Wow! Since you were all good little boys and girls... here's the rest! Please reveiw this one too!
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Logan was definitely a sight in a suit and an eye patch, one eye wide and filled with something close to shame. But it didn't register with Steph how different her father looked, nor did the fact that she was staring at him. In a completely terrified haze she made to smash the already broken mug on "Patch", but he had anticipated the move and grabbed her wrist as it swung towards his face.
"Dad?" she choked, her breathing coming back all at once as she got very light headed.
He shook his head slightly as though clearing it, then grabbed her other arm and nearly carried her out of the building, shouting to someone called Seraph not to wait up for him.
Once outside, he took her around the corner and propped her gently against the wall. "Steph. How'd you wind up in Madripoor? Where's the rest of the X-Men?"
"Dad?" Steph whimpered again, putting a hand up to her mouth as her eyes filled with tears again. "Daddy?"
His uncovered eye showed an answering glimmer, but he shook his head. "Yer dad's dead, darlin'. He died seven years ago. M' name's Patch."
"No!" Steph screamed, grabbing the front of his shirt. "No! Yer you! Yer here! I can see ya! I ain't dreamin' yet, n' ya recognized me! Yer my dad, the X-Man, there's Ruk, n' Bucky, n'... Oh..." Steph froze. "Mom? Is she here too? N' Rogue? Peter? Any o' them here? Dad!"
He pried her fingers away with shaking hands. She saw the streams of tears trickling down his cheeks.
"No." She barely heard the tortured rasp of his reply.
"What 'n the blaze d' ya mean, NO!" she screamed, struggling against his hands. "Yer the bloody guy who raised me, n' kept me safe, n' taught me everythin' I know! N' ya can't jus' be some fake, 'cause ya knew me, and I'll bloody KILL YOU if you are! C'mon! Ya knew me...n' the X-Men, we're still 'round, n' ya know...we're all still waitin' for ya t' come home, I mean, we never expected it, but still...ya have t' be! Ya can't jus' go 'round acting like the Wolverine, ya are or yer not, n' ya ARE!"
He suddenly had her pinned against his chest, one hand clamped firmly over her mouth. "Gateway, git me the $# outta here before she blows everythin'!"
The humidity of the air suddenly vanished, as did the warmth, and Steph found herself dropped onto the sand of a freezing desert night as Logan knelt next to her with shaking shoulders.
"What do I do now, Gateway?" he growled. "I can't play yer game no more. She knows it's me."
No,- said a soft male voice in Steph's head, radiating calm and age. -The time for games is over. You will all go home.-
Logan froze. "But we ain't real. We don't show up on cameras. How're we supposed ta go back?"
Steph looked around her in shock, huddling against Logan's chest and gripping his shirt again like she used to do when she was younger, the words she was hearing not making any sense. How could he not be real? He looked like her father, he certainly smelled like him, sounded like him, knew everything her father did before... Sure he was acting a bit strange but so was she, why did he say he wasn't real? And who was this Gateway?
Take her inside,- said the voice. -She is cold and sick. You will all go home tomorrow at sunrise.-
"Dangit, Gateway!" roared Logan, letting go of her and surging to his feet to face a seated figure a few feet in front of them, but before he could move further a tidy kitchen appeared around them.
"Logan?" asked Peter's voice. "Vut is wrong?"
Logan turned and stared at him, then looked down at Steph, who still huddled at his feet, and rubbed his face wearily. "We're leavin'."
"Leaving?" The Russian frowned. "Vut do you mean?"
"Logan?" It was a female voice, deep and rich. One that had haunted Steph's dreams for seven years.
She sat there listening to it in shock. But hearing her mother's voice reminded her sharply of what Remy had said. Maybe she didn't deserve them, but surely she could look at them? She could make sure it was them. She knew there was the possibility of dying of shock, still...it would be a good way to die.
Slowly she reached up and grabbed a drawer handle, using it to pull herself up till she just managed to look over the counter top.
