Michael shut the door to his store behind him and leaned against it taking a deep breath. He glanced at the sign that stated the store was closed and kept it that way as he crossed to the counter. He grabbed his phone. He couldn't believe what he'd just told Mel and Lindsey. He'd kept his secret for so long that it felt unreal to know that he'd told someone. Slowly he moved behind the counter and sat down.

He glanced at the phone for a moment before he dialed a familiar number.

There was the click of someone picking up and then, "Xavier's Institute, Bobby Drake speaking, how may I direct your call?"

Michael laughed, "When did you start sounding professional?"

"Michael? Hi! Trust me, only for the two hours I'm on phone duty then it's me back to being me, I swear. So did you call to talk to me or Hank?"

"You," Michael sighed as he rubbed his forehead.

"Hey, you okay?"

"No, not really."

"Well what happened? Do you need me to come down there and visit? Cause we've had this influx of teachers and…"

"I told."

There was a pause, "You…really, who?"

"Mel and Lindsey."

"That's, I never thought you'd tell anyone," Bobby told him slowly before asking confused, "Why them?"

"Mel wants to have a baby with me?"

There was another pause as Bobby thought, "You've talked to Hank, right?"

"Yeah."

"You called and talked to Hank and didn't talk to me?"

"You weren't there. They said you were on some mission in Hong Kong."

There was another silence.

"Bobby? Bobby what happened?"

"I…it was just a stupid mission."

Michael bit his lower lip, "Maybe we need to get caught up?"

"Only if I get to visit you," Bobby told him.

"Okay."

"You gonna be alright?"

"Why, more phone calls coming in?"

"Only happens when I'm trying to have a conversation."

"I'll talk to you later then. Bye Bobby."

"Bye. I'll call you when I manage to arrange the leaving."

Michael set the phone down next to him, before he leaned against the counter and buried his head in his hands. Today was more overwhelming then he was used to and it was beginning to make his control slip. He could already get an inkling of what the people walking by the store were feeling.

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and worked on shields to tune out the buzz of emotion coming from the people on the street. His control over his power back to normal he opened his eyes. Still worried about what else the day would bring he opened his store.


Justin frowned at the ceiling when he heard a loud thunk. His grip on the phone tightened, "Look, Ethan I have to go."

"Why? I thought you said your sister…"

"Yeah, but it sounds like she might have fallen out of bed."

"Her bed that high up?"

"No, but she didn't look right. My mom made an appointment with her doctor for Saturday, but…I don't know, I'm worried."

"Go check on her then, I'll see you when you get home."

"See you then," Justin reassured before he hung up. He bound up the stairs and to his sister's room. He tapped on the door, "Mol? Mols, are you okay?"

"Go away."

Justin frowned, she sounded like she was crying. He opened the door, "Did you fall out of bed?"

She peeked out of her covers at him. Justin's eyes widened. She sniffled, "No, I'm fine. Go away. Please, just go away."

"Molly, have you looked in the mirror?"

With a startled look she brought up her hands, then relaxed, "What's wrong?"

"Your hair, it's blue."

Molly grabbed her hair and brought it towards her face. She frowned at him confused when she saw her normal blonde.

"It wasn't blue before," Justin tried to reason, "When I came up here before it wasn't blue."

Molly frowned confused, "What are you talking about?"

"Your roots," Justin explained.

Molly jumped out of bed and ran for the nearest mirror. She whimpered as she saw that yes, the new hair coming in was blue. More tears slide down her face as Justin joined her at the mirror. She took in her brother's worried expression and begged, "Don't tell. Please don't tell."

Justin felt for the phone in his pocket. His first instinct was to call Debbie. Debbie always knew what to do. Justin shook his head, his first instinct should be to call his mother.

"I think," Justin said carefully, "if Mom can handle my being gay, the divorce from Dad and starting over again then she can handle this."

"She doesn't need this," Molly managed.

Justin put his arms around her, "She deserves to know, she'd want to know."

"What about dad?" Molly sniffled.

Justin frowned, not sure what to tell his younger sister. It was one thing to lose the idolization you held for you father at seventeen, another thing entirely to lose that when you were barely a teenager.

"Justin," she stressed, "he pays for me to go to school. He…he'll hate me too."

Justin pulled her into him, wrapped her in a comforting hug as he told her, "I'll go get some hair dye, he'll never know the difference."


Bobby drummed his fingers against the desk as he gave the suddenly quiet phones a look that dared them to ring. He checked his watch, he had half an hour more of phone duty. He considered calling Michael back, but decided that he'd wait till he was no longer responsible for the phones. He wasn't interested in being stupid.

