Objects in the Rearview Mirror

BY : cygnavamp
Category: X-Men - Animated Series (all) > General
Dragon prints: 1771
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men Evolution, or any of the characters from it. I make no money from from the writing of this story.

Objects in the Rearview Mirror

A song fic centered around Todd Tolensky. X Evolution characters belong to Kids WB. South Park belongs to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. "Objects in the Rearview Mirror" belongs to Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf. "The Time Warp" belongs to Lou Adler and Michael White. Rated NC-17 for language, death and sex.

Brooklyn wasn't an ideal place to grow up. But Todd didn't care. It was all he knew. The sky wasn't as blue as it seemed onTV and the only grass was a yellowed patch in what passed for a local park. It was a favorite place for junkies and dropouts to hang out. He and his best friend Kenny Vivano would hang out there when they skipped class or just had nothing better to do.
"Hey, Todd!" Kenny called as he ran up to his friend one day. "Guess what? My dad just got cable. Wanna come see that new show South Park?"
"Sure!" Todd welcomed any excuse to get out of the shabby apartment he shared with his mom. Chances were she was either getting drunk, getting laid, getting high or a combination thereof. Kenny's parents weren't exactly on the up and up either. In that part of Brooklyn, no one was. Mr. Vivano was a car thief. Mrs. Vivano was a fence.
South Park had crude toilet humor, violence and naughty language. It was everything a 12 year old boy could ask for in a TV show.
"Oh my God!" yelled Kyle. "They killed Kenny!"
"You bastards!" The two boys watching chorused.
"Hey, Kenny," said Todd. "The kid on this show has the same name as you. Pretty weird, huh?"
Kenny put on a hooded sweatshirt and mumbled like his namesake. Todd laughed. Kenny was always doing something funny.
"Todd, it's getting late." said Mrs. Vivano. "Do you wanna call your mom?"
"Our phone was cut off." said Todd. And she doesn't care where I am anyway.
"You shouldn't be walkin' the streets after dark." said Mrs. Vivano. "You can camp out on the couch tonight."
"Thanks." Todd was no stranger to the Vivano's couch. "Oh, Mrs. Vivano, I swiped this from my English teacher yesterday." Todd pulled what appeared to be an emerald ring out of his pocket. "What's it worth?"
Mrs. Vivano looked it over. "Todd, don't steal jewelry from educators. All they got is crap. Tell ya what, since I like you, I'll give ya three bucks for it."
"Five." Todd challenged.
"You've been hangin' round my husband to much! OK, five." She went for her purse.
"Your mom is cool." Todd told Kenny.
"Thanks." he said.
"Hey, Kenny," said Todd. "You wanna see something really cool?"
"Sure." Todd spit out a wad of green slime in his hand. "Cool!" Kenny breathed. "When did you learn to do that?"
"A few days ago. Idunno how it happened. I was just tryin' to hock a loogie and I spit out a yard of green slime."
"You gotta do that at school tomorrow! It would really gross all the girls out."
"Hey Kenny, remember last week when they split the boys and the girls into seperate classes and showed us that film strip?"
"Yeah. They went on about hair, zits and STDs and crap."
"Wonder why it didn't say anything about green slime."
"Dunno. Maybe you're the only one. Doesn't matter. I still think you're cool."
"You're cool too. What do you think they told the girls?"

The skys were pure and the fields were green
The sun was brighter than it's ever been
When I grew up with my best friend Kenny
We were close as any brothers that you ever knew

Todd and Kenny sat fidgeting in their desks. Five more minutes and the bell would ring. Just five more minutes and school would be over for three months. Just four more minutes. Just three more minutes. Two more minutes. One.
The students raced out of the school building, unburdoned by books and homework. Todd and Kenny walked along the edge of the East River. "No school for three months!" Kenny said excitedly. "And next year, we'll be eighth graders! No more getting stuffed in lockers! Well, at least not untill we get to high school."
"I probably woulda flunked without you, Kenny." said Todd. "You're the smart one. Always reading books and stuff. Thanks for letting me copy off you. Most smart people can be real snobs, yo."
"No prob. I've been reading this one book about a girl named Frances who lives in Brooklyn like us. Only not now, a long time ago. She reads about stuff outside of Brooklyn like I do and she sees how different things are. She writes stuff like I do to."
The two boys sat on a concrete ledge and tossed pebbles in the river. "You see over there?" said Kenny, pointing at the busy city across the river. "That's Manhatten, where all the rich people live. I'm gonna live there some day."
"Sure you are, Kenny."
"Really, I mean it! You can come live with me if you want. We can be roommates."
"Kenny, don't no one get outta Brooklyn."
"I'm gonna! And you can to if you really wanna. Let's make a pinky promise." They hooked pinky fingers. "We promise each other that we're gonna leave Brooklyn someday!"
"It's a promise." Todd wanted to believe Kenny that there was something better in the world. He knew he was getting to old for pretend. Brooklyn made a kid grow up fast, but A good friend could help one retain a vestige of innocence.
"Whoa, check out that bug!" Kenny pointed out a huge water roach crawling nearby. "I dare you to eat it!"
"I double dare you."
"I triple dog dare you!"
"Hey, that's not fair! You're supposed to triple dare me and I do the triple dog dare!"
"You gonna do it or not?"
Todd grabbed the bug, shoved it in his mouth and started chomping. It wasn't nearly as bad as he though it was. "Slimy, yet satisfying." was the verdict.
Later that summer they went to the basketball court. "How do you think we'll get outta Brooklyn, Kenny?" Todd asked as they bounced the basketball between them.
"I dunno. Maybe we can join the NBA."
"Yeah, right. In case you haven't noticed, I'm the shortest guy in school. Even girls tower over me."
"They say girls grow faster. Maybe you'll catch up. Besides, Mugsy's not much taller than you are. You make a pretty decent guard."
"Wanna play horse?"
"OK." Kenny bounced the ball a couple of times and tossed it into the hoop. "That's H." he said. The next one missed. "Your turn."
Todd bounced the ball and concentrated. He didn't have the height advantage Kenny did, so he had to jump just a little higher and follow through. Next thing Todd knew, he had slam dunked the ball and was hanging off the rim.
"That is so cool!" said Kenny. "I'll bet not even Michael Jorden can jump like that! When did you start doing that?"
"Uh, just now?" Todd was trying to figure out how to get back down.
Kenny grabbed his friend's legs. "C'mon, I've got you." Todd let go of the hoop. "That kicked ass, yo!" said Kenny. "You gotta teach me how to do that!"
"Kenny, how can I teach you to do something when I don't know how I did it?"
"Man, you leaped halfway across the court, nothing but net! And they say white men can't jump!"
They went on with the game. Kenny won. Todd was so unnerved by what happened he kept his feet firmly on the blacktop. First green slime, now this. What's wrong with me?
"Wanna come to my place for dinner?" asked Kenny. "Lasagna night."
"Sure." The two boys walked back to the apartment where Kenny lived. "You're real cool, yo."
"You to, Todd."
It was always summer and the future called
We we're ready for adventures and we wanted them all
There was so much left to dream
And so much time to make it real

