Hurt & Comfort

Book 7: From Hurt to Comfort

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Chapter 34: The Beginning of Forever

Hank walked into the BioLab and went to a supply cabinet.

After grabbing a small device, he walked immediately to the containment room.

He quickly put on his special XXXL biosuit and walked into the room to find Matt and Ronny talking.

"Gentlemen, do you mind if I interrupt for a moment?" Hank asked carefully.

"Would it matter if we did?" Matt asked flatly.

Hank stopped and took a deep breath before saying, "Yes, now it would. I'm sorry I've behaved so badly toward you Matt. My behavior has been inexcusable."

Matt nodded cautiously.

"I just brought this for you. It is a transmitter to the lab's PA system. This way anyone who visits won't have to get into a suit to talk with you." Hank said quietly as he sat the box on the table beside Matt.

"Okay." Matt said, his suspicion rising.

"And Ronny, I'm sorry I frightened you. I never intended for that to happen." Hank said quietly.

"I ain't worried about that. Are you going to treat Logan decent now?" Ronny asked carefully.

"Yes, I'm going to try." Hank said as he looked into Ronny's eyes.

"Good." Ronny said flatly.

"If you really mean it, maybe you can tell me why you've been treating me like shit." Matt said, watching Hank's expression.

"I've never been good at talking to women. Even before I became like this, I was always too shy to get to know them. When I finally start getting to know Orroro, you show up and are all charming and... human looking. I felt like you were going to take her away from me..." Hank trailed off.

"So you been dumping on me cause you thought I was stealin your girl?" Matt asked with surprise.

"Yes. I know it sounds petty. I'm sorry I let my emotions override my common sense." Hank said with embarrassment.

Matt looked at Ronny, then said, "No harm done. But there's something you can do for me right now if you would."

"What's that?" Hank asked quickly, wanting to help.

"You know what happened to Ronny yesterday... about his dad, right?" Matt asked carefully, noticing Ronny's wince at the words.

"Yes." Hank said quietly.

"The kid's smart. He got to thinking about diseases an stuff and wanted to know if you could check him out. Just to be sure." Matt said, watching for Ronny's reaction.

"When we get out of here, I'll just need a blood sample. I should be able to give you the results by tomorrow." Hank said with assurance.

Ronny nodded.

"Good. Now what can you tell me about my condition?" Matt asked carefully.

"Dr. Hoffman has been examining your samples. I haven't spoken to her yet." Hank said quietly.

"There she is, let's ask her." Ronny said, pointing through the window.

Matt picked up the transmitter and said, "So what's the news Doc?"

Julia looked up with a smile and said, "I have a few cultures growing, so I won't know anything definite till tomorrow, but I haven't found anything to concern me yet."

"Very good. This is excellent news." Hank said happily.

Ronny and Matt nodded in unison.

"Then why don't you tell me what type of movies you like so I can get a television and VCR put in here for you." Hank asked warmly.

"You got any John Wayne?" Matt asked hopefully.

Hank thought for a moment before saying, "I think if I look through my personal collection I could probably find just about every movie he ever made."

"You like the Duke?" Matt asked with surprise.

"Yes, my video collection is almost exclusively John Wayne and The Rifleman." Hank said with a smile.

"Bring 'em down. I ain't seen the Rifleman in years. I love that show." Matt said quickly.

Ronny watched and smiled, enjoying Matt's enthusiasm.

* * * * *

Bobby and John had just finished loading the last of the camping supplies when Bobby stopped suddenly and said, "I forgot Pete."

At John's look of question, Bobby continued, "He's been a good friend to me, I can't believe I didn't think about inviting him sooner."

"It ain't too late. Let's go ask him." John said simply.

Bobby thought, then turned and led the way to Peter's room.

* * * * *

"Dad, have you seen Trey? He was waiting to walk me home." Jimmy said hopefully.

"Since we're here, he decided that you could come home with us. I don't think he wanted to look at baby things for two or three hours." Alan said as Dawn happily revealed yet another pair of identical jumpsuits for the babies.

"I would not mind looking at baby things. I need to know what supplies we have to care for my brothers." Jimmy said with a smile.

