Hurt & Comfort

Book 2: Circumstantially Hurt

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Chapter 10: Insubstantial Assurances

Hank was exhausted. He had worked all night treating Bobby, Marie, and Kurt's injuries.

"Good morning Hank, how are our patients this morning?" Ororo asked pleasantly.

"They are all fine. Marie, and Bobby will be released when they wake up. Kurt will need to stay in bed until he has recovered from his concussion. Jean is going to remain sedated until we can devise a way to contain or at least dampen her power... and Scott is in the next bed, so he can be near her."

"What about Andrew?" Storm asked, speaking her private thought aloud more than asking Hank.

"I don't know. Scott seems to be completely focused on Jean. I tried to talk to him about Andrew, but he wouldn't hear me."

"How could he do that to Andrew?" Storm said in dismay.

"I can't explain it either, but it is going to devastate him when he finds out." Hank said, shaking his head.

"Then he doesn't know?" Ororo asked, with wide eyes.

"No. The professor said that Xander was here when Scott made his feelings known, but I don't think he would tell Andrew about what he heard."

Storm nodded and came to a decision.

"I'll go and talk to Andrew now. As much as I want to protect him, he deserves to know the truth of the matter." Storm said with certainty.

"There is always the chance that Scott will change his mind..." Hank began.

"...If he does, then he deserves to deal with the fallout of his actions. Keeping Andrew in ignorance may prevent some immediate pain but will only cause long-term problems." Storm said with certainty.

"You're right, of course." Hank said in resigned acceptance.

"You look like you could use some sleep." Ororo said in worry.

"The professor is sleeping now, when he awakes, he will tend to our patients and I will get some rest.

"Good, it will serve no purpose for you to work yourself to exhaustion." Ororo said as she prepared to leave.

"It would serve one purpose, Andrew and Alan would get a good laugh if I were confined to bed for a week." Hank said with a tired smile.

Ororo gave a gentle nod as she left the MedLab.

* * * * *

There was a quiet knock on the door. Xander made his way from the bed to the door, more easily than the previous day.

"Good morning Xander, do you mind if I come in? I need to speak to Andrew." Storm asked politely.

"Andrew and Alan are both asleep, but you are welcomed to come in and sit with me if you like. Have we been introduced?" Xander asked politely.

"I don't think so, my name is Ororo Munroe." Storm said gently.

"Oh, I've heard your name, I just don't think we've met face to face before except..."

"...When I hit you with lightning." Storm said with a smile.

Xander led her into the room and they sat at the table.

"How is Andrew?" She asked, letting her concern show through her voice.

"He was deeply hurt but Alan and I talked with him and he's going to be alright." Xander said calmly, feeling that it wasn't his place to announce Alan and Andrew's engagement.

"So you told him what you overheard in MedLab?" Ororo asked in surprise.

"I didn't have to. Andrew understands Scott better than Scott understands himself. He saw the rejection for what it was. I don't know if they'll be able to salvage anything from this, but if there is going to be any chance, Scott needs to talk to Andrew. If it were me, I would have given up on him already, but you know Andrew..."

"...Yes, he is kind and forgiving. I pray that they can work this out. They are so good for each other." Storm said sadly.

"It's not going to happen." Andrew said sleepily from the bed.

"What?" Xander said in surprise.

"Scott made his choice. And I didn't realize it before, but Scott seems to focus all his attention on one relationship, to the neglect of all others." Andrew said with a pained voice.

Xander and Ororo sat in stunned silence.

"While I was the focus of his attentions, I believed that his lack of other close relationships had to do with his need for people to see him as strong and capable despite the loss of Jean... but that doesn't explain why he didn't develop close relationships with other people while Jean was alive..." Andrew said as he was figuring it out.

"I'm not like that am I?" Alan asked in a sleepy voice.

"No, from what I saw of you and Emma, I don't think you're that way at all. Good morning, love." Andrew said and gave Alan a brief gentle kiss.

The shock of that action registered on Storm's face. Xander noticed and said, "Guys, I didn't think it was my place to tell your news. But it looks like Ororo could use some explanation."

