Hurt & Comfort

Book 3: Deepest Hurt

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Chapter 3: Silver Linings and Lead Balloons

Alan and Andrew walked from the professor's office and ended up outside the door of their old bedroom.

"We can't go in there, that's Jean's room now." Andrew said quietly and led him away from the door.

Alan followed obediently, only half knowing where he was.

Andrew opened a portal into their bedroom. He led Alan to the bed and sat him on the edge.

He pulled off Alan's shoes and guided him to lay back on the bed. Andrew removed his own shoes and climbed on the bed beside Alan. With a little coaxing, he shifted Alan's head onto his chest.

{Go ahead and cry. It's okay...} Andrew whispered as he began stroking Alan's hair.

Alan fought it for a moment, then finally let loose a sob.

"Go ahead. I've got you. Hold on to me, you're not alone." Andrew crooned and continued the stroking.

Alan finally gave up the last of his control and began to weep in earnest. He let loose great heaving sobs as Andrew held him close and silently wept.

* * * * *

Tara made her way down to the MedLab and Dawn.

Dawn saw the look of despair on Tara's face and immediately ran to comfort her.

"They're all dead... everyone in Alan and Remy's world. I... I saw Professor Frost die." Tara said, then broke down in uncontrollable crying.

Xander sat in shock at the words. He saw the devastation that Tara was feeling and didn't want to interrupt her grief, but he couldn't help himself, he had to know, "How is Alan?"

"He... he's with Andrew. Oh Goddess, they let loose a plague... to kill all the mutants... and it killed everyone." Tara said between sobs.

Xander thought about Remy and Alan and finally came to a decision.

"Dawn, take Tara to your room. She doesn't need to be here now. I'll wait for Remy." Xander said quietly.

Dawn needed no further bidding, she gathered Tara close to her and they awkwardly made their way to the door.

* * * * *

Jean waited for a few moments before saying anything.

"Professor? How bad is it? I mean what she showed you." Jean asked with a shaky voice.

"Bad. What they did is within the abilities of our own technology." The professor said with worry evident in his voice.

"Can we defend against it?" Jean asked with hope.

"No. At least I don't see any way of doing so. This virus was engineered to seek out and attack the X-Gene. But when it is activated it has properties of AIDS, cancer and Ebola, to name a few. The designers of this virus didn't only want to kill their victims, they wanted them to suffer the most horrible death imaginable." The professor said with despair.

"What are we going to do?" Jean asked, hoping there was something.

"We will go to the MedLab and begin to map out the genetic structure, communicability level, transmission vector, and possible effectiveness of anti-viral agents." Professor Xavier said as he gathered some things into his lap to take with him.

"Would you like some help?" Jean asked hopefully.

"Of course Doctor Grey. I intend to enlist you and Doctor McCoy for this crusade." Professor Xavier said as he started for the door.

"You know Doctor McCoy is in surgery right now?" Jean asked, noticing how intent the professor was on his mission.

"He can join us after. We will be working in the biochemistry lab." The professor said as he exited the room.

Jean hurried to follow.

* * * * *

Alan finally quieted and just lay in Andrew's arms, feeling the comfort.

Alan broke the silence by asking, "You know I love you, right?"

Andrew smiled and said, "Yes, you tell me every day. But even if you never said it, I can tell by everything you say and everything you do. It's scary to have someone love me so much when no one ever did before."

"Scott loves you." Alan said as a statement of fact.

"I was talking about before I came here. But yeah, he does... in his way. And I love him too. But we were never meant to have romantic love, we both knew that from the beginning. When we became a couple, we agreed that there would be no sex, just the closeness and cuddling." Andrew said as he adjusted his position to be more comfortable.

"And what do we have?" Alan asked bravely.

Andrew could feel Alan tense with the asking of the question.

"We have this." Andrew said and pulled Alan into a deep kiss.

* * * * *

Dawn comforted Tara until she finally fell into an exhausted sleep. Dawn thought about the things Tara had told her, the horror of what had just happened in the next world over and a shiver went up her spine.

[There has to be a way of preventing this from happening in this world.] She thought while continuing to hold Tara close. [We wouldn't have been given a pathway into that world and been allowed to see its destruction if there weren't something we could do to prevent the same thing from happening here. The professor will no doubt focus on the virus... we need for someone to focus on the men who created it.]

Dawn realized that she had the beginnings of a plan, and that it was too big for her to accomplish by herself. She began to think and decided that she had some of the best resources available anywhere in this world.

"Tara honey, I need for you to wake up." She said quietly, not wanting to startle Tara any more than necessary.

"Dawn?" Tara asked weakly.

