Mother's Child

Liam knew where his life was going, or so he thought until an incident at football practice turns into his worst nightmare. And the fun is only beginning.

I want to thank Maggie Finson and all the other authors for creating the Whateley Universe. This story is Fan-fiction and may not conform to Canon rules or timelines. I am only playing in their sandbox. I also want to thank Connected for all the editing work put in to turn my scratchings into a readable story.

Please note that all of the categories checked do not apply to all chapters. My goal is to post a new chapter weekly as I have written several ahead with publication pending a final grammar check.

Mother's Child -- Chapter 1

August 12th, 2008

Liam was burning up. Sweat poured from his forehead as he struggled for just one more yard, but three of his classmates finally dragged him to the ground. He grunted as Jim’s knee rammed into his stomach driving the air from his lungs. He lay there gasping until he could finally get a breath. He hated practicing in the sticky humid August heat.

After a couple of good deep breaths, he looked up to see Chuck’s hand extended to him. He reached up, grabbed it and pulled himself to his feet, then looked down only to find that he still hadn’t made the three yards needed for a first down.

“You okay, man?”

He grunted again, gasping to get his breath back, finally taking another deep breath and shaking his head to sling the sweat from his eyes, his helmet rattled his head adding to his discomfort. “Yeah, you just knocked the wind out of me for a minute” Liam replied, panting.

“It’s your own fault, dude,” Jim laughed, “If you weren’t so hard to tackle, we wouldn’t have to hit you so hard.”

“Yeah, you are one stubborn SOB, Lee,” Chuck responded as they started walking back to the huddle. The three of them lived in the same neighborhood and had been friends since grade school. Actually, he and Jim had been friends longer than that. They had been born only a month apart on the same block so naturally, their mothers had become friends and babysat for each other. Liam or to his family and friends, Lee, and Jim had played together since they were toddlers and now were competing for positions on the junior varsity football team as freshmen at the John Paul Jones High School in Knoxville, TN.

“I have to be stubborn, almost all of the guys on the team are bigger and stronger than I am, and my dad will kill me if I don’t make the team. You guys know how he is! I can never seem to measure up to his standards.”

“You’ll make it, dude. No one tries harder than you,” Chuck said sympathetically. “The coach watches that sort of thing, and you will grow, man. I bet by Christmas you will be as big as any of us. He’ll surely at least pick you for the second team.”

“Yeah, but the coach won’t be picking a team at Christmas. He will be picking at the end of next week, and you know that warming the bench won’t be good enough for Dad!” He tried his best, but that wasn’t enough. Lee felt like he was always trying to do the impossible - get his dad’s approval. He knew his dad was vaguely disappointed with his small size and relative weakness compared to most of the other boys. Very agile, yes, but Lee would be the first to admit that he was neither as big, nor as fast as Jim, Chuck or most of the guys he was competing against.

“Let’s get a move on, ladies,” Coach Quail bellowed from the sidelines. “If you want to get a spot on this team, I expect to see you hustling, or maybe you’d rather run laps for the rest of the practice.”

They all three broke into a trot. As hot as it was practicing in the August heat, it would be even worse running laps.

As they got back to the huddle, Liam shook his head to clear the cobwebs from his brain. Damn, they must have really hit me hard. He tried to concentrate on the play being called by the quarterback.

Still a little groggy, he lined up in the wide receiver slot and attempted to get ready. The play called for him try to outrun the defender and if he could get open, the QB would throw a long pass to him. Unfortunately, the defender was Jim who was a good five inches taller. At thirteen and a half years old, puberty hadn’t really kicked in for Lee yet. While he was very strong for his size from running and working out, he was still only a meager 5’ 4” and weighed a little more than one hundred and twenty pounds.

Jim probably outweighed him by twenty-five pounds and was much taller. Jim had always been quick, but puberty had been good to him and he had shot up over the summer and put on a lot of muscle. Lee was having a real problem competing. He was frankly jealous. Not only had Jim gotten bigger and stronger, the SOB had had the audacity to get better looking. He looked like he ought to be modeling for some athletic sportswear company. His face had squared off and his chin had gotten stronger. Combined with the narrow hips and wide strong shoulders he now sported, the girls were going to be all over him when school started.