There was a full-throated scream and she found herself caught in an inhumanly strong grip as her face was pressed into a magnolia-scented shoulder.
"Rogue, don't crush her!" cried Ororo, and the grip loosened.
"Ahm sorry," whispered Steph's older sister in her soft, broken Mississippi drawl. "Did Ah hurt ya, shugah?"
Steph managed a gurgling sound, then gagged and turned around, feeling herself pushed over to the sink as she threw up into it.
For a moment she stayed staring at the dirtied sink even as her father's hands calmly turned on the water. Then she turned again to face her sister, tears streaming down her face.
"Man girl, you got yourself a grip!" she coughed, flinging herself back into Rogue's arms.
It was a bit like hitting a brick wall, but then Rogue was holding her again and her hand smoothed back the wild orange curls that had escaped from Steph's ponytail. "Ah don' believe it. How'd ya get heah, shugah?" She gasped softly. "Ya didn'...ya didn't get killed?"
Steph clung onto her tighter, staring at Peter over her sister's shoulder and feeling Ororo's hand on her back.
"Nah," she said. "Well, almost, and a bunch o' times, but I got here..."
She stopped. How did she get here? "I dunno, I just was in a bar an' I hit a guy who cussed me out n' then there was Dad and a weird guy sitting in the desert, and Dad lookin' real stupid in a suit and callin' himself Patch..."
"Gateway says we're goin' home at sunrise," Logan interrupted the stream of breathless words.
"Going home?" Storm gasped, then began to sob as Peter reached back blindly and dropped into a chair.
"Home?" he said dazedly. "Are you certain, toverish?"
"Yeah, I'm sure." Logan gently took Steph from Rogue and held her close, rumbling in his chest as he'd done when she was a teen. "Sorry fer lyin' t' ya, darlin'," he murmured, his breath brushing her ear.
Steph held on to him, feeling like her legs were going to give out.
"You can't lie to me," she said, hearing him chuckle. "It's impossible, no one can lie to me, not even..." She stopped and bit her lip, remembering Remy and his cold words, then hugged Logan tighter. "Not even...me," she finished lamely, wondering if she had the guts to tell Ororo that Remy was with the X-Men now.
"Momma?" Rogue's frightened voice broke through her exhausted, confused haze. "We were all real befoah we got these bodies. But...Katy nevah existed till aftah we came heah..."
"I don't think that it will be a problem, Rogue," said Ororo. "We may not be 'real' in the strictest sense, but these bodies that Roma made for us are as permanent as our original ones." She chuckled softly and put her arms around Steph and Logan. "Perhaps Steph would like to meet her niece?"
"My what?" Steph said, staring at Ororo's hair.
"Hold on." There was the quick swish of air, then a sleepy seven year old girl with soft brown curls and big green eyes was shoved into the middle of the family group hug.
She blinked up at Steph, then wrinkled her nose. "You need a showah, darlin'. I think you had a bit too much party."
Steph gasped, then laughed, then started to cry again as she stared at the child in her arms.
"Yeah?" she said, choking on her words again. "Only if ya call breaking two glasses over two men's heads partying, small fry." She looked over at Rogue. "Yours?"
"Mahn 'n Bobby's," said Rogue softly, her green eyes glimmering. "She's gonna meet her daddy..."
Logan somehow got away from Steph and Ororo in time to catch the Southern Belle as she did a very credible Scarlett O'Hara impersonation and fainted.
"Snap outta it, darlin'," he said gruffly, patting her face, then catching some drops from the tap on his fingers and sprinkling them on her.
She blinked up at him, then stood indignantly before swaying again. "Ah nevah thought..." She turned to Steph anxiously. "He's still theah? Nothin's happened ta him?"
Steph nodded. "Still there, still the ice pop," she said. "An' ya know, I'm not the only aunt here anymore either, looks like my Sam'll know her ma's family anyway, heh?"
Ororo's arms tightened a fraction as Rogue stared. "Yoh...Sam? Yoh married? Who too?" The last words held a trace of an excited squeal and everyone in the room but Katy and Steph winced and caught hold of something.
