Today is the day. Alex can feel it.
They are going to get there early.
“Alex, I can’t find my shoes!” Or not.
Glancing at the time displayed on the microwave, Alex sets down the knife he has been using to spread almond butter - which Scott had initially been wary of, but now loves with a passion Alex finds a bit ridiculous; the allergy specialist insists that they vary Scott’s diet as much as possible, and he’s trying to comply, but it’s hard with little boys, especially when they really only want some decent PB&J, so he’s kind of cheating by letting Scott have the next best thing - on what is supposed to be his little brother’s sandwich and wipes his hand on the little tea towel hanging off of the ridiculously cheerful clementine stove.
He makes his way toward the frustrated little voice and sees a tiny bum sticking out from under a bed covered in a dark blue star-patterned quilt and mustard yellow sheets. “Okay, kiddo,” he says softly, not wanting Scott to startle and bump his head on the bed frame - the last time that happened, there had been tears, and he doesn’t think his little brother wants to go to school with his face all splotchy, “why don’t you come on out of there and we’ll see if we can’t figure this out.”
The bottom wriggles and scoots backward, joined momentarily by a torso and mussed brown hair. Shaking his head, Alex kneels down as his little brother turns around, lifting his hands to arrange tousled locks into some semblance of order. “I always put them under the bed and they’re not there!” Scott declares. He’d probably be stomping his foot if Alex wasn’t in the process of wiping away the streak of - something - from his little cheeks, red with childish ire and distress.
“What would Charles tell you to do?” He has to work to keep his tone serious - Scott really is incredibly adorable when he feels put out, but he doesn’t want to belittle what the kid clearly considers a serious problem.
Alex carefully avoids looking at the often-neglected pair of sneakers peeking out from Scott’s closet; a very sensible black and blue pattern, with good, springy soles. Suggesting that Scott wear those today would destroy what composure his little brother has left. The missing pair, which was once pristine white and has Captain America’s shield on the top of each shoe, has accompanied Scott to school every day since this school year started. Alex thinks it has something to do with Captain America protecting him when he cannot, and has a feeling they’ve become infinitely more precious since Scott’s allergic reaction last week. He’s not sure what Moira would say about his allowing Scott a security blanket, but Charles has assured him that it’s nothing to worry about - not at Scott’s age - so he’s going to do his best to be supportive and find the all-important shoes.
Swallowing, Scott thinks about the question and takes a few shaky breaths. After a moment he answers hesitantly, “He’d tell me to retrace my steps. To think about what I did last night.”
“Good,” Alex praises softly. “That’s good, kiddo. What did you do when we got home from school? Did you take them off then?”
“Well... I was reading... I was reading on... the couch!” Scott tears off into the living room and Alex follows at a rather more sedate pace, to once more see his little brother’s bottom sticking up in the air as he fishes first one, then the other sneaker out from under the grey monstrosity.
“Situation is under control, Captain Summers,” Scott chirps, still a little breathless from his previously high emotions as he methodically pulls on and ties his beloved shoes.
“Alright, Private. To the mess hall.”
Scott marches smartly toward the kitchen table and falls into the consumption of his blueberry yoghurt. Alex returns to the task of putting together his little brother’s lunch, and everything goes smoothly from there - until Scott nearly forgets his backpack and has to double back to his room.
By the time they reach the elementary school, Suit Guy is nowhere to be found, so Alex supposes that at least something went right this morning, but after kissing Scott on the forehead, earning an affronted look and ushering him out of the Ford, Alex has precious little time to spare before he needs to be at the dance academy.
When he finally arrives at the school, he looks down and realizes he’s in the wrong clothes. He glances around the parking lot and decides to risk changing in the car - reasoning that, at the very least, his boxers will still be on, so it’s not like he’ll be arrested for public nudity - to avoid having to hear any obnoxious comments from his students. Jumpsuit in the duffel bag and wife beater and basketball shorts on, he strides into the building at a calm but purposeful stride, striving to look like he meant to come to school this late in the morning. His first student strolls into the studio not long after he does, and after that everything is a blur until he has kicked the kids from his last class of the day out and is heading gratefully toward the locker room to change.... only to have his arm grabbed and pulled in the other direction.
“What the hell?” he demands until he realizes it’s Angel who has accosted him.
Still dragging him toward what he now realizes is the main auditorium, Angel asks, “Didn’t you get the e-mail Pryor sent out this morning?”
“Um - no?” There was an e-mail?
“Staff meeting - at least we’re being fed. Although I hope she realizes how much of a hypocrite she is for criticizing me about my weight and then having the nerve to feed us pizza.”
“Hang on, Pryor’s been giving you crap about your weight?” Angel is perfect. He’s pretty sure that if there was an image in the dictionary beside the word beautiful, she would be in it. Hank would be, too, but Alex is a bit biased that way.
“Pryor gives me crap about something on a weekly basis - she hates that she can’t get rid of me. That’s not really the point right now. Where were you this morning?”
He thinks about tiny shoes under the couch and tells her, “Saving the world.”
There is officially a mystery at Pryor’s Academy of Dance.
