Hurt & Comfort

Book 7: From Hurt to Comfort

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Chapter 21: Unions, Reunions, and Observances

Robert, Bobby and Peter walked into the boathouse to a room full of people.

"Did I miss the memo about the group meeting?" Bobby asked as he entered.

"No Bobby, we're just having family time. Come on in and join us." Scott said with a smile.

Bobby looked in surprise at Scott.

"Bobby, you *are* part of the family. Come in and sit down... but you might want to pull in chairs from the dining room. We're out of couch space. That spot is for Andrew and his dad." Alan said peacefully.

"Grandfather is here?" Robert asked with excitement.

"Yes, he is talking with Father in the kitchen." Trey said emotionlessly.

Bobby, Peter and Robert all pulled chairs into the living room and sat down.

Andrew came out of the kitchen with his arm around Lee.

"Grandfather?" Robert asked in a disbelieving voice.

"Dad, this is your grandson Robert." Andrew said happily.

Lee walked over to Robert who pulled him close and hugged him.

"It's good to meet you Robert. Would you introduce me to your friends?" Lee asked with love in his voice.

"Yes, this is my friend Bobby and this is my friend Peter." Robert said quickly, keeping an arm around Lee.

Lee put an arm around Robert's shoulder and asked, "Would you like to sit with me?"

Robert nodded and sat beside Lee on the couch.

Andrew walked to the chair that Robert had pulled into the room and took a seat.

"So what's the topic of conversation out here?" Andrew asked as he looked around the room.

"There isn't one, we're all kinda stunned." Alex said and reached up to turn off the TV.

"Are the cartoons over?" Andrew asked curiously.

"Yeah, now it's all sports stuff. What are we going to do today?" Alex asked as he turned himself to face the group.

"Trey, I have a job for you." Andrew said in thought.

"Yes Father?" Trey said and walked to Andrew.

"Do you remember the vid chips that Tom gave us as a wedding present?" Andrew asked carefully.

"Yes." Trey said flatly.

"Do you think it would be possible to rig up something so we could watch them on the television? We never got around to watching them and maybe Alex would like to see them." Andrew said with a smile.

"There is no isolinear circuitry available... with a conversion data node from a padd, and a tricorder interpreter interface... yes, I believe I could create a device to transmit a signal to the vid screen." Trey said seriously.

"Would you be able to accomplish the task most easily alone or with help?" Andrew asked carefully.

"The task would be accomplished most quickly and easily with the help of my brothers." Trey said immediately.

"Okay guys, what do you say, who wants to help Trey?" Andrew asked the group.

All the boys but Robert immediately volunteered.

"Could Bobby and Peter help?" Robert asked from Lee's side.

"And Chris?" William asked.

"Yes, there are sufficient tasks for everyone. Lets go to the basement to begin this project." Trey said to the group.

All the boys trooped out of the room and down the stairs.

Angel lifted Chris and took him down the stairs behind the other boys.

"He can't walk?" Lee asked with concern.

"He was stabbed, today's the first day he's been allowed out of bed." Alan said seriously.

"Who would stab a little boy?" Faith asked with concern.

"A slayer." Angel said as he came back up the stairs.

"Who?" Faith asked in panic, flashing back to one of her own darker moments.

"Kendra, she was trying to stake me and Chris protected me... and nearly died." Angel said sadly.

"I'm sorry Angel... He's going to be okay?" Faith asked with hope.

"Yes. He's healing now. He is going to be fine." Angel said with assurance.

"How horrible. I guess life isn't any easier here than anywhere else." Lee said with a dark look.

"Life is what you make it." Alex said quietly.

Lee gave a dark chuckle and said, "And if you don't make anything of it, it's nothing."

"Andy, feed him." Alan said firmly.

"What?" Andrew asked in confusion.

"He has that look you get when your sugar is low. He needs to eat something." Alan said seriously.

Andrew looked at his father then nodded and left the room.

"What do you mean?" Lee asked in confusion.

"The thing that makes Andrew's moods go all crazy, it's low blood sugar, he has to eat regularly or he gets..." Alan trailed off, looking for the word.

"Moody." Scott said quietly.

"Bitchy." Alex said seriously.

"Whiny." Alan said as he nodded in agreement with the others.

"Angry." Angel threw in, understanding the condition.

"Pouty." Faith said in realization, remembering a few of Andrew's episodes from the previous year.

"Silly." Warren said, and looked around the group to find agreement.

"Or depressed." Kurt said with a nod.

"It doesn't always effect him the same way or as strongly, but when we see the signs, we make sure he has something to eat and we give him a few minutes to come back to himself." Alan explained.

