Chapter 5

Max groaned as he got himself around for the day. It had been a little over a week since he'd been living with Gwen and David. After his nightmare, he slowly started to identify Gwen as 'Mom' and David as 'Dad', which of course caused the latter to start tearing up with happiness. Unfortunately, today wasn't a day that Max was looking forward to. As evident when he went to the kitchen to eat the breakfast that David made him, and asked, "Can I just stay here instead of going to school?"

David chuckled as he gave an answer, "Max, you know you need to get a good education."

It was now the first week of September which meant that school was starting again. This also marks Max's first week as a fifth grader in elementary school. A day that he had been dreading for a while now ever since he moved. His last school was one of the worst schools in existence and not just academically speaking. In fact, he was pretty sure that his principal had a record worse than Cameron Campbell.

"But I can still get a good education from you since you're a college professor," Max begged, practically clutching onto David now as if begging for his life, "Please dad?"

He knew that David couldn't help but get emotional when the 'dad' card was played. Which meant that he knew David would be more inclined give the boy what he wanted. Thankfully, he didn't use the dad card very often since it was a little unfair. But most of the time it usually works in the boy's favor when he does use it. And whenever it didn't work, Gwen was usually around.

This time Gwen wasn't there, and David replied, "I'm sorry Max but I'm not budging on this."

The boy dropped the fa├žade when he noticed David remaining resolute, "Damn it."

"Language," Gwen said as she entered the room ready for the day.

Throughout the week that Max had been acclimating to his new environment, David and Gwen began acting like actual parents. And since they were willing to take care of him better than his previous family, he decided to agree with them. The rules were listed as following.

1. No swearing in the house.

2. No coffee until old enough.

3. No schemes like the ones pulled at camp.

4. Be honest with each other (Mostly implemented by David)

There were others but those were the big ones. And he did really well with all of them, or at least almost all of them. The no coffee rule was the biggest hurdle but he only really drank it to avoid sleeping because of his nightmares. But now that his nightmares are gone, he decided that he didn't need the coffee. That was until he felt the affects of going without caffeine, and he was barely able to function. One positive was that it was also the longest he'd ever slept.

The swearing was also a struggle, but not as much so for Max. Since they were now parents again, and not just by birth, Gwen and David agreed to watch their language around him. To make sure they succeed, they both have a swear jar with the fee being one dollar per swear. Unfortunately, this also led to Max pulling shenanigans to make Gwen swear since David doesn't really use fowl language often. Nothing too serious, but enough to irk her into saying it.

The rest of the day progressed with Max saying that he wished he was homeschooled and both parents laughing. It was funny watching their child go from this kid who was always trying to escape places he was put in to a boy who preferred where he was already. It still didn't stop him from griping the whole way to the school. And finally, they arrived at the school and Max really didn't want to get out of the car. He actually looked a little shy which was odd.

They knew the reason why he was so quiet. Max told them about his old school so they decided to enroll him in a new one. So he was effectively meeting new people, though there was a secret that they kept from him as a surprise. One that he found out almost seconds after he got out of the car. It came in a small bundle of teal hair and red overalls which tackled him to the ground while shouting, "MAX!"

Max felt himself get pinned immediately by this unknown entity. Of course it didn't take long for Max to recognized who it was that had charged at him. Obviously it was Nikki, and following behind her slowly shaking his head was Neil. He looked towards Gwen who had her phone out to record the moment, and David who was smiling as if to show that some happy surprise was revealed. Not that he could concentrate on anything since Nikki was bouncing on him talking about her weekend away from camp.

Neil had to pull her off as he said, "Nikki let him breathe."

Max picked himself off the ground, "What the hell are you two doing here?"

"Nice to see you as well Max," Neil replied sarcastically.

Max sighed and apologized for the greeting. He actually did miss spending time with Nikki and Neil the whole week he was with his parents. Not that he would actually fess up to the fact, though he would deny it because it made him feel weak. It was actually one of the main reasons why he objected going to a new school since they were his only friends. Of course clearly he didn't have to worry about anything like that now.

