Hurt & Comfort

Book 4: The Well of Hurt

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Chapter 10: By the Numbers

"Remain here and comply with the instructions of the Doctor, Mr. Wells and Mr. Summers." Seven of Nine said as she handed the Doctor a padd.

When it was apparent that the children weren't going to ask for clarification of her instructions, Seven turned and left the Sickbay.

"Hi, I'm Andrew. What's your name?" Andrew asked of the oldest.

The children stared as if they hadn't heard the question.

"Mr. Wells is requesting your designation." the Doctor said over his shoulder as he worked on Chakotay.

"Two of Seven." the oldest said

Andrew looked at the group of children, then at Alan in confusion.

"No love, you're not going crazy, there are only six of them." Alan said with a smile.

"If you are Two of Seven, where is One of Seven?" Andrew asked.

"One of Seven resisted relocation and was terminated." the teenage Borg said without emotion.

"Oh." Andrew said with a small voice.

"I'll see the children over here, send me one." the Doctor said from beside an empty bed.

"One was terminated. Would you like Two?" Alan asked helpfully.

"Yes, please." the Doctor said, recognizing that Alan was being playfully obtuse.

"Two of Seven, the Doctor is ready to see you." Alan said and gestured toward the vacant bed.

"The Doctor can see me quite well from here." Two of Seven said as a statement of fact.

"He's got you there Doctor." Andrew said, jumping into the verbal game.

"Mr. Wells, Mr. Summers. For what reason are you delaying this examination?" the Doctor asked in exasperation.

"Four? Who is Four?" Alan asked, looking over the children.

A boy stepped forward from the group.

"Four? Are you delaying the Doctor's examination? Doctor did you want Four?" Alan asked the Doctor and pointed at the boy.

"No, no, I wanted to examine Two." the Doctor said.

"Two examine Two? I think he wants you to examine yourself, Two." Andrew said with a playful look.

The youngest of the children, a little girl, giggled.

"I'm guessing you're Seven." Alan said with a smile.

The little girl nodded shyly.

"I guess Seven is a typical girls name among the Borg." Alan said and looked back to Andrew.

"I guess so... what's you're na... designation?" Andrew asked the boy after Four in line.

"I am Five of Seven." the boy said almost sadly.

"Alan, Four of Seven and Five of Seven are identical twins... like you and Scott." Andrew said happily.

"Explain." Two asked with an inquisitive look.

"Four and Five are physically identical just like Alan and his twin Scott." Andrew said in explanation.

Two looked at the boys before saying, "Four is .06 centimeters taller than Five."

Andrew looked down the line of children and said, "You're in order by height. I thought it was age. What happens if one of you has a growth spurt?"

The children all looked at Andrew, obviously not understanding the question.

"Gentlemen? I'm waiting." the Doctor said impatiently.

"Two, follow me." Andrew said and led Two over to the Doctor.

"What is going to happen to us?" Seven of Seven asked.

Alan looked at her timid, questioning face and thought back to how the Doctor had first introduced him to Seven of Nine. Then he said, "I really don't know Seven. Andrew is one of two, I am two of two, we just arrived two weeks ago. We were hurt and the Doctor made us better. Once the Doctor has finished with you, then I guess we'll all find out together."

Seven of Seven nodded in acceptance.

Six of Seven then asked with a tone of fear, "Did the Doctor remove your appendage?"

Alan noticed that the young boy had an ocular implant and was focused on his prosthetic leg.

"No, the Doctor is going to replace this with a real leg tomorrow." Alan said with an encouraging smile.

"Can I watch?" Six asked with wide eyes.

"We'll see." Alan said and looked back toward the Doctor.

Six of Seven nodded and went silent.

Alan looked at the group of children standing at attention and asked the Doctor, "Do you think I should bring Puppy out to play with them?"

The Doctor looked at the children for a moment then said, "I think these children would more likely enjoy a targ."

"What's a targ?" Alan, Andrew and Six of Seven asked at once.

"It's a beast from the Klingon home world... it doesn't matter, I don't think the children are at the emotional level where they would enjoy Puppy. Perhaps Kal-toe." the Doctor said as he pressed a hypospray against Two's neck.

"What's Kal-toe?" Alan, Andrew and Six of Seven chorused.

