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far from born again.

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“Lovely witch's hat, Moira!”

Moira glanced towards where the voice had come from and waved, a big grin on her face. “Thanks, honey! Nice clown outfit you are wearing there!”

Charles cracked up laughing next to her, pushing himself off the counter and glancing at his watch. “Peter should be back by now.”

“I know that you've assumed this pseudo father role with him since Erik is gone, but relax, Charles. Peter is probably talking to his friends after school.”

Charles forced himself to take a deep breath. “I am acting this way because Erik would want someone to, and no one else seems to understand how dangerous it is for him out there.”

“Honey, it's not as dangerous as you're thinking it is,” Moira said, reaching for her order book when some new customers walked in. “Take a deep breath and go down to the club. Sebastian's already down there and I'm sure he'd be more than willing to take your mind off things for a while.”

“Oh, I know he would be,” Charles said as she walked away. “Where the fuck are you, Peter?”

“I'm right here,” came Peter's voice, and Charles breathed a sigh of relief when he saw him emerge from the back. “Chill.”

“I am just trying to make sure that nothing happens to you.”

“And I am just trying to tell you that I'm fine,” Peter said, walking behind the counter and grabbing an apron. “Am I late for my shift or something? Because I thought that was supposed to start at four.”

“You're not late,” Hank said as he walked into the room. “Charles is just freaking out over nothing again.”

“It is not nothing!” Charles exclaimed.

“Charles, he's in prison,” Hank said calmly. “There has been no retribution towards you or Darwin for nine months. Nothing is going to happen.”

“But what if something happened to Erik?” Charles asked quietly, and Peter took one look at Hank before slipping around him and heading towards the kitchen.

Hank walked over to Charles and pulled him into a hug, squeezing tightly when Charles sighed. “We know that nothing has happened to him because we know that he has been accessing his money. There have been withdrawals made out of his account every few weeks. He's fine, Charles.”

“Then why isn't he here?” Charles asked into Hank's shoulder. “We need him here.”

“He'll come back soon,” Hank said unconvincingly.

“You've been saying that for nine months.”

“Well, I'm going to continue to believe it until he does come home. And I know that he will. There's no way he's just going to walk away from all of this for the rest of his life. Erik's not like that.”

Charles pulled back. “Yeah, well, I've been told that Erik's not like this either.”

“He'll be back soon, Charles,” Hank said, glancing around. “Where is Sean?”

“I'm right here,” Sean said, walking back behind the counter. “Charles, Sebastian wants you to come down into the club.”

“Go on, Charles,” Hank said, smiling at him. “I'll handle things up here.”

Charles stared at both of them for a moment before heading towards the door that led into the club. He waved at Kitty behind the bar before heading backstage, knocking on the dressing room door and opening it when he heard the permission. “Hi, honey.”

“Charles, darling!” Sebastian said, standing up and grinning at him. “I'm glad Sean told you to come down here. I was worried that hussy wouldn't.”

“I was planning on coming down here in a few minutes anyway,” Charles said, walking over to Sebastian and falling into his embrace. “Peter was late.”

“Is Peter here now?”

“Yes.”

“Then he's fine, Charles. No need to worry.”

“I'm apparently the only person that sees the need to worry,” Charles mumbled. “Darwin has started agreeing with everyone else.”

“Because there's really no reason to worry,” Sebastian said simply. “But there is a difference between reason and need, and after what that motherfucker did to you, I can completely understand that you still have that need.”

“Why are you the only one that understands that?” Charles said, turning his face into Sebastian's neck.

“Because I'm the only one you've really talked to about everything,” Sebastian said softly, brushing a kiss along Charles's head. “While I've been trying to make everyone understand that things were that horrible for you, and they've been hearing that from Darwin as well, it's really difficult for them to understand without knowing everything. And before you say anything, yes, I know, you don't want everyone to know everything. But you have to see where the disconnect is there, right?”

Charles stayed silent and Sebastian brushed another kiss along his head. “Darling, it's okay. I know that it might be a very long time before you can accept that, but it really is okay.”

Charles swallowed hard. “Thank you,” he whispered, “for just understanding.”

“I said I would do whatever it is I needed to in order to help you, Charles, and I meant that. If that means just understanding that you don't want everyone to know stuff then it's that simple.”

Charles took a couple of deep breaths before pulling back, and it was then that he noticed what Sebastian was wearing. “Do I dare even ask what character you're playing in the Spooktacular?”

“Countess Dracula, of course.”

Charles raised an eyebrow. “Countess Dracula?”

“Oh, I know, it doesn't look like much now, but just you wait. I've got this gorgeous red and black lace top that I found in that vintage store over on Sixteenth, and it has this fabulous lace hip drape and long sleeves. And then I went to a costume shop and found this.” Sebastian walked across the room and pulled a hanger off the rack. “It's a satin back train skirt that was part of this Elvira costume, and I just knew it would be perfect with fishnets. And then I got a red velvet lace-up waist cincher, a choker with a big, stand-up, vampire collar, and the matching hat from this other vampire costume that they had. I suppose I should have just bought the costume, but this looks ten million times better than the costume would have.”

Charles shook his head. “And I suppose what I'm wearing got the same treatment?”

“I swear to God, Charles, you need to get into the details,” Sebastian said, putting the hanger back on the rack and picking up another one. “You are wearing this fabulous pair of black trousers, a white button-down shirt, a black lace vest, a maroon ascot, and a tattered black cape with a silver neck chain. And once you get dressed, we need to slick back your hair and get you the fangs and fake blood, and then you're ready to go.”

Charles reached out to grab Sebastian by the arm. “Fake blood?”

“You have to make it look like you've bitten people. Like you've drunk some blood,” Sebastian exclaimed. “It's in the refrigerator in the loft. You watched me make it earlier.”

“That disgusting mix of corn syrup and food coloring is fake blood?”

“Corn syrup, food coloring, and liquid soap,” Sebastian corrected, grabbing another hanger off the rack and shoving them into Charles's hands. “The soap makes it easier for it to come off later. I know what I doing. We do this every year for the Spooktacular.”

“If you say so,” Charles said warily. “Just make sure I don't have a red stain all over my face for the next week, okay?”

“Stop being so paranoid! Now go get dressed! I'll grab the fake blood and then we can get you all ready for tonight.”

Charles stared at the clothes in his hands for a moment before heading in the direction of the bathroom. “Alright, I'm trusting you with this.”

“Trust me always, darling. I'm always right.”

Charles laughed. “No, you're not.”

**********

Kitty groaned and pulled the pillow off her head, reaching over Marie and grabbing the phone off the bedside table. “What?”

“Kitty?”

Kitty shook her head to try and shake off the last tendrils of sleep, certain that she wasn't actually hearing the voice that she thought she was hearing. “Erik?”

“Yeah,” drifted the voice through the phone, making Kitty put her head face down in the pillow. “It's me. Um, I hope that you don't mind that I'm calling.”

Kitty shifted until she was laying on her side, the phone pressed between her ear and the pillow, Marie's arm coming to wrap around her waist. “No, no. I was just asleep, that's all.”

“Shit, I'm sorry. I thought I waited long enough for you to be awake.”

Kitty blinked and glanced over at the table, sighing when she realized it was almost four o'clock. “No, I should be. It's a good thing you called, actually. I don't think the alarm got set this morning.”

“Too busy sticking your tongue down Marie's throat?”

Kitty laughed. “She was the sexiest nurse I've ever seen last night, honey! You better believe I was.”

“So things went alright last night then?”

“Yeah, everything was fine.” Kitty paused. “Well, no one knew where Charles was, but other than that, it was great.”

She heard a sharp intake of breath. “How he's doing?”

“He's an absolute mess, sweetie, but I think you probably knew that already. And yet, in some ways, he's better than he was before. It's an interesting dichotomy.” Kitty smiled when she felt a soft kiss along the back of her neck. “How are you doing?”

Erik was silent for a moment. “Better, I think. I'm not really sure. I'm pretty much a mess too.”

Kitty felt her heart break at the despairing tone of Erik's voice. “Do you want me to come to meet you somewhere? We could talk over coffee or dinner or something.”

“I, um...I'm not in New York.”

Kitty sighed as Marie plastered herself along her back, glancing back to send an apologetic look towards her lover. “Well, then, where are you, honey?”

“I don't really want to...” Erik trailed off and Kitty could hear another voice in the background, her eyes widening when she recognized it. “Look, I'm not ready for that yet.”

“It's fine,” Kitty said quickly, forcing herself to stop and take a deep breath. “Maybe next time you call.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

Kitty pushed Marie off of her and rolled onto her back, her eyes searching out Marie's. “Honey, please tell me that you have at least seen a doctor and that you're taking care of yourself.”

“Jubilee told everyone, hm?” Erik said quietly.

“Just me. You know Jubes. She had to tell someone before she burst. She didn't want to tell Theresa because she knew that Theresa would just go tell everybody so I swore that I wouldn't say a word and I've kept that promise. But please tell me you have been seeing a doctor, Erik. That's important.”

“No,” he murmured. “I'm not...I can't deal with that right now.”

Kitty sighed heavily. “Honey, you have to deal with it right now. You need to be on medication to help keep yourself healthy and not in danger.”

“I just...look, I just wanted to see how last night went. I've got to go.”

Kitty slumped down in defeat. “Erik, do you want me to tell anyone that you called?”

“No,” Erik said quickly. “I'm not ready for that either.”

Kitty pulled Marie down to her and nodded even though she knew Erik couldn't see it. “Then I won't say anything.”

“Okay. Thanks, KitKat.”

Kitty sighed. “Anytime, honey.”

Kitty pulled the phone away from her ear after hearing it click and buried her face in Marie's neck, clinging to her. “Oh my God.”

Marie plucked the phone from her fingers and set it over on the table, brushing a kiss along Kitty's head. “What is it?”

“He's in Los Angeles with Raven,” Kitty mumbled, pulling back to look Marie in the eyes. “I mean, he didn't say that, but I heard Raven in the background so I know that's where he is. And I promised I wouldn't say anything to anyone about it.”

Marie kissed Kitty softly. “Are you going to keep that promise?”

“I don't know,” Kitty admitted. “I don't know if I can, and I don't know if I should. He's...they're all so mad at him for taking off like that, but Jubes saw what he was like that day and she told me how terrified he is. And because she told me that Erik's positive, I know that he needs help. Medical help for sure because he's not taking care of himself properly and maybe even mental help because he's definitely not dealing with this, and I highly doubt he's getting that kind of help from Raven. I'm not sure that I can just let this go knowing how much he needs our help.”

“Sounds to me like you've already made up your mind about that promise.” Marie settled down next to her. “So, what are you going to do then? Go to Los Angeles and try to find him?”

Kitty snuggled closer to her and sighed. “I wouldn't have the slightest clue how to do that. I don't know my way around Los Angeles. But I've got to do something.”

“Well, maybe take some time to think about it, hm?” Marie wrapped her arms around Kitty's waist and closed her eyes, smiling when she felt Kitty place a kiss on her nose.

“Yeah,” Kitty said, putting her head down on the pillow. “But not too much time.”

**********

“Darwin, where were you last night? Moira and Peter had to work the dinner rush alone.”

“I called in.”

“That doesn't explain why you had to call in.”

Darwin sighed and turned towards Charles. “I couldn't leave Alex alone. I'm sorry.”

“Is he ever going to feel comfortable coming here?” Charles asked, his tone softening. “Because Hank and Scott have made it clear there is a place for him here.”

“He's finding the transition very difficult,” Darwin admitted. “Ororo keeps saying that it's normal after going through something like this, but Alex doesn't like to leave the apartment unless it's to go to her office. I'm working on it, I really am, but when all he wants to do is lay around and get high, it's really difficult. And then I found out last night that he has been leaving the apartment when I'm not there, and it became something I needed to deal with immediately.”

“What is he doing?” Charles asked, confused. “I mean, you just said he doesn't like to leave the apartment.”

“When he first started talking, I thought that all he was doing was leaving to go get drugs. But then I started wondering where he was getting the money for the drugs from, and that's when he told me he'd started selling himself again, so I made the decision to try and get that straightened out above anything else. So, once again, I'm sorry that I called in and missed out on Halloween. I know that's a really big night for us.”

“He's selling himself again?” Charles said softly. “I don't even know what to say about that.”

“I don't really have much to say about it anyway,” Darwin said. “I made an appointment with Ororo for this afternoon. He's going to that whether he wants to or not. Hank already said I could leave early.”

“Whatever it is you need, baby. I just feel like there's so much more we could be doing for Alex.”

“Someday,” Darwin said hopefully. “But we're a long way away from someday right now, I think.”

Darwin looked up when the door opened and Charles patted him on the shoulder. “Get back to work.”

Charles turned and sat down at the counter, nodding at Sean when he held up a coffee cup. Sean set the full cup in front of him a moment later and Charles smiled at him. “What are you trying out today, baby?”

“Today it's a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with french fries,” Sean said, reaching up to tuck a stray strand of hair behind his ear. “You want one?”

Charles nodded again and Sean turned back to the grill as Bobby sat down on the stool next to Charles's. “You weren't around last night, Charles.”

“I was too.”

“If you were there last night, how come no one fucking saw you?”

“Sebastian did,” Charles murmured, taking a long sip of his coffee. “I wanted to lay low last night, so that's what I did. Didn't feel up to being the life of the party.”

Bobby huffed. “It figures that hussy knew where you were and didn't tell anybody. He fucking knew that we were all looking for you.”

“Don't call him that. Sebastian has been great the last few months and you know it,” Charles said, leaning over and kissing Bobby on the forehead. “I'm sorry if I worried you. I just knew that it wasn't a good idea for me to be in the middle of that crowd last night.”

“Then I'm glad that you weren't,” Bobby said, glancing up as Sean set a plate in front of Charles.

Charles shook his head and looked up at Sean, biting back a laugh. “This is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich?”

Sean sighed. “I think it's a little overcooked.”

“No,” Charles said, unable to keep the laughter from coming. “I think everyone enjoys their sandwiches with burnt bread.”

Sean pouted and pulled the plate back, tossing its contents into the trash. “Just for that, you're going to have to sit there until I get it right.”

“That's alright, honey,” Charles said, bringing his cup to his lips. “I've got all the time in the world.”

“How about you make me one too?” Bobby said, nodding when Sean looked at him. “I need to eat before I go get the club ready anyway.”

“Then two perfectly cooked sandwiches are coming right up!” Sean exclaimed, turning back to the stove. “Well, maybe not right up, but soon, I promise!”

Chapter Text

“What's Raven's DJ handle?” Marie asked.

“DJ Mystique.” Kitty pulled a shirt out of the closet and held it up, staring at it before shaking her head and putting it back. “Why?”

Marie finished typing and hit search, smiling when a link came up. “Because I just found her Facebook page. Want to bet that's got where she's spinning on it?”

“Raven has a Facebook page?” Kitty asked, dropping the pants she was holding to the floor and rushing over to the bed, settling onto it next to Marie. “Well, I suppose that would make sense. I know Vanessa has one.”

Marie waited for the page to finish loading and scrolled down, pointing at the screen when a list of appearances showed up. “She's spinning at Oil Can Harry's tomorrow night.”

“Oil Can Harry's?”

“It's a huge club on Ventura Boulevard,” Marie said, glancing at Kitty. “Bella takes me there whenever I'm out in Los Angeles.”

Kitty let that information sink in for a moment. “So you would know where that is then?”

“I'll go with you if you want,” Marie said quickly. “I don't have anything booked until next Wednesday.”

“Can we even get flights this late in the day?” Kitty asked. “And shit, what am I going to do about work?”

“Call in sick,” Marie said, starting to type again. “I'll find us a flight.”

Kitty climbed off the bed and went back to the closet, pulling a suitcase out of the bottom of it and setting it on the bed. “Bobby will totally know that I'm lying.”

“So don't call Bobby. Call someone else.”

“Bobby's my boss,” Kitty said before an idea struck her and she reached towards the phone. “Scott is his boss though, and Scott would let me off work for a few days.”

Marie glanced up as Kitty started pulling things from the closet and tossing them towards the suitcase. “There's a nine-forty from JFK to LAX.”

“Book it,” Kitty said, nearly dropping the phone once she heard someone answer on the other end. “Scott? Hey baby, it's Kitty. Listen, I need a few days off work and I can't really tell you why. I just need you to trust me.”

Marie sighed and looked up, catching Kitty's attention. “Babe, toss me my wallet, will you?”

“I know Bobby is my boss but I didn't think I could trust him with this,” Kitty said, walking towards the kitchen and grabbing the wallet from Marie's purse. “It's massively important and I will totally explain it to you as soon as I get back, okay? I just really need to do this and it has to be now.”

Marie looked up again when Kitty called her name and reached up to snag the wallet out of the air, searching through it for her credit card. “We've got to get moving. It's already almost five.”

“Scott, honey, I love you, I really do. I'll see you when I get back.” Kitty grinned as she hung up the phone. “He gave me the whole week off. When are you booking the return flights for?”

“I didn't,” Marie said, setting the laptop to the side and jumping up, heading towards where the printer was set up in the living room. “We'll figure that out once we're out there.”

Kitty grabbed some more clothes and walked over to the suitcase, leaning down on it and sighing heavily. “Tell me I'm doing the right thing.”

Marie walked back into the room and set the papers with their confirmation number down, wrapping her arms around Kitty and kissing her softly. “You're doing the right thing. I promise.”

Kitty took a couple of deep breaths before nodding. “Then I guess we better get to packing. It takes forever to check in at JFK and we still haven't had dinner.”

**********

“What the fuck do you mean that Kitty has the week off?” Jubilee screeched.

“I mean exactly what I said,” Scott answered. “Kitty has something going on that needs to be attended to immediately, and therefore I gave her the week off.”

“So I'm supposed to handle the bar by myself for a week?” Jubilee exclaimed. “Fucking hell.”

“I'll be behind the bar with you,” Scott soothed. “I'm not going to leave you hanging like that.”

Jubilee took a moment to calm herself. “Thank you. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go bitch Kitty out.”

Scott just shook his head as Jubilee ducked underneath the bar. “Don't do that, Jubes. Whatever this is, it's a big deal.”

“The fuck it is!” Jubilee yelled out as she walked out of the room.

“That sounds like it isn't good,” came Jean's voice, and Scott smiled as she came into view.

“Hey. Want a drink?” Jean nodded and Scott reached for the whiskey. “You look like you had a long day.”

“That's because I did,” Jean said, leaning up against the bar. “But once I was done in court, I decided the work that's at my office could wait and I came here instead.”

“Why didn't you go home?” Scott asked, grabbing a glass and pouring the whiskey into it.

“Because I was planning on coming here for dinner and I needed to talk to Charles anyway,” Jean said, murmuring thanks as she accepted the glass. “The lawyer in charge of the Xavier estate contacted me again.”

“He ready to accept his inheritance yet?”

“Nope,” Jean said after a long sip. “He's not ready for the attention and I can understand that, but this Trask guy is insistent that it can all be done quietly and that there is no need for public announcements. I tried reminding him that the public already assumes that Charles has inherited the estate, but that didn't seem to help any.”

Scott nodded as he poured his drink. “He's been very down recently.”

“Ororo was telling me that at lunch today. She said Darwin is doing the best out of the three of them.”

“Yeah, this Alex guy has apparently taken a few steps back,” Scott said. “He still won't come in here.”

Jean thought about who Alex really was again and bit back the urge to tell Scott the truth. “I'm sure that he'll find that strength eventually. He can't stay in that apartment forever.”

“Well, I think that he's trying to make that a possibility.” Scott looked up when Jubilee came storming back into the room. “Jubes, calm down.”

“Fuck off,” Jubilee exclaimed. “Hello, Jean.”

“Hi, honey,” Jean said, smiling at her. “Whatever it is, Jubes, it can't be that bad.”

“You have no idea,” Jubilee said firmly. “I am going out to the door to see my girlfriend. I will be back sometime before open. You can do all the prep since you're the bastard that gave Kitty the week off.”

Jubilee spun around and stalked out of the room before Scott could say a thing, and Jean turned back to him with a bemused look on her face. “You gave Kitty the week off?”

“Something important is going on and she needed time off so I gave it to her. Jubes is overreacting about it,” Scott said, shrugging. “I will be behind the bar with her for the next week, so I'm going to have to reschedule our dinner on Tuesday.”

“That's fine,” Jean said, taking a deep breath. “I wanted to talk to you about dinner anyway.”

“Did you change your mind on where you want to go?” Scott asked as he turned around, surveying the wall behind him for what was needed.

“No, the restaurant is fine,” Jean said, taking another breath. “I was wondering what you thought about the possibility of turning the dinner into a date.”

Scott froze, certain that he had not heard what he thought he'd heard. “A date?”

“If you don't want to, that's fine,” Jean said quickly. “I just...things changed when you got shot and I've sort of been wanting to bring this up for forever, but I needed to make sure that what I was feeling was not just a reaction to that. And it's not. But I'll get over it. It's fine.”

Scott turned around and watched Jean down the rest of her drink. “I would love to go on a date with you, Jean,” he said softly. “I've wanted that for longer than you might think.”

“Really?” Scott nodded and Jean smiled. “Then why didn't you say anything?”

“Well, you had someone for one thing. I'm a fucking coward for another.”

“I had someone? This goes back to Logan for you?”

“I told you. I've wanted this for longer than you might think.”

Jean reached across the bar and grabbed Scott's hand, smiling at him. “Well, I'm glad that we're doing something about it now then.”

“Me too,” Scott said, glancing over at the clock. “Fuck, I don't have as much time as I thought.”

“Then I'll go upstairs and let you get to work,” Jean said, letting go of his hand. “But I am really looking forward to dinner, whenever it is we have it.”

“Me too,” Scott said, grinning at her. “Dinner's on the house tonight. You've done too much for all of us recently.”

“That's not necessary.”

“Maybe not, but I'm doing it anyway.”

Jean laughed. “Well, I might have to order dessert then.”

“Order the whole menu if you want!” Scott called out, prompting Jean to laugh all the way to the door.

Once she'd left the room, Scott turned back to the wall and tried to concentrate, but all he could think about was the fact that he was going to go on a date with Jean.

Holy shit.

**********

“Emma, come on,” Sean whined. “You can totally tell me. I won't tell anyone.”

Emma rolled her eyes. “You are a gossip queen. I don't believe that for a second.”

“Yeah, I love gossip, but come on, I'm totally capable of keeping a secret for a friend,” Sean huffed, pushing open the door and pulling Emma into the café. “I know all sorts of shit about Sebastian that would make your head spin, but I don't go around blabbing about it.”

Emma sighed as they made their way to a table in the back, dropping down into a seat and reaching for a menu. “Because Sebastian would rip off your dick if you did.”

“Well, yeah,” Sean said as he sat down. “But that's not the point. The point is that when something is told to me in confidence, it stays that way. There's plenty of other things to gossip about.”

“Like what?”

Sean rolled his eyes. “Like the fact that Jean was totally eyeing Scott up all night on Halloween? Or that Charles practically drools all over himself if you happily mention Erik in front of him? And the little bit of discontent that's been brewing between Bobby and Johnny. There's plenty to gossip about, bitch. Plenty.”

“Discontent between Bobby and Johnny? I think you're just seeing things.” Emma flipped open the menu and glanced through it. “They're like the most stable thing in the world.”

“Yeah, but something is up. Trust me.” Sean reached out and grabbed the menu from Emma's hands. “And stop trying to change the subject.”

Emma glared at him. “I was looking at that.”

“You're just going to order the same fucking thing you always order,” Sean pointed out.

Emma sighed heavily. “Look, Sean, I can't talk to you about this, okay?”

“I'm just trying to be a good friend, girl. You look like you desperately need to talk about this.”

“I just...” Emma trailed off as the waitress approached their table. “I don't want to talk about this anymore, okay?”

Sean pouted at her as they gave the waitress their orders, slumping down in his seat and staring up at the ceiling as she walked away. “I'm just worried, honey. I saw the look in your eyes when Moira brought up Angel. You were terrified.”

“Because it's not fucking easy to talk about,” Emma said, leaning forward and grabbing Sean's hand. “Don't worry, sweetie, okay?”

“That's not possible,” Sean said, bringing his gaze down to look at her. “I worry about everyone. That's why I gossip so much, alright? I feel better when I know what's going on with everybody because that means I'm not worried about that. But right now I don't know what's going on with you and so I'm worrying. I don't know where Erik is or how he's doing, and even though I'm mad as hell at him for taking off like that, I'm worried. Something is up with Bobby and Johnny, and I'm worried. It's what I do, honey. I worry.”

Emma stood up and moved around to Sean's side of the table, sitting down in the other chair and wrapping her arms around his shoulders. “I love you, honey.”

“I love you too, girl,” Sean said, tilting his head to lean it on Emma's shoulder. “And I'm going to worry like hell until you tell me what's going on.”

Emma sighed heavily. “I've been fucking Angel again.”

“I knew that already.”

“Yeah, but it's like turned into more of a serious relationship sort of thing, and now there's this other component to it and I don't know what to do about it.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that Angel has been spending a ton of time with Moira, and so things have developed that I was not expecting.”

“So the girlfriend has a friendship with the ex. What's so wrong about that?”

“And now we're at the part where it's difficult to talk about, so I'm going to stop there,” Emma said, shaking her head. “I've told you too much already.”

“Emma! Come on!”

Emma brushed a kiss across Sean's forehead. “No. Now tell me about this thing with Charles. Are you trying to tell me that you think he has a thing for him?”

“Oh, Charles so has a thing for Erik,” Sean said confidently. “And based upon my observations of Erik when he was here, I think he has a thing for Charles too.”

“Hm,” Emma hummed. “Interesting. Very interesting.”

“It totally is,” Sean agreed. “But until Erik comes back, nothing can be done about it.”

“You really think he's coming back?”

“What? You don't?”

“I don't know anymore,” Emma said honestly. “I thought it would be a few weeks tops.”

“He'll be back,” Sean said confidently. “I'm sure of it.”

Emma sighed. “I hope so, honey. I really hope so. I miss him.”

“Me too,” Sean murmured. “Me too.”

**********

John crawled into bed and reached out to turn off the light, slumping down to the mattress and letting out a soft groan. Bobby slid across the sheets and pressed himself along John's back, dropping a kiss onto his neck. “Not tonight, baby. I'm fucking exhausted.”

Bobby pulled back as if he'd been stung. “Fine,” he muttered, turning so his back was to John and sighing heavily. “I was just going to ask how the show was.”

“It was a fucking disaster,” John grumbled, grabbing his pillow and pulling it over his head. “Now leave me the fuck alone and let me sleep.”

Bobby pulled his pillow close and hugged it to his chest, sighing as he pushed the sheets back and climbed from the bed. He walked over to the closet and got out a blanket before making his way out to the living room and dropping down on the sofa.

John pulled the pillow off his head and glanced towards the now-empty side of the bed. “Where the fuck are you going?”

“Don't want to disturb you,” Bobby called out, propping his pillow up against the arm of the sofa and laying down, draping the blanket over him.

“Baby,” John said, rolling onto his back and sighing heavily. “I didn't mean for you to fucking leave.”

Bobby pulled the blanket up to his chest and reached up to push at the pillow, making it more comfortable. “Lately, there is a lot of things you don't mean, John. I am just trying to prevent an argument.”

John ran his hands over his face, shaking his head. “There is no fucking argument, Bobby. I just want to fucking sleep.”

“So sleep,” Bobby called back, glancing over at the clock before closing his eyes.

John dropped his hands back to the bed in frustration. “Come back to bed, Bobby.”

“No, I am fine right here,” Bobby said, shifting onto his side and pressing up against the back of the sofa.

“Why the fuck are you turning this into a bigger deal than it fucking is?”

Bobby huffed. “No, that would be you, John. You want to sleep so badly, then sleep. The only thing stopping you right now is yourself.”

