Disclaimer: Arclight, Scalphunter, and the Leaper belong to Marvel. Chez Batroc was created by Falstaff. Dawn and Glenn are mine.

Author's Note: This is a direct sequel to "Closer," and it has some violence, innuendo, and a touch of language. I'm going to rate it R, just to be safe. Read at your own risk. Oh yeah, and this is Kaylee's fault. As usual. I guess this just goes to show that there *is* life after fic, however painful it may be...

Meta SC: Promise
by Tapestry

Ah, shower. Shower good. Shower friend.

Dawn stepped into the hot stream and reached for the shampoo. It was six AM, and she'd just gotten finished feeding and changing Skye. Now she was too awake to go back to sleep, and not awake enough to do anything serious. So she showered.

Lather, rinse, repeat... ow. Lather, rinse, clean the conditioner out of my eyes, repeat...

But she smiled through the soap, even so. It had been a long night, but a good one. It had been good to get matters out in the open, among other things.

She smirked slightly. Especially the other things.

Dawn finished her shower and toweled off, rubbing her long particolored hair vigorously. It had decided to forgo its usual bangs today, so it took her a few minutes to locate the part. She wrapped the towel around her head, slipped into her robe, and padded out of the bathroom. The hardwood floors were cold beneath her bare feet, but she barely noticed. She had warmer things on her mind.

Dawn slipped into her room and grinned. Glenn was sprawled across the bed, covers half-spilling onto the floor. He was snoring lightly, one arm resting on his bare chest, the other flung across the empty spot beside him. She walked over and poked him in the ribs.

"Up," she said. Glenn grunted and rolled over. Dawn rolled her eyes.

"Get up," she said. "I know it's early, but I just had to tend to the baby. And if *I* can get up at six in the morning, so you can you."

Glenn rolled over, cracked an eyelid--then snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her down onto the bed with him.

"I'm not getting up," he said, closing his eyes and kissing her on the forehead, "so come back to bed and let's call it even."

"I'm soaking wet," Dawn protested, pushing herself away. Then she reviewed her phrasing and cringed. "Make a pun on that and *die,* Glenn."

"Me? Never." He smiled gently and slipped his fingers under the towel that covered her head, pulling it away. Her blue and white hair spilled around her shoulders, damp and heavy from the shower. Dawn retaliated by tossing her head forward, letting the wet mass take Glenn full in the face. Glenn, whose eyes were still closed, yelped and sat up.

"Told you," Dawn snickered, pushing her hair back again. "Serves you right. Gimme the towel."

Glenn made a face, but did as he was told. Dawn draped the cloth around her shoulders and ruffled his hair with her hands. After a moment she sighed and sat back down on the edge of the bed, leaning back against his chest.

"I thought you wanted me to get up," he said, although he didn't sound all that plaintive. He circled his arms around her robed waist and exhaled slowly.

"Oh, I did. I just didn't want *me* to get up. I think I'm going to stay here. It's comfortable."

"Now I've been demoted from love slave to pillow?"

"Don't volunteer for the position of love slave if you don't mean it." She reached back and patted him on the head. "Ten to one Tapestry flips over this."

"Does it matter?"

"Not really, but it'd be nice to have a Writer who *wasn't* in a coma."

"Well, she's left us alone for years. She shouldn't be surprised."

"So basically you're saying she deserves what she gets."

"Exactly. And at any rate, we're happy." He paused, and Dawn could hear the unspoken question lingering in the air: Aren't we?

"Yes," she said, twisting around to plant a kiss on his cheek, "we are."

He hugged her closer and said nothing. Dawn stroked his bare arm with one hand, closing her eyes. She still felt uncertainty from him about last night. He'd known who he was with then, and so had felt free to let himself go. The question was, who was with him now? The friend, the fiance, or the wife?

Dawn shifted in his arms, turning to face him. For a moment she stroked his cheek absently, then kissed him soundly on the lips.

Definitely the wife.

"Don't tell me *you're* having second thoughts," Dawn said, pulling away. Glenn cleared his throat.

"You don't want to know what kind of thoughts I'm having right now," he said, smiling wryly. Dawn grinned.

