PART I: JUNE
Most Roads Lead Home
Sunshine left Xavier's Institute the day Jean Grey died. Heavy rain drowned out any hint of summer time. Rogue would have chalked it up to Ms. Munro except that it had been three months and a bit since that horrible day in Canada. Ms. Munro was powerful but not that powerful. At least, Rogue didn't think so.
"If it rains any more, we're going to have to build an ark," said Piotr, glancing up from his physics textbook to trace patterns on the glass.
"Does ark building involve physics?" Rogue asked him.
Piotr smiled. "Yes."
The second floor study was empty except for the two of them. The gloomy weather drove everyone else downstairs to watch movies, play foozball, make cookies-- anything but dwell on the depressing atmosphere. The only reason she and Piotr closeted themselves in the room was because Rogue desperately needed help with her physics homework and Piotr was the only one who had the patience to explain everything coherently.
"I'm so sick of this!" said Rogue, throwing her pencil down. "I understand the concepts. I know how to solve the formulas. But when I try these stupid, freakin' questions, I never seem to use the right formulas in the right freakin' order. Why did I take the danged class anyway?"
"Because you want to blow Frank Gehry and Franklin Lloyd Wright straight out of the water," said Piotr in that deep, mellow voice of his.
"Won't I have underlings to think about that? I want to be an architect not an engineer; I'm just supposed to spontaneously come up with genius designs."
The corners of Piotr's mouth lifted. "Yes, and I just pop acid to paint. We all have to take some good with the bad."
"Isn't the saying 'take some bad with the good?'" Rogue said.
"I'm Russian. We're genetically pessimistic."
Rogue threw a kernel of her eraser at him. "That's not what I want to hear from my tutor."
Brushing the bit of white rubber from his black hair, Piotr said, "At least if you expect the worse, the mediocre becomes awesome."
"Keep it coming, Buns-o-Steel. I got a big eraser."
"You're just stalling."
"Damn straight. If I have to figure out the relationship between tickertape and the angle of the incline one more time, I'm going to completely--" Rogue broke off, seeing Piotr's attention dart to her left. Placing a finger over his lips, he gestured to the window beside the table.
Slowly, Rogue turned her head. White-tipped fingers grasped the window ledge, a ledge that just barely covered a shaggy head of hair. As she stood to get a better look, another hand reached up over the ledge, holding several little tools. They looked like they could be related to dental equipment.
Piotr and Rogue exchanged glances. Piotr shrugged and, casually, went metallic.
The climber had braced one arm on the ledge now. His head popped up, hair plastered to his face, and he grinned, wiggling his fingers at them. The two students stepped back, surprised, going into a ready stance. There was something naggingly familiar about his features-- his cheekbones or jawline-- but Rogue couldn't quite put her finger on it. His shades threw her off.
"Uh, Pete?" Rogue eased her textbook and binder to one side. "Should we do anything?"
"There's a man with lock picks climbing up our house," said Piotr. "I definitely think we should do something."
"I was thinking of calling one of the teachers," said Piotr.
"You do it," Rogue said quickly.
Piotr's brows rose. "Are you sure? It would make more sense if I stayed behind; he could have a gun."
Smirking, Rogue said, "It'll take him at least five minutes to pick the lock and divert the alarms on that window. You'd've gotten some of the teachers up here by then." When Piotr still looked doubtful, she added, "Five minutes and counting, Buns."
She let out a small sigh when he finally turned on his heel and ran out of the room. Piotr looked as though he would have questioned her knowledge on lock-picking and Rogue didn't know how she would have replied. No one except Logan and the Professor knew about her mutation's little mental side-effect.
Rogue knocked on the window. The guy looked up; the tip of his tongue peeked out between his lips in concentration.
"We're calling the police," she said loudly.
The guy smiled again and continued to fiddle with something under the ledge. Rogue put her books away-- if this was going to turn ugly, she didn't want her homework damaged to top it all off-- and continued to watch the would-be burglar.
Her indifference melted away when he pulled out a small drill and waved it at her, mouthing a retort. Rogue couldn't quite hear him but the expression on his face was enough of a hint.
