Generation X: It's Always Darkest... part 5

Disclaimer: Generation X is Marvel's, but that's pretty much it.

Author's Note: Yep, Dawn's leaving the Academy, and that's exactly what this chapter is about. Sorry, she gets there NEXT chapter, this is the prelude. And no, this school has NOTHING to do with Mr. Sinister, either. In fact, he's not even in the rest of the story. Yet.

The Long Good-Bye

For the next few days everything was more or less normal. We had our training sessions, and our classes, and I trained with Gateway, but Glenn and I weren't talking. At all. He avoided me and I avoided him as much as possible. The others knew something was up, but they respected our privacy, even Jubilee. I wanted so badly to tell him what was wrong, but I just couldn't do it. I HAD been in his mind, and I DID know he wouldn't reject me, but I was afraid that if I let him get too close I would infect him. Already I was feeling a little weak, and I had an extremely mild fever which hit me every so often. For the most part I was all right, though, and getting along tolerably well with the others even if I was acting a little aloof most of the time. Then, about a week after we had sent the applications out, I was accepted by another school. A girl's school called St. Maria's School for Girls.

"St. Maria's?!" I exclaimed when Sean, Emma and I were discussing it. "But the last one was called St. Anne's, and THAT was run by Sinister! Are you sure that this one isn't--"

"Quite sure, lass," Sean assured me before I could go into full ranting mode. "Ms. Frost's scanned the school, 'tis totally legitimate all around, run by a woman by the name of Eileen Herek. A fine woman, too. We both met her when Ms. Frost and I checked out the school. Ye'll be stayin' in the dorm--if ye decide t' go--an' the teachers are nice enough. Orientation is tomorrow, are ye up to it?"

"I guess," I replied.

"Here's your uniform," Sean said, handing me a bundle. I peeked inside of it and drew out a white shirt, pale blue sweater, white knee socks, black shoes, and dark blue skirt with a black jacket.

"Deja vu," I muttered, remembering the kind of outfit I had worn at St. Anne's.

"Orientation is at nine o'clock," Ms. Frost told me. "Be ready at seven. It's a two hour drive."

I walked back to my room with the bundle and winced at the memory of what I had discovered at St. Anne's. Of course, Mom and Dad hadn't been telepaths, so they wouldn't have known. Even though I didn't especially like Emma, I DID trust her, so I decided to give St. Maria's a chance. After all, what could go wrong in a school of non-mutants?

I soon learned the answer.


I was dressed and ready promptly at seven the next morning, and Sean was waiting near his jeep. Everyone else was eating breakfast, and we hadn't told them about it. What Emma was going to tell them when I didn't show up for classes or training today I had no idea, and at the moment I was really too depressed to care. Not only was I having second thoughts about leaving Xavier's, I was also having an "down" day, which is the phrase I used when I wasn't feeling too well.

"Are ye sure ye're up t' this, lass?" Sean asked me as we climbed into the car.

"I'm >koff koff< fine," I told him, wiping a bead of sweat from my forehead despite the fact that I was freezing. I was wearing my leather jacket instead of the school's jacket, but it was mostly because mine kept me warmer. "I'm just having a bad day. I'll >koff< get better. I always do."

Sean looked doubtful, but took my word for it. He had seen me like this before, and knew I usually got over it in a hour or so, but he still worried. Every time I got sick it took me longer and longer to recover, and I knew eventually it would stay with me until I died. I shook off the morbid thoughts, though. I had to go visit a school, and I would try my best to make a good impression.

The drive was long and boring, and I fell asleep after the first few minutes, so I didn't really catch the route to St. Maria's. By the time we arrived I was feeling even worse, but managed to conceal it from Sean. St. Maria's was huge, though not as big as St. Anne's, and the grounds were well kept and healthy, despite the fact that it was fall. We parked in the visitor's lot and headed to the Headmistress's office, which was in the main building. As we walked through the halls I looked into the classrooms. The girls inside stared back at me in a way that made me uneasy. I was turning down my telepathy as much as possible, but it's hard to ignore thoughts that basically mean "fresh meat."

We arrived in the Headmistress's office and I had an abrupt case of the shys. I was all right around my own age group (well, most of the time, anyway) but people older then I always make me nervous. I was trying to be discreet, so I was muffling my telepathic powers, so therefor I couldn't tell what Ms. Herek would be like. I slapped myself in the head and almost laughed. I had become so dependent on my telepathy I had almost forgotten what it was like to be head blind. I really had nothing to worry about, it would just be the same as when I hadn't had psi powers, is all.