"Oh, I think I can guess," she replied, nuzzling his cheek. Then she climbed off his lap and stretched.

"Hey..." Glenn began plaintively. Dawn flashed him a quick smile.

"I said I could guess," she informed him, tapping him on the nose. "Not that I would comply. Now get up. I've got to make breakfast."

Her companion grimaced. "You are a cruel, cruel woman, Dawn," he complained, sighing. Dawn nodded cheerfully, removing the towel from her shoulders and drying off her hair.

"Yep," she replied, moving towards the closet. "Now, get out. I've got to get dressed."

"Why? It's not like it's nothing I haven't seen before--"

"And it's nothing you'll ever see again if you don't get out, so move."

Glenn grumbled, but climbed out of bed. He took a moment to search for his absent jeans and shirt, which turned out to be buried under the sheets. "Are you making breakfast or am I?"

"Depends. Do you want an actual meal or cereal?"

"Okay, so it's me. Want me to make enough for two?"

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "Psychosomatically digesting food takes a lot of work," Dawn replied, "and we have a reservation at Chez Batroc tonight. Better not."

"Right." He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "See you in a bit, luv."

Dawn smiled gently. "You bet," she replied, stroking his cheek. "Maybe after we drop off Skye we can find an inventive way to kill time."

Glenn laughed, and blushed despite himself. Dawn smirked and pecked him on the cheek, finishing off with another hair-ruff.

"I'm leaving before you make your teasing any more hands on," he said, pushing away. "This isn't fair. Not fair at all."

Dawn snickered. "If it makes you feel any better, you can consider it a preview."

Glenn smiled wryly. "Oh, that's helping."

"Isn't it? Now shoo." He finally did so, leaving Dawn to get dressed. She smiled after him, stopped, tried to squash it, failed, and gave up.

Great, one night with him and I become a complete dip. I can't wait to see what the rest of my life is like...

And yet she was unable to shake the feeling of exhilaration, of happiness. Already the night's events had assumed an almost dream-like quality of surrealness, but she was comforted by the knowledge that there would definitely be a repeat performance. It hadn't just been the physical activity, it had been the emotional aspect as well; after so many months of fumbling, they had finally connected.

Dawn didn't think it had been solely due to the telepathy, although that had definitely been an aspect--those few precious moments of speech had revealed worlds more than a lifetime of mindlinks ever could. If you were mindlinked you eliminated uncertainty--to a point. The mind was cluttered with thousands of thoughts an instant, from subliminally noticing the temperature of the room to distinguishing what might be said from what should be said.

She had known she loved Glenn from almost the moment she had met him, albeit in a different way, but somehow she had never been able to express it verbally. The feeling had been there, of course--sometimes so close to the surface that her chest ached with the pressure of those unsaid words--but her nerve had failed her, shortly followed by her tongue. There was something horribly noncommital about never saying something as simple as "I love you" aloud. All the psychic rapports in the world wouldn't fix the pain of knowing your lover couldn't even commit themselves to the relationship by giving it verbal acknowledgment.

Words were never "just" words, she realized as she ran her hands through her damp hair. Words might mask the truth, but they were also a window to it. Saying things you felt--really felt--made them real, stripped away all pretense and ambiguity. That's what had been needed last night, and that was what had happened.

Dawn closed her eyes and hugged herself, feeling a bit lightheaded. Committed--that was the word she was looking for. She was committed now. There had been a kind of safety in not knowing, but now she knew there was an even greater safety in certainty. The mercurial effects of Subreality pulled at her still, but now she had something to cling to. With this new sense of purpose she was already finding it easier to control her continuity fluxes.

An anchor. He said he'd anchor me, if I needed him... and I think I do. I really do.

Of course, the deal was two-sided. For many years Dawn had been aware that Glenn, in some odd way, depended on her for emotional stability. She figured it had something to do with the loss of his parents, coupled with the classic problems that accompanied the switching of continents. Even though he hadn't needed to work he'd held down a few jobs, mostly in the area of moving and other types of physical labor. When Dawn had asked him why he'd just shrugged and said "I need something to do". Still, it didn't take her long to begin suspecting that he really did it for the companionship. Although generally a loner, Glenn got along well with people. He was quiet, polite, listened well, and tended not to argue much. These were traits that brought him far in the world of casual socialization, but few in-depth friendships. No one wanted to hear the problems of their confidant.

