Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

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Chapter 18: Notherness

"We're done!" Louie happily announced as Matt and Ms. Mordigan led the group into the library.

"Both at the same time? You weren't helping each other, were you?" Matt gently accused.

Quaid looked at him piteously for a brief moment before slowly saying, "It's just a coincidence."

Matt didn't have the will to engage with him over the minor point and was just as happy to let it go.

Quaid gradually smiled when it became obvious that Matt wasn't going to dispute his claim.

Clark and John shared a look of amusement at Quaid's triumph.

"How are you doing, Seth? Are you anywhere near a good stopping point?" Matt asked cautiously, careful not to disrupt any train of thought that Seth might have going.

"Give me two minutes and I'll be done with this." Seth said confidently.

"How about you Brian? Are you about done?" Matt asked the teenager standing nearby.

"What? Oh, yeah. I finished already." Brian said distractedly, then asked, "What did you do to change fate like that?"

"I haven't done anything. Whatever happened, I probably didn't cause it." Matt said honestly.

"The flow, the great tapestry, the fated world that spreads out before us and develops in a constantly evolving pattern... whatever you want to call it, somehow you've changed the pattern into something that it was never intended to be. That's not supposed to happen." Brian fought to explain.

"It sounds to me like you might have found someone who isn't tethered to fate. When you've got someone like that around, just about anything can happen." Quaid said thoughtfully.

"Someone like you?" Brian cautiously ventured.

"No. Well, at least I don't think so... I mean it's not impossible. But being how I am now, I can't really tell how firmly connected and entwined I am in your reality's timeline. Being here like this isn't something that I did, it's something that was done to me. I'm still trying to figure it out." Quaid said seriously.

"But do you think that you did or undid whatever it is that's freaking Chesser out so bad?" Louie asked curiously.

"No. All I've been doing is sitting here, taking a test." Quaid answered honestly.

"So, does that mean that someone else could have changed fate?" Lisa suggested uncertainly.

//Leave it be.// Jesus said firmly into all their minds.

"But why? What's going on?" Louie asked curiously, evidently surprised by Jesus' sudden demand.

//Louie, what you're doing right now, asking me that, it's the exact opposite of leaving it be.// Jesus responded with tender amusement.

"Do you know who caused things to change?" Matt asked Jesus firmly, letting it be known with his tone of voice that he wasn't in the mood to be toyed with.

"This sounds like something internal to the Meerkats. Perhaps not all of us need to be privy to this information." Trey suggested in a deliberate tone.

//Thanks for the thought, but it doesn't make a difference.// Jesus said simply, then continued, //Brian, back me up here. Will me telling what I've discovered cause anything to turn out better for anyone?//

Bobby unobtrusively placed an arm around Robert's shoulders which, to the casual observer looked more informal than affectionate.

"No. In fact, it will make it so that the new paradigm can't function properly. Since we're already past the point where we can turn back, it would lead to the eventual dissolution of the Meerkats." Brian slowly responded in a distant, trance-like voice.

//So there's nothing to be gained if I tell. Right?// Jesus pressed.

"Right. If you speak of it, nothing good happens." Brian confirmed.

"I don't understand. Do you know what caused whatever happened... to happen?" Seth asked confusedly.

//Not exactly. I only know what I accidently picked up from Chesser. You'd have to ask him.// Jesus said simply.

Seth turned his inquisitive gaze toward Brian and waited.

"The closer I look at things, the less I can change about them. I just know that even though we did everything that we were supposed to do, the outcome that we had been working toward isn't possible anymore." Brian anxiously explained.

"So what do you want us to do now?" Seth asked curiously.

//I guess that's the question, isn't it? In this new paradigm or whatever it is, what choices do we really have?// Jesus asked reasonably.

"It sounds to me like we can either keep going or... not, I guess. Does anyone have any other ideas?" Seth asked as he looked around.

When Seth's gaze fell on him, Clark immediately put up his hands and said, "We've got no say in this. This is all yours."

"If turning back isn't an option, then I guess moving forward is all we can really do." Beau said speculatively.