"It's a Harley." Kenny observed.
"Yeah." said Todd. "And it ain't locked up. Know what that means."
"It's ours!"
"You know how to hot wire a motorcycle, Kenny?"
"No prob. Dad showed me how to do it. Watch."
The motor sprung to life. "Hop on!" Todd got on the pillion seat behind Kenny.
What happened next was all a big blur. They tore down the street on the stolen motorcycle, wind whipping their hair, tires screaching, the smell of gas, the images of the city melting together. Kenny lost control of the vehicle and smashed into an oncoming truck.
Todd woke up in the hospital. His left arm was in a cast and his head and nose were heavily bandaged. The Vivanos were there, looking grim.
"Whad habbend?" Todd asked.
"Don't try to talk, Todd." said Mr. Vivano. "You've got a broken nose."
Mrs. Vivano was sobbing hysterically. "Why did you have to teach him to hot wire, Tony?" she sobbed. "Why?"
"Sally, I didn't think he'd... look, he'll pull through like he always does. Todd, we called your mother. She'll be here."
Todd's mother did show up. On the streets, she was known as Vixen. "What the hell were you doing?" she demanded of her son. "You know damn well I can't pay no fucking hospital bill!"
"Mrs. Tolensky, calm down," said Mr. Vivano.
"Oh, I know you." said Vixen. "You're that carjacker that my boy's been takin' charity from! Well, let me tell you something...."
"Mr. and Mrs. Vivano," said a doctor. "Could I have a word in private?"
The couple went outside. Mrs. Vivano's anguished scream told Todd what happened. Kenny was dead. He wasn't coming back like the other Kenny on South Park always did. Kenny was gone forever. Todd felt like half of his heart had been ripped out.
"I hate hospitals. Won't even let me smoke a goddamned cigarette." Vixen growled. "The hell are you crying for?"

But I can still recall the sting of all
The tears when he was gone
They said he crashed and burned
I know I'll never learn
Why any boy should die so young

Todd was the only person at the funeral who wasn't directly related to the Vivanos. "This is Todd Tolensky." he was introduced several times that day. "He was Kenny's best friend." Kenny's aunts, uncles and grandparents all wanted to talk to him, to ask him about Kenny. He didn't want to talk about it. He didn't want to be here. Not surrounded by weepy adults. Not wearing Kenny's old suit. The Vivanos had given Todd something to wear to the funeral. Kenny was in a pine casket. It was closed. Todd was glad. He knew that if he saw his friend's dead face, he would lose what little control he had left. The casket was buried and marked with a headstone.
Kenneth Antony Vivano
Beloved Son
July 27, 1986-August 12, 1999
Todd thought of all the things they had done that summer. Just weeks ago the Vivanos took him with them to Atlantic City to celebrate Kenny's 13th birthday. They saw an older teenaged girl laying on the beach on her front, bikini top undone. They put a crab on her back and enjoyed the hilarity that insued. Before that, Kenny showed Todd how to hot wire a car and they went for a joy ride. The problem was when Todd tried to drive. "I can't see over the steering wheel, yo!" He slammed right into a wall. Fortunatly the car had airbags on both sides. They both decided it was pretty cool. They spray painted pictures and their names on practically every surface in Brooklyn. They got jumped once by a local gang, but Todd's slime got them out of trouble. He had recently learned that he could spit out several yards of viscous green goo that would harden after a while. He briefly wondered if the guy with the straight razor ever got the stuff out of his eyes.
"This isn't fair." Todd sighed as he looked at the headstone. "He was only 13. Just a kid. Like me. We was gonna get outa Brooklyn together. He was gonna be a writer or a basketball player or something. He was my best friend. My only friend now that I think about it."
Todd sometimes dreamed about Kenny afterwards. The accident had only left them a bit bruised but alive. They would spend hours playing together like old times. They had their whole lives ahead of them. Then he would wake up to the awful truth.

We were racing, we were soldiers of fortune
We got in trouble but we sure got around
There are times I think I see him peeling out of the dark
I think he's right behind me now and he's gaining ground
But it was long ago and it was far away
Oh God, It seems so very far
And if life is just a highway
Then the soul is just a car
And objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are
Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are

The Vivanos moved away not long after the accident. Todd heard they got divorced. His own mother married later that year. His new stepfather's name was Lee and he was the landlord of a seedy apartment building. Todd often wondered if that was why Vixen married him. They had been evicted a couple of times. It seemed every night, when they thought Todd was asleep, the fighting would start.
"Yeah!" shouted Lee. "You think I like it when my friends tell me they bought some ass offa you?"
"Me sellin' ass is what's puttin' food on the goddamned table, Lee!" Vixen answered.
"Just remember who's keeping a fucking roof over your head and supporting that bastard son of yours!"
"You keep Todd out of this!"
"Who the hell is his father anyway? Someone who had 30 bucks and an hour to kill?"
That was when the slapping started. Todd pulled the covers over his head. Just shut up. he thought. Just shut up. Go away. Make it stop. I wish Kenny was still alive. I could always crash at his place, no matter what the hour. Ow. My legs are hurting again. Todd had been getting sharp pains in his legs lately. The school nurse said they were growing pains and would eventually go away. He hoped so.
The fighting stopped. In a few minutes, Todd would wish they hadn't.
His bedroom door opened. "Hey, Toddy." Lee sounded and smelled of hard liquor. Todd pretended to be asleep. "I said hey, Toddy."
"Mmph,hey." he mumbled. He hated being called Toddy but knew better than to say so.
Lee sat on the bed next to the boy. "Your mom's bein' a bitch again."
"mmph..." Pretend he's not there. He'll go away.

When the sun descended and the night arose
I heard my father cursing everyone he knows
He was dangerous and drunk and defeated
And corroded by failure and envy and hate

