Ties Never Binding 30/30
Disclaimer: Marvel characters belong to Marvel. Everyone else belongs to me.
Authors Note: Well, this is the end of TNB. And lo, it only took me three or four years. Aren't you all proud of me? This chapter ended up being a lot longer than I intended, but hey, it's an ending. And isn't that all we really need? BTW, thanks to Persephone Kore, who put in all the nifty paragraphs and such so I didn't have to do it myself. :)
(Incidentally, after Pers got all the paragraph things put back in, the apostrophes spontaneously vanished and I had to replace them all by hand. This chapter has about 31 pages, and I'm very fond of contractions. I hope you people are grateful for this punctuation. ;)
Karen put the clip in the .45 and tested its weight. Not bad, but she would have felt more secure with something a little bigger. Oh well, beggers couldn't be choosers.
"You're insane," Derrick said from his spot by the door.
"Yes, I know this," Karen replied, pointing the gun at a wall and clicking off the safety.
"My dad is going to kill me. That gun is only for emergencies."
"This is an emergency."
"Karen, that thing isn't for my-brother's-been-kidnapped-by-forces-unknown emergencies. It's for your normal, run of the mill there's-a-burglar-in-the-house-and-I-can't-reach-the-phone emergencies. Dad is going to be royally pissed that you took it."
"So I'll buy him a new one." Karen flicked the safety back into place and lowered the .45. She stuck it in the inner pocket of the jacket she'd borrowed from Grace. Close enough to draw in a pinch, but not easily seen. Of course, she had no idea whether whatever she was going to face would be vulnerable to bullets, but it never hurt to think ahead.
Derrick looked at her for a while, then lowered his eyes. "I just hope you know what you're doing," he muttered. Karen shot him a mock-salute.
"Don't I always?" she grinned.
"No, you don't," Derrick retorted, glaring at her. "This isn't a game."
"No," Karen agreed, the grin fading, "it isn't. But it's better to treat it like one sometimes, you know? Less chance of stage fright."
"You're going to get yourself killed."
"So am I."
Derrick glowered at her angrily for a long moment before turning away. "You know I can't go with you," he said softly.
Karen raised an eyebrow. "Scared?"
Derrick snapped his head forward angrily. "Hell yes! In case you haven't forgotten, aliens blew up my house, and you almost got turned into one! You almost turned me into one! For Christ's sake, there's still a jet sitting in my backyard! I've had more than enough insanity for the week, and now you want to go track down God only knows what with a guy you barely know? I don't think so! I'm sorry, I helped you make the tracking device, but that's where it ends."
Karen was silent.
"And I can't let you take Grace, either. She's here for help, not to be dragged into something that doesn't even concern her. I won't let you--"
"You know," Karen said sharply, "if you love her, you should just say so."
Derrick opened and closed his mouth several times before the words came out.
"I don't l--"
Karen threw her hands in the air. "Like, love, lust, whatever. You care for her. She makes you go all gooey inside. Admit it."
"Hey, wait a minute!" Derrick strode over and grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. "This is not a conversation about me. This is a conversation about you and your deathwish!"
"Wrong," Karen replied, taking his arms by the wrists. "You'd go if it were her, wouldn't you?"
"I... yeah, I guess..."
"Then congratulations, you've discovered how I feel. So either shut up or be supportive."
Their eyes remained locked for another split second, then Derrick lowered them.
"I'm sorry," he said at last. Karen shook her head.
"Don't be," she replied. "I know how you feel. But I couldn't live with myself knowing I didn't do all I could to help Jase after what he did for me, even if he wasn't my brother. What-ifs are for losers and republicans."
"If you say so," Derrick said, smiling weakly. "Okay, I'll stop trying to stop you. But be careful, all right? Remember what happened last time you went into a situation half-cocked."
Karen flicked the organic metal that encased her arms. "Always will," she said. "Now, is the grey guy ready?"
"I am," came a slightly muffled voice from the hallway, "and please, kindly refrain from calling me the grey guy. My name is Verney St. Croix." He shuffled into the doorframe, looking somewhat unamused.
"Hey, I'll call you the Marquis de Sade if you like," Karen shrugged. "You sure you can teleport with just the coordinantes?"
"It is not exactly teleportation. I must tranverse a sidedimen--"
"You know what I mean. Come on, we need to be sure."
Verney sighed. "I believe so, yes. My spatial awareness is excellent. If I am in any doubt, I should be close enough to sense Dawn. However, the trip will not be easy--"
"Like I care? Let's do it."
"No banter, Ms. Embers?" Sinister said, giving me an appraising look. "You have no idea how relieved I am. Much of it is so... trite."
"Then only engage in a battle of wits with the unarmed," I retorted, proving that you don't have to be an idiot to look brave, but it helps. Luckily, Jefferey chose that moment to step forward.
"Dr. Essex, I... I take full responsibility for this," he said. His voice was shaking. "I'm s-sorry, but this isn't right."
"It is unfortunate that you feel that way," Sinister replied cooly, not even looking in his direction, "but we shall deal with that later. Now, stand aside."
Jefferey shook his head. "No, sir," he said, positioning himself in front of Jason and I, "I'm sorry, but they're leavin'."
An expression akin to puzzlement spread across Sinister's face. Well, I was wearing one a lot like it. Was Jefferey an idiot? He'd been given the perfect out! If he'd only stepped down like Sinister had told him to...
"What drives you here, boy?" Sinister murmured, as if to himself. He looked thoughtful. "But no matter--stand aside."
"No, si--aaaargh!" Jefferey stumbled and fell, clutching his head, and Sinister simply walked around him to where Jason and I were cowering. I could feel Jason shudder, and I was trying very hard not to do the same. I was powerless, I was on his home turf, and I was essentially alone. Did the X-Men ever end up in situations like this?
"You... you might as well just stay away," I said feebly, tightening my grip around Jason's torso. "We're going to keep trying until we escape. You know that. And the X-Men will come eventually." I hoped. I mean, it's not like they were even my team, but if Generation X couldn't find me the X-Men would step in, right..?
"Of that I have no doubt," Sinister replied, "but, when the time comes, will you be willing to leave? I have many other laboratories--we need not remain here. And, as evidenced by your friend" Sinister motioned to the cringing Jefferey, "I have ways of ensuring loyalty."
What was I supposed to say? "You have no right to treat people like that, you fiend!"? Sinister didn't care. All he cared about was what suited his purpose, whatever that was. Logic to the contrary didn't stand a chance.
"I'll fight you," was all I could think of to say, and even that sounded pretty lame. Sinister knew it, too.
"My dear, with what?" he asked. "Your telepathy has no effect, and your necropathy is defunct. You--and yes, even Smith and Jefferey--are no match for me physically. Tell me, how do you plan to fight?"
"Any way I can," I replied, gritting my teeth. I lashed out telepathically, despite his taunt--and was rewarded with a psychic backlash that almost knocked me off my feet. Something in my mind broke, and a trickle of blood wet my upper lip. I felt oddly light-headed.
Well, it served me right for not testing the waters first, I guess. Emma was going to get me for that one later. If there was a later.
"This should prove amusing," Sinister said as I dreamily raised a hand to my bloody nose. My vision was oddly doubled, and after a moment I realized why. My eyes seemed to be caught between the astral plane and reality, and the images were overlapping. Weird. I guess the psi-shock had kind of screwed me up. Sinister was a looming nebula of darkness, and beside me Jason glowed with muted yellows and reds. And Jefferey...
It wasn't the color that surprised me--he was greenish white, nothing particularly spectacular--but his astral form. More specifically, the fact that he had two. One of them was situated squarely in his body with little overlapping, like your normal non-psi would be, but the other... the other was out of sync with the body, almost floating above it. It touched only barely, as if tethered by some invisible cord. It looked almost exactly the same as the first, but it was half-curled in a fetal position--and, by all appearances, asleep.
My mind struggled to take this in. Jefferey had two astral bodies. How had this happened? It certainly wasn't normal. Unless...
Sinister had said he'd used mixed genes when creating Jefferey. But whose?
If Sinister used some of Glenn's genes in Jefferey... then it'd be almost like bringing Glenn back to life... oh God, and Glenns an External, too. He's supposed to be able to come back to life. Could that have been enough to drag him back..?
Then was that Glenn there, sleeping..? Oh God...
I noticed Sinister was watching me with interest, and hurriedly refocused my attention. Did I let him know I knew? Did I ask him? What would he do to Jefferey if he knew that he and Glenn were still "attached"? My head ached. It was way too early for this kind of thing. Hell, midnight was too early for this kind of thing.
"What is so fascinating, Ms. Embers?" Sinister inquired. I shuffled backwards as best I could while still supporting Jason.
"Probably a mistake on your part," I replied. I was trying to quip and think at the same time, and it wasn't working. What was I supposed to do here? I wished I knew. I was going to have to ask Sean if they gave classes on this kind of thing at the Academy, and if not, suggest that they should.
