"Everyone, come over here and sit down." Mr. Summers said and led the way to a grassy spot in the sun.
All of us followed him and sat around in a circle.
"Trini, I've read about your ability. I think I'll be able to help you. Even though I'm not a telepath, my last girlfriend was and I worked with her quite a bit." Mr. Summers said calmly.
"Before I ask you to do anything specific, I need to know how much control you have over your ability. Decide what you'd like to try to do." Mr. Summers said in a soft voice.
"My ability is more like grabbing memories than actual telepathy. So what I'm going to try to do is find a good memory and pull it up for you." Trini said with a note of question in her voice.
Mr. Summers nodded and Trini focused on his face.
I looked between Trini and Mr. Summers for about half a minute, then Trini got an expression of accomplishment.
"That's a good one." Mr. Summers said with a smile.
"Can I share it with everyone?" Trini asked hopefully.
Mr. Summers seemed to be thinking about it and looked at each of us sitting around in the circle. Finally his gaze stopped on Andrew.
A shy smile came over his face and he said, "Yes Trini, that will be fine."
"Do you guys want to share one of Mr. Summers' memories?" Trini asked with excitement.
All of us nodded immediately. After all, how often do you get the chance to see inside the mind of another person, much less a teacher.
"It may take me a few seconds to link to all of you, but then it will start. Don't do anything, it will just be a few minutes of Mr. Summers' life playing out. Just watch and enjoy." Trini said before falling silent and concentrating.
I waited for a few seconds before her gaze turned to me and all of a sudden everything was red.
I looked around me and could see that I was in the MedLab.
"Is something wrong?" I heard Mr. Summers' voice coming from my mouth.
"Nothing new. You need to resolve things with Andrew. You've let this go on too long. He deserves better from you." A bald man in a wheelchair said with disapproval in his voice.
"Don't you understand? I can't." I heard Mr. Summers say in a whine. I could feel his horrible despair. Something had happened, he made a mistake, a big one, an unforgivable one. Mr. Summers was feeling despair and some disbelief at the choice he had made and humiliation at the thought of facing Andrew.
"Go up there and take it like a man. It would have been far easier if you had talked with him this morning. You delayed talking to him, now deal with it. Putting it off longer will not do anything but make it more difficult for both of you." the bald man said with disapproval, anger and disappointment in his voice.
"I know you're right. I just had to give a token protest before I did it anyway. Can someone give me a ride up? I don't think I can make it up there on my own." Mr. Summers said in a quiet voice.
"Someone will be here in a moment... And Scott? Be honest." The bald man said before he left the room.
There was a wrinkle or jump in the scene playing in my mind. The next thing I knew, Mr. Summers was being pushed into a bedroom... my bedroom.
Andrew and another Mr. Summers, sunglasses and all, were sitting in a bed.
"Hi." Mr. Summers said shyly, not knowing what else to say.
"Hi." Andrew said, with a sound of caution in his voice.
"I'm sorry I did that to you Andrew." Mr. Summers said as he felt a blush of humiliation flood across his flesh in a prickly heat.
"Did what? I need to know what you're sorry for." Andrew said calmly... too calmly.
"I left you. I broke up with you and went back to Jean." Mr. Summers said, nearly choking on the bitter words as they came out of his mouth.
Regret and misery flooded through him. One second, one instant brought this consequence. One choice and what might have been the best thing in his life was gone forever.
"Why did you do it?" Andrew asked without expression.
"I don't know." Mr. Summers said, barely able to keep himself from running away from Andrew, from the mansion, from his entire life and hiding from this humiliation.
"Wrong answer. Try again." Andrew said and a hint of the betrayal he felt came into his voice.
Mr. Summers heart broke when he heard Andrew's tone.
"I guess I did it because she was the center of my life for so long, and I hurt for so long, that I thought that all the pain would go away if I went back to her." Mr. Summers said, barely able to speak as he was fighting the urge to cry.
"Did it work?" Andrew asked, and behind his words was caring... he still cared.
I could feel myself shake my head... or his head as he looked down at his folded hands.
"Scott, I'm going to tell you this, and I hope it makes it easier for you." Andrew said in prelude. "Alan and I are going to become life-partners. It hurt me when you left me to go back to Jean, but I'm okay. I know that things can't go back to the way they were between us, I think you know that too, but if there is any way to salvage something of our friendship, I'm willing to try."
Mr. Summers looked at Andrew and could see the sincerity in his expression. He had moved on... and was willing to forgive me... him.
A huge weight of despair evaporated in the realization that Andrew was willing to forgive. A trickle of happiness could be felt that maybe he hadn't lost his best friend.
