Jean looked in confusion at Scott, then crumpled to the floor, unconscious.
"How?" Scott asked in wonder as the Professor entered the room and said, "Get her to the MedLab immediately.
"Professor?" Scott asked as Piotr easily picked up Jean's limp form and carried her from the room.
"Scott, I promise I'll explain everything soon, but for now we must secure her before she wakes up and does more damage."
With that declaration, the Professor turned and left the room.
Andrew hesitantly put an arm around Scott's shoulder, only to have it shrugged off.
"I can't, if Jean's alive... I just can't." Scott said in a lost voice.
Andrew felt as if a knife had pierced his soul. Some part of his mind registered a pair of arms come around him and he instinctively fell into the embrace.
Silent tears began to fall as Alan rocked him gently and rubbed his back.
Eventually Andrew calmed and pulled away from Alan's embrace. He turned to look at Alan's face and asked in a shaking voice, "Am I a substitute for Gene too?"
* * * * *
Scott fought his way out of the bed and tried to make his way to the door on shaking legs.
"Where are you going?" Alan asked, as he watched his brother struggle for his footing.
"I've got to go to Jean." Scott said with determination in his voice.
Andrew cast a sad look toward Xander who gave one sharp nod and grabbed the wheelchair.
"How about I give you a ride?" Xander said with false enthusiasm as he brought the wheelchair up behind Scott.
Scott stopped, shocked for a moment before sitting down in the wheelchair and saying, "Thanks Xander."
Alan decided that there were too many little ears about for what he needed to say and announced to the room, "Everyone back to their own rooms now. It's time for bed."
The children reluctantly gathered what things they had brought and slowly trooped out of the room.
When they were finally alone, Alan said seriously, "You are not a substitute for Gene. I don't know how I'll ever convince you of that, but if it takes twenty years of trying, that's what I'll do."
Andrew sat and thought about the words, wanting to believe them but finally said, "You don't have to say that Alan, it hurt at first but it always does when someone leaves... they always leave."
Alan thought about that for a moment. 'They always leave'... his father, his mother, his friends Warren and Jonathan, his friends Anya and Hallie. They always leave. Andrew didn't need him to debate the point right now or to be given promises that he would believe to be lies, so Alan said, "Then let's share the time we have right now."
Andrew nodded his head into Alan's chest and just held on tighter.
* * * * *
"What happened to her Professor? How is she alive?" Scott asked from Jean's bedside.
"From what I've been able to determine from my telepathic scans, a force known as the Phoenix was searching for a physical form to use so it could protect it's homeworld."
"When Jean used her telekenetic abilities to save us, it was attracted to the power and took possession of her body. In the past month, it has been working to save the She'ar homeworld. Now that its mission is complete, it has no purpose, so Jean was able to influence it to return to earth."
"But the Phoenix is nearly all instinct, and Jean is unable to control the tremendous power, so when she arrived, there was much destruction."
"We were able to subdue her, but not before many lives were lost and much damage was caused. Bobby, Marie, and Kurt were injured in the battle, and I have nearly depleted my own energy by using telepathic assaults."
"So what are we going to do now?"
"We are going to suppress her power and try to strengthen Jean so she can control the Phoenix. If we can do that, she will be the most powerful mutant on the planet. If we can't..."
"When can I talk to her?"
"Not for a while, we will keep her sedated for a bit so we can heal and develop defenses."
"I need to stay with her."
There was a moment of silence before the Professor asked, "What about Andrew?"
"He'll understand, he knows me better than I know myself." Scott said with a neutral tone.
"He deserves an explanation. Don't let Jean's arrival destroy your friendship." The Professor pleaded.
"It may be too late for that..."
"Isn't Andrew worth the effort to at least try?" the Professor asked, amazed that Scott could be so unfeeling toward someone who cared so deeply for him.
Silence fell across the room as Scott ignored the Professor's question. Both the Professor and Scott turned at the noise when Xander tried to leave the room discreetly.
