Make It Okay: Part 4
Time passed. Sam got a haircut. Alex decided he liked the way it felt when it was under an inch long and patted him on the head until Sam threatened to bite him. The waiter gave them a distinctly odd look at that, but they were getting used to it and didn't really notice.
Halloween arrived. Since it was safer, Scott and Madelyne 'jumped' over so that he could go trick-or-treating. Somehow they ended up with Luna, Franklin Richards and Johnny Storm as well. The children all agreed that it was pretty embarrassing having adult supervision that wore costumes like they were entitled to and acted like lunatics was rather embarrassing, but it did mean they got more candy. Even from the lofty height of eleven Franklin wasn't about to turn down extra sugar.
They got their own back by eating until they were so hyperactive they were incoherent and fighting with each other. After investigating a spontaneous shoving-match resulted in all three attacking him, Alex was starting to have serious misgivings about Thanksgiving.
His concern was entirely justified.
"Nathan!" Deborah Summers spread her arms wide to encompass her extra-large great-grandson in an enthusiastic hug. "It's been forever since you were here."
"Not quite that long." He should know, after all. "Sorry I'm late."
"You aren't. Besides, Alex and Scott aren't here yet either. Philip called from the airport, their plane got delayed." She paused. "The little Scott, that is. That's going to be rather confusing, isn't it?"
"I'm sure we'll think of something." The larger Scott smiled from the doorway. "Hello Nathan."
"Slim." They didn't hug, but there was some appropriately masculine shoulder-patting. Hugging didn't happen unless nobody was watching. Jean hugged him, but that was different.
"So. Why don't the four of us catch up until they get here?" Deborah smiled innocently, but there was a wicked twinkle in her eye. "Now Nathan, why didn't you bring that nice girlfriend of yours? You didn't have another fight, did you?"
Cable closed his eyes for a second. "No. Not really her thing, and someone had to make sure that X-Force didn't burn down anything important." Actually what she'd said was 'if you think I'm going to go all the way out to Alaska just so I can protect you from your crazy family you've got another think coming, buddy'. She'd said it affectionately, but had obviously meant every word.
"Pity. I like her."
"Really?" Scott looked almost surprised.
"Oh yes." She cackled a little. "She doesn't take any crap from me and I don't take any from her, and between us we can keep these pig-headed Summers men on their toes."
"True." Jean smiled teasingly. "We could have used the help, just the two of us and five of them..."
"Two is plenty. If Domino was here, _we'd_ need protection from _you_."
"That dear, sweet woman? Never."
"Scott, be nice." A grandmotherly finger waved in smiling reproof.
"Oh no, he's right. She's a bitch." Nathan smiled. "I just think she's cute when she's angry. Which tends to be often."
Scott nodded sadly. "We really need to stop being attracted to such.... volatile women." Jean smacked him lightly, and he put an arm around her shoulders with a grin. "Alex might have the right idea."
"Alex is worse than both of us put together. And Sam's not as sweet as he appears to be, trust me on that."
Nathan nodded. "Jean, I'm sure you've noticed that intelligence, leadership skills and a lot of willpower tend to also mean 'pushy and rather fond of getting his own way'. Sam's just more polite about it than most."
Jean's expression went a little wistful. "Polite... I remember that. He was such a contrast to the other X-Men."
"Scott, I'm married to you. You're not supposed to call me 'ma'am' and be all respectful, it'd be weird. Although..."
"Could you please not think about that while I'm in the room, Redd?"
"You're as bad as Alex. Never want me to have any fun."
Nathan looked over at Deborah, who nodded. "I don't even want to know what she meant by that."
"Probably best we don't."
By the time Philip got back with Alex and Scott, the others had settled in and Cable had earned several smacks across the knuckles for attempting to taste things. Since this just meant that he started using the techno-organic hand, the situation was getting interesting. But Deborah forgot all about him at the prospect of a newer, smaller great-grandson and bustled out. Suddenly alone, Nathan used the opportunity to sneak nibbles of things that wouldn't show it as he listened.
"Scott, this is my grandmother."
"Hello Scott." You could hear the beaming smile.
_Must be cute then._ Cable grabbed another taste of something he couldn't identify but had decided that he liked.
"H'lo." The distinctly young and rather nervous voice sounded rather muffled, and a he felt a twinge of sympathy. Summers Family Occasions still made him nervous, and he was older and larger than everyone else present.
That was his cue. Leaving the food with a sigh, Cable went back into the living room. "Morning, Alex."
