Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

©2006 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 3: Interviews and Interactions

"Marc?" Lisa's voice called as the group passed the girl's dorm.

"Lisa?" Marc asked with a smile as he waited for her to join them.

"Are you going to the admin building?" Lisa asked quickly as she held her hood to make sure it wouldn't reveal her face.

"Yeah. How is your room?" Marc asked with a smile.

"It's fantastic. Mom was so jealous when she saw it, she wanted to stay here with me." Lisa said with a giggle as the group once again headed for the admin building.

* * * * *

"Guys, I'd love to hang around out here with y'all, but I need to unpack." Beau said with regret.

"We could come in and keep you company if you want." John said casually.

"Yeah, I'd like that." Beau said with a smile as he walked toward his room.

"Where'd everyone go?" Ronny asked as he walked out of the weight room.

"To the admin building. They just left a few minutes ago, you could catch them if you hurry." Clark said as he helped John off the couch.

"That's okay. I don't think filling out paperwork and stuff is going to be too much fun. I'll just swing by tomorrow and get my ID." Ronny said as he watched everyone heading for Beau's room.

"Beau is going to unpack. We're going to watch." Clark said at Ronny's puzzled look.

"It still sounds better than sitting around waiting for people to be interviewed." Ronny said as he fell into line.

* * * * *

"I'd like to start the interviews while everyone else is getting their paperwork done. Seth?" Julia asked as she looked around the room.

Seth cautiously stood and walked to follow Julia into her office.

* * * * *

"Please have a seat Seth. You don't need to be nervous." Julia said with a warm smile.

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do or say." Seth said timidly.

"This is just an interview so I can get to know you a little and we can discuss why you're here and what you hope to get out of your time at our college." Julia said gently.

"Oh. Um... This is why I'm here." Seth said shyly and pulled back his hood to reveal his horns.

"I see." Julia said in thought, then continued, "If your only purpose in being here is to hide from the outside world, I'm afraid we might have a problem."

Seth looked at Julia with wide, frightened eyes.

"That is to say, coming to this college isn't going to shield you from the world. There will be non-mutant faculty and students here. Our purpose is two-fold. We want to provide you a safe place to receive an education and we want to provide you the tools to live in the world outside the college when you're done." Julia said carefully.

"So what you're saying is that I'm here to get an education and to learn how to be around non-mutants." Seth said in thought.

"And to be around other mutants. Some mutants isolate themselves and withdraw from everything and everyone. The stigma attached to the word mutant is enough to make some hate themselves. It is our hope that we can provide a safe place where mutants and non-mutants can live in harmony and work together to achieve common goals." Julia said seriously.

"That sounds nice. So what do I have to do?" Seth asked cautiously.

"You've already done it. You've enrolled at the Wagner Institute. Now that you're here, we have to be sure that you're going to stay focused on 'why' you're here. This isn't summer camp, nor is it a party. It is a college and you will be expected to do your part to maintain a good academic standing. Your mutancy doesn't give you any special rights or privileges. If your grades fall below an acceptable level, you'll be asked to leave." Julia said firmly.

"I don't know if I'm ready... I just barely started high school." Seth said in a worried voice.

"You'll be given some placement tests in the morning to give us an idea of what grade level you're operating at in the various subjects. Once that is determined, your classes will be assigned so that you won't be overwhelmed with work that is beyond your abilities, nor will you be given work that is no challenge to you. If you give your school work an honest effort, I have no doubt that you will not only excel at your studies, but you will also gain a better understanding of just what potential you have." Julia said passionately.

"That sounds pretty cool." Seth said in wonder.

"I had hoped you would feel that way. You've passed the interview. If you had told me that you aren't interested in working hard to get an education, I would have had to ask you to make other arrangements." Julia said frankly.

"Thank you Dr. Hoffman. Now that I understand why I'm here, I think it'll be great." Seth said with a big smile.

"Good. Would you be kind enough to ask Slash to come in and talk to me now?" Julia asked gently.

"Sure. And thanks again." Seth said quickly as he stood.