He also needed to find Scott, let him know that he was going to check in with Michael. How long had it been since any of them had visited? There were several mutants that associated with the mansion, but didn't live there. Usually they were visited once a year to make sure they were doing well. He knew Michael had called last year and said he was fine, that they didn't need to check in with him. The several phone calls they had didn't count as a check in.

Curious Bobby gave the phones one last warning look before he turned to the nearby computer and after using his password several times was granted access to Michael's file. He began to scan it, looking for the date of their last visit. He knew it'd been a long time since he'd seen Michael, but…two years? Bobby frowned.

"If Scott catches you playing solitaire again he'll…"

"He'll what?" Bobby challenged recognizing the light accent and tone. He glanced up and gave Jean-Paul a grin as the caught the other man leaning over the counter to see what he was doing.

"Who's Michael Novotny?"

"He'll what?" Bobby prodded.

Jean-Paul raised an eyebrow as if to let him know that interrupting him had been childish and now he was no longer going to continue his original sentence. Bobby attempted to ignore the way that one look made his stomach tighten. Instead of responding Bobby rolled his eyes and went back to checking Michael's file. It really couldn't have been two years, could it?

Jean-Paul floated over the counter, landed near Bobby and peeked at the file again, "He's…"

"If you even say cute," Bobby warned.

"I was going to say handsome," Jean-Paul informed him.

"Good," Bobby told him turning back to the computer and ignoring the startled look Jean-Paul gave him, "The last thing he'd want to hear is cute."

"He's not here," Jean-Paul pointed out as he pulled up a nearby chair and sat down. He pulled an apple from the bag in his hand and dropped the bag on the counter near Bobby.

Bobby glanced in the bag and wet his lips, "Twinkies?"

"For you."

Bobby grinned and spun to look at Jean-Paul, "I love you! You are just too cool right now. You are a god, you are…"

"Robert, quit graveling and eat your snack."

Bobby pouted and gave Jean-Paul his best beseeching look. He smirked when this caused Jean-Paul to blink and lose the disapproving look. Bobby couldn't quite place the look on Jean-Paul's face, but he decided he like it.

"I will never understand…" Jean-Paul grumbled to himself.

"Never understand what?" Bobby asked as he grabbed the Twinkies.

"Eat your snack and quit flirting."

Bobby tilted his head, "Not going to give up on this one. You are never going to understand what?"

"I find it annoying when straight guys flirt with me," Jean-Paul informed him with a level gaze.

"You should send Kurt the memo," Bobby threw back as he shoved a Twinkie in his mouth suddenly aware that despite flirting back Jean-Paul thought he was straight. Should he say he wasn't? The way Jean-Paul had looked at him when he'd said that made the word 'straight' almost seem like a question. Was…could…no, Jean-Paul couldn't possibly be interested in him.

"Kurt flirts without realizing he's flirting."

Bobby took a moment to swallow his Twinkie, "Oh, he has you fooled. Kurt knows what he's doing and, trust me, he'd flirt with a rock if he'd thought it'd flirt back."

His statement caused Jean-Paul to give him a speculative look, "Wasn't he supposed to become a priest?"

As Bobby opened his mouth Jean-Paul clarified, "A Catholic priest."

Bobby shrugged, "Kurt's good at multitasking."

That said he shoved the other Twinkie in his mouth. He frowned as Jean-Paul tilted his chin in an indicating fashion. Bobby turned and grinned at Scott. He took in the scowl on his leader's face and swallowed his Twinkie before he greeted, "Hi."

"Aren't you supposed to be answering the phones?"

Bobby shrugged, "They aren't ringing."

Scott's gaze turned from him to Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul informed him, "I'm merely taking a break from grading papers. I don't have a class for another hour."

Scott turned back to Bobby. Bobby grinned, "You're just convinced I'm goofing off, aren't you?"

"That would be par for the course, would it not?" Jean-Paul interjected before Scott could say anything.

"Hey," Bobby protested, "No comments from you. I was working before you decided to hang out."

Jean-Paul's eyebrows rose slowly, "I see."

"Learn to take a joke," Bobby teased.

"I'll consider it," Jean-Paul told him dryly before he announced he had work to do. Bobby looked up, frowning at the speculative look on Scott's face as Jean-Paul let himself out from behind the counter. Bobby leaned over to watch him go.

"Bobby."

Bobby snapped around at the warning tone in Scott's voice and frowned before he countered, "Michael Novotny."

"What about Michael?"

"No one's been to see him in two years."

