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Blue Crayons and Twisted Branches

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"Mommy?" Kurt's voice rang out, before he bamfed through into the living room, going immediately up to Irene. "Mummy, where's the blue crayon gone, I need it."

Irene raised an eyebrow.
"Can't you ask one of the others to help you look, you little munchkin?"

"But... But I want it now..." Kurt mumbled. "And you know where things are sometimes, if it's important, and the crayon is important so where's the crayon?"

"It..." Irene sighed slightly. "It doesn't work like that sweetheart. I can't just make myself know where the crayon is, and I can't help you look, why don't you ask your sister? Or your Mama?"

"Because Anna Marie's doing her homework and I can't interrupt, and Mama can't come in to my room because I'm making a surprise, but you can do it because you can't see the surprise. Please Mummy, please?" He looked hopeful, his tail flicking from side to side, and Irene frowned but nodded, trying to concentrate on it.

"You'll find it soon," she reassured him, after a moment in which it had become clear that there was no chance of her locating it. "Why don't you see how Marie is doing with her homework? Maybe she can help you."

"But I need to do it now..." He protested. "Marie was crying-"

"Anna Marie is crying?" Irene asked, getting to her feet. Anna Marie was a fiercely independent eight year old, who had been part of their family for three months now. When she'd first arrived, she'd cried a lot, but as time had gone on she had seemed to settle down and start to feel safe. Normally if she was upset now, she'd tell one of them. "Can you take me upstairs?" She asked Kurt, and felt his tail wrap around her arm as he rested a hand on hers.

Kurt was still too little to teleport anyone other than himself (and his own teleportation was a work in progress, requiring frequent rescues from the roof), but he was good at guiding her up the stairs, to where Anna Marie was working. She caught a brief vision of Anna Marie sat at a table, tearing up some paper and sobbing, and under her table there was a remaining stub of a blue crayon.

"Kurt, your crayon is just under there," she told him, before making her way forwards. "Anna Marie?"

"I'm fine!" Anna Marie lied, and Irene could hear the cheerfulness in her voice, that she was faking, relying on Irene not seeing her tears. Kurt had grabbed the crayon, and a step forward made her collide with his small form, curled up against his sister and hugging one of her legs tightly.

"You're not fine, sweetie. Do you want to tell me?"

"No..." She mumbled, then sniffled, and Irene reached out, trusting her hearing to guide her close so she could wrap her arms around her.

"You don't have to tell me what's wrong if you don't want to." Irene promised, cuddling up to her. "I've got you. You're safe, whatever happens, whatever is upsetting you..."

"I..." Anna Marie sighed, and whimpered. "Kurt, can you go away?"

"But I'm hugging you!" He protested. "You're sad, and I'm hugging you until all the sadness goes away!"

"No-" Anna Marie started to argue, but it was Irene who spoke.

"Kurt, now you have that crayon you needed, why don't you go and use it? It'll be very helpful soon."

"Okay Mummy!" There was a sudden cuddle at her waist height, which nearly knocked her over, and then the boy bamfed away, leaving just her and Anna Marie. Irene traced the edge of her desk, sitting down on it and turning towards Anna Marie, even if she couldn't see her expression.

"What's wrong?"

"I... We're meant to do homework."

"Well, I can help you!" Irene promised, remembering how unhappy Anna Marie had been when she'd only got half her spellings right, afraid that she might be disposable if her results weren't flawless.

"I... I need to draw a family tree." Anna Marie muttered. "We're going to put them all up on the wall, so our families are looking at us, but... I don't know how..."

"Okay," Irene nodded, ignoring the vision of various screwed up pieces of paper around the floor. "We can do that. So, you and Kurt are the most important part of the family-"

"Mummy-"

"You are..." Irene insisted. "And then there's me, and there's Raven, who will be coming home soon - I told her to pick up those cakes you like from the store. And then there's Uncle Azazel and Uncle Janos, and Uncle Charles and Uncle Erik. That's our family."

"But..." Anna Marie hesitated. "I'm not related to any one of you."

"You're still our little girl." Irene reached out, picked up the soft blue blanket that was always beside Anna Marie when she was studying, and wrapped it around her shoulders, before she pulled her into a hug tightly.

Anna Marie nodded, leaning against her and sniffling, and downstairs the door opened.

"Come on," Irene prompted. "Let's go and get the cakes, the homework can wait..."

Anna Marie nodded, guiding Irene back down stairs, and then Raven stepped forwards, wrapping her arms around Irene and kissing her softly, before cuddling Anna Marie.

"Is everything alright?" Raven asked.

"Anna Marie just needs some help with homework," Irene reassured, and Raven handed out the cakes. Irene's was sweet and smelled of cinnamon.

"Kurt! Food!" Irene called up, and the little boy bamfed in, and Irene heard a gasp from Raven.

"What is it?"

"I made a drawing. I drew you, and Mama, and Anna Marie, and me. That's why I needed the blue crayon, or I couldn't draw me and our family needs to include everyone, so I had to."

"You did," Irene agreed, feeling a warm sense of pride settle in her chest. "And you drew it wonderfully. We can leave it in the kitchen, on a cupboard or on the fridge, so that if we need it again, we can find it. A picture of our family. That sounds wonderful."

Kurt giggled and hugged her, and a moment later Anna Marie joined in, securely cocooned in her blanket. Irene smiled to herself, happy to be with all those she loved.