Generation X: It's Always Darkest... part 7

Disclaimer: Generation X belongs to Marvel, but that's it.

Author's Note: Okay, one more chapter before Generation X returns to the story. Be patient, guys. I promise it'll be worth it. (At least I hope it will.) Have fun reading this little chapter whimsically entitled "School Daze." (How many puns do you think I can get in before you guys start flaming me? Let's find out...)

School Daze

"Oh no," I whispered. "I thought I HID that!"

"What is it?" Hesper inquired.

"My journal," I told her as I felt the color drain from my face.

"That's not so bad..."

"Yes, it is. I wrote down everything that's happened to me over the past year. EVERYTHING. If she reads that to the whole school I am DEAD."

"Let's see here," Cheryl was saying. "Ah yes, page one..."

"Crap," I murmured as I began to tap into Threnody's persona. "Hold on, this'll only take a second."

"What're you going to..?" Hesper started. By then I was out of my seat by then, having flipped onto the table next to us. I then jumped off the table and landed next to Cheryl.

"Hello, Cheryl," I said calmly. I was FAR past the point of politeness at this time.

"Whu--?!" she said, startled. "Where'd YOU come from?"

"Oh, didn't you see me?" I asked innocently. "I would think sitting at a table with only one other person would have made me easy to identify, wouldn't you?"

"Don't sass me, girl," Cheryl snarled, her scowl re-appearing.

"Then don't take our... MY things," I countered. "I would appreciate it if you gave that back--before I have to make you. And I promise you, it'll hurt YOU much more then ME."

"Ohhhh, isn't that cute?" Cheryl scoffed, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "The wittle girl want's her wittle diary back. Isn't that the wittle cutest thing you EVER saw..?"

"You say 'wittle' one more time..." I warned her. Cheryl laughed and looked down on me--literally. She was tall for her age, nearly half a foot taller then I.

"Oh?" Cheryl said mockingly, holding my journal between her fingertips and swinging it over my head, "You'll WHAT? Punch me in the knee?"

"I was thinking more along the lines of your big fat mouth."

Cheryl glowered at me and several girls made an "oooo"-ing sound. I could tell I was getting her really steamed.

"What's a matter, Cherie?" I taunted, rubbing it in more. "Can't handle a little girl like me?"

"Are you going to let her talk like that, Cheryl?" Vanessa inquired from the sidelines.

"Yeah, why aren't you standing up to her?" Brenda added.

"I'll take THIS, thank you very much," I said, snatching my journal out of her hands while she was distracted.

"You little worm!" Cheryl cried, enraged. She tried to grab it back, but I was already in the hallway.

"Way to go, Dawn!" Hesper called after me. There were several suppressed giggles as the other girls observed their long time menace being beaten for once. I ran down the hall and to my dorm room, where I then locked my door and had a private chat with myself.

:Interesting way to handle a situation,: my Threnody persona commented. :If you ask me, she deserved to be roughed up a little. Nothing permanent, but a few bruises wouldn't've hurt.:

:Eh,: I replied. :Things aren't as rough as your world was. Besides, surely you know that sometimes the mouth is more effective then the fist. Her ego will be aching for days.:

She laughed. :Sorry, I'm still not used to this earth. Or is it dimension? Anyway, it's kind of hard to dismiss old instincts and lessons that've been pounded into your mind. Literally.:

:Understandable. Where do you think I should hide this so Cheryl doesn't find it again?:

:Hmmm... any loose boards?:

:I could check.:

:Or we could just pull the nails out of one and then replace them.:

:Oh, I forgot--you're much more experienced at this sort of thing then I am.:

:Well, not at some things,: she replied. :I still find it amazing that you don't need neuro locks to control your telepathy. I've NEVER been able\ to do that.:

:Ah, the dangers of using your powers prematurely,: I mused as I borrowed Jenny's power and telekinetically pulled up a floorboard. :Painful, too.:

:You can't imagine,: she replied. :Well, maybe you can.:

:Ayup,: I replied, placing my journal in the space and nailing it shut again. :I wasn't there, but you're me, or I'm you, or something like that. See you later?:

:Whenever you need me. Remember, I'm always here.: I let her consciousness fade and considered hiding my laptop as well when there was a knock on the door.

"Who is it?" I called.

"It's me," replied Hesper. I opened the door with telekinesis before I remembered where I was. Oops. Oh well, Hesper knew what I was, so I wouldn't have to worry about THAT.

"Hi, Hesp," I said. "What's up?"

Hesper broke into a grin. "Everyone's talking about how you bruised Cheryl's ego," she replied. "I think you just scored some major points."

