Dawn and Tara left the dining room and went back to Tara's room without further conversation.
Settling on the edge of the bed, Tara finally asked, "I need to know something before we go any further."
Dawn heard the seriousness in Tara's tone and sat beside her.
"I live in California, in this dimension. You live in Cleveland in another dimension. I want to be with you, but I have to know where we're going. I can't just walk in blindly and hope it will work out." Tara said with shame in her voice.
"That makes perfect sense, what do you want to happen?" Dawn asked quietly.
"I... I don't know." Tara stammered for the first time all day.
"I think you *do* know what you want to happen, you're just afraid to ask for it." Dawn said gently.
Tara nodded nervously and finally said, "I want to go with you. The reason I'm here was because my father found me at UCLA. He wanted to take me back home. I called uncle Hank because I couldn't think of anyone else who could help me... If I went to your universe, he would never find me..." Tara trailed off in a whisper.
"If that's what you want, then that's what we'll do. Andrew will be opening the portal at noon tomorrow and we'll go to Cleveland. It may take a little getting used to, but everyone will help you till you get adjusted to living on the hellmouth." Dawn said happily.
"And you'll show me more magic?" Tara asked with a smile.
"We'll do spells together all the time." Dawn said with an answering smile.
* * * * *
"Professor, we need to talk to you if you have a moment." Xander said from the doorway of the Professor's office with Alan in a wheelchair.
"How can I help you gentlemen?" The Professor asked, honestly intrigued by this combination.
"We wanted your advice... maybe your permission... to stay here in this universe." Alan said shakily.
Charles responded with a look of surprise.
"Alan, Andrew and I don't exist here, officially I mean, and we would like your help to fix that, if possible." Xander said professionally.
"And I would like to join your X-men team and stay at the mansion with Andrew." Alan said a bit shyly.
The Professor nodded as he understood Alan's motive. He had to ask, "And what would you be doing in this universe Mr. Harris?"
"Warren offered me a job, and I thought I would like to give a try at a life without fighting evil... besides the normal everyday evil of government officials and grocery clerks." Xander ended with a smile.
Charles took a moment to think about the new information.
"Very well gentlemen. I am unaccustomed to creating spurious identities so it may take some time, but I am willing to help you. In fact, I had a thought about your living arrangements Alan." The Professor said cryptically.
"What would that be?" Alan asked anxiously.
"Do you think that when you are recovered, you and Andrew would like to take over the boathouse by the lake on the far side of the property? It needs to be cleaned and furnished, but it would be a more than adequate residence for the two of you." the Professor said, hoping he liked the idea.
"I'll have to ask Andrew but I'm sure he'll love the idea... how many bedrooms does it have?" Alan asked as an afterthought.
"Two upstairs and one on the main floor. When you are both recovered, we can go to look at it." Charles said with some enthusiasm coming into his voice.
"Three bedrooms would be perfect. That way Scott and Xander can each have a room." Alan said, thinking outloud.
Xander had a fond smile as he listened to Alan automatically include him in his plans.
"Well then, pending Andrew's approval, it's decided." the Professor said with finality.
"Yes, thank you Professor." Alan said with honest respect.
"You're very welcome Alan, and I suppose I should welcome you to the X-men. However we will need to come up with a new code-name for you, we seem to have an abundance of Cyclops'." the Professor finished absently.
"Are you talking about me?" Xander asked in fun, blinking his one eye.
"Funny." Alan said flatly and the Professor even acknowledged the joke with a smile.
"I will discuss the matter with Scott, he is our Team Leader and needs to be consulted on such matters. I assume that isn't going to be a problem since you are thinking of inviting him to live with you." Charles said in confirmation.
"No problem, everything is worked out. Good night Professor, thank you for helping us." Alan said with sincerity.
"Yeah, thanks." Xander said in his most sincere voice.
"It was my pleasure gentlemen. Now, I believe you need to get back to your rest." The Professor said quietly.
"Yes, goodnight Professor." Xander said as he pushed Alan out of the room.
"Goodnight." The Professor said, amazed at the turn of events of the past days.
* * * * *
"Uncle Hank, do you have time to talk with me for a minute?" Tara asked from his open doorway.
"Please come in Tara. I've wanted to talk to you for days, but haven't been able to find the time. How are you doing?" Hank asked sincerely.
"I'm good... great in fact. That's part of what I came to talk to you about." Tara said with a hint of nervousness in her voice.
Her self-assurance and admission of happiness surprised Hank. "Do go on." He said with a kind smile.
"I'm going to be leaving, I'm going to go with Dawn, back to her universe." Tara said, drawing on her courage to say the words.
"Why?" Hank asked with shock.
"Because we are friends, maybe more than friends, and we want to be together." Tara said, her discomfort obvious.
Hank motioned for her to take a seat and had an expression on his face that prompted her to continue.
"I called for you to help me because I found out that my father tracked me down again. He wants to take me back home to... basically be his slave." she finished in a near whisper.
"What? What do you mean by that?" Hank asked in astonishment.
"Since mama died, he's been trying to make me take her place... and when I ran away... he keeps trying to find me and bring me back." She said with tears starting to fall.
Hank sat silently and reviewed what he knew with this new information. His years of college study in psychology came together with Tara's sketches and he suddenly knew... everything.
"A friend of mine in the admissions office called me and told me that he contacted her office and was asking questions about me. That's when I called you." Tara finished and wiped the tears from her eyes.