Steph glanced at Logan. "Do NOT say 'I told you so'," she said. "If you do, I'll rip your hair out. Slowly."
He sniffed, his eyes twinkling. "Tol ya Blue was a good guy." He moved behind Rogue, grinning.
Steph felt good to see him finally relaxing and acting normal again.
"Man, now I have t' divorce him though!" She laughed and shook her head.
"What?" Rogue blinked, her smile fading into confusion. "Why, shugah?"
Steph laughed. "So we can have a wedding with a real guest list!" She winked at her sister. Then she shook her head. "You should see Ruk now, an' Bucky too, and ya all get to meet Little Steph!" She couldn't keep the excitement out of her voice as she started to babble again. "And Remy and Creed are on the team now, and we'll get Kurt and Bucky and Kitty out of England and back home..."
Ororo gasped. "Steph, did you say Remy?"
"Vhy is Katya in England?" asked Peter at the same time, his brow furrowed.
Steph's eyes narrowed at the sound of Remy's name. "Yeah," she said bitterly. "Uncle Rem saved me a while back when I got trapped over in England, then surprise-surprise, turns into a huge jerk the one day I didn't need it." She paused, then realized Peter was still looking at her anxiously and sighed again. "After you guys...died, well, Kurt and Kitty left to go start some group over there."
"Remy Lebeau?" Ororo leaned back to look at Steph's face with a puzzled frown. "That does not sound like my brother. He is usually very protective of his family."
"Well I guess it's firsts all 'round t'day," Steph grumbled, looking away. "But hey...tomorrow Gateway'll take us back. In the meantime, maybe we talk about why ya let all of your friends and family think you were dead for the last seven years?" She looked around, her good mood dampened as she realized what them being around meant. "And where are we anyway?"
Ororo sighed and gently steered her into a chair across the table from Peter, then sat down beside her with Katy on her lap. "Gateway felt that it would be a way for us to be able to do our work without causing trouble from the anti-mutant groups, since we no longer show up on cameras or any form of surveillance equipment." She lay her cheek on her sleeping granddaughter's head, her blue eyes troubled. "And everything of our lives before has seemed so far away till you came. The time we spent discorporated has seemed more real than our years at the Mansion." She blinked tears. "I am sorry, Steph. That explanation sounds so inadequate."
Katy started and murmured in her sleep as Logan growled and sent the eyepatch flying across the room. "I didn' even remember ya, darlin'. The others remembered the people they'd left behind, but all I remembered is that I'd lost somebody again." He bowed his head. "I didn' want ta remember. It hurt too much."
Steph gulped but shook her head. "You...you probably don't know...but today, well, it's the seventh time you'd find the X-Men scattered all over the globe, doin' what they could t' get through the day. For me it was t' make a prat out of myself. For Hank it was to get threatened when he tried to help, he always helps but... Seven years of not talking 'bout you guys and feeling scared that we'd forget, but not being able to do anything about it... Even Sabertooth went nuts when you guys were taken..." She trailed off, her eyes glazing over. "Seven years... I haven't done nuthin' but wonder which person I loved would be taken away from me next... For a while we didn't even go on missions anymore."
Logan was leaning with both hands on the counter by the time she finished speaking, his eyes squeezed shut as his shoulders shuddered. Beside her, Storm was weeping softly into Katy's hair, while Peter buried his face in his hands and Rogue put her fist through the wall.
"What's all the noise?" asked a sleepy voice, and Alex Summers wobbled into the room in his black boxer shorts. His eyes widened in amazement when he saw Steph. "Am I still dreaming?"
Steph stared at him for a moment, too exhausted to remember her initial anger with the man for his actions years ago. "Never thought I wouldn't mind seein' you," she said.
Alex blinked. "Funny, usually in my dreams everyone is happy to see me."
"You weren't listening then," Steph said, walking over and sticking out her hand. "I may hate your guts, but I'm glad you ain't dead."
