Hank knocked on the door and was bid to enter by a chorus of voices.
He walked in to find all three of his patients in one bed, happily chatting.
"Gentlemen, I see that you have turned my bedrest order to your own advantage." Hank said with a smile.
"Scott got lonely during the night, so I came over to keep him company. And when Alan showed up this morning, he needed a place to lay down and it would be unbrotherly to make him lay all the way over there in the other bed, so..." Andrew said with a shrug.
"Alan?" Hank asked in inquiry.
Alan raised a bandaged arm to indicate his presence.
"Of course, I suppose that is less confusing. How are all of you feeling today?" Hank asked, deciding to get down to business.
'Good', 'Fine', and 'Okay' were the responses from the bed.
Hank went about his scanning while thinking how these three seemed to bring out the best qualities in each other.
"Scott and Andrew, I think you should be fine to conduct this afternoons classes, but I caution you to listen to your bodies. If you start feeling weak or tired, just dismiss the class and rest. The students will understand and your health is of the utmost importance right now." Hank warned.
"Alan, you are doing well also. You seem to be happy enough here, so if no one objects, I'll leave you here for a while and I'll see to finding you a room for the night..." Hank said but was interrupted by Andrew.
"Don't bother Hank, it's all taken care of. Scott and I will be sharing this bed and Alan will get the other one. The Professor already said it's okay." Andrew said happily.
"If we shifted the furniture a bit, we could fit another bed in here." Hank said speculatively.
Realizing that he was missing the obvious, Scott interjected, "Andrew and I would be sharing a bed if you put four of them in here."
"Oh, um, well..." Hank said, just a bit shocked then stood silently for a moment to process this new information.
"I think you broke him." Andrew said in a mock whisper to Scott.
"Maybe he needs a week of bedrest, that seems to cure about anything." Alan said with a smile.
"He was being obtuse. What was I supposed to do?" Scott said defensively.
After another moment of silence, Scott asked, "Hank, is this going to be a problem?"
Hank shook himself out of his thoughts and said, "No, no problem. I am just concerned by the timing of your decision. I mean, I would hate for you to feel differently when you are healed."
"Hank, don't worry. We aren't jumping into anything we aren't ready for, and we aren't just feeling sorry for each other because we were hurt." Andrew said seriously.
"Personally, I think every prospective couple should be forced to spend a week in each others company like this before they become official. It would solve a lot of problems before they started." Alan said honestly.
Hank considered the words and sighed in resignation. "I will trust you to know what you're doing. But watch out for these two Alan, they might corrupt you with their hedonistic ways." Hank said as he gathered his equipment, making ready to leave.
"Hedonistic? Me?" Scott asked, his eyebrows showing his surprise.
"Compared to three weeks ago, yes." Hank said seriously.
Andrew thought about the Scott he had met in Arizona. "Yep." Andrew said, agreeing with Hank.
"I can see it." Alan said, just to tease his brother.
"You weren't even here three weeks ago. So how would you know?" Scott said in mock anger.
"From what I've been told, I *am* what you were three weeks ago." Alan said simply.
The room exploded in a moment of silence as everyone felt the enormity of what Alan had just said.
"Yeah. I guess you are." Scott said seriously.
"Were." Andrew corrected.
Andrew saw Alan's questioning look and turned to see the duplicate expression on Scott's face.
"You were what Scott was three weeks ago, when you came into this room. You were alone. The color had faded from your world and held nothing but a repetition of reminders of what you had lost." Andrew said with dark eyes, then he smiled.
"Now you have a brother, and a friend. You know you can talk to Scott about what you're feeling because he can understand better than anyone in either universe. And I have been here to help him through it, and I'll help you just the same. So you're not like that anymore and you don't ever have to be that way again." Andrew said and gave Alan a squeeze.
"Isn't he something? I love it when he does that psychoanalysis thing." Scott said with a tender smile.
Alan sat stunned. [Not alone. Someone who understands. Someone who cares. Family. Friend.]
Finally Alan nodded and said, "You're right Andrew, I have family, friends, and someone who understands what I'm feeling. What more could anyone ask for?"
Andrew looked first to Scott, then to Alan before saying one word in a whisper, "Cookies."
Scott immediately perked up at that and said, "Yeah, I could really go for some cookies too."