Hank was livid. His brother had always been dark and forceful, but Hank had never imagined that he could do something like this.
"Now I'm going to go someplace where he can never find me. And the best part is, I would want to go even if he weren't chasing me. I think I love Dawn, and I'm pretty sure that she loves me." Tara ended in a smile filled with such serenity that Hank felt a twinge in his heart.
"Tara, I didn't know about your father. I promise you that if I had, I would have done something..." Hank began.
"...It's settled now. Dawn and I will be leaving tomorrow at noon. And you helped when I asked you, when I needed you most, and I love you for that Uncle Hank." Tara said with sincerity.
Hank thought for a moment, then said, "You have my best wishes and complete support in whatever you choose to do. I hope you find every happiness with Dawn."
"Thank you Uncle Hank. I think we'll probably be visiting a lot. I've made so many friends since I've been here... more than I've ever had before. Dawn and I won't be able to stay away from everyone here for very long." Tara said with a peaceful, introspective look.
"I'll look forward to every visit. You do know that I love you, right?" Hank asked quietly.
"I know Uncle Hank, I've always known. You're the only family that I have now. The rest are dead to me." Tara said, ending in a flat tone that sounded wrong coming from her.
Hank nodded in acceptance.
"Dawn is waiting for me upstairs, I just wanted to tell you before I left. Thank you for everything, thank you for being happy for me." Tara said quietly.
Hank considered his words before saying them. "If I could have one wish for you it would be for you to find happiness. From what I see, you've done that for yourself. So I am happy for you. And if you ever have need of anything, you have only to ask."
Tara smiled and got up from her chair. Hank also stood and held open his arms to her. She gave him a big hug, then left the room without further comment.
* * * * *
Xander and Alan entered the bedroom to find Scott and Andrew awake and looking concerned.
"I woke up and you weren't here." Andrew said with a little whine in his voice.
"I'll try to keep that from happening too often." Alan said with a smile. It was a good feeling to know that he was missed.
"We had to discuss a few things with the Professor. I hope you guys didn't worry too much." Xander said with a smile.
"Not exactly worried, just lonely. I've been sharing a bed for almost a week now, it just felt wrong waking up alone." Andrew said in explanation.
"As long as I have any say in the matter, you will continue to be used to it." Alan said with a happy smile.
"If you don't tell them, I will." Xander said to Alan while helping him back into bed.
"I'll do it." Alan said with mock-exasperation.
"Andrew, the Professor asked if we would like to move out to the boathouse beside the lake at the far end of the property." Alan said with joy in his voice.
"Really? Our own house?" Andrew asked happily, then as he thought about it, the joy seemed to fade from his face.
"What's wrong love?" Alan asked, noticing the abrupt change in mood.
"It's just that I don't want to leave everyone." Andrew said, looking at Xander and Scott.
"You won't have to, the boathouse has three bedrooms. One for us, one for Xander and one for Scott." Alan said, proud of himself for thinking to ask the Professor about the bedrooms.
"Really? Would you guys like to come live with us?" Andrew asked, back to full excitement.
Xander had had time to think about this already, so he answered first, "I don't know what's going to happen when I go to work for Warren. I may need to find a place near work. But until that time comes, I'd love to stay with you guys, and I can't even put into words what it means to me that you want me to."
"Better stop now Xan, you know when you get mushy you get blotchy." Andrew said in warning.
Xander nodded, then hid his face in a pillow as he felt the blush creeping up.
"What about you, my brother? Would you like to come live with us?" Alan asked bluntly.
"Um, yeah. I think I would like that a lot." Scott said with surprise in his voice.
"Good, it's all settled then. When all of us are recovered, we will move into the boathouse." Alan said in a commanding tone.
"So that means you're going to stay here." Scott said in confirmation.
"Yeah. Andrew and I like it here." Alan said happily.
"And the Professor is going to work on getting us all official identities." Xander threw into the conversation.
"Really? That's cool, I guess that means that you and Scott will 'officially' be brothers now, doesn't it?" Andrew asked Alan with a loving look on his face.
"Yeah, I guess it does, we need to make sure that he sets it up that way if it is possible." Alan said, sorry that he didn't ask the Professor when he was down there.
After a moment of silence Xander said, "He'll see what he can do. He suggests that Scott talk to Alex about it, so he can cover your story if need be."
"I need to talk to him anyway, it's been too long." Scott said to the room.
"We can do that tomorrow. Right now, it's time for sleep." Andrew said and laid back.
"One more thing, the Professor said that if Alan was going to join the team, he was going to need a new code name, we seem to have an abundance of Cyclops'." Xander said with a smirk.
"Makes sense." Scott said, trying to think of something.
"And since you're team leader, you get to choose it." Alan said to his brother.
"I'm open to suggestions guys." Scott said to the group, drawing a blank.
"Blaster." Xander said to the room.
"No, but maybe 'Blast'. I don't like to have too many 'er' names." Scott said, considering.
"Crimson Tide." Alan said, only half seriously.
"Sounds like a feminine hygiene product." Scott said absently.
"Gemini." Andrew said from deep thought.
"Hmmm. I like that one. What do you all think?" Scott said,
"Pretty cool, mysterious." Xander said thoughtfully.
"Gemini." Alan said, wanting to hear the sound of it again to be sure. Finally he said, "I like it."
"Then it's settled. At our next group meeting I'll make the official announcement that Gemini has joined the X-men.