Between the Darkness and Light

by Talya Firedancer

Part Eleven

"Long time no see, bro," Alex said, keeping his eyes steady on Scott as if, for him, he were the only person in the room. As if, perhaps, he would vanish if Alex took his gaze away for one eyelash flicker. In a way, Scott had indeed vanished on him, all that time ago.

Scott tried to hitch into a sitting position again and subsided back onto his pillow with a hiss of pain.

"Oh, for Pete's sake," Hank said, exasperated, and touched something on the panel beside his bed. With a hum of hydraulics the bed contoured, shifting Scott into a more upright position.

The whole while, he held his brother's intent green gaze, and Alex looked straight back, a muscle working in his jaw. Scott recognized the gesture - it was the same thing he did, clenching his back teeth whenever he was stressed or upset and put on that poker face to hide it. Then he did a gut-check and realized his own jaw muscles were jumping, too.

"Alex," he repeated, and glanced beside him, to Hank and then Storm.

"Now that our problem patient is awake, I believe I've got papers to grade," Hank said tactfully, casting a glance over him that Scott caught in the periphery of his vision, ignored. "And you, Storm?"

Storm patted Scott's leg and backed away from his bed, looking back and forth between the Summers men and blossoming with a smile she wasn’t fighting very hard to hide.

Somehow, Scott thought her idea of their reunion was a good sight more idealized than what would come to pass.

"Jimmy," Hank added gently, and Scott lifted a hand.

"No," he murmured, unable to break contact with Alex's unflinching eyes. "Jimmy, could you stay, please?" It was the only way he could look at Alex.

"Jimmy's been beside you for the better part of two hours, Scott," Hank informed him. "Aside from the certainty that it's about time for him to move from the post he's taken up at your side, you should know the effects of his power after you've been in its field for this length of time will linger, anywhere from ten minutes to another hour."

Scott blinked, and now he looked at Hank. "Really?" He could still feel the weight of Alex's eyes on him, such that it was relief to meet Hank's understanding blue gaze.

"Certainly. I'll set your glasses here, ready to hand."

The doors whooshed open for their departure, and Scott had to make himself look up. A number of things to say readied themselves on his tongue; it's good to see you, how have you been, how the hell did you end up here of all places...

"You stopped writing," Alex said, taking up a stance nearby his bed but not as close as Hank, or even Storm. His green eyes were penetrating. He was handsome, and there was a lot of their father in his face, seeing him like this grown and no longer the ten-year old he'd left behind.

"I'm sorry," Scott said tightly, clenching his fingers around his glasses. "You were placed in a nice home, you were adopted--"

"You're still my brother, Scott!" Alex cut him off, slashing out one hand sidewise, then clenching it and looking down, examining his fist as if it were a deadly weapon and he'd had a close call. "Letters for a couple of months, and then they just cut off. How could you?"

"It seemed like everything was going well with the Castons," Scott said, frowning. "You were settling in and they were giving you a wonderful life, a caring family--"

"Yeah, and you're my family, no matter what," Alex interrupted, seemingly determined not to let him finish any sentences. "Didn't matter how great the Castons were. You're my big brother."

"How did you find me?" Scott said, containing a wince that was purely internal. If he changed the subject, shifted the focus of the conversation, maybe his brother wouldn't try to get to the bottom of that first question. Why? Because he thought it was the best thing for Alex, at the time.

"The first I heard of you in fifteen years was an obituary notice, when I was working on a project in D.C." Alex ground out the words, leveling him with the accusation of his eyes. "You asshole, you have any idea how awful a way that was to find out about my only brother?

Scott flushed, gaze dropping at last to the thermal blanket bunched on his lap. "Alex--"

"Fifteen years, Scott," Alex overrode him, stepping closer, drawing his attention again as he loomed close. "So. I guess even after you weren't in the foster system anymore, after Xavier adopted you it was still too much of a hardship to contact me, huh?"

"My power had manifested!" Scott burst out, lashing at his brother with all he had; his anger, his eyes. "I can punch a hole through anything, Alex, even bars of adamantium, and it was a while before we found a way to control it--"

"And after that," Alex prompted, pursing his full mouth in an expression of incredulity.

"I wasn't going to drag my little brother into my own crusade for mutant rights! By then it was my life. And if you were normal--"

"Look how great that worked out for me," Alex interjected, sweeping a hand around the med-bay. He looked down, then tugged his shirt open down the front. Scott might have looked away if Alex had exposed chest, but instead he bared the matte black surface of a dull, skin-tight fabric. "Containment suit. A genius friend of mine whipped it up for me in college. It helps me focus my powers - without it, I'm bleeding out energy all over the place."