“Fine, whatever,” John exclaimed, grabbing his pillow and stuffing it underneath his head. He laid in silence for a few minutes before groaning loudly and tossing the pillow across the room. “Now I can't fucking sleep because I'm thinking you're out there mad at me.”

“I am not mad at you,” Bobby said, yawning. “If anyone is mad, that would be you.”

“I'm not fucking mad at you!” John yelled, kicking the sheets off and climbing out of the bed, stalking out of the room to stand near the sofa. “I'm not the one who fucking got up and left our bed!”

“And I'm not the one who is standing in the middle of the living room yelling,” Bobby said calmly, refusing to open his eyes.

John threw his hands up in disgust. “Well, I'm only doing that because you won't come back to bed!”

“I don't know why you think I'm eager to go crawl into bed with you when you're in a mood like this,” Bobby said, fighting off another yawn. “Something happened at the show tonight, didn't it?”

“You've lost your fucking mind,” John exclaimed, kicking at the sofa. “Why don't you just fucking say it to my face already? You've been implying it for weeks now.”

Bobby's eyes shot open and he sat up, growling in anger. “Do you think that I am stupid? Do you think that I don't hear about these things? I speak to a lot of your dancers, John, and they think it's only right that I know what the fuck it is you're up to. I don't have to fucking say anything. We both already know that I know.”

“They are a bunch of dim-witted bitches who don't know enough to have a real job so they shake their asses for money. They don't fucking know anything, and they sure as hell don't have any business talking to you like they do.” John kicked the sofa again. “I don't fucking need this tonight, Robert. Now get up and come back to bed.”

Bobby laid back down and closed his eyes again. “No.”

“Fine.” John stalked back into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him, picking up his pillow from the floor and tossing it back onto the bed. “Nothing fucking happened tonight, by the way! Not that you'd care! Your mind is already made up!”

Bobby sighed. “I wish I could believe that.”

Chapter Text

Kitty woke up and glanced around, blinking rapidly. “Where am I?”

“Bella's apartment,” Marie called out from somewhere else in the room, prompting Kitty to roll over onto her back and prop herself up by her elbows.

“I thought we were going to a hotel,” Kitty said, finally spotting Marie sitting at the vanity and putting her mascara on.

“We were but then you fell asleep in the back of Bella's car, and since we didn't have a reservation she said we could just crash here.” Marie stopped and turned towards Kitty, smiling. “She's going to come with us tonight.”

At the mention of why they were in Los Angeles, Kitty groaned, dropping back to the bed. “I have to figure out what I'm going to say to Raven. How I'm even going to get close to her.”

“You can dance right in front of the booth,” Marie said, setting the mascara down and reaching for an eyebrow pencil. “We'll make sure to get you front and center so she can see you.”

Kitty sighed and climbed from the bed, walking over and putting her arms around Marie's shoulders. “And what if Raven doesn't want to talk to me?”

“Then we keep trying until she does,” Marie said, putting down the pencil and spinning around on the stool to face Kitty. “We've got all week.”

“I know,” Kitty said, straddling Marie's hips and settling herself down in her lap. “I'm just worried.”

Marie wrapped her arms around Kitty's waist and pulled her into a kiss. “Maybe we should do something to distract you then, hm?”

Kitty smiled and grabbed onto Marie's shirt, tugging it over her head. “What about Bella?”

“Bella's at work,” Marie mumbled, trembling as Kitty's hands glided over her skin. “She won't be home until at least seven.”

Kitty laughed and stood up, pulling Marie towards the bed. “It would be awfully rude of us to fuck in her apartment, wouldn't it?”

“Remind me later to tell you the story of how I found her fucking some trade in my bed,” Marie breathed out, watching entranced as Kitty pulled her bra off and tossed it away. “I think it's time for a little payback.”

“In that case,” Kitty said teasingly, falling back on the bed, “distract away.”

Marie growled and climbed onto the bed, covering Kitty's body with her own and smiling down at her. “You mean you don't want to go sightseeing?” she teased back.

“Shut up and fuck me,” Kitty declared, pulling Marie into a deep kiss.

Marie grasped Kitty's hands and pulled them above her head, lips leaving Kitty's and trailing down to suck on the curve of her neck. Kitty arched into the touch, a delicious moan spilling from her lips, her eyes drifting closed as Marie slowly slid down her body.

Marie was just about to slide Kitty's panties down when she heard the opening of a door, her head shooting up to glance towards the main part of the apartment.

“Bella, bitch, where are you?”

“Shit,” Marie murmured, pulling back and glancing down at Kitty, who was looking up at her with wide eyes. “That's Remy.”

“Who is Remy?” Kitty asked, pouting when Marie climbed off the bed and started tossing clothes at her.

“Someone who sure as fuck shouldn't be here,” Marie said, grabbing her shirt and pulling it back on. “I'll try to get rid of him. Stay here.”

Kitty nodded as Marie walked out of the room, running her hands through her hair as she headed towards the kitchen. “Remy?”

“Marie!” Remy exclaimed, walking out of the kitchen and pulling Marie into his arms. “What on earth are you doing here?”

“I should ask you the same thing,” Marie said, hugging him back.

“Just looking for my favorite hairstylist,” Remy said, pulling back and looking around. “Where is the crazy bitch at anyway?”

“At a job,” Marie said, looking back towards the bedroom where Kitty still was. “I thought you were supposed to be in Mexico.”

“Just got back from Cabo. I came back because I need to round up my favorite people for the shoot of a lifetime!” Remy moved over to the sofa and sat down, propping his feet up on the table. “Which is why I am also glad to see you. I was sure I'd have to go all the way to New York to track you down.”

Marie glanced at the bedroom again. “Why don't you come back when Bella is here and we can all talk about it together?”

Remy followed Marie's gaze and started to laugh. “Don't even tell me you've got someone in there. I thought you were supposed to be all monogamous and boring now.”

“I am,” Marie said defensively, “and the reason for that is in that room. We were about to have really great sex when you showed up.”

Remy laughed some more. “Perfect timing then!”

Marie sighed heavily. “Remy, I'll tell Bella that you stopped by.”

“Oh, no,” Remy said, shaking his head. “Go get her. I want to meet her.”

“Remy.”

“Marie. Come on! You've kept this girl in New York for far too long!” Remy exclaimed. “Isn't it time you let her out to play?”

“And why exactly would I want to subject her to an asshole like you?” Marie asked angrily.

Remy glanced up and then sat up straight, a huge grin on his face. “Because she's perfect.”

Marie watched as Remy stood up, following him with her eyes as Remy walked past her and headed towards the doorway where Kitty now stood. She sighed heavily and started walking towards them. “Remy, this is Kitty. Kitty, this is Remy LeBeau, the most insane person you will ever meet.”

“Hello, gorgeous,” Remy drawled, extending his hand towards Kitty. “It's lovely to finally meet you.”

Kitty shook his hand tentatively. “Nice to meet you. I think.”

“Alright, that settles it!” Remy exclaimed, turning around abruptly and heading towards the kitchen. “We're going to the studio.”

“Excuse me?” Kitty asked as Marie called out Remy's name.

“Beauty like this must be captured on film!” Remy called out. “Do not argue with me about this!”

Marie groaned and threw her hands up, coming towards Kitty and kissing her softly. “It's best not to argue with him when he's in a mood like this. It's far less troubling to just go along with him to the studio.”

“He wants to take my picture?” Kitty asked quietly.

“Something like that,” Marie said, pushing Kitty back into the bedroom. “He's not going to do it, that's for sure. I'll explain on the way to the studio, okay? Bella will kill me if I let Remy roam loose around her place for too long.”

**********

Moira ignored the looks of a few passing strangers and pulled her knees tighter to her chest, resting her forehead on top of one. She was an idiot, an absolute, motherfucking, stupid idiot. In hindsight, she could see all the signs. The secretiveness of the party's location, the darkened hallway that led down to the door, the special knock and the specific answer that she had to give to get in. The second it had been explained to her, she should have made the decision not to go. But no, oh no, in all her infinite wisdom she had to believe that she could enjoy the party and avoid the rest of it. Like that had ever worked before.

She glanced up as a car whipped around the corner and into the empty parking lot, watching as it came to a stop about ten feet away from her. She heard the driver's door open and took a deep breath, ignoring the sounds of footsteps while praying for the passenger's door to open too. Her head dropped as Angel sat down beside her, cursing herself for being stupid enough to think that she would come.

“You did the right thing,” Angel said softly, wrapping an arm around Moira's shoulders and pulling her close. “Mors, listen to me. You did the right thing.”

“It was hard,” Moira whispered, her gaze refocusing on the passenger's door. “They offered me a hit and I really wanted it. Like, really, really wanted it.”

Angel shifted her arm and started gently stroking Moira's hair. “But you didn't take it.”

“No, I didn't,” Moira said, leaning her head onto Angel's shoulder. “I stumbled my way through some really pathetic excuse, ran out of there, and called you and Emmie.”

“And you did the right thing,” Angel said patiently, “so stop thinking that either one of us is mad at you.”

“Of course she's mad at me,” Moira whispered, barely holding back a sniffle before shaking her head. “I thought that maybe we had started to become friends again, you know? She seemed like she was interested in how I was doing, in how things were going at work on the days we had different shifts. But I guess I was wrong.”

Angel sighed heavily and stood up, grabbing Moira's hand and pulling her up too. “How about you go get in the car? I'll run across the street and grab another couple of bottles of wine. We can go back to my place, have a few drinks, and talk this out. If you don't want to go back to Emma's, then you can crash at my place.”

Moira nodded and Angel handed her the keys before jogging across the street to the liquor store. Moira played with the keychain for a moment before walking towards the door she'd been staring at, grabbing the handle a little harder than was necessary and yanking it open roughly. She slid into the seat and slammed the door shut, tossing the keys into the driver's seat. She closed her eyes and let her head drop back against the headrest, sighing heavily.

“Did you take any of it?”

Moira's eyes shot open and she spun around to find Emma sitting in the backseat glaring at her. “Emmie?”

“Did you take any of it?” Moira's mouth opened and closed a couple of times but no words came out, and that drew an annoyed groan from Emma. “Answer my fucking question. Did you motherfucking take any of that shit?”

“No,” Moira said, shaking her head quickly, her hands trembling for an entirely different reason than they used to. “I swear to whatever fucking god you want that I didn't.”

Emma stared at her for a moment before taking a deep breath and relaxing into the seat, shoving her hands into her pockets. “This is the first time I've ever believed you when you've said that.”

Moira sighed in relief and slumped against the chair. “There were some times before when you should have. Not many, but there were a few.”

“I realized that later on,” Emma said softly, sliding across the seat to be closer to where Moira was. “I always had too many reasons to doubt you though. You have no idea how badly I've always wanted to believe you.”

Moira nodded lightly and Emma stared at her for a moment, mentally noting all the reasons why she could believe her. No full-body shakes. No glazed look in her eyes. No hesitation in her voice. This was Moira, stone-cold sober Moira, and Emma had no choice but to acknowledge that the woman sitting in front of her was finally the woman she'd always wanted her to be.

Emma slid forward and pulled Moira as close as she could, crushing their lips together in a bruising kiss. Moira melted into the kiss momentarily before the fact that Angel would be back at any moment crossed her mind. She shoved Emma away and blinked rapidly, confusion written across her face. “Emmie, what the fuck did you do that for?”

“Because I motherfucking love you,” Emma said, running her hands over her face. “I love you and I always will, and fuck, you don't know how fucking difficult this is for me because you're finally the way I always hoped you would be and now you're not mine. And I just...this thing with Angel has turned into something really fucking amazing, but I don't know how to react when she tells me that she knows that I'm still in love with you, and...I haven't motherfucking kissed you in years and I just want to, alright?”

Moira swallowed hard but let Emma pull her close again, moaning softly when their lips met. She'd missed Emma's kisses more than almost anything else, had dreamed of them during the long, cold nights of withdrawal. And she'd wanted to tell her that from the moment she saw her again, wanted to let Emma know that she was the reason Moira had finally cleaned herself up, wanted to explain that she had to lose the thing that made her whole to realize just how empty she had become, tell her that she'd realized no drug in the world could make her feel as high as being with Emma had. But she found Emma, and Emma had Angel, and she was happy, truly happy, for the first time in longer than Moira could remember, and she didn't want to ruin that for her because Emma deserved it.

Moira jumped when the driver's side door opened, shoving Emma away and staring wide-eyed at Angel when she ducked her head into the car. Angel looked back and forth between them before breaking out into a smile. “You two kissing is motherfucking hot, you know that?”

Emma laughed and sat back as Angel grabbed her keys from the driver's seat, sticking the correct one in the ignition before grabbing the bags with the wine and shoving them into the backseat. She sat down and started the car, turning to look at Moira and leaning across the console, pressing her lips gently to hers. “Mors, this whole situation will get a lot easier once Emma and you both realize that I don't mind that she loves you because I sort of do too, okay? Let's just go back to my place and have a few drinks and see where that takes us.”

“I can't show up to work drunk, Angel,” Emma said, leaning forward and kissing her softly. “And we should probably tell Moira about the conversation she interrupted with her phone call because I'm willing to bet she's confused as fuck right now.”

Angel put the car into drive and let it start rolling towards the parking lot's exit, stealing a glance at Moira as she put the turn signal on. “That's probably a good idea, Ems. But maybe you should kiss her again first. She looks like she's about to pass out from shock or something.”

**********

“Charles, honey, I think you've had enough,” Jubilee said carefully, squinting to try and judge just how drunk he was. “I mean, you've already gone through a bottle and a half of whiskey on your own.”

Charles looked up at her and shrugged, slumping forward against the bar. “I miss him, Jubes.”

Jubilee felt her heart break as she reached out and gently put her hand over Charles's. “I know, baby, I know. But drinking yourself to death isn't going to help that any.”

“Actually feel worse when I'm like this,” Charles slurred. “It hurts.”

Jubilee briefly closed her eyes and sent several silent curse words in Erik's direction. “Honey, how about I take you upstairs and you try to get some sleep? It can't hurt if you're unconscious.”

Charles nodded and Jubilee quickly made her way around the bar, exchanging worried glances with Scott along the way. Charles slung an arm around Jubilee's waist once she was next to him, leaning heavily against her. “You are a good one, Jubilee. One of the best people I've ever met. Scott should make you employee of the month. Or the year.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Jubilee said softly, brushing a kiss along Charles's cheek as they started to walk towards the stairs. “That's nice of you.”

“Mean it,” Charles said, stumbling over his feet as they went through a doorway. “Can't walk right tonight.”

“That's because you've had so much to drink,” Jubilee said patiently, steering them towards the staircase. “You know that Erik isn't going to be very happy about how much you're drinking once he gets back.”

Charles laughed bitterly. “He's not coming back. Am I the only one who has figured that out?”

“I can't believe that he would just give all of this up and abandon us forever,” Jubilee said as they slowly went up the stairs. “You'd think he'd sell the business or something if he wanted out, not just disappear.”

“He's not thinking clearly,” Charles said, digging into his pockets as they reached the top of the stairs, fumbling with the keys until Jubilee took them from his hands and found the right one. “Not that I blame him. He nearly died because of me. Of course, he doesn't want to be around.”

Jubilee got the door open and helped Charles inside, tossing the keys onto the table as they headed towards the bed. “He didn't leave because he was shot, Charles. He left for another reason.”

“He did?” Charles mumbled, kicking off his shoes near the closet. “You know why?”

Jubilee just nodded and then let go of him as Charles dropped down onto the bed. “I do, but I promised him that I wouldn't tell anyone. I've got to get back down to the club anyway.”

Jubilee bent down to brush a kiss across Charles's lips but found herself being pulled onto the bed and kissed hard, Charles quickly rolling them over so he was lying on top of her. Jubilee squirmed around underneath him and tried to push him away, gasping when she felt Charles's hands slide underneath her shirt. She summoned all of her strength and rolled them over again, pushing up far enough to break the kiss. “Charles, what the fuck are you doing?”

“Need distraction,” Charles murmured, trying to capture Jubilee's lips again and whimpering when she managed to pull further away. “Come on, Jubes.”

Jubilee shoved Charles's hands away and quickly climbed off the bed, backing up until she was pressed up against the bedroom wall. She stared at Charles with wide eyes, breathing heavily. “Charles, honey, I don't know what this is but it's not what you really want.”

“Sometimes the tricks used to pick me up just so I could fuck their wives while they fucked me,” Charles mumbled, rolling onto his side and curling in on himself. “Just thought that maybe you'd be interested. I'm sorry.”

Jubilee sighed and pushed herself off the wall, sitting down on the edge of the bed and reaching out to smooth Charles's hair. “Apology accepted, honey. You're too drunk to know what you're doing right now anyway. Get some sleep, okay? You look like you need it.”

Charles let out a choked sound and then pushed himself up, launching at Jubilee and clinging to her. Jubilee felt the wetness of tears against her throat and started to rub Charles's back comfortingly. “Don't cry, baby. He's not worth your tears.”

“Yes, he is,” Charles sobbed out, shifting closer to Jubilee. “And you fucking know it.”

Jubilee pressed a kiss behind Charles's ear, reaching up to smooth his hair down again. “I know, sweetheart. I know.”

Charles started to cry even harder and Jubilee shifted them around so she was leaning back against the headboard, reaching into her pocket and pulling out her phone. She tapped out a quick message to Scott to tell him that it would be a while before she was back down at the bar before tossing the phone onto the bed and pulling Charles even closer. She wasn't exactly sure what else she should do short of telling Charles why Erik had left, so she decided to just let him cry.

She'd told Charles too much already, but hopefully, he wouldn't remember that by morning. The last thing she needed was everyone trying to get her to give up Erik's secret. But, she thought, maybe she should tell someone like Jean. Jean wouldn't go spreading it around the family but she'd understand why Erik did what he did and help to placate everyone else.

Erik didn't deserve the reception he was going to get when he got back. That she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. He needed love and support, not to be bitched out and threatened with physical violence.

Maybe she really should tell everyone.

Jubilee had a lot to think about.

Chapter Text

The look on Kitty's face as she looked around the studio almost made Marie cringe in embarrassment. “So, um, Remy is a director. He makes, uh, films.”

“Porn,” Kitty stuttered, wrapping her arms around her waist as a loud moan echoed into the room from another part of the studio. “He makes...and he wants to...with me...”

Marie hurried to her side and wrapped her arms around Kitty. “And he's not doing it, I promise. He's just being a bitch. I'd never, ever let him do that to you.”

Kitty swallowed hard. “Why is this so uncomfortable? It's not like I've never watched this stuff.”

“Because it is,” Marie said, brushing a kiss along Kitty's temple. “I always feel weird whenever I work one of Remy's shoots.”

Kitty's eyes snapped back to her. “You work for him?”

“Sometimes,” Marie said, slightly defensively. “Nowhere near as much as I used to. Usually only for his big projects, which are like once a year. He's the one that gave me my first chance, and well, he's become a friend too so I try to help him out.”

“Your first chance?”

“Everybody's got to start somewhere, honey.”

Kitty dropped her head onto Marie's shoulder and slid her arms around her waist. “I know. I just didn't know that about you. I knew you'd said you had worked on some films, but I didn't think you meant these kinds of films.”

“There have been some indie flicks too but I mostly concentrate on print and runway now,” Marie said, pulling Kitty closer. “You okay?”

Kitty nodded and pressed a kiss to Marie's shoulder. “The, um, soundtrack is just making me remember some unfinished business, that's all.”

Marie groaned softly and pulled Kitty even closer. “Oh, shit, I know what you mean. I promise, we'll humor Remy for a little while and then go back to the apartment so we have enough time to fuck before Bella gets home.”

“Marie! Gorgeous girl! Get over here!”

Kitty pulled back and pressed her lips to Marie's in a quick but hard kiss before plastering a smile on her face and walking over to where Remy was standing. Remy immediately wrapped an arm around her shoulders and started walking her towards a round bed, gesturing wildly. “Do you have any idea how good you would look spread across this, wrists and ankles restrained, with a couple of muscular men having their way with you?”

“You are not making porn with my girlfriend,” Marie warned, walking over and pulling Kitty away from Remy's grasp. “Absolutely fucking not.”

Remy whined. “She's so fucking perfect for it though! I have been looking for someone for this script for ages and fucking hell if your girl doesn't fit the description to fucking perfection.”

“I, um,” Kitty squeaked out, shuffling closer to Marie. “I don't really want to do something like that. I mean, I'm not...like that.”

Remy moved closer to them and reached out to caress the side of Kitty's face. “You are so innocent looking and that is such a fucking turn on. No wonder the slut went boring for you.”

“Remy, cut this shit out. Now,” Marie said angrily, grabbing Kitty's hand and pulling her away from the set. “She doesn't want to do it, I don't want her to do it, and therefore she's not doing it.”

“Fine, take away all of my fun. At least now I have a specific look to go for when we hold yet another casting call next week.” Remy reached down to smooth out the sheet on the bed before following after them, pointing Marie in the direction of his office. “Let's go sit down and catch up while I look over some of the scenes we shot this morning. I have so much to tell you about. It feels like I haven't seen you in ages. I don't even know what you're doing in Los Angeles. I hope that you're staying here for a while because Belladonna is in such a better mood whenever you're around, for some reason. If I didn't know any better, I'd think she's still in love with you.”

Kitty stopped walking as Remy disappeared through a door, her eyes immediately finding Marie's. “What is he talking about?”

Marie sighed heavily. “It was a long, long time ago and it's been over for years.”

“But you and Bella...” Kitty trailed off. “You've never mentioned that.”

“I highly doubt that I've heard about everybody that you've ever fucked either,” Marie mumbled, squeezing Kitty's hand. “Remy's just trying to start trouble. There's nothing to worry about, I swear. Bella will tell you the same thing. We were absolute shit together and that's a place we both know better than to ever go again.”

Kitty sighed and started to walk in the direction Remy had gone. “I believe you. I just wish you would have told me these things instead of me finding them out from someone else.”

“I know and I'm sorry,” Marie said, catching up to her. “We'll sit down and have a huge talk about it all when we get back to New York, okay? Get everything out there on the table.”

Kitty stopped and turned to her, leaning forward to kiss Marie softly. “I'd like that.”

“Hey, bitches?” Remy stuck his head out of an office and waved at them. “Time is money around here! Let's go!”

**********

Emma's fingers tangled in Moira's hair as their lips met again, and Moira felt herself go so weak that she was sure she'd collapse at any moment. Her legs started to wobble and then a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her waist, the shock of doing this in front of Angel startling her yet again.

“You two are so gorgeous together, you know that?” Angel whispered, sliding her hands underneath Moira's shirt and slowly edging it up. “I've wanted to watch you two together for so long.”

Emma broke the kiss and pulled Moira closer, leaning over her shoulder to kiss Angel. “You should have said something sooner.”

“What, and have you go off about how you aren't in love with her again?” Angel shook her head and pulled Moira's shirt the rest of the way off, pressing open-mouthed kisses along her shoulders. “No, you had to be ready to admit it.”

Moira groaned as Emma's lips attached themselves to her neck, her head spinning from all the information it had tried to take in since she'd left the party. “What do you mean watch us together?”

Angel laughed. “Well, I want to join in too, but God, the thought of watching Ems fuck you?” She pulled Moira closer and moaned softly. “I've fantasized about seeing that like you wouldn't believe.”

Moira's eyes widened and she tried to push them away, shaking her head. “Wait, no.”

Emma pulled back and gave Moira a confused look. “No?”

“No,” Moira said firmly, pushing Angel's arms away from her. “I can't do this. I won't be some fucking toy for you two to act out your fantasies with.”

Angel sighed heavily as Moira gathered her shirt from the floor, shoving the arms that reached out to her away and stalking across the room. “Mors.”

“Oh, fuck off!” Moira exclaimed, pulling her shirt back on and throwing herself down on the sofa to put her shoes on. “I have had enough fucking people use my emotions against me in my life, Emma. I'm not letting you do it too.”

Angel started to move towards her but Emma pushed her back, shaking her head lightly when Angel gave her a confused look. “I'm not doing that, Moira.”

“The fuck you aren't!” Moira paused and took a deep breath before looking around for her other shoe. “I'm in love you with, you fucking bitch. But I showed up here and realized that I couldn't have you back, and I fucking dealt with it. I kept myself out of trouble and I did everything I could motherfucking think of to make sure I didn't disrupt things between you and Angel, and now you are going to repay me by giving that little speech in the car and kissing me and giving me a reason to hope just so I can be the missing piece in some stupid fantasy? Fuck you, Emma. Fuck you both.”

Emma watched as Moira stood up and practically ran to the door, slamming it behind her as she left. “Fuck.”

Angel sighed heavily, leaning back against the door frame. “Well, that went well.”

“It was the wrong time to try it,” Emma said, running her hands over her face. “We took advantage of her. I took advantage of her. Fuck. I promised her a long time ago that I wouldn't do that. She has every right to be that pissed off.”

“So what do we do now then?” Angel asked, walking over to Emma and wrapping her arms around her waist.

“There's nothing we can do at the moment,” Emma said, kissing Angel. “We have to wait until she calms down enough for me to talk to her. But that might be a few days.”

“I suppose we should actually talk about things with her instead of just acting on it.”

“Probably a good idea,” Emma said, glancing over at the clock. “Come on, let's get some sleep. I've got time for a few hours nap before I'll need to get up and head to work.”

“You sure?” Angel asked, peering at Emma with concern.

“I'm sure,” Emma said, letting go of her and walking towards the bedroom. “Come on.”

**********

Bobby slid into the booth and coughed gently, rolling his eyes when that didn't break Janos and Azazel apart. He sighed heavily and reached out, poking Azazel in the arm and quickly jumping back when the pair snapped apart. “Do you two ever do anything other than make out?”

“Sorry,” Janos mumbled, a slight blush on his cheeks as Azazel grinned at Bobby.

“Don't apologize for that,” Azazel said, slinging his arm around Janos's shoulders and slumping down in the booth. “We are talking to a man who usually can't keep his hands off his husband, you know.”

Bobby sighed and the smile slipped of Azazel's face. “Shit, sorry.”

“No, no,” Bobby said softly. “You're right. I usually can't keep my hands off Johnny.”

Janos knocked his elbow gently into Azazel's ribs, reaching for his coffee as Azazel spluttered next to him. “So, I'm guessing you want your typical update?”

“I want to know whatever it is that is new,” Bobby said, glancing towards the counter when he heard Sean yelp, only to shake his head when he noticed Charles had thrown some water at him. “He was very out of it when he came home last night.”

“He was definitely on something, that's for sure,” Azazel said, rubbing at his side. “He kept popping pills backstage.”

Bobby sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. “Shit.”

“I didn't really get close enough to figure out what they were,” Janos said, dropping his head onto Azazel's shoulder. “Sebastian was being a complete diva last night and was almost an hour late, so there was a lot of drama going on.”

“Plus the club manager was being a total bitch last night too. He tried to screw Johnny out of half of the gate,” Azazel added. “I haven't seen him that angry in a long time.”

Bobby groaned and shifted so his back was pressed against the wall, propping his legs up on the bench. “I don't know what to do. He refuses to admit that anything is going on. That shouldn't really surprise me but...I don't even know how this started! It's not like any of you are big druggies that could have tempted him.”

“I know, Bobby, and if we had any idea how this began, we would totally tell you,” Janos pointed out. “As soon as we figured out what was going on, we came to you and let you know.”

Bobby sighed and reached for a napkin, tearing off a corner of it and rolling it into a ball. “I'm worried.”

“You have every reason to be, honey,” Azazel said, turning to brush a kiss along Janos's forehead. “We are worried too.”

“I just don't even know where to start,” Bobby mused. “I don't have the slightest idea.”

Janos reached across the table and squeezed Bobby's hand. “Maybe just talk to him about it? I mean, what's the worst that could happen?”

“I don't know,” Bobby said, sighing heavily. “I just don't have a good feeling about this.”

“It'll be alright,” Azazel said.

