White Rabbit

by Domenika Marzione

11/September-October 2006

Alex returned to the kitchen table, looked over the fresh text on his laptop screen, and let loose a rather undignified giggle. Instant messaging wasn't the same as being in the same room as everyone, but it was as close as they were going to get for the foreseeable future because the time differences made videoconferencing impractical.

It had been Sanjay - now at Oxford - who had started the group on chat. He'd gotten the idea from his sister, who convinced him to use Skype rather than spend money on the long distance phone bills. Within a couple of weeks, Sanjay had somehow figured out how to get most of Ji-Won, Paul and/or Stephanie, Alex, and even the email-phobic Valeri to be online at the same time. They could bitch and tease each other with an audience now. It was great fun, Alex decided, even with Paul and Stephanie's insane need to send digital photographs of their darling baby boy Jeffrey (who was, in fact, x-factor positive) to everyone.

Sanjay, Ji-Won, Valeri, and Alex were the only ones around at the moment and the current topic of discussion, Valeri's hunt for a job, had started while Alex had had his head in the freezer looking for the chicken thighs for dinner. Valeri's specialization was paleontology as was Sanjay's, but he was hoping to catch on at a museum rather than teach.

Unfortunately, the only responses he had gotten so far was from a children's museum in Cleveland and an assistant librarian's spot in Salt Lake City that would be advanced to a full position should he get his MLS. He had, however, been offered a position at the sciences division of U Oklahoma-Norman's press (he had done an internship one summer with one of their major authors) and was pondering.

Ji-Won (who was online despite it being the middle of the night in the New Lands because she had had to switch to night shift to cover for a co-worker) thought Valeri should take the editing job. Despite it being in Oklahoma, Norman was a major university press and, well, nobody wanted to end up in Paul's spot. Paul and Stephanie were living in Pittsburgh - Stephanie had gotten a job with one of the major steel corporations (and, in fact, would be returning from maternity leave next week) and Paul had gone along, just assuming that he'd be able to get a job in an area that derived a good bit of its economy from mining. But Paul hadn't been able to land anything 'of substance' and had been reduced to taking a job teaching earth science in the public school system. He was hoping to get into academia, but so far the only job offer had come from a community college in Wheeling, West Virginia, which was close, but not close enough for the money that they were offering.

Sanjay, theoretically the best person for Valeri to talk to, was being curiously quiet on the matter, although Alex thought he knew why. Sanjay and Alex had had many discussions over the past few years about scrabbling by on freelance projects from museums and neither of them thought that Valeri was meant for that sort of thing. It was make-your-own-hours kind of stuff most of the time and Valeri really needed something a bit more structured. Unlike Alex, Valeri would be quite happy in a nine-to-five world. The problem was that Valeri didn't like any of the nine-to-five jobs that could be gotten with a doctorate in paleontology.

After Ji-Won had to get back to work, Alex and Sanjay both started in on Valeri becoming a librarian. Librarians were needed in museums as well - Alex's crowning achievement of the month at the Museum of Natural History had been to charm Florence, the head of the in-house library, to let him stay a half-hour after the library closed (the library, nearly unknown despite having its entrance in the middle of the world-famous dinosaur exhibit, was a wealth of unique resources) to finish taking notes on a text too brittle to photocopy. By the time Alex had to sign off from the conversation in order to start preparing dinner, Valeri had backed down from his initial stark refusal even if he remained unconvinced.

Alex closed up his laptop and brought it out to the living room so that he could convert the kitchen table from a workspace to a dining space. With his stuff stowed - Alex had finished his notes on the riverbed analysis he had been assigned from Lamont before chatting with his friends - he now had to figure out what was going to become dinner. They really needed to go food shopping - more so than usual because the vegetable prices had been outrageous last week (they had both balked at paying $2.99 a pound for peppers) and the bin was essentially bare apart from a lettuce, five carrots, and half a cucumber. Maybe Lily had stopped off at the grocer on the way to the subway - food was a lot cheaper on 137th Street.

