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Chapter 1

Prodigals #17: And They Began to be Merry - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Xenokattz
Last updated: 05/30/2007 08:47:08 PM

Chapter 1

shock (shäck) n. [[Fr choc < chequer. ]]

1) the impact of persons, forces, etc. in combat or collision

2 a) a sudden, powerful concussion; violent blow, shake, or jar [the shock of an earthquake] b) the result or effect of such concussion

Rachel was a very demanding baby. She knew what she wanted when she wanted it and had no qualms about letting me know when her needs werenít being met. She didnít cry all the time but when she did, the local fire department thought it was a three-alarm call. Granted, the local fire department around here welcomed a bit of excitement now and again. Upstate New York wasnít exactly known for wild and crazy citizens.

Itís amazing what a difference a mile makes. The boathouse was an entirely different zone from the mansion. Take digital cable; I never watched all 375 channels in the mansion. A month ago, I would have been suffering with only basic cable and AM radio. Now, I doubt Iíll ever install cable here. Come to think of it, I probably watched only five channels regularly back in the mansion, all but one available on basic cable. I donít know why they donít televise all the Rangers games; the world should come to a screeching halt when the Rangers went on ice.

I measured out a spoonful of freshly roasted beans, poured them into the grinder, snapped the lid on, and set the machine on pulse. Three seconds on, three seconds off. Three on, three off. Three on, three off. My breathing synchronized with the high-pitched crackle of the grinder. Three on inhale, three off exhale. If I could grind the beans fine enough to snort, I would have. I wanted to ooze caffeine.

Unfortunately, my drug of choice was going to be a plain old espresso. Iíd just turned off the grinder when I heard Rachel cooing. I swear, the ability to move at lightening speed is a secondary mutation brought on by the stress of parenthood.

"Hey there, fuzzball." I tucked her blanket more snugly into the cracks of her carrier. "Whatís wrong? You usually donít mind it when I make coffee."

"I think she heard me come in."

My hand was at my temple, ready to fire off a blast. Then the voice registered. Funny, the urge to blast him didnít decrease.

"Nice of you to ring the doorbell."

Remy inspected the dust on under the couch. "Hello to you, too, Scotty."

"Donít call me that," I said, turning my attention back to Rachel. She grabbed my thumb and sucked it with ferocious concentration. "Want a beer?"

He cocked an eyebrow up at me. "Whereíve you been, Remy? Why havenít you been writing, Remy? How long you been in the States, Remy? I ainít feeliní the love, Scotty-boy."

I shrugged. "Itís been almost a year and the closest thing I got to contact was an interview from the Interpol. You donít need me as a nanny, Remy. Thatís what you have Marie for."

He drew back at that. An imperceptible movement to most people. "How much you tell them?" he asked.

"As little as possible, of course. They cleaned out your old room and went through the computer files. Fortunately, Kitty and another of the professorís old students came around a month before to put in an iron-clad encryption. Interpol had no clue we were hiding anything on the computers anyway."

"Byen. Glad for you." He got up, boneless as always, and tilted his head towards the kitchen. "You want I should finish making you coffee while you take care of her?"

"You just want a cup."

"That too."

He gave me and Rachel a wide berth on the way tot the coffee maker. Silently, he took the sugar container out of the overhead cupboard right of the stove. The lid popped open, rattling the cubes. The filters were on the same shelf. With a measuring spoon and a knife, he put five spoons of coffee grinds into the filter. Water from the fridge dispenser, nutmeg from the spice rack--he knew where everything was. Even I didnít know where everything was.

"You want to be safe, Scotty, you might want to change your set up from the one in the mansion," Remy said as he switched the coffee machine on.

"Whatís the point?" I said. "If people can get into the mansion, how can a little wooden rancher fare any better?"

Remy looked at me strangely but I was too tired to dissect his facial expressions. I focussed on Rachel instead. Everything seemed a lot less complicated when I did that.

3 a) any sudden disturbance or agitation of the mind or emotions, as through great loss or surprise b) something causing this

Boxes made good furniture. They were stackable, cheap, and reasonably durable provided you packed them tight. Most of the boxes I had werenít even opened yet. Moving in normal circles was a bitch. Moving in the covert action circles was impossible. On the upside, I had a trendy Japanese-style dinner table, extra bookshelves, and storage space without spending a cent.

Remy got cute on me and placed a vase of flowers on the dinner table. The bowls and silverware he used were mismatched; his own spoon was plastic. I had no idea what heíd cooked but smelled as good as take-out so it couldnít have been that toxic.