"Welcome to the Wagner Institute. I hope it provides you many challenges and rewards."

* * * * *

"What's that?" Clark asked curiously as he noticed Beau picking up a rawhide pouch.

"My medicine bag." Beau said casually as he put the pouch into his desk drawer.

"What's in it?" Clark asked with interest.

"I'm sorry, but I can't tell you that. It contains my spiritual totems and is very personal." Beau said seriously as he turned to face Clark.

"Oh... I've never seen one of those before." Clark said in thought.

"I have a friend in West Texas who is Native American. We used to talk about a lot of stuff and he shared his beliefs with me. I guess it made sense to me or something because I began to follow the teachings that were passed down through his family. I don't know how else to explain it except that it brings me peace." Beau finished with a shrug.

Clark smiled and said, "That sounds nice. I think a lot more people could use something in their lives that brings peace."

"Yeah. I guess. I know it isn't for everyone, but it works for me." Beau said as he went back to work unpacking.

Clark thought about Beau's relaxed and friendly nature and thought that he might ask more about his beliefs later.

* * * * *

"Dr. Hoffman?" Slash asked hesitantly as he walked into the office.

"Yes, and you must be Slash. Please, have a seat." Julia said in a friendly tone.

"Thank you." Slash said in a whisper.

"Perhaps you could answer a question for me. I clearly remember talking to you Wednesday and you telling me that your name is 'Josiah Andrew Haley-Keith'. I wrote it down so I could attempt to retrieve your school records. But Friday morning I came in to find your school transcripts on my desk with the name 'Josiah LeeAndrew Wells'." Julia said seriously as she stood and walked to the window.

Slash nodded timidly.

"Then when I looked back at my notes, I found the name 'Josiah LeeAndrew Wells' on the notepad, written in my own handwriting. Would you care to explain how that happened?" Julia asked as she walked back to her chair behind the desk.

"Well, all I really know is that I met the Summers family and they... wanted me. When they decided that I was part of their family, everything else kind of happened. I don't really understand all of it, but since I don't want to change it, I'm not really trying." Slash said unsteadily.

Julia nodded and said, "I've met some members of the Summers family. That's enough explanation for me."

Slash smiled in relief.

"Before we get to the academic business before us, I'd like to ask you about the name you'll be using." Julia asked, back into her 'all business' tone.

"I just thought I'd go by Slash... that's not going to be a problem is it?" Slash asked hesitantly.

"Not for me. But it might be a problem for you in the not too distant future." Julia said seriously.

"Why?" Slash asked hesitantly.

"The problem is the name that you've chosen. In some parts of the world, the act of urination is called 'taking a slash'. On the Internet, fiction with male homosexual content is sometimes referred to as slash in deference to the 'male-slash-male' pairings. Given this information, I thought you might reconsider using your real name." Julia said in an expectant tone.

"Do I have to decide right now?" Slash asked hesitantly.

"Not really. As it stands, you'll be listed as Slash on the class roster and on your student ID. But you can ask your teachers to address you in any manner that is reasonable." Julia said professionally.

Slash thought about it and said, "That sounds perfect. I'll go ahead and keep Slash on all my records, and just ask my teachers to call me Josiah."

Julia smiled and said, "If that's what makes you happy, I don't see any reason why not. Your full name will only appear in your file in the student accounts office. Otherwise you'll officially be known as 'Slash'.

"Thank you Dr. Hoffman." Slash said happily.

"I just have one question for you and we can conclude this interview." Julia said, enjoying talking with the pleasant young man.

"I'll tell you whatever you want to know." Slash said seriously.

"Can you just tell me why you came here?" Julia asked as she looked into his eyes.

"Because this is my only chance to have a real future. Without an education, I'll just be an ignorant, poor, mutant on the streets. If I can get through college... maybe someday I can help other kids..." Slash said distantly, then remembered where he was and looked at Dr. Hoffman with apology.

Julia smiled and said, "I thought it might be something like that. Congratulations, you're in."