"Hi Nathan." Alex smiled down at the small person next to him.
Cable took in the defensive hat, hand tightly clutching adult-figure's shirt and the way Scott was apparently trying to merge with the side of Alex's leg and felt the sympathy start up again. "So, this is my cousin... about time I got someone to be on my side against all the old people around here."
Most laughed, but Scott frowned. "Half-brother."
Looking a little embarrassed, Alex coughed. "Yes, I suppose so."
Wide blue eyes looked up at him angrily despite the nervousness, and Cable blinked. He'd never realized how much like a Summers Tyler must have looked at that age... no wonder nobody had questioned his parentage. "Of course I am. But cousin is shorter, and much easier to explain. I already have one half-brother and we don't get along very well, but I don't have any cousins that actually know they're related to me."
"I don't have any brothers." Scott actually took a small step forwards. "But I don't have any cousins, either."
"See, now you have both."
#That's sweet, Nathan. I didn't know you liked kids.#
#I had one, Jean. Anyway, he _was_ right.# "Everyone's here now, so why don't we stop staring at Scott and start eating instead?"
"You've got a one-track mind." But Deborah smiled, recognizing the way he'd tried to make Scott feel a little less uncomfortable.
"I'm a growing boy."
"Then go out and play! You and Scott take your fathers outside and bond or something."
"But it's _snowing_ outside." Alex looked unhappily at the window.
"Which means we can have a snowball fight. Don't be such a wuss, Alex." Scott had brightened visibly at the idea of going outside to play in all that luscious snow he'd been eyeing ever since they landed.
"A snowball fight would hardly be fair," the tropically-raised Summers protested.
"That." He pointed accusingly at Cable.
"No, it works out quite fair. Between us Scott and I probably make up the two of you." Cable winked down at Scott. "And we'll even give you a headstart."
Scott sighed and looked over at his brother. "We're screwed," he said succinctly.
Scott (the larger) was absolutely right. Once outside, Cable and Scott (the smaller) has a quick strategy session as they stockpiled ammunition. "What are your powers, Scott? I'm not quite sure."
"Telepathy and precognition. They're going to come looking for us in about a minute."
Cable thought about that for a moment. "Precognition's as good as telekinesis." Then he reached out to see where his targets were and smiled. "You're small, too... how good are you at climbing trees?"
"Very good." Scott's eyes went a little unfocussed for a moment and he smiled. "It'll work, too."
Alex was humming quietly to himself as he patted together the largest snowball he could throw with any accuracy. Even though he disliked the cold and dealing with his family was usually exhausting, he was enjoying himself so far.
"Are you happy?"
Alex blinked and looked up. They'd had a few brief conversations since he and Sam had 'gone public', but they hadn't talked about anything significant. This was significant, Scott didn't drop questions like that on you if he didn't want a real answer. "I think so. Well, I try not to think about it in case it goes away, but yeah."
Scott smiled softly. "I know the feeling." Jamming his hands in his pockets he looked off towards the hills, and Alex wasn't quite sure whether Scott was really talking to him anymore. "Hang onto happiness anywhere you find it. It isn't really that common."
"Are you happy, Scott?"
He turned back, surprised, then grinned. "Yes."
Out of consideration for delicate paternal egos, The 'son' team played using traditional hit-and-run tactics for a few minutes. Then Cable unleashed a telekinetic barrage that drove both of them back under a tree and Scott affectionately pushed an enormous pile of snow off the ice-shelf Cable had made and covered them both.
Jean seemed almost affronted by the result, but Phillip burst out laughing. "Really, Scott... if you weren't taller I wouldn't be able to tell you two apart!"
Alex shook snow out of his hair, trying to get rid of as much as possible before it melted. "Shut up. They cheated."
"We didn't use anything you didn't use, we just used it better." The fact that the biggest, scariest-looking person present had turned out to be so nice had reassured Scott, he was far more like his normally playful self.
"That is true." Big Scott scraped some more snow off himself. "Although there wasn't any father-son bonding, just revenge."
"If it bothers you then you should leave my baby pictures alone." Cable somehow managed to say that without smiling at all. "But the little Scott and I bonded a bit, didn't we? Revenge always brings people closer together." Little Scott he did smile at, a slight conspiratorial quirk of the lips that got a grinning reply.
"Alex and I didn't bond at all." Big Scott looked down at himself and sighed.
"No, because I'm going to beat you to the shower and you hate that." After that, mature adult parents or not, it was a race.
