The first clue Bobby had that there was someone else in the room was when water splashed onto the back of his head.
He whipped around, eyes wide, to behold a cackling Jamie already turning and running away, water-gun clutched tightly. Bobby jumped up from the den couch--the ugly orange and brown one everyone thought was so comfortable--and raced after Jamie.
As soon as he went through the doorway he realized it was a mistake.
More water blasted him from the other side, and when he turned around he saw Sam holding a SuperSoaker and wearing a tiny toy headset. Bobby lunged for him first, freezing the man's sleeves before turning and running after Jamie.
"You guys are cheats!" he shouted, laughing, when he rounded the corner to see that Jamie had disappeared.
He was shot in the back, and whipped around in time to see Jamie running, cackling, out of the room.
"NOT IN THE HOUSE!" Jean shouted from the front door. "SAM! JAMES! TAKE THOSE OUTSIDE!"
Bobby grinned wickedly and raced through the kitchen, out the side door--taking a different path than the one Jamie had gone. If they expected him to follow and be ambushed again, they had another think coming.
"Gotcha!" Bobby shouted, icing Sam's shirt. The younger man yelped and took to the air with a roar, swooping down and picking Bobby up before he had a chance to run.
"Hey!" Bobby shouted, "No powers!"
"We never said that!" Sam laughed back before dropping Bobby into the pool.
Jamie was standing nearby, laughing so hard he couldn't even straighten up from his doubled over postition, arms clutching his sides.
Bobby surfaced a moment later, and saw Sam and Jamie standing nearby with their SuperSoakers and toy headsets, laughing.
"You guys are evil," Bobby said, swimming to the edge of the pool and hauling himself out. Then he turned and, with a wicked twinkle in his eye, froze Sam and Jamie's clothes. They both started yelping, and both of them were soon trying to twist out of their shirts.
"New clothes newclothesnewclothes!" Jamie shrieked, laughing as he ran inside.
Sam followed, taking to the air a moment later.
Bobby laughed and went inside himself, tracking in water--much to Jean's irritation--as he went upstairs to change.
~You're cleaning that up, buster,~ Jean sent.
*I know,* Bobby answered with a grin. After years of making ice in the house and then having it melt and soak things, he was used to mopping up.
Jamie arrived in the doorway of Bobby's room as the older man was buttoning his shirt.
"Sam and I found this great toy store," Jamie said with a grin. "It's in the mall."
"Kay*Bee's?" Bobby asked, smiling.
"Nah. We went there--Kay*Bee's sucked. It was this other place in the mall--this little mom and pop store. It's open almost *all night.*" Jamie grinned impishly and Sam arrived, running fingers through his blond hair.
Bobby grinned over at the two younger men, shaking his head.
"Wanna go back?" Jamie asked hopefully. "We thought you should have a SuperSoaker, too. And Hank. But we didn't know what kind you'd like, so we waited."
"Ah," Bobby laughed. "But I don't get a headset?"
Sam grinned widely and held one up. "We got an extra set foh you an' Hank. They're hilarious--barely work at all. We just didn't know what kinda SuperSoakers ya'll would want."
Bobby started laughing, and nodded quickly. "Jamie, go see if you can pull Hank away from his lab. I'll find my car keys."
The two younger men turned and raced down the hall.
"Echo one, this is echo two," Bobby whispered into the tiny toy headset.
"Echo two, this is echo one," Jamie chuckled back. "Go ahead."
"I'm in the park, and don't see our quarry anywhere," Bobby whispered.
"Me neither," Jamie answered. "And these headsets suck," he continued on a choked laugh.
Bobby smothered his own chuckle with some difficulty, and looked around the night-darkened park. Neither Hank nor Sam was anywhere to be seen. It made him worry. Sam could fly, and Hank was good at hiding--especially given his size.
"Fire!" came the cry from behind, and Bobby had only an instant in which to react. He didn't react fast enough, and Hank's voice-activated water-gun shot him in the back.
