Hurt & Comfort

Book 10: Elusive Comfort

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Chapter 14: Something Wicked

"Alex, I've got your coffee right here. How are you guys doing this morning?" Andrew asked pleasantly as he handed Alex his cup of coffee.

"Thanks." Alex said with a grateful smile as he accepted the cup.

"Best be checking things out around here mate. We've been robbed." Spike said simply as he walked to the coffee maker to fix himself a cup.

"Don't worry Spike. You weren't robbed, you've just got a new room in the new wing. All your things are in there." Alan said from the stove where he was beginning to make breakfast.

"How did you manage to get the things out of our room while we were sleeping?" Alex asked curiously.

"That's kind of a long story that's a little bit hard to believe. Why don't you just go with it for now and we'll tell you when you're finished with your coffee." Andrew said with a smile.

"Do you want to see your new room? I remember which one is yours. I could show it to you if you want." Quaid asked hopefully.

"Sure. It looks like we have a few minutes before breakfast is ready." Alex said with a smile at the boy.

"Would you wake up my dad and Slash and tell them that breakfast will be ready soon?" Andrew asked casually.

"Sure, but I didn't see Lee in the living room." Alex said cautiously.

"Quaid will show you where their rooms are, won't you son?" Andrew asked with a smile.

Quaid beamed at being called son and happily said, "Yeah. Come on and I'll show you."

Alan and Andrew both smiled warmly as Quaid led Spike and Alex out of the room.

* * * * *

"Come in." Warren said cautiously at the knock on the door.

"Good morning Warren." Kurt said as he entered the room.

"Good morning Kurt. How are you doing today?" Warren asked with a gentle smile as he sat up in bed.

"I am well. I thought I vould come to see if you are prepared to go to breakfast." Kurt said carefully.

Warren considered for a moment, then said, "I suppose so. It's just been so nice to lounge around in bed that I hate to get up."

"Zen do not. Relax and I vill brink breakfast for us so you may enjoy breakfast in bed." Kurt said simply.

"Oh no Kurt. You don't have to do that." Warren said with concern.

"I know zat I do not have to do zis. But I believe zat ve vould boce enjoy doink somesink different. Please allow me to do zis." Kurt finished hopefully.

Warren was about to refuse, but the expression in Kurt's eyes finally won him over.

"Okay Kurt. But one of these days very soon, you'll have to let me pay you back." Warren said with a smile.

"Please do not let zis cause a sense of obligation between us. Just enjoy ze moment." Kurt said seriously.

"Agreed." Warren said quietly.

Kurt nodded, then walked quickly out of the room.

Warren sat looking at the bedroom door for a long moment, then slowly snuggled down in his bed, doing his best to enjoy the gift that Kurt was giving him.

* * * * *

"Here, this is your room!" Quaid said with excitement.

Spike and Alex shared an amused look at the boy's enthusiasm before walking into the room.

"Oi! Look at all of this." Spike said in amazement as he looked around.

"That's my camera... but I left it in Hawaii." Alex said as he walked to the computer desk where his camera was sitting.

"This duster was destroyed back in SunnyHell." Spike said as he picked up the black leather duster and put it on.

"Q... I mean, Aunt Jean did all this. She made rooms for all of us... even me." Quaid said happily.

Both men turned their attention to the boy who was nearly bouncing in his jubilation.

"Let's go wake up Slash and Lee, we can check this room out later." Alex said in a gentle voice.

Spike nodded and turned with a swish of his duster to walk out of the room.

Alex smiled at the movement, appreciating how perfectly the duster seemed to accentuate Spike's individual style.

* * * * *

"Good morning Uncle Hank." Tara said cautiously as she walked into the biolab.

"I'm in here Tara." Hank said absently.

Tara walked into the small room to find her uncle completely engrossed in his work.

"I woke up early and thought that I could help you out this morning if you needed anything." Tara said as she looked curiously at the screen that had her uncle's undivided attention.

After a long silent moment, Hank absently said, "John Allerdyce will be coming by this morning to begin treatment for a parasitic infection. If you would like, you could gather the things we will need."

"Sure... but what are you looking at? The cellular structure isn't like anything I've ever seen before... or even heard of." Tara asked as she moved a little closer to look at the microscope's video display.

