Ties Never Binding 18/?

Disclaimer: Shrive, Dawn, Karen, Glenn, and *sort of* Verney are my own creations. Everyone else is probably Marvel's.

Author's Note: Man, I have *got* to focus on writing a little more! (Okay, so I'm kinda torn between fanfic and a comic-book-esque round robin somewhere else, but still. ;) This chapter may also be a little weird--the last bit was written around 1 in the morning and I'm feeling just a liiiiitle bit strange. I've also given up trying to find names for each of these chapters. I mean, why bother? (Well, I'm lazy, too, but hey, at least I'm writing again! :)Oh, yeah--and this is actually getting *sort of* close to a finish! Just two more major events (the first of which starts next chapter) and the scene will be set for X-Strike! Yay.

//He gasped hoarsely through his respirator, heart pounding, head throbbing, and the old sickening feeling building up in the pit of his stomach. He'd left it too long again, and this time he had no supplement to satiate the hunger. He stumbled and fell to his knees, wheezing, and clenched his fists so hard he slashed his own palms open with his talon-like fingers. The landscape became hazy and indistinct as a red film crept across his field of vision, bile rising in his throat...


The voice was faint, muffled, as if struggling through bolts of wool. Verney raised his head with great effort and discovered Dawn standing before him, blue eyes round with fear and concern.

"Verney--your supplement..?"

He let out a hacking cough and shook his head, which only succeeded in making him even dizzier. "None... left..." he murmured, the waves of hot and cold washing over him in succession, evoking violent shivers.

Dawn hesitated, and his vision began to gray at the edges. He could feel Them pulling at him, straining to drag him back into Their Hell...

And suddenly a thin, pale arm, sleeve rolled up to the elbow, was thrust before his face.

"Feed on me," she demanded, grabbing a limp arm and placing it atop her own. "This is my fault--feed on me, just enough to last you until we can get more of your supplement..."

"Can... cannot..." he protested weakly, striving to push her away. He didn't want to feed on anyone, especially not *her*... not the one he had enslaved and maimed, not the one who had already been through so much...

But she felt her mind encompassing his own, wrapping itself around his psyche ever so gently, firmly grabbing ahold of it, and initiating the feeding process herself. She held his hand firmly against her skin as the tiny orifice on his palm fed greedily, her face contorted with pain. Yet she did not pull away, and Verney felt new strength surging through him...

And her flavor... it was as sweet as he remembered it to be. Not as sweet as the child Yvette, but sweeter than most, and so invigorating...

And it was Dawn, the last person he had ever supped upon, who was feeding him voluntarily. Not under duress, not because of a brutal genetic imperative, but of her own free will.

He was shaking now--shaking with violent, wracking sobs even as he grew stronger. A friend--she was his *friend*, and she was saving his life and sanity.

I've never had a friend before...

"Shh..." Dawn murmured, holding him close as he crumpled weakly, releasing his hand. "Shhhh. It's all right now. You'll be fine, Vern... you'll be fine..."//

Verney snapped awake. He blinked dumbly for a few moments, trying to place his location. He was somewhere pitch black, cold...

The lighthouse. I remember now.

He'd been there for days, how many exactly he had lost count. He'd been having dreams--fevered, impossible dreams--sometimes memories, sometimes nightmares. He had brought plenty of the genetic supplement with him (he always made sure to have at least a dozen of the little vials sequestered somewhere in his robe) so had not been suffering much, but neither had he been very comfortable.

He pulled himself to his knees, the gravel and bits of mortar carpeting the floor digging into the heels of his hands. The metal respirator squealed in protest as it skidded across the hard, cold floor, but Verney was used to that by now. The air that filled his lungs smelled stale--recycled. He fervently wished he could take the accursed thing off, if only for a moment...

But suddenly the dream came back to him, freezing him in place. He had dreamed about... about Dawn? Strange, that had never happened before--about Monet and her teammates, yes, but never Dawn. He hadn't known her long enough, for one thing. But even so, there was a link--thin, tenuous, and gossamer fragile, but there nonetheless. Her willpower, though it shamed him to admit it, had been stronger than his own; Dawn had broken the link to him, and through him to D'Spayre, so controlling her mind was no longer an option. However, he retained a peripheral awareness of her location, and her emotional state--and at present she was *not* happy.

