Hurt & Comfort

Book 8: Seeking Comfort

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Chapter 14: Thanks

We all left the office and walked as a group to the dining room.

We walked in and saw that about fifteen people were already there, sitting at different tables.

Mr. Allerdyce was standing alone inside the door, looking lost.

"Hi dad." John said quietly.

"Hi John." Mr. Allerdyce said in a matching quiet tone.

"John, why don't you introduce us?" Dad asked from behind me.

"Dad, you met Scott, Clark and Trey already. This is Ronny Drake, Matthew Logan, Jonathan and Martha Kent. Everyone, this is my dad, Rick Allerdyce." John said formally.

"Nice to meet you." Mr. Allerdyce said uncomfortably.

"Our table is over here, let's sit down until the meal is ready." Scott said and led the way.

Mr. Allerdyce sat down and John took the seat next to him. Trey took the next seat and I sat by Trey. Mom sat next to me and Dad next to her, then Scott, Mr. Logan and Ronny. There was still one open chair and I wondered who would get it.

"So Rick, what kind of work are you in?" Dad asked conversationally.

"I'm a forklift operator in a warehouse." Mr. Allerdyce said in a quiet voice that sounded ashamed.

"I'm a farmer." Dad said shortly, I guess to let Mr. Allerdyce know that he was a working man too.

Mr. Allerdyce nodded but didn't pick up the conversation.

"So do you like to bowl?" Dad asked. Dad's a good one to keep a conversation going.

"I ain't done it in a few years, but yeah." Mr. Allerdyce said and met dad's eyes.

"Next time I'm in town, we should get together for some bowling, you, me, Scott and Matt." Dad said with a slight smile.

"Yeah, that sounds good." Mr. Allerdyce said, and for the first time, I saw a real smile on his face.

Now I know where John gets his smile, his father has exactly the same smile. It's actually kind of creepy.

Robert walked out of the kitchen and to our table.

"We are ready to move the hot food into the dining room, would you assist us?" Robert asked John, Trey and I.

We went immediately to help.

* * * * *

After the last of the food was placed in the dining room, we went back to our seats.

Scott stood up and cleared his throat loudly to try and get everyone's attention.

A hush fell over the room and everyone waited for him to speak.

"I'd like to begin by welcoming all the parents to this Thanksgiving celebration." Scott said loudly enough for all to hear.

"If I tried to tell you everything I'm thankful for this year... well the food would be cold before I'd finish, so I'll just tell you what I'm most thankful for today... my family." Scott said with a warm smile.

"I can't remember the last time I told them how much I loved them, so it's probably well past time." He said as a guilty expression passed across his face.

"Alex, you were there when things were worst and you stood by me and believed in me no matter what. There aren't words to describe how glad that I am that you're here. I love you." Scott said looking at Alex.

Then he turned slightly and looked at Alan. "Alan, you were there for Andrew when I wasn't. If that was all you ever did, I'd be forever grateful. But on top of that you've been my encouragement, my friend and my example. You've made me an Uncle eight times over and there's nothing that can compare to that gift. I love you bro."

Then he looked further down that same table and said, "Dawn, my one and only sister. If it weren't for you, our family wouldn't be together this holiday. You're the glue that holds us together. I love you Dawnie."

He turned to his side and said, "John, you're the brother of my heart. In all the ways that matter, we're family. I'm proud of who you are and who you are becoming. I love you John."

Then he turned to face me and said, "Clark, I met you on Sunday and already made you a part of my family. It turns out that you were my family all along."

Then he faced Mom and Dad and said, "I met Jonathan about eight years ago and he changed my life. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be here now. Way back then Jonathan accepted me as part of his family, 'the son of his heart' is what he called me. Now I'm accepting that position and declaring before you all that Jonathan Kent and Martha Kent are the parents of my heart. If I ever mention my Mom or Dad, these people right here are who I'm talking about."

Mom and Dad held each other and had tears about to fall.

Mr. Summers faced the center of the room again and said, "If anyone wants to tell why they're thankful before we begin, go ahead."

Andrew stood and said, "I'm thankful for all of you, for my wonderful husband and children. My whole life started since I've been here. I want to thank every teacher and every student. I've never been so loved."

Mr. Burroughs stood and said, "I've only been round you lot for a few days and you've treated me with respect. I've not had a lot of occasions to be thankful in the past. But now I am. Thank you."

Chris stood beside his father and said, "I'd like to say how thankful I am for my father, mother and brother. I love you all and thank you for loving me."

Bobby stood, looking like he was ready to cry and said, "I'd like to say thank you to my first real friend. He accepted me even though I was a big jerk and ignored him for nearly four years. All I had to do was ask and he accepted me... I'm... I'm thankful for the time we had Peter... I hope you're at peace."

