They sat, side by side, on the deep sofa in Xavier's office. Neither spoke, neither moved, they merely waited. Both were dressed neatly, casually, uncomfortably. Logan was not one to wear slacks, but it was suggested he do so, along with a dress shirt. Francis was dressed similarly. He was unusually quiet and still. Frightened, confused, unnerved. Logan was just plain testy. He had reverted to snapping and barking at everyone, everyone except Francis. The two had been inseparable for days. The boy had moved back into Logan's room, with no complaint. They spent every minute of every day together.
They were waiting for Francis' mother and grandmother to come. This was going to be a meeting, full of lawyers, social workers and the combatants involved in the boy's future. Suitably, it was raining outside. A steady, depressing drizzle, which caused the atmosphere inside the mansion to be stiffling and claustrophobic.
Slowly, all involved began to arrive. The two sat and watched as men and women with briefcases and clipboards arrived, and then the grandmother entered the room. It was easy to see the family connection. She was a petite woman, with long red/blond hair, and a swarm of freckles on her face. She looked at Francis, and immediately, her face exploded with emotion.
"Oh dear god. Franky?" She ran across the room and swept the boy into her arms. She squeezed and hugged and smothered the boy with kisses, as he went limp in her arms, crying uncontolably. Logan looked on, his hands ever tightening into fists.
The grandmother finally held the boy at arms length. "Look how big you've gotten! You look fantastic!"
Score one for the home team, Logan thought. Francis looked torn. He just looked at his grandmother, tears flowing down his cheeks. Logan knew that he wanted to dive into her arms, but would not, not wanting to hurt his feelings.
At last, the woman turned her attention to Logan, sitting quietly. "And you must be Mr. Logan?"
Logan stood, towering over her. "Oh my. Franky said you were a big man, and he was right." Logan remained still, his face expressionless. "My little guy has told me all about you. He told me you saved his life, not once but twice." Logan could feel his brow knit in confusion. "Putting yourself in front of my little man, to protect him from a madman with a gun. And facing 10 men, single-handedly to protect him. That certainly was brave."
Logan shot Francis a stern look. "It was only five, and they were drunk. Not much of a challenge."
"Oh, I see." She too, shot Francis a stern look. "And the madman?"
"That was true." Logan felt it wise not to go too much into detail.
"Oh! You certainly have made an impression on him. You're all he talks about. You certainly are...uh....bigger than life." Logan said nothing. "And this school? What a wonderful place. When he told me he was attending school, I had no idea it would be a place this nice. Horses, swimming, computers. Just amazing." Logan remained stoic. She could feel the chill coming from him, and returned her attention to Francis, who by now had caught his breath. "And you, little man? You will have to show me around this place. Introduce me to your teachers."
Francis was finally able to speak. "Ok. Over there is Professor X-avier. He's nice. And over there," he pointed to Storm and Jean, conversing in the corner, "that's O-ro-eo, and Dr. Jean. They make sure I eat ok. O-ro-eo helps me read, and she teaches me piano. And over there is Mr. Scott."
"I see. They all look like nice people." She once again turned her attention to the large man towering over her. "And are you a teacher here as well."
Francis answered. "Naw. He just works for the professor. He doesn't teach noth-anything. He does handle the security here, and he unplugs toilets." Logan winced, but the grandmother smiled at him. "A jack of all trades? Security?"
"Private school," was all he would say.
"Yes, I do see where a place like this would need a bit of security. So how is it that you found my little man, when the police had absolutely no luck?"
"Just ran into him."
Logan could tell by the look in Francis' eyes that he was about to go off on one of his take-no-breath speeches. He could not stop it.
"I was getting beat up by some men, and he came and beat them up. One guy peed his pants before he fell down. It was funny. And then he got me pizza and new clothes and underwear and stuff, and pancakes and brought me here. They treated me nice when I came here. Dr. Jean gave me vitamins to take, and then Logan took me on a tour of the school and asked me if I wanted to stay and I said yes because I like it here. O-ro-eo gave me a book, and Logan hit Mr. Scott with a water balloon and put a stink bomb in his bathroom while he was taking a shower and I even had my very own birthday party. I told you about Steph, right? She's my girlfriend. She has braces too. Do you like my braces? I think they look funny but Dr. Jean says I'll look handsome when I finally get them off, so I guess it's ok. And the professor works with me, cause I'm so far behind all the other kids, but he helps me out, and tutors me. He says that in six months time, I'll be right up there with the other kids my age, and even ahead of some of them, because I'm smart and bright and I learn quick......."
Even for Francis, this was quite a deluge. His grandmother just watched him, her eyes widening every passing moment. Logan watched her intently, studying her. She was truely interested in what he was saying, if a little flummoxed at the rate he was saying it. Obviously, this was a trait she was not familiar with. As he listened to Francis recite his life history, he hoped he would not reveal anything that might cause trouble, such as mentioning that everyone here was a mutant. That might raise a few eyebrows to say the least. He stood poised to jump in and interupt in case the boy should slip.
"........took me fishing a couple months ago, and I caught a big fish, but we threw it back because it wasn't a good eatin' fish. But it was big. I wish I would have gotten a picture of it. I ride horses sometimes. I'm not that good at it, but I'm better at baseball. I can run fast and everybody wants me on the team because I can run fast. I swim good too. Maybe while you're here we can go swimming. I swim all the time, Logan calls me a little eel. I don't know what an eel is. Do you? I think it's a kind of fish. I got a game boy for my birthday, wanna see it? And Logan got me a Yankees jersey. It was the one I wanted. It's big, but that's ok. I can wear it all the time, but I have to wash it cause otherwise I'll get stinky. Do you really like this place? I do. I have fun here. All the kids are like me....."
Logan tensed, and was ready to interupt.
