Disclaimer: GenX characters belong to Marvel. Ember and all associated characters belong to me.
Author's Note: All right, I'm sorry I put this aside for a while, but I've been working on a Chrono Trigger fanfic and it's kind of difficult to focus on two separate genres at once. ;) However, I did promise to have a new chapter out soon, so here it is! Unfortunately, school starts Tuesday. *mumble grumble* Oh well, it can't be helped, I guess. Oh yeah, I'm working on the homepage problem as well, but it's difficult since we lost *everything* when our computer was wiped--but at least the scanner works now. Hmm, methinks I might owe you people a few visual aids... Er. Well, anyway, for all of you who've been waiting for Angelo and Ember to address the tension between them, just remember, you asked for it. ;)
If there was one thing you learned at Xavier's it was that there was no such thing as "normal." This Angelo had to keep reminding himself of, because if he didn't he was sure he'd have gone insane days ago. Ember had since moved back to her room, but although they saw little of her the student body *did* notice odd several occurrences during the night. For instance, two days ago Angelo had dragged himself out of bed for a midnight snack, hoping to alleviate his insomnia, and had all but walked into a tall blonde girl who was *definitely* not Paige. She'd looked him in the eye, startled, and said, "Oops. Sorry" before turning around to leave. Angelo had reached out to grab her by the arm and inquire as to who she was, but his hand had gone right through her just before she'd vanished. Needless to say, after that insomnia had been the *last* thing on his mind for the rest of the night.
According to the others, he wasn't the only one to encounter phantoms at night. Apparently the--ghosts, he supposed they would be considered--wandered around every night, and in shifts no less. There had been seven sightings so far: two of the blonde, another of a nondescript young man with grey hair, a brief glimpse of the English healer, and three separate encounters with the specter of Ember's cousin. They had managed to set up a kind of schedule for the phantoms--Will appeared around the lakeside around 11:30 to 12:30, while the blonde was usually spotted just outside the kitchen from 1:50 to 2:45. The grey-haired man had been seen briefly in the Rec Cottage a little after three, and Glenn had been seen by Artie and Leech in the Bio-Sphere socializing with Penance sometime after four. The oddest thing, they'd said, was that he'd looked a little embarrassed when he'd been spotted and stuttered over an apology before backing away and tripping over a rock.
This was quite a trick when you took into consideration that he was intangible.
This would have been eerie, Angelo reflected, had the ghosts not seemed so *human*. There was something about them that just radiated "benign" at anyone who encountered them, including Angelo. It had been gathered that the blonde (whose second encounter had been with Paige) was named Jenny, and she was Ember's telekinetic. According to Paige, Jenny was a rather nice girl from Oklahoma who'd had the misfortune to be electrocuted by Sinister a few years back. She seemed quite talkative for a ghost, although the same couldn't be said for any of the others. Will was often distant, preferring to stare blankly across the lake after a brief "hello" to whomever approached him. He no longer seemed protective and hostile, merely preoccupied with something. The other two hadn't stayed around long enough for anyone to form an opinion about them, but Angelo doubted any of them would be malicious in nature. It was strange, really. He supposed they should have been more alarmed at the idea of phantoms wandering around the Academy, but it felt more like they'd just gained a few more students.
Very quiet students. Who only showed up at night. For an hour at most.
Okay, so maybe it's not.
It was occasionally frustrating, however. Emma and Sean had told them the cause and warned them against mentioning any of this around Ember lest it upset her. She was not, as Emma had so delicately put it, the most stable of girls, and until they managed to help her pull herself together again and build up a little confidence it wasn't a good idea to push their luck.
Senor Cassidy keeps tryin' to get the chica to socialize, but it ain't workin', Angelo thought as he strolled through the Bio-Sphere, wishing they allowed smoking. She'll show up at meals all right, but as soon as they're over she just goes back up to her room. Paige's made some overtures of friendship, and so's Jono, but she doesn't seem to know how to respond. Caught her looking through the window of the Rec Cottage the other night, but she ducked out of sight when she saw me. I think she's *trying*, but just doesn't know how to--
He turned to the right to follow the creek and, incidently, ended up eyes-to-forehead with Ember.
"Um... excuse me," she stammered, flushing red. She was wearing a loose sweater and jeans, her wings fully extended. They peaked almost three feet above her head, white feathers gleaming with opalescence in the filtered sunlight. Angelo was uncomfortably aware that he too was blushing.
"Um, no problem," he replied, trying without success to change his face back to its uniform grey. He started to back away, but then remembered Sean's request that the students try to get Ember to open up whenever they could. With an inner sigh of frustration he said, against his better judgment, "Uh, so long as we're here, do you mind if I walk with you?"
"I... I guess not," she answered reluctantly, gaze focused firmly on his left shoulder. She began to walk slowly in the direction she had come from, Angelo pacing her as he concentrated on making himself as unobtrusive as possible. It maddened him that, while he could quite neatly meet any verbal fencing Paige or his other teammates could throw at him, this girl completely disarmed him. It wasn't that she was intimidating... oh no, it was exactly the opposite.