He wondered if this had anything to do with the dream--or vice versa, for that matter. He rarely dreamt of things like that, unless...

Unless it wasn't a dream.

Verney knew he was prone to flash forwards--precognitive episodes that occurred only while he dreamed. He wasn't quite sure where the talent originated--perhaps it had been that little precog five years back--but he *did* know he had about a one in a two-hundred and eighty-three chance of having one each night. Rare as they were, they were almost always accurately depicted an event in the immediate future.

When they *were* flash forwards, of course. There was a greater chance that the dream had been just that--a dream. No reason to get excited about it...

But--there had been a very real sense of danger attached to the scene. Somehow, even through the hazy memory of the dream, Verney was absolutely certain of it. Danger for Dawn, her friends, and himself.

And damned if he wasn't going to give it his all to put a stop to it--before it started.

"She *what*?!" I yelped, staring into Kitty's tired face via the holo-link to Muir Island.

"Karen hijacked the Runner," Kitty replied, rubbing her eyes wearily. "She also scrambled the locks, security systems, and belted Lockheed into the wall on her way out. I've been up all night trying to get the computers back online, but she did something to the Runner's systems that have made it untraceable, and she certainly isn't answering the phone."

What have I done? I wondered as I slumped back into the chair, massaging my temples. The only reason I'd had Verney drag Karen and Shrive back to Muir with us was because Karen had been suffering--and now that she was "better" it appeared her true colors were showing. Bright, Dawn. Real bright.

I shifted uncomfortably--the vinyl chair protested with an annoying squeak, which I ignored. "Any way I can help?" I asked, feeling excruciatingly guilty. Kitty shook her head, her just-past-shoulder-length brown hair bouncing a little at the action.

"Not that we can see," Kitty replied. "Just thought you'd like to know, that's all. Kurt's still screwing around with that pseudo-Cerebro, but he's no electronics whiz. And besides, we're not even sure we'd be able to *find* her--something about Karen seems to disrupt machinery. Moira could barely get her vital signs when she was in the Med Lab, let alone her core genetic makeup." Kitty stroked a snoozing Lockheed, who was draped across her lap. The poor dragon had a huge bandage wrapped around his tiny horns and shoulder-blades--apparently Karen hadn't been overly gentle with the little guy.

"Damn damn damn," I muttered, frustrated. This really sucked--I try to do a good deed, and the recipient goes and steals a jet. That *had* to be some kind of record for stupidity.

And yet... Shrive had seemed seriously concerned, and presumably he'd known her for quite a while. Come to think of it, if she and Shrive had been so close, then why had she left him behind?

"Anyone asked Shrive about this yet?" I inquired in a fit of inspiration.

"We tried," Kitty sighed, tickling Lockheed's belly. "He just sat there looking morose. Pete even tried to bribe him with liquor..."

I raised an eyebrow. "You *must* be desperate. Pete doesn't usually offer his stash to anyone, does he..?"

"Nuh-uh," Kitty agreed. "Well... sometimes to me, but he knows I don't drink more than a glass at a time. That doesn't make much of a dent in his stock. But still..."

"I'll come and talk to Shrive," I volunteered. "I've got a feeling this is something I should be doing... and heck, *I* brought them to Muir. It's my fault..."

Kitty shook her head. "No, it's not, and you know it. But... would you come and try to talk to him anyway? Brian's getting a little neurotic about his plane, and it's contagious."

"Sure thing," I nodded. "It's Saturday, so I don't think anyone is going to mind..."

I logged off and headed to my room, then collapsed onto the bed. The rooms were remarkably similar to those at the Academy, and I wondered if they had some sort of machine that spit out furniture as well. It would make since, seeing as they broke so much of it...