Lee layed down on the bed. Todd felt his insides turn to ice. Lee sniffed the boy's hair. "You smell nice, Toddy." You're creepin' me out, man. Todd thought. Just go away. "Your mama's sellin' it on the street and not letting me have a piece. Know what I'm talkin' 'bout, right, Toddy?" Lee wrapped an arm around his stepson.
"Uh-huh." he mumbled. He felt a heavy meaty hand trail down his stomache. "Lee, don't..." He tried to brush the hand away.
"Time you started to earn your keep, Toddy."
"Please, stop." Todd tried to pull away. Lee yanked Todd's hair and pulled him back. Todd let out a yelp of pain. Lee's fist belted him in the mouth. Todd was forced onto his stomache, knee in his back. Lee took off his belt and tied the boy's hands up with it.
"Don't make a sound, Toddy." Lee growled in his ear. "So much as a peep out of you, I'll knock your damned teeth out!"
Todd couldn't help the agonizing cry he made as he felt himself being torn. Lee slapped him hard and forced Todd's face into the mattress. "I think you like this, Toddy." Lee whispered. "I know I do." Todd wept silently as the man violated him. "Mmm....you're so smooth. And you smell pretty."
The next morning Todd could barely move from the pain. He thought he was at least safe in his own bed. What have I done to deserve this? he wondered. He thought of Kenny again. It was only six or seven months ago they had been talking about how to get out of Brooklyn together. The Vivanos made sure he had at least one decent meal a day. Todd looked out his window. Snow was piling up against the window pane. The elm tree across the street was a black claw against the pale sky. Todd remembered the Christmas before last. Mr. Vivano drove him and Kenny to an overpass where they broke in Kenny's new sled. Then it was back to their place for a Christmas dinner. The Vivanos gave him a gift- a new parka. He had been outgrowing the old threadbare coat he wore through New York's bitterly cold winters. Todd never liked the cold. Lately it seemed that he just couldn't stand it at all. Ever since Lee showed up, Todd felt cold all the time.
In the year that followed, Todd did everything he could to stay out of Lee's grasp. He stayed out all hours of the night. He stopped bathing, hoping Lee would leave him alone if he didn't smell good. It only seemed to make him angry. Todd would never forget the look on Lee's face when he hit him. Not fierce, not cruel, just blank. As if he had no idea that the boy he was hitting could feel pain. "You tell anyone what I do to you," he whispered savagly. "And I'll cut your throat in your sleep. See if I don't, you useless whelp."
One night, Todd decided to beat Lee to it. Sobbing, he sliced his own wrist open with a razor blade. He was shaking so hard he couldn't make a deep enough wound to bleed himself to death, only enough to leave a jagged white scar. He wore a spiked wrist band to cover it up. After yet another fight at school, Todd learned just how useful spikes were and wore a band on the other wrist. Violence was all Todd Tolensky knew anymore.

There were endless winters and the dreams would freeze
Nowhere to hide and no leaves on the trees
And my father's eyes were blank
As he hit me again, again and again

He had had enough. He was leaving. Vixen wouldn't miss him. He didn't even think of her as his mom anymore. Lee would be pissed that he didn't have his punching bag anymore, but that was tough. One night while the two of them went out shopping (Yeah, shopping for weed. he told himself.) Todd crammed his backpack with a couple changes of clothes, some food, a set of homemade lockpicks and 200$ he found hidden under their mattress. He ran down the stairs of the rickety apartment building, out the door, down the street and never looked back.
Todd decided to stop at the cemetary before he left for good. "Hey, Kenny." he said to the grave marked for 13 year old Kenneth Antony Vivano. "Remember that promise we made on the banks of the East RivThatThat we would get out of Brooklyn someday? I won't hold you to it, obvious reasons. But I'm holding up my end. I'm getting the hell out of this shithole. Wish you could come with me. I'm so lonely all the time." He whiped tears from his eyes. "I never really got to say good-bye to you. I was knocked out cold in that accident. Why did I think it would be cool to joy ride a Harley? I should have stopped you instead of jumping on the bike behind you. Well, good-bye, Kenny. There's one more person I gotta talk to before I leave."
Todd found the grave site of Aniela Tolensky, born May 19, 1918, died January 23, 1992. Todd knew the last date very well. It had been the day after his 6th birthday. He sometimes visited this grave just to remind himself that the little old lady that used to sing to him was real, not some imaginary friend his childish mind cooked up. "Babka, if you knew what was happening to me, you'd have another heart attack. I know, I should be talking to you in Polish, but it's been so long, I hardly remember it anymore. I remember Vixen would get so mad at us for speaking Polish. It was like we had our own secret language. I think Mommy Dearest knew Polish, but was embarressed by it for some reason. I just came to say I'm leaving, Babka. I'm leaving Brooklyn and never coming back." Todd hefted his pack onto his back. "Pozegnanie, Babka. Kocham cie."
Todd checked out the cars in the parking lot. He found one that seemed to have adjustable seats. He wasn't about to make the same mistake he made the first time he commited grand theft auto. He picked the lock, hotwired the car, adjusted the seat and drove off as casually as if the car was his. His driving was a bit erratic. The only driver's education he had was when Mr. Vivano let him steer around in vacant lots. It didn't matter. Everyone in New York drove like a maniac. Todd merged onto the Brooklyn bridge and sped along, Brooklyn shrinking away in the rearview mirror.

I know I still believe he'd never let me leave
I had to run away alone
So many threats and fears, so many wasted years
Before my life became my own

Todd drifted about in New York for a while. He walked the streets alone at night, stealing what he needed to live. His mother had been making him pick pockets and shop lift since he could walk so there wasn't much change there. Ever since Kenny had triple dog dared him to eat a water roach, Todd had acquired a taste for insects. The odd taste kept him alive when he couldn't get any other kind of food. One night when he was chasing down some bugs he found that he could stretch his tongue several feet. It startled him at first, but he learned that when he coated his tongue with the sticky slime he could produce he could grab bugs on the wing. By day he slept under bridges and in alleys. It wasn't safe to sleep at night.
After getting mugged for the umpteenth time, Todd hitchhiked his way out of New York City and found himself in a small town called Bayville. He found out what he was. A mutant. He wasn't alone. Another mutant named Mystique offered him a home if he joined the Brotherhood of mutants. Todd would've joined the Royal Order of Republican Transvestites if it meant a roof over his head. It was a shabby boardinghouse he had to share with three other mutants but it was better than nothing.
He managed to get along with the other boys he was living with. Lance and Pietro were both first class jerks but they were tolerable. Fred, aka Blob, was big as an ox and half as smart but OK to be around if he was in a good mood.
One night Todd was in the middle of another nightmare. Lee had found him. He was bearing down on him, filling him with red hot shame. Make a sound and I'll cut your throat! This is all you're good for, Toddy! Todd screamed himself awake. Lance pounded on the wall.
"Shut the fuck up, Todd!" Lance yelled. "Some of us are tryin' to sleep!"
Todd layed back down, rolled over and wept into his pillow. He wished he could froget what had happened. Maybe, if he asked real nice, he could persuade Xavier to erase that memory. And go crawling to the X-Geeks, no telling who would find out about the memory he didn't want. Forget it. What Todd wanted more than anything was someone he could talk to. Someone who would understand him. The guys were fun, but there were things that they just didn't get.