The pantry produced a can of chickpeas and there were still a few potatoes left, so Alex was able to be busily chopping away at what could be a decent curry when he heard the door open and close.

"Hey," he called out over the sizzling onions in the frying pan and heard a muffled reply. "How were the little demons today?"

He received no answer, but with all of the noise he was making in the kitchen between the caramelizing onions and the running water in the sink where he was scrubbing potatoes, he assumed that he had missed her heading into the bedroom to change.

But when Lily hadn't emerged by the time he had put the chicken up to brown, Alex started to get a little suspicious.

"Lil?" he called out, wiping his hands on the dishtowel. No reply.

She wasn't in the living room and wasn't in the study and when Alex found her in the bedroom, she was sitting on the edge of the bed still dressed in the outfit she had worn to work.

He had paused by the doorway, but walked to stand in front of her when she didn't move. "Lily?"

She looked up at him with such a surprised look that he was sure that she hadn't seen him come into the room.  He crouched in front of her and took her hands, which were ice cold. "What's the matter, honey?"

"I'm pregnant," she whispered and Alex just stared.

"You're sure?" he asked, regaining his balance even as his mind started to spin. He sat down on the bed next to her and she immediately leaned into him, putting her forehead against his chest.

"I just got back from the doctor," she said in a quiet voice just this side of unsteady. "I'm sure. Six weeks... The baby will be due in early May."

Alex shook his head. "But... how? I mean..." Lily had been on the Pill for as long as he'd known her. They had talked about it when they had gotten married and decided that they'd know when the right time to stop would be.

"All those shots I took to go to the New Lands," she replied, sitting up and wiping the beginnings of a tear from her right eye. "They interacted badly with the Pill... Doctor Janes said that he knew of cases where it had happened before, but the odds were so small that he didn't think to make a big production out of warning me. The medicine had to be in my system for a certain period of time before they'd pose any sort of conflict and then it would have to be just the right part of my ovulation cycle..."

"He just didn't think to count on unerring Summers' luck, did he?" Alex asked, pulling her back against him. She went unresistingly. He swallowed hard before he asked the next question. "What do you want to do?"

Lily gave a short, hollow laugh. "What can I do?" she asked in return. "We're going to be parents."

Alex kissed the top of her head, squeezing her tightly. This was supposed to be the happiest moment in their lives, some dim part of his brain was trying to point out. They were going to have a baby... But it wasn't that simple. Lily had no strong maternal leanings - no "need to breed," as she'd put it - and Alex, truth be told, hadn't pushed her about it. He wanted children, but not before they were ready for them. And he wasn't sure that they had hit that point... although now it was being thrust upon them.

Scott's experiences with baby Christopher (for that was how Alex still thought of Nathan as an infant) had affected Alex far more than he ever wanted to let on and Logan's disappearance had only cemented his determination to wait. Superheroing wasn't a job that allowed for someone to be a parent and Alex himself knew too well that 'retiring' from the job was only a pretense and not a reality. There was always another supervillian, always another battle to be fought. And it was the nature of the business to be willing to sacrifice personal happiness for the good of the many.

Alex rubbed Lily's back, grounding himself as much as her. She was on the verge of giving into the sobs that he could feel welling up inside.

She knew as well as he did that being the child of a superhero, even a retired one, was not an easy life. Scott and Madelyne had been back in Alaska, thousands of miles away from Cyclops and the X-Men, when their world had come apart and Christopher had been kidnapped. Logan and Sulven had been at home, doing nothing of import, when they had been pulled away from their babies - a separation that had done damage that was not fully healed nearly two years later. Even Reed and Sue Richards had had so many problems protecting Franklin not only from those who would use him to get to their parents, but also those who would use Franklin's own powers for their miscreant purposes...

