Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Thirteen

Jimmy, a.k.a. Leech, brought Scott his dinner with instructions from Hank to eat everything on the tray or have it force-fed through the I.V., and the boy delivered the message with an impish twinkle in his eye, sitting with him while he ate.

"Thank you, Jimmy," Scott said again once he'd looked down at the rich colors of the meal on his tray and over to Jimmy's pleasant, innocent smile. He turned up his palms, took in everything from the brown of the dirt under his fingernails to the crisp white of the sheet tucked around him and the cool metallic blue of the med-bay wall. Color was all around him like a song he'd kept in his heart for this long but hadn't sung in forever.

That provoked another sweet smile. "I like being around you, Mr. Summers," Jimmy said, shy sidelong glance giving the aura of a confession. "You and everyone else who like what my suppression field does, instead of hating me for making them like everybody else."

Scott laughed shortly, raking a hand through his hair. Greasy again, damn - and that dry shampoo crap the infirmary stocked never actually worked. He'd been laid up a few times long enough to know. "Let me clue you in, Jimmy - there actually is no such thing as being like everybody else. That's just as much an illusion as the mutants that think having powers makes them better than those without."

Jimmy opened his mouth, closed it, then said after a moment, "I never really thought about it that way."

Between spoonfuls of soup they talked some more and he prompted Jimmy to tell him about the courses he was taking at school, what he'd done before, and found that Jimmy was a ward of the foster system the way Scott had been in those hellish months before Xavier had found him. He switched the topic from that back to Jimmy's hobbies, and the thought lit through him with painful suddenness that Xavier would never get to know him, this new, bright young mind. Xavier had perhaps never seen Jimmy coming because for all intents and purposes he was "like everyone else," but displayed his powers not of himself, but on those mutants closest to him.

"What's wrong?" Jimmy asked him, leaning closer and gripping the bar of the bed on Scott's right.

"Huh? Oh, nothing," Scott said, waving his spoon, glancing down at his tray. He was surprised to realize he'd tucked away most of the soup and a good deal of the pudding, too. "I suppose I wish I could sleep in my own bed, now that I'm back." He pictured trying to secure Hank's approval for an early discharge and grimaced.

"Want me to get Doctor McCoy?" Jimmy offered, and Scott shook his head.

"Hank's a little tougher than Je--he's a tough attending physician," he explained weakly. "He's got one simple rule: walk out of the infirmary on your own power, but if you can't, you're not ready yet. With my ribs right now I don't think I could get up."

Even as the words came out of his mouth he knew it wasn't necessarily true. He could lean on someone, he could ask for a cane, he could get out of here under his own power so long as he got someone to get him over the initial spasm of pain, maybe, or at least get Hank to transfer him from hospital bed to the comfort of his own bedroom upstairs. Then he remembered the pressure of those fingers squeezing down on his, and he was sure as faith it had been real, not a dream.

If he went back to his room, he knew there was a good chance he'd never find out.

"I guess that makes sense," Jimmy was saying. He looked uncertain. "Do you...get hurt a lot, I mean, does everyone get hurt?"

Scott dipped a shoulder, approximating a shrug. "Well, it depends. Sometimes no more than any normal school. But we do practice in the Danger Room, and part of that is to make sure that people don't get too badly hurt when dangerous situations arise. Say, Jimmy, remember what you told me about Wolverine?"

The boy nodded, eyes flickering confusion.

"He doesn't come every time, does he? Whenever you leave?"

Jimmy shrugged. "Before today, he did. Whenever I came down to the room he was always leaving. Went and stood by the big circular door at the end of the hall until I was gone. I thought it was because he didn't like me, or didn't like what I can do, but now I guess it's because he was worried without the healing power the weight of his skeleton would..." He trailed off, tried on a smile.

Scott matched it, though he thought his own might be just as uncertain. "Well, now you know," he said softly. "It's a good idea not to judge on appearances, by what we only see on the surface of things. At least, not until we know the whole story - or even when we think we do, really." Had he done that to Logan or had Logan done it to him? A bit of both, really.

"I guess I can take your tray upstairs now," Jimmy said, the uncertainty of his half-smile blossoming into something more genuine. "Looks like you finished."

Scott looked down at the tray in surprise. Everything had vanished. He had been more hungry than he'd thought. Hank had pulled the I.V. out of his arm earlier after extracting a promise from him that he'd eat solids when given them and not just push food around the plate. It looked as if his body had taken care of that for him, and the gnawing ache of hunger he hadn't even acknowledged was now replaced with pleasant fullness. It was good to eat, and take delight in basic things again.

"Sure...yeah, go ahead." He pulled a wry smile. "Think he'll let you bring a stack of paperwork back down with you on a return trip?"

"He said you'd ask that, and the answer is not a chance," Jimmy told him, laughing outright. He collected Scott's tray. "Do you want anything else?"

Hank had brought down a few of the classics during his trip earlier, several newspapers from the past few weeks, but nothing too taxing, as he'd put it. Scott was allowed to think but not work. He pursed his lips, thought about it, figured there was no good way to sneak down anything Hank would consider too mentally strenuous, and shook his head. "Thanks, though."

He donned his glasses before Jimmy left the room, not willing to risk it. Five minutes, fifteen, an hour until the optic blasts came didn't matter; there had been no worse thought today than the prospect of killing his brother now that he'd finally found him again. Alex had theorized it had something to do with the nature of his own mutation; his genius friend who'd built him the suit had told him he absorbed ambient energy, and Scott's eye-beams were pure concussive energy. Scott was prone to skepticism, attributing it to his power being weak from two days underground and in and out of Leech's suppressant field.

Settling deeper against the stacked pillows, Scott relaxed and closed his eyes. He had only been awake for a few hours but he was dead tired. Maybe there was something to Hank's nagging, after all.

With very little effort on his part, he was asleep.

It was possible he dreamed but when he next opened his eyes, pulse quickening in his throat, there was no recollection. He turned his head, fingers curling closed around the imprint of warmth against his palm.

"What the hell?"

The door was whooshing shut. This time he was sure, though. There was a faint remnant of aftershave on the air.

"Got it," Scott muttered. "Too manly to get caught making a bedside vigil, I guess."