Hurt & Comfort

Book 10: Elusive Comfort

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Chapter 1: Slivers and Shards

"Bobby, please talk to me. Tell me what happened." Warren asked helplessly.

"He killed himself." Bobby said into Warren's shoulder through his tears.

Warren held Bobby firmly and waited for more.

"I don't know what I did wrong. I tried to be a friend. I... I wasn't enough." Bobby said in despair.

"Shhh. I know. This isn't something you could have prevented. I know how much you cared for Peter, but this was his choice, not yours. It's not your fault." Warren soothed.

"I should have seen some kind of sign... something to let me know he was thinking of it. I should have been able to stop it." Bobby said in grief.

"Bobby." Warren said firmly and pulled out of the hug to look in his eyes.

Bobby looked hesitantly at Warren.

"It isn't your fault. You loved Peter as a friend. He knew that. You can either lose yourself in grief or choose to use this to see that it doesn't happen again." Warren said carefully.

Bobby stared at Warren in question.

"How many kids do you think have thought about doing the same thing?" Warren said in nearly a whisper.

Bobby thought about the conversation earlier and finally said, "I think most of us have thought about it."

"Use Peter's death as an inspiration to help them. Make sure no other kids give into the dark thoughts. Peter gave you the chance to know what it feels like to lose a friend. Let other people know. If they aren't concerned about their own lives, lead them to think of the people around them." Warren said with tears starting to form in his own eyes.

Bobby nodded.

"Who cares about you the most Bobby?" Warren asked in a whisper.

"Robert, Ronny, John... you." Bobby said in a diminishing voice.

"Then you need to let us help you. Bobby, you're hurting, but everyone who cares for you is hurting too. Hurting for Peter and hurting for you. Share this. Let us help you and you'll be helping us. " Warren said steadily.

Bobby got a look of dawning realization and suddenly said, "Robert."

"What?" Warren asked curiously.

"I've been pushing him away all day. He's been trying to help me and I wouldn't let him." Bobby said with a look of horror.

"Shhh. It's not too late. Tell him you need him and let him help you now." Warren said quietly.

Bobby nodded and hurried to the kitchen door.

Before opening the door, he stopped and said over his shoulder, "Thanks Warren, thanks for letting me know how to deal with this."

"Anytime Bobby, and I mean that. If you EVER need me, I'm always available to you." Warren said as he scrubbed a sleeve across his eyes to dry them.

Bobby hurried out the door to find Robert.

* * * * *

"So what are you doing here Wesley?" Xander asked with a smile of welcome.

"I met Mr. Worthington on the plane and he invited me to Thanksgiving dinner." Wesley said hesitantly.

"That's great! Come on and get some food. You've got to try the sweet potatoes, they're wonderful." Xander said as he led Wesley to the serving line.

"Xander, you don't get to hog Wesley all to yourself. Share." Dawn said in a mock stern tone.

Wesley looked at Dawn with surprise.

"We'll sit at the head table and there'll be plenty of room for everyone to join us." Xander said firmly.

"Alright then." Dawn said seriously and picked up a plate

Wesley reached for some Jell-O when Xander stopped him.

"You don't want that Wes, that's Borg food. There's some other Jell-O over here." Xander said quickly.

"Borg food?" Wesley asked curiously.

"Yeah, for the non-humans. It won't hurt you, but it tastes really bland." Xander said as he scooped a double portion of sweet potatoes onto his plate.

"It hadn't occurred to me that their nutritional requirements might be different..." Wesley trailed off in thought.

"Not as much nutrition as taste. They don't *need* to eat at all, but they enjoy it sometimes. But our food is too strongly flavored for them to tolerate, so it has to be diluted quite a bit." Xander said absently.

"Quite interesting." Wesley said as he stepped away from the serving line and waited for Xander to lead him to a table.

"You'll get used to it." Xander said, then pointed to the big table at the front of the room.

