To Live To Suffer

The institute had gained back most of its usual, cheerful atmosphere by the next morning. Waking up now was now greeted with a feeling of relief instead of a feeling of dread. Silence was still a main part of the air in the huge mansion, but it had changed its vibes. No longer was it morbid and heavy.

The occupants walked without having to worry they were looking too perky for the mood, and smiles were allowed again for no reason. Not that all the mutants went about with grins on their faces, but the entire aura of the Xavier institute was back to its old self, meaning there was nothing to keep them down.

The new recruits signed a huge Get Well card, bought from their combined allowances, and sent down to Kurt in the infirmary. They had been told that everything was cleared up, and that Kurt had made a mistake in thinking he had become a murder. They were glad he was on his way returning to normal again.

"Hey," Rogue greeted warmly, watching her brother with a smile as he woke from the sleep he had fallen into yesterday. She was leaning on the nightstand, watching him affectionately.

Opening his eyes further at the sound of her voice, Kurt turned his head on the soft, comfy pillow to look at the older mutant. He gave a smile in return for her greeting.

"How ya feeling?"

Kurt blinked tiredly, and then again to clear the sleep from his eyes. He paused as if thinking how exactly he should tell her, but simply said, "I'm okay." The smile still remained. Despite the IV drip that was attached to his hand again, the dull but healing pains of his injuries, and the fact he was in the infirmary instead of his much-missed bedroom, he felt good; his burden now lifted.

"Y' should be feeling great, y' saved someone's life," she said gently. All the little details had been explained, everyone was at last clued in to what happened. Finally, Kurt's friends understood everything. It feltlike something had been lifted off their shoulders, too.

Kurt's smile tugged a little more at one corner as his eyes lowered. "I'm glad zuh little boy recovered . . . but," his smile vanished, ". . . it vas still my fault he vas rushed to hospital . . ."

"No it wasn't – Logan explained to us, it was th' boy's illness that caused him to be taken t' hospital," Rogue argued quietly. "Ya gotta stop placing the blame on y'self."

"But – "

"Kurt," Rogue said gently but firmly.

The younger mutant watched her for a second, and closed his lips with a sigh. He straightened his head and looked at the ceiling. A second or two passed.

"It just feels like . . ." he started quietly, "ozher people suffer because of me . . . My parents . . . You guys . . . Innocent people . . ." He watched the white surface above him.

Rogue shook her head with her green eyes locked on his. "We don't suffer because of you, your parents would say the same – an' th' innocent people we've helped save haven't complained so far . . ." She leant forward. "You think you're causing all of us trouble and pain because you're so self conscious about your looks and what they do to people – but you're wrong. Try an' see from behind our eyes; ya're a valuable member to th' X Men, a great friend and . . . a good brother." She gave his shoulder a squeeze. "Th' only pain y' cause us is hunger when ya've eaten all th' food," Rogue added, smiling. "Trust me when ah say you don't cost us any kinda sufferin'."

Kurt's mouth twisted into something that was neither a grim nor happy smile. He seemed to be thinking while he studied the ceiling. He wished he could tell Rogue something about his past, just to have an example of what he meant, but he promised himself not to burden anybody with his horrific memories (part of that promise broken somewhat when Jean read his mind).

"I guess, maybe you could be right," he said hesitantly. "Right about my friends . . . but sometimes . . ." He drifted off, as though the sentence was continuing in his head and he was listening to it. He took in an audible breath. " Sometimes it's like I live just to suffer . . . I vatch people I love being hurt and I can't do anyzhing because I can't make a difference . . ." He thought about his parents as he said this, his loving Mother and Father back home in Germany, and he felt guilty. Sometimes he wondered if it was easier for them when he wasn't there. They could relax without having to worry if anyone would come to the house and see their 'son'. They could freely go out and socialize with no one to hold them back.

"If you do anything you can to help, then that's all anyone would expect and be grateful for," Rogue answered after a short pause, wondering where the conversation had taken them. She felt Kurt was talking about something she didn't know.

