Hurt & Comfort

Book 8: Seeking Comfort

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Chapter 6: Realization

When Andrew's class was finally over it was time for lunch.

"Guys, I'm going to have lunch with Icheb, I'll meet you at the field house after lunch, that's where our next class is." Marie said happily.

"We'll see you there." I said to her retreating form.

Trey looked a little lost as he followed along behind John and I.

"How are you doing Trey?" I asked with concern.

"I am well." He said automatically.

"You're lost. You look like you're unsure how to behave and feel like you don't fit in." I said as I looked closely at him.

"Are you sure you aren't an empath?" Trey asked with a gentle smile that tugged at my heart.

"Yeah. I'm feeling a little of it myself. Let's grab some sandwiches and have a seat." I said and started moving toward the serving line.

"I do not eat. I will get a table for us." Trey said hesitantly.

I nodded and he walked away.

"You got the hots for him?" John asked quietly.

I looked at Trey who was sitting alone at a table, looking back at us.

"Yeah, I think I do. Is that a problem?" I asked and looked into John's eyes.

"No. I'm feeling a little of it myself. I don't know if it's because he's so lost or just because he seems to be such a great guy who is so alone, but I really just want to hold him and let him know it's all going to be okay." John said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Did you notice his smile?" I asked as we each took a plate.

"I noticed last night. I felt like I'd do just about anything to keep that smile on his face." John said quietly.

"You think he'd enjoy racing with us?" I asked with a teasing smile.

"No. I think that if Trey is willing to be the focus of our attentions, we should take it nice and slow. He doesn't need racing, he needs romance." John said seriously.

I thought about his answer and absently made my lunch selections from the table before us.

* * * * *

We made our way to the table and I immediately asked Trey, "So what are you planning on doing after school today?"

"I have made no plans. I have completed the homework that Father assigned but need to work on my assignment for Uncle Spike." Trey said hesitantly.

"We're going to talk with Dr. McCoy after classes... then, we could do our homework together and just hang out. You want to join us?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes, I would like that very much." Trey said and gifted me with one of his genuine smiles.

I glanced at John who was basking in the pleasure of Trey's smile and then said, "Good, when the last class is over, we'll go to the MedLab."

"How are you guys doing?" Bobby asked as he walked up to our table followed by Robert, Trini and Ronny.

"We're great. The classes have been really interesting so far." John said happily.

"Are you feeling more comfortable in your interactions?" Robert asked Trey with concern.

"I am well." Trey said and gave a brief glimpse of his smile.

"That is good, I was concerned." Robert said, then turned his attention back to Bobby.

"Trini, these are my friends Clark, John and Trey. This is Trini." Ronny said to all of us.

"Nice to meet you. How do you like it so far?" I asked as I ate a sloppy joe.

"Everyone's been so nice, it's a little overwhelming. At my last school I only ever hung out with the other Vietnamese kids. This is way cool." She said cheerily.

"I know what you mean. Everyone's been real nice to me too." I said with a smile.

"Are you all new too?" Trini asked.

"Clark and Trey are, I've been a student here before and now I'm back." John said pleasantly.

"We need to get to the food before all the good stuff is gone. I'll see you guys later." Ronny said happily.

"Yeah, have fun." I said with a wave.

"She's pretty." John said absently.

"Yeah. Really nice hair." I said as I continued to eat.

"I thought you were same gender oriented?" Trey asked John in confusion.

"Yeah, so?" John responded casually.

"I would not expect you to comment on the beauty of a female, it seems inconsistent." Trey said hesitantly.

"Beauty is beauty. I'm not sexually attracted to her, but I can appreciate that she is a very pretty girl." John said, then munched a few potato chips.

Trey nodded in understanding.

I noticed that John and I were finished so I said, "Let's go to the Field house a little early. I feel like a walk."

"Yeah." John said and picked up his plate.

Trey nodded and followed.

