Disclaimer: The X-Men characters, and all other recognizable characters are copyright to Marvel Entertainment Group. This work of FanFiction is not meant to impinge on that copyright or defame Marvel Comics or the X-Men and related characters in any way.
Copyright: This work of FanFiction and the original characters described within are the intellectual property of K-NICE and her IRL persona. No copying, distributing or editing of this material is permitted without the express permission of the creator, K-Nice, under United States copyright law.
NOTE: Continuity diverges after X-Men #71, Uncanny X-Men #350, and X-Men Unlimited #18
Joseph Summers is an alias - see Part 2 or it won't make sense.

Spring Thaw: House Party
by K-Nice

Bobby had fallen unceremoniously on his butt with a dusty packing box on his chest. From above he might have looked like a squashed bug lying on the attic floor, all arms and legs. He threw the box to the side and stumbled to his feet. He yelled down to his father, or the people down the street, whoever chose to respond: "Are you sure it's up here?"

"I'm sure," came the muffled reply from somewhere below. He had found his Xavier diploma, but his accounting certificate was nowhere to be found. He shook the dust out of his hair and rifled through the box that had so recently accosted him.

He was sitting cross-legged on the floor, busy looking at a finger painting he had made in first grade when his father stuck his head into the attic. "Come on down for lunch. You don't need that thing right now do you?"

"Yesssss! I do! I have to type up a resume if I'm gonna look for a job tomorrow."

Bobby wasn't sorry for throwing his dad attitude. He would understand. And even if he didn't, Bobby was really pissed. At himself.

He had Saturday wasted, and now he was wasting his whole Sunday morning. He still had no idea where his degree was located. He stomped down the stairs, impatient with his father's slow pace.

As he flopped down at the table, a cloud of dust rose up around him. His father had made tuna fish. It was the first time he had been able to make something for himself. When he was well, William had relied on his wife to do such things. But now he saw the value in being able to fend for oneself. It was a symbol of his recovery. Bobby was proud of him, even if he had left out the paprika that Maddie always used.

And failed to cut the bread into four triangles.

And made coffee instead of tea.

And served it with salad instead of chips.

In any case, Bobby was pleased by his progress and seeing his father's good mood, he calmed himself down.

As they began to eat, Bobby said "Where's Mom?"

"Right here, honey!" His mother walked in the kitchen door carrying two empty cloth shopping bags. "I spent the morning with your Aunt Delia across town. Her daughter -- well you remember your cousin Claudia, don't you, Bobby?"

Bobby nodded. Claudia was a few years younger than him and was probably getting ready to go away to college. By this time his mother was out of her coat and fixing herself a sandwich at the table. "She's pregnant -- Can you believe it? Well, I took by some of my maternity things -- Not that my things are very new, but they're in good condition . . ." He was twenty-some-odd years old, and his mother still had her 1970s vintage maternity wear. And thought his cousin, who, as he remembered, used her Barbie dolls to put on full fashion shows, would actually wear that stuff. Bobby tuned out the gossip and rushed through his lunch.

As he finished he said, "I'm going back up to the attic to look for my accounting thingy."

"It's not in the attic, hon."


"I put it on your desk."

"Are you serious?!?" Bobby stared at her with his mouth hanging open. He couldn't believe it.

"Well you said you were going to look for work, so I got it out of the file cabinet and left it were you would be sure to find it."

Bobby mumbled his thanks and cursed under his breath over his own complete ineptitude. It's on my desk, in plain sight, so of course I couldn't find it. He walked into his room and realized why he hadn't seen it. For the first time he realized what a mess the room was. He wondered what he would find if he cleaned it up. Might finally find my retainer. Of maybe I could find the peices of my real life and put them back together. If I ever had a real life.

He placed the certificate, which his mother had put in a plastic sleeve, in his desk drawer. He then started shuffling through his papers, trying to put some order to the room. He found three letters from his former schoolmates. It seemed some of them had gotten over the mutant thing. Eventually.

Bobby actually threw out a few shirts that had more stains than clean fabric, a pair of jeans he hadn't worn since he was twelve, and several lonely socks that might have been white once. It took him three hours but he finally found his floor.

Once his room was somewhat clean, it looked much better. The air seemed clearer, the room lighter. Bobby even felt a change within himself. He felt more self-reliant. More mature. Better.