He blinked again and touched it tentatively, his eyebrows going up. "You're real."
"We're goin' home, Summers." Logan's voice was raspy and full of tormented pain. "If ya don' wanna show up at the Mansion in yer shorts y'd better go get dressed."
"Sure, Logan." Alex gave Steph another puzzled look and walked back down the hall.
"He don't remember ya at all, Steph," said Rogue softly. "Maddy wiped his mind when she tried ta become the Goblin Queen."
"Sounds like her." Steph snorted. "Does he remember anything?"
"We do not know," said Ororo softly, tears still flowing down her brown cheeks. "He is still very much like a little child in many ways." She looked toward Logan and got to her feet, gently putting an arm around him and laying her head against his back.
"Do not weep so," she said softly.
"Let me be," he growled, trying to shrug her off.
Steph looked at her father for a long time, then around the room again before giving Peter a quick hug and turning back to him.
"My job," she said at last, "as your kid, is to make you stop moping and look at me. Therefore..." she rapped her knuckles lightly on his skull. "I say this; we're leaving for home soon, Hank'll be worried about me and no one will be expecting this. But I want ya to make a good first impression, with Little Steph and Sam especially. So you have t' stop crying, put your grouchy old fart face back on and get ready to leave."
Logan's only response was a sniff before he turned and headed for the door.
Katy lifted her head suddenly from Ororo's shoulder, then wriggled free and took off after him, her heart-shaped face creased into a horrific scowl. "Hold up, Pawpaw, what do you think yoah doin'?"
As Steph watched Logan froze, then slowly turned back and looked down at the irate child.
Katy's face darkened for a few minutes as she stared unflinchingly into his eyes.
Then she broke into a huge, bright smile and held her arms out toward him.
Logan scooped her up, then glanced at Steph and saw the forgiveness in her eyes. "I'm sorry, darlin'."
Steph just rolled her eyes in response, then arched an eyebrow at Katy. "How'd she do that, gramps? You're getting softer as Rogue's gettin' stronger!"
He shook his head and smoothed his granddaughter's white nightie, then gave a growl of surprise.
"What?" Steph glanced around and saw that all of them were now standing in she and Hank's sitting room. She let out a long breath, then grinned.
"Home," she whispered.
Steph?- Charles said in her head. -Thank goodness, we've been worried about you...-
Chuck! They're home! I dunno how but I found them and this weird dude brought us all home...you have to get Bobby up now 'cause he has a kid, and, Chuck, they're home! Mom and Dad and Rogue and Alex and Peter and Katy...- Steph was getting breathless again as she trembled with excitement. -Get everyone but Hank and Sam up...I'll get them! Chuck! They're home!- she said again, laughing aloud.
His answering laughter was warm in her mind. -I'm afraid that Ruhko and Little Steph are not asleep. They decided to break your curfew and explore the woods in hopes of finding you.-
Steph groaned. -Well tell'em to get back here now, and make sure Ruk is decent before she gets here, or I'll whip her skinny butt! I told her mini-tank tops and boxers weren't allowed...please say she's at least wearing a jacket?-
I'm afraid not.- Charles sounded distracted for a moment.
The door burst open and the girl in question bounded through, jumping on Steph and knocking her flat of her back.
"Stephie!" she crowed, hugging her with all the strength in her wiry body. "You're back!"
"Ruhko!" Steph cried and grabbed her and Little Steph as she flew in next, wrestling with both and getting them into headlocks, putting her hands over their eyes and growling to them. "Hush up, what did I tell ya 'bout running around like that?"
"Not t'," they both said, laughing.
"Hey, there're people in here," Ruhko said suddenly, sniffing.
"No, that's you smelling, girl," Steph said. Then she winked at her parents, who were staring at the two. "Ya know why ya made a mistake running 'round like that, Ruk? Dad is going to Kill you!"
With that she spun her sisters around and let go so they were both facing the small group.
Ruhko froze, her eyes wide, and for a minute Steph was afraid that the shock would make the sixteen year old go feral.