"Yeah, I know you're tired, but we have things to do." Dawn said with quiet determination.

Tara came to full wakefulness at the tone in Dawn's voice.

"I'm going to get Ororo to get the other adults who aren't busy. I need for you to get the senior student X-Men. We are going to meet in the dining room in half an hour." Dawn said and got off the bed.

"What are we going to do?" Tara asked as she got up and straightened her outfit.

"Fight back."

* * * * *

Andrew finally broke the kiss, pulled away from Alan, and took in a deep breath. He began to unbutton Alan's shirt and pulled it open.

Alan closed his eyes and began to take off his glasses.

{Don't.} Andrew whispered.

"What?" Alan asked and put his glasses back on.

"Don't take off your glasses. I know you just want to be comfortable and don't want to take the chance that they will be knocked off, but it's my own insecurity coming out. It's like making me wear a paper bag over my head." Andrew said and turned away from Alan.

"Oh love, I never even thought of that." Alan said and turned Andrew to face him.

Andrew fought him for a moment before looking him in the face.

"You are so beautiful to me. I don't know why you would even think that, but I promise that I'll leave the glasses on. But just so you know, when I take them off, I only see you... I'm not imagining that I'm with someone else." Alan said honestly.

"Not even Gene?" Andrew asked and pulled back to get a better view of Alan's reaction.

Alan stopped for a moment at the invocation of Gene's name and thought about how to put his feelings into words.

"I loved Gene. He was the center of my life, my source, my foundation, my everything. When he died, there was nothing left of me. Everything that I was died with him." He said carefully.

Andrew rested back on an elbow and nodded, prompting Alan to continue.

"I love you too, but not the same way. With you... I'm me. You've helped me to become myself. I love the person who you are, but when I'm not with you, I don't feel the... lost feeling... I did when I was separated from Gene. I'm still me. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's the best I can do to put my feelings into words." Alan said somberly.

"It makes perfect sense. But I need to know how you feel about Gene now." Andrew said, not demanding, just asking.

"I loved Gene. He was exactly what I needed when I was young and insecure. He made me feel important and loved. But that chapter of my life is closed... ended. Our relationship was unchanging, I was unchanging. Now I am... more... different..." Alan said, having difficulty finding the words.

"You've grown?" Andrew suggested.

"Exactly, I'm becoming the man I was intended to be, instead of being the terrified kid who needed constant guidance and reassurance." Alan said triumphantly.

"You were happy while you were with Gene." Andrew said cautiously.

"But it was like a trap. I didn't even know I was in it, but while Gene was feeding my emotional need and basically thinking for me, I didn't have to do anything for myself. So I would never become anything more than I was while I was with him." Alan said in realization.

Andrew nodded in understanding.

"And if Gene were to show up right now, I'd choose you in a heartbeat. Now I know why I was so enthralled with him, it wasn't as much love as dependence." Alan said in wonder.

"And you don't have that with me?" Andrew asked, wanting to be sure.

"No, you and I are each independent people. If you need to go back to your universe to deal with something for a few weeks, I'll miss you, but I won't be lost without you. God! It all makes so much sense now." Alan said, lost in his thoughts.

"You know, I love the man that you've become. And I love you just the way you are." Andrew said as he snuggled against Alan.

"And if I change? Grow? Will you still love me then?" Alan asked with some serious worry.

"We'll both grow, hopefully together. I'll do everything I can to keep up with your changes and be the perfect man for each you that you grow into. But be careful, remember, you do have the dickhead gene in your family... on Buffy's side as I recall." Andrew ended in a smile.

"Yeah, I gotta watch out for that." Alan said with an answering smile, then turned serious again. "We need to talk about your insecurity about this relationship. I can tell you I love you and you're beautiful a thousand times a day if that's what you need to hear. But I would rather you tell me what the problem is and let me help you overcome it." Alan said quietly.

Andrew was surprised by having the tables turned on him so effectively but decided that this needed to be dealt with and said, "I guess it's a lot of things that add up to me feeling worthless and ugly."

"Things?" Alan prompted and lay down, pulling Andrew to lay beside him.

"My dad left me when I was five, my mom left when I was fifteen. Since then, the friends I hung around with couldn't have cared less if I stayed or left." Andrew said, staring off into the distance.

"But that's all changed now that you're here, right?" Alan asked carefully.

"Yeah, but I still feel it. Like I'm not worth anything, no one could want to stay with me, that I'm ugly, plain, goofy, a geek..." {less than shit.} Andrew ended in a whisper.