"I wasn't out to be popular, I was out to save my hide," I told her, not entirely displeased.

"Well, then you got two for the price of one," Hesper said. "I'd watch my back if I were you, though. Cheryl is infamous for getting people back."

"Hey, I've traveled through time and fought more then a few super villains before," I told her, "you don't need to worry about me."

"I'll take your word for it," Hesper grinned. I smacked her with my pillow. She looked at me with such fierce mock-indignation that we both laughed.

"Look, I've gotta tell my headmaster how I'm doing, okay?" I said after we stopped laughing.

"How will you do that?" she asked.

"I can send my mind and talk to him," I replied. "Can you make sure no one disturbs me?"

"Well, I'll try..."

"If anyone knocks, just act like you're not here, okay? I just need you to make sure no one breaks in or something."

"Well, all right."

"Thanks, Hesp. I owe you." She smiled and sprawled out on my bed as I sat down on the floor and projected my mind, seeking Sean. He was smoking his pipe on the porch of his cottage, watching the sun set. I waited for a moment, then sent, :Hello, Mr. Cassidy.:

"Hmm?" he murmured, startled. Then he recovered. "Dawn!" he exclaimed. "Acch, 'tis a good thing ye popped in, lass, I was a bit worried about ye." He looked at me closely. "Ye're lookin' a bit tired. Is everything all right?"

:Oh, it was nothing I couldn't handle,: I assured him. :Just a little tiff in the dinning hall. I made a friend, too.:

"That's good t' hear," Sean smiled. "How're ye feelin'?"

:Fine, at the moment.: I decided not to inform him of the little incident earlier when my lungs had shut down; it would only worry him. :I'll tell you if I get worse or REALLY sick.:

"Be sure ye do. How are ye settling in? Any problems?"

:Let's put it this way... Ms. Herek was right when she said it'd be difficult.:

"That bad, hmm?"

:But I think some of the other kids are warming up to me. Kind of.:

"Dinna give up, lass. They'll come 'round eventually."

I smiled. :Don't worry, Mr. Cassidy,: I told him, :I don't intend to give up. Not now, not EVER.:

The next morning I got up when the alarm on my clock radio rang and stumbled out of bed and into the washroom, toting my things. I brushed my teeth and turned on the shower. I was the only one up at four a.m., but I had to meet Gateway on the roof. I got dressed in whatever I found first, which was the slacks from my Generation X costume and an oversized Xavier's tee-shirt. (Okay, I don't mind wearing skintight things if no one can see them, but ONLY then.) I opened the window, extended my wings, and jumped out, flapping furiously to get my stiff muscles working. I had given myself half an hour to spare before I went to train with Gateway, so I had plenty of time to joy-fly. In my forgetfulness I neglected to psi-shield myself, but at four a.m. it didn't really make a difference. I let myself unwind as I flew through the air, playing chicken with an invisible foe. Again I borrowed my cousin's elemental powers, laughing as I flew through the swirling colors and patterns nature supplied. I twirled around in mid-air and then folded my wings so I plummeted to mere feet above the ground before I caught myself again. It was great fun as well as an excellent work-out, and I enjoyed the feeling of independence it gave me. I flew straight up until I had a clear view of the entire school and spied Gateway, meditating over the peak of a roof. With a slight sigh I swooped down and met him on the roof, hovering inches above the tiles.

:Good morning, Gateway,: I sent. :What shall we start with?:

:Patience is a virtue, Dawn-child,: he sent. :Do not be so hasty with your words.:

I sighed. :All right, I'll try to be more patient.: I crossed my legs and levitated above the roof so my eyes were level with Gateway's. Using telekinesis like that was still difficult for me, because I usually used it to open things instead of holding things, especially things as big as me. As it was, it made for a great exercise of concentration. For nearly an hour we just sat there, floating above the roof, neither moving nor speaking. Then Gateway changed his instructions. :Fly,: he sent.



:Um, all right.: I got out of my cross-legged position and spread my wings, catching the wind. I glided high above the school, wondering why Gateway had asked me to do it. As I did so I began to feel a fire welling up within my mind as a spirit entered my body and began to fly with me. I looked to Gateway, but he motioned for me to continue, so I did. I sought the spirit's identity, but drew a blank, which was a first for me. I only got the impression that it was so very old, and very sad. It smoldered with a fire long denied, but as I flew it came alive more and more. Soon it was happy again, if such a thing is possible. It took over my body and began to fly like it was its own, but for some reason the sensation wasn't frightening. Its presence was almost familiar, and strangely comforting as well. After several minutes of soaring through the air the spirit alighted on the roof, folding my wings.