Instead, she turned to look at Steph questioningly. "St...stephie?" Her voice was the same as it had been when she was small, back in that cell at the lab. "Stephie?" She reached for her fearfully.
Logan exchanged a glance with Ororo, then wiped his eyes with the fingers of his right hand and gently shifted Katy into her mother's arms.
"Hey, Ruhko," he said gently, hunkering down beside her. "Don't ya remember me, darlin'?"
She shook her head, not taking her eyes off of him.
He nodded, then started to make that soft rumbling sound in his chest.
Ruhko blinked, her brow furrowing.
"I..." She glanced at Rogue and Storm. "Ro! I remember you! Your name is Ro! You used to wrestle with me and Stephie and..." She turned back to Logan. "Daddy!"
"Yeah." He grinned and held out his arms and she burrowed into them like a puppy.
"Hey," he said softly, his eyes suspiciously misty again as he pressed her close to him. "Yer as tall as I am, scrub. What happened?"
She growled and grinned, not taking her nose from his shoulder. "I grew up, bub."
Logan grinned up at Ororo, then turned to look at Steph, who had stood up and was now discreetly trying to make Little Steph stop pinching her as she gripped her arm and stared in embarrassment at these strangers.
"Told ya not t' run around in those," she murmured, shrugging off her jacket and putting it around her younger sister. "Hey kiddo, remember that talk we had a long time ago, about me leaving our mom and dad and getting a new family?" Little Steph nodded and Steph smiled, pointing at them. "Well, there's my dad, and mom, and my big sis Rogue, and her kid Katy..."
"They related t' me?" Little Steph asked, eyeing them.
Steph smiled. "Through me, yeah. Eventually it'll be through love...but hey, we don't even have the full family here yet, go run and get dressed...you too, Ruhko...then go get Bobby-boy, ya see, Rogue's his wife."
"Bobby's married?" Little Steph said, her eyes narrowed.
Steph nodded and the fifteen year old shrugged, then ran out of the room.
Steph turned back to the others. "One sec, I'll go get Hank." Walking to her room, she opened the door quietly and slipped inside, smiling as she found her husband and child asleep together on the bed.
She smiled and kissed Hank on the cheek, taking Sam into her arms.
"Stephanie?" he murmured, blinking drowsily up at her.
She nodded, grinning she shushed him. "I've got a huge surprise for you, Teddy, c'mon." She took his hand and hoisted him up. Sam, in her other arm, yawned and settled back to sleep on her mother's shoulder.
They got back to the sitting room just at the exact moment that the hall door burst open and Bobby took a flying nose dive onto the carpet.
"Robert!" Hank's eyes widened. "What means this impetuous behavior?"
"I don't know," mumbled Bobby, rubbing his nose. "The Professor told me to get dressed and get in here STAT, and then Little Steph came in and bounced on me and said that she wasn't gonna marry me anymore." He blinked up at his blue friend in confusion. "I really don't know what I did to make the kid mad at me."
"Marry you?" asked Rogue, her eyes dancing with suppressed laughter. "Yoh a fast movah, Bobby Drake."
Bobby and Hank froze, then slowly turned their eyes toward where the newly returned X-Men stood behind Hank's recliner chair.
Then Bobby gave an incoherent yell and vaulted the chair, giving his wife a long heartfelt kiss before beating Peter on the back.
Hank stared at them for a moment, then at Steph, who was smiling at him.
"Maybe this'll make up for how I've been acting slightly?" she said hopefully.
"Are they illusions?" Hank asked seriously, his brow furrowing.
"Nope," Logan grunted. "Not yet, n' it ain't an empty threat when I say ya better treat my kid right, Blue."
"Dad!" Steph groaned, and Logan arched his eyebrow.
"Was my job t' say that," he said, laughing and clapping Hank on the back, then stopping as he caught sight of Sam, who had woken up by now and was peering at him carefully.
"Old man," she said, making the others turn. Steph smirked and Logan arched an eyebrow.