Bobby sighed again. “I hope so.”

**********

“How the fuck did Remy get into your apartment anyway?” Marie asked, knocking back her shot before glancing over at Belladonna. “What did you do, give him a key?”

Belladonna smiled nervously. “Maybe?”

“Why on earth would you want to do that?” Marie asked, waving down the bartender and asking for another. “I think I would rather die than have Remy capable of coming and going out of my place whenever he pleased.”

Belladonna knocked back her shot and slammed the glass to the bar. “Yeah, well, you're not the one who has been fucking him either.”

Marie's jaw dropped. “Tell me that you have not.”

“It started when I was working on that ridiculous reality show, right? And I had like zero time to go out and get laid, and Remy came around and started bitching at me about how I clearly needed to, and I snapped back that if he was so concerned then he should do something about it.” Belladonna grinned. “And then he did.”

Marie slapped at her. “How could you not tell me this? I was a complete bitch to him like all day!”

“And that's perfectly fine. He wouldn't want you any other way,” Belladonna said, glancing towards the dance floor. “Besides, he looks rather enamored with your girlfriend. I'm sure he barely noticed.”

Marie followed Belladonna's gaze and sighed when she saw how close to Kitty that Remy was dancing. “So, is this like a serious thing or what?”

“Girl, you know Remy. He doesn't do serious,” Belladonna said, flashing a smile at the bartender when he set another couple of shots in front of them. “And I'm okay with that. He's not going to be my version of Kitty, that's for sure. He's just fun to have around for now.”

“I just don't want you to get hurt,” Marie reasoned. “And we both know that the only thing Remy is good at is hurting people.”

Belladonna shook her head and knocked back her shot. “I won't, I promise. It's not like that. It's just sex to keep each other entertained.”

Marie sighed and took her shot, barely setting the glass on the bar before Belladonna was pulling her into the crowd. “Come on, let's get your girl back. You're starting to be no fun when she's not around.”

“Oh, shut up,” Marie called out, pushing her way through the crowd until she was standing in front of Kitty. “LeBeau, get your hands off my girlfriend.”

Remy pouted over Kitty's shoulder. “Taking away all my fun again, Marie?”

“He's really grabby, isn't he? I was starting to think his hand was glued to my ass.” Kitty shoved Remy's hands off her hips and took a step forward, falling into Marie's arms. Marie smirked at Remy for a moment before capturing Kitty's lips with her own, quickly deepening it and tempting Kitty's tongue into her mouth.

Belladonna rolled her eyes and reached for Remy, snagging him by the wrist and pulling on his arm. “Come on, let's go get a drink and leave the lovebirds alone. I don't want to be arrested when they start to fuck.”

“Oooh, we can't go far! I want to film that!”

Marie broke the kiss and glared in Remy's direction, bringing her gaze back to Kitty when she started to laugh. “Oh, you think that's funny do you?”

“Because it is,” Kitty said, smiling at her. “And you know it.”

Marie pulled Kitty into another kiss, groaning when she heard the call that Raven's set was about to start. “Time to put the plan into action, I guess.”

Kitty swallowed hard. “I still don't know what I'm going to say to her.”

“You'll figure it out, baby,” Marie said, pushing through the crowd and heading towards the DJ booth. “Just remember why it is you're doing this, alright?”

Kitty nodded as they approached the booth, glancing over at it to see Raven staring straight at her. She waved tentatively and watched as Raven broke out into a grin.

“Kitty!” Raven waved towards the door. “Get in here, girl!”

Kitty nodded and kissed Marie quickly, then pushed her way through the crowd to the door, slipping into the booth. She shut the door behind her and turned around, only to find herself enveloped in a big hug. “Raven. It's good to see you.”

“Kitty,” Raven said, pulling back and heading back to the boards. “Girl, what are you doing in Los Angeles? I thought you said you'd never leave New York.”

Kitty forced herself to take a deep breath. “It's just a visit,” she said softly, edging closer to where Raven had taken a seat at the boards. “I, um, I came out here for a reason. To, uh, to find you, actually.”

“You're looking for me?” Raven asked, sliding her headphones on and situating them so they only covered one ear. “What for?”

Kitty dropped down to her knees next to Raven's chair, reaching out to grasp her arm gently. “I know you know where Erik is.”

Raven paused in mid-reach, shaking her head as she glanced down at Kitty. “No, I don't.”

“I heard you in the background when he called me,” Kitty said, trying to ignore how pathetic the pleading tone of her voice made her sound. “Raven, please. I just want to help him.”

Raven stayed silent for a minute as she got the first song playing. “Look, I can't talk about this right now. I'll come to find you at the bar after my set, alright? We'll talk then.”

Kitty nodded and stood up, brushing a kiss across Raven's temple. “Then I'll see you at the bar in a couple of hours.”

Chapter Text

Kitty jumped when she felt someone put their hand on her shoulder, glancing behind her to find Raven staring back at her. “Oh fuck, I wasn't expecting you for another hour.”

Raven laughed and slid an arm around Kitty's back, squeezing into the crowd at the bar. “Nah, only a two hour set tonight.”

“Raven,” Kitty started, but Raven just shook her head.

“This isn't exactly the greatest of places to have this conversation, so I was thinking we could go somewhere else, grab some coffee or something.”

Kitty started to respond but found herself with an armful of Remy instead, her eyes widening as he tried to kiss her. “Get off me!”

Remy was quickly pulled back and a giggling Marie shoved into her arms instead, Belladonna shaking her head behind them. “I think we drank too much.”

“There is no such thing as drinking too much!” Remy exclaimed, glancing at Raven and grinning drunkenly. “Well, hello there, gorgeous. And who are you?”

Raven laughed and glanced over at Kitty, a smile spreading across her face as she watched the woman in Kitty's arms start necking her. “Friends of yours?”

“This one,” Kitty said, tapping Marie on the back, “is the girlfriend. Those two are her friends.”

Marie groaned as Kitty gently pushed her back, stumbling until Belladonna wrapped an arm around her waist to keep her upright. “We're going back to the apartment,” Belladonna said, reaching out to snag Remy as he started to wander away. “Are you coming with us?”

“No,” Kitty said quickly, pointing towards Raven. “I've got something I've got to do first.”

Belladonna nodded as Marie pushed her way out of her embrace and plastered herself along Kitty's body again, bringing their lips together in a hard kiss. “Don't fuck her.”

“I wasn't planning on that,” Kitty said, biting back a laugh. “I don't think I've ever seen you this drunk before.”

Marie waved an arm in Belladonna's direction, accidentally smacking her upside the head. “Her fault.”

“Okay, that's it,” Belladonna said, grabbing the arm and pulling Marie away. “We're going home before we reach a point where we're going to break things because there is too much to break at my place.”

Kitty watched as they stumbled away, Remy turning around every few seconds to glance at Raven. “Sorry about that.”

“Don't worry about it,” Raven laughed. “It's not the first time I've seen drunk homos and I'm sure it won't be the last. So, coffee?”

“Coffee sounds good,” Kitty said, following Raven through the crowd and outside.

“There's an all-night café just a few blocks from here,” Raven said, steering Kitty to the left. “Best coffee in Los Angeles, if you ask me.”

They walked along silently and soon were entering the small café, Raven leading her to a table in the back before telling Kitty that the coffee was on her and heading to the counter to order it. Kitty sat down and waited while Raven flirted with the guy behind the counter, the nerves and uncertainty surrounding the situation settling themselves in the pit of her stomach. She took a deep breath as Raven came back, taking the cup from her hands and smiling in thanks.

Raven sat down and took a sip from her cup, setting it down on the table before studying Kitty for a moment. “You look good.”

“Thanks,” Kitty said, blushing slightly. “But I'm not here to talk about me.”

Raven sighed and leaned back in her chair, running her hands over her face. “Look, I've tried to get him to go back to New York. He doesn't want to.”

“Raven, I've seen the way you try to convince Erik to do things and to be honest, it's kind of the way that one should do it if they want to make sure that Erik does the exact opposite of what they're saying,” Kitty said, setting her cup down and playing with the cardboard wrapper. “And I doubt he would be calling me wanting to know how things are if he didn't want to come back.”

“He's just a fucking mess at the moment,” Raven said quietly. “I don't know if he's going to listen to anyone.”

Kitty sighed. “I have to try. Look, I know about his status, okay? And I know that he's not taking care of himself and I want him to come back to New York for that at the very least. He needs to be seeing a doctor regularly and taking medications and trying to prolong his life instead of ignoring it.”

“I've tried to get him to see a doctor but he was not interested,” Raven said, reaching for her cup again. “I don't think he cares that he's not taking care of himself.”

“Which is a sign that he needs help from his friends, not something to just ignore,” Kitty admonished softly. “You know how important it is for him to be taking care of himself.”

Raven stared at her for a moment. “And you think he'll listen to you?”

“I don't have a clue if he'll listen to me or not,” Kitty admitted. “But I have to try. I didn't fly across the fucking country just to talk to you. I came here to get him to come home and I'm not going home until he does.”

“You might be here for a while then,” Raven said, taking a sip and putting her cup back down. “He's fucked up but as stubborn as he always was.”

Kitty shook her head. “I don't care. He needs to know that we still care about him. I have known Erik for a long time, you know, not as long as you but I think I have a pretty good idea of what he's thinking. And since none of us have tried to find him, I'm sure he's thinking that we don't care. That couldn't be further from the truth.”

“Then why are you the only one who is here?” Raven asked, anger spiking quickly before fading away just as fast. “Fucking hell, anyone with a fucking brain could have figured out that he came here! Why has it taken one of you so long to figure this out?”

“Look,” Kitty said defensively, “some of us didn't even know he was gone for almost a week, okay? He just got discharged from the hospital and disappeared. Charles was falling apart as it was but once he found out Erik was gone, things just got worse, and since he's the one that's there, he's sort of been our primary concern. And then there's the whole business of running the fucking place in Erik's absence, something which no one was really prepared to do because Erik did things that no one even knew about. We've been trying to survive. And you could have just as easily picked up the phone and called to tell us that he was here and okay! Do you know that Jean stared scanning the police reports every day to see if Erik showed up on them? Do you know that Hank refuses to let either the club or the restaurant be closed just in case Erik comes stumbling back sometime in the early morning? Don't even try to motherfucking lecture me about how we've handled this. Your part in it is just as bad.”

Raven rolled her eyes. “What was I supposed to do, huh? Betray his trust? He wanted to fucking kill himself when he first showed up out here, and fuck if I was going to let that happen! I've been trying to get him to survive, you stupid bitch. So don't you lecture me either.”

Kitty sighed and ran her hands through her hair. “This is pointless. Let's just deal with the situation as it is now. Take me to wherever Erik is.”

“He's at my apartment,” Raven said, glancing at the clock on the wall. “Or at least he should be.”

Kitty took another sip of her coffee. “Then let's go.”

“You're not going to just go waltzing in there and disrupt my entire building, okay? I rather like my neighbors and they prefer it to be pretty quiet.” Raven reached into her bag and pulled out her phone. “I'll get him to meet me somewhere and then we'll go there.”

“I do not want to have this conversation in a public place,” Kitty exclaimed. “Are you crazy?”

“If it's in a public place, he won't run,” Raven pointed out, scrolling through her contacts. “And I am not sure that he will just sit around and let you say whatever to him. His instincts right now are to run away from situations he doesn't like. It's why he left New York in the first place.”

Kitty conceded the point and brought her cup back to her lips, sipping at it as Raven found the right number and placed the call. “Erik, honey, how about you meet me for a late dinner, hm? I just finished up my set and I'm starving, but I don't want to come home and cook.”

Kitty watched as Raven rolled her eyes, shaking her head as if Erik could see it. “No, it's late enough that I don't want you to cook either. Come on, just meet me over at Edie's and we'll have some food and then maybe we can go over to Fosters and snag some ice cream to take home.”

Raven sighed heavily after a moment. “Erik, my night has been utter shit so far and I'm trying to get you to help make it better. Come on.”

Kitty set her cup down as Raven stood up, cradling the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she threw a couple of dollars down onto the table. “Alright, I've got to get over there, so we'll meet in half an hour? If you get there before me, grab us a booth, will you? I don't want to sit in one of those tiny ass little tables they've got.”

Raven motioned for Kitty to follow her and headed for the door, waving quickly at the guy behind the counter as she walked out the door. “No, don't order for me. I'm not entirely sure what it is I want yet. You go ahead and order if you want to. I'll get mine once I'm there and see what the specials are tonight.”

Kitty fell into step next to Raven as they headed north, glancing around as she continued to talk to Erik. “Honey, you sound like you're drunk.”

Raven turned towards Kitty when she noticed her wide eyes, shaking her head to reassure her. “Well, if you're that tired, then we'll skip out on ice cream and just go home after dinner. But you need to eat. I bet you haven't eaten anything since breakfast.”

Raven pointed towards a bus stop and Kitty nodded, approaching the bench and sitting down as Raven bent to look at the schedule. “Alright, I'll see you in a little bit then.”

Kitty glanced over at her as Raven hung up the phone. “He didn't sound too thrilled about meeting you.”

“He never is,” Raven said, sitting down next to Kitty. “We got here in time to catch the right bus, which is good. You've got about twenty minutes to figure out what you want to say to him.”

**********

Emma opened the door quietly, not wanting to disturb Moira if she was asleep. She stepped inside and carefully shut the door behind her, swallowing nervously when she heard the sounds of someone moving around in the kitchen. She took a deep breath and started to walk forward when a woman she didn't know walked out of the kitchen and into the small hallway. Gasping, she stepped backward quickly, jamming her shoulder into the wall and cursing loudly. The woman just nodded at her before walking out the door, and that's when Moira peeked around the corner. “Who the fuck was that?”

“No one you need to concern yourself with,” Moira said, ducking back into the kitchen.

Emma sighed and pushed away from the wall, walking into the kitchen and pinning Moira up against the refrigerator. “Tell me who the fuck that was.”

“It was nobody,” Moira said, pushing at Emma's shoulders and growling when she couldn't get her to move. “Fuck off, Emma. I don't have to tell you anything.”

Emma stared at her for several moments before her shoulders slumped and her arms relaxed. “You had something last night, didn't you?”

The silence that filled the air was all the confirmation Emma needed, but Moira sighed and gave it to her anyway. “I went back to the party. I met Lizzie there.”

Emma stepped back until her back was flush against the wall, sliding down to the floor. “This is my fault.”

“No,” Moira said, shaking her head and sitting down, leaning against the refrigerator. “It's my fault. My weakness.”

“You wouldn't have gone back to the party if I hadn't.” Emma stopped abruptly, bringing her hands up to rub her face. “What did you take?”

Moira sighed heavily and kicked at Emma's feet, smiling slightly when she felt her kick back. “Some ecstasy and a little cocaine. And none of it helped me feel better.”

“Ecstasy and...” Emma trailed off and took a deep breath, trying hard to fight off the tears that were threatening to fall. “I'm sorry, Morrie.”

“You haven't called me Morrie in years,” Moira said softly, pushing away from the refrigerator and crawling over to Emma.

Emma reached out and wrapped Moira up in her arms, burying her face in Moira's neck and letting the tears fall. Moira trailed her hands along Emma's spine comfortingly, whispering soothing words until Emma's tears stopped. “This isn't your fault, Emmie. I promise.”

Emma pulled back slightly and sniffled, shaking her head. “I fucked everything up earlier, especially with you. I didn't say half of what I meant to say and I didn't do half of what I needed to do, and I drove you away and back into this. And fuck, this is the shit I've always tried to pull you away from.”

“You didn't fuck everything up,” Moira said softly. “I wouldn't still be here if you had. I'd have gone with Lizzie and fucked myself up even more than I did tonight. But I need your help, Emmie. I know how easy it is for me to slip. I can't have you giving me reasons to.”

“I really am sorry, Morrie.” Emma leaned her head on Moira's shoulder. “I'll do whatever I have to do to help. I promise.”

Moira kissed the top of Emma's head lightly. “You could start by explaining to me what the fuck was going on earlier. If all you two were talking about is one night then I'm not fucking interested. I need you more than that.”

“It's more than that,” Emma whispered gently. “I promise.”

**********

Erik fidgeted with the corner of the menu, glancing up every few seconds at Kitty. He shifted nervously towards Raven, nudging at her gently until Raven sighed and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. “Raven,” he whispered, leaning in a bit more to try and keep Kitty from hearing him. “What's she doing here?”

“What do you think?” Raven replied, squeezing Erik's shoulders and looking up at Kitty. “Ask her yourself.”

Erik sighed and put his head on Raven's shoulder, blinking as he adjusted his gaze to stare at Kitty. “I knew I shouldn't have called you.”

“I am so glad that you did though, honey,” Kitty said, closing her menu and setting it on the table. “Believe me, I am so happy to know that you are alright.”

“Not alright,” Erik mumbled. “Just alive.”

Kitty felt her chest clench tightly. “Alive is better than dead.”

“If you say so.” Erik set his menu down on the table and glanced up at Raven, poking her in the side. “I don't like that you tricked me.”

“I didn't trick you,” Raven pointed out. “All I asked you to do was meet me here. I just failed to mention that Kitty would be coming with me.”

“Still not nice,” Erik said quietly, smiling at the waiter as he approached their table. “I'm not hungry.”

Raven rolled her eyes and gathered up Erik's menu. “Bring him a cheeseburger and fries, please.”

Erik frowned as Raven handed the menus to the waiter. “What about you?”

“I ate before my set,” Raven said, thanking the waiter as he walked away. “But you haven't eaten anything in hours, and so, therefore, you need to eat.”

Erik pushed Raven's arm off of him and slid closer to the wall, sighing heavily. “I feel like I'm being ganged up on.”

Kitty reached out and tangled her fingers with Erik's. “Look, she has nothing to do with this, alright? Raven didn't even know I was in Los Angeles until a few hours ago. This is all my doing, so if you are going to be mad at someone, be mad at me.”

“I'm not mad,” Erik protested, pulling his hand away from Kitty's. “I just feel like my ability to make decisions for myself is about to be taken away from me.”

Raven shook her head. “You can make all the decisions that you want, but when you make as shit of ones as you've been making in the last few months, you have to be prepared for the people that love you to try and do something to help you make better ones.”

“And we do love you, Erik,” Kitty added, smiling at him. “Honey, I don't think you even realize how much.”

Erik reached for a sugar packet and started to flip it around with his fingers, trying to work off some of his anxiety. “I don't understand how anyone can love me after what it is I've done.”

“You were scared and so you ran,” Kitty said, reaching out to grab Erik's hand again. “And if anyone back home tries to say that they would have handled it differently then you can call them lying bitches. If they're upset, it's more from what has happened since you left than with the fact that you left.”

“They should be,” Erik mumbled, tossing the sugar packet onto the table and sighing. “I failed you. I failed him. The way Charles is right now, that's all my fault.”

Kitty squeezed his hand. “No, honey, don't think about it like that.”

“Why not?” Erik asked. “I can only imagine what it is that he's like at the moment. Drinking heavily, taking more drugs than usual. And it's my fault. I don't see how anybody could possibly say that it isn't.”

“It's not your fault,” Kitty stressed. “You can't blame yourself for what's happened with Charles. But you can help him to stop doing it.”

Erik glanced up at Kitty as the waiter came back with his food, ignoring the plate that was set in front of him. “How?”

Kitty took a deep breath. “Come home.”

“I can't,” Erik murmured, dropping his gaze down to the plate. “I can't do that.”

Kitty reached out and snagged a fry from the plate. “Why not? It's your home, baby.”

Erik sighed and pushed the plate in Kitty's direction, groaning when Raven grabbed it and pushed it back in front of him. “I'm not hungry.”

“I don't care. We're not leaving until you at least eat some of that,” Raven said. “You aren't very interested in taking care of yourself but I'll be damned if I'm going to just let you waste away when I can do something about it. Eat.”

Erik sighed again but reached for the cheeseburger, picking up his knife and cutting it in half. “I just can't, Kitty. It's not like anybody really needs me around anyway.”

“That's not an answer, sweetie,” Kitty said, plucking another fry from the plate. “And you're the patriarch of the family, Erik. We all need you whether we openly admit it or not. You have helped every single one of us out in some way or another and we all love you for it.”

Erik set his knife down and picked up half of the cheeseburger. “I don't want to talk about this anymore. Talk to me about something else instead.”

“Erik,” Kitty began, but Erik just shook his head.

“I'll think about it. Now tell me about how things are going with Marie. This is the longest I can remember you ever being with the same person.”

Chapter Text

“Erik looks terrible,” Kitty said, pulling off her shirt and crawling onto the bed, settling down next to where Marie laid. “He's lost a ton of weight; he's almost as pale as I am. I thought I was worried before, but now I'm just terrified.”

Marie groaned and blinked as Kitty put her head on her shoulder. “Where are we?”

“Bella's apartment,” Kitty said, sighing. “You got drunk last night.”

“Shit,” Marie groaned again, starting to look towards Kitty before her head let her know that was a very bad idea. “I'm sorry.”

Kitty pushed herself up on an elbow and stared down at her. “What are you sorry for? You had fun last night. You don't have to apologize for that.”

“I wasn't there with you,” Marie mumbled, throwing an arm over her eyes to block out the light. “For support.”

Kitty bent down and gave Marie's mouth a quick peck. “It's alright. Raven was more help than I thought she'd be. She's every bit as useless as I thought she'd be too, but she at least seemed genuinely concerned about Erik.”

Marie sucked in a few deep breaths. “So what did he say?”

“He said he'd think about it, which is an obvious no,” Kitty said, settling back down. “I've got to come up with something to make him realize how badly we need him back in New York. He thinks everyone is getting along just fine without him so there's no need for him to go back.”

“Did you try telling him about Charles?”

Kitty sighed again. “Charles is a sensitive subject. I'm not really sure how to bring the details up.”

“Well, from what you've told me, I think that Charles is probably the only thing that will get him to change his mind.” Marie moved her arm and blinked rapidly, trying to get her eyes used to the light. “Shit, I don't think I've been this hungover in a while.”

“You're probably right about the Charles thing,” Kitty murmured, burying her face in Marie's neck. “And as for the hangover, that's what you get when you drink that much. You were groping me in front of Raven, for fuck's sake.”

“I...” Marie started before giving up and putting her arm back over her eyes. “I don't even remember that. I don't remember leaving and coming back here either.”

Kitty laughed. “Well, do you remember listening to Bella and Remy fuck? They are lying naked in the middle of the floor out there, all wrapped up in each other. It would be kind of cute if it wasn't so disturbing to see at six o'clock in the morning.”

Marie snorted. “Now that you mention it, I do vaguely recall hearing someone scream Remy's name over and over. That was probably Bella.”

“Well, the only other option would have been you, right? And it better not have been,” Kitty said, smiling when Marie suddenly rolled onto her side and threw an arm across her waist.

“I wasn't that drunk,” Marie mumbled, brushing her lips across Kitty's forehead as she waited for the dizziness to subside. “I've only ever been that drunk once, and I vowed to never get that drunk ever again.”

Kitty felt the smile slip off her face. “You've fucked Remy?”

“Shit,” Marie groaned, running her hands along Kitty's back. “Once. That's never going to happen again either.”

Kitty tried to smile again. “So when he called you a slut yesterday, he wasn't really joking, was he? What have you done, slept your way through your friends?”

“Something like that. And I meant to yell at him for that,” Marie whispered. “I once was a slut, but I'm a reformed slut now.”

“Oh yeah,” Kitty whispered back. “And just what has reformed you, hm?”

Marie smiled softly. “This girl named Katherine. The best thing that's ever happened to me, she is.”

Kitty smiled back. “Something tells me that this Katherine feels the same way about you.”

“Then I say we put the issue to rest and go back to sleep,” Marie mumbled, pulling Kitty closer. “I have a headache to get rid of, and sleep is probably the best cure.”

**********

Darwin groaned and reached towards Alex, his eyes flying open when he encountered nothing but cold, empty bedsheets. “Alex?”

“Over here,” came the quiet reply, and Darwin glanced over to the window, sighing in relief when he saw Alex sitting on the floor, flicking the ashes of his cigarette out the opened crack.

“Thank God. I thought you'd left,” Darwin said softly, settling back against the mattress.

“I told you I wouldn't,” Alex replied, taking another drag off his cigarette. “Though I suppose I shouldn't blame you if you don't believe me. I'm not sure I would believe me right now either.”

Darwin scrambled off the bed and dropped down to the floor, settling next to Alex and linking their hands together. “You really worried me earlier.”

Alex blew a cloud of smoke in the direction of the window and sighed. “I didn't really mean it when I said I wanted to die. I was just so fucking angry and you were there, and fuck. I shouldn't have said that shit to you.”

Darwin shifted closer and rested his head on Alex's shoulder. “Why were you so angry?”

“Because of all the times to have a motherfucking epiphany about the utter shit that I have turned my life into, it had to be tonight.”

“And that made you angry?”

“I'm angry because I'm seeing how well you're doing, and you're constantly talking to me about Charles, and it's just like...why am I not letting myself get better? Why am I still doing this to myself?”

“You can turn your life around, you know,” Darwin said softly, turning his head to press a kiss to Alex's bare shoulder. “You could let us help you.”

Alex laughed bitterly. “I'm surprised you don't just hit me every time you see me, you know that? Fuck knows I deserve it. God, you must be a saint to put up with me and all this bullshit.”

“He did the same shit to me, you know,” Darwin murmured, squeezing Alex's fingers. “But I know that somewhere underneath all of that is the person that I used to be. And I can't be that person anymore, too much has happened, but I can get close. That's what I'm trying to do and I just get frustrated that you don't even seem to want to do that.”

Alex took another drag off his cigarette, blowing the smoke towards the window. “After you left for work, I started thinking about why it is you've even stuck around to begin with. And for the first time, I think I actually realize how much you love me. So, it's like, why am I fucking this up? Everything that I think I can get from the drugs and the tricks and all of that shit, I can't get it there. I can get it from you. So, what the fuck have I been doing for the last couple of months?”

“I don't know,” Darwin whispered. “But I know that you can move past this. I know it.”

Alex sighed heavily. “It's not going to happen overnight, that's for fucking sure. I'm dying for a hit right now. It's why I've smoked like every fucking cigarette that you had.”

“I can get more, so that's not a problem.” Darwin shifted until he could look up at Alex's face. “I think you probably need to go to rehab.”

“I think that's an understatement,” Alex said, tossing what was left of the cigarette out the window. “I wouldn't have a fucking clue where to go or how I would pay for it or if I would even fucking stay there.”

“Maybe you can try though?” Darwin asked softly. “One of the guys at work was in rehab not that long ago so he knows a place. And, as for you paying for it, they've told me that the company will pay for it if you want to go.”

Alex looked down at him. “I thought you worked at a restaurant.”

“I do, but it's a really special place,” Darwin said. “Erik, the guy who owns it, he's not around right now, but everyone is trying to do things the way that he would want them done, and part of what Erik does is take in strays and do whatever needs to be done to help them. It's how Charles got out. Hank has assured me on multiple occasions that if I could ever get you to go to rehab, they'd pay for it.”

Alex let out a small laugh. “This place sounds magical.”

“Wait until you see it,” Darwin said, smiling softly. “You'll love it.”

“Yeah,” Alex said absently. “So, um, rehab.”

“Maybe we should start with getting you to leave the apartment first,” Darwin said. “How about you come to work with me tomorrow? You can sit in the restaurant and I'll bring you some food and we can talk about what to do next on my breaks. I know Charles would love to see you. He can keep you company while I'm working.”

Alex shifted and wrapped his arms around Darwin's waist, taking in a shaky breath. “Can I decide later? I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.”

“That's alright,” Darwin said, pressing a kiss to the top of Alex's head. “That's all I can ask you to do. It's a start.”

“Yeah,” Alex breathed out. “It's a start.”

