Disclaimer: Gen X and the Marauder's are Marvel's, but Ember belongs exclusively to moi.

Author's Note: So, who here likes cats? I like them in a light cream sauce, personally... Kidding! Kidding! Before I start getting hate mail, I promise you, I will *not* torture this kitty. I like cats too, and I will *not* do anything to hurt it. And BTW, should anyone want to know, Muffin I actually *did*exist, way, way away before the likes of Lobdell and Raab . He (she?) was given to Leech before the Mutant Massacre by the kids of Power Pack, and has long since been forgotten completely by all writers save those who write fanfics. To avoid flames about continuity, I simply made the cat Muffin II, so ya won't get me there!


:Wait a minute, Ange,: Jonothon interrupted, holding up his hand. :Frost gave the gel a--*kitten*? Yer jokin', right?:

"Nope," Angelo replied, lighting a cigarette. "I was watchin' in the control room. One of Muffin's kits is going to be hanging around the Detention Center for a while."

Everett looked thoughtful. "Well, she's definitely going to be staying then," he said slowly. "Ms. Frost wouldn't have given her a pet if she was being transferred to Westchester."

:Jubilee's not gonner like this,: Jonothon remarked, wearing what would have been a wry grin on someone with a lower jaw.

"Oh, don't remind me!" Everett mock-groaned. "It's going to take me years to convince her to give Ember a chance..."

"That may change when they move her into the Girl's Dorm," Angelo said casually, taking a deep drag from his cigarette. Jonothon and Everett looked at him curiously.

:Wot makes yer say they'll do that, Ange?: Jonothon inquired, arching an eyebrow.

"Think about it, Jono. Do you think Cassidy's going to let her sit in there for much longer? Yeah, right. I give him three days 'till he moves her, tops."

"But if he thinks she might be a threat..." Everett began.

Angelo shook his head. "He'd do it anyway," Angelo said. "Come on, amigos, what do we already know about her? Remember that dream we all had? She was stuck in that tube, probably for a very long time. How long do you think it'll be before she gets claustrophobic in that cell?"

:Banshee's probably guessed that too,: Jonothon agreed at last. :Yeah, I see what yer gettin' at.:

"But that leaves the question, just how much independence are they going to give her?" Everett pointed out. "Sooner or later they'll have to take the inhibitor collar off."

:Frost could prob'bly null her if she had to,: Jonothon reminded him, running a hand through his unruly red-brown hair. :I'm guessin' we won't 'ave ter worry about that fer a while, though.:

"Well," Angelo said after a moment, dropping his cigarette and rubbing it out with his toe, "Gentlemen, welcome to the Betty Ford Clinic for emotionally traumatized mutants."

Everett rolled his eyes. "A sub-group of Villains Anonymous, of course." Jonothon groaned.

"Of course," Angelo replied with a yawn. "I'm goin' to grab some sleep. See you later, amigos."

:But it's three o'clock,: Jonothon informed him.

"Hey, if the choice is between sleeping now and getting some peace, or sleeping later and dreaming about Sinister, I think I'll see you guys at dinner. Later."

"So, have ye decided on a name fer the lass?" Sean inquired as he waited for Ember to finish her lunch. He was standing inside the cell, rubbing the kitten behind the ears as Ember polished off the ham and lettuce sandwich. Ember glanced up and said, "Yeah, I guess. What do you think of 'Charm'?"

"Quite suiting," Sean smiled as the kitten licked his hand daintily. He rubbed the cat on the side of the head as Ember put down her plate and rotated her shoulders, massaging the back of her neck.

"Uh, Mr. Cassidy?" she said tentatively, biting her lip a little as she handed him her dishes.

"Aye, lass?"

"I... I'd like to ask a favor. A really *big* favor."

"Aye?" Sean eyed her cautiously. "Go on lass."

Ember looked uncomfortable. "Well... I haven't... I have these wings, and I haven't had a chance to... to fly in such a long time, I was wondering if you'd, ah... let me?" She looked at the floor. "Sir, I know it's asking a lot, but I'm desperate. Sinister forbade me to fly--said he'd have Arclight pull out my primaries if I disobeyed..."