"You cheeser!" Bobby cried, whipping around and bringing his giant water bomb thrower to bear. He shot at Hank and missed, then had to pump up his gun again while Hank continued soaking him. "Echo two," Bobby laughed, "I need some help!"
Then Jamie was there suddenly, using his double-barreled SuperSoaker XP and shooting at Hank. Hank whipped around, his voice-activated "gun" unable to hold up against Jamie's more powerful weapon.
Bobby was finally able to pump up his bomber enough to shoot again, and as Sam blasted out of the sky and landed to shoot he managed to hit the young man square in the side.
Sam was soaked.
"*That's* why I got this," Bobby crowed, pumping his bomber up again. True, it didn't blast for long and you had to pump it forever, but it sure soaked when it did hit.
Hank cackled as he bounced away through the trees, Jamie hot on his heels.
Sam turned, blasting Bobby as Bobby did the only thing logical in his situation. He ran.
"Ya coward!" Sam shouted to his retreating back.
"Yeah!" Bobby agreed, stumbling and laughing as he vaulted over a low brick wall that separated the grassy area from the slide area. He landed with a thump, certainly bruising his tailbone, then got up and hid behind the wooden fort.
In the distance and over his headset, he could hear Jamie and Hank fighting it out. Sam was suspiciously quiet.
Bobby nearly jumped out of his skin, whipping around and pointing the barrel of his bomber right at Sam's chest. Sam had his own gun pointed at Bobby's forehead. Bobby grinned. Sam grinned back.
"Now what?" Sam asked in his Southern accent.
"Ya'll've been hangin' 'round mah boy a lot," Bobby responded in his best gun-slinger voice.
Sam put on a Fierce Western Movie Face and glared at Bobby, not quite managing to hide the upward twitch of his mouth. "Yeah? Ya'll wanna make somethin' outta it?"
Bobby noted that Sam's Western Movie Accent was much better than his, but that was because it was mostly authentic. "Mebbe. Ya'll got designs on him, pup?"
Sam smirked, then straightened his features. "Nah. He's not mah type, an' he's all gooey over you."
Bobby grinned, slightly relieved--slightly embarrassed of himself and the jealousy he'd felt when he'd seen Sam and Jamie standing together, grinning happily, in his doorway. "Good," he said. Then he shot at Sam, knowing even as he did it that he'd have to spend long minutes pumping his bomber up. Knowing also that Sam wouldn't give him those minutes, and would instead soak him. Bobby didn't care.
Sam yelped and jumped back, giving Bobby barely a moment in which to escape. Bobby made good use of it, pulling himself upward into the playground construct, hiding behind slats of wood and racing across the short, moving, slatted bridge to the next wooden "island." He heard Sam's blast field and slipped down between the bars, ducking under the "island" where Sam couldn't get him as easily, then started re-pumping his bomber.
The sound of a furious fight could be heard over his headset, though it was rather tinny and full of static. Bobby grinned and ran across the sand as Sam came after him again.
Jamie flopped down onto the couch happily, putting his head in Bobby's lap. "What a good night," he sighed contentedly. Sam lay on the floor not too far off, and Hank was sitting on the other couch, mostly dry but wrapped up in a giant terrycloth robe to soak up the rest of the water.
Jamie smiled as he felt Bobby's fingers comb softly through his hair, sliding it out of his face in soothing motions.
"Tired?" Bobby asked in a soft voice.
Jamie let his eyes flutter closed, nodding slightly.
"It's nearly one in the mornin'," Sam said. "And ya'll were... up... last night. No wonder."
Jamie felt himself grin widely. "You're just jealous 'cause you weren't... up... all night," he responded.
"If Ah wanted ta be... *up*... all night, then Ah'd just go find a... playmate... at Harry's."
Jamie felt more than heard Bobby chuckle.
