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Three hours had passed and no one had heard from Andrew or Alan. Artie was recovering in his room with Clarissa constantly by his side.
Clarissa had been the teleporter for team two as Nightcrawler had been for team one and Andrew had been for team three. The professor said that Clarissa wouldn't be able to function if she was afraid, but she would be brave for her best friend, Artie. So Artie was included on the team.
Artie had been told that he was responsible for Clarissa's protection. When a soldier got past their defenses and was about to shoot Clarissa, Artie shielded her with his own body.
The professor relayed the story with pride to the X-Men and announced that he wanted everyone to give Artie the praise and respect that he deserved.
The other teams did not come through the experience unscathed. Ororo suffered a broken arm that she barely acknowledged since it was trivial compared to the injuries Alan had sustained in the explosion.
Besides the incident with Clarissa and Artie, team two also had two other casualties. Monique was hit full force by a grenade. Had she been a non-mutant, she would have instantly died. Thankfully her mutant ability included abnormally strong skin and bones plus a healing factor that would eventually have her back to herself.
Mondo didn't have the benefit of a healing factor and would need to heal the old-fashioned way from the severe concussion that was keeping him unconscious.
And the most dire of the losses came to team one. Gambit was shot in the head at close range. Mystique efficiently dispatched his attacker and took over Gambit's duties as team one's hacker. All the teams were successful, but they still could not calculate the cost.
* * * * *
Eric and Charles sat in Charles office silently for a long while before Charles finally said, "I was naïve to think that mankind and mutants were ready to embrace coexistence. Though I continue to have hope for the future..."
"And the extermination of non-mutants will do more harm than good for mutant-kind. Those two young ladies give me hope that some non-mutants may be valuable to society." Eric said in his own concession.
"Do you think that there is a common ground where our two philosophies can coexist?" Charles asked somewhat rhetorically while gazing off into the distance.
"Perhaps." Eric said, looking into his own distant place.
Eric then asked, "What about us? I mean, if our fight is over. Is there anything left between us to salvage?"
"Before I answer, who won?" Charles asked quietly.
"In this fight, there were only degrees of losing, there were no winners." Eric said seriously.
Charles nodded in acceptance.
"So what do you say Charles? Is there any reason for me to hope?" Eric asked with pleading in his eyes.
"Oh yes, even when I hated you most, I also loved you. I have been disappointed in some of your decisions, but it never stopped my love." Charles said softly.
"Well put Charles. So... now what?" Eric asked tentatively.
"Now you come over here and give me the hug that I so desperately need after the day we've had." Charles said with anguish creeping into his voice.
Eric moved to Charles without hesitation and nearly pulled him out of the chair with the power of his heartfelt hug.
The End of 'Deepest Hurt'. Now it's time for you to make a choice.
The stories will join together again in chapter 22 of 'The Well of Hurt' and chapter 12 of 'Heroes Can Be Hurt'.