"Actually cookies sound like a good idea." Alan said with a smile.
Piotr and Hank just shook their heads at the antics of the three.
"I'll be leaving you gentlemen now, call if you need anything." Hank said to the three.
"I will see if Logan bought any cookies when he went to the store, we are out here." Piotr said and followed Hank out the door.
* * * * *
Scott, Andrew, Alan, and Piotr were enjoying a snack of cookies and milk, when they were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in." Scott said around his mouthful of cookie.
"Scott, I needed some advice..." Bobby started, then fell into silence at the surreal picture of Scott, Andrew, and Alan in the bed enjoying cookies and milk.
"Bobby, this one is Scott." Andrew said, pointing with his left hand to Scott at his right side. "And this one is Alan." pointing with his right hand to Alan at his left side.
"Okay." Bobby said slowly, then remembered why he came.
"I guess I can ask all of you... You know that I've been seeing Marie, but because of her mutation, we can't..." Bobby trailed off, trying to find the correct word.
"Be intimate?" Andrew said simply.
"Yeah." Bobby said shyly. "This morning, she said that she wanted us to become closer, and I don't know what to do."
"Bobby. I think she probably means emotionally closer." Scott said hesitantly.
"Yeah, like sharing your thoughts and feelings." Andrew chimed in.
"Letting her into the places that you have kept protected. The 'off-limits' places that you avoid talking about." Alan said thoughtfully.
Bobby considered the men's words and nodded.
"Bobby, it's a scary thing to do. To let someone know you so completely." Andrew said seriously.
"But it's the way that adult relationships work. She is your girlfriend now, but once you do this, she will be your best friend too. You'll know each other better than anyone else." Scott said with equal seriousness.
"And as scary as that is, it can be wonderful to have someone that you can tell anything and get help, or understanding... or just comfort." Alan said with a distant pained look in his eyes.
Bobby considered the words and began to realize the enormity of what they were saying.
"Just make sure that you're both ready for this. If you both decide you are, then understand that this is a commitment. You can't take it back, you are trusting and being trusted. It's very serious." Andrew said and received nods of agreement from Scott and Alan.
Bobby thought about it and finally said, "I think I understand. I need some time to think about it and then I'll talk with Marie... thanks guys."
"Good luck Bobby." Scott said as he watched Bobby leave the room.
"I hope they get it right." Andrew said in a near whisper.
"They're so young, it might be tough." Alan said, then realized that he and Gene had been about the same age when they first became involved.
Scott had the same realization about Jean and said, "I think they'll be fine."
At that declaration, the men all went back to their cookies and milk.
* * * * *
Hank knocked on the Professor's door hesitantly. He had been expecting to be summoned by the Professor to discuss what Andrew had told him, but the call never came.
//Come in Hank.// the Professor called.
"Professor, I'm assuming you know why I'm here." Hank said quietly.
"Yes, and I've been considering what is the correct thing to do in this situation." The Professor said and moved his chair from behind his desk. Once he was before Hank, he indicated for Hank to sit in a chair.
"Will you tell me what's going on?" Hank asked seriously.
"No. I realize that as Tara's uncle you feel some responsibility to her and want to help her. But my sharing this information would be a violation of her privacy and could ultimately cause her harm. I am going to talk with her. In time she may wish to tell you herself, or give her permission for me to tell you. But until then, I cannot discuss the matter any further than I have." The Professor said with certainty.
"How am I supposed to help her if I don't know what the problem is?" Hank asked, having difficulty believing that the Professor wouldn't tell him about his niece.
"Listen when she comes to talk to you, support her, let her know that she is important, special and loved. Give her distance when that is what she needs and be there when she needs to be held. That is all I can tell you for now. Once I've had a chance to talk to her, I may have other advice to give." The Professor said calmly.
"I don't like this Charles, but as Andrew so eloquently pointed out earlier, I trust your judgment. So I'll go along with you, for now." Hank said with a hint of menace in his voice.
"Please be patient, my friend. This may take some time to sort out, but I do have reason to hope." Charles said vaguely.
Hank nodded and said, "Thank you for helping her, Charles." before he left the room.
[Ah, for the good old days when I just had to worry about keeping the curriculum interesting for the students.] Charles thought as he returned to his desk.
