:Concentrate,: Gateway instructed me as we floated over the middle of the lake the following morning.
:On what?: I inquired.
This sounded a little strange... :All right,: I sent. :I'm concentrating...:
I cleared my mind as best I was able, blocking out any stray thoughts that floated by. I lost track of time as we did this, and the next time I looked up at least two hours had passed, judging from the position of the sun.
:Be calm,: were his next instructions.
:But I AM--:
:You are tense. Relax. Slow breathing.:
I did as he instructed and I felt my muscles relax. I breathed deeply and evenly, still concentrating on peace. Gateway nodded in approval and we continued like that for the rest of the morning. As he wordlessly dismissed me I sent, :If I go away... will you continue my training?:
:I am where ever I need to be,: was his reply. I nodded and walked over the water and back to the Academy just as the others were preparing breakfast for themselves. Monet gave me a knowing smile as I walked past her and I knew she knew what I had been doing. After all, she herself had been doing much the same thing before coming to the Academy, so she would know, wouldn't she? I suspected she didn't suspect what I was about to ask Sean about next, though...
I wasted no time in tracking him down. He was in his office, going over some forms. I knocked on the opened door softly and he looked up.
"Come in, lass," he invited me. "I've been meanin' t' talk to ye." He indicated a pile of the forms in front of him. "This is yuir parents' will," he told me soberly. He shook his head. "Acch, 'tis a fine mess o' things Sinister's gotten us into. We had trouble enough with the police about yuir parents' bodies, an' as far as we c'n tell all yuir relatives are dead." He looked at me with sympathy, then continued, looking at the will. "Yuir parents hadn't updated the will in a while," he explained. "Not only did the expect t' live at least 'till ye were old enough t' fend for yuirself, they expected everyone t' be alive. As it is, if all else failed yuir cousin would've been yuir guardian, but he's... well, needless t' say 'tis out o' the question." Sean sighed and put his hand to his forehead. "What it boils down to, lass, is that ye need a guardian or ye become a ward o' the state."
I winced. I didn't relish the prospect of being placed in a foster home, let alone an orphanage, and the prospects of finding someone who didn't mind if I was a mutant were pretty slim. "What're we going to do?" I asked.
"Well, the only thing Ms. Frost and I've been able t' come up with is for one o' us t'... adopt ye."
"No offense, sir, but that sounds really weird," I said, wrinkling my nose.
Sean looked rather uncomfortable. "Truth be told, lass, I dinna feel comfortable wi' it either. I'm nae the most experienced person when it comes t' takin' care o' children, and Emma..." There was no need for him to finish the sentence, obviously.
"Um, yeah," I agreed. "But... there was something I needed to talk to you about..."
"I... I think I need to... well, it might be best if I... left the team."
Sean looked shocked. "But... why?" he finally managed. "I thought ye LIKED it here!"
"I do," I said hastily. "But I'm afraid I'll infect the others, or something else will happen because of me, like more people being killed. I can't let anyone else die because of me... it'd kill me if anyone else I loved died..." the last part trailed into a whisper as a tear leaked from my eyes. My mother... my father... my cousin... Corinth... all dead because of me. I shook myself out of my melancholy and continued. "I think I should... go away. Away from the school. Away... from you guys." I bit my lip and sighed deeply.
"Lass, ye dinna have t' leave the team!" Sean protested. "There's nae danger o' ye spreadin' the Legacy Virus t'--"
"Yes there is!" I exclaimed. "No one knows how it spreads, and for all we know I could be coating the whole school with germs! So what if it doesn't seem to be air born right now? It could mutate!" I tugged my shirt, exposing the sores and welts that had developed on my side. "Look at me, Mr. Cassidy!" I cried. "My body's falling apart! I'll be dead soon, and I seriously doubt a cure will develop in that time. Look at this... would you wish THIS on anyone else?! On Penance or Jubilee or Everett or Artie or Leech?! I'd rather die then see anyone else going through what I'm going through now, emotionally or physically. I... I don't think I could handle being responsible for something like that, to see a teammate... to see a friend... wither away as some damn virus a madman unleashed eats away at them because I LET it."
Sean looked at me for a long time, sorrow apparent in his eyes. "Well..." he said at last, "I canna keep ye here against yuir will. If'n ye want t' leave we canna stop ye." He got out of his chair and looked me straight in the eye. "I do wish ye'd reconsider, though. It doesna have t' be like this."
"I think... it does," I told him sadly. "Much as I wish otherwise. I've been manipulated all my life, whether I've known it or not, by Sinister, and, partly, by the Askani to a limited degree. I think my whole life has been nothing but a lie, but now *I* can make a decision on my own. I can choose not to risk the entire team because of a disease that no one really knows about, let alone how to prevent or cure. I can, maybe, spare you all some pain by leaving now, before I infect anyone. I could be wrong, I know, but then again, I could be right. I honestly think this is the best thing I can do right now."