"You are one cocky sonuvabitch," she said, trying to tamp down that part of her that admired his ballsiness.
The guy bored a small hole in the window, less than a quarter inch in diameter. Quickly tucking the drill away, he inserted a small tool in the hole with a tiny blade at the tip. Angling the tool just so, he jabbed the window sill, twisted and pulled, cutting a wire that Rogue hadn't even realized was there. What a great time for the Voices to stay quiet.
She backed away from the window, tensed for a fight even as Cyclops' instructions screamed at her to get out of the room and get help.
The window creaked open-- a mere hook-latch was nothing after disabling a window-foil alarm from the outside. The burglar shoved the lower pane up then, amazingly, lowered himself until only his fingers were visible again, gripping the ends of the ledge.
Now! Rogue's mind hollered. Get help now!
She half-twisted for the door.
In one quick, smooth move, the burglar lifted himself back up over the ledge and jackknifed feet-first through the window. His feet found purchase on the edge of the table-- she shouldn't have cleared the mess, her subconscious admonished-- and using that for traction, he curled his body up and over into a perfect shoulder roll. Water droplets flew everywhere.
What Rogue did next was entirely her fault.
As the burglar came up from his roll, she kicked out with toe pointed, exactly how Cyclops taught her not to kick. The pointy tip of her stylish pumps caught on his collar so that when he reflexively dove away from the kick, he dragged her with him.
Rogue's knees hit the carpeted floor with a muffled thunk. Her next move was less amateurish, as her training--or mind-Logan-- took over. She slammed her forearm against his throat and, after hearing him gag in a very satisfying manner, grabbed his hair. She gave that handful of damp brown hair as vicious a yank as she could muster.
"Yow!" He pushed her away but she still had his hair in her fist. Frantically, he reached for her forearm. "Let go my hair, girl!"
"Not a chance in hell," said Rogue. She was trying to figure out how to get out of his reach and still inflict pain. "You're stayin' right here until our teachers come and then, you'll be in such shit."
His struggles eased. "What, they gonna give me KP duty for a month?"
Rogue smirked. "You're in a world of hurt an' you don't even know it."
"I think I know more than you can guess, girl."
"Stop calling me girl!"
"Whatever you say, sweetie-pie."
"Princess? Shorty? Honeybuns?" He grunted, pulling his body into a more comfortable position. "Throw me a freakin' bone here, sugar."
"That is completely disgusting," said Rogue. "You're not only a bad thief, you're a dirty old man."
He frowned. "Hey, now you're being mean. I ain't a bad thief."
Cyclops' voice cut in. "But you're definitely a dirty old man." He stood at the door, arms crossed, his mouth bracketed by frown lines that were deeper than they'd ever been when school first started. Piotr stood behind him, less aggressive although he was still in metal form.
Rogue looked up, relieved. "I managed to subdue him, Mr. Sum-- I mean, Cyc--uh…"
"Rogue, Piotr, go downstairs and alert the professor," her teacher said. "I'll take care of this guy."
Puzzled by his unusual curtness, Rogue nevertheless scurried out the door after Piotr. Scott blocked the door again as soon as she slipped through.
The burglar got on his feet, still smirking despite the fact that he was rubbing his throat.
"You'll take care of nothing," he said. "Bad enough this place has more handholds than a cabinet factory, your alarm system is completely craptastic."
"Well, you were the one who set it up," said Scott.
"Ever heard of upgrades?"
"Ever heard of doorbells?" Scott shot back. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "What are you doing here, Remy?"
"What, I can't drop in and say hello to my favourite baby brother?" Remy shook his head sadly. "Youth these days; they squander family ties like so much gum wrapper."
"I'm older than you," said Scott.
"That has yet to be proven. For all anybody knows, I'm an extremely youthful forty year-old."
"Remy, please, I've got marking to get back to and another class to prep for. Make this quick."
The smile leeched out of Remy's face. He ran his hands through his hair, leaving half of the shaggy locks standing straight up. Scott allowed himself a smile; Remy's hair had always been a bane to his vanity.
"We need you to come home," said Remy abruptly. "Adam's missing again."
