Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

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Chapter 12: What They Say

"If you'll excuse me, I have a strict policy that after an adventure such as this that I take some time to do something painfully drab and ordinary, just to put things back into perspective for me." Julia announced.

"It sounds like you've done this before." Matt said with some concern.

"You might be surprised." Julia said with a secretive smile, then continued, "But I was just saying that I've discovered from bitter personal experience that I need to consciously maintain that balance in my life, lest either the adventure or the boredom seek to dominate it."

"Balance? I might have to try that one of these days." Matt said in a mock- considering voice.

"It doesn't seem like your style, but who knows? You might wear it well." Julia said warmly.

"I'll let you know if I decide to try it out."

"I'll look forward to it." Julia said with a serene smile before turning to leave.

* * * * *

"Would you like for me to use my ability to bring Beau back here so that he can help with Lisa's evaluation?" Brian cautiously asked.

"I wouldn't want for him to get thrown behind on his schoolwork by missing classes on account of us." Matt said seriously.

"It won't throw him behind, I promise. Let me show you!" Brian rushed to say as he took out his cards and dice.

"I don't think any of us game, but maybe later on you could come over to our place and we could learn how. I've always kinda been interested." John slowly suggested as everyone moved closer to get a better view of what Brian was doing.

"I'd really like that, but I can't. My ability makes it so that whatever I do when I'm playing becomes real to some degree." Brian said as he quickly laid out a deliberate tableau of cards.

"So if you summoned a dragon in a game you could summon one for real?" Louie asked curiously.

"Yes. In a way. It might cause an explosion that looks like a dragon for just a second before it rained hellfire down on the entire block." Brian said as he rattled the dice in his hand.

"Yeah. Don't do that." Matt said slowly.

"I'll try not to, I promise." Brian tried to assure him.

"What are you going to do to Beau?" Lisa asked with concern.

"I'm going to look at his near futures, at some of the possible results, then choose one that looks good and push to make that particular one happen." Brian said in a slow, trance-like voice. As he spoke the final word, he spilled the handful of dice onto the floor.

There was a long moment of silence before Brian quietly said, "Oops."

"Oops? What oops? What did you do?" Matt demanded.

"I... um... Give me a second. I need to do this right now. I can still make it so no one gets hurt." Brian said in a rush as he gathered up the dice again.

There was a long, silent moment as everyone waited for Brian to announce that the crisis, whatever it was, had passed.

A siren suddenly sounded from all around them, causing the group to look around for any sign of a threat.

"Another second. I almost got it." Brian said in concentration.

"Attention all students. Please proceed to zhe nearest exit eint en orderly manner unt evacuate zhe campus. If you have classmates who haff limited mobility or are unable to hear zhis announcement, please help zhem to find safety." Kurt's voice announced over the loudspeaker, blaring in the empty gymnasium.

"Brian? What did you do?" Matt asked cautiously.

"Just a wiggle and a shake..." Brian muttered in concentration as he rolled the handful of dice again.

"We should probably get out of here." Lisa said uncertainly.

As she did, the distant sound of emergency vehicles echoed through the cavernous space.

Brian began turning the top cards of four separate piles to reveal that they were the 6s of each suit.

Multiple sirens sounded, then silenced, as though they had pulled to a stop right outside the gymnasium doors.

"That's it. The gates are all open. We can go now." Brian said as he rushed to gather his cards and dice.

"Go where? We don't know what's going on." Matt said frankly.

"Chlorine gas leak. But it's in the science building. We're safe to walk out the way we came in, if you want to." Brian said honestly.

"In this gas leak, was anyone hurt?" Matt asked firmly.

"No. Not at all. Everything worked out just fine. And best of all, it made it so that Beau can go with us now, if he wants to. Classes have been cancelled." Brian assured him.

"Brian, we're going to have to take a good long look at your ability so you can make some decisions about how to use it responsibly." Matt said firmly.

"Yeah. I'd really like that. All this time I've been trying to figure it out all by myself. If I was using my chessboard just then, some people might have really gotten hurt." Brian said frankly.

"Are you guys still in here? They're evacuating the whole campus!" Beau's voice called in panic as he ran into the gymnasium.

