Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

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Chapter 7: The Hunkering

"I've got his pre-surgery scan if you'd like to see it." Andrew said professionally as he moved to get a better view of what Hank was doing.

"Perhaps in a moment. Are you urgently needed elsewhere?" Dr. McCoy asked as he meticulously performed his physical examination of the injured boy.

"No. I just wanted you to know that I had it handy in case it was needed." Andrew said simply.

"Do you think you'd be up to one more teleporting job when I'm finished with my examination? I'd like to keep him immobilized for at least twenty-four hours before making any long-term decisions regarding his care." Dr. McCoy asked absently as he continued to work.

"Will you want him to have a room in the mansion, or do you need to keep him down here?" Andrew asked curiously.

"I'd like to keep him in the MedLab for at least a few days for observation. Although he most likely won't have any complications, his injury was serious enough to warrant such precaution." Hank answered thoughtfully.

"Where are you going to want him then?" Andrew asked curiously.

"You might want to get with Tara and find out if we have a room already prepared. If not, she may need to prep one before we move him."

"I'll go check with her now." Andrew immediately responded.

"Perhaps, while you're doing that, you might want to introduce Lisa to Tara, so that Lisa will know to whom she can go, when I am unavailable." Hank said with an urging look.

It only took a moment for Andrew to catch on.

"Lisa, why don't you come with me to help get Marc a room? You know him better than we do and you may be able to answer questions about his preferences that I couldn't." Andrew asked in an overly cheerful tone.

"I want to stay with Marc." Lisa quietly responded.

"Listen, the doctor is to the part of the examination where it might be embarrassing for Marc if he knew that you were watching. Beyond that, what Dr. McCoy is going to do next might also be more than a little bit uncomfortable for you to witness. If you'll go with me now, Dr. McCoy will be able to do what he needs to do and we can be doing something productive to make things easier for him and Marc later on." Andrew said seriously.

"Okay." Lisa timidly relented.

"As soon as we've got things set up with Tara, we'll come right back here to check on Marc." Andrew gently promised as he led her out of the room.

Dr. McCoy watched them go, then turned to his patient and gently said, "You're very lucky to have someone so devoted to you. Now, let's get you settled in for an extended stay."

* * * * *

"Are you alright Beau? You seem awfully quiet." Lee asked with concern.

"As soon as I realized that Marc was bleeding, I started remembering everything that I'd ever read about how to help someone that's been shot. I didn't even think about it, I just started doing things... it was like my hands knew what they were supposed to be doing." Beau explained distantly.

"I'm glad for Marc's sake that you knew what to do." Lee said honestly, then quietly added, "By the way, if you remember anything else about the shooting, be sure to tell me right away. The only way we're going to be able to make everyone safe is to find out who did this to Marc and make sure that they can't do it again." Lee said firmly.

"As much of an asshole as Josh is, I'm still having trouble believing that he could do something like this." Beau said in a conflicted tone.

"How sure are you that it was him?" Lee asked gently.

"I didn't see anything, but the more I think about it, the more sure I am that it was Josh's truck I heard racing away." Beau reluctantly admitted.

There was a long silence that followed before Louie quietly asked, "Do you think Quaid's okay?"

"Yes, child. I am certain that he is. He's in one of the safest places in the world." Storm gently assured the distraught boy.

"I bet you're going to love Quaid's room. He just moved in there last week, so maybe you can help him discover some things that he hasn't found yet." Lee quietly suggested.

//I hate to ask, but you don't have any pets at this place we're going, do you?// Jesus asked hesitantly.

"No. At least, not that I've ever noticed." Slash said uncertainly, then looked to Storm for confirmation.

"No. Not currently." Storm said thoughtfully.

//Good. I don't want to have to be looking over my shoulder all the time, worrying if something's going to try to eat me... or maybe even worse.// Jesus said dramatically.

"You shouldn't have to worry about that, but if Janine decides that you would be a good candidate for 'dress up', you may end up wishing that there was a pet around, if only to divide her attention." Lee said frankly.

//Who's Janine?// Jesus asked cautiously.

"Janine's a little girl. She isn't human and she's not from Earth... actually, from the way I understand it, she's not even native to this timestream. But none of that matters. What's most important is that she's my granddaughter."

"Granddaughter? But you're our age." Seth said with surprise at the impossibility of what Lee was telling them.

