Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Twenty-one

"Okay, that's all for the day," Scott said, rising from his chair and pleased to note there wasn't even a twinge from his ribs or any other recalcitrant body parts. "Make sure you bring a list of properties for each of those ten elements from the periodic table tomorrow, and finish up your lab prep work. Got it?"

There were several dutiful nods and a scattered chorus of "yes" and other agreements, then his third-year class shuffled books and papers and slowly rose from their assorted places. Scott remained by the board at the head of the class, keeping an eye out for any stragglers or any students who looked particularly uncertain. Sometimes they had questions about the material, sometimes they just wanted to talk. Every single one of his kids, though, had been gratifyingly happy to see him back, and a few of the younger ones had flung themselves at him right after his return. That had been worth the pain.

Scott had picked up a few of his classes again over the past several days as he stumped around the mansion and healed gradually, but not all of them. Alex had wanted to give up English but hold onto P.E.; Scott couldn't pick up the former, because it had been Jean's, and he wasn't really up to par yet for the physical exertion of the other. Lorna had given up the three chemistry classes with a few grumbles, but she had held onto the mechanics classes to the point of offering him to arm-wrestle.

Alex had offered to referee, but Scott had declined, disgruntled and not willing to admit he couldn't handle more than one class on top of the workload associated with returning to the mansion after an absence, taking on all head administrative duties for the school, and finishing out his executor duties.

He leaned against the edge of his desk as the class emptied out. Today the only straggler was Kitty Pryde, which was not much of a surprise. As a student she was a delight, engaging in discussion and debate, her agile mind soaking up difficult topics and prompting her to bring tough questions to her teachers or the class. She was straightening, setting her books on her desk, toying with a long strand of dark hair. When the class had emptied, she looked his way and smiled.

"Questions, Kitty?" Scott prompted.

"Not today, Mr. Summers," Kitty replied, wrinkling her nose and tilting her head like a curious bird. "Actually I stuck around because Dr. McCoy asked me to remind you of your appointment this afternoon."

"Oh," Scott said, and mustered up a smile when he realized his response had fallen a little flat. "Am I really that bad?"

Her grin turned impish, and she shook her head. "Oh, no, I'm not going to answer that," she said at once. "You're diligent when it comes to looking out for us, Mr. Summers. But I'm not going to repeat what Dr. McCoy says about you as a patient. See you tomorrow!" She scooped up her books and jogged off through the classroom desks, then right through the wall to a class next door.

That lack of answer was an answer right there, he thought ruefully. Scott cast one last glance around the class, deemed it suitably neat for the one that would come after, and collected his own class materials, planner, text. Hank thought he'd duck out on his appointment, so maybe it was time to give him a pleasant surprise. He turned the lights off behind him and made for the elevator that would take him to the infirmary.

There was a reflexive twinge of alert, and Scott glanced down the hallway in the opposite direction. Logan stalked in his direction, brows lowered and stride businesslike.

Scott didn't even realize he was holding his breath until they drew even and Logan growled a low "hey" that jolted him into sucking in a breath, not quite a gasp.

"Uh, hi," Scott responded, his voice hoarse. Then they were passing, and Scott kept moving, closing his eyes for a brief moment. Logan's boot-heels thudded beyond him.

Stupid, he lectured himself. Logan was keeping things normal, beyond his wildest expectations. He was the only one holding onto something that had never happened.

Downstairs, the infirmary door was rolled wide and Hank McCoy was within, large hirsute hands moving with incredible deftness as he wound a bandage around an older teen's thigh. Peter Rasputin was seated on a patient table, hands braced to either side of him. He looked over Hank's shoulder at Scott, giving him a nod.

"What happened?" Scott asked, hovering on the threshold of the med-bay.

"I got a little careless in the Danger Room," Peter replied with a shrug. "No big deal."

"You filed a report?" Scott questioned.

Two voices answered him simultaneously. "I already did--" from Peter, along with a surprisingly testy McCoy stating, "Affirmative, Cyclops, I am after all well-versed in the responsibilities and I am aware even unto the extent that we have separate processes for minors as opposed to legal adults, of which august company young Rasputin has joined."

Scott let out a controlled breath. "All right, well, I had to ask," he said, rocking back on his heels a bit. "It's been a while, Hank."

The taller Beast craned a brief look over his white lab-coated shoulder. "For all of us, I think," he replied cryptically, and returned his attention to bandaging Rasputin's thigh.

"So what happened, Peter?" Scott prompted, striving for a lighter tone of voice. "I can't remember the last time I saw you take a hit."