"Then climb up here and sit with me squirt. I don't think we're even halfway done." Alan said, then smiled and nodded at another pair of identical jumpers. He actually couldn't see that they were any different than the last five Dawn had enthusiastically displayed.

* * * * *

Scott was walking toward the Professor's office when he saw Orroro, Artie and Clarissa walking into the mansion.

"How was your meeting?" Scott asked with a smile.

"It was amazing. The President is an incredibly kind man." Orroro said with enthusiasm.

"Would you come to the office for a minute, I have something to discuss with you." Scott said gently, not wanting to sound too ominous.

"Of course." Orroro said happily and followed Scott down the hall.

* * * * *

As Andrew finished the story, Trey walked to Icheb and pulled him into a hug.

Everyone was surprised to see Trey expressing himself so openly.

"If this causes you difficulty, share your feelings with me and I will try to help." Trey said quietly.

Icheb nodded and whispered, "I will. Thank you."

"It is what brothers do for each other." Trey said simply and pulled out of the hug.

"Well, I guess that's one vid chip down, we still have about fifty more. I hope they all don't have emotional stuff like that." Andrew said to the group.

"Father, there are many vids on each chip." William said quietly.

"Oh, okay. How many cartoons are we looking at?" Andrew asked curiously.

"Approximately one hundred seventeen thousand hours." William said seriously.

Everyone looked at William with surprise.

"That's a lot. Um, how long would it take to watch them all?" Andrew asked carefully.

"How many hours a week would you be watching?" William asked in a considering voice.

"Let's say forty, just to get an idea." Andrew said seriously.

"Then it would take fifty six years and three months before you completed all the cartoons." William said in thought.

"Alex, you'd better get started." Andrew said with a smile.

* * * * *

Bobby quietly knocked on Peter's door.

"Just a moment." Peter called out.

"We'll need to get some more gear for Peter." John said

"It'll just take a few minutes." Bobby said as the door opened.

Bobby and John both noticed Peter's disheveled appearance and were curious.

"Some of us are camping out tonight and I thought you might like to join us." Bobby said as he automatically walked into Peter's room followed by John.

Peter hurriedly looked around the room, then said, "No thank you. I have some reading that I would like to do, perhaps next time."

Bobby stopped in his tracks and asked with concern, "Is everything okay Pete?"

"Yes, all is well. Have a good time tonight." Peter said hurriedly.

"Yeah, okay. You too." Bobby said absently as he turned to leave.

"Will you go running tomorrow?" Peter asked as Bobby and John walked back out into the hall.

"No, I don't think so. We'll probably sleep in tomorrow." Bobby said in thought.

"Then I will see you when you return. Have a good evening." Peter said and closed the door.

"Yeah, you too." Bobby said with a note of question in his voice.

As Bobby and John walked down the hall, Bobby asked, "Do you think Pete was acting a little weird?"

John began to laugh.

"What?" Bobby asked as he stopped.

"You didn't notice?" John asked through his chuckles.

"Notice what?" Bobby asked, puzzled by John's laughter.

"Peter was trying to hide a chubby and the room smelled like sex." John said through his laughter.

Bobby smiled and said, "Oh, I guess we were interrupting a tender moment."

"Yeah." John said, then got a mischievous smile.

Bobby noticed, and got the same smile.

Both began to laugh as it became apparent that they were thinking the same thing.

"So what excuse can we give to interrupt him again?" Bobby finally asked.

* * * * *

"Professor Xavier had a seizure today. Hank says it's from stress and ordered him to take an immediate vacation." Scott said after they settled into their chairs.

"Will he be alright?" Orroro asked with concern.

"I think so. He just needs to get away for a while." Scott said peacefully.

"So has he left you in charge?" Orroro asked carefully.

"Yes. If you're willing to help, we can keep this place going till he gets back."

"Of course, what can I do?" Orroro asked immediately.

"If you wouldn't mind, you could keep an eye on the mansion tonight while I take a group of students for an overnight campout." Scott said with a gentle smile.

"You're doing survival drills?" Orroro asked curiously.

"No, nothing like that. We're just camping out for fun. I'll have my cell phone with me in case anything comes up." Scott said peacefully.

"I hope you enjoy your time. We should be fine." Orroro said, enjoying Scott's relaxed attitude.