"My mutation makes me look younger than I really am and I promise you, I have several grandchildren. One of them is a six-year-old girl who very likely is going to fall in love with Jesus the moment she lays eyes on him." Lee finished with an apologetic look at Jesus.

//In my experience, most little girls think that rats are disgusting, so at least I've got that working in my favor.//

"I just wanted to give you fair warning. If she takes a liking to you, you may not get much of a choice in how things go after that. She's very determined." Lee said frankly.

//I can defend myself if I need to.// Jesus said seriously.

"That's good. But just so you know, if you do anything to make my granddaughter unhappy, I can personally guarantee you a one-way trip straight to the deepest bowels of hell." Lee said as a vow.

"When you were talking on the radio you called yourself 'Hellport', didn't you?" Seth asked curiously, apparently not noticing how off-topic his question seemed to be.

"That's right. It's my mutant name. That was the first time I ever really used it in the field."

"Do we get mutant names too?" Seth asked hopefully.

"That's not up to me. I'm not sure how the whole thing works, but if I were the one handing out names, I'd say that Slash earned his mutant name tonight. He used his powers appropriately for the situation and was able to help us all." Lee said with a proud smile directed toward his adoptive brother.

"What name would you give him?" Seth asked curiously.

"I'd probably call him something like 'Blackout' or 'Blindness'. From what I've been told, most mutant names are based on a person's abilities."

"But what is a mutant name?" Louie asked curiously.

Lee was relieved to see that Louie was showing signs of bouncing back from his recent trauma. Hoping to keep Louie engaged in the conversation, Lee carefully answered, "Mutant names are used by the team so that they can call to each other or talk about each other on an unsecure communications network without telling anyone who might be listening who they're talking about."

Louie thought about that for a moment before cautiously asking, "Does Quaid have a mutant name?"

"No. Quaid isn't a mutant. He's... actually, that's a lot to get into. Let's just say that Quaid is my grandson and leave it at that." Lee reluctantly explained.

"Does that mean that Quaid and Janine are brother and sister or cousins or what?" Seth asked thoughtfully.

"They're adopted siblings. They're not biologically related... in fact, they're not even the same species as each other. Even so, they're being raised as members of the same family and are developing a familial bond." Lee said carefully.

"That's probably like what they're going to want for us to do." Seth said thoughtfully.

"How so?" Ororo asked with interest.

"The way they put us together in the dorm, I get the feeling that they're trying to set it up so that we'll watch out for each other." Seth said frankly.

"It'll probably make everyone's lives easier if we do that." Slash said simply.

"I'm not saying that it's bad. Me and Louie and Jesus, we're tight. I'm just saying that I can see the manipulation. We're supposed to be friends. We're supposed to care how each other are doing in school and stuff. That's all good... but it doesn't feel exactly real, it feels arranged." Seth explained with difficulty.

"Perhaps what you're saying is true to some degree, but you might also consider that this is the best that we could think to do for you and your classmates to make up for the absence of your actual families. If you can think of another arrangement where you might be happier, I'm certain that the school administration would be interested to hear about it." Ororo said professionally.

"No. I don't have any better ideas. I just didn't want for anyone to think that the dumb new kid didn't see what was going on and being done to him." Seth said frankly.

"Actually, I didn't notice, so you're one up on me." Slash said simply.

"You've got family here. You don't need for this to feel 'real' as much as the rest of us do." Seth said seriously.

"Maybe not, but you guys can count on me to be part of your family too. I'm just lucky enough to have my other family that I can call on when I need them... like right now." Slash finished with a smile at Lee.

"We're here for all of you. Think of it as your family and our family being related through Slash... kind of like in-laws." Lee finished with a grin at Seth.

"That's kind of a stretch, but since everyone wants for it to be true, we can probably just go with it and no one will complain." Seth said frankly.

"I am glad that you have decided so, since we have arrived at your 'in-laws' home, where you're going to be staying for the time being." Ororo said as they passed through the open gates.

"Actually, what you'll see first is the mansion. Don't get your hopes up too much, we won't be staying there. But we'll probably end up going there all the time. We're always finding excuses to visit." Slash said as he smiled at the memory.

"Where will we be staying?" Seth asked cautiously.

"At the boathouse on the other side of the property. The mansion is nice and everything, but it doesn't feel like a home to me. The boathouse is smaller and crawling with people." Lee added cheerfully.