"It's a Vulcan game of... Gentlemen, you are supposed to be helping me tend to the children, not teaming up with them against me." the Doctor said in realization.

"Doctor, you have altered my epidermis... explain." Two demanded in a frightened tone.

"I simply changed your coloring back to what it was before you were assimilated." the Doctor said carefully.

Two nodded in acceptance and laid back on the table.

"Doctor, do you mind if I take Four and Five down to my cabin for a few minutes?" Alan asked.

"To what purpose?" the Doctor asked as he removed the outer plating of Two's ocular implant.

"I just want to take a walk, and I thought we could get them some clothes while we're out... I don't think I could deal with all the kids at once but these guys are okay... it's a twin thing, you wouldn't understand." Alan said with a smile.

"Actually that sounds like a good idea. Doctor, can you watch after Three, I'm going to take Six and Seven and get them some new clothes too." Andrew said.

"Fine, do what you will." the Doctor said and began removing a mechanism from Two's arm.

Alan, Four and Five walked out of the Sickbay. A moment later Andrew said in a mock whisper, "Let's take a shortcut."

He opened a portal and motioned for Six and Seven to follow.

"This is the cabin I share with Alan. The replicator is over here, let's get started on making you some clothes before they get here." Andrew said with a chuckle.

* * * * *

As it turned out, having children with the ability to make precise measurements by sight was very helpful in making clothes. By the time Alan and the twins had arrived, Andrew was making a second set of clothes for Seven and ready to begin on clothes for Six.

As the door to the cabin opened Andrew asked, "What took you guys so long?"

"We met some people along the way... including a pair of twins. The guys here just *had* to spend a little time talking with the Delaney sisters." Alan said with a sly grin.

"You guys have been on the ship less than a day and you're already picking up women? Way to go!" Andrew said as he looked through the clothing selection of the replicator with Six.

"We merely wish to verify the claims Two of Two made about being a... twin." Five said in a flat tone.

"What have you been telling them?" Andrew asked and nodded at Six's choice of clothing.

"I told them that being a twin makes you extra special because you always have someone with you who can understand you. Even though you both get to have your own friends and own lives, the part of your life you share with your twin is the same and is something for just the two of you." Alan said happily.

"I miss Scott too." Andrew said with a smile and took the completed outfit from the replicator.

Six took a blue shirt from Andrew and began to put it on.

"No Six, I already told you. No one gets to wear their new clothes until after they have visited the Doctor." Andrew said seriously.

"Speaking of which, he's probably about ready for the next two kids." Alan said.

"We're going to make one more outfit for Six, then we can go while you make the guys some things... and love, don't make *all* their clothes identical." Andrew said with a pleading tone.

"Curses, foiled again." Alan muttered then smiled. "No, more like the identical style of clothes but with opposite colors... that's if the guys like the same style of clothes at all."

"Good point. Six has a great sense of style and Seven... is a girl. I think it's in their blood or something to know what looks good. So if you guys run out of inspiration down here while we're up in Sickbay, just give a call and I'll bring whoever isn't being worked on down to help." Andrew said and opened a portal in the wall.

"He just caused a spatial rift." Five said in surprise.

"Yes, he has that ability. You guys ready to get some new clothes?"

Both nodded and Alan began to go through the replicator clothing file.

* * * * *

Andrew, Six and Seven walked through the portal and into Sickbay.

"Mr. Wells, I was just about to call for you. Two and Three are finished. I am ready for the next child." the Doctor said and motioned to the empty bed.

Andrew looked at Six and Seven and noticed a look of apprehension on Six's face.

"Two, did anything the Doctor did cause you pain or discomfort?" Andrew asked, watching for Six's reaction.

"No, I am uninjured. The changes he made were cosmetic and caused no discomfort." Two said seriously.

"Good. Six, why don't you go first so Seven can see for herself that it doesn't hurt?" Andrew asked.

Six looked at Two then Andrew before walking to the bed and awkwardly climbing up.

"Seven, will you be alright to stay with the Doctor while I take Two and Three for some new clothes?" Andrew asked, looking her in the eyes to gauge her truthfulness.

Seven glanced at Two then gave a confident nod.

"Okay. Two and Three, follow me and we'll get you some new clothes." Andrew said and led the way out of the Sickbay.

"You are not going to manifest a spatial disruption to take us there?" Three asked in a hollow tone that might be disappointment.

