Hurt & Comfort

Book 2: Circumstantially Hurt

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Chapter 13: The Important Things

Xander was the first to awake, he looked at the clock and was relieved to see that he had more than an hour before Dawn's plan would go into effect.

He got up and made his way to the bathroom where he showered and shaved. He borrowed some of Scott's baggier clothes. They probably looked loose and floppy on Scott, but they were a little snug on Xander. They weren't uncomfortable or too tight, so he wore them out of the bathroom.

Andrew looked up at the sound of Xander leaving the bathroom.

"Got a date?" Andrew asked in a teasing tone.

"Yeah, you were right about Emma... whoah baby, what a woman!" Xander said playfully.

"Seriously, what's up Xan?" Andrew asked.

"Well Andy, I just felt kind of nasty and gross, and felt like getting cleaned up." Xander said simply.

"You know, when you put it that way, it sounds like a good idea. But I don't know how I'll manage it; I don't think I can stand for that long in the shower." Andrew said worriedly.

"Not to worry my friend, someone had the foresight to put a shower stool in there, so you don't have to stand up. If you want to have a shower, you can go in and take one sitting down. Just leave the door open so you can give a yell if you need anything." Xander said as he stripped the linens off his bed.

"Okay, I think I'm ready. Can you help me over there?" Andrew asked.

A few minutes later Andrew was showering as Xander was tidying up the room.

"Andrew?" Alan asked sleepily, groping for his glasses.

"He's taking a shower." Xander said as he ran to the bedside and handed Alan his glasses.

"Thanks Xan. What's going on?" Alan asked, noticing that the room was different.

"I cleaned up the room a little. It was starting to look a little too 'lived in'." Xander said with a smirk.

"Do you think Andrew will be okay, showering by himself?" Alan asked with worry.

"Yeah, there is a shower stool, so he doesn't have to stand. And the bathroom door is open so he can call if he needs anything." Xander said with assurance.

"Well then, I guess I need to take a shower too. Except... I don't know what to do about these bandages." Alan said, still not fully awake.

"I tell you what, when Andrew get's out, I'll go ask Hank how you should shower. I need to go out and find a linen closet anyway."

"You're just full of energy this afternoon." Alan commented, somewhat sourly.

"I guess I'm finally starting to feel like my old self. The bruises may not be fading, but I'm feeling a lot better." Xander said honestly.

"I'm glad you are, I still feel like I've been stomped." Alan said with equal honesty.

"You did it to yourself, no sympathy for you." Xander said in a teasing voice.

Alan was taken aback by the blunt statement for a moment before he realized that it was Xander's teasing tone. "Come on, just a little?" Alan asked and held his finger and thumb a centimeter apart.

"Nope, Andrew and I get all the sympathy, and we're not sharing." Xander said with teasing finality.

Alan got a sly smile and said, "Andrew shares everything with me."

"TMI, TMI, waaaaaaay too much information." Xander said as Alan started laughing.

"I'm done." Was heard from the bathroom.

Xander went in and emerged a moment later with a clean and refreshed Andrew.

When Andrew was safely back in bed, Xander announced, "I'll be back in a few minutes."

* * * * *

Scott was sitting in a chair beside Jean when the professor said, "I've got it. I think I've found a way that we can communicate with Jean without letting the Phoenix out."

With a tremble of excitement in his voice Scott said, "How long will it take?"

"Just let me administer this sedative and Jean should be able to achieve consciousness. She will be able to speak; it will suppress her telepathic and telekinetic abilities. She might be a little sluggish until I can get the dosage just right." The professor said as he injected Jean's IV with the sedative syringe.

"Jean? Jean, can you hear me?" Scott said in a pleading tone.

{Scott?} She whispered with a dry, gravelly voice.

"Do you need some water?" The professor asked tenderly.

"Yes, hurts to talk." Jean rasped.

Scott made to get up when the professor laid a hand on his arm and shook his head. "You are allowed to stay here as long as you don't exert yourself. I will get her some water." The professor said in a commanding tone.

Scott nodded in acceptance and took Jean's hand into his own.

"Jean, I'm here. How are you?" Scott asked with tears in his voice.

"I feel small. What happened? Why is everything so quiet?" Jean asked with worry.

The professor returned and raised Jean's bed to a sitting position. He held her glass as she took a long drink.

"Jean, I was so worried, I thought you were dead." Scott said through tears.

"I was, just for a moment. Then I was lost inside a greater power." Jean said with more strength.

"I'm so glad you're back. I've missed you so much..." {I love you.} Scott finished in a tearful whisper.

"Professor, can you give us a moment?" Jean asked in a steady voice.