"Well we have to go," Gwen said to the trio, "Enjoy school kids."

Max waved his parents goodbye as they drove off. As the three walked inside the school, Nikki began asking, "So why did you get here with Gwen and David?"

Neil paused for a second, "I have to go with Nikki on this. I thought that you hated them."

"Look guys, it's a long story," Max replied, "They just helped me feel better. That's all."

Nikki looked worried as she moved closer to Neil, "Oh my God. I knew it! They brainwashed him Neil!"

"Nikki calm down already," Neil tried to reassure her, "I seriously doubt that anyone brainwashed Max."

"But look at him!" Nikki exclaimed as she pulled Max's head closer to Neil's, "This isn't the same Max as before!"

"Stop, That hurts," Max chimed in as he pulled out of Nikki's grip, "I'm fine. Let's just get to classes so this day can be over."

The day progressed with the trio meeting up with the rest of the campers, much to Max's 'chagrin'. Pretty much everyone but Ered, Nurf, Dolph, and Preston were in at least one class each with Max. But that was because Dolph was a grade below the rest, and the other three were all older, though it did seem weird that the middle school was just across the street from the elementary school but that was another matter. They were all still surprised to see Max since he was the only one in their grade that didn't go to the same school. Mostly because his previous family didn't care if he ended up in a crappy school like his old one.

They all began talking about how their time was between camp ending and school starting. Ered and her dads got some time to hang out and watch some X Games. Nerris of course talked about a one shot game that she played with her father. Space Kid, who oddly enough wasn't in his 'space' attire, kept showing pictures of him with his grandfather at the space museum. Max zoned out on the other stories until it came down to Nikki and Neil.

Though that was because Nikki gave Neil an enthusiastic hug as she exclaimed, "We're going to be siblings!"

Turns out, Neil's dad Carl had proposed to Nikki's mom Candy, and she had said yes. Neil obviously had some concerns since Candy didn't seem like the type to marry someone again, especially not someone like his own dad. But she seemed to genuinely love him enough to agree to marriage even though they hadn't been dating long. So long as Carl was happy, then Neil was happy. And that was all Max caught before other thoughts intruded in his mind.

Would his parents ever get married for once? Was he the reason that they never married in the first place? Were they even back to dating again after Bonquisha? If they got married, who would they invite to the wedding? And should he even mention his new family?

The last one kept circling his mind. It wasn't like Max was ashamed of being taken back by his actual parents. He was genuinely happy for it, and would kick the butts of any who would demean it in any way. The only issue was that it was already hard for him to bring the matter up with complete strangers despite it being part of their job. But these were people who knew Max, and it made him feel a sense of vulnerability that he wasn't quite ready for.

Once again, his thoughts were interrupted by Nikki poking his head and saying, "Max? You in there?"

"Will you cut it out?" Max snapped angrily as he swatted Nikki's hand away.

"You're right Neil," Nikki said as she looked behind her, "He isn't brainwashed."

Neil rolled his eyes in response, "Obviously. It would take more than that to-"

"Hey cutie," came a voice from behind Neil.

All of them turned to look at the source and found Tabii clung to his side like a leech. Nikki, and Nurf looked disgusted while Preston seemed to applaud the moment. Everyone else just ended up snickering until Tabii gave them all the stink eye, which now included her new glass eye. Max however was just smiling at the two. The others just thought that he was laughing internally, but Neil saw something in Max's eyes that gave him dread.

He saw opportunity for mischief towards Neil. And only continued watching as Tabii dragged the poor boy away from the campers. All Neil could do was follow since he wasn't capable of getting her to listen to the word no. As they were moving away from the others, Tabii began telling Neil about how her time was in between her camp and school. Not that Neil was actually listening since he was still trying to find a way to escape.

Maybe school won't be so bad for Max after all.