* * * * *

"Trey?" I asked as we walked down the, now familiar, path.

"Yes?" Trey responded.

"I've noticed something that might be a problem between us." I said with difficulty.

"What is that?" Trey asked immediately with concern... verging on panic.

"You seem so desperate for our approval, I'm afraid that you're going to follow along with what we do, even if you don't want to." I said slowly.

Trey didn't respond, so I looked to John with desperation for a better explanation.

"Clark says he feels like going for a walk, you nod and follow. You've never told us what you feel like doing. If this is going to work, you have to have your own opinions and know that you're free to say what you think and feel." John said with concern.

Trey nodded and said, "I am worried that if my own desires are different from yours, that you will not wish to join me."

"It's possible. But it's the same for us too. If John feels like doing something that I don't, then I may decide to join him anyway, just to share his company, or I may decide not to join him. We're friends, but we don't have to spend every minute of the day together." I said seriously.

We arrived at the field house and I took a seat on the grass beside the running track.

"It is all new to me. The only person I've made any sort of connection with is Uncle Spike, and that is in combat training. I am unsure how to behave as a friend and do not want to do something inappropriate." Trey said emotionally.

"Okay Trey. Here it is. From what I know of you, I like you. But if you won't be yourself around me, I won't be able to get to know you better." I said, looking him in the eyes.

Trey shyly nodded.

"How about this? When the three of us are together, we can be completely honest. The three of us can promise that what we tell each other will stay between us. That way you can be yourself. If you say something we don't like or don't understand, we'll just tell you." John suggested hopefully.

Trey nodded but said nothing.

"I feel an empathic moment coming on." I said with a smile to Trey who looked at me apprehensively.

"You've got something to say, but you're afraid to say it." I said speculatively.

Trey nodded again.

"Go ahead. This is how friendship works. You say yours and we'll say ours." I said, trying to get him to unburden himself.

"I feel attraction toward you." Trey said in a whisper as he looked at the ground.

"Are you speaking to me, John, or the patch of grass at your feet?" I asked, trying to lighten the mood with humor.

"You Clark. I felt attraction to you the first time I saw you." Trey said with pain and I noticed his eyes starting to form tears.

"I'm attracted to you too Trey." I said in nearly a whisper.

"Really?" Trey asked with hope.

"Really. But I'm also attracted to John." I said immediately, not wanting him to get the wrong idea.

"Oh." Trey said despondently.

I noticed his immediate reaction of despair and asked, "Do you assume that I'm going to choose John over you?"

Trey nodded silently.

"Trey, we need to keep it like this for a little while. Even though we're feeling some attraction, I don't want to take the chance of hurting you by jumping into this." I said seriously.

Trey had a look like I had just told him, 'No. Never.'

I looked around and saw that we were alone. I moved close to Trey and asked, "May I kiss you to try and prove that I'm not just saying the words?"

"Yes, Please." Trey asked desperately.

I pulled him close and gave him a gentle kiss. Tongues didn't come into play, but the kiss was real and definite.

After we released the kiss, I looked deep in his eyes and said, "This is all new to me too. I don't have all the answers and I'm not completely sure of my own feelings. After classes I'd like for the three of us to talk about this, if that's okay with you."

"Yes Clark, I'll look forward to our talk." Trey said bravely.

"Remember, this isn't just about what John or I want. You need to consider your own feelings and well being. When we talk, I'd like to know what next step you'd like for us to take." I said seriously.

Trey nodded.

John walked to Trey's other side and asked, "May I kiss you too?"

Trey gave John a glorious smile and said, "I would like that."

John held Trey close and I noticed that they looked very right together. [I hope that there is some way we can get through this with all our friendships intact.] I thought with caution.

I noticed a small group of people coming over the rise and said, "It must be time for class."

* * * * *

As we waited, more and more people arrived at the field house. At least two classes of people were here.