**********

Raven ducked as a shoe came flying towards her. “What the fuck was I supposed to do? She heard me in the background when you called her! She would have known I was lying!”

“So you lie to her anyway!” Erik screamed back, throwing the other shoe in Raven's direction. “Don't you have a fucking brain?!”

Raven sighed and walked into the bedroom, grabbing Erik by the wrists and pinning him down on the bed. “Listen to me.”

“Let go of me!” Erik roared, squirming around underneath her. “Raven, fucking let go of me.”

“Not until you listen to me,” Raven said sternly, pushing Erik's wrists harder against the mattress. “You are acting like a child, you know that?”

“Fuck you,” Erik spat out bitterly.

Raven rolled her eyes. “You're acting like a fifteen-year-old girl from the ghettos of Brooklyn, the kind that we used to run into from time to time when we'd go walking down to that one bookstore. You have a motherfucking life, Erik, and it's time you fucking went back to it.”

“I don't have a motherfucking life anymore!” Erik pulled hard at Raven's grip and whined when he couldn't get his hands loose. “If I'd been able to keep my dick in my pants then I wouldn't be in this fucking situation!”

Raven growled. “You want to fucking blame yourself for this then that's fine. But don't you ever fucking talk to me again like there is no life left. There is, and if you got your fucking ass back to New York, you would realize that you still have one to live!”

“What life would that be? The one where I worry about infecting people every single time I touch them! The one where I worry about touching things in the restaurant, or in the club, because of what might happen! The one where everyone looks at me differently when they find out that I'm positive!” Erik groaned and turned his head away from Raven, refusing to look at her any longer. “That's not a life, Raven. That's living in a fucking prison.”

“I know that you are smarter than this,” Raven said tiredly. “I know that you know better than to think you'll infect someone just by touching something that they then touch themselves. You've been around positive people before, Erik. You've hugged them and kissed them and touched them and so has everyone else at the club, and it's never been transmitted to any of you. To any of us.”

Erik shuddered beneath her. “How do I know that's not how I got it?”

“Because you know how you got it, or do you not remember telling me the story?” Raven said, ducking her head down when Erik's head snapped back to look at her. “You said it wasn't that difficult to figure out once you found out you were positive.”

Erik stared at her for a moment. “I don't remember this at all. How?”

Raven sighed and let go of Erik's wrists, laying down on the bed next to him. “There was this one queen, and you'd take her into one of the offices and let her fuck you over a desk. You said it was always bareback, that you never bothered with protection. Then all of a sudden she stopped showing up, so you asked some of the people she usually hung around about it, and they told you she'd died. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what she died from.”

Erik pulled his arms down and wrapped them around his waist, rolling over so his back was to Raven. “I'm so stupid.”

“No, you're not,” Raven said softly. “But you need to look at what you've got and decide that it's worth it to keep living. You've stopped doing that.”

Erik hugged himself closer and blinked when he felt the tears start to well up in his eyes. “I can't believe that I was so stupid,” he whispered. “Fuck, Raven, I knew better than this. I just...I knew better.”

“Maybe,” Raven murmured. “But you were young, and you thought you were invincible, just like we all did. You were stupid and you're going to pay for it. There's nothing else to say about it.”

“I hate myself now,” Erik choked out, the tears starting to fall. “I hate how stupid and naïve I allowed myself to be.”

Raven shifted until she was lying behind Erik, pulling him close and brushing a kiss along the back of his neck. “Don't hate yourself, babe.”

“I can't,” Erik whispered, trying to blink the tears back. “I have to hate myself. It's the only way.”

“No, it's not.” Raven took a deep breath and rubbed her hand along Erik's arm. “You're not happy here, Erik. You haven't been for a long time. And everyone that makes you happy is waiting in New York. Waiting for you to come home. They're not going to hate you either. Let them know that you are positive and everyone will understand.”

Erik sniffled and leaned back into the embrace. “I don't deserve that.”

“You deserve everything,” Raven said. “In New York, there is a bunch of people who so clearly loves you as much as you love them. You do deserve that, Erik. You always have.”

Erik flopped around until he was facing Raven, reaching up to wipe the tears from his eyes. “You deserve somebody too.”

“Well, maybe without you hanging around all the time, I'll be able to find someone,” Raven teased, groaning when Erik slapped at her. “It's a joke!”

Erik huffed. “It's not funny.”

Raven darted forward and pressed their lips together gently, smiling at Erik as she pulled back. “You want me to call Kitty?”

Erik stared at her for a moment, then nodded. “Okay.”

**********

Moira walked into the office and found Angel with her head down on her desk, frustration evident in the way her hands were clenched around the desk's edge. She took a deep breath and sat down, Angel lifting her head to look at her a few moments later. They sat there in uneasy silence as Moira thought about what to say. “You always knew that I was in love with her,” she said without thought, cringing once she realized she'd given the words voice. “Fuck, that didn't sound right.”

“No, it sounded fine,” Angel replied, turning towards her computer and quickly checking the status of a few stocks. “And you're right. I did always know that you were in love with Ems. That doesn't make knowing the fact that she's still in love with you any easier.”

“It was easy enough the night you wanted to fuck me,” Moira said, groaning and rubbing her hands over her face. “Fuck, that didn't sound right either.”

Angel sighed heavily and sent a quick email. “That was because I wanted to fuck you.”

“And now you don't?”

“Of course I do,” Angel said, spinning her chair around and staring at the bookcase behind her desk. “It's just that now I'm actually thinking about things instead of just doing them.”

Moira laughed. “Your conscience is a bitch, isn't it? Mine's been in overdrive ever since I slipped up that night.”

Angel spun her chair back around, her eyes landing on Moira. “Slipped up?”

“Fuck, I wasn't going to tell you about that,” Moira sighed, slumping down in her chair. “I went back to the party. Had a little. I've felt like shit about it ever since.”

“Does Emma know that?” Angel asked after a moment.

“She came home from work before the girl I picked up there left,” Moira said, looking up at the ceiling. “Wasn't going to tell her either but she figured it out immediately. She knows what I look like when I'm on something. I never could get it past her.”

“It's not my conscience,” Angel said suddenly, drawing Moira's gaze back to her. “It's jealousy.”

“Jealousy? About what? Me?” Moira shook her head, laughing. “There's nothing to be jealous about, Angel.”

Angel nodded. “There is though. There are parts of her that I don't even know and that's because they belong to you. Nothing I ever do will get me the chance to know those parts. Not even having you join us would do that. There is too much history between the two of you.”

“That doesn't mean that you can't know her,” Moira said, bringing her head down until she could look at Angel. “There are parts of her that you have that I don't.”

“You know her better than I do,” Angel said quietly.

“Only because I've known her longer than you have,” Moira countered back. “Look, she's in love with you, alright? And I know that for a fact because I know what she's like when she's in love, and she's like that with you. You give Emmie things that she's always craved and that I never could.”

“Like what?”

“Stability, for one, and independence,” Moira said, taking a deep breath. “I put her through hell, Angel. She sacrificed so much of herself for me and she's only just starting to get those parts of her back. But she doesn't have to sacrifice herself for you. She doesn't have to give up things for you. You just accept it all and love her anyway. Emmie needs that. Always has. And I could never give that to her.”

Angel stared at Moira for a moment before gathering her phone and looking through the rest of the day's schedule. “You really were just going to let me have her, weren't you?”

“Yes,” Moira said, playing with the edge of her sleeve. “All I wanted was for Emmie to be happy and you made her that way again. I figured everything else was an appropriate punishment for the shit way I treated her for so long.”

“You make Ems happy too, you know,” Angel said, standing up and looking around. “I'm officially taking the rest of the day off. The markets are about to close and I don't think anything earthshattering is going to happen before tomorrow morning.”

Moira smiled and stood up. “Any particular reason why?”

“I think we need to go show Emma how much we appreciate her before you have to go to work.” Angel grabbed her messenger bag and opened it, sliding her laptop inside. “If you're up for it, that is.”

Moira grinned. “Of course I am.”

Chapter Text

Kitty wrapped a comforting arm around Erik's waist and led him into the apartment, unable to keep the grin off her face. “I am so happy that you're coming home, Erik. Seriously. I cannot even begin to put it into words.”

Erik smiled nervously and shifted closer to Kitty. “I, um, there are a few things about it that I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Of course, of course,” Kitty said, leading Erik past the sitting area and towards the bedroom she'd been sharing with Marie. “Let's talk in here. I have a feeling they're going to get back in the middle of this conversation, and I don't want you to stop just because they're here.”

Erik glanced around the small room and sat down on the edge of the bed, watching as Kitty set his suitcase down next to her own. “I, uh, I think it might take me a few days before I'm comfortable with going to the club.”

“Then it takes you a few days,” Kitty said, sitting down next to him and wrapping an arm around Erik's shoulders. “Seriously, honey, I think the fact that you're going back to New York is a huge step in the right direction. If we have to take baby steps after we get back there, then that's what we'll do.”

Erik nodded. “I can find a hotel to stay in or something.”

“Nonsense!” Kitty exclaimed, leaning over and pressing a kiss to Erik's temple. “You're staying with us. I've already talked to Marie about it.”

Erik laughed a little. “Want me where you can keep an eye on me, hm?”

“Something like that,” Kitty mumbled, shrugging her shoulders. “I'm just super worried about you, honey. I have been for months. I'll feel better knowing that you are somewhere where you can be taken care of instead of sitting in a big hotel room all by yourself.”

“I suppose I probably need that too,” Erik said quietly. “I haven't done all that great at taking care of myself lately.”

Kitty nodded. “And it shows, baby. But we will get you back to being your utterly gorgeous and completely awesome self in no time.”

Erik slumped against Kitty's side and put his head on her shoulder. “I should probably also see a doctor.”

“We are totally going to the clinic like as soon as we are back in town,” Kitty said firmly. “I will go with you, and I will hold your hand if you want me to, and we will listen to what the doctor has to say and get you the right pills to take and everything. That is absolutely not up for discussion either.”

“I'm not going to argue,” Erik whispered. “I'm just scared.”

“Honey, the scary part is over, isn't it?” Kitty squeezed Erik's shoulder again. “You already have the diagnosis. Now it is just a matter of taking care of yourself properly so that fifty years from now, you will be sitting in a corner booth and laughing with us about the new queens that show up for Pride. Speaking of which, you missed some absolute howlers this year, honey. Thankfully, Bobby had the brilliant idea to take pictures. I cannot wait until you see them.”

Erik gave her a small smile. “I missed a lot, didn't I?”

“Yes,” Kitty said bluntly. “But, there is so much to look forward to. You are going to be back in time for the holiday season, which is going to be as epic as usual, I'm sure. And baby, Thanksgiving dinner would totally not have been the same without you around. You are the reason we all show up for that thing anyway, you know. We feel like we owe it to you.”

Erik sighed heavily. “I'm not so sure that there will be that many of you who still feel the same way. I am fully expecting a lot of hate when I walk back in there.”

“Then they are total idiots,” Kitty said quickly. “Look, once they find out what it is that caused all of this, there is no way that any of them are going to keep being total bitches about it. And if they are, well, you do have the power to fire them.”

“I, um,” Erik paused and swallowed hard. “I don't know if I am going to tell anyone why I left. I am afraid that will only make it worse.”

Kitty shook her head and dropped another kiss on Erik's head. “I can only give you my opinion on this, alright? You do whatever you think is best. But I think that things would be better if you just got everything out there in the open once you go back. Yeah, it will probably be ridiculously hard to do, but I think you will find that things will go a lot easier and smoother if there isn't this cloud of mystery hanging over everything. Plus, I think that if they know where you were coming from on this, it will help them understand better, and a better understanding of the situation will make it easier for them to forgive you.”

Erik sighed and sat up, rolling his shoulders to work out a kink in his muscles. “You are probably right. You have been right about everything else so far, so why wouldn't you be right now?”

“Erik, I wish I didn't have to be right about this shit, okay?” Kitty moved her hand back to rub at Erik's neck. “I wish everything was still the way that it was nine months ago when everyone was happy. But I can't just ignore that all of this has happened, and therefore, I have no choice but to just go with the flow. And I am going to stick up for you every step of the way because I don't think you deserve a lot of the shit I know that people are going to try to throw at you. Some of them are really fucking angry.”

Erik snorted. “Sebastian, I imagine.”

“I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to hit you,” Kitty said, a smile on his face. “So maybe be prepared to duck when you first see him again?”

“He's never going to forgive me for doing this to Charles,” Erik said, letting himself fall backwards onto the mattress.

“Well, Charles is the one thing he is fiercely protective of, so yeah, it'll take him a while,” Kitty said, laying back to join Erik. “You up for some stories?”

“Sure,” Erik said, a soft smile crossing his face. “Probably good for me to know what's been going on before I walk back in there.”

“That's the spirit!” Kitty called out. “Alright, well, I'll start with Jubilee and Theresa. Theresa's mother called her. Can you believe that? She was a total bitch but it really fucked Theresa up for a while.”

**********

Charles walked into the club and looked around, taking a deep breath when he noticed that Jubilee was by herself behind the bar. He walked over slowly, smiling at her as Jubilee noticed he was approaching. “How's it going, bartender extraordinaire?”

“Ooh, I like that title,” Jubilee said, laughing. “How are you doing today, honey?”

Charles sighed and leaned up against the bar. “Better, I think. Look, I'm sorry about the other night. You deserve like a bonus for putting up with me.”

“I won't turn down a bonus if you want to talk to Bobby about that,” Jubilee teased, tossing her towel down on the bar. “But seriously, sweetie, it's no big deal. You know it too. We are a family and this is what we do. Take care of each other.”

“I have been pretty shit about that lately,” Charles mused. “I have been pretty shit about everything lately.”

Jubilee reached out and gently caressed the side of Charles's face. “No one blames you for it, honey. We understand how much all of this has fucked you up. And trust me, when Erik finally decides to show his sorry ass around here again, everyone is going to let him know about it too.”

“No,” Charles said, shaking his head. “No one should do anything like that.”

“I know, honey, but that is not going to happen and you know it. They all think they have the right to tell him what a fucking asshole he is.”

“Except for the fact that he's not,” Charles said, ducking his head down. “I have a question to ask you.”

“Anything you need, sweetie.”

“The other night you said that Erik didn't leave because of the shooting. That he had another reason. What is it?”

Jubilee sighed heavily. “I'm not sure that is something that Erik would want me spreading around. He swore me to secrecy on it. I don't exactly understand why it is that he chose this particular way of dealing with it, but I don't blame him for doing it either. He needed this. He did not go about it in the right way and he has upset more than a few people, but I cannot deny that Erik needed this.”

Charles sighed as Jubilee picked up the towel again, wiping down the bar. “I clearly don't know everything that is going on, but if just ditching everyone was the only way he could deal with things then maybe he needs some sort of help. I mean, Ororo has been trying to teach me about coping skills and stuff, but there is a point where the coping skills become more harmful than the situation you're using them in.”

Jubilee smiled. “Then you need some different coping skills.”

Charles reached across the bar, snagging a cherry from the bowl. “So, what are your coping skills then, hm?”

“Shopping, for one,” Jubilee said, grinning. “Seriously, if I am having an absolutely shit day, I go buy myself a new pair of shoes. Or a new scarf. Something fabulous. If I need to feel all warm and fuzzy, I go to the pet store and hold all the puppies. And when I just need to forget about everything for a little while, well, that's Coney Island.”

Charles smiled. “Maybe I should adopt your coping skills. Mine involve copious amounts of alcohol and whatever drug is closest to me at that moment.”

“Charles, it totally doesn't have to be that way,” Jubilee said, tossing the towel down towards the other end of the bar. “I mean, you do have the choice not to use alcohol and drugs as a coping skill.”

“Sex is another,” Charles said quietly. “Sebastian is all too happy to help with that one.”

Jubilee's eyes widened. “You've been having sex with Sebastian?”

“Since the day after Erik left,” Charles murmured. “He's the only one who understands.”

“Fuck, no wonder he's become so protective of you,” Jubilee muttered. “Honey, I don't know if sex is all that great of a coping skill either. Have you thought about checking yourself into rehab? You're really no good to anyone when you're like this. Scott has been pretty much doing your job for the last nine months because you're always too wrecked to do it.”

Charles leaned across the bar and pressed a soft kiss to Jubilee's forehead. “I'm not ready for that.”

“Well, you're going to have to be ready for it someday, honey,” Jubilee said. “And that way you'll end up all fresh and fabulous and sober, and things will be so much better. Just look at Scott. Rehab did wonders for him.”

“Someone has to look after Peter,” Charles pointed out, prompting Jubilee to roll her eyes.

“Between Scott, Hank, and Bobby, you know that Peter will be taken care of.”

Charles nodded and snagged another cherry, popping it into his mouth and quickly chewing it. “I know, I know, but I meant it when I said I'm not ready. It's not a bad idea though.”

“Of course it's not a bad idea! I came up with it!” Jubilee laughed. “No, seriously, I think that you would feel a lot better about everything if you got yourself sober. You might actually be happy then.”

Charles chuckled. “When exactly did you become a therapist?”

“I'm a bartender,” Jubilee said, smiling at him. “Therapist is part of the job description.”

John walked into the room then and headed in their direction, smiling at Charles as he ducked under the bar. “Charles, Sebastian is up in the restaurant looking for you.”

“Then I'll head up there,” Charles said, turning his gaze to Jubilee. “Thanks for the talk, Jubes.”

“Anytime, sweetie,” Jubilee said, waiting until Charles had left the club before speaking again. “He's been fucking Sebastian.”

John nearly dropped the bottle of tequila that he'd just grabbed. “What?”

“He told me he's been having sex with Sebastian since Erik left,” Jubilee said, sighing heavily. “I knew that they'd gotten close, but I didn't think they'd gotten that close.”

“I'm surprised Sebastian hasn't been crowing about that like he does with all of his conquests,” John murmured. “Shocked, really.”

“I don't know, but I'm really worried about what's going to happen when Erik gets back. I mean, it's really obvious that Charles has a thing for him, not Sebastian.”

John groaned. “If Charles ends whatever this thing with Sebastian is when Erik gets back, I'm kind of really worried about Sebastian's reaction to that. Of course, I think Sebastian wants to murder Erik right now, and really, that should have told me that there was more to this friendship with Charles than meets the eye. Fuck, this is going to be bad.”

“Emma told me that Charles has told Sebastian everything about his time under that motherfucker's control,” Jubilee said softly. “And Charles has been awfully dependent on Sebastian ever since Erik left. Ruining that dynamic between the two of them might set off fireworks as we've never seen from Sebastian before. I mean, he has started acting like much more of an adult in the last nine months, and I'm willing to bet that is Charles's influence on him.”

John found glasses and poured them each a drink, sliding one down the bar to Jubilee before quickly downing the other. “This is going to be a disaster, isn't it?”

“Yeah, I think it is.” Jubilee knocked back her drink and turned to find John shaking some pills out of a bottle and into his hand. “What's that?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” John said, shoving the bottle back into his pocket and pouring himself another drink, using it to wash the pills down his throat. “Just a little something to get me through the show tonight. It's fine.”

“Johnny, seriously, what is that?” Jubilee asked, alarmed.

John just pressed a kiss to her head and ducked back out from the bar, heading towards the stage. “Don't worry about it!”

Jubilee sighed heavily as John disappeared and reached for the bottle, pouring herself another drink and knocking it back. If John was popping pills, then she was going to make sure that Bobby knew about it as soon as she saw him again because she just knew that nothing good was going to come from that either.

**********

“Okay, we're flying out tomorrow morning,” Marie said, looking up from the laptop and smiling at Kitty. “And, um, Bella and Remy are coming with us.”

Kitty sighed. “Why?”

“Well, Bella has a job in New York next week and she's just decided to come out early. And Remy,” Marie paused. “Well, I don't really know why Remy is coming. I think he was trying to say something about a meeting, but it was difficult to understand him with Bella's tongue in his mouth.”

Kitty rolled her eyes and climbed onto the sofa, snuggling up to Marie's side. “I thought you said their thing was just casual.”

“I did,” Marie said, putting her arm around Kitty and pulling her closer. “I don't know what's going on with them. It's...odd, to say the least. I never would have put the two of them together.”

Kitty shrugged. “It doesn't really matter, does it?”

“When this ends as badly as every other relationship I have ever seen Remy attempt to have? Yes, then it will matter.” Marie set the laptop to the side and bent to kiss Kitty. “I don't want to see Bella get hurt.”

Kitty smiled against her lips. “What about Remy?”

“I couldn't care less about Remy, to be honest,” Marie murmured. “Besides, I don't think he knows the meaning of the word hurt. He doesn't feel it, only inflicts it.”

Kitty nodded and shifted closer to her, dropping her head onto Marie's shoulder. “He sounds a lot like Sebastian.”

Marie laughed. “A little, yeah. Except Sebastian is much better at figuring out what he wants than Remy is.”

“Something tells me that Sebastian and Remy will get along beautifully, and that worries me more than I can say,” Kitty laughed. “Can we try to keep them from meeting? Because...yeah, let's make sure that they don't meet.”

“Probably a good idea,” Marie murmured. “So, are you ready to talk about it?”

Kitty looked up at her. “Talk about what?”

“Whatever it is that has you so worried that you can barely sleep.”

Kitty sighed and started playing with the hem of Marie's shirt. “I'm just worried about Erik, that's all.”

“He's coming home,” Marie pointed out.

“Well, yeah, but that is not the end of this,” Kitty said. “There is a lot of shit that has gone down in the last few months, and I do not even want to begin to contemplate how everyone is going to react to him coming back. I keep telling him not to worry, but...queens can hold quite a grudge, you know, and for a long motherfucking time too. I'm worried about what sort of reaction he's going to get.”

Marie pondered that for a second. “Don't you think a lot of it will depend on what sort of reaction he gets from Charles?”

“I suppose,” Kitty sighed. “But I'm not entirely certain of what sort of reaction he's going to get from Charles either. I mean, it's been months since I've seen Charles somewhat close to sober, and if he is drunk as fuck when Erik shows up, I'm afraid it could get ugly.”

Marie brought one hand up to gently rub the back of Kitty's neck. “So it sounds like it is probably a better idea for Erik to return in the middle of the day? Fewer people around to witness if it does turn ugly?”

“Yeah,” Kitty mumbled, turning more into Marie's touch. “If this doesn't work out, if someone doesn't forgive him, it's going to tear the whole family apart. And I need the family, babe. Almost as much as I need you.”

“Shh,” Marie shushed. “Don't think about that. Everything will be fine. You'll see.”

Kitty sighed heavily. “I hope you are right. I really, really do.”

Chapter Text

“You've certainly moved up in the world,” Erik said softly, glancing around the swanky apartment before flashing a shaky smile at Kitty. “It's nice.”

Kitty laughed and ducked into the spare room, setting Erik's suitcase on the bed. “It's Marie's place. Or, well, it was Marie's place and now it is our place. I am still not used to saying that, to be honest.”

Erik nodded and ran his fingers along the edge of a table, taking in the expensive-looking accessories. “What is it that she does again?”

“She's a makeup artist, and before you say a thing, yes, she makes way more money than I do,” Kitty said, walking back out of the room and over to Erik, wrapping her arms around him. “I am not the kind of person that is going to complain about my sugar mama making more money than I do, however. I love that she makes more money than I do, especially since she has no problems spending it on me.”

“That better not be the only thing you love,” Marie teased, walking in from the hallway and tossing the mail onto a table.

Kitty laughed and glanced over her shoulder, grinning at her. “No, I love your incredibly talented, filthy tongue too.”

“That's more like it,” Marie laughed, walking over to them. “Bella and Remy are meeting us for dinner at seven.”

Kitty pulled away from Erik and turned towards Marie. “And?”

“And what?” Marie said. “You know where Bella wants to go after that. Remy's never been there.”

Erik's shoulders slumped and he sighed heavily. “Genosha.”

“Well, we will just have to tell them that that's not an option,” Kitty stated, reaching over and rubbing Erik's back gently. “Remy can see Genosha some other time.”

“No,” Erik mumbled, running his hands over his face. “I mean, it's probably better that I do this sooner rather than later, right?”

“Honey, I don't want you to do something that you are not ready for,” Kitty said quickly. “Seriously, our social life is nowhere near as important as making sure that you're okay.”

Erik just shook his head. “The sooner I do this, the sooner I will be okay. In fact, fuck it. I should go do it now.”

“Erik,” Kitty started, but Erik pulled away from her grasp and headed towards the spare bedroom.

“Raven told me like every fucking day that I was being a coward and you know what? She was right.” Erik snagged his suitcase off the bed and came back into the main room. “I don't want to be a coward anymore.”

Kitty sighed when she felt Marie's arms wrap around her, leaning back into her touch. “Do you want me to go with you?”

“No,” Erik said softly, shaking his head again. “I have to do this by myself.”

Kitty nodded and smiled at Erik. “Then good luck, baby.”

Erik smiled back. “Thanks, honey. I think I'm going to need it.”

Kitty watched helplessly as Erik walked out of the apartment, turning around and burying her head in Marie's neck as soon as the door was closed. “I'm terrified.”

“Don't be,” Marie soothed, walking them towards the bedroom. “Everything will be alright.”

“I just hope he knows what he's doing,” Kitty mumbled. “I'm sick of watching everyone get hurt over this.”

Marie pulled Kitty's face up to meet hers and kissed her gently. “There's nothing you can do about it, sweetie. You got him to come back here. The rest of it has to be up to him.”

“I know,” Kitty whispered, sighing contentedly when Marie pulled her shirt over her head. “I just...I don't have any idea what it is he's walking back into, you know? I'd feel better if I knew.”

Marie nodded. “Which tells me you need a distraction.”

“Oh?” Kitty asked teasingly. “And you think you can provide that?”

Marie growled and pushed Kitty onto the bed. “You better fucking believe I can.”

**********

Scott glanced up when he heard a beep, frowning when he noticed that the building's back door had opened. He glanced over at the clock to check the time, his frown deepening when he realized that it was definitely not a normal delivery time. Sighing heavily, he pushed his chair back from his desk and swirled it around, flicking his gaze across the various video screens to see if there was anything abnormal.

He stood up when he noticed a figure standing in the hallway near the back door, leaning forward to attempt to figure out who it was. He mentally ran through a list of everyone that he knew was in the building, crossing off each one as they came to mind. He straightened himself up and headed towards the door, making sure to grab the baseball bat that hung on the wall before he set out towards the back hallway.

The offices were quiet, for once, and Scott silently thanked God for that because it allowed him to listen for any clues as to what this mystery person could be doing. But the sounds were few and far between, the slight squeak of a shoe against the tiled floor, the flick of a lighter as it was being lit. Scott spent a moment wondering why whoever this was would come inside to smoke, but quickly dismissed that thought, quickening his steps as he suddenly didn't know what was happening with the lighter.

He turned around the corner and found that one of the overhead lights had burned out, casting the man near the door half in shadow. He did notice the glowing end of a cigarette and so he relaxed slightly, though he was more confused than ever as to why this person had come inside to smoke.

“Are you going to stand there staring at me all day or are you going to tell me why no one has fixed this fucking light?”

Scott let the baseball bat slip from his fingers and walked forward, throwing his arms around the man as he breathed a sigh of relief. “Erik. Don't motherfucking scare me like that again.”

“Sorry,” Erik said, pulling back to take another drag off what Scott could now tell wasn't a cigarette but a joint. “I didn't think anyone would hear me come in.”

“I saw you on the monitor,” Scott said, taking a step back. “We invested in a state of the art security system while you were gone.”

Erik just nodded. “If you saw me on the monitor, then how come you were surprised it was me?”

“If the light was working, I probably would have been able to tell. Instead, I just saw a man in the shadows.” Scott took a good look at him and noticed how pale and thin Erik looked. “You look terrible.”

“Yeah, I...anyway, I'm back, but um, keep that news to yourself for a little while, okay? I'm not ready to see all of them yet.”

“Not a problem,” Scott said. “You going up to the loft for a while?”