It was, he thought dryly, very difficult to match snappy remarks with someone who made none.
"So..." Angelo said, trying to find something to fill the silence, "were you flying?"
"No," Ember replied vaguely, "just stretching them. My back gets sore if they're retracted for too long."
"Oh." They walked for a while longer in awkward silence, an Angelo began to wonder why he'd tried to start a conversation at all. As they approached the foot of the small waterfall Ember sighed and finally turned to look him in the eye.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I know I'm bad company. I just can't--connect with people anymore. I appreciate the effort, though."
Angelo tried a smile and was surprised to discover it worked. "Hey, you should've seen Jono when he came here. Talk about angst personified."
Ember smiled slightly. "Huh. How'd *he* snap out of it?"
Angelo chuckled. "He got a girlfriend."
Ember's smile widened a little more. "That would do it," she agreed.
The two walked a little further until they came to the base of the waterfall, where she crouched down and stared at the churning water intently. Angelo sat down on a rock beside her, aware that the ice had been broken, and waited for her next comment.
It wasn't what he would've expected. "I never had a boyfriend," she said, almost wistfully. "Hell, I didn't even have any *friends*. I just never really saw the point of it, I suppose. It wasn't until I joined the Marauders that I even realized what true loneliness was."
She seemed disinclined to say anymore, so Angelo picked up the thread. "I had a girlfriend once," he remarked idly. "Name was Torres. Didn't work out though."
"She kept trying to kill me."
"Oh." She laughed a little. "That hampers emotional development quite a bit, I'd imagine. Still, beats having no love-life whatsoever." He heard her voice fringe on bitter. "You know the phrase 'sweet sixteen and never been kissed'? That's me all over, unless you count Scrambler when he tried making my powers go ballistic."
Angelo's eyes flickered over her profile. Her hair was falling in her face, obscuring her features. She didn't seem like the same person who had given him a black eye and sore ribs only a few days ago. It didn't take much of an effort to believe she wasn't.
He leaned forward and, without even thinking about it, gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
Ember turned around to look at him in total shock, blue eyes wide with surprise. Her mouth, he noted absently, was hanging open just the slightest bit.
"Uh... I guess you've been kissed now," Angelo said, laughing uneasily after a long pause.
"I... I guess so," Ember replied, still plainly stunned. Angelo made as if to get up.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done tha--" he started, but Ember suddenly shook her head and caught ahold of his arm.
"No--no, it's all right," she assured him hurriedly, biting her lip. "I--I kind of liked it, actually." She hesitated. "Uh, could we... uh... try it... again?" She blushed crimson, and Angelo cracked a nervous smile.
"Er... it's your call, chica," Angelo said. "If you're sur--mmmph."
Ember's lips pressed squarely against his, cutting off the rest of his sentence.
Whoa... he thought dazedly as they pulled apart. *That*... was something.
"For someone who's never been kissed before you sure catch on fast, chica," Angelo informed her, running an idle hand through his brown hair. Ember blushed again, but didn't look away a second time.
For a minute neither said another word, then...
"Er... maybe one more time?"
Glenn gazed morosely at the two teenagers, teeth gritted so tightly he thought they would shatter. He kept at it, however. After all, it was the only way to ensure he wouldn't go and do something stupid, like moan.
From the "window" that was Ember's mind her familiars held a regular watch over the what happened to the young mutant at all times. At times their constant vigilance had been the difference between life and death for the Marauder, though she knew it not. Since she had encountered Generation X most of the spirits she called had departed, sure of her safety. Still, a few continued to take their turns, Glenn among them, in case something should happen to her.
Now he wished like hell he'd left with the others.
His eyes were still fixed blankly on the scene when Jenny happened to wander past, probably to take up her shift.
"Hey, what're you--" she began, then got a closer look out the "window." A slow, incredulous smile spread across her face.
"Woo-hoo! Way to go, Ember!" she cried, pulling her fist back in the universal sign of triumph. Glenn just looked at her.
As if just noticing his presence, she abruptly froze. A slow expression of guilt and embarrassment spread across her saturnine features, and her elation evaporated.
"Oh," she said quietly. "Shit. I'm sorry, Glenn, I forgot--"
He shook his head violently, closing his eyes. "Never mind," he said softly. "Doesn't matter anyway."
"Are you su--"
"I. Am. FINE." He took a deep breath, then said in a considerably lower tone, "Please leave me alone now."
Jenny hesitated. "A-all right, Glenn," she said finally. "Whatever you say."
The blonde slowly melted away into the background as Glenn turned his attention back to Ember. She and Angelo had pulled away from each other again and were looking into each others' eyes, oblivious to the universe in general. Glenn slumped back against the wall--or, more accurately, the patch of reality that had decided to act like a wall for the occasion. He knew the look those two were giving each other all too well. It was, after all, it was the look he himself reserved for Ember.
He closed his eyes and let his body slid down the wall, trying not to think of his heart being shredded into millions of bits of confetti.
It didn't work.