Mr. Summers walked up to our small group and said, "Clark and John, Dr. McCoy wants to meet with you in the MedLab, I think he has your results. After that, he's going to give you both a physical."

I nodded and looked to see fear in John's eyes and concern in Trey's.

"Uncle Scott, would it be possible for me to accompany John?" Trey asked in a small voice.

"Why?" Mr. Summers asked curiously.

"I am concerned for him." Trey said succinctly.

"Go ahead Trey. The next two periods are for physical education, you three can start tomorrow." Mr. Summers said with a warm smile.

"Thank you Uncle Scott." Trey said happily.

The three of us moved as a unit toward the mansion and the uncertain future.

* * * * *

"Gentlemen, I'm glad to see you all here. You're a little early, I only received the results of the blood test a few minutes ago." Dr. McCoy said pleasantly as he busied himself with his files.

Dr. McCoy looked up and noticed the impatient look in John's eyes. "Would you like to discuss this privately?" He asked in a less professional voice.

"No, just tell me Doc." John said with strength. I moved forward and took his hand to offer support. To my surprise, Trey moved to his other side and did the same.

"I'm happy to tell you that you do *not* have HIV or in fact, any of the diseases that the test was designed to detect." Dr. McCoy said with a great smile.

I couldn't help it. I pulled John into a great hug of relief. He reached out and pulled Trey in to make it a three-way hug.

"However your high level of white blood cells is an indication of a serious infection. If you have no objection, I'm going to ask Andrew to scan you since he has advanced medical scanning equipment." Dr. McCoy said professionally.

"Go ahead. Do whatever you want." John said with relief from the hug.

Dr. McCoy left the room and I could see him through the window, talking on the phone. I noticed a sparkle of something out of the corner of my eye and turned in time to see Andrew step out of thin air.

He talked with Dr. McCoy for a second then walked to us.

"I need to borrow John for a few seconds, then you can go back to hugging him." Andrew said with a tender smile.

We both reluctantly  let go of John and stood back. Andrew pressed a few buttons on a thing that looked like a big flip phone, then moved it up and down in front of John, stopping and rotating it slightly in front of his lower belly.

Then he pressed a few more buttons and said, "Okay, I'm done."

Trey and I immediately grabbed on to John again, wanting to express our relief the only way we could. By holding on to John.

Andrew and Dr. McCoy talked for a minute, then Dr. McCoy walked up to us, followed closely by Andrew.

"Mr. Allerdyce. It appears that in your travels you've picked up a guest. An intestinal parasite. The good news is that it will be a small matter to be rid of it, the bad news is that the treatment can be somewhat uncomfortable. You may feel weak and nauseated for a few days. Although I would like to administer treatment as soon as possible, we can wait until after Thanksgiving if you would like." Dr. McCoy said seriously.

"What?" John asked.

"I think you lost him right after 'not HIV'." I said with a chuckle as I continued to hold him close.

"Very well, would you explain his options when he is more... coherent?" Dr. McCoy asked with a smile.

"Of course. Set it up for after Thanksgiving. I can't imagine he'd want to be nauseated for the biggest food holiday of the year." I said with a smile.

"Very well. I suppose we can begin the exam now. Andrew, if you'll do the scan, I'll draw the blood." Dr. McCoy said professionally.

"Clark, have you ever had any diseases other than the normal childhood ones?" Dr. McCoy asked as he readied his needle.

"No. I've never been sick." I said, as I thought back.

"Never?" Dr. McCoy asked in surprise.

"No. I guess human diseases don't effect me. Maybe I've got a mega immune system or something." I said with a shrug.

"Human diseases?" Dr. McCoy asked cautiously.

"Hank, Clark is a non-human." Andrew said quietly.

Dr. McCoy's eyes opened wide in surprise.

I felt a flash of satisfaction as finally... finally, someone was surprised by my being an alien.

Dr. McCoy picked up a needle and moved in front of me.

