We walked to the boathouse and Mr. Summers opened the door without knocking.
"He lives here." Bobby said at my curious look.
I nodded as we all made our way into the living room.
"Hey guys, I'm glad you could all make it!" The guy who looks like Mr. Summers said happily.
Robert immediately went to Bobby and pulled him into a gentle hug.
Bobby enjoyed the hug for a minute, then looked up and waved at Marie.
"You two look good together." Marie said with a tender smile.
Bobby gave her a smile of thanks and renewed his hug.
"Everyone sit down. There are chairs in the dining room if you need them, or you can sit in the floor if you like." The Mr. Summers looking guy said to everyone.
I looked at John, and noticed that he was looking at me with the same expression.
I wasn't really comfortable taking the lead, but I chose a spot in the floor, off to the side of one of the couches and John followed and sat beside me.
Bobby and Robert found a spot on one of the couches. Peter and Ronny pulled chairs in from the dining room and sat to the side of the other couch.
I heard a small cry and looked over to see a man wearing an eye patch holding the little baby I had seen earlier in the day.
"Remy, could you get Marguerite's bottle? She's getting fussy, I think she's hungry." He said quietly.
The red haired man got up and started toward the kitchen when Andrew said, "Would you go ahead and get three bottles ready? The boys are due for a feeding and will probably wake up any minute."
"Oui, trois bottles." The man... Remy said as he walked into the kitchen.
"Clark, I'm glad you could come." Andrew said with a warm smile.
I felt a look of confusion or curiosity fall over my face.
"This is your first day away from your family and our first 'official' family time, it seemed right for you to be here." Andrew said warmly.
"Thank you for inviting me." I said shyly.
Andrew nodded, then turned his attention toward the bedroom where a baby had started crying.
A moment later William came out of the bedroom carrying a baby.
"I believe Chakotay is hungry." William said quietly.
"Who wants to feed him?" Andrew asked the group.
"Can I?" Bobby asked hopefully.
"Sure." Andrew said with a tender smile directed at Robert and Bobby sitting together.
William brought the baby to Bobby and Robert, and laid him in Bobby's arms.
Janine walked up next and put a towel on Bobby's shoulder.
"You will need this, Chakotay ejects some of his food while trying to expel excess air from his stomach." Janine said seriously.
"Thank you Janine." Bobby said warmly as William came out of the bedroom carrying the other baby.
"Who would like to feed Thomas?" Andrew asked, and seemed to be looking at me.
I nodded and William brought Thomas for me to hold.
Janine immediately brought me a towel.
I looked carefully at the baby who was more asleep than awake. He was so small and delicate that I was afraid of hurting him if I moved a muscle.
A minute later, Remy came out of the kitchen carrying three bottles. One was smaller than the other two and was obviously meant for Marguerite.
He handed me a bottle, then took a seat beside... Xander, the guy with the eye patch.
I looked at Andrew who nodded with a gentle smile.
I put the bottle to the baby's mouth. Thomas gave one little suck, then his eyes opened wide and he began to suck with a vengeance.
"He's gulping Clark, you need to burp him, then feed him some more." Andrew said informatively.
I took the bottle from the baby's mouth and he gave a lusty cry.
I turned the baby to my shoulder and began to gently pat his back as his crying got louder.
I was afraid I was doing it wrong and looked around in panic, that's when I noticed it. Everyone and everything had stopped moving around me. The only sound that could be heard was Thomas' crying. I carefully got up and continued to pat his back as I walked to Andrew.
As I was standing there, looking at Andrew's staring, unblinking eyes, I heard a small burp from Thomas on my shoulder.
I automatically moved Thomas back to his cradled position and moved back to get his bottle from beside John.
As soon as I put the bottle to Thomas' mouth, he stopped crying and began to suckle again.
"He did it again." The guy who looks like Mr. Summers said.
"Yeah, how long was time frozen Clark?" Andrew asked curiously.
"About a minute, maybe less." I said uncertainly.
Andrew nodded and said, "Thomas freezes time when he's cranky. We haven't found any way to control it yet... except to keep him from being cranky."
I nodded and settled into my spot beside John on the floor again.
