Hurt & Comfort

Book 10: Elusive Comfort

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Chapter 16 - Sometimes Away

"Dr. McCoy!" Clark screamed as soon as he was certain that his eyes weren't deceiving him.

"What is it Clark?" Hank asked as he hurried to Garfield's bedside.

"Look at him Hank! He's turning green!" Clark said anxiously.

"If that's the only manifestation of his treatment, we can count ourselves as very lucky."

"But isn't there something you can do to help him?"

"Clark, the moment I administered the counter-virus, I gave up any control that I might have had over the situation. I can only hope that the consequences of our actions will turn out to be better than if we had taken no action at all."

Clark thought about the words for a moment, then nodded that he understood as he took gentle hold of Garfield's hand.

"Clark?" Gar called in a weak voice.

"I'm right here." Clark said as he moved closer.

"I feel... funny." Gar said with confusion.

"The medicine that Dr. McCoy gave you is just fighting the virus that was making you sick." Clark said as he looked into the green young boy's eyes.

"Am I gonna die?" Gar asked weakly.

Clark wanted to assure the boy, but found that he couldn't lie to him while looking him in the eyes.

"I don't know, Gar." Clark hesitantly admitted. "I hope not."

"I... I..." Garfield started to say, then arched his back in a violent seizure.

"Hank!" Clark called in a panic.

"Help me keep him on the bed." Hank said as he worked to limit the child's movements. "Don't restrain him, just prevent him from injuring himself."

As Clark released Garfield's hand, he noticed that the boy's small green hand began to shrink as the fingers lengthened.

"What's happening to him?" Clark asked as he scrambled to take hold of Garfield's hand again.

"I'm not sure." Hank said as he stopped trying to hold the boy down and carefully watched what was happening.

Garfield finally stopped thrashing and quieted.

Tears streaked down Clark's cheeks as he stared in horror at what had just minutes before been a young boy.

"Uncle Hank?" Tara whispered in awe at what she was seeing.

"It appears that he has devolved." Hank muttered mostly to himself, knowing that Clark and Tara weren't hearing his words.

"Can we help him?" Clark asked past the lump in his throat at the sight of the small green monkey lying unconscious on the bed.

"Of course we'll try, but... at this point I'm not hopeful." Hank said quietly.

The small green spider monkey opened his eyes and looked at Clark curiously.

"Don't worry Gar. Dr. McCoy is working on it." Clark said, trying to sound encouraging. "He'll figure something out."

The monkey lifted one arm and reached up to wipe the tears off Clark's cheek.

"Thanks." Clark whispered with a pained chuckle.

The little monkey chattered, then blinked with surprise at his own voice.

"Don't worry about it Gar. We'll figure out some way to make this better." Clark said sympathetically at the look of confusion on the little simian face.

"What do you want me to do Uncle Hank?" Tara asked in a trembling voice.

"There's nothing to do right now but wait." Hank said quietly.

Gar froze for a moment, then his eyes narrowed as his body started growing rapidly.

"Tara! Get out of here!" Hank commanded as he took hold of Clark's arm and guided him to walk backward, toward the door.

As Clark realized what Hank was doing, he started to resist.

"The only thing we can do right now is stand back and let it happen, Clark." Hank said as he backed away. Once they had reached the wall, Hank added, "Until the child has stabilized into one form, I can't even begin to speculate on a treatment for him."

As Hank and Clark watched, the monkey on the bed continued to grow in both height and mass.

"Do you know what's happening to him?" Clark asked as he instinctively moved closer to Hank out of a need for reassurance.

"It appears that his body is reforming to another point along the evolutionary scale." Hank said speculatively as he gently placed one of his large hands on Clark's shoulder.

"He's becoming a gorilla?" Clark asked helplessly when he recognized the shape that Garfield's body was settling into.

"It appears so." Dr. McCoy said quietly.

The gorilla-Garfield looked down at his large green hands, then at Clark uncertainly.

"Please don't worry, Gar. I'm still here." Clark said assuringly as he fought the urge to run to Garfield's side to comfort him.

