Hurt & Comfort

Book 7: From Hurt to Comfort

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Chapter 4: Inherent Evil

Remy awoke in darkness. His arms were pinned to his sides and he could barely breathe. He began to panic as he thought, [Remy been kidnapped. De friens o humanity found Remy again.] He rocked and twisted, then came to rest. He took a long silent moment to take inventory and realized that his feet weren't bound. Carefully he moved his right foot up and up, trying to get a sense of what was restraining him. He felt an opening and pressed his foot into it. He finally was able to see a sliver of light.

He hooked his foot into the opening and brought up his left foot to help widen the cushioned orifice. With great effort he pulled with his legs until he twisted his body enough to free his arms. The feel of cold steel against the side of his face startled him, then he came to a shocking realization.

After long moments of swearing in three languages he was finally able to make his way out of the back of the sofa where he had fallen. The sofa cushions had shifted out from the back and dumped him behind the folding bed inside the couch. [Next time Monsieur Sofa, Remy blow you into tiny pieces.] He thought as he tried to extract himself from the man-eating couch with a modicum of dignity.

When he looked around he noticed that Icheb and Jimmy were standing, watching silently.

"Don jus stand dere, give Remy some help." He finally said as he was standing with one foot almost on the floor and the other still in the couch, unable to balance himself enough to get out.

Both boys ran to Remy and pulled on his arm to help him out and away from the evil sofa.

"What you boys be doin up so early?" Remy asked as he straightened his clothes which had become tangled and twisted around him.

"Our regeneration cycles ended and we found that our possessions had been transposed in the relocation." Icheb said shyly.

Remy heard the words, but could get no meaning so he looked to Jimmy for clarification.

"We woke up and when we tried to get dressed, I had Icheb's clothes and he had mine." Jimmy said with a smile.

"Dat mus be a problem. Icheb be much bigger dan you." Remy said to the pair.

"We met in here and noticed that you were having difficulty." Jimmy said plainly.

"Well Remy not have dat difficulty no more. Remy an Xander be gettin married today. Den we share a room." Remy said happily.

"I understand. Jimmy and I must retrieve our clothing and dress. Enjoy your wedding." Icheb said and went downstairs.

"I too must go. I hope your ceremony goes well Uncle Remy." Jimmy said before running upstairs.

Remy gave the couch an evil look before shrugging and pushing the cushions back into place.

* * * * *

Alan and Andrew awoke to silence. After three months on board Voyager, the absence of the constant hum of the engines was felt.

"Love, we need to check on the kids. They don't have duties here and won't know what to do when they wake up." Alan said quietly.

"Five more minutes." Andrew said and rolled over to get some more sleep.

"Okay love, you get some rest, you had a big day yesterday, you deserve it." Alan said with a tender smile and got out of the bed.

Alan walked out of the bedroom to find all the children gathered in a circle talking quietly. When they noticed him they silenced.

"What's going on?" Alan asked cautiously.

"Uncle Remy and Uncle Xander are getting married today." Janine said and held out her arms to request a hug.

Alan picked her up and gave her a hug before asking, "So what's all the whispering about?"

"We want to give them a wedding gift, but do not have anything of sufficient value. There are no replicators here and our own possessions are not appropriate." Trey said with worry.

"Hmmm. I see your problem. Do Uncle Remy or Uncle Xander know about this?" Alan asked carefully.

"No, we have found that presents are best when received unexpectedly." Icheb said with certainty.

"That's true... Stay here just a minute, I have an idea." Alan said and put down Janine.

After rummaging through the cubby hole under the end table for a few minutes Alan came out with a very large, very thick book.

"This is a mail order catalog. It's kind of like the replicator listing back on Voyager. You see this... It's called the price. If it does not have a decimal place, one is assumed to be present at the right side of the number. If there are smaller numbers to the right side, they are assumed to be cents. If the price exceeds two places to the left of the decimal, then we do not have sufficient rations to get it. You may pick out one gift, as a group, and when Uncle Remy and Uncle Xander have left for the ceremony, we will go to the store and buy your gift." Alan said slowly.

"What are cents?" Icheb asked with confusion.

"Let's take this down to the basement so Uncle Remy and Uncle Xander won't see you. I'll explain in a minute." Alan said in a mock whisper.

Icheb took the catalog and all the children went immediately to the basement. Alan followed and knew that it was the beginning of a very long day.