"Somehow I find this doubtful. Still, if you insist on playing this out..." He turned to Jason, and his red eyes seemed to flare for an insant. "Smith, stand down."
"I... I..." Jason's hand tightened its grip on my shoulder, but I knew he didn't have a chance. He was too weak, and the memory of his experience with the machine was still very much with him. I didn't blame him when he finally released me and stumbled back against the wall.
"Do you honestly like doing that to people?" I asked, looking first at Jefferey, then at Jason. "Is mind control your way of asking for a hug or something? Either way, you're sick."
"There is a consideral difference between sadism and necessity," he replied, nonplussed. "As you will soon learn, I suspect."
"Does the phrase 'over my twice-dead body' mean anything to you?"
Before I had time to blink Sinister had raised his hand and nailed me with a blast of energy. It hit me like a hammerblow to the gut that sent me sprawling, simultaneously searing my abdomen. Not having nerves, all I felt was the impact--and trust me, that was enough.
"That was... indelicate of you," I said, pushing myself back to my feet. "But I think your tactic is essentially flawed by the fact that I can't feel a bloody thing you do to me."
"Indeed? I have observed you, Ms. Embers. You are capable of repairing the damage I inflict, felt or unfelt... but the effort costs you. The more hurt I deal you, the more energy you expend repairing it. So, young woman, the question is this: how long do we play this game?"
"As long as I can," I said, forcing a smile. After all, when in doubt, stall. But I was scared--Sinister was going to get me eventually, and once this was over he'd fix Jefferey so there was no chance for a second try. And I didn't want to go back to that cell. Not now, not ever.
So I stood up, grit my teeth, and prepared to drag out the conflict as long as was humanly possible. I only hoped that the "heros arrive in the nick of time" cliche held true for me now...
"I did warn you."
Karen crouched on the floor for a minute, hugging herself for warmth. Verney was tempted to do the same--the trip Between had not been easy without Dawn along to fend off the wraiths, especially with a passenger. Still, they had arrived.
Wherever "here" is...
Verney looked around. It was an empty room, filled with machinary and moniters. Jason was nowhere in sight.
"The location is correct," Verney said as Karen picked herself off the floor. "He must have been moved."
"He's nearby," Karen replied, shaking off the last effects of the journey. "I can feel him now. He... he's scared."
"I sense three mutants," Verney said as he tentatively stretched his awareness to the surrounding complex. "One of them is your brother. Another is Dawn."
"Who's the third?"
"I am... unsure. It is somewhat familiar, but..."
"Well, let's not worry about it." She assessed the room with a jaundiced eye. "You know... this tech looks awful familiar."
"I'm afraid I wouldn't know."
"Well, I would. Let me check the equipment. This'll just take a sec."
Verney leaned against the wall and closed his eyes as Karen went to work. She was abrasive, domineering and loud, but she didn't treat him like a monster. He found this reassuring, in a way... although he suspected he might be forced to kill her soon if she didn't start calling him by his name.
He heard a sharp hiss of indrawn breath, and opened his eyes. "What is it?" he inquired. And blinked.
The technomorph's expression had changed from cavellier to enraged. "I just found its records of use," she growled. "Jase was hooked up to this. Which means Sinister. Which means payback."
Verney shook his head. "Karen, I have heard of Sinister from Dawn and her instructors," he interrupted. "You are not strong enough to confront him."
"Who says I'm gonna confront him?" Karen asked, pulling away from the moniters. "There are other ways of getting even."
"Well, first of all, I'm frying this thing so hard its OS screams for mercy." She thrust her hand into the CPU and channeled a wave of electro-magnetic energy through her fist. There was a distressed fizzing noise as the moniters, formerly comfortably dimmed, died entirely.
"Well, that was a start," she said, pulling her hand back. "Good thing my EMP generation seems to be doing all right."
"What about your brother?" Verney inquired, wincing as the dying system spit sparks. It was emitting a low buzzing noise.
"Oh, we'll find Jase," Karen assured him, moving away. "But first I'm going to wipe every computer in this complex and destroy everything that looks even remotely important." She grinned evilly. "I hope Sinister keeps good backups."
They were all fighting. They were fighting and he couldn't do a thing about it.
I'm so goddamn helpless like this, Jason thought. If only I didn't have this implant. If only...
Maybe there was a chance yet.
The pain was his entire world. His head throbbed in time with his heartbeat, never ceasing, never dulling. In the distance he was aware of the girl and his creator fighting--or, on the girl's part, trying to fight. Jason cowering in the corner, held immobile by Sinsiter's implant...
No, Jefferey thought, gritting his teeth against the blistering agony in his mind, This is out of control. I need to move...
"Don't do this," whispered the treacherous little voice in the back of his mind. "You can't betray Dr. Essex. Not again. He made you, and he could unmake you... but he has forgiven you. He knows you are defective, and that this is not your fault. Just wait, and he will fix you once this has ended. Then things will be simple again."
Simple. So simple to let Sinister make his decisions for him, to live in ignorance of right and wrong. To just... give up.
As Jefferey watched through his haze of pain Dawn struggled to her feet again, cradling her blasted abdomen. Blood dripped from her nose and mouth, unheeded, and her eyes were glassy. And Sinister simply stood there, his face calm and expressionless as always, waiting for her to make her next move.
This isn't how things should be.
I may be defective, but I know right and wrong, and this isn't right. Hurting the girl... outright torturing the man for "science"... no. No more. I can't do this any longer.
Jefferey dragged himself to his feet. His eyes teared with the effort, but it was working. He sagged against a wall for support. Moving hurt, but it was getting easier. Sinister's attention was divided--Jefferey could fight him.
"This grows tiresome," Sinister remarked, raising his hand for another blast. "You need not subject yourself to this pain."
"Yes... I do," Dawn panted, clenching her fists. "How am I going to... live with myself if... I don't give this everything I've got?"
"Much longer, I'd venture to say."
Energy colaseced around Sinisters outstretched hand, and Jefferey made his move. He threw himself at his creator, hitting him in the shoulder and knocking him to the ground. The blast went wild and scorched the wall next to Dawn, who simply gaped with shock. Jefferey had no time to take this in--Sinister tossed him aside like a ragdoll the moment they hit the ground. Jefferey landed on his back and came within inches of skidding head-first into the nearest concrete-reinforced wall.
"That was a poor decision, Jefferey," Sinister said as he got to his feet, brushing off his labcoat. "I was prepared to be lenient, but even I have my limits."
"I don't care anymore," Jefferey said, painfully forcing himself into a sitting position. "I owe you my existence, an I'll always be grateful to you for that, but I can't let you keep hurtin' people."
"Heroic sentiments," Sinister sighed. "How disappointing. It seems your source material has ruined you after all."
"Just because he's got a sense of decency doesnt mean it's a genetic defect," Dawn snapped unexpectedly. Jefferey raised his eyebrows.
Why's she doing this? She doesn't need to stand up for me...
"For my purposes, it is a hinderence. I will have to eliminate him."
"What the hell kind of employer are you?"
"A practical one. However, this is not the--"
Three faces turned towards Jason, who had not moved from the place where he had fallen. His eyes were vacant, but his voice was oddly intense.
"She's here?" Dawn said, incredulous. A smile spread across her bloodied face. "Hah! I feel her, too! The calvary is here!"
"Somehow I doubt Ms. Smith will possess the power to be of any significant help to you," Sinister replied blandly. "However, I will deal with her--"
"--Right now if you know what's good for you."
Through his slightly graying vision, Jefferey could make out the face of a girl hed never seen before. Her arms were covered by the sleeves of a jacket, but her exposed hands shone dully beneath the flourescent lights. She lounged against the wall, her expression carefully neutral. Behind her crouched a grey figure, all sharp edges and darkness.
"I hope you didn't need any of the data you kept here," Karen said airily. "It's amazing what a few random magnetic pulses will do to your motherboard, isn't it?"
For the first time in his short life, Jefferey saw a look of horror cross Sinisters face. "You would not..."
"Oh yes, I would." A cruel little smile split Karens face. "Karma's a bitch, ain't it?"
"My recent work..."
"Karen..." Jason whispered urgently, "Move fast... move very fast..."
His twin heard him and did so, which was extremely fortunate given that the place she had been standing abruptly ceased to exist a split second later. Verney managed to save himself by shifting out of phase with reality, but just barely. Sinister was seething.
"I can brook many intrusions," he hissed, his fists crackling with energy, "but you have violated my laboratory. You have cost me a fortnight of research. I do not kill indiscriminantly, and I abhor wasting quality genetic material, but in your case I believe I can make an exception."
"Gotta catch me first," Karen snorted. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a gun. "Let's see how good your aim is without your eyes."
Jefferey winced as she shot twice--and, to be fair, her aim was true. One of the bullets lodged itself in Sinisters right cheekbone, the other in his forehead. Unfortunately, this did not seem to have any discernable effect.
"Uh oh," Karen said as Sinisters flesh reformed around the wounds.
