Author's Note: I know I've already got four other stories in progress right now, so how crazy must I be to start a fifth? I guess you'll just have to read and find out.
Palmer checked the address he had scribbled across his hand one last time and then looked back up at the house. It was a dingy old house, definitely been through a lot of wear and tear, but it was pretty big. With a sigh, Palmer got out of his truck and walked up the front door to study the lock. He balled up a fist, calling up that familiar tingle that he had learned to control over the last couple of years and slid his fingers through the cool metal. He felt the lock respond to him, and with a slight smirk, he pulled his hand out of the now unlocked door. He pushed the door open and carefully slid inside. Just as he was closing the door behind him, an arm swung out and shoved him against the wall.
"Who sent you?" a voice growled. Palmer adjusted his eyes to the dark and realized a tall, older man was the one who's grip tightened around his arm as he was pushed against the wall.
"What?" Palmer narrowed his eyes. "No one. Nobody sent me."
"You're a pathetic liar. God, how old are you? Thirteen? Mags keeps recruiting younger and younger these days. I wish he'd stop sending these little errand boys when he's got orders," the man ranted. "You'd think we're high enough up on the food chain after so many years that he could at least drop by himself once and awhile. Freaking metal bastard."
"Who's Mags?" Palmer tried to shift, but he was firmly held against the wall. "Can I go now?"
"Yo, kid. You been living under a rock or somethin'?" Another voice was added and Palmer squinted in the dark, only able to make out a silhouette of a man crouching a few feet away. "Magneto. Your boss."
"Younger and dumber," the man holding him against the wall sighed.
"What is going on now?" another voice was added. Palmer didn't hear footsteps or see the man approach, but suddenly there was another figure in the room. "I need my eight hours to deal with you morons."
"Love you too, buddy," the crouched man spat back.
"Your deal ol' daddy sent another minion," his captor answered. "I thought you talked to him about this."
"I did," the third guy answered and suddenly a light flooded the room. After blinking away spots, Palmer finally took a good look around. The inside of the house was not much better off than the outside, he noticed. Then he studied the three men. The one crouched on the floor had a greenish tint to him, and he looked filthy. Palmer figured by the flies swarming around him, that he probably smelled even worse than he looked. The second guy was standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was as polished as the crouched man was messy. His platinum hair was slicked back and his stance was very regal with his eyes casually roaming over the place like it all belonged to him. Then there was the guy that had him pinned against the wall. He towered over Palmer with a menacing glare, but his clean shaven look and casual dress made him seem less of a threat. Out of the corner of his eye, Palmer noticed a very large man standing just on the other side of the door, his chubby finger still touching the light switch.
"Just give us the message already and then scram," the man released his grip on Palmer and stepped back, his arms folded over his chest.
"I don't work for some Magneto guy," Palmer flickered his gaze from person to person, sizing them all up. "I'm just looking for Lance Alvers."
"Oh, cool," the crouched guy stood up and smacked the tall man glaring at him on the shoulder. "This one's all you, dude."
"And who would you be?" Lance frowned at him.
"Your son," Palmer answered with a shrug. "Palmer."
"Son?" the skinny well-dressed guy repeated, but Palmer didn't know how the other men were reacting to this news. He was watching Lance, whose narrowed eyes were scanning his face, probably looking for some resemblance to his own features.
"You got some girl pregnant like… 15 years ago and put me up for adoption?" Palmer scratched at his head.
"I remember," Lance mumbled. "So what are you doing here?"
"I'm not here to bust your balls or ask to play a game of catch or anything," Palmer laughed weakly. "I just need enough gas money to get me across country and a little extra cash to hold me over till I can get a job."
"Cash…" Lance frowned. "What about your…?"
"Parents?" Palmer finished. "Gone."
"Gone?" Lance's brow furrowed.
"Yeah," Palmer bit his lip. "Drunk drivers aren't picky about who they crash into."
"So… you're…" Lance looked down at the ground.
"In foster care," Palmer nodded. "Well, I was up until about twelve hours ago. Which is why I need the cash to get out of here. You know, before someone starts looking for me."
"Foster care," Lance shook his head angrily. "There was no one else?"
"My mom's parents weren't exactly in touch and my grandpa died a year later in a retirement home," Palmer grumbled. "Are we done playing twenty questions now?"
"So you're running away," Lance sighed.
