Hurt & Comfort

Book 2: Circumstantially Hurt

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Chapter 3: What you think you know...

Hank made his way to the kitchen for a much needed cup of coffee. He normally didn't indulge in the drink because it tended to make him nervous and edgy but something deep within him told him that nervous and edgy would be appropriate for the coming day.

Hank turned his attention to the bone-weary figure of Rogue entering the kitchen.

"How are our patients this morning?" Hank asked, knowing that if they were other than fine, he would have been summoned during the night.

"Scott had a nightmare, but Andrew calmed him. Tara was exactly right when she suggested that we put them together." Marie said as she nudged him out of the way to get her own cup of coffee.

"Shouldn't you be getting some sleep?" Hank asked as he watched her prepare a cup with an impressive amount of sugar and cream before adding a splash of coffee.

"I have some things I need to do first. Did you sleep well?" She asked with interest.

"Yes, after the myriad of emotional events yesterday, I was able to sleep quite soundly." Hank said as he began to sip his black coffee and made a wince at the strength of the brew.

Noticing his reaction to the coffee, she said, "I think Logan made the coffee before he took his turn watching the guys."

"I assumed as much. Logan's healing factor may make him virtually indestructible, but this coffee could be a danger even to him." Hank said, pouring half his coffee down the sink and diluting it with water.

"I think he uses equal parts grounds and water when he makes it." Marie said and took a seat at the kitchen table.

Bobby made his way into the kitchen and went directly to the coffee maker. Hank and Marie recognized the zombie-like state that he was in as he failed to notice that they were in the room.

One sip of coffee snapped him out of his trance-state. "Holy mother of God!" he gasped. He walked to the sink and performed the same dilution ritual that Hank had just done. "Someone needs to show Logan how to make coffee before he kills someone." Bobby muttered and made his way to the table.

Hank and Marie shared a glance and the three sat in silence, waiting for the effects of the caffeine to be felt.

* * * * *

Andrew awoke to find Scott cradled against his chest and holding him tenderly. He looked up to see Logan watching them with a barely interested expression.

Then, as Andrew became more awake and aware, he noticed that he had a raging hard-on and was 'pitching a tent' right in front of Logan. Embarrassed, he tried to turn his body to conceal the erection.

"Don't worry 'bout it kid." Logan said with quiet gruffness. "Just means the equipment is working. Nothin that don't happen to all of us."

Andrew heard the unembarrassed tone in Logan's voice and noticed the casual way that he nursed his large mug of coffee and decided that if Logan wasn't bothered, he wasn't either.

Scott shifted and snuffled against Andrew's shoulder. Without thinking, Andrew automatically reached to the bedside stand and grabbed Scott's glasses.

As Scott raised his head, he felt his glasses pressed into his hand. After putting them on and looking around, Scott said, "Andrew?" in confusion.

"Yeah, you had a nightmare, so I came over to help you out. How'd you sleep?" Andrew asked in a casual tone.

"Uh, fine, I guess..." Scott said, a little disoriented.

Then he focused his attention on Logan, "Um, good morning Logan... I, uh, need to..." Scott trailed off, embarrassed.

"C'mon, One-Eye. That's why I'm on morning watch instead of the women." Logan said with a smirk.

Scott nodded and fought his way out from under the covers and to the bathroom with Logan's help.

Andrew watched in fond amusement as Scott tried to conceal his morning wood from Logan.

After a few moments, Logan returned with Scott and asked, "You need to go too? I mean, while I'm up?"

Andrew nodded and took his turn at the bathroom. When he returned, he automatically went back to Scott's bed, not even thinking of returning to his own.

"How you two feeling?" Logan asked, trying to make some sort of conversation.

"Good, much stronger." Scott said as Andrew nodded in agreement.

"That's good to hear. The whole place is turned on its ear with you two holed up here." Logan said, then took another drink from his mug.

"How do you mean?" Andrew asked, not knowing how their being out of action would affect the normal operation of things besides disrupting class schedules a little.

"All the kids are worried 'bout you two. They can't think about their studies or talk about anything else. Between telling them that you two are okay and having the other guy down in MedLab, the rest of us are spread pretty thin." Logan said in an uncharacteristic monologue.

"Why don't we have our regular class time up here? I mean, the discussion part of the class. All we have to do is sit around and talk... that's all we're doing anyway. We don't even need to get out of bed, just bring in some chairs and they'll see that we're fine." Andrew suggested.

Logan and Scott thought about it and realized that it would probably be a solution to many problems at once.

"I'll ask the Doc if it's okay. If he signs off on it, we'll have your afternoon classes up here today." Logan said decisively.