"Uh oh indeed," Sinister grated. "Now, we shall end this--"
"No!" Jason struggled to his feet. He was soaked in sweat and trembling from the effort, but he was upright. Jefferey knew from experience how much the effort must be costing the man, and felt a shameful surge of admiration for him.
He's got as much to lose as I do, Jefferey thought as Jason wiped the sweat from his upper lip. He's worked for Dr. Essex longer, and he's terrified of standing up to him. After seeing how he had to live for six years, I don't blame him. That scream...
"You are beginning to irritate me," Sinister scowled. "What do you hope to accomplish with your empty displays of bravado?"
"Because..." Jason panted, struggling to keep his eyes from lolling back in his head, "...defying you is... the only thing left for me... to do."
"More hollow threats, I see," Sinister said, unimpressed.
"No," Jason smiled as his hand crept up to his neck. "Not this time. See... I'm sick of your goddamn implant. So I'm getting rid of it."
"Don't be foolish. It is connected directly to your brainstem."
"You think I care?" Jason's smile widened. "I'd rather be dead than your lab equipment any longer. So long, you son of a bitch."
"Jason!" Karen cried as the man plunged his fingertips into the flesh around the base of his skull. "You freaking idiot! What are you doing?!"
"Penance," Jason said simply, and closed his eyes.
"Oh God..." Dawn whispered from her corner as Jason pushed his nails through layers of flesh and muscle. Jefferey could smell the sickly-sweet blood that coursed from the wound, hear Jason's agonized grunts as he dug, and dug, and dug...
"Stop it!" Karen shrieked. She tried to take a step forward, but her legs gave out. She ended up on her knees, clutching at her own neck and hissing in agony.
"Sympathetic pain," Sinister commented. "Interesting."
"For God's sake, stop him!" Dawn pleaded, turning to Sinister. "You can make him stop! Why won't you?!"
"He has made his choice," the scientist replied. "And he has already caused me far more trouble than he is worth. I am quite prepared to cut my losses."
"You... fine!" Dawn threw herself at Jason and grabbed his bloodied hand, trying wrestle it away from his neck.
"D'wn... s... top..." Jason begged, struggling to keep his grip on the implant. There was a soft, wet noise as he began to pull the device free of his flesh. "Ahhh..! Let me... pl'se..."
"Idiot," Dawn choked. "Stupid idiot! Don't you see what you're doing to Karen? You're going to drag her right down with you!"
Tears of pain and frustration slid down Jason's pallid cheeks. "Won't be... used..."
"I know! I know... but there are better ways. Please... don't do this. Please. Please?"
Jefferey watched the tortured rictus that dominated Jasons face. For a moment the girl and the precog stood there, locked in a deathgrip that neither was prepared to relinquish. Then, slowly, Jason crumbled.
"Jus' make it... stop..." he begged, letting his hand drop. Dawn nodded shortly.
"I'll try," she whispered. "I promise."
Jason smiled bleakly. "I know... y' will," he croaked. Then he collapsed.
"Jase!" Karen screamed.
"Verney, where are you?" Dawn said, her voice shaking only slightly. The grey-skinned mutant shifted back into reality, appearing directly beside her.
"I am here," he replied. He kept glancing at Jason's fallen body, but made no move towards it, as if uncertain of what to do.
"Jason needs to get to a hospital," Dawn said. "Now."
"Dawn, I do not wish to leave you here, and I am afraid I am too weak to carry three--"
"That's okay, it would have to be four anyway. I'm not leaving Jefferey. Take Jason and Karen--I'll be all right."
She's still... determined to take me..? Jefferey wondered. But why?
"Dawn, you cannot fight him for long in this condition..."
"Don't need to fight, just need to survive. Now get moving or I tell Monet you argued semantics while Jason here bled to death."
Behind the rasp of his respirator, Verney gave what might have been a sigh. "Understood."
"Get to Moira if you can, but hurry."
"I think not," Sinister said. His eyes flared, and Verney froze, his muscles trembling with tension.
"Your mental shields are practically nonexistant," Sinister continued, walking around the malformed young man. "You've been controlled for some time, haven't you?"
In answer Verney only twitched his long, knife-like fingers. Obviously he wished that they were around Sinister's neck instead of at his sides.
Fortunately, Karen's penchant for cheap shots saved him the effort, because she chose that moment to slam one of her metal-encased fists into the back of Sinisters head.
"You--" Sinister growled, but it was too late. Verney, knowing an opportunity when he saw one, scooped up Jason, shifted out of reality, shifted back behind Sinister, and grabbed Karen by the arm. As soon as he touched her the three of them disappeared.
"No!" Sinister snarled, spinning around. "She will not escape--"
"She already has," Dawn pointed out.
"My research... she will pay..."
Jefferey marveled at the amount of suppressed emotion in Sinisters voice. So there is something that will upset him.
While Sinister fumed, Jefferey was distantly aware of Dawn moving closer to him. Her face was pale and her eyes were suspiciously red. She looked tired and a little nervous, but determined.
"Um...I want to try something, and I'm not quite sure how to ask you," she whispered, biting her lip.
"I don't suppose you could 'ave asked at a better time," Jefferey said, his voice made unintentionally harsh by the pain that still throbbed behind his eyes. Dawn looked appologetic.
"No," she replied. "And I'm not sure there's going to be a better time."
"You've got a point," Jefferey conceeded. "What's so important then?"
"It's... it's hard to explain," Dawn said, gesturing helplessly. "I... I'm trying to find a way to say this that won't insult you or make it sound like I'm belittling you..."
"I appreciate your concern for m' feelings, but I don't think this is the time to be roundabout."
Dawns lips twisted wryly. "Okay, you asked for it. Remember how you always thought you were just stuck together from a bunch of spare genes? Well, it looks like you got a hefty donation from my friend and ended up with his leftover psyche, too. So what I'd like to do is dig a little and see just how much is left over, if that's okay with you."
There was a long pause.
"Okay," Jefferey said, "Now try it the roundabout way."
"This is serious! You have another personality attached to your body!"
"Well, at least that means I have one..."
"This isn't a good time to make jokes."
"I'm sorry, I'm tryin' to stall while my brain comes to grips with the fact that a large part o' my existence was a lie. That's all right with you, isn't it?"
"Look, I'm sorry, but there wasn't a good way to say it..."
"There had to 'ave been a better way than that."
Dawn covered her eyes with one hand. "Okay, we could do this for hours," she said. "I'm sorry I even mentioned it. I don't have the right to ask that of you anyway."
Jefferey started to say "You're damn right," but something stopped him. Maybe it was the tone of her voice, or the dejected slump of her shoulders...
Or maybe... maybe I just want to know the truth for once in my life.
"If you..." he began, stopped, and cleared his throat, "If you wake that other personality... what will happen to me?"
"I'm not really sure," Dawn admitted. "I don't think it'll overwrite your own. I have another personality in my head--sort of--and she stayed pretty seperate until a few weeks ago when her memories got screwed with. I think you'll be able to keep them seperate..."
"But you really just want to see your mate again, right?" Jefferey smiled wryly. Dawn's face turned a deep shade of red.
"I... uh..." she gave up trying to cover. "Yeah. I'm... sorry. I like you okay, but..."
"But you don't know me from Adam," Jefferey finished. "That's all right. I can't say I really blame you."
Dawn shook her head. "Seriously, no. It was just me being stupid and selfish. Forget I said anything."
"Sunshine, that's not the kind of thing I can forget. Go ahead. See if your friend is still around. Some good may as well come out o' this mess."
"Are you brain damaged? I said forget about it!"
"Look, it's my mind, an' I said go ahead already!"
"Argh! Will you make up your bloody mind?!"
"I see you two are bonding. Should I come back later?"
Jefferey paled, and Dawn choked on her retort.
We forgot about Sinister. Bloody brilliant.
"Dawn, you run," Jefferey murmured, shifting a little to put himself between her and Sinister. "I'll buy you time."
She shook her head. "I'm not going to leave you," she said.
Jefferey smiled wryly. "It'll be all right, Dawn," he replied. And then blinked. Dawn's mouth was hanging open. He frowned, puzzled by her sudden change of expression. "Dawn? Whats wr--"
"Don't you pull that crap on me again, Keaton!" she snapped, pummeling him on the shoulder. "Don't you dare say it's going to be all right and then go out and die! Don't, don't, don't--"
"Dawn!" Jefferey cried, grabbing her by the wrists. "What are you talking about? I never..."
Their eyes locked, and as they did Jefferey was overwhelmed by a nagging sense of deja vu.
Then the burning started.
It was the girl, Jefferey realized as the heat spread from his palms to his wrists. The girl's bare skin against his own.
In the distance, Sinister screamed. "Jefferey! Release the girl immediatly! Do not touch her! Her powers will--"
The rest of his words were lost in a wave of light. Jefferey felt his body stiffen as something cold and prickly brushed the back of his mind, like a living icicle. He was periphirally aware that the pain had stopped when suddenly the world stopped making sense...
Falling. I was falling, and falling, and falling, light all around me...