His words caused Scott to come around the counter and look at the computer screen, "That's in his file?"

"Apparently he called and said he didn't need anyone to come down," Bobby explained, "both years."

"We still should've sent someone, especially with him losing his shields a month ago. No one went to check in with him?"

"He called and talked to Jean and apparently she thought he'd gained control again," Bobby told him, "We were going to send someone, but then we…"

"We what?" Scott prodded after the silence had stretched out between them for a moment.

"Found friends crucified on the lawn," Bobby said in a voice barely there, the horror of that day still fresh in his mind.

"Skin," Scott grated.

"Angelo Espinosa," Bobby said, voicing the young man's name instead of his code name. Even though he hadn't known Angelo personally, the loss still hurt. The relief that they hadn't lost one of the other's he was more familiar with stung more.

The silence stretched between them again, and Scott broke it again, "We need to do a check in as soon as possible. I'd prefer to send an empath, but Chamber will have to do."

"He was thinking more of a visit from me."

"He call here or you call him?" Scott asked.

"I didn't go above your head Scott," Bobby reassured, "He just came out to Melanie and Lindsey and wanted someone to talk to. We agreed we needed to catch up when the phones started ringing."

"Popsicle, times up," Jubilee greeted as she dropped a book bag behind the counter then greeted Scott as well.

"Cool," Bobby grinned, as he began closing Michael's file. He grabbed the bag Jean-Paul had left, "Guess I'll return this before calling Michael."

"Michael?" Jubilee questioned, as she leaned over to catch a glimpse of the file as he shut it down, "I haven't seen him in ages! How is he?"

"That's what he's going to find out," Scott spoke up before he turned to Bobby, "Walk with me?"

Bobby almost laughed when Jubilee gave him a grimace, but bit it back as Scott began down the hall. As he caught up he said, "So, o fearless leader what..."

"We'll decide who to send to Michael at the staff meeting tomorrow. I have to see if I can spare you first."

"Scott, you have me teaching basic math," Bobby pointed out, "You could sub for me."

"Is that the only reason he called, because he revealed that he's a mutant to Melanie and Lindsey?" Scott asked, effectively changing the subject.

"As far as I know, that's it. Hey, Melanie and Lindsey are..."

"I know who they are Bobby."

"You do?" Bobby teased.

"I might not be as close to Michael as you are, but I know a bit about everyone who expects me to look out for them. You sure he's not having difficulty with his shields again?"

"Didn't say anything about it. Really, everyone?" Bobby asked in doubt.

Scott shrugged, "That's my job."

"What do you know about me?" Bobby grinned, "I mean that I wouldn't think you knew."

Scott paused, turned to regard him, "Jean-Paul."

"What about Jean-Paul?"

"Just don't go there, okay," Scott suggested. Bobby tilted his head, it was obviously a suggestion as a friend, but there was still that hint of the leader Scott was in the tone.

Bobby laughed, "You know he has better tastes, right?"

Scott shook his head, "You think he has better taste, he thinks you're straight. It'd almost be funny if I didn't know your track record with guys."

"What? Excuse me?" Bobby asked, the joking gone from his tone.

"Sam Guthrie."

"Sam and I never dated."

"You wanted to," Scott pointed out, before he held up his hand when Bobby started to protest, "You two danced around each other when you were both on a team together. Nothing happened because he had a girlfriend and you, well unless you count Cloud, you've never dated a guy."

"I date women," Bobby pointed out.

"The only reason you haven't dated men is because anytime one gets close enough to you for you to want to you push them away," Scott countered.

Bobby's eyes narrowed. He didn't like where this conversation was going, "What are you trying to say Scott?"

"Bottom line?"

Bobby nodded.

"I need Jean-Paul on staff. He's qualified to teach a variety of classes, he manages to keep them in order and...look Bobby we need him so please don't do anything that might make him want to leave."

Bobby rolled his eyes, "I told you, the guy has better taste then to want me and if you didn't want him to consider leaving why did you take him off the active team roster?"

Scott looked at him confused, "He hates being a superhero."

"So it wasn't some homophobic move on your part?"

"What?" Scott asked, eyes wideing and shaking his head, "I took him off the team because he's one of the best teachers we have."

"Maybe you should have told him that."

Scott swore, "Tell he doesn't really think..."

"Hey," Bobby told him, "I know you're not homophobic, you know you're not homophobic, but maybe you should let Jean-Paul know that."

Scott took the bag from Bobby, "Then I'll be the one returning this."

Bobby shrugged, "Fine, then I'll just go call Michael."