"Oh, sorry Ororo, I thought Xander would have told you, to keep you from worrying about me." Andrew said with a smile.

"Tell me what?" Ororo asked in true confusion.

"That Andrew and I are engaged to become life partners one year from today." Alan said happily.

Storm sat and digested that information for a minute as the three men watched, awaiting her reaction.

"Why now?" Was Storm's choice of first question.

"Actually, I was going to wait until I was more sure of my feelings before asking, but last night Andrew needed to know that I loved him, and I needed for him to know, so I told him. And the commitment ceremony is just a way of proving that I'm serious, something more tangible than the words. But I do realize that this emotional time may be influencing my decisions, so that's why we're waiting for a year, to make sure that what we're feeling is real." Alan said while snuggling against Andrew's side.

"Then allow me to offer my congratulations and blessings for your impending union." Ororo said with a pleased smile.

"Thank you." Both Alan and Andrew said while snuggling closer.

"What about Scott? I mean, it feels like there is unfinished business between you." Ororo said, trying to pin down the source of her uneasiness.

"Actually, I don't think there is. He chose Jean and rejected me. We both know it. If he stays true to form, he will focus all his attention entirely on her until she is better. Once she is, he might make some token effort to patch things up between us but there will be a distance between us, we'll be colleagues, not friends. On the other hand, he may just decide to avoid all contact." Andrew said in speculation.

"While you're predicting the future, how is my relationship with my brother going to progress?" Alan asked bravely.

"Since I've never seen him interact with Alex, I can only guess. I think that you will be closer to him than I will, but not by much. I don't see him doing anything more brotherly than maybe remembering you on your birthday and introducing you as his brother when meeting new people. And with us being engaged, he may decide to avoid contact with you too." Andrew said sadly.

"That is horrible. Do you really believe this to be true?" Ororo gasped.

"Yes. But you've known Scott much longer than either of us, do you think that I am misreading the situation?" Andrew asked steadily.

Ororo thought about Scott's relationships with people other than Jean, or lack thereof. Finally she admitted, "I can understand your analysis of his behavior, but I have to believe that he will behave better than that."

"Then let's see what he does. If I'm right, he won't come up here, call, or even send a message to me until after he has had time to talk with Jean." Andrew said in a cold voice.

Alan noticed Andrew's retreat into emotionlessness and whispered into his ear. Andrew blushed and smiled as he turned his attention back to Ororo and Xander.

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence Andrew said, "Xander is going to be one of our witnesses at the ceremony."

"Have you decided on the other witness yet?" Xander asked, glad to have a new topic of conversation.

"I have an idea, but we haven't discussed it." Andrew said as he shifted his position so he could lay his head on Alan's chest.

"Who do you have in mind, love?" Alan asked, enjoying Andrew's closeness.

"Professor Frost." Andrew said as he snuffled.

"I thought she would perform the ceremony. Who did you have in mind for that?" Alan asked while changing position to better accommodate Andrew.

"Professor Xavier, I mean, we have a year to convince Professor Frost that he isn't the enemy." Andrew said with a smile.

"True enough... I really need to let Professor Frost know what happened." Alan said, voicing a worry he had had since the previous day.

"I've thought about that too. Maybe Ororo could talk the professor into letting me open a little portal, just so you can tell her what's going on." Andrew said hopefully.

"I don't know how receptive Charles would be to such an idea." Ororo said dubiously.

"Try asking him how he would feel if one of the X-Men were missing, and there was blood on his bedroom floor and a broken window." Andrew said simply.

"That might convince him. It isn't going to hurt you to open this doorway will it?" Ororo asked in concern.

"Not at all, Alan's dimension is almost right on top of this one. Before I learned to control my power, his is one of the dimensions that I would accidentally look in on. It's actually a lot easier than opening a portal to my home dimension." Andrew said honestly.

"Then I will talk to Charles now, I believe it would be best for those in your home dimension to know that you are well." Ororo said as she got up to leave.

The three men watched as she left the room.

"What now?" Xander asked, not knowing what to do.