Sean nearly smacked himself on the head. Good Lord, she's a flyer! Of course! It's nae wonder she's fidgety--ye canna cage a flier, it drive's 'em t' distraction. And Sinister's had her cooped up fer so long... acch, what was I thinkin'?

"I'll have t' consult wi' Emma, but I'll see what I c'n do," Sean assured her. He started out, then said, "Ye do realize ye'll have t' fly in the Bio-Sphere, if at all, don't ye? And under tight supervision."

She nodded. "It's better than not flying at all," she told him, shifting her weight. "I don't care about anything else--I could do without all of what I've got so long as I could still use my na... oh. Never mind."

Sean paused for a moment, then decided against asking. Hopefully she'll tell us of her own accord, eventually, he thought as he activated the lasers, promising to talk to Emma about flying. I dinna want t' push the lass, but it's hard nae t' ask about everythin' that she's been through... Acch, I'm doin' it again! I keep thinkin' o' her as one o' the kids. I wonder if 'tis her 'charisma field', or me own conscience? I just canna help thinkin' that if we'd gotten to her before Sinister we might've spared her this... oh, well, I suppose we'll ne'er know now.

Sean made his was out of the Detention Center and placed the dishes into the kitchen sink, then cast about for Emma. He recalled her saying she would be in the Com Room, making a few calls, and headed in that direction.

He opened the door to discover her talking to Hank McCoy, who is taking copious notes on the other end.

"And you say this adolescent female of the homo superior persuasion is currently enceinte?" he said, glancing back up at her through the screen.

"If you said she's pregnant, then yes, I did," Emma said, rolling her eyes skyward.

"Ah." Hank scribbled down a few more notes. He looked up again and caught sight of Sean. "Salutations, Headmaster Cassidy," Hank said with a grin. "Emma here was just updating me on the status of your newest student. Am I correct in assuming you wish me to traverse the void between the Academy and out humble Institute to investigate this quandary and inspect your young charge?"

"Aye, 'twould be much appreciated," Sean nodded, reminding himself to thank Emma for her foresight later. "I warn ye, though, she's likely t' be a wee bit squeamish about needles..."

"I wouldn't be surprised, if she was Sinister's captive," Hank acknowledged, toying with his spectacles. "I shall endeavor to behave my very best, I assure you."

"I'm sure ye will, Hank," Sean smiled. "When will ye be droppin' by?"

"How does tomorrow afternoon sound?"

"Fine, thank ye. See ye then?"

"Indubitably. Good afternoon, Sean. Institute out."

"Well, now that that's over, what did you want to discuss?" Emma asked as the screen darkened, propping her elbow in the console.

"Well, Ember has an unusual request..."

"Oh? What... oh, I see. I should have guessed. Well, I don't see how that is such a problem, really..."

"But what about the inhibitor collar?"

"I can use my telepathy to work around it." Emma inspected her nails minutely. "All I need do is reach into her mind and touch the right buttons to trigger the change, and from then on she will simply use the muscles in her wings and nothing more. I confess, I *would* like to see if her physiology changes as well, though..."

"Aye?" Sean asked. "Why?"

"Mass, Sean, mass. If she manifests wings and her weight remains constant, it would take a great deal of strength to support her body. If, however, her mass is reduced to accommodate her wings, there will be no actual change in her strength." She winked at him casually. "Know thine enemy, Cassidy. I didn't become the owner of a multi-million dollar company by underestimating my enemies--*or* my friends."

"Sometimes I wonder about ye, Emma..." Sean said, shaking his head.

"Same here." Emma got up and stretched. "Now, shall we retrieve our little houseguest?"

"You may feel some initial discomfort," Emma warned as Ember took stock of the huge, self-sustaining bio-dome.

Ember glanced over her shoulder and back at Emma. "I've had *more* than enough experience with discomfort already, Ms. Frost," she informed the teacher. "I doubt this will be any worse than some of the things I've been through."

Emma merely placed a hand on Ember's forehead, closing her eyes. Ember braced herself for the brief burst of pain that always accompanied the manifestation of her wings, and was not disappointed. The familiar, hideous pain split across her back as her wings unfurled, spreading outwards like huge silver fans.