* * * * *

"Robert." Bobby said shyly as he walked up behind him.

Robert turned and looked at Bobby with concern.

"I need you." Bobby whispered and opened his arms.

Robert got a smile of relief and fell into Bobby's hug.

The two stood silently in the dining room holding each other, not knowing or caring if anyone was watching.

* * * * *

Warren walked out of the kitchen and gave a gentle smile as he saw Bobby and Robert hugging.

He turned at movement and saw Clark, Trey, John and Scott walk in from the hallway.

Warren walked to Scott with purpose and quietly said, "I've got some business to discuss with you."

"Important?" Scott asked with immediate concern.

"Time sensitive..." Warren trailed off and looked around.

"Do we need to speak privately?" Scott asked, now fully in his professional persona.

"No, I think we could discuss it here. I'll just need a few minutes of your time." Warren said in thought.

"Let's grab some food and then we'll talk." Scott said and walked to the serving line.

"Good idea. It looks wonderful." Warren said as he glanced over the serving line.

"It is, Mom made some kind of sauerkraut salad that you have to try. It's incredible." Scott said as he led the way.

"Mom?" Warren asked curiously, knowing that Scott had NEVER spoken of his parents before.

"Yeah, I've been adopted into Clark's family. Long story." Scott said happily as he selected small portions of various food items.

"That's great Scott. I'll look forward to hearing it sometime." Warren said warmly.

"Maybe after we've discussed our business." Scott said and walked away from the food.

Warren nodded and followed Scott.

* * * * *

Logan walked into the dining room and saw Orroro sitting at the head table with a group of people, but from the distant look on her face, she was sitting alone.

"Mind if I join you?" Matt asked carefully.

A gentle smile fell over Orroro's face as she answered, "Please, I would enjoy the company."

Logan took the seat beside Orroro and tried to think of what to say next.

"Matt, I must tell you something, but I am not sure how to begin." Orroro said carefully.

"Just say it Stormy, ya know I can handle just about anything." Matt said warmly.

"I have noticed your romantic interest in me." Orroro said quietly.

"Yeah, and the ocean is a little damp." Matt said ironically.

Orroro gave a pained smile and continued, "I have interest in Hank. I do not wish to harm you, but I feel it would cause most harm to mislead you into thinking I might return your interest."

Logan sat silently, thinking over Orroro's words.

"I hope this does not effect your relationship with Hank, I know you have become friends." Orroro continued in a pained voice.

"Naw, I knew he was hot for you... he told me. I never had a chance, did I?" Logan asked as he looked deeply into her eyes.

"No. I have been admiring Hank since his arrival. I enjoy your company but feel no romantic interest toward you... I'm sorry." Storm said as her eyes began to glisten with tears.

"Don't worry Stormy. It hurts. But if I had to lose out to someone, at least it was the dust mop. You'll never find a better guy... 'cept me, of course." Logan finished with a grin.

"Of course." Orroro said with a chuckle of relief.

"Just make me one promise." Logan asked quietly.

"Anything, my friend." Storm said intensely.

"If it don't work out with blue boy, think about it." Logan said with a sad, hopeful look.

"Yes, I promise." Storm said in a whisper.

"Then that's the last that I'm goin ta say bout it. If you and Hank ever need me for anything, I'll be there for ya. I'll do whatever I can to help you two." Logan said with assurance.

"Thank you Matt, that's... thank you." Orroro said with a joyful smile.

* * * * *

A taxi pulled up in front of the mansion.

"Someone's here." Janine called out.

"Who is it?" Alan said curiously.

Alan and William walked to the front door as Janine opened it to go outside.

"It's Professor Xavier!" Janine said happily as she ran out to the car.

"William, go tell Scott that the Professor is here." Alan said as he hurried out the door.

William turned and walked quickly to the dining room.

* * * * *

"I need to hire some of your students to help me at the Wagner Institute." Warren said as they settled into their chairs.