"Yeah," Kurt said distantly, and Rogue didn't think he'd even heard her.

"Hey," she said, touching his face and gaining his attention. "Ah hope ya have ya appetite back soon. Miss Munro is gonna make ya somethin' special when ya get outta th' infirmary." She probably should have left it as a surprise, but Rogue really wanted to change the subject.

A smile curled Kurt's lips again. "Yeah?" Rogue nodded and Kurt blinked and looked at her with something of his old self in his expression. "I feel hungry."

Rogue grinned. "Well we've had plenty of time t' stock th' kitchen up in th' past week. Anything in particular?"

Kurt thought for a second. "Not soup."

Returning to school in much higher spirits, the X Men completed the next week minus Kitty, for she continued to stay with a recovering Kurt, owing to the fact that both he and she had to stick with their cold cover-up.

They watched their blue friend heal over the next four days with steady and satisfying progress. It seemed once he wanted to heal he did so, much better than the days he didn't. There were still times when he sunk into a silent mood, but it was to be expected, the boy had suffered quite an ordeal. However, with his friends and teachers there to help guide him down the path of healing, he was doing very well.

On the forth day, after the incident at the hospital that had revealed the answers, Hank and Jean entered the infirmary. The resident redhead had returned from school not long ago.

"Haven't you read that book yet?" Jean asked her friend as she sat down on his bed at his knees.

Kurt, sat on his bed covers with a book in his hands, looked up as both mutants entered the room and replied to Jean, "Almost." He had never really sat down and read a book before, since he was so active and restless. But since he was stuck in the infirmary – imprisoned, as he described, by Mr. McCoy – Kitty had forced a book into his hands and told him to read to help pass the time. He had been incredibly bored and fidgety and it was only everyone's forceful instructions to stay put that he obeyed.

Jean breathed a laugh. "Kitty had that one finished in two days." She knew and understood why Kurt had never properly read a book.

But Kurt was looking wearily at Mr. McCoy, his book forgotten. The Beast was placing a small, stainless steel dish on a little trolley, and had wheeled it to Kurt's bedside. There were a couple of other instruments on the trolley that gave him an involuntary shudder. He stared at them.

Hank noticed and gave a warm, calming smile. "Don't look so scared, I'm just going to be removing your stitches."

But even the sight of those items on the trolley already had Kurt's heat beating faster. Everything from medical equipment to bandages had been put away from view while he had been confined to the room, so he had felt less fearful. He realized now Hank must have known how they made him feel for him to hide them.

Jean held out a piece of square paper that Kurt had been using as a bookmark. "You wanna continue reading through this?" He had a lot of stitches that needed taking out, and it might be better for him to be distracted by his book.

Kurt took the piece of paper from her gently. "I, uh . . . don't zhink I could read it." He wedged the paper between two pages, and laid it beside him, glancing at Hank carefully as though the man was about to stab him. His heart gave a sharp jolt as he saw that Hank was placing a syringe on the trolley.

"Vhassat for?" Kurt breathed, his body freezing.

Hank didn't seem the least bit surprised by his behavior. "It's okay," he soothed. "Your chest is still inflamed and sore, so removing the stitches will be a bit painful. This is just a little anesthetic so you won't feel it." He picked up one of the small items on the trolley. "But I'll remove those ones last. So if you'll be still, I'd like to unstitch your forehead." Hank's voice was so gentle and calm it even made Jean feel a little more relaxed than she was.

Hank pulled a chair up so he could sit at Kurt's level, then motioned for the younger to move forward. It helped if both were comfortable. Jean moved further onto the bed and pulled back Kurt's bangs as Hank raised the tool to the blue teenager's head.

"Thank you, Jean," he said. Kurt flinched and clamped his eyes shut as Hank began to cut and pull the stitches free very gently. The wound had healed nicely, and once all the threads were gone the scar was barely visible. "That's healed really well," Hank commented in a doctor like way. He dropped the last used stitch in the steel bowl as Jean leaned forward to take a look. Kurt felt like an exhibit.