* * * * *

Remy and Xander were beginning to get creeped out by the children. Every few minutes one of them would come upstairs and call for Alan to come downstairs. Alan would go, be gone for one minute and come back with an amused look on his face.

Finally Remy asked, "What dey be doin down dere?"

"I'm trying to explain the concept of money to them and they're just not getting it." Alan said with a chuckle.

"You mean dey tink dat you be rich?" Remy asked as he ate his toast.

"No, we haven't got to the concept of accumulated wealth yet. We're still dealing with dollars and cents. They don't get the concept of a quarter but the concept of a dime seems perfectly reasonable to them. A nickel makes no sense but pennies are fine. It's the same with folding money. Ones and tens are fine but they don't understand fives, twenties or fifties." Alan said in frustration.

"Decimals... metrics. They're used to everything being easily divisible by a power of ten." Xander said as if it were obvious.

Alan looked at Xander with surprise and said, "You're right. We measured distance, liquid, even temperature in metrics. The children are having problems with the concept of fractions. Thanks Xander, I'm going to work with them again after breakfast."

"Actually, I was hoping you and Andrew could come with us to the ceremony. I know you'll need to get someone to watch the kids, but I really want to have all my family around when I get married." Xander said helplessly.

"Okay, but I need to know what your plans are for the day, I mean before and after the wedding." Alan said carefully.

"Um... The lawyer will be here in about an hour and a half, that's when we'll leave. We're going to stop by Aunt Vada's house to pick her up before the ceremony, then go to the courthouse in Perth Amboy. After the ceremony we're going to Guilliome's for traditional Louisiana cooking. Then we're coming back here." Xander said, looking to Remy for confirmation.

"Let me check on something with the kids, I'll be right back." Alan said quickly.

Xander and Remy shared a questioning look but remained silent.

Alan ran back into the room a minute later and said, "Would you mind if the children came along? They attended our wedding ceremony and behaved themselves very well."

"Remy don mind. De kids be welcome if dey wan to go." Remy said and continued to eat.

"You mind Xan?" Alan asked as he started to eat his cereal again.

"No. I just didn't think it would be too much fun for a kid." Xander said honestly.

"We'll take separate cars, if they start having a problem, I'll get them out of there." Alan said with assurance.

"Dat be fine." Remy said with a note of relief.

"And since the children don't eat, I'll just bring them back home after the ceremony." Alan said between bites.

"Yeah, then we'll see you back here... that sounds good." Xander said with a smile.

* * * * *

"Okay kids, there's been a change in plans, but I think you'll like it. We're going to go to Xander and Remy's wedding. After the ceremony, they are going to have a meal, and we are going to get their gift. Do you have it picked out yet?" Alan asked with a note of tension.

"We thought Uncle Remy would like this." Icheb said and held out the catalog.

"Icheb. That is lingerie... I don't know, he might... but we aren't going to be the ones to buy him a lace nightie, that's Xander's job. Keep looking, I have to go wake up your father and let him know that we're going... and when we get there, watch and listen, but don't talk any more than necessary. You haven't been around non-mutants from this century before." Alan said tensely.

"We will be discreet Dad, you have told us enough about your home that we understand." Icheb said with assurance.

Alan looked back to see the group of children looking at the catalog again.

* * * * *

Alan had managed to get Andrew awake, showered, fed and dressed and the children dressed in their wedding clothes. Trey had to make due with his best pants and a shirt borrowed from Uncle Remy since his dress uniform wouldn't be appropriate for the occasion.

With great planning, care and a backpack from Andrew and Alan's closet, they were able to smuggle the catalog into the van that Alan, Andrew and the kids would be taking to the ceremony.

"Thanks for driving Scott, I didn't even think about not having a license in this universe." Alan said shyly.

"No problem my brother. What's up with your kids, they make me nervous when they're huddled around, whispering like that." Scott said as he looked in the rear view mirror.

"I gave them a catalog to pick out a present for Xander and Remy. They're trying to find a gift for under a hundred dollars." Alan said and glanced back to see how they were doing.

"Whatever they pick will be fine." Scott said confidently.

"I'm glad you think so, it's just over a month till Christmas." Alan said with a smile.

Scott and Alan both heard Andrew saying to the children, "No, that is used for farming, Xander and Remy wouldn't have any use for a plow, besides, this is just the blade, the entire plow costs much more than we can spend."

Scott got a surprised look as Alan said, "Hope you enjoy your Christmas."

* * * * *

They arrived at Aunt Vada's house no nearer to finding a present than when they left the mansion.