Slash broke into a beaming smile and said, "Really?! I made it! Wait... I don't know how I'm going to pay for it."

"Oh, that's right here." Julia said as she opened Slash's folder on her desk.

"Hmmm... The Piotr Rasputin Memorial Scholarship. It says here that you have been awarded a full scholarship. Books, housing, a clothing allowance and... I didn't know we could do this..." Julia said as she looked at the document curiously.

"What is it?" Slash asked hesitantly.

"Your student ID can be used as sort of a pre-paid credit card. Normally a student would 'charge' the card at the beginning of the semester by either paying into the account or receiving financial aid then they would use it up throughout the term. The card can be used to purchase food in the cafeteria, books in the bookstore, or even a bus pass in the accounts office. But this is the first time I've seen a card issued with no limit."

Slash gave a shrug.

"No matter. Everything is settled. You've passed the interview and everything is paid for in advance. All that's left to do is take advantage of this opportunity." Julia said warmly.

"Thank you Dr. Hoffman, I promise that I will." Slash said happily, still somewhat in awe.

"I believe you will. Would you please send in Lisa next?" Julia asked with a contented smile at Slash's happiness.

"Yeah, and thanks again." Slash said with joy as he hurried out of the room.

[And *that* is the reason I stay with this job.] Julia thought to herself with a wistful smile.

* * * * *

"Is that you and your parents?" Ronny asked as he looked at the picture Beau placed on his desk.

"Yeah. It's the best picture I have of all of us." Beau said with a smile as he looked at the picture.

"Your parents look really happy." Ronny said speculatively.

"They usually are, but dad's job makes him travel a lot. He's in Saudi right now." Beau finished in a sad voice.

"When will he be back?" Ronny asked with a note of concern.

"He'll be traveling to about six different countries in the next few months, so he won't be back in the States until next summer. But he's going to take the whole summer off work and I'm going to take the summer term off from school so we can spend the whole three months as a family." Beau said with a contented smile.

"That sounds really great." Ronny said with a wistful smile, then felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Maybe we can do something as a family next summer too?" Clark said in a gentle voice.

"Yeah. Matt's cool enough that I think he'd go for it." John said honestly from Ronny's other side.

"I bet he would. I think we should do that." Ronny said with a small smile.

Beau looked at Clark, John and Ronny curiously.

"Matt kind of took all of us in. Even though we're not really related, I feel like these guys are as much a part of my family as my mom and dad." Clark said honestly.

"It sounds like you guys are more of a family than a lot of families that I've met." Beau said in thought.

"Yeah. That's a good way of putting it." John said seriously.

"If you ever feel like you need to spend time with a family, you'd be welcomed to share ours." Ronny said shyly.

Beau looked at Ronny in thought for a moment, then gently smiled and said, "I've been getting a little bit homesick lately. I think I'd like to do that."

* * * * *

"Lisa, please come in and make yourself comfortable." Julia said as she watched the girl go to the chair without a word.

"Please Lisa, I want you to feel safe here, you can take off the jacket." Julia said softly.

Lisa hesitantly pulled back the hood to reveal her furry, oval face.

"That's better. How are you doing Lisa?" Julia asked carefully.

"Okay I guess." Lisa said timidly.

"Well, I just need to ask you a few simple questions, then I'll let you get back to your registration." Julia said professionally, feeling concern.

Lisa nodded, but didn't make eye contact.

"Why do you want to go to our school Lisa?" Julia asked seriously.

"I guess maybe so I can have a life." Lisa said in a whisper.

"How so?" Julia asked, now even more concerned.

"I've been living in my mom's basement since... this... happened." Lisa said, making a dramatic gesture to include her entire being.

"Well, now that you're out of the basement, what do you see in your future?" Julia asked carefully.

"Marc and I are going to get married." Lisa said firmly.

Julia nodded and waited for the rest of the answer.

"I guess I'll learn to do something where I won't have to be around people... I hate being around people." Lisa finished in a mutter.

"Is that all you hope to gain from being here?" Julia asked carefully.