“Yeah,” Erik said, bringing the joint to his lips again. “Any chance you can keep everyone away from there for a few hours?”

“I'll tell them that Charles requested he be by himself for a while. I'm pretty sure he's passed out up there anyway.”

“Thanks,” Erik murmured. “I'll come by your office later, or maybe tomorrow, and we can talk about things that I've missed then, alright?”

“Sounds good,” Scott said, reaching out and pulling Erik into a hug again. “I'm so glad that you're back. It's not the same around here without you.”

Erik smiled at him. “Thanks, Scott.”

“Anytime, honey.” Scott picked the baseball bat up off the floor and started to walk back to his office, leaving Erik to stare over at the staircase.

He was going up there.

He really was.

After another joint.

**********

Charles froze as he heard a key slide into the lock, forcing himself to take a deep breath as the door opened behind him. He didn't want company right now, but when he glanced over at the clock and realized it was too early for school to be out, he became alarmed. If that wasn't Peter behind him, then who exactly was it?

He heard the telltale sounds of a suitcase being set on the wooden floor. He hoped and prayed that meant that the person behind him was the one person he wanted it to be, but he couldn't bring himself to turn around. For months he had waited, paced around the floor and barely slept, lost any grip he possibly had on the road to sobriety and drunkenly cried, all with the thought that this moment wouldn't actually ever come. But now, maybe it had, and he suddenly had no clue how to deal with it.

Erik glanced around the apartment until his eyes landed on where Charles was hunched over the kitchen sink. He leaned back against the door and tried to figure out what he was supposed to do next. He wanted some sort of clue from Charles but he wasn't moving, so still that if he couldn't hear his heavy breathing he would have been concerned otherwise. Sighing heavily, he pushed himself away from the door and took a tentative step towards the kitchen. “Charles?”

Charles straightened up but didn't turn around, a million different thoughts racing through his mind. “Erik.”

Erik took another step towards the kitchen, shoving his hands in his pockets and cursing when he realized he'd smoked his last joint downstairs. “Can you not even look at me?”

“I don't know,” Charles said softly, clenching his fingers tightly around the edge of the sink.

“I, um...” Erik paused and took a shaky breath. “I deserve that, I suppose.”

Charles nodded. “You deserve worse.”

“I know I do,” Erik said, leaning against the edge of the kitchen counter, eyes focused on the back of Charles's head. “But maybe you could turn around and look at me anyway.”

Charles's shoulders slumped and he let out a choked sound of frustration. “I didn't think you were coming back. Ever. So I need a few minutes to get used to the fact that you actually have, alright?”

“I said in the note that I was coming back,” Erik mumbled.

Charles laughed bitterly. “Yeah, and like I couldn't see through that lie? Do you know how many motherfucking nights I laid in bed wondering if you were still breathing? If he'd found some way to finish the job he'd started that night? I've been waiting for the police to call and say that someone had discovered your body, not you just walking back into the apartment like nothing has happened.”

Erik sighed and turned around, opening up the cabinets to see if there were still any cigarettes left there. “Raven wouldn't let me do it.”

“Raven?”

“I went to Los Angeles and crashed in on Raven,” Erik said, reaching into the cabinet and pulling out the carton that he had found. “I only ended up there when I was ready to fucking do it. She talked me out of it.”

Charles glanced up and looked out the small window, frowning when he noticed it had begun to rain. “You were going to kill yourself.”

“Yes,” Erik said sharply, fumbling around with the carton until he had a cigarette in his hand.

“He'd almost killed you and then you were going to finish it off yourself,” Charles sighed. “Why?”

Erik quickly lit the cigarette and took a drag off it, tossing his lighter onto the counter. “I don't have to answer that.”

“Yes, you do,” Charles said seriously. “I don't understand why you would want to do that.”

“Yeah, well, you're not the one who is positive either,” Erik said, taking a long drag and blowing the smoke up towards the ceiling.

“Positive?”

“They told me while I was in the hospital and I freaked,” Erik said softly. “I don't expect you to understand.”

Charles took a deep breath and turned around, his eyes drinking in the sight of Erik leaning against the counter, arms crossed against his chest, cigarette hanging out of his mouth. “I didn't know you smoked.”

Erik plucked the cigarette out of his mouth and smiled softly at him. “Only when I'm stressed. It's only this at the moment because I ran out of weed.”

Charles shook his head lightly. “I thought you were Mr. Anti-Drugs.”

“The shit you take? Yes. But I've discovered that a little bit of weed can be quite helpful from time to time,” Erik said, taking another drag. “Anyway, I'm home now.”

“And you are staying this time?” Charles asked tentatively.

Erik nodded. “My mid-life crisis is over. I'm not going anywhere ever again.”

Charles rolled his eyes. “You are too young to have had a mid-life crisis.”

“Not when I've got this horrid virus, I'm not,” Erik said, walking over to the sink and tapping the cigarette against the edge of it. “I'll be lucky to reach sixty, I think.”

Charles leaned up against the counter next to him. “I think you need to learn more about being positive then. They've made all kinds of developments in medicines that will let you live a long and healthy life.”

“And how the hell do you know that?”

“I read up about it before Sebastian went with me to get tested,” Charles said softly. “Ororo suggested that I should so that the question was answered and not some lingering thing in the back of my mind. It came back negative and I've never been so happy in my life.”

“That's great, Charles. Really great.”

“If you don't take care of yourself, then yes, you'll be lucky to reach sixty. But if you do, then you can likely live just as long as you would have otherwise.”

“What the hell have you been doing, talking to Kitty already? I just got back like ten minutes ago,” Erik said.

Charles frowned and looked over at him. “Kitty?”

Erik sighed. “I called her the day after Halloween to see how it had gone. She heard Raven in the background and went to Los Angeles and tracked me down.”

Charles laughed. “So that was the big emergency that she needed off work for but couldn't tell Scott about.”

Erik smiled. “She went over Bobby's head?”

“Oh yeah,” Charles said, reaching up to pull at Erik's arms until he got one loose, wrapping his fingers around his elbow. “I think you should give her a raise.”

“I think that's a good idea.” Erik set the cigarette in the sink and let Charles pull him closer, wrapping his arms around him and smiling when Charles's head came to rest on his shoulder. “So, you still mad at me?”

“Furious,” Charles whispered, wrapping his arms around Erik's waist. “So mad I can hardly see straight.”

Erik squeezed him tight. “Can't say that I blame you.”

“Are you sure this isn't some dream I'm having?” Charles asked.

“No, it's not a dream.” Erik shook his head. “I am not sure I know words in either of the languages I speak to begin to explain how deeply sorry I am for the way this affected you. I was only thinking about me when I did it, and it was selfish and horrible, and I just...”

“Shh,” Charles said. “It's alright.”

Erik closed his eyes and rested his head against Charles's. “I still owe you a million apologies.”

“Then apologize,” Charles said softly.

“I'm sorry,” Erik said quickly. “I'm so, so sorry, Charles.”

“That's all you have to say,” Charles said, taking a deep breath. “To me, at least. I don't know how anyone else is going to react to you being back.”

“Charles, I'm being serious.”

“So am I,” Charles said. “You're back. That's all that matters.”

“But it shouldn't be!” Erik exclaimed, pulling back and flailing his arms around in an attempt to get his point across. “You should be so angry that you can barely stand to be in the same room as me!”

Charles laughed. “Sebastian suggested that I hit you.”

“You should!”

Charles reached out and lightly slapped him on the cheek. “There. Feel better?”

Erik stared at him in disbelief. “I don't understand you sometimes, you know that.”

“Neither do I,” Charles said, looking over at the clock. “Ooh, I have to go make sure Peter gets back from school on time.”

“School?” Erik asked, surprised.

“Yeah, Jean enrolled him in school. He didn't want to just be a high school dropout.”

“Right,” Erik said, running his hands over his face. “I suppose I should prepare to see him then.”

“Oh, don't worry, he won't be up here until his shift ends at close.”

“His shift?”

“He works the night shift,” Charles explained as he walked towards the door. “I'm sure you'll hear all about it. He enjoys it a lot.”

“I missed a lot, didn't I?”

Charles paused at the door. “Yeah, you did. But we can get to all of that another time. I'm not going to say anything about you being here. When you're ready to face everyone, come on down.”

“Charles,” Erik said before he could open the door, “I don't deserve to be forgiven so easily.”

“Look, it's like this, alright,” Charles said. “I have spent months getting over the fact that you were gone. I went about it in a really, really fucked up way, but I did. And now that you are home, I would much rather concentrate on moving forward than wasting it being mad about something I've been mad about for months. I'm sick of being mad at you, Erik. I just want to go back to the way everything was.”

Erik leaned back against the refrigerator. “It can't.”

“I know that,” Charles said. “But it'll be a lot closer to that than it was an hour ago, and that's all I need to know. I'll talk to you later.”

Charles opened the door and jogged down the stairs, leaving Erik standing in the kitchen and wondering what in the hell had just happened.

Chapter Text

Bobby flipped through the mail as he opened the door to Erik's office, plucking out the bills that needed to be attended to and tossing the rest of it onto the desk. He turned back towards the door and moved to turn off the lights, freezing when he realized he hadn't turned them on. He glanced over at the desk and then blinked a few times.

“Afternoon, Bobby,” Erik said, reaching out and picking up the mail. “Anything interesting today?”

Bobby gaped at him. “Erik?”

“The last time I checked, that was my name,” Erik said, frowning at a piece of junk mail and tossing it into the trash.

Bobby shook his head and dropped the bills that he was holding, his mouth flapping as he tried to figure out what exactly he should say. “You...”

“I got back earlier this afternoon,” Erik said. “And yes, Charles already knows.”

Bobby took a deep breath and calmly shut the office door, walking towards the desk and sitting down across from Erik. “You lousy motherfucker.”

Erik sighed and sat back in his chair, studying Bobby for a moment. “So, I suppose I don't need to ask if you are upset.”

“You...you...urgh!” Bobby exclaimed, clenching his fingers around the arms of the chair. “I don't know whether to slap you or hug you or just curse you out like you fucking deserve.”

Erik bit back a smile. “Might I suggest a combination of the three?”

“This is not something to motherfucking joke about!” Bobby stood up and pushed the chair back, leaning onto the desk and glaring at Erik. “Do you have any idea what the past few months have been like? Did it ever occur to you that you were leaving more than just him behind?”

Erik tossed the mail onto the desk and looked up at Bobby. “No.”

Bobby's jaw dropped and he sat back down, staring at Erik in disbelief. “Excuse me?”

“No,” Erik said again. “I didn't think about any of that. I didn't even really think of what it would do to him. I just thought that I needed to get the fuck out of here for a while.”

Bobby shook his head lightly. “And I suppose now you think you can just walk back in here and expect everything to be perfectly fine.”

“As far as the business is concerned, yes,” Erik said, smiling at him. “I know for a fact that it was left in very capable hands.”

“Well, then you can give those capable hands one hell of a bonus for doing your job, and Charles's job, on top of our own for the last nine months,” Bobby said bitterly. “But I was not talking about the business.”

Erik took a deep breath. “I understand that I am going to have some work to do to get back into people's good graces,” he said softly. “I was hoping that perhaps I'd have you on my side for that, but if not then fine. I'll have to work on you too.”

“Well, maybe if you told me why the fuck it was you had to leave, you might,” Bobby said after a moment. “You're the most dependable person I've ever met, Erik. You're always there if I need you for anything. And then you just went and disappeared for nine months.”

Erik took a deep breath. “I'm positive.”

Bobby stared at him without saying anything, so Erik continued. “They did a test in the hospital and told me there. I freaked the fuck out and ran once they discharged me. That's what happened.”

“Well, knowing your reason for doing it is very different than understanding your reason for doing it because I definitely don't,” Bobby said after a moment. “Have you been taking care of yourself?”

“No,” Erik said, shaking his head. “I'm going to get started on that tomorrow. Today, I just need to get resettled in here and hopefully avoid any major discussions like the one we're having right now.”

“Because you're not going to want to explain yourself to anyone and yet I think that's what everyone needs the most from you.”

Erik nodded. “So you think I should tell everyone.”

“I think it would be a start,” Bobby said quietly. “You are the head of this family, Erik. You set the example for the young ones to follow, and this was not a very good one. Honesty might repair some of that damage.”

“What the fuck am supposed to do, Bobby? Call a staff meeting and announce that I'm positive?” Erik laughed. “That is not happening.”

“Then maybe a fucking apology would be a better place to start.”

“The only person I have to apologize to is Charles. That is it.”

Bobby groaned and stood up, heading towards the door. “I'm starting to think I liked it better when you were gone. Then I didn't have to listen to your pathetic stubbornness.”

“Fuck off, Bobby,” Erik said sharply.

Bobby stopped at the door and turned back to look at Erik. “Look, I know that you are used to having all of us in debt to you over things, but you're just going to have to get used to the fact that this time, you are the one that owes all of us. And trust me when I say that we aren't going to just forget about it.”

“Shit, I know,” Erik sighed, slumping down in his chair. “I just don't know how to fucking deal with that. Clearly, it is not going well, based on this conversation.”

“Well, you better fucking figure it out and fast,” Bobby said, pulling the door open. “Because by the time you walk out of this office, you better be fucking prepared for the fact that the whole family will know that you're back. I'm sending out a mass text in about thirty seconds.”

“Bobby...”

“No, Erik,” Bobby said, shaking his head as he walked out the door. “If you're back then you're back. You don't get any more fucking time. You've already had months of it.”

**********

Darwin opened the door to the restaurant and slowly pulled Alex inside. “So, um, you can just commandeer one of the booths, okay? Like, that one in the corner maybe?” he said, pointing towards the one he was referring to. “And I'll come by and check on you every once and a while, and bring you some food and stuff, okay?”

Alex nodded and tried to smile at him. “Darwin, just work, okay? Don't worry about me.”

“Worrying about you is like the only thing I'm fucking capable of sometimes,” Darwin said, pulling Alex closer and kissing him softly. “But I'll try my best.”

Alex laughed against his lips and kissed him back. “Go fucking work already.”

Darwin glanced down when his phone beeped, pulling it out of his pocket and clicking through to the new message. “You have got to be motherfucking kidding me.”

“OH MY FUCKING GOD!”

Darwin's head quickly turned towards the counter and he saw Sean standing there, staring at his phone. “Sean, did you just get the same message I got?”

“From Bobby?” Sean shrieked. “Fucking hell yes, bitch!”

Darwin sighed and turned towards Alex, flashing him a sympathetic smile. “I am so sorry that you have to be here in the middle of this.”

Alex gave him a confused look. “In the middle of what?”

“Let's just say the shit is about to hit the fan, okay?” Darwin said, ushering him towards the corner booth. “It would probably be best for you to stay right here and um, just watch or something.”

Alex shook his head but sat down anyway. “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Darwin. No matter the situation.”

“Yeah, I know,” Darwin said, bending down to drop a kiss onto the top of Alex's head. “But the thing is that I don't even know what on earth the situation truly is right now. And, just...trust me on this one, okay?”

“DARWIN!” Sean yelled out. “He's in his motherfucking office!”

Darwin glanced over towards the offices and then back at Alex, dropping down into the booth with him. “You know what? Maybe I should stay here. Out of the way and all of that. I mean, I'm angry, but I'm nowhere near as angry as some of the others are, and well, if they don't kill Erik, I can always yell at him later or something.”

Alex laughed and wrapped his arm around Darwin's shoulders. “How about you start by telling me what the fuck is going on, hm? Then maybe I could help you assess the situation better. Or something.”

“DARWIN!” Sean yelled out again, waving at him from behind the counter. “Honey, there are tables to wait on and shit, and Emma had to leave early today! And WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SITTING DOWN FOR WHEN ERIK IS BACK? We have to get a plan into action!”

Darwin shook his head and stood back up, giving Alex an apologetic smile. “I'll explain on my break, I guess.”

“Go on,” Alex said, laying the newspaper he'd been holding onto the table and motioning towards it. “I've got some serious reading to do, and you've got money to make.”

“DARWIN!”

Alex laughed again. “Get to work before you get fired, hm?”

Darwin sighed and spun around, stalking over to the counter and leaning against it. “Do you have any idea how annoying you are today?”

“So, that's him?” Sean squealed, glancing over towards Alex. “Honey, he's gorgeous!”

“Yeah, that's him,” Darwin said, smiling. “Don't go over there and pester him, alright? I think it's best if I introduce him to everyone slowly.”

Sean huffed and turned back towards the stove. “I just wanted to say hello, but fine. Now, before Hank gets in here and starts yelling at us, get your ass to work. Once you've gotten everyone's orders, then you can come stand here while I cook and we can go over what we're going to say to Erik.”

“I don't really know if I want to get up in his face,” Darwin said, reaching up to rub the back of his neck nervously. “I mean, he like signs our paychecks and stuff, and well, I really need that money.”

Sean rolled his eyes. “First off, that accountant guy signs our paychecks, not Erik. Secondly, he totally deserves to have every single one of us up in his face, so you better believe that you are getting up in his face.”

“But does he really?” Darwin said. “I mean, it's his business. He can technically come and go as he pleases, and well, whatever the deal with him and Charles is should be between them.”

Sean reached out and smacked Darwin on the head. “He doesn't have the right to just disappear on us whenever he fucking feels like it. We motherfucking depend on him, bitch. He's supposed to be the responsible one.”

Darwin sighed. “I know. But don't you think it's a little harsh to just start yelling at him the second he gets back? I mean, shouldn't we like find out why he left and all that first, and then decide if he needs to be yelled at?”

Sean spun around and grabbed Darwin by the elbow. “You saw what happened to Charles when he left. You know what kind of hell that is. Why he motherfucking left isn't an issue. It's the consequences of it that I want to bitch slap him around for.”

“Look, he totally deserves a bitch slap or nineteen for the way Charles fell apart without him,” Darwin said. “But, I think we should be like actually concerned about why he left and stuff too. You don't just fucking disappear for months on end without a damn good reason for it.”

Sean sighed and leaned back against the stove. “Then you can be all concerned about that, and I'll get the bitch slapping done.”

“So long as you make sure that he doesn't fire either of us,” Darwin said, reaching towards his apron. “I've got to get to work.”

Sean frowned as Darwin walked away. “Why on earth do you think he's going to fire us?”

“Because he fucking can!” Darwin called back. “Or have you fucking forgotten that?”

“I have not,” Sean pouted. “I just...he's not going to fire us, right?”

“He better not!”

Chapter Text

“Yes, I went and crashed in on Raven.”

Hank groaned and collapsed onto the sofa, shooting Erik a venomous look. “Why?”

“Because I needed somewhere to go and I knew she wouldn't call you and tell you I was there,” Erik said, pushing his chair back from his desk and walking towards Hank. “I know that is probably really difficult for you to accept, but she's still my friend whether she's a stone-cold bitch or not.”

“Fine,” Hank sighed heavily as Erik sat down next to him. “But I really can't understand this.”

“Hank, I think you're more angry with me leaving than you are with the fact that I spent a few months with Raven. I'm not stupid.”

“Erik,” Hank started, before slumping down and resting his head on Erik's shoulder. “I want to hit you right now. I hope you know that.”

Erik turned and pressed a kiss to the top of Hank's head. “I'm starting to think that is a reaction I'll be getting quite a bit of.”

“Yeah, well, you're definitely going to get threatened a lot,” Hank said. “But right now, I need to tell you some things because I think you deserve to know what's been going on. It's going to probably complicate a lot of things and I think everyone should be prepared for the explosion.”

“I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.”

Hank took a deep breath and started playing with the edge of his shirt. “So, Charles has become very dependent on Sebastian while you were gone.”

“Really? That's surprising.”

“Yeah, well, he's been spending a lot of time with him, and Sebastian has really stepped up and been an incredible friend to him. He's helped Charles get through everything more than any of us have.” Hank paused. “But something came up the other day that explains a lot and also complicates things.”

“And what would that be?”

Hank swallowed hard. “Charles told Jubilee that he's been sleeping with Sebastian ever since you left.”

Erik sat there for a moment before letting out a long, shaky breath. “What?”

“I don't know his reasons for it because no one has brought it up, but Jubes told John and John told the rest of us. It explains why there are nights when Charles goes over to Sebastian's and doesn't come back until after breakfast, usually with Sebastian in tow. They spend an enormous amount of time together, and I know there have been plenty of nights that Sebastian has spent up in the apartment too.”

Erik's eyes widened. “Sebastian has been in my apartment?”

“Charles let him up there,” Hank said softly. “I mean, Charles does technically live there too.”

Erik shook his head. “I don't even know where to start on this.”

“We all are expecting this fling with Sebastian to end now that you're back, but we're all worried about what is going to happen with Sebastian. You know how dramatic he can get when someone takes away something he's been playing with.”

Erik groaned. “Please don't remind me of that.”

“Yeah, well, I think it's important that you realize that is the sort of reaction that Sebastian is likely to provide to the end of this.”

“Why do you think it's going to end? I mean, there's no reason for it to.”

Hank was quiet for a moment. “It has become incredibly obvious to all of us that Charles has a thing for you, not Sebastian.”

“Me?” Erik asked, surprised. “What?”

“It's quite clear.”

“Well, I'll talk to Charles about that when we get a chance to be alone for a while. I'll get this situation resolved in the most amicable manner possible.”

“You should tell him that you like him.”

“He knows that I like him.”

“Not like that,” Hank pointed out. “And don't you dare try to deny it.”

Erik sighed heavily. “He's not ready for something like that.”

“He's more ready than you might think,” Hank said, sitting there quietly for a moment. “Erik, why did you leave?”

Erik sighed again and stood up, walking back to his desk. “Can we save that for another time?”

“No,” Hank said firmly. “You owe us an explanation.”

“I don't owe anyone anything,” Erik snapped, sitting down in his chair. “I am a grown man. I don't have to explain my actions to any of you.”

Hank stood up and walked over to the chair, grabbing onto the back and spinning it around so Erik was facing him. “You do if you want any of us to ever forgive you.”

“I just...” Erik ran his hands over his face. “I need more time to figure out how to do this. This is very difficult for me.”

Hank glared at him. “You've just had nine months!”

“Which I didn't spend sitting around thinking of how to tell everyone about this!” Erik exclaimed. “I just need a few days, Hank. That's all. I promise.”

“Fine,” Hank said. “I'll give you until Friday. Then I'm locking us in this office and not letting you out until you tell me what the fuck is going on.”

Erik smiled. “Does that mean you'll wait until then to hit me?”

“Possibly,” Hank said, glancing towards the clock. “I'd do it now but the dinner rush is about to start and I'm needed out there.”

“It only takes a few seconds to hit me,” Erik pointed out.

“If one only wants to hit you once, yes,” Hank said, walking towards the door. “I'm not sure if one slap is going to get rid of my anger though.”

**********

Hank stood in the doorway that led into the main room of the restaurant, his eyes trained on the man sitting in the corner booth. He'd heard enough from Sean to know that this was Darwin's Alex, and he'd meant to make his way over there and talk to him, let him know that when he was ready for it there was a place for him at the restaurant just like there was for Darwin and Charles. But then he'd gotten a better look at him, and he found that he just couldn't stop staring.

He had to be seeing things because there was no fucking way Alex was who he thought he might be.

He glanced over at the door when it opened, smiled when Jean walked inside and turned his attention back to Alex. It wasn't long before Jean was walking up to him, her eyes following his gaze across the room. “Has Scott seen him yet?”

Hank turned to look at her with surprise. “It's really him?”

“It's really him,” Jean said, leaning up against the wall. “I've known for months but Ororo said it was better for this to happen organically instead of Scott beating down the doors of her office trying to get to him. I just didn't think that it would take this long for him to be comfortable enough to come in here.”

Hank sighed heavily. “Why does this have to be happening today? Too much shit has gone down already and it's only going to get worse.”

“What are you talking about?” Jean asked, confused.

“Have you looked at your phone this afternoon?”

“No,” Jean said, reaching for it. “I was in court all day and it didn't exactly cross my mind to check it when I got out of there.”

She clicked through to the message from Bobby and read it three times before she looked up again. “Erik's back? Seriously?”

“He's in Scott's office right now, talking to Scott about things that have happened while he was gone,” Hank said, shaking his head. “At least that will keep Scott occupied for a while so we can figure out what to do about this situation.”

“Erik and I are going to have a very long talk before I go home,” Jean said, shaking her head. “But you're right. He'll be taking up Scott's time for a while because I know Scott's going to go into an incredible amount of detail. I just don't know what to do besides let it happen though.”

“I don't exactly want that going down in the middle of the restaurant,” Hank said. “It's bad enough that shit is going to go down in the club tonight when Sebastian sees Erik.”

“Oh fuck, he's not going to react to that well, is he?” Jean said, shaking her head. “Maybe you or Scott should keep close to Erik while he's down in the club tonight.”

“I'm sure Scott will do that. I've got to go home tonight,” Hank said. “But this thing with Alex is going to be difficult.”

“Maybe invite him to sit in your office while the dinner rush is going on? I mean, you'll need that table.”

“That's a good idea,” Hank said, looking over at her. “But Scott might just walk in at any moment.”

“Well, it's a better scenario than Scott walking out into the restaurant and seeing him,” Jean pointed out. “And this is something that needs to be handled delicately. If we can get Alex into your office, we could start telling him about this place and casually mention that it used to be Station Thirty. From what Darwin has said to me, Alex has been looking for Station Thirty and hoping that Scott still works there.”

“That could do it,” Hank murmured. “Then we could tell him that Scott still works here and one of us go get him, and the reunion could take place in my office instead of the middle of the restaurant. I don't know what else we could do.”

“I don't either,” Jean murmured. “I think it's the best we can do.”

“Alright, I'll go get Alex back into my office,” Hank said. “You here for dinner?”

“Dinner and to talk to Charles. The lawyer called me again. He wants to get this estate settled.”

Hank nodded. “Charles is probably down in the club already because I know Sebastian is here. Go have some dinner and tell whoever it is that serves you that dinner's on the house tonight.”

“Hank, you don't have to do that. I am capable of paying for my dinner.”

“Well, I want to. You're going to be doing entirely too much for us this evening. When you're done with dinner, come back to my office, and then we'll start to enact the plan.”

Jean nodded. “Then I'll eat as fast as I can. The sooner we get this over with, the better for everyone, I think.”

“I agree,” Hank said, starting to walk. “Order whatever you want, okay? Don't worry about how much it costs.”

“Thanks!” Jean called out as Hank headed towards the booth where Alex sat.

Alex looked up as Hank approached, and Hank took a deep breath before sitting down across from him. “Hello, Alex. I'm Hank McCoy, the restaurant's manager.”

“Darwin's boss, right?” Alex said, continuing when Hank nodded. “Thank you so much for giving him this job. I don't know where we'd be right now if he hadn't gotten this job.”

“Well, we are here to help,” Hank said, smiling at him. “And we're going to help you as best we can. Whenever you're ready for it, there is a place for you here.”

Alex's eyes widened. “What?”

“You have a job here whenever you're ready,” Hank said again. “We'll find somewhere for you.”

“Wow,” Alex murmured. “I wasn't expecting that.”

“How about we go back to my office and talk?” Hank asked. “The dinner rush is going to be starting soon and we'll need this table.”

“Sure,” Alex said, looking around for Darwin. “I don't want to be in the way. I just want to tell Darwin what is going on first.”

“Of course,” Hank said, catching Darwin's attention from across the room. “Darwin, come here.”

Darwin made his way over to them and peered at Hank with some concern. “Is everything okay, Hank?”

“Everything's fine,” Hank assured. “Alex just wanted you to know that he's going to go sit in my office and talk to me so the table can be used for the dinner rush.”

“But only if it's okay with you,” Alex said quickly. “I don't want to upset you.”

Darwin sighed and sat down next to Alex, wrapping his arms around him. “You're allowed to make your own decisions, Alex. If you want to go with Hank, then that's fine.”