"Of course, I'll be just in the next room if you need me." The professor said and left the room.

"Scott, I've seen so many things... learned so many things... I need for you to understand." Jean said with compassion.

"Tell me, I'm listening." Scott said, stroking her hand.

"Scott, I love you, but I'm not in love with you." Jean said and noticed that the stroking had stopped.

"What do you mean?" Scott said in panic.

"While I was joined with the Phoenix, our mind merged with the consciousness of an entire civilization. I felt things that I had never known before, and I realized that what we had was many things, but it wasn't the undying love of true lovers." She said with a pained expression.

"But I love you so much Jean, are you saying it isn't enough?" Scott asked in pained confusion.

"It's not you, it's me Scott. I'm not in love with you... or anyone at the moment. But now I know what it feels like and I'll recognize it if it comes my way." Jean said with a hint of fond remembrance falling across her face.

"Are you sure, I mean, are you sure that it isn't the Phoenix changing your feelings toward me?" Scott asked, grasping for any glimmer of hope.

"No Scott, the Phoenix isn't capable of love or hate, just duty. My feelings are my own. I know that this hurts you but I had to tell you so you could move on and not pursue me when there can't be anything between us." Jean said sadly.

"But are you sure? Couldn't you be mistaken?" Scott asked in panic again.

"No. I am sure. There is no mistake. I'll be your friend, but nothing beyond that... ever." Jean said firmly, hoping that she was getting the message across to him.

"Why are you doing this to me? What did I do? I promise I can do better." Scott said in desperation.

"Scott, this has nothing to do with anything you did or didn't do. This has to do with me, my feelings, my future, my life. You are a precious friend and I love you for that, but it wouldn't be fair to you to lead you to believe that there could ever be anything more between us. It will never happen." Jean said and closed her eyes.

"What am I going to do now?" Scott said in a small, defeated voice.

"Move on." Jean said tiredly.

* * * * *

The professor felt wave upon wave of grief and misery flowing from the recovery room of the MedLab. He couldn't shield himself from all of it and knew what was happening. He didn't hear the words, but the emotions spoke for themselves. In these situations, words tended to get in the way.

He felt the agony fading and decided to chance going into the room.

"I think she's asleep. She sounded so tired." Scott said in a daze.

"Yes, she needs the rest. I should think that she will sleep for several hours before waking again. Perhaps you should get some sleep too?" The professor said with worry.

Scott nodded and got out of the chair and back on the bed next to Jean's.

"Why don't you go back to your room? I will call you if she wakes again." The professor said, hoping that he could convince Scott to talk to Andrew.

"I can't. I've made such a mess of everything; I just can't face him." Scott said in despair.

"You must. Scott, waiting will not make it easier. If you do this now, I promise that it will be less painful than doing it later." The professor reassured.

"I can't." Scott said and closed his eyes.

* * * * *

Xander walked into the MedLab to see Professor Xavier staring into space, sitting between the sleeping forms of Jean and Scott.

{Professor, I hate to interrupt but I have a question.} Xander asked in a whisper.

The professor snapped out of his mental wandering and focused on Xander.

"How may I be of help to you Mr. Harris?" The professor asked, his voice sounding old and tired.

"I just needed to know how Alan can take a shower with his bandages. Should he take them off and shower and rewrap or should he cover his bandages in plastic or something, like when you have a cast?" Xander asked, noticing the drawn look on the professor's face.

The professor made his way to a cabinet and pulled out two rolls of gauze, some tape and a tube of ointment.

"Cut off the old bandages and then he can shower. Then apply this antibiotic ointment to his stitches. There should be more than enough dressing here to rewrap his wounds." The professor said handing the items to Xander.

"Thank you, Professor." Xander said quietly and turned to leave the room.

"How is Andrew?" The professor asked with worry.

"He's fine. He's accepted that Scott loves Jean. Alan told Andrew that he loves him and asked him to become his life partner in a ceremony one year from today." Xander said, hoping that his news would help to alleviate some of the professor's worry.

The professor looked shocked for a moment. He moved his chair closer to Xander and quietly said, "I have been devoting all my attention to those in this room. Would you give your permission for a telepathic scan so I can know what I've missed?"

Xander was surprised by the request, but noticing the tired look again, he couldn't help but nod in agreement.

The professor closed his eyes and after a long moment opened them, looking relieved.

"At least something good has come of the last few days events." The professor said, not clarifying if he meant Dawn and Tara, Willow, or Andrew and Alan.

"Will you be able to join us in a half hour?" Xander asked quietly.

"I may." The professor said with a tired smile.