"I've spent eight years bouncing from crappy home to crappier home. That's long enough. Look, I'm fifteen, I got my driver's license, and I can take care of myself. I've got a plan," Palmer rolled his eyes, annoyed.
"Sure," Lance scoffed. "You've got a plan."
"I said I wouldn't bust your balls, so don't bust mine," Palmer argued. "I'm just asking for a loan. I'll pay it back once I get to Cali. And… maybe I could crash on your couch for the night?"
"Wait, if he's fifteen…" the groomed man cut in.
"Holy shit, you had a kid with…" the crouched one started.
"SHUT IT!" Lance growled. "All of you out! Gimme a sec, here."
"No please or thank you?" the man at the stairs put his hands on his hips.
"Pietro," Lance snarled.
"Fine, fine. I'm going back to bed. You and your love child just keep it down," Pietro laughed. Palmer watched as Lance started to ball up his fist, but the other man was gone as soon as the words were spoken. The other two went up the stairs without another word. Palmer flinched at the sound of the stairs creaking under the weight of the one guy that hadn't said a word and then watched with curiosity as the other hopped along after him.
"Who are they?" Palmer shrunk back against the wall.
"Roommates," Lance shook his head. "Bossy one's Pietro, smelly one is Todd, and the big guy would be Fred. They're alright for the most part."
"They seem… different," Palmer eyed Lance carefully.
"Yeah," Lance chuckled. "They're different."
"They didn't seem to know about me. Not old friends, I take it?" Palmer shoved his hands in his pant pockets and trained his eyes on the floor.
"Just the opposite. I've been living here with them since…" Lance mused. "Well, I was your age."
"Good for you," Palmer spat.
"Well, I ran away from foster care after years of moving from crappy home to crappier home," Lance smirked.
"I guess the apple doesn't fall too far from the damn tree no matter how hard you try to push it the hell away," Palmer grumbled.
"And here I thought we were going to have a touching non-ball-busting reunion," Lance remarked sarcastically. "So what's this master plan of yours?"
"Look, I know people in California. I'm going to go out there, and I'll get a job and a place to stay. The state won't go looking for me there, and I'll be out of the system," Palmer explained. "Are you going to help me out or not?"
"You said eight years," Lance dragged his hand over his face. "You've been in foster care for eight years."
"Yeah," Palmer shrugged. "What's it to ya?"
"If I had known," Lance shook his head.
"You would have gotten me out?" Palmer narrowed his eyes. "Sure… Now can I get some cash or not?"
"Just… hold on," Lance snapped. "Give me a second to… figure this out."
"I gotta get out of here. Tomorrow, people are going to start looking for me," Palmer put his head in his hands. "People get kind of testy about that check they get for taking me in."
"I remember how it works," Lance sighed. "That's why I didn't want that for you."
"We don't always get what we want," Palmer frowned. "I sure as hell didn't."
"Like you said," Lance shook his head and pointed at the boy first and then himself. "Apple. Tree."
"So, you going to help me get out of here?" Palmer stepped forward hesitantly. The two stared at each other for a long time, the awkward silence settling over them.
"There's an extra room you can crash in for the night," Lance finally pointed a thumb over his shoulder to the stairs. "We'll figure something out tomorrow."
"Something," Palmer repeated with a scowl.
"Yeah," Lance sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "Something. Go up the stairs, first door at the top."
"Okay," Palmer nodded and started up the stairs.
"And Palmer?" Lance called after him.
"Yeah, Lance?" Palmer turned to find Lance shuffling nervously at the bottom of the stairs.
"Did you, uh… did you look up your, um… your mom?" Lance tapped his fingers against the banister.
"No," Palmer answered. "I caught a glimpse of your name on my birth certificate last week. I don't know…"
"Oh," Lance nodded. "Okay."
"Is she… well, do you… would you…?" Palmer bit his lip, unable to form the question.
"I can't," Lance shook his head. "We aren't… I don't… I just… can't."
"Oh," Palmer frowned. "Okay."
"You should get some sleep," Lance looked up at him. "We'll talk more tomorrow."
"Great," Palmer mumbled to himself as he headed up the stairs. He opened the door to find a dark, dusty room that had obviously been empty for a while, but the bed looked to be in way better shape than the couch. He fell into the bed, kicking his shoes off as he went. His head barely hit the pillow before Palmer, exhausted from the long day, fell asleep.