Alex nodded and kissed Darwin softly. “Sorry. I'm just so used to being told what to do.”

“I know,” Darwin said quietly. “But you're not anymore and you never will be again.”

Alex nodded again. “I might need reminders of that for a while.”

“You'll get all the reminders you need,” Darwin said, sliding out of the booth when he heard his name called out. “I'll come to Hank's office on my next break and see how you are doing.”

“Thanks,” Alex said as Darwin walked away.

“Well, shall we?” Hank asked, and Alex gathered up the newspaper in front of him.

“Yes,” Alex murmured, standing up as Hank did the same. “I, um, I want to talk to you about something Darwin said to me about going to rehab. I kind of really need it and he said that the company would pay for it, which I just cannot believe.”

Hank motioned towards the door that led into the back and Alex started walking in that direction. “Well, believe it. We're willing to do whatever is necessary to help get you back on your feet, even if that means paying for you to go to rehab. I'll get Erik, the owner, in there before you leave tonight. He'll tell you the same things I will, I promise.”

Alex sucked in a deep breath as they walked into the back. “That's amazing. Like, unbelievably amazing.”

“Well, deciding to seek treatment is a brave decision, and it's something that we fully support,” Hank said, inwardly sighing with relief to find the door to Scott's office still shut. “Come on, my office is just over here. And do you want a drink or something? Maybe something to eat? You can have whatever you want on the house.”

Alex turned to Hank and gave him a shy smile. “I am kind of hungry.”

“Then once you get settled in the office, I'll go grab a menu and you can order whatever you want off of it,” Hank said, smiling back. “I'd tell you what is good but to be honest, the whole menu is really good.”

“Then I can't wait to read it and see my options,” Alex said as he walked into the office. “Thanks for this, Hank. I don't want to be in the way when I come in here.”

“You'll never be in the way, Alex,” Hank said. “You'll learn that pretty quickly, hopefully. You're part of the family now and you will always be welcome here. How about you sit on the sofa and I'll go grab that menu, okay? Do you want water or a soda?”

“Water is fine,” Alex said, sitting down.

“Then I'll be right back,” Hank said, walking out of the office and shutting the door behind him.

Now he just had to pray that Erik kept Scott occupied long enough for Jean to finish her dinner and come help break the news that Alex was sitting in what was Station Thirty and that his brother was in the office next door.

Chapter Text

Erik smiled when the door to his office opened and Jean walked in. “Jean, it's wonderful to see you.”

“You and I are going to have a very long conversation later,” Jean said seriously, sitting down across from the desk. “But we have a situation happening that you need to be aware of.”

“Is everyone okay?” Erik asked, alarmed.

“Everyone is fine,” Jean assured. “Scott's about to be ecstatic, I think.”

“I am very confused,” Erik murmured. “So please enlighten me.”

Jean took a deep breath. “We found Alex.”

Erik's jaw dropped and he sat up straight. “What?”

“The Alex that Charles has always mentioned is Scott's brother,” Jean said softly. “Darwin is his boyfriend.”

“Holy fuck,” Erik exclaimed. “Scott didn't say anything to me about this.”

“Scott doesn't know yet, but he is about to,” Jean said, taking another deep breath. “Alex came into the restaurant for the first time today. Scott hasn't seen him yet. Right now Alex is in Hank's office eating some dinner and we're about to tell him that we know where his brother is.”

“You're really serious,” Erik said after a moment. “Alex Summers is currently under this roof.”

“Yes, he is,” Jean replied. “And what I need you to do is keep Scott away from Hank's office for a while. This is something that needs to be done carefully. We don't want to spook Alex.”

“Of course,” Erik said, glancing at the clock. “I'll get him to go down to the club with me, have him and Bobby get me up to speed on what's been happening down there. If Alex is ready to see him, get Vanessa or Ellie to page me, and I'll bring Scott up here.”

“That sounds good,” Jean said, standing up. “We'll get this reunion happening as soon as possible. I'm just so glad I can finally talk about this.”

“You knew?” Erik asked as he stood as well.

“Yes. I've known since they started seeing Ororo, but she told me not to say anything and just let it happen organically. I just didn't think it would take this long. At least Scott and I will have no shortage of things to talk about on our date.”

Erik paused near the door. “Date?”

“Things changed when he was shot and just...it's time for a date. It sounds like he's been wanting to go on one for a long time so this is a good thing.”

“This is a great thing,” Erik said, smiling. “I'll go distract him now by asking about this date. I'm sure he'll have a lot to say about it.”

“Thanks, Erik,” Jean said as they walked out of the office. “I really appreciate it.”

“I'll do anything to make this happen,” Erik said, walking towards Scott's office.

Jean took a deep breath as she approached Hank's office door, took another one for good measure, thought about what she was going to say, and then opened the door.

This was going to go well.

It had to.

**********

“Look, all you have got to do is go in there and tell them what happened to you,” Sebastian said, pulling Charles along behind him. “Seriously that sounds like so easy because I know there is no way that you have forgotten that.”

“I'll never forget it,” Charles said, sighing as they made their way backstage. “But it is so hard for me to talk about and now they want me to do it in front of a ton of people I don't know.”

Sebastian stopped halfway down the small hallway and turned towards Charles, gently pressing him against the wall. “You will be just fine, I promise. Tell me what day you are testifying and I'll make sure that I'm there for you and all that shit.”

“You...” Charles paused and swallowed hard. “You'll come to the trial for me?”

Sebastian huffed. “Well, you clearly need some sort of emotional support so you can do this. And I might be shallow as fuck, darling, but I'm not an idiot.”

“I wasn't trying to imply that you were,” Charles said, leaning forward and pressing their lips together. “Thanks, honey.”

“It's totally not that big of a deal,” Sebastian said, resuming his walk to the dressing room. “I mean, this is what I'm supposed to do as part of this relationship thing, isn't it?”

“For the ten gazillionth time, we don't have a relationship,” Charles said, following him into the room. “So I don't want you to feel obligated to do something you don't want to do.”

“Relationship or not, I didn't mean it like that,” Sebastian said, sitting down at the vanity. “I want to do it. I was just pointing out that it's the right thing to do for this relationship nonsense or whatever.”

“Relationships are not nonsense and you will realize that one day, I'm sure.”

“I didn't mean I'm ever going to have a relationship beyond this, darling,” Sebastian sighed. “Fuck, I'm not doing too well with this talking thing tonight, am I?”

Charles laughed. “Is there ever a time that you do the talking thing well?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Sebastian shot back at him. “For real though, I know that relationships are not nonsense. I just think that all these relationship rules and guidelines and shit are nonsense. Stereotypes, and you should do this if this is the situation, and self-help books, and magazine articles, and all that. That shit is the nonsense.”

Charles laughed some more. “Have you been reading Cosmo again?”

“Maybe,” Sebastian pouted. “Oh, come on! I had to buy it!”

Charles grinned at him. “If you say so.”

“One of these days, Charles, you will learn to appreciate the wonders of fashion and gossip magazines,” Sebastian declared, turning to look at his reflection. “Fuck, I look horrible tonight.”

Charles rolled his eyes. “You look amazing.”

“My hair is like six different kinds of a disaster,” Sebastian said, running his fingers through it. “I am entirely thinking of like shaving it all off or something.”

“Don't you dare!” Charles exclaimed, standing up and walking over to him. “Don't you even fucking think about it!”

Sebastian pulled Charles down for a kiss. “I won't then. But we should totally do a salon day.”

“A salon day?”

Sebastian rolled his eyes. “Yes, you know, pick one of the fancy salons here in the city and have them do the works on us. We'll get fantabulous designer haircuts and facials and all that shit. Ooh, we are so doing this. You'll love it.”

“Um, alright,” Charles said, giving Sebastian a confused look. “I don't think I understand the point of this, but yeah.”

Sebastian laughed. “Consider it the next part of you becoming comfortable then. I mean, you can't just stay so sheltered forever. You are going to have to venture out more.”

“But I...” Charles trailed off and pulled away from Sebastian. “Never mind. Salon day. Okay.”

Sebastian frowned and made his way over to the sofa, sitting down next to Charles and pulling him into his arms. “What is it, darling?”

“Where do I draw the line, Seb? I don't want to turn into a girl.”

Sebastian sighed and dropped his head onto Charles's shoulder. “Listen to me. A designer haircut and a facial does not mean that you are turning into a girl.”

“Moira goes and does that all the time,” Charles pointed out. “Emma too.”

“Of course, they do. It's called treating yourself fabulously,” Sebastian said, tangling his fingers together with Charles's. “I'm not going to let you turn into a girl, alright? Trust me.”

Charles nodded after a moment. “Okay. I'll trust you.”

“You better,” Sebastian said, sitting up and reaching for his bag. “Gah, Janos and Azazel better get here fucking soon or else I'm going to scream. We haven't finished perfecting the look for tonight yet.”

**********

Jubilee looked up when the door opened, smiling when Scott walked into the room. “Scott! Do you want a drink? I'll make it for you.”

“Not a fucking thing for me,” Scott said, glancing back at the door. “You want a drink?”

Erik laughed as he walked through the door. “Something tells me that I'll get through tonight better if I stay relatively sober, so no.”

Jubilee's jaw dropped as Erik walked over to them, leaning up against the bar. Her eyes had widened almost comically and she spoke before she could think. “Erik! It's so nice to see you. I mean, now that you're back. Fuck, everyone is going to kill you. Theresa first. She felt like she lost her father again. I mean, I don't want to kill you for leaving but for how you made my girlfriend feel? You're definitely dead for that. Or, well, fuck.”

Erik laughed. “It's good to see you too, Jubes. And that was cute.”

“No, it really wasn't,” Jubilee mumbled, smiling slightly. “I meant it about killing you.”

“I'd deserve it,” Erik said, sighing. “Something tells me that I'll be back for that drink by the end of the night though.”

“Oh, would you get over this ridiculous thought that everyone is going to use you as a punching bag or something,” Scott said, shaking his head.

“Says the man who hasn't been threatened with slaps all afternoon.”

“Well, I'd like to see them try,” Scott said. “They'll have to get through me first.”

Erik sighed. “They're just trying to protect Charles.”

“Well, they are just going to have to deal with the fact that none of them are hitting you. I highly doubt that Charles would want that happening,” Scott said, turning back to Jubilee. “Look, I'm sure this will spread like wildfire through the queens tonight so feel free to confirm that Erik is back in town if any of them ask, okay?”

“Alright,” Jubilee said, nodding. “I can do that.”

“Thanks, Jubes,” Erik said, smiling at her. “And don't be so hard on Kitty when she gets back. She's the reason that I'm here right now.”

Jubilee gave him a look of surprise. “What?”

“I'll let her tell the tale,” Erik said, heading in the direction of the offices. “Bobby here?”

“He's in the office!” Jubilee called out as Scott followed after him.

Once they had disappeared, she reached for her phone and immediately called Kitty. She waited a few seconds for someone to pick up, and the moment she heard the hello, she started talking. “Erik is here saying that you are the reason that he is back so you better believe that I need that fucking story right now, you bitch.”

A laugh filtered through. “Jubilee, this is Marie. Kitty's in the shower right now.”

“Oh,” Jubilee said, deflated. “Can you have her call me as soon as she's out then? I need the answers to this before I have to start working.”

“Well, I can give you the answers if you'd like.”

Jubilee immediately perked up again. “That would be fucking amazing, Marie. Do tell.”

“Erik called Kitty the day after Halloween, Kitty heard Raven in the background and realized he was in Los Angeles with her, the two of us went to Los Angeles to track her down, and Kitty talked Erik into coming back to New York with us,” Marie said simply.

“What?” Jubilee exclaimed. “Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Marie replied. “And if you want more details, well, I'll leave that up to Kitty. You'll see her tonight anyway. The two of us are coming to Genosha with a couple of friends of mine from Los Angeles.”

“So I have to watch the bitch party when she should be working? Fuck that,” Jubilee muttered. “Thank you for the information, Marie. I will see you tonight.”

Jubilee hung up the phone before Marie could say anything else, glanced over at the clock before looking around the bar for a moment. It seemed like Scott's clean up from earlier that morning had been detailed enough that she didn't have as much work as usual to set up for that night, so she ducked underneath the bar and headed in the direction of the door.

Theresa had to hear all about this, and she had to hear all about it right now.

**********

Kitty gasped as Remy came rushing at her, pinning her against the bar and quickly sticking his tongue down her throat. She scrambled around for a moment before someone hauled Remy backward, looking up into the annoyed face of her girlfriend. “Marie, he's drunk.”

“That doesn't mean he should be fucking kissing you,” Marie said defensively, shoving Remy at Belladonna and sliding closer to Kitty. “He's got his bitch to kiss.”

Kitty growled and pulled Marie closer. “I kind of like it when you imply that I'm your bitch, you know that?”

“Better be only mine,” Marie said, smiling at her before kissing Kitty quickly. “Jubilee is staring at us.”

“Let her,” Kitty muttered, pulling Marie into a deeper kiss.

Jubilee reached out and smacked the back of Kitty's head. “This is so ridiculously unfair. Like the highest level of unfair. And you won't even tell me the fucking story.”

Kitty pulled away from Marie and turned to look at her. “Jubes, calm the fuck down, okay? I'll tell you the story before we have to open up when I get back to work in a couple of days.”

“Fucking bitch,” Jubilee mumbled, glancing over at Belladonna and Remy. “You two want another drink?”

Marie laughed as Remy held his glass out to Jubilee, nodding furiously. “I don't even know what this is but I want like the whole bottle of it.”

Jubilee snatched the glass away from him and took a quick sip. “It's a Tom Collins. I'll make you another one. Anyone else?”

“I want another beer,” Kitty said, reaching out to ruffle Jubilee's hair lightly.

Jubilee rolled her eyes. “You are being ridiculously boring tonight, drinking beer. Have a proper fucking drink already.”

“Nope, I want to stay relatively sober tonight,” Kitty said, glancing around the club. “So, tell me what's gone down with Erik so far.”

“Like nothing,” Jubilee said, reaching for the gin. “But then again, Sebastian doesn't seem to have seen him yet, and you know that's when the big meltdown starts.”

Kitty sighed as Marie started to nuzzle her neck, a soft smile on her face. “I don't understand why everyone has to get so mad at him. So he made a mistake. Big deal. We make mistakes all the fucking time and he doesn't hold them against us.”

“Yeah, but we don't disappear for months on end when we do,” Jubilee said, handing Remy his drink and bending down to grab another beer for Kitty. “He at least deserves a couple of days of everyone bitching at him.”

“There's the difference between bitching at him and what you know Sebastian is going to do,” Kitty said, glancing over at the stage where Sebastian was dancing away. “I am so fucking worried about what's going to happen.”

Jubilee knocked Kitty in the head with the bottle. “Stop being like that. Sebastian will do what he will do and there's nothing you can do to stop that. And what do you fucking care so much for anyway? All we get to do is watch what is sure to be a great bitch fight. You love those.”

Kitty snatched the bottle away from her. “Not when it's between two members of the family, I don't.”

Chapter Text

Alex forced himself to take a deep breath, and then another, and then another. His eyes blinked a few times before he shook his head, certain that he didn't possibly hear what it is he thought he heard. “This,” he finally croaked out, “this used to be Station Thirty?”

“Yes,” Jean said softly, sitting down on the sofa next to him and placing a gentle hand on his knee. “It was rebranded Genosha about two years ago.”

Alex sucked in another deep breath. “Is there still a club in the basement?”

“Yep,” Hank said, walking around his desk and pulling the other chair closer to the sofa. “It's turned into the place to be for gay nightlife in this area.”

Alex brought his hands up and ran them over his face, taking three more deep breaths before finally asking it. “Does Scott Summers still manage it?”

“No, he doesn't,” Jean said, and Alex's head dropped down.

“Of course,” he muttered. “Of course.”

“Scott manages the entire place,” Jean continued, and Alex's head shot up.

“What?”

“Scott was promoted to the manager of the entire business some time ago,” Jean said as she smiled at him. “He's been in the office next to this one all day.”

Alex started to shake and Jean gently squeezed his knee. “It's okay, Alex. I promise.”

“Does he,” Alex started, then stopped for a moment when his eyes filled with tears. “Does he know I'm here?”

“No,” Hank said, shaking his head. “We wanted to talk to you before we told him. Otherwise, I think Scott would be banging the door down right now trying to get to you.”

“He would?” Alex got out before his voice broke.

“Scott has searched for you since the moment that you disappeared,” Jean said, drawing Alex's attention back to her. “He's tried and tried and tried to find you but he never did. There have been a lot of people who have tried to get him to give it up, tried to tell him that you probably were no longer alive, but he never would.”

Alex took in a shuddering breath. “Really?”

“Yes,” Jean confirmed. “I know for a fact that he is going to be so happy to see you.”

“Even after what I've become?”

“You haven't become anything, Alex. You were forced to do things that you never wanted to do,” Jean stressed. “And you are away from that life now. You have the chance to create a new life for yourself. All you have to do is take it.”

Alex swallowed hard as tears started to run down his cheeks. “I'm so fucked up, Jean,” he got out. “I'm an addict and a drunk and a whore. There's no way he's going to want anything to do with me.”

“That couldn't be further from the truth,” Jean said, reaching out to wipe away his tears. “Scott knows what you've been through. He's gone through this journey with Charles and with Darwin. He has been telling Darwin for months that he wants to help you go through this journey too. He just has no idea that the Alex that Charles and Darwin have told him about is his brother.”

Alex swallowed hard again before leaning back into the sofa and letting out a small laugh. “That actually does sound like something Scott would do. He loves helping people.”

“I know he does,” Hank said, smiling at him. “He does whatever he can for anyone who is here. We have become his family, but none of us come close to meaning to him what I know you do. He searched desperately for you and we promised him that we were going to find you. And we have, just not in the way that anyone would have wanted it to go.”

Alex sat there for a moment before looking over at Jean. “Do you think he'd actually talk to me?”

“I think you'll find that he won't let you out of his sight,” Jean said, squeezing his knee again. “Alex, I know that it is really hard to trust people after what you've been through. But I need you to trust me when I tell you that Scott will be so happy to see you. He's not going to care about what you had to do to survive. He's going to care about the fact that you're right there in front of him.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“So, like,” Alex started before pausing. “You could go get him right now?”

“I could go get him right now,” Jean said, smiling at him. “Would you like me to? He's down in the club by now but finding him will be easy enough.”

Alex stayed silent for a minute before nodding. “Yeah, I'd like that.”

Jean gave him a wide smile. “Then stay here with Hank and I will be back with Scott in a little bit.”

Alex turned his attention to Hank as Jean stood up. “You guys are really serious?”

“We're really serious,” Hank said as Jean walked out the door. “You'll be reunited with your brother in a little while.”

Alex gave him a genuine smile. “I would really, really like that.”

“I'm sure,” Hank said, standing up. “Would you like some ice cream? I can go get some from the kitchen while we wait.”

Alex nodded. “That would be great. Thank you, Hank.”

**********

Sebastian jumped down from the stage as soon as the show was over, pushing his way through the crowd as he headed towards where he had noticed them standing. He could see the disapproving look on Bobby's face as he approached, the way that Bobby moved as if to shield Erik from him, but it was far, far too late for that. Sebastian already knew that the motherfucker was back.

“Sebastian,” he heard Bobby warn as he came to a stop in front of them, but Sebastian just shook his head and pushed Bobby out of the way.

“Bobby, I would appreciate it if you would stay out of this.” Sebastian took a step forward and saw Erik's hesitant smile. “Erik. Welcome back.”

Erik started to respond but Sebastian didn't give him the chance to, giving him a solid right hook before Erik even realized that Sebastian was going to punch him. Sebastian heard the people around them gasp as Erik dropped down to the floor, but he just shook his head as Bobby fell to his knees beside him. “Bobby, get out of the way. Stand the fuck back up, you bitch. I'm not doing with you yet!”

“Sebastian.” He heard John's voice in his ear, frowning when he felt fingers wrap tightly around his elbows and pull his arms back. “Sebastian, stop.”

Sebastian glanced behind him as John pulled him against his chest, shaking his head. “John, fucking let go of me.”

“No,” John said, letting go of his elbows to wrap his arms around Sebastian's chest, pinning his arms at his side. “Baby, is he alright?”

“I think so.” Bobby was staring at Erik with wide eyes, trying to figure out what to do about the blood that was slowly trickling from Erik's nose. “Erik, you're bleeding,” he whispered, reaching towards him before quickly pulling his hand back. “I don't...”

Erik sighed and pushed himself up, glancing at the people staring down at them. “We've got to get...you can't...no one can...there's too many people around...I can't believe Sebastian fucking punched me.”

“You deserve a hell of a lot more than one motherfucking punch!” Sebastian called out, struggling against John as he tried to pull loose. “Fucking hell, John, let go of me!”

“Sebastian, shut the fuck up!” Bobby said, glaring at him. “Johnny, drag his ass backstage or something, will you? And what the fuck are all you queens looking at?”

The crowd started to disperse as John tried to haul Sebastian away, Sebastian fighting his every step. “I am not going motherfucking anywhere until I am finished with him!”

“SEBASTIAN!” Bobby yelled out, standing up. “Go backstage. NOW.”

Sebastian stared at him for a moment before nodding, not fighting John when he started to pull them towards the stage. “He hurt Charles so much, Johnny,” he mumbled, the adrenaline starting to fade away. “He deserved it.”

“I know he hurt Charles,” John said, pushing the door to the backstage area open. “But is hurting him in return really going to solve anything?”

Sebastian shrugged. “Makes me feel better.”

John rolled his eyes as he shoved Sebastian into the dressing room. “Fucking hell, Sebastian, does everything have to be about you?”

“You don't understand how much it hurts to see Charles like that!” Sebastian exclaimed, kicking at the sofa. “I was doing it to help Charles.”

John shoved him, watching with angry eyes as Sebastian fell backward onto the sofa. “I don't care how much that hurts! How on earth could you possibly think that hitting him was going to help Charles? All it's done is make things worse!”

Sebastian frowned. “It has not.”

“You think that Charles is going to be happy you punched the man that he's most attached to? I guarantee you that he fucking won't be.” John grabbed a towel off the shelf and tossed it at Sebastian. “You better get yourself cleaned up before they get in here unless you want to bleed all over those clothes.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes. “No one is going to hit me.”

“Why the fuck not?” John said, dropping down onto the sofa. “Sebastian, I can't believe you fucking did that.”

“I had to do something,” Sebastian mumbled. “It was the first thing that came to mind.”

They looked up when the door banged open, Bobby marching in while Erik came in behind him. “You are motherfucking lucky I don't kill you right now, Sebastian.”

“How can anyone possibly be standing up for him?” Sebastian stood up and got in Bobby's face. “What, did you forget everything that had happened the moment he showed back up? What did he do, drop to his knees and blow you like the good little whore that he is?”

Bobby reached out and slapped Sebastian hard across the face. “I understand that you're angry but don't you ever, ever fucking talk about him like that again. You know we're not supposed to use that word around here. Charles would kill you if he heard you right now.”

Sebastian blinked rapidly, his hand coming up to cover his cheek. “But he hurt Charles.”

“Yes, he did, but that is something for Erik and Charles to work out, not you,” Bobby said firmly, glancing back at Erik. “And there are reasons for what happened that you know absolutely nothing about. If Charles can forgive him, and he did, then that should be enough for the rest of us.”

“Well then maybe someone should clue the rest of us in on those fucking reasons!” Sebastian exclaimed, turning his gaze towards Erik. “You want us to forgive you so fucking badly then give me one good motherfucking reason why I shouldn't have hit you.”

Erik noticed a trace of red on Sebastian's hand and shook his head gently, grimacing when he felt a flash of pain through his nose. “You need to wash the blood off your hand, Sebastian. Now.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? That's not a fucking reason!”

Erik swallowed hard. “I will tell you as soon as you have washed the blood off your hand.”

“What fucking difference does it make if there is blood on my hand or not?”

“BECAUSE I'M MOTHERFUCKING POSITIVE!” Erik yelled out, slumping back against the wall as soon as the words had left his lips. “Go wash your fucking hand.”

Sebastian stared at him, jaw dropped. “What?”

John's eyes suddenly widened and he reached for the towel he'd tossed towards Sebastian earlier, standing up and pulling Sebastian towards the sink. “Come on, we've got to get this blood off of you.”

“You're...positive?” Sebastian stared at Erik as John shoved his hand under the running water, scrubbing at his skin with the corner of the towel.

“The hospital told me and I fucking freaked,” Erik said softly, leaning against Bobby when he rested up against the wall next to him. “That's why I left, okay? I had to get my fucking head together.”

John turned the water off and wrapped an arm around Sebastian's shoulders, pulling him close. “It's got to be wrong,” Sebastian said as he leaned into John's side. “It's got to be.”

“It's not wrong, Sebastian,” Erik said, pushing away from the wall and walking over to them. “Trust me, no one wishes it was wrong more than me, but it's not wrong.”

Sebastian reached out and grabbed onto Erik's arm when he was close enough. “Were you ever going to tell us?”

“I don't know,” Erik said, giving them a soft smile. “It's, um, I don't really know how to talk about it yet. I had a hell of a time telling Charles.”

“You're not sick at the moment though, right?” John asked, flashing Erik a concerned look. “I mean, you've been taking care of yourself and stuff?”

Erik sighed and reached for the towel, looking towards the mirror and wiping the blood off his face. “No, I'm not sick, but I haven't been taking very good care of myself either. That's going to change now that I'm home.”

“Erik,” Sebastian said softly. “I don't know what to say.”

Erik shrugged. “What is there to say? I don't want people's sympathy or pity. It was my mistake and these are my consequences.”

Bobby coughed from behind them. “You could apologize for hitting him, Sebastian.”

“No!” Sebastian called out, shaking his head vehemently. “I'm not sorry about that. He hurt Charles too much.”

“It's alright,” Erik said, staring at the towel for a moment before tossing it into the trash. “Sebastian doesn't have to apologize.”

“Yes, he does,” Bobby argued.

Erik shook his head. “I deserved it. I wish you hadn't done it in the middle of the dance floor,” he said, turning his gaze back to Sebastian. “But I can understand why you did.”

Sebastian squirmed out of John's embrace and threw himself at Erik, hugging him close and burying his face in his neck. “Oh, Erik.”

Erik closed his arms around Sebastian's back and sighed. “I missed you, kid. I'm glad you took good care of Charles while I was gone.”

“I had to,” Sebastian mumbled, closing his eyes. “And I'm glad you're back now. Charles will be happier.”

Erik sighed and looked at John, seeing the concern in his eyes. “I think everyone will be happier. I also think I probably need to go to an emergency room because I'm pretty sure you broke my nose.”

“I can take you,” John said, looking over at Bobby. “You've got to get back to work, baby.”

“Yeah, I do,” Bobby said, jumping when the door opened and Janos and Azazel came strolling in.

“Erik, Vanessa is paging you like crazy right now,” Janos said, pulling his shirt over his head.

“Yeah, and can you all like get out?” Azazel added. “Janos and I need some personal time.”

John rolled his eyes as Erik let go of Sebastian. “You two are not fucking in here again.”

“It's alright,” Erik said, walking towards the door. “They can do what they want.”

“What?” John said, but Erik just shook his head.

“Let them fuck, John. I've got to take care of something and then we can go to the emergency room, okay?” Erik said as he walked out of the room, pausing in the hallway to take as deep of a breath as he could before he started walking again. “I need to go find Scott.”

Chapter Text

Scott took one look at Erik and shook his head. “Who hit you?”

“Sebastian,” Erik said, looking in the mirror behind the bar and noticing that the bruising had already begun. “John's going to take me to the emergency room in a bit because I think he broke my nose.”

“Well, from looking at you, I would agree with that assessment,” Scott said, leaning up against the bar again. “Hey, Jubes, get me a soda, will you? I'm about to take my break.”