"Can I?" John asked in nearly a whisper.
I saw John's hopeful expression and shifted the baby into his arms... and the towel to his shoulder.
"Trey, would you get one of the baby blankets from my room? When they're done eating, we'll let them play in the floor on a blanket." Andrew said with a smile.
"Um Love? They're less than a day old. They can't play yet." The Mr. Summers looking guy said with a tone of apology.
"Just humor me." Andrew said as Trey spread a blanket in the floor in front of me.
I looked up in time to see a curious expression in Trey's eyes. He quickly looked away and went back to his seat, but the glimpse of that expression was frozen in my mind.
* * * * *
"So Clark, how is your first day going?" Andrew asked as he snuggled against the Mr. Summers looking guy. [I really need to learn his name.] I thought to myself.
I thought about the question and looked over at Bobby and Robert, then to Ronny, William and Peter, then finally at Mr. Summers and John.
"It's great. I've made a bunch of friends..." I trailed off when I noticed the expression of pain cross Trey's face, just for an instant.
"Good, I was worried that you might feel alone here on your first day... It's an awful feeling." Andrew said sadly.
"Is that why you invited me? So I wouldn't feel alone?" I heard myself ask. I guess the autopilot kicked in and asked what was uppermost on my mind.
"Not exactly. I mean, that's part of it, but it's more like... I dunno, it just seems right for you to be here. It's hard to explain." Andrew said with a shrug.
I nodded and my attention went to John. He had finished feeding the baby and was burping him gently.
I turned my attention back to Andrew and nodded in acceptance of his statement.
Thomas finally burped and John moved him carefully to the blanket that was in the floor in front of us.
"They're so beautiful." John whispered as his eyes began to sparkle with unformed tears.
I could see how easily this could become a big emotional scene, and knew that John didn't want that.
"If you'll all excuse me, I think I need to get some fresh air." I said quickly as I stood, drawing the attention of those who might notice John's misty state.
"Would you like some company?" John asked, his expression unreadable.
"Sure, if you want." I said quietly.
"What is it Clark?" Ronny asked, concerned by my sudden change in mood.
"A lot of changes in a short time. It's a little overwhelming. I keep spacing out. I just need a few minutes." I said as I walked around the babies.
As I walked toward the door, I glanced at Trey who was watching me intently.
I felt myself give a slight nod, even though I wasn't sure what I was agreeing to.
Trey looked at me with surprise, then hurriedly got up and followed me to the front door.
* * * * *
"John, are you okay? You looked on the edge of losing it." I said as soon as the door closed behind us.
"I think this was a mistake Clark. I want... I don't know what I want, but it sure isn't to sit around and pretend that everything is normal when it isn't." John said darkly.
"How about we say our good-byes and go back to the mansion?" I asked quietly.
"You don't have to Clark. Stay and enjoy the family." John said seriously.
"I wouldn't be able to enjoy it much more than you. I need to talk to Trey for a second, why don't you ask Mr. Summers to cover our escape. He knows what's going on and will keep people from asking too many questions." I said in thought.
"Yeah, good idea. I'll go ask him." John said quietly as I turned my attention to Trey.
"Will you tell me what's wrong?" I asked Trey as soon as the door was closed.
"Why do you believe something is wrong? Are you an empath?" Trey asked with concern.
I smiled at that and said, "No, I just noticed from your expressions that something is wrong... and it has something to do with me. What is it?" I asked seriously.
"I am not sure..." Trey trailed off in an emotionally pained or embarrassed tone.
"Please?" I asked, really wanting to help this suffering boy.
Trey nodded and said in a whisper, "I have no friends."
I thought about that and was sure that there was more to the story. I just needed to be patient. So I said, "Tell me about it."
He started off by saying, "My brothers and sister have made friends since we've been here. Icheb and Robert have found possible mates... and I have yet to make a friend."
I remained silent and nodded, prompting him to continue.
"I believed that it would happen, that such things take time, but... you arrived this morning and have already made friends with a number of people." He said with anguish.
"I'm not disagreeing, but how can you tell?" I asked curiously.
"The bond of friendship and respect is easy to see in your interactions with the others. You have become friends with Bobby, Ronny, John and Peter." Trey said sadly.