"For what?" Scott asked curiously.

"We have five high-school aged students who will be ready to begin classes on Monday. I need some students their age to help them integrate into the mainstream. I thought I could hire a few of your students to attend classes and... basically ease the way." Warren said between bites of food.

"Okay, I guess that's a good idea. I mean, I can see how it would be scary for a high school aged kid to show up at a college. Some people their own age to relate to would be a big help." Scott said in thought.

"I thought you might have an idea of who is in need of the money... or maybe a change of scenery." Warren said in an almost leading tone.

"You're thinking of Bobby, aren't you?" Scott asked as he met Warren's eyes.

"Yes. I don't know what reminder's of Peter he's going to have to face around here, but maybe something new to distract him would... keep him from being overwhelmed by it all. He seems to be overloaded by his own emotions and at a loss for how to deal with them all." Warren said with concern.

"A very astute observation Warren. Until recently, Bobby was very closed off emotionally. He basically wore a friendly mask around everyone, but didn't let anyone get to know him. Peter was the first person to see behind that mask..." Scott trailed off in sadness.

"I see. I didn't know that part." Warren said darkly.

A moment of silence fell between the two.

"Uncle Scott, the Professor's back!" William said as he hurried into the room.

Scott and Warren stood simultaneously and followed William into the hall.

* * * * *

"Professor! How are you doing?" Scott asked with a happy smile as he rushed to the Taxi.

"Very well Scott. I was able to convince Eric to shorten our vacation so I could celebrate Thanksgiving with you all." Charles said happily as he got himself settled into his wheelchair.

"You look good Professor. Did you get enough rest?" Warren asked, noticing that Charles had a tan.

"Yes, exquisite rest." Charles said and cast a loving look at Eric.

"That's great. Almost everyone is in the dining room. I'll get your luggage and meet you there." Scott said with a smile.

"I need to speak to you in my office first." Charles said with a serious look.

"Um. Okay... William, would you get some people to help you with the Professor's luggage?" Scott asked with a feeling of concern filling him.

"We can get it." Alan said and looked at William to see if he agreed.

William nodded and began to pick up suitcases.

Eric pushed Charles' wheelchair up the ramp and into the mansion.

They were followed immediately by Scott and Warren.

* * * * *

"Mystique sent word that Peter committed suicide." The professor said as soon as the door closed.

"Yes." Scott said darkly.

"How is everyone handling it?" Charles asked in his no nonsense tone.

"As well as they can. Alan, Logan and I have been seeing to the kids who were closest to Peter. It's tough, but I think they're doing as well as can be expected." Scott said seriously, then took a seat before the Professor's desk.

Charles got a vacant look, then said, "I see. Well done."

"Charles?" Eric asked from the Professor's side.

The Professor looked up at Eric and his determined expression gave way to a gentle smile.

"Right." The Professor said, then he turned to face Scott and Warren and continued, "I'd like to have a meeting with both of you, Orroro, Hank, Logan, Alan and Xander as soon as you can gather them. We're going to be making some changes."

"I'll get them now." Scott said and got up.

"While you're doing that, I would like to hear about the preparations for the new college." The Professor said, directing the statement to Warren.

Scott left the room as Warren said, "We're ready to open the college on Monday. We already have five new students ready to enroll as soon as the changeover becomes official."

"How do you think the current students are going to react to the mutant invasion?" Charles asked without a spark of humor.

"I'm a little worried about that. I was talking to Scott about hiring a few of your students to attend the Wagner Institute to ease their way." Warren said in his business tone.

"Good thinking. Who did you have in mind?" The Professor asked in thought.

"We haven't gone that far. Bobby is the only one we've discussed... because he probably needs a change of scenery after Peter's death." Warren said with a note of sadness.

"I see. Yes, I agree that he should be given the option." Charles said absently.

The door opened and all the individuals named earlier walked into the room.