And though the nightmare should be over
Some of the terrors are still intact
I'll hear that ugly, course and violent voice
And then he grabs me from behind and then he pulls me back
But it was long ago and it was far away
Oh God it seems so very far
And if life is just a highway
Then the soul is just a car
And objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are
Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are

One summer the unexpected happened. The Brotherhood and a few members of the X-Men got into yet another fight. This one broken up by the sound of police sirens. Todd followed his first instinct at the sound and leaped into the woods. On desent, a searing pain wrenched his ankle. He vaguely remembered twisting it in the tussle. He limped into the underbrush, trying to find a place to hide from the cops. Rogue found him. She treated his ankle and stayed and talked with him for a long while. They didn't talk about anything important, but Todd appreciated her company. He found himself wanting more. He just wanted to be near her, to talk to her. He knew her flesh could never touch his but that didn't seem to matter. Earlier he had been harboring a huge crush on Pietro's sister, Wanda. He was starting to realize she would never care for him. Rogue at least showed him kindness.
In spite of herself, Rogue fell for him too. She was cautious in touching him, but he knew it was because she didn't want to hurt him. She gave him his first real kiss. It was through a silk scarf, but it was beautiful. She told him to call her Marie. Their first hot and heavy make out session was in the rose garden at the Institute under a full moon on a hot summer night. Todd didn't think he liked the smell of roses untill that night. He had been a little nervous about getting topless for her. He thought he was a little on the scrawny side, but she assured him that she thought he was just beautiful. Todd thought his heart would explode with the joy he felt that night. Her touch, even through satin gloves, set every one of his nerves on fire. He held her close, knowing that this was the happiest moment of his life so far.
Rogue's inability to touch, the fact that they were on opposing teams and the 9 inch height difference in her favor weren't the only obsticles in their relationship. Sometimes Rogue would say something or touch him in a way that reminded him of Lee. One time she had playfully tied his hands together with a scarf. He nearly went into hysterics before she could untie them. Another time was when they were waiting in line at the carnival. Rogue casually reached her hand over and gave Todd's rear a gentle squeeze. "Marie, don't do that." he whispered.
"I had to grab it." she whispered back. "It's so small and cute."
Todd found himself smiling. "That had better be my ass you're talking about." I left that bastard in Brooklyn. He told himself. I'm not going to let him spoil what I have with Marie.
. Later that summer she made skin on skin contact with him and absorbed the memory. Todd wished he had just told her. Maybe she wouldn't have cried over it. Instead, it was like she lived it herself. She held him and promised to kill Lee if she ever saw him. She also promised to keep his secret, but urged him to get counseling. Todd knew there was no way he wanted to relive what happened.
When summer turned to fall Todd had less desire to play hooky, just because he knew Rogue would be at school. They had a few classes together. She helped him study. Granted, every study session ended with one of them on top of the other, trying to suck each others' tongues through a scarf, but Todd still saw an improvment in his grades. They would have lunch together and hold hands.
Fall turned to winter. They held each other closer for warmth. Todd told her about Brooklyn, Kenny and Babka, who seemed like a pleasant childhood dream. Rogue told him about the jerk water town in Mississippi she grew up in. Her father was a first class redneck and her mother was a good little Baptist wife who did only what her husband told her to do. Her life hadn't been great either. On January 22, Todd turned 17 and Rogue gave him the first birthday present he got in the lst tst time. It was a Bugs Bunny watch that played the Looney Tunes theme. She knew he liked old Warner Brother's cartoons.
Winter melted into spring. Todd knew Rogue's birthday was March 30th. He had no idea what to get her. He was broke and she made him promise not to do anymore shoplifting or pickpocketing. Plus, what gift would be suitable for the woman who showed him that he could still love and be loved?

There was a beauty living on the edge of town
She always put the top up and the hammer down
And she taught me everything I'll ever know
About the mystery and the muscle of love

The two of them sat under a tree outside at lunchtime. "Todd, I don't make much fuss about my birthday anyway." she was telling him. "As long as you're with me, I'll be happy."
Todd laid his head in her lap and looked up at her. She's beautiful. he thought. "You sure? I wanna give you something special."
"Todd, you are special."
"That's what the teachers told me. Of course they meant special ed. Hold on, I got something for you." He sat up and grabbed the brown paper bag he had brought his lunch in. "Close your eyes." She closed them. Todd took out something he had appropriated from Blob's candy stash and put them on. He pressed them against Rogue's mouth. She opened her eyes and was flabbergasted at the sight.
"Waxed Lips?" she asked. "W Lip Lips!"
"I knew you'd like 'em!" He said, after taking them off.
"Todd, you goofy little..." He put the lips back on and kissed her again. When they were done with the Waxed Lips he layed back down in her lap. She slipped off a glove and toyed with his hair. "Is it my imagination, Todd, or is your hair getting lighter?''
"It's been getting lighter since I started washing it. The things I do for love." They laughed. "When I was little it was very blond. Hanson blond." Rogue made a sound of disgust. "There's another dirty little secret you now know. I'm a natural blond. I feel like my IQ is dropping as we speak." Rogue laughed. Todd decided Rogue's laugh was his favorite sound. "Hey, Marie," he sat up. "What do you call a blond holding a balloon?"
"I don't know."
"Siamese twins." She laughed. "Why do blond women have sore belly buttons?"
"Why?"
"Because blond guys are stupid too."
"You're not stupid, Todd." she laughed anyway.
"What does a blond say when you blow in his ear?"
"I don't know, let's find out." She leaned over and gently blew in his ear. Todd shivered a moment from the tingling sensation her breath gave him then said the punch line.
"Thanks for the fill up!"
"Todd, my birthday is tomorrow. I'll ask Scott if I can borrow his car."
"Why do ya gotta go to Shades for?" He knew Rogue had liked him once.
"You're jealous."
"Am not."
"Todd, he's property of Jean Grey, just as I'm property of Todd Tolensky." It was all Todd could do to keep from jumping on a picnic table and shouting "Yes! Yes! In your face, Summers!" She hugged him. "But I still think of him as a friend. He's got a convertable. We can drive down to the lake and- park."
"Yeah, park." He knew what she really meant.
"Hey, Todd, your date's here." Lance called that night.
"Our little Toddlekins is dating," Pietro teased, whiping away a pretend tear. "He's all grown up!"
"Stuff it, Pete." Todd went out and hopped into the seat next to Rogue.
She drove to a lake known as Inspiration Point. Not another car in sight. They wasted no time getting in the backseat. "Top up or down?" she asked. Todd could smell her rose scented perfume.
"You're talking about the car, right?" She laughed and nodded. "Well, it's a nice night out. Full moon, stars are out. Leave it down."
"More head room like this anyway." She sat astride his lap. She undid her top and started stripping to her waist. Don't touch, don't touch, he reminded himself. Wait untill she puts her see-through back on. "You know what I want." she whispered in his ear.
Todd took off his shirt and let her run her satin sheathed fingers trail over his naked shoulders and arms. He could feel his heart pounding, giving him a romantic idea. She took her right hand and placed its palm flat against his bare chest, right over his heart. "This is what I'm giving you for your birthday." he said.
"Mind if I just play with the package it comes in?" she asked.
"Not at all." Her scarf went over his throat, followed by hot kisses. Todd rolled his head back and looked at the silver glowing moon just before closing his eyes and letting everything in the world slip away except for him and his Marie.

The stars would glimmer and the moon would glow
I'm in the backseat with my Julie like a Romeo
And the signs along the highway all said
"Caution: Kids at Play".