* * * * *

Alan was relieved to be clean and dressed in fresh clothes. He felt somewhat human again. There was a knock on the door, and he noticed that Xander looked at the clock before answering it.

"Are they ready?" Dawn's voice asked through the crack of the door.

"Yes. Did you bring them?" Xander answered in response.

"Right here." Dawn said with excitement in her voice.

Xander opened the door wide to allow Dawn and Tara entrance; each woman was pushing a wheelchair.

Alan and Andrew looked confused as the women went to opposite sides of the bed.

"We're going for a ride." Dawn announced.

Xander walked over to Andrew first and half helped, half dragged Andrew out of the bed and into the waiting wheelchair.

A minute later he was doing the same for Alan.

"Where are we going?" Andrew asked as Dawn pushed him out of the room.

"To the dining room." Dawn said as Tara followed, pushing Alan.

In the ride down in the elevator, neither woman nor Xander would answer any questions.

"I think we're being kidnapped." Andrew said, only half-jokingly.

"If it were anyone else, I would be worried." Alan said with his own apprehension showing.

They made their way down the hall and into the dining room where every student in the mansion was assembled.

"SURPRISE!" they chorused and cheered.

"What?" Andrew said in astonishment.

"We decided that you two had been up there long enough and needed to be reminded that there are people down here who care about you." Dawn said to the men.

Andrew noticed that some of the children were wearing costumes, obviously homemade. There were Star Wars characters and more than one Hobbit among the children.

Alan noticed the costumes and then the pictures that were covering the walls and the table. Dozens upon dozens of scenes from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, from the children's point of view.

"This is wonderful." Andrew said amazed at all the decoration of the room.

Ororo came into the room and said, "There is more. We have planned a special dinner for the two of you. Tonight, we will be enjoying a dinner of beanie weenies and roast beef, both your favorite meals." She said in triumph.

Alan felt a tear forming in his eye. He knew that most of this was for Andrew, but for them to include him in the party and make his favorite food, made this so much more special that he couldn't find words to express it.

"Before we eat, you two need to come to the head of the table and receive your presents." Jubilee said and cleared children out of the way as Dawn and Tara moved the men to their position of honor.

Clarissa and Artie came up to Alan and gave him a box. "We made this for you, since you was hurt. Dawn said presents would make you feel better." Artie said with a child's blunt honesty.

Alan carefully opened the box to find a glazed green lump.

{It's a turtle.} Clarissa whispered.

Given this new information, Alan could just make out a vague turtle shape, if you held it at a certain angle.

"Thank you, Clarissa. Thank you, Artie. It's beautiful." Alan said, trying to keep his tears from falling.

{See, I told you he'd like it.} Artie whispered to Clarissa smugly.

Marie and Rachel walked up next and handed a box to Andrew.

Andrew ripped the paper off the box and opened it to find a beautiful knitted sweater.

"Thank you Marie, thank you Rachel." Andrew said in wonder, then after a moment pulled it on.

"It's perfect." Andrew said as he adjusted it.

Bobby and Piotr came up next and handed a box to Alan.

The box was heavy and Alan couldn't resist the urge and ripped open the paper as Andrew had done.

"Guys, it's too much, you shouldn't have." Alan said in wonder as he looked at the Discman and collection of CDs.

"We didn't know what kind of music you liked so we took a chance and went middle of the road, techno." Bobby said with a smile on his face.

"They are great, guys. I've been wanting to get this one, and this one is one of my all-time favorites... thank you." Alan said and felt the tears escape under his glasses.

Ororo led a small boy to Andrew. Ororo and the boy handed Andrew a package that was surprisingly heavy. He opened the box to find that it contained no less than a dozen Star Wars books.

He didn't say anything for long moments as he took each book out and looked at the title and then the back to see what it was about. Finally, he realized that everyone was watching him and he enthusiastically said, "Thank you, I love these, I haven't had time to sit and read for months but I love Star Wars books!"

"Ethan chose the titles, I merely paid for his selections." Ororo said with humility.

"Thank you, Ethan. You picked some great titles, do you like Star Wars?" Andrew asked quietly.

Ethan nodded, uncomfortable with being the center of attention.

"If you want, maybe I could read to you sometime." Andrew offered.

Ethan enthusiastically nodded.

And the parade of people with presents continued.

* * * * *

Tara and Dawn took the tired men back to their room followed by a weary Xander.

"Thanks again, I don't know why you did it, but thank you." Andrew said to the women as they entered the room.

"I told you, you needed to be reminded that there were people who cared about you down there." Dawn said simply.

"Besides, everyone needs a special day. We thought this one could be yours." Tara said warmly.