"Look at all these people. You have time to introduce me to everyone don't you?" Vada asked in a tone of voice that said, 'if you don't introduce me to these people, I'll embarrass you in front of them'.

Xander looked around and motioned to each of the cars for everyone to 'come here'.

"Aunt Vada, you met Alex and Scott last time, this is Scott's twin brother Alan and Alan's significant other, Andrew. Behind them are their children. Next to them is..." Xander said before being interrupted.

"Introduce me to the children. They're people too, it's not polite to treat them as if they aren't." Aunt Vada said in a chastising tone.

Alan stepped behind the children who were standing in a stair-stepped row. He put his hand over Icheb's head and moved it as he said each child's name. "Icheb, Trey, William, Robert, Jimmy, Janine."

"Goodness, I'll never remember their names like that. I'll talk to you again in a moment, after I've met the others." Vada said with a tender smile directed at the children.

"This is Scott's sister Dawn and her partner, Tara." Xander said with a gesture toward the two women.

"Aren't you lovely. All the members of the Summers family are so radiant, and Tara, what a genuine beauty you are." Vada said with a smile.

"In the next car we have Professor Xavier and Mr. Howlett, our lawyer. They're in wheelchairs and it would be difficult and time consuming for them to get out of the car." Xander said quietly.

"I can understand that. It's only by the grace of God that I'm not in one myself. Are you ready to get to the courthouse?" Vada asked with a knowing smile.

"Yes ma'am. Mr. Howlett came along so he could be sure that we filled out the paperwork right." Xander said with concern showing through his voice.

"That's probably a good idea. Well let's be on our way... but would you mind if I ride in the van with the children? That convertible is low to the ground and difficult for me." Vada said simply.

"Um, I guess not... Is there enough room?" Xander asked Andrew and Alan.

"I can ride with you and then there'll be just enough room." Andrew said with a smile.

"Thank you... Andrew?" Aunt Vada asked in confirmation.

"Yes Ma'am. You're welcome." Andrew said shyly.

"Let's be on our way then." Vada said enthusiastically and began walking for the van.

* * * * *

Everyone got into their vehicle and the group made the ride to the courthouse without incident.

Once there, they trooped into the courthouse and were confronted by the next challenge.

"Kids, I didn't think about it, but this is going to be a problem for us. Lets wait in the van." Alan said as he looked at the line of people going through the metal detector.

"Yes Dad." Icheb said with disappointment.

"Andy, I'm taking the kids to wait in the van. Let the others know what's going on." Alan said with a whisper.

"Okay love. Wish me luck." Andrew said, looking at the machine apprehensively.

"Good luck, just tell them that you have a metal plate in your head and you should be fine." Alan said with a smile.

"Go on. Love you." Andrew said quietly and moved forward with the line.

Alan and the children left the courthouse.

* * * * *

"Why did we have to leave Dad?" Jimmy asked as they headed for the van.

"Because your Borg components would have triggered the metal detector and we would have to try and explain why six children have metal components in their bodies. It's better not to have to answer such questions." Alan said honestly as he opened the van.

"This will give us more time to find a present for Uncle Remy and Uncle Xander." Icheb said helpfully.

"Icheb is right. And it looks like we'll need all the time we can get." Alan said with relief.

* * * * *

After a half an hour of other cases Remy and Xander made their way to the front.

"Mr. Harris, Mr. LeBeau, I see from your paperwork that you want to be joined in civil union. I am not inclined to grant such petitions to out-of-towners because I am aware that you are trying to circumvent the legal system of your own state." The judge said sternly.

"When did you get to be such a bully Stevie?" A woman's voice asked into the ensuing silence.

"Who said that?" The judge asked with surprise.

"I did." Vada said and slowly made her way to standing.

"Aunt Vada?" The judge asked in wonder.

"I never thought when I was changing your diapers that you'd grow up to be so mean." Vada said with disappointment.

"I'm not..." The judge began to say.

"I still have the stain in my carpet from when you ate *all* the pizza rolls and threw up." Vada said sternly.

"What are you doing here with these strangers?" The judge asked with a note of accusation.

"They may be strangers to you but they have made me part of their family. They came to my house to share a meal with me... and when was the last time *you* came to visit? They invited me to witness their civil union because I'm part of the family. And when they do get hitched, they're going to adopt Maggie's baby." Vada said firmly.

"I'm sorry Aunt Vada, this Sunday, I promise." The judge said quickly.

