Disclaimer: Generation X and Beast belong to Marvel, Ember belongs to me.

Author's Note: I'm sure no one who's read the other stories is going to find this odd in the least, but for those of you who haven't, well, I won't spoil it. It's been a while, yeah, but I've got school stuff to work on. Ah well, that's life for ya...


Ember stared at her bare feet, an anxiety making her stomach churn restlessly as the strong scent of antiseptic pricked her nostrils. She pulled at the paper smock nervously, remembering all too well the times when Sinister had 'examined' her, given her 'vaccinations' and such. It had been far from pleasurable.

So, when Sean and Emma had dumped her in the Med Lab with a paper smock and informed her to get dressed (or undressed, she thought wryly as she wrapped her arms around the flimsy outfit) she had gotten very tense indeed.

This place is shielded to a fare-thee-well, and I don't even want to know what all these instruments are used for, she thought, playing with her hair nervously-- a habit she had acquired when being held in the Tube in Sinister's lab. She knew she would have dozens of tiny braids in her hair by the time this Dr. McCoy arrived.

All right, just don't think about needles, she told herself firmly. Don't think about it, and you'll be fine. But what else *can* I think about? Hmm... oh. *Angelo*. She narrowed her eyes, scowling. I can't *believe* he was spying on me yesterday! What did he think he was doing? He's probably telling everyone else right now...

She fumed to herself quietly, knowing it was stupid and not really caring. She needed to do *something*, or she would lose it entirely and snap like a tight rubber-band. Ember had never met Hank McCoy before, since he had not been at the mansion when she and the Marauders had ambushed them, but she knew he was a bio-physicist, and it sounded just a little too close to what Sinister did for her comfort. And anyway, how could a scientist be anything but dry and precise? It was their job, wasn't it..?

"So, Emma, where is this young lady I am to examine?" Hank inquired as he and the headmasters strolled towards the medical wing.

"Waiting in the infirmary," Emma replied, holding back a yawn.

"Ah. And it's secure, I trust?"

"As secure as it can be," Emma answered. Sean stroked the kitten idly, hoping it would grow out of the habit of mewling whenever it was left alone. The pitiful cries had begun the moment Ember left her cell, and Sean, his hearing as sensitive as it was, had thought he was going to go insane after the first three minutes. Now, of course, he had to carry Charm around until Ember returned from her check-up, when, hopefully, he would have time to run out to the store and pick up some earplugs.

I think the kit's named the lass as her surrogate mother, he thought wryly as the bundle of fur purred contentedly in his arms. Charm yawned widely, looked up at Sean with sleepy eyes, and promptly feel asleep again.

"Sean?" Hank said, and Sean blinked.


"Are you all right, my friend?"

"Oh, aye, just a bit distracted," Sean assured him, nodding his head towards the kitten. Hank smiled and said, "And who does this adorable infant felis catus belong to?" he inquired.

"Ember, actually," Sean replied. "'Twas Emma's idea of therapy."

Emma waved it off. "It was more of a test than anything. I wanted to see how she would react to it, knowing it was a... 'gift' from us."

"And how, may I ask, did she react?" Hank asked alertly, raising an eyebrow.

"She loves it, truth be told," Emma told him. "And it's rather attached to her as well. Animals make for interesting tests of character, I would say. Judging from the kitten's reaction and my own scans, she's not likely to hurt us or go running back to Sinister, no matter what she says."

Sean nodded his assent. "She's a good lass, actually. Not at all what I'd expected. She reads quite a bit, too."

Hank looked interested. "Hmm. A most intriguing development, I must confess. Sinister loves manipulation, but usually his pawns are willing to take part in it already. This child hardly seems the type that would wish to participate in Sinister's many jaded and distasteful ploys."

"We figured that, aye," Sean sighed. "Hank... be careful with the lass, a'right? She's scared o' doctors, I think. She dinna ken who ye are, an' she's nae likely t' feel comfortably around ye till she does."

"My dear Mr. Cassidy, have you no faith?" Hank asked, flashing him a quick smile and displaying several sharp teeth. "I shan't even *think* of frightening the child!"