Excused from the impromptu introduction in Professor Xavier's office, Ororo, Hank, and Kelly St. Anna, the newly-hired junior history teacher, headed for the staff kitchen to muse things over. Logan set off in the opposite direction muttering about piping in the pool annex while Kurt Wagner teleported to... well, wherever he wanted on the grounds.
After the incident at Striker's base, enrolment boomed. To be honest, Ororo thought the opposite would happen-- that the children's parents would take them away in fear of other attacks and that other families would go into hiding. In fact, some parents did withdraw their children from the school but many more replaced them. Testing at Xavier's increased eighty-five percent from last year and of the number tested, almost a third stayed in the school. Storm supposed the rest of the children had minor mutations that lent itself well to distance education.
The professor found the influx encouraging; he said it was a sign of acceptance that he never would have seen five years ago. He had other concerns, mainly to do with staff. Four teachers adequately met the needs of forty-eight students. A hundred and fifty was a bit much. Besides adding to the five core permanent staff-- Ororo, Hank, Scott, Kelly, and Xavier himself-- Scott suggested a permanent cook since the school's licensing didn't qualify it for the state's cafeteria program or the mobile kitchen programs. The fall enrolment also called for a permanent school nurse and a secretary. At the moment, Logan acted as the groundskeeper but he hadn't indicated how long he would stay on.
"I don't remember Scott ever talking about his brothers to a great extent," Ororo said.
"The Summers brood exemplify the adage 'absence makes the heart grow fonder,'" said Hank McCoy, the senior Biology and Literature instructor. "The tales I could tell of our founding days. It would make your skin crawl."
"Were they that bad with each other?" asked Kelly.
Hank only shuddered delicately in reply.
"You're one of the infamous five, huh?" Kelly snagged the closest bar-stool and clambered on top. "Tell all. Scott used to mumble about 'The Bavarian Hamster Incident' back in college."
"Yes, I've heard about that too," said Ororo.
"There are some things in life that are not meant to be revealed," said Hank, bowing. "Consider that one of them." His colleagues groaned but Hank was adamant. "Ask me anything else. The hamster, whether or not it was Bavarian, will have to remain a mystery."
"Tell us about Scott and his brothers, then," Ororo said promptly. "Why was Remy not in your original five? Isn't he only a year younger than Scott?"
"Less than," said Hank. "Remy chose not to enrol in the school. Not only was he born with a physical mutation-- his eyes are sensitive to the infrared spectrum-- but his powers manifested unusually early. I'd love to run a few tests on his vision one day if only I could keep him still for longer than five minutes. Perhaps if I bait a cage with a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of Dr. Pepper... but I digress. Control came to him much easier than Scott."
"Why?" asked Kelly.
"Apparently, Scott had been in a car accident as a child," replied Hank. "While his mutation was latent, the brain damage he sustained did not affect his every day skills. Unfortunately, that very section is needed to control his optic blasts."
"That's such a shame," said Kelly. "He's way too young to be burdened like that."
Ororo nodded but said nothing. Only when it came up in casual conversation did she remember that society viewed Scott as handicapped.
"So it's just Scott and Remy?" Kelly said.
Hank shook his head. "No, no, no, that would be too easy. Nature, in its perversity, created four Summers. Scott, Remy, Alex, and Adam. I believe Alex is in Hawai'i studying volcanic rocks and Adam is in the home perch of San Diego. Last I heard of Remy, he was in Louisiana. You will notice that while they are all still in the United States, they have spread themselves as far apart as possible."
"They hate each other that much?" Having no living relatives, Ororo found the idea distressing.
"Hate is so strong a word," said Hank. "Rather, let us call it a healthy respect for personal space. Perhaps even magnetic repulsion. You've heard of the Aristotelian theory of the four humours-- melancholics, phegmatics, cholerics, and sanguines? Or perhaps the four cardinal directions? The four elements? "
"I think I get the idea," said Kelly. "I think it'll kind of nice to have him around. Scott's looking more animated than I've ever seen him."
"True," said Ororo. "Warren will be visiting soon as well. Scott will have all those near and dear to him then." She drew a wicker basket filled with tea bags from one of the cabinets
Horror effused Hank's face. "Oh, my stars and garters, I'd completely forgotten about Warren." He plucked it from Ororo's fingers and shoved a beige ceramic container with the word "Coffee" emblazoned on its circumference in large, raised black lettering.