"Yeah, I have. Why are you so upset that I've made friends?" I asked, wanting to hear the words to confirm my suspicions.
"I thought when you arrived that we could be friends. You are new here, I am new, perhaps *that* would be enough common interest between us to form a foundation for friendship." He said sadly.
I nodded in thought.
"I am an alien. Different from all those around me and... perhaps destined to be alone." Trey finished in a whisper.
"But your brothers and sister are aliens too..." I began to say.
"They are non-human, I am an alien. There is a difference. Non-humans are just people of another species. Aliens are... different, outsiders, not of the norm... outcasts." Trey said as his eyes became damp with unformed tears.
"So what makes you different from Icheb or the others?" I asked, thinking about how Trey's definition of alien applied to me.
"I do not know. If I could distinguish the difference, I would endeavor to change myself to be acceptable." He said with helplessness.
John walked out of the house and said, "Scott said he'd cover for us. Are you ready to go?"
"Just a minute." I said in thought and turned back to Trey.
"Would you be able to come to the mansion for a while with us? I don't know if I can solve your problem for you but maybe we could try?" I asked, hoping John wouldn't mind too much.
"I must ask my fathers, will you wait for a moment?" Trey asked hopefully.
"Sure, we'll be right here." I said with assurance.
As soon as Trey went in the house, John asked, "What was that all about?"
"He doesn't have any friends." I said in thought.
"Oh... I guess we're going to change that, huh?" John asked in a helpless voice of resignation.
"I don't know. Let's try and get to know him. If he's a good guy, then yeah." I said, trying to be sure I was doing the right thing.
Trey walked out the door and said, "My fathers said I could stay until ten o'clock, then I must return home and regenerate in preparation for school."
"Let's go then... I hope we can find our way in the dark." I said with the beginnings of worry.
"That's why it's good to have a Pyro along with you." John said with a forced smile, then lit his lighter.
* * * * *
"John, if we don't tell him, we'll be dancing around the subject all night." I said quietly as we walked toward the mansion.
"Would you mind telling him? I'd really like a few minutes to think." John said seriously.
"Yeah, we'll hang back for a while." I said quietly then slowed my pace for a few steps to fall in beside Trey.
"I've got something serious to talk to you about." I said quietly to Trey.
"Before you begin, I should tell you that I have enhanced hearing. I could clearly hear what you were saying to each other." He said shyly.
I thought about what we had said, then asked, "Did you hear anything bad?"
"No, I just thought you should know... not telling would be what my fathers call a 'lie of omission' and I don't want to start by lying to you." Trey said seriously.
"Truth huh?" I said, thinking about my own secrets and how keeping them was the same as lying.
"How can I be a friend if I cannot be trusted to tell the truth?" Trey asked with a genuine look of question.
"You're right Trey. And I've got a few truths to tell you, but the problem is, not every truth is meant for the general public to know. Some things are personal." I said, needing to know that what I told him would stay with him.
"I understand. The fact that I have enhanced hearing is not a secret, nor do I wish it to be. But by telling you now we may be able to avoid an uncomfortable situation if I overhear something." Trey said seriously.
"Okay, I get that." I said with a nod. Then a moment of silence fell between us.
"I'm an alien... non-human... whatever you call it, I'm not from this planet." I said quietly.
"I had assumed so." Trey said without expression.
I turned to look at Trey and he pointed to the device on his face.
"This is an ocular implant. It gives me enhanced vision and scanning abilities. Your physiology is not consistent with human physiology. You are quite different from humans on a cellular level." Trey said honestly.
I couldn't help it, I started to laugh.
"What is funny?" Trey asked with concern.
John slowed his pace and joined us, then asked, "What's funny now?"
"I just told Trey that I'm an alien... and he... he said... 'I had assumed so'." I tried to say through my chuckles.
John smiled and Trey looked confused.
"When I told John, he said, 'What else' and shrugged. I keep this big whopper of a secret all my life, then when I tell a few people, they aren't even a little shocked." I said to Trey and fell into fresh laughter.
"That is amusing." Trey said with a straight face that broke me up into even bigger fits of laughter.