"Do you think the baby will be a mutant?" Lily asked, sitting up a little. Alex tried not to look guilty that he had been considering just those thoughts - and how best to keep some of them from her. Lily knew of Christopher Nathan's exciting childhood and had been witness to the twins' problems, but... Alex wasn't sure how she'd react to knowing that there were those who would harness the powers of an innocent child, a non-combatant.

"I would have to put the odds in its favor," Alex replied, brushing her hair out of her face with a gentle hand. "With mutant births up since the Merge and my genes to contend with..."

"I thought so, too," she admitted, her breath hitching in the middle. "And you know what? It doesn't scare me nearly as much as it used to... It doesn't scare me as much as having a baby in the first place..."

"Oh, Lily," Alex murmured, pulling her into a fierce embrace. "You're going to be a fantastic mother. You are. Our baby's going to be doing classical mechanics before he's out of his high chair and will be able to do a soil analysis of the dirt he eats... Or he could be a she. Or a they..."

"Don't say 'they'," Lily pleaded, a smile playing at one edge of her mouth even as tears were streaming down her face.

"No 'they'," Alex agreed, happy to have broken her sadness up a little although he wondered whether he was convincing himself or Lily. "At least until a sonogram proves otherwise."

Lily made a noise into his chest that would have been a laugh had she not also been crying.

"Don't blow your nose in my shirt," Alex told her and she did it again.

"It's a bit overwhelming," Alex said after she had pulled away to get a tissue from her nightstand. "For me, too. But it's a baby. Not cancer, not something terrible at all. It may be a little sooner than we planned, but...Maybe this is someone's way of telling us it's time, you know? We may not be ready right at this moment, but when the time comes, we will be."

Lily blew her nose and looked at him with such a hopeful expression that Alex felt his heart break. He wished she wasn't so scared.

"We're in a great position, you know," he went on, reaching for her hands after she threw away the tissue. "We're employed, our mortgage is tiny, we've got plenty of family and friends to bury us with unhelpful advice and then volunteer to baby-sit...Apocalypse is dead, the Merge has made this world a promising place to raise a mutant baby... And Junior is going to have someone almost exactly his age to defend him from the twins and Clare."

Lily looked at him confusedly for a moment before realization dawned. Sam and Dana had known for a few weeks that they were going to be having their first baby in April. Of course, they had been working on having a baby...A sudden thought made him burst out laughing.

"What?" Lily asked, eyes narrowed as she watched him. "What is so funny?"

"Of all of the X-people to be having a celebration baby," Alex began, leaning back so that he was lying on the bed. "I don't think we were at the top of anyone's list of suspects to be having a kid nine months after any anniversary of Akkaba. That would be something Scott or Nathan would do by accident...Oh, man. How is Clare going to be related to our baby?"

Lily looked at him like he'd lost it before closing her eyes in concentration. "Nathan's your nephew and Clare's your grand-niece. So Nathan and our baby will be first cousins... So Clare will either be a second cousin or a first cousin once removed. I never remember how it works out."

Alex held out his arms and Lily lowered herself into his embrace and the two of them lay there, staring at the ceiling, each lost in their own thoughts.

"We can do this," Alex finally said, squeezing Lily's shoulders for emphasis. "We are going to be astounding parents. We will be the first normal parents in recent Summers history. No ill-timed disappearances. No cloning - no matter how good of an idea it sounds like at the time. We will agree on a name and stick to it - and may I suggest that we stay away from naming our baby after anyone from my side of the family? I'm convinced that that's part of the problem..."

"I happen to like Katherine as a name," Lily objected. "And Deborah. There aren't too many normal female names on my side..."

"Well, how about just staying away from boys names?" Alex offered. "There haven't been any girls to create mayhem in the family tree... well, except Rachel and I'm inclined to blame her on Jean... And speaking of, you are not allowed to attempt a hellmouth sacrifice of our child, okay?"

"Deal," Lily agreed. She reached up and took his hand. "I love you, Alex."

"I love you too," he replied, rolling over on to his side to face her. She had stopped crying and while her eyes were bloodshot, she didn't look nearly as... grief-stricken... as she had before. "I love you for being brave even when you think you can't be. And..."