* * * * *
There was a knock on the door.
"Come in." Andrew called as he thought, [Why don't we just leave the thing open?]
"Professor?" Alan asked in wonder.
Emma looked behind her to see if Charles was following her, when she realized that he was addressing her.
"Good morning Emma, what brings you here?" Scott asked.
She had a surprised look on her face and Scott finally realized that no one had told her what was going on.
"I'm sorry, where are my manners. Emma Frost, this is Lee Andrew Wells, also known as Portal, and that handsome fellow is Alan Summers, my doppelganger from an alternate dimension and my newest brother." Scott said with a smile.
The look of confusion only increased at Scott's introduction.
"Professor Frost, if you would like, you could just scan my mind to get the whole story." Alan said with a gentle smile.
Emma was taken aback at the friendly and cooperative attitude that this man had toward her. The original Scott would be more likely to hit her with an optic blast than submit to a telepathic scan.
"Very well." She said and walked to Alan's side of the bed. She gently laid a hand on his forehead and closed her eyes, trying to be as gentle as possible.
The images that flooded her mind were horrific. The world this man came from was on the verge of declaring war on all mutants and trying to wipe them out. She saw her counterpart as one of the few examples of decency in this man's life. As she finished, she saw this day's events and how he had found a sort of peace that he had only briefly known in his home universe.
"I see. Welcome to our universe." She said with genuine affection for this man.
"So Emma, what brings you here?" Scott asked curiously.
"Orroro called this morning and said that you had been injured. She asked if I could please come and talk to you... I suppose she meant Alan. I have to say that I was intrigued by her request, but I have never known Orroro to act impulsively or foolishly. So I came to see if I could help." Emma said honestly.
"Thank you Professor." Alan said sincerely.
"Alan, I am not your Professor, she is in your home universe. Please call me Emma. From my scan of your mind, I am here to convince you that this isn't some sort of trick or lie. Therefore, I am going to ask that one of you gentlemen submit to a telepathic scan to verify the things that Alan has been told." Emma said professionally.
Scott and Andrew looked at her disbelievingly.
Finally Andrew said, "Dr. McCoy said no telepathy for one week, but if he says it's okay, you can scan me."
Emma cast her telepathy first to Professor Xavier and then to Dr. McCoy. Having received permission, she said, "Both Charles and Hank have given permission provided that the scan isn't invasive."
Andrew was a little nervous, but nodded to let her know that he was ready.
She opened the link to Andrew's mind and was assaulted by visions of carnage, vampires, magic, demons, rejection, ridicule, and finally the peace he found in this place.
"You might have mentioned that you weren't from this dimension either." Emma said, collecting herself after the surreal images.
"I didn't even think of that." Andrew said timidly.
"Scott, I hate to ask, but I need to verify the story with someone from this dimension. Andrew's experiences deviate so far from what I consider the norm, that I can't verify that they are natural. I don't have a frame of reference to follow as I would in this universe." Emma explained.
Scott considered her request for only a moment before realizing that it was to help his brother. Of course he would do it.
"Go ahead Emma, if you think it will help." Scott said with a serene smile.
Emma was a little surprised by his easy capitulation but proceeded as quickly and gently as she could. The images and feelings of fear and pain and loss washed over her. An abyss of depression wrapped around her, then released at the memory of Andrew arriving and becoming part of his life. She looked carefully at certain details, then gently withdrew from Scott's mind.
"Alan, I am happy to say that I can verify the things that you have been told are true. I have looked into Scott's mind and there is no deception, coercion, or telepathic alteration of any kind. To the best of his knowledge, everything they have told you is the honest truth." Emma said aloud. //and you are truly lucky to have found these two, they honestly care for you as part of their own family.// She sent privately, to let him know that their feelings were real.
"Thank you Prof... Emma." Alan said with a smile.
"I'm happy to do it. But I do have to return to my own school now. Sean is a good man, but the students can talk him into almost anything." Emma said with a fond smile as she turned to leave.
//Thank you for coming Emma. Feel free to visit again.// Alan sent privately with an emotional undercurrent of admiration and respect.
//I may just do that Alan. Stay close to these two, they will light your path out of the darkness.// Emma sent in response before allowing the link to fall silent.