"Well if I want to be... *up*... all night," Jamie answered, grinning with his eyes closed, "I'd just find Bobby." He felt Bobby's hand search out his own, wrapping it up in long fingers and squeezing slightly. Jamie squeezed back.
"Just so long as ya'll don't leave your clothes all over the floor for me t' trip on again," Sam said dryly.
Jamie felt himself blushing brightly, so he opened his eyes and turned to look at Sam. "Damn," he said, even though he knew he was crimson. "There go my plans for tonight!"
Sam started to cackle, apparently finding the comment hilarious. Jamie grinned in return, watching as Sam became near breathless with laughter.
Hank was smiling bemusedly, getting up and turning the radio on.
"One-oh-one point four!" Bobby said immediately, jarring Jamie as the older man nearly bounced in his seat.
Jamie looked at Bobby as if he'd lost it, and Bobby settled down quickly, smoothing a hand through Jamie's hair. He bent down and kissed Jamie, and Jamie felt himself relax. "Sorry," Bobby said softly, smiling.
Jamie smiled back.
"One-oh-five point three!" Sam had yelped, waving his hand to attract Hank's attention.
Hank was ignoring them both, tuning the radio to whatever he felt like, occasionally stopping at a station for a moment to listen to what they were playing.
Jamie heard a familiar tune, and sat up. "Wait! Stop! I love that song!" he said, looking at Hank's back hopefully.
Hank stopped and turned to look at Jamie, eyebrows raised. "This one?" he asked.
"Yeah!" Jamie answered with a grin.
"'All Star'!" Bobby crowed, and started dancing in his seat in time to the music. "Some*body* once told me the world was gonna owe me--"
"Roll me," Jamie laughed, listening to Bobby sing off-key.
"Roll me, I ain't the sharpest tool in the she-ed!"
Sam, laughing, stood up and pretended like he had a microphone, dancing and singing around the room. That was all it took for Bobby to leap out of his seat and take off, jumping around in his bad imitation of a dance.
"Wellll!" Both men sang, loudly. "The years start comin' and they don't stop comin', take to the somthing and then hit the ground runnin'!"
Jamie started laughing, and Bobby hurried over to pull him up. Before he knew it he was dancing too, the three of them jumping and bobbing and twisting all over the floor--and soon even Jamie found himself singing loudly.
"Hey now, you're an all-star, getcher game on, go-play! Hey now, you're a rock star getcher show on, get-paid!" Jamie broke down laughing when he heard Bobby's version--"getcher show on, get laid!"--and nearly fell over. Sam tripped over him, almost falling, but managed to get back up and keep dancing.
Jamie straightened again, feeling his trenchcoat sweeping against his legs with every move he made. He was sweating, and little hairs at the base of his neck were starting to stick to his skin, but he didn't care. Hair flopped in his face as he danced, and as the three of them kept playing he watched closely, picking up exactly how Bobby and Sam danced, and when, and to what. It didn't take long before he felt better about doing it himself--at least with only Bobby, Sam, and Hank to witness.
Just as Jamie became much too breathless to continue, the music cut out and Bobby shouted, "Doggie pile on Hank!"
Hank continued to look rather bemused as Bobby jumped on him, Sam following suit.
Jamie had a flash of disconnection, and wondered whether it was really appropriate for *him* to be dog-piling. Hank might not like that, and he wasn't quite one of the family, not really, and--
Hank held out an arm expectantly, and Jamie grinned as he leapt after the other two men. Sam had already rolled most of the way off, laughing, but Bobby was clinging happily to Hank's terrycloth robe. Jamie jumped into Hank's lap himself, laughing delightedly and burying his face in the thick blue fur.
"All my boys," Hank rumbled with a chuckle, and Jamie felt Sam move closer until they had all managed somehow to fit on Hank's lap.
"*Gentlemen,*" Ororo's regal voice came from the doorway.
Jamie twisted to look, but couldn't see much beyond the back of Sam's head.