"All right then." Vada said and ended with a contented smile.

"How did you meet Mr. LeBeau and Mr. Harris?" Judge Hawkes asked curiously.

"They came to tell me about something nice that Maggie had done for them and when they asked if there was anything they could do to help, I asked if they would be interested in adopting Maggie's baby. They wouldn't be trying to get the union so quickly except that they want Marguerite to have a home to go to when she's released from the hospital." Vada said with compassion.

"Marguerite?" The judge asked with a smile.

"Marguerite Vada LeBeau, if the adoption is approved." Vada said with strength.

"So you're having your union now so you can get the adoption started?" Judge Hawkes asked the men.

"Yes your honor." Remy said respectfully.

"You gentlemen wouldn't happen to have the adoption paperwork with you, would you?" The judge asked in a more gentle tone.

"I do your honor." A voice spoke from the back.

"Come forward." Judge Hawkes commanded.

"If you can get these nice folks to clear a path, I will." Mr. Howlett said in frustration.

A moment later Mr. Howlett guided his wheelchair to the front of the courtroom.

"And you are?" The judge asked curiously.

"Kenneth Howlett, I came with Xander and Remy to see that they filled out the civil union paperwork correctly. I am an attorney." Mr. Howlett said, a bit shyly.

"That was very conscientious of you Mr. Howlett, may I see the adoption paperwork?" The Judge asked pleasantly.

Mr. Howlett pulled a folder from his briefcase and handed it to Remy, who in turn handed it to the judge.

After a few minutes of reading the judge said, "You've done a very thorough job on this. Normally I would let such things take their natural course and time, but Maggie was a dear friend of mine. For her and Aunt Vada I'll see to this personally. I'm going to grant the civil union and get to work on the adoption. I see that your contact information is in the letterhead, I'll contact you as soon as I have something accomplished. By the power vested in me by the state of New Jersey, I pronounce you joined in civil union. You may kiss if you are so inclined." Judge Hawkes said kindly.

"Thank you your honor." Xander said quietly and gave Remy a brief but heartfelt kiss.

* * * * *

"How did it go?" Alan asked with excitement as Andrew and Aunt Vada exited the building.

"Better than we could have hoped, thanks to Aunt Vada." Andrew said happily.

"Stevie Hawkes used to come over to my house to play with Maggie and Toby when they were little more than babies. His mama is a good woman, I need to call her and see how she's doing." Vada said absently.

At Alan's look of question Andrew said, "The judge was ready to deny the civil union until Aunt Vada let him know that Xander and Remy were with her. Now, not only are Xander and Remy officially married, but the judge volunteered to see to the adoption personally."

"Would this be good Father?" Jimmy asked, holding up the catalog.

Andrew looked at the picture and said hesitantly, "It's a very nice food processor but I've never seen Remy or Xander cook, I don't know if they'd like something like that. You'd better put the catalog back in the van before they come out." Andrew said gently.

"Are the children trying to find a wedding gift?" Vada asked as she watched Jimmy get back in the van.

"Yes. I thought the catalog would be the easiest way for them to choose something... but it's not going too well." Andrew said in defeat.

"When you take me back home, come in for a few minutes and I'll show the children some things that I was given and are very special to me. Maybe that will give them some ideas for Remy and Xander." Vada offered.

"Thank you Aunt Vada, I think that is a great idea." Andrew said with a smile.

* * * * *

Xander and Remy came out of the courthouse and everyone gathered around to offer their congratulations. Finally Xander asked, "Who all is going to Guilliome's with us?"

Dawn and Tara both said they would go and Scott had a look of indecision.

"Who isn't going that has a driver's license? I get the feeling that Scott would like to go." Andrew asked with a smile.

"I'll drive you. If it were traditional Hawaiian food, I'd be right there but traditional Louisiana cooking scares me." Alex said honestly.

"Alan love, would you like to go with Scott? " Andrew asked quietly.

"If you wouldn't mind, I really would like to go." Alan said with a guilty look.

"I wouldn't mind at all. You go and have a good time. We'll take Aunt Vada home and meet you back at the boathouse after your meal." Andrew said lovingly.

"Thanks love. I owe you one." Alan said and moved in for a kiss.

Andrew responded by pulling Alan close and making the kiss a long deep kiss filled with meaning.

Alan finally pulled back with a look of surprise.

"Paid in full." Andrew whispered with a smile.