"I dinna think we would on purpose, but ye might do it regardless," Sean said, shifting the kitten to his other arm. "She's skittish, an' she might... well, I'm nae sure, but I get the feelin' ye'll nae want t' be on the other end of it."

"Pshaw, Sean," Hank smiled. "With all those inhibitors and my charming wit, what could go awry?"

What indeed..? Sean wondered. Then why am I so sure somethin' will?

Hank adjusted his glasses minutely and examined the girl sitting before him. She was quite young, and her pensive expression was the only thing that marred her otherwise attractive oval face. Her body, he noticed, was both thin and muscular, which bespoke of intense physical conditioning, and probably a hard life. From the look in her eyes he could tell that he had better act especially non-threatening around her, or he would likely find something large and sharp lodged in his throat.

"Good morning, Ember," he said after allowing her a second to adjust to his presence. "I'm Dr. McCoy. You may call me Hank, should you so desire. Now, let's start with the basics, shall we? Any allergies? Rashes? Song requests?"

Ember blinked, indicating he had caught her off guard with the last, and Hank widened his smile just a little. She shook her head after a moment, and he duly marked this lack of problems on his clipboard, moving onto the next. He deftly plucked a stethoscope off the rack and warmed it on his lab coat.

"Turn around, please," he said, and she did so, albeit nervously. "Now," he said, "please breathe deeply and evenly. And don't worry, I don't bite."

Ember actually managed to chuckle shakily and did as he asked. Hank didn't honestly expect there to be any problems with her respiratory system--it was unlikely Sinister would let one of his experiments fall ill if she were valuable, and Ember proved to be no exception. He proceeded to take her heartbeat (which was also strong, if a little rapid) and then checked her ears and eyes. She was in excellent condition, all things considering, and holding up fairly well, even though she hadn't yet said a word to him. Only one thing disturbed him, and that was the fact that wherever there was skin, there was almost always a scar. Large, jagged gashes, small, clean cuts, and patches that looked like they had been taken off by a belt sander. He could also feel places where bones had been broken and reset, and noticed her wince whenever he ran a hand over them. Finally, he couldn't resist any longer--he had to ask.

"Ember, where did all these scars come from?" he asked softly. He saw the girl pale a little, but her voice didn't even waver.

"When I was learning to fight, sir," she answered. "I... made a lot of mistakes. It was their way of telling me."

On the outside, Hank's face remained impassive, but on the inside he was seething. He could just see the Marauders in his mind, laughing and ripping her up even when she had done right. He could easily imagine them getting their giggles by breaking her bones, then telling Sinister it had been her mistake and all part of her learning process.

Sinister wouldn't care, either, Hank thought darkly as he noted the cause on his board. So long as they didn't damage his precious gene bank permanently at any rate. Methinks I should talk to Emma about post-traumatic stress...

"All right," Hank said, breaking the awkward silence, "I'll need to draw some blood now. If you would wait for one moment..."

Hank turned away and began to rummage through a drawer for syringes and rubbing alcohol, but not before noticing that all the color had suddenly drained out of Ember's face.

This might get a just a little difficult, he thought as he pulled out the required items. He turned back to Ember, materials in hand, and said, "Which arm would you like me to draw from?"

Ember tensed up, and started to shake her head. "N-neither," she whispered. "Please..."

Hank blinked for a moment, then continued, "Ember, I can't take a sample without your cooperation. I know this is difficult, but this is necessary information--"

"Damn you, she said leave her alone!" Ember screeched, jumping to her feet. Hank's jaw dropped open despite his attempts to keep it shut as Ember glared at him with angry brown eyes.

Brown? But I could have sworn they're blue...

"Ember, calm--" he began.

"Leave her alone!" she screamed again, slamming a fist on the nearby table, making the instrument on it rattle. "Dammit, she's scared enough! Do you think sticking needles into her will make her any calmer? Leave her alone!"

Hank took a step back, for once at a complete loss for words.

Emma and Sean waited outside the room, hoping for some news from Hank about the girl's condition. Emma inspected her nails for the umpteenth time and glanced at Sean.

"What do you think is taking so long?" she inquired.

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