Her hands splayed against his smooth chest, thumbs flicking over his small flat nipples. He felt himself get hard. Her hot denim clad crotch was rubbing against his. He arched under her, wanting more. A fine sheen of sweat made him glow in the moonlight. It made Rogue want to caress him all the more. "Todd," her voice was husky. "Let me show you what I really want for my birthday." She gently ran a hand over his crotch. "That is, if you want me to have it."
"Marie," he gasped. "I want to. Believe me, I've never wanted anything more. But...."
She took a condom out of her pocket. "Could you wrap my present?"
He took it from her. She wants me. he thought. She wants me, loves me, desires me. Breathe, Todd, remember to breathe. "OK," he gasped. His trembling fingers undid his jeans. "You're- you're not gonna look, are you?"
"I'll show you mine." she promised.
He edged his jeans down, suddenly glad that he had clean boxers on. His arousal was peeking through the fly. He slid the condom on, ready for action. Rogue had her jeans off. Mustn't. Touch. Thighs. He had to dig his fingers into the upholstery to fight the urge. She straddled his lap, his head just touching her entrance. She looked in his eyes and saw fear. "If you want to stop at any time," she said. "Just say so."
"I love you, Marie." he whispered.
"I love you, Todd."
He was quivering as her hot moist walls parted for him. She was panting and biting her lip. I'm hurting her. he thought. "Marie," he gasped, holding her shoulders.
"I'm OK, I'm OK." she panted. "Just, just hold still a minute." I can't believe it. he thought. I'm inside her. She's so warm and- kinda squishy. And so tight. Whoever said condoms don't feel good is dead wrong! This feels so perfect. Almost sacred.
She started moving. It felt even better. Todd had dreams of making love but they were never as good as the real thing. He grabbed her hips. She wrapped her arms around his neck. Todd felt like he was being healed. All his pain and lonliness seemed to evaporate in the night. His entire being was suffused with joy. He burried his face in Rogue's bosom and moaned her true name.
"It feels so good, Todd." she gasped. He bucked his hips under her, making her moan with the start of her orgasm. Todd squeezed her breasts gently. They were soft, he could feel them through her see-through. They felt the way he always thought clouds would feel. Soft, yeilding, warm, appreciable weight. He felt a hard nipple between his fingers. He leaned forward and sucked on it. Marie was writhing in his arms. She likes it. he thought. I can make her feel good. Why did I ever want to kill myself? This is so worth living for. If I'd known she was going to be in my life...Oh God. Oh God that feels goooooooood!
"Marie, Marie, I'm coming!"
"Come for me, Todd. Come inside me."
He shouted her name into the night as he felt himself explode. He lay back shivering and panting. She slid off him and sat close to him. He put his arms around her and hugged her closer. "That was...wow." he panted.
She brushed a tear from his cheek with her satin thumb. "You OK?" she whispered.
"Yeah. It's just, I've never been this happy before." He cuddled her close. "Kocham cie."
"What's that mean?"
"Polish for 'I love you.' That and 'hello' and 'good-bye' are all I remember."
"Kocham cie." Her accent was terrible, but he didn't care. He knew what she meant.
It wasn't untill they got back to the Boardinghouse that they noticed the sad shape the backseat was in. In his valorous attempt not to touch Rogue's bare skin, Todd had torn a couple holes in the uppholstry and spots of blood stood out.
"So, you were a virgin, huh?" he said.
"OK, we won't panic." said Rogue. "Scott's a very easy going, understanding person...oh God, we're gonna die!"
"And if Fuzzy finds out what we've been doing, it's gonna be Germany invades Poland take two!"
"Nice to know you're paying attention in history class."
"Well, Scott's gonna kill you and Kurt's gonna kill me. At least we'll die together."
"In each other's arms!" she promised, holding him tight.

Those were the rites of spring and we did everything
There was salvation every night
We got our dreams reborn and our upholstry torn
But everything we tried was right



"Todd!" her voice shouted in the darkness.
"I'm coming Marie!" Todd ran through dark corridor after dark corridor. She was here somewhere and she needed him. If he could just get to her in time. Somehow, it felt like he was running through water. Even his hops became exrutiatingly slow.
"Todd, help me!"
"Where are you?" he shouted into the darkness.
He found her. Her marble white skin seemed to shimmer in the dark. She layed sprawled on the ground. He felt like he couldn't get to her side fast enough. As soon as he touched her, she melted away like a cloud in the summer sky.
"Marie!" Todd woke up with her name on his lips. He was trembling in a cold sweat from the nightmare. Marie, you're only supposed to give me good dreams. he thought bitterly. He hoped that's all it was, just another bad dream. But so many of his nightmares were based on things that really happened. He had to make sure. He went downstairs and called Rogue's personal cell phone number. It ringed. And ringed. And ringed. Please pick up, Marie. Please be OK. Ring. Ring. Ring. I love you, Marie. I don't know what I'd do without you. Ring. Ri-
"Whoever this is can go rot in Hell." Her tired voice said grumpily.
Todd never thought he'd be so glad to be told to go to Hell. "Marie,"
"Todd, what's wrong?"
Todd felt stupid now. "Um...nothing."
"Todd, people don't call at 3 in the morning over nothing. Now what's wrong?"
He sighed. "It's just...um...I had a really bad dream. About you."
"Do you want me to come over?"
"No, you don't...ah, who am I kiddin'? Yeah, I want you here, Marie."
"Give me five minutes, if that long. I love you."
"I love you too." He briefly thought about changing out of his pajammas and into some real clothes. He decided it wouldn't matter, she'd seen him wearing less. When she came in she was wearing jeans, house slippers,an oatmeal woolen sweater and satin gloves, her leathers long since retired. Her hair was uncombed and she wasn't wearing any make-up. Todd thought she had never been lovlier. He wrapped his arms around her and held on as tight as he could. She hugged back. She held him, stroked his back, and whispered to him.
"Shh, it's OK." she murmured. "I'm here for you."
They sat on the couch together. "You didn't have to come all this way." he said to her.
"I don't live that far away. I could walk here from the Institute in ten minutes. I drove only because I wanted to get here as fast as I could. And since Kurt was asleep..." she smiled and shrugged. "Anyway, sorry for giving you bad dreams."
"Marie, you've given me some of the best dreams I've ever had. Tonight, I just realized how devistated I would be if I ever lost you. You know, I've loved only two other people before I met you."
"Wanda one of them?"
"I don't count her. She never loved me back. I'm talkin' 'bout Kenny and Babka. It hurt so much to lose them."
She put her arms around him and cuddled him. "Todd, I can't promise you'll never lose me. I love you more than I thought I could ever love anyone, but I'm just as mortal as the next person. Just, just remember, you've known what it is to love and to be loved. That's the greatest gift anyone can get."
He looked up at her. "Great, I made you cry again."
"Todd," She whiped away her tears. "You make me feel. I didn't think anyone could do that."
"Marie, in my good dreams, we can touch. I never know why, but we can."
"What do I feel like?"
"Warm. Soft. Smooth. Like silk." He reached out and toyed with a white lock of hair.
"Damn," she hissed. "Forgot my scarf."
"Marie, would you- would you wanna try something, um, different?"
"How different?"
"Don't freak out or nothin'. And I'll understand if you don't wanna."
"Todd..." she said warningly.
"OK, here it goes." he pulled his lips in and gave them a thin coat of slime. He gave her questioning look.
"Well, it's better'n Waxed Lips." She leaned forward and kissed him. He moaned into her mouth. She broke away. "You OK, Todd?" she asked worriedly. "I didn't drain ya or anything?"
"No," he gasped. "Please, let's do that again." He put on another coat of slime. She pressed her lips against his. He took her by the arms and layed back on the couch, pulling her down with him. He was usually uncomfortable having her lay on top of him, but he knew it was what he wanted this time. This is Marie. he told himself. She loves me. She won't hurt me. He wrapped his legs around her and squeezed. He felt her fingers stroke his thighs. She squeezed a well developed muscle. Todd felt like he was in Heaven. Her arms and legs were all wrapped around him now. He relaxed and let her body heal his battered spirit.
She held his hands and stroked them. Her thumb brushed an old scar. She suddenly realized that as intimate as she had been with Todd, she had never seen him without his wrist bands. She looked at the jagged white scar on the inside of his left wrist. "Todd, when did..."
"It was a lifetime ago, Marie. Before I knew how beautiful life could be."
That was good enough for her. She laid her body against his. She held him close and kissed his hair. "Todd, you've been through the fires of Hell and have the scars to prove it. I wish there was someway I could make it all better."
"Hold me, Marie, just hold me." She held him tight. He snuggled against her wool covered breast. She was here. She was so warm and soft. Todd felt his fears vanish at her touch. "You really areangeangel, Marie." he sighed.
"Yeah? You make me as horny as the devil."
"I make you horny?"
She blew in his ear and growled.
"Do I make you horny, baby?" He did his best Austin Powers impression. "Do I make you randy? Do I?"
She showed him just how randy she could get.