"Now you all need to get your rest. The children will be up in a little while to bring your gifts up, after we've cleaned the dining room. And Peter will be up later with some cookies and milk for you." Dawn said with a smile.

"I think they've got us figured out." Andrew said with a big grin.

"Believe it." Dawn said as she and Tara left the room.

"So that's why you had the cleaning fit this morning... and the shower." Alan said to Xander.

"Yeah, that's what Dawn was talking to me about this morning. They've been working on it since they woke up. It gave all the children something to do to help someone and made everyone feel better." Xander said as he lay down on his bed.

Andrew said excitedly, "I don't know how they pulled it all together so quickly. Some of those gifts would have taken time to make, like the sweater..."

"...and the turtle." Alan interrupted.

"Well, I happen to know that Artie made the turtle, it's the only thing he ever made of clay that didn't explode in the kiln. Clarissa did the gift wrapping." Xander said with a smile.

Alan thought about that. Artie's only surviving creation, a gift for him.

"And I think that Marie had been showing Rachel how to knit, the sweater was supposed to be for Bobby. They both wanted you to have it since it would fit you and Bobby has plenty of sweaters already." Xander said.

"How do you know all this stuff?" Alan asked curiously.

"Dawn was giving me the play by play as you were opening presents." Xander said and turned to look at the guys.

"I can't even find the words for how much this means to me." Alan said as he thought of the CD player and CDs.

"I think I understand what you mean. I felt the same way when I first got here. The only word that I could give it was 'belonging'." Andrew said quietly.

"Yeah, that's it. Just this morning I was feeling like I didn't belong anywhere, now I know that someone cares. It's an incredible feeling." Alan said in wonder.

"They're good people. Dawn and Tara are pretty special too. They organized the whole thing; they were up all night planning what to do." Xander said absently.

"And what about you? Getting us all cleaned up and taking care of us. You're a pretty special person yourself." Andrew said casting a fond look over at Xander.

"Stop. You'll make me blush, and with all my scars it just makes me look blotchy." Xander said in embarrassment.

Andrew and Alan laughed at Xander's blotchy blush. Xander responded by throwing a pillow at the two.

Moments of silence followed as all the men were digesting the festivities of the day.

Finally Alan broke the silence by saying, "What do you think of settling down in this dimension?"

"I thought we would go back to your dimension." Andrew said and turned on his side to look at Alan.

"My dimension is about to erupt into war, and I don't think one or two mutants more or less is going to affect the outcome." Alan said seriously.

Andrew looked at Alan for a long moment. Finally he said, "Go on, there's more."

Alan cast a look of exasperation at Andrew and said, "You are the most important thing in my life, more important than my position with the X-Men. If we went to my dimension to live, it might not be a very long or happy life. They are on the verge of war, and I don't see the mutants winning. If I thought our being there would honestly improve their chances, it would be more difficult to make this decision... But realistically, they're probably going to die. I love you and want to protect you above all else."

"Okay, I can accept that. But are you sure about staying here? I mean, Scott is here, I know that's got to bother you." Andrew said with worry.

"Until a few hours ago I would have agreed with you. But a few things happened today to change my mind about that." Alan said with a fond smile.

"Which things?" Andrew asked, thinking that he knew but wanted to hear it anyway.

"A turtle, a CD player, and a roast beef dinner." Alan said with a look of happiness.

"Don't forget about the special women behind the whole thing." Andrew said with his own happy look.

"No, I can't forget them. I can't think of any better reason to stay in a dimension than friends like them." Alan said warmly.

Andrew thought about it for a minute then said, "We need to talk to Scott. Once we get this thing with him settled one way or the other, I'll be able to say for sure if I want to stay here."

"Yes dear." Alan said indulgently.

Andrew whopped Alan with Xander's pillow and fell back laughing as Alan started to tickle his sides.

Xander watched the two in fond amusement and hoped that the impending talk with Scott would go well.

* * * * *

Scott awoke and put on his glasses to find the professor watching him.

"What? Is something wrong?" Scott asked in a panic.

"Nothing new. You need to resolve things with Andrew. You've let this go on too long... he deserves better from you." The professor said, letting the disapproval show in his voice.

"Don't you understand? I can't." Scott said in an uncharacteristic whine.

"Go up there and take it like a man. It would have been far easier if you had talked with him this morning. You delayed talking to him, now deal with it. Putting it off longer will not do anything but make it more difficult for both of you." The professor said moving from disapproval to anger in his voice.

"I know you're right, I just had to give a protest before I did it anyway. Can someone give me a ride up? I don't think I can make it up there on my own." Scott said in a voice of resigned acceptance.

"Someone will be here in a moment... And Scott? Be honest." The professor said before leaving the room.

To Be Continued...