"I don't know about anyone else, but I can call my mom and go home whenever I want to. I'm here because I'm choosing to be here. So when you're saying that we have no other choices, remember that stopping, quitting or even refusing to do anything outside of regular schoolwork are also real and legitimate choices." Lisa said firmly.

"She's right. It's not like we're getting paid or anything." Seth weakly offered.

"That's true. But we still have to be prepared for the possibility that sooner or later someone is going to show up gunning for Beau. Us coming together as a team really does make sense for all of us for a lot of reasons, but us doing it now is because most likely they're coming after him and we need to be prepared." Brian injected into the conversation.

//Yeah. That's right. That is why we're doing this.// Jesus confirmed.

"Guys, you don't have to do this for me. I can just go back to Texas. I've got people there who will watch my back." Beau said seriously.

"You're not listening." Brian said with exasperation, then looked Beau in the eyes as he firmly said, "This whole thing with Lavinia Loomis doesn't have anything to do with us becoming a team. The only thing it changes is the timing of it."

There was a long moment of silence before Louie cautiously asked, "Who's Lavinia Loomis?"

The inquisitive gazes were evenly split between Beau and Brian, silently asking them to disclose what they knew.

"She's a witch hunter." Beau finally answered.

"Really? I didn't even know that there was such a thing." Matt said frankly.

"Not in this century, anyway." Ms. Mordigan quietly added.

"So it's for sure? The gunshot really was intended for you?" Lisa asked cautiously.

"I guess so. If Loomis is involved, I'd be her most likely target." Beau said slowly.

"So does that mean that it's not someone from your family trying to kill you?" Louie asked curiously.

"One of my relatives probably set her on me. They're a little too high and mighty to get their hands dirty." Beau said frankly.

"So you knew who was after Beau all along?" Lisa asked Brian curiously.

"I don't always know what I know." Brian said weakly.

"So it's like what you were saying before about not looking too close or you can't change things?" Louie asked curiously.

"Yes. That's exactly right. Something about me observing a thing can kind of cement it into place. It's best if I only see enough to get the gist, then move on." Brian said with relief at Louie's succinct explanation.

"So, not only are you saying that this young man has the ability to foresee the future, but he can also somehow affect it. Is that right?" Ms. Mordigan asked cautiously.

"I don't think we're supposed to be talking about this." Louie said uncertainly as he looked to Matt for guidance.

"Well, if Ms. Mordigan is taking Andrew's place as an advisor for the team, then she probably needs to know what it is that she's getting into." Matt said frankly.

"If I'm going to be a part of this team of yours, you should really refer to me as 'Mad'."

"Okay, Mad. Welcome to the Meerkats." Brian said with a smile.

Ms. Mordigan stared at him for a moment, apparently trying to place where she knew him from, then seemed to come back to herself and cautiously said, "Thank you, but I'm not sure that I understand what your ability really is."

"I can see possible outcomes and influence one to be more likely to happen than another." Brian carefully explained.

"But I'm guessing that you couldn't influence things so that I could win a million dollar lottery?" Ms. Mordigan asked to be sure.

"If it's a lottery that you didn't buy a ticket for, there probably aren't any random chances for me to influence. I can't make something out of nothing, but I can influence what's already possible." Brian carefully explained.

"So, what if I did buy a ticket for the lottery?" Ms. Mordigan asked with genuine interest.

"If you bought a lottery ticket I could look at it with my ability. I can't promise that I'd be able to spot a chance for you to win, but there's nothing to stop me from trying." Brian said honestly.

"If that's the case, then why aren't you being privately tutored right now while you sit on your bags of money?" Ms. Mordigan asked curiously.

"Because of a windowless room." Brian anxiously responded, then quietly explained, "There are people who would very much like to have access to my ability. If they ever get a hold of me, I'll never see the sky again."

"And no one will remember that you were ever here." Seth quietly added.

Brian nodded his agreement to the assessment.

* * * * *

"So Beau, what do we still have to do to get my thing taken care of?" Lisa asked curiously as she looked around to see who was listening.

"As far as I know, we're waiting on Andrew." Beau said honestly.