That's better. Landing was actually preferable to flying, Joseph reasoned. At least he wouldn't have anymore visions of the plane swan diving into the ocean. He tried to stretch his aching muscles but couldn't raise his arms above his head. He was thinking much more clearly, however, which was a good sign that he was recovering. Joseph closed his eyes as he waited to disembark.

The plane touched down after a tumultuous twelve-hour flight. Maggie lay in the back, looking as drained as her patient. The crew knew she was a mutant; they had counted on it in making their flight plans. Her powers would allow them to make the trip without stopping or refueling. The plane was not the type usually used for traversing the South Atlantic, even in summertime, and they could not carry enough fuel to make Peru nonstop. Maggie had spent the last six hours manipulating the fuel and the engines, making each work more efficiently.

The pilot and his crew set down on the 15th runway, far from the commercial terminals of Lima's largest airport. Maggie roused herself long enough to pay to pilot and arrange transportation to their lodgings. The pilot, used to dealing with mercenaries and thieves, was not surprised by the large bundle of cash he was handed. It was less than half what it would have been if he had taken them back to the States, but it was still quite a bit. As the taxi pulled off with his two passengers, he tugged on his cap and went back onto the plane. He put in a call to his boss in the States. He had recognized one of his passengers. The girl was on Kingpin's master list, which meant any information about her would make for a hefty bonus. What Kingpin would do with the information wasn't something he worried about.

Maggie tipped the cabbie as some young boys unloaded the car. She was exhausted, and she didn't mind paying for the service. Joseph sat on the front steps of the tenement house in which they were renting a set of rooms. He had only gotten to the fourth step when he lost his breath and had to stop. At least it was warm here. He could feel the Sunday afternoon sun shining on his face. He was even sweating, though that worried him somewhat since he hadn't really done anything yet. He closed his eyes to rest for a moment.

All at once, Maggie was by his side trying to help him to his feet so they could climb the four flights of stairs to their rooms. Maggie winced as she felt his ribs through his clothing.

With her arm wrapped around his waist, Joseph was careful not to fall, since he would probably take her down with him. He watched her out of the corner of his eyes. She seemed a little frail.

On the first floor, they met briefly with the landlord, a stocky, leering local with a broken nose. Maggie knew he had demoted some other tenants to lesser quarters in order to accommodate them, but she figured the sight of her walking, no, sashaying through the neighborhood would cure any bad blood she had incurred.

She continue up the stairs after making a second large cash payment, the last she could afford on this trip. She knew the landlord would come looking for her that night, but she would never summit to the unspoken part of their deal. Conning was her art, her profession, and she never mixed business with pleasure and never indulged in pleasure for the sake of business. "Joseph" had taught her that. She was good at learning from mistakes -- other's mistakes, his mistakes.

They finally made it up to the 5th floor. As Maggie examined the rooms, Joseph sat on the lumpy couch, trying to catch his breath. He had never felt so weak in his life.

Maggie walked through the four rooms they were renting. The living room was dingy and stale. The kitchen was dirty and stale. The bedroom was filthy and stale. The bathroom was disgusting and, well, stale. The whole building smelled of old cigarettes and heavy, lingering scent of spicy food. It was not pleasant. At least, not for Maggie. Joseph, on the other hand, thought it smelled like home. His room had been above the kitchen in the X-Mansion, and the smells would waft up as the family prepared its meals. He shook his head. That was no longer his home, and they were no longer his family. Maggie was watching him as the grief washed over his face.

"What's wrong?"

"Huh. Oh. Nothing." Four syllables and he knew she could tell.

"What happened, cher? Who did this to you?" She could see the pain that cut deeper than frostbite, the cold that would last longer than his hypothermia.

But he hid it from her anyway. "None a' ya' bizness, petite. Stop askin'." He turned away from her to stumble to the bathroom. He hugged the bowl as he vomited several times. He wasn't sure what had turned his stomach: the rooms, the memories or the lies. Maggie figured it was just his body trying to adjust to being warm again, and she put him to bed.

Joseph lay quietly, neither asleep or awake. She tucked his sleeping form gently into bed and settled onto the footstool that served as a chair. Maggie ran her fingers across his brow, flinching at the cold sweat she found there. She pulled the covers on him tighter and looked into his half-closed eyes. She had a hard time seeing him like this: infirm, dependent, powerless.

She whispered "I'll make it better. I promise." She leaned in close to his face and kissed his parted lips, as her tears rolled down his cheeks. She rubbed her eyes absently and pulled away, resolved to watch him through the night. And she would, too.

continued >>

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