At least it gets progressively easier to use them, though, she thought as the pain ended. Maybe someday I'll even be able to extend them without feeling like my back is being cut open with a rusty knife...

"Ready, lass?" Sean asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be, I guess," Ember said, flexing her wings. She pumped them a few times, then launched herself into the air, carefully avoiding the trees that overhung the clearing. Once above the main tree-level, she hovered for a second, then set off at such a speed that it made even Sean gasp with surprise.

I'm *free*! her heart sang, even though the thought sounded rather trite even to her. Ember soared as high as the ceiling allowed, not even attempting any fancy tricks. She merely enjoyed pure, simple flying; the wind to her face, under her wings, enveloping her body...

God, I'm grinning like an idiot, she realized, though she didn't really care. I'm just glad no one else is here besides Sean and Emma. I would *never* live it down...

Angelo knew he shouldn't have been following his teachers around all day, but none of the others seemed willing to go the extra mile. Not that *he* was all that eager to exert himself, especially when he had had about twenty minutes of sleep all day, but he had the impression they were both up to something, especially when he had seen them escorting Ember to the Bio-Sphere on the way to his dorm.

Guess I was right, he thought as he peered out from behind a tree near the door to the Bio-Sphere. He saw Ember skimming the tree tops, wearing a look of such content on her face... and happiness? Now *that* would be a first.

Angelo looked closer, trying to get a clear glimpse of her face. When he finally got it, his jaw all but scraped the dirt in surprise.

Madre de Dios... she's *smiling*, he thought dumbly, caught *completely* off balance. Lord, she's beautiful when she smiles...

Then he shook his head violently. Wake up, Ange! Come on, think with your head for once! This is a *Marauder* here, and one that was bent on beatin' the crap out of you a few hours ago, too!

This firmly in mind, Angelo continued watching Ember fly for several more minutes. She was graceful, he had to admit that, and watching her fly was a great deal like watching a ballet dancer working out the kinks in her system. He almost sighed when Sean bade her to come down.

As she was retracting her wings, he began to slink out of the Bio-Sphere. He had probably better get out of there before someone saw him...

:Too late, Angelo,: Emma informed him crisply. :I assume you have a valid reason for playing spy today?:


:Thought so. Detention tomorrow afternoon. You know the place, I'm sure.:

Angelo sighed. :Si, Senora,: he replied.

:Good. I suggest you depart. *Immediately*.:

:Si, Ms. Frost.: Angelo stole out of the Bio-Sphere as quickly as he could, hoping Ember hadn't noticed what Emma had.

Damn, he thought as her eyes met his, too late.

For a moment he felt as if he were drowning in her gaze as her swirling, bottomless blue eyes seemed to swallow him whole. It was odd, how much information could be passed in a single glance. Angelo could make out any number of emotions swimming in her eyes--shock, embarrassment, and was that a touch of fear..?

He yanked his gaze away quickly and scrambled out the door before she could say a word, too surprised to do anything else. _God, if windows are the eyes to the soul, Ember needs new curtains!_ he thought, sprinting back to his dorm. That was *way* too much info on the chica's mind, like she was just pouring it all into my head. And why was she afraid? Did she think I was going to try and exploit her love of flying? Angelo considered this for a moment. Well, maybe. She *did* spend a lot of time with Sinister, so she would probably think of that first.

Well, *he* certainly wasn't going to do that. I don't do that kind of thing... unless the hombre really deserves it. And how would I, anyway? Pluck her and make a mattress? Besides, it's hard to think of her as a villain, now that I've seen her flying--not to mention that incident with the kitten. Come to think of it, if Sinister hadn't nabbed her she'd probably've been one of us anyway...

Hunh. Now *there's* an interesting thought. Wonder what that woulda been like?

Angelo had to stop sprinting, given the fact that his ribs seemed to be burrowing little holes in his other internal organs, but he was already at the boy's dorm so it made little difference.

All right, now I really *am* gettin' some sleep, he promised himself. He was extremely grateful that this sleep, though the only memories he awoke with were dreams full of mottled, blue landscape that went on, and on, and on...

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