"Since we're not taking tests, do you think it'd be alright if we went down there and did some cleaning and got the fire going and things like that? That way, when Andrew's ready we'll have everything else we need set up." Lisa asked hopefully.

"We could ask. It sounds good to me but we need to see what Mad has planned for us to do next." Beau said frankly.

"Actually Beauregard, my only plan was to give the test takers a break and maybe check on the possibility of a mid-morning snack." Ms. Mordigan said honestly.

"We can handle the snack!" Bobby immediately volunteered.

"If you don't have anything better planned, is there any way we could have our snack at the... workshop?" Beau finished uncertainly as he looked to Lisa for her opinion on his choice of signifier.

"The gingerbread house." Lisa said firmly, then explained, "Anyone who knows about it will know what you're talking about and everyone else can just think that we're talking about a cute little cottage somewhere."

"We should probably talk to Andrew and Tara about it before we give the workshop a name." Beau said uneasily.

"Or we could just call it 'The Gingerbread House' until someone comes up with a better name for it." Lisa countered.

"I guess..." Beau said uncertainly.

"It doesn't matter. We're going off topic." Lisa cautioned, then asked, "What are we doing next?"

"If you can tell us where this gingerbread house of yours is, the guys and I can catch up to you with the snacks." Matt said seriously.

"What about the new paradigm that you were so worried about a couple minutes ago?" Ms. Mordigan asked uncertainly.

"It's done. There's nothing we can do to change it. Now all we can do is wait to see how it works itself out." Brian said frankly.

"Okay. Where's the gingerbread house? I've missed some meals in the last few days, so I'm ready for an extra snack." John finished with a smile.

"Andrew kind of took us in and out of there without showing us where it was. I have no idea how to get there on foot." Beau cautiously admitted.

//According to the professor, all you have to do is go out the south door then down to the soccer field. From there, go to the southwest. He says that it's kind of remote, so don't give up too soon.// Jesus said seriously.

"Meerkats, you can go on ahead and talk about team things with Mad as you go. The rest of us will catch up to you." Matt said decisively as he started toward the door.

"What about Slash and Lee?" Louie asked suddenly.

"You'll be passing the rock pile on the way out. You can pick them up as you pass by and fill them in along the way." Matt said easily.

"Okay. We'll meet you at the gingerbread house." Beau said as he started to follow.

"I don't think we're going to have to come up with another name for it." Lisa said with a self-satisfied smile as she followed.

* * * * *

"Did you guys have enough time to feed your addictions?" Beau asked as he approached the decorative pile of rocks.

"Yeah. I guess we got to talking and lost track of time." Lee timidly responded.

"We've decided to give the guys a break from testing and get some fresh air. Y'all want to join us?" Beau asked with a little extra touch of his ever-present Texas drawl.

"Sure." Lee easily accepted for both of them.

"This way." Beau said as he started off toward the track and field area.

* * * * *

"It looks like the game's been cancelled." Beau observed when he saw the B-Team sitting on the grass in a circle.

"Either that or they've taken the 'huddle' concept to the next level." Lisa said frankly.

Before anyone could respond, Steve slithered away from his team and approached at high speed.

"Hey Steve, what's going on?" Ms. Mordigan asked pleasantly.

"They're having this big summit meeting about Mung's level of responsibility when it comes to his training and control." Steve said as he coiled himself in front of the group.

"Don't you need to be over there, giving them your opinion?" Lisa asked curiously.

"There's nothing I could say that I haven't said a dozen times already. They'll probably have a more productive meeting with me over here." Steve said frankly.

"We're going to check out a building that we're going to be setting up as a workshop. You could come with us if no one would have a problem with it." Brian suggested hopefully.

//Professor Xavier has cleared it so that if you want to go, your teacher will be told that you have permission.// Jesus said informatively.

"Whoa! You've got a telepath on your team? That's awesome! Which one of you is it?" Steve asked as he looked around excitedly.

//Me. I'm over here.// Jesus quietly answered.

"What? Where? Who said that?" Steve asked as he twisted and arched his lower body up slightly to see over and around the group.

//Here. In the backpack.// Jesus said as he poked his head out of the backpack to look at Steve.