"Let's enjoy a crisis free moment before we contact Alan's home dimension. I feel like I've been on a roller coaster since day before yesterday." Andrew said honestly.

Alan and Xander couldn't help but nod in agreement.

"Any guess on how Professor Frost is going to react when she hears the news?" Andrew asked playfully.

"My guess is 'no reaction'. She is a wonderful woman, and a good friend, but she doesn't display her emotions obviously to those around her. That's part of what makes her reputation as a cold-hearted bitch." Alan said simply.

"Ooo, I think Xander may be falling in love again." Andrew said in a playful tone.

"What?" Xander asked with raised eyebrows.

"Well, have you ever met a cold-hearted bitch that you weren't attracted to?" Andrew said, enjoying the chance to tease Xander.

"Well... I... No, I guess I haven't. What does that say about me?" Xander asked in confusion.

Realizing that he had hit a nerve with Xander, Andrew said honestly, "Not what you might think. I think you just like strong, self-assured women. Any woman who speaks her mind and is self-confident tends to be labeled as a bitch. It actually says a lot about you that you want an equal as a partner rather than some shy, demure doormat who will bend to your every whim."

"Uh... thanks?" Xander said in confusion, trying to decide if he was being insulted or complimented.

Andrew laughed at Xander's confused state and said, "Don't worry Xan, all's I'm saying is that you like a person rather than an empty-headed pretty face. Let me put it this way, did you think Harmony was attractive?"

"Harmony Kendall? Are you kidding? I couldn't stand to be in the same room with that ditz. Personally, I think that was how Spike got his soul restored. He endured a relationship with Harmony, and he built up so much good karma that as a result, his soul was restored to balance the forces of nature."

"Well Harmony was pretty, why didn't you find her attractive?" Andrew asked, trying to lead Xander to his point.

"Because she was an airhead. What would you do with her other than sex? You couldn't talk to her because she only talked about fashion and gossip. You couldn't go out and do anything with her because she never shut up. She was lazy, conceited, and mean-spirited. What was there to like?" Xander said in exasperation.

Silence fell over the room as Xander put the pieces together. Alan finally broke the silence by saying, "Don't you just love it when he does that?"

A smile of comprehension finally covered Xander's face and he asked, "How do you do that?"

"It must be another mutant ability." Andrew said with a shrug and a grin.

* * * * *

Ororo approached the bedroom door to find it standing open.

She knocked on the doorframe and the three men looked up as one.

"We decided to leave it open so Xander wouldn't have to keep getting up to answer it. If yesterday was any indication, we should probably be selling tickets at the door." Alan said happily.

"And we could use that money to help pay for our ceremony. The catering bill alone is going to kill us." Andrew said in mock worry.

"Why will your catering bill be high?" Ororo asked, despite herself.

"We'll probably be inviting the Scoobies, the Slayers, and the X-Men from two universes. And we don't want to be cheap on the food... there is no worse way to start out your life together than with the bitching of everyone you know ringing in your ears about how nasty the crab puffs are." Andrew said, trying to look serious.

Ororo finally understood that the men were just being playful and said, "Charles gave his approval for you to contact Alan's home dimension. On the provision that you don't exert yourself."

"Why don't you stay here with us while I contact them. I mean, the more familiar faces that they see, the more likely they will be to believe your story." Andrew said before Alan added, "Ororo being here will go a long way toward helping her to believe our story. My Ororo has been in Africa for nearly a year."

"Everyone ready?" Andrew asked as he sat up straighter in the bed.

Nods from everyone convinced him that it was time.

He cast his awareness toward his target dimension and began searching for Emma Frost.

It only took a few moments for him to locate her in her office. She looked up at the point where he formed the portal before it had begun to form.

The golden haze formed into a swirling vortex and soon there was a three-foot vortex hovering before the occupants of the bed looking out into Professor Frost's office.

"Hello Professor." Alan said calmly.

"Scott? It's good to see that you aren't hurt. We've all been quite concerned." Emma said conversationally.

"I am fine. After Gene's death, I... um... did something stupid." Alan said with a blush of embarrassment.

Professor Frost only responded with a raised eyebrow of inquiry.