"Well, that sounds... nice." Seth said slowly with a 'teenage' level of sarcasm.

"It feels like 'family'. I guess you'll have to decide for yourself if that's a good thing or not." Lee said seriously.

"So you and your kids and your grandkids all live here?" Seth asked curiously.

"Yes. Also my brother and a few of my son's friends." Lee said, then noticed that everyone had fallen silent and were staring in awe at the mansion as it came into full view.

* * * * *

"Tara?" Andrew whispered.

"Andrew? Please come in. I was just visiting with Gar." Tara said gently.

"Hi Gar. How are you doing?" Andrew asked the green-skinned boy curiously.

"I'm okay except that I'm not sick anymore and they're still making me stay in bed." Gar said grumpily.

"Uncle Hank said that you'll tire yourself out too quickly if you don't get your rest." Tara patiently explained.

"But here I am in America and all I get to see is the inside of a hospital room. It's not fair!" Gar cried out indignantly.

"Gar, I think you're old enough that we can break it to you... Sometimes life isn't fair. Like it or not, you just have to deal with it. But it's important to realize that how you deal with it is one way people judge what kind of a person you are." Andrew said sagely.

Gar looked at him for a long moment before turning to Tara and quietly asking, "Is this guy as much fun as he sounds?"

Tara tried to hide her smile as she looked away.

"Lisa and I came in here to ask Tara if she has a room prepped for a new patient." Andrew said with a quick smile in Gar's direction.

"I've been so focused on keeping Gar company that I haven't really had time..." Tara trailed off regretfully.

"Who's the patient? Did someone get hurt?" Gar asked with immediate concern.

"Lisa's boyfriend did. Dr. McCoy says that he's going to be alright, but he's going to need to be confined to bed rest for a few days." Andrew carefully explained.

"Is he nice? Does he like cartoons or comics or cheesy monster movies? What's his name?" Gar asked excitedly.

"Lisa? You know him best." Andrew said in a leading tone.

"His name is Marc, and he's one of the best people I know." Lisa said timidly.

"That's nice, but does he like comics and monster movies?" Gar asked hopefully.

"He doesn't really follow comics that much, but he loves movies and games with ultra-gore and cartoon-level violence... and anything Resident Evil. We both like that."

For a moment it seemed like Lisa forgot to be shy. Although she remained ensconced in her hoodie, for a brief moment, her voice conveyed her girlish enthusiasm.

"Is he like you?" Gar asked curiously.

"Like how?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"I don't know what you look like under there, but it must be pretty gross from the way you're hiding it. Is Marc gross too?" Gar asked frankly.

"No. He's normal. He's not gross at all." Lisa quickly defended.

"Then what's he doing here? Isn't this a place for people who are weird or gross who can't be around normal people?" Gar asked curiously, seeming to direct his question more toward Andrew than Lisa.

"We help people who need it. It doesn't matter if they're what you would call 'normal' or not." Andrew said in a fatherly, slightly chastising tone.

"You're like a dad and a half, aren't you?" Garfield rhetorically asked under his breath.

"Well, I do have nine kids... and one on the way." Andrew reluctantly admitted.

Gar stared at him with wide-eyed surprise for a moment, then quietly asked, "Is that your mutant power?"

"I don't know. I guess it might be one of them." Andrew said as he fought down a chuckle.

"What about you, Lisa? What's your mutation?" Gar asked curiously.

After only a moment of hesitation, Lisa pulled back her hoodie as she quietly said, "I'm a half-human, half-animal monster."

"Yeah. Me too." Gar said before smoothly transitioning into a green chimpanzee.

Lisa blinked with surprise at the sight.

"You're not supposed to alter your body again until you're stronger." Tara warned.

The chimpanzee slightly rolled his eyes in her direction, then began to return to his more humanoid form before finally saying, "I know. But it's just so boring."

"Tara, we were sent in here to see if you had a room ready for Marc, but what would you think about rooming Marc and Gar together?" Andrew asked seriously.

"I don't know Marc. I have no idea what type of personality he has and how he would get along with Gar." Tara said honestly.

"What do you think, Lisa? How do you think Marc and Gar would get along with each other?" Andrew asked cautiously.