During the meeting in the auditorium, Madame Pryor opens by informing all of the instructors not stuck overseeing the students as they eat in the cafeteria that they are no longer in financial trouble. This is a good thing, but it sends a ripple of excited confusion through the staff, and Pryor is forced to wait until they all stop speculating, curious chatter quailing under the force of her ire. Alex may not like her methods, but he has to admit; she gets things done.
The rest of the meeting is spent discussing what will be done with the influx of funds - several of the barres need to be replaced, there’s a mirror in Warren Worthington III’s studio that is cracked, some of the scholarship students have outgrown their pointe shoes, the teachers who actually cover practical subjects like algebra and English are adamant about the need for new textbooks. But while a lot of this information matters to certain instructors, most of them have one question on their minds.
Where is the money coming from?
Kitty Pryde, the modern dance instructor who is known mostly for her penchant for choreographing dances where the students practically have to melt through the floor, is the only one with enough guts - or possibly enough cheek, Alex isn’t completely sold either way - to ask. Madame Pryor at first tries to tell them it is a private matter and that it should not concern them. When that fails, she confesses that she has no idea who has paid a tidy sum to breathe new life into her school. Two nights ago, an anonymous donation of a few million dollars arrived in the account she has for the school. After confirming that it was not, in fact, fraudulent or a clerical error, she attempted to discover the identity of the generous gift, only to be told firmly that the party concerned wished to remain unknown.
Alex departs from the auditorium with his belly slightly too full of pizza, and mind entirely too empty of answers. He changes perfunctorily into the jumpsuit he mistakenly wore out of the house that morning and then drives over to the garage. As it seems to be a theme today, he arrives for his second job late and feels immensely fortunate upon discovering that Angel called ahead to warn Darwin prior to practically frogmarching him to the staff meeting earlier.
Most of his shift is spent pondering over the change in circumstances at the academy, though he manages to avoid injuring himself amidst his ruminations and projections. There’s something pulling and niggling at the back of his mind, insisting that there’s something odd about this, some detail he has that no one else does. It’s useless - by the time he has bidden Darwin adieu and is well on his way to picking up Scott, it still has not ceased to elude him.
Another mystery presents itself in the form of his little brother, who climbs into the passenger seat with a look on his face that says something significant this way comes. “Iraq.”
“It exists, yeah.” Scott shoots him an irritated glance and he relents, “What about it?”
“You told me to find something Logan and I have in common. His dad died last year serving in Iraq.” His shoulders slump and he stares down at the hands twisted into the handles of his lunchbox. “But I don’t want that to be what we have in common, Alex.”
There are words he could say right now, but none of them are soothing or age appropriate, so he simply says, “I’m sorry.” Logan’s behavior makes a depressing amount of sense now, and he’s doubly certain that he wants Scott to give the kid a try - he and his little brother are practically attached at the hip, so he has a feeling if the two of them can actually move past the awkward stage of getting to know and trust one another, they’ll be somewhat of an unstoppable force. “His mom - is she doing okay?”
Scott shrugs. “He said she tries to act like she’s not sad whenever he’s around, but he has really good hearing.” At Alex’s confused look, he elaborates, “She cries when she thinks he’s asleep.”
Could this day suck any more than it already does? As soon as the question forms, he sends a frantic command into the cosmos to not provide an answer. He has the distinct impression he wouldn’t like it. “Okay. There has to be something else the two of you share. I refuse to believe not having both of your parents is the only thing you two can talk about.”
“You’re sure?” Scott’s gazing at him with their mirror-image eyes, though his are currently wider than normal, and have a slightly watery sheen.
The days leading up to Saturday yield far less drama. Scott continues trying to find new things to talk to Logan about, with mixed results - Logan has apparently been giving him a lot of confused looks, but he is actually responding, so Alex and Scott both agree to consider the operation a success. The staff at the academy continues to buzz with theories regarding the mysterious patron, with nothing new coming to light. Through it all, Angel walks around looking more content than she has the entire time Alex has known her, every now and then glancing at the messages on her cell and biting her lip to conceal a smile. Hank calls each night now. On Wednesday they only spoke for a little while, but Thursday and Friday, they talked for nearly an hour. Alex and Angel make quite a pair now, both with a beau on the brain.
It feels weird being this happy - in a good way.
On Saturday morning, he sends Hank a text to let him know they’re coming, and he herds a still-sleepy Scott out the door. Originally, Hank and Scott were going to spend the time while Alex was stuck doing his physics lab playing at the park not far from where they live. Unfortunately, an angry horde of thunder clouds rolled in during the wee hours of the morning, and that idea was thoroughly nixed. Alex is not sure what they’re going to do while he’s gone, but whatever it is, Scott won’t be bored. Hank mentioned something earlier on the phone about a hands-on introduction to science, so Alex imagines there will either be contained explosions or some sort of model built. Whatever it is, his little nerd child will love it.