Alan raised his arms and showed the bandages.

Emma nodded in understanding. Then she asked, "So, where are you?"

"I'm in a neighboring dimension. Andrew... Professor Frost, this is Andrew, he found me near death and brought me here to save my life." Alan said timidly.

"Hello Professor Frost." Andrew said quietly.

"Hello Andrew, thank you for saving Scott, he is very important to a lot of people here." She said without a hint of emotion showing through her look or voice.

"I just wanted to let you know that I am alive and well. I have been ordered to stay in bed for a week until I am healed." Alan said, with a bit more confidence.

"You must admit that this is quite a bit to take on faith Scott, do you think that you can provide me some sort of proof to verify your claim?" Professor Frost said professionally.

"Ororo, could you come here and say hello to Professor Frost?" Alan said to Storm who was still outside the view of the portal.

Storm moved into view and said, "Hello Professor Frost, from what Alan has said, you can verify the location of my other self in your dimension to corroborate his story."

"Alan?" Professor Frost questioned.

"Yes, that is what we call your Scott, since we have one of our own." Ororo said with a gentle smile.

"May I ask, why you didn't have him here to verify your story?" Professor Frost inquired.

"Because he is at the bedside of his injured fiancée, Jean Grey." Alan said with a pained voice.

"I see." Professor Frost said and cast a glance toward Xander.

"Oh, Professor Frost, this is Xander. He is a visitor from yet another dimension." Alan said formally.

Emma nodded in introduction and asked, "Then you will fully recover?"

"Yes, I just need to take time for the wounds to heal and I will be fine... There is one other thing I need to tell you." Alan said with nervousness in his voice.

Emma again prompted him to continue with her eyebrow.

"Andrew and I have become involved, we are planning a commitment ceremony in one year." Alan said with the fear showing through his voice.

The professor betrayed her shock for an instant before saying, "You have only been gone for three days and are very emotionally unstable, as evidenced by your suicide attempt. Are you sure this is a wise course of action?"

"That's why we're waiting for a year. I love Andrew completely, but I have enough sense to realize that this is not the time for me to be making life-altering decisions. Please be happy for me Professor." Alan said in a pleading tone.

"I will do this for you, Scott. I will reserve judgment until I have had a chance to get to know Andrew. It may not be a blessing as such, but it is not disapproval by any means." Professor Frost said in a voice that might almost be considered tender.

"Thank you, Professor, that is all I can ask. As soon as Andrew and I are released by our doctor, we will probably be returning to your dimension." Alan said seriously.

"How did Andrew come to find you?" The professor asked curiously.

"Andrew has the ability to open interdimensional portals, apparently my... suicide attempt... had the effect of throwing my counterpart in this universe into a coma. When Andrew came to help, he was able to see what was happening to me and... he saved me." Alan said in wonder, giving it voice for the first time.

"So, our Scott was in a coma, Alan was near death from blood loss, and Andrew had a stroke from over-using his mutant ability. That is why we haven't contacted you sooner, Andrew has been recovering as well." Ororo said informatively.

Professor Frost nodded in acceptance when Alan said, "I'll check back with you in the next day or so, I just wanted for you to let everyone know that I am well and not to worry. How are things there?"

"Much the same as when you left, however the news of you being alive and recovering will be a much needed morale boost. Everyone is becoming weary of the fight." Emma said and nearly looked tired.

"How are Remy and Warren?" Alan asked quietly.

"Warren seems to be recovering well, but Remy is inconsolable. I don't know what else to do for him." Emma said, this time actually betraying worry for an instant in her expression.

"Would you mind if I were to talk to him next time we contact your dimension?" Alan asked with his own worry showing.

"No, I don't know that it will help, but I don't see how it could cause any harm. And doing something is preferable to doing nothing, which is all we have left to try with Remy." Emma said in an uncharacteristic ramble.

"Please let him know that I may be calling on him. We'd better close the portal now; Andrew still has to contact his home dimension later this morning." Alan said with a grim smile.

"Be well my friend." Emma said as Andrew withdrew his power from the portal.

To Be Continued...