Andrew was surprised by the almost emotional request and said, "I didn't think about it... it would be faster. Come on guys." Then motioned to a wall that resolved into a swirling vortex.

* * * * *

Alan and the twins were completing their selection at the replicator when a vortex opened.

"Two? You look great. I think having hair makes you look older." Alan said with a smile.

Two didn't give any outward acknowledgment of the comment but Andrew got the sense that he warmed to the compliment.

"Two and Three just finished, I left Six and Seven with the Doctor... are you guys about done?" Andrew asked.

"Just about. Four seems to have a dark side... if he were on our world I think he would be a Goth club kid. Five's tastes remind me of Bobby, clean, neat, maybe a little preppie." Alan said as he held up some clothes.

"Light and Dark? It works. You want to take the portal or walk up?" Andrew asked as he motioned to the portal.

"I think we'll walk. Maybe we'll run into Meghan and Jenny on the way up." Alan said and cast a fond smile at the boys.

"Good thinking." Andrew said as he withdrew his power from the portal.

"You have an ocular implant." Two said as a statement of fact, but everyone present took it to be a question.

"Yes, the ocular implant controls my ability to discharge energy from my eyes." Alan said with some difficulty, trying to use terms the children would be comfortable with.

"Do all individuals on this vessel have that ability?" Three asked carefully.

"No Three, that is part of what makes us individuals, we each have our own ability. One of the men who was recovering in Sickbay... Harry. His ability is to create music using a reed instrument." Alan said with a note of triumph at finding a way to describe it that the children would understand.

"Music?" Three and Four questioned at once.

"It's sound... computer, play music 'Kenny G' random selection." Alan said into the air.

The soft lilting music began to fill the air. Four's face scrunched up as Three got a look of discomfort. Two and Five listened intently.

Andrew noticed the reactions and said, "Let me try love, Computer, stop playback, play music 'Nine Inch Nails' Hurt."

As the music played, all the children listened intently. Four seemed to be swept away by the music and Three seemed to be in a daze.

When the music completed, Two asked, "What is the function of music?"

"It's an expression of creativity. As individuals, some of us have the desire to create things like music, some create paintings or sculpture. You should look at some art and maybe try to create something so that you'll understand better." Alan explained.

"And some express creativity by creating more advanced computer programs or working to solve problems that seem unsolvable." Andrew threw in, thinking Two might carry the 'computer nerd' mentality somewhere deep inside.

"I fail to see how this... music... benefits the collective." Two said and quirked his head in inquiry.

"And that's fine. Not everyone enjoys music. It's another aspect of being an individual, not everyone will enjoy the same thing. It serves the community by allowing people to share in that creative expression." Alan said, not knowing how to explain it better.

"It's no different than if you created a program on the computer to calculate a difficult problem. Others who used your program would benefit from your creativity. Same thing, different medium." Andrew said with a smile.

::Sickbay to Mr. Summers:: sounded over the comm.

"We're on our way Doctor." Alan called into the air and glanced at Andrew.

"Yeah, I'll port you there and you can look for Delaneys some other time." Andrew said with a smile and opened the portal.

"Thanks love." Alan said and walked over for a quick kiss.

"Come on guys, it's our turn to visit the Doctor." Alan said and led the way through the vortex.

* * * * *

Two watched silently for a moment as Andrew went through clothing selections with Three.

Finally he asked, "What was the purpose of the action Two of Two took toward you?"

Andrew looked up from the replicator in confusion for a moment then realized that he was talking about the kiss.

"It was an expression of affection. Alan... Two of Two is my mate." Andrew said, hoping that would be enough of an explanation, he didn't want to have to explain the birds and the bees to Two.

"As I understand the dynamics of mating, opposing genders are a requirement." Two said as Andrew found what he was looking for in the replicator file.

"Three, are there any of these clothes you would like?" Andrew asked carefully as he considered how to answer Two.

Three pointed at a pair of blue jeans, then at a red T-shirt.

"Good choice. Enter your measurements here and we'll have them in a minute." Andrew said and looked back to Two.

Two was waiting patiently for an answer.

"In our society the process of selecting a mate is a matter of emotional attachment more than logic. Opposing genders is most common but not a requirement. I don't know if I can explain it in a way that you will understand." Andrew said honestly.