She used her body just like a bandage
She used my body just like a wound
I'll probably never know where she disappeared
But I can see her rising out of the backseat now
Just like an angel rising out of a tomb

"Let's do the Time Warp aga-ain!" reverberated through the gym. "It's just a jump to the left," Everyone at Bayville High's Halloween dance took a jump to the left. "And a step to the ri-i-ight! You put your hands on your hips."
"Or someone else's!" Todd suggested, demonstrating with Rogue.
"And your knees in ti-ight! But it's the pelvic thrust, that really drives you insa-a-a-ane! Let's do the Time Warp again!"
At the end of the song Rogue and Todd sat on the bleachers. "I am havink zo much fun tonight dahlink." said Rogue in a bad Russian
accent. The two of them had come dressed as Boris and Natasha from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.
"May I have ze next dance, Honeybunch?"
"You can have every dance with me." she put an arm around him.
"Is that you, Rogue?" asked Kurt upon approaching them. "I didn't recognize you with the wig at first."
"Yeah, it's me."
"Me too." Todd took off his false mustache. "Nice costume. If you call it that." Kurt's choice of "costume" was not wearing his image inducer. He was in his normal form wearing a red tank top and jeans. He sat next to Rogue.
"I like Halloween." he said. "One night a year I can be myself."
"That's funny." said Rogue. "Usually people try to be someone else on Halloween."
Kitty approached carrying two cups of punch. She was wearing an angel costume, complete with tinsel halo. "Hi, guys." she said, sitting down and giving Kurt some punch. "Who are you supposed to be?"
"He's Boris Badanof." said Rogue. "And I'm Natasha Fatale. From the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show."
"I love your costume, Katzchen." said Kurt. "But are you sure you don't have a little devil in you?"
"No, I don't."
"Would you like some?"
"Kurt!" She gave him a playful slap on the arm.
Later that night the DJ played "The Monster Mash." Rogue took Todd's hand and pulled him close. "Let's go somewhere- private." she whispered. They slipped off together and hid in the janitor's closet. Todd coated his lips with slime and reached out for her.
There was something exhilerating about being kissed in the dark. Their hands groped around, neither realizing what they were touching, just knowing that it felt good. A swift hand was stroking his thigh. Oh, God, she knows that drives me crazy! He sought out to caress the hand that pleasured him. It didn't feel like the velvet opera glove he knew she was wearing. It was- furry, with three fingers.
Grasping a hairy arm confirmed Todd's fears. He screamed. Rogue screamed. Kurt and Kitty screamed.
"What are you doing here?" they all asked at once.
"Quadruple jynx!" said Kitty. "Don't think that's ever happened before."
"What were you doing to my sister?" Kurt demanded of Todd.
"What were you doing to my leg?" Todd retorted.
"I thought it was Kitty's!"
"Yes, I see how you could be confused."
"Um, like, let's just get out of here." Kitty suggested.
They took Kitty's suggestion. Later that night Todd and Rogue won first prize for best couple's costume-$50. Kurt and Kitty won second prize-$25.
The next day, Todd and Rogue were deciding what to do with their cash. "Well, it's the day after Halloween." Rogue observed. "You know what that means."
"Bargain priced candy at Try'N'Save?"
"Bingo. You ask Kurt if he wants to come. I'll ask Kitty."
"Why do I have to ask him?"
"Because you said you were gonna try and be nicer to him."
"Oh, alright." Todd went up to Kurt's room. She's right, I should be nicer to the furball. I mean, if everything goes right, I might end up with him as a brother-in-law. Todd never thought of himself as the get married and settle down type, but Rogue could make him think things like that. He realized the 2.5 kids was out of the question. I'd probably suck as a father anyway.
"Yo, Fuzzbutt," said Todd. "Wanna go on a candy run?"
"Nein, thank you." Kurt was getting some candles out of his closet.
"You, turning down candy? That's a first. What's with the candles? Halloween was yesterday, yo."
"Ja, but today is All Saint's Day. These are votive candles."
"OK, mind explaining that to the heathen?"
"Well, All Saint's Day is a day to remember all of the saints- hence the name. You see, in the Catholic church a saint is given a feast day to honor that saint. All Saint's celebrates unknown saints. People who were martyred and their names lost, people who did good works anonymously, things like that. It's also a day for remembering dead loved ones. Every year I light a candle for Opa Franz and Onkle Gustav. Oma Elsa passed on earlier this year, so I will be lighting one for her too."
"Uh-huh," Todd nodded.
"I also set up pictures of them, and remember how they were when they were alive." He opened a drawer. "Here's the last picture taken of Onkle Gustav." He showed Todd a photo of a bald clown wearing a too small hat with a daisy on it and an orange jumpsuit with purple polka dots. He was waving and an elephant was standing behind him. "Right after the pictue was taken, the elephant rolled over on him."
Todd tried very hard not to laugh- and failed. "I-I'm sorry." he tried to compose himself.
"It's OK. The story would be funny, if it hadn't ended so tragickly. Onkle Gustav liked it when people laughed. In Germany, my parents are now putting flowers and candles on their graves. You probably think the whole thing is kind of stupid."
"Yeah, kinda. I'll tell Rogue you're not coming."
Rogue and Todd went to Try'N'Save alone. Kitty claimed to be on another diet. They filled their basket with caramel apple pops, "Fun Sized" bars and candy corn. On the way to check out, they stopped at a display of scented candles, also marked down. "I think I might pick up these rose scented ones." Rogue said, picking up a three-pack of pink candles. "They could be- interresting."
"Yeah, interresting." He looked at the candles. What smells OK, but isn't sexy? he wondered. Sandlewood. I don't even know what that is. I'll take a pack of those.
Later, they were up in Rogue's room. The lights were out, the rose scented candles were lit. They fed each other candy and made heartfelt love well into the night. He gave her a good-night kiss, took his share of the candy and sandlewood candles, and with a jaunty wave, he leaped out the window and headed to the Boardinghouse.
Todd went into his room and closed the door. He set two of the candles on his window sill and lit them. He wished he had pictures of Babka and Kenny. He sat on his bed trd tried very hard to remember their faces. Babka had been a small, plump woman with white hair and a round creased face. Kenny was gangly with a mop of black hair and dark blue eyes. "I don't know if you can hear me. I'm not even sure I believe in life after death." he said. "I'm not even sure there's a God. Let's face it, He's doin' a pretty pissy job. I just need to do this. For myself if no one else. I love both of you. I know, it's weird saying I love another dude. But it's true, I know, as close as we ever came to saying it was saying 'You're real cool, yo.' or something like that. Kenny, I loved you like a brother and it tore my heart apart when you died.
"Babka, I'm sorry I didn't keep up with the Polish you were teaching me. After you died, Vixen would throw a fit if I said anything that wasn't in English. Slapped me around a couple times. I'm trying to relearn it. It isn't easy. It'll be a while before I can hold a conversation in Polish, if ever. If it wasn't for you, Babka, I'd probably be one of those babies that people find dead in dumpsters. When you died, I was to young to really know what death was. I just knew I wanted you back. Kocham cie.
"Don't know what I'll do with this third candle. Maybe I'll light it in memory of my childhood. Then again, I wonder if I ever really had one. I want you both to know that I'm OK. I don't wanna die anymore. I found someone who loves me as much as I love her. My life's still kinda crazy, probably always will be. I'll never forget either of you."

