Hurt & Comfort

Book 5: Heroes Can Be Hurt

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Chapter 5: Self-Image and Self-Deception

"I'm a monster." Hank said in a tearful voice as he looked in the mirror.

"You're a mutant." Scott said in a gentle tone.

"Leave me alone." Hank said and pointed toward the door.

"Hank. Please don't..." Scott began.

"Leave!" Hank demanded and let loose an animalistic growl.

Scott hung his head and left the room.

As he stood in the hallway outside he saw the light go off under Hank's door then heard the sound of horrible, gut wrenching sobs.

* * * * *

"Scott?" Jean said as she opened her eyes.

"No Jean, it's Alex... how are you doing?" Alex asked carefully.

"Wonderful... I feel... everything." //Professor, I'm awake and feeling fine.// //Scott, I'm awake. You don't have to worry, I'm okay.// //Orroro, thanks for being concerned, I'm fine now.// Jean said and sent simultaneously.

"Good, we were all worried about you." Alex said with relief.

"I know Alex, and thank you for that." Jean said as she telekinetically lifted herself to her feet.

"Wow, the powers are really working." Alex said with wide eyes.

"Yes. If you'll excuse me, I have a few things I need to take care of." Jean said and walked out of the Omega Chamber as if only the slightest thread of gravity was holding her down.

* * * * *

"Dawn?" Jean asked as she knocked on the door.

"Jean?" Dawn asked in surprise as she opened the door joyfully.

"I'm all better now." Jean said with a smile as she accepted the heart-felt hug from Dawn.

Tara looked on with a shy smile and said, "I'm glad you're better."

"Thank you Tara... I came up here to help you with your work." Jean said and moved into the room.

"You know about magic?" Dawn asked with surprise.

"I know about Shi'ir science... it turns out to be basically the same thing." Jean said as she looked over the text that Dawn was working on.

Dawn and Tara watched silently as Jean quickly read the pages before her.

"This won't work. It will create a spatial claudication that will have an escalating azimuth potential that cannot be contained by this dimension." Jean said absently as she looked through the books before her.

"Could you try that in the witchcraft for dummies version?" Dawn asked, feeling totally outclassed.

"Sorry Dawn, I was using some Shi'ir formulae against the spell and got caught up... it will basically be a beacon to every demon within twenty-six dimensions announcing that there is a free buffet waiting. The spell is a trap to get people to use it so they can be easily conquered." Jean said simply.

"Well, if you can read these spells so well, can you help us get the kids home?" Dawn asked with hope.

Jean thought for a moment then said, "Yes, I'll need Xander. He's a full human and that is his native dimension... and... the ingredients are going to be a challenge."

"I know. There aren't many magic supply stores around here, I mean *real* ones." Dawn said in acceptance.

"If only it were that simple. We are going to need some demon components for this spell... luckily we have the rarest of the components that we'll need." Jean finished with a smile.

"What is that?" Dawn asked in wonder.

"An interdimensional key."

* * * * *

Scott sat in the Professor's office and waited for the Professor to look up from his work and acknowledge him.

"What can I help you with Scott?" The Professor finally asked.

"It's Hank, he's... I don't think he can deal with the change. He needs help and won't let me help him." Scott said with worry.

"I understand your concern. I can feel his despair from here, but until he is ready to accept help, we're going to have to leave him to deal with this in his own way. See that he is brought food and is offered help when you visit, but don't press him." Charles said in a considering tone.

"It doesn't seem like enough." Scott said sadly.

"I know, but until he is ready, nothing we can do will actually help him." Charles said firmly.

"Thank you Professor. I'll see that he is fed and knows that I'm available if he needs me." Scott said and got up to leave.

"Scott, would you run an errand for me tomorrow?" Charles asked carefully.

"Of course, what can I do for you?" Scott asked and took his seat again.

"Mr. Harris, Mr. LeBeau and Alex are going to Perth Amboy tomorrow. I would like for you to go along." Charles said, with a serious look.

"Sure, what do you need me to do?" Scott asked, eager to help.

"Enjoy the time with your brother and your friends. Things have been so serious and grave here of late that you need some time away. Take the day off." Charles said with a firm tone.

"You're right. The pressure doesn't have time to release before more pressure is added. I feel like I'm going to shatter." Scott said honestly.

"I know Scott. Take the day to relax. You deserve it. Take the Institute credit card and enjoy yourself. We can manage just fine for one day." Charles said with reassurance.

"Thank you Professor. Sometimes it's hard for me to give myself permission to relax." Scott said and got up to leave.

"Permission granted. Have a good time." The Professor said with a gentle smile.