"I didnít know I had this much stuff in the fridge," I said as he ladled the stew over my bowl of rice.

"Good thing about stew is that it donít matter what you put in it as long as you got enough spices and tomato sauce to hide the taste," he said.

Reassuring. Still, I took a bite. Edible. It would never make the menu at Tavern on the Green but I never ate there any way so it was no big loss.

"I know we didnít have rice."

"You had a box of instant behind all the cans of tomato sauce."

Oh. I stand corrected. Shrugging mentally, I shoved another spoon in my mouth. Rachel begged for attention as always. She didnít like being out of the loop when other people were around. I turned her carrier so that she could see both of us. That quieted her down until she realised we were holding spoons and she wasnít. In the end, I got up and gave her another plastic spoon from the kitchen just to keep her from fussing again.

Remy studied his food with more interest than it was due, stirring it around in his bowl like he was still in the middle of preparing the dish.

"Should I be worried or something, Emeril?" I asked.

He looked up and smirked. "No Emeril, thatís for sure. Itís easier to keep you head low when you cook for yourself than going out to restaurants. And Marie wasnít a bad cook either."

"The Marie I knew couldnít boil water."

"Glad I donít know her then ícause Iíd be in jail. But even then Iíd be eating better than you." The look he gave me was extremely disapproving. "Or were you going for the crack-snorting model look?"

"Itís the Atkinís diet."

"Diet is ídieí with a ít.í"


"Byen, I used to live in a school, yíknow." He finally shovelled a dripping spoonful of food in his mouth. Smacking his lips, he announced, "Needs more pepper."

"Smoking must have killed all your tastebuds."

He snorted. "Like you were smoking packs of it when she was beiní born."

I smirked, pleased at the opportunity to one-up him. "I wasnít there when she was born," I said around a mouthful of food. Strangely enough, he didnít have a snappy come-back for that. He just stared at me, studying me while he scooped up his stew and let it fall back down into the bowl again and again and again. It sounded like water lapping up against the dock.

"I was in Oregon picking up a student," I said. "Jean was in the city visiting her friends. They were all doctors so of course, when she went into labour, they all panicked and forgot what to do."

"Yeah, that just made me feel much safer in hospitals." Remy shifted in his seat. "Still, if you were there you would have."

I had no idea what he was talking about any more. "Would have felt safe in a hospital?"

"Wouldíve been smoking like a chimney." He snapped his fingers and thin, brown cigarette appeared between his index and middle finger. Giving it an appreciative sniff, he tucked it behind one ear.

"Smokingís bad for the baby," I said.

"Especially these ones. Co! I swear, everything is smaller and stronger over there. Take the cars for instance." He leaned back, tilting the chair on its hind legs. "I had me a tiny Italian thing that would run circles around your Mazda even with all the mods you put in it."

"Probably," I conceded.

"You want me to give your car a few most boosts? Would be a good contest if I can figure out how much itíll cost to ship it over here."

"If you really want to. Most of the cars in the garage are for shop class now. Or driverís ed."

He hooted. "Driverís ed? In Xavierís Rolls Royce? Iíd pay to see that. Hell, Iíd help with the pre-show barbeque."

"Pre-show is cheap," I said. "Letís see if you want to stick around for the clean up."

"I can clean up." Remy let his chair snap back on all fours, pushing his bowl my way as he did so. "See, Iím getting your empty bowl and bringing it to the kitchen. You go one and finish mine for seconds; Iíll get some fresh."

Funny. I hadnít known I was that hungry.

"And while youíre at it, why you watchiní that shit on TV?" He wrinkled his nose and stuck his tongue out. "Itís the middle of the night. You should be watching porn like a normal guy."

Porn was on cable. Like I said before, I didnít have much use for cable any more.

4) an exteme stimulation of the nerves, muscles, etc. accompanying the passage of electric current through the body

Remy came out of the laundry room with detergent in one hand and a hamper of dirty clothes under the other arm. "Does it matter if I wash the darks before the whites?" he asked.

I shook my head, careful not to move too much. Rachel napped on my chest. It was the only place she napped. She weighed less than nothing though and besides, this position was perfect for staring up at the ceiling. I had the stucco pattered memorized. There was one spot over the TV that looked like the professorís profile. On the downside, it was very difficult to drink coffee in this position. Iíve choked before, wasting at least 2 cups in total.