Steph whispered to Sam loud enough for everyone to hear. "Remember all the stories about Grandpa I told you, Sammy?"
Sam nodded. "Egucated guess, that's him," she said, nodding her head. Everyone laughed and Logan took the tiny hand that was offered to him, shaking it gently.
"Yer Blue's kid, that's fer sure," he said.
His smile faded slightly as Hank put a hand on his shoulder, normally gentle eyes glinting.
"You say that it is your duty to warn me 'gainst abusing your child. Well I feel that it is mine to chastise you for abusing her by staying away so long. Why no word? Do you realize how sorely you have been mourned?"
"Hank," Steph said in a low voice, putting a hand on his chest. Logan shook his head and looked at the wall, only to be hit on the cheek with a square punch from Sam, who stuck her tongue out at him.
"You buck up," she said.
"Hey!" came Katy's indignant voice from Ororo's arms. "Don't hit my Pawpaw!"
"Yer kid too," Logan said grimly to Steph, then he looked at Hank. "I chose not t' remember anythin' after I came back, n' that included the ones I missed most. Yer right though, it was crap ta leave ya all hangin' so long."
Sam stuck her tongue out at Katy and then squirmed. Getting to the floor she ran quickly on all fours to Ororo and looked up at the other child. "If you come down we can discuss that matter," she said plainly. "But he's my gramps, so I can hit him. Mam hit him all the time when she was little. And I am little now, so it's my turn."
Steph looked up at Hank. "C'mon, Hank, that wasn't anyone's choice."
"What do you mean?" he asked stiffly as Bobby staggered back from a long kiss with a dumb grin on his face. Peter laughed and patted Rogue on the back.
"If yoh proposin' a fist fight discussion it won't be that fair," said Katy, not coming down from the safety of her grandmother's arms. "Mah powah's ain't manifested yet, an yoah's have."
"Nuh-uh!" Sam said, eyes narrowing slightly. Then she paused. "No, that's not correct, I can but run on all fours like Da. You're bigger than me. Size and dexterity ratios equal a fair chance in any physical activity between the two of us. But I was thinking more of a talk. My da says you should always try to talk first before resorting to physical force."
Steph put her head on Hank's chest with her arms around him, her head tilted so that their eyes were still locked. "I mean this is a talk for later...it's party time now. Happy time while mine n' Rogue's daughters 'fairly' duke out abusive rights on Dad."
The blue scientist resisted for a few more moments, but then sighed and lay his cheek against hers, wincing as Bobby realized that he was a father and fell on his butt on the floor.
"You are right, my fair warrior. This is indeed a time of joy and not of remonstration..." He glanced at Sam and Katy as they grabbed the opportunity to sit on the downed Bobby and cuddle him absently as they conversed.
Ororo shook her head, then knelt beside the children and asked Sam if she knew who she was.
Sam replied that she was the granny who was in the photograph on Mam's headboard, and the weather worker nodded.
"Is it alright if I use the telephone?" asked Peter. "And could you give me Katya's telephone number?"
Logan gave a startled grunt as he too ended up sitting on the floor with Ruhko cuddling under his arm. "Careful, darlin'. Don't wanna break the floor."
"I do it all the time." She smirked.
Steph smiled at the group and nodded at Peter, reaching into Little Steph's coat pocket as she crept back in, pulling out some paper and handing it to the Russian. "Hey kid, don't scare her too much," she said, winking. Peter smiled and left and Steph pointed at Ruhko and Logan, winking at Little Steph.
"Go on, show them a real tackle like I showed ya," she said.
Little Steph's face lit up as Bobby groaned. Then the small girl bent over and charged at Logan and Ruhko, hitting them both in the chest and sending all three crashing backwards.
"I rule!" she jumped up and crowed, thrusting a fist into the air triumphantly.
Hank sighed, relaxing as he watched his family and friends with shining eyes.
Then he groaned. "What shall we tell Ororo about Cerise and Kurt?"
THE END OF THIS STORY