"Marc is the one who really wanted to do this. I could have stayed in the basement but... he really wants for us to go to school together again." Lisa finished timidly.

"I don't think I would be doing you a service by being less than honest with you." Julia said seriously.

Lisa snapped out of her thoughts of Marc and looked at Julia curiously.

"I appreciate the fact that you want to escape the basement existence you've been trapped in. But what concerns me is that your answer didn't include anything about learning or self-improvement." Julia said firmly.

"You can't understand what it's like for me." Lisa said defiantly.

"What you're going through has nothing at all to do with you being a mutant, so don't even try to go there. You're not the first girl who went to college so she could be with her boyfriend..." Julia began to say.

"But I'm doing this for him!" Lisa snapped.

"You're doing what he wants so he'll marry you and take care of you for the rest of your life. You're letting him decide what's best for you so you can blame him if things don't turn out the way you want them to." Julia said with venom.

Lisa stared at Julia in disbelief.

"When word gets out that there is a school that accepts people regardless of their mutation, I believe this place will fill up quickly. Can you give me one good reason why you should occupy a seat in our classes. Because as I see it now, the only thing you're going to do is waste the time of your professors and the money of your family if you go through the motions of getting an education." Julia said firmly.

"I... I didn't know..." Lisa said in disbelief.

Julia took in a deep, cleansing breath and released it slowly before saying, "I wouldn't call it a 'good reason' but... it is a reason. Let's try this. Think about what I've said and use this first semester to decide if college is what you really want. There are also a few books I'd like for you to read."

Lisa looked at Dr. Hoffman in confusion.

"Lisa, we're going to figure this out together. If you'll work with me, by the beginning of next semester you should know what you want to do... for yourself." Julia said with resignation.

"I'll really try Dr. Hoffman." Lisa said honestly.

Julia got up from her desk and scanned a shelf of books until she found the one she wanted.

"Here, I'd like for you to read this and tell me your thoughts on it when you're finished." Julia said as she handed the book to Lisa.

"The Feminine Mystique?" Lisa asked curiously.

"From what little I've seen, I'm afraid that you're on a path that leads to a very lonely and resentful place. Read the book and let's see if we can't find you a path that leads to independence and fulfillment." Julia said with a smile.

"ThankĀ  you Dr. Hoffman. I'll start reading it tonight." Lisa said seriously.

Julia nodded and said, "Please send Louie in to talk with me next."

Lisa clutched the book to her chest and hurried out of the room.

"Who knows, by the time this semester is over, you might even want to get an education..." Julia said absently as she walked back to her desk.

* * * * *

"I think that's it." Beau said as he looked around the room.

"That didn't take long." Clark observed.

"I don't have that much stuff. My laptop has games and plays CDs and DVDs so I don't need to lug around a stereo, TV, DVD player and a game system." Beau said casually.

"That's good thinking. And with Internet access, you can get news and just about anything you want to read." Clark said in thought.

"Yeah. I only have three books with me that aren't for school and if they were available on the Net I wouldn't even have them." Beau said as he looked around one last time.

"It looks like Marc has a lot of stuff. Maybe you can fill him in on your secret to college living." John said as he looked at the other side of the room.

"I'll probably mention it to him, but there's a good argument for carrying all that stuff with you." Beau said in a considering voice.

"What's that?" John asked curiously.

"If my laptop breaks down, I'm totally lost. If Marc has one thing break down, he still has everything else." Beau said honestly, then gestured to the door to indicate that he was ready to leave.

A look of realization came over John's face as the group walked out of the bedroom.

"You were here before the college accepted high school students... You're taking college classes, aren't you?" John asked in a voice of deep thought.

"Well, um, yeah." Beau admitted shyly.

John looked at Beau consideringly as they all took seats on the couches in the common room, then said, "You don't act smart."

Beau looked at John with question. Not quite sure if he'd just been insulted or complimented.

"I mean, you don't spout off a bunch of facts or use really big words like some smart people I've met." John continued.