"Did he tell you my news yet?" John asked while I was still laughing my head off.
"No, but it sounds quite serious." Trey said with concern which pulled me out of my laughing fit.
"It might be. I'm being tested for AIDS and the test came back inconclusive." John said somberly.
"That is not necessarily bad." Trey said with a note of confusion.
"It's the first step on the road to bad." I said and drew their attention.
"If you look at it like a road, with forks for every yes/no decision, then we've just passed the first fork and are that much closer to the destination." I said, hoping that didn't sound too stupid.
"Thank you, I am a very visually oriented person and that description made sense to me." Trey said to me, then turned to John, and said, "It may not be possible to avoid worry, but perhaps we can help to distract you." Trey said seriously.
"That's the plan. Are you sorry you joined us tonight?" I asked in a light-hearted tone.
"Not at all, as I understand the process, friendship involves the sharing of the good and the bad in ones life. If you only share the bad, it is not friendship, it is therapy. If you only share the good, it is not friendship, it is socializing." Trey said seriously.
"You got a cool way of looking at things Trey." John said with a smile.
"Yeah." I said, thinking that Trey would be an interesting friend to have.
* * * * *
We reached the mansion and I was trying to figure out how we got here so fast. I guess all the talking distracted me, but it only seemed like a couple minutes.
"Um, John, do you remember where the room is? All the doors look alike to me." I said shyly.
"Yeah, I'll show you how to tell the difference when we get there." John said and led the way up the back stairs.
A minute later we were standing outside a door and John pointed to a small decorative metal plate. I looked at it and it said 'Jean Grey'.
"Who's that?" I asked as John led the way into the room.
"She was a teacher here... I really don't know what happened to her but she isn't living here anymore." John said as he walked to his bed and opened a box.
I followed his lead and began to unpack my suitcases.
"Wait... what's that?" John asked from behind me as I was taking my folded clothes from the suitcase.
"What's what?" I asked in confusion.
"Let me guess, your mom picks out your clothes." John asked as he walked to my side.
"She goes shopping with me, but I pick out what I want." I said, not sure what was bothering him.
John looked at me, then at Trey and asked, "Trey, are you about the same size as Clark and I?"
"Yes, very close." Trey said hesitantly.
"Good. Clark, would you mind if we tried on some of your clothes?" John asked seriously.
"Why?" I asked suspiciously.
"It's hard to explain. I just want you to see your style on Trey and I. I think you might consider changing your wardrobe a little." John said. I looked in his eyes to see that he wasn't pulling a prank, but really wanted to help me understand something.
"Okay." I said with resignation.
"Great. Trey, you change into those while I change into these." John said and began to change his clothes.
I watched as John and Trey began to undress. Neither was shy or the least bit concerned... like I would be. I've always been shy about undressing in front of anyone else.
Soon they were both changed and John stood looking at me expectantly.
"What am I supposed to be seeing?" I asked in confusion.
John walked across the room, facing me, then walked away... that's when I noticed. In those pants, he looked like he didn't have a butt.
"I think he got it." John said to Trey.
I looked at Trey and the difference was even more noticeable. Trey's pants had looked good on him... I had noticed that before, and I *don't* check out guys butts. Now Trey looked like he had no butt at all. They were baggy, but not in a good, stylish way.
"Do I look like that?" I asked, with the beginning of mortification. Had I been walking around looking like that?
"Trey, can Clark try on your clothes? I think he'll look good in them." John asked seriously.
Trey nodded and looked at himself dressed in my clothes in the mirror on the back of the closet door.
I took off my pants, feeling a little embarrassed when John said, "Stop."
"What?" I asked, standing in my underwear.
"Look in the mirror." John commanded.
I took a few steps to the mirror and looked, then asked again, "What?"
"You have droopy drawers. Those white briefs are fine for a ten year old boy, but they look awful on you." John said seriously.
I looked at John in question, then turned to look at myself again.
He was right, my underwear looked droopy and really bad.
"Here." John said and handed me a pair of boxer briefs from his box.
I hesitantly took them from John and looked at him in question.
"Clark, you're a teenage guy. You need to start dressing like it. Put those on and see the difference."