"We're fine. Calm down. We were just trying to decide what we should do next." Matt said with an uncertain glance at Brian.

"Well that depends. How anxious are you to do a repeat performance of last night?" Beau asked frankly.

"How's that?" Matt asked cautiously.

"Does that mean that the news crew is already here?" Lisa guessed with dread.

"Yeah. I don't know how they got here so fast. They weren't out there when I left to go to class." Beau said seriously.

"What do you want to do?" Matt asked the group as he looked around, then explained, "You can walk out of here with your heads held high or you can choose to hide yourselves from them."

"I vote for hiding." Slash said immediately.

"Yup. I'm all for slinking away..." Seth said as he raised a hand to make his vote more or less official.

"...Like a whipped puppy." Lisa said with a nod and the raise of one fur-covered hand.

"Maybe once we've figured out how to use our abilities we can walk out in front of them and not care what they think about us. But right now, I don't want to have to face them. With the new school, then the shooting... it's just too much all at once." Louie finished quietly.

Quaid immediately put his arms around Louie and held him firmly.

//Whatever you decide is fine with me. I'm just along for the ride.// Jesus said frankly into everyone's minds.

"Guys? Do you have any thoughts on the matter?" Matt asked his three housemates.

"Whatever we're going to do, we should do it. I'm pretty sure they don't call for an evacuation unless it's really serious." Clark said frankly.

"Do you want to scatter and meet in the park? The news crew probably wouldn't notice you as much if you weren't together as a group. I can get the bus and meet you there then we can go back to the mansion." Matt asked uncertainly.

"Or... Seth could shift us into the dimensional husk and take all of us out to the bus that way." Quaid said simply.

"Do you think you could take us that far?" Matt asked Seth with concern.

"Yeah. My ability doesn't make me tired or anything like that. As long as you stay within the light of my horns, there shouldn't be any problems." Seth said confidently.

"I could probably make a blackout cloud or two to mask our escape, if you needed me to." Slash quietly offered.

"We'll see what's going on when we get to the minibus." Matt said decisively.

"Ready?" Seth asked Matt, just to be certain.

Matt looked around to take stock of his charges before saying, "Do it."

* * * * *

"Time to go sideways." Seth said as consuming darkness erupted from his horns, engulfing all those present.

"Sideways?" Clark asked curiously as the darkness gave way to a blue-gray light which illuminated an enormous cavern.

"This world is the in-between. It's not here or there. It's the something else. The sideways." Seth said distantly.

"That's nice, but do you know how to get us to the bus from here?" John asked hesitantly.

"I've only done this once before, but it wasn't too hard. Just be sure not to touch anything when I make it really bright and black and white." Seth warned.

"Why not? Not that I'm wanting to, but just so I'll know." John asked cautiously.

"It'll cut you, really bad." Seth said honestly.

"I'll keep that in mind." John promised.

"I wouldn't switch over to that light except that I need it to be able to navigate. The dimensions are too different for me to be able to tell for sure if we're going the right direction." Seth explained.

"We should get going." Matt quietly interjected, then thought to add, "I'm going to need to call Julia and Kurt when we get to the mansion and let them know that we're all safe."

"I'm sure they're going to have lots of other things on their minds right now." Lisa gently added.

"I'll just leave a message for them." Matt assured her.

"Hold on while I get my bearings, then we can go." Seth said as he willed the light of his horns to flare to the point that he could identify where they were in relation to the gymnasium.

"I see what you mean now. It looks dangerous." John said seriously.

"Come on." Seth said as he changed the illumination back to blue-gray at a reasonable intensity.

"This is crazy, there's this whole other world laid right on top of ours." John said in amazement.

"I don't know if I'd really call it a world. I don't think anyone could live here." Seth said as he forged their path, then added, "I think that this is more like a... spacer. When one world doesn't fit exactly on top of the other, this is the little bit of expansion, the flex, the 'for good measure' little bit of left over."

"It helps when universes have something like this already built-in, then someone like me doesn't have to show up and fix things every time there's a new dimensional eruption... I mean, me, like I used to be." Quaid finished quietly.

"It really bothers you, doesn't it? Being made human?" Louie asked sympathetically.