"Really? Seriously?" Steve asked in surprise as he slithered back slightly.

//What's the matter? Are you grossed out by me?// Jesus asked curiously.

"No. That was just unexpected. But wouldn't that be cold-blooded? Me judging anyone for not looking human enough?" Steve laughed.

//I don't think there are many of us who are too worried about being 'human looking'.// Jesus said frankly.

"Not anymore, anyway." Seth added with a grin.

"I'm over it." Slash said simply.

Lisa easily nodded her agreement.

"Are Matt and the others going to catch up to us?" Lee asked to verify his understanding.

"Yep. That's the plan." Beau confirmed.

"Then we'd better get going." Ms. Mordigan said simply, then added, "Steve, you're welcome to come with us if you want. Like the rat said, Professor Xavier's already cleared you." Ms. Mordigan said invitingly.

//The rat?// Jesus asked indignantly.

"Sorry. I meant to say 'emotional support companion'. I just forgot your name." Ms. Mordigan said defensively.

//My name is Jesus! It'd really be tough to come up with a more memorable name than that.//

"Maybe some of my forgetability leaked out on you one of the times when you were reading my mind." Brian suggested teasingly.

//Sure. Let's just go with that so that we can keep everything nice and friendly// Jesus said playfully.

"Thank you, Jesus. I won't forget again." Ms. Mordigan said with exaggerated deference.

Jesus responded by disappearing into the backpack.

"Now what is this about 'forgetability'?" Ms. Mordigan asked Brian directly.

"What's my name?" Brian asked her simply.

"I... I don't know. I can't quite remember." Ms. Mordigan responded slowly.

"That's my natural ability working on you. It makes people forget about me." Brian said frankly.

"That sounds like a terribly lonely way to be." Ms. Mordigan said honestly.

"Yeah. But it's what I've got. From what I can see, I can either hate it or possibly find a way to make it work for me." Brian said seriously.

"That's awesome." Steve said with true appreciation.

"Thanks." Brian timidly responded, obviously not accustomed to receiving compliments.

"So, Steve, you wanna go with us?" Seth asked hopefully.

"Did you say that Bobby and John are going to be there?" Steve asked cautiously.

"Yeah. They're going to get some snacks for everyone and meet us there." Lee confirmed.

"Are they part of your team?"

"Right this minute they kind of are, but as soon as we can stand on our own, they'll probably be going back to the X-Men." Beau carefully explained.

"That's so awesome! The B-Team's been around forever and the best we've ever been able to do is stop bickering long enough for two or three of us to combine our moves to accomplish something... and that was only, like, twice." Steve said frankly.

"We need to get going. Come with us if you want." Lee said encouragingly.

"I need to check..." Steve began to say as he looked back toward the B-Team in time to see his teacher waving him to go on.

"I guess I'm ready." Steve said uncertainly.

"Is this part of the new paradigm?" Ms. Mordigan asked Brian uncertainly.

"If you think about it, everything that exists in the current timeline is part of the new paradigm, but to answer your question, 'yes', this is different from what was originally destined." Brian said carefully.

"What's going on?" Steve asked curiously at the vague conversation going on around him.

"It's nothing to worry about. We're just checking out a little building that Professor Xavier said that we can use for a project." Beau said dismissively.

"You need to tell him." Brian said firmly.

"Tell him what?" Beau asked curiously.

Brian looked around the group before continuing, "Some of us only have pieces of the puzzle of what's going on. Matt gave us this opportunity to meet as a team and talk about things that we don't need to be talking about in front of the others... especially Bobby."

"What can't we talk about in front of Bobby?" Louie asked curiously.

"We'll get to that. But right now what we need to do is get Mad, Lee, Quaid and Steve brought up-to-date on everything that's going on." Brian said seriously.

"If you say so. Go ahead." Beau encouraged.

Brian laughed before saying, "Nice try. But I'm not going to try and describe what you're going to be doing with your voodoo, or whatever it is."

"Vodun, and that's only one part of what I do." Beau said frankly.

Brian smiled, obviously feeling that Beau had just proved his point for him.