Lee tried to get his head back into the practice. They had attempted this play several times, but Liam just wasn’t fast enough to outrun Jim who was playing the cornerback position. Jim had batted the ball down twice and intercepted a pass thrown to Lee once. The only time they successfully completed the play, Lee was sure that Jim had purposefully fallen a step behind, leaving Lee open. Lee was determined to make it work this time on his own. He got set and closed his eyes for a minute, concentrating on being fast, he psyched himself up to be faster. As he did so, he felt a strange shiver run over him.

Visualizing the play in his head, Lee suddenly felt slightly dizzy and a little odd. For an instant, he thought he could see, in addition to the normal playing lines, other lines, that seemed to be all over the field. Thin almost invisible lines going to the benches, tackling dummies and everything else, on the field. Slightly thicker lines going between the people on the field, and then, at an angle across the field was an broad line to which all the other lines connected. This line extended off the field in both directions as far as Lee could see. It seemed he could even feel the lines. He felt like he wanted to reach out and touch them. As he thought this he could see a tendril of purple light reach out from the center of his forehead and touch one of the lines, abruptly, he felt energized like he had suddenly got his second wind. He thought he also saw a flash of purple fur race for the sidelines.

He shook his head again, and the lines were gone. It was probably just the August heat and the lingering effects of that last tackle. ‘I think I must be losing my mind.’ Lee thought. ‘Nah, It’s just the heat.’ He still felt energized though. Distracted by the feelings he missed the call to get set and realized that the QB was calling out the play and quickly got into position.

Trying hard to focus, he heard the call to snap the ball, and he took off. He was totally focused on trying to outrun Jim. He caught a glimpse of surprise on Jim’s face as he lunged past him and ran up the field, the grass flying past beneath his feet.

He reached his turn and curled back to face the QB and came to a stop. The rest of the team was standing on or near the line of scrimmage looking at him. Jim was thirty yards behind and had staggered to a stop with his jaw hanging open, staring at Lee.

“What?” Lee shouted to them, confused. “Was I off-sides or something?” He began trotting back towards the rest of the team. They still seemed to be moving slower than normal, when, suddenly, his head cleared and everything returned to normal.

“How the hell did you do that?” Jim shouted as he stood gaping at Lee and then began easing back towards the team.

“Do what?” Lee asked as the coach ran onto the field in Lee’s direction. What had he done wrong? he wondered. He had felt really good. He had run the pattern just like he was supposed to, even outrunning Jim for a change.

————————

The coach looked perturbed when he reached Lee and pulled him away from the rest of the team, where they couldn’t hear what was said. “Son, you know I’m not allowed to have mutants on the team, don’t you?”

“A mutant? Me? —— But sir, I’m not a mutant.” Lee exclaimed loudly and a little shrilly as he looked at his teammates. He looked across the field where the other guys were looking uncomfortably at him muttering among themselves.

“Shhhh, Liam, keep it down. This is none of their business right now, but, you have to know that no baseline can run that fast. You ran nearly fifty yards so fast it looked like the rest of the team was barely moving. How do you explain that if you’re not a mutant?” the coach asked gently.

“But I can’t be a mutant! There aren’t any mutants in my family.” Lee countered. “My dad hates mutants. … He really hates them!” The terror in his voice was reflected in the expression on his face.

“Just because you haven’t had anyone in your family manifest before doesn’t mean you can’t have mutant meta-genes, and if you’ve got the genes, you can manifest.

"Look, if you are a mutant, I’m sure your dad will come around,” the coach said with more conviction than he felt, but they would cross that bridge when and if they got to it.

“You don’t know my dad.”

“Look, take this hall pass,” the coach added as he scribbled on a small booklet, and ripped a page out. “Go have a shower and then take it to the office and call your family to come get you and take you for testing.”