"You'll need this," he said. Then his forehead wrinkled and he added, "We'll all need it."
One wing away in the headmaster's office, two of the Summers brothers sat before Xavier, one a long-time pupil, another a long-ago drop-out.
Remy never found Xavier's office as relaxing as Scott seemed to. There were too many distractions-- huge diamond-grilled windows looking out into a weary Italian garden, shelves over-flowing with thick leather-bound tomes, mahogany and oak furnishings with better pedigrees than most of the occupants in this building. Even the fireplace seemed to crackle richly in its Italian marble surroundings. His fingers ached to fondle the treasures and his mind kept calculating their resale prices.
"I'm very pleased to have you visit us," Xavier said, pouring tea from-- Remy's lungs double-clutched-- a Sevres tea set. "It's been too long."
"Y'know how it is when business is good, Professor," said Remy, accepted his cup. He was holding a cup from a Sevres tea set. From the pattern, he'd guess it was from the 1790s. He wondered how quickly he could drain it so he could look at the stamp underneath.
There was a twinkle in Xavier's eye that made Remy think the older man had skimmed that particular thought from his head. Indeed, when Xavier poured Scott's cup, he tilted the pot just enough that Remy saw the factory mark embossed on the base.
Jesus, he was growing a hard-on right fucking now.
"I'm glad that the market for antiques has grown again," Xavier said. "Although I must confess a weakness for Bauhaus rather than Louis XVIII."
"Whuh?" was all Remy could come up with.
"Give it up, Professor," said Scott. "It's hard enough to get a full sentence out of Remy when all his gears are working. This long after lunch with all your family heirlooms around, he can barely remember his name."
Remy flicked a charged sugar cube at him which Scott caught unerringly and zapped into oblivion.
Allowing himself one last Neanderthal snort, Remy pulled on his business persona. "I was about to say, Professor, that the market is currently booming. Recent events as well as the continuing economic trend towards globalisation and robotics that're making people nostalgic for their traditional roots and Scotty, if you clap, I swear I'm going to beat you with your own glasses."
"I can't express admiration at your ability to memorize?" Scott asked. "Last time you came, you were still working on reading three-syllable words."
"Professor, Scott's bugging me."
Xavier sipped his tea, presumably to hide a chuckle. When he lowered his cup, he was all business. "So, how long do you think Scott needs a leave of absence?"
Scott put his cup down. "Sir, you know Adam's a professional runaway. He's probably sulking in one of his friends' basements because Dad took his Mustang away."
Shaking his head, Remy said, "Actually Pops bought him a Land Rover last Christmas."
"Fantastic," said Scott, deadpan. "Where the hell did Dad get the money to buy a Land Rover? Did you lend him money again?"
"Do I look that braindead?" When Scott's expression didn't change, Remy threw his hands up. "No, I did not lend him any money. I got better things to do with my hard-earned cash than watch Adam and Pops burn it on bad car mods and the latest combination mp3-DVD-blender-toaster-wide screen TV."
"I'm glad you finally learned your lesson after the first five times," said Scott.
"You think I would've left New Orleans if it was like the other times?" Remy demanded. "Adam's been gone for four weeks, Scott. His friends haven't seen him--"
"They always say that."
"--and none of his theatre buddies have either. Believe me, no actor on Earth would've turned down my bribes."
"I believe you," said Xavier.
Scott looked nonplussed. "Professor, we'll play right into his hands if I go."
"I know that, too." He leaned back on his chair. "Perhaps Adam did run away for attention again but what if this time, he encountered real danger? No, I think it would be best if we looked into this matter."
Resigned, Scott sighed. "Whatever you say, sir."
"However," Xavier said before Remy's grin could fully form. "I also believe that we are better equipped to find Adam here than if you two were to return to San Diego this instant. Let me ask my connections, Remy. You may stay and supervise if you'd like."
"I'd like," said Remy firmly. "It'll give me a chance to update your security system. Did Scott tell you it was craptastic?"
"He mentioned something along those lines."