"Fine." Beau said with a brief eyeroll for Brian's benefit, then directed more of his attention toward Steve before saying, "I'm a born-witch, which means that I inherited my power rather than going out and seeking it. The 'workshop' that we're going to check out is going to be a place where I can go to practice my magic."

"And Professor Xavier's alright with that?" Steve asked curiously.

"Yes. It turns out that there are a few other witches around so he was completely onboard with giving us a place where we can practice our craft. I guess you could think of it as being our danger room." Beau carefully explained.

"It makes sense. Since he's opened his home to give mutants a place where they can exist without being hunted or experimented on, why wouldn't he do the same thing for witches?" Steve asked speculatively.

"Thanks Steve. Putting it that way makes me feel a lot less weird about the whole thing." Beau said with a smile, then added more seriously, "The reason we're wanting to get the workshop set up right now is because there's a good chance that I can use my magic to help Lisa gain full access to her abilities."

"You can do that?" Ms. Mordigan asked cautiously.

"I hope so." Beau said uneasily.

"Brian, how much do they need to know about it?" Lisa asked firmly.

"Pretty much anything you don't want to tell them is the stuff that they really need to know." Brian told her frankly.

"Yeah. That sounds about right." Lisa said wearily, then stoically continued, "Beau does death magic. He's going to fix it so that I can get the skill of someone who trained all their life, then died before they ever really got a chance to use what they'd learned."

"Wow... I um, wow. I don't know if I could do something like that. I mean, that sounds creepy as hell." Steve said honestly.

"I don't know either. But I'm determined to find out." Lisa said frankly, then continued, "If it turns out that I can't make myself do it, then I'll back out. But what it comes down to is being strong enough to be part of something big or being outside of it, always wondering what would have happened if I'd been braver."

"I wish I'd been given a choice like that." Steve quietly mused.

"How's that?" Lisa asked curiously as the group ambled along at a casual pace.

"When I was evaluated, I was automatically put on the B-Team. Me being braver or better in some way wouldn't have made a difference. It's not like I tried and failed. I just never got my shot." Steve said regretfully.

"Can I tell him?" Louie asked hopefully.

"Tell him what?" Seth asked curiously.

"Sure. Go ahead." Beau said with a smile.

"Steve. You're here with us right now because this is your shot." Louie said seriously.

//We don't go around telling strangers about Beau's magic or how Lisa's going to get her abilities. That kind of stuff belongs with the team members.// Jesus said frankly.

"Wait. What does that make me?" Quaid asked cautiously.

//As far as I'm concerned, you're already as much a part of this team as anyone. You make Louie happy, so I'm automatically on your side.// Jesus said simply.

"You got my vote too!" Louie happily proclaimed.

Beau couldn't restrain his smile at the announcement, but then thought to ask, "Brian? How does this affect your forecast?"

"It doesn't." Brian said simply, then explained, "As far as I can tell, Quaid exists between the strands of fate. Him being a member of the team or not doesn't change my forecast at all."

"Are you saying that I can't change anything?" Quaid asked cautiously.

"No. I'm saying that I can't see you changing anything. I can predict what's most likely going to happen, but you can change how things turn out whenever you feel like it and I won't see it coming." Brian fought to explain.

"You can see the future?" Steve asked Brian with surprise.

"Yeah. Lots of them." Brian said simply.

"Does Quaid get a team name?" Louie suddenly asked, brimming over with excitement at the prospect.

//He will if he chooses to be on our team. It's entirely up to him.// Jesus said seriously.

"Team name?" Ms. Mordigan asked cautiously.

"Yeah. It's not as much about secret identities as it is a signal to tell us that we're on the job, talking about team business. It also helps us when we're using communications that we can't be sure are secure." Slash injected into the conversation.

"Steve, before you make your decision, you need to know that another one of our team members, his name is Marc, he's been shot. It's possible that if you join us that you might be shot at too." Seth said seriously.

Slash nodded his agreement, then added, "That's the main reason that we're trying to get our team formed and up to speed as quickly as we can."

"Chances are that the shooter is really after me, but considering what happened to Marc, I wouldn't bet on any of you being safe from her." Beau said tiredly.