"Continue." Two said flatly, but Andrew had the sense that this teenage boy was almost desperate to understand.

"Physical attraction is usually the first criteria. It causes the couple to seek each others company because we tend to gravitate toward what we find pleasing." Andrew said carefully.

Two watched without comment or hint of emotion.

"Next the couple begin to communicate and try to determine if they have compatible personalities. Sometimes that means shared interests, other times that means one has an understanding of something the other lacks and wishes to have." Andrew continued.

"This is where it becomes emotional. If both determine that they are compatible, they may seek to cause their relationship to become more... physical." Andrew said hesitantly.

"For the purposes of procreation?" Two asked.

"Not necessarily. Sometimes the physical contact is for the purpose of giving comfort or pleasure. Procreation generally doesn't happen until the couple have progressed to the next stage of their relationship which is commitment." Andrew said carefully.

"I do not understand." Two said with a hint of emotion.

"Commitment in a relationship is when both agree that they will not seek physical pleasure or comfort from another. They reserve their intimate physical contact for each other exclusively and intend for it to remain so indefinitely." Andrew said with difficulty.

"To what purpose?" Two asked.

"By being exclusive, the couple provide comfort, pleasure and emotional support among other things for each other. By instituting a commitment, there is no need for either to expend unnecessary energy on trying to attain those things from someone outside the relationship. Both are assured of having support when they are together." Andrew explained and noticed that Three had replicated another set of clothes. A pair of khaki pants and a bright yellow shirt.

"I believe I understand." Two said.

"Good. Three has finished. It's time for you to make your selections." Andrew said with relief.

"Do you have a commitment with Two of Two?" Two asked as he programmed his measurements into the replicator.

"We have an informal commitment, which means that we have promised each other that we won't seek intimate physical contact outside our relationship. We will be making our formal commitment in two days." Andrew said with joy.

"Explain." Two said as he looked away from the replicator.

"It is a ceremony that lets others know we are committed to each other. The witnesses will be there so everyone will know that we are not available to become partners with anyone else." Andrew said and pointed to the replicator controls.

"I do not know what to pick." Two said with a slight note of helplessness.

"I think you'd look good in this." Andrew said, pointing to a pair of black jeans and a plain white T-shirt.

Two was about to initiate replication when Andrew stopped him.

"This style of clothing is most comfortable when you get it slightly larger than you need. Increase to the next larger size before you replicate." Andrew said seriously.

"I do not understand." Two said and waited before making the alteration.

"Okay, we're all guys here so I'll tell you. You're a teenage boy. I don't know if or when it will become a problem, but I suspect that you will be most comfortable in clothes that are a bit looser when you get... an erection. It isn't a voluntary action and looser clothing can provide comfort as well as conceal what might be a noticeable lump in your pants." Andrew said as he blushed.

"I do not understand." Two said in confusion.

"And you don't have to. Just replicate the clothing slightly larger and at some point in the future you may be glad that you did." Andrew said and motioned to the replicator again.

Two nodded in acceptance and replicated the clothing.

* * * * *

"Captain, may I speak with you for a moment?" Neelix asked as he walked onto the bridge.

"Of course Mr. Neelix." the Captain answered as she looked up from her computer screen.

"I am in charge of replicator rationing and wanted to bring you a concern." Neelix said nervously.

"What is it Mr. Neelix?" the Captain asked, giving her full attention.

"Mr. Wells and Mr. Summers are guests, so they have been receiving unlimited rations since their arrival. I just noticed a large drain on the replicator energy pool and traced it to their account." Neelix said with concern.

"What are they replicating?" the Captain asked curiously.

"I don't know Captain. I feel that it would be a violation of their privacy to look at their usage logs in detail. I'm just concerned that if this continues, I may need to limit their account and I wanted your approval to do so since they are both guests." Neelix asked timidly.

"Give me a moment." Janeway said and pulled up the replicator usage logs on her chair console. After a moment she said, "Not to worry Mr. Neelix, it appears that Mr. Wells and Mr. Summers have taken it upon themselves to clothe the newest additions to our crew." Janeway said with a smile.

"Good. Good." Neelix said happily.

"However, in the next few days Mr. Wells and Mr. Summers will be asked to officially join the crew. When Commander Chakotay makes that official, perhaps you could let them know about replicator rationing?" Janeway asked.