So we end up with a weird system of co-dependency, and not a lot of self-confidence, Dawn thought, pulling a shirt off its hanger. Come to think of it, this really didn't start off as a very healthy relationship.

The young mutant dressed slowly, keeping her thoughts quiet. Glenn didn't need to hear them. Not now that everything was finally going right.

Okay, so it didn't start out entirely healthy. But that doesn't mean it's not *becoming* healthy. We're helping each other...

Which was true. Dawn knew her self-confidence had gone up since she'd made friends with Glenn, and was fairly sure his had done the same. Besides, how could something that made them feel this good be dangerous? She was probably over-thinking things. Besides, they'd have plenty of time to work things out.

Well, probably.

Almost certainly.

Except our Writer's going to...


But this is Subreality. Things are completely different here. Aren't they?

Shaking her head, she reached out with her mind, brushing Glenn's consciousness with psychic fingers. She sensed his feeling of question-ness and sent him a soft smile.

:Everything's fine,: she reassured him as she felt him pause in the midst of readying a skillet for sausages. :I just felt like saying hi.:

:You said "hi" five minutes ago. You sure you're okay?:

:Don't fuss. I'm fine. Just making sure you're still gonna be there when I get down. That kind of thing.:

Glenn laughed silently. :Of course I will. Where am I going to go between now and then?:

Dawn sighed. :Promise?:

"I hope she wasn't too much trouble," Ember said, bouncing the happily burbling Skye against her hip. "I'm sorry you got stuck with her..."

"It's okay, we love watching her," Dawn grinned, shifting her grip on the diaper bag. "Really, she's no trouble. I used to babysit, so I know a good kid when I see one."

Her alterself pecked Skye on the forehead and mussed her downy brown hair. The baby giggled and grabbed her mother's nose as a thin thread of drool inching down her cheek. Ember smiled and dabbed it dry with the edge of her blankie.

"Well, I know you two were traveling," she continued. She seemed mildly embarrassed "I didn't want to be any trouble. I just needed a day off."

"We understand," Dawn said, and for a moment a silent understanding passed between the two. The two girls smiled the same smile at one another. True, the one was a little older and had more of a wry twist to the lips, but it was, in essence, the same. After all, what more could you expect from cross-dimensional doubles?

"Anyway, we'd better get going," Dawn said, transferring the diaper bag to Ember and curling an arm around Glenn's biceps. "We've got dinner reservations, and it would probably be a good idea to make sure we have something to wear."

"Mm hm," Ember said, her mouth giving an odd little quirk. For a moment there was another, somewhat more risque look between the two women, and Glenn began radiating embarrassment like a small sun.

:You know, it seems horrendously unfair that you should sleep with someone before me,: Ember sent, flicking a sly glance towards Glenn. She nuzzled Skye with her nose. :You know, me being the mother and all that.:

:Hey, you had your chance,: Dawn grinned, pulling closer to Glenn. :I think Scrambler's still pining for you.:

Ember covered her face with one hand. :Oh God, don't remind me. And he's the *good* one. I found shurikens in my doorframe the other day, and I know Arclight's been trying to track me down. I'm going to go stay with Mr. Cassidy tonight until the SCPD can find them--I have a restraining order, and they're not honoring it.:

:Oh, geez...:

"Can you two speak aloud, please?" Glenn interjected. "It makes me uncomfortable when I can't hear what you're talking about.:

"Sorry," Dawn apologized, shaking her head. "Girl talk, y'know. We'll try not to do it again."

"Actually, I had better get moving," Ember said, looking down at Skye. "My ride'll be here in an hour, and I need to get some things together." She grinned. "You two have a nice day now."

"Oh, we will," Dawn replied, much to Glenn's chagrin. She patted him on the head and smiled brightly at Ember. "Isn't he cute?"

"Yeah," her double smirked. "It almost makes me wish I had one."

"That's it, I'm going home," Glenn said, stepping back. "If I want to be abused I'll go and tell Jubilee about last night. Good bye."