"Thanks Storm. It's been a tense couple days. I think I need this." Scott said in thought.

"Is there anything I should know before you go?" Orroro asked carefully.

"Just that Matt has been brought into our dimension and is recovering from his treatment. He's in the BioLab's containment room now. I think he'd like it if you visited. There are some other things going on, but I don't think they're anything you'll have to worry about tonight." Scott said as he thought about all the situations going on around the mansion.

"Very well. If I need your assistance, I will call. Now you should go and have a good time." Storm said with a tender smile.

"Yeah. I will." Scott said as he got up to leave.

* * * * *

Bobby and John walked into the common room, both chuckling because they had been able to interrupt Peter four times before he finally caught on to what they were doing.

"Alan, you got a minute?" Bobby asked as they walked across the room that looked like a nursery had exploded in it.

"Sure, ladies, what do you say we take five?" Alan called to the girls.

The group of chattering girls seemed to agree and moved into a tight circle to talk.

"I was just wondering if Robert could join us on a camping trip tonight." Bobby asked hopefully.

"Where are you going?" Alan asked curiously.

"Just out in the trees behind the mansion. We won't leave the property." Bobby said simply.

"Robert doesn't sleep. I don't know how that's going to work out." Alan said in thought.

"If he gets bored, I can bring him home." Bobby said seriously.

Alan looked at Bobby's hopeful expression and said, "If he wants to go, it's fine with me. Are you going to do the hot-dogs and marshmallows stuff?"

"They're already packed in the car." Bobby said proudly.

"Then when you get to the boathouse, why don't you grab the mini rice cakes from the cabinet over the refrigerator. That way Robert will have something he can eat too." Alan said with a smile.

"Thanks Alan, I'll do that." Bobby said happily.

"When are you going?" Alan asked curiously.

"As soon as we find Scott. He'll be going with us." Bobby said with excitement.

"Then I guess you're going, he's right behind you." Alan said as he saw Scott walk in the door.

* * * * *

Scott, Bobby and John walked into the boathouse to the usual room full of people.

"Bobby!" Robert exclaimed and ran to hug him.

"Hi Robert." Bobby said gently as he returned the hug.

"Will you lot take your seats? Alex has a song to try out on you." Spike said with a smile.

Scott and the others took seats and waited as Alex picked up his guitar.

"What's this about?" Scott asked Andrew quietly.

"I have no idea." Andrew said and waited.

Alex started playing, then Spike started to sing.

Scott, Bobby, John and Andrew were all surprised by the beautiful tone of Spike's singing voice.

The second verse came and Alex began to sing.

Everyone else was silent, enthralled by the beautiful song.

Both Alex and Spike sang the third verse together as their emotions began to show in their singing.

Andrew, Lee, Bobby, John and Scott were all surprised when William and Janine joined the next two verses.

Spike sang the next verse alone and everyone laughed at the final line.

Finally the music quieted as Robert began to sing the last verse.

Through the entire verse he was looking into Bobby's eyes. When he finished he whispered to Bobby, "Please wait for me."

Bobby's eyes widened as he realized what had just happened.

"You wrote this?" Bobby asked hesitantly.

"Yes." Robert answered shyly.

Tears began to fill Bobby's eyes and after a moment to think, Bobby said, "I'll wait for you, I promise."

* * * * *

"Well, I guess I'd better get back to the mansion. There's still about twenty bags of baby things to look at." Andrew said in resignation.

"May I accompany you?" William asked hopefully.

"Really?" Andrew asked in wonder.

"Yes, I plan to help care for my brothers. I am interested in knowing what supplies are available." William said with a gentle smile.

"I want to go too." Janine said in typical six year old fashion.

"Okay, anyone else heading to the mansion?" Andrew asked as he formed a portal.

"Hold on Andrew. I need to talk to you for a minute before you go." Scott said quickly.

"Sure. You guys go ahead. I'll be there in a minute." Andrew said, then cast a look of question at Scott.

After looking around the room, Scott said, "Professor Xavier left on a vacation today and left me in charge. Matt pointed out that I should be staying at the mansion to keep an eye on things. So I'll be moving some of my stuff over till he gets back." Scott said to the group.

"For how long?" Alex asked with concern.

