Matthew kicked at the leg of the bolted down metal table. He was bored. He had been stuck in this room almost two hours ago and told to stay, someone would be with him 'shortly'. This 'shortly' was going to miss him out on lunch if whatever shrink they had decided to throw at him this time didn't hurry the fuck up.
He kicked the table leg hard again. Finding bored amusement in the fact the movement caused his chair to scrape backward, while the table, unsurprisingly, remained unmoved.
This group home was a hellhole, worse than any foster home he had ever been in; even that one with the drunk mother who got him to buy drugs for her. It wasn't even his fault he was in here either, the last home had been nice. He had been there nearly three years, he finally fit in. He thought the family liked him, the parents had even made noises about maybe making the placement 'permanent'. When you were fifteen, and had been in the system almost your whole life, that was a big deal.
Then it had happened.
He had been walking his 'little sister' home from school, she had been about ten feet behind him, when a van pulled up beside her with a squeal of tires, the backdoor sliding open as a masked man jumped out and grabbed her. He hadn't thought, he hadn't yelled, he just jumped straight into action diving into the van behind the would-be kidnapper. He managed to get Missy out of the guys grip, before he had laid into him, not stopping pounding on his face until it was a bloody pulp.
Then the other guy had pulled a gun on him, shooting him in the left shoulder. The pain had momentarily blocked out everything, and when he had come back to himself, he had been standing over the screaming form of the man, who was clutching at the bleeding stump of his arm. His severed hand, still holding the gun, was lying on the floor, and three sharp bone claws were protruding from each of Matt's own clenched fists.
The kidnapper's driver saw everything that was happening and slammed on the brakes. Matt's claws had disappeared as he moved to grab hold of Missy, and attempted to shield her from injury as the van came to an abrupt halt, sending them both tumbling across the vehicle. The driver had run, leaving Matt and Missy, and his two cohorts behind.
Matt had to kick out a window to be able to open the sliding door, before helping Missy out of the van. The cops were hurriedly called by bystanders, who were nothing but concerned for the two innocent children. Then Missy had spilled the story of how her 'brother' had saved her, and everything had suddenly gotten very quiet.
He had seen Mr Thompson, his foster dad, as he was being released from the holding cell at the police station. Despite the damage he had done to the kidnappers, the cops had decided there was no way to deny it was self-defence, surprisingly declining to pursue charges. Despite that, Mr Thompson had been dropping off Matt's suitcase, with his life haphazardly shoved into it, before he murmured to the social worker that it 'wasn't safe to have Missy around... it'.
From there, Matt had been driven directly to the group home, and dumped in a dorm.
In the following few weeks he had had one visitor after another, mostly psychologists, trying to get inside his head and ‘figure him out’. He had overheard one talking to the social worker about him not being safe to have in society, like a dog that had bitten, he had 'gotten a taste for blood and surely more would follow'. He had started fucking with them after that, he had everyone on their toes. Eventually the other boys had tried to 'deal with the problem' of the freak in their midst, that had started a massive fight, which he hadn't walked away too bad from, all things considered.
He turned to stare at the wall mounted clock again, as his stomach rumbled. Fuck this, if they weren't going to turn up on time he wasn't waiting around. He had just stood up to leave when the door finally opened, and a tall red haired woman walked in, dressed in a finely tailored black pantsuit. She was followed in by an equally as tall man, dressed in black slacks, and a dark red dress shirt, no jacket, and despite the fact they were indoors, wearing unusual looking sunglasses.
"We're sorry to have kept you waiting," the woman said apologetically, walking to a seat, gesturing for him to retake his. Once he was warily seated the woman sat too, a pleasant smile pasted on her face. The man however remained standing, observing the room at large. "Now, I'm not sure what you have been told about what's happening?" the woman spoke, clearly expecting a response.
"As per fucking usual, not a goddamn thing," Matt replied, "Not even why the fuck I'm missing the shit they call lunch around here," he added with a scowl.
"Well, the lunch part was our fault unfortunately, traffic delay, don't worry, we'll make it up to you once we're done here," the woman answered, still smiling, seeming unaffected by his liberal use of profanity. "I'll start by introducing us, my name is Jean Grey, this is Scott Summers, we’re from Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, it's a specialty school for mutants--"
"Let me guess, you want me to sign up for freak school," Matt interrupted to scoff.
"Not exactly, the foster system has transferred you to the wardship of the school, you're being transferred out of the group home," Jean informed him softly.