Eileen Herek was a woman of about Sean's age with light brown hair streaked with grey and intelligent green eyes. She smiled at me kindly and said, "Good morning, Miss Embers," she said, "you are here for a tour of the campus?"

"Um, yes," I replied, shifting my wait a little. I could tell she was sizing me up, but not in a critical way.

"A most interesting hair style, I must say," Eileen observed. I had tied the white section of my hair back, leaving the blue part loose around my shoulders in an attempt to make it look a little more tame. "I must admit, it is not at all what I expected from one with your academic records, but then I suppose we all have our little eccentrics."

"Well... I guess you could call it that," I shrugged.

Eileen turned to Sean. "Excuse me, Mr Cassidy..." she said, glancing at a form.

"Call me Sean," he told her.

"Sean," she amended, "There appears to be a slight mix up in Dawn's forms. This one says you are her teacher, and this one says you are her father."

"Guardian, actually," Sean informed her. "Her parents were killed, so I adopted her. She preferred it to goin' to an orphanage."

"So you are both," Eileen nodded. "I'm sorry, I was merely trying to straighten out a slight misunderstanding."

Sean smiled. "Perfectly understandable," he told her. "I'm nae exactly used to it meself."

Eileen smiled as well. "Now," she said, "shall we get on with the orientation?"

We cruised the halls, going over the grounds. As we walked Eileen gave us both information about the school and it's teachers, as well as a warning.

"I fear it will be hard on Dawn coming in halfway into the quarter," she told Sean. "Based on her academic records we have also decided to move her to ninth grade as well. Unfortunately, this will make her the youngest in her grade. I'm afraid that this will make her a bit of an outsider."

As if I didn't have enough experience with that already. Being a mutant meant being an outsider from the day you're born to the day you die, whether you knew it or not. I for one intended not to let my genetic heritage get in my way this time around.

For the rest of the morning we toured the school, and I had to confess it seemed excellent. I could tell Sean was impressed as well, and Eileen seemed nice enough, and genuinely interested in my welfare. We left around lunchtime and Sean told her we'd call her tomorrow morning with my answer.

I was almost relieved when we left the grounds, though. It's hard to fake being healthy, and even though my fever was in the process of going down I was still feeling dreadfully ill. Sean had to drag me into the car even though I insisted I didn't need any help.

"Do ye want t' stop fer lunch?" Sean inquired.

"Take >hack< all the time we n- >koff koff< need," I told him, unable to hold back my coughing any longer. I didn't want the others to see me like that, it would tip them off that something was wrong. It was strange, though. Usually people don't have symptoms like that appear and disappear in the space of a few hours. Of course, at this point I had no idea whatsoever what was up with my body, so my best guess was that I was instinctively tapping into someone with healing powers, which was helping me fight off the effects of the virus as it progressed. It seemed to be working so far, but I knew that no healing factor on earth could fight off the effects of Legacy, and, sooner or later, it would be overwhelmed, and my time would be up.

By the time we got home it was around three o'clock, which meant it was "free time" at the Academy. I was better again, or about as "better" as I could be at this point, anyway, so I wasn't hacking any more. But I DID need to do something that made me feel sick, namely telling my teammates that I would be leaving. Immediately.

I went to my room and changed clothes quickly, then went to the Rec Cottage, where everyone was. I got nervous, but knew I had to get it over with sooner or later, and I felt like sooner was the best time. I was still just a little sick, but I figured it was probably more from the prospect of having to come clean with my teammates then anything else. Funny, I'd only been with them for a week or two, and I was already considering them to be my teammates even though we hadn't really done much together, at least in the area of super battles or parallel dimensions (both of which I'd already had my fill of). I sighed and ran my hand through my hair, wondering why life had to be so difficult.

I opened the door to the Rec Cottage slowly, almost hoping I wouldn't be noticed.

Yeah. Right.

"Hey, Dawn," Jubilee chimed the minute I stepped in the room, "where've ya been? I haven't seen ya all day."

"I was... um, kinda... out," I replied hesitantly. "Visiting a... another school."

Everyone turned around and stared at me, most in confusion or shock.