"Everyone, take a seat." Charles said forcefully.

Everyone took a seat and waited with apprehension.

"My insistence on doing everything myself has adversely affected my health, so some changes need to be made. I am going to delegate my responsibilities to you all if you are willing to take on the additional burden." Charles said assertively.

"Professor, we have always been willing." Orroro said in a quiet but self assured voice.

Charles smiled at the statement and continued, "Scott will be in charge of the academic needs of the younger students, through high school."

Scott nodded.

"Orroro will be in charge of the student accommodations, meal preparation schedules... basically the non-academic aspects of the student's needs." Charles said as he looked at her.

"Of course Professor." Orroro said with a gentle smile.

"Alan will be in charge of administration." The Professor said and looked at Alan.

"Yes Professor." Alan said quietly.

"Hank will be in charge of our college level students, including the student teachers." The Professor said firmly.

Hank nodded.

"Logan will be in charge of the X-men. Training, equipment and the like. Scott and Orroro will still be team leaders as before, but Logan will be in charge of the day-to-day needs of the team." The Professor said, looking at Logan to see if he had any objection.

"I'm not him." Logan said with an unreadable look.

"Pardon?" The Professor asked in confusion.

"I'm not the Logan you know. I'm the other one." Logan said with a look that might be interpreted as impatience.

"I see." The Professor said in a tone of voice that said he really didn't.

"Matt is the Logan from my world. The Logan from this world left with Jean." Alan said quietly.

"Yes... well then..." The Professor said, at a loss for what to do next.

"Professor? I think Matt would be excellent in the position." Scott said and smiled at his friend.

Charles looked at Scott curiously, knowing that Scott and Logan never got along.

"I agree." Alan said next.

"He's got my vote." Xander said with a shrug.

"Very well, Matt, would you like to take the position?" The Professor asked, sounding less sure than before.

"Yeah, I just wanted you to know what you'd be getting." Matt said in a low voice.

Charles nodded, then looked to Xander.

"Xander, if you'd be willing, I'd like for you to be liaison with the Wagner Institute. You'd be responsible for recruiting alpha and omega level mutants to this facility and keeping both facilities abreast of events that might be of concern." The Professor said with renewed assuredness.

"Excuse me Professor, but he can't." Warren said quickly, before Xander could agree.

"Why not?" Xander asked curiously.

"One of the reasons I came here was to talk to you about Wainright Enterprises. The board of directors are beginning to make some questionable decisions and you may need to step in and take control of the company before it gets out of hand." Warren said in full business mode.

"But... I mean... I don't know anything about running a company. It's just a cover story." Xander said helplessly.

"The Professor was very thorough about your cover story. I've hired an investigator to find out all that he can about you... just to see if there was any indication that you weren't who the Professor claims you are." Warren said professionally.

"And?" Xander asked cautiously.

"And, he confirmed that you *are* Alexander Wainright, the adopted child of Robert and Felicity Wainright and the one and only heir to the Wainright estate, including a controlling interest in Wainright Enterprises. As a side note, I was surprised to find out that we were college roommates at the Xavier Institute where we both attained our Masters degrees in Business Administration." Warren ended with a smile.

"It would explain why you know each other, in case someone should ask." Professor Xavier said with a smile.

"Okay... But I... I don't know what to do." Xander said helplessly.

"That's one of the reasons that I'm here. The board of directors of your company have made a few decisions contrary to mutant interests that you should be aware of." Warren said with concern.

"Like?" Xander asked hesitantly.

"I don't know any specifics. I was lucky to find out as much as I did. All I can tell you is that it's a government defense contract and is codenamed 'Sentinel'."

* * * * *

"I'm sorry Robert. I'm sorry I didn't let you help me when I was hurting... I love you." Bobby whispered.

"I understand Bobby. My own emotions sometimes overwhelm me. Thank you for letting me help you now." Robert said into Bobby's chest.