I couldnít get comfortable today. I kept shifting, kept waking Rachel up. Every drop of Jeanís controlled temper was concentrated into Rachel; when sheís sleepy, sheís cranky, and she does her best to make sure that everyone else is cranky. She was on fire today. In fact, the only reason she fell asleep was out of exhaustion.

"Congratulations, Scotty, I think youíve single-handedly made the khaki industry rich." Remy collapsed onto the desk chair on the across the room. Kicking off the wall, he wheeled to my side. "I havenít seen that much khaki since the last time I broke into a military building. Donít even get me started on the blue shirts. I gotta take you shopping and introduce you to my two friends: Pattern and Colour."

"Iíd rather be boring than be an eye-sore," I said.

"Itís not being an eye-sore, itís being a trend-setter," he corrected. "I know you canít see colours too good but would it kill you to wear a white shirt with blue stripes instead? Or if youíre feeling íspecially dangerous, jeans?"

"I have jeans."

"The one pair you got has ironed-on creases. Those arenít real jeans. Those are jeans thatíve been arrested by the geek police. Iíd go and break them out but, honestly, Scotty, your closet scares me."

"God forbid you don anything less conspicuous than pink stripes." The Xavier-profile on the ceiling was starting to irritate me. I shifted my attention to the next section of moulding.

"Itís not about beiní conspicuous," said Remy. "Itís about having the money to buy clothes like that. I got boring clothes when I need to be boring. Maybe thatís the reason youíre so boring now, because you ainít got clothes that make you feel alive."

I snorted. "I hardly think my emotional state is so shallow that it can be directly correlated with my clothing choices."

"It could."

"Yeah, and your emotional state is connected to your stubble growth."

He shook his head in mock dejection. "Hey now, no need to be mean and compariní me to Ashton Kutcher movies."

"Get over it, Remy. I like boring clothes. I am a boring person."

"Who wears leather a few days out of the week," he inserted just because the bastard liked having the last word.

I kissed Rachelís fly-away wisps of hair. "Not anymore, I donít."

That gave him a pause. Hah.

"Fine then. Iíll buy the kid better clothes." I saw him reach out to Rachel then pause, inches away from my head. I even thought I saw his hand shake before he withdrew. "Ainít right that the girl should only wear white."

"She only likes to wear her onsies," I said. "She cries when I try to bundle her up any more. If it were up to her, sheíd go around nude."

"Better hope she grows out of that."

"I donít have to. Iím locking her in a convent."

"Co! The things I could tell you about convent schools." Even without looking at him, I knew he was grinning wide enough for the top of his head to slip right off.

I curled one arm tighter around Rachelís body. "Do me a favour and donít. Let me have the illusion that thereís someplace where I can tuck her away and keep her safe for the rest of her life."

"You dreaminí," said Remy, his voice softening. "Ainít no such place, Scotty."

"Then Iíll make one," I said. "Thereís got to be at least ten square feet of space somewhere in the world where no-one can get to her, where she canít get hurt."

Remy didnít have a snappy comeback for that. He rolled his chair back and forth, scratching the hell out of the hardwood floors that Jean had cooed over so much when we ripped out the linoleum. I focused on a spot on the ceiling that had cow-shaped stucco chewing stucco regurgitated stucco grass. Linoleum would have been much easier to take care of.

Eventually, the washing machine beeped. Remy stood up to check on it. "If it helps any," he said on his way out, "Marie always said she felt safest when she was around you."

Sure, Remy, the added pressure helped a whole bunch.

5) [colloq] short for SHOCK ABSORBER

Sugar melts faster when stirred in a counter-clockwise direction.

It wasnít a superstition; Iíd actually mentally tallied how quickly it dissolved over the past few weeks. I think, in my case anyway, handedness was the key. Right-handed people tend to stir counter-clockwise thus offering more control.

Cream, on the other hand, disperses at the same rate no matter which way you stirred. I wasnít too sure about that finding since I didnít take cream in my coffee and Remy hadnít been here long. I stirred seven cups of his coffee clockwise and the other seven counter-clockwise. All fourteen had five tablespoons of cream in it; real cream not just milk. His cholesterol must be through the roof, what with the amount of grease and fat he lets through not to mention his cigarettes.

"Thanks," Remy said, taking his eyes off the cutting board for a second as I handed him his cup. He chopped meat, onions and parsley with quick, sure slices. It was amazing he didnít cut off his fingers.

"I thought you only cooked now and again," I said. "Since when did you become the human food processor?"

He quirked an eyebrow up. "When you start getting amazed at me cooking, you gotta get more sleep."

I shook my head and turned away. "Whereís Rachel?"