"That's the one thing I've got going for me. I've been rated at level 6 invulnerability. My scales can stand up to bladed weapons and most bullets, although I'd rather not test that out if it's all the same to you. Even if they don't pierce, they still hurt." Steve said frankly.

"Yeah. None of us wants that." Slash assured him, then continued, "And we're all trying to make the best out of whatever we've got to work with."

"At least you've got something. I don't have any special abilities." Quaid told him frankly.

"Why are you going to a mutant school if you're a normal human?" Steve asked curiously.

"Well, to start with, it isn't just a school for mutants. There's other kinds of people here, people like Beau, who might have problems with the normies if they knew what he really was." Quaid said seriously.

"Also, Quaid's not a human... or, at least he wasn't born one." Louie quietly added.

"You're not human?" Steve asked dubiously.

"I guess I kinda am now. I mean, it's not bad. It's better than being dead." Quaid said unenthusiastically.

"But you'd rather be your old self?" Lisa guessed.

"No! That's not it at all! I don't care about being all kinds of crazy powerful like that. It usually sucks and it's really lonely." Quaid quickly explained.

"But..." Lisa slowly prompted.

"But if I don't have any power at all, then why would I join the team? The best help I could give you is to stay away so you don't have to worry about endangering yourselves protecting me." Quaid said reluctantly, obviously loathed to speak the words.

"If there was any lesson to be learned from being powerless, I'm pretty sure that you've learned it by now." A gruff voice said from behind the group.

As they turned, Lee cautiously asked, "What are you doing here, Matt? Where are the guys?"

"I'm not Matt. I'm the Logan from this universe." He said with a grin, then focused on Quaid and said, "Your aunt Jean and I decided that you need to bring something to the table if you're going to be part of the team."

"What are you giving me? Laser eyes?" Quaid asked hopefully.

"What the... you little... no. No laser eyes!" Logan barked.

For a long moment, Quaid unflinchingly held his gaze.

Logan took a slow breath before calmly saying, "After talking it over, your aunt Jean and I decided that to help put you on an even footing with the people around you that we'd give you one of our x-genes; just one, either mine or hers."

"So that means that I can have claws and super strength and wicked cool sideburns?" Quaid asked hopefully.

"I don't know. You might." Logan said with a grin, then continued, "We're just going to introduce the x-gene into your system, which will make you a mutant. How the x-gene will manifest in you is anyone's guess."

Quaid smiled widely, then noticed Lee standing nearby, watching with concern.

After a moment to consider, Quaid cautiously asked, "So, does that mean that if I get your x-gene that it might make me wild and hurt the people I care about or maybe even forget my friends?"

"That could happen." Logan reluctantly admitted.

"I'd rather not have abilities than do anything to hurt or forget my new friends and family." Quaid regretfully announced as he avoided looking directly at Lee.

"That's alright. Would you rather inherit your aunt Jean's genes?" Logan finished with a grin.

"Yeah." Quaid quietly agreed, then quickly added, "It's not that I don't want to be related to you, but I can't take the chance. It's too important."

"Don't worry about it. Here in a few minutes you're probably going to start hearing or seeing things that aren't there. Be sure to let Jesus and the professor help you until you can get a handle on whatever your ability's going to be." Logan explained.

"So you don't know what's going to happen?" Brian asked curiously.

"I could know if I looked, but I won't. What fun would that be?" Logan said with a grin at him.

"But what if something goes wrong? You can prevent him from having to go through a lot of worry and pain if you'll tell him what's coming." Brian said anxiously.

"I could also prevent him from living and growing and learning to make the most out of what life hands him." Logan said frankly.

"I knew it! I told you! I told you we'd meet him! He's Matt's evil twin!" Louie triumphantly announced.

Logan smiled at Louie's assertion, then looked to Quaid and quietly said, "If you want, I can still make you completely human with no x-gene at all. I got no stake in this. It's entirely up to you."

"No. Don't do that. I'll do like you said and try to make the most out of whatever it turns out to be." Quaid quickly confirmed.