The green gorilla-Garfield grunted decisively, then gave a low growl of effort.

"I'm not sure, but it looks like he's changing on purpose. Like he's making himself change." Clark said with realization.

"Perhaps the child has retained his higher reasoning despite the changes in his outward appearance." Hank said speculatively.

"I bet he's trying to figure out how to be Human again." Clark said suddenly, then rushed to Garfield's side. "You can do it, Gar! I know you can!"

The gorilla-Garfield let out a snort as he glanced at Clark, then closed his eyes as he seemed to be concentrating.

"Don't give up Gar. I'm right here." Clark said helplessly, feeling that he should be able to do something more than spew impotent words at the struggling child.

Clark watched and held his breath with anticipation as he waited to see what form Gar would be taking on next.

"You're doing good. Just stick with it." Clark said encouragingly as he watched Gar getting smaller.

"You're almost there." Clark whispered anxiously.

"Do I look alright?" Garfield asked in a tired voice.

"You look great." Clark said with a radiant smile as he moved in to give Garfield a hug.

"How are you feeling?" Dr. McCoy asked slowly as he checked the readings of the medical scanners of the bed.

"I'm a little bit tired, but I don't feel sick anymore." Garfield said thoughtfully, then puzzled at the sound of his raspy voice.

"Are you having any difficulty holding this form?" Dr. McCoy asked cautiously.

Garfield looked at him curiously, obviously not understanding the question.

"He wants to know if it's hard for you to stay like you are now or if maybe you'll change into a monkey again soon." Clark paraphrased.

Garfield considered for a moment, then said, "No. Now that I'm like this, it's not hard to stay this way. It was just kinda hard to figure out how to make myself change."

"Do you think you would be able to change back to a monkey again?" Dr. McCoy asked curiously.

"Yeah. That's easy." Garfield said, then to prove his declaration, he immediately shrank and became a small monkey again, seemingly without any effort at all.

"Extraordinary." Dr. McCoy said in amazement.

In less than a second, Garfield was back to his humanoid, albeit green, form.

"As mutant abilities go, that's a pretty good one." Clark said with a relieved smile at his young friend. "You can become a monkey or a gorilla whenever you want to."

"Why would I want to do that?" Garfield asked with confusion.

"I don't know for sure that you will want to." Clark said quietly, then reluctantly admitted, "But when you started to change the first time, I was really worried that you weren't going to be able to come back to us; that you weren't going to be you anymore."

"I'm fine, Clark. Really." Garfield said timidly.

"Clark, I think we should allow the patient to get some rest so he can recover from his ordeal." Dr. McCoy said seriously.

"Try to get some sleep, Gar. I'll be close by if you need me for anything." Clark said gently.

"Clark?" Garfield called with a look of concern filling his expression.

"Yes?" Clark asked cautiously.

"Where's my mama?" Gar asked in a small, tragic voice.

"I'll try to find out while you're sleeping. Just relax and I'll be right here when you wake up." Clark whispered.

Gar gave a hesitant nod, then closed his eyes.

Clark silently watched him for a moment longer before walking away with purpose.

* * * * *

"Clark, you should take this opportunity to get some rest. I will summon you immediately if he should awaken before you return." Hank said quietly.

Although he wanted to argue, Clark could see the resolve in Hank's eyes and reluctantly nodded.

As Clark was walking to the door, he spotted Scott walking in and quickly asked, "Is there any way that we can go back and look for Gar's mother? He keeps asking for her."

"I'm sorry, Clark. Storm found her body while you were taking care of the boy. We assume the virus was the cause." Scott said regretfully.

"Oh." Clark said in a small voice.

"How is the boy doing?" Scott asked quietly.

"He's doing better, but I don't know how good he'll be when I tell him about his mother."

"I can tell him, if you want."

"Gar doesn't know you. It'll be best if I do it."

"Although I appreciate that you're willing to tell him, this may be a bit more than you can handle by yourself." Scott gently suggested.