"I existed outside time in a non-corporeal form. I could merge my essence with entire civilizations if I wanted to. I knew what it was like to be part of the infinite and the eternal." Quaid said distantly, then snapped back to the present and quickly said, "But this is nice too."

Louie broke into a grand smile at that and couldn't resist the urge to put an arm around Quaid's shoulders.

"We're coming up to the door now. I'm going to change the light so that we'll be able to push through it. Just stay with me and we should be fine." Seth said as the light became more gray than blue.

"So when it's stark black and white, it can hurt us, but when it's slushy gray, we can walk through it like it's overcooked noodles?" John asked curiously.

"Yeah. As far as I know. I haven't really had a chance to figure out too much yet." Seth humbly admitted.

"Quaid? It sounds like you know a lot about this dimensional stuff. Is there anything you can tell him about it?" Ronny asked curiously.

"Not really. I knew that it was here but as far as I know, no one's ever really had a reason to visit it before." Quaid said honestly.

As they finally exited the cavernous space, Clark suddenly stopped and gasped, "Holy... "

"...fuck." John whispered in awe, completing the thought.

"There's no sky!" Louie said as he stopped at John's side.

"There's a sky, there's just no light. You have to bring your own light to this place." Quaid said informatively as he fell into line.

"Where's the bus?" Ronny asked in a low, disturbed voice.

"It should be over that way, across the lawn. When we get a little closer, I can take a look at the overlay and be sure where we are." Seth said, sounding a bit anxious.

"Are y'all done gawking? I'm ready to get out of here." Matt said firmly.

//You and me both.// Jesus quietly added.

"Yeah. Let's go." Seth said as he started walking again.

* * * * *

"What's that over there?" Slash asked as they finished crossing the relatively flat expanse of ground.

"We can come back for sightseeing later." Matt said uncomfortably.

"I think it moved." Slash said firmly.

"What was it?" Matt asked as he stopped.

"Over there." Slash said as he pointed.

As everyone in the group watched, a lump seemed to rise up from the ground to form a mound a little taller than they were.

"Everyone, stand back. Let me take a peek at it." Seth said, then looked around to confirm that everyone was safely gathered around him.

A burst of bright light made their surroundings suddenly appear to be black and white.

Although the flash only seemed to last an instant, it was enough for Seth to get a sense of what was going on.

"I think that what we're seeing is this world reacting to an ambulance parking in the parking lot in our world." Seth said as he led the way around the newly-formed mound.

"It looks kinda like a cyst to me." Beau said slowly.

"That's a good reason not to go into medicine." Lisa said grimly.

"What's that?" Beau asked curiously.

"Everything you see reminds you of some horrible disease or condition." Lisa said frankly.

"Not everything..." Beau began to protest, but it died on his tongue.

Lisa looked at him inquiringly.

"Okay. Yeah. Mostly everything."

* * * * *

After some zigs and zags to avoid other cyst-like outcroppings, Seth called out, "We're close! Give me a second to find the bus."

The group was familiar enough with the process by now that they simply stopped and waited for the flash.

As soon as the flash had faded, Seth announced, "This is it."

"Are you going to send us back the way you brought us in?" Clark asked cautiously.

"Actually, I thought that I could return you into your seats in the bus. That way it's a lot less likely that the reporters will notice us." Seth said uncertainly, obviously seeking approval before enacting his plan.

"Send me first. That way if they notice us, I can make a blackout cloud to keep them out of our business." Slash volunteered.

The light around them turned slightly more blue as Seth said, "Just squeeze through this membrane and we'll be inside. I'll be right behind you."

* * * * *

Everyone felt relief when Seth and his light appeared in the dark cavern.

"Slash, I'll send you first so you can keep watch while I drop the others into their seats. I won't be able to see it if there's a problem, so it'll be up to you to keep things going until we're all together again." Seth said seriously.

"Do it." Slash said firmly.

Seth placed his hand flat on Slash's chest, then gave a slight push.

"Send me next. I can get the minibus started and back him up if he needs it." Matt said firmly.

"Okay." Seth said simply, then pushed on Matt's chest, causing him to seem to evaporate.

"Who's next?" Clark asked as he looked around the confined space.