"Gateway--I flew!" she cried through me. "After so long... so many years of confinement... I flew once again!"

Gateway, to my surprise, cracked a small, sad smile at the girl-within-my-mind's statement. He pushed the hair out of my face gently and I saw a tear glimmer in his eye as he turned away and resumed his meditating position. I felt his former student's spirit fade as he did so and was left with more of a mystery then I had started with.

The rest of the day was normal. At least, as normal as a first full day in a new school could be, anyway. The classes were a little slow for me, since I already knew most of the stuff, so I concentrated on drawing on my notepad. I began drawing little doodles of the Bio-Sphere's schematics, I was so bored. After four such periods of doodling it was lunchtime, and after that a half an hour break.

"How was your first day?" Hesper inquired as she walked up to me in the courtyard, where I was relaxing under a tree.

"It was actually kind of boring," I replied. "I'm used to work that's a little more... challenging."

"Really?" Hesper said. "Maybe you can explain it to me, then, because I can't get anything the Mrs. Lane says."

"All right," I agreed. "Um, I'm almost afraid to ask, but... where's Cheryl?"

Hesper looked startled. "You know, I haven't seen her since lunch," she replied. "Can't you do that thing with your mind to find her?"

"Nuh-uh," I said, shaking my head. "As a rule, I don't use my powers on a non-mutant unless they've agreed I can or need help. In Cheryl's case, I doubt this is either one of those times." Very true. Sometimes incidental thoughts would drift through my mind, but I had promised myself to respect the privacy of others as much as I could. Of course, with Legacy cranking my powers up as much as they could go, it wasn't easy, but I managed.

"Well, whatever she's up to, it's safe to assume it's bad," Hesper said.

"Probably," I agreed. I glanced at my watch. "I think time's up," I said. "What class do you have next?"

"English," Hesper grimaced. "You?"

"P.E.," I replied. "See you later."

'Physical Education' or P.E. wasn't that much of a challenge. We ran the mile that day, and, since I had been training with Generation X for several weeks, I had more stamina then most other girls. I ran the mile in about four minutes, give or take a few seconds, which pleased the teacher, Ms. Callahan.

"Very good, Dawn," she congratulated me. "That was an excellent score. Do you train?"

"Well, Xavier's had an... interesting training program," I shrugged. I went to the shower room turned on the water.

And THAT was the beginning of Cheryl's "practical jokes."

"Eeeeyyyiiii!" I cried as hot water scalded me. I don't mean just "hot" either, this was like lava flow temperature. I realized it was Cheryl's doing when I heard her laughing from the other end of the locker room. I narrowed my eyes, but, remembering Gateway's lessons, kept my temper. Instead of lashing out, I simply used Will's powers to cool the water down and continued my shower. Cheryl's laughter ceased abruptly as she realized what was going on.

"What are you DOING?" she asked, amazed.

"Oh, hello, Cheryl," I said. "I'm taking a shower, isn't it obvious?"

"But... the water..?"

"Oh, it was a little hot at first, but it cooled down." I finished up and grabbed a towel. "See you later."

As I turned the corner I heard the water go on again and then a scream. Cheryl had, apparently, tried to see if what I had said was true. Once I had finished with my shower there had been no reason to keep the heat down, so naturally the water was scalding again. I snickered to myself and got dressed, now alerted to Cheryl's plans. In fact, the next classes revealed even more of her pranks. First I discovered that my desk had been super glued shut. I supposed Cheryl had been expecting me to wrestle with it for several embarrassing minutes, but my telekinesis prevailed and it popped right open. Next, when I went to my locker, I discovered several pounds of sand would pour onto my feet when opened. Without a second thought I "blinked" it all away and took out my books for the next class, much to Cheryl, Vanessa, and Brenda's surprise. Then, in the last class for the day, I opened my desk to discover it crawling with worms. I was getting slightly annoyed at this point, so I closed my desk top and "blinked" the worms into the gruesome three-some's desks. I nearly laughed aloud when they opened THEIR desks and discovered the little squirming surprises. Vanessa turned green and Brenda asked to be excused, but Cheryl was made of sterner stuff. She raised her hand and said, "Mrs. Franks, Dawn put worms in my desk!"

"I did not!" I cried angrily, forgetting myself.

"Yes, you did! Look!" she opened the desk and revealed the little worms crawling over her school supplies and books.

"Prove it!" I retorted.