I put my arm around Trey and could feel John do the same from his other side. Then something snapped inside me and I had to stand.

I stood and said, "I'd like to thank everyone here who's helped me. I arrived Sunday and most of the people in this room have gone out of their way to accept me and make me feel welcomed. You've made me realize that in all the ways that matter, I'm just like everyone else. I can't speak for all the..." I looked at the visiting parents and considered my words, "...'out-of-towners', but I can't think of anywhere in the world that I'd feel more welcomed and I'm thankful for you all."

I sat down and was pulled into a hug from Mom and Trey at the same time from opposite directions.

"If there's no one else, let's eat." Scott said and led the way to the serving line.

* * * * *

We all made our way through the serving line without incident, Mom almost got some Borg food, but Ms. Munroe caught her in time.

We took our seats again and began to eat.

"These sweet potatoes are wonderful." Mom said in surprise.

"Robert made them." I said with a smile.

"Robert? Did we meet him?" Mom asked curiously.

"You met him Sunday. He's one of Andrew's twins." I said and pointed to him at the Summers family table.

"That little boy made this?" Mom asked in surprise.

"Mom, that little boy has lived through more than I can imagine. He can do just about anything." I said with admiration.

Mom nodded and said, "Well, it sounds like he's a close friend of yours. Maybe you could find out how he made this for me."

"I'll talk to him before you leave." I said with a smile.

I felt a hand on my knee and turned to see Trey smiling at me.

He whispered in a barely audible voice, "Thank you Clark."

I smiled at him and reached under the table to hold his hand.

"Rick, have you been given a tour of the mansion yet?" Scott asked casually.

Mr. Allerdyce looked up in surprise. Then said, "Um, no. I just walked in the door and a little girl brought me here."

"That would be Janine... Trey's sister. She greeted just about everyone who arrived." Scott said with a warm smile.

"Well how about we give you and the Kents the grand tour after we eat? We can show you around the school and you can see the room they've been sharing." Scott said happily.

I felt a wave of panic when he said that... we didn't clean up the room before we came down to breakfast this morning. The sheet, the lube, the towel...

I looked past Trey to see a matching expression in John's eyes.

I gripped Trey's hand firmly to get his attention.

I whispered under my breath, knowing only Trey could hear, "Can you go and straighten up the room when we show them around?"

Trey responded by giving me a smile and squeezing my hand once.

I smiled back and went back to eating.

* * * * *

"What an excellent meal, I don't know when I've had such good food, and such variety. Thank you for inviting us Scott." Mom said as we got up from the table.

"I'm glad you could come Mrs. Kent." Scott said with a smile.

"Scott. After what you said before dinner, I'll be very hurt if you don't call me 'mom'." She said seriously.

"Yes Mom." Scott said, glowing with happiness.

"That's better, now what are you going to show us?" Mom asked as she walked beside Scott.

Dad walked to my side and we followed them, Mr. Allerdyce and John followed us.

"Dad, I need to talk to John for a minute, Is there any way you could get Mr. Allerdyce's attention for a few minutes?" I asked hopefully.

"Sure, but I want you to tell me what's going on with them later. It's like we're all walking on eggshells around them." Dad said in a whisper.

"Later, I promise." I whispered back.

Dad let his steps lag and Mr. Allerdyce almost bumped into him.

"Rick, I was wondering if you could tell me where there's a good bowling alley around here. I was serious about us all going bowling..."

I motioned for John to join me.

"How's it going? Do you need rescued yet?" I asked carefully.

"No. It's not bad... I just don't know what to say or do around him." John said with worry.

"I noticed. After we've had the tour, why don't you two walk to the boathouse. You don't have anything to hide from him, so why don't you tell him about what your life is like." I suggested.

"I guess... Will you come?" John asked hopefully.

"Could you take Trey? I'd really like some time alone with my parents." I asked hopefully.

John looked at me with a strange, sad look, then said, "Yeah... I don't know what that feels like, *wanting* to spend time with my parents... I'll ask Trey. Thanks Clark."

I pulled John to the side, out of our father's path and gave him a solid kiss.

"Clark?" Dad asked.

I broke the kiss and looked at him.

"Are you with us?" Dad asked with a smile.

"Yeah." I said and gave John a squeeze before joining my dad.

* * * * *

As promised, the tour ended at our room.

I opened the door and hoped that Trey had gotten it cleaned up.

I was surprised to see Trey, his fathers and siblings all in my room.

I walked in and looked around quickly.

It was cleaned up... phew!

Trey spoke and drew everyone's attention.

"I love John and Clark. I asked them to be my partners this morning and they said yes." He said in a firm voice.

Mom and Dad looked at me in question and I gave them a slight nod.