"Sheís sleeping on the couch, right where you left her." The humour was starting to leech out of his sarcasm. "Right where sheís been the last five times you asked where she was. I donít think sheíd be able to go anywhere even if she was awake seeiní as how she canít even crawl yet."

Pressing the throbbing vein at my temples, I walked over to Rachel anyway. Yes, she couldnít crawl yet but accidents happened all the time. She could smother in the pillows, for one. Or even have an allergic reaction to an insect bite. You can never be too paranoid around babies.

There was a loose thread on the pillow between Rachel and the floor. It jerked around as she breathed on it, like an arm flailing for help. A bright red thread against the backdrop of her pale skin. Was she going to break out in freckles when she got older? Or have to slather on SPF 3000 in the summertime and bemoan the genes that gave her such sensitive skin? Or was her hair going to darken along with her eyes. They were still blue now; well, blue as I understood it.

"Here." Remy dangled a thick sandwich in front of my nose. "To fill you up until Iím done."

"Iím not that hungry," I said, not wanting the Jerking Thread Show to end.

"Watch the slap, Scotty-boy." Taking my free hand, he curled my fingers around the sandwich. "Eat."

When he was certain I was actually gripping the sandwich, he went back to puttering around the kitchen. Leave a guy alone for a year and he comes back as a male June Cleaver. He cooks, he cleans, he folds laundry badly. He even whistled while he worked. If I had the energy to, Iídíve gone wacko two weeks ago.

"Ororo asked me to ask you if you thought you were sure you wanted to teach again this soon. She said legally, you can have paternity leave for another couple of months and even after that, Xavier can get his accountant to--"

"I can teach fine."

"Thatís what I told her. Ow! Shit!" A pot and a plate clattered to the floor. I was half-way out of my crouch when Remy waved me down. "I got it. Hope you like ceramic shards with your dinner though."

"It adds a certain texture. And the aftertaste is great"

"Bloody gums?"

"Just like Mom used to make."

Little bursts of light flashed from behind the counter. Remy was probably charging the shards instead of digging them out. Hope that dish was undercooked; the last time Remy charged food, we ended up with steaks that could double as hockey pucks.

"Hmm," said Remy ominously. "What do you think about take-out? I heard thereís a great Vietnamese place just down in Salem Centre. The kid can eat noodles, right?"

"The kid eats anything that isnít bolted down. And those she gnaws on."

"Screw this," I heard him mutter just before a large flash of magenta and orange turned dinner into ash. "Her old man could pick up a few lessons. About eating, I mean."

"Remy, youíve stuffed a yearís worth of food down my throat ever since you arrived. Iím beginning to think youíre really Mystique disguised as Remy and that Mystique is really an Italian grandmother disguised as a naked blue woman and I think that visual is going to make me up-chuck this sandwich." I placed the half-eaten sandwich on the coffee table.

Tutting like the grandmother I compared him to, Remy threw his defunct kitchen supplies in the sink and started rooting around for the phone book. The phonebook was the ultimate multitasker in this house. It was a booster seat, a placemat, a lap table, a paperweight, a pillow--you name it, the phonebook did it. Occasionally, it even helped us out with dinner. The phonebook was an even more essential object than boxes.

6) Med. A disorder resulting from ineffective circulation of the blood, produced by haemorrhage, severe infection, disturbance of heart function, etc., and characterised by a marked decrease in blood pressure, rapid pulse, decreased kidney fuction, etc.

"Anyone home?" Marie literally flew in, sending the door banging against the wall. Rachel started at the thick twang of the doorstop but she was denied first dibs on the newest playmate. Remy got to Marie first, grabbing her hand and getting half-dragged over the counter as a result.

"Miss me, river rat?" he asked, content to dangle where he was.

"Like a stomach-ache," she replied, giving him a brilliant smile.

My sinuses itched at the sight. I put my coffee down so I could close my eyes and squeeze the bridge of my nose just under the visor. By the time I opened them again, Marie was at my side. She was still in her leathers with her hair tied back into a stumpy ponytail. Since when had she cut her hair short?

Grinning, Marie poked a gloved hand into Rachelís fist. "Youíre a right little porker, arenít you, sugar?"

She tickled Rachelís tummy and tapped her scrunched up nose. I held her other arm to make sure that she didnít accidentally swat Marieís face. Marie didnít lean any closer, though, turning instead back to Remy.

"Weíve got your groceries in the kitchen," she said. "And the Professor wants to see you about something."

Remy tested his concoction with his finger, humming as he sucked on the sauce. "What now?"