Scott blinked, then fought the urge to laugh - or hold his head and cry. Wasn't that ironic? The very brother he'd sought to protect, and keep all these issues and hardships away from him, had suffered from almost the same damned set of circumstances. Except he'd never been subject to--Scott cut that line of thought off, hard.

"So why did you leave me, Scotty?" Alex demanded, his tone soft now, no longer angry but pleading. "I needed you more than anything. Why did you just walk away? I...I never thought you would've."

It was that plea that defeated Scott at last. But he wouldn't tell Alex everything, of course; he never could do that. Only Xavier knew the full truth, maybe Jean had suspected; all that mattered was it was over and done and never again.

"You were young enough that the Castons were a fresh start and future for you, Alex! I wanted you to look forward, and not get tied down to someone...someone like me," Scott said bitterly. "By the time I was in the foster system, fourteen and too old for adoption, I knew the only thing I could do was hold you back."

"That's a load of bull!" Alex thundered, taking the step that separated him from Scott's bedside, standing next to him.

His eyes prickling, his head beginning to ache, Scott nevertheless ignored the warning signs, too wrapped up in Alex's furious glare. "Sure, it's easy to pick it apart now, fifteen years after the fact but at the time, I thought that was the best thing, really the only thing I could do for you."

"I was ten!" Alex exclaimed, slashing a hand sidewise in another familiar gesture, one that could have been lifted straight from Scott's repertoire. "Scott, the only thing I understood was that no matter how wonderful my new family was, my big brother stopped writing, stopped calling, the...the big brother who I looked up to and loved with all my heart had abandoned me."

Scott swallowed, eyes prickling, then he realized with the force of a sucker punch what Alex needed, what he was really pressing him for. "I'm sorry, Alex," he rasped. "It wasn't like I had a lot of options, at the time. I guess I was wrong."

"Damn right, you were wrong!" Alex said, and he tilted his head, and a hint of a smile crept over his face. "When I got here the executrix of your will read out what we thought were your last wishes, and you left me everything, you jackass. Couldn't we have talked about that first?" He shook his head, glancing sidelong at Scott, who bit his lip, not quite sure if he should laugh or apologize again. Then Alex snorted, and Scott was chuckling, and his brother's hand closed over his and they were both gripping tight.

"I'd hug you, see, but the good doctor tells us you racked yourself up real good when you wrecked," Alex added, leaning over his bed with the air of one imparting a confidence. "Strained muscles, concussion, the whole deal."

Scott grimaced. "I don't even really remember that part," he replied. "Hank said it was a little short-term memory loss; must not be much, because I do remember getting rescued, clear up to the motel and everything..." He trailed off with a frown. He'd gone to sleep and Logan had, too; why would he get up in the middle of the night to slip out, knowing he was dead-tired after such a long time going sleepless? It didn't make sense.

His eyes tingled strongly, an abrupt, stabbing pulse shooting through the meat of them and he shouted a warning and fumbled for his glasses but it was too late. He was looking right at Alex and before he could even close his eyes, a jet of red light shot from his pupils. Alex was staggering back from the force of the blow even as he squeezed his eyes shut, yelling "No! NO!! ALEX!" In a panic, he shoved the ruby quartz glasses over his ears, sitting up in spite of the ripping pain that coursed through his chest. "Alex?" I can punch a hole through anything...

He had looked at his brother with the full force of his unshielded eyes.

What he heard next shocked him even worse than the expectation of gurgling ruin, a blasted-out chest cavity.

"I'm right here," Alex said, a bit puzzled, completely fine. Alive. The warmth of fingers touched his outstretched hand. Scott grabbed onto it, hard, scared this was the last time; that he'd killed his only relative within an hour of finding him again. "Here, Scott, you can open your eyes."

Dumfounded, Scott opened them. His brother stood right beside him, even though he'd taken a direct hit to the chest. His shirt had been blasted into tatters. The containment suit was laid bare from collarbone to ribcage, and Alex was looking down at it, bemused, then looked up to meet Scott's eyes -- rather, his lenses, looking for the gaze he knew was still within.

"Good thing I have another one of these, huh?" Alex said, rubbing a free hand over his bared chest. "Wow. That's powerful stuff, bro. I guess that was supposed to hurt? It felt warm, but it was went right through me. Without doing any damage, I mean. Like sunlight."

"I didn't hurt you," Scott said wonderingly, reaching up to touch his glasses, make sure they were on securely.

"Yeah." Alex was silent for a moment, and they looked at their joined hands. "Just so you know, I'm still not letting you off the hook for cutting me loose for the past fifteen years."

Scott's mouth quirked. "Somehow, I wouldn't expect you to."