Sean made arrangements to adopt me, since I'd rather have had him as a guardian then Emma. He also reviewed my academic records to send to various schools, since I figured I had to seem to have a valid reason for leaving the team, and also because I preferred going to a school as compared to spending my remaining time in a hospital. I also thought that if I was around some "normal" people for a while I'd have less chance of getting attacked every other day, too. Maybe. It sounds selfish, I know, but I felt I needed to get away from all things X at the moment. I hoped the others would understand, especially Glenn. By the time I left the headmaster's office I was thoroughly stressed out from thinking about how the others would react when they found out I was leaving.
As I walked down the halls to my room I almost ran over Gateway.
:You are disturbed,: he noted silently.
:Yeah...: I replied. :I'm going away. To a different school, I mean.:
As if he wouldn't. :And--you'll continue my training?:
:I thought so. See you in the morning?:
He was silent, which I took to mean as a yes. I was on my way back to my room when Jubilee caught up with me. "Hey, Dawn," she said cheerfully, "you wanna play baseball with the rest of us?"
"Um, I guess..." I said, "Who's playing?"
"Everyone except Penny, Artie, and Leech," she replied.
"With or without powers?"
Jubilee grinned devilishly. "With."
I smiled. This was sure to be interesting.
Down on the field everyone else was gathered. Everett and Paige were team captains.
"Jono," Paige said immediately.
"Hmm..." Everett murmured, smiling. "I'll taaaake... Angelo."
"Jubilee, I guess," Paige said.
"Glenn," Everett decided.
"Mondo," Paige selected.
We had spread out in various positions when Angelo said, "But Country Mouse has more people on her team."
"It's with powers, right?" Glenn put in.
I caught on to what Glenn was saying. "Think about it. You can catch just about anything that comes your way, Ev can do anything anyone on the other team can do, and Glenn and I can both fly. And besides, if I have to I can supply us with another player."
"Batter up," Everett smiled as Jubilee took the bat. Everett threw the pitch--and Jubilee slammed it into left field. Glenn was on it in a flash, and he tossed it to Angelo at first base. It was a little off, but Angelo managed to catch it. He turned around to tag Jubilee as she ran in, but she threw sparks in his face that made him flinch away and drop the ball.
"What'd you do THAT, for, chica?!" Angelo exclaimed, rubbing his eyes.
"I can't fly or anything, so I'm usin' my powers to give me an advantage, same as you," Jubilee retorted.
"Lighten up, Ange," Everett called. "It IS a game, you know."
Angelo grumbled something rude and turned back to the game, disgusted. Next up was Monet, who hefted the bat as if it was made of foam. Everett threw a fast ball, which she promptly knocked into orbit.
"Um, I think I'll pass on that one," Glenn remarked as the ball broke the sound barrier.
"Ditto," I agreed, my eyes wide. "Anyone got a spare ball?"
"Mr. Cassidy covered that," Everett said, and pointed to a bushel of balls he had next to the pitcher's mound. "Said we might need 'em."
Next up was Paige, who had apparently played a great deal of baseball before. She hit it deep into right field, where I intercepted it on the first bounce. Baseball isn't exactly my favorite game, and I still wasn't as adept at using my powers as the others. No real problem, though, because I used telekinesis to send the ball right into Angelo's glove, who scored the first out of the game. Paige took it gracefully and Jonothon stepped up to bat. He, evidently, hadn't played it too much in London, but he managed to catch us by surprise by bunting it. Everett ran up to it and threw it to first, but by that time Jonothon was on his way to second. Angelo remedied that by extending the skin on his arm and tagging him on the back.
"Nice try, Jono!" Paige called as he walked back to home plate. He shrugged and sat down under a tree as Mondo walked up, wearing a truly distracting orange and green shirt. I wondered if he had anticipated that we were going to play baseball. Everett threw a curve ball, which Mondo, to my surprise, intercepted with his arm. He absorbed the ball and shot it out of his forehead, which looked rather odd, to say the least. It whizzed over a surprised Glenn, who hurried after it as Mondo melted into the ground.
"Great," I heard Angelo mutter. "How am I supposed to know where he'll come up?"
:I'll help,: I told him. :I'm tracking him telepathically.: Glenn threw the ball to Angelo and I sent, :There--three feet to your right, right along the baseline!:
"Got you, amigo," Angelo said as he slapped the ball on a slight hump in the ground and Mondo's head emerged.
"Very good," Mondo said. "How did you know I was there?"
"There are advantages to having a telepath on your team," Angelo said as we switched to the batting team. Glenn was up first, and he managed to hit the ball right down center field. Monet picked it up and tossed it to Jonothon at first, but Glenn had used his superior speed and was already there. I was up next, and, with the aid of some telekinetics, hit what would be a home run if no one caught it. Thinking quickly, I used my telepathy to create an illusion of the ball falling short of the fence. Jubilee, who was assigned to that part of the field, ran up to it and was a little surprised when her hand passed through it. I let up the illusion as the ball cleared the fence and Jubilee looked a little annoyed.