The coach lowered his voice to ensure the rest of the team couldn’t hear, “I’ll cover for you here until you can find out for sure. I’ll tell them that I think you have been taking speed or something and I’m sending you to get drug tested. It won’t work for long but maybe it’s just a fluke and the testing will show that you are not a mutant.”

——————

The coach watched Liam trudge toward the locker rooms, head hung low and knew, just knew, he couldn’t leave things like this. Being an empath he could feel Liam’s despair and fear.

Coach Quail’s heart went out to the boy. He didn’t believe the test would show him to be a baseline for a second, but he could see that Lee was close to freaking out, and didn’t want that happening in front of the rest of the team - not now anyway. The coach was more understanding than he knew many others would be if he was right. He had seen his sister manifest and then be rejected by their parents, her teachers, friends and boyfriend. Her eyes had given her away, changing colors from blue to a brilliant violet and glowing slightly. He was the only one who stood by her.

He had been beat up twice trying to protect her, but he couldn’t be there all the time. In the end, it had been too much for her after a second attack in a single day. When even their parents didn’t seem to care, she stole her mother’s car and killed herself by running it off Echo Bluff. The family had moved to another town and his parents would never speak Helen’s name again or let any of the rest of them talk about her. It was like she had never existed. He had hated them for that for years.

He had never told anyone that he was a mutant himself, with the exception of a couple of other mutants he knew he could trust. His eyes hadn’t changed, but he had strongly suspected from the tenth grade that he was a very low level mutant, so he made very sure that he never did anything to reveal it. He was very strong for a baseline and he never got sick, not even a cold. He had often faked being ill and worked out strenuously, to provide cover for his strength. He had never dared to get tested until after his parents were dead, as he was afraid they would turn him in to the Mutant Commission Office (MCO).

When he finally did get testing. the tests showed that he was an exemplar 1, an empath 2, a regen 1 and just below the testing level for a precog 1. The guy who had tested him had advised him not to register seeing as how he would probably lose his teaching job. He made sure never to use his full strength and he made a point to call in sick at least once every six to eight months or so. His precog ability had helped him avoid situations that would have caused him to reveal his status. It also helped a little when he was calling the plays from the sidelines, although he felt a little guilty about using it for that.

Teaching in a high school was difficult for an empath, what with ever-present angst pervasive in all the teenagers around him. Teenagers had such strong emotional conflicts. He had trained himself to ignore it (most of the time anyway). Occasionally, if the emotions he picked up lead him to believe a child was being abused, he would make an anonymous phone call to Human Services. He suspected he had prevented a couple of potential suicides, just by talking to an overstressed teen.

He had also let himself play match maker a few times when two students had it bad for each other and were too shy or timid to do anything about it. He only did that when the feelings were mutual and his precog didn’t pick up anything bad about the match. These small beneficial uses of his powers gave him some satisfaction at least.

After his sister’s death, he had promised himself that he wouldn’t let the bigotry of baselines ruin anyone else’s life, if he could help it. There had been a couple of manifestations at his school while he had been there, but they had all manifested off campus and he hadn’t been able to do anything. Both had disappeared and he never knew what had happened to them. At least, Lee had no outward signs of being a mutant, yet. ‘Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe he isn’t a mutant,’ the coach told himself, but he knew he was lying to himself.

After a sudden twinge from his precog as he looked across the field at Liam’s retreating back, he decided that he’d better at least try to make sure Liam’s parents didn’t do something stupid and make matters worse, like calling the MCO. It was a risk to himself, but he had to help, if he could.

“Coach Sorels, come here a minute,” he shouted to his assistant. When he arrived he quickly told him the cover story and said “Take over the practice. Work them on pass patterns for another thirty minutes and then run sprints for another twenty or so for the backfield guys and a two mile run for the line, before ending practice. I think I need to follow up on this myself.” Then he trotted towards the locker room. The hard exercise would keep the rest of the team from dwelling on what had just happened too much and give him a chance to get Liam changed and out of there before the team came in to shower and change.

No one noticed the small purple bunny that hopped under the bleachers.

——————

The school was quiet and cool after the summer heat of the practice field. There were only a few teachers here this late in the day after finishing up the remedial classes for those unlucky ones who found themselves taking summer school.