I could still feel Jefferey's hands clasping my wrists. I was still aware of my body, but it seemed so far away. Too far away to touch, that was for sure. I wasn't sure I could get back. I wasn't sure I wanted to. The light was warm and familiar, and it didn't seem to end...
And then it did. Quite roughly.
I landed on the mindscape on my right shoulder, closely followed by my head. This wasn't a promising start.
Dazed and slightly contused, I stumbled to my feet. There was ground beneath me, but not much around me. Well, not much recognizable to average people. There were memory crystals--fragments of reminiscience that hung in midair or were firmly embedded in the dirt beneath my feet. And it all felt like Glenn.
Was I in Jefferey's mind? I wasn't sure. Our contact had done... something. The rapport had been almost instantaneous, and, I might add, inadvertant. All of Sinister's shields had been bypassed, and all of mine, for that matter. I was exposed, naked. I felt like I was wearing my entire life on my face, and all a person had to do to get it all was touch me...
"It's a bloody mess in here, isn't it?"
I jumped and spun around, which is tough to do at the same time. There, standing behind me with his hands stuffed in his pockets, was a little boy. His ears stuck out, and he stood about half a foot shorter than I did, but his identity was unmistakable.
"Are you Glenn or Jefferey?" I managed. He shrugged.
"Both, actually," he replied. "Well, the core bits of 'em, uninfluenced by experience or memory. The best bits."
I had to smile. "So you're the quintessential Glenn/Jefferey?"
"Basically," he grinned. Then he sobered. "But now comes the tricky part. We gorra choose who we're going to be."
"Choose..?" I repeated, frowning. "You can't take both..?"
"Normal people are different than psis, sunshine. Our brains aren't equipped to handle and integrate more'n one psyche, see? And we can't keep 'em seperate, either. We'd pop a cog."
"How do you know?" I asked. "I don't even know that."
"We've learned a couple o' things," the boy shrugged. "There are some things we just... know."
"All right," I said doubtfully, "I'll take your word for it. But if thats the case, what happens to the one that doesn't get picked?"
"The memories will stay. Conscious thought, personal opinion, and emotional attachment won't. Whatever the choice, we've gorra do it soon. We can't survive long like this. It'll tear us apart."
"I... think I get it. So the one that doesn't get picked ceases to exist..?"
"So it's either the guy who's had nineteen good years and has already died, or the guy that's only a couple of months old and has worked for Sinister all his life."
"A tough choice, we know." The boy sighed and sat down, legs crossed and chin cradled in one hand. "S'tell me, luv, which one did you like?"
I swallowed hard. "That's not fair," I replied. "I barely knew Jefferey, and I... loved Glenn."
He smiled a little. "We know," he said. "That's why we want your help."
My jaw dropped. "No," I said, backpedalling. "Nononononononono. You are not asking me to do this! I can't make this kind of decision!"
"And you think we can?" he demanded. "Glenn can't live with Jefferey here. Jefferey can't survive with Glenn in 'is mind. We can't be both."
"But why me..?"
"Because you're responsible. When we touched, Glenn's essence was forced into this body."
"I didn't mean for that to happen!"
"But it did. So you're goin' to help us fix it."
What could I say to that?
"Okay," I said softly, "but... I don't know what to do. I want Glenn back, but Jefferey tried so hard..."
"Jefferey..." the boy sighed, shaking his head. "Poor sod whose only fault was inheritin' a dead boy's innate morality. He never knew why he did what he did."
"Wait," I said, holding up a hand, "do you mean he got some of Glenn's memories..?"
"No," he replied, shaking his head. "He got Glenn's... essence. His sense o' right and wrong. That's not sayin' Glenn ever knew why he did what he did either, but there was somethin' inside him that got passed on to Jefferey. There were some traces of memories, but they were of things ground in at a gut level. There were no emotions to connect 'em with anything. He's a construct, not a clone."
I ran a fretful hand through my hair. "Sometimes I thought I saw... something," I said slowly. "Something of Glenn in there. But I didn't, did I? It was just wishful thinking."
"We have the same heart, Dawn, but that doesn't make us the same person. We're sorry."
This was a nightmare. This was one enormous nightmare. I could get Glenn back, but it meant sacrificing a good man whose only shortcoming had been to have the misfortune of being created by Sinister. Jefferey had risked it all to free Jason and I--could I really be selfish enough to sacrifice him just so I could have Glenn back?
But could I just let Glenn disolve? He'd died because of me. I'd come back from the dead for him. He was my best friend.
The tears came slowly at first, blazing lazy trails down my cheeks. They felt so hot, even in the mindscape. How was I supposed to decide this? Either way, someone lost.
"Shh," the boy said, suddenly at my side and wiping the tears from my face. I flinched; I hadn't even seen him come close. He hadn't gotten up, he'd just appeared beside me, as if I'd missed a frame of film.
"We're sorry," he murmured, gazing at me with eyes that seemed far too old for his child's face. "We didn't mean to hurt you. It's just... this isn't a decision we can make by ourselves. Please. We're... afraid."
Afraid. He was afraid. It suddenly occured to me just how selfish I was being. Here I was worrying about my love life, and Glenn/Jefferey was trying to decide which part of himself to sacrifice. And what's more, I was responsible for it. I couldn't bow out just because I found it uncomfortable--I owed him more than that. I had to stick this out until the end.
"Okay," I whispered, taking a deep breath. "Okay... I'll try."
He smiled again, soft and sad. "That's what you told Jason."
"I know," I admitted. "I wish I could be more reassuring, but... I can't. All I can promise is that I'll do my best."
"That's enough for us," he replied, the smile never wavering. "Dawn, what does your heart tell you is right?"
"My heart..." I bit my lip. I didn't want to say it, but I had to. It wasn't right to keep this from him. "My heart tells me it's wrong to cut a good person's life short just because I want to see Glenn again."
"So, you want Jefferey?"
"No, I want Glenn. But it's not right ask Jefferey to give up his life for what I want."
"We see." The boy crossed his arms and looked at his feet. "Jefferey..."
Jefferey, the confused, the frightened. The one who never even had a chance for a real life...
Well, I thought as I watched the boys neutral expression, maybe he would have one now.
"We have asked Jefferey," the boy said at last. "Glenn will live."
"Oh, oka... what?"
"Were going to be Glenn."
"But... but why? I said..."
"We know what you said, but it was ultimatly our choice, remember?" He raised his head and caught my eyes with his own. "We told Jefferey. He refused."
"But why? He had a chance..."
"Because I had no right to be here in the first place."
I turned. Jefferey stood beside me, turtleneck, labcoat and all.
"I don't belong here," he continued, his eyes downcast. "I was made by Sinister to serve him. Without him I'm nothin'."
"But... you could work with the X-Men," I began. I wanted Glenn back, but not because Jefferey decided he had no sense of self-worth...
"I'm sure yer friends are great," he interrupted, looking up, "but I couldn't face 'em. Not with stolen memories. Not owin' Sinister my existence. I know that what he's doing is wrong, but if he calls me back... I'll go. An' when I do he'll fix me so that this whole big mess was for nothin'."
"I..." I didn't know what to say. He made sense, but... "I don't want you to die. You helped... you helped us when you didn't have to. This isn't right."
"I don't think life generally is, sunshine," Jefferey replied, clucking me under the chin. His touch tingled, ever so slightly. "Not from my experience, anyway. Don't worry, you didn't talk me into this."
I clenched my fists so hard my nails made red indentions in my palms. "If... this is what you want..."
"A... all right. I... thanks."
"No problem." His mouth smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. And yet I felt a sense of... relief, almost. I couldn't say I blamed him. If I had a choice between oblivion and potentially having my brain altered in such a way to make me apathetic to atrocities, I'm not so sure I wouldn't take the former myself.
"Are you scared?" I asked as Jefferey sat down a little off to one side. He exhaled slowly.
"A little," he answered. He ran a hand through his hair and tried to smile. "On the up side, I'll never know what hit me, eh?"
I knelt down beside him. "I'll be right here," I whispered around the lump in my throat. He laughed softly.
"I know you will," he said. "Well. Let's get started."
The boy, avatar, or whatever he had been nodded and disappeared. He didn't vanish in a flash of light or sound, he simply faded out, as if someone was lightening his image until it was erased completely. Even so, I could still feel his presence, lingering...
Then the shaking began.
It reminded me of when Karen had expelled the Phalanx, but without the extraterrestrial screams. Instead there was only poor Jefferey, doubled over in pain and gasping for breath as he, too, began to fade. Trying to ignore the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I found his hand and held it tight, doing my best to project calm and reassurance. I don't think it worked, but Jefferey seemed to appreciate the effort.
"I'm right here," I repeated, trying very hard not to cry. "It's okay. I'm right here."
"I can't feel... your hands..." he gasped, and I could see the tears of pain running down his cheeks. I gave up all pretense of control and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, burying my face against his neck. He was growing less and less substantial with every passing moment.
"I'm right here," was all I could say. "You're not alone. Not anymore." They were empty words--hollow platitudes to a man facing nothingness--but they were all I had to offer.