"I can hear you all the way in the women's wing, in the *attic.* I can't imagine what Logan must be going through. Now I believe you each have chores tomorrow--"
"No I don't!" Bobby quipped.
"You do now," Ororo said in a dangerously low voice.
Jamie's stomach clenched, and he moved back until he was leaning against Bobby and still half-buried in Hank's fur.
"Yes, ma'am," Bobby said, sounding completely unrepentant.
"We'll go ta bed," Sam said in his rolling accent, and Jamie heard Ororo's footsteps as she left the room.
"Are we in trouble?" Jamie asked softly, unable to help himself.
Sam turned to look at him, smiling. "Nah. 'Ro's just irritated, that's all."
Jamie nodded, not entirely convinced.
"Come then, children," Hank said, pushing Jamie up and then Sam and Bobby. "I shall put you wee ones to bed!"
"Can I have a story, Daddy?" Bobby asked in a high-pitched voice, clinging to Hank's hand. "Carry me, Daddy!" Bobby jumped, nearly choking Hank as he scrambled up the larger man's back.
"Once upon a time," Hank said, carrying Bobby on his back and taking first Jamie's hand and then Sam's as they both laughed, "there were three little boys who didn't go to bed. Oh, no. First the two little boys got together and stayed up *all night,* and then the other little boy found a little girl and they stayed up *all night.*"
Sam was laughing, and Jamie was trying very hard not to because he didn't want to wake Ororo again.
"And their daddy got irritated and came in and caught them at the acts they were doing--the acts they shouldn't've have been doing because, really, it hurts the springs on the bed." Hank stopped and looked back when Bobby started laughing so hard he lost his grip and slipped off the furry blue back. Sam was nearly doubled over in laughter, and Jamie felt tears running down his face.
"I was talking about jumping on the bed. Those little boys and that girl were jumping on the beds," Hank said in an innocent voice. Then he smiled, kissed Sam's forehead, kissed Bobby's forehead, and kissed Jamie's forehead before turning to go up the stairs. "Goodnight, boys," he called softly.
Jamie smiled, feeling all warm and loved and downright wiggly with it. "Goodnight, Hank," he answered. Bobby and Sam were still laughing.
"Ah'm goin' ta bed," Sam said finally, still chuckling. "Good night."
Bobby waved, and Jamie responded with, "Night."
Bobby, sitting on the floor, looked up at Jamie and smiled. "This was fun."
Jamie grinned and nodded. "You have good friends."
"So do you," Bobby laughed. "I've never really talked to Sam much, before."
Jamie bit his lip, smiling. "Oh. Well, he's nice. I like these people."
Bobby nodded and held out a hand. Jamie took the offered seat and plopped down between Bobby's legs, leaning back against his chest. Strong arms wrapped around him, holding him securely. "We should go to bed," Bobby said softly.
"Yeah," Jamie sighed, leaning his head back to rest it on Bobby's shoulder. He kissed the spot under Bobby's ear, and felt those arms tighten.
"Go to bed and *sleep*," Bobby clarified with a laugh. "I have a feeling Ororo's going to have extra jobs for us tomorrow."
Jamie sighed. "Yeah. Then I need my own bed. Yours is lumpy."
Bobby laughed, the sound vibrating through his entire ribcage. "That's 'cause I was in it at the time."
Jamie chuckled, then finally disentangled himself and stood up. "Bedtime," he said with a smile, offering his hand to help Bobby up.
Bobby used it, then pulled Jamie close. "I love you," he said softly, running his fingers through Jamie's thick hair.
Jamie's stomach tightened, as it still did, and he responded, "I love you, too."
Bobby tugged him up the stairs, then stopped at Jamie's room. "See you in the morning," he sighed, leaning down slightly to kiss Jamie.
Jamie nearly wiggled--he *loved* Bobby's kisses--but kept himself from doing so. "Sure you don't want to come in?" he asked wistfully, not bothering to open his eyes when Bobby pulled back.