"Then I'll get Dr. McCoy to help me."

"I'm afraid that Hank might scare him."

"Gar thinks that Hank is pretty. Please, Scott, let me do this so Gar will feel as comfortable as possible."

"Alright, Clark. But be sure to remember to come to me if you need a shoulder to cry on afterward."

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to need that shoulder, so you'd better have it ready."

When John saw Clark step away from Scott's side, he quickly said, "Trey is gonna help relax me, you wanna help too?"

Clark was shocked by the question and was about to respond angrily, when he noticed the boyish excitement dancing in John's eyes, obviously a leftover from his mutant power rush.

"I wish I could, John, but I've got to tell Gar that his mother is dead. I don't think I'll be up to playing around for a little bit."

"Oh, shit. I'm sorry, Clark. Do you need our help?" John asked quietly.

"No. But I might need someone to hold me when it's all done."

"You'll have two someones ready and waiting whenever you need us."

* * * * *

"Dr. McCoy?" Clark asked timidly, reluctant to interrupt him while he was talking to Ororo.

"What can I do for you, Clark?"

"Gar has been asking for his mother. Scott just told me that she's dead. So, I thought that maybe you could be there when I tell him, since he's already said that he likes you."

"I would like to be there, as well, if I may." Ororo said gently.

Clark considered for a moment, then quietly said, "Thank you, Ms. Munroe, I think that'd really be good for Gar."

Before she could respond, Clark noticed Gar thrashing and struggling in his sleep.

Without thinking, Clark rushed to the boy's side.

Hank and Ororo followed more slowly and looked on with concern as Clark soothed the boy awake.

"It's okay, Gar. You're safe. It's just a bad dream." Clark said gently as he held the boy's small green hand.

"Clark? Where's my momma? I want my momma." Gar said as the tears in his eyes spilled over to run down his cheeks.

"I'm sorry, Gar. Your momma got sick and wasn't able to get better." Clark choked out past the lump in his throat.

"My momma's sick?" Gar asked in confusion.

"No, Gar. She's dead." Clark was barely able to force out.

Gar seemed to be frozen in place, trying to process the words.

Finally, after close to a minute of silence, Gar cried out, "I want my momma!"

Clark didn't know what to do. He felt a strong pair of hands gently move him aside as Ororo rushed past him.

As Ororo was holding the sobbing boy close to her, Hank quietly said, "You did that very well, Clark. It's never easy to tell the loved ones, and it's even worse when it's a child."

"I don't know what to do now." Clark said helplessly.

"Ororo's doing it. The boy needs to be comforted and given time to accept this fundamental change to his life. Why don't you go and get some rest? I promise that we'll call you if the boy needs you."

"I feel like I should stay with him."

"That's a natural reaction in a situation such as this. But let me tell you that based on my years of experience, I think that I can safely say that he won't be up to conversation for quite a while. Please, take this time to calm yourself and get your own emotions settled before you talk with him again. He's probably going to need for you to be strong for him. It's the best thing for both of you."

"I guess you're right."

"It looks as though John and Trey think so as well." Dr. McCoy said as he looked past Clark.

When he turned, he saw John and Trey standing in the doorway, watching him with concern.

"Thanks, Dr. McCoy. Just remember that you said that you'd call if he needs me."

"I promise."

* * * * *

Hearing the sound of a car, Andrew looked out the kitchen window and smiled.

He couldn't resist the urge to hurry outside and find out how things were going.

"Father, you would have been proud of me. I did an outstanding job of driving." Icheb said happily as he got out of the car.

"I'm glad to hear that." Andrew said warmly, then quickly added, "I knew you could do it."

"I did so well that Uncle Xander even kissed the ground in celebration when we arrived." Icheb said joyfully.

Andrew looked askance at Xander as he got out of the car, much more slowly.

"Nothing I ever saw in Sunnydale... NOTHING..." Xander trailed off in a daze.

"Good morning, Pumpkin. Did you enjoy your visit with Aunt Vada?" Andrew asked as he hugged his daughter.