"I think you already know that if you get into trouble, your aunt Jean and I probably won't be able to bail you out." Logan said seriously.

"It's my dad, isn't it?"

"Don't worry about him. In fact, I'll tell you a little secret. I think I've seen signs that he's coming around. Now, I don't want to make any predictions about him turning over a new leaf, but I guess what I'm really telling you is that there's a reason for you to hope that things with him can be better." Logan said quietly.

"I don't care. I'll never forgive him. After what he did... no. I'm done with him." Quaid said firmly.

"I'm not asking you to forgive him. I'm just letting you know that he's capable of changing. You don't have to assume that he is and will always be the same monster that you remember him to be." Logan said seriously.

"Do you think that it somehow makes it not as bad because there's another version of Itchy living here? Well it doesn't. I loved my best friend and didn't want anything for him but for him to grow up and be happy. Even though the new Itchy is my brother and I love him too, it doesn't undo what my dad did. I won't forgive, I won't forget and I WILL hate him forever." Quaid said with absolute certainty.

"By the way, how are things going with Itchy 2.0?" Logan gently asked.

"Okay. He's busy a lot of the time, but at the end of the day, we get to hang out together for a while and... it's nice." Quaid finished with a smile at the thought of his older brother.

"I've got to get going now. You know how it is. We've gotta keep the baddies off your backs." Logan said frankly.

"Yeah. I know. Thanks for that. I really do like it here." Quaid said quietly.

Logan stepped forward and placed one hand on Quaid's shoulder before pulling him into a brief, firm hug.

Before the moment could drag on too long, Logan flared into a burst of silver light and vanished.

* * * * *

A long silence fell over the group which was finally broken by Ms. Mordigan asking, "So that was the Matt from another dimension?"

"No. That was the Matt from this dimension. The Matt you know is from another dimension, he just lives here now." Slash calmly explained.

"He seems to be incredibly powerful. It's nice to see that he's making sure that you're going to be alright." Ms. Mordigan told Quaid frankly.

"We're nothing alike in any way, but I still feel like he understands me better than anyone, anywhere... anywhen." Quaid quietly admitted.

"Is anything happening yet?" Louie asked cautiously.

"Yeah. I can feel it awakening inside me. It's mental, there's no doubt about that." Quaid said slowly.

//You're experienced with having psychic abilities, aren't you?// Jesus asked curiously.

"Yeah. but you don't have to yell about it. I'm right here." Quaid answered irritably.

//I wasn't yelling. You're changing. You're becoming more attuned to telepathic communication.// Jesus gently explained.

"You're becoming telepathic?" Steve asked with surprise.

//It's too early to tell. The ability to 'receive' telepathy is different from the ability to 'send'. We'll have to wait and see what develops for him.// Jesus explained.

"Yeah. Um, no. I don't feel the telepathy growing so much now. Maybe it'll pick back up later. Right now, I'm getting more of a telekinetic thing going on." Quaid said slowly.

//Professor Xavier is monitoring what's happening.// Jesus said informatively.

"Yeah. I can feel him there..." Quaid said under his breath, then he turned toward the mansion and said more loudly, "Hi Professor!"

//Don't mind me. Proceed.// Professor Xavier responded in all their minds.

"This is wrong." Quaid muttered to himself.

"What's that? Do we need to run for cover?" Beau asked cautiously.

"I don't know yet... No promises..." Quaid said haltingly.

"Keep us posted, will you?" Beau asked hopefully.

"I'll do my best." Quaid weakly offered.

"Is there anything we can do to help you?" Lisa asked anxiously.

"You're here, standing with me through something that might end up being dangerous. That means a lot to me." Quaid said sincerely.

//Before we get too much into that, tell me about your emotional state. How much of what you're feeling do you think is what you're feeling?// Professor Xavier asked cautiously.

"Empathy? I can't promise that I don't have any of that going on, but I'm not noticing any foreign emotions." Quaid assured him.

//What about the rest of you? Is anyone noticing feeling uncharacteristic emotional states or unusually intense emotions?// Professor Xavier asked the group.