The screaming wail of the smoke detector broke the moment totally. "Shit... I love you enough to burn dinner for you... Why don't we go out tonight?" he asked as he got up off the bed and ran to the kitchen, turning off the burner and opening the kitchen window further before grabbing the dishtowel and fanning the smoke detector until it turned off.

When he returned to the bedroom after dumping the charred remains of the chicken and potatoes into the garbage and soaking the pan, he found Lily wearing jeans and a t-shirt and toweling off her face, obviously having just washed it.

"I figure I should get as much use out of them as I can before... oh, jeez... what happens if I get fat and ugly and I can never lose all of the weight I gain with the baby? What happens if I get all hideous...?"

"And have to wear muumuus and we have to buy you clothes from Omar the Tentmaker?" Alex asked with a snort as he walked over to where she was staring at her image in the mirror. He hugged her from behind as they both faced the glass. "I'll love you no matter what. And if you get really nervous, we can wheel you out of the maternity ward and into the Danger Room where you can run around in a spandex suit chasing Prime Sentinels until you look like She-Hulk."

"Don't mock me," Lily told him with a frown as she looked critically at her figure. "I'm serious."

"So am I," Alex replied, kissing her cheek and pulling her backwards and away from the mirror. "You and Dana can come up with some post-partum routine that you can do together. Destroying holographs of Sam and me for getting you two pregnant in the first place... You're six weeks into a nine month pregnancy, stop fretting about the end before you get to it."

"Alex, the end of the road is the baby itself," Lily retorted as she turned around to face him. "This is the only time I'm going to have to think about things like this."

Truth be told, Alex was delighted that she was thinking about it and would indulge her for as long as he could before she developed a complex. Because worrying about maternity clothes was a helluva lot healthier than worrying that she'd be a miserable parent or that their child would have some horrible mutation or something worse. In its own warped way, it was the beginning of acceptance - even as he still didn't know how long Lily had suspected that she might be pregnant.

They decided to go to the Vietnamese place on 90th and Amsterdam rather than order in from there, even if it meant waiting for twenty minutes. It was unspoken that they both wanted to be together among other people tonight rather than let the overwhelmingness of the situation stifle them in their apartment.

The walk to the tiny restaurant was one that they had made dozens of times in the past three years, but it was different somehow tonight. Alex for one was noticing new things - like how the bookseller with his tables set up just past the seating for the sidewalk café made it hard enough for pedestrians to pass by but would make it near impossible for a carriage or a stroller. Or how he had no idea if the big CVS on 86th had better prices than Duane Reade or Rite-Aid - Lily tended to pick up things he needed since she went to the drugstore more often. So much to learn in the next few months... and then so much more to learn once the baby was born...

Alex allowed himself to get a little excited. In a lifetime surfeit with adventures, this was going to be the most amazing of them all and he was not going to let his habit of taking the most pessimistic view of anything ruin it. The glass was going to be half-full here. For himself and most importantly for Lily.

Intellectually, he knew that there was no point in fretting about accidents or evil villains or even whether the baby would be a mutant (although here Alex was relatively calm - neither he nor Scott had been infant-onset mutants and he was going to do everything in his power to make sure no child of his had to manifest because of trauma). The challenge would be to let his intellect convince his emotions - the ones that had been hurt so deeply with each incident and each attack. But he had time and it would be silly to think that everything would come at once.

"What is that?"

"In English they call it a 'cat'."

"I know it's a cat, Alex, but what is a cat doing in our living room?"

"Watching you watch him... All right, all right, no hitting. I got him from the shelter on 79th and West End. I figured he'd be good practice."

"Practice for what? The baby?"

"Yeah. A little responsibility before our big one."

"Who gave you this idea, dare I ask?"

"Piotr. It came with an old Russian parable about farms and cows and picking out wives, so I decided to save you all of that and just get the cat."