Rasputin looked up again, meeting his eyes - well, as much as anyone could, when all they could see were the ruby-quartz glasses. "Oh, I...uh, well, we were messing ar--uh, I mean finishing up exercises in the Danger Room and Jubilee set off a volley that sent some metal flying. I'd already de-armored." He shrugged again as if to indicate it were no big deal.

"Who was leading the session?" Scott asked, folding his arms. He knew he'd read the report later anyhow, but he wanted to hear it from Peter.

"Well, Mr. Summers," Peter replied, and rubbed the base of his neck. "I mean, the other Mr. Summers. Your brother - Havok."

Havoc is right, Scott thought privately, but that was something to deal with later. He waited while Hank finished bandaging up Peter.

The doctor patted the table beside Peter's knee and stepped away. "There now, it's really not bad at all. No stitches needed."

"That's what I told Alex, but he said I had to go to the infirmary anyhow," Peter replied.

"And he was right to insist," Hank returned, firm. Now he folded his arms, and when he did he resembled a furry blue mountain. "It's not bad, but no aspirin. It has certain anti-coagulatory properties that, when ingested, could impact--"

Peter raised his hands in surrender. "No aspirin," he agreed, expression suggesting he'd agree to anything to cut Hank's spiel short.

"And you're on the injured roster until that forms a good solid scab with no attendant bruising, my boy," Hank added jovially. "Which means--"

"No Danger Room?" Peter supplied, crestfallen.

"No Danger Room," Hank echoed, and Scott held his tongue. Hank had the new procedures down, though that sort of thing hadn't been the standard back when the four of them had been students. Scott himself had personally lost count of all the times he'd pushed himself into staying the course for Danger Room sessions with assorted bruises, wrenched elbows or ankles, and even a broken arm once.

"Okay," Peter agreed, and hopped off the table without so much as a wince. There was the faintest hint of red seeping through the bandage already, but Hank examined him, then slapped his shoulder.

"No pain?" Hank asked him.

"None," Peter confirmed.

"Ah well, the anti-inflammatory nerve spray will wear off soon enough," Hank replied. "Enjoy it while it lasts."

Peter left the med-bay with a parting nod for the both of them.

"Your turn," Hank said, turning and indicating the patient table with a grandiose sweep of his arm. "Congratulations, I do believe this is the first time I've had the pleasure of attending your arrival for a scheduled appointment without three reminders and a student with large, piteous eyes dispatched to remind you of your dereliction."

"I'm not that bad," Scott muttered, abashed nonetheless as he approached the table and hefted himself up. It was no strain, and he gave Hank a somewhat triumphant smirk.

"Oh, I must vehemently and respectfully lodge a difference of opinion on that score," Hank replied, bending a keen look over his glasses at Scott. "If I were half so recalcitrant in filing reports on student safety as you are to attend follow-up appointments at regular increments I would have been most thoroughly browbeaten by this point." He removed his stethoscope from around his neck.

"Hunh," Scott grunted, but he was unwilling to concede the point.

Hank let it pass, performing the physical with deft efficiency. He palpated areas that had been strained, sore, or beyond bruised into almost-fractured and Scott didn't tense or evidence any other involuntary signs of pain. He was relieved when at last Hank took a step back, clasping his hands before him.

"It is with reluctance that I pronounce you fit for reconditioning," McCoy said, deep blue face carved in lines of disapproval.

"What?" Scott said, astonished. "Why?"

"This rift between you and Ororo, it's not good, Scott. I don't like it," Hank replied forthrightly. "The Professor wouldn't--"

"The Professor isn't here anymore," Scott broke in, shaking his head. "I need to solve this for myself. She stood up and challenged me right in front of everyone, disputed Xavier's last wishes--"

"...And I'm not contesting that," Hank inserted deftly. "Not at all, Scott. I merely think that reacting quickly and rashly as you did cannot come without consequence. Though you feel yourself wronged, no matter how justly so, in striking out at Ororo you risk alienation when we can least afford to be divided."

Scott leaned back on the patient table, resting his hands flat. "I know that," he said after a long moment, watching Hank's eyes search for his in the mirrored lenses. "And Storm should know that, too. She didn't do me the courtesy of dealing with it privately, so I responded to her in public too. I see your point. But this is how we're going to do it, and after it's over...well, we'll resolve things then. I'll make sure we do."

Hank nodded slowly. "Yes, I suppose you will."

Using the leverage of his palms on the table, Scott pushed himself up off the surface and regained his feet. "So? Will you sit on the panel, Hank? I need a couple of impartial judges. We both do. I trust your sense of fairness."

"Wouldn't miss this match for the world, m'boy," Hank replied, striving for geniality.

Scott gave him a taut nod. "Good."