"It would be my pleasure Captain." Neelix said with a smile.

"Is that all?" Janeway asked.

"Yes Captain, thank you for your time." Neelix said and made his way hurriedly off the bridge.

"Dismissed." Janeway said with a smile toward his retreating form.

* * * * *

Andrew turned to see the lean naked form of Two standing before him.

He turned away quickly and said, "Two, would you please go into the other room to change?"

Two complied and returned a few minutes later dressed in black jeans and a white T-shirt.

"Do you find my appearance displeasing?" Two asked in confusion.

"No Two, you remember what I was telling you about my commitment? Not only am I not seeking physical intimacy with another. I do not look at the unclothed body of someone else, since it might be taken as a sign of interest and cause a misunderstanding with my mate." Andrew said steadily.

"Then you do *not* find my appearance displeasing?" Two asked again.

"No Two, you look just fine. You are quite attractive. And I suppose I should tell you both about modesty before we return to Sickbay." Andrew said and took a seat.

Both boys remained standing at attention.

"You can sit down if you'd like." Andrew said.

Both boys remained standing.

"Do you understand about why we wear clothing?" Andrew questioned.

"To prevent physical damage and maintain body temperature." Two said flatly.

"Yes, and there is one other purpose. In polite society, you wear clothing to conceal certain areas of your body from public view. It goes back to what I was telling you about relationships. You are reserving those areas of your body for your future mate. There are circumstances when you may wear less clothing, but certain things will always be covered in a public area." Andrew said seriously.

"Continue." Three said with interest.

"Under certain circumstances it is acceptable to undress in front of others of your same gender... for the purposes of changing clothes or showering as a group." Andrew said slowly.

"Then why did you ask me to leave the room to change clothing?" Two asked seriously.

"Because I am same gender oriented, the sight of your body might cause an involuntary reaction that could be taken as interest. And if my mate were to find that I was looking at the naked body of another man, he might misunderstand and think I was interested in someone outside our relationship and was breaking my promise of fidelity to him." Andrew said with calmness on the outside and nervousness on the inside.

"I believe I understand. If you were not same gender oriented, then you would not have asked me to leave the room while changing clothes." Two asked in confirmation.

"Yes Two. I also have to add that it is inappropriate for males to unclothe before females except within the boundaries of a relationship. It is considered impolite and offensive to expose your genitalia without invitation." Andrew said and felt himself blush again, not knowing that he had stopped.

"Is it the same for females?" Three asked.

"Yes, and their breasts are included in the areas that should not be displayed in public." Andrew said, feeling more comfortable with this turn in the conversation.

"I understand." Two said.

"Good, let's get back to Sickbay. I can't wait to see how the others look." Andrew said and opened a portal.

* * * * *

"How do you have this ability?" Two asked.

"I was born with it. Just like you have brown eyes and brown hair." Andrew said as they entered the room.

Alan smiled as he saw all the children looking mostly human and dressed in regular clothes.

"What do you think love? Aren't they a handsome group?" Alan asked with pride.

"Sure are. Two, Three, why don't you go stand with the others... Doctor? Do you have a camera?" Andrew asked as an afterthought.

"As a matter of fact, I happen to have quite an interest in photography. If you'll stand by the Children, I'll be right back." the Doctor said with a hint of excitement.

Andrew and Alan stood behind the stair-stepped row of children as the Doctor returned to the room.

"I think the picture will look better if we move you around." the Doctor said.

"Doctor, will you take a picture like this? Then you can position us how you want." Alan suggested.

The Doctor snapped a picture then began moving children around, getting Two to kneel down and Andrew to put his arm around Alan. Finally he said, "Much better." and snapped another picture.

"Thank you Doctor." Alan said and relaxed against Andrew.

::Seven of Nine to Mr. Wells:: came from the comm panel.

"Yes Seven?" Andrew called into the air.

"Could you come to Astrometrics for a moment?" Seven asked in a commanding tone.

"May I bring Two of Seven and Six of Seven with me?" Andrew asked, thinking this might be good for Two.

"That would be acceptable." Seven said and closed the link.

"I'll be back as soon as I can love." Andrew said and gave Alan a kiss.

"We'll be fine, hurry back." Alan said with a smile.

Andrew, Two and Six left the room.

To Be Continued...