"I don't know yet. But I'll be back as soon as he returns." Scott said seriously.

"Okay, would you like me to port some of your stuff over to the mansion for you?" Andrew asked in thought.

Scott thought about the question and said, "Yes, that would save a lot of time. And that way we can get to our camping trip sooner."

"You're going camping?" Andrew asked with surprise.

"Yeah. Oh, we forgot to tell you about that... Bobby, why don't you do the honors?" Scott asked and turned his attention to Bobby who was looking tenderly at Robert.

"Um, yeah. I was wondering if Robert would like to join us for a little camp-out in the back yard tonight." Bobby said, then turned his gaze back to Robert.

"Father, can I go?" Robert asked with excitement.

"Sure little man. Why don't you go get some extra clothes... he doesn't have a coat." Andrew said, thinking outloud.

"He can borrow one of mine. We're not going to be around anyone so it won't have to fit." Scott said with assurance.

"Fine then. You go and have a good time." Andrew said with a smile.

"I'm going to get his rice cakes." John said and went to the kitchen.

"I do not understand the purpose of what you are proposing." Icheb said curiously.

"Maybe we'll bring you next time so you can see for yourself." Bobby said with a smile.

"I will ask Robert of his experiences when he returns. Depending on that, I may wish to accompany you at a later date." Icheb said in thought.

"I think you've started something." Andrew said with a chuckle, then continued, "They're all going to want to camp out now."

"We've got enough adults, I don't see a problem with it." Scott said with a smile as Robert came up the stairs with a bundle of clothes.

Scott walked to the coat closet and pulled out an old coat.

"Here Robert, you can wear this to keep warm." Scott said and handed Robert the coat.

"Thank you Uncle Scott." Robert said shyly.

"Now put your stuff in the truck while we start porting my stuff to the mansion." Scott said and headed for the stairs.

John handed the rice cakes to Robert and went to follow Scott.

Bobby looked at the stairs, but chose to follow Robert outside.

* * * * *

"I wonder what happened to make big blue change his tune so quick." Matt said in thought.

Ronny got a timid, slightly guilty expression but remained silent.

Matt noticed and asked, "What did you do kid?"

"I kinda used my mutant thing on him... he scared me." Ronny said hesitantly.

"Your mutant thing? What's that?" Matt asked quietly, noticing that Ronny was upset.

Ronny moved to the wastebasket and retrieved Matt's empty beer can.

After placing the beer can on the table Ronny concentrated his power and increased the gravitational pull on the can.

As Matt watched, the can began to fold in on itself and finally was flattened down to a centimeter thick.

"That's some powerful stuff you got there. And you did that to the dust mop?" Matt asked carefully.

"Yeah. I just squished him a little and made him listen... but I didn't hurt him. I was serious about wanting to be a good guy, so I was real careful." Ronny said in a rush.

"It's okay. He didn't look hurt and whatever you said musta worked cause he's acting decent now." Matt said with assurance.

"Mr. Summers saw me do it. I thought he was gonna yell at me but he said I did good by not hurting him." Ronny said with a smile.

"Then it must be true. One-eye don't lie, and he's in charge of the team. If he says you did good, that means you did perfect. Otherwise he woulda told you how you could have handled it differently. He's like that. I don't know if it's from him being a teacher or just because he's anal, but if you ever get a straight compliment from him, it's gold." Matt said in thought.

Ronny smiled as he understood what Matt was saying.

* * * * *

"Robert, thank you. The song was wonderful. I don't know why you love me so much... I don't deserve it." Bobby said quietly.

"Love is not deserved, it is not a reward... or a punishment. Love just is. You have the choice to accept it and nourish it to make it grow, or to deny it and let it wither and die." Robert said as he closed the door of the truck.

Bobby thought about that, then pulled Robert into a hug.

"And you just nourished it with your song, didn't you?" Bobby asked quietly.

"Yes. I needed for you to know my feelings." Robert said shyly.

"I understand." Bobby said in a whisper and moved in to give Robert a gentle kiss.

Robert felt his ability to reason shut down at the sensation of Bobby's lips pressed to his own.

After a moment of enjoying the sensation, Robert opened his mouth and began to move his tongue carefully across Bobby's mouth which remained closed.