Jefferey smiled through his tears, as transparent as a ghost. "It's... all right, Dawn," he managed, his voice thin and reedy. "It was... my choice. Finally... my choice. Goodbye."
And suddenly I was embracing nothingness. Jefferey was gone, and nothing remained. Not a scrap of clothing, not a mote of psionic energy. There had been no death trauma, no final scream. It was as if he'd never existed.
But he had existed. I'd held him in my arms for his last, terrible moments as Glenn's psyche absorbed what it could and purged the rest, felt his hot, pain-filled tears run onto my skin as we huddled together. And now he was gone.
"It'll be all right, Dawn. Goodbye."
That's what Glenn had said to me before he'd gone to face D'Spayre alone. Had it just been coincidence that their last words were so similar?
"We have the same heart, Dawn, but that doesn't make us the same person."
Maybe not, but they were close enough for tears.
I felt the psyche reconstructing itself around me, like an old sweater being reknitted. I got the feeling that if I didn't withdraw, and quickly, I would be caught in the threads along with the delicate fragments of Jefferey's residual memories. With an effort I withdrew, trying to be careful not to become tangled in the strands of consciousness that were beginning to reweave themselves in a tight net.
I snapped out of my trance panting like I'd just run a marathon, Jeff... Glenn's hands still locked around my wrists. My arms tingled, and my eyes...
It felt like something had exploded behind my eyes. I wasn't seeing astral shapes superimposed over reality now, it was all astral shapes. It was as if I was seeing past reality and straight into the astral plane. It was disorienting, to say the least.
Glenn's labored breathing brought me back to reality. Jefferey's body had only one astral form now, but it was oddly vibrant, as if it had been highly concentrated. Probably from the absorbtion of Jefferey's memories. His eyes were squeezed shut, I could tell from the pressure on my wrists that his fists were clenched so tight they were in danger of fracturing my wrists. He didn't seem to be aware of me.
"Glenn," I said--or tried. My voice was thick and hoarse, and it came out more like "glnn." I tried again. "Glenn, snap out of it!"
It worked, in a way. His eyes opened slowly, as if he was just waking up, and he blinked. And he looked right at me.
"Dawn," he whispered, and his voice was just as rough as mine was. "I... woke up..."
"Yes," I said, and I realized that fresh tears were leaking down my cheeks. "Yes, you did."
He shook his head, frowning. He didn't seem to be able to focus his eyes properly. "Dawn?" he repeated, as if he wasn't sure I was really there. "I had... such a strange dream. I was dead, but I wasn't, and a voice asked me what I wanted. I said... I said I wanted t' live. Is it... over?"
"Yeah," I replied, and I forced a smile through my tears. "You're alive. The dream is over."
He smiled. It was a smile of such pure, untainted relief that I knew he had to be in shock. And why not? He'd suddenly gone from hovering spirit to fully conscious human being. Without the fragile veil of shock he might have gone insane.
"What have you done?" Sinisters harsh voice ripped through our "moment." He could feel what had happened. He had to.
"Jefferey decided he'd rather cease to exist than continue doing what he knew was wrong," I snapped. I realized with a start that I was angry. Angrier than I had ever been in my life. I hadn't even felt this angry when my parents had died. At least I'd known mom and dad were going to a better place... but Jefferey? Jefferey was just gone, and all because of Sinister.
I was feeling self-rightous. That wasn't good.
"Dawn, what's..?" Glenn this time, and I knew the frail blanket of shock wasn't going to last much longer. I wanted more than anything to give Glenn some time to adjust, but it just wasn't going to happen.
"I'm sorry," I murmured, and leaned forward. For a moment I was tempted to kiss him, but that didn't seem right somehow. Instead I settled for pressing my forehead to his. The contact tingled, like pins and needles. It was a nice counterpoint to the tingling in my wrists.
I tried to ignore it. The important thing was bringing Glenn up to speed without breaking his brain. I didn't try to stir up his own memories--that would have been too much of a shock. Instead, I let my own trickle through his mind slowly enough not to jar him. I felt his confusion, then his disbelief, and finally his growing anger. The memories were only second-hand, but they were enough--and with luck he would sort through his own when he was ready for them.
"How... dare... you..." Glenn hissed, abruptly pulling away from me. The contact didn't break--in fact, our rapport was back, stronger than ever. That was how I knew it wasn't me he was angry at, it was Sinister--and how I knew to back away.
Glenn moved so fast my eyes didn't even register it. The next thing I knew he was on top of Sinister, a pale form of light battering the darkness so hard I could feel my teeth rattling. But what was the use? Sinister's body was so maleable the blows had no effect, and I doubted Glenn would have any better luck now than he'd had the first time we'd encountered him. Something had to be done, and fast. We may have been able to stall him until Verney returned, but suddenly I realized that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to be rid of him forever. I didn't want to worry about Sinister. I didn't want this stupid helpless feeling inside of me anymore. I wanted to be free.
But I didn't have the power. Even when I'd had my medium abilities I hadn't been strong enough to kill him, and that knowledge made me angry. Glenn's rage didn't help--I was empathic anyway, and in rapport as we were I felt every bit of his fury as if it were my own. I wanted to help Glenn, but my powers were useless. I was helpless, and hating it.
But as Glenn landed blow after impotent blow against Sinister I became distantly aware of a coldness that seemed to encircle my upper left arm. Startled, I pulled up my sleeve and discovered the band of silver metal that I'd found there a few weeks ago, right before Mountjoy had attacked the Academy. I realized with a start that it had disappeared during my incarceration, and that I hadn't even noticed. Well, it's not as if I hadn't had other things to worry about. Still, it's sudden reappearance seemed odd. I stroked it with my fingertips and felt a sudden, familiar presence thrill through my body.
It couldn't be, but every psychic sense I had told me it was true. It was Will there, some way, some how. I could feel him in my mind. I didn't try to reach for him--I was sure that if I did he would disappear, like he had when we "touched" in New York. Instead I waited for him to make contact with me.
Please please please let this work, we need help...
His consciousness twitched through my mind, soft and cool. It made me strangely dizzy. I wasn't surprised--it had been so long since I'd used my power that I'd almost forgotten what it felt like. Not to mention the fact that I was still shaky from Sinister's attacks and the encounter in Jefferey's mind. Personally, I was amazed I was still functioning at all.
Then he spoke.
:Hey there, Dawny.:
I almost started to cry. "I'm too relieved that you're talking to me again to try and slap you for that," I said. "But how... how did you..."
:Well, part of it is because I'm just that good.: There was movement to my left, and I turned to see the shadow of Will, cast in blue and orange. Glenn and Sinister werent even looking at me, let alone Will, and I knew that they couldn't see him. It was probably just as well, because he was posing in the way that he thought made him look dashing.
"And the other part?"
:That's a little more complicated. It has a lot to do with blood.:
:Well, bloodlines, at any rate. Yours and mine, yours and Glenn's... it's a long, ugly story, and now's not really a good time.:
"Gee, really? This is not reassuring, Will."
:It's not supposed to be. This is very dangerous, Dawn.:
"What? No! I had no idea! Here I am, watching Glenn and Sinister duke it out, thinking 'You know, this would be a nice thing to do on those long, boring Sunday afternoons.'"
:Dawny, cross my heart and hope to come back to life for the express privalege of dying again, you do not want to know how close you're cutting it.:
I took a minute to watch the astral shapes of Sinister and Glenn play across my field of vision. "I don't know," I said softly, "I think I may have a pretty good idea. But now that you're here maybe we can stop this before it gets any worse."
:Sorry, kiddo, but I can't help you here.: He sounded genuinely regretful.
"WHAT?" Obviously, this didn't make me feel any better.
His shade spread its hands helplessly. :Contrary to what this little visit might imply, Dawn, you're not fixed. You're just in contact with me, you're not channeling. That's going to take work. And something tells me you don't have the time for it right now.:
"Oh, great. So what is this visit, a tease?"
:You called me, Dawn,: he informed me, a twist of irritation in his voice. :This wasn't my idea, you know.: Some of his old indignation was coming back, which made me feel better. Will-the-patient-and-enigmatic-sage wasnt something I was prepared to handle. Will-the-annoyed-and-impatient-cousin I could deal with.
"Will," I said, interrupting before things could get too snippy, "I'm really glad to see you, and I'll even cry and hug you and everything later. But right now, we don't have time." My throat was suddenly thick with emotion. "Please, Will. Tell me you know what I should do. Tell me... tell me I can do something. Please."
I was ashamed of the pleading tone in my voice. I felt so damned helpless here... and why not? My powers didn't work on Sinister, and I wasn't blasted strong enough to help Glenn... and now Will was here, but he was saying he couldn't help.
I was trying desperatly not to cry. I'd faced Apocalypse, D'Spayre and Onslaught. I refused to be helpless against Sinister. I'd had to watch Jefferey be incapacitated and dehumanized, punished for the simple sin of daring to disobey. I'd had to watch Jason try to rip that implant out of his neck while Karen lay helpless on the ground, writhing in shared pain. And now I had to watch while Sinister beat Glenn senseless.