Andrew walked back into the living room, and asked, "What did I miss?"

"We were just telling your dad the story of the seven hypoglycemic dwarves." Alan said with a smile.

Andrew laughed and said, "A classic, Bitchy is my favorite."

The room erupted into laughter.

"Dad, I've made you a sandwich, come in the kitchen for a minute." Andrew said quietly.

Lee followed obediently.

* * * * *

"Go ahead and eat and I'll sit with you. You'll need a few minutes to feel better." Andrew said with understanding.

Lee began to eat his sandwich.

"Dad, I've got a question, but if it's none of my business, just go ahead and tell me, Okay?" Andrew said quietly.

Lee nodded as he continued to eat.

"I don't understand what happened in your life to make it turn out this way. Where did it all go wrong for you?" Andrew asked and took a seat.

"Son, you probably can't relate to this. You're popular, loved, respected... I never was. I was always alone, then I met your mother. She paid attention to me, just me. She made me feel important and special. This beautiful woman wanted to spend time with a nerdy, scrawny guy like me and it changed my life." Lee said in distant memory.

"She loved to drink and she wanted me to share in her good time. Son, I don't want to talk bad about your mom, but she could pack away the booze. She could drink a sailor under the table every day of the week and twice on Sunday... I couldn't keep up with her and just wanted to share in her good time. And I was afraid if I didn't, she wouldn't want me around anymore and I'd be alone." Lee said as he stared off into the distance.

"Then she got pregnant. I was so happy, but... she didn't stop drinking... she didn't even slow down. I was scared to death that she was going to kill you in the womb or poison you with all her drinking and drugs... but the day you were born, the doctors said you were perfectly normal." Lee said with a pained smile.

"The party kept on until the day I left, but I was hooked. No matter what I did, I couldn't put down the bottle... or the needle. Son, I was a junkie, the bad way. I'd do anything for the money to buy booze and drugs, I cheated people, I lied to them, I stole from them, hell, I even whored myself for a fix a few times." Lee said in shame.

"So what's it like now for you dad?" Andrew asked carefully.

"It sucks. I've got this gnawing need in my gut every single hour of every single day that's trying to pull me back into all that. And if I give into it, even once, I'm done. I'll never come back. I'll be one of the junkies that you try not to look at when you walk down the street. But I don't know how much longer I can keep going like this. I live from paycheck to paycheck doing one crappy job after another while I wait for someone to notice that I don't get any older. When that happens, I move on to another crappy job." Lee said tiredly.

"What kind of life would you like to have?" Andrew asked quietly.

"Honestly? Yours. God Andrew, you've got everything I ever wanted... And I never thought it was so much to ask for. You've got the family that loves you, the respect of the people around you, a loving... okay, actually I wanted a wife, but you know what I mean... and you've got a career that you can be proud of. I'm not asking for money or fame, just a normal family life like you have." Lee said as he looked into Andrew's eyes.

Andrew smiled and said, "Dad, my life is so far from normal that you can't even see normal from it. My husband is from another dimension... my kids are from other planets... literally... and they're not fully organic. They have machines inside their bodies... and so do I. My best friend Scott was my boyfriend before I married his brother. Alan is carrying our sons, Chakotay and Thomas who are both mutants, one of them has an optic blast, the other can effect time, we'll see how when he's born. I don't even know what our daughter Joyce is going to be like, she'll be born after the twins. Her frozen zygote is in the headboard of our bed. I've had two strokes in the past six months, Alan's nearly died twice, Robert nearly died once... My life is far from normal."

"It sounds like heaven compared to being alone." Lee said honestly and took a drink of milk.

Andrew thought about that and cast his mind back just a few months before... before Alan... before Scott... before the X-men. Finally he said, "You got me there Dad, I've been alone. It blows. So how would you feel about not being alone anymore?"

"What do you mean?" Lee asked with a tired look.

"Live with me, you're my dad, you could move in with us." Andrew said simply.

"Just like that? I think the other people in the house might have something to say about that." Lee said seriously before taking the last bite of his sandwich.

"Dad, you're family. That means something to everyone here. They're all my family, either by marriage or adoption. But if it will make you feel better about it, I'll ask everyone what they think. One great thing about my family is the blunt honesty. They'll tell you the truth." Andrew said with a smile.

"Alex sure doesn't seem to have a problem with it." Lee admitted, then finished his milk.

"He's just grumpy because he didn't get enough sleep last night. I promise that they won't have a problem with it. Well maybe one, but that'll be solved when the wing is added on." Andrew said in thought.