"Hey yeah, you can barely tell," the telepath said brightly, letting his hair fall back into place.

The blue elf rubbed his forehead carefully. He could feel the scar, and it was sensitive to his touch. But it didn't hurt, thankfully. Perhaps he could come out of this with little scarring.

"A few more to go," Hank announced.

Having eaten their lunches, the rest of the X Men lounged about in the kitchen snacking on deserts or watching the TV while their food went down. Jean had disappeared half an hour ago to visit Kurt, and the rest were about to join her. They were stopped as two people entered the kitchen at that second.

Jean walked through the door slowly, helping a slightly unstable Kurt who was dressed in the same white tank top and pants Hank had given him. Jean was smiling with a supporting arm around his waist, and he seemed to be looking at everything as if he hadn't seen it in years.

"Kurt," Scott exclaimed, pulling out the closest chair for him. "How ya doing?"

Jean let go of Kurt as he sat down, his friends stood or sat around him.

"Hungry," he answered. "I hope you haven't eaten everyzhing."

"When you're in the house, no way," Evan smirked. "We wouldn't dare."

Kurt grinned. "Gut, because I can't feel my chest and I'd razher eat now zhen vhen zuh feeling comes back." He rubbed the place just below his ribcage where Hank had given him the injection. A large section of his torso felt like it was missing.

Jean laughed and motioned to the fridge. The door opened by her telekinesis, and the contents sat enticingly on the shelves.

"What do you fancy?" She asked as Kitty poured up a glass of juice.

"Do I see chocolate cake?" Kurt hinted.

"Mm, but y' can't have that," Rogue answered with a teasing smile. "Mr. McCoy's given us a list of ya new diet, and chocolate cake isn't included."

Kurt looked humorously disappointed. "Oh man! Zhat's not fair – after vhat I had to endure in zhat infirmary for over a veek." He looked at it, sat there begging to be eaten.

"It's health food for you, buddy," Scott told him, indicating the many green and organic foods on the shelves around the lonely cake.

"Only for a while," Kitty said. "Then after that we sneak you cake in the middle of the night when Mr. McCoy isn't looking." She grinned.

"Mr. McCoy seems to like making me suffer," Kurt muttered with a smile, slipping a sly glance to Rogue. She punched him very lightly.

"For now, though," Jean spoke, having moved over to the kitchen counter top after she'd walked in, and now turning back with a bowl. "Soup."

Kurt's eyebrows rose. "Nooo," he groaned, turning away. Everyone laughed.

"She's kidding," Kitty broke the laughter as Jean showed him the empty dish. "But the doctor's orders are that you can't eat much –"

"So no stuffing your face like usual," Rogue added.

"And nothing unhealthy," Evan spoke up.

"No 'porting, either," Jean said a little more seriously, giving Kurt one of her warning eyes.

"Which means you shouldn't be as hungry," Scott put in.

Kurt looked at him. "Vhich means . . . I have to valk everyvhere?" He asked slowly. Hank McCoy obviously didn't want him teleporting to lessen the strain on his injuries, but if he had to walk everywhere (not that he was complaining) it would still do the same.

"Actually," Evan said, drawing out the word to gain his attention, "the Prof has an extra wheelchair . . . "

Kurt stared. "No vay."

"Mr. McCoy said if you walk about slowly and not often, and increase it as the days go by, you should safely stretch out the muscles and there'll be no problem with cramp or strain," Kitty explained, leaning her arms on the table.

Mr. McCoy sure sounds like zuh doctor he keeps saying he isn't, Kurt thought. He was put off by the fact he had to eat certain things, and that he couldn't wander far. Also he didn't much like being treated as though he was sick . . . but he had been through a lot, and his friends were making sure he healed correctly. And, if he was honest to himself, Kurt wasn't in the best of shapes. His chest was beginning to sting as the anesthetic wore off, and his leg was still throbbing from where an entangled stitch had been wrestled free. He could feel the scar on his forehead too. Although it wasn't hurting, it felt a little tight and uncomfortable. It would be this way for another week or so, he realized.