Lee and the coach walked into the head office. Liam’s mother was already there, since the coach had asked Liam to call her from his office, so they wouldn’t have to spend any more time hanging around the office than necessary.

“Liam!” she sounded exasperated, “what have you done now?” She said it like he was always in trouble, when this was the first time she had ever been called to the school about him.

The coach quickly spoke up. “Mrs. Cook, Liam hasn’t done anything wrong, but I need to talk to you. Let’s go to the conference room where we can have some privacy.”

Once there, the coach carefully closed the door. “I wanted to talk to you about something that happened during practice.” He paused trying to decide how to reveal this to her. “It’s just that, well, ummm, during practice, — uhhhh, — well; Lee ran faster than I’ve ever seen anyone run.”

“Well, what’s wrong with that?,” she asked obviously confused. “Isn’t that what you want him to do on the team?” She looked from the coach to Lee and back again.

“Well yes, ma’am, we do,” he said, “and while I’ve seen some fast people in my career, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone move that fast. I’ve heard of it, but never seen it.”

“I’m afraid I’m still a little confused as to why you thought this necessitated me coming down here. I was very busy at work and you called me because Lee ran too fast?”

“Yes, ma’am, I’m afraid I felt I had to. You see the only people I’ve ever heard of running that fast were ——— Mutants.” He added quickly, “I’m not saying Liam is a mutant, but I do think he should be tested.”

Her hands shot to her mouth, gasping, “Liam! A mutant? Oh, Blessed Virgin . . .” She looked petrified. “He can’t be . . . “ Her voice was shaking. She looked at Lee like she had never seen him before.

“Mrs. Cook, I don’t know if he is or isn’t, but the whole team saw how fast he ran and there’s going to be talk. I just think he needs to get tested and registered if he is, before the MCO come sniffing around.”

“But shouldn’t I take him to the MCO for his testing?” She was even more confused and staring at first the coach and then Lee.

“NO!” Coach Quail shouted vehemently, startling them. “You do not want the MCO taking him. They are not always the good guys they would have everyone believe. If you take Lee to them without him being registered, he would likely as not just disappear, especially if he is a mutant. If he’s already has a Mutant Identification, then there’s not as much they can do, legally at least, unless he breaks the law or hurts someone. I don’t think all of the MCO are bad, but do you really want to take the risk?”

“But what about my husband? Tom, his father is a pretty . . . hard-core member of Humanity First, I think. He’s always going to their meetings. I don’t know how he’s going to react if this is true.” The coach wasn’t real sure if she was more afraid of her husband’s reaction or of Lee.

“Mrs. Cook, we don’t know for sure that Liam is a mutant, not yet anyway. That’s why we need to get him tested.” Coach sounded exasperated.

“But you don’t understand, Tom is going to be furious at the suggestion that Liam could be a mutant. He’s not Liam’s biological father, and they sometimes don’t get along very well.”

Liam gasped.

—————

Liam had no idea that his dad was not his real father. This day was getting stranger by the minute. He listened wondering what bombshell was going to be dropped on him next?

“Liam is not Tom’s son,” his mother explained. “Liam’s father died in a car wreck before Liam was born and since I married Tom, I’ve only had girls. It’s not something that has made my husband very happy. He has always wanted a son of his own.”

Liam was struck dumb. Not only was his dad, not his dad, the man he had always thought was his father apparently didn’t consider that Liam was “his” son. That hurt in ways that Liam had never known he could hurt, leaving him feeling empty inside, like he wasn’t good enough somehow. And his sisters were really his half sisters? That explained at least in part why there was so little resemblance between him and them.

He got along with both his sisters. They were both great kids and he was the perfect big brother in their eyes, or so they said. He had gone to their rescue more than once when they had problems with bullies. They were both a little young to have boy troubles yet but he was prepared to stand up for them then, as well, if and when the time came. Eve was the oldest at twelve, but showed the promise already of one day having to beat the boys off with the proverbial stick. Beth at eleven still was carrying too much baby fat to know for sure what she would look like, but Liam could see a lot of their mother in her face, so she was likely to be a beauty too.