"Thatís the impression I got," she replied. Rachel was still gripping her finger like it was a chunk of wood and she was lost at sea. She was pulling it mouthward, too, but I placed my own finger there instead. Rachel immediately lost all interest in the new strange-smelling, alien-textured chew toy in her right hand.

Her hand now free, Marie patted Rachelís cheek as she kept talking to Remy. "Go on, Iíll make sure your soufflé doesnít explode."

The in-joke was lost on me but it sent those two into hysterics. Rachel blew a spit bubble out of the corner of her mouth.

"Yeah, me neither," I answered.

As soon as the door closed behind Remy, Marie turned her earnest face towards me, completely ignoring Remyís instructions to watch the pot until it boiled just right.

"Howíre you doing?" she asked, her eyebrows in the perfect 150-degree angle indicating compassionate worry. Oh, barf.

"Iím fine," I said, knowing she wouldnít believe me. "I can go back to teaching, Iíve had lesson plans since last week, and Iím positive that I donít need another six months of paternity leave."

She chewed on her lower lip, brushing back her bangs. The gesture threw me back four years. It was just after the Stanton Island incident and Marie tiptoed around the mansion, still unsure of her place and her personality. She kept her head down and her bangs would fall forward which would only remind her of her ordeal so she kept brushing them back behind her ears. From then on, I knew she was uncomfortable when she played with her bangs.

"Scott, weíre just worried about you," she said. "We want to make things easier for you, thatís all."

"Iím fine, Rogue."

Damn it, I made her flinch. "All right, Cyclops," she said, taking a few steps back and crossing her arms. "Iím sorry, I cared."

Rubbing the bridge of my nose again, I said, "I appreciate it, Rog-- Marie, but Iíve been to enough counselling sessions and parenting meetings. I will swear on anything you can name that Iím normal again."

"You? Normal?" She chuckled. "Now that is strange."

"Funny." I tried not to return her smile, difficult to do around Marie now. When she was happy, the whole mansion was high; she was pissed off, youíd better be too. Her personality was that much stronger than before.

Unbuttoning her gloves, Marie sauntered to the kitchen-- I shit you not, she sauntered. Where did she learn to saunter? I bet Remy taught her to saunter, the fuckmook. Man, Logan was going to slice six inches of that swamp ratís flesh off the minute he caught him. And I knew exactly which six the Wolverine had in mind. Rachel was never going to saunter like that. Rachel was never going to see another male.

And that train of thought deserved to be stopped right where it was.

"How was practice?" I asked, tipping my chin at Marieís leathers.

She rolled her head around her shoulders, her vertebrae popping and making Rachel blink in surprise. "Hankís got us testing our upper limits. Thatís all weíre been doing the past week. I feel like Iím writing finals or something. But on the up-side, we found out that I can bench press a tank. See if that doesnít come in handy the next time we need to rebuild."

"Thereís not going to be a next time," I said resolutely. "Not if the Professor implements the security measures I suggested."

Marie winced. She was drying a dish, rubbing the dishcloth around its circumference. I was pretty sure it was dry by now, but she kept on rubbing it. "Thatís the other thing. We were discussing your proposal just this morning. Donít you think itís a littleÖ extreme? I mean, weíre a school first, right? Youíve got stuff in there that look more like a military base."

"They attack us like weíre a military base," I explained, "Why shouldnít we defend ourselves like one?"

"Scott, IÖ" She shook her head. "Scott, I can understand why you feel we have to be this extreme but canít you see that this might make it worse? Weíll be feeding their misconceptions instead of assuaging them."

"Are you willing to bet the lives of the kids on assuaging the public?" I shot back. "We have a high concentration of mutants here. Forget that half the staff are norms; theyíll focus on the fifty-seven of us who arenít."

Marie slammed the dish she as so conscientiously drying back in the dirty sink. "But youíre suggesting that all sixty-five of us live in a cage!"

"At least weíll be alive." Rachel squirmed in my arms. No matter how I moved her-- rocking her on her back, carrying her upright, swinging her gently up and down--she tried to wriggle free. Her nose and cheeks were red with frustration. I gritted my teeth, trying to ride her tantrum out.

Over in the kitchen, Marie had her chin jutted out. I could see shades of Logan in the way her eyes narrowed and a bit of Magneto in the hardness around her jaw. "That ainít liviní, Scott," she said, bracing her hands on the counter so hard that it bent. "If we implement your security measures, we might as well be building government reservations around ourselves."