"Aunt Vada said that I was her special little girl and that she's going to teach me all kinds of girl stuff so I can teach it to Marguerite as soon as she's ready."

"That's wonderful. Since there aren't any other girls in the house, you'll be able to help her in ways that none of the rest of us can."

"I've got to go tell Quaid that I'm sorry for being mean to him and not being happy that he's here. Aunt Vada says that isn't how a good little girl is supposed to act."

"The last time I saw him, he was in the living room with your brothers. You go on, Pumpkin."

Andrew watched with a smile as his daughter happily scurried away. Finally, he quietly asked, "How are you, really, Xan?"

"Icheb needs a real driving instructor. I mean seriously. Someone needs to get the point across to him that just because the car can fit somewhere doesn't mean it should. No matter how much I howled, he didn't seem to notice."

"I can see how with his ability to make precise measurements by sight, he could make that mistake." Andrew said as he looked into the car seat at the perfectly content little girl who was fast asleep.

"Andy, back in Sunnydale I've cheated death more times than I can count, but today was on a whole new level." Xander said as he began to gather Marguerite's things.

"I'll talk to Matt about giving him some driving lessons." Andrew said as he held out his hands and accepted part of the load.

"Yeah. That's a good idea. Someone who's virtually indestructible needs to be the one to teach him." Xander said as he gathered up his sleeping daughter in her car seat.

* * * * *

As Xander walked into his room still carrying Marguerite, a low voice quietly said, "Bon jour, mon coeur."

Xander's heart leapt as he turned and searched for the source of the voice.

"How be Marguerite?" Remy asked softly as he stepped out of the shadows and met Xander's eye.

"She's wonderful. I think she really likes it when Aunt Vada fusses over her. She was cooing and giggling most of the way home." Xander said with a smile at the thought.

Remy stopped for a moment just to enjoy the contentment of seeing his daughter sleeping peacefully.

After a long quiet moment, Xander hesitantly asked, "Can you tell me about what you've discovered?"

"Oui. Da top secret information, it wasn't all dat secret. I walked in like I belonged dere, asked a few questions, like I was confirming what everybody already knew and found out everyting I needed to know without having to pick a single lock or tap a single phone. The day you take over your company, first ting you need to do is fire your head of security." Remy finished firmly.

"I will. I promise." Xander said with a sultry smile before moving in to give Remy a slow firm kiss.

* * * * *

"Do you want to talk about it?" John asked cautiously.

"Maybe I was right before. Maybe everyone would be better off if I weren't here... I mean, on this planet... or maybe if I had never existed." Clark muttered despondently.

"Bad day, huh?" John asked, only half jokingly.

"I butted in and talked Dr. McCoy into giving Gar the X-gene counter-virus, so I'm partially responsible for him turning into a monster. Then, on top of that, I had to tell him that his mother was dead... I probably should have just stayed out of it and let him go and be with her."

"I don't know all of what's going on here, but I know that my own personal Boy Scout wouldn't ever intentionally hurt anyone." John said with certainty, then explained, "Sometimes no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, bad things still happen."

"I'm not a Boy Scout." Clark feebly protested.

"You are the non-human equivalent." Trey stated firmly, leaving no room for argument.

"But I know you well enough to know that you're going to fuss and worry about this. And no matter how impossible it is, you're going to try to make things right." John said with conviction.

Before Clark could think of how to respond, Trey added, "Despite the futility, we will aid you in this endeavor. I believe the pursuit may be a reward unto itself."

"Huh?" Clark asked in bewilderment.

"We're a part of this. You're not going through this. We are." John said firmly.

"Oh." Clark was barely able to say before John had engulfed him in a kiss.

Before Clark had any idea of what was happening, John shifted aside slightly to give Trey a turn.

As per John and Trey's insidious plan, for one blissful moment Clark had his mind blown and the worries of his world were left to attend to themselves.

* * * * *

"Are you mad at me?" Janine asked timidly as she approached the couch where Jimmy and Quaid were talking.