But my mind was wandering again, and not in the direction I wanted it to go. Karen was missing, Shrive wasn't talking, and I was still getting these odd urges to head south. I'd made the mistake of telling Jubilee about it earlier--she'd made a smart-aleck crack about migrating, which, given the circumstances, had *not* made me feel any better. Bad enough Angelo had started making jokes about Rogue and I going to the same hairdresser, I didn't need this as well!

Well, no time to worry about that now. I needed to go pay Shrive a little "visit." ...And maybe wring his neck while I was at it, I hadn't decided yet.

I closed my eyes and all but threw my astral self onto Muir. I "arrived" just above the complex, drifting just over the weathered roof. I was not a happy camper. Shrive wasn't a *bad* man, and I really did believe he hadn't intended any malice when he and Karen had arrived, but I decided that enough was enough. Either he gave me a straight answer *now* or I was going to forego compassion for a little excessive violence.

Amazing. The man had annoyed me already and I hadn't even seen him yet.

Well, I had cause. I was tired, my head was aching just enough to make me irritable, and I missed Glenn.

I missed him...

I clenched my fists and straightened up. Not the time. This was *not* the time. I wanted to find Shrive and get this over with before I worked myself up anymore. This being the case, I did a quick scan of the immediate area and located Shrive sulking in his room. Setting my jaw, I shifted my astral form right into his room, directly in front of him. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, face cradled in his hands. Wake up time, dude.

:Shrive,: I sent coldly, causing his head to jerk up. His green eyes were encircled with black, and his face very, very pale, but I didn't allow myself to back down.

:Are you happy?: I continued, narrowing my eyes. :Your "friend" stole a jet and slammed Lockheed headfirst into a wall.:

"Dawn, I don't need this right now--" he began, recovering from his initial surprise at seeing me manifest before his very eyes.

:No, *I* don't need this right now!: I interrupted sharply, fixing an accusing finger on him. :Verney risked getting stuck Between escorting you two here, and *I* all but lost any credibility I managed to scrape together by assuring Mr. Cassidy and Dr. MacTaggert that you two could be trusted! I think you owe me an explanation, mister!:

"I didn't know she'd do *this*!" Shrive protested, shaking his head violently. "I knew she was unstable, but she's never done *anything* like this before!"

I blinked. :"Unstable?": I asked, anger slowly evaporating into confusion.

Shrive shook his head and made a hopeless gesture with one hand. "She... well, psychologically she was always a little off, I thought. Then, after she got sick, her mood changed drastically--it got to like it was when you met her. Karen wasn't timid before. She was about as far from timid as you can get, as a matter of fact. And when she went through that... that metamorphosis... well, it *is* closer to her temperament, but she was *never* cruel. She never would've thrown Lockheed into the wall, and never would've stolen the Runner without some word of explanation."

I frowned. This sounded uncomfortably like some kind of mind control...

:Shrive...: I sent hesitantly. :Ah... just *how* did Karen become infected or... or whatever?:

"You mean how did her powers get out of control?" he said. "I'm... not really sure. I..." he grimaced and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. "I couldn't tell you. Not really. But it happened gradually, over the space of about two months. She was fighting it all the way... 'til the end, anyway."

I reflected upon this for a moment, wondering how far I could push him. I couldn't read his mind, but I could sense when he told the truth. And, right now, he was. I sighed and crossed my legs Indian-style, hovering about three feet off the ground as I did so.

:Do you have *any* idea where she could've gone?: I inquired, brushing the "hair" from my eyes. :Did she say *anything* to you?:

"Not a word," he told me, biting his lip. "She... doesn't have time for me anymore, I suppose. Not that I blame her--what could *I* do for her? She doesn't care what other people are thinking, she makes her *own* future, and as a technomorph she never needs to be healed..."

I did a double take at the last. :"Healed"?:

Shrive look chagrinned. "Damn it, I slipped--"

:Gee, ya think?!: I exclaimed sarcastically. :Shrive, are you a healer, too?!:

He made a small noise indicating *extreme* discomfort. I ignored it.