God, why couldnít she see? "You came a little too late in the game, Marie. Everything changed the second they blew up our home. You couldnít possibly know what it was like after the attack."

Her jaw dropped. The counter strained under her fingers. "Donít you be pulling that bullshit on me, Summers! This is my home as much as it was yours--"

"You had a funny way of showing it."

"Fuck you!" The counter snapped, plywood and Formica cracking like a twig. Marie jumped back from the damage but she kept her eyes on me. "You think I didnít want to come back sooner? Ask your precious Remy why we were gone for a year. Ask him why I had to beg, plead, and dance on a freakiní pin to even talk to him about the States but the minute you sneeze sideways, he swims across the Atlantic to help you."

Rachel did not like the noise but for some strange reason, I couldnít walk into our room. My legs were frozen on the hardwood. A half dozen boxes disguised as coffee table were all that were keeping me from tilting to the floor.

I was panting. So was Marie. So was Rachel, great heaving breaths that were too big for her little, cotton-wrapped chest. I could see Marie compose herself, physically put her "self" back together from whoever had broken the countertop and shouted vulgarities at a man who was her elder and teacher a short three years ago.

"But youíre not even seeing it, are you, Scott?" Marieís voice was softer now and she couldnít look me in the eye. "You canít see him, canít see any of us trying to support you. Youíre likeÖ youíre like one those Greek columns now. Sure theyíre solid rock, and sure they look strong but if they donít have any support all you have to do is tap them at the right place and theyíll tip over."

I shifted Rachel back upright, tucking her head into the crook between my chin and my shoulder.

"Donít tip over on us, Scott. We canít lose you, too."

"Iím not going to quit the school," I muttered into Rachelís hair.

Did Marie absorb some of Pietroís powers, too? Because I swear in the time it took for me to blink, she was beside me, close enough to touch were either of us the type to reach out and touch someone.

"Thereís more than one way for you to leave us," she whispered up to me. "Donít you leave us, Scott. We need you now more than ever."

Rachel sniffled, wiggled her bum once, and promptly chanted, "Ah, ah, ah, ah," as loudly as possible.

"I leave for five minutes and the world goes to pot." Remy was suddenly beside her--what was with everyone appearing and disappearing?--pulling Rachel gently from my arms. I let go with great difficultly; my arms, like my feet, seemingly glued into place. I donít think Iíve had Rachel more than a foot away from me sinceÖ sinceÖ

"You go on back to the mansion," I heard Remy tell Marie. His voice was fuzzy, lost in the static the filled the space between my arms and Rachelís slight weight. "Iíll clean up in here."

"Remy, Iím sorry, I didnít mean to--"

"Hush, Marie-ma-sheri. Donít worry íbout it; Iíll slap him up for you."

He kissed her hand. I used to kiss Jeanís hands. Her fingers were like her nails, long and shapely and ticklish around the knuckles. Kissing her hand was like caressing her legs and all her hair even went up.

Like a kick to an old stereo, Remyís voice exploded in my ear even though he couldnít have shouted. "Scotty," he said. "You look like shit, boy. I told you all these weeks of not sleeping was gonna catch up to an old man like you. Next thing you know, Iíll have to buy Jell-o in bulk. I draw the line at changing your diapers though. I seen the mess the kid makes in hers; I donít even want to think about yours. Tell you what: Iíll hire a nurse for you. Hell, Iíll hire three and make them wear vinyl uniforms, real tight ones.

He was still yapping on and on to Rachel as I lay on the bed. How did I get on this bed? It smelled new. Jean and I left our old mattress in the mansion for the new biology teacher. We never had a chance to break this one in.

Remyís footsteps receded but his voice didnít. Neither did Rachelís baby noises. "Youíre a lucky little girl. Even if you didnít have a whole houseful of aunties aní uncles wanting to spoil you stupid, you got yourself the best daddy in the world. A lotta people who got two parents ainít as lucky.

"So, letís make a deal, just you aní me, ma ti sheri. You hush now, aní go to sleep, aní donít worry about a thing. íCause your daddyís going to take care of you. And Iím going to take care of him. And everythingís going to be all right, youíll see."

With Remyís words still reverberating in my head, I turned over and slowly, thoroughly, quietly went to pieces.

A/N: This title and many others in the series are from the New Testament, Gospel of Luke, 15:22-24 -- "But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." And we all thought 12 years of private school was a waste! ;)

I have been informed that I should explain Remy & Marieís adventures the time between Cradling the Cactus Tree and this fic. All right then. All righty then, Iíll see what the kids come up with.


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