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Brothers II:

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Marvel, and are
used without permission for entertainment purposes only.

  It was three days an emotional roller-coaster before Mint's temperature began to go down. The seven-year-old's meningitis had run it's course, and despite not yet regaining consciousness, she seemed to be breathing easier.
  Logan had still not moved, for all my coaxing. His gaze was on his daughter's face, as though willing her to open her eyes and be well, for this whole thing to be a nightmare, something he could face with claws and combat skills.
  "Mr...Logan?" A tall, well-dressed man had come in the door, expensive eyewear perched on the bridge of his nose.
  I felt a chill. It couldn't be. I knew this man - unfortunately.
  Logan didn't react at all, except to lightly squeeze his daughter's hand.
  "I'm from Child Protective Services. I'm here to inform you that Mint Forrester has been legally placed in the custody of......
glllrrrk!" Now dangling two inches from the floor, he faced not Logan, but Wolverine.
  "Logan! Logan, no!" I was yelling, my grip all that kept Stephen Grames (the third) from being choked to death by my brother's iron grip.
  Jean arrived - she was probably in the waiting room across the hall - and together we managed to peel Logan's fingers off Grames, though a little part of me wished that I had been an instant later.
  "D-dad-dy?" the voice was barely above a whisper, but Logan tossed Grames aside and was beside the bed before Jean and I could do more than dust the man off.
  "I'm here."
  Jean's eyes closed, tears on her lashes, and I held her while our unwanted visitor sputtered. How could they bear to lose Mint? HIV? She's a baby!
  Mint's hand wrapped around her father's clinging to him, as her emerald green eyes tipped up to stare into his. She smiled, then said clearly, "I love you."
  Logan wrapped his arms around her, gently lifted her to his lap.
  "Love you too, moppet."

  There was nearly a riot when I told the other X-Men - X-Teams? So many, now - and even Kurt was outraged that CPS would try to take Mint away from Logan.
  "They need each other, mien frieunds." the Catholic priest and member of X-Caliber said, after a brief moment of silent.
  "So say we all." Jean murmured, catching my hand in hers.
  The love that flowed through our bond was a pure thing, each sharing and growing from the strength of the other, yet I could never forget the orphanage. Or Grames.

   I was nine when I was taken in as a "foster child", and I don't think anyone knows what that's like. Automatically, you're labeled a problem child, violent, illiterate, and doomed to failure. People don't want their kids anywhere around you, and most of the time - me included - you live in a house with four or five other kids and two parents who could care less. They're burnt out trying to help kids who are too burnt out themselves trying to get a chance.
  It was there I discovered there was no way to survive.
  Bounced from place to place, I had to find Alex.
  So I left.
  A week later I was picked up and sent to Grames office, where he looked me up and down, then nodded. His lackey - this huge kid who was about as bright as a burned out candle - closed the door.
  Then held me down and beat me black and blue.
  Grames nodded again, smiled in a businesslike way, and sent me out the door.
  It was then I discovered nowhere was safe in that damn place. Everything I did was reported, cataloged, and Grames would send his favorites to drag me to his office and work me over if I did anything he didn't like.
  This all came to a horrible head about three months later. Grames' favorite - I had learned his name was Vinnie - came and got me, and when I got to the office, I knew there was more than a mere beating waiting.
   Grames - sold me that night. And every day I had to come back, smile, act as though everything was normal.
   I was 11. Scared, helpless, and desperate. I can look back and see myself as I was, eyes pleading for help - eyes before I gained optic blasts that could punch a hole through a mountain. Eyes that still haunt me because no matter how I tried, I know there are still kids Grames keeps, that eventually their eyes show the same desperate expression. Kids that will never, ever have a chance.
   "Uncle Scott?" Mint, dressed in a hospital gown, staring up at me. Logan sitting in a chair, dozing - even his healing factor had limits, and he had been almost a week without sleep. I was back, and as always I felt a brief surge of relief.
   "Yes, Sweetheart?" I reached down and scooped her up, holding her in my lap.
   "Will that man take me away?" Her lips trembled and eyes filled with tears, and suddenly I wasn't frightened or guilty. I was enraged. How dare - dare! - Grames come back into my life, disturb my brother, and make my niece miserable?
    "No, Sweetie. No-one will take you away." I smoothed her hair, wrapped her in a blanket, and gently deposited her in Logan's arms, watching him shift slightly to let the child snuggle down.
    The truth hit me hard.
    I'm not fighting for the Professor's dream. All this slaughter, this hate, it would have killed me.
    Logan let me in, and now I understood.
    It was a war. I didn't have to become a monster. And more - I wanted every child to have parents to hold them that I didn't have. I want to know that their tears are comforted, their every effort encouraged - isn't that a war worth fighting?
    God help me, Yes.
    I pressed a hand against Logan's shoulder, understanding his own war, and swearing to keep him within the family.
    He is my brother.
    Jean.  my mental "voice" was soft, even tentative.
    She came over, and we sat on either side of Logan, pressed against his exhausted body, supporting him - whether he liked it or not. Scott? What....
I took a deep breath. I was ready.
     I was ready to tell all, to be a brother, father, and uncle.
     I need to tell you everything, my love. About my past and present. About loneliness and lies, but more importantly about brothers, love, and the future.

<Other Stories By Rhiannon>

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