Then the realization came that Andrew was waiting for something... for him to make the next step. To show that he was serious about wanting their friendship to survive.
"I... I don't know how." Mr. Summers said in a low voice, not knowing where to begin to make things right between them.
"Come here." Andrew said in a soft whisper. His voice conveyed his caring. Mr. Summers felt the realization again that he was being forgiven... that Andrew, who had every reason in the world to hate him forever, was willing to forgive him.
Mr. Summers got out of his wheelchair and, with some help, made it to the bed.
Andrew pulled me... Mr. Summers close in a hug of comfort and held him tight.
Paradise. Safety. Love. Peace. Forgiveness. Now he knew the feeling of something he had only ever understood intellectually before. Unconditional love. If he could be forgiven for this, then there was nothing he could ever do that would cause Andrew to turn away from him. They would always be friends... forever.
* * * * *
The red haze broke and I was sitting in the circle once again.
I looked around and could see that most everyone was still in their trance.
Mr. Summers was looking at Andrew apprehensively.
Trey looked up from his trance suddenly and walked immediately to Mr. Summers and pulled him into a hug.
Andrew looked up next with a surprised expression.
"Wow, that wasn't the one I thought you'd pick." Andrew said shyly.
"To tell the truth, Trini is the one who picked it. And I'm glad she did. There's no way I could find the words to explain how much your forgiveness and friendship means to me." Mr. Summers said with a weak smile.
"You don't have to say anything, I could feel everything you felt, and I'm glad things worked out the way they did... so many things could have pulled us apart." Andrew said with a look of honest concern.
"But we're here... and we have things to do!" Mr. Summers said, directing the last comment to all of us.
"Trini, well done. I'll be helping you as much as I can with your ability. When the Professor comes back, he'll take over, he's a telepath. John, Andrew has volunteered to be your instructor. Clark, you'll be with Alex. Ronny, you'll be with Ms. Munroe. Chris, you'll be with Alan. Dr. McCoy will move from group to group to observe and offer suggestions." Mr. Summers said to us all.
Alex motioned for me to follow him and I asked, "Can Trey come with us?"
"Sure, come on Trey. We're going to work over here, away from the others." Alex said agreeably.
Trey flashed me a smile. It was brief, but turned up full blast. I felt that one in my knees.
* * * * *
Power training sounds exciting... it isn't. I mean, I know I have to practice but... it was sooooooooo boring. I bet Trey is sorry that he can't fall asleep.
For an hour and a half I kept blasting the dirt. Fine beams. Wide beams. Strong beams. Weak beams. Pinpoint beams... I am so sick of the stinking beams that I could scream!!!
Finally it's about time for us to go to the next class, so everyone is finishing up. Alex went to talk to Mr. Summers and Dr. McCoy about something.
"Clark?" Trey asked hesitantly, breaking me out of my thoughts.
"Yes?" I answered.
"I would like for you to kiss me again." Trey said nervously.
I looked around at everyone in different parts of the clearing, getting ready to go back to the mansion for the next class.
"Okay, but just for a second." I said and stepped behind a large tree.
Trey hurried behind the tree with me and waited impatiently.
"Trey, why don't you kiss me this time?" I asked carefully.
"As you like." Trey said and pulled me into a whopper of a kiss.
I could feel one of his hands cradling the back of my head as the other was on my back. He opened his mouth and his tongue traced the outline of my lips.
When I realized that my eyes were closed, I opened them to find the look of Trey, lost in his passion. It was beauty. It was truth. It was all things good.
One of his hands drifted down to my butt and gave a firm squeeze.
I gasped and that was the opening he was looking for.
Trey moved his tongue into my mouth and began to map the terrain by feel.
"Clark? Trey? Come on or you're going to miss the vortex back to the mansion." Alex called.
Trey relaxed his hold on me and stopped the kiss.
At that moment I couldn't have cared less about going back to the mansion. I'd be just as happy to stay here, behind the tree, and see what other hidden talents Trey has.
"Guys?" John's voice came from very close by.
"Over here." I said in a hoarse whisper.
"What are you guys?..." John began to say as he walked around the tree and froze in his tracks.
"Trey wanted a kiss." I said weakly, feeling that I had betrayed John.
John rolled his eyes, walked to Trey and pulled him into a quick, firm kiss.
"There, we ready to go now?" John asked impatiently.
"Sure." I said as Trey nodded in agreement. Then I continued, " What's got you so impatient?"
"I'm just ready to be done with the power training. Andrew's a slave driver... but he says that when I've got enough control, he'll show me how to make fire without a lighter." John finished with excitement as the three of us walked to join the others.
