Ember finally fell asleep somewhere around four a.m., and Hank let her sleep. He wasn't certain why Emma had insisted that he be aware of the changes in eye hue when Ember used her powers, nor why she had insisted her report to her when such an event occurred. There were several perfectly logical explanations for why this happened--for instance, it could merely be a by-product of her powers. He had seen Ororo's eyes fade to white many times, and Jonothon's eyes often turned from blue to white when he activated his bio-blasts. He could hardly see why Emma was so insistent that these changes be listed.

Ah well, he thought as he tried to puzzle out the oddments of the girl's DNA, perhaps this will be interesting study on her mutant physiology. I would still very much like to examine her skeletal structure when she manifests her wings.

The intercom on the wall nearby flashed (it had been set to flash instead of buzz to prevent from waking Ember up) and Hank reluctantly pulled himself away from the microscope and shambled over to the panel.

"Yes?" he said, stifling a yawn. He hadn't been sleeping much of late, yet for some odd reason he had the urge to hang from the ceiling by his toes and sing every "They Might Be Giants" song he knew. Dementia always feels like a good idea when one has been up for twenty two hours without sleep and only a milk-jug full of coffee to keep one company.

"Dr. McCoy?" the voice on the other end was young and female. Probably Paige--Jubilee wouldn't have bothered with titles, and M seemed reluctant to talk to him about anything.

"Yes, Husk?" he replied after a moment.

"Um, sir, we'd like to--see her?" Paige sounded hesitant.

"'We' who, Paige?"

"Me and Angelo. We thought she'd... um... want some company or something."

"Please wait a moment," Hank said. He closed his eyes and thought, :Emma?:

:Yes, McCoy?:

:Your students desire to pay visit to our "mutual responsibility," who is still currently in a state of inactivity. What would you have me tell them?:

:To go right ahead,: Emma answered after a moment. :She said it's all right.:


:She's been awake for nearly two hours--she's just been in trance-state, showing me how to create a psychic decoy. It's an interesting natural defense mechanism for one who's used to be psionically manipulated.:

:Oh. Well, if you're sure it's all right...:

:Actually, I'd insist on it. The girl needs more social interaction anyway.: Emma broke contact, and Hank turned back to the intercom.

"Ah, proceed," Hank said. "And please bring some food with you, if you would be so kind. We're both rather hungry in here, and food deprivation is not an advisable action for any being."

"Sure," she said. "Any preferences?"

"Anything not twitching," Hank replied. "Med Lab out."

He released the button and glanced over at Ember. She had begun to crawl into a sitting position, blinking rapidly. Her color was much better than he would have warranted anyone who had just come down with severe pneumonia, and she seemed reasonably alert.

"Feeling better?" he inquired, cocking his head at her.

"Ah, yes," she answered softly, looking a little nervous.

Well, odds are we won't strike up a conversation *this* way, Hank thought as he pretended to study the medical readouts he held. I hope Emma knows what she's doing...

There was a knock at the door, slightly muffled through the layers of titanium reinforcement and adamantium lacing, but still audible.

"Come in," Hank said over his shoulder. Paige and Angelo came in, Paige balancing several plates and bowls and Angelo handling the drinks.

"Here's some sausages, sir," Paige said, holding out the plate on her left palm. "I think there are some pancakes under them, too. It's a little cold, but..."

"Anything that is not sprouting new life is welcome, Paige. Thank you." Hank took the proffered dishes and trained a wary eye over the new arrivals. "I think," he said after a moment, "that I shall take this elsewhere. I have resided in the Med Lab for *far* too long, if some parties are to be trusted. I shall leave you three alone, but remember, don't tire her out, all right?"

"Yessir," Paige nodded, echoed by Angelo. Hank smiled, took an offered mug of coffee from Angelo's hand, and left the room, whistling excerpts from the Apollo 18 album.

"Want some breakfast?" Paige asked Ember, who had relaxed noticeably when Hank had left the room. Ember nodded a little, and Paige passed her a plate with pancakes, bacon, and a few only slightly burned hash browns.

"Thanks," Ember said, a trifle hoarsely. She accepted a glass of milk from Angelo and took a sip, coughing a little. "Do you mind if I use my... telepathy?" she asked. "Just to talk. I'm... a little hoarse."

"Sure," Paige shrugged as Angelo nodded. "You don't live with telepaths for three or four years without getting used to it."

:Thanks,: Ember sent, taking a bite out of the soggy bacon. :I'm sorry I've been... well, last night was... oh, hell, I'm sorry for everything. I'm afraid I was never really good at this kind of stuff...:

"That's okay, neither is Angelo," Paige said, causing her friend to glare at her. "He's a great Scrabble player, though. I would *never* have known "bxlomrmlezq" was a word if I hadn't met him."

Angelo didn't dignify that with an answer. Ember just snickered.