"Ya ain't plannin' on LEAVIN' us, are ya?" Paige asked, her accent emerging.

"I'm... it's just I..." I couldn't come up with a good way to say it, and I DEFINITELY wasn't going to say, "Look, guys, I'm infected with a deadly disease that's going to kill me in about six or seven weeks so I'm doing my best to avoid contact with other mutants so I don't spread it or anything. Hope you understand." This was just getting too difficult. I was NOT a happy camper.

"Look, I've just got to get away for a while," I finally said. "I mean, away from all the super heroing and all that. I don't want anyone else to be killed because of me. I mean, what if Sinister comes back? He's been trying to get me for a while now, and he might... he might kill all of you to get at me. I figure the best way I can keep you guys safe is... is to be as far away as possible..." That was as close to the truth as I dared to get at that point.

"It's your life, Dawn," Mondo said, "you may do what you wish with it. But I feel I speak for us all when I say I wish you would stay."

"Yeah..." I murmured, barely audible, "I wish I could too..."

Later that night I skipped dinner. I wasn't feeling too well, which wasn't unusual, but I didn't want the others to see me that sick. I was lying on my bed, head resting in my arms, trying to get some rest. My powers, however, were raging out of control due to my current weakness, and I found myself listening to my friends' conversation downstairs--which happened to be about me.

"But why would she want to leave?" Jubilee said to no one in particular. "I just don't buy that Sinister thing."

"Maybe your "when I was with the X-Men" speeches scared her off, chica," Angelo joked. Jubilee scowled and smacked him on the head with a pillow.

"It just doesn't make sense," Everett said. "I thought she LIKED it here. Did she say anything to anyone? Glenn?"

Glenn grew uncomfortable. I could tell he was taking it a lot harder then anyone else, despite the fact that we were having a fight. "...No," he said at last. "She seemed to like it here. She even said so." He was frowning. "She was hiding something ever since she got back, though," he said slowly. "She said it was nothing, but I don't believe her."

I winced. I hated where this was going, but I was too tired to screen their thoughts and words out, so I was forced to hear more.

"M, did she say anything to YOU?" Paige inquired.

"Yeah, you usually know stuff like this," Jubilee agreed.

"It has been extremely difficult to read her since her return from the future," Monet informed them. "And even were I able to, I wouldn't tell you. It's none of your business."

"Great," Jubilee scoffed. "Miss Know-It-All has become Miss Discreet. Hey, Sparky, you're kinda a telepath, do YOU know what's up?"

:I'm... not gettin' much else from 'er besides stress,: Jonothon sent. :An' plenty of it, too.:

Hmph. He could say that again. I rolled over and coughed hackingly. The welts on my side were getting larger, I could tell, though slowly, and at the moment I felt like jumping off a cliff to end the blasted Virus. I knew it would pass eventually, but right now it felt like it would last forever.

I almost jumped out of my skin when there was a knock on the door. I turned to the clock beside my bed; it was almost eleven--I must have dozed off almost immediately after Jonothon's statement.

"Come in," I said, holding back a cough.

The door opened. It was Everett.

"What're you doing here, Ev?" I asked, attempting to smile. It didn't quite make it, and came out rather sickly. "I thought there was a curfew."

"Well... I'm kind of a spokes person," Everett replied. "Some... okay, ALL of the others are concerned about you. You've--hey, you look terrible. Are you all right?"

"I'm >koff< f-fine," I assured him, though I didn't sound very convincing. "I think I have the flu."

"Maybe you should tell Mr. Cassidy," he suggested.

"He knows," I told him, shifting uncomfortably. "He and Ms. >koff koff< Frost both do. It's okay, I'll be over it by tomorrow. But what'd you come to talk about?"

"Well... we would like to know why you REALLY want to leave."

"I told you already."

"Dawn, you know that's not true. You don't have to be a telepath to know something's wrong."

"Ask >koff KOFF< Monet," I told him. "She knows." Indeed, with her powers it would be impossible for her NOT to know; she had been lying when she said she hadn't known to the others. She hadn't said anything to me about it, but she had dropped subtle hints for several days now, indicating that she knew exactly what was wrong with me.

"No, she doesn't," Everett said. "She said she couldn't read you anymore."