//I think that I've been around the Meerkats enough to notice something out of the ordinary with their emotional states. I'm not detecting any empathic leakage from Quaid at all. His shielding is expertly formed. It's actually quite elegant.// Jesus concluded with a note of satisfaction.

"You guys might want to step back a little bit. I've got... something about to happen and I don't know what it's going to be when it finally shows up." Quaid slowly warned.

//Can you narrow down if it's telepathic, empathic or telekinetic in nature?// Professor Xavier asked hopefully.

"Telekinetic, for sure. Psionic force." Quaid answered in a short, chopped tone.

//Do you have any indication of how it's going to manifest?// Professor Xavier asked urgently.

"Cube." Quaid fought to say.

As the single word left his mouth, an ethereal blue/white cube, about a foot tall, appeared directly in front of Quaid, levitating in mid air.

After a moment, Slash finally said, "Yeah. That's a cube."

"I think that's it for now. I guess that's my ability." Quaid said in slow concentration.

"You can make a cube?" Steve asked dubiously.

//It appears that Quaid is able to make a stable construct out of psionic force. Just off the top of my head, I can think of a number of uses for such a thing. You appear to have been given a tremendous gift. Use it well.// Professor Xavier said sagely.

"Yeah. I'll try." Quaid said weakly as he stared at the cube floating in front of him.

"The future of the team as a whole just became a whole lot more secure. Even though I can't see you, I think you're going to be alright." Brian said in concentration.

"Quaid, are you okay to start walking again or do we need to contact Matt and the others to let them know that we'll be late?" Seth asked cautiously.

"Yeah. I'm fine. Don't worry about me. I got this." Quaid assured him.

//As it happens, the 'snack' preparations turned into more of a production than anyone anticipated. Rest assured, you will have sufficient time to reach your destination before your snacks arrive.// Professor Xavier said with amusement.

"Steve? Do you already have a team name?" Louie asked curiously.

"All of us were given code names, but we never really used them for anything." Steve said frankly.

"Really? What's yours?" Louie asked excitedly.

"Nightfear." Steve said simply.

"That's really... it doesn't have anything to do with you... I mean... with snakes." Seth finally choked out.

"Unless snakes is what you have nightmares about." Lisa quietly suggested.

"For the A-Team, the code names usually mean something. For us, I guess they were kind of a way so that we could pretend that we were as good as them and play at being X-Men." Steve said uneasily.

"The Meerkats is a whole other team. You can have another name if you want to." Louie quietly offered as they walked.

"If you'd asked me yesterday, I probably would have said that I wanted to change it. But it really doesn't matter to me now. I guess I'll keep it like it is." Steve said honestly.

"What about you Quaid? What kind of team name would you like to have?" Louie asked hopefully.

"I don't know. I never really thought about it. What do you think my name should be? I mean, you're our expert." Quaid asked with a loving smile at him.

"I can see why Steve doesn't care and I think that's a really good choice for him. But for you, I think you should have a name that has something to do with who you are." Louie said slowly.

"What did you come up with?" Quaid asked curiously.


When Quaid didn't immediately react, Louie hurried to say, "If you don't like it I can come up with something else for you."

Quaid looked lovingly at Louie and quietly said, "Don't worry. It's perfect."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I like being able to figure out how to realign the edges of the paragraphs.

It really is neat to get another chapter in this amazing story/saga.

The meerkats are really interesting.

I have always loved the way that MM can take elements from a single different or several different sources, and build them into a completely new entity; one that builds on previously known stories or adventures within one or more movies. Books, TV shows, Etc. and bring new life to any or all of them, without destroying or limiting them. He makes the parts fit together, and gives them the opportunity to grow, and flourish.

I have found myself becoming interested in particular stories, shows or characters that I had never taken an interest in before, Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes to mind as an example, My introduction to her and her friends, in an MM story gave me the incentive to look up the movie and TV series and other stories written about them.

Now I find myself interested in the concept.

I found MM's take on the Star trek series extremely interesting, and that was a set of series that had already drawn me in. I still fell in love with MM's versions of those people.

Let me just say that I highly recommend any of MM's stories. I am pretty sure you will be hooked.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher