Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: The secret's out; who will look after the students now?
Author's Notes: I was cleaning out my hard drive, and lo and behold, I found I complete story! I figured it was wasting space on my computer with just me to read it, so I thought I'd share it with you! (By the way- in my Xmen stories, Scott is Xavier's foster son. It seems more plausible to me that way.)
Protection By: N'kala99
Part A: One For All . . .
A familiar red sports car with white racing stripes pulled into its customary spot in the garage. The driver side door opened, and the tall, lanky figure of seventeen-year-old Scott Summers got out. Shouldering his backpack and wincing when the weight of the schoolbooks met his aching shoulder, Scott began to limp into the mansion.
Hidden from the teen's view, Logan frowned and stood. Tossing his polishing rag over the handlebars of his motorcycle, he followed the boy into the house.
It had been two weeks since the day the school board had decided to allow the children to return to school. While the rest of the children in the house continued to complain about being hassled and ostracized in school by everyone, Scott had refrained from saying so much as a word. No one thought this to be odd; Scott rarely complained about being bullied at school, or about having any difficulties at all. However, Logan had started to notice that the young man was becoming more and more withdrawn; particularly over the last week. Whenever Scott returned from school, he would disappear into his room and not come out until suppertime or practice.
As Logan followed Scott through the mansion at a discreet pace, he let his mind wander back to the events of a few days ago.
4 Days Ago
Logan was walking through the corridors of the mansion on his way to the kitchen for a quick snack when he turned a corner and accidentally bumped into Scott.
"Ah!" Scott grunted. "Er, ah . . . sorry, Logan."
"Careful, Slim," Logan warned, continuing on down the hall. He had taken all of two steps when the metallic scent of blood reach his nose. Logan froze briefly, confused. Blood?
Realization struck Logan, and he turned and ran back in the direction he had come from. Catching up to Scott, he gripped the teen's arm and whirled him around.
"Ow! Hey, what's the-." Scott cut himself off when he saw who had stopped him. "Logan? What's wrong?"
Logan's eyes examined Scott's face. "I didn't bump into ya that hard, Slim. Where is it?"
Scott tried to tug on the arm that Logan held captive, but Logan refused to free it. "Where's what?"
"The blood, kid," Logan said, staring hard at Scott's red glasses.
Scott went very still. "Blood? There's no blood."
Logan took a deep breath. "Not now, maybe," he amended. "But there was some blood. Where was it? What happened?"
"Oh, ah, I see," Scott replied. He put his free hand to the back of his head. "I had a little accident at school today. Clumsy me, I tripped and cracked my head on the edge of a table. Plenty of blood, but no damage done. You know how it is."
Logan's eyes narrowed. "You're not usually that clumsy, kid."
Scott shrugged. "Yeah, well, it happens to everyone at some point, right? Look, I have a ton of homework to do. Can I go?"
Logan knew Scott was hiding something, and wanted to pry it out of the teenager, but he also knew that he couldn't push too hard. Reluctantly, he released Scott's arm and watched as the boy walked down the hall towards his room.
Since that day, Logan had been keeping a close eye on Scott. None of the other students or teachers suspected anything was wrong, but under Logan's careful observations, he noticed that Scott had returned home everyday since then with some new injury. Logan hadn't confronted Scott yet; he knew Scott would only deny the allegations and make up some ridiculous excuse.
The thought that was foremost on Logan's mind was that someone was giving Scott a hard time at school. Though Jean and the other children hadn't reported any trouble, Logan knew it was the only plausible explanation.
As Logan considered the possibility of a bully, he felt his blood begin to boil. He felt deeply protective of all the children, but he had known Scott the longest. Ever since Scott had come to live at the Institute all those years ago, Logan had come to think of Scott as the closest thing to a little brother he had ever had. If someone was, indeed, harassing Scott, they would answer to him.
Scott disappeared into his room, locking it behind him. That was also something new that he had started doing the past week. Logan paused outside of Scott's door and tried to listen inside.
All he could hear were soft groans of pain, but his sensitive nose detected more blood, along with old traces of fear. His protective instincts triggered, Logan whirled around and stalked off to Charles Xavier's study.
Charles was at his desk, in the middle of a discussion with Hank McCoy when Logan burst into the room. "Logan?" Charles asked, startled. "What is it?"
"Chuck, we gotta talk," Logan growled.
"Maybe I should go," Hank said, starting to rise.
"No," Logan said bluntly. "You should hear this, too. It's about Scott."
"What about Scott?" Charles asked. His voice betrayed the sudden anxiety that arose at the mention of his foster son. "Is he all right?"
"That depends on what you mean by 'all right'," Logan replied. "Can you get 'Ro up here? She should be here."
Logan and Hank watched as Charles sent Ororo a telepathic message. They only had to wait a few minutes before Ororo arrived, closing the door behind her. "What's going on?"
"Yes, Logan," Hank agreed. "What's wrong with Scott?"
"I think he's having some problems at school," Logan stated.
Charles' brow creased in confusion. "I'm sure he and the other students are all having difficulties, Logan. Our secret is out, and a lot of people resent our kind."
"Not that kind of trouble," Logan said. "At least, not just that kind. Last Monday, right after Scott got back from school, I smelled blood on him. He claimed it was just an accident."
"He never reported it to me, but accidents happen," Hank pointed out. "Especially to teenagers. They're not all that uncommon."
"How about everyday?" Logan asked. "Tuesday, I saw him have problems with his right wrist. Wednesday, he kept rubbing his head like he had a bad headache. Today, he was limping and groaning with each step. I'm tellin' ya, something ain't right."
"It's possible," Charles agreed, worry still present on his face. "But Scott's been taught self-defense since he came to live here. Logan, you should know better than any of us that Scott is more than capable of taking care of himself."
"Which makes me believe something else is going on," Logan insisted.
There was silence as the adults considered the possibilities. Finally, Ororo spoke up.
"There's really only one way to be sure," she said. "Why don't we just ask him?"
"He'll never tell us," Logan said. "Otherwise he would have brought it up before now. No. We either need to lean on the other kids, or follow him to school."
"Let's try your first suggestion," Charles decided. "I doubt any of us would fit in at the high school."
Jean Gray glanced around the study at the somber faces watching her as she took her seat in front of Charles' desk.
"Jean," Charles began. "What we discuss in here is not to leave this room. Do you understand?"
Jean straightened in her chair. "Of course, Professor."
Charles nodded. "Good. Tell me; have you noticed anything strange about Scott lately?"
Jean frowned, puzzled. "Well, I really haven't seen much of him," she admitted. "After school he always locks himself up in his room, and he hardly talks at dinner or at practice anymore."
"What about during school?" Hank pressed from the other chair beside Jean.
"Well, I don't really see him at lunch anymore," Jean told him. "I just thought he was eating somewhere else. Seeing all of the people who used to be our friends is really hard on him. He doesn't like to be around it if he can help it."
"Anything else?" Logan asked, hoping to find some clue.
Jean turned to look at Logan, who was standing near the door. "What's this all about? Scott's okay, isn't he?"
"That's what we're trying to figure out," Charles assured her. "Logan believes he's been having trouble at school. Do you know anything about that?"
Jean pursed her lips. "Kitty mentioned there was a big fight at school the other day, right near where her locker was. She was in class, so she didn't see it, but she said she overheard it had something to do with us." She met the professor's eyes sorrowfully. "It's hard to get information when no one wants to talk to you."
Charles smiled sympathetically. "Thank you, Jean. Now I'd like to ask a favor of you."
"Anything," Jean replied, anxious to help.
"We'd like to get to the bottom of this," Charles stated. "We would like you to keep an eye on Scott tomorrow at school. See if something happens that we should know about."
Jean nodded. "All right, Professor. You can count on me."
The next morning dawned bright and cool. The students all scrambled for breakfast and for their belongings, doing their best to take as long as possible and still be on time for school. As Scott and Jean pulled out of the garage, each carrying several other students, Logan hopped onto his motorcycle and revved it to life.
"Where are you going?"
Logan paused, helmet in his hands, to look at Ororo. "Out. I got some things to take care of."
Ororo raised an eyebrow. "Really? Because it looks to me like you're going to spy on Scott at school today."
Logan shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe not."
"Jean can handle it, Logan," Ororo said, walking up to him. "Why are you having such a hard time with this?"
Logan jerked his helmet onto his head. "Don't know what you mean, 'Ro. See ya later."
"Logan-." Ororo watched, helpless, as Logan spun his motorcycle around and sped from the garage.
"Hey, Scott! Wait up!"
Scott paused on his way to his third class of the day as Jean hurried to catch up to him. Jean reached his side, slipped an arm through his, and continued on down the hall.
"I haven't seen you much lately," she commented. "Where've you been?"
"I've been busy," Scott replied cryptically. "How's school going?"
"Same as always," Jean commented. "Other than my friends thinking I'm some monster or freak, I've been doing okay. I don't suppose you can make us an escape hatch or something." She tapped Scott's glasses.
Scott let out a huff of laughter. "Don't think I haven't already considered it," he joked. "But I think any more property damage and Principal Kelly will have some kind of conniption."
They paused outside of a classroom. "Well, here I am," Jean said. "Thanks for walking me to my class. See you at lunch?"
The soft smile on Scott's face faded. "Uh, I can't. I have . . . some research to do for a class, and I want to get it done as quick as possible. How about a snack after school?"
Jean nodded. "Okay. See you then."
The redheaded teen fidgeted impatiently during her next two classes. Scott's reluctance to eat with her had set off a few alarms in her head. Scott didn't know it, but he was going to have some company during the lunch period.
When the bell finally rang, Jean collected her things and ran off into the hall, hoping to catch Scott coming out of his last class. Pushing through the throng of students eager for lunch took her longer than expected, and when she arrived at Scott's class, the room was empty. Sighing in frustration, she closed her eyes and concentrated.
Scott's mind was easy for her to find. She knew him so well, and for so long, that his was usually the first to surface in her mind. At the moment, she could sense that he was under stress.
A loud commotion further down the hall sent Jean running in that direction. An unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach told her that Scott was in trouble.
She turned a corner at the end of the hall and drew up short. Her jaw dropped in shock at what she saw in front of her.
Chris Samuels, a very tall and bulky senior, as well as a champion wrestler and captain of the school's team, currently had the front of Scott's shirt in two beefy hands as he held the thin teen against the lockers. Scott's hands were on Chris' fists, his feet dangling several inches off the floor. Behind Chris were two more wrestlers.
"You must have a death wish, Summers," Chris taunted. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you wanted me to beat you to a pulp."
"You can try, Samuels," Scott shot back, unafraid.
"Put him down!" Jean ordered.
Everyone's heads whipped around to see the teen standing there, anger rolling off of her in waves.
"Jean, get out of here," Scott told her.
"Like hell I will," Jean snapped back. "You've got two seconds to put him down."
"Or else what?" Samuels taunted her.
A deep voice on the other end of the hall answered for Jean. "Or else I might have to get rough with ya. Do as she says."
Chris looked at the stocky man at one end of the hall and at Jean at the other end, then released Scott. Scott slid to his feet, slightly doubled over as if catching his breath.
"You're all freaks," Samuels spat. "You don't belong here."
With a contemptuous glare at all three mutants, the wrestlers stalked away.
Jean and Logan reached Scott's side at the same time. Jean laid a gentle hand on Scott's arm. "Scott, are you all-."
She was cut off when Scott threw her hand off and glared at her. "What are you doing here? I thought you were going to lunch! And you!" Scott whirled on Logan. "You're not even supposed to be here!"
"How long has this been going on?" Logan asked, unfazed by Scott's angry tone.
"None of your business!" Scott yelled. "I can take care of myself! I don't need either of you babysitting me! Just leave me alone!"
He pushed away from them and stormed down the hall and out of sight. Jean and Logan watched him go, then turned to each other.
"What are you doing here?" Jean asked. "I didn't know you were allowed on the grounds without going through the office."
"I'm not," Logan replied. "I thought I'd give you a hand."
"Looks like I'm not the one who needs it," Jean observed, glancing down the hall where she had last seen Scott.
Logan growled low in the back of his throat. "This ain't over. Keep an eye on the kid and make sure he doesn't do something stupid. I'll be around if you need me."
The rest of the school day dragged on for Scott. He avoided Jean and blocked her probes into his mind, but he knew that, once back at the mansion, he would have to answer to more than her and Logan. It was only a matter of time before his secret was out.
When the last bell finally rang, Scott gathered his books and went into the hallway. He turned a corner and saw Jean waiting for him by his locker. Drawing back quickly, Scott went out the nearest door to wait her out.
A sharp shove from behind sent him flying over the sidewalk and landing on the grass several feet away. Leaving his bookbag where it had fallen, Scott rolled with the impact and came back up on his feet, facing his attacker.
Chris Samuels was standing before him, his fists clenched. His friends from the wrestling squad flanked him, and several curious students gathered to see what was about to happen.
"Let's finish this, Summers," Chris said. "I really have better things to do than torture you everyday. No matter how much fun it is."
Scott straightened from his defensive crouch and crossed his arms. "I'm not looking for a fight, Samuels. Just a promise that you leave my friends alone."
"I don't make deals with freaks," Chris retorted.
"I'm willing to make deals with a bully and a coward," Scott replied. "I've lowered my standards; the least you can do is meet me halfway."
With a roar of outrage, Chris dove at Scott, hands outstretched. Scott neatly ducked and sidestepped the attack, turning to find Chris on the ground with his face in the grass.
Chris stood and turned, livid. "That's it, Summers. You're mine."
"Bring it on," Scott said.
A sudden explosion of pain from the back of his head, aggravating recent injuries, sent Scott to his hands and knees. Before he could move, his glasses were removed.
"I don't want to bust my hand on your shades," Chris' voice spoke from somewhere over Scott. "You understand."
Scott tensed, ready for battle. He heard the displacement of wind near his head, and lifted his hands accordingly. Catching Chris' foot, he continued the leg's momentum and swept out his foot, knocking Chris down to the ground. Scott climbed back to his feet unsteadily, feeling disoriented from the blow to the head that one of Chris' friends had undoubtedly given him.
Scott heard Chris scramble to his feet and readied himself. The press of the spectators around him was tangible; it put Scott on edge.
Movement came from Chris' location and Scott moved to intercept when the attack came from his left. Hands grabbed his left arm and flipped him down to the ground. Almost immediately, an immovable weight pressed down on Scott's chest, and the blows began to rain down. One after the other, connecting with Scott's face.
Feet came flying out of seemingly nowhere, kicking Scott in the sides and stomping on his arm and hands. Pain exploded in every crevice in Scott's body, but he gritted his teeth and tried to dislodge the weight on his chest. He felt his strength sapping out of him fast, but was powerless to do anything. Finally, blessed oblivion settled over him.
Seconds after Scott passed out, something strong and powerful plowed through the crowd and connected with Chris. Chris, who had been kneeling on Scott's chest, was knocked several feet away.
Logan crouched near Scott's unmoving body, glowering maliciously at the stunned spectators. Several people began to run away.
Chris' two companions took a step away from Logan, then were lifted into the air by invisible hands. The crowd parted to let Jean through, followed closely by Rogue and Evan.
"Clear off, all of ya," Logan snarled.
The crowd of teenagers didn't need to be told twice. They all scattered across the lawn, desperate to get away from the freaks.
Chris had climbed to his feet, obviously in pain from the blow from Logan. He stared at the mutants, wild fear in his eyes. "You're crazy!" he shouted. "All of you!"
Logan extended his claws and took a step forward, causing Chris' eyes to widen.
Jean waved her hand, sending Chris' friends flying into the wrestling captain. The three boys crashed in a heap on the ground. Struggling to disentangle their limbs, they began to run as fast as they could away from the mutants.
"Oh my God," Rogue breathed, kneeling next to Scott. Evan was too stunned to speak.
Scott's face was swollen with bruises, old over new. With his glasses removed, they could see the remains of a recent black eye just beginning to heal. Blood trickled from his nose and mouth. Darkening bruises and footprints decorated Scott's arms, and after lifting the boy's shirt, they found countless bruises and marks of all different sizes, colors, and ages.
"We need to get him to a hospital!" Jean exclaimed, horrified.
"We can't," Logan told her. "With our secret out, there's no telling what'll happen to Scott in a public hospital. We need to take care of him ourselves."
"Rogue, go get Kurt and Kitty, and meet us back at the mansion," Jean said, fishing through her purse. She tossed her keys at the girl. "Take my car. Evan, you come with me. Logan, we'll meet you back at the Institute."
News of Scott's brutal attack had swept through the mansion like wildfire. Each and every student in the Institute sat stunned in the sitting room as Rogue and Evan related that afternoon's events. They had decided to gather there to wait together; none of them had felt like being alone.
Hank, Charles, and Ororo were ready and waiting in the medlab due to Jean's communication with Charles as she sped through town with Scott and Evan in the backseat. Logan had been right behind her the whole way, and had carried Scott himself to the medlab with Jean right on his heels. No one had left since, two hours before, to let the rest of the students know how Scott was doing.
"Why would Samuels do something like this?" Kitty asked. "I mean, he's a jerk, but he's never done anything like this before."
"Do we really scare people that much?" Amara chimed in.
Bobby crossed his arms, scowling. "I say we go after Samuels. Teach him he can't pick on a mutant and get away with it."
"Not that I wouldn't love to help you out, but I think that wouldn't be the best course of action."
Hank's voice startled the children. They all jumped to their feet and crowded around him and Ororo, who had entered the room with him. Questions and demands about Scott filled the air, dying away only when Hank raised his hands in a placating gesture.
"I know you're anxious to find out about Scott," Hank said. "Let me talk, and then you can ask your questions.
"Scott got pretty banged up," Hank reported. "Mostly bruises, some cuts. He has a moderate concussion and his left hand is broken, but he's going to be just fine. I must ask, though; when was the last time any of you saw Scott eat?"
The children exchanged confused glances, then looked back at Hank.
"He hasn't been at breakfast for about a week," Ray offered.
"We haven't seen him at lunch in awhile, either," Evan added.
"Just dinner then," Hank said, mostly to himself. He exchanged a meaningful glance with Ororo. "And he's been picking at it all week. I guess that answers that question."
"What question?" Rogue demanded.
"His blood sugar was a little low," Hank told her. "Probably from lack of nourishment. It also probably contributed to his injuries. Not enough food means low blood sugar. That starts to affect your everyday actions, and is probably why Scott didn't do so well in the fight. Slowed reaction time, sluggish responses . . . that sort of thing."
"But he's going to be okay, right?" Kurt asked anxiously.
"He's going to be fine," Hank assured them all.
The sighs of relief were felt by all present. Ororo smiled faintly, patted Hank on the back, and turned to the children.
"Scott's awake, but he's not up for visitors just yet," she announced. "Maybe tomorrow, and only one or two at a time. In the meantime, go ahead and order a pizza. I don't think anyone feels much like cooking."
While the children began to argue over toppings, Hank pulled Ororo aside. "I've got to get back to the medlab, but could you send a couple pies our way? I want to be sure Scott eats something tonight."
Ororo nodded, and Hank left her to deal with the children. The walk back to the medlab was silent, but angry voices carried out into the corridor and kept Hank company the rest of the way.
"Sounds like someone's starting to feel better," Hank commented as he entered the room.
Scott turned his head in Hank's direction. The glasses he had worn to school were gone, and no one had retrieved another pair for him, leaving Hank to seal his eyes with gauze. "Mr. McCoy, I'm fine. I just want to get back to my room. Tell them they're overreacting."
"I could, but I would be lying," Hank responded. He moved to Scott's side, checking on the still-wet cast. "You need to rest and eat. Until I actually see you do both, you're going to be stuck here."
"I'm telling you, I'm fine," Scott insisted. "Nothing that a hot soak won't cure."
"I'm afraid that it's going to take a lot more than that," Hank told him. "When were you planning on telling us about your latest after-school hobby?"
Scott went perfectly still. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said tonelessly.
Logan straightened from his position against the wall and planted himself right next to Scott's ear, causing the teen to jerk in surprise. "Those bruises didn't get there without help, Slim. I've been watching you come home everyday this week with some new ones. What happened? Is it that punk kid who got you today?"
Scott said nothing.
"Scott, please," Jean pleaded. "We're worried about you. You've cut yourself off from everybody else. Why? What are you hiding?"
"Nothing!" Scott exploded. "Nothing, okay? I mouthed off to Samuels today, and he beat my head in for it. Just regular, stupid, teenage stuff. Nothing more!"
"Scott, I know you're not telling me the whole truth," Charles told him quietly.
Scott gave a start. "Did you-?"
"I don't have to be telepathic to know when someone isn't being entirely truthful," Charles admonished him lightly. "We only want to help you, Scott. Where are the other bruises from?"
Scott folded his arms.
"Look, bub, if you ain't gonna tell us, then we'll just find out about it another way," Logan told him. "What's it gonna be?"
"You're wasting your time," Scott stated.
"Let me be the judge of that," Logan said.
Hank cleared his throat. "All right, if you don't want to talk about it, fine. Ororo's getting pizzas. Young man, you are going to eat everything I put in front of you, and then you are going straight to sleep."
Scott slouched down in his bed. "Fine."
Jean claimed a seat by Scott's bed. After assuring the teens that they would return in awhile, Logan and Charles left the medlab.
"What's he afraid of?" Logan asked, exasperated. "What's he hiding from us?"
"I wish I knew," Charles admitted. "Unfortunately, Scott has told us all he's going to. Let's go see the other students. Maybe they know something."
The students were gathered around the big-screen television set, getting ready to select a movie, when the older men entered. The students quieted down and looked at the newcomers expectantly.
"Is Scott all right?" Evan asked, concerned.
"He's fine," Charles said. "Actually, Logan and I were hoping you might be able to answer some questions for us."
"Sure," Kitty replied.
"Have any of you heard any rumors going around that might have something to do with Scott's condition?" Charles asked.
The teens thought for a few minutes. "Um, there've been some fights going on all week at school," Rogue stated. "Little stuff, though; none of the teachers know anything about it."
"Was it the same guy?" Logan asked.
Rogue shook her head. "Nah, just Samuels on Tuesday and today. It was Duncan on Monday, and a couple other guys the last two days. I don't know who they are."
"I heard one guy say that Duncan was going to try and ask Jean out again on Monday, and that Scott overheard him," Evan chipped in. "But that's about it."
"I noticed a guy give Scott a hard time yesterday," Bobby added. "It was during P.E. I didn't think anything about it, because after the class was over, they went in different directions."
Kurt looked decidedly uncomfortable. Logan noticed and said, "Spit it out, Elf."
Kurt sighed, looking down at his feet. "Well, I don't know if this is true, but Amanda told me that Scott got into a fight on Wednesday. It was pretty bad. Apparently, the guy was going to go and give some of us a hard time, but Scott stepped in before he could do anything. I asked him about it, but he denied it ever happened."
"And the fight that happened near my locker?" Kitty asked. "One of the guys was found with a spray paint can in his locker. Got suspended, even though he never got to use it."
Logan and Charles exchanged looks. "Thank you, everyone," Charles said. "Enjoy your movie."
He left a group of puzzled students behind as he wheeled toward the garage. Logan followed after him, curious. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I think we need a couple more clues," Charles replied. "Let's head back out to the school. On the way, I'd like to have a chat with Amanda."
After several hours of subtle questioning and investigating, Charles and Logan returned to the Institute with a better idea of what Scott had been up to the past week.
"So no teacher knew about the fights, but the custodian said he witnessed a kid yesterday about to go up to Amara in the hall and push her around when Scott stepped in, pushed the kid's buttons, and wound up with a twisted ankle and a sore gut," Logan stated.
"And the secretary was on her way to the lounge today when she heard Chris Samuels say he was going to pick a fight with Evan and get him expelled," Charles added. "She was about to stop him when Scott spoke up and purposely made Mr. Samuels mad so that he would focus his anger on Scott instead."
Logan pulled in to the garage and began to walk with Charles back to the medlab to check on Scott.
"When Amanda called back, she said that her friends told her that they've seen Scott lurking in the halls near every bully in school," Charles stated. "At first, it didn't make a lot of sense to me. Why would Scott purposely put himself in those situations?"
They turned a corner and paused outside the medlab. Through the glass in the door, they could see Scott lying in bed, asleep with his night-glasses on.
"Let me get this straight," Logan said. "Monday: Duncan is about to make another move for Jeannie, Scott stops him before he can. Tuesday: he hears a rumor that someone is going to spray paint the other kids' lockers. He finds out who and pisses him off so that he forgets about the vandalism and just fights with Scott instead. Later that day, he overhears how Samuels is gonna go after Rogue in some way, and Scott interferes again."
"Wednesday, Scott skips lunch altogether to follow around a gang of teenagers who had decided to rough up all of the mutants and mutant sympathizers in the school, but instead Scott gets to them first, insults them, and gets beaten again," Charles adds. "Then he followed them around the rest of the day to be sure they didn't do anything else, earning himself some more bruises."
"P.E. was gonna turn rough for Bobby yesterday, so Scott trips up the punk and gets the full blast of that kid's anger instead," Logan continued. "Which takes us to today, where he keeps Evan out of trouble and ends up on the wrong side of a punching bag."
Charles nodded solemnly. "You know what he's been doing this week?"
Logan stared at Scott through the glass. "He's been protecting them."
"All of them," Charles told him. "Without their knowing it. Keeping the students safe and free of fear by redirecting the anger onto himself."
There was silence as the two men tried to work the revelation out in their minds.
"I guess all we need now is to know why," Charles finished quietly.
"What do we do about the others?" Logan asked.
"We won't tell them what's been going on," Charles decided firmly. "Scott obviously worked very hard to keep this from them. I'd hate to have what he went through this week be for nothing."
Logan was silent for a minute. "You know, Chuck, that's a pretty impressive kid in there."
Charles smiled faintly. "I know."
"As soon as he gets out of the medlab, I'm going to throttle him."
The medlab was empty the following morning except for Scott. Even Hank, at Scott's insistence, had gone to the kitchen for some breakfast. Scott was halfway through getting dressed when Charles and Logan entered.
"I wasn't aware that Hank had said you could leave," Charles commented.
Scott paused in pulling on his shirt and scowled. "I'm fine."
"Yes, so you said." Charles wheeled closer to Scott and gestured to the bed. "We need to talk."
Scott pulled on his shirt and gave Charles and uneasy look, but sat back down on the bed. "Look, I said yesterday that nothing-."
"We know what happened," Charles said quietly.
It was as though a bomb had gone off. No one said a word.
Scott's face was carefully impassive. "Nothing happened. I told you."
"Maybe we ought to refresh your memory," Logan suggested. "Yesterday at lunch, you knew Samuels was gonna get Evan expelled, so you-."
"All right!" Scott shouted. "Enough! It's still nothing. No big deal."
"I'm going to have to disagree with you on that," Charles said. "It did, after all, cause you to end up here."
Scott drew his knees to his chest on the bed and hugged them tightly. "Why are you doing this?" he asked, his voice whisper soft.
"We're concerned about you, Scott," Charles told him gently. "We don't want to see you hurt. We already know that you put yourself in the line of fire this week for the other students. What we don't know is why. Why did you do that, Scott? They are all as capable as you of taking care of themselves, and they wouldn't have been alone. Why go about this on your own?"
Scott couldn't meet either Charles' or Logan's eyes. "I couldn't let them go through it, too."
"Go through what?" Charles prodded.
An annoyingly familiar scent tickled Logan's nose, but he ignored it. "I hate that my friends . . . people I thought were my friends don't want anything to do with me anymore. They look at you like you're diseased. You're a mark for any bully looking to pick a fight.
"Last Friday, after school, one of those bullies cornered me at my locker," Scott continued. "They knocked me around a bit, but nothing major. No one noticed a thing. And the other students just looked at me like I was some kind of animal. They wouldn't help me. I had to fight the guy on my own. Everyone else just cheered the guy on."
Logan felt his fists clench, but he forced himself to relax. The scent continued to prickle at his nose.
"When I heard Duncan wasn't going to accept 'no' as an answer from Jean, all I could think about was how I felt on Friday." Now that the dam had burst, Scott found that he couldn't help himself. "I couldn't let that happen to her. So I picked a fight with him so he would forget about her."
"And the other fights?" Charles asked.
"The same thing," Scott said. "I just . . . couldn't let that happen to them. Not if I could help it."
"But at the expense of your own well-being?" Charles pointed out.
Scott sniffed, and Logan suddenly recognized the scent. Tears.
"I can take a couple of bruises," Scott said quietly. "The team comes first."
Charles regarded the young man in front of him silently for several minutes. "You know, Scott, I am very proud of you. Your compassion and dedication to those around you show me that you're growing into a very good man."
Scott stared at Charles in disbelief.
"However," Charles added, "your methods leave a little something to be desired. I still believe you should have come to me, or Logan, or any other adult. Getting yourself beaten up everyday was not the right decision to make. I do not want to hear you've been doing this ever again. I think your punishment should be extra training sessions with Logan to further develop your combat skills. It looks to me like you could use it."
Logan nodded when Scott turned his head to look at him. He had discussed the punishment with Charles, and had felt it was the best thing for Scott.
"Now get some rest," Charles ordered. "You are not to leave until Mr. McCoy lets you."
"Yes, sir," Scott mumbled.
Charles and Logan started to leave, but Scott's voice called them back.
"Uh . . . are you going to . . . I mean, do the others know . . ." Scott fumbled for words.
Charles grinned softly at him. "Don't worry, Scott. Your secret is safe with us."
Scott nodded, relieved. "Thank you."
As the two men walked down the hall, Logan turned to Charles. "You think he'll listen?"
Charles thought for a moment. "I think that, with Scott, he will do whatever's right. Whether or not we agree, well, we'll just have to see. But I do believe we got through to him."
End Part A: One For All . . .