I smiled a little. Monet was as clever as ever, skirting the truth like that. "She wouldn't have to," I told him, shaking my head. "No, she knows, all right, she >koff koff< she's just being discreet, is all."

Everett sighed. "Then why don't you tell us?" he asked. "Don't you trust us?"

This conversation was definitely getting familiar.

"Ev, PLEASE," I said, almost begging, "I'm not in the >koff KOFF koff< mood right now. Please... I'm >KOFF KOFF KOFF< sorry I can't tell you what you want to hear. It... just doesn't WORK that way."

Everett looked a little miffed, as well as worried. "Is THAT why you and Glenn are fighting?"


"Because you won't tell him what's wrong."

I became distinctly uneasy. "Ev, please, this con- >koff koff< conversation is OVER. I don't want to talk about it anymore. Please... just leave me alone."

Everett looked at me for a long moment, then quietly left the room. I buried my head in my pillow, wracked with a fit of coughing, and quietly cursed myself for being a liar.

The next day the symptoms had left me, and I was no longer hacking. This was good, because I was leaving for St. Maria's. We had called Eileen and told her I would come as soon as possible. My things were packed (though I didn't have too much anyway) and loaded onto the Jeep. I had packed my uniform, both the Gen X one and the Askani one, as well as the small plasma rifle I had acquired. I seriously doubted I'd need them, but Mom always told me it was best to prepare for anything. So, at aproximatly eight o'clock, I stood on the curb of the driveway, facing my teammates and trying to find the words to tell them good-bye.

"We'll see ya again, right?" Jubilee asked.

"I... I'll visit you all sometime," was all I could manage. The others were all as uncomfortable and sad as I was, and Glenn... Glenn was standing several yards away, staring into the tree line. I bit my lip and walked over to him. I touched him on the shoulder, but he didn't turn around.

:Glenn, please don't make this any harder then it already is,: I sent.

:Get OUT of me head, gel!: he snapped. I drew my hand back quickly, shocked. He had never before expressed any discomfort about our rapport.

"Whu... why?" I stammered.

"If yer not gonner open yer mind t' me, why should I open mine t' yers?" he asked. I couldn't answer him. "I thought so," he said coldly. Despite his words, however, I could tell how he was feeling. He was hurting so badly, literally screaming in my mind, his heart begging me to stay with him even though he acted otherwise. My own heart was aching so much I though I would break down in tears at any moment, but I held it together. I needed to get through this on my own.

"Do... would you like me to... to break the link?" I asked him softly.

He hesitated. "...Yes..." he whispered finally. I closed my eyes, attempting to block out the waves of pain both he and I were experiencing at the moment. The link had evolved as naturally as my powers, beginning from the moment they had manifested. Severing our rapport was something we could hardly contemplate, having been a constant presence in each other's minds for so long. I took a deep breath, telling myself it was for the best--and completely shut down my psionic powers, for nothing less would get rid of our rapport.

This might have been impossible for a psi of lesser power, but my own strength, augmented by Legacy, had given me the skill to do it. I felt an empty, wrenching moment of disorientation as all the back round thoughts that had filled my head disappeared, leaving me--for the first time in weeks--utterly alone. I suddenly felt very lonely without Glenn in my head, and from the look on his face I could tell he felt the same way. I walked away from him, feeling hollow inside.

"Are ye ready, lass?" Sean inquired.

"Yeah, I guess," I replied. I turned to the others and fidgeted nervously. "Well, um, I guess I'm going now," I said awkwardly. "You... you aren't going to hate me for this, are you guys?"

"Of course we do not!" Mondo exclaimed, grabbing me and giving me a big bear hug. I smiled a little, but it's hard to do when you're turning purple.

"I'll miss you too, Mondo," I gasped. He let me go and I dropped down to the ground.

"It's not gonna be the same without you," Jubilee said. "I mean, who's gonna tell Hayseed to turn down her work out tapes in the morning?"

I smiled and shrugged. "G'journey, Jubes," I said, using a phrase from the Askani. "Hope you get to see your friend Logan again soon." She smiled back at me, though a little sadly. She hadn't seen her friend in weeks, and was afraid something had happened to him. I knew the feeling.

I waved good-bye to the others and got into the Jeep and Sean and I began the long drive to St. Maria's.

TEASER: The beginning of Dawn's stay at St. Maria's, and the beginng of a plot as well, whether it's evident at first or not...

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