Then he got a mischievous look and said, "But you two might want to get into separate beds before they get here, or they'll have something else to distract them."

Andrew and Scott looked at each other and shared a mutual blush. "It's not like..." Andrew started as Scott said, "We aren't..."

"I know." Logan said with a smile and tapped his nose. "I can smell it when someone's got the hots. I was just saying that you two might not want that type of speculation on top of everything else that's going on." Logan said informatively.

Scott got an impish grin and said, "Maybe we could just stay like this and let them think what they want?"

Andrew noticed Scott's playful look and mock-considered for a moment, "Hmm, that WOULD give them something to gossip about to take their minds off recent events." Andrew said jokingly.

Logan and Scott shared a momentary serious look. An uncomfortable silence ensued that Andrew didn't understand. Finally Logan broke the silence by saying, "They've all been pretty shook up since the school was attacked..."

"...and with the loss of Jean..." Scott added with a pained voice.

"...and now you two being up here..." Logan continued.

Andrew finally saw what they were getting at and decided to put a stop to it. "It would be a lie. Guys, as much as it could help, it could also blow up in our faces. Nothing good will come out of lying to the children." Andrew said with certainty.

"It wouldn't be a lie... just misdirection. Are you ashamed of the thought of being seen as my partner?" Scott asked, not knowing if he really wanted to hear the answer.

"First, misdirection is another word for lie. Second, I am not embarrassed by the idea of being thought of as your partner. I would be proud... if it were true. But as long as it's a lie, I won't be any part of it." Andrew said, then realized what he just admitted.

"Need more coffee. Be right back." Logan said quickly and left the room.

Scott and Andrew didn't even notice that Logan had left... in fact they were barely aware that he had been there to begin with.

A long moment of silence fell between the two men before Scott quietly asked, "Really?"

Feigning ignorance, Andrew answered, "Really, I won't be a party to a lie."

Andrew squirmed under Scott's icy stare, which was interesting since he couldn't see Scott's eyes, but nonetheless, he knew that Scott was staring at him... and that it was icy. Finally he relented. "Really. I like you Scott, and if we got together, I'd be proud to have you as my partner."

Scott turned his gaze forward and stared at the opposite wall, lost in thought. [And how do I feel? He's my friend, but could we be more to each other? Should we? Would it ruin everything if we tried?]

{Scott, stop it.} Andrew whispered.

Scott snapped out of his thoughts and asked, "Stop what?"

"Stop trying to think what you should do. This isn't about thinking, it's about feeling. Will you tell me how you feel?" Andrew asked, needing to know.

"I don't know what I'm feeling, I know that I like you but I've never thought about you that way and I just don't know..." Scott started.

"That's all I need to know." Andrew said with a smile.

Scott raised an eyebrow that prompted Andrew to continue.

"Scott, it's occurred to me. But I haven't thought about it seriously. You haven't thought about it at all. So it's not going to happen... now. Let's just leave the possibility open for the future and go back to the way things have been." Andrew asked with a note of pleading in his voice.

"We can't." Scott said sadly.

"We can't?" Andrew asked in confirmation.

"We can't go back, we can't pretend. It won't work. Like it or not, everything's changed." Scott said and put his arm around Andrew to hold him close.

Andrew thought about Scott's words and realized that he was right. "So, where do we go from here?" he asked bravely.

"I don't know, what do you want to do?" Scott asked as he held Andrew and looked off into the distance.

"You're my friend, and I don't want to lose that. I've never cared about anyone as much as I do for you. So, whatever we decide to do, we have to keep at least that much." Andrew said into Scott's shoulder.

"I agree. Holding you like this, being able to share my thoughts and feelings is something that I wouldn't want to give up either, but the other part..." Scott trailed off.

"...the sex?" Andrew asked in confirmation.

"Yeah, the sex. I don't think I'm ready for that. I don't have a problem with the idea, but..." He trailed off again.

{...but you're not ready. It's too soon after Jean. It's too soon for us.} Andrew said in a whisper.

"Yeah." Scott said and went silent.

After long moments of contemplation, Andrew came to a decision.

Pulling out of Scott's embrace, he turned to look at his face and said, "Let's keep it like this for a while. I don't know what we'll call this but it feels like we're just where we need to be."

"So are we friends, or boyfriends, or... what?" Scott asked carefully.

"Why do we need to label it?" Andrew asked, moving back to Scott's shoulder for comfort.

"Because I need to know the boundaries of what we're doing... I wouldn't want to hurt you... or be hurt... because one of us thought this was something more or less than it is." Scott said, having difficulty putting the feelings into words.

"Then let's discuss what we want this to be... I mean, we want to be together, but we don't want sex... are we agreed on that?" Andrew asked, trying to establish a foundation for the conversation.