Bobby pulled back, and with a note of regret said, "We're not ready for tongue yet. Just give it time... we'll get there."

Robert nodded before Bobby pulled him into another kiss, only slightly more forceful.

For a full minute they enjoyed the sensation of the kiss before Bobby gently pulled away and said, "Let's get back inside and see if we can help."

Robert nodded, since he was unable to form any words.

Bobby smiled at the dazed response and led Robert back into the boathouse.

* * * * *

Scott, John and Andrew walked downstairs as Bobby and Robert walked in the front door.

"You guys have a good time, I've got to get back to the baby extravaganza." Andrew said and formed his portal.

"Have fun." Scott said with a knowing smirk as Andrew left.

"I guess we're ready to go. Let's go get Ronny and get the camping started. It's almost dark." Scott said with enthusiasm.

The boys nodded and headed for the door.

"Scott, do you mind if Spike uses your bed?" Alex asked carefully.

"No problem. Spike, you're welcomed to it. And if you need closet space, just pack my stuff away." Scott said to Spike with a genuine smile.

"Ta mate, that's right decent of you." Spike said with a little surprise in his voice.

Scott made a dismissive gesture as he walked out the door.

"What do you guys want to do now that everyone's left?" Alex asked those that remained.

"I could use some food." Lee said honestly.

"Is there any Jell-O left?" Icheb asked hopefully, garnering a hopeful look from Trey.

"No. But I can show you how to make some for yourself. That way you can have it whenever you want." Alex said happily.

Icheb and Trey nodded enthusiastically.

Alex got up from the couch and the group followed him into the kitchen.

* * * * *

Ronny and Logan looked up as Hank walked into the containment room carrying a large box.

He sat it down and went to the containment foyer for more.

Hank came back with a small television/VCR combination.

"Gentlemen, would you mind if I join you for a Rifleman marathon tonight?" Hank asked hopefully as he hooked up the television.

"I'm going camping." Ronny said quietly.

"Sure Blue, pull up a chair. We can watch the movie and drink a few cold ones." Matt said as he relaxed on his bed.

"That would be most difficult for me in this suit. I believe I will just enjoy the movie." Hank said carefully.

"Just leaves more for me." Matt said and waited for the movie to begin.

Ronny noticed as Bobby, Robert and John walked into the BioLab.

He quickly pressed his microphone button and said, "Don't suit up, I'll be right out."

The boys nodded in response and waited.

"You have a good time kid. Me an Blue are gonna be having our own camp-out here." Matt said with a smile.

"You can tell me all about it when I get back." Ronny said with a smile, then moved to the containment foyer to change.

Hank hurried behind Ronny and said, "I'll take that sample before you leave. It will take less than a minute... I promise."

Ronny nodded as the decontamination sequence started.

* * * * *

"Wait, what's the difference between this one and the last one?" Alan finally had to ask.

"Dad, these two are bigger than the last two." Jimmy said seriously.

William and Janine walked into the room and sat on either side of their dad.

"Can you tell me what we have missed?" William asked hopefully as he looked at all the baby clothes strewn across every surface of the room.

"Various articles of clothing for babies, and some supplies to feed them, bathe them and disinfect them between bathing times." Jimmy said as he watched Dawn pull out a rattle.

Alan chuckled at Jimmy's description.

"What is the purpose of that device?" Janine asked curiously.

"It's a rattle." Dawn said and handed it to Janine.

"I do not understand it's function." Janine said as she carefully examined it.

"Babies like things that rattle and jingle." Dawn said with difficulty, never having thought about 'why' a baby liked a rattle.

"I believe it supplies sensory stimulation to the infant which aids in the development of sensory neural pathways." Jimmy said seriously.

Janine nodded in comprehension before giving the rattle one final shake and handing it back to Dawn.

Alan looked at his children sitting around him, learning all they could about the baby things and felt a sensation of peace wash over him. [Everything will be fine.]

* * * * *

As Hank and Ronny exited the containment foyer, Bobby said, "You ready to go? Scott's waiting for us out front."

"In just a minute. The doc needs to take a blood sample before I go." Ronny said seriously.

"Oh God! What happened?" Bobby asked with a look of terror.