"I don't think so. I didn't even know you were here. I thought you went somewhere." Quaid answered honestly.

"I went to Aunt Vada's house. I just got back. But I wanted to tell you that I'm really sorry that I acted like I didn't want you to be here. I didn't mean it. I was just mad."

"That's okay. Did Itchy come back with you?" Quaid asked hopefully.

"Yes. Icheb remained outside with the car. It appeared that he was seeing to the maintenance and well-being of the vehicle." Janine stated frankly.

"Jimmy, do you want to go out and talk to Itchy? Maybe his trip to Aunt Vada's will make a good story for you." Quaid asked hopefully.

"Yes. Before he left, he seemed excited about the prospect of driving. I'm interested to know if it lived up to his expectations. We'll need to tell Dad before we go. He worries for us if we leave without telling him." Jimmy said seriously.

"Okay." Quaid easily agreed and was about to hurry away when he noticed that Janine seemed to be waiting for something.

"Do you want to go with us too?" Quaid asked uncertainly.

"I have no other activities scheduled for this time." Janine said simply.

"You could'a just said 'yes'. C'mon." Quaid finished with a slight grin before leading the way to the kitchen, where their dad was making dinner.

* * * * *

"Slash and I were with the guys when you got called out on your mission. Did everything end up working out okay?" Lee asked carefully.

"Too early to tell, but I think we accomplished our objectives." Andrew answered seriously.

"Good." Lee said with a smile, then cautiously asked, "Are you really busy right now?"

"Not particularly. I was going to help Alan with dinner, but he can handle it just fine without me if you need something." Andrew said easily.

"If you've got a few minutes, I was hoping that you could help me with learning my ability." Lee anxiously explained.

"Well, I was planning on doing that when we could set aside an hour or so, kind of like the way we do it for the kids in their power training classes."

"Well, I was just kind of hoping that you could get me started so that I can practice on my own a little before I have to start work. Once I'm working at the Wagner Institute, it might be a while before I can get things organized enough to be able to get serious and work on my ability." Lee said frankly.

"Yeah. Um... Okay. Let's go outside, away from the house, and we can try a few things to see what works." Andrew said as he motioned toward the front door.

* * * * *

Lee followed his son out of the house and toward the lake.

"From what little I've seen of your ability, it looks like you're probably powerful enough to get the job done without much instruction from me. I think the thing we're going to have to work on first is targeting. Let me pop open a portal for you and see if you're able to follow it with your inner sight." Andrew carefully explained.

"Inner sight? I'm not sure if I have any of that." Lee cautiously informed him.

"We're about to find out." Andrew said, then pointed at a misty vortex forming in mid-air before them. "See if you can follow that and tell me where it goes."

"How do I do that?" Lee asked curiously.

"Well, when I do it, I kind of let a little bit of my power loose and it allows me to see any twists or wrinkles in the fabric of space." Andrew said with difficulty.

"I think I can honestly say that I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't have any power to let loose and I can't see any twists." Lee said honestly.

"Okay. Let's try this another way." Andrew said as he let his hand drop. As he did so, the misty vortex faded from sight.

Before Lee could ask, Andrew continued, "Go ahead and create a vortex for me so that I can see how you're doing it. Maybe that will give me some kind of an insight into your power."

"Are you sure? I mean, whenever I use it, I end up opening a literal doorway into hell." Lee asked anxiously.

"Yeah. Go ahead. I have a pretty good idea of where your portal's going to go. I just want to see how your power manifests. If the portal turns out to be something dangerous, we can just close it." Andrew said simply.

"Okay. Are you ready?"

"Yes. Whenever you are." Andrew assured him.

"Here goes." Lee said nervously, then raised his hands in a 'spreading' gesture.

"Okay. I see what you're doing there. You're not targeting at all, are you?" Andrew asked curiously.

"Not as far as I know. It's like there's this place right on top of ours. I can push through the veil from one place to the other, but that's about it." Lee fought to explain.

"Veil? Does that mean that you can see through it?" Andrew quickly asked.