"I've talked to my fathers and come to a decision, so here I stand, before our parents and siblings to ask you, Clark, will you accept my promise, that one day I will ask you to be my life partner?" Trey asked nervously.

"I will." I said firmly.

Trey held out his hand, inviting me to do the same.

I held out my hand and he slipped a thin silver band on my ring finger.

"John, will you accept my promise, that one day I will ask you to be my life partner?" Trey asked in a cautious, hopeful voice.

"I will." John said with the most serious look I'd ever seen.

Trey took John's hand and placed a ring identical to mine on his ring finger.

Trey then smiled and held out another ring in his opened palm.

"Trey, will you accept our promise..." I trailed off, letting John finish.

"...that one day we will consent to be your life partners?" John asked reverently.

"I will." Trey said with happiness and pride.

I took Trey's hand and held it as John slipped the ring on his finger.

"Then it's done." Andrew said happily, then looked to Mom and Dad and Mr. Allerdyce and said, "They weren't ready for engagement, but wanted some kind of commitment. Trey asked me and I suggested promise rings. It means that they are 'officially' dating."

Mom looked at us and smiled.

"So I don't have to worry about who you'll be spending time with, who you'll be dating, who's going to be influencing you..." Mom trailed off happily.

"That's right. The boys are going to be exclusive. They're all good boys who won't let each other get in trouble." Andrew said happily.

"Congratulations son." Mr. Allerdyce said to John and held out his hand to shake.

John looked at his father in surprise, took the offered hand and said, "Thanks dad."

Mom and Dad pulled me into a hug as the entire Summers family descended on Trey.

"You always were able to surprise me, but you outdid yourself this time." Mom said in a tearful voice.

"I'm glad you were here for this. I love you." I said as I held them both.

* * * * *

"Can we go somewhere to talk?" Mom asked hopefully.

"Sure, give me a second." I said and hurried to Trey's side.

"Will you see that John isn't left alone with his dad if he doesn't want to be?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes Clark, I have informed my fathers of the situation and they will understand if I must leave." Trey said seriously.

"Thanks, I'm going to spend some time with my parents. I love you." I finished quietly as I gazed into his eyes.

"I love you too Clark." Trey said and pulled me in for a gentle kiss.

I closed my eyes and soaked in the love. Somehow it meant even more now.

Too soon the kiss ended and I went back to my parents.

"Lead the way son." Dad said with a smile.

"Let's go see if the library is empty." I said and led the way out.

* * * * *

Once the library door was closed I walked to the table where my parents were sitting down and waited for the questions.

"How did this happen?" Dad asked distantly.

I thought about the question before asking, "Which this are you talking about? A lot of things happened."

"I left my little boy here four days ago and found a young man when I came back." Mom said, looking like she was about to cry.

I smiled and said, "It was time for me to grow up. All it took was some good friends who cared about me to help me realize how to be more... grown up."

"Are you talking about sex?" Mom asked with concern.

"No Mom, not really. I'm talking about being around people who treat me with respect and expect me to behave in a mature, responsible manner. Everyone has treated me that way since I got here. John helped me really see myself and adopt a more mature appearance, Trey helped me understand my feelings, Scott sat down and helped me sort through my options when I was confused. And Ronny helped me understand how much growing I've done." I said, hoping they would understand.

"That's a lot of friends." Mom said gently.

"They're just the beginning. Alex, Andrew, Alan, Chris, Lee, Xander, Jimmy... they're all my friends." I said happily.

Mom and Dad looked at me with a peaceful expression.

I looked back curiously.

"I wanted you to come here and be happy... but I never imagined that you'd... belong... like this. It's better than I could have dreamed." Mom said, about to cry again.

"Yeah, it is." I whispered.

"Tell me about your... what do you call them? Boyfriends?" Dad asked cautiously.

"Yeah Dad, boyfriends." I said with a smile.

"How did you get together?" Dad asked quietly.

"John and I wear the same size clothes. He didn't have anything when he came here... he was... kind of living on the street. So I offered to share my clothes and let him share my room until Mr. Logan bought the house." I said with a smile.

"And spending so much time together, you got to know each other." Mom said in speculation.

"Yeah. He's really a great guy. I love him." I said peacefully.

"What about his dad?" Dad asked with a furrowed brow.

"Tuesday was the first time John saw his dad in over a year. He hasn't told me a lot about it, but from what I can gather... it was bad. They fought all the time. His dad's in therapy now and they're trying to get to know each other as people, maybe friends." I said in thought.

"How awful. Is there anything we can do to help?" Mom asked with concern.

"Dad already did it. He invited Mr. Allerdyce to go bowling. I think if he felt like he belonged somewhere, maybe things would be better between him and John." I said, hoping I was right.

"He did seem pretty lost. I'll make sure to get his number before I leave so I can let him know next time I come to town. I haven't bowled in a while. It'd be good to do it again." Dad said in thought.