"Are you guys okay?" Clark asked with concern.

"Fine Clark. How are you?" Bobby asked as he loosened his grip on Robert.

"Me? Oh, let's see..." Clark said with a contented smile and held up his hand to display his ring.

"What's that?" Bobby asked curiously.

"My promise ring from Trey and John." Clark said with joy.

"What's that?" Bobby asked in confusion.

Robert looked at Clark and received a nod to proceed.

"The ring is a symbol of commitment among Clark, Trey and John to show that they are promised to each other. This symbol means that they are not available for intimacy with anyone else and will one day make a formal commitment to become life partners." Robert said reverently.

"Thanks Robert. It's still hard for me to put it into words." Clark said quietly.

"You mean you three? Are together?" Bobby asked with wide eyes.

"Yes. I love them." Clark said with peace.

Bobby recognized the look and moved from surprise to acceptance.

"I need to congratulate John. This is great." Bobby said as he pulled Clark into a one armed hug, still holding Robert with the other.

"Thanks Bobby. John's over there." Clark said as he motioned to the table where John was sitting next to Trey.

"Come on." Bobby said quietly and guided Robert and Clark, still gently holding both of them.

* * * * *

"Any suggestions for a liaison between the Xavier Institute and the Wagner Institute?" Professor Xavier asked the group.

"What about Alex?" Scott asked quickly.

"I believe Alex will be quite busy between his teaching duties and his college studies. The liaison position is likely to be time consuming, though not necessarily difficult." The Professor said in thought.

"Perhaps Tara might be able to do it. I could resume the duties she has taken up in MedLab. Then she should have free time." Hank said in thought.

"I'm afraid not Hank. Though I believe she would be excellent in the liaison position, both you and she would likely be overburdened by the addition of the responsibility." Professor Xavier said with apology.

"Um. Professor? What kind of experience would the liaison have to have... I mean, does it have to be someone with an academic background?" Alan asked hesitantly.

"No, the position has more of a human interest than an academic focus." Charles said with a curious look at Alan.

"How about Lee?" Alan asked the group.

"I'm afraid I don't know him." The Professor said with confusion.

"He's Andrew's father. He doesn't have a job right now and he's really a good person. I think it would be perfect for him." Alan said with enthusiasm.

"Scott, what do you think?" The Professor asked as he shifted his focus.

"Honestly, I don't know him that well. He seems nice enough, but I haven't had an opportunity to sit down and talk with him." Scott said seriously.

"I have." Xander said in thought.

Everyone turned to Xander, waiting for him to continue.

"He'd be great. That guy's been through hell, and coming from me, that's saying a lot." Xander said with a small smirk, then continued, "He's been clean and sober for five years. He's been trying to find a place to fit in, but his mutation keeps him moving from place to place. I think with a little training, he'd be perfect for the job."

"What is his mutation?" The Professor asked seriously.

"He can create portals like Andrew, but he hasn't learned to target them... And he doesn't age." Alan said in a preoccupied voice.

"Doesn't age?" The Professor prompted.

"He looks like he's about sixteen... like Andrew." Alan said seriously.

"I see... actually, that could work to our benefit." Professor Xavier said in thought.

"How so?" Scott asked curiously.

"He could observe situations first hand that one of us might not be able to. Students sometimes behave differently when an adult is present." The Professor said with a nod.

"Sometimes?" Xander asked with an incredulous look.

"Usually." Scott said with a smile.

"Usually." The Professor conceded.

"We can ask him, but it will have to be his choice. I wouldn't want him to feel pressured to pretend to be a teenager... he needs to know it's a choice, not a job requirement." Alan said firmly.

Charles looked at Alan curiously.

"Xander was right, he's been through hell. I just want him to understand that we want *him* for the job, not his mutant ability." Alan said, begging for understanding with his eyes.

"Agreed." Charles said, without expression.

To Be Continued...