"This was originally a blood sample taken from Clark. I began a full-range spectral analysis last night to try and determine the makeup of his blood. But I inadvertently left the scanner running all night long and the sample was repeatedly bombarded with everything from all the ranges of light to x-rays and gamma rays." Hank said distantly.

"How is it still alive?" Tara asked curiously, then blinked when she saw the sample move.

"I don't know. The only theory that makes any sense to me is that the blood sample must have converted the various forms of radiation into energy and used them as nourishment to grow." Hank said grimly.

Tara thought about the statement for a moment, then looked more closely at the display.

"This was a blood sample?" Tara asked in a whisper.

"Last night it was. Now it is a cellular mass. It has differentiated cells and seems to be developing at an accelerated rate."

Tara took two steps back and said, "A clone."

Hank turned in his chair and looked at Tara with question.

"The growth and development of the blood sample is making a clone of Clark." She said as a look of horror filled her expression.

"No. I don't think..." Hank began to say, then looked at the cellular mass again.

He adjusted the magnification to zoom out a little and looked at the general configuration of the entire mass.

"If this just started growing last night, then we should know if it's going to develop into an embryo within 48 hours." Hank said in a low voice.

"Are you going to tell Clark?" Tara asked cautiously.

Hank considered for a moment, then shook his head as he said, "Not until we know for certain. The cellular mass may not develop into anything. It may simply be a growth pattern from the cells being overly fertilized by the radiation bombardment."

"What will you do if it is a clone?" Tara asked cautiously.

Hank closed his eyes to consider for a moment, then reluctantly said, "I will take the matter to Professor Xavier."

At Tara's look of question, he continued, "I have made some unfortunate judgments in the recent past, some of them having to do with ethical questions. I believe that it would be best to preclude making another such error by seeking the Professor's advice before taking any action."

Tara nodded her agreement, then quietly asked, "What are you going to do with the sample until then?"

Hank considered for a moment, then said, "If you'll check the inventory, I believe that you will find that we have an incubation tank in storage. If you'll take it to the Omega Chamber, I will convert the spectrometer so that it can be used to nourish the cellular mass."

"I'll get right to it." Tara said immediately.

"Hold on Tara." Hank said quickly.

Tara stopped and looked at her uncle with question.

"Before you do anything else, bring me the rest of Clark's blood sample. I want to be sure that it is completely destroyed." Hank said, then glanced at the microscope again.

Tara nodded, then quietly asked, "Uncle Hank? Are we doing the right thing?"

"I don't know if there is a 'right thing' in a circumstance such as this." Hank said darkly.

Tara gave a small, ironic smile, then left the room to complete her assigned tasks.

As Hank watched the monitor before him, he absently muttered, "I'm not sure if I'm hoping that you'll live or die."

* * * * *

"Hello?" Xander said blearily into his cell phone as he tried to come awake.

"Bon jour, mon cour." The low, husky voice said in reply.

"Remy?" Xander said with excitement as he bolted upright in his bed.

"Oui. How be Marguerite?" Remy asked quickly.

"She's fine, and just as beautiful as ever." Xander said as he looked at his sleeping daughter.

"Remy need for de Professor and Warren to be at de mansion tonight." Remy said quickly, and seemed to be distracted.

"What's wrong?" Xander asked with immediate panic.

"Remy be home tonight and tell you what he found. Give Marguerite a kiss from Remy. I love you." Remy finished in a whisper, then the call disconnected.

Xander's vision was blurred as an unformed tear welled in his eye.

He slowly leaned over the edge of the cradle and gave his daughter the gentlest of kisses, then said, "That's from your daddy."

* * * * *

There was a gentle knock on the front door.

As Andrew walked out of the kitchen to answer it, he saw the door open.

"Good Morning Andrew." Clark said with a happy smile.

"Well, good morning Clark..." Andrew said warmly, then watched as others followed him into the living room.

"It looks like you have the whole crew with you today. How is everyone feeling this morning?" Andrew asked curiously as he looked at Trey, Robert, Bobby, Clark and John with question.

"I think we're all fine. Robert and Trey are going to regenerate while Bobby and I take John and Slash over to the mansion so Dr. McCoy can look at them." Clark said as he looked over the group.

"Well, I asked Spike and Alex to wake Slash up a few minutes ago, so he's probably on his way." Andrew said, then made a motion for the group to follow him into the kitchen.

* * * * *

"Good morning. Is anyone hungry?" Alan asked as he checked on the babies to see that they were sleeping comfortably.

"Actually, we had breakfast before we came over here." Clark said apologetically.

"Well, I suppose you could get Trey and Robert settled in while Slash has his breakfast." Andrew said consideringly, then smiled as he looked at the doorway.

"We got everyone awake." Quaid said proudly.

"Except Slash." Alex said with a barely restrained smile.

"Oh yeah. I went in to wake up Uncle Joe and he was showering." Quaid finished with a giggle.

"And *someone* had to go into the bathroom to tell him that breakfast was almost ready." Alex said with a smirk.

"Uh huh... did you know that Uncle Joe screams like a girl?" Quaid asked with an innocent expression.

"Well thank you for passing on the message, Quaid. That was a big help." Andrew said as he squatted down so he could hug his newest son properly.

"Uncle Alex did most of it." Quaid reluctantly admitted.

"But I wouldn't have known which rooms to go to without your help." Alex said from the kitchen doorway with Spike at his side.

"You see? You were a lot of help. Now have a seat at the table. I bet you're hungry." Andrew said as he released Quaid from the hug.

"We'll stop by to get Slash when we've got these guys tucked in." Clark said with a grin as he led his group out of the kitchen.

"Do you think it's time for the bacon?" Alan asked as he looked at Spike, Alex and Quaid sitting at the table.

"Yep. You start that and I'll start the eggs. I'm sure by the time we're finished we'll have the whole squad here."

* * * * *

Warren was surprised to see Kurt enter through the bedroom door.

Kurt must have noticed his curious expression, because as he was carrying the tray, he said, "Ze odor zat accompanies my teleport might make your breakfast less enjoyable."

"Thank you Kurt. That was very considerate of you. Did you bring enough for both of us?" Warren asked as he looked over the plate of food that Kurt was placing before him.

"I brought some extra toast for myself." Kurt said as he pulled a chair over beside the bed.

Warren smiled warmly at Kurt and said, "I don't know if you realize just how much this means to me. No one has done anything like this for me in... I can't actually remember the last time."

"With ze added responsibilities I vill be facing at ze new college, I do not know zat I vill be able to do such a sing again in ze future." Kurt said with concern.

"I think that if you establish your priorities early on, that you should be able to meet your professional obligations while maintaining a personal life." Warren said, then began to eat his breakfast.

Kurt considered the words for a moment, then said, "I haff had very little of vaht you vould call a personal life up to now. I haff been very isolated unt alone."

Warren swallowed, then took a sip of his coffee before saying, "Then maybe we can work that out while you're getting settled into your new role."

Kurt looked at Warren with question as he took a small bite of toast.

"You're just starting out a whole new life for yourself. Let's make sure we get it right." Warren said gently.

"Perhaps if vee can include activities such as zis, I vill be able to feel content in my new position." Kurt said slowly.

"I have to travel quite a bit with my job. But when I'm in the area, we'll be sure to make time to meet. I have the feeling that it will do us both a lot of good to spend the time together." Warren said honestly.

"And perhaps vee could invite Jimmy to join us on some of zose occasions." Kurt said, then looked at Warren with question.

"Yes. And I've decided to stay around here for the rest of the weekend. Let's see if we can come up with something that the three of us can do together." Warren said gently.

"I believe Jimmy vould enjoy zat as vell. He seems to enjoy our company." Kurt said with a smile.

Warren slowly chewed his food, then swallowed before saying, "I think with the size of his family, Jimmy may just appreciate receiving individual attention. I don't think his parents neglect him, or anything like that. But when he's with us, maybe he feels like his getting attention doesn't take away from his siblings."

"Or perhaps he enjoys our company." Kurt said frankly.

Warren looked at Kurt with surprise, then broke into a smile.

"Yeah. Now that you mention it. I think he does."

* * * * *

"Father, Dad. My alcove seems to be... missing." Trey said from the kitchen doorway, obviously fighting to keep his 'Borg' persona in place to hide his worry.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Trey. I should have thought to mention that to you. Your alcove has been moved to your room in the new wing." Andrew said as he kept a close watch on his cooking.

"The new rooms have been completed?" Trey asked cautiously.

Andrew looked down at the eggs with frustration, then glanced over to the table and asked, "Quaid, would you mind showing Trey where his new room is?"

The look on Quaid's face was nothing less than pure joy.

He hopped up from his place at the table and ran to Trey's side.

"Come on. I'll show you where your room is." Quaid said as he was nearly vibrating with his enthusiasm.

Clark and John both looked at Andrew with warm smiles before following Trey and Quaid out of the room.

* * * * *

"Mornin Andy." Xander said casually as he walked into the kitchen with Marguerite in his arms.

"Good morning Xan. You're in a pretty good mood." Andrew said cautiously.

"Remy called. He'll be back tonight." Xander said with a big smile as he gently placed Marguerite into the crib with Thomas and Chakotay.

"That's not going to effect the plans for today is it?" Andrew asked cautiously.

"Nope." Xander said frankly, "Me. Icheb. Janine. Marguerite. Visit Aunt Vada... Consider it done."

"Thanks Xan." Andrew said with appreciation as he placed a cup of coffee in front of Xander.

Just then, Icheb walked into the room and Andrew casually asked, "Do you think you're ready for this son?"

"I am experiencing a sense of apprehension, but I will be able to function adequately." Icheb said carefully.

"Don't worry about it Andy. We'll be fine." Xander said with a fond sile directed at Icheb.

"Just call if you run into any trouble." Andrew said seriously, then turned his attention back to his cooking.

"Yes Dad." Xander said in an exaggerated tone and a roll of his eye.

Quaid walked back into the kitchen and immediately walked to Icheb for a hug.

"I wish I could go with you." Quaid said in a whine.

Before Icheb could respond, Andrew said, "As soon as Icheb has his driver's license, you two will be able to go and do things whenever you want."

Icheb nodded and said, "We will go and do many things. However, today is for Janine. At times it is necessary to put aside our own desires for the benefit of our family."

"Okay, Itchy. But can we do something when you get back?" Quaid asked hopefully.

"Perhaps you could compile a list of desirable activities while I am away." Icheb said thoughtfully.

Quaid giggled and said, "I think it's funny when you talk 'Borgy'."

Icheb smiled at the statement and pulled Quaid back into the hug.

* * * * *

"How are things going this morning Joey?" Andrew asked with a smile at Slash's sleepy expression.

"I'm good. The shower felt great." Slash said, then a look of surprise came over his face when Andrew placed a full plate of food before him.

"Thanks!" Slash said in a bewildered tone.

"Enjoy." Andrew said with a tender smile, then thought to say, "Last night, your hair was white, now it's black again. What's up with that?"

"Oh. My mutant power causes my hair to turn white while I sleep. I have to color it each morning." Slash said between bites of food, and was a little surprised that he didn't feel uncomfortable discussing his mutant ability.

"Well, just so you know, I liked it the other way too. In case you ever considering leaving it white." Andrew said casually. "It reminds me of those dandelion fluffs."

"Oh, that's just the look every guy wants to have." Slash said with a chuckle.

Andrew shrugged and said, "I think you could pull it off."

Before Slash could respond, Clark and John walked into the kitchen.

"I'll be ready in just a minute." Slash hurried to say.

"Take your time." John said casually. "From the way Robert and Bobby were looking at each other, they'll probably be 'saying goodbye' for quite a while.

Clark nodded his wholehearted agreement.

Slash relaxed a little and took the time to really enjoy the breakfast that Andrew and Allen had made him.

* * * * *

"Good morning Tara. How are you today?" Bobby asked quietly.

"I'm good. Come on back to the exam room. I have everything set up for both of you." Tara said as she gestured toward the door.

"This isn't anything like visiting the doctor my parents used. The first three hours were spent in his waiting room with two year old women's magazines." Slash said as he followed the group.

"Yeah. I never did like visiting doctors much, but this place isn't so bad." John said, a little bit nervously.

"It's going to be fine, John. You already know what's wrong and what's going to happen. That's really the worst part. Now you just have to get through the treatment." Bobby said encouragingly.

After a moment to think about the words, John quietly said, "Thanks Bobby. Not knowing really is the worst part. At least I don't have to deal with that."

"Well thanks guys." Slash said playfully, then continued, "Now I have to go in there thinking about that!"