Scott had in fact won the race, but took his time about showering and getting dressed. He was still hunting in the bottom of his bag for dry socks when Alex abandoned the lukewarm shower and tracked him down.
"Hi Scotty." Barefoot and shirtless, Alex sat on the end of the bed and watched his brother thoughtfully as he dried his hair.
"Hello again Alex. Have a nice shower?"
"You used all the hot water and you know it, you bastard." The insult was said with brotherly annoyance but nothing more. In fact, he tried to look casual. "So, did dad have another good reason why he couldn't make it?"
"Apparently they were in the middle of something and he couldn't really drag the whole ship over here for just one day." He discovered the socks in Jean's bag and looked up. "Why does it bother you so much?"
"I don't know." Alex flopped back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. "Okay, maybe I'm lying. My childhood illusions have been shattered, and I want them back." He rolled onto his side and propped his head on one elbow. "Can I ask you a question?"
"I don't know, you were older than me, but... did it get to feel like everything before the plane crash was perfect? I remembered a few bits where it wasn't really that great, like when you split my lip on the table, but that just made it... more normal. Like if I could just get back there it'd all be okay again."
The years before Professor Xavier had taken him out of the orphanage weren't ones Scott particularly liked to remember, and some of the loneliness and isolation that followed wasn't much better. But remember he did, all too clearly. "Yeah. I had so many nightmares about that last day. It started out so nice, we were all happy and it felt so... right."
"Even though we'd actually spent about half the time bickering, and I cried because you wouldn't let me play with... what was it?"
"I can't remember. But I remember mom telling me off about it." Scott smiled a little. "The crash always happened at the end, but every time I tried... like if I concentrated hard enough it wouldn't, and that would change everything."
"See, that's why it bothers me. I spent so much time wishing that I was back there, wanting my parents back... and then I meet him. He gave up on us and made his own life, wasn't just waiting around to be the perfect dad again. It was... a bit of a rude shock. I didn't like seeing him as a normal, fallible person. I almost hate him for it sometimes. Stupid, isn't it?"
"No. I used to feel the same way about you."
Alex blinked and looked over with a frown, wishing not for the first time that he could see more of Scott's expression. "Huh?"
"I was... pretty lonely for most of my life. And I figured that if I had my brother back, or the people who'd adopted you decided to take me too, then I couldn't be alone anymore. That's the thing with brothers, they're always there. Except that you weren't." He sighed. "You know, one of the last things mom said to me was to hold onto you and not let go. And I promised her that I wouldn't. I didn't want to think about them, or that the 'chute was on fire, so I just concentrated on holding onto you. And I did, until we hit the ground. I don't really remember much about that, just the impact... and I let you go."
The obvious pain in that was heart-wrenching. Alex shivered. "And now I'm here and I'm a pain in the butt."
"Yeah. It was hard to admit that you really were a little brother that way... always poking into something you shouldn't and being irritating just because you could."
"And we weren't very close."
Sitting up again, he shuffled over so that they were sitting next to each other. "We're getting better at that though, aren't we?"
"Well, you did come to both my weddings so you're ahead of dad."
"You didn't come to my wedding. But that's okay, I didn't go either." Alex waited for a moment, but Scott had gone silent and introspective again. Phoenix he wasn't, but it really didn't seem quite healthy. So he kept talking, seeing if he could get a reaction. "It was a bit like that for me too. My adopted family... didn't really want me. They were just trying to use me to replace someone else. That's why I wanted to get back to the family we used to be, so I could go back to being myself."
Well, that was something. "Yeah... I think that's why we are the way we are, you know. You're afraid of losing people, so you won't let anybody close, and I'm afraid of not living up to people's expectations so I need everybody to approve of me. Which made it tricky until I figured that out. I thought you didn't, so I tried to be more and more like you. And really you were just afraid that I was going to disappear."
"You're probably right there. It wasn't ever that I didn't approve of you, its just that you weren't the fantasy I'd been keeping all those years and I didn't really know how to deal with you."
"I still don't know how to deal with dad."
"To be honest, I don't either." Scott smiled again, a bit more genuinely as his composure started to return. "What do you do when your long-lost father turns out to be a space-pirate?"
"Get pissed off at him, apparently. Except I keep wanting him to approve of me too." He sighed and shook his head. "We are a family of very, very fucked up people."
"Dad's proud of you."
"Screw him. Better that I stop caring than just let you people go around approving of me and feeding my hang-ups."
"Good for you."