At his father's curious look Andrew clarified, "All the rooms are full. We're adding on to the house. Once that's done you can have Scott and Alex's old room. But until then, you'll get the couch in the living room."

Lee stared at Andrew without saying a word.

"Dad?" Andrew asked carefully.

"You're serious." Lee said in wonder.

"Yeah, Dad, I don't make offers I don't mean." Andrew said with worry at the change in his father's mood.

"I mean about not hating me, about everything, you really love me and want me." Lee said as he started to cry.

"Yeah." Andrew said cautiously.

"Andrew, people say a lot of things. I guess hanging around with drunks for a few decades makes a person stop taking what people say seriously, but... you mean it. You really want me to stay... you want me." Lee said in disbelief.

Andrew smiled and pulled his father into a full hug that had been accumulating throughout his life.

* * * * *

Robert walked into the kitchen with an uneasy look on his face.

Lee moved out of the way, sensing that Robert needed to talk to his father.

"Robert, what's wrong?" Andrew asked with immediate concern.

Robert went to Andrew and hugged him.

"That means I'm probably not going to like it, huh?" Andrew asked as he returned the hug.

"I am unsure of your probable reaction. Father, I am in love." Robert said in a timid voice.

Andrew was stunned for a moment.

"Bobby?" Andrew asked without emotion.

"Yes, I love him." Robert said with his head buried in Andrew's shoulder.

"And how does he feel about you?" Andrew asked carefully.

"From his actions, I believe he loves me as well. But he is cautious due to my age." Robert said as he pulled out of the hug to look his Father in the eyes.

"He'd better be." Andrew muttered in thought.

"I had hoped you would be happy that I have found my mate." Robert said in a tragic voice.

"Robert, you're too young to choose a mate. What you're feeling may be hormones, influencing your judgment." Andrew said, sympathizing with Robert's feelings.

"But I am sure of it. The sight of him causes a physical response in me, thoughts of him preoccupy my mind. He is beauty, grace and kindness." Robert said in a pleading voice.

"I know. Robert, I'm not saying that you aren't in love, I'm saying that you're too young to make a commitment of that scale. You're thirteen, it's too soon for you to choose a mate... What does Bobby think about this?" Andrew asked carefully.

"He believes as you do. He thinks me incapable of having such feelings and too young to act on them. He said that if the feelings are true, they will wait until I am sixteen, then we can ask your permission to date." Robert said sadly.

"Good for him. I'm glad he understands... Robert, Bobby is right. True love will wait." Andrew said honestly.

"But that is *years*. What am I to do until then?" Robert asked in pain.

"You enjoy the company of your friend Bobby... What do you want to do that you can't?" Andrew asked carefully.

"I want to hold him. I want to kiss him. I want to share my love and my body with him." Robert said in desperation.

"Um, hold that thought. This conversation is *not* over, but I need to talk to Bobby before I do anything else. Will you go and get him?" Andrew asked in a controlled voice.

"Yes Father!" Robert said with excitement.

Andrew watched as Robert ran out of the room then hung his head.

"I hope I don't have to kill Bobby, I like him." Andrew said absently to Lee as he began to pace.

* * * * *

Remy walked cautiously into the house and looked around. Without a word he walked back outside.

"What do you suppose that's about?" Alex asked the room.

"I'm guessing we'll find out in a minute." Scott said, keeping his attention on the door.

Moments later, Xander walked in followed by Remy, Aunt Vada and Mr. Howlett. Janine was bringing up the rear.

"Aunt Vada!" Scott said happily and got up to hug her.

"Scott, it's good to see you too." Aunt Vada said with a smile.

When Scott released Aunt Vada from the hug, Alex was next in line, finally out of his blanket cocoon.

"Oh dear, it's been an age since I was greeted so. It does my heart good to be welcomed like this." Vada said happily.

"You're always welcomed here Aunt Vada. Come in, have a seat. And Ken, it's good to see you again." Alan said warmly from his seat on the couch.

* * * * *

Bobby walked up from the basement hesitantly. Robert was right beside him, but that didn't provide much comfort in this circumstance.

"Bobby, how are you?" Xander asked enthusiastically.

"Uh, okay, I guess. Andrew wants to talk to me." Bobby said weakly.

"Sounds like someone's in trouble." Xander said in a teasing tone.

"Something like that." Bobby muttered.

"What did you do? Break a window?" Xander asked with a chuckle, remembering how such a little thing seemed to be so major when he was Bobby's age.