Ronny realized what Bobby was thinking and said, "I don't have what Logan had. I just need to know that I didn't get anything... like AIDS and stuff from... you know." Ronny finished with an imploring look.

Bobby got a blank look which turned to serious thought. Finally he said, "Hank, can you do me too?"

"What?" Hank asked curiously.

"I've got the same reasons as Ronny for needing a blood test. Do me too." Bobby said as he held out his arm.

"Me too." John said.

At Hank's look of worry, John said, "If Bobby's got something, then I probably got it too. Just do it."

Ronny looked at Bobby and John carefully, then smiled, "I was afraid you guys would think I was just being stupid, worrying about stuff like this."

Bobby smiled warmly and said, "No. I'd think you were stupid if you didn't worry about stuff like this. And no matter what our tests say, we're still brothers and I still love you."

"God, stop the mushy stuff. I may want to eat something later." Ronny said with a sour look.

"Okay, I'm done." Bobby said with a smile.

"Me too. You three enjoy your camping. I will probably have your results ready by tomorrow afternoon." Hank said as he finished labeling the last vial of blood.

"Thanks Doc. You'd best hurry before you miss too much of your movie." Ronny said as he moved with the boys toward the door.

"Not a problem. I've memorized every episode." Hank said to the boys retreating forms.

* * * * *

Scott drove the truck down the road back toward the boathouse, then at a certain point, he pulled off the road and began to drive through the woods.

Robert watched in amazement as they traveled into the thick trees.

Everyone was jolted and jarred as the truck ran over rocks and small trees, deeper into the woods.

"You guys tell me if you see a place, I'm just driving." Scott said when they were well away from the road.

All the boys started looking intently at their surroundings as Scott slowed the truck, so they could have more time to look.

"There's a clearing." Ronny said, pointing.

"Let's get out and look at it. We need a clear spot big enough for the tent and a little space for the fire away from the trees." Scott said to the group.

All the boys got out and looked around the clearing that Ronny had found.

"The ground is kinda rocky. I don't wanna sleep on that." John said in comment more than complaint.

"Yeah, and it's sloped, we'd all wake up in a pile at one end of the tent." Bobby said with a teasing smile.

"You'd love that, admit it." John said with a laugh.

Bobby looked at Robert, who seemed a bit overwhelmed and said, "Not interested, there's just one guy I want on me."

Robert looked at Bobby and gave him a tiny, gentle smile.

"Stop, you're gonna make me puke." Ronny said playfully between gagging noises.

"So I guess this site's a no. Let's keep looking." Scott said and headed back to the truck with a smile.

After a last look around, all the boys trooped back to the truck.

* * * * *

"So you simply combine hot water with these powders and it becomes the gelatinous confection we had for dinner?" Icheb asked in wonder.

"Well, you have to let it chill first, but yeah. That's it." Alex said, enjoying Icheb's look of wonder.

"Look at this." Trey said in amazement as he looked into the Jell-O.

"What?" Alex asked curiously.

"With my ocular implant I can see the gelatin forming into a complex strata... it is fascinating." Trey said in amazement.

"My implant does not have the acuity to scan in the microscopic range." Icheb said sadly.

"Connect to my data node and you can view through my implant." Trey said simply.

"Really?" Icheb asked in wonder.

"Yes, you are my brother. Of course you may access my data node." Trey said as he continued to watch the Jell-O.

Icheb carefully injected his tubules into Trey's data node, then closed his eyes, obviously seeing what Trey was seeing.

"The formation of the structure is not progressing." Icheb said with disappointment.

"It needs to be chilled to gel." Alex said absently, watching the surreal scene before him.

"Perhaps we could take it outside. The temperature is similar to that of the refrigeration device." Icheb said with excitement.

"Okay, just put on some coats, they're in the closet by the front door, and don't go too far from the house." Alex said, still feeling awed by the weirdness of this.

"We will sit on the boat dock. The temperature is cooler by the lake. You will be able to see us from the glass door." Icheb said as he disconnected from Trey's data node.

"Okay. Don't stay out too long... have fun." Alex finished weakly.

"When I was that age, we went to a movie for fun... it'd cost fifty cents." Lee said in memory.