* * * * *
Xander gently knocked on the bedroom door and peeked inside before entering.
"This is your room too Xander, you can come in without knocking." Alan said as he held Andrew.
"Just common courtesy, guys." Xander said, surprising Alan and Andrew by not making a wise-assed remark.
"How are things with Scott?" Andrew asked bravely.
"The Professor is explaining what happened to Jean... I would tell you but most of it didn't make sense to me. It sounded like she was possessed, but maybe that's just me reflecting my own experiences." Xander said with a tired smile.
Xander made his way to the spare bed when Andrew said, "Why don't you join us over here? It's easier to talk when we're all in the same place."
"Okay... but I need to get in on Alan's side of the bed. It would be too much like I'm taking Scott's place if I... literally took his place." Xander said ending with a shrug.
Andrew and Alan scooted over and let Xander into the bed.
Silence filled the room for a few minutes until Andrew finally said, "I don't think I want to be here anymore."
"I'm sure if you asked the Professor, he could set you up in another room." Alan said helpfully.
"I mean this universe." Andrew whispered.
Alan took Andrew by the shoulders and turned him so he could face him. "Andrew, I haven't said it before, because I thought it was too soon, but now I have to... I love you. I want to stay with you. And I don't care which universe you decide to make your home, I want to be there with you."
"You can't, you don't even know me..." Andrew began before Alan interrupted.
"I can, I do, and I know you well enough to know that you are the man I want to spend my life with... but it's too soon for that type of commitment, so..." Alan trailed off in thought.
"So?" Andrew asked, not daring to believe that this could be happening.
"...so to prove to you, to me, to everyone around us that this isn't a rebound thing from Gene for me, or from Scott for you, let's plan a commitment ceremony one year from tomorrow. A year and a day is a standard waiting period as I recall. That will give us both time to understand our feelings and really get to know each other. And plenty of time to change our minds if either of us decide that this is a mistake. So..." Alan trailed off, this time in fun.
"So?" Andrew asked with a grin.
"So, Lee Andrew Wells, will you do me the great honor of becoming my life partner one year from tomorrow?" Alan asked as he took Andrew's hands in his own.
"Yes." Andrew said shyly.
* * * * *
Xander sat in shock for a few moments before saying, "Congratulations guys."
Alan looked over at Xander's shocked expression and asked, "Xander, would you please stand as a witness at our ceremony. There are traditionally two witnesses."
"I won't even be in this dimension in one year." Xander said.
"Well, I happen to know someone who can take care of that." Alan said with a smile.
"By then we may not be living in this dimension either, but whatever dimension we end up in, we'll stay in touch and come to get you to witness our ceremony." Andrew said, looking happy.
Xander thought about it for just a moment before saying, "I'd be proud to be your witness. But considering the history between me and Andrew, and the way Alan and I started out, I'm kinda surprised that you would choose me."
"Well, I understand that what happened before was the malignant evil thingie that we all had going on, so all that stuff is forgiven. As far as Alan..."
"...I told you exactly what I thought, when I thought it. And I gave you a choice." Alan said with a gentle teasing smile.
"To either sit there like a self-involved asshole or enjoy the meal that Andrew asked Jubilee to leave for me." Xander said from memory.
"And you chose to eat the meal. That was enough to tell me that you *did* care about Andrew and Scott." Alan said with finality.
"Well, thanks guys. I thought I had made an enemy of everyone here within five minutes of waking up." Xander said sheepishly.
"You've gone out of your way to be helpful and haven't said one word against us since you've been here. The first impressions might not have been the best, but we're past that." Alan said with a smile.
"And now that you've got all that evil stuff out of you, I wouldn't mind getting to know you. You've got to admit, we never really tried to be friends before." Andrew said simply.
"Yeah, I'd like that Andrew. I think I'm going to go back to my bed and rest for a while. You guys should think about doing the same, it's really late." Xander said as he got out of the bed.
"Um, before you go... Could you help me to the bathroom?" Andrew said shyly.
"Sure. C'mon buddy."