I had to be able to do something. I had to. I refused to believe that this was a world where Sinister was allowed to get away with this.
:I'm sorry,: Will said, his voice tinged with real regret. :But I can't show you the way... much as I'd like to. I'm afraid the best I can do is be here for you.:
"Good, so we'll have some company when Sinister incarcerates us again," I said bitterly. Where was Verney? I knew his travel through Between wasn't instantaneous, and with Jason as badly off as he had been it was possible Verney was having trouble. And even if he came back, what then? Sinister hadn't even broken a sweat taking control of his mind. I'd felt Verney's rage and shame at that; at being helpless when he was needed the most, at being subjected to yet another psychic intrusion. If this wasn't settled by the time Verney came back there was a distinct possibility that it wouldn't just be Glenn and I Sinister captured.
"No," I whispered, clenching my fists. "This needs to stop. This needs to stop now."
Will said nothing, but I felt his agreement...
That was it.
Raw force would never defeat Sinister--neither Glenn nor I had the power. But power didn't matter. We didn't have to overpower him. There was another way, if I could manage it...
I didn't try to call any more old ghosts. That was useless, I could see that now. Instead I reached out... out and deeper. Beneath the "now" and into the "what had been" of the astral plane. Traces... when the emotion was great, there were always traces. Traces that I, as an empath, could feel. Traces that I, as an absorber of psionic energy, could tap.
There, around Sinister. I could almost taste them, old and stale, but if I pushed a little further...
The pain hit me like a sledgehammer to the face, but I didn't scream. I physically couldn't--my jaw was clenched so tight I felt like it was going to shatter. But if I stopped to try to catch my breath I would lose it, I knew I would, so I kept pressing. There was pressure in my ears, against my eyes, but I kept pushing, straining with a power that had never been used this way.
And suddenly it all broke apart. There was no pain, no noise, just shadows and light. I felt nothing. Not Will, not Glenn... not even my own body. It was as if I'd passed right through the barrier and emerged on the other side. This wasn't the astral plane. It was something else, something deeper. The astral plane was pure mind. This place... this place was pure emotion, and emotion was not confined to astral forms. It was smeared across this private universe like fingerpaint, and like fingerpaint it left a residue...
To call them ghosts would have been going too far. There was no mind here, no consciousness. And yet... and yet. There was anger here, and sorrow and hate. The shadow of a blow, the ghost of a scream, the echo of a tear... there were impressions of who these emotions had belonged to, like half-remembered dreams. They did not belong to Sinister, but clung to him like smoke. So much pain, some of it so old. How long had Sinister been carrying it, completely oblivious..?
I extended my mind and brushed a whorl of pain. It tasted sharp, but oddly sweet, like aged wine was supposed to be. It felt... good.
With this I could beat Sinister. I could do... even more. I could have even more.
No. Wait a minute. Why should I want more? I wouldn't need power after this was over. I already had more than enough. It's not as if I had a burning desire to change the world, after all.
I pushed away the beguiling little whisper. Just a little thought that popped up in the heat of the moment, nothing more. It was time to get to work.
I brushed the shadows with my mind, and smiled. One way or another, there was going to be an ending.
If Glenn had been able to form the words, the things he would have said would be unprintable. Cockney friends and years of pubcrawling had left him with access to a vocabulary that would have blistered paint.
It wasn't just that fact that Sinister had used his genes like so many spare parts. It wasn't even that he had used the result as bait for Dawn. It was the fact that the man, quite frankly, did not care.
Sinister was not cruel. Never cruel. Cruelty required passion, and Sinister invested passion in nothing but his work. People were toys, experiments. And perhaps that was worse.
"No disparaging comments, Mr. Keaton?" Sinister inquired at his silence, easily absorbing Glenns blow to the gut. "How disappointing."
"Why?" Glenn finally hissed through his rage. He grabbed Sinister's neck with both hands and began to squeeze.
"Why is such a broad question," Sinister said, not seeming at all troubled by the lack of oxygen. "Would you care to be more specific?"
"Why her? Why me?" Now the neck between his fingers couldn't have been more than three inches in diameter, and the pallid flesh above and below bulged like a child's molding clay.
"Because you compliment one another, obviously." Sinister forced his hands between Glenns arms and threw them apart, tearing the young External's hands from his neck. A simple backhand blow threw Glenn several feet.
"My hobby is bloodlines, Mr. Keaton," Sinister continued. "Summers. Cassidy. Dane. A hundred others that you would not recognize and who I would not care to name even if you did. Your's I have followed since I met your forefather, Byron Keaton. My interest in Ms. Embers stems from a chance meeting with the daughter of an Irish immigrant in the 1940's. You are no more special than any of the others I moniter."
"Then why did you try to kill her when we first met?" Glenn spat, climbing back to his feet. "Why try to poison her?"
It was a fair question. The first time Glenn had met Sinister the contact had been brief. Gateway had arranged a portal for Generation X after Dawn had disappeared, and the moment they'd arrived Monet had screamed something about poison...
It had been a good save. He'd congratulated himself for it, at the time. But he'd lowered his guard, and the second shot had taken him instead...
He didn't remember much after that, truthfully. The feeling of liquid fire filling his veins had taken some of the edge off his perceptions. Still, he remembered that fleeting glance from Sinister--the shared look that had taken place as Dawn screamed in rage and fury. The look had been... interest. It had occured to him then that Sinister did not wonder if he would die, but how. Life was a great experiment, and any experience could be learned from. Human lives meant nothing.
But Sinister only raised an eyebrow. "Kill her? You misunderstand me. I did not want her to die, I wanted her to live."
Glenn paused. "You wanted her to..."
"Indeed. What would I gain by killing the girl?"
Glenn studied Sinister's impassive face. He could detect nothing to indicate the man was lying, although to be honest he hadn't expected that he would be able to. Those inscrutable red eyes revealed nothing, and yet...
It was a virus Sinister wanted to introduce, Glenn thought, shifting his stance slightly. Cassidy said it was... not unlike the Legacy Virus. Turning the body against itself, burnin' it out... and Sinister said it would be interesting to see what effect it had on a healin' factor. He was curious, but not hopeful. Why should he make for Dawn if he thought she would survive it? He said there was no cure.
Unless... he wanted one.
"You infected her with a variant of the Legacy Virus so you would have a cure." Glenn said softly.
"Among other things. Access to innumerable mutant immune systems gave her a fair chance, I thought."
"And her parents? Were they an experiment, too?"
"A lure. I had thought the girl's bond to her parents would be rather stronger, but I overestimated her. The loss was regrettable, but acceptable. I had no further use for them in any case. The threats were mere taunts, meant to force her into action... and, perhaps, let go of some of the self-inflicted barriers on her power. You of all people should know that I am not a sadist."
"No," Glenn said, shaking his head, "you're not. You're worse. You use people like who they are don't matter. She was only a little girl, an' you used her--"
"For one who professed to follow Xavier's dream," Sinister interrupted, crossing his arms, "brief though the time may have been, I find this attitude woefully naive. What are the needs of the few compared to those of the many? I thought Xavier's mantra hinged on sacrifice, parriahic as many of his victories seem."
"The needs of the many?" Glenn snapped, ignoring the barb. "Or just your curiousity?"
"Perhaps both. I am a man of science, after all."
"This ain't science. This is knowledge for its own sake." Glenn gave him an appraising look. "Or maybe... for yours?"
It was there for only a moment, but Glenn thought he saw it: a flicker of emotion in Sinisters eyes, so brief he almost doubted his own senses. But something in his gut told him it was true.
Is he actually... afraid? Then does that mean Sinister also has the--
Then the thought left him. Not because Sinister had said anything, but by the sudden... presence... that filled the room. Almost against his will his eyes were dragged towards the corner where he had left Dawn. In all the confusion he had almost forgotten she was there.
When he saw her he immediatly regretted it.
The girl stood with her hands hanging at her sides, head tilted slightly. A gentle white glow seemed to suffuse her skin, flickering like a candle flame. There was a faraway, almost wistful look in her eyes, as if she was looking past them both. Her wings were not extended, but Glenn's eyes registered a slight lightening of the air around her shoulders, as if the missing appendages were trying to shine through reality.
"This has to stop," she said softly. Her voice was perfectly normal, almost conversational. Glenn was oddly relieved. He had half-expected it to be... strange, somehow.
"Does it indeed?" Sinister's smooth masque of indifference had returned, but Glenn could tell the man was fascinated. Glenn would have been, too, if he hadn't been so worried.
What has she done to herself..?
"Yes," Dawn replied, placing her hands in her pockets. Something around her left arm shimmered through the cloth of her ragged shirt, pulsing like a heartbeat. "What's a show of force going to do, really? We've fought enough."
What are you doing? Dawn... Glenn tried to reach out--
And recoiled. He felt a wash of vertigo overtake him, and dark images tugged at the corner of his mind. Memories... memories were trying to find their way in, and they didn't belong to him. Pain and anger and fear clawed at his mind, trying to engulf him...