"It's not like he can really disapprove of me and Sam, Hebzibah isn't even human. Even if the self-obsessed rat-bastard doesn't answer my emails. Huh. Him and the spaceship he rode in on."
Scott grinned. "He said to say hello."
"Don't make me get cruder." He stood up did a slow turn. "See? Completely free of any dependence on other people's opinions. Don't give a shit." Then he grinned and shrugged. "Well, except Scott's, because he's my kid. And Sam, because he's cute when he's asleep."
"You watch him while he's asleep?"
Scott laughed. "You've got it bad, bro."
"Thanks for that, I never would have noticed." Alex threw the socks at him. "What WOULD I do without you?"
Scott caught them, still grinning. "Lots of stupid things, I'm sure."
With a sigh of relief Cable sat down next to Jean and looked longingly at the food. On parental advice he'd skipped lunch, which might have been a mistake considering the way the other members of his family were starting to look tasty.
#And now we get to talk for ages about how thankful we are before we can actually eat. I think they do it just to torture us.# Scott (the smaller) gave him a quick grin across the table. #Start thinking of something properly important to be thankful for now while Phillip's saying grace, it makes things move faster later on.#
#Thanks for the tip, kid.#
#Shh, both of you.#
#Yes Auntie Jean.#
#Don't start with me, Nathan.#
Nathan and Scott sat with their heads bowed like angelic, unbalanced bookends right through the prayer. Jean wasn't fooled a bit.
"And I am especially thankful for having such a large, happy family - even if it is a bit unusual - and that we're all in good health and can celebrate together." Phillip raised his head. "Who wants to go next?"
"I will." Deborah smiled. "I'm thankful for family as well.. for meeting little Scott, and that despite all the terrible things which have come between us, we've forgiven each other and are spending this time together."
"Well, those of us who give a rat's rear are," Alex muttered.
Deborah didn't look at him, just clasped her hands as if in prayer and looked down at her plate. "And I'm especially thankful that I have a bisexual grandson as well as time-travelers and demon sorceresses in the family now, so that I have something I can tell the other women at the hairdresser's about. I was starting to feel very left out." Alex choked, Jean burst out laughing, and Deborah just raised her eyes to heaven in demure thanks. "Scott next."
"Which one?" both Scotts asked simultaneously.
"The big one."
The big one thought for a moment, then spoke softly. "I'm thankful for the fact that although things you dream about never turn out the way you imagined they would, often you get something better that you never thought to dream about." He sighed and looked across the table. "Alex?"
"New chances and new friends without losing any of the old ones. And that little Scott still puts up with me." He grinned down at the child next to him, who shrugged mildly.
"Your boyfriend gives me ice-cream and lets me stay up late, I manage." Then he rolled his eyes and sighed. "Alex, could you not kiss me at the table? I'm gonna wanna eat in a minute, don't get mushy."
"It's Jean's turn to talk, kid. You have to wait until Cable's done."
Jean coughed. "I think little Scott had it right... I'm thankful that we're all here with people we _want_ to be mushy over. Except my two are on the other side of the table from me, so I'll have to kiss this Scott instead." She copied what Alex had done a moment before and leaned down to kiss the small blond head.
Scott sighed and looked long-suffering but Cable noted a small flash of happiness, like a telepathic giggle. No doubt Jean had noticed as well, she certainly had a maternal look of self-satisfaction. "Me next, right?"
Phillip nodded. "We seem to be going by order of seniori- uh, generation. In a way."
"Okay." He paused for a moment to put his thoughts in order as they all looked at him expectantly. "Well, I suppose I'm grateful for the fact that nobody I care about got killed this year. And that I've had the wisdom to ignore everybody's hints about the M word, because I discovered last week that if I hadn't Domino would have shot me. Probably somewhere non-fatal, she's thoughtful that way, but it would have been embarrassing."
Jean sighed. "And you think that's sweet, don't you?"
"I love her because she's strong, independent and not afraid to speak her mind. Those are the things that make her a good partner, as well as a lot of fun."
"But she wanted to stuff Domino into a white dress and have a big wedding." Scott grinned as Jean glared at him.
"Dom? In a dress?" Cable's eyes went a little unfocussed. "Bright lady... it might be worth it just to see that."
"You'd have to wear a tux," Alex reminded him.
"Flonq that, then. Make Alex and Sam get married. Or... Magneto and Amelia. That would be a _state_ wedding."
"They haven't been living in sin on and off for twenty years." Jean wasn't quite ready to give up.