"When I was that age, we didn't have movies, but we'd gather in someone's parlor and pass on the stories that we'd heard." Spike said in distant memory.

"You two are making me feel seriously young here." Alex said as he made a plate of food for Lee.

"You're old enough to stand up for yourself, so you're old enough." Spike said with pride.

"Thanks Spike." Alex said with a smile and moved to kiss Spike.

Lee looked on with wide eyes as Alex and Spike shared a kiss, obviously not their first one.

When the kiss ended Alex looked at Lee bashfully and said, "Sorry if that bothered you... it just kinda happened."

"You guys have known each other for three hours and you're already kissing?" Lee asked incredulously.

"It does seem a little slutty, doesn't it?" Alex asked in thought.

"Sluttish." Spike corrected.

"Okay, sluttish, you're the wordsmith." Alex said with a proud smile.

"Anyway, I'm a virgin, Spike's been in love three times in one hundred twenty years. One little bout of love at first sight doesn't make us whores." Alex said as he held close to Spike.

"I guess not. It just seems a little fast, that's all." Lee said, seeing the truth of their emotion.

"What can I say? We're in love. Everything else don't matter." Alex said with a shrug.

"I'm happy for you guys. If you want, you can have a little privacy while the boys watch the Jell-O gel." Lee said with a smile.

"Thanks Lee, that sounds great." Alex said with excitement and handed Lee his warmed plate of food.

"Yeah, thanks mate. I didn't know how Alex's family would feel about us." Spike said shyly.

"I'm not family." Lee said quietly.

"Yeah, you are. You're my brother's father-in-law, that makes you... I guess my father-in-law too, sort of... however it works, you're family." Alex said firmly.

"Thanks Alex." Lee said with a smile.

"Just yell if you need us." Alex said and led Spike out of the kitchen.

"I will." Lee said as he watched Alex and Spike's retreating forms. [Ah... young love.]

* * * * *

"Look over there." Robert said with excitement.

Scott followed Robert's pointing finger and they came to a wide clearing among several tall trees.

"Let's check it out." Scott said as he looked up at the diminishing light.

Everyone got out of the truck and started looking around the area.

"It looks pretty level." John said in a considering voice.

"And not too rocky." Ronny said as he walked around in a circle.

"I think we've found our campsite." Scott said happily.

"Then let's get the stuff unloaded so we can get set up." Bobby said happily.

"I'll take care of the unloading if you want to gather some wood for a fire." Scott said, worried about the darkening sky.

"We brought some wood. We got some of the wood they use in the fireplaces at the mansion. That way we don't have to chop or saw anything." Bobby said happily.

"Good thinking Bobby. Then why don't you guys look around for some stones for us to use as a fire circle." Scott suggested.

The boys all scattered and began looking for rocks.

Scott started pulling the supplies from the truck, careful to take stock of what they had chosen to bring.

* * * * *

Xander and Remy walked into the boathouse, obviously tired after their day's exploits.

At the sight of Lee sitting alone, watching a cartoon, Xander asked, "Where is everyone? This place was crawling with people when we left."

"Well, Andrew, Alan, William and Janine are at the mansion looking at the baby things. Jimmy is working for Warren. Icheb and Trey are on the boat dock watching Jell-O gel. Robert and Scott went camping. And Alex and Spike are upstairs... enjoying some privacy." Lee finished with a little blush.

"Alex and Spike?" Xander asked with a wide eye.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Lee said with a shrug.

"Remy been sayin dat Alex need to get laid." Remy said simply.

"What are you watching?" Xander asked as he watched little blobs of color moving around the TV screen.

"I'm not sure. I think the little blue things are going to attack the little yellow things. They've been moving around like little armies." Lee said as he watched the shapes moving.

"I think the yellow things are laying a trap, you see that hook pattern in their layout? If the blue ones attack the big part at the center, then that hook will close in behind them, cut their supply line, and close off their retreat." Xander said as he took a seat.

"Remy tink de blue ones be smarter dan dat. Dey gonna attack from de South." Remy said as he took a seat beside Xander.

"Let's see what happens." Lee said in anticipation.

"Come on yellow, protect your flank." Xander said to the screen.

"Blue need to move. Yellow be on to de plan." Remy said intently.

To Be Continued...