"Everyone, hold still for a second. I need to take a reading." Seth said, then before Clark could react, there was a flash of bright light.

"Clark, come over here and when I push you, let yourself fall back." Seth instructed, then guided Clark into place before gently placing a hand flat on his chest.

* * * * *

The blue-gray tinted reality seemed to dissolve around him, giving way to the vibrantly colored real world, flooded with natural sunlight.

For an instant, Clark was reminded that the sun's light literally empowered him. The swell of relief that he felt wasn't just from escaping the pseudo-moonlight emanating from Seth's horns. The light of the sun actually buoyed his spirits.

Before Clark could think of what to say, John seemed to materialize from nothing as he dropped into the seat beside him.

"I think I'll just stick to doing fire." John quietly muttered.

There was a movement at Clark's other side and he turned in time to see Ronny fall into his seat.

"Watch out! It looks like the camera crew spotted us." Matt warned from the driver's seat.

"Open the door and let me see what I can do." Slash said firmly.

"Be ready to jump back in when I call you." Matt replied seriously as he activated the sliding side door.

"I'll be right outside." Slash said before stepping out.

* * * * *

"Let's see how much control I have." Slash muttered under his breath as he concentrated on the sensation of draining the air before him of the capacity to relay light.

An opaque cloud began to form and Slash worked to maneuver it to completely block the view from the other part of the parking lot.

"That's the last of 'em. Get in!" Matt called from behind him.

Slash gave one extra push of his power before backing into the minibus.

"Good work Slash. I would have lost my shit if I had tried to make a fire cloud that big for as long as you held it." John said frankly.

"I don't think I could have stopped that many people with my gravity either... at least, not without hurting them." Ronny said seriously.

"Guys. Just so you know, this is exactly what you should be doing after a confrontation. Slash did an excellent job and the rest of us need to think about how we would have handled a similar situation if the team were counting on us instead of Slash for backup." Matt said professionally.

"If it was just me, I probably wouldn't speak up about it but when Marc gets better, he'll also pay the price for my silence." Beau said in prelude, then explained, "For those of us without mutant abilities, the answer will always be the same. Hide and wait for everyone else to protect us."

"You can keep telling yourself that if you want to, but when I look at you I can see hundreds of possible futures. You're not nearly as helpless as you pretend to be." Brian said frankly.

//It's not our place to make him face himself. Human, mutant, or whatever, they have to accept their gifts when they're ready, not when we want them to.// Jesus responded seriously.

"What are you two talking about?" Lisa asked curiously.

"It's nothing!" Beau scrambled to say.

"He's part of our group. We have a stake in this. If Lisa's going to progress to the next level with her abilities, she's going to need Beau's help. If he's pretending to be Mr. Nicey Nicey normal human, none of it's going to happen. We'll basically be losing three members of our final roster." Brian said seriously.

"You say that you're not the leader of the group, but you sure seem comfortable telling people what to do." John said frankly.

"No. I'm not the leader. I can't be the leader. I can see what the future holds for us if I'm ever put in charge... when the pressure's on, some people have a talent for always making exactly the wrong decision. I'm one of them." Brian finished regretfully.

"Who's going to be our leader, then?" Slash asked curiously.

"It could go a few different ways. The only thing I can say for certain is that any of the rest of you would do a better job at it than me." Brian regretfully admitted.

There was a long moment of silence, until Beau finally asked, "What is it that you want me to do?"

"I don't know... that is to say, I don't understand exactly what it is that you can do. All I know is that you do it to Lisa and somehow you make it so that not only does she have her incredible strength, but also incredible skill, honed from years of diligent study and practice." Brian said carefully.

"Excuse me." Ronny said quietly to get everyone's attention, then calmly continued by asking, "How the HELL do you think a normal human could accomplish something like that?"

"Did anyone ever say he was normal?" Seth asked cautiously.

"Or human?" Clark asked reasonably, then explained, "It doesn't always show."

"Okay. That's enough. You said what you felt like you needed to say. Now that Beau knows what you think about it, he can take your feelings into account as he decides what he wants to do. If you care about how he feels, then I think the best thing you can do is respect his decision, whatever it is, and accept it as done." Matt said firmly.

"He's right. Things will work out somehow, no matter what you decide." Brian said quietly.