"Marc's a fairly quiet person when he's on his own. I think that he would appreciate being around someone who is more energetic than he normally is."

"So, you don't think Gar would drive him crazy?" Andrew asked teasingly as he kept careful watch on Gar's expression.

"No. The more I think about it, the more I think that they'll probably get along pretty well. Marc's always so serious, sometimes he needs to be encouraged to do things that are fun." Lisa said honestly.

"Actually, Gar might end up being too energetic. As I understand it, Marc is going to need to stay completely still. It might be in his best interest for him to room alone until he's able to get out of bed and move around a little." Andrew said thoughtfully.

"Hey! That's not fair! I didn't do anything wrong! First you say that I'm going to get to have company in here, then you say I'm not good enough?! That just sucks!" Gar whined petulantly.

After a long moment, Andrew slowly said, "I don't know. Maybe if you promised to help Marc out with the things that he won't be able to do for himself and promise not to do anything to cause Marc to try to move around too much, then maybe they'd let you share a room with him."

"You already know that I'm going to say 'yes'. Tara's been nice, but staying in here with me is keeping her from being able to do her job." Gar said seriously.

"Staying with you is my job... but other parts of my job have been left undone because I can't be in two places at once." Tara reluctantly admitted.

"Do you think it would help things if Gar and Marc could stay in here together?" Andrew asked Tara hesitantly.

"Yes. I think so. That is, as long as one of them has the presence of mind to press the 'call' button if there's a problem."

"What do you think about that, Gar? Do you think that you can help Marc when he needs it and call for help if there's trouble?" Andrew asked seriously.

"Do you think there's anyone, anywhere, EVER who's gonna be enough of a scumbag to answer 'no' to a question like that?" Gar countered.

"It won't be just him helping Marc. I'll be here most of the time, too." Lisa quietly added.

Andrew looked from Gar to Lisa appraisingly for a moment, then slowly said, "If I've learned anything in my time at the mansion, it's that Tara has impeccable instincts in situations like this. If she says it's a good idea, then I'll do whatever I can to get Hank on board."

"Hank?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"Dr. McCoy." Andrew clarified, then explained, "I don't think he'll actually have any opinion on the matter, as long as Marc and Gar can get the bedrest that he's prescribed for them."

"If we're going to do this, there's one other thing I'm going to need." Tara said hesitantly.

"What's that?" Andrew asked cautiously.

"A bed for him to sleep in." Tara said simply as she looked at the vacant space by the wall opposite Gar's bed.

"If you'll tell me which bed you would like moved in here I would be happy to move it for you." Andrew said simply.

"The one from next door will be fine." Tara said as she pointed to indicate to which room she was referring.

Andrew glanced in that direction, then looked toward the vacant space beside Gar's bed in time to see a bed magically appear out of nothing.

"How did you do that?" Gar asked in amazement.

"I just moved it from the next room." Andrew said simply, then cautiously asked, "How do you think you got here from South Africa?"

"Clark carried me, I remember that part... but I don't really remember much about how I got here. I was really sick then." Gar said as he strained to remember.

"I'll tell you all about how my ability works some other time, if you're interested, but basically, I used my ability to move the bed from there to here the same way I moved you and Clark." Andrew said slowly.

"Did you move the bed from there to here or did you move there to here, then leave the bed here when you put there back?" Gar asked curiously.

Andrew looked at Gar with surprise for a moment before answering, "That's exactly what I did. How did you know that?"

"Just because I'm not American doesn't mean that I don't know stuff." Gar said defensively.

"I wasn't saying anything like that. It's just that the manipulation of interstitial dimensional vortices is more than most people can wrap their minds around." Andrew said honestly.

"You're just talking about folding one layer of local space, right? It's not that hard to understand." Gar said dismissively.

"I'd really like to sit down with you sometime and discuss what you know about dimensional manipulation." Andrew said honestly.

"Bring cookies." Gar said firmly.

"It's a deal." Andrew said with a smile at the boy.

"Can we go back to Marc now?" Lisa asked hopefully.

"I don't know." Andrew said honestly, then asked, "Tara? Is there anything else you need before I port Marc into his bed?"

"One thing." Tara said, then began slowly chanting phrases in a long dead language.

"What's she doing?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"Casting a spell on the bed... a cleansing, I think." Andrew said slowly.

"Spellcasting? For real?" Lisa asked in amazement.