Beau nodded and said, "Acting like that is a really good way to get your ass kicked. Besides, now that I'm taking college classes, I really don't feel that smart. It's a lot of work for me to keep up with everyone else. I'm no big brain, I just skipped a few grades and got into college early. Now that I'm here, I'm no different from anyone else."

"I see what you mean. Still, it's pretty cool that someone our age is taking college classes. It's like proof that we don't all have to fit inside the grade/age boxes that were made for us." Ronny said seriously.

Beau laughed and said, "That's a really great way of thinking about it Ronny. It makes me feel a lot better about being different from everyone else."

Ronny concentrated his power on a video game case in the book case and redirected it's gravity so it gently glided into his waiting hand.

Then he turned to look at Beau and said, "Being different isn't always a bad thing."

"I'll remember that." Beau said in an impressed voice.

* * * * *

"Dr. Hoffman?" A small voice said from the doorway.

"Yes?" Julia asked curiously as she looked for the source of the voice.

"Louie is scared, can I come in with him?" The voice asked, even more softly.

"That would be fine, please come in." Julia said and watched as the two boys walked into the room together.

"If you'll have a seat, I just want to ask you a few questions."

Julia watched with amusement as the two boys tried to fit in the same chair.

"You can sit in separate chairs if it would be more comfortable." Julia finally said with a smile.

Finally the white boy took charge and sat back in the seat, then guided the black boy to sit on his lap.

Julia couldn't hide her smile as she said, "Louie, would you like to introduce me to your friend?"

"Quaid." Louie mumbled, barely loud enough to be heard.

"It's nice to meet you Quaid... I don't recall seeing a Quaid on the list of new students." Julia said as she looked at the roster.

"No ma'am. I came here to visit with my grandpa and my uncle and my brother Icheb." Quaid said seriously.

Julia thought for a moment, then asked, "Would your last name happen to be Summers?"

Quaid nodded with a proud smile.

"I've met some of your brothers, they impressed me greatly." Julia said seriously.

"Uh huh. They do that a lot. I been telling Louie about my brothers and asking if he wanted to be my brother too." Quaid said frankly.

"What did he say?" Julia asked curiously.

"Nothing yet. I'm still working on him." Quaid said and gave Louie a quick hug.

"Louie, if you can answer a few questions for me, we'll get this over with so Quaid can get back to work.

Louie hesitantly nodded.

"Can you tell me why you're here?" Julia asked softly.

"Dr. Paul said that I'm coming here so I can grow up to be smart and someday get a good job." Louie said with difficulty.

Julia nodded at the response and asked, "What do you think about that plan Louie?"

"It's better than being in an orphanage." Louie said frankly.

Julia was about to break into 'Importance of Education' speech when she was struck by the sight of the two boys holding on to each other.

"Louie, I think that later on we'll need to have a talk about your plans for the future. But for right now, just do your best in your classes and make sure to ask for help if you need anything." Julia said warmly.

"I will, thank you Dr. Hoffman." Louie said timidly.

"Your very welcomed Louie. And it was nice to meet you Quaid, don't be surprised if I come to visit your house sometime." Julia said kindly.

"That'd be cool." Quaid said with an ear to ear grin.

"Okay guys, we're done. Send in Marc." Julia said with a shooing motion.

Louie and Quaid hurried out of the chair and seemed to be racing to get to the door.

Julia shook her head in amusement at the antics of the two boys.

* * * * *

//What have I missed out here?// Jesus asked as he ambled into the common room.

"Not much lil buddy, I just unpacked my things." Beau said casually.

//Most people are more frightened of me when they first meet me. Why aren't you?// Jesus asked seriously as he half hopped, half levitated onto the couch beside Beau.

"I guess mainly because I'm from Texas. We got roaches bigger than you." Beau said with a teasing smile.

Jesus looked at Beau appraisingly for a moment, then said, //I'm glad we're going to be living in New York then. Roaches gross me out... filthy creatures.//

John, Clark and Ronny all cracked up at the comment.