"Oh, and no wall-crawling," a voice cut into his thoughts.

Kurt blinked back to reality and looked at Jean's face, his own expression a little clouded. He blinked again.

Jean frowned. "Did you hear me?" She asked.

"Yeah," Kurt answered, looking down at the table in front of him. His hand had risen on its own to massage his forehead, and his tail, which hadn't been its lively self, was drooping on the floor. Something Kitty and Rogue (being the side to notice) saw. He felt the content feeling that had bubbled inside him a minute ago disappear. He didn't know why.

The X men looked at each other, exchanging expressions. Jean put the bowl away and brought out a plate, on which she began to lay out a health meal. Evan and Scott passed a few words between them as Kitty and Rogue sat and stood silently beside Kurt.

Everyone's attention was directed at the door as Ororo and Professor X entered. Upon seeing Kurt they both smiled. Xavier rolled up to the front of the table (his usual place, just like the dining room table) as Ororo approached Kurt.

"You are looking much better, young man," Miss. Munro smiled warmly at him, lifting his chin gently with her hand. "It's good to see you in the kitchen again."

He smiled back weakly and watched her walk past, out of his vision to a chair behind.

"I, uh," he said quietly. "I zhink I'll go to my room. I feel a little tired," he lied. He missed his bedroom very much though. It was the one place he felt completely comfortable and safe in. He wanted to go to it sooner rather than later.

"What about lunch?" Jean asked, a little surprised. Everyone was watching him.

"No zhanks, I'm not hungry," he fibbed again, avoiding her gaze along with everyone else's. Kurt stood and stumbled to the door before Rogue caught up with him.

"I'll help ya," she offered.

He began to protest, but she gave him one of her looks, and he reluctantly let her help him down the corridor away from the kitchen.

After a few seconds and out of earshot of the others, Rogue said, "it doesn't take a genius t' see you didn't wanna be in there no more."

Kurt said nothing for a while as he used the wall with his free hand to guide himself along.

"I . . . I felt uncomfortable," he admitted, staring at the floor ahead.

Rogue understood. With her arm around his skinny waist she could feel how thin he had become over the past week and a half. She could feel his ribcage on her arm, and wondered whether or not she should put Kurt in his room and return to the kitchen to fetch him the meal Jean was making.

They arrived at Kurt's door and Rogue helped him through. Kurt noticed there were more get-well cards on his nightstand (one from each of the X Men, he presumed, since they had all signed a single card for his bed at the infirmary). His own bed was already made for him, and his curtains were open, letting in a beautiful golden glow from the setting sun outside; seeming to welcome him back. It had never looked so good.

Rogue made to take Kurt to the bed, but Kurt tried to move to the French doors.

"Where're you going?" She asked.

"Zuh vindow," he said, looking at it as though it was beckoning him.

Rogue complied and together they moved rather steadily to the double doors. Kurt unleashed the catch and pulled them open. A cool, gentle breeze caressed their skin and fur, lifting their hair and fluttering the curtains.

Kurt pulled towards the balcony's stone railing, and Rogue moved with him, leaning against the cool top.

"It's beautiful," Rogue said, looking at the sunset. Her hand remained around his waist but she loosened her grip.

He, too, was watching the beautiful scene in front of them. The night's air felt so good, unlike the stuffy confinement of the infirmary, and Kurt wished he could bring his bed out and sleep there. He murmured a wordless agreement to Rogue.

They stared at it together, watching it go down, noticing the beautiful colors it bathed the clouds in and how it was reflected in the oil-black water of the ocean. Stars began to twinkle when the sun's strength disappeared, until all that remained was the pink undersides of the clouds.

"I bet you missed this," Rogue spoke into the silence half an hour later. "Being down in the infirmary an' all."

Kurt nodded, a small, barely noticeable action. "Yeah."

The air had turned a bit cooler, but still the night was beautiful. A deep, dark blue was now the sky's color, dotted with tiny white pinpricks. The moon had appeared not long ago to illuminate them in its glow.