"There's nothing wrong with you, Doof!" John said with a chuckle.

"Yeah. You're just here for a checkup." Bobby said with a grin.

"Okay. I guess you're right. I just haven't had the best luck with doctors." Slash said shyly.

The boys all looked at Slash with sympathy. None of them knew what type of experiences he had had, but all of them were sure that he was justified in his uneasiness around doctors.

* * * * *

"Did you start yet?" A voice asked from the doorway.

"No. We just got here." Clark said, as he looked at Lee uncertainly.

"I wanted to be here for Slash." Lee explained at Clark's puzzled look.

"That's cool. Bobby and Clark are here for me." John said with a swell of happiness under his words.

"If you gentlemen are ready, I believe I would like to start with Mr. Allerdyce today." Dr. McCoy said to the group, then looked at John and asked, "Would you get on the table and remove your shirt?"

"Why?" John asked cautiously.

Hank wasn't used to his patients questioning his instructions and was brought up short of words.

"I mean, you already know what's wrong with me and what needs to be done. Right? Why do you need me to get up there without my shirt?" John asked as he looked Dr. McCoy in the eyes.

Hank finally got over his shock at being questioned and quietly said, "Yes. I do know what is causing your illness, but it would be irresponsible of me to administer treatment without first checking your current vital signs. If your blood pressure were elevated, for instance, then I might choose to delay your treatment for a day or two until you had it under control."

John thought about what Dr. McCoy was saying and finally nodded that he understood.

"I'm sorry Doctor. I didn't mean to sound like I didn't trust you." John said timidly.

Dr. McCoy smiled at John and said, "It's refreshing to be questioned. If you're ever uncertain or just want to understand what I'm doing, I would prefer that you ask."

John broke into a smile as he said, "You'd better watch out what you ask for Doc."

"If you'll hold still for a moment, I'll get these readings so I can proceed." Dr. McCoy said as he took his stethoscope and pressed it to John's chest.

After a moment of listening to John's heart, Dr. McCoy checked his blood pressure and did a quick check of his eyes, ears and throat.

"I thought you had scanning equipment that could do all of that." Clark said as he watched the 'old fashioned' examination.

Dr. McCoy turned to look at Clark and quietly said, "Yes. The scanning devices are useful for detecting specific ailments, but I find that the traditional examination is faster and more efficient for determining the overall wellness of the patient. A stethoscope and a well trained ear are still better tools than the most complex scanner... although Andrew's medical tricorder comes close."

Before Clark could respond, Hank continued, "Well John, everything seems to be just fine. You can put your shirt on and I'll get your medication."

"What's it going to do to me?" John asked nervously.

"The medication that I'm going to use will make your gastrointestinal tract an unwelcoming environment for the parasite that you've picked up. I doubt that you'll notice any significant effect from the medication today since it is relatively mild, but sometime tomorrow, you may start feeling nauseous. It is also possible that you may experience periods of weakness as the treatment continues." Hank said as he looked at John seriously.

"Sounds great." John muttered sarcastically.

"Given the side effects of this treatment, you should probably have someone with you for the next few days." Hank said as he looked John in the eyes.

"I'll stay with him." Clark said immediately, then asked, "Is there anything special that I need to watch out for?"

"It is possible that John's nausea may lead to vomiting or that he may suddenly become weak and need to be helped to sit down. If he has any symptoms beyond those, you should call me immediately." Hank said firmly.

"Got it." Clark said to Hank, then looked at John with sympathy.

"How long am I going to be feeling like shit?" John asked bluntly.

"If you can endure the treatment through Sunday, your unwanted passenger should be expelled. Then we can stop the treatment and you should return to normal relatively quickly. You should be back to yourself by Tuesday or Wednesday, I should think." Hank said quietly.

"Do it." John said, almost sounding angry.

Tara was standing by with a cup of pills and another cup filled with water.

Hank took a moment to look at the pills, verifying that they were the appropriate ones, then handed the first cup to John.

"Three days isn't so bad." Clark said with encouragement, then continued, "And you should be over it in time for school."

After finishing the cup of water, John looked at Clark and said, "Right. So I get to be sick and I don't even get time off from school because of it... lucky me."