"Exactly! I'm very comfortable in this rut, and I'll thank you not to disturb it." He paused. "Alex, I'm fairly sure I got all the English in that perfectly right. There weren't even any complicated metaphors. Why was it so funny?"
"Just something Sam said to me about my being in a rut... although he didn't mean it nicely." He tried to restrain the sniggering, without much success.
"I like my rut."
"That's what I said too."
"Sam and Domino are very different."
"Thank God. Sleeping with someone like her I'd be afraid that something I rather valued might be missing when I woke up."
Jean grinned. "He's very brave."
Cable snorted. "You slept with my mother, Alex. She's worse."
"She is not." Alex waved a hand dismissively. "She's a kitten, really."
Little Scott nodded firmly. "That's what I'm thankful for. That I've got a family that loves me, especially Alex and mom, even though at least two people were thinkin' the B-word that I'm not allowed to say about her just now."
There was a moment of awkward silence, then Phillip followed the same face-saving strategy people all around the country were using at that moment. "Jean, would you pass the potatoes please?"
Maybe the mutant-ridden and generationally-peculiar Summerses were more like other families than they liked to admit.
After such a surprisingly good-tempered family gathering without injury or villainous attack, Alex was almost shocked when Madelyne came to pick up Scott. There were dark circles under her eyes and she was wearing her costume. More telling than that was the streaks of grime and soot on it, something he hadn't had to see in months. After such a pedestrian existence it seemed even more startling.
Madelyne herself seemed to ignore it, hugging Scott with her usual fierce affection and smiling as he told her all about the people he'd met. "Sounds like you had a good time, darling."
"Yeah. It was kinda weird, but fun. And there was lots of food."
"And that's the important thing, right?" She ginned teasingly at him.
"Me 'n Cable are _growing_. We need to eat lots."
Alex laughed. "Yeah, Cable's growing alright... outwards if he's not careful. Middle-age has to hit him sometime."
Scott shrugged. "I hope I end up that tall."
"Me too. You can change all the lightbulbs." Madelyne put him back down and smiled. "I need to talk to Alex for a few minutes, honey. Why don't you go pack up your stuff?"
Scott nodded and left, although he looked vaguely concerned. He knew even better than most children that when your parents wanted to talk alone it was about something important they didn't want you to get upset over.
Alex knew that as well, especially when Madelyne sat down and sighed. "What is it?"
"It's getting worse back there, Alex. Between me and Xavier and and all the rest we managed to make a pretty big mess, and it's going to get worse before it gets better." She flopped back in the chair and sighed, staring at the ceiling. "We can get it back on track, you know. And once we do, the world might even be a better place. But it's going to take a hell of a lot of work. Hard, dangerous work."
"If a thing's worth having..."
"Yeah. And even though I was kinda pissed at you for living like this when we were all working so hard, I realised it was right. We have to do this ourselves, and you spent three years helping us. You still are, and don't think I don't appreciate it. But right now I'm glad this is the way it turned out, because I need you to do something for me."
"You should ask what it is first." She smiled tiredly. "Stop jumping into things head-first, it'll get you killed one day."
"What is it, then? But I really can't see you asking anything I'd say no to."
"I could make a really dirty joke there, but I won't. I need you to take Scotty for a while, Alex. I don't know how long."
"You certainly don't have to ask that one, Maddie."
"To be honest, I wish I wasn't. But I have to, and it's your fault." She tugged a hand through her hair and glared at him. "Without you he's the only damn Summers on Earth, and he's... what he is. We can't protect him all the time _and_ do everything we need to do, there just aren't enough of us. And I don't want Sinister to get my baby, Alex..."
Just the thought made his hands clench and his heart pound, but all it seemed to be pumping was ice where his blood should be. "He won't. Not here, not anywhere. If it kills me."
"I know." That was their greatest point in common these days. A fanatical concern for Scott's safety, especially around Sinister. They'd each suffered enough at his hands, they weren't about to let him do the same to their son as well.
"I'm going to take him back with me now, give him a chance to get used to the idea and do whatever he needs to do. Maybe in a week or two?"
"Sure." He smiled a little at the question she carefully wasn't asking. "And you can come and visit as often as you like."
"I'll do that with or without your permission, but I'll try to let you know when I'm coming."
"Thanks a heap." He stood up as she did, but stretched out his arms as well. And when she came in for a hug, he held her tightly. "It'll all be okay, honest."
"You're just saying it, you can't be any more certain than I can."
Alex nodded against her hair. "I know. But if we don't keep believing that it will, where's the point?"
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