"I appreciate your consideration. Is he housebroken?"

"I assume you mean the cat and not Piotr... Yeah. The shelter said he was dropped off a week ago by the son of an old lady who had died and he didn't want the cat."

"Ugh... they don't spare the guilt trips, do they? Well, I guess that explains why he's so... plump. Does he have a name?"

"I'm suggesting we come up with a new one... Does this mean we get to keep him?"

"When you look at me like that, I'm powerless to resist...I just hope you bond to our child this quickly. How bad is the old name?"

"'Snuggles'. But he doesn't answer to it."

"I wouldn't either. What do you suggest?"

"Well, he does sort of look like Felix the Cat... Felix the Cat, the wonderful, wonderful cat..."

"Stop singing or he stays Snuggles."

"So you like Felix?"

"I never had a pet growing up. I will defer to your superior pet nominalism."

"You had those fish when I first met you."

"And I named them after the Marx Brothers. So unless you'd like to name the cat Zeppo, I'm okay with Felix."

Alex looked up from his coffee and bagel as Lily staggered into the kitchen. "Do I ask you how you're feeling or do we go right to you beating me up?"

Lily just glared at him as she headed to the freezer to get out the loaf of supermarket oat bread. Morning sickness had started with a vengeance the previous month and hadn't let up yet. The Ob.-Gyn. had told them not to worry, but that didn't Lily's mornings any less miserable. She had initially kept crackers on her bedside table, but the crumbs in the bed soon made her more irritable than having to run to the bathroom.

She put two slices in the toaster and looked around for the thermos.

"It's over here," Alex told her. Making mint tea was the least Alex thought he could do - especially since Lily, never a morning person, would get violent should he attempt to hover while she decided whether or not to throw up. "And there's a cup."

Alex tried to keep from smiling as Lily sat down next to him and poured herself tea without saying a word. This, too, was part of the routine. Sometime between her tea and toast and after her first trip back to the bathroom to pee, Lily would become a person again. And Alex had learned to hold back any comments until then.

In the six weeks since they'd found out about the baby, things had been the same at the same time everything had changed. They had waited a week to tell a few people - family, basically. The general reaction had been one of pleasant surprise - and none more surprising than Christopher Summers announcing that he'd be planning a visit come June. He wanted to meet his daughter-in-law and grandchild; he had spoken to Lily, but had never met her in person. Otherwise, people were generally abiding by Lily and Alex's request to not make a big fuss about the impending baby - Lily had more than once expressed relief that Dana, a month farther along, was the focus of almost all of the attention. Although, frankly, most of the chatter these days was about the upcoming roster changes in the X-Men.

With the proposed founding of the XSE winning slow-but-steady world approval, Excalibur had sped up the process in Great Britain by announcing that they would be disbanding effective the New Year. Meggan and Brian wanted to get on with their married lives, Kitty and Pete had little Harry to watch, and Kurt was looking to settle down with Amanda - while taking up the team leadership spot that Ororo had vacated and Logan had very grudgingly agreed to take temporarily.

And, of course, there was Piotr, who had finally announced his retirement - he had already picked out a converted loft apartment in the Village and was already making frequent visits to Westchester in anticipation of moving permanently next month. Alex was glad - not only that Piotr was finally taking the time to see to his own wants, but also that perhaps some of the... loneliness that had crept up on Piotr would be dissipated now that he was closer to more of his friends.

A mewling noise from under the table distracted Alex from his thoughts. "Don't even think about it, Felix," he told the cat before the feline could pounce on the bit of bagel he'd dropped. Felix - who now answered to his name as much as any cat ever bothered to - had pretty much been a success so far. He had not slimmed down any - Alex thought he looked like a furry bowling ball - but after the first few episodes of cleaning up cat puke and Lily throwing a book at him after she found him on her desk, they had reached a détente. And Lily, who was not a big animal lover in general, genuinely seemed to like him even as she tended to refer to him as 'lardbutt.'