"Yes. There are a few witches here at the mansion. If that's a problem, I can put the word out and they'll be sure to avoid you." Andrew said seriously.

"No. I don't want anything like that. I just thought that witches were make-believe. I never thought that they could be real." Lisa fought to explain.

"I suppose that's fair enough." Andrew said simply.

"If you want to go back to Uncle Hank, you can move Marc in whenever you're ready." Tara said seriously as the gentle fog that had formed around the bed evaporated in an instant.

"Okay. Thank you Tara. As usual, I'll never be able to thank you enough for all that you do for us." Andrew said warmly, then indicated to Lisa that he was ready to leave.

"You've saved Dawn and me more times and more ways than I can count. If it's okay with you, I'd like to just call it even." Tara said shyly.

"Anything you want." Andrew assured her before preceding Lisa out of the room.

* * * * *

The spell that they were under seemed to fall away as they drove away from the mansion.

"Is it as nice on the inside as it looks from the outside?" Seth finally asked.

"It's like a museum in there." Slash said frankly.

"Xavier's operates as a boarding school for the gifted, so there are many children of various ages living there. That being the case, it isn't quite as formal as it could be." Ororo carefully explained.

"Boarding school? Do you mean for mutants?" Seth asked curiously.

//You're smarter than you look.// Jesus said before anyone else could answer.

"Be nice." Lee warned.

//Okay. I take it back.// Jesus told Lee, then turned to Seth and continued, //You're not smarter than you look.//

"Hey! What'd I ever do to you?" Seth asked indignantly.

//Sorry. It's been a long day and you've been nothing but nice to us. I guess I'm just getting a little crabby and felt like taking it out on someone. Just about anyone else would probably kick the crap out of me if I did that to them.// Jesus quietly explained.

"If it makes you feel better about yourself to put me down, then I guess it's okay. I won't complain about it." Seth quietly promised.

After a long silent moment, Jesus finally responded, //Well played, my friend. You turned that around on me expertly. I think when you learn to play chess that you'll be very good at it.//

"Thanks." Seth said uncertainly.

"Okay. Here it comes." Lee said as the van emerged from the tree cover.

* * * * *

"Your house has its own boat dock?" Beau asked happily.

"From the look of it, I think my boat dock has its own house. I think the dock was here first. But either way, it's pretty nice." Lee said serenely.

"Do you get to go out on the lake very often?" Louie asked hopefully.

"Not at this time of year. But maybe we'll be able to take a boat out sometime before you leave." Lee said with a smile.

"I never been on a boat before, but I always wanted to." Louie said enthusiastically.

"Then, if you'll remind me, we'll make a point of doing that." Lee quietly promised.

As Ororo brought the van to a stop, the side door of the house opened and a man in a coat ran out.

"How is everyone? Do you need anything?"

"Everyone, this is Alan. He's my son-in-law. This is his house." Lee said as he ushered people out the side door of the van.

"It's freezing out here. Hurry and get inside. How is everyone holding up?" Alan asked as he started back toward the house.

"I think we're okay. How is everything here?" Lee asked with concern.

"The Professor let us know that you were on your way. The kids have been getting all the extra beds ready... I hope we have enough beds for everyone." Alan finished anxiously.

"No matter how many people you've had at your house, you've always found enough room." Lee said good-naturedly.

"I guess I should tell you before you find out for yourselves, you're all over the news right now." Alan said as he opened the side door to the house, then stood back to hold it open for all his guests.

A horn honked and Alan waved at Ororo as she backed out of the driveway.

* * * * *

"What were you saying..." Lee began to ask as he walked into the living room, but didn't need to continue.

The picture on the television was of a huddled group of frightened children emerging from the dorm building. Although in retrospect it seemed obvious, it took a moment for the members of the group to realize that they were seeing themselves and the events from earlier.

The sound was indistinct, but the image was one of terrorized children being hurried away, wanting nothing more than to be in a safe place.

Then, without warning a cloud of blackness sprang out of nowhere and within a second filled the entire screen.

There was silence in the room as the screen changed to show a news anchor, apparently stunned into silence by what he'd just seen.

"Mutants or not, that was a group of terrified children. I don't know about anyone else, but I feel really dirty for having been any part of showing that." A woman's voice said offscreen with obvious disgust.