His sisters loved him, he thought, but would they love him if he was a mutant. Before today, he would have said nothing could change heir love for him, but if his dad felt that way about him, how would they react when they found out the truth. Lee felt his whole world was crumbling around him. He could feel tears running down his face, but he didn’t make a sound. Some part of him was afraid that if he did so, then his mom might turn on him, too.

————

“Mrs. Cook,” Coach Quail broke into Liam’s mental meanderings. “Look! We don’t know that Liam is a mutant, but it’s better to get tested. If he is, there are things that could go wrong with his manifestation that could be harmful, like burnout or GSD. You also need to know so you can watch out for jerks like Humanity First, and some of the MCO who can be a real threat especially if he doesn’t get registered.” There were potentially more problems than that with the MCO, but luckily the local office wasn’t as rabid as some he had heard about. “Most people around here are pretty tolerant of registered mutants, but a lot of people think that those that don’t register are trying to hide something so they can use their powers in less than reputable ways. Fortunately, he can register with and get his card issued under the auspices of the Department of Paranormal Affairs. The DPA is a U.S. government agency and a lot more tolerant of mutants than the MCO, and he’ll have federally protected rights that the DPA will honor. The MCO can be a lot less scrupulous with his rights.”

“I know,” Mom replied, “but his step-father is a member of H-1. I don’t know how he’ll react to the mere suggestion that Liam might be a mutant. Don’t get me wrong, coach, I love my husband and he’s been a good provider for me and my children, all of my children, but in the last few of years he’s become - - I don’t know - - - angry, I guess. I’m not sure why, but he’s not the same happy-go-lucky man I married. He’s been looking for someone to take out that anger on. He’s never offer any violence towards me or any of my children, but he’s fell in with a bunch of redneck anti-mutant men where he works and lately every time he sees a story about mutants on the news he gets mad, cussing and stomping around the house, especially if the story seems favorable to mutants. I’m a little afraid of him when he gets like that. So you see why I’m worried about even suggesting that Liam might be a mutant to him.”

Coach Quail ran his hands over his shaved head and sighed. “Mrs. Cook, I think it is really important that Liam gets tested. Something happened on the practice field, and I don’t know what it was, but I do know I can’t let him practice or be on the team until we know what it was." He paused.

"I feel so strongly about this that I’m going to offer to do something I really shouldn’t. If you will let me, I will take him to a friend I know. This guy can check him out and determine not only if he is a mutant but what type of mutation powers he might have. We can do this very quietly but if he is a mutant he will have to register with the DPA, or MCO. I strongly recommend that he register with the DPA. My friend can provide him with a DPA-issued Mutant Identification Card, — if necessary."

"Now I’m just a teacher and don’t have a lot of extra money, so you are going to have to find someway to reimburse me for the costs, but I will take him. I can get him tested quietly and if he’s not a mutant no one will be the wiser.”

“I don’t know what to do.” his mother said fidgeting with her purse. She paused. “I guess if it’s not too expensive, I have some mad money I could tap. How expensive do you think it will be?”

“Not too bad, if my friend will do it. It will mostly be just the material costs of the tests, maybe few hundred dollars, maybe less. I don’t think he will charge any more than that, since he is a mutant himself, — and he owes me, since I’ve done a few favors for him.”

She winced, “He’s a mutant? I don’t know if I want Liam around a mutant.”

Coach chuckled wryly. “Mrs. Cook, after what I saw today, I think the chances are that Liam is a mutant and better my friend do it than the MCO, unless you want to take a chance that they will make Liam disappear.”

———

Liam couldn’t stand it anymore and spoke up, “But I thought the MCO were the good guys. I watch their show every week and they only go after the dangerous mutants.”

The coach sighed and rubbed his head again. “Liam, I know that’s what they would have everyone believe, and while I am sure there are a lot of good agents in the MCO that believe and try to uphold that concept, I know, for a fact, that some of their agents have a very different idea of what constitutes a dangerous mutant than you or I. Many of their agents have close ties with Humanity First and they see all mutants as dangerous.”

“Oh,” sighed Liam before sinking back into his seat in silence. What else, that Lee knew, was wrong. He felt like his whole world was coming unraveled.

His mother exhaled. “Okay, when do you want to do it? I can go by the bank on my way home and pick up the money, I guess.” She hesitated and then asked, “And my husband won’t have to know about this?”

“Not now and not from me, but if Liam is a mutant, you must know that sooner or later he’s going to have to find out. Better he was told than to discover it by accident and know you have been hiding this information. As for when, the sooner the better, I think. Give me your number and I will call you as soon as I can get something set up. As for the money, let’s see what Barry charges me first then we can work out something.”

She dug in her purse and handed him a business card. “Use my cell number, please. Text message would be better.” He nodded.

She got up and headed for the door, with Lee behind her. Then she stopped and sighed. Lee’s Mom turned back and said apologetically, “Thanks, Coach Quail. I know it’s not every teacher who would do what you are doing, and I do appreciate it, even if I’m a little overwhelmed with all this right now!”

“Don’t worry about it, Mrs. Cook. This is a lot for anyone to take in all at once.” He gave her a half smile, and said, “I know!”

—————

The car was silent on the way home. Neither of them seemed to know what to say. Clouds hung heavy in the sky matching Lee’s mood. As Lee stared out the window watching the neighborhood he had grown up in pass by, he felt like a stranger. If he wasn’t who he thought or what he thought, then who - or - what was he? He turned his head away from his mother so she couldn’t see the solitary tear slowly run down his cheek.

—————

When his mother passed the street on which they lived and kept going, Lee turned and looked at her questioningly. She glanced over at him and gave a crooked smile. “It’s confession time, in more ways than one.” she said as she pulled into the lot of the Church of St. Patricks a few blocks later. St. Patricks was where they went for mass.

She turned off the engine and sat holding the steering wheel staring straight ahead as she gathered her thoughts. Then she turned and looked at Lee with a wistful, slightly frightened expression on her face.

“Lee, I’m sorry, sorry in so many ways. I should have told you years and years ago about your father, but first I told myself that you were too little to understand. Then I told myself that I would do it on your next birthday or the anniversary of his death, but somehow it seemed like it was never the ‘right’ time.”

Lee started to interrupt, but she placed a finger gently on his lips. “Let me get this out. The good Lord knows I’ve practiced it often enough.” She gave a sad sigh and got a distant look on her face. She was silent for a long moment.

“I was seventeen when I met him. He was a few years older and new to town having arrived to go to the college. And so handsome, - tall and regal looking. He was like something out of an old story. You know the ones I used to read to you when you were little about the knights and ladies. I fell for him before I knew what was going on.”

“We had a wonderful spring that year. The weather mild with gentle rains. The gardens around your grandfather’s house in Sequoyah Hills grew and bloomed like they had never done before or since. He and I ran through the park along the river and walked under the stars, talked and laughed like there was no tomorrow. It was magical. We had talked about sneaking off to Georgia one weekend to get married. Everything was perfect,” she paused tears glistening in her eyes. She took a deep shuddering breath, “then, — I remember it like it was yesterday, he was just gone. He had told me that he had been called home because his mother was very sick. A couple of days later I felt a chill in my heart. I told myself I was being silly, but when I finally called his home a few days later, I was told that he had been killed in a car wreck on the way home. I was devastated but I never really believed he was dead. For one thing, he should have been home by the time I had felt that ‘chill’.”

“You know how you could never get away with anything with me, well, I’ve always had a talent to feel those that I love. I was sure I would have felt it, if he had died, but it did feel as though he suddenly became very distant.”

“I wept for days, then about a month after he left, — I realized I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to do. I knew if I told Momma, she would insist I go away until you were born and then give you away. I couldn’t bear the thought of it. You were all that I had left of him. I looked and looked for him but it was like he had never existed. People outside of a few close friends and my family didn’t even seem to remember him, and even they kind of forgot him after a while.”