"Yes. But I want to keep the cuddling." Scott said seriously.

"Oh yeah, gotta keep that." Andrew agreed.

"What about... the sleeping arrangements?" Scott asked carefully.

"It feels right to me to share your bed... I mean, if you want me to." Andrew said haltingly, afraid of rejection.

"Last night, I slept the entire night. I haven't been able to do that since..." Scott trailed off, not needing to say her name.

"So we share a bed. What do we tell people? I mean, since we're not really doing it." Andrew asked carefully.

"We'll tell them that we're together. I don't know when we'll get to the rest. But I guess it will happen or it won't... time will tell. Till then it's no one's business what we do or don't do in our bedroom." Scott said and shifted Andrew back onto his shoulder.

"Our bedroom?" Andrew asked in confirmation.

"Yeah, want to move in with me?" Scott asked with a smile.

"Why don't you move in with me? We are pretty much moved in here already; we just need to lose the extra bed." Andrew said and snuggled against Scott's chest.

"I'll talk to Logan about that when he gets back... he's been gone a long time. Do you think the coffee killed him?" Scott asked jokingly.

"If anything could..." Andrew answered and trailed off.

"I heard that." Logan said as he entered the room.

"Were you eavesdropping?" Scott asked, half seriously.

Logan looked at Scott with a 'get serious' expression on his face until Scott finally said, "Not your style. Sorry Logan, I wasn't thinking."

"Yeah." Logan said and took his seat.

A long silence ensued to be broken by Andrew asking, "What's going on downstairs?"

"Gang's just waking up. Hank was down there. He said that he'll check you two out in a little while and if you're okay, you can have two classes up here this afternoon." Logan said and took a drink of his coffee.

"Good. Do you think you could get the guys to take the other bed out of the room for us? We won't be needing it anymore." Scott asked with a smile.

"I'll talk to 'em when I get my next cup of coffee." Logan said without showing a hint of approval or disapproval.

"Do you think anyone will have a problem with us being together?" Andrew asked with a bit of worry.

"I don't think so, but if they do, they'll just have to deal with it. I don't live my life to please anyone but me." Scott answered seriously.

"Since when?" Logan asked, quite genuinely.

Scott thought about Logan's question and realized that he was right. He had been living his life to the specifications and expectations of others since he had been at the mansion. He had never realized it, but he did what was expected and his own wishes didn't ever enter into it... because he didn't really have any. Even while he was with Jean, he just followed her lead and let things happen. [So what changed?] he thought. Then he realized that his new hopes and dreams for the future could be traced back to one event. Meeting Andrew. "Since Andrew, I guess." Scott finally answered with a smile.

"Good work kid." Logan said and took another drink of coffee.

* * * * *

Ororo made her way into the kitchen and straight to the coffee maker.

"Wait!" Hank said as she took a sip of the coffee.

Ororo lowered her cup and lifted an eyebrow in question at Hank.

"Logan made the coffee this morning. It's a little..."

"...lethal." Bobby finished for Hank.

Ororo looked at the men at the table and said seriously, "Nonsense. Logan is the only one here who knows how to make a decent cup of coffee." And to prove her point, she took a deep drink and allowed the look of appreciation to show on her face.

The two men stared in wonder at Ororo drinking the foul brew. "Bravest thing I've ever seen." Hank muttered in astonishment as Bobby said, "She must have adamantium in her stomach."

Ororo cast a disapproving look at the two, then let it fall away as she proceeded to the table.

"Who is with our guest this morning?" Hank asked and took a sip of his diluted coffee.

"Peter is sitting with him for a short while. I needed a break, but I will be returning soon. I promised him that I would be there when he woke up." Storm said and took another drink.

"He woke up then? How is he?" Hank asked with interest.

"Confused, disbelieving. The same as any of us would be if we woke up in an alternate dimension." Storm said from a place of deep thought.

"Yes, I suppose it would be disorienting." Hank said absently.

"Hank, I have a matter to discuss with you privately. Do you have a moment?" Storm said vaguely.

"Of course, Ororo." Hank said and got up from his chair.

* * * * *

"Hank, I'm concerned about your niece." Ororo said quietly, trying to find a delicate way to let him know about Tara's problem.

"What concerns you Ororo? Did she say something while I was attending to our guest?" Hank asked, taking a seat in the otherwise deserted common room.

"No, she said nothing. But I just get a feeling from her, she needs help desperately and is too shy to ask for it." Storm said, pacing in front of Hank.

"She called me for help, that is how she came to be here." Hank said, his own worry beginning to rise.

"Is there anything I can do? I don't know what her problem is, but I feel compelled to help if I can." Ororo said with compassion in her voice.