The anchor was still staring, then appeared to be startled by something. He blinked a few times before finally saying, "And now to Guy Winslow with local sports."

"Louie? I didn't know it was you who was coming! I got a big bed in my room, big enough for two. Will you stay with me?" Quaid asked hopefully.

"I... um... yeah. Sure." Louie stammered.

"It's back here. I want to show you!" Quaid said as he started pulling on Louie's arm.

"Is it okay?" Louie asked Lee uncertainly.

"Yeah. We'll know where to find you if we need you for anything." Lee assured him, then quickly added, "Have fun."

Quaid needed no further bidding. With that he practically dragged Louie through the doorway, down the hallway to the 'new' rooms.

//I guess I'm not invited.// Jesus finally said into the silence.

"Don't worry li'l buddy. Let Louie enjoy having a friend. We'll get by just fine." Beau assured him.

"I have my own room and the bed's big enough for two if you wouldn't mind sharing." Slash quietly offered.

//But where will you sleep?// Jesus asked in an obviously teasing tone.

"I happen to have an empty dresser drawer that I bet we could make into a pretty good bed for you. And you could fix it up any way that you want. That is, if you're interested." Slash said in a coaxing tone.

//That does sound kinda sweet.// Jesus reluctantly admitted.

"What do ya say, Beau? Do you want to bunk in with me?" Slash asked hopefully.

"My last roommate almost died and we can't be sure that they weren't gunning for me." Beau warned him.

"You're safe here. We're safe here. Just try to relax." Slash said gently.

"Yeah. Okay." Beau finally relented.

"Okay, you're going to relax or okay, you'll stay in my room?" Slash asked cautiously.

"Either... or both." Beau finished with a smile.

Slash rolled his eyes as he exasperatedly said, "Cowboys."

Seth looked around and his gaze finally stopped on Lee.

"You can stay with me if you don't want to be alone." Lee finally offered.

"He could stay in one of the kids rooms if he wanted. All the Borg kids have beds and regeneration alcoves." Alan said frankly.

"Sure. We could do that." Lee said easily.

"Do what?" Seth asked cautiously, not following along with what was being decided on his behalf.

"Come with me and I'll show you what your choices are." Lee said simply.

"Oh, yeah. Okay." Seth said uncertainly, not sure if he had missed something.

* * * * *

As they walked through the doorway, Lee carefully explained, "Six of my grandchildren are what is known as Borg. That means that they have machines implanted throughout their bodies."

"That's horrible!"

"It is what it is. But the reason I'm telling you this is because all the Borg have to 'regenerate' at night, which means that they hook up to a machine to fill up, empty out and recharge. I think each of the kids has their own bed, but none of them sleep. So it shouldn't take more than a few minutes to find a place where you can spend the night." Lee explained as he stopped in front of one of the doors and gently knocked.

"Where will they be while I'm using their bed?" Seth asked cautiously.

"Hooked into a charging station." Lee answered simply as the door opened.

"Grandfather. It's good to see you. Please come in." Trey said with a slight, yet sincere smile.

"I brought Seth with me to ask you if you'd mind if he uses your bed tonight." Lee said as he led the way into Trey's room.

"Dad told us to prepare for having company, but he didn't say that it was you who was coming. I thought that we had everything arranged so that you could stay in your room at the college tonight." Trey said seriously.

"There was a shooting and we brought the kids here so that they would be safe." Lee said frankly.

"Was anyone hurt?" Trey asked with concern.

"Yes. Marc was shot... in the chest. But from the way your father talked, he's going to be fine." Lee hurried to assure him.

"Maybe I should ask Father if I can help." Trey said thoughtfully.

"If there's anything you can do, your father will call on you. You know that." Lee assured him, then continued, "But for right now, the best thing that we can do is make sure that Marc's roommates are kept safe and comfortable."

"Yes. That makes sense. And Father can still call me if he needs me for anything." Trey said seriously.

"Um... Your, um, grandfather said that you... um, like recharge at night or something." Seth stammered uncomfortably.

"Yes. I regenerate." Trey confirmed.

"I just... I kind of wondered, um, what's that like?"

"I do not understand what you're asking me." Trey said honestly.

"It's just, if I'm going to borrow your bed, where will you be and what exactly will you be doing?" Seth cautiously asked.

"Lay down and we can try it out for a minute to see if it's going to work." Trey said simply.