:You'd better go get him,: Ember sent as Glenn rose into the air and took off. :Sensitive, isn't he?:

:You have no idea,: Dawn replied. She paused. :That wasn't supposed to be a joke, by the way.:

:I didn't think so.: Ember made shoo-ing motions towards the younger version of herself. :Go chase your man. I'll be fine.:

:Right. I'll see you later.: Dawn spread her wings and rose after him. Damn, overstepped myself. Again. Way to screw up a relationship on the first day, Dawn.

:Okay,: she sent as she caught up to Glenn, eyes fixed resolutely on the landscape below them, :what did I do?: Glenn hadn't slowed down for her. She would have been able to tell he was angry even if she hadn't been psychically linked to him.

:I don't like it when you talk about me like that,: he replied at last. :I was raised to think some things are private affairs. I would prefer our personal life not come up in everyday conversation.:

"Whoa, hang on there," Dawn said as she finally paced him. "Ember and I were teasing a little, yeah, but mostly each other. No details came up. They aren't her business."

Glenn sighed. "You say that, but... it just seemed different from the outside, all right? I can't tell when you both go telepathic, and, as you always remind me, you're like sisters. I just sort of assumed..."

"Don't assume," Dawn interrupted. "That's how you screwed up last time, remember? Oh, okay, it was also my fault for lying to you, but I was stupid. Hell, I was thirteen and dying, but it still took two people to fight."

Glenn stopped flying. Dawn, unable to hover, had to be content to circle him while he organized his thoughts.

Yeah, this definitely looks like it's going to be our first official fight as a couple.

Glenn exhaled shakily, and Dawn tensed.

"We do not..." he finally forced through gritted teeth, "want to get into that argument again. You lied. I was angry. We can pick that scab another day."

"Agreed," Dawn replied, relieved. "But we'd better finish up picking this one, because I don't think either of us is going to enjoy dinner much if we're not talking to one another."

"Right." He didn't look happy about it, though. Dawn didn't blame him.

"Look, I'm sorry I joked with Ember," she said at last. "If it bothers you that much, I'll stop. It's just... she's me, you know? It's hard to keep things from her. If it helps, the conversation wasn't totally about you."

"That helps... a little, I guess," Glenn sighed. "No more talking about me as if I'm a piece of meat though, understand? My last girl was like that, and I don't want to have that problem with you."

"I promise," she grinned. "And no more stupid mind games, either, okay? On my part, I mean. I suck at them, and they just make everyone miserable in the meantime. For empaths, what goes around really *is* what comes around."

"I appreciate it," Glenn said, finally cracking a wry smile. "And I'll try not to assume."

"Good. Let's see how this works out, then." Dawn flitted closer and kissed him hard. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and retracted her wings.

"Now that we've made up," she said, batting her eyes, "can you carry me home?"

Glenn rolled his eyes. "Oh no, I'm not being used. Not at all."

"Don't worry," Dawn said, half-teasing as she snuggling against his chest, "you know I can go on by myself if you can't make it."

"Yeah," Glenn replied, kissing her softly on the forehead, "I know."

"Is that the Leaper?"

"Well, it *is* his restaurant."

"Yeah, but... a purple and orange tux?"

"They're contrasting colors. It works."

"Hey, the artist thing is really starting to pay off. You actually sound like you know what you're talking about." Dawn reached across the table and mussed his hair.

"Actually, I learned that one in primary school," Glenn smiled wanly as he prodded his chicken. At least, he assumed there was chicken beneath the sauce and mushrooms. Somewhere. He glanced up. "How's your meal?"

"Okay, I guess," she replied, eyeing her steak. "But probably not suitable for what they're charging us. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers."

Dawn did have to give Chez Batroc credit--the atmosphere was definitely romantic. Maybe a little too romantic. The lights were so low they could barely see one another, and Glenn had almost lit his menu on fire while straining to read the curling print by the light of the single candle. A violinist was playing in one corner, sounding lost and alone while the pianist and flutist who normally accompanied him took a break. There was red wine in their glasses, but neither of them were touching it. Glenn had no alcohol tolerance, and Dawn didn't like the taste. They drank water.