"Andy, you need to tell me how to help you with this. Tell me what to do, and I'll do it. I've honestly found you attractive from the moment I first met you. I didn't know you before... the Andrew I know is brave, smart, handsome, loving, and the man I want to become my partner for the rest of my life. As my partner, I expect you to be my equal... which means that if you're less than shit, so am I." Alan said sincerely.

"I can think of one thing that you can do to convince me." Andrew said shyly.

"Anything." Alan said immediately.

"Make love to me. You know I can read you like a book. If you make love to me, I'll know within me how you really feel." Andrew said honestly.

"Oh Andy, come here." Alan said with relief.

"You're not worried?" Andrew asked with surprise.

"Not even a little bit. If you'll be looking at my reactions to you... then you're about to know what it feels like to be loved." Alan said with a joyful smile.

* * * * *

"I thought everyone would be down here waiting with you." Alex said as he walked in to find Xander staring off into space.

"Alan was going to talk to Professor Frost, the one from his home dimension." Xander said tiredly and looked at Alex.

"Okay." Alex said, getting worried by the dark tone in Xander's voice.

"I don't know everything, but apparently, someone in Alan's dimension released a virus that was supposed to kill all the mutants..." Xander said, trying to find the words to say it calmly.

"Oh God no." Alex gasped, his mind filling with the images of everyone Alan and Remy had talked about earlier in the night, all being dead.

"The virus mutated... and killed everyone." Xander finished, not betraying his emotions.


"That's what Tara said. She also said that they saw Professor Frost die right in front of them." Xander said with a hitch in his breath.

"Scott went to talk to Artie and Clarissa, they've grown attached to Remy and he didn't want them to worry if they found out he was in MedLab. I think he needs to know." Xander said, trying to keep the tear from falling from his eye.

"I'll go find him. How are you doing?" Alex asked quietly.

"I'll be fine... until I have to tell Remy that everyone he ever knew is dead." Xander said with anguish.

"Wait on that, at least till you've talked to the professor and Alan. You have one person's slant on the facts, there may be more to the story." Alex said and turned to leave.

"Thanks Alex. I hadn't thought of that. Go on and find Scott, I have a feeling that Alan is going to need his family tonight more than ever." Xander said tiredly.

Alex nodded and left.

* * * * *

"Hello Alex, I take it from the look on your face that you've heard." The professor said as they met at the elevator.

"Yeah, Xander just told me. Can you give me the facts? I'm going to go find Scott." Alex said as he walked with the professor and Jean back toward the MedLab.

"Step inside and I'll tell you and Xander together." The professor said quietly.

Alex walked back into the waiting area to find Xander crying. At the sound of his entry, Xander hurriedly wiped the tears from his eye with the back of his hand and sniffed inelegantly.

"The professor said he would tell us the whole story." Alex said and turned to look at the professor, pretending not to notice Xander crying.

"The facts as I know them are, the major governments of the world released a virus into the cities for the express purpose of exterminating all active mutants. The virus mutated and became lethal to everyone." The professor said tiredly.

"The last of those infected will be dead before the end of the week. Even though there are technically some survivors... they will not be enough to perpetuate the species."

"So everyone Alan and Remy knew is dead?" Alex asked, stunned.

"Yes, except Logan, and the virus affected him so strongly that he has lost the ability to reason, he is little more than an animal. Professor Frost hoped that if he finally triumphed over the disease, he might one day come back to himself... from her preliminary work, I can't say that I'm optimistic for him. His healing factor is fighting the disease, but... it's tearing him apart, healing him, exploding his internal organs, healing again... an endless cycle of torture." The professor said and allowed a tear to fall.

"Is there any hope of helping him?" Jean asked in horror.

"If we can develop some kind of anti-virus... perhaps. But that is a very remote possibility at this stage." The professor said weakly.

"Tara said that you saw Professor Frost die... How did Alan take it?" Xander asked with deep concern.

"He was in shock when he left my office... we all were. He is with Andrew right now and... " The professor trailed off, getting a vacant look in his eyes.

"And?" Alex asked in worry for his newest brother.

"... And Andrew is comforting him." The professor said, trying to hide his blush.

"Then I'm going to get Scott and Dawn so we can be there when Alan needs us. He has to know that he has a family that cares for him." Alex said with certainty.

"Just check with me before you go to the boathouse. I wouldn't want you to interrupt them while they're... grieving." The professor choked out.

Alex nodded and left the room to find his siblings.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Xander asked with hope.

"You're doing it Mr. Harris. You are the only one who has connected with Remy since he came to this universe." The professor said and motioned for Jean to follow him.

"Let me know if there is anything more I can do." Xander asked with a pleading tone.

"Of course." The professor said as he and Jean left the room.

To Be Continued...