But it was long ago and it was far away
Oh God it seems so very far

Ten years later, Todd and Rogue were long since married and living on Orchard Street in Manhatten. It had been a struggle, but they started their own business. The exterior of the small brick building bore a neon sign that showed an animated green toad hopping up and down. The sign read "The Happy Toad, Billiards and Spirits". The upstairs was an apartment that they lived in. Not long after they bought the place, Todd discovered a secret passage that led to yet another bar underground- an abandoned speakeasy left over from Prohibition. "Hey, two for the price of one." He told Rogue. The speakeasy became a safehouse for mutants on the run. The password- "Charly sent me."
One night, they were closing as usual. Rogue clapped her hands over a drowsy barfly's head. "C'mon! Closin' time!" she said. "You don't have to go home, but ya can't stay here."
"Mmm... just one more, Miss Rogue?" he asked.
"I ain't no Miss, I'm a Mizzus. And don't you forget it!"
"Howsabowt a widdle good-night kiss?"
"That's it. Freddy!" They had given the Blob a job as a bouncer. "You know what to do." Freddy threw the barfly out. Litterally. "Good job, Fred. You can go home now."
"Thanks, Rogue." he left.
"I coulda handled that jerk." said Todd, putting up the last of the glasses.
"Ya know Freddy likes doin' it. 'Sides, it's what we pay him for." She took out the till and started counting the money.
"Speakin' of which, we might wanna hire more people. I could use an extra pair of hands behind the bar and, frankly, I don't like the way guys who come in here and treat you like some cocktail waitress or something."
"Well, I do wait tables."
"And they oughta give youe ree respect for it. Marie, you're a full partner in this shebang, just as I am."
"Well, business has been good latly." She started putting the money in the safe. "I guess we can hire some help."
They started doing the general tidying they did every night. Rogue leaned over one of the pool tables to retrieve an errant 8 ball. Todd slipped up behind her and gave her rear a pat.
"Todd!"
"I couldn't help it. It was there."
She held him. "You know I love you, right, babe?"
"Know what I'm thinking, Marie?" He caressed her sides. "I'm thinking I can mix up a couplea peach daiquiris just the way you like 'em, then we can go upstairs and..." He was cut off by a high pitched mewling sound. "What was that?"
"I dunno. You think a cat or a dog got in here?" Another sound- a drawled out whimper.
"It's comming from underneath the pool table." Todd kneeled down. Rogue followed. They saw a cardboard box marked "Dole Bananas". Did someone dump a litter here? Todd pulled the box out and looked inside. It wasn't an animal.
"Todd, what is it?"
"Um...I think it's a baby." He picked it up. It was naked and shivering. It was a boy. While generally the size and shape of a baby, he was certainly odd looking. The eyes were two luminous black orbs. The nose and mouth had fused into a wide, short beak. The toes and feet were webbed. The baby mutant began to cry.
Rogue took off her jacket. "Here, he's probably cold." Todd wrapped the baby in her jacket. He stopped shivering, but he was still crying.
"You-uh-think he might be hungry or something?" Todd suggested.
"Maybe. I'll hold him awhile. You get him something."
Todd went behind the bar. Now, what do I have that won't give the kid a hangover? He opened the cooler. He had a few fruit juices he kept on hand for mixed drinks. He grabbed a can of pineapple juice. Ok, now what? We don't have any bottles, with that beak he probably couldn't drink from one anyway. He found an unopened pack of sponges. This would do.
He soaked the sponge in the juice and gently squeezed a few drops in the baby's beak. He eagerly swallowed them. Todd noticed a thin pink mark down the side of the baby's neck.
"Oh my God, Marie, I-I think someone tried to kill him!" Todd felt like he was going to be sick.
Rogue looked at the slit Todd pointed out. "There's another one on the other side, just like it. They're not bleeding. If I didn't know better, I'd swear they were gills."
"Well, he has webbed feet. Doncha, you little Tadpole?" He playfully stroked the baby's beak.
"Tadpole?"
"Yeah, I'm a Toad, so that makes him a Tadpole. Kid has to have a name."
"You can't name a kid 'Tadpole'. Tad, maybe, but...what am I saying!? Todd, we can't keep this baby!"
"Why not?"
"Well...he's not ours."
"Whoever he belongs to don't want him." And don't deserve him either.
"Todd, this is crazy! We gotta call the police, or take him to a hospital, something!"
"Marie, take a good look at him. He's obviously a mutant. You know how the pigs are about mutants. We can let Jean have a look at him, I guess." He looked at Tadpole, as he now thought of him. Now that he was fed and warm, Tadpole was staring contentedly at the world around him with his onyx black eyes.
"I hate to bother her at this hour."
"She's a doctor, she's probably used to it."
"Yeah, I'll go call her."
Rogue went to use the phone, leaving Todd with Tadpole. The baby's eyes were sliding shut. Todd looked at the little person in his arms. He felt completly awestruck, just watching the baby's pale chest expand and contract with every breath. He was scarcely aware of it, but he was holding the infant close to him and gently rocking back and forth where he sat on the floor.
"OK, Jean says to bring the baby to her office." Rogue reported.
"Don't we-um-need a car seat or something?"
"The used clothing store across the street is open all night. It's got a few baby things. Be right back." Rogue got some money out of the safe and left. She returned with a slightly used car seat and a set of baby pajammas. "He might as well wear something."
They dressed Tadpole and put him in the car seat. It took them awhile to figure out how to strap the seat in the back of their car- a white '04 Corvette Scott and the others had given them as a wedding gift. Todd did the driving.
New York was the city that never slept. And its denizens never learned to drive. "Hey, buddy," Todd shouted at another motorist. "it's called a turn signal! Look into it!"
"Todd, calm down."
"I'm tryin' to, Marie. People here drive like morons and I got a baby in the car!"
"Uh, Todd? Think you could go just a little faster than 30?"
"I guess."
Marie looked in the backseat. Tadpole was sleeping peacefully. He looked cute. Almost the way Todd looked when he was asleep. We're not keepin him. she reminded herself. This is temporary.
Jean met them at the hospital where she had a private office. Her name plate read "Jean Summers, M.D." She had her titian hair hastily piled on top of her head and wore jeans and a sweat shirt under her lab coat.
"So, this is the baby?" she said.
"No, it's a Chia Pet." Todd responded. "We're looking for a good home for it."
"Well, think I could listen to the 'Chia Pet's' heart?" She took a stephascope out of her pocket. Todd opened the pajammas and let Jean listen. "Mmm-hmm..." she muttered.
"What's that mean?"
"Nothing, they just teach you to do that in med school. He sounds pretty healthy. Put him on the table. You can wait outside."
"Um, is it OK if I stay? It's not that I don't trust you, it's just..."
"I understand. You can help me by holding him."
Jean continued with the examination. She looked in his eyes, ears and the nasal passages on his beak. She palpated the webbed fingers. She tenativly examined the gill slits. "This is something I'm not familiar with," she said. "But he's breathing normally. By his size and the umbibicle stump, I'd judge him to be no more than a day or two old. Could you hold his foot still? I need to take a blood sample."
Todd held the tiny foot and looked away. Tadpole let out an earsplitting shriek. Todd winced as if he had been the one jabbed with a needle. Todd comforted the crying infant as Jean left with a small vial of blood. "Sh, it's over with, Tadpole." he whispered to him.
Jean returned soon. "As far as I can tell, he's..." she paused.
"What? As far as you can tell he's what?"
Jean just smiled. "I'm sorry. It's just, for a moment there you looked like Scott did when Nathan and Rachel were very little. Your baby is just fine. A mutant who can moran lan likely breathe underwater, but perfectly healthy."
My baby. Does she mean that? He didn't hear what Jean was saying. "I'm sorry, what?"
"I said I have some newborn sized diapers here. Trust me, you'll need them. If you want, I can perform a circumcision on him."
"What's that?"
"Removal of the foreskin from the glans."
"Will that hurt him?"
"I'll give you and Rogue some literature so you can make an informed decision. Also, I could, um, type up a birth certificate for him. It's not exactly legal, not exactly illegal, but I can make it look like the baby is yours if you want."
"Um, I gotta talk this over with Mar-uh, Rogue."
"Of course. Does the little fellow have a name?"
"I've been calling him Tadpole, but Rogue wants to call him just Tad."
Jean smiled. "Take Tad home. He's had a busy night."
The sun was coming up on the way home. Jean had given them some supplies and several pamphlets on infant care.
"We're not keepin' him." said Rogue.
"I understand." he sighed.
"A bar ain't no kindace tce to raise a kid." A world where he would be hated for what he was wasn't an ideal place to raise a child, but that was neither here or there. "We're just- takin' care of him untill- untill we can find some one that can...I dunno." She looked in the backseat at Tad's serene sleeping face. Aw, who am I kiddin'?