:You had better answer me, or trauma or no I *will* fry your brain. I've had more than enough bull from you and Karen. I want answers. As in NOW.:

Shrive winced at the "volume" of my psi-speak and finally surrendered. "All right... yes, I'm a healer. But I can only repair hurts that the body sees as "unnatural," such as injuries inflicted by others. Things like cancer and the Legacy Virus, where the body itself is working against the person... no. And the same held true for when Karry's technomorhposis went haywire."

I folded my arms across my chest and stared at him steadily. :Anything else you'd like to tell me?: I asked. :Any other little powers I should know about?:

He actually looked relieved for once. "Mercifully, no," he assured me with a wry half-smile.

I snorted. :What on earth possessed you to keep *that* secret?: I demanded. :Surely me knowing *that* doesn't endanger anyone!:

Shrive blinked, and suddenly his eyes went glassy. "I was told... not to volunteer... information," he said woodenly. I felt my mouth falling open at his sudden change of expression and tone. Something was very, *very* wrong here.

And then his eyes snapped back into focus, and he looked at me curiously. "Sorry?" he said.

:Sorry what?: I said automatically, blinking and trying to figure out just what had happened.

"Were you saying something?"

:Uh. No, I guess not.: I felt like my brain had been broadsided by a semi. The rug had been pulled out from under my equilibrium, and at the moment getting Shrive to answer the question suddenly seemed the least of my problems. What had caused Shrive to abruptly "blank out" when I had probed too deeply? I was willing to bet that it wasn't anything natural.

:Shrive... uh, have you ever... um...: I struggled to find a way of asking what I wanted to without really giving it away, but couldn't.

:Ah, have you ever had psionic surgery or something?: Well, so much for subtlety. Way to go, Dawn.

There was a flash in his eyes, and he averted his face quickly. I bit my lip. There *was* something to that effect going on, and Shrive did *not* want to talk about it.

Well, tough. I was at the end of my rope as it was, and I was going to pry it out of him no matter *how* much he protested. I wasn't ruthless by nature, buuuuut...

:Shrive, talk to me,: I said persistently, uncrossing my legs and "standing" once more. :If you or Karen are in danger you *know* you need to tell someone what's going on. What happened to you?:

"It..." He grimaced and swallowed heavily. "It wasn't my choice..."

:What wasn't your choice?:

"The... what was done to me." I could see him sweating. Either this was a very delicate subject, or he was really straining to get the answers out. I clenched my fists and tried to stifle my natural reaction, which was to lay off *immediately*. We *needed* this information, which meant I had to keep pushing... no matter *how* horrible I felt about it.

:What *was* done to you?: I coaxed, my tone much softer now. He was *trying* now, not fighting. Now he *wanted* to give information, but something was holding him back. I may not be able to stop, but at least I could go easier on him, encourage him somewhat.

"I... have to have something to do," he told me, the color now completely leeched from his face. His hands were shaking at his sides--he was really hurting. But he kept going.

"I've got to have a purpose... or I'm helpless," he continued. "Like this. I'm no use to anyone without a purpose..."

Now it was *definitely* not normal.

:You--have to have orders, is that what you're saying?: I asked, feeling sick to my stomach. Wasn't that what they'd done on that island... what was it called? Oh, yeah. Genosha.

"Yeah... yeah, I guess I am," he replied, running a nervous hand through his hair. "Sometimes... sometimes I can give *myself* orders, like taking care of Karen... but now she doesn't need me, and..."

:And you don't know what to do?: I concluded. :I... I see.:

Moira. I needed to tell Moira. Shrive needed *help*--serious help. There was truth here--truth, and self-loathing, and a touch of fear--and he desperately needed treatment. I didn't know what *kind* of treatment, but surely there was *something*...

"I can't just *sit* here..." Shrive said, shaking his head. "I've got to--to *do* something. But I don't know *what*..."

:What, like find Karen?: I suggested vaguely. I tried to think of how to broach the subject of treatment for Shrive to Moira...

"Yes!" Shrive exclaimed with such sudden vehemence I nearly had a heart attack. I stared at him stupidly as he all but jumped off his bed in excitement.

"Thank you for that," he said, and half-closed his eyes. I "saw" psionic energy flaring in a stuttering corona about his head-- apparently he wasn't one to waste any time.

:But--but that wasn't an order, it was a suggestion!: I protested weakly, all thought of helping Shrive temporarily lost.

"I said I could 'order' myself sometimes, didn't I?" he inquired calmly. Now that he had something to focus on he was smooth, business-like--purposeful. "Ordering myself is not the problem. I merely lack the ability to think of such orders myself."

:Oh,: I sent lamely, wondering just what I'd done now.

"I can't get a fix on her exactly," Shrive told me after a moment, "but then, I don't have a great range. I can feel her, though..." he turned towards me; his eyes sparkled excitedly like that of a child with a new toy. "Help me?"


It was unreal how quickly his mood had changed, how fast he'd gone from melancholy to energized. *No one* changed moods this quickly. Well, at least not without large amounts of chocolate handy...

"Will you?" he queried again. He had a pleading look in his eye...

:I--I guess,: I agreed at last. By now I was so completely turned around I had almost forgotten that I'd originally come in here ready to murder the man. Besides, what could it hurt to humor him a little? And Karen *did* need to be found...

Without any further prompting, I joined my powers with Shrive's as we had done before. I wasn't getting anything from the link in the way of stray thoughts, but I could feel him using the power to search for his friend. I felt my reserves being emptied slowly and reminded myself to "sleep" a little later--I didn't want to experience another flux in my psychic form again like I had after battling Mountjoy. *That* had been terrifying...

I hadn't expected Shrive to find anything. Imagine my surprise when that vague feeling that had been urging me to go south-west suddenly sharpened and intensified twenty-fold.

:Aiiiiieeee!: I yelped as the sudden, uncontrollable urge--no, *need*--to go to the now-pin-pointed location throbbed through my mind. :ShriveletmegoNOW!:

Shrive, who was almost as shocked as I, did so immediately. I reeled backwards, half going through the wall, and struggled to contain the sudden new twist to my world. The need--it was impossible to put into words. It was almost painful--and very, very urgent. Even the illusion of an option was gone now--I *had* to do this. No I had no choice, just like that Onslaught affair.

:No...: I whispered in despair, my hands pressed to my temples in a futile attempt to stop the pain. :Not again, please...:

"Dawn..." Shrive gasped, turning bleary, unfocused eyes on me. "Are you... all right?"

:No,: I replied honestly. My thoughts felt like they were tunneling--all I could think of was going south, stopping that horrible *feeling*...

There was a shift in the air to my immediate left, and a new psi-print emerged: Verney.

Blindly, I seized at the edge of his robe. It didn't work, of course, for I was only in astral form, but I tried. I wondered dimly how he'd known I was here...

"Dawn?!" Verney exclaimed as my hand passed through his shoulder, sounding every bit as alarmed as Shrive had.

:Listen,: I sent wildly, feeling oddly light-headed. :Go to Xavier's. Pick me up. Then take me here.: I sent the "feeling" of the location I had in my mind to him, hoping it would translate into some sort of direction. Verney nodded wordless and prepared to teleport--

"Take me, too!" Shrive cried, catching Verney by the wrist. The older man looked at me in surprise, as if waiting for... orders?

:Him too,: I sent, and Verney nodded again. Satisfied, I threw myself back to my body at Xavier's and waited all of two seconds before Verney appeared before me.

"Are you going to tell me what this is about?" he inquired as I got off my bed and walked up to he and Shrive.

"Karen," I said shortly. It hurt to much to supply a longer answer.

He nodded curtly, as if it made sense. "Monsieur Cassidy will not like this."

I grimaced--I hadn't really wanted to think about *that*. "Like it or not, *I* don't have much of a choice," I told him, and put a shaking hand on his shoulder. "Now take us there. Please."

Verney looked at me in silence for a moment, then nodded again, solemnly. Then, as he shifted us Between, I had just enough time to wonder: What was happening to me?

Continue To Chapter Nineteen

Back To The Main Story Page