"I'd like to draw some blood if I may." Dr. McCoy asked quietly.

I extended my arm to him and he swabbed it with alcohol or something then tried to stick me with the needle.

He made three jabs before the needle broke off.

"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" Dr. McCoy asked with concern as he examined my arm.

"I didn't feel a thing. No one has ever been able to get a needle through my skin." I said, remembering when the doctor back home had tried.

"How did you get enrolled in school without inoculations?" Dr. McCoy asked with interest.

"I don't know... I guess my dad knows a lot of people and made it happen." I said with a shrug.

"Clark, do you mind if I try?" Andrew asked quietly.

"As long as it doesn't hurt too much." I said without concern.

"I promise, you won't feel a thing." Andrew said and pulled a box out of thin air.

He pulled a small medical instrument from the box and sat the box aside.

"Just hold still for a minute and I'll get this done." Andrew said as he adjusted something on the bottom of the instrument.

I nodded and waited for him to do whatever he was going to do.

He pressed the device to the inside of my elbow and it made a hissy sound.

I could see the little vial on the back of the device fill with blood.

"That's cool." John said from beside me.

"Yeah, and it didn't hurt at all." I said as I looked at my undamaged arm.

"Okay, hold still one more minute and we'll be done." Andrew said and opened the flippy phone thing again.

He moved the thing up and down in front of me and pushed a few buttons.

"All done. Now if anything happens, we have a base reading of what is normal for you." Andrew said as he looked at the readings.

"So are we done?" John asked hopefully.

"Not exactly. You three were early. I have a few other patients to examine, then we're all going to go outside and gauge your abilities." Dr. McCoy said as he looked at the device Andrew was still holding.

A noise from behind us drew my attention. I turned to see Ronny, Trini and Chris.

"Did you get the results?" Ronny asked desperately.

"Yeah, I ain't got it." John said with a glorious smile.

Ronny ran to John and pulled him into a hug.

"I'm glad, I was so worried." Ronny said from the hug.

"So was I." John said honestly as he held Ronny  close.

"What's going on?" Chris asked hesitantly.

"We were afraid John was sick, but it turned out to be a false alarm." I said with a smile at John and Ronny's hug.

"Oh. Um, I'm glad he's okay. Do you know what we're doing here?" Chris asked as he looked around.

"Yeah, the doctor is giving physicals before we get our abilities checked out." I said as I noticed John and Ronny separate.

Chris nodded as Andrew said, "Ronny and Chris, I'm going to do a quick scan of each of you, then Dr. McCoy will see you in the examining room."

I looked to John with curiosity.

Trey was the one who explained. "I believe he wants to examine Chris' injury."

I nodded and watched as Andrew quickly scanned each person in turn.

"Are we all ready?" Andrew asked with a pleasant smile.

We all nodded or mumbled 'Yes'.

"I'm surprised to see you here Trey. I thought you'd be in your Phys Ed class." Andrew said as he leaned against a counter.

"I came to offer support when John received his blood test results." Trey said honestly.

Andrew got a warm smile on his face and said, "That's great Trey."

I could tell from that small action that Andrew had been worried for Trey... and that he approved of Trey's choice in friends.

Chris came back into the room and said, "Dr. McCoy says he'll be ready in one minute."

"Okay everyone. We're going to take a shortcut." Andrew said and a swirling vortex formed in front of us.

"What's that?" Trini asked in wonder.

"That is my mutant ability. I can create doorways from one place to another. This one leads to a clearing by the lake. We need to test your abilities away from the mansion in case we lose control." Andrew said and gestured for us to enter.

I followed John through the passage and emerged by the lake. I could hear rumbling in the distance and looked to see heavy equipment at the side of the boathouse.

"What's happening to your house?" I asked Trey carefully.

"A new structure is being attached to the house." Trey said with a small smile.

"That's great. You guys seem to be really packed in there." Ronny said seriously.