"What have you been up to lil buddy?" Beau asked casually with a smile.

//Just making my bed. It takes longer when you actually have to MAKE your bed.// Jesus said frankly.

"I see what you mean... can you tell how Louie is doing? He seemed really scared when he was here." John asked curiously.

Jesus looked at John for a second, then said, //I'm too far away to see his thoughts, but he's doing okay. I get the feeling that he's finished his interview and it went well.//

"Good. I don't know Louie, but it seems to me that he needs to learn to be around people. He seems so frightened and unsure..." John drifted off in thought.

//That's my Louie. And I agree, this is the best place for him. I've been his friend for a long time, but he needs a variety of people in his life.// Jesus said seriously.

"He's got all of us here to be his friends and help him however he needs... All he has to do is let us." Clark said honestly.

//Yeah. That's the part that's going to give us trouble.// Jesus said in thought.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but hopefully someday he'll learn to trust us and let us get close to him. Otherwise it's going to be awfully lonely here for him." Ronny said with concern.

//Being lonely is familiar to Louie. Even the idea of having friends and being a part of a group is terrifying to him.// Jesus said with concern sounding in his mind/voice.

"We'll just have to let him know that we're here for him, then give him time and space until he's ready." John said slowly.

The others nodded their agreement, all of them realizing that waiting and standing back was probably the most difficult thing to do.

* * * * *

"Dr. Hoffman?" Marc asked cautiously as he walked into the office.

"Come in Marc, have a seat." Julia said in thought as she stood.

"I know what you're going to say." Marc said as he took the offered seat.

"Oh?" Julia asked with surprise.

"You're worried that Lisa is really dependent on me and that I'm using her or trying to control her." Marc said with a look of turmoil on his face.

"The thought had occurred to me." Julia admitted slowly.

"Dr. Hoffman, I really do love Lisa and I want what's best for her. It's just... she's been in that basement for so long, living her life through me... I don't know how to get her to take care of herself without hurting her." Marc said with concern.

"I see." Julia said in thought.

"Me and her mom and her aunt are the only people she's talked with in almost three years. I'd do anything for her." Marc said firmly.

"Anything?" Julia asked seriously.

"Anything." Marc said in a definite tone.

Julia nodded and pulled a three-ring binder out of the bottom desk drawer.

After a moment of leafing through the pages, she said, "Marc, You and Lisa are going to have the fifth class period free every Tuesday and Thursday. I'm going to schedule for you to meet with Dr. Susan Riley, our psychology professor. I want you to talk honestly with her and hopefully she can either help you or guide you to the help you need to make your relationship grow into something healthy and beautiful."

"Really? That's just what we need. Thank you Dr. Hoffman. I was afraid you were going to nuke me when I came in here because Lisa kind of, um... goes along with whatever I say." Marc said shyly.

"You're very perceptive." Julia said without humor as she took her seat.

Marc realized her meaning and waited expectantly.

"Why did you want to come to our college Marc?" Julia asked seriously.

"I wanted to go to *a* college so I can become a veterinarian someday. I wanted to come to *this* college so Lisa could come with me and get out of that basement and be around people again." Marc said seriously.

"That's a very precise answer Marc. It's refreshing to find someone as young as yourself who has a realistic plan for the future." Julia said seriously.

"Thank you Dr. Hoffman. And thank you for listening to me." Marc said shyly.

Julia smiled as she stood and said, "I'm just glad to see that my preconceived notions of you were wrong. Welcome to the Wagner Institute. I sincerely hope that we'll be able to give you a good head start on your goal to someday be a veterinarian."

Marc stood as Julia walked around her desk and walked with Marc to the door.

"Let's go see what still needs to be done to get all of you on your way." Julia said happily as she led the way to the door.

* * * * *

There was a knock on the door that drew everyone's attention.

"Hey guys. How's everything going?" Scott asked as Clark let him in.

"Everyone else is still getting their IDs and stuff." Clark said as he walked back to his seat on the couch.

Scott looked around and settled into an open chair before saying, "So what are you guys up to?"