"'See' is kind of a strong way of putting it. I don't know how to describe it. I guess it's kind of like when you look at clouds and you can see familiar shapes in them. It's something like that, except that I can see it everywhere, all around me, if I put forth the effort to look for it." Lee said haltingly.

"So you can only see, or sense, what's right in front of you?" Andrew asked to confirm.

"Yeah. I guess so. I didn't ever think about there being any other way of seeing it." Lee said frankly.

"Close that down and let me try something." Andrew said seriously.

Lee made a single swiping motion and the portal that he had created faded out of being.

Andrew closed his eyes and seemed to be in deep concentration.

Not wanting to interrupt, Lee looked back toward the house where Icheb, Jimmy, Quaid and Janine were gathered around the front of the car, where Icheb had the hood raised.

"Okay. I've got it." Andrew said suddenly, slightly startling Lee.

"Got what?" Lee finally asked.

"Here. Tell me what you see." Andrew said as a large vortex formed right in front of them.

"It looks like an open field... in Maryland, maybe." Lee said cautiously.

"Pennsylvania. But that's not what I mean. Look past the field and see what's hiding underneath." Andrew said encouragingly.

"Oh, yeah. I'll try." Lee said, then squinted his eyes slightly as he strained to 'see' beyond what he could see.

"Your eyes are glowing." Andrew stated informatively.

"Hold on... I can almost see it." Lee said slowly.

"What do you see?" Andrew asked curiously.

"Demons... The place is crawling with them." Lee said in wonder.

"Yeah. It's kind of like a town square for them."

"You don't want me to open a portal, do you?" Lee asked cautiously.

"No. Of course not. I just wanted to test your vision on something more interesting than a landscape of rocks and fire." Andrew explained.

"Oh. Good." Lee said with relief and smiled when Andrew closed his portal.

"Next, I'd like for you to open a portal for us to go through so that we can look back and see if you can see our dimension from hell." Andrew said reasonably.

"Are you really sure that you want me opening a doorway to a hell dimension?"

"I've checked out the area. There aren't any demons around and we'll only be there for a couple minutes." Andrew assured him.

"Is here okay?" Lee asked.

"Yes. That's fine." Andrew assured him.

"Here we go." Lee said nervously, then opened a full-fledged portal, reaching all the way to the ground.

"Nice." Andrew said appreciatively as he stepped through.

"Thanks." Lee said anxiously as he followed, looking around them for any sign of imminent attack.

* * * * *

"Come on. Over here." Andrew said as he started walking away.

"Where are you going? I thought you just wanted for me to try and look back at the real world." Lee said as he followed.

"I still want for you to do that, but I was also thinking that, if you wanted to, you could see if you can find your room in the boathouse." Andrew suggested.

"You mean, find the same coordinates in our world that match up with this one, then create a doorway there?" Lee asked to confirm.

"Yeah. What I do is more like folding space. I find the entry and the exit, then bring them together. But you're just creating a door directly from this space to that." Andrew explained.

"It's over here." Lee said as he veered to the left.

"Yeah. but you can't get there directly, you'll have to go around this way, then climb up to where your room is." Andrew explained.

"You can see everything, I mean, this whole place, can't you?" Lee asked as he returned to Andrew's side.

"I can see what I know to look for. Sometimes it's less helpful than you'd imagine." Andrew said honestly.

"Do you want to pop in on the kids in the living room?" Lee asked with a smile as he pointed off in another direction.

"I wouldn't want to scare them." Andrew answered simply.

"I might worry about that with just about any other children, but not yours." Lee chuckled.

"Even so, I'd rather not." Andrew said firmly, letting it be known that they would not be surprising the children.

"Understood." Lee said as he leapt across a slight fissure and down to an outcropping of rock.

Andrew noticed that Lee was going precisely to the location where the dimensions overlapped in his bedroom.

"How is this going to work with me being below the level of the floor?" Lee asked cautiously as he froze in place.