One by one we walked through the vortex and found ourselves in the main hall of the mansion.
* * * * *
"Guys, come with me." Alex said to John, Trey and I.
We followed without question and entered an otherwise empty classroom.
"It'll still be a few minutes before the next class. Would you guys help me?" Alex asked as he pulled some papers out of his desk.
We lined up and were all handed a small stack of papers.
"Lay those out, one at each seat." Alex said as he sat in his chair and opened a folder.
"We're having a test?" John asked as he started laying out papers.
"Yeah. Sounds like fun, huh?" Alex said with a smile.
"Not really." I said as I put the last of my papers out.
"Guys... while we've got a minute, I need to ask you about something." Alex said and walked over to lean against one of the tables.
"Sure, what?" John asked and assumed a position, mirroring Alex.
"I just wondered if you guys are going to have any problem with me being your teacher... because I'm so young." Alex said nervously.
"Not really." I said automatically.
"Age doesn't seem to mean much around here." John said seriously.
Alex gave John an inquiring look, so he continued.
"Mr. O'Rourke is two hundred and fifty years old and he looks about twenty five. Andrew looks like he's my age but he has eight kids. Robert is about two years younger than me and he's got the relationship I always wanted. I don't think age has anything to do with anything." John said, looking Alex in the eyes.
"Thanks John, I was just worried that you wouldn't take me seriously because I'm about two years older than you." Alex said shyly.
"Just a hint... a test on the first day of classes isn't the way to endear yourself to us." John said with a teasing smile.
"Don't worry about the test. It's just an exercise, it's not for a grade." Alex said casually.
"Then why are we doing it?" Trey asked seriously.
"I hope you'll understand at the end of it... in fact... Trey, when the test is done, maybe you could help me tabulate the results." Alex asked speculatively.
"Of course Uncle Alex. Anything I can do to be of assistance." Trey said immediately.
"Good. That'll save me some time." Alex said happily.
"There you are. I thought I'd lost you." Marie said from the doorway of the classroom.
"We got called away for 'new kid' stuff." John said with a fond smile.
"It's our last class, I thought this day was never going to end." Marie said, then noticed the papers.
"Test?" Marie asked with surprise.
"Yes, didn't you study?" Trey asked with a completely serious expression that was 100% believable.
Marie looked at him in shock as John, Alex and I broke into laughter.
"Good one Trey. You almost had me believing you." John said through his laughter.
Trey smiled at the praise. It was luminous. I wanted to kiss him so bad that it was all I could do to keep my place.
John didn't have that problem and gave Trey a kiss on the cheek.
Marie's eyes got wide and she asked, "You... and Trey?"
"Maybe. We haven't got that far." John said with a serene smile.
"You and me, dating brothers. How perfect is that?" Marie asked with a laugh.
"Hold on Marie. We're not there yet... we're going to talk about it tonight. Us and Clark." John said seriously.
"And Clark?" Marie asked and looked at me with even wider eyes.
I blushed and nodded... I don't know if I've stopped blushing since I arrived here.
I noticed Bobby, Robert, Trini and Ronny walk into the room along with a bunch of other kids. Chris was there too.
"John, Ronny told me." Bobby said quickly and pulled John into a hug.
"Thanks Bobby." John said and enjoyed the hug.
"Everyone, take your seats. We're about to begin." Alex said from his position, now back at the front of the room.
Dr. McCoy walked in and went to the back of the classroom to take a seat by the wall.
"Dr. McCoy is going to sit in on our classes occasionally since I'm a student teacher. Don't worry about him, he's not here to judge you, he's here to judge me." Alex said with a nervous quiver in his voice, that was hopefully put on for Dr. McCoy's benefit.
"Everyone, spread yourselves out as much as you can so no one can see your answers. Don't put your names on the papers or make any identifying marks." Alex said seriously.
There was some shifting around, I looked around to see that there was no one close enough to see my paper.
"This idea came from a game called 'I Never'. All the statements will start I never and you'll either mark 'true' that you've never done whatever it is either or mark 'false' meaning you have. Don't rationalize or justify anything, just answer the question as honestly as you can. Take the common usage of the word in the context it's being used. For example: If I say 'I never kissed a woman', I mean a romantic kiss, not kissing your grandmother on the cheek." Alex said in prelude.
"Question One: I never stole anything." Alex said with a smile.
I quickly marked true. This was going to be easy.
"Question Two: I never had sex." Alex said as he glanced over the classroom.