"Who recommended this place?" Glenn asked, finally braving the entree and cutting off a small piece from the chicken-shaped mound. He tasted it like a whip-wielding archaeologist sipping from the Holy Grail.

"Verney, actually," she answered, and picked up the piece of bread that had been sitting by her elbow for the past fifteen minutes. She bit into it, and had to work on it for a while before the crust would disintegrate enough to allow her to swallow. "Maybe it's an Algerian thing. Still, it's not that bad, and we needed the night out."

To dress up, if nothing else, she added mentally. She was wearing a tight black dress that flared below the waist, and Glenn was in a suit. Dawn hadn't even known he *had* a suit. She'd thought his wardrobe consisted solely of t-shirts and turtlenecks. She'd never even seen him wear a sweater, for God's sake.

Still, she had to admit that they both cleaned up well. She'd forced herself to spend more than five seconds combing out her hair and had managed to twist it into something resembling a coif, and Glenn had slicked back his normally shaggy hair. Neither of their unruly bangs had withstood the wrath of viciously applied hair spray.

And to think, I still refuse to wear heels because they're too "girly".

"Anyway," Dawn said, finishing her bread, "are you at least happy we're back among the land of the living? No pun intended."

"Yes," Glenn replied, fishing around for one of the stray mushrooms. "You worry me when you get introspective and antisocial. I'm the only one allowed to do that."

"You wish, Angst Boy," Dawn snorted. "You know, a lot of us used to wonder how you and Jono could be on the same team without creating some sort of rift in reality."

"I'm not *that* bad!"

"Are too. You have 'moods.'"

"Then I blame you. You're the only thing that gives me angst these days."

"Hey, thanks. Now I feel all special."

"Don't mention it."

"Right, well, we'd better finish dinner. The waiter is starting to give us dirty lo--hey!"

"Excuse *me*."

Dawn pulled her elbow out of her dinner and turned, frowning. Someone had just bumped into her back. Hard. Being thus distracted, she failed to notice the color draining from Glenn's face.

"Okay, but next time watch where... you're..." Dawn trailed off as her eyes found the offending party.

It was Arclight. And she didn't look sorry at all.

"You're one tough little bitch to track down, you know that?" Arclight said, her voice low and even. She was wearing a silk shirt, black slacks, and a cold smile. Dawn swallowed.

"Sorry, I think you've mistaken me for someone else," she said, in tones that were only slightly choked. "I'm not Emb--"

"Oh, we don't care," Arclight said. "One of you is as good as the other after what we've been through." Dawn heard the rustle of cloth against the table. There, with his hands clasped firmly on Glenn's shoulders, was Scalphunter. He was wearing a slightly rumpled suit and, for the first time in recent memory, had nicely combed hair.

It suddenly occurred to her that Arclight and Scalphunter had been on a date.

"Er," she said, and for a moment she had to fight the suicidal urge to laugh. Her problem was solved by a glint of silver from the vicinity of Glenn's neck.

"Now," Arclight said calmly, "we're going to go outside, and if you try anything inconsiderate, like signaling for help, your limey boytoy gets it. Understood?"


"Good. Now get up slowly, pay for dinner, and we'll settle this outside."

"Why not here?"

"Because Batroc knows where we live, and he'll bill us. Now pay."

"Glenn has the money."

"Fine. Scalphunter, ease up. But only just."

Silently, Glenn withdrew his wallet and payed out the approximate amount. His eyes met Dawn's, and she shook her head slightly. There was nothing they could do while they held a knife to his throat, and even now Dawn was loath to bring other people into their own difficulties. They would solve this themselves.

But if this pair is from Fading Embers they're well-trained, and right now I don't have a lot of raw power. Damn it, I'm not a brawler, and Glenn isn't invulnerable. They're taking us outside to execute us.

Slowly, the two of them stood up. Scalphunter took his hands away from Glenn's neck, but moved them down to the vicinity of his back. Another flash confirmed it; Glenn's jugular was safe, but not his kidneys.

"Now go explain to the maitre'd that something's come up, and you're leaving," Arclight said, giving Dawn a not-so-gentle shove. "And remember, no signaling, or lover-boy's healing factor gets put to the test."