//Your secrets are your own and I'll never tell anyone what I know about you.// Jesus said seriously, then added more gently, //But if you did decide to tell people... I think they could handle it.//

They drove in silence for a few minutes before Beau finally asked, "Brian, what can you tell me about what I'm going to be doing to help Lisa?"

"Not much. If you decide to tell Lisa your big secret, she'll help you get what you need to eventually help her gain her fighting ability." Brian said carefully.

//You know a lot more about it than that.// Jesus said in a warning tone.

"I also know what happens if I say too much too soon." Brian said in return.

//You're not upset that I read your mind.// Jesus cautiously observed.

"It's not that different from what I do. Maybe just a little more direct." Brian said honestly.

//Do you ever get things that you didn't want to know?// Jesus asked curiously.

"Only all the time. I do what I can, when I can, and try not to dwell on the rest. I can't help everyone, fix everything, and stop all the tears... or any of the tears, really." Brian finished quietly.

* * * * *

"I've decided." Beau abruptly announced.

"What?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"We're a team, right? I mean, we've done it. We've all committed to it. We're not going to back out or anything?" Beau asked anxiously.

"I think we've all committed to stick with the team." Seth said quietly.

"Not all of us." Clark said from the back.

"We're about one minute away from the mansion. You can let us off there, then have your private team meeting." John said seriously.

"I didn't mean it like that..." Beau hurried to explain.

"Don't worry about it. We understand." Ronny assured him.

"Yeah. You've got team business to talk over. We totally get that." John said sympathetically.

"Would it be okay if we went to see how Marc is doing before you tell us what you decided?" Lisa asked hopefully.

"We didn't have any reason to go to the boathouse, did we?" Slash asked curiously.

After a moment to consider, Matt finally said, "No. Not that I know of."

"Seth, do you have your phone on you?" Beau asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Do you need to make a call?" Seth asked as he pulled the phone out of his pocket.

"No. But I thought you might want to pre-empt your parents and call them to let them know that you're okay before they hear about the gas leak on the news." Beau said seriously.

"They might start thinking that I'm being responsible and considerate and stuff. I don't know if I want to set the bar that high." Seth said with a teasing smile.

"Would you mind if I use your phone for a minute when you're done?" Lisa asked anxiously.

"You'll be free to use any phone in the mansion anytime you want." Matt quietly interjected as he pulled to a stop in front of the garage.

"You can borrow my phone whenever you like." Seth assured her.

"Thanks Seth. I appreciate that." Lisa said timidly as the door of the minibus slid open.

* * * * *

As the group got out of the minibus, Lisa quietly said, "Thanks for wanting to include me and Marc in this. I know that coming here had mostly to do with me, but I feel like being included in this will be something good for him." Lisa said softly.

"I really hope so. I can't be sure he'll want to join us, but if he does, I can promise that no matter what comes next, he'll have all of us on his side." Seth said passionately.

"Brian, is he going to be our leader?" Slash asked quietly, indicating Seth with his uncertain glance.

After a moment to consider, Brian quietly said, "More of a 'cheer' leader, but in a few of the possible futures he ends up in charge and as far as I can tell, he does a pretty good job of it."

"Really?" Seth asked happily as he moved closer to insert himself into their conversation.

"From what I can see, your best bet is to keep your eyes open and pay attention to all the leaders around you. If you'll do that, you'll have everything you need to step in and take charge when it really matters." Brian said firmly.

"If you want to go on down to visit with Marc and have your meeting, I'm going to take the guys here and see if we can track down Quaid's grandpa." Matt said by the doorway.

"I still feel like you should be part of this." Slash said frankly.

"Of course you do." Matt said with a grin, then continued, "But no matter what you're feeling, it's time to take off the training wheels. I got you started, but now it's time for you to start being on your own."

"If you think we're ready, we'll give it a try." Slash said, trying to sound confident.

"I think you're ready to do this. One of us will be around to help you if things start to get exciting. You're not entirely on your own just yet." Matt finished with a smile.

"So what should we do if we need you?" Louie asked quietly.

"Tell Dr McCoy. He'll either call me or whoever else is available to help you. If you run into Scott, ask him if he's got a spare communicator for you. That way you can call for help directly if you need it." Matt finished seriously.