Bobby got an offended look, then leaned close to Xander's ear to whisper, {Robert, Andrew's *thirteen* year old son, is in love with me and wants to start a sexual relationship.}

Xander sat stunned for a moment before saying to the room of curious onlookers, "Okay, I'm sorry Bobby. And good luck, have a happy life wherever he ports you."

Bobby gave a nervous nod and noticed Andrew standing outside the kitchen door.

"Bobby, lets talk." Andrew said gravely and walked back into the kitchen.

* * * * *

"Aunt Vada, let me introduce everyone. Um, Warren, Kurt, Angel, Faith... I think you know everyone else." Xander said in a considering voice.

"Yes, good to meet all of you." Vada said looking around the room, then her gaze fixed on Kurt.

After a moment, Kurt began to squirm under the scrutiny.

"Oh, I'm sorry my boy. Please forgive an old woman for staring. I suppose that's what comes of not getting out of the house much. I never get to meet the more interesting people." Vada said and took a seat beside Alan on the couch.

"Zat is all right ma'am. I am glad you did not scream... or call me a monster." Kurt said shyly.

"My poor boy. If anyone does that, you send them to me and I'll teach them a manner or two." Vada said solidly.

Kurt smiled and looked toward the kitchen. The temptation was great but in the end he decided to let it go.

* * * * *

Bobby walked into the kitchen with a tremble of fear in his gut. He saw Lee sitting at the kitchen table.

"I know that Robert is an emotional boy, and sometimes his perceptions are clouded by his emotionalism. That's why I need to know from you what is going on." Andrew said calmly... too calmly.

"Robert is in love with me." Bobby said quietly.

"I got that part, what do you feel for Robert?" Andrew asked shortly.

"I love him too... I'm just not sure if it's as a brother, a friend or something else." Bobby said cautiously.

Andrew thought about those words, then asked more gently, "Are you attracted to him?"

Bobby looked hesitantly into Andrew's eyes. When he didn't see accusation or anger there, he relaxed enough to say, "I don't know. I mean, when I'm talking to him, I enjoy his company. He's a lot of fun and very understanding. He gives great hugs. But when I look at him... he's a little boy. I can't be attracted to that. But I really do feel *something* for him."

"Okay. I was worried that you were just being kind. I'm glad that you're worried about him." Andrew said seriously.

Bobby gave a puzzled look.

"Yeah, what did you think I was worried about?" Andrew asked in confusion.

"I thought you'd think I was having sex with your son." Bobby said honestly.

"I trust you Bobby, and I trust Robert. He wouldn't take that big of a step in his life without talking to me or his dad. I'm just worried that he'll get his heart broken, and at thirteen, it could scar him for life." Andrew said with worry.

"So you don't have a problem with it being me?" Bobby asked to be sure.

"Bobby, you need to work on the self esteem thing. I like you. I'd be proud to have you as a son-in-law... in about five or ten years. Right now we need to figure out how we're going to protect Robert. I know that if I forbid him to see you it will drive a wedge between us... and I can't do that. But saying, 'Okay, go for it." is out of the question too." Andrew said and dropped into a seat at the table.

"Andrew?" Lee asked cautiously.

"Yes dad?" Andrew said from deep thought.

"I think I can help, if you'll let me." Lee said quietly.

"How?" Andrew asked with hope.

"Let me talk with Robert for a minute. I can't promise that it will help, but I don't think it will hurt." Lee said honestly.

"Thanks dad, anything you can do would be appreciated." Andrew said with relief.

Lee nodded and left the kitchen.

* * * * *

Lee walked out of the kitchen and looked at all the people in the living room.

"Robert, would you walk with me?" Lee asked as he spotted Robert in the basement stairway.

After a nod, Robert walked to Lee's side.

Lee led Robert to the front door and they left the house.

"Um, who was that?" Xander asked curiously.

"Andrew's dad." Alan said with a smile.

"His dad's sixteen?" Xander asked with confusion.

"Yeah, I guess he doesn't age... neither does Andrew." Alan said without concern.

* * * * *

Lee and Robert walked around the side of the boathouse.

"Robert, can you tell your Grandpa what's going on?" Lee asked as he walked with Robert onto the dock.

"I'm in love." Robert said quietly.

Lee nodded then looked around for a place to sit.

"Okay, can you tell me about it?" Lee asked as he went to the end of the dock and sat with his feet hanging over the water.

"I'm in love with Bobby, but my Father thinks I'm too young to be in love." Robert said with despair.

Lee thought about the words, then pulled Robert close to his side and said, "I think your father is probably worried about all that comes with being in love. It's not that you're too young to be in love, but you're too young to be in an adult relationship."

"But what am I to do? I can't behave as if I don't love Bobby because my fathers disapprove, it would be a lie. I can't stop loving Bobby, I am incapable of turning off my emotions like that. But I can't act on my feelings because it is considered inappropriate." Robert said with frustration.

"Robert, if your fathers said it was okay for you to have a relationship with Bobby, that you two can be boyfriends, what would you do?" Lee asked carefully.

"I would hold him close and love him. I would share my body with him and do whatever I could to bring him pleasure... like my fathers do." Robert said with a dreamy look.

"Then what?" Lee asked calmly.

"What do you mean?" Robert asked curiously.

"Then how do you live? Where do you go? What type of life can you have as a thirteen year old boy with a fifteen or sixteen year old boyfriend?" Lee asked seriously.

"We would need to be together... I would move into the mansion... with my alcove. Bobby and I would go to school." Robert said in thought.

"How do you think other kids would treat you, how would they treat Bobby?" Lee asked carefully.

"I do not know. I do not know many others." Robert answered distantly.

"They might think Bobby is doing something wrong by being with someone so young and treat him badly. Or they might feel that they can't relate to you because they are single and you are a couple." Lee said with concern.

"Yes, that is possible." Robert said distantly.

"Robert, it's fine to have passionate feelings and it's wonderful to be in love. But just because you have an impulse, doesn't mean you have to act on it. You don't only have a heart, you have a brain. Use them both and find what will make you and Bobby happy in the short and long term." Lee said and looked out across the lake.

"So I should not listen to my heart?" Robert asked in a timid, confused voice.

"Listen to your heart, but don't be led by it. Consider your emotions, but also consider your well-being. Moving away from your fathers isn't something that would be good for you. Making Bobby an outcast in the school wouldn't be good for him. It's okay to indulge your heart, but not without restraint." Lee said and looked into Robert's eyes to find comprehension.

"I believe I understand. Thank you Grandfather." Robert said and pulled Lee close for a strong hug.

* * * * *

Lee and Robert walked back into the house. Robert walked through to the kitchen, Lee went into the living room and took a seat in the floor by Alex since all the couches were filled.

"You're Andrew's father?" Xander asked in disbelief.

"Yeah, I'm forty two years old... I just look young for my age." Lee said shyly.

"So you don't age... what's it like?" Vada asked, enthralled by the idea.

"It's lonely." Lee said honestly.

"How so?" Vada asked curiously.

"Everyone around me ages. People who were my friends look like they're my parents now. When someone I work with notices that I don't age, I leave that job and find another because it's the beginning of the end for me there... it makes me a freak." Lee said sadly.

"I'm sorry to hear that. I can see what you mean. It sounds good on the surface, but it has it's own set of problems." Vada said in thought.

"Yeah. And think about how styles, customs, and language changes in a normal lifetime. As time goes on it isolates you more and more." Xander said in thought.

"Yeah, I've noticed... How do you know about that?" Lee asked curiously.

"My ex-girlfriend, Anya. She was twelve hundred years old when I met her. She was awkward, blunt and always unsure of how to behave." Xander said in remembrance.

"Oh dear, how awful. To be that old and always feel out of place.." Vada said as one of her secret wishes was exposed for the trap that it was.

"You should probably talk with Angel. He's one of the few people over a century old that I know who fits in." Xander said in thought.

Lee nodded and looked to Angel who had a look of gratitude directed at Xander.

* * * * *

Remy looked around the room and came to a decision.

"Who would like some down home Louisiana cooking for lunch today?" Remy asked all in attendance.

"You want to go to Guilliome's?" Xander asked in a confused voice.

"Non, Guilliome not be de only one who knows how to cook. Remy make lunch for everyone. Aunt Vada be here to see our home, Remy wan to show her some home cookin." Remy said with a smile.

"NO!" Xander said in panic, then took a breath and said in a quieter tone, "I mean, please don't go to the trouble. I can make something up really quick..."

Remy got a hurt look on his face and said simply, "Remy can cook. Eider you trust Remy or you don't."

Xander lowered his head and looked properly chastised before saying, "I'd love to try your cooking Remy. I'm sorry."

Remy walked to Xander and gave him a peck of a kiss on the cheek before heading into the kitchen.

"You haven't tasted his cooking before?" Lee asked as he took the seat vacated by Remy, the other end of the couch from Vada.

"No, and I'm a little scared. He's a Cajun." Xander said and looked with worry at Aunt Vada.

"Don't worry about me Xander, I won't eat anything that would bother me." Vada said as she relaxed and looked around the room.

To Be Continued...