"A little. Dad's the only one who's having to do without a room at the moment but we definitely need the room." Andrew said and looked around the group.

"Okay. It looks like everyone's here." He said and I looked around to see who all was here.

Mr. Summers, Alan, Alex, Andrew, Ms. Munroe and Dr. McCoy were there along with all the students who were in MedLab earlier.

"John, do you want to be first since you're an old hand at this?" Mr. Summers asked hopefully.

"Sure. What do you want me to do?" John asked with a smile.

"How about a fireball? As big as you can make it." Mr. Summers asked seriously.

John nodded and lit his Zippo.

A fireball formed in front of him and he raised it up to hover about twenty feet above our heads.

"Can you put it over the lake? Just in case." Mr. Summers asked hopefully.

"Sure." John said easily and the fireball hovered out over the water.

"Ready?" John asked, keeping his gaze fixed on the fire.

"Amaze me." Mr. Summers said with a warm smile.

The fireball increased in size and seemed to become... fluid, like a too big soap bubble fighting to keep its shape.

I watched in amazement as it kept increasing until it was bigger than a bus.

"That's about it." John said with effort in his voice.

I looked at John and saw sweat beading on his face.

"Hold it there for a minute." Mr. Summers said firmly.

John kept his attention focused on the fireball and the sweat began to flow in rivulets down his face.

"Just a little bit longer." Mr. Summers said in an encouraging voice.

John began to breathe heavily, I looked with question at Mr. Summers, silently asking how much longer he was going to let this go on.

"Okay John, start to pull it back now." Mr. Summers said slowly.

The fireball began to waver and John said in a gasping voice, "I'm losing it."

"No you're not. You can do this, pull it back, you've done this a thousand times, this one's just a little bigger." Mr. Summers said firmly.

John wiped the sweat from his eyes with a quick swipe of his hand, then raised his arms.

"You've got it. Pull it back." Mr. Summers said in nearly a whisper.

I don't think any of us breathed for fear of distracting John.

Finally the fireball withdrew and became nothing.

I couldn't help it, I had to clap. John had obviously achieved something, even though I can't exactly say what it was.

Everyone followed my lead and John received a full ovation.

John shyly looked around and said, "Thanks."

"Who's next?" Mr. Summers asked, looking around the group.

I was trying to make myself step forward when Chris said, "I guess I am."

"Okay Chris, since you haven't learned how to direct your ability I'm going to ask you to stand over there, by that tree. You'll be focusing on directing your power on the tree and trying to make it collapse." Mr. Summers said with authority.

Chris nodded shyly and walked over to the tree.

We all watched as Chris stood silently and looked at it.

"Do you know how to make it start?" Mr. Summers asked carefully.

"I think so, I'm just getting myself ready to do it... it's kind of scary." Chris said while continuing to watch the tree.

"Whenever you're ready." Mr. Summers said in a tone that said he meant it.

A minute later something started happening to the tree. It was... I don't know. It's like the tree began to wither. What was a living tree became darker, gnarled, twisted. The bark began falling off the trunk and all the branches, then the tree just started falling apart.

"Okay Chris, you can stop now." Mr. Summers said seriously.

Chris turned to face us and there were tears in his eyes.

Ronny walked up to Chris and whispered to him for a minute, then I saw Chris nod and wipe his eyes.

"Who's next?" Mr. Summers asked, obviously trying to draw our attention from Chris.

I took a step forward and waited.

* * * * *

"Ronny, can you help me with Clark's test?" Mr. Summers asked hopefully.

"Sure, what can I do?" Ronny asked with a note of surprise.

"How about that large rock over there, move it over the water of the lake. I want Clark to blast it, but I'd feel better about him doing it over water." Mr. Summers said seriously.

Ronny looked at the rock and squinted his eyes a little, then relaxed when the rock came off the ground and floated past us.

"How's that?" Ronny asked as the rock hovered about three feet above the surface of the lake.