“Don't do that,” Erik said, stopping Jubilee in her tracks. “Scott can get one upstairs because that's where he's going.”

“What?” Scott asked, but Erik just started walking away.

“You're coming upstairs with me!” he called back. “Now!”

Scott looked at Jubilee, who just shrugged. “Guess I'm going upstairs then. You okay to handle things for a few?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jubilee said, looking at the line before sighing. “It'll move slowly but I'll get through it.”

“I'll make sure you get a bit of a bonus for this,” Scott said before ducking out from underneath the bar and heading in the direction Erik had gone.

Erik was waiting for him at the base of the stairs that led up to the club, and as soon as the door into the club was shut, he reached out and put his hand on Scott's shoulder. “I need you to trust me, okay?”

“Erik, what the fuck is this about? I need to be behind the bar helping Jubes out. We're about to get another rush.”

“I'll deal with that,” Erik said, smiling at him. “I just need you to trust me.”

Scott stared at him for a moment before nodding. “Of course, I trust you,” he said. “Why wouldn't I?”

“Well, after the last nine months, I wasn't sure you would,” Erik said, squeezing his shoulder. “Come on. We're going up into Hank's office.”

“Can this seriously not wait until tomorrow?” Scott asked as Erik started walking up the stairs.

“It cannot wait until tomorrow, I promise,” Erik said, so Scott started walking up the stairs behind him.

They headed in the direction of Hank's office and found Jean waiting outside of it, and she frowned when Erik approached her. “What the hell happened to you?”

“Sebastian,” Erik said dismissively. “Is he ready?”

“Is who ready?” Scott asked as he came up behind him.

“He's ready,” Jean said, holding out her hand. “Scott, come here.”

“Then I'm going to leave you two to this and head to an emergency room,” Erik said, smiling at them. “If necessary, move this up to the apartment. Hank has a key.”

Jean nodded as Erik walked away, leaving Scott more confused than ever. She turned to him and held out her hand again. “Come here.”

Scott slowly walked over to her and let her take his hand. “What is going on?”

“Do you remember the promise I made to you a very long time ago?” Jean started. “The one when I promised you that I would tell you the moment I found out anything about Alex?”

“Yes,” Scott asked, still confused. “Why?”

“Because I broke it,” Jean said, taking a deep breath. “I've known about this for nine months and I wanted to tell you so desperately, but Ororo said that it needed to happen naturally. It just hasn't happened until now.”

Scott stared at her for a moment. “What?”

Jean took another deep breath. “The day that I took Charles to Ororo's office, the day he met her for the first time, there were two others in the waiting room when we got there. One was Darwin, and I stared at the other for a while trying to place him because he looked so familiar to me. And then Charles said his name and everything clicked into place.”

Scott blinked a few times. “What?” His voice was growing increasingly hoarse every time he spoke because Jean could not possibly be saying what he thought she was saying.

“The Alex that you've been hearing about, the Alex that Charles and Darwin know,” Jean said softly. “It's your brother, Scott.”

Scott felt like he could barely breathe, and Jean squeezed his hand while she watched the emotions cross his face. “It's him?” he finally got out, and Jean smiled at him.

“Yes, it's him,” Jean said, and Scott took in a shuddering breath.

“Do you know where he is?” Scott got out. “Because Darwin has been saying he's afraid that Alex was going to run on him.”

“He didn't run on him,” Jean said, squeezing his hand again. “In fact, he came in here with Darwin today.”

“And I missed him because Erik had me in the office all afternoon,” Scott groaned. “Fuck.”

“You didn't miss him,” Jean said, taking another deep breath and squeezing his hand. “He's in Hank's office right now.”

Scott swallowed hard as he processed that, taking a couple of deep breaths himself. “He's in Hank's office right now.”

“Yes,” Jean said. “And he's waiting for you. I told him that you were here and I said I would go get you. I had Erik in on it because it was easier for him to get you to come up here at the right moment than it would be for me to.”

“Erik knows he's here?”

“Yes, I told Erik earlier,” Jean said, smiling at him. “Are you ready to go in there and see your brother?”

Scott shook his head, trying to wake himself up from this nightmare he must be having. “I'm dreaming. Wake me up already.”

“You're not dreaming, I promise,” Jean stressed. “I wouldn't do this to you, not even in your dreams, if it wasn't true.”

Scott closed his eyes. “I need a few minutes,” he finally said. “I need to process this a bit before I see him.”

“Then we'll wait a few minutes,” Jean said, peering at him with some concern. “Do you want to go into your office?”

Scott nodded and opened his eyes. “Yes.”

“Then let's go to your office,” Jean said, walking towards it and pulling Scott along. “Is there anything else you need?”

“I need a drink,” Scott said as he fumbled with the keys. “A nice, large glass of whiskey.”

“I'm not getting you that and you know it,” Jean said, taking the keys from Scott's hand. “Which one is it?”

Scott pointed to the right one and Jean got the door unlocked, leading him into the room and flipping the lights on. Scott headed straight towards the sofa and collapsed down onto it, putting his head in his hands. “Well, if you're not going to let me have that, can you at least go get me some water or soda or something to drink? My throat feels so dry right now.”

Jean bent down and pressed a kiss to his head. “I'll be right back with something. You stay here. I don't want you going into that room alone.”

“Jean,” Scott called out when she was about to walk out the door. “You're really being serious about this?”

“I'm really being serious about this, I promise,” Jean said, smiling at him. “I'll be right back with that water, okay?”

Scott nodded as Jean shut the door behind her, laying down onto the sofa and putting his hands over his face. If the Alex that he'd been told all about over the last nine months really was his Alex, then that meant Alex had been through the hell that Charles and Darwin had, and he really didn't know how to process that. All he knew was that his brother must be incredibly fucked up and he was going to help fix that.

He had to.

**********

Darwin threw his apron on the counter and sighed heavily, looking over at Peter. “Fuck, dinner was packed tonight.”

“Don't complain about that because it's a good thing,” Peter said, tossing his apron onto the counter as well. “I made enough tips to finally be able to buy those new trainers I was telling you about.”

“I can't believe you're about to spend that amount of money on a pair of shoes,” Darwin said, shaking his head. “That money would buy me and Alex groceries for a month.”

“Well, I am lucky in that I don't have to worry about things like groceries and can therefore buy myself things like those trainers,” Peter said, grinning at him. “They're going to look so unbelievably sick. Like, so, so cool.”

Darwin just rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I need to go get Alex and get us home. I'm still amazed that I actually got him to come here today.”

“That's really good though. Means there's been some progress, right?” Peter said, looking up when Jean walked into the room. “Hey, Jean. I didn't know you were still here.”

“Hi, Peter,” she said, walking over to them. “Darwin, can I talk to you for a moment?”

“Sure,” Darwin said, following her into the kitchen. “Can you make it kind of fast? I need to get Alex and get home.”

“Alex needs to stay here for a little while,” Jean said, smiling at him. “A big event is happening today and he's going to need all the support he can get.”

“What are you talking about?” Darwin asked, confused.

“I have known about this for a very long time, but Ororo said that it needed to happen naturally,” Jean started. “But Alex is Scott's younger brother.”

Darwin's jaw dropped. “What?”

“He's Scott's younger brother,” Jean repeated. “And Alex has been told that Scott is here, and Scott has been told that Alex is here, but they haven't seen each other yet. Since the dinner shift is over now, I thought I'd come to get you and bring you into Hank's office so you can be there for him while this is going on. It's going to be very emotional for both of them.”

Darwin stood there as that sunk in. “You're being serious.”

“I'm very serious about this,” Jean said, walking further into the kitchen. “I need to get Scott some water, but you go on into Hank's office, okay? Alex is in there with Hank. Let him know that Scott will be there soon.”

Darwin nodded and made his way back out into the dining room, and Peter peered at him with some concern. “You alright, Darwin? You look terrible.”

“Alex is Scott's brother,” he said without thinking, looking up at Peter. “The brother that I've heard so much about for so many years has been right here beside me this whole time and I didn't even put two and two together and realize it. They could have been reunited months ago.”

“Hey, hey,” Peter said, walking over to him and putting a hand on Darwin's shoulder. “There is no way that you could have known that it was Scott. Scott is like a super common name.”

“But Summers. His last name is fucking Summers,” Darwin murmured. “I should have known. I should have. This could have helped Alex months ago.”

“Darwin,” Peter said, “you need to stop thinking about what could have been and focus on now. Alex is going to need you now, not have you worrying about something that you cannot change. What happened has happened. Focus on the now.”

“You're right,” Darwin said after a moment. “I know you're right. But I just...”

“No buts,” Peter said, squeezing his shoulder. “What did Jean tell you to do?”

“Go in Hank's office and help Alex get through this.”

“Then go in Hank's office and help Alex get through this,” Peter said, pulling Darwin towards the offices. “Alex needs you to do that.”

Darwin nodded as they reached the right hallway, walking down it to the right office before looking back at Peter. “Thanks, Peter.”

“Don't thank me, I didn't do anything,” Peter said, turning and walking towards the stairs up to the apartment. “I'll show you the trainers as soon as I get them! I think you're really going to like them!”

“They're still too expensive!” Darwin called back, turning to face Hank's office's door before taking a deep breath.

Alex needed him. That was what he had to focus on.

But it would be a while before he got over the fact that he could have helped facilitate this reunion a lot sooner. He knew how much finding his brother meant to Alex. He knew how disappointed that Alex had been when he couldn't find references to Station Thirty anywhere. He should have asked the history of Genosha a long time ago, should have learned that it used to be Station Thirty and put two and two together.

Darwin shook his head to break himself of those thoughts. Peter was right. Focus on the now, and the now was that Alex needed him.

He took another deep breath and opened the office door. He was going to be the best boyfriend in the history of the world right now because that's what Alex needed him to be.

**********

The door to the dressing room banged open and Sebastian barely had time to look up before Charles had hit him hard. He blinked as the world spun for a moment before turning his gaze back to Charles, swallowing hard when he saw the fire in his eyes. “Hello, darling?” he tried, and that just made Charles hit him again.

“What the fuck did you do?” Charles seethed. “Because Erik told me that you punched him and if that is true then we are so completely done. Completely.”

Sebastian swallowed hard again. “I, um, well, I...”

“Oh, he punched him alright,” came Janos's voice, and Charles looked over to see him and Azazel tangled together on the sofa, naked. “Right in the middle of the dance floor after the show. Caused quite the stir.”

“Do you two ever do anything besides dance and fuck?” Charles asked, shaking his head before turning back to Sebastian. “You motherfucking punched him?”

“It was the first thing that came to mind!” Sebastian said in defense. “I had to do something! He hurt you too much!”

“What he did is between me and him,” Charles said sharply. “And I forgave him for it the second I saw him and heard what was going on. I've been told that you now know about that. Apparently, you don't care.”

“I do too!” Sebastian said, standing up. “You have no idea what Erik means to me!”

“No, I don't!” Charles yelled. “All I have ever heard you do is bitch about him! You have never once said a good thing about Erik to me, Sebastian!”

Sebastian sighed heavily. “I was a pet project, okay?” he whispered, not wanting Janos and Azazel to hear. “I am just so far removed from that place in my life that I don't like to talk about it, and so I don't want anyone who doesn't know to know. There. That's what Erik means to me.”

Charles's eyes widened. “What?”

“I'll tell you the story some other time when they aren't here to overhear it,” Sebastian said softly. “That is, if you're not completely done with me.”

Charles just shook his head. “You are staying far away from me for a very long time. When I am ready to speak to you again, you will know it.”

Charles turned around and walked out of the dressing room without giving Sebastian a chance to respond, slamming the door behind him for good measure. He headed back out into the club and over to the bar, shaking his head when he saw how overwhelmed Jubilee was. “Where's Scott?”

“Erik needed him for something upstairs. He's been gone for way too long though. I'm dying back here,” Jubilee said, finishing up a drink and sliding it across the bar. “If you could round me up some help, I'll be eternally grateful.”

“Give me a few,” Charles said, pushing away from the bar and looking around the club.

He spotted them in a dark corner on the other side and headed straight in their direction, smiling at Kitty as he came up to the table. “KitKat, I understand I have you to thank for having Erik back here.”

“I don't need to be thanked,” Kitty said, standing up and walking over to him. “I just did what any of us would have done.”

“Well, I'm thanking you regardless,” Charles said, pulling her into a hug. “Listen, I need your help with something. Can you come with me for a while?”

Kitty looked back at the table and Marie just grinned at her. “Go on, babe. We're good here.”

“Then I'll be back soon, okay?” Kitty linked her arm through Charles's and smiled. “Lead on.”

“So, here's the deal, okay?” Charles said as they began to walk. “Erik took Scott upstairs for something important and he hasn't come back down here, and Jubes is absolutely swamped. So, can you please, please, please do me a favor and go behind the bar and help for a little while?”

Kitty stopped walking and Charles turned to her, making her sigh. “I'm not working tonight, Charles.”

“I will make sure that Erik gives you an unbelievably large bonus for everything you just did for him, including this,” Charles said, unsure of whether he could actually make that happen or not. “Please, Kitty. I wouldn't be asking if Jubilee hadn't looked so overwhelmed.”

Kitty stared at him for a moment before sighing heavily. “That bonus better be nearing four figures then,” she said as she started walking again. “Dropping everything and going to Los Angeles isn't cheap, even with Marie's job.”

“I'll do what I can, baby,” Charles said, leading her to the bar. “Jubes! Got you some help!”

“Thanks, Charles!” Jubilee called out without looking over at them. “Hiya, sexy. What can I get you?”

Kitty took a moment to survey the scene before ducking underneath the bar and grinning at the first person she saw. “Hiya, baby. What can I get you?”

Jubilee looked over at the sound of Kitty's voice and grinned triumphantly. “I knew that this little vacation of yours was going to end spectacularly for me.”

“Shut the fuck up and work, Jubes, or I'm leaving you alone again,” Kitty said as she reached for some vodka. “And I mean that.”

“Fine, fine.”

Chapter Text

Jean squeezed Scott's hand as they approached the door to Hank's office, making him look over at her. “This is all going to be okay, I promise.”

“I just,” Scott got out before pausing. “I just can't believe this is real.”

“It is,” Jean said softly. “I promise.”

Scott nodded and stopped in front of the door, taking a couple of deep breaths. “He's really in there.”

“He's really in there,” Jean confirmed. “Are you ready?”

Scott took a moment before nodding again, and then Jean knocked on the door a couple of times. It was a few moments before Hank said they could come in, and then Jean slowly opened the door. Scott took a couple of steps into the office before his gaze landed on Alex, and his eyes welled up with tears. Alex's hair was longer, he was a whole lot skinnier, and he looked like the drug addict he probably was. But it was him. It really was him.

“Alex,” he said as the tears started to stream down his cheeks. “Oh God, Alex.”

“Scotty,” Alex said as he stood up, and then they were both taking steps forward. “It's you. It's really you.”

“It's really you,” Scott countered back, staring at him for a moment before reaching out and pulling Alex into a tight embrace. “I thought I'd never see you again.”

“I thought I'd never see you again too,” Alex said, and then they both started crying harder. “I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” Scott sobbed. “So, so much.”

Jean moved around them to stand next to Hank, and Hank wrapped a comforting arm around her waist. They stood there and watched the brothers sob in each other's arms, and all either of them could think about was how glad they were that this reunion was finally happening. They knew how much it meant to Scott, and they were pretty sure that it meant just as much to Alex.

Darwin was sitting on the sofa and he had tears running down his cheeks as well, knowing how much Alex had dreamed of this moment. He'd heard about his brother from the moment that Alex became under Cain's control and Darwin had tried to show him the way, heard about how much his brother must be wondering where he was, how much it hurt him to know how much Alex missing was going to hurt his brother. Scott meant everything to Alex, memories of him something to cling onto during the torturous years he spent doing Cain's bidding, and now Scott was there holding Alex in his arms. Darwin couldn't help but cry tears of joy for him.

“You're real,” Alex murmured after a few minutes.

“I'm real and so are you,” Scott replied.

“I searched for you so much after we got away and I just couldn't find where you used to work. I didn't even know if you would still work there. And then when Jean said earlier that you were here, I didn't really believe it, you know? Not until I saw you.”

“I searched for you for years. I never gave up hope, no matter how much I tried to at times. I nearly destroyed myself because I was in so much pain over the fact that you were gone. But now you're here. You're really here in my arms. And that's all that matters at the moment.”

“I hate myself,” Alex sobbed. “I hate what I've become.”

“Shh,” Scott soothed. “You didn't want to do it. I know you didn't want to do it. And I'm going to help you get back to the way you were before. Or, well, as much as you can. I know that things are forever changed. But I'm going to help you get through this, Alex. I promise.”

“I love you, Scotty,” Alex said, resting his head on Scott's shoulder. “I love you so much. I missed you so much.”

“I love you too, Alex. I missed you more than I can even express.” Scott turned and brushed a kiss along Alex's temple, hugging him closer. “Mom and Dad are going to be so happy to hear that you're alive. They are convinced that you're dead.”

“I,” Alex paused to sob, “I don't know if I can ever face them again.”

“We'll work on that then because I know the second I tell them that I've found you, they're going to be on a plane here from Alaska.”

Alex sobbed harder. “I can't tell them that I'm a whore now. I just can't.”

“You're not a whore,” Scott said firmly. “You were forced into doing something and you did it to survive. But you're not a whore, Alex. You're really not.”

“But I am,” Alex cried. “I'm a whore and I'm an addict and I'm a drunk. I'm so fucked up, Scotty. So unbelievably fucked up.”

“Shh,” Scott murmured. “We're going to help you, okay? Not just me but all of us. We're going to help you the way we've helped Darwin. The way we've helped Charles. I promise you, I will do whatever is necessary to help you. Anything.”

The door to the office opened then, Bobby sticking his head inside and immediately becoming confused. “Um, what's going on?”

“Bobby,” Hank said, walking over to the door and shoving him outside, closing the door behind them. “What do you need?”

“I need Scott back behind the bar,” Bobby said seriously. “Kitty is complaining heavily about the fact that she's working on a night she has off and I need my bartender back.”

“That's not going to happen,” Hank said, glancing back at the office. “We found Alex.”

Bobby's eyes widened. “What?”

“The Alex that Charles and Darwin are always talking about is Scott's brother. He came in here with Darwin today and we just reunited the two of them. There is no way Scott's going to be going back to work now.”

Bobby stood there for a moment before nodding. “This is clearly more important than Kitty having to work tonight. I'll make her understand.”

“I'm sure that she will,” Hank said. “Just explain the situation to her.”

“I'm going to,” Bobby said, looking at the office door. “It's really him? We've really found him?”

“It's really him,” Hank confirmed. “It's very emotional in there right now.”

“I can only imagine,” Bobby said, turning around and walking away. “Come find me before you leave for the night. I want to hear more about this.”

“I will, I promise,” Hank said, going back into the office. “Does anyone want anything from the kitchen? I think I'm going to get myself a drink.”

“A drink would be nice,” Alex said, pulling back from Scott for a moment. “Thank you, Hank. For everything.”

Hank just smiled at him as Alex went back into Scott's arms. “You are more than welcome. I'll be right back.”

Hank closed the door again and took a deep breath before heading in the direction of the kitchen.

They'd really found him. Now maybe Scott would finally feel whole again.

**********

Erik glanced at his reflection in the mirror before closing the sunshade and settling back into the seat. “I can't believe Sebastian fucking punched me.”

John climbed into the driver's seat and shut the door. “I can.”

“He's forgotten everything that I've done for him, I think,” Erik said, reaching for the seat belt and buckling himself in. “He was a whiny bitch to me before I left and I suspect this won't have helped anything.”

“I highly doubt that he's forgotten it,” John said, starting the car. “You saved him from the streets. But I know for a fact that he cares far more for Charles that he has admitted to anyone. Seeing Charles the way he was while you were gone really hurt him.”

Erik sighed heavily as John backed out of the parking space. “It was that bad?”

“You know how he was before you left? Magnify that by about twenty. I don't think I've seen him sober in the last nine months,” John said. “But at the same time, Charles is also a lot better than he was. He's willing to leave Genosha now, he has a lot easier of a time talking to strangers, he's opened up a lot more about his past and what happened to him, both before Cain and after. We've actually gotten to know him instead of just knowing about him. And he's great, Erik. He really is. But that's only going to make this situation with Sebastian worse, I think.”

“I'm glad to hear that he's opened up more. But now that I'm back, I really need to convince him to go to rehab. If he's getting that drunk and that high all the time, then that's not a good thing.”

“No, it's not. But I think you'll find getting him to go to rehab to be extremely difficult. We've all been trying and he won't listen to any of us.”

“I think he'd listen to me more than any of you,” Erik murmured. “Especially if he has a thing for me like Hank was saying.”

“Oh, he definitely does,” John replied. “He might have been fooling around with Sebastian, but who he really wanted was you.”

“That's going to be interesting to deal with.”

“Because you have a thing for him too.”

Erik looked over at John in surprise. “What?”

“Erik, about the only one of us that you've shown any interest in since you got back today is Charles. All of your questions have either been about the business or Charles. You haven't asked a single one of us how we are. It's really pretty obvious.”

Erik slumped down in the seat. “I don't know what to do, John. I don't know how to repair that bridge enough to even begin to contemplate that. And I don't think he's ready for that anyway.”

“He's more ready than you think. This thing with Sebastian proves it,” John said as he brought the car to a stop at a red light. “If Charles wanted sex, there is a whole club full of people every night that he could have gotten it from. But he stayed with Sebastian. I think the fact that he was with one person all the time probably made him more comfortable than multiple partners would have. That tells me that a relationship is something that would probably be good for Charles.”

“Multiple partners would probably have made him feel like a whore again,” Erik said after a moment. “So you're probably right about him needing one long-term partner.”

“And I see no reason why that can't be you. I'm not saying jump right into it because there's probably a lot you two still need to work out about you being gone for so long, but I'm saying that you shouldn't just think that it's not possible.”

Erik reached up and ran his hands over his face, grimacing when that put pressure on his nose. “Fuck. Alright, I'll think about it. Now talk to me about something else.”

John shook his head but changed the subject. “Bobby thinks I'm cheating on him, I think.”

Erik's head whipped around to stare at John. “What?”

“I'm not,” John stressed. “But he's starting to act like something is going on while I'm out doing the parties, and he is acting weird when I come home and all I want to do is sleep. He's been implying it for weeks but he won't say it to my face. I keep trying to tell him that nothing is going on but he's not believing me.”

“And he's got it in his head that this is a possibility because of your past,” Erik finished. “He has reason to doubt you because of it.”

“Exactly,” John said, sighing. “He said he hears things from the boys about what I'm up to, but I'm not up to anything so I have no idea what tales they're feeding him. If I knew who it was he's been talking to, I'd fire their asses for trying to ruin my marriage.”

“Is there anything that he might be hearing from these dancers that he doesn't know about that is actually true?” Erik asked, causing John to sigh again.

“Maybe.”

“Are you going to tell me what that is?”

John was silent for a few blocks. “I've been taking some pills to help get me through the nights.”

Erik's gaze narrowed. “Pills?”

“It's all legal,” John said defensively. “I'm not turning into a drug addict.”

“What kind of pills are we talking about then?”

“I don't have to answer that.”

“If you want me to help resolve this tension between you two then yes, you do.”

John was silent for a few blocks again. “They're caffeine pills, alright? And don't try telling me to stop because I fucking need them.”

“Caffeine pills? Do you even realize how addictive those can be?” Erik asked, shaking his head. “You're stopping those now.”

“Fuck off.”

“I'm serious, John. The last thing anyone needs is you getting addicted to caffeine pills. How fucking long have you been taking them?”

“About six months,” John murmured. “And I fucking need them so I'm not stopping them.”

Erik shook his head again. “You're addicted to them already, aren't you?”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“You're going to rehab.”

“I don't need fucking rehab.”

“The fuck you don't,” Erik countered back. “You want to be a good husband or not?”

“Of course!”

“Then you're fucking telling Bobby about this and getting your ass to fucking rehab or I'm telling him myself.”

“I never should have told you about this.”

“No, you really should have,” Erik said. “Caffeine pills, John? Really?”

“Do you even realize how fucking long these shows are taking now? I've got to be an accountant and a lawyer and all kinds of fucking things during the day too. I'm left with like two hours in which to sleep every night, so I need something that keeps me awake.”

“You should be talking to Jean if you need a lawyer,” Erik pointed out. “I'll give you the name of my accountant. Get some fucking sleep instead of taking those fucking pills.”

John was silent for a moment before he spoke again. “The shows are starting to lose money.”

“What?”

“The boys want to be paid more. The club owners want more of the gate. Insurance costs are rising. The choreographer is getting more expensive. I'm losing money now, and Bobby and I only have so much to fall back on, and so I'm spending all day trying to figure out how to get the shows to start making money again instead of sleeping like I should. I've been trying to book more shows, but there are only so many gay clubs in this town that want to work with us because there are other party promotions like the one I run, and I just...I don't know what to do, Erik.”

“Have you talked to Bobby about this?”

“No.”

Erik sighed heavily. “Why the fuck do you two suck at communicating so much?”

“I just don't know how to explain this to him. I don't know how to make him see that I'm not breaking my vows, I'm trying to make sure we still have some money. And this is why I need the fucking pills, Erik. I need to be awake to figure this shit the fuck out.”

Erik sat there for a bit while John drove, an idea formulating in his head. “What if you made the party exclusive to Genosha?”

“Huh?”

“What if I pay you to make the party exclusive to Genosha?” Erik said. “I'll pay you more than enough so that you're actually making money on it, it'll bring more people to the club because I know there are people who go watch your shows at other clubs that would probably come to Genosha just to see them, and it would be a situation that would be beneficial to both of us. I'm not saying there would need to be a party every night, but maybe every Saturday night. A different show every week, but they'd be monthly shows so there'd be one of each every month. Something like that.”

“You'd really want to do that for me?” John asked. “Because you don't have to do that, Erik.”

“I will do whatever I need to do for anyone in this family,” Erik said seriously. “If that is what I need to do to help you and Bobby out of this mess that you're in, then that's what I'll do. You've got to promise me that you'll stop the fucking pills and get yourself cleaned up though. I will kill you if you keep taking that shit.”

“I've got shows booked through the end of November, but I would be able to take the shows exclusively to Genosha starting the first weekend in December,” John said after a minute. “Would that work for you?”

“Of course,” Erik said, looking over at him. “But I'm fucking serious about the pills.”

“I know you are,” John murmured. “And it's not like I want to be taking them. I just have felt like I don't have a choice.”

“There's always a choice,” Erik said, shaking his head. “When you two get home tonight, straighten this the fuck out. I don't want Bobby walking around thinking you're cheating on him anymore.”

“Neither do I,” John said, sighing. “I just don't know if he'll actually listen or not. He hasn't really wanted to listen to anything I have to say lately.”

“If you can't make him listen to you tonight, tell me. I'll get him to.”

“Thank you, Erik. For all of this.”

Erik smiled and settled back in the seat. “I'll do anything for any of you. I just need to make sure everyone remembers that. Now tell me more about the new show, because the one that the boys performed tonight was one I'd never seen before.”

Chapter Text

Erik looked up when his office door opened, the nerves he was experiencing increasing when he saw it was Bobby. “They ready?”

“Everyone is gathered in the restaurant,” Bobby replied, leaning against the doorframe. “There was an announcement over the sound system last night that the restaurant was going to be closed this morning, the doors are locked, and a sign is posted. Anything else you need me to do?”

Erik nodded and took a deep breath. “No, that's fine.”

Bobby watched Erik drop his head down to his desk, and he knew that he was trying to think of a way to get out of this. He just stood there, and when Erik lifted his head, he shook his head. “Bobby, I need a minute.”

“You've had months worth of minutes,” Bobby said, walking over to Erik and putting a hand on his shoulder. “Come on. You know what to say to them.”

“I do?”