"So, I'm being sent from one group home, to another group home, just this time it's a segregated, mutant only, group home?" Matt set out, with a tired sigh. "Yeah, what the fuck ever, when do we leave," he tried to sound like he was actually interested. He really didn't care anymore, in fact, he was seriously considering just lighting out and disappearing into the world, screw the system. He could give this place a shot first he supposed, what's the worst that could happen.
"We can leave right now if you want, as soon as you're packed, I'm sure you'll like it there, anything we can do to help you settle in just let us know," the woman, Jean, replied, a hint of sadness behind her smile, almost like she knew what he was thinking.
"Yeah, how about some lunch?" Matt asked, his stomach grumbling again. Of all the days to have skipped breakfast it had to be the day he missed lunch too.
"We can grab something on the way, do you have a preference?" Jean asked him cheerily, as she stood up and motioned for him to follow.
"Big, fat, juicy burger, swimming in enough oil to grease you from end to the other," Matt replied, almost drooling at the thought of a real meat burger, not the processed sludge they got fed at the home.
Jean just laughed and said they would do their best. She was about to send him on his way to his room to pack, when a social worker walked up, and dumped a suitcase at his feet. The social worker nodded curtly, then turned around and walked away, without so much as a backward glance.
"Um, do you want to go and double check they didn't miss any of your stuff?" Jean asked, as he collected the case and began to head for the exit.
Matt chuckled half-heartedly. "Any good stuff will have already been stolen the second my roommates found out I was being sent out, can't get it back without proving it's yours, can't prove it's yours though, so anything they missed belongs to someone else now," Matt explained. The smartly dressed woman obviously didn't know how this worked.
"Oh, well, if there's anything you need once we get to the school, you let me know," Jean replied uncertainly, before she followed him toward the exit.
The pair directed him to a car, a sleek, expensive looking sedan. Scott loaded his bag into the trunk, while Jean showed him around to a seat. As they pulled out of the parking lot a few minutes later, Jean told him to let them know when he saw something he wanted to eat. It wasn't until they were leaving town that he suddenly spotted a place that looked like it was serving what he was after.
"There, that little diner, at the truck stop," he announced, momentarily having forgotten the drivers name. Maybe if the guy ever spoke, he might have a reason to remember his name but he just sat mutely, with those weird shades on. He had wondered if the guy was blind but he was driving so, clearly not.
"Interesting choice," Jean murmured, as she looked around, shooting a look of distaste around her. Obviously this wasn't her kind of place.
Not much more was said until their food arrived, and Matt hungrily tore into the first of his two double cheeseburgers. Thick, juicy, and rare, he didn't pay any attention to the meat juice that leaked out and ran down his wrist as he all but inhaled that first burger.
"So, you like diner food?" Jean started, trying to start a conversation.
"It's better than that fast-food shit, at least you know this has real meat in it," Matt replied, turning his burger over so Jean could see the pink fleshy, barely cooked meat in his burger.
"Is that the only reason you picked it?" Jean pressed, trying to kept the squicked look off her face.
Matt went quiet for a moment. "Back before... my dad used to bring me to places like this... he always knew the best places, said him and my mom tried them all out as they travelled, before I was born, settled in the town that had my mom's favourite burgers."
"You remember your parents?" Jean asked gently.
"Sort of, I really only remember mom from pictures, something happened to her, when I was really young, dad used to talk about her a lot though, usually only when he was drinking," Matt said sadly.
"Your dad was a drunk?" Scott finally spoke for the first time. He appeared to be scowling, though at what Matt couldn't be sure.
"I don't know," Matt answered, as he started his second burger. "He drank a lot, like, he had a bottle a lot but looking back now, with a better understanding, he never seemed to actually *be* drunk."
"Did he abuse you? When he was drinking?" Jean asked gently, giving off an air of compassion.
"No," Matt replied quickly, "Never, he... he was the perfect dad, I mean he could be distant at times, he-- from my experience, people drink for one of two reasons, they either drink to forget, those are the ones who usually drink until they pass out and can't remember anything, or they drink to remember... dad drank to remember, like, he needed the alcohol to numb his emotions enough that he could talk about my mom without hurting so much, I guess, I think, I don't really remember all that much anymore."
"Is that why your dad lost custody of you? The drinking?" Jean asked.