And if life is just a highway
Then the is is just a car.

"OK, so I fibbed when I said I wasn't coming back." Todd said as he stood next to Kenny's headstone. "Just wanted to update you. I'm OK. I'm living across the river in Manhatten. I remember you said you wanted to live there someday. Marie and I have a place on Orchard Street. It's not much, just a place to have a few drinks and shoot pool. Tad's getting so big. I took him trick or treating for the first time last night. Kurt brought along his little girl and the Summers' kids came with us. They were just so cute. Tad can talk a little now. He says 'momma', 'daddy', 'whuzzat' and a few other words.
"I'm sorry, Kenny. Sorry you never got to grow up, fall in love or do a hundred other things I've done. You were a special part of my life. I didn't think you'd care for flowers so I brought you some basketball cards." Todd lined some basketball cards up against the headstone. "Rumor has it Michael Jordan is going to retire- again. He's getting old, so it might be for good this time. See ya next year, Kenny. I gotta go say hi to Babka now."
Todd placed a bouquet of zinnias on Aniela Tolensky's grave. "Hello, Babka, I hope you like the flowers. I remember bringing you dandelions when I was little. You loved them, even if they were just weeds." he took a deep breath an said the rest in Polish. "I've relearned nearly everything my mother forced me to forget. It isn't easy. I had to teach myself and there's not many people I know who speak Polish. I might teach the language to Tad. I'll tell him all about his great-grandmother." A raindrop splashed on his arm. "Guess that means it's time for me to leave. Kocham cie, Babka."
From the cemetary, Todd could see the New York skyline. He remembered looking at it from the embankment of the East River with Kenny. That was before the Twin Towers went down and two or three other skyscrapers went up. The rain started to fall more insistantly. Todd drove across the Brooklyn Bridge, back home.
Marie was at one of the tables with their checkbook. Tad was on one of the barstools sucking on a caramel apple pop he got from last night's trick or treating. One of these days, Todd thought. I'm gonna teach him how to TP something.
"Hiya, babe." He hugged her from behind and kissed her hair.
"Hey, Todd. You OK?" He told her where he was going and was afraid he'd come back depressed.
"I've never been better."
"Never?"
"OK, there are times when I've felt better, but I won't discuss them in front of Tad."
She laughed and hugged him. "I've gotta go mail some paychecks. Raining hard out?"
"Kinda." She took an umbrella and left.
"Whuzzat?" Tad pointed to a framed document on the wall.
"That's Daddy's liquor license."
"Whuzzat?" Tad pointed to another framed document.
"That's Daddy's license to use a gun."
"Whuzzat?"
"Those are martini glasses."
They played the "Whuzzat" game for a while untill Tad grabbed Todd's shirt and said "Go wide?"
"Well, the rain's let up. Sure, I'll take you for a ride." He let Tad climb on to his shoulders and went upstairs. There was a stairwell that led to the roof of the building. As soon as they were on the roof Tad said "Daddy! Whuzzat?"
Todd looked up at the sky where Tad was pointing. An ephemeral arc of colors cut through the grey sky.
"That-that's a rainbow." Todd had never seen one himself, but had heard of them.
"Wane-bo." said Tad. "Pwiddy."
"Yeah, Tad, it's pretty. Hold on tight now." Todd leaped across the alleyway to the roof of another building. He quickly hopped to another. Tad squeeled with delight. Todd hopped from one rooftop to another. The rainbow smiled down on father and son.

And objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are
Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are


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