"That's good Dad. I'm hoping that they can find some things that they like doing together and can have some kind of relationship." I said as I gazed past my parents, into the distance.

"What about Trey?" Mom asked curiously.

I smiled as I thought about Trey.

"He's only been here a few weeks. All his brothers and his sister have made friends already. When I arrived, he thought we could be friends, but Bobby and John beat him to it. I noticed that he looked... depressed and asked him about it. Trey is incredibly honest and told me why he was feeling bad. So John and I took the time to get to know him and... the rest is history." I finished happily.

"He seems like a sweet boy... are you sure you're ready for a commitment? You're so young." Mom said with worry.

I looked down at my ring and said, "We're going steady. I think this is perfect for now. We're too young for marriage, or even to get engaged, but what we did today was to let all our families know that we are serious about being together and what we mean to each other."

"That's good thinking son. You've always been responsible, I'm glad you've taken the time and thought to make it official." Dad said quietly.

"I just tried to think of what you'd want me to do." I said simply as I looked at Dad.

He smiled and pulled me into a hug.

"We're so proud of you Clark. You came to a new place and made it your own." Dad said as he held me.

"Expect to see us here fairly often... Do you think Trey and John would like to spend Christmas with us?" Mom asked suddenly.

"They might..." I said in thought.

"Let's talk to their parents. We could drive up Christmas Day so they could still have time to enjoy Christmas here. Then all of us could spend a few days at home before I bring you back." Dad said speculatively.

"I don't know if Trey can be away that long without regeneration. But if we can find a way to do it, I bet he'd enjoy visiting. And I'm pretty sure John will be glad to go." I said with excitement.

"Regeneration?" Mom asked curiously.

"His machine parts need to be recharged. He hooks up to a machine at night instead of sleeping." I said absently.

"Goodness." Mom said in surprise.

"It's just the way he is Mom. It's part of being Borg." I said, trying to convey that it was no big deal.

"Talk to him and see if there's some way he can do it. If we have to cut the visit short for him, then that's what we'll do." Mom said firmly.

I nodded.

"Let's go find them, I'd like to get this all sorted out as quickly as possible." Dad said and stood.

I stood next and pulled Dad into a hug.

"Thank you for everything." I said as I held him close.

"Thank you, seeing you happy is the best reward we could have asked for." Dad said as he held me.

I reached blindly and pulled Mom to join us.

Mom joined our hug and I held them close for a minute before releasing them so we could find Trey and John and make Christmas plans.

* * * * *

We walked down the hall and saw Scott walking out of his office.

"Scott, what are you doing for Christmas?" Mom asked with excitement.

"Just staying here as far as I know." Scott said hesitantly.

"We were talking about it and wondered if you and Clark's boyfriends would like to spend Christmas day and a couple days after at our house... as a family." Dad asked hopefully.

"It sounds great, but I want to spend Christmas with my family here too." Scott said seriously.

"We thought we'd drive up Christmas day to pick you up. That way you could spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day morning here with your family." Mom said with pleading in her eyes.

"Yeah, that sounds nice... but instead of you driving up, I could just drive us from here and save you the trip." Scott said in thought.

"That's great... but it's a really long drive, make sure you're plenty rested before you drive." Dad said in warning.

"I'll have some help driving. I'm pretty sure John will have his license by then. Clark and Trey will probably at least have their permits... I may not have to drive at all." Scott said with a smile.

"Clark, you'll be sixteen before Christmas, if you could get your license, you could take the VW bug back with you." Dad said with a smile.

"Really?" I asked in wonder.

"Then I guess it's a good thing that you'll be living with the driving instructor." Scott said with a grand smile.

"I can really have the bug?" I asked to be sure.

"Yes Clark. I've been keeping it till you're old enough. You're going to need to learn how to take care of it." Dad said firmly.

I nodded as Scott said, "We have auto mechanics courses once a week. By the time Christmas gets here, he'll know the basics."

"Good." Dad said with a nod.

"Do you know where John and Trey are? We need to ask them about Christmas." I asked quickly, wanting to tell them about my car.

"I think they went for a walk to the boathouse." Scott said unsurely.

"We can catch them there." I said with excitement and pulled Scott close for a hug before I could even think about it.

"Go ahead Clark, before you miss them. I'll be here when you get back." Scott said with laughter in his voice.

I broke the hug abruptly and led Mom and Dad out of the mansion.

"Come on Clark, we'll drive over, it'll be faster." Mom said as she walked to the car.

I was so used to walking the path that I didn't even consider that we could drive.

I hurried into the back seat of the car and waited impatiently.

"You'd think he had some news to share." Mom said with a smile.

I tried to reign in my enthusiasm but... a car! MY OWN CAR!

To Be Continued...