Right on schedule, Lily was halfway done with her toast when she got up and disappeared, returning a few minutes later. "You can talk now," she told him with a rueful smile.

"Oh, good," Alex replied, sighing dramatically as she sat down. "So have you decided what to do about Perotelli's offer?"

The email had come over the weekend. Joe Perotelli, one of Lily's favorite professors from her undergrad days at MIT and someone she'd done credited research for while in grad school, had been elevated to the search committee for new faculty members for the Mechanical Engineering Department and had suggested that Lily submit her CV for the currently open (tenure track) position. Perotelli didn't think that Lily would get the job - it was still two years before she could even force an early tenure review at City College and there were several bigger names interested in the spot at prestigious MIT. But he did think that getting an audition now would stand her in excellent stead in a few years when the next position opened up as well as being an excellent carrot to wave before her own department.

"Well, I'm going to talk to him a little more about it before I make a decision," Lily said thoughtfully as she chewed on her toast. She took a sip of tea before continuing. "I don't want to go up there and it be completely obvious that they're interviewing me as a favor to him. And there's the whole 'how pregnant am I going to be' question - it's going to look bad if I'm either as big as a house or if I'm puking up my guts before the audition."

Alex nodded. He knew Lily would love to change schools even as she was not so keen on leaving New York. City College had a few bright kids, mostly immigrants who couldn't afford private universities. But the rest of the students were beneficiaries of the City University's open enrollment policy - anyone with a New York City high school diploma was guaranteed admission to one of the two-dozen campuses. And even within the Engineering programs, the level of students tended not to be very high. Lily constantly complained that she had to teach her kids how to add before she could teach them how to do physics. And a job offer at MIT could get her a lot of leverage at some of the more prestigious places in or nearer to New York. Although personally Alex didn't mind Boston so much.

"Well, the selection process tends to take forever anyway," Alex pointed out as Lily refilled her teacup. "The baby may be born by the time they get around to it."

"Perotelli said they had to get their guy by Christmas," Lily said, shaking her head even as she leaned back and checked the kitchen clock. "They upped the incoming class by a quarter and the freshman sections are close to overcrowding. The trustees started to get worried phone calls - all of the departments are sort of in spasm to increase the number of sections for the spring without either draining the budgets or making the big name professors teach undergrads. Of course, their budgets are like ten times what my department's is..."

"Don't get covetous," Alex teased.

"Hey, it's better to be green with envy than green around the gills from morning sickness," Lily replied with a frown, obviously catching a look at the clock. "Damnit. I hate Tuesdays."

Still drinking the last of her tea, she got up, waited for Felix to get out from under her feet, and headed off for the bathroom again.

Forty-five minutes later, Alex had moved to the living room and opened his laptop and was typing away when a fully dressed Lily walked by.

"Do we need anything from the market?" she asked as she sat down to put on her sandals. Tuesdays were her long day at school - an 11AM section of undergrad fluid dynamics, mid-afternoon office hours, and then the weekly 4:15 graduate turbulent flow section.

"Umm... Felixfood," Alex replied, thinking about what else he had forgotten to get the previous afternoon. He had had to get cat litter and that meant that some items had to be left off the list so that he could carry everything.  "And the usual fruits and veggies... although we have enough lettuce to start a rabbit farm, so don't get any more."

Lily made a face as Felix ambled past on his way to 'his' spot on the love seat - one of the cushions had been covered with a garish rug that her mother had given them. "I think we should give him the lettuce. Look at him! He's putting on more weight than I am."

"Well, if one of us is going to be putting on sympathy weight, I'd really rather it be him," Alex told her with a grin. "And you should be putting on more weight."

Lily narrowed her eyes and frowned at him as she stood up. "The doctor said that I was fine and not everyone needs to put on twenty pounds in the first few months," she said shortly. It was a sore topic for her and while Alex knew it wasn't in his best interests to encourage his wife to gain weight, he just wanted to be careful. "I'm not starving myself and the baby is getting everything it needs. It's not my fault that our child does not seem to like chocolate."