"Not much right now. Beau unpacked and we gave him moral support... that's about it." John said frankly.

Scott smiled, then asked, "How are you feeling John?"

"Fine now. My stomach goes crazy when I'm up moving around very much. As long as I'm sitting down I'm fine." John said frankly.

"It's just for a few more days." Scott said with sympathy.

"Yeah, I can handle it." John said with a small smile.

* * * * *

Julia walked around the room and checked on everyone's progress with their registration paperwork.

"Jamie, have you ordered the pizza yet?" Julia asked as she approached him helping Louie fill out his forms.

"Oh, no. I forgot." Jamie said quickly.

"It's just about time. Everyone else is finished so I'll take them into the next room and get their student IDs made.” Julia said pleasantly.

"Louie's almost done. I'll call for the pizza delivery right now." Jamie said as he walked to the phone.

"Make sure to get enough for their guests too. We don't want to be stingy with our welcome." Julia said with a smile.

Jamie nodded as he dialed the phone.

"Louie, come into the next room when you're finished with your forms." Julia said gently, then led the other students into the adjoining room to make their IDs.

* * * * *

"Lovely, just lovely." Julia said happily as she inspected Lisa's ID card to see that everything was correct.

"Really?" Lisa asked hesitantly.

Julia smiled and handed the ID to Lisa.

"It looks just like me." Lisa said with disappointment.

"That's what I said, lovely." Julia said with a gentle smile.

Lisa looked back at Julia with an incredulous stare.

"I'm finished." Louie said timidly as he held out his paperwork to Julia.

"Let me see." Julia said as she put on the reading glasses that were hanging around her neck.

"You have very nice handwriting Louie. If you'll stand over there with your toes on the line, I'll take your picture and we'll be done." Julia said pleasantly.

Louie and Quaid walked and stood side by side on the line.

Julia chuckled and said, "Quaid, I need you to step aside for a moment so I can take Louie's picture, then I'll take yours."

Quaid looked at Louie with question for a second, then reluctantly took a step away.

"Very nice. Just look at me Louie." Julia said as she adjusted the machine to center Louie's face in the picture.

There was a flash and Julia said, "Okay young Mr. Summers, if you'll take Louie's place, I'll make an ID for you too."

Louie and Quaid traded places as Matt said, "He ain't goin to this school."

Julia clicked a few commands on the computer beside her, then said, "I know. But I have a feeling that we might be seeing a lot of young Mr. Summers at the Wagner Institute, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to make things easier for everyone.... Quaid, look at me."

Quaid looked at Julia curiously and was surprised by the flash.

Julia looked down at the computer and chuckled as she said, "'Deer in the headlights' is a good look for you Quaid. I think we'll keep it."

Quaid looked at Louie with question to see if he understood what she was saying. From the puzzled look on Louie's face, he didn't.

"Here you go Louie. Your student ID." Julia said as she held it out to him.

Louie accepted the ID and held it out so he and Quaid could look at it together.

Julia smiled at the pair, then took the next ID as it emerged from the machine.

"Quaid, I have yours ready." Julia said with a smile as she held it out for him to accept.

Quaid looked carefully at the ID, then asked, "What is it for?"

"Well, I just thought that you might want to come by sometime to visit with Louie. This is a permanent visitor's pass to let security know that you're allowed to be here anytime you want." Julia said gently.

Quaid looked at Louie then back to Julia and said, "Thank you Dr. Hoffman. That was really nice of you."

"Your very welcomed Quaid. And unless anyone can think of any reason that we still need to be here, I'll wish you all a good night and let you be off to your pizza party." Julia said with a gentle smile.

"Do you want to come have pizza with us?" Louie asked in a timid whisper.

"No thank you Louie. I'm expected for dinner in half an hour. But thank you for inviting me." Julia said tenderly.

"Then I guess that's it. Come on you guys, let's get back to the dorm... Lisa, you're invited too." Matt said firmly.

Lisa smiled and nodded happily.


To Be Continued...

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