I marked true again. But last night... if John hadn't been thinking rationally... I was just barely able to answer true.
"Question Three: I've never been in love."
"I was about to mark True... but couldn't. I'm not exactly sure about all my feelings, but I can't deny that I love John and Trey. And I'm pretty sure that I'm 'in love' with at least one of them. I marked false.
"Question Four: I never thought about suicide."
I marked false and tried to put that out of my mind.
"Question Five: I never killed anyone." Alex said seriously.
I immediately marked true. Then I thought, if I had been looking at anyone at school on Friday when my ability awakened...
"Question Six: I never kissed anyone of my own gender."
I marked a quick false down on that one. But I didn't feel even a little bad about it.
"Question Seven: I never tried a drink of alcohol."
I wanted to mark true, I wanted to so bad. But I had tried some of dad's scotch. I just wanted to know what it was like. It was like stinky dirty feet. I choked and gagged and never tried it again. So I marked false.
"Question Eight: I never tried drugs."
Thankfully I was able to mark True on that one. I had been approached a few times, but was too nervous to consider trying it.
"Question Nine: I never intentionally looked at pornography."
I marked down true. I never was really interested in that stuff... but now... I think I might enjoy it.
"Question Ten: I never kissed anyone of the opposite gender."
I hesitantly marked true. I had always thought I would end up kissing Lana... but never did. It was never the right time.
"Turn over your papers and hand them to Trey as he walks by." Alex said pleasantly.
Trey got up and began collecting papers, face down. When he came to me I handed him mine and met his eyes. I just wanted to touch him.
"Does anyone know why we just did this exercise?" Alex asked us all.
"Cus you said to." Evan said from the back of the room.
"Fair enough, but can you guess why I wanted you to do this?" Alex asked seriously.
"Not really." Evan answered honestly.
"Trey. Begin tabulating the results. I need to know how many answered true for each question." Alex said quietly.
"You want to know how many of us answered true?" Marie asked with worry.
"Yes, just wait a minute. I think Trey's about done." Alex said as he saw Trey look at each page briefly then continue to the next.
Trey quickly wrote down the totals and handed them to Alex.
"Thank you Trey, that would have taken me at least five minutes." Alex said as he looked over the paper.
"We have a double class, that's sixteen students. The first statement was 'I never stole anything.' Nine of you agreed with that statement... remember that when you leave things laying around." Alex said with a smile as he looked over the class.
"The second statement was 'I never had sex'. There was a whopping eleven true responses to that one.
I was surprised at that, not that eleven of us were virgins, but that five of us weren't... even though I knew who three of those five were.
"The third statement was 'I've never been in love'. Eight of you answered true... split right down the middle on that one." Alex said off-handedly.
"The fourth statement was 'I never thought about suicide'... there were three true answers on that one..." Alex said and drifted off, obviously concerned.
Finally he snapped back to himself and said, "The fifth statement was 'I never killed anyone'. Eleven of you answered true to that one."
I was completely stunned. Five people in this room had killed someone.
"The sixth statement was 'I never kissed anyone of my own gender'. And five of you answered true." Alex said with a look of surprise.
"I never tried a drink of alcohol... there were three who answered true to that one." Alex said with concern.
"Eight. Drugs. Ten of you said true, that you never tried anything." Alex said with worry.
"Nine. Pornography. There were three of you who answered true to that one." Alex said with an impressed tone.
"And the last one, 'I never kissed anyone of the opposite sex'. A surprising eight." Alex said and put down his paper and walked to sit on the front of his desk.
"We did this so you'll know that you're not alone in whatever you're going through. These people, right here in this room are going through the same thing as you. I'm not here to preach to you about right and wrong, I'm going to try to help you understand what drives people and make them decide which choices in life are best for them." Alex said as he looked over the class.
"One small note, if anyone ever wants to talk to get advice or just unburden yourself, Dr. McCoy and I are always available to you." Alex said sincerely, then handed a stack of papers to Trey.
"This is a syllabus of the coming semester. On it you have a complete list of your assigned reading, quiz and test dates as well as an overview of the objectives of the class."
* * * * *
"Where do you guys want to study?" I asked as we left Alex's class.
"How about your room?" John asked casually.
"It's *our* room, and that's fine with me." I said as we walked toward the main hall.
"I must tell my father where I will be. I will join you momentarily." Trey said quickly.
"Okay, I'll meet you upstairs... in fact, I need to talk to Mr. Summers for a minute so I'll be there in a few minutes too." I said, hoping I wasn't making a mistake.
"Well, I need to make a phone call, so I'll see you two when you get to the room." John said as we went our separate ways.