The four of them left the restaurant, Scalphunter stopping to reclaim his weapons from the hatcheck girl. Apparently Batroc had some stringent house-rules for known felons.

It was just after ten, and the streets were dark. Here on the outskirts of Subreality City the streetlights were fewer, save for the clusters around a trendy club or out of the way restaurant. Chez Batroc was, fortunately, popular enough that people would travel out of their way to patronize it, but that did not bode well for Dawn and Glenn. Although it meant that there would be plenty of people to alert to the disturbance, it also meant that the Subreality PD would have some trouble reaching them in time.

"Okay, we're out," Dawn said as the Marauders shoved them into the middle of the street. "What do you want?" As she talked she reached out with her mind, touching the psi-sensitives in the area, trying to alert them to the situation...

"Don't even think about it."

Arclight's blow caught her across the face, sending her sprawling across the pavement and splintering her concentration.

"Are you okay?" Glenn asked, kneeling beside her. Dawn rubbed her reddening cheek and nodded silently. Her friend's lips compressed in a tight line.

"Marauders or not," he said quietly, not turning from Dawn's side, "do that again and I'll kill you, understand?"

Arclight laughed. It was a hoarse, mocking sound, and it carried eerily in the darkness. A ways down the street Dawn could hear the muted, feverish beat of hard rock emanating from a club. She realized it would help drown out their screams.

"You can try, little boy," Arclight said, and ripped off her blouse. Beneath it glimmered her silver body armor. With a grunt Scalphunter did the same, revealing his own uniform.

"Don't take too long, Arc," he said, shouldering his gun. "Ember's got the SCPD lookin' for us, and I don't want to spend another night in prison. Have your fun, but do it quick."

"No," she smiled, and stretched out a hand. "I want to enjoy this. Knife."

With a sigh, Scalphunter tossed her a wicked-looking hunting knife. She caught it without looking, and began twisting it until it caught the light just so. She grinned nastily.

Okay, I've had it, Dawn thought. She closed her eyes and hurled as much psionic energy at the two assassins as she could muster. She was rewarded with two satisfying grunts, but--

A strong hand grasped her forearm, hard enough to bruise. Dawn looked up, eyes wide with disbelief.

"That... no, that should have laid you out..." Dawn stammered, struggling vainly. Arclight jerked her closer.

"Very... nice," Arclight hissed, and the young mutant could see the sweat that beaded her forehead. "That was nasty. But we've got shielding, remember?"

"Shield this."

Arclight turned her head just in time to see Glenn's fist speeding towards her face. The impact threw her back, forcing her to release Dawn's arm. Dawn lurched to her feet and stumbled backwards, extending her wings and thinking, If we can get in the air we can escape.

She sent a wild, all-channels distress call to whoever was in range, figuring that it should be enough to get the police there.

:Glenn, come on!: she sent, leaping into the air. :She's down! Let's get out of here!:

He gave Arclight one last look, then nodded and began to follow Dawn. But Arclight, who turned out to be much tougher than anticipated, had other ideas.

"Oh, no... you don't," she grated, spitting blood and teeth. She held out one hand, palm flat, and brought down her fist.

There was a small sonic boom, and Dawn felt her left wing shatter. She screamed and fell, unable to remain aloft, and something in her right leg cracked as she hit the ground. For a moment bloody feathers rained around her like macabre snow.

"Dawn!" Glenn cried, still in the air. Dawn looked up and tried to smile around her tears.

"I'm uh-okay... I can fix this..." she sobbed, and tried to get up. Her leg shrieked with pain and rebelled, crumpling out from under her. She landed heavily on her forearms and tried desperately not to black out.

"That's enough, Arc," Scalphunter said, hefting his rifle, "this ain't fun anymore. Come on, I hear sirens."

"One more," Arclight replied, and began to line up another shockwave.

That was enough for Glenn. With an inarticulate cry of rage he slammed into her with his shoulder, knocking her all the way to the curb, and through her haze of pain Dawn could hear her skull crack against the pavement. But even that wasn't enough; Glenn raised his fist for a final punch--

The spray of bullets hit him in the chest, dead-center. For a few snail-slow instants his body jerked grotesquely, and then time resumed and he slumped backwards, crimson staining his chest and abdomen. Blood was everywhere. And Glenn was dead.