* * * * *

"Bobby?" A feminine voice came from the closed door.

"Jean? Come in." Bobby said with surprise.

"Yeah, I'm better now. We need to talk." Jean said seriously as she walked into the room.

"Sure, about what?" Bobby said as he sat up on his bed.

"About you. Whatever happened to me opened my telepathy fully. I know everything that is going on... and everything that happened before." Jean said seriously.

"Marie knows it all too." Bobby said with a shrug.

"What Marie saw was what happened, I saw why it happened." Jean said cryptically.

"So? It happened. It's over." Bobby said, masking his true emotions.

"Bobby, until you deal with this, you will never be able to feel anything for another person. You'll only ever be like this, caring just for your own self and own desires." Jean said carefully.

"It's worked fine up to now, why change?" Bobby asked as he laid back on the bed.

"It's only worked because it's kept you from being hurt. You are now at a stage in your life where you need to let people in and take chances... to become an adult." Jean said firmly.

"What if I don't want to?" Bobby asked, trying to contain his nervousness.

"I'm not giving you a choice. If you continue like this you are going to hurt someone worse than you already have. The path you are on ends with you dead or in prison. There is no happy ending for you. If it were just you, I might consider letting you deal with things in your own way but I'm doing this to protect all the people you're going to hurt on your way down. I care for these people and I won't let you hurt them." Jean said fiercely.

"Okay, I guess it doesn't matter anyway. Do what you need to do." Bobby said and crossed his arms behind his head.

Bobby looked around and noticed that he was back in his bedroom at home. He looked at himself to see that he was about four or five years old again.

His heart began to beat faster as he realized what was happening and he heard the heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.

[NOOOOOOOOOOOO!] He screamed mentally.

* * * * *

"This list of ingredients is impossible. I wouldn't be able to find some of these things in Sunnydale... and you could find *anything* there." Dawn said as she looked over the list.

"What about the places you found things in your home world... do they exist here?" Tara asked carefully.

"Yeah, some do. I can get the usual stuff, henbane, shrieking mandrake... stuff like that is no problem. But the demon things... Z'Nor blood, Grue's milk... I haven't got a clue of where to look in this dimension for stuff like that." Dawn said while shaking her head in frustration.

"Where would you get those things in your home dimension?" Tara asked quietly.

"Giles... he's a watcher. He can get just about anything from the watcher's council." Dawn said with excitement.

"So we just need to find the Mr. Giles from this dimension and get him to help." Tara said with a smile.

Dawn stopped and thought about Tara's words. After a long moment she voiced her thoughts, "Why would he *want* to help us?"

* * * * *

Marie was walking down the hallway as she noticed Jean leaving Bobby's room, wiping tears from her eyes.

"What did he do to you?" Marie asked with immediate fury.

"Nothing Marie, calm down, he didn't do anything. I promise." Jean said as she finished wiping her eyes.

"Then why are you crying?" Marie asked in challenge.

"I'm about to do something that is wrong on so many levels that I can't even tell you. But you know half the story, and if you don't get the other half, you'll never get past this." Jean said hesitantly.

"What are you going to do?" Marie asked with worry at the vague statement.

"I'm going to show you why Bobby is the way he is." Jean said and motioned for Marie to follow her into a room.

* * * * *

Alex, Remy and Xander were getting ready to leave when the Professor called to all three of them, //Gentlemen, would you mind if Scott were to accompany you on this trip?//

They all looked at each other, shrugged and shook their heads.

"Are we ready to go?" Scott asked, carrying a backpack.

"I guess that means we're getting predictable." Alex commented and motioned for Scott to 'come on'.

* * * * *

Bobby awoke and his mind filled with the horror of the previous night.

Jean had shown him things that he had worked all his life to suppress. The pain, the humiliation, the fear... they all flooded into his mind as fresh as the first time they had happened.

"Are you ready for more?" Jean asked as she walked into the room.

"Oh God no. I'll do anything you want. Don't make me go through it again." Bobby begged as tears began flowing freely.

"It'll be better this time, I promise. Last night you had to watch and feel it all happen just like it did before. It was necessary to reveal all the things you had hidden over the years. Today you get to take control, say what you want, fight back, do what you wish you could have done before." Jean said helpfully.

Bobby sat in a daze as what she was saying began to sink in. "I can fight back?" he asked in a timid voice.

"Yes Bobby, you can scream, fight, run... It's your choice." Jean said somberly.

"Okay. Okay. I can do that." Bobby said and took a deep breath to relax.

"Lay back." Jean said in a commanding tone.

Bobby laid back and braced himself for the horror to come.

To Be Continued...