I shyly turned away from the guys and changed out of my underwear and into the boxer briefs that John had given me.
I walked to the mirror and was stunned at the difference.
"Much better... congratulations Clark, you have an ass." John said with a smile.
I looked at the reflection and admired how the boxer briefs made my butt look... normal... good.
Then I turned and felt a blush creep up my face as I could clearly see my... privates... outlined in the form fitting fabric.
"How did you know?" Was all I was able to say.
"Clark, I'm a gay guy. It's my job to check out guys' asses. I'd suspected that you might have one hidden under there. I'm glad I was right. Now try on Trey's clothes, I think you'll be surprised." John said with a smile of pride.
I hurried to try on Trey's clothes, not in embarrassment, but in anticipation.
As I finished fastening the pants, I hurried to look in the mirror and was astonished to find that I looked... hot. I looked as if I'd aged about three years by changing my clothes.
"We're getting there." John said in a considering voice, then began to look through his box to find something.
"You look much better Clark. I believe my clothing looks better on you than on me." Trey said honestly as he looked me up and down.
I blushed... it seems all I'm able to do today.
"Sit down and let me do something with your hair Clark. If you don't like it you can wash it right out." John said, carrying a tube that looked like deodorant.
I took a seat on the edge of the bed and John began to glide the stuff onto my hair.
"This shirt would look good with Clark's coloring." Trey said as he looked through my suitcase.
"Yeah, let's see if it looks good on him. It looks like most of his clothes are too big and that would ruin the look." John said from beside me as he continued to fuss and tug at my hair.
"Done." John said with a triumphant note in his voice.
I got up to move to the mirror when Trey handed me the shirt.
I gave Trey a gentle smile and changed from Trey's shirt into my own.
I pulled it on and John said, "It looks good, tuck it in and have a look."
I did so and walked to the mirror.
John had styled my hair into... something. It wasn't weird or anything, but just a little wild. I'd never used anything on my hair before and didn't know it would make this much of a difference. My hair seemed... brighter? Shiny? I don't know, it was just different and looked really good.
"Wow." I said as I looked at myself from one angle, then another.
"Yeah." John laughed.
"You look quite attractive." Trey said honestly.
"Thanks Trey." I said shyly, then looked at him wearing my clothes and continued, "You look a little droopy."
He smiled. I don't think I'd seen him do that before. It was like his smile was so radiant that I could feel the warmth of it.
"Clark, I would be honored if you would keep these clothes. I have others. You should wear this to school tomorrow." Trey said, a bit of shyness and indecision creeping into his expression.
I thought about objecting, I have clothes, I don't want to take his, but at the hopeful look on his face I couldn't do anything but nod in agreement.
"Good, now lets see if we can get anything for me to wear." John said and moved to my suitcase.
* * * * *
After many long fruitless minutes of searching John finally said, "I can't do it. I just can't wear your clothes Clark."
"Sorry." I said shyly.
"Not your fault. But we're both going to need to buy some new clothes as soon as possible." John said as he began to change back into the clothes he had been wearing.
"If you would like, you could borrow some of my clothes for tomorrow." Trey said shyly.
John considered for a moment, and looked like he was going to refuse. Then he looked in my suitcase again and said, "Yeah, I guess I should. Thanks Trey."
"It is my pleasure. Part of friendship is sharing." Trey said hesitantly, obviously asking if we considered him a friend.
"That's right Trey." I said immediately, not knowing if John understood how fragile Trey really was right now.
"Yeah. Friends." John said with a smile.
"So what do we do now?" I asked, not wanting the emotional moment to drag on too long and become uncomfortable.
"I guess we go back to the boathouse and get some clothes for me to wear tomorrow." John said with a note of resignation.
"Yeah, let's go." I said, thinking about how we had been distracted from more serious topics while we'd been looking at clothes.
* * * * *
"What will you do if you have the disease?" Trey asked hesitantly.
John stopped his walking and looked as if he'd been slapped in the face.
I stopped too, and wanted to say something, to do something, to take that hurt expression out of John's eyes.
"I guess I'll go on doing like I am now... until... if I get sick, I mean if it makes me so I can't enjoy my life, I guess I'll end it." John said, then forced himself to start walking toward the boathouse again.