He heard Bobby chuckle, felt his warm breath on his face. Knuckles brushed softly across his jaw, and then Jamie heard footsteps retreating down the hall. He sighed and opened his eyes, watching Bobby leave, then opened his door and headed into his room.
He smiled as he closed the door, leaning back against it.
He loved Bobby.
Then Jamie choked back a laugh as he remembered Bobby jumping up on Hank, and Hank treating them all like children.
He liked Sam and Hank, too. And Jean was nice.
Jamie smiled, biting his lip. He liked it here.
For the first time he realized how late it was, and quick on that realization came another, far happier one.
It was late, he was tired, but he wasn't depressed. He didn't feel alone or scared, and he didn't want to sit and cry. He felt warm, and happy, and loved.
Humming quietly, Jamie stepped away from the door and started to put his pajamas on.
"Good morning, Jamie," Jean said, smiling.
Jamie smiled back at her sleepily. "'Morning, Jean," he answered, flopping down into a chair.
Jean hugged him, apparently for no reason, and Jamie returned it after a moment.
"James," Ororo said calmly from the kitchen sink, "I believe Bobby is out cleaning up water marks from the floor." She looked at him pointedly, and Jamie smiled sheepishly.
"I'll help him," he said.
Ororo nodded and looked away once more.
"'Morning, Jamie," Scott said, walking in. He sat down across from Jamie at the table, looking very business-like. "I have a question."
"Everyone here is on a team. The Gold Team is Ororo's, and she has Jean, Bobby, Warren, and Remy. The Blue Team is mine, and I have Logan, Betsy, Rogue, and Sam. The Reserve Team always includes Hank and Cecilia Reyes, along with whoever else we can conjure up. Now, the question is, if you really want to be a part of us, which team would you like to be on?"
Jamie opened his mouth to ask a question, but Scott held up his hand for silence.
"Know that you can live here without being a part of the X-Men. If you would rather be one of us, though, you'll have to train a bit. If you want to be on the reserve team then it's twice a week mandatory fight-training, but weight training and everything else is up to you. If you want to be on the Blue or Gold teams, then there's a lot more work involved."
Jamie nodded and thought only briefly about it before answering.
He wanted to be a part of them, he truly did. If only because he didn't want to be alone anymore, and even that small separation seemed like so much. But he wasn't a fighter--and he knew that. Despite his time with X-Factor, he had always preferred thinking and plotting instead of fighting.
"Could I be part of the reserve and still work with Hank?" he asked after a while.
Scott nodded wordlessly, his expression inscrutable behind his ruby quartz sunglasses.
"Then I'd like to do that."
Scott nodded. "Done." He stood and held out his hand, smiling. "Welcome to the X-Men, Jamie. I'll get you a list of rules and regs later."
Jamie smiled, nodded, and shook Scott's hand. When he would have let go Scott held on, attracting his attention.
"Whatever's happened before," Scott said quietly, very earnestly, "we are your family. Dysfunctional at times, but then what family isn't?"
"If you have a problem--of any sort--we're all here to help. Because, hey, you've just earned a whole bunch of brothers, sisters, cousins, in-laws and whatever else you can think of." Scott grinned, squeezed Jamie's hand comfortingly, and then left the room.
Jamie was smiling, and he felt really dopey about it, so he stared resolutely at the table. He felt Jean walk up, though, and put her arms around him.
~Welcome home, Jamie,~ she sent on a wave of caring and love.
Jamie reached back up around himself and hugged her back, bathing in that sudden telepathic wave of togetherness. He could feel echoes of the entire team in that.
Sam, like someone thrilled to have a new cousin to love.
Logan was there--a gruff and sometimes intimidating presence, but always caring in his own way.
Ororo, a calm feeling in the middle of emotional turbulence.
Bobby, nearly ready to explode with happiness.
Betsy, reserved and watching, but respectful.