* * * * *

Alex parked the van in front of Aunt Vada's house and everyone got out.

"Come children, I have some things I want to show you." Aunt Vada said kindly.

"How old are you?" Janine asked curiously.

"Well, how old do you think I am?" Vada asked in return as she unlocked the door.

"Thirty?" Janine responded carefully.

Vada walked into her home with a hearty laugh. "Thank you child, but I'm a bit older than that. I'm seventy years old." Vada said proudly.

Janine had a vacant look, she obviously couldn't imagine that many years all in a row.

"Here, this is one of the things that I wanted you to see." Vada said and gestured to a portrait above the fireplace.

"Do you think Uncle Xander and Uncle Remy would like a big picture of these two people?" Jimmy asked unsurely.

Vada laughed again and said, "This is a portrait of Mr. Jeffers and I, it was done shortly after we were married. I wasn't suggesting that you give Remy and Xander *this* picture, but you could pay to have a portrait done so they could look back on this time as fondly as I look back at my time with Mr. Jeffers."

"I'm not sure that I understand." Icheb said hesitantly.

"Icheb, would you go out to the van and get the backpack?" Andrew asked quietly.

Icheb nodded and immediately went out to get it.

"Icheb, that's a curious name, I don't think I've heard it before. Is that Yugoslavian?" Vada asked speculatively.

"Albanian, I think." Andrew said and waited anxiously for Icheb to return.

Icheb handed Andrew the backpack. After a moment of searching, Andrew pulled out the holo-imager and sat it on a nearby table.

"Do you remember this?" Andrew asked and turned the device on.

An image formed of all the children, standing in a row. Icheb stood nearly a foot tall on the tabletop. They all had blank, emotionless expressions.

"Yes, it was the day we met." Icheb said with a smile.

"And how does it make you feel to see this image from the past?" Andrew asked carefully.

"It brings me joy. I recall the events of that day and the feelings that I had, feelings I didn't have names for." Icheb said as he stared at the holo-image.

"That is what the portrait does for Aunt Vada. It is her image from the past that reminds her of past events and feelings." Andrew explained to all the children.

"Isn't that something, the things they come up with nowadays." Vada said in wonder.

"It's a prototype. It may be a while before they can be marketed." Andrew said quickly.

"Well, before you settle on the idea of a portrait, let me show you some other things that were given to me." Vada said and walked into her bedroom.

A moment later she walked out carrying an iridescent bowl that was twisted into a spiral design. It looked as if molten glass were exploding outward in a spiral, and then frozen in time.

"It is beautiful." Robert said in wonder.

"It reminds me of a wormhole." Jimmy said, fascinated by the changing colors.

"Are you saying my carnival glass bowl looks like a hole that a worm crawled out of... I don't know where you kids get your imagination..." Vada trailed off.

"What is the purpose of such an item?" William asked carefully.

"It's pretty. I put it in my room so I can see it in the morning light, first thing when I wake up." Vada said tenderly.

"Do you think Xander and Remy would like something like that?" Icheb asked curiously.

"Maybe. When it is a gift, that makes it more special. If you give them something pretty, it becomes even more beautiful because someone cared enough to give it to them." Vada explained.

"Like the art that you all gave to Alan and I. You know how much we prize it. The sculpture is beautiful by itself, but it is precious and beloved because it was given to us from you." Andrew said honestly.

"Perhaps we should create something like the sculpture for them." Robert suggested.

"If you would like. A gift that is created is far more personal than one that is purchased." Andrew said simply.

"Yes, Andrew is right. Here, look at this." Vada said and held out a small irregular box.

"I do not understand the construction of this container, no two lengths of wood are the same and none of the corners are mitered to fit. It should collapse in on itself." Trey said curiously.

"It has, many times. I finally hot glued the thing together. This was made by my son Toby. He had no talent for carpentry, but he was determined to try and make me a gift." Vada said fondly.

"Then even though the construction is inadequate, you still consider this a treasure?" William asked incredulously.

"I've kept it over forty-five years, so I guess I do. Because he loved me, he tried so hard to make me the perfect gift. A store bought gift wouldn't have had as much meaning because I know how much effort he put into making this for me." Vada said with eyes that looked into the distant past.

"Father, could we purchase the supplies to create a gift for Uncle Xander and Uncle Remy?" Icheb asked quietly.

"Of course, but we still don't know what we're making." Andrew said to the group.

"I have an idea." Trey said with a smile.

To Be Continued...