"Perfect. Just hold it there. Clark, Alex is going to talk you through the next part. Just listen to what he tells you." Mr. Summers said seriously.

"Okay Clark, I'm going to put my hand on your shoulder. If you're anything like me you'll become so focused on your ability that you won't be able to understand the voices around you. When you feel a squeeze on your  shoulder, it means you need to back off the power." Alex said and laid a hand on my shoulder.

I nodded and watched the rock floating about ten feet from me.

"Okay Clark, just remember what it felt like to let loose of the power and try to make that feeling happen again. Keep your focus on the rock." Alex said with encouragement.

I started reliving that moment when someone knocked me in the back.

I remembered that feeling of, like a... not a burn, a force, kind of like when someone turns up the pressure on a garden hose. I felt the pressure work its way from above the back of my throat to my eyes.

I realized that I could see something happening. The rock was beginning to burn.

"Clark, can you narrow the beam, make it like a pin point?" Alex asked, close to my ear.

I focused and  directed the power tighter and tighter.

Alex was saying something to me but I could only see the beam getting finer and finer.

Suddenly I was jolted by the sensation of a squeeze on my shoulder.

I remembered what Alex had said earlier and began to pull the power back.

"Oh good. I thought I'd lost you there for a second." Alex said with relief.

I closed my eyes and shook my head before looking at Alex.

"Did I do it?" I asked in confusion, then looked at the rock... which was gone.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that. The rock is history. When you focused your beam, it became more intense. You blew that sucker out of the air." Alex said with excitement.

I heard a clap and turned to see John start the ovation, followed immediately by Trey, then everyone else. I said 'thanks' and went to stand between John and Trey.

"Clark, if you decide to stay, I'll be your instructor at fifth period every day for your ability training." Alex said seriously.

I smiled and nodded.

"Okay Ronny, I guess we've seen what you can do, now let's see how much. Can you crush that rock?" Mr. Summers asked in a challenging voice.

"Watch me." Ronny said with pride and focused on the  large rock that Mr. Summers indicated.

There was a little tremor, then the thing imploded. He made it smaller than a marble.

"That's good. Now, can you make yourself weightless?" Mr. Summers asked with a smile.

Ronny got wide eyes. I'm guessing he hadn't thought of that before.

After a minute of concentration, Ronny began to rise off the ground.

"Can  you lift me too?" Mr. Summers asked in a steady voice.

"Sure, come on up." Ronny said with a smile as Mr. Summers began to float.

"How many can you do safely?" Mr. Summers asked carefully.

"Let's find out." Ronny said with a smile as Chris, John, Trey, and Trini rose from the ground.

I felt myself lift off the ground and an electrical jolt of panic ran through me.

As I lifted higher off the ground, it became difficult to breath and I felt cold as sweat instantly covered me.

"Get me down." I said in a shaky voice.

Nothing happened, so I screamed, "GET ME DOWN NOW!"

The next thing I knew I felt arms around me and looked up to see John and Trey both holding me and looking concerned.

"You back?" John asked.

"What?" I asked in return.

"You kinda went away for a minute. Are you okay now?" John asked quietly.

I nodded and looked around to see everyone watching me.

"I'm sorry Clark, I didn't know you was afraid of heights." Ronny said shyly.

I saw his apologetic expression and tried to give him a smile to let him know it was okay.

"Are you going to be alright Clark?" Mr. Summers asked with concern.

"Yeah, I've never liked heights much, but that... it just freaked me out. It was like that feeling when you wobble on the top of a ladder, but a hundred times worse." I said and clutched John and Trey closer at the thought.

"I think most people have something they're afraid of, I'll be talking about that in one of my classes next week." Alex said casually.

I smiled at Alex. His 'business as usual' attitude was just what I needed to let go of my grip on my friends.

Mr. Summers looked around at the people in the clearing and said, "Okay, Trini, I guess you're next."

To Be Continued...