Bobby sighed. “You know you do. You know how to tell them.”

Erik nodded and stood up as Bobby backed away, taking a deep breath before walking towards the door. Bobby fell into step behind him, smiling at him when Erik looked at him nervously. “Whatever happens, remember that we all love you.”

“You'll have to forgive me,” Erik said as he walked out of the hallway, “if I say I don't understand why.”

Bobby smiled as they walked to the door that led into the restaurant. “You've helped everyone in that room out of a horrible situation, Erik. Everyone loves you for that.”

“Maybe you're right,” Erik said, staring at the door in front of him. “I'm scared. I can take the biggest risks in the world and never blink, but to walk in there and do this? Terrified.”

Bobby pulled him into a hug, brushing a kiss along the side of his head when Erik put his head on his shoulder. “You'll be fine.”

Erik nodded shakily and broke the embrace, turning towards the door. He took a deep breath before pushing it open and walking into the restaurant. The room fell silent as he walked over to the counter, his hands shaking slightly as he hopped up onto it. “Hi, everyone.”

He heard a few murmured hellos in return before he continued. “So, I apparently owe everyone an explanation.”

“Damn right you do!” Sean called out.

“Sean, just let me talk, okay?” Erik responded, noticing Bobby move into the back of the room behind the gathered crowd. “I received some news at the hospital before I was discharged and I just...”

Erik paused and sucked in a deep breath, keeping his eyes trained on the floor. “I found out that I'm positive,” he choked out, finding it incredibly difficult to say the words. “And I had to leave for a while to figure out how to deal with it.”

A soft buzz would around the room as Erik twisted his fingers together. “I don't expect any of you to understand my reasons for leaving but I hope that you all can accept that I felt like I had no other choice. This is the last time I'm speaking about it to anyone, so that's just going to have to be good enough.”

“Erik,” Bobby said softly, and Erik looked up at him, reading the look on his face.

“There is one more thing,” Erik said, surveying the room with his eyes and noting the looks of concern. “I know that my way of handling things was not the best, and I know that you are angry with me for it. I know that every one of you had to put up with a lot over the last nine months and that some of you were not only doing your job but parts of mine and Charles's. And for all of that, I am truly sorry. I don't know how I can begin to make things up to you, but I will, I promise. I love you all so much, and I never should have doubted the love and support that I could have gotten from all of you. I'm sorry.”

Erik pushed himself off the counter and walked out of the room, leaving a stunned group behind him. Bobby looked around at everyone before walking to the counter where Erik had been sitting, hopping up onto the counter and smiling as best he could. “Anyone have any questions? Erik's talked to me about this a bit more than he said so I might be able to answer them.”

“I do,” Theresa said, pushing her way to the front of the group. “How on earth did he get infected? How long has he been infected? How much danger has the rest of us been in?”

Bobby sighed. “How he got infected is his business, not yours. He has no idea how long he's been infected and so, therefore, I cannot tell you how much danger you've been in. If you want a test to make sure you're clean, Erik said he'll pay for it.”

“Theresa,” Jubilee said, walking up to her and wrapping her arms around her. “It's okay, baby.”

“No, it's not,” Theresa said, burying her face in Jubilee's neck. “I can't lose my family.”

“You're not going to,” Jubilee said. “We're all your family and now we've got a serious illness in it. So as far as I'm concerned, we're going to do what every good family does and get behind Erik. Erik's fine right now, right Bobby?”

“He seems to be, yes,” Bobby said. “But he hasn't been taking care of himself and that ends now. I'm taking him to a clinic this morning so he can get on the right medications and learn more about what he needs to do to stay healthy.”

Silence fell over everyone for a few moments, and then Sean sighed heavily. “I know I can't speak for anyone else, but now that I know why Erik did what he did I'm not angry anymore. And we should do like a thing. Like an awareness thing.”

“I bet we could partner with one of the local clinics,” Hank said, looking over at Scott. “See about doing free testing or something. I know that everybody in this scene talks about being clean, but how many of them actually know for sure that they are?”

“That's a good idea,” Scott said. “Awareness is key. We're popular enough in the village. We could really get a good awareness drive going.”

Bobby smiled as everyone murmured in agreement. “I like this idea. I think it will help Erik a lot. He's still not handling this well.”

“Then I say everyone take a few days to think about it, and if you come up with any ideas, bring them to me, Scott, or Bobby,” Hank said, looking around as everyone nodded.

“One more thing,” Bobby said. “All this talk of hitting him is over. He will never cope with being back if he thinks that no one wants him here or that the only thing people want him here for is to hit him. I know that everyone was angry and that hitting him seemed like a good idea, but it's really not.”

“Yeah, you don't want to send him to the hospital again like Sebastian did,” Charles called out. “And I will fucking kill you if any of you hit Erik again.”

“I only did it because I didn't know what else to do!” Sebastian yelled back.

“I thought I said that I don't want to talk to you,” Charles said, shaking his head as he headed towards the back. “I'll be upstairs if anyone needs me.”

Bobby sighed heavily. “Okay, Charles.”

Once Charles had left the room, Bobby turned back to everyone else. “I'm going to take Erik to breakfast and then the clinic, alright? You are on your own for the morning. The restaurant opens at noon.”

“We'll deal with it,” Hank said, heading towards the counter. “Sean, come over here and make us all breakfast. I'll get the coffee going. I think we all need a few minutes to take everything in.”

**********

“Sean, I am impressed,” Erik said, looking at the plate in front of him. “You've actually learned how to cook.”

Sean beamed at him and leaned up against the counter, watching as Erik picked up the cheeseburger. “It really wasn't all that hard once I finally got the hang of it. The key is paying attention.”

Erik laughed and bit into the cheeseburger, sighing happily as the flavors hit his tongue. “Well, I am so glad that I'm going to be able to eat something other than an omelet every once and a while, let me tell you.”

“Oh, I know. Everybody's been saying that to me.”

Erik smiled and set the cheeseburger down. “I've never given you a raise, have I?

Sean's eyes widened and he stood up straight, shaking his head. “No, no. You haven't. But like, that's okay. I haven't been begging Hank for one or anything.”

Erik sighed and ran his hands over his face, grimacing when pain shot through his nose. “I am a horrible boss.”

“No, Erik! You're a great boss! Don't think otherwise, honey.”

“Well, you deserve a raise,” Erik said, pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket and reaching for a pen. “I'll add that to the list of things I need to talk to Hank and Scott about.”

Sean shrieked and leaned across the counter, wrapping his arms around Erik. “Oh, Erik, thank you so much. Like seriously, this will help with me trying to find a new apartment so much.”

“Be sure you put me down as a reference,” Erik said, hugging him back. “You know I'll give you a good one.”

Sean nodded and pulled back. “I will, honey. Thank you.”

“Of course,” Erik said, turning and looking towards the door when he heard a voice. “Angel Salvadore?”

“Her and Emma are so cute, you have no idea,” Sean said, nodding when Erik turned back to him. “It's really great to see Emma like that.”

Erik shook his head. “Angel is trouble.”

“Was trouble,” Angel said, sitting down next to Erik and smiling. “I'm reformed now.”

“And what reformed you exactly?” Erik asked, turning to look at her.

“A couple of wonderful women from the midwest,” Angel said, looking over at Sean. “Hey, can you make me something to go? I don't really care what it is.”

“Same thing as last time?” Sean asked.

“That sounds great, honey,” Angel said before turning back to Erik. “Anyway, I'm reformed now.”

“So if Emma is one of these women, who is the other?” Erik asked.

“Mors, of course,” Angel said, smiling when she spotted Moira across the room.

“Mors?”

“Moira,” Angel clarified.

Erik sat there for a moment before looking over at Angel. “The three of you?”

Angel shrugged. “We're figuring it out, but yeah, the three of us.”

“I don't want to see those two get hurt, Angel,” Erik said seriously. “And last time I checked, that was all you were capable of.”

“And as I said, I'm reformed,” Angel countered back. “The last thing I want to do is hurt either of them. I fucking swear.”

“I'm going to be furious with you if you do.”

“I know you will be,” Angel said, smiling when Moira walked over to them. “Mors! It's wonderful to see you, darling.”

Moira leaned down and gave Angel a soft kiss before smiling at her. “I'd stay and talk but we're too busy for that.”

“Of course, darling. We'll talk tonight at dinner.”

Moira just nodded and walked away, leaving Erik to shake his head. “I am fucking serious about you hurting them.”

“I know you are,” Angel said, grinning when Sean set a Styrofoam container on the counter in front of her. “Thank you so much, honey.”

“The same thing as last time,” Sean said, holding out his hand. “So I need some money.”

Angel reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet, searching through it for a moment before handing Sean a couple of bills. “Keep the change, alright?” She grabbed the container and stood up, smiling. “See you later, boys.”

Sean looked down at the bills as Angel walked out the door, his eyes widening. “Holy fuck.”

“Holy fuck what?”

“She gave me forty dollars,” Sean said, awe in his voice. “That only cost her eight.”

Erik just shook his head. “Trying to buy everyone's affection. That's Angel Salvadore for you.”

“You going to tell me your deal with her or not?” Sean asked as he put the right amount in the cash register and the rest in his pocket.

Erik sighed heavily. “No.”

“Oh, come on!”

“No, Sean,” Erik said firmly.

“Fine,” Sean said, looking around the restaurant. “Where's Hank?”

“I gave him the day off,” Erik murmured, reaching for his cheeseburger again. “Why do you think I'm not asleep right now?”

“Well, that's just great,” Sean said, leaning against the counter. “I need to talk to him about the fact that we have nothing for children to do.”

Erik glanced around the restaurant and spotted a few children before turning back to Sean. “Is that really a problem?”

“More and more people are bringing their kids here,” Sean said, smiling at Erik. “Ever since I started to be able to cook more than omelets, our clientele seems to have expanded to more of the locals. It's not just queers anymore.”

“So you think we need something to entertain children,” Erik murmured.

“Just like some pictures printed up so they can color or something. I mean, we've got the kids' menu now and I just think it would be appropriate.”

Erik blinked. “Kids' menu?”

Sean shrieked and reached towards one of the menus, pulling out the paper insert. “Yup! And I can make all of it without burning it!”

Erik took the paper from him and looked it over. “I would certainly hope that you could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without burning it.”

“Haha,” Sean said, snatching the paper back and sticking it in its place. “No one gets to tease me about my cooking anymore. It's no longer fair.”

“You're right,” Erik said, taking a bite of his cheeseburger and chewing it. “I'll keep that in mind when I decide your raise.”

Sean bounced up and down, clapping his hands. “You're really seriously going to give me one?”

“I'm really going to give you one,” Erik confirmed. “You work long hours and you've improved your cooking skills. It's only fair that you be rewarded for it. And you're not the only one who is going to get one.”

“Well, I'm sure that whoever else is getting one will love it too,” Sean said, smiling at him.

“Everyone is getting one,” Erik said. “You're just the only one who knows about it. They'll all find out when they get their paychecks next week.”

“Erik, they are going to love you for that.”

Erik smiled and took another bite of the cheeseburger, chewing it quickly. “That's sort of the plan. I'm trying to get back into everyone's good books.”

Sean leaned across the counter and pressed a kiss to Erik's forehead. “Stay healthy and keep everyone happy and you will be.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” Erik said, smiling at him. “I like the hair, by the way.”

Sean's hands flew up to his hair and he squealed. “It's amazing, isn't it? I decided I needed a little more color in my life.”

“Well, blue certainly fits that bill,” Erik said, yawning. “I wish I could go to sleep.”

“I think we can handle this on our own, Erik,” Sean said seriously. “I mean, that's what we've been doing for the last nine months.”

“You sure?”

“Of course, honey. I'll keep the noise down and you go get some rest.”

Erik nodded and stood up, throwing a couple of bills down on the table. “Your tip.”

Sean picked up the bills as Erik walked away, squealing when he saw Erik had left him another eighty dollars. “Thanks, Erik!”

“You're welcome, honey.”

Chapter Text

Kitty groaned as the alarm went off, burying her head underneath her pillow. “Don't want to get up.”

Marie laughed from somewhere behind her and climbed onto the bed, placing teasing kisses all along Kitty's shoulder. “You have to, babe. You go back to work tonight.”

“I have enjoyed being off work so much. I can't even begin to tell you,” Kitty said, rolling onto her back and taking the pillow off her head. “I know I agreed to go back early because of what is going on with Scott, but I just...I got to spend so much time with you.”

“It's been amazing,” Marie agreed, “but you love your job too much to stay away for much longer. Besides, I think Jubilee would kill you.”

Kitty sighed and pulled Marie into a kiss, moaning softly as Marie's hand slid down her arm. “We can't have Jubes killing me, can we?”

“No, we most certainly cannot,” Marie said, laying down next to Kitty and putting her head on her shoulder. “I need you far too much for that.”

“Marie,” Kitty said suddenly, her voice serious. “I cannot thank you enough for taking me to Los Angeles.”

“It was nothing,” Marie said, turning to look at Kitty.

Kitty rolled over on top of her and kissed Marie hard. “No, it was a lot more than nothing. It was something major. I've never been with someone who would just drop everything and fly across the country with me.”

Marie threaded her fingers in Kitty's hair, gently stroking her head. “I'd drop everything for you.”

“I love you,” Kitty said softly, watching the emotions flicker across Marie's face. “It doesn't feel right to have never said that anymore.”

Marie pulled Kitty into another kiss, trying to put everything she was feeling into it. They broke apart slowly and Kitty settled into Marie's embrace, silently hoping that Marie would say it too. They laid in silence, Kitty growing increasingly upset with each passing second, before Marie sighed heavily and tightened her embrace.

“I love you too, you silly girl,” Marie whispered, pressing a kiss to Kitty's forehead. “You're the first woman I've ever said that to.”

Kitty smiled softly, tilting her head so she could look Marie in the eyes. “You're the first one I've ever meant it with.”

Marie smiled back and brought her lips back to Kitty's, groaning as Kitty slipped her hands underneath her shirt. They kissed long and deep, and Kitty had just about forgotten about having to get up for work when suddenly a flash going off broke them apart.

“Oh, no, don't stop on my account,” Remy said, snapping another picture. “I've got a whole storyline developing in my head. Keep going.”

Kitty groaned and rolled off of Marie. “You didn't tell me that he was here.”

“I got distracted,” Marie said, climbing off the bed and walking towards Remy. “Stop taking pictures. Now.”

“But you two looked so hot like that!” Remy exclaimed, growling as Marie snatched the camera out of his hands. “Oh, come on. I won't show anyone!”

Marie flipped through the digital display until the picture came up, her thumb hovering over the delete button as she stared at it. “Oh, wow.”

“See!” Remy exclaimed. “You totally cannot delete that picture.”

Marie looked over at Kitty, taking in her disheveled looks before pressing down on the button and deleting it. “Yeah, I can,” she said, smiling at Kitty. “I don't need a photo when I've got the real thing.”

Remy rolled his eyes and grabbed the camera back, stalking off towards the living room. “Bella, Marie is completely boring now that she's monogamous! We have got to get her out more!”

Marie laughed and glanced over at the clock. “I'll go straighten him out. You should get in the shower.”

Kitty nodded and yawned. “In a minute.”

**********

“So I take it this is the thing that you were having such a hard time telling me about,” Sean asked, staring at where Angel was giving Moira a deep kiss. “Because they don't look like friends right now.”

Emma just sighed and reached up to adjust her tiara. “Yes. Sorta.”

“Which means what exactly?” Sean asked, tearing his eyes away from them and focusing them on Emma. “Because I thought you were super happy with Angel and now she's kissing Moira right in front of you and you seem to be okay with it.”

“Of course, I'm okay with it. Why wouldn't I be?” Emma groaned and pulled the tiara off her head, turning to look at her reflection in the stainless steel behind the grill. “I cannot get this fucking thing to stay right today.”

“Give it to me, sweetie. I'll put it on right,” Sean said, walking around the counter and taking it from her when Emma agreed. “But you've got to tell me what's going on. I am seriously confused right now.”

“What's going on is that I'm fucking Angel, Angel is fucking Moira, and I'm also fucking Moira,” Emma said, ducking her head down when Sean asked her to. “I never thought I'd end up in a relationship like this, but it's really, really working so far.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“For a while from an emotional perspective, though we weren't acknowledging that to be the case. But it's only been recent that the sex has come into it.”

“I imagine the sex is pretty good then.”

“Oh, honey, you have no idea,” Emma said, turning to look at her reflection when Sean was done. “Thank you, baby.”

“You're welcome, darling,” Sean said, smiling when Peter came behind the counter. “You got those trainers yet, kid?”

“I ordered them,” Peter said, grinning at him. “Just you wait, Sean. They're going to be amazing.”

Peter walked away when he saw one of his tables flagging him down, and Sean laughed, shaking his head. “I can't believe he's spent that much money on trainers. That's ridiculous.”

“You've spent more money on the heels on your feet right now, and you know it,” Emma said, pressing a kiss to Sean's shoulder before walking around the counter. “Excuse me, but I need to go see my girlfriends.”

Emma ignored Sean when he called out that she needed to get back to work, heading over to the table where Angel and Moira were sitting. “You guys didn't tell me you were coming here for dinner.”

“Angel suggested it,” Moira said. “She hadn't seen you all day and wanted to.”

Emma sat down next to Angel and gave her a soft kiss. “Well, it's very nice to see you then.”

“What time does your shift end, Ems?” Angel asked. “Because Mors and I have concocted a plan we think that you'll like.”

“Everything with you two is something that I like,” Emma said, smiling at her. “But I get off at close, which means I won't be home until about midnight.”

Angel sighed heavily. “I have to be at work at seven a.m. tomorrow for a very important conference call. So, our plans are just going to have to wait.”

Moira pouted. “I was really looking forward to that. And it'll be ages until we can do it now because I work the dinner shift for the next two weeks without a day off.”

Angel reached out and squeezed Moira's hand. “We'll make it work, darling. I promise.”

“Well, whenever we get the time, I'm down for whatever plan this is,” Emma said, reaching for her order book. “Now, what do you want to drink? And if you've already figured out what you want to eat, give me that too.”

Emma wrote down their orders before standing up, giving them each a kiss before heading to the kitchen. She dropped off the order and walked back out, finding Erik at the counter instead of Sean. “Where did Sean go?”

“I made him go home,” Erik said, twirling his cup of coffee around. “He's been here since four o'clock this morning. It was fucking time for him to go home.”

“Four? Why was he here so early?”

“He came in to help set up since Scott wasn't here.”

Emma nodded, understanding what Erik meant. “Has he been to work since the reunion?”

“He came that first day, but I told him to get his ass home and deal with his brother. I can do what he should be doing,” Erik said, taking a sip of his coffee. “Him being with Alex is far more important at the moment than me having to work a little harder.”

“From what Darwin has always said about him, Alex sounds like he's a mess.”

“He is,” Erik said. “He called himself an addict and a drunk, and he said that he still thinks he's a whore. I think it'll be a while before Alex is back to whatever part of his former self that he can find.”

“We just have to be patient with him,” Emma said, taking the coffee pot and refilling Erik's cup when she noticed it was half full. “We've been patient with Darwin, and we've had to be super patient with Charles, but we've all learned to be patient. That's been very helpful.”

“I'm glad that they had you all while I was gone,” Erik murmured. “They should have had me too.”

“Hey, you freaked and you ran. I totally understand that. I freaked out when I started thinking about getting into the drugs so I could see what the appeal was to Morrie, and so I ran to New York and started over,” Emma said, smiling at him when Erik looked up. “I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't given me a job. I was on my last dollar.”

“Morrie?” Erik asked, bemused.

“Yes, Morrie. I'm Emmie and she's Morrie. It's just our thing,” Emma said, leaning back against the prep table.

“I'll have to remember that,” Erik said, taking a sip of his coffee. “And of course I gave you a job, Emma. You had all the experience in the world, you would fit in with this scene without question, and you told me your situation. All of that made you the perfect person to work here.”

“Well, I'm still grateful for it,” Emma said, standing up straight when she noticed one of her tables flagging her down. “I'll be back.”

Erik nodded as Emma walked away, and a few moments later, he found Peter sitting down beside him. “Hey, kid.”

“Hi, Erik,” Peter said, taking a deep breath. “So, I had a proposition for you and I don't know what you're going to think about it.”

“I am here to listen,” Erik said, spinning around so he was facing Peter. “What is it?”

“You have that room upstairs next to the kitchen that's full of boxes and stuff. I was wondering if maybe we could take the boxes and stuff out and make that into a room for me,” Peter said quietly. “The guest room has become Charles's room and I'm kind of sick of sleeping on the sofa.”

Erik sighed heavily. “I hadn't even thought about where you were sleeping, to be honest. Why didn't you just sleep in my bed while I was gone?”

“Because it's your bed,” Peter said, giving Erik a pleading look. “Can you at least think about it? For me?”

“I don't need to think about it,” Erik said, smiling at him. “We'll get it all taken care of this weekend, okay? I'll get the boxes and shit out of there, and then this weekend we can go pick out a bed and whatever else you need in there, alright?”

Peter broke out into a smile. “That's great. Thanks, Erik. That means a lot.”

Erik reached out and pulled Peter into a hug. “I really am glad that you're here, Peter. I am so happy that you're my son.”

Peter felt his eyes well up with tears. “Really? Because I'm just the mistake and I...”

“Never call yourself a mistake again,” Erik said firmly. “Was it planned? No. But that doesn't mean that you're not wanted. Your mother might have been a complete bitch about this entire situation, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to have a son. I am so proud to have a son. My parents would be very happy about that.”

Peter pulled back and reached up to wipe his eyes. “You never talk about them.”

“Then we'll do that this weekend too,” Erik said. “You deserve to know about them.”

“Peter!”

“I've got to get back to work now,” Peter said, standing up. “But thanks, Erik. I really appreciate all of this.”

Peter was gone before Erik could say another word, and Erik turned to look out into the dining room, sighing when he saw Emma bend down and kiss Angel. That was going to turn into nothing but trouble, and Erik was pretty sure he'd have two broken waitresses at the end of it.

**********

“What do you mean, you're taking the shows exclusive to Genosha?” Bobby asked, staring across the kitchen where John was making breakfast.

“It means I'm taking the shows exclusively to Genosha,” John said, reaching for something to spray the pan with. “How is that hard to understand?”

Bobby sighed heavily. “Will you please tell me what the fuck is really going on? I don't want to have to ask Erik because I'm sure that he knows more than I do.”

John stayed silent until he was cracking eggs and pouring them into the pan. “The shows are losing money. And I mean a lot of money.”

Bobby's jaw dropped. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“I know that you think that the balance in our bank account keeps going down because I'm out buying drugs somewhere, but that's not it. It's the fact that keeping the shows running at the moment means I'm having to drain it.”

Bobby collapsed into one of the chairs at the kitchen table and ran a hand through his hair. “Fuck.”

“Basically.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“A while.”

“Be fucking honest with me,” Bobby demanded. “How long has this been going on?”

John took a deep breath and stirred the eggs around in the pan. “Almost eight months.”

“Eight months?” Bobby exclaimed. “You kept this from me for eight months?”

“I was trying to figure it out, baby. I didn't want to worry you,” John murmured. “But now Erik said he'd pay me enough to take the shows to Genosha exclusively so that we're back to making money again. I jumped at it. So everything will be okay again and we can start building our savings back up.”

Bobby took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself down. “Johnny, we were saving money for a new apartment.”

“I know we were, baby. But I had to make sure that my job still worked out. You know I'm not qualified to do anything else.”

“That's fucking bullshit and you know it,” Bobby said seriously. “You could get a job doing what you were educated for.”

“And I'm not working in a fucking office doing insurance claims anymore,” John countered back. “You were supportive as fuck when I started the business. You helped me through so much shit to get it started, even when that meant I was spending money we didn't exactly have. I need you to be supportive now while I try to get things back on track.”

“I am supportive!” Bobby said loudly. “I'm just angry that you kept this for me for eight fucking months!”

“And I'm sorry about that,” John said, transferring the scrambled eggs onto the plates and heading towards the table. “Here. Eat.”

“I am not fucking eating until we finish this discussion.”

“Well, I'm fucking eating and then heading to the dance studio. We have to work out four distinct shows to do at Genosha now, and the boys only know the new one and the old one that we're not doing anymore. That means I need the choreographer to come back in, and fuck, that's not cheap.”

Bobby sighed heavily. “And I suppose you're going to take more of those pills to help you through the day so that you're not sober.”

“You don't know what you're talking about.”

“Then tell me what the fuck the pills are!” Bobby sat there frustrated as John stayed silent, so he picked up part of his eggs and threw it at him. “I swear to God, I will walk out this door and never come back if you don't tell me.”

John's head shot up and took in the look on Bobby's face. “You don't mean that.”

“The fuck I don't,” Bobby said firmly. “I'll go back to Los Angeles, maybe stay with Artie for a while. I'm sure he'll be all too happy to help me move on.”

John stared at him for a moment before swallowing hard. “It's nothing that would make me fail a drug test, so don't worry about it.”

“That has me even more worried now,” Bobby said, his voice softening. “Please, Johnny. Please tell me what they are.”

John turned his attention back to his plate before sighing heavily. “They're caffeine pills, okay? And I fucking need them. It's the only way I can function right now.”

“Caffeine pills?” Bobby exclaimed. “Do you even realize how fucking addictive those motherfucking things are?”

“Fuck off.”

“How fucking long have you been taking them?”

“Fuck off.”

“I am fucking serious about leaving.”

John closed his eyes. “Six months.”

Bobby sat there in shock. “Six fucking months? I've only suspected you were doing drugs for about two.”

“Then what the fuck was the rest of the suspicion then? Because you've been implying for more than two months.”

Bobby sat there for a moment before sighing heavily. “It's stupid.”

“I don't care. I want to know.”

“Your nights got longer,” Bobby said softly. “You'd come home smelling like the club. You weren't interested in sex. It just sent my mind down a path that I hate. And then when the boys started telling me that something was up, I just...you can't blame me for thinking that way.”

John stood up and moved around the table to the chair next to Bobby's, sitting down and pulling him into his arms. “I'd never do that to you again. Ever.”

“I know,” Bobby whispered, putting his head on John's shoulder. “I know. But I just...”

“It's okay, baby,” John said, running his hand down Bobby's back. “I love you, Bobby. More than I ever knew I could love someone. It's you, and I've known that it's you since the night we met. You've been the thing my world orbits around ever since. And I've been an asshole at times, and I did some horrible things in the beginning, but you straightened me out. You pulled me out of that life and I've never been happier that you did.”

“I love you too, Johnny. I'm sorry for even thinking about it.” Bobby took a couple of shuddering breaths before pulling back and staring at John. “You're stopping the fucking pills though.”

“Fucking hell, baby. I need those.”

“No, you really don't,” Bobby said, shaking his head. “Johnny, I don't want you to be so addicted to them that I have to live without you for a month while you're in rehab. A month away from you would kill me. Stop taking the fucking pills.”

John sat there for a moment before pulling Bobby into a kiss. “Okay, I'll stop. I promise.”

“Good,” Bobby said, kissing him harder. “But next time, fucking talk to me about this shit instead of keeping it from me, okay?”

“I will,” John murmured against Bobby's lips. “I promise that too.”

Bobby kissed him deeply before pulling back. “Breakfast is cold.”

“I don't give a fuck about breakfast,” John said, making Bobby laugh.

“I hope that means you're interested in fucking me through the mattress.”

John growled and stood up, pulling Bobby out of his chair. “The dance studio can wait. This is far more important than that. We need to have makeup sex immediately.”

“I agree with that,” Bobby said, walking away from him as he pulled off his shirt.

John watched as he dropped it onto the floor before disappearing down the hallway, grinning and following after him. He probably should have told him eight months ago, but he was going to get some of the best sex they ever have out of it, so it might have been worth the risk of the fight. Especially since Erik was saving their asses.

He'd have to thank Erik again the next time he saw him.