Alex, not wanting to start a fight, just smiled. Lily had gotten violently ill last week after eating some of Orly's birthday cake. While Lily hadn't been as put out as she had been upon finding out that she could no longer tolerate Korean pickles, the loss of chocolate had been a mild disappointment. "That'll change."

"Hey, it'll keep me away from the Halloween candy you got," Lily offered. Alex smiled - Lily, for reasons that baffled him, liked candy corn - especially the kind with the brown bottoms (nominally chocolate) instead of the orange ones. Alex hadn't gotten any candy corn, but had gotten a bag of Almond Joy's to hand out to the kids living in the building who would ring the doorbell.

The little envelope icon in the system tray of his laptop window flashed and Alex clicked on his mail program and read as Lily disappeared into the office.

"Piotr's going to be coming in tomorrow," Alex told her as she re-emerged. He skimmed the email. "He wants to know if we can come by the loft this weekend... I think he wants you to double-check that the electrician didn't fleece him when he re-wired the studio and he definitely wants me to help him break down that cast-iron trellis-thingie that's separating the dining area from the living room."

Piotr was spending his 'severance pay' from the X-Men on his new apartment, fixing it up so that it could be both home and studio. Alex, as the person living closest to the place, had already been by a few times to check on the contractors. It was going to look spectacular, he thought. And while nobody had said anything as far as Alex knew, Piotr was anticipating something by only taking apart one of the bedrooms (the place had been the home of a couple with three grown children and had a master suite plus three smaller bedrooms).

"It's fine with me," Lily replied as she picked up her bag and her keys. "And the trellis-thingie isn't so bad. It's just too much. Maybe you could trim it back a little. Make it an accessory instead of a feature."

"Well, I trust Piotr's judgment," Alex said, standing up so that he could kiss his wife goodbye. "I'm heading over to the Museum later today to dump off the proofs. I'm assuming I'll be back before you are, but just in case I'm not, you'll know where I am."

"Yeah, yeah," Lily muttered as she leaned in. "I'll see you later."

Before heading over to the museum, Alex spent a little time cruising the real estate websites and the NY Times real estate listings. Helping Piotr out was fine, but he and Lily needed to think about what to do with their own situation - as it stood, they were faced with either converting their study into a bedroom for the baby or trying to find a two-bedroom apartment that they could afford. Well, not afford because there was nothing that they could afford, but a place that would make sense to take out a second mortgage for. This was the other side to Lily interviewing up in Boston - Manhattan as a couple was expensive enough. Manhattan once you started having children got downright outrageous. With him basically working at home and Lily doing a lot of work there as well, they really did need a dedicated space for that sort of thing - apart from the fact that Alex had no idea where they'd put all of their books and their desks and the computer if they tried to convert the study into the baby's room.

Scott had suggested moving up to Westchester - not to the estate or even necessarily to Salem Center, but to one of the neighboring towns along the MetroNorth line. Their commute wouldn't be too bad - Lily could take the train to 125th and being in Westchester would make it easy for Alex to get up to the Lamont-Doherty labs more often than he did, but Alex liked living in Manhattan, even with all of the added expenses. And Westchester meant that they'd have to get a car - probably two cars - and the taxes were higher and it really wouldn't be that much less expensive in the long run. And, contrary to Rogue's opinion, Alex had no doubts that you could raise a child in Manhattan without it having a backyard to play in. Millions of people in this city had been born and raised here and none of them seemed irreparably damaged by having to go to the park in order to have flowers to trample.

Alex snorted in amusement as he caught a glimpse of himself in one of the mirrors in front of the Duane Reade - the transformation was complete. He had gone from leader of X-Factor to a guy with a wife and a cat and a kid on the way and who was worried about taxes and second mortgages and should he finally knuckle under and take the full-time position that was about to be offered to him... It wasn't the version of Xavier's Dream that he had always envisioned, but perhaps that was a good thing after all.

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