Angelo listened to the two talk for a while, only occasionally adding thoughts of his own. For some reason everything he even considered saying just sounded... well, stupid. Ember seemed reluctant to talk about anything personal, but she and Paige soon warmed up to each other. Ember was appallingly behind in recent events, and Paige seemed only too happy to fill her in.

This is stupid, he thought as Paige was telling Ember about the recent wars in Zaire. I feel like a fifth wheel here. How did I let Paige convince me to *do* this, anyway?

There came a lull in the conversation, and neither party seemed inclined to break it. Angelo certainly didn't feel like attempting it. Or at least, not until Paige's elbow jabs became *truly* incessant.

"So..." Angelo fumbled for a topic. "Uh, who knocked you up?"

God, did I just say what I *thought* I said?!

Paige's jaw dropped open and Ember blinked for several moments, looking confused, shocked, or just caught completely off guard.

Oh, *damn*.

"Angelo..." Paige grated under her breath, and he could almost hear the bones breaking.

"Don't bother," Angelo muttered. He left the Med Lab, walked a discreet distance down the hall, turned towards the wall, and quietly began slamming his head against it.

"Whoa," Jubilee said, observing the bruises on Angelo's forehead about an hour later. "What happened to *you*?"

"I... walked into a wall," Angelo said.

"Yeah," muttered Paige with a wry grin, "'Bout three dozen times..."

Angelo glowered at her for a moment, then turned around, dripping wounded dignity. "And *whose* idea was it to drag me down there, Country Mouse?" he asked, feeling around in his pocket for a cigarette. He couldn't find one, which only made him more irritated.

"Whu, Ange, Ah thought ya'd *laihke* it," Paige said, drawling over her accent. "Aftah the way ya--"

"Oh, shut up, Paige," Angelo groaned, cutting her off. "Next time you want to go visit the chica, you're goin' alone. I suck at making small-talk anyway."

"Or maybe you just met your match," Paige snickered.

"You two went down to see Ember?" Everett piped up. "What happened?"

"Mr. Smooth over there got tongue-tied," Paige said before Angelo could comment. "There was a break in the conversation, and he breaks it by asking "So who knocked you up"!"

"*You* were poking me," Angelo grumbled. "I had to say *something* before you broke a rib."

"Well, I expected it to be tactful, but apparently--"

"Hey, calm down," Everett said, before things could get truly out of hand. Paige stuck out her tongue, and Angelo rolled his eyes.

"Anyway, it was about that time Mr. Tact here went out in the hall and started slamming his head against the wall," Paige finished. "And by the way, Ange, we could hear you."

"Well, pardon me. Next time I'll suffer more quietly."

They're argument would likely have gone on for a while longer, had Sean not decided to make an appearance.

"A'right, what're ye harpies screechin' about now?" he asked as he opened the door to the Rec Cottage. "I c'n hear ye all the way from me cottage."

"Nothing," they said in perfect chorus.

"Riiiiight," Sean said, rolling his eyes heavenward. "Well, be that as it may, I might as well make an announcement." His gaze flickered over Jubilee briefly. "As ye've probably gathered by now, Ember *will* be stayin' with us for an indefinite amount o' time. Ah," he said warningly, holding out his hand as the youngest member of the team began to protest, "none o' that, Jubilee. Ye've nae even given the lass a chance yet, ye know."

"But--but she torched the Institute!" Jubilee exclaimed stubbornly. "We're supposed to take her in after *that*?!"

"Aye," Sean said firmly. "Ye know as well as I that the Academy is t' *help* young mutants, and Ember is no exception. Jubilee," Sean said in a softer tone, "at least get t' *know* the lass 'afore ye judge her. She's nae what ye think she is."

Jubilee crossed her arms over her chest and stared at him. "I'll bet," she said coldly. She gathered up her yellow trenchcoat and flounced out of the room without another word.

"*That* went well," Everett sighed, rubbing his head. He turned to follow her, calling, "Jubilee, wait up!"

"What *is* her problem?" Angelo wondered aloud.

"I dinna know," Sean replied, "but I think she'd best get a handle on them soon." He shook his head, then looked around. "Acch, *where* is Monet?!" he exclaimed, frowning. "I've nae seen the lass all day--what has she been *doin'* f'r all this time?"

"She's out over the lake, sir, meditating again," Paige supplied, frowning slightly. "She's been doing a lot of that lately..."

"I have *got* t' have a talk wi' that girl," Sean muttered to himself, glancing towards the window. "Come t' think o' it, I need t' talk wi' a lot o' ye. Maybe I should just start a group therapy course..." He sighed and eyed Angelo and Paige speculatively. "I trust ye two have settled whatever little tiff ye were involved in?"

"Yes, Father," Angelo muttered, rolling his eyes.

"What was that, lad?"

"*Achem.* I meant, yes, sir."

"Ms. Guthrie..?"

"Er, Yessir."

"Good." Satisfied, Sean left the Rec Cottage in search of Monet.

Paige and Angelo waited a full thirty seconds until he was out of sight. Only after he was out of earshot did they begin to pummel each other senseless with the already much-abused couch cushions.

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