"Stop it, both of you!" Mrs. Franks commanded. "You're BOTH going to detention for disrupting class!" She looked at the desk-full of worms and went over to the intercom. "Will Mr. Gilbert come to room 137? And please, bring some disinfectants and a trash bag." She turned back to us. "Room 25, ladies," she said. "Mr. Sander will tell you what to do."

"This is all YOUR fault, you know," Cheryl hissed as we walked to the detention hall.

"Hey, YOU put the worms in MY desk, remember?" I said. "I was just... returning them."

Cheryl made a hissing sound as we reached room 25 and were greeted by a very tall man I assumed was Mr. Sander.

"What are you girls here for?" he inquired.

"Disrupting class," I sighed. Mr. Sander squinted at me, then looked at Cheryl. "Worms in the desk again, Miss Graymon?" he scowled. "Very well, come in, both of you. You know the drill, Cheryl. "I will not put worms in desks in my classmates' desks" one hundred times on clean sheets of notebook paper, turned into me by the end of the day. And Miss Embers, would you see me in my office?"

I gulped and followed Mr. Sander into his office, wondering what he wanted to see me about. He gestured to a chair, which I sat in, and he took a seat behind his desk.

"Now," he said, "I suppose you were wondering how I knew about the worm incident?"

"Well, kind of," I admitted.

"Oh, she plays that trick on everyone at one time or another," he assured me. "It's not just you. I'm a bit surprised none of the other teachers have caught on yet. How did she get YOU into this?"

"Well... I kind of gave them back to her," I said. Mr. Sander laughed. "That IS a new one," he said. "But that's not the reason I called you in here. Actually, there are two reasons. First, I saw you this morning."

"Pardon?" My heartbeat quickened as I wondered if he was talking about what I thought he was.

Mr. Sander smiled reassuringly. "There's no need to be frightened, Miss Embers," he told me. "I have a younger brother who also happens to be a mutant. I must say, flight is a much more useful talent then making things appear larger then they are."

"Uhhh..." I was as eloquent as always.

"It's all right. I am one of the few mutant tolerant people in this school, you don't have to be nervous around me. I simply wanted to tell you that next time you fly you should be more careful is all." He sorted through some papers and deftly changed topics. "Now, as for the second, I would like to know who you met on the roof this morning. I do not mind that you met him, but I feel obligated to ask why."

"Oh, um, that was a... kind of a friend of mine," I said, trying to get over the shock of his acceptance. "Well, more of a teacher. He... keeps to himself a lot, so the roof is pretty much the only place he'd meet me."

Mr. Sander nodded and said, "All right, just checking. You know how strange things can seem when you don't have the whole picture. You may return to your class now, Miss Embers." I got out of the chair and he said, "Oh, and don't worry, I won't tell anyone. While not everyone is prejudiced against mutants, I know it's unlikely that the whole school would accept you."

"Thank you, Mr. Sander," I said gratefully.

"Any time," he nodded. He turned back to his paperwork and I left the room, a little surprised but happy nonetheless.

Another week passed, and yet another, and still no real problems arose. Of course, Cheryl hadn't given up on trying to trick me, but I had managed to counter her each and every time. Some honorable mentions are when she spread syrup on my walls and sheets, the time she jammed my door with mortar (I don't even know where she could have found any) and when she poured a bunch of angry fire ants from the corner of the courtyard into my dresser drawer. Luckily, ants have minds (however small they may be) that can be coaxed, mortar is no match for telekinesis when properly used, and syrup can be pulled off as well. All in all, it had been an okay stay.

"So what do you think she'll try next?" Hesper inquired one day as we were eating dinner.

"Actually, I think Cheryl may have given up," I told her as I ate a spoonful of rice. "She hasn't tried anything for a few days."

"Think she wants a truce?"

"I hope so. I really don't feel like fighting over this anymore. I came here to relax, y'know. If I'd wanted to battle the forces of evil constantly I'd've stayed at the Academy instead of coming here."

As if on cue Cheryl walked up, looking sheepish. "Dawn, can I talk to you?" she inquired. "Later, I mean. In your room."

"Um, okay, Cheryl," I said, a bit surprised. "I'll be done in a second." Cheryl retreated to her own table, looking a little tired. I looked at Hesper and she said, "What do you think THAT was about?"

"I have no idea," I replied. "I'll see you later, Hesp."

"All right, Dawn," Hesper said as I got up to empty my plate. "Just be careful around her, all right?"

"It's all right," I assured her. "I can handle myself. And I think she really means it this time." At least, I hoped so.

TEASER: A truce, a visit, and an unexpected guest that heralds the beginning of the end...

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