"I know who that is." Slash assured the group, who were mostly looking puzzled.

"Can I stay with Louie?" Quaid asked Matt quietly.

"Not this time. But there's a good chance that Brian's gas leak will make it so that they'll get to spend the night at the boathouse again." Matt said frankly.

"What did you have to do with the gas leak?" Beau asked Brian seriously.

"I gotta go. Are you gonna be okay?" Quaid asked Louie gently.

"Yeah. I've got Jesus with me. He'll make sure that I'm alright." Louie assured him.

"I'll see you later then." Quaid said sadly.

Louie stepped forward and gave Quaid a long firm hug.

No one in either group displayed any sense of urgency or impatience. All present were willing to give the boys as much time as they needed to say their goodbyes.

* * * * *

"Louie, if it's too bad, let one of us know and we'll find a way to get you and Quaid together." Seth said as they walked across the entry hall, to the elevator.

"I think I'll be okay if I don't think about it too much. It might help if you called me by my hero name." Louie finished with a note of hope in his voice as they boarded the elevator.

"Whatever you say, Kricket." Seth said with a fond smile as the door closed.

* * * * *

"Brian?" Beau asked quietly.

"Yes?" Brian timidly responded.

"Did you have something to do with the gas leak at the college?" Beau asked cautiously.

"I guess that kinda depends on how you look at it." Brian answered weakly.

"It sounds like a 'yes' or 'no' question to me." Beau said honestly.

"I didn't know it was going to happen. Okay? I was just able to find the outcome that we wanted and used my ability to encourage it to happen. I wasn't trying to hurt anyone or cause any damage." Brian explained defensively.

"That sounds like a 'yes'." Beau finally decided.

"Usually when I use my ability, everything just works out the way I want it to and there's no problem. But every now and then something goes wrong or someone gets hurt along the way. I see where I am and where I want to be, but what happens in between is mostly out of my control and I don't know about it until it happens." Brian cautiously explained.

"And you wanted a gas leak?" Beau asked cautiously.

"I wanted you here to help Lisa access her ability, the gas leak just cancelled classes for the day so that you could be here." Brian said carefully.

Beau noticed that the group had stopped in the hallway and after a moment to achieve his final resolve, he finally said, "When I was little, since before I can remember, there was a housekeeper and nanny who took care of me so that my mom could go back to work."

"You got a nanny and I got booted out on my ass. Sometimes life's not fair." Slash said bitterly.

"The nanny was a witch." Beau said simply.

"I don't think anyone will go running to the adults if you call her a bitch or worse." Seth said frankly.

"No. I mean that Mrs. Durtnal was literally a witch. The reason my uncle sent her to us was so that she could teach me how to use the dark arts." Beau quietly admitted.

"So you think that you can do magic?" Seth asked cautiously.

"Do you think that you can move us to another dimension?" Lisa immediately countered.

"Yeah. You've all seen me do it." Seth slowly responded, not understanding what Lisa was trying to say.

"I've seen someone do real magic too. If Beau says that he's been taught how to do magic, I have no problem believing him." Lisa said firmly.

Beau looked at her with surprise, then cautiously said, "Thank you. I've never told anyone before because I didn't think anyone could possibly understand."

"You don't have to worry about that with me. I'm totally on your side." Lisa assured him.

"Good." Brian said, then let out a dramatic breath before continuing, "That was half the battle."

"What's the other half?" Seth asked cautiously.

Brian looked around the group before carefully answering, "Getting Beau to cast the spell that gets Lisa her fighting ability."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

Wow! That sounds important. It's nice to know that magic is real, as if we didn't already know that, but it's nice to know that Beau is now willing to at least let folks know that he knows how to use magic.

It would seem that Magic is a force of some sort, and can be manipulated by someone with the knowledge to use it. Most everyone in our world has been kept in the dark about the use of magic for a very long time.

I get the impression that Magic and mutant abilities are just different aspects of the energies available to those with the willingness and abilities to use the various tools and skills they have at their disposal.

It seems that we always seem to find new and interesting aspects of those who find their way into an MM story.

That's a good thing, isn't it?

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher