took the packet from Jamie, keeping a questioning gaze fixed to him.
"And finally... Slash?" Jamie asked, not believing the name.
"Yeah." Slash said and took the offered paperwork.
"And I've got an extra key here... Beau?" Jamie asked as he read the note that the key was taped to.
"Here." Beau said and held out his hand.
"I'm supposed to collect a key from you and give you this one. It looks like you're switching rooms." Jamie said speculatively.
"Yeah." Beau said and fished his old room key out of his pocket.
Jamie looked Beau up and down with an obvious leer before accepting the key and giving Beau the paper.
"Okay guys. A few basics, then we're all going down to get student IDs and complete your registration at the admin building. You guys are lucky. If you were here on the first day of classes, it would take all day to get that done. When we get back, I'm going to order pizza for everyone." Jamie said, then turned to face the other group and said, "You guys are invited too."
"Thanks." Clark said quietly.
"Ooookay. You can read all the housing rules when you have time, but I'll just cover the highlights now. No drinking, no drugs, no smoking, lights out by midnight on the night before classes, clean up after yourselves, I'll be inspecting your dorm once a month to see that you aren't living in filth or tearing up the place. You'll receive a twenty-four hour notice before anyone enters your dorm unless it's an emergency, and then only when accompanied by campus security." Jamie paused to take a breath then asked, "Any questions?"
"Yeah, you said 'no smoking'..." Slash began to say.
Jamie interrupted, "That's just inside the building. There should be a large stone ashtray about fifteen feet in front of most buildings on campus. The administration asks that you not smoke immediately outside the doors as a courtesy to the non-smokers. And campus security will not bother you about being an underage smoker... you will have to be careful if you leave the property. The local police might have a problem with it."
"Thanks." Slash said quietly.
"Any other questions?" Jamie asked the group.
"What about laundry?" Marc asked.
"The machines are in the basement. Your room key will unlock the laundry room door. And if you leave your laundry down there unattended, it may not be there when you get back. There's a TV in there or bring a book." Jamie said in an almost masculine voice.
"Speaking of books, when do we get ours?" Seth asked carefully.
"I think they said that you're going to be taking placement tests to determine your grade levels, so you'll be getting books when they know which ones you'll need. Later this week, I guess." Jamie said and finished with a dainty shrug.
Jesus walked out of the bedroom and up to Louie's foot.
Jamie let out a shriek and hopped about three feet in the air and landed on the arm of the nearest couch.
"Oh Jesus! That's the biggest rat I've ever seen! Kill it! Someone kill it!" Jamie whimpered.
"Jamie, I'd like you to meet Jesus, Louie's p... companion." Matt said, receiving a death glare when he started to say 'pet'.
"No pets... no pets..." Jamie panted as he stayed firmly on the arm of the couch.
"It's okay. Dr. Hoffman approved it." Matt said seriously.
"I'm... we've... let's go to the... admin building." Jamie said, then carefully stepped off the couch and scampered to the door.
"I'll be waiting downstairs." Jamie said as he slipped out the door.
//Sorry.// Jesus said sadly.
"It's alright little buddy. That guy was getting on my nerves. I've always said, 'live and let live' but for some reason screaming queens just irritate me." Beau said seriously.
"Me too." Marc said honestly.
"I thought he was funny." Louie said to the group.
"Yeah." Quaid chipped in, sharing a smile with Louie.
"I guess we'd better get going. We need to get student ID's and get our paperwork done." Slash said, not sounding too thrilled.
//I think I'll stay here.// Jesus said shyly.
"Me too, I've got mine." Beau said to the group.
"Can we go with Uncle Joe?" Quaid asked Icheb hopefully.
"Yes." Icheb said with a smile.
"Trey, Robert, will you come with us?" Quaid asked hopefully.
"Yes." Robert said as he and Trey stood to leave.
"I'm staying with John." Clark said to the group.
"Good, then you can let us in if we come back without a keyholder." Trey said as he walked to the door.