"I used to vatch zuh sun set every night," Kurt said. "I'm glad you got to see it too."

Rogue smiled, and using the arm around his waist pulled him into a half hug. "Me too."

He let his head rest on her shoulder and felt much better than he ever did since finding out he wasn't a killer. He thought of how much his parents would have liked to see the sunset with him, and then suddenly he thought of Mystique. Did she know what had happened to him in the past eleven days? Would she have even cared?

Rogue had said something to him, but having been lost in his thoughts, he hadn't heard.

"Huh?" He asked, looking up at her.

"Ah said, we should move inside, and get you somethin' t' eat – y' stomach just rumbled," she told him.

"Oh," he said, now realizing he was starving. He remembered not eating since the morning when Hank had brought him soup for breakfast. His stomach growled again as if to justify that thought.

Rogue had already pulled him inside and was closing the doors, and he looked at his dark room. His eyes had to adjust a second or two more than usual, since he hadn't been in the dark very often in the infirmary (Hank liked a lot of light, so he could see everything except a shadow).

Untangling himself from Rogue, Kurt said he could walk without her help to his bed, of which he did do. He flopped down on the soft mattress, relishing the soft, comfortable feel of it. The infirmary's wasn't exactly uncomfortable, but being in a different bed for over a week had given Kurt the need for his own. He didn't even know if Mr. McCoy had released him from his prison in sickbay, but Kurt didn't and wouldn't move from his room to that place again. Not tonight, and hopefully never again.

Rogue sat next to him. Even though his eyes were closed he could feel the mattress sink slightly at her weight.

"Looks like someone already brought ya food up for ya," she said.

Kurt opened his eyes and saw what she meant. Behind him on his nightstand sat the plate of health food, next to the get-well cards. It must have been put there when they had been outside.

"Suddenly I don't feel so hungry," Kurt groaned, rolling over onto his front, forgetting and regretting his sore chest. He stifled the gasp of pain by gritting his teeth and burring his face in the bed cover

Rogue smiled and reached over for the plate. "Oh c'mon, it doesn't look that bad," she said as she brought it to her lap. She helped herself to a carrot stick.

The crunching of her chewing lifted Kurt's head and he rolled onto his back again, hair fanned out around his head. The pain lifted a little from his chest.

"Zhen you eat it," he said.

"I think you need it," Rogue said, eyeing his stomach. His shirt had crinkled up and the bottom of his ribcage was showing. He didn't look well.

Pulling his shirt down, Kurt mumbled, "Like zhat stuff can help."

"Y' look sick," Rogue said softly. "Y' really should eat." She held out the plate to him. Hank McCoy had told them that the diet Kurt should be kept on would bring his weight back up to where it had been. But it had to be steady and healthy if it was returned to normal correctly, which meant Kurt might be on it for a while. He was known to like all food, so hopefully this wasn't much of a bad thing for him.

Kurt sat up, took the plate from Rogue and stared at it. Jean had made an effort to arrange it nicely, and he admitted it looked good. He picked up a piece and began to knar on it.

While he ate, Rogue fell onto her back and spread her arms, studying the white ceiling. She wondered what everyone downstairs was doing, and how long to would take Logan to convince Hank that Kurt was fit enough for Danger Room sessions.

"Have y' ever bought anything from that joke shop?" Rogue asked suddenly, thinking of the things she saw in there with Kitty.

Kurt's crunching stopped when he answered. "Yeah." He swallowed. "I replaced Mr. Logan's cigarette lighter viv von zhat electrocutes zuh holder a vhile back. But he said if I did it again, or anyzhing like it, he'd make me clean and wax zuh X Jet along viv extra Danger Room sessions." He paused as Rogue smiled, amused. Kurt added with a grin, "You should have seen his hair, zhough."

Rogue couldn't help but laugh.

End? Oh yes, I had fun writing this, but I think it strayed off the path I really wanted.

A major thanks to everyone who reviewed, I really do appriciate all the kind comments.More thanks go to Gizmac and Tailfeather(thanks for the chocolate ;) )for their reviews on the previous chapter.