Warren, not quite sure what he was supposed to do with this new person yet, but caring all the same.
Hank was like a giant hug lying in wait for the right moment, a countermand to Rogue, who felt uncertain. And yet, despite that, Jamie could *feel* the loyalty--the knowledge that if she had to, she'd go to the ends of the earth to help.
Remy, slightly aloof, giving a mental nod and considering look, but still willing to help if needed.
And there was Scott, bound so tightly with Jean that they were nearly inseparable. There was pride in them, and love, and loyalty and caring--along with a certain steel that was definite discipline. The glow that was JeanScott would love unconditionally, but wouldn't allow stupidity.
Behind all that, like the sound of the lapping tidepools under the crashing of the waves, were hints of Others. Everyone who had ever been an X-Man was there, welcoming him--sometimes politely and something enthusiastically.
Jamie took a shaky breath, blinking as his mind became fully rooted in his body once more. With amazment, he realized he was crying. He laughed, self-conscious, and tried to pull away from Jean's hug.
She hugged him tighter. "Welcome home," she murmured into his ear.
And then the telepathic wave faded entirely, and suddenly Bobby was there, laying across the table to get to Jamie and hugging him.
"Hi," Bobby chirped, nearly crushing Jamie in his hug. "Are these good tears or bad tears?"
"Good tears," Jamie laughed, wiping them off on Bobby's shoulder. "I love you."
Bobby clutched him tighter. "Me too. I mean--you know what I mean."
Jamie laughed and nodded.
"Robert!" Ororo's voice rang out. "Have you finished cleaning up those water marks?"
"Eep!" Bobby said, and scooted off the other side of the table.
Jamie started laughing, then hurried out of his seat when Ororo turned and threatened him with her spoon as well. But for the first time he saw the smile in her eyes, an indulgent sort of look that said she really wasn't that upset.
Jamie hurried after Bobby anyway, the telepathic love-wave fading and leaving him only with a memory. But he grinned at Warren as he passed in the hall, noting that the other man smiled back slightly and inclined his head in a nod.
"I'll help clean up, Bobby," Jamie said, racing into the family room.
"Dang right you will. I didn't make this mess myself!" Bobby laughed, grabbing him and twirling him around until they both fell.
Jamie was laughing as he shoved Bobby away, clambering to his feet.
~Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes, boys,~ Jean sent, and Jamie grinned.
*Thanks!* he thought back as loud as he could, and received a mental hug in return.
The roar of a blast field entered, and Sam landed next to Bobby. "We're gonna go play pool later tonight," Sam said, looking from Bobby to Jamie and back again. "Wanna go?"
"Who?" Bobby asked, while Jamie answered, "Yeah!"
"Okay," Sam said to Jamie, then responded to Bobby, "Me an' Remy an' Rogue."
"Sure," Bobby said, smiling, then bent back to cleaning up the water marks.
"Cool," Sam said, and ruffled Jamie's hair before racing out again.
Jamie rolled his eyes.
"Hey!" Bobby protested suddenly. "If you're gonna be an X-Man and be one of us, get down here and help me!"
Jamie laughed and did as he was told.
He smiled even as he worked. He felt... for the first time in months, he felt safe, and *wanted*.
"What are you grinning about?" Bobby asked softly.
Jamie looked up and met those baby blue eyes with his own dark brown ones. "I'm just happy," he answered. "And I love you."
Bobby's face split into a grin. "That's good," he said. "I love you too. Heck, everyone here does. But I do more."
Jamie nodded--he knew that now--and went to work.
"Hey. James," Bobby said in a near whisper. "Know how you can tell if you're a Summers?"
From the den Jamie heard Scott shout, "Bobby! You'd better not be telling Summers jokes in there again! Jamie, don't listen to him!"
Jamie started to laugh, and kept cleaning as Bobby held a shouted argument with Scott.
It was *just* like a family. And it was his.