"Actually, I'm not sure. The way my portal ability works, I bring the entrance and exit together, so I never have to worry about things lining up like that. Go ahead and open it and we'll see what we can do." Andrew suggested.

"Okay. Here it goes." Lee said, then made a dramatic gesture.

"Can you get up there on your own?" Andrew asked as he hopped down to join his father.

"I can't figure out how to do it. If I open the portal any lower, it'll be in the basement, below my room. But I can't reach the level of the room from here." Lee said with frustration.

"If I'm understanding what I'm seeing, there may actually be a way that you can do this yourself. I'm just not sure that I'll be able to explain to you how to do it." Andrew said uncertainly.

"Can't you show me?" Lee asked curiously.

"I can try. But the only problem with that is that I don't know if you'll be able to see what I'm doing. To someone without the ability to see the dimensional forces at work, it wouldn't look like much of anything." Andrew fought to explain.

"Go ahead. I'm ready." Lee said as his eyes began to faintly glow red.

"I'm going to do this slowly, so hopefully you'll be able to figure out how to recreate it." Andrew said seriously.

Lee closed his portal, then watched his son carefully. He was astounded by the portals within portals that were fluidly forming beneath Andrew's feet.

"I don't know if you can do that or not, but it's the only way I can think of to get you from this ledge up to the level of your room." Andrew explained as he let his stacking portals dissipate.

"Yeah. Um... Okay. I'm not really sure what I'm doing here, so you might want to stand back." Lee said nervously.

"Not a chance, Dad. I'm here trying to help you. If this somehow goes wrong, I want to be close by to help you out of it." Andrew said honestly.

"Alright then, hang on. Here I go." Lee said anxiously.

Andrew nodded that he was ready.

Lee looked around and seemed to be surveying his situation.

Andrew held still and remained silent as he used his special vision to watch what his father was doing.

"This isn't going to be nearly as smooth as yours, but I think I can make it work." Lee said as he phased a slice of space, slightly warping the reality of it, causing it to swell beneath their feet, raising them slightly.

"You might want to be careful with that. It seems like the world is reacting to your manipulation of it's natural laws." Andrew quietly warned.

Plumes of flame and foul smelling clouds of gas began erupting all around them.

"Are you going to be able to make it up to the portal before those things roast us alive or suffocate us?" Andrew asked anxiously.

"Yeah. I think so. I'm getting the hang of it now." Lee said seriously as he increased his portal abilities and they began to rise faster.

"You'd better open the portal into your room, otherwise we might choke." Andrew warned.

"You don't think it'll burn down the house, do you?" Lee asked in concentration.

"Probably not." Andrew gasped.

In a grand lifting gesture, Lee released his power to shift them from one dimension to the next.

One second they were in hell, complete with flames and sulfur. The next, they were standing side by side in Lee's bedroom in the boat house.

"Well, then. That was... something." Andrew said as he caught his breath.

"Yeah. Thanks for the lesson. Let me practice with this for a while. I'll get back with you when I've gotten a little more comfortable with it." Lee said uncertainly.

"Just don't do anything too dangerous. You're right to be afraid of demons. Make sure to look carefully before you leap. Always be sure to have a way out." Andrew warned.

"Look before I leap? Yeah. I should probably start doing that now that I'm being all responsible and everything. I mean, I have grandkids who are paying close attention to the example that I'm setting." Lee said with a weary smile at his son.

"You're doing great, Dad. You've been a wonderful example for the kids and we all love having you around." Andrew said sincerely.

"I'm glad that you don't regret inviting me to stay, because I love it here."

"Good. Because soon I'm going to have ten kids. I'm going to need every bit of help that I can get." Andrew said as he turned toward the door.

"You'll have it." Lee promised as he draped an arm around his son's shoulders.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: Wow! It has been quite a while since I visited this story.

It really cool to have a new chapter.

When I first started reading this, there were so many different aspects to it that I wasn't sure if I could figure out what was happening, so I took a closer look to each different segment, and I was able to see where one part broke off and the next one started.

As I looked at it, everything seemed to meld together into a solid continuity. It was great.