“Desperate, I went back to my old boyfriend, Tom, from before your real father had come and I bared my soul to him. Tom and I had dated for nearly a year before your father came. We had talked at one time of getting married after he graduated college.”

“I don’t really know why he didn’t turn me away. Instead, he embraced me and told me that everything would be alright. Tom and I eloped that night. Momma was furious, and daddy wouldn’t speak to me for almost seven months, until the day he looked into your cradle for the first time.”

Lee sat and stared out the window for a long while. It was beginning to rain. It fit his mood. “But, daddy, I mean, Tom has always been so distant. Does he lo-love me? I mean I’m not his son, I guess.”

“Oh, Liam, he loves you very much — and he _is_ your daddy. The joy in his eyes the first time he held you was beautiful to behold.”

“He raised you. He was there to teach you to ride your first bike, and to play ball with you, and all the other things a father does with his son. He just isn’t one to show his emotions easily. You must know that. But never doubt that he loves you and is proud of you. If he pushes you hard, it’s because he wants you to have a better life than we’ve had.”

“It was hard getting married so young. He had to take menial jobs to support us. It took him years of night school to get his degree. We are doing well now, but it wasn’t that way when you were little and the habits of worrying don’t go away easily.” She reached over and hugged him, tears silently running down her face.

When she straightened back up and wiped her face, she smiled at him. “He has always loved you, but he would like to have a biological son, also. You must understand, it’s like a biological imperative for men to want a son of their loins, like women want children in general. You will see, you will probably want one, too, some day.”

“What is he going to think if I’m a mutant though?”

She was silent for a few minutes staring at the warm summer rain beating on the windshield. “Lee, I know he loves you. It may take him a little time to remember that, to get used to this idea, but I truly believe that he will take it in stride as he took my pregnancy by another man in stride. He will go on loving you, just be prepared to give him time to remember it. I don’t know why he has gotten into this H-1 stuff. He was never like that before. He was always tolerant of others. This really isn’t like the man I married. I mean you know your Uncle Jerry is a homosexual, and that has never bothered your father. I don’t know what got him on this H-1 kick a few years ago. He would never talk about it to me.”

Liam stared at his mother for a few seconds before asking the question that was on the front of his mind. “You haven’t said what my biological father’s name was.”

“Well, if you look at your birth certificate, it will give Tom’s name, but your real father’s name was Liam Bryan O’Rourke. I named you after him. He was a second generation American, but very proud of his Irish roots. He planned to go to visit the ‘Old Country’ as he called it one day.”

“Are his parents, my grandparents still alive?”

“I honestly don’t know.” She hesitated then hung her head and sighed. “They don’t know you exist. I’m sorry, Lee. I should have told them but they didn’t like me and disapproved of Bryan and me. I didn’t know how to tell them about you after I married to another man so soon after their son died. As far as I know they don’t know you exist.”

The car went quiet. Lee wondered how to reconcile all of this new information with the image he had always had of himself and his parents. Kathleen relived things from the past that had troubled her dreams for thirteen years.

After a long silence, Lee said softly, “I think, I would like to try to contact them.”

“Oh, Liam, after all this time?” She was taken aback by his request. “What do I say to them? The last time I talked to anyone in that family was when I was told Bryan had died.”

“We’ll work it out - somehow,” he said, “but I’d really like to try. Not right away, I mean we have to give Dad a chance to get used to this whole mutant thing, - if I am one and to give myself some time too.”

“Okay, I guess, if you can deal with all this, I can deal with talking to them, if they are still alive; and if we can find them; and if they will talk to me,” she said with a sad little smile. “They do deserve to know. I’ve been a coward not to contact them - and not to tell you!”

“Mom, you’re not a coward. I think you are the bravest person, I’ve ever met. You have always been there through thick and thin, and after what you just told me, I don’t know how you did all that you did. I love you so much!” By this time, tears were running down both of our faces.

A few minutes later she pulled a couple of Kleenexes out of her purse and handing one to him. “Here, wipe your face, and let’s go take late mass, and we will say a prayer for your father, - both of them.”



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