No! Not... not again! NOT AGAIN!

A sob caught in Dawn's throat, then another. And another. She tried to scramble towards him to take him in her arms and force the life back into him, but a metal-sheathed foot across her path stopped her. Slowly, very slowly, she looked up.

"That," Scalphunter said, "wasn't a smart move for your friend. Arc's gonna be a while recovering, and I'm thinkin' maybe I'll take it out of your hide. After all, it's what she woulda wanted."

Suddenly Dawn's tears stopped, and she found herself cold, quiet, and utterly unafraid of the man standing before her. She began to laugh. It was a high, hysterical laugh, and it actually made Scalphunter flinch. But it wasn't nearly as frightening as her next words.

:I think you had better think again.:

Pain, she thought. That was the thing. Gather all the pain, all the loss, and throw it at him as hard as you can. And that was what she did.

His shields disintegrated in the wake of her assault, leaving his mind naked and exposed to her attack. He fought for a moment, like a butterfly caught in a hurricane, and then...

...was torn...


When the SCPD found them five minutes later Dawn was curled around Glenn's bloody corpse, crying like a child, and Scalphunter still hadn't stopped screaming.

Six hours later Dawn sat on a stool next to Glenn's cold body, still wrapped in the warm blanket some kind nurse had given her. She'd managed to reconstruct her left wing virtually from scratch hours ago and was almost done with the compound fracture in her right leg. The effort was exhausting, but it gave her something to do.

Every so often she would stroke the corpse's hair, or touch its cheek. She was having a hard time thinking of it as Glenn. Glenn had never been so still.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And another. She had to fight the panic attack. The doctor had offered her sedatives, but Dawn had refused them. She didn't think they would work anyway.

Someone had told her Arclight would recover. No one was sure about Scalphunter. At the moment she couldn't really bring herself to care. The police were calling it self-defense, which Dawn had thought was not only a bit obvious but also poor solace, given the circumstances.

Another someone had tried to consol her, saying that her Writer would soon put things right. Dawn had just looked at him with empty eyes and informed him that they hadn't seen their Writer in over a year, and good luck finding her.

But still she waited. She had to have faith.

Not in Writers. Not in fairness, or even love. Just faith in Glenn.

She looked at the body. It had been cleaned, stripped, and covered with a sheet. She had refused to let them take it to the morgue. This was a vigil, she had said. Give her until sunrise.

She pulled the sheet back a little and lay her head against his cold chest. The scent of disinfectant and hospital soap was strong; she couldn't smell any of Glenn beneath it.

For a very long time she lay there, eyes closed. The silence was deafening.

And then...

It was soft at first, and very slow. Dawn tensed and listened harder--yes, there it was.

A heartbeat.

She pulled herself up and balanced on the palms of her hands against the edge of the metal examining table. As she watched Glenn's body tensed and inhaled sharply. He began to breathe.

With painstaking slowness Glenn forced himself into a sitting position, face contorted with the effort. The sheet fell further, revealing angry red scar tissue where before there had been vicious craters from Scalphunter's attack. He was healing.

"Hey there," Dawn whispered, and Glenn's eyes swivelled to meet hers. He was dazed and exhausted, but alive.

"Where..?" he croaked, and winced at the rasp in his voice. Dawn ruffled his hair with her fingers.

"The hospital," she replied. "They cleaned you up a little. I'm okay, too."

"You... didn't leave," he said, reaching up to touch her face with one shaking hand.

"No," she said, shaking her head, "I didn't." She exhaled shakily. "I almost did, but I thought, he's an External, isn't he? And they didn't remove your head. And as long as they didn't remove your head, you would come back to me..."

"That's sweet and... slightly morbid," Glenn chuckled weakly, and Dawn noticed that he was trembling with exertion. She put a hand against his forehead and gently pushed him down onto the table.

"Get some rest," she said. "I'll be here when you wake up."

"Promise?" Glenn smiled wryly. Dawn laughed softly, and wiped away the tears that threatened to overflow.

"I promise," she said, and kissed him.

Forever and always, I promise.


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