"I don't understand." Trey said to me.
"The disease we are talking about is called AIDS and it is fatal. It destroys the immune system of the person infected until they can't fight off even the most common and benign diseases. It causes some people to waste away, becoming little more than skin and bones, others get major infections that they aren't capable of fighting off, some get pneumonia and die. There is a lot of suffering involved, and sometimes the treatment can be worse than the disease." I said, remembering all that I had learned about the disease in health class.
"I understand." Trey said and walked faster to catch up to John.
I speeded up too so I could help John if Trey said something wrong.
"John, if you have the disease, I will be available to you if you should need me for anything." Trey said honestly.
John seemed distant in his response but said, "Thanks Trey. If it happens, I'll need all my friends to get me through."
"We'll be here." I said firmly.
John seemed to snap out of his thoughts and gave me a friendly smile.
We continued our walk in silence.
* * * * *
"Welcome back." Andrew said with delight as we walked into the boathouse.
"Um... what have you three been doing?" Ronny asked as he noticed that we were wearing each other's clothes.
"I was trying to figure out what I was going to wear tomorrow and found out that all Clark's clothes are..." John trailed off, trying not to insult me more than necessary, then he turned to look at Trey and said, "Like that."
Several people looked at Trey, dressed in my clothes, then at me dressed in his. A general aire of acceptance ran through the room as Trey said, "Please follow me and we can find some other clothes for you."
I followed Trey up the stairs, relieved to be away from the stares of the people in the living room.
* * * * *
"These are my clothes, please feel free to choose what you like." Trey said seriously. There were two bicycle hooks screwed into the rafters of the attic ceiling with a pole suspended between them. Several shirts and pants were hanging on hangers from the pole.
I looked around the room and found the same thing on the other side of the room with another selection of clothes.
"Thanks." John said and began looking, then said, "And you'll probably want to change into something more comfortable."
Trey nodded and pulled a shirt and pants from the rack.
"What's that?" I asked, pointing to a large device that looked like it came from the movie 'Aliens'.
"My regeneration alcove. It nourishes me and recharges my systems." Trey said as he changed into black Jeans and a red T shirt.
"Wow. That's something." I said as I took a step closer to the device.
"It is part of being Borg." Trey said dismissively.
"Frenegah, noeveish, legk-oomah, kloktsh." I said, translating the symbols on the front of the alcove.
"You speak Borg?" Trey said with surprise.
"I guess I do." I said with equal surprise.
"How?" Trey asked and walked to my side.
"I don't know. There are things I just know, I don't know if it's like 'race memory' or if there's a storehouse of knowledge inside me that I haven't discovered yet, but sometimes I just know things. Like my true name, my home planet, my real parents... there's no way I should know that stuff, but I do." I said in confusion.
"Then your people must have encountered the Borg for you to understand the language." Trey speculated.
"Yeah, I guess so. Weird huh?" I said as I continued to look at the alcove.
"Quite weird." Trey confirmed.
"How does this look?" John asked from behind us.
I turned to see John dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a black pocket T-shirt. It was kind of plain, but seemed to suit him somehow.
"It looks good." I said in a considering voice.
"I'll get you a belt, it looks incomplete without it." Trey said and moved to a small chest of drawers.
"Thanks Trey. I'll get these back to you as soon as I can get some clothes of my own." John said as he accepted a belt.
"I think Mr. Summers is planning on taking you and Ronny to the store tomorrow." I said, remembering the conversation with mom in the office.
"Good, I don't like having to borrow things off everyone." John said as he finished threading his belt through the loops.
Trey had been right. The belt made the look complete and I nodded in approval.
There was a knock on the door and a voice asked, "May I come in?"
"Enter." Trey said quietly.
Icheb entered the room and said, "Uncle Scott said that he will be leaving soon if you want to ride back with him."
"Thanks Icheb, we'll do that." John said with an appreciative smile.
"Thank you for loaning us your clothes Trey. We'll get them back to you as soon as we can." I said quietly.
"It is my pleasure to help you." Trey said with a gentle smile.
I felt it again. That twinge of... something. His smile was so pure and honest that I could barely make myself look away to leave.