"I don't actually know what the problem is. She called me yesterday nearly hysterical. Andrew opened a portal to her dorm and then we were summoned back here before I could ask her what the problem is." Hank said, shifting in his chair.

"Whatever her problem is, I believe the root of it can be found in her sketchbook." Ororo said as she fought the vivid image from returning to her mind.

"What about her sketchbook?" Hank asked in worry.

"You need to see her pictures for yourself. I believe that they hold the key to her problem, whatever it may be." Ororo said.

"Very well, I will go now to speak with her, would you come with me?" Hank asked as he got up from his chair.

"Of course." Ororo said as she followed Hank from the room.

* * * * *

Hank knocked on Tara's door and said, "Tara, may Ororo and I come in and speak with you for a moment?"

"Am I late? I... I thought you said 9:00." Tara said from behind the closed door.

"No, you're not late. We just wanted to speak with you for a moment." Ororo said comfortingly.

Finally the door opened. Hank and Ororo walked in to find Tara dressed in a nightgown covered by a robe that she had pulled so tight that the fabric was in danger of tearing.

Noticing the sketchbook on the table inside the door, Ororo said, "Please, relax Tara. I was talking to your uncle this morning and mentioned your sketches. We just came up to look at them."

A look of panic flashed across Tara's face, then she cast her gaze to the floor and nodded nervously.

Ororo took the sketchbook to Hank and handed it to him whispering, {I was only able to endure three of her pictures. She said they were from her dreams.}

Hank looked at the book as Storm turned away. She couldn't bear the scenes of pain and carnage they depicted.

She heard him turn three pages before closing the book.

"What... what is she seeing?" Hank asked aloud, as much to himself as to Ororo.

"Demons... perhaps she has some mutant ability to see across dimensions, or some supernatural clairvoyant ability. Regardless, I know of only one person in the mansion who has experience with demons and other dimensions." Ororo said as she turned to look into Hank's worried face.

"First we need to tell the professor everything. If he agrees, we'll ask Andrew to look at the pictures and identify the demons that she is seeing. That may at least give us a place to start to help her." Hank said and looked at Tara sitting on the edge of the bed, hugging herself tightly and rocking. If she had been making a sound, both Hank and Ororo knew that it would have been a toneless humming.

"Tara, I'll see you at 9:00 in the MedLab. Please try to relax." Hank said in a quiet voice that was nearly a whisper.

"Let's hurry." Hank said quietly to Ororo, and they left the room to talk with the professor.

* * * * *

After a conversation with the professor, they decided that Andrew would be their best source of information about demons and even though the inquiry might be distressing to him, it shouldn't be harmful to his health.

"Come in." Scott answered when he heard the knock on the door.

"We need for Andrew to look at some pictures to identify some demons for us." The professor said with a little worry.

"What else? You wouldn't all be here and looking so worried if you just wanted me to look at some pictures." Andrew said suspiciously.

"There's more but at this point, we just need to identify the demons in these pictures." The professor said with authority.

Andrew nodded in compliance and accepted the sketchbook from the professor.

He was shocked when he saw the first picture but after a moment, a look of recognition came over his face. Then he turned the page and looked briefly at the next picture, then the next. Tears started running down his cheeks, but he continued from picture to picture until he had finished the entire book.

Scott had looked at the first picture and turned away in revulsion. When he would glance back, he would see another scene of such violence and horror that he would turn away again. Finally, when Andrew had finished and closed the book, he pulled him close to offer silent support.

The others in the room watched silently as the two men unashamedly held and comforted each other. Finally Logan said, "So kid, did you recognize the demons?"

"Who drew these?" Andrew asked as he wiped the tears from his eyes.

"I'd rather not..."

"Who?" Andrew demanded as he interrupted the professor.

"Tara." Hank said quietly.

{Shit.} Andrew whispered, then closed his eyes and thought for a moment. When he opened them, he had a determined look.

"I need to discuss this with the professor privately. Please trust me when I say that you'll be better off if you don't know what I'm about to tell him and leave it at that." Andrew said seriously.

Ororo nodded and left the room, followed by Logan.

"She is my niece: I feel that I have a right to know what is going on." Hank said to both Andrew and the professor.

"Hank, you trust in the professor's judgment don't you?" Andrew asked, staring him straight in the eyes.

"Yes, of course." Hank said, surprised by the strength in Andrew's stare.

"Then trust him to know what is best in this situation. I'm going to tell him what I know, and he will decide what is best for each of those involved." Andrew said vaguely.

Hank decided that he would put his trust in the professor's wisdom. He left the room with one last glance over his shoulder.

To Be Continued...