They reach the porch right as the door opens, and Alex flicks his eyes up and down appreciatively. Hank must have chanced the rain and gone for a run anyway, because he’s standing in shorts, sneakers, and specs, sweaty and glorious. Henry Phillip McCoy is gorgeous before a run, but after - there’s really no word Alex considers adequate. Hank clears his throat and apologizes, “I thought I had enough time to make myself a little more presentable - I do hope you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind.” Alex is fairly certain he has a stunned expression on his face, but - well. He’s only human.
Scott rolls his eyes for Alex’s benefit and then grins beatifically at his idol. “Hi, Mr. Hank!”
Hank beams down at his eager pupil and greets him before asking, “Are you ready to explore the world through the lens of scientific discovery?”
That shakes Alex right out of his ogling stupor and prompts him to say, “Science - right! That thing that I have to do.” Where, oh where is his brain?
Peering at him curiously, Hank asks, “Are feeling alright, Alex? You look rather flushed.”
“It’s um - the joy of physics, Hank. I just - can’t wait.” In order to leave with a least some of his dignity still intact, Alex kneels down and gives Scott a hug. “I’ll see you later, okay kiddo? You two have fun.”
He makes a tactical retreat, two perplexed loved ones staring after.
When he goes to pick Scott up a few hours later, he finds out that Hank entertained him the entire time with bubble gum. They covered the concept of malleability, the effect chewing gum has on one’s ability to focus, they tried to figure out which gum was the strongest and which one held onto its flavor the longest.
Alex tells Hank that he missed his calling - he should have been a science teacher.
It’s later on, once they’ve said goodbye and are sitting together on the big grey couch at home that Alex finds out that’s not all that happened while he was away.
“I think Mr. Hank is a mob boss.”
His first reaction is to duck behind the couch and check the area for long auburn hair, because one of these days Moira is going to ream him out for allowing Scott to watch so much television - except, not really. She’ll give him this patently disappointed look instead, the one that always makes him want to ask, ‘Why have you not procreated yet?’ because that look deserves to be seen by someone who might actually benefit from it, such as her hypothetical future offspring.
His second reaction, and the one he actually decides to go with, is to feel Scott’s forehead, prompting a surprised, “Hey!” from the little guy. He breathes a sigh of relief when his tactile examination reveals a temperature well within normal parameters, but then he is forced to sit back and actually try to figure out what to do with the information which sent him into overprotective brother mode in the first place.
“Okay, kiddo. What makes you think that Hank is involved in a mob?” He’s prepared for something ridiculous like the way Hank uses a knife to cut up his sandwich, or some sort of secret handshake he taught Scott while he was watching him - because Henry Phillip McCoy is just the kind of nerd to still think things like secret handshakes are cool. So he’s kind of thrown by what actually comes out of his kid brother’s mouth.
Scott inhales enough air that his head might be in danger of popping off, and then launches into a stream of infectiously excited chatter, “Because this guy came to Mr. Hank’s house in a suit - one of those black ones like in the movie, right? The one with all the computers and bent spoons that weren’t really there? And he handed Mr. Hank this huge envelope - all ma-nil-la, you know? And then he called Mr. Hank, ‘Sir’ and left, and when I looked out the window, there was another guy holding the door of a limo, and the first guy actually got in, and when I asked Mr. Hank what was in the envelope, he said, ‘Just boring stuff from one of my sponsors,’ or something like that. The thing is,” and here, he pauses and leans as close to Alex as he can, balancing with his little hands on Alex’s thighs, to the point where Alex can feel his hot breath - which smells of the sandwich he ate in between experiments, along with something suspiciously like a cookie, and bubblegum - against his face, “thing is, it totally wasn’t, because he acted all weird and like he didn’t want me to read it, and then he went and put it in his office.”
Instead of sitting back and allowing his brother the return of his personal space, Scott stays right where he is and stares at him, his wide eyes and slightly open mouth practically begging for Alex to accept his evidence for what he now believes to be the gospel truth. It’s actually fairly compelling stuff - if you’re seven and you like to watch old batman cartoons on Sunday mornings. Also, he and Raven are going to have words about her allowing Scott to watch The Matrix - and he knows it has to have been her because no one else is blase enough about exposing the kid to violence and disturbing imagery before he’s mature enough to handle it. The two weeks Scott spent sneaking into Alex’s bedroom at the mansion and slipping under the covers because he’d had nightmares about “giant slug things” trying to bury themselves in his bellybutton are starting to make a lot more sense now.
To give himself more time to think, he says, “Okay,” and then he says it again, because the first one didn’t really help. “Let’s say Hank is actually a mob boss. He’s one of the good ones.”
Scott gives him a scornful look. “Well, I know that.”
Oh, the faith of innocents. “Yeah, so, Hank is a good mob boss - that doesn’t mean we can tell him that we know.”
“No. We can’t ever talk about it with Hank. That’s one of the rules.” It’s like when parents tell their kids to sleep on Christmas Eve, or there won’t be any presents on Christmas Day, right? Whatever helps you sleep better at night, Summers.
It won’t. Alex has no idea how he’s going to sleep tonight, unless he can get some answers.
What are you hiding, Henry Phillip McCoy?