"Stop by sometime tomorrow so I can check your vitals. Besides that, if you have any questions or concerns, please just come to me and ask." Hank said as he looked John in the eyes.

John chuckled and said, "Yeah. Count on it."

Hank turned his attention to Slash and said, "I'm ready for you now."

Slash hesitantly walked to the examination table, then stopped to look around the room.

"Would you guys mind if I saw the doctor alone?" Slash asked with difficulty, feeling that he was being rude to his new family.

"No prob, Slash. We'll just hang out in the hall until you're done." Bobby said immediately.

Clark and John nodded their agreement, none of them looking the least bit offended.

"Does that include me?" Lee asked cautiously.

"No Lee. You can stay." Slash said shyly.

"Well then, if that's all sorted, would you remove your shirt and get up on the table?" Hank asked professionally.

* * * * *

About fifteen minutes later, Slash and Lee walked into the hallway side by side.

"How did it go?" Clark asked, concerned by the disturbed expression on Slash's face.

"Slash is fine. He's just had some bad experiences with doctors in the past." Lee said carefully.

"I don't want to lie." Slash muttered.

Lee couldn't tell if the statement was directed at him, so he looked at Slash with question to see exactly what he wanted to do.

After a moment lost in thought, Slash looked around the group and said, "Doctor McCoy said that because of... some stuff, my hormones are kind of out of whack. He's going to do some checking and tests and stuff to be sure, but it's possible that I'm going to have to have some kind of treatment for it."

Clark, Bobby and John looked at each other, none really knowing how a hormone imbalance would manifest or what the treatment would be like.

Lee noticed their confusion and said, "It's too early to even worry about that. From the way Hank described it, if he decides that Slash really does need some kind of treatment, it won't be anything to worry about. It'll be something as simple as taking a pill each morning."

"Oh. Well, that doesn't sound too bad." Clark said consideringly.

"For the rest of my life." Slash said darkly.

Silence fell over the group for a moment, until John said, "There are people all over the place that have to take medicine for their whole lives. As long as it does what it's supposed to, what's the problem?"

Slash looked hesitantly at John and said, "I just don't want to be dependant on a drug like that."

"Who does?" John asked frankly.

At Slash's look of surprise and question, John continued, "Sometimes you don't get a choice about things like this. You just have to deal with it."

Lee looked at Slash and reluctantly nodded his agreement with John's words.

After a moment to consider, Slash said, "I guess so. Thanks for being here for me... and for being honest."

Clark looked Slash in the eyes and said, "Those are two things you can always count on Slash... Always."

Slash broke into a smile as he nodded.

"I don't know about anyone else, but this is the only thing I had planned to do today." Bobby said as he looked around the group, effectively changing the subject.

"We're just kind of waiting on Trey to regenerate." Clark said, then looked at John with question.

"I don't have any plans." Lee said with a glance at Slash.

"Walk to the boathouse?" John suggested cautiously.

"Sounds good." Clark said with a smile.

"I'm in." Slash said, sounding much closer to his usual, carefree self.

Since everyone seemed to be in agreement, Bobby turned and led the way.

* * * * *

//Scott, mobilize the X-Men for an urgent mission.//

//What's going on Professor?//

//One of the genetic researchers at the South African facility apparently decided to do some homework on a variant of the X-Gene Virus. Even though he was dispatched, his private lab still exists. It appears that while his lab assistants were packing his things, they unwittingly released the virus. Gather your team and get there as quickly as possible. Every minute of delay increases the possibility that we will be unable to contain the spread of the virus.//

//Will you call Dr. McCoy, Storm, Portal and Wolverine to the hanger bay and fill them in?// Scott asked seriously.

//I will summon them now. Please hurry Scott.//

* * * * *

Andrew appeared beside Scott a moment later with a look of panic in his eyes.

"Portal, get with the professor to find out where we're going. You're our transportation." Scott said as he finished pulling on his boots.

"I'm on it." Andrew said as he hurried to his locker to start changing.

"What do you need me to do Cyke?" Matt asked as he rushed into the room.

"Wolverine, you'll be in charge of securing our perimeter. The virus has gotten loose again and there may only be this one chance to contain it. Let the professor know who you'll need to help you and he'll call them." Cyclops said firmly.

"Got it." Matt said as he skinned out of his clothes.

To Be Continued...