"Why didn't ya go after it, M?" she asked Monet. "Usually ya aren't fooled by that kind of stuff."
"It was a home run," Monet told her. "I could tell from the trajectory. Besides, it IS your part of the field."
Jubilee looked as if she was about to say something rude, but held it back. Apparently the two were trying for a truce, and indeed, things DID seem a little calmer between them.
Angelo was up next. I doubted he'd really played baseball that much, because he held the bat a little awkwardly, but he hit the ball right towards second base. Unfortunately Mondo was at second and he caught it in the leg. He absorbed it and it shot out of his wrist and right at Jonothon. He caught it and Angelo was out.
Everett mimicked Glenn's powers, hitting the ball into the ionosphere. It was too bad it was within Monet's area, because she flew up and caught it before it got over the designated home run zone. We played for hours, not really paying too much attention to the score. By the time we were done it was well into the evening, and our team had won. The others' took it gracefully, too.
Well, most of them...
"We would've won if we had more flyers," Jubilee griped as we headed off to dinner.
"Hey, talk to Paige," Everett told her, collecting the equipment. "SHE picked the teams."
I looked at the near empty bucket of balls I was holding. "I can't believe Monet knocked THIRTY-EIGHT balls off the grounds!" I exclaimed. "There are probably astronauts out there picking baseballs out of the moon right now."
"Maybe I shouldn't've taken her up on her offer to pitch, either," Paige said. "She nearly took Angelo's head off."
"It was a good thing I ducked," Angelo agreed. "Too bad the tree behind me wasn't as lucky."
"Well... maybe if we can pull the ball out a squirrel can have a ready made home," I suggested, examining the six-inch deep hole in the trunk.
"I don't know HOW I'm going to explain what happened to the bat," Glenn frowned, holding up the broken end of the bat.
"Don't worry, they must have more," Mondo told him. "I think."
"I'm sorry, I'm not used to having to gauge my strength," Monet apologized. "I haven't often played baseball."
By this time I was almost feeling like myself again; the baseball game had really taken my mind off of the stress I had been feeling lately. I wasn't the only one who noticed, either.
:Yer beautiful, yer know that?:
:Pardon, Glenn?: I sent to my friend. :Accent.:
:You're beautiful,: he sent. :I hadn't realized how much until now.:
:NOW? Glenn, I'm hot I'm sweaty, and I'm caked with grime, HOW can you say I'm beautiful?:
:Your mind. I hadn't noticed until now, but ever since you gave me that serum it's been clouded--preoccupied and troubled. But now you're looking much better.:
:I FEEL better, if that's what you mean,: I admitted, turning a little red. :And you?:
:You're the mind reader, you tell me.:
I smiled faintly. :You're right. I am. But I have a feeling you know me better then I know you.:
:Maybe.: He hugged me briefly as we walked back to the main building. :We're going to have the rest of our lives to find out, though.:
That shocked me back to reality. For him, since he was an External, the rest of his life could be forever. For me, on the other hand, it was only a couple of months. I pulled back suddenly, and it hurt him.
:Dawn, what's wrong?: he asked. :What did I say?:
:Nothing,: I told him.
:You've said that before, and I STILL don't believe you. Tell me, girl. Please, tell me what's bothering you.:
:Nothing,: I insisted.
:We've sung this song before, Dawn,: Glenn sent. :You're worried about something, and I know it. You're hiding something from our rapport, and I want to know what it is you won't tell me.:
:Glenn, please...: This was getting difficult.
:Don't you trust me?:
:Yes! That's not... I mean, I...:
:Then why won't you tell me?:
:I... I can't...:
:Dawn, if you want to end this relationship just say so. We haven't even really HAD a relationship to speak of at this point, it's only been a few kisses. Just... tell me if it's over, or if it never happened in the first place.:
:Glenn...: despite all his words, I sensed a deep, growing pain in him. This wasn't the way I wanted it to be, and it hurt me nearly as much as it did him, if not more. :No Glenn, that's not it at all. I love you, please believe me, Glenn, I love you more then I could ever say... but there are simply some things I just... just can't tell you.:
Glenn drew away from me. :I see,: he sent coldly. :Dawn, we aren't going to go anywhere without trust. There can't be love if there isn't trust. I trust you, so I've opened my mind to you. My HEART to you. But now, when I ask the same of you, you say you CAN'T. Tell me, is it that you CAN'T tell me, or that you WON'T?:
His words stung me, biting into me more cruelly then any weapon. I turned away from him, crying as quietly as I could while doing my best to hide it from the others. Better to distance him from myself then to make him terrified of me, I told myself. Somehow, though, I couldn't get myself to believe it.
'Well,' a little voice inside me said, 'You just alienated your best friend, you're dying of an incurable disease, and now you're leaving the only real friends you've ever had because of it. Dawn Embers, welcome to your life.'
TEASER: Dawn leaves, and everyone want's to know why. If she wanted so badly to stay when she came back from the future, then why does she want to leave now? Details will be revealed, but very, VERY slowly...