"My dad didn't lose custody, he abandoned me, took me to a fire station one night, told me he loved me but it was 'safer this way', said when it was safe again he would find me, told me to go inside... he was gone before I even got to the door," Matt explained, he still, to this day, didn't know what to think about that. His memories of his dad told him he really was perfect, until that day, the day he had betrayed him, abandoned him, pushed him off on a system that didn't care about him. For a long time, he had been angry with his dad, resented him. He had also gone through periods of thinking he was the problem, he must have done something bad that made his dad not want him anymore. Now though, he didn't really know what to feel, he wasn't even sure if he knew *how* to feel anymore.
"How old were you?" Jean asked in surprise.
"... Five," Matt answered.
"And he never came back?" Scott asked, a frown still marring his brow.
"Not as far as I know, maybe I got moved around so much he couldn't find me, literally the only information the system's ever had on me was what I told them, which was my first name, my birthday, that my mommy was gone away, and my dad's name was 'daddy'," Matt huffed a resigned laugh.
They all fell silent again, digesting the information that had been shared, as well as their food. Matt did his best to give off his attempt at 'don't talk to me' vibes, it seemed the pair got the message.
Once they were back in the car Matt reclined his seat, staring out the rear windscreen, watching the clouds roll by as they rushed down the road. They pulled into an airport about an hour later, and Matt was surprised when he was ushered onto a private jet.
"Where did you say we were going?" he asked, suddenly curious.
"New York," Jean answered, "We're going to be flying direct but from Washington state, it's going to be about an eight hour flight, once we're in the air you can have this room, probably a good idea to get some sleep, we should be landing around three am New York time."
"Thanks," Matt grunted, once he had been shown where the bathroom was, the inflight snacks, and finally been told to strap in for take-off. Once the pilot gave them the go ahead to remove their seat belts Matt headed for his assigned room; he got the distinct impression the two adults wanted some privacy.
Jean was watching Scott closely, he had been unusually subdued all afternoon. He was currently pouring over the limited information they had been given on the boy, Matthew Smith, he was listed as - a pseudonym apparently, his surname was unknown, they initially assumed it had been lost in the system but it seemed not. The scowl on Scott's face was just getting deeper as he read, and re-read, the twelve-page spread, which really only listed each placement the boy had ever been in and the police report from his manifestation incident.
"What is it Scott?" Jean asked, as she sank down onto the seat beside him as he sighed deeply and dropped the report onto the table in front of him. "What are you seeing?" she clarified.
"Honestly, I'm seeing Logan," Scott murmured, barely above a whisper. "I mean, the healing, the claws, the appetite, the attitude... it's like an un-modified mini-me of Logan," he sighed.
"I- I was thinking the same thing," Jean replied softly, tears in her eyes. "But Logan... he never would have given up his own child... would he?" she asked, more because she didn't want to dwell on the other 'fact' of Matt's testimony, what had happened to his mother...?
"We did tell Rogue that Logan would leave her, I thought maybe we were wrong when he took her with him instead... though if something happened to Rogue... maybe it was enough to push him over the edge," Scott suggested grudgingly.
"...Or maybe it's just a coincidence and it's not them, and they're still out there, living happily ever after somewhere," Jean replied, sounding hopeful. She still felt guilty for her part in driving the pair away sixteen long years ago, she had thought at the time she was doing what was best for Rogue, in warning the girl off the older feral man. No one had expected the pair to simply disappear into the night and never come back like they had. Even the Professor hadn't been able to locate them, despite extensive searching for almost a full year. It wasn't until Jean had found one of Rogue's left behind journals that they had realised just how deep the pairs bond had run. It didn't surprise her, after reading it, that they had chosen to leave rather than continue to live with the constant scrutiny on their relationship.
Scott grunted noncommittally. "Do we still have those photos of them?" he asked a moment later.
"There should be photos on their files, Jubilee has some too I'm pretty sure," Jean answered, her curiosity had been piqued by the query.
"Maybe we should show them to him, see if he recognizes them," Scott suggested.
"We'd have to be careful not to seed a false memory," Jean warned, they couldn't just hand the kid photos and say 'are these your parents'.
"What about giving him one of Jubilee's photo albums and see if he recognizes pictures with them in there?" Scott suggested, that way they wouldn't be suggesting a connection - if they were his parents, he would surely recognize them.
"That sounds like a plan, I'll ask Jubilee when we get back," Jean said with a yawn, "In the meantime, I'm going to bed, care to join me?" With a soft smile, Scott stood and followed her into the other small cabin, it had been a long day after all.