Then it stopped. Glenn straightened himself, shaken, and turned his gaze back to Dawn. She was looking at him. Her eyes were shining, and he didn't think it was from tears.
:I'm sorry,: she sent, touching his mind softly. :It's spilling over. I can't help it.:
In light of all hed been through in the past few minutes alone, Glenn had his own concerns. :Are you all right? What are you doin'?:
She just smiled at him. :You know, I have absolutely no idea. I'm pretty sure it'll work, though.:
There was no reply. Glenn had to suppress the urge to growl. She always insisted on doing everything herself, in her own way and on her own time. They had joined Generation X the same day, but Glenn himself had only gone into active combat twice: once, briefly, against Sinister, and once against the demon D'Spayre. He honestly wasn't sure how often Dawn had fought. She'd gone to the future to save his life once, and she'd returned in rough shape. She had refused to talk about it, and a lot else, come to think about it.
She kept so much from me, Glenn thought bitterly as he watched the fragile-seeming apparition that now confronted Sinister. I would have helped her, but she never let me. That isn't goin' to happen again.
:No, it isn't,: came the unexpected reply. :I was scared. I still am. But I need to do this alone. Please, trust me.:
Her short, choppy thoughts belied the calm tone in which she'd spoken, and her urgency gave him pause. He hesitated, his eyes locked with hers, searching...
And he finally relented.
:All right,: he said softly. :Just this once, mind. Never again.:
:Never again,: Dawn replied, smiling softly. Those spectral wings of hers seemed to spread, and for that moment he saw her as hed last seen her: crying, frightened, her wings a twisted ruin of feather and bone. It was the last thing he could remember. After that there had been only light. Light, and pain.
Where was the rest of it?
Not now, he thought, fighting a sudden wave of nausea. Remember later. Not now.
Then the moment was gone, and he was back in reality. Such as it was.
Dawn hadn't moved. Nor had Sinister. They both seemed to be focused totally on the task at hand, despite Dawn's assurances.
"If not fight me, what do you intend to do?" Sinister said. He assesed her appearance with one eyebrow raised. "I must say, your current display of power is not conductive to trust."
"What, this?" Dawn raised a hand and looked at it, seemingly unaware that the air around it was oddly distorted. "This is just so you know I mean business. I might not be able to call the dead anymore, but I'm learning to compensate pretty fast, I think. Knowledge may be power, but desperation is the mother of invention, right?" She let her hand drop. "It's true. Half the stuff I've been able to do I never could have managed under normal circumstances. Partly because of you."
"My enthusiasm knows no bounds. There is nothing I like more than playing the insipid nursemaid to random mutants for no particular reason."
Dawn clasped her hands together and turned her eyes towards the ceiling. "Nursemaid... no. But a breeder who takes pride in his work, yeah. I may not be able to read your mind, but I'm still an empath."
"There is a certain satisfaction in a job well done, yes," Sinister responded. "Is there the slightest rhyme or reason to this song, Ms. Embers?"
"I'm getting there," Dawn said, rolling her gaze back to the scientist. There was a strange, almost feverish gleam in her eyes even though her tone hadn't changed at all. "Like I said, I'd never have been able to do half the things I do now without your help, or influence, or malignant presence, whatever. And I'd really like to thank you for that, because I can honestly say I've never seen so much."
Dawn did not so much as flicker an eyelid, but suddenly Glenn found himself unable to breathe. The air had become unbearably thick, and hot, whispering tendrils brushed against his skin and pricked the hair on the back of his neck. It was as if a heavy invisible blanket had been thrown over him--and from the look on Sinisters face he wasn't the only one.
"What... is..." Sinister rasped, as if not enough air was reaching his lungs. Dawn just spread her arms.
"This is just the emotional residue I found sticking to you," she replied. "You've hurt a lot of people, whether you intended to or not."
"That is not my... concern," Sinister managed. "Sacrifices... must be made."
"Yeah, I know you believe that," Dawn acknowledged. "But they didn't."
"Am I to feel guilty for the reactions of others? I can hardly be blamed for their weakness." He seemed to be adjusting to the unseen pressure.
"No. But you can be blamed for your own."
Glenn forced himself past Dawns neutral expression and calm tone to look at her eyes. They were oddly unfocused, but so bright... fever bright. He remembered the touch of her mind, strained almost to the point of breaking, and wondered if she knew just how close she was skirting edge.
"Now that I've got all the background emotion out of the way, I can feel some of yours," Dawn continued. "You leak pain... old pain, but it's still pain... and guilt."
"That is none of your concern." Sinisters voice was tight and angry, trembling on the edge of control. His pale mask was beginning to crack.
"But there's love, too," Dawn went on, as if he hadn't spoken. "You loved someone, didn't you? And she loved you, too, but in the end it turned to fear..."
"Silence!" A blast of energy punctuated the snarl, but it was deflected from Dawns body, as if by an invisible wall. "Your meaningless blithering accomplishes nothing!"
"It's made you angry, hasn't it?" Dawn tilted her head. "You've shown weakness. I can't breach your psishields, but I can still read you like a book, Sinister. There's more to a person than just thoughts, and whatever you became, you started out human, just like the rest of us."
The electricity in the air seemed to intensify, as if feeding from the conflict. The faint glow of spectral wings increased, and Glenn fancied he could see them moving slowly.
"There are two ways this can go," Dawn continued quietly. "We can do a lot of pointless posturing and fighting, in which case you probably win anyway and then have maybe a week until the X-Men come in to rescue me and do even more property damage... or you can let us go. We walk away, and I never bring up your painful memories to anyone--most especially you--ever again. You already have Glenn's DNA, I'm sure, and if you really want mine... well, I'm not using the body anymore. I can get Moira to send you some scrapings or whatever, if you don't mind the Legacy damage. And, as an added bonus, I don't experiment with whether or not I can project all these old emotions directly into your brain. How about that?"
This was too much. "Dawn, you can't," Glenn interrupted. "You don't know what he'll do with your genetic material--"
Dawn shook her head. "I don't care anymore," she said. "And, whether I like it or not, I... understand Sinister now. I remember something Dr. McCoy said once--that sometimes Sinister is willing to take steps were not to achieve the same ends. If he wants to study my cells, fine. I don't have a problem with that. I know what he wants to accomplish by it."
Sinister's rage seemed to be ebbing, and he took some time to consider this. "And if I wish to reproduce them?" Sinister inquired. Dawn shot him a dark look.
"If you want to clone antibodies or grow internal organs, I don't care," she replied. "But if you want to clone me, or do anything that will result in a being with a mind and a soul of its own, then I will hunt you down like a freaking dog. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
A flash of anger passed over the scientist's face. "And how, one wonders, will you enforce this?"
Dawn tapped her forehead lightly. "I know how to find you now. Once a path's beaten it's easy to find your way back, after all. And who knows? Maybe by then I'll be able to breach your psishields, or I'll have my medium power back, and we can have a real epic battle. But as long as you don't bother us, I'll be more than happy to pretend you don't exist."
Sinister snorted. "Compromise mixed with threats," he said. "Xavier's brood is being taught a new set of tactics, it seems."
"Take it or leave it, Sinister."
"You presume to deliver ultimatums?"
"I presume to try and compromise as best I can without shooting my morals to hell. I don't like you, Sinister, but I don't hate you... well, not as much as I did. I just want this over. Life's way too short for this. For some of us, anyway. Come on. Let's make an end to it."
To Glenn's utter amazement, Dawn extended a small hand to Sinister. The genetiscist stared at it for a long time, as if he didn't quite know what to make of it. Then, to Glenn's further astonishment, the man accepted it.
"I shall contact MacTaggert and tell her where she may send the genetic material," Sinister said. "Tell her to include your medical records--all she has available. I require every iota of information she has on you."
Dawn nodded. "Done," she replied. "And if you want anything else from me... just call, all right? I can't promise anything for anyone else, but if I think its reasonable, you've got my cooperation. Okay?"
"That seems satisfactory. For now."
They're like two dogs on unfamiliar territory, Glenn thought as their gazes remained locked. Neither one can get at the other, so they bark and growl and then go their seperate ways, pretending they were never interested in the first place. Everyone's pretty sure they know who'd have won, but now it'll never be an issue.
Sinister ended the contest. His eyes unfocused, shifting to take in Dawn's face and features. Dawn relaxed her gaze a fraction of a second later, and the world expanded beyond one another's pupils.
"I won't forget," Dawn said after a moment. "The way out is through that door..?"
"Correct." Sinister hadn't batted an eyelash.
"Thanks. If you see Verney, send him up. Just tell him, please. He's had a lot of people messing with his mind lately. He doesn't need anyone else."
"All right, then, we're set." Dawn inclined her head to Sinister, almost in a sort of half-bow. Then she turned towards the door. "Okay, Glenn. Let's get going."
Glenn felt his mouth open and shut a few times, although he could think of no words to put in it. He swung his head towards Sinister, but the man was already leaving. Just like that, it was over.
In a daze, he followed Dawn through the door and up the stairs it revealed. At the top of the staircase was another door that swung open at a touch, and they were out.
From the outside, the entrance to Sinister's laboratory was deceptively small. It appeared to be a small, run-down toolshed, and not too far away from it was a slightly less decrepit house. In the gravel driveway was a pick-up truck. There was nothing else around but trees.
"Not what you'd expect for Sinister's hideout," Dawn remarked distantly. "But I guess that was sort of the point..."
Glenn found his tongue and whipped it into action. "What the hell was that?" he demanded, pointing to the shed. "How could you just give in to him like that? After all he did--"
Dawn held up a hand. "I know what he did. I know who he did it to, maybe better than he does. But don't you see..? We'd have lost. I'm almost sure of that. And yeah, probably Generation X or the X-Men would have helped us, but Sinister wouldn't have stopped until he got what he wanted. We don't always have to fight. Fighting is for people who can't think of a better way. I don't want to fight anymore. I just want him to leave us alone. So I gave him what he wanted on my own terms instead of waiting for him to take it from me."
Glenn shook his head. "But all those people... your parents, Dawn. For God's sake, he killed 'em without a second thought..."
"I've talked to them about that," Dawn said shortly. "I talked to Will, too. And do you know what Will said, when I asked him what he thought about my idea? He said 'The dead are dead. We're beyond caring. Stop thinking about us and start looking after yourself.'" She walked to the middle of the sparse clearing, shoving her hands in her pockets. She stared at the ground, scuffing at the thin dead grass with one sneakered foot. "And you know what? I agree with him. What Sinister's doing is wrong, we're agreed on that--trust me, are we ever agreed--but you can't change someone's mind by pounding it into the ground, especially if they're as malleable as Sinister. But maybe if we try to reason, or even just walking beside his beliefs instead of crashing into them head-first all the time... maybe we could change something."
Glenn was about to protest, but his arguments died unborn. He couldn't see her eyes, but she had an air about her that was... different. Calmer than he remembered her, but sadder, too. "You've changed," he said, unmoving. Dawn laughed, her voice carrying only a touch of bitterness.
"In the space of a year I've become a mutant, seen a good part of the people I know killed, died of Legacy, and come back to life. So yeah, I've changed." She turned back to face him, running a hand through her tangled hair. "Sometimes I feel like I'm a million years old, when I think about all I've seen. I'm tired and highstrung and I've got survivor's guilt like you wouldn't believe, but I'm alive, and I'm going to keep trying to do what I think is right." She paused. "Wait, that's not really big a change..."
Her friend sighed. "We're going to have words about this. You and me."
"But later. I don't have the energy to fight anymore."
"Me either." Dawn raised a hand and flexed her fingers for a moment, assessing the distorted light that surrounded them. "All these psionic tricks really take it out of you. I need to let it go soon..."
"All this... energy I peeled off Sinister. Old emotions. It was sustaining me, but I can't keep it. It's sloshing around in my head right now, and if I'm not careful it's going to take up permanent residence. And I have the horrible feeling I'm going to pass out once I let it go, so I'd better do this first." She took a deep breath and pulled her gaze back up to Glenn's eyes. "Your memories aren't... complete. I just sort of dropped my view on the situation into your mind and let you sort it out. Do you want the rest of it now, or do you want to wait?"
"I... now, I sppose," Glenn replied after a moment. "I s'ppose it'll take some time to sort through 'em."
"Probably," Dawn agreed, rubbing her forehead. "It might be a little overwhelming, but you'll be okay soon enough. I've got a guarantee on that."
She walked forward until less than six inches separated them. She tilted her head up, so she could look up at his face.
"You're too tall," she concluded. "And I'll never grow. I mean, dead people don't grow. But you're back, so everything... everything's all right..." She choked over a sudden sob, and her knees seemed to give out. Startled, Glenn caught her before she collapsed, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close while she cried.
"Please don't leave me again," she whispered as Glenn tentatively stroked her hair. "I don't want to be left behind again. Please."
"You were the one who always left me behind, remember?" Glenn chided softly, kissing the top of her head. Dawn gave a strangled laugh.
"Not anymore," she replied, hugging him fiercly. "I don't want to do this alone anymore. It's too hard."
"Dawn, you're thirteen years old," Glenn reminded her gently. "You shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
She laughed softly. "I've got to fight," she said. "How can I live with myself if I don't do everything I can to make things better?"
Glenn looked at her ernest, tear-streaked face for a long moment, and smiled sadly. "I don't suppose you can," he said, and kissed her again, on the forehead. "But no one should have to fight alone. And you'll always have me."
"Thank you." She hugged him again, and he could feel her hot tears soaking through his shirt. Then, slowly, she slid a hand to his temple and touched him.
That light brush of skin brought back a rush of memories--images, sounds and smells he was sure he'd never experienced before. Now it was Glenn's knees that gave out, and he was dimly aware of Dawn lowering him carefully onto the ground. She kissed his cheek and then stepped backwards, just a little, and sighed. With that soft exhalation of breath a wash of... something... poured from her body, and Glenn shuddered as it rolled over him, tangible as a frigid wave.
Dawn said nothing. Instead she began a slow collapse that left her crumpled on the ground beside him, an expression of peace on her face.
Poor gel, he thought, pulling himself to his knees and reaching out to touch one of her thin wrists. You were so tired. Sleep well.
He felt a slight disturbance in the air to his left, and turned. His eyes told him the newcomer was an enemy, but his memories said otherwise. His muscles, which were in any case in charge at the moment, could not have done much either way.
Verney seemed not to notice. He looked first at Glenn, then at Dawn, and then back at Glenn again. "Is she injured?" he inquired in a tone that told Glenn the speaker was exhausted but determined to do his job regardless. Glenn shook his head.
"She's sleepin'," he replied, his voice breaking only slightly. Verney nodded.
"What has happened?" the Algerian asked. Glenn shook his head again.
"We won, I guess," he said. "She'll tell you when she wakes up." He managed to climb to his feet and began to walk, somewhat unsteadily, towards the house. He paused to look around. "Where are we?"
"Somewhere in northern Oklahoma," the other said. He made an apologetic geture. "I am afraid I am very weak. I cannot take you to Muir or the Academy. However, Dawn and I have recently been staying in a--"
"I'm not comin'."
Verney blinked. "But... why?"
"I need to think some things out on my own for a while."
"But Dawn... what should I tell her?"
"Tell her..." Glenn paused, and glanced at her crumpled form. "Tell her to come find me."
As the bemused Verney watched, Glenn raised himself into the air and tested his stability. Once he was satisfied he flew higher, wavering only a little, and waved.
"Thanks for takin' care of her," he said. "She means a lot to me."
Then he circled once, just to get his bearings, and left.
I woke up a week later.
It took me a moment to realize I was in Grace's bed, carefully covered with blankets. I squirmed out from under them and rubbed my head; I felt drained and oddly hollow, and for the first time since I'd come back almost... hungry. Not knowing what kind of things psionic entities could snack on, I chose to ignore it and climbed out of bed.
Someone had dressed me in a long pink nightshirt that could only have been bought by Derrick. It was the kind of thing guys think girls wear to sleep.
I stumbled down to the kitchen. It felt like someone had scrubbed my brain with steel wool, and consequently I wasn't in the best of states. That's probably why I screamed in poor Vance's face when I almost ran into him while turning a corner.
"I see you're awake," he said dryly, uncovering his ears. I blushed.
"Er, sorry," I said. "I'm just a little jumpy."
"Do tell. How are you feeling?"
"Like I just ran a marathon. What happened?"
"Verney brought you home. You've been asleep for a long time. We were starting to worry. Your teacher flew in a few days ago, but he's out with Derrick and Grace, getting breakfast."
"Mr. Cassidy?" It felt like I hadn't seen him in an eternity. "Where are Jason and Karen?"
"Muir Island, recovering. Jason underwent surgery almost the moment they arrived, from Karen's telling. Judging from what I've heard so far, Derrick is the sane one in the family."
I remembered Jason clawing into his flesh, a look of grim determination on his face, and shuddered. "I think you're right," I agreed. "But when you think about it you really can't blame them..."
"True." For the first time, he registered what I was wearing. "Ouch. I told Derrick pink wasn't a good choice..."
I coughed self-consciously. "Where are my clothes?" I asked.
"In the trashcan. They were shredded. And charred, and stained. What the hell happened last week?"
I let my mind drift back, and winced. "Too much. I feel like I got hit by a truck..."
"You looked like it, too. When Verney brought you back you weren't breathing. We were worried until I figured you didn't do that anyway. Anyway, I'm sure Grace won't mind if you borrow her clothes again."
"Great. Where's Glenn, anyway?"
Vance frowned. "Glenn?"
I tried to ignore the inevitable sinking feeling. "The guy who came with us? Sort of skinny? Brown hair?"
Vance looked blank. "No one