".......special. We are all special. That's why we come here. We're all the same." Suddenly, the onslaught stopped. Francis stood before his grandmother, grinning from ear to ear.
She took a moment before responding to him, absorbing what he had said.
"Oh....I can see you do like it here. Sounds like a fun place. And Mr. Logan taking you all those places, and teaching you how to swim. Wonderful. So all the children here are special like you? How so?"
Logan took a breath to answer for the boy, but was too late. "Some of the kids ran away from home, like me. But they found them and offered to take care of them. Some kids have problems like me, and the professor helps them, and Dr. Jean helps them, and even Logan helps them." The boy sidled closer to him. "Even Steph said she wants to go to school here, but she's not special like us. She doesn't have problems. She's really cute. You wanna meet her?"
"I certainly do."
"Good. You'll like her." Francis seemed to diffuse any further questions as to the exact nature of the school. Logan was relieved. He was even more relieved when Xavier approached them.
"Mrs. Fahey? Hello. I'm Charles Xavier, headmaster of the school."
"Hello, Mr. Xavier."
Francis corrected her. "Pro-fessor."
"Oh, Professor Xavier."
"That's alright. I trust you had a pleasant trip up here? I see Francis has been filling you in on his stay here."
"Yes. I thought he wrote long e-mails, but now I see why." She smiled, it was easy to see where Francis got his huge ear-to-ear smile.
"Yes, well, he has a lot to say. Very eloquent, wouldn't you say?"
"Yes, I would. And my little man's hero and savior. He's the strong, silent type."
"Uh, yes." Logan shifted uncomfortably, as Francis drifted ever closer. "Our Logan is frequently a man of few words." Logan cleared his throat, as Francis leaned into him, grasping his hand tightly, smiling his blinding smile.
"Franky certainly likes him. I can see why. He's really thriving here, that much is obvious."
Logan smirked now. Score another for the home team.
Xavier and the grandmother chatted for a bit, and Francis and Logan exchanged glances. Logan gave the boy a wink, and squeezed his hand a little tighter, for assurance. They then heard a woman's voice call to Francis. A voice that made him cringe, and dig his nails deep into Logan's hand.
"Frank? Oh my God. Frank!"
Everyone's attention was diverted to the doorway. Standing there was a small blond haired fairly attractive woman, her arms outstretched. Logan was nearly overcome by the smell of Francis' fear. It was suffocating. The boy then did something he had not done in some time. As he had done so often in his early days at the school, he gripped Logan tightly around the thigh, and cowered behind him. His grandmother noticed this, and she too turned her attention to the woman at the door.
It was obvious from the boy's reaction, and Xavier's pained expression, that this woman was the boy's mother. She slowly entered into the room, arms still outstretched, seeking a hug from her long-lost boy. As she approached, he slid deeper behind Logan, and even his grandmother eased her way in front of him, blocking the woman's path.
Her face fell slightly. "Frank? What's wrong sweetie? I'm so happy to have found you. Can I have a hug, hun?" She took a step forward, slightly around her own mother, peering around the big man in front of her. "Frank? It's mommy, sweetie."
Logan could feel the boy tremble. Almost with out thinking, he reached behind him, and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. He could almost hear the boy's heartbeat exploding in his ears. He was a bit surprised at the kid's reaction. He never talked about his mother, and Logan always wondered exactly what had happened between them, and why his home blew up. He knew now how it blew up, but not why. Francis was terrified, and that made Logan wonder what this woman had done to him. Francis had said, he got sad and the house blew up, but there was more to it than that. Much more. He set himself firmly in front of the boy, protecting him from what he was so afraid of.
He was also surprised by the grandmother's reaction. She too, was trying to block the mother's path to the boy.
"Stella. You're scaring him. Back off." The tone in her voice was pure venom. Logan and Xavier exchanged glances, both knowing they had gained an ally of a sort.
"Mom, I want to see my son." She glared up at Logan. "Excuse me? Can I see my son please? I haven't seen him in three years."
Logan responded in a low growl. "It looks like he doesn't want to see you." The woman winced at the perceived threat in his voice.
Xavier rolled up, giving a telepathic admonition to Logan. "Please Logan. Relax. This is not helping the situation." Logan glared at the woman, but nodded ever so slightly, understanding.
"Ms. Fahey. I'm Charles Xavier. Perhaps we should all calm down a bit. It is obvious that this situation is a little overwhelming for the boy. Let us all be seated, and we can discuss things calmly and rationally."
Stella never averted her glare, and neither did Logan. It was a battle of wills. She responded to Xavier without blinking an eye. "And who the hell are you? I just want to see my son. Does this attack dog belong to you? If it does, tell it to move so I can see my son!"
Logan never flinched, although inside he was giving her points for calling him an attack dog. She certainly was creative, but also dangerous.
"I am headmaster of this school, and that man is currently Francis' legal guardian, Logan. Please, can we sit down and cool off? Perhaps some tea?"
Stella's eyes grew when told that Logan was her son's guardian. "This is my son's guardian? Well, Mr. Logan," the tone of her voice had changed, "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I just am so excited to see Frank again." She again tried to peek around the big man. "It's been so long." Logan noticed the pooling tears in her eyes. Oh, she's talented, he thought. A real pro at tugging at the heart-strings.
Stella's lawyer walked up behind her, and whispered something into her ear. However, Logan was able to make out most of what he was saying.
".........this all later.......for now, let's just do as Xavier suggests.......we'll get our chance........not going anywhere.............don't agrivate him..........not the problem...........deal with him.........."
From what he heard, and the expression on the mother's face, he immediately tensed, as did Francis. Something wasn't right. He shot a quick glance at Xavier, and saw that his suspicions were correct. He received another telepathic warning.
"Easy Logan. Let me handle this."