"Do what?" Seth asked uncertainly.

"If you'll get into a sleeping position, I will program a brief regeneration cycle so you will know what to expect if you choose to spend the night here." Trey calmly explained.

Seth hesitantly walked over and sat down, unwilling to put his feet on the bed.

Once Seth had gotten himself settled, he looked back toward Trey just in time to see him fit himself into an indent in the wall, which was covered with various types of futuristic machinery.

As Seth watched, Trey's eyes closed and the machinery came to life, seemingly registering all sorts of mysterious bodily functions and activities.

"Oh HELL no!" Seth said as he abruptly stood.

"What's wrong?" Lee asked curiously.

"Do you seriously think that I could sleep for a single second with him hanging on the wall like that, looking like a corpse on a meathook? I'm probably going to have nightmares just from seeing it." Seth finished as he looked away from the disturbing scene.

"When Trey wakes up from his regeneration, be sure to thank him for his hospitality. He can't help what he is and I don't want him to ever be ashamed of it." Lee said firmly.

"Yeah. Sure." Seth quickly agreed.

"Good. Then I guess you'll get a choice. You can either stay in my room with me or you can sleep on one of the couches in the living room. Just do whatever's going to make you most comfortable." Lee said seriously.

"This is going to be my first night away from my family, so I was probably going to have trouble sleeping anyway. Now with the shooting... are you sure you won't mind? I mean, I can sleep on the floor beside your bed if that would be better." Seth nervously offered.

Before Lee could answer, the regeneration alcove went dark and Trey's eyes opened.

"Thanks for offering to let me stay here with you, but I don't think I'd sleep well with all the little lights and beeps and stuff." Seth quietly explained.

"It's possible for me to deactivate some of the monitors and displays." Trey said slowly.

"There's no need to bother with that. Seth can stay in my room." Lee said easily.

"Yeah. Thanks again for offering. I really appreciate it." Seth hurried to add.

"It wouldn't take me too long to make the alcove less... distracting." Trey said carefully.

"There's nothing wrong with your alcove. It's just that a lot's happened to me today so I'm probably going to have trouble sleeping no matter what." Seth assured him.

"We'd better get going then. You're going to need to get to sleep soon if you're going to be well rested for school in the morning." Lee said frankly as he turned to leave.

"We still have to go to school tomorrow even though Marc got shot?" Seth whined.

Lee turned back, then carefully said, "You don't have to do anything. You can pack it in and leave whenever you want. Given what happened tonight, no one would even blame you for it. But you need to realize that you're being given the opportunity to go to school tomorrow. People all around you are bending over backwards to give you the chance to take advantage of this opportunity. The rest is up to you."

"Isn't that what you're here for?" Trey asked curiously.

That prompted a slight smile from Seth before he said, "I didn't have a clue about why I was coming here. It just seemed like the thing to do. Now, just as soon as I think I understand it, it's like I find another layer of meaning is hiding out underneath it."

"Come on. I'm sure it'll make a lot more sense after a good night's sleep." Lee said gently.

Seth slowly nodded, then stepped past Lee, into the hallway.

"Goodnight Trey. Have a good regeneration. I love you very much." Lee said before pulling Trey into a firm hug.

Seth was surprised by the action, but also warmed by the show of affection.

When the hug was finished, Lee gave Trey a slight peck of a kiss on the cheek before fully releasing him.

"Goodnight Grandfather. Sleep well. You as well, Seth." Trey said before withdrawing into his room.

"I see what you mean about this place feeling like 'family'." Seth said as he followed Lee diagonally across the hall.

"You ain't seen nothin yet." Lee chuckled as he opened the door.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I can't help but notice a lot has been happening since we last saw H and C.

As is always the case with an MM story, there are always interesting things to see and people to get reacquainted with.

If this is the first time you have looked in on this story, I think it is advisable to go back to the beginning and read the story from the beginning.

Believe me it is well worth reading, and I will almost guarantee you will find something that will grab your attention and your heart, as well.

Just to prove my point, I will let you know that when I first started reading H and C, it looked a good bit daunting, but within a paragraph or two I was totally hooked, even though I wasn't much of a fan of several of the various stories and characters.

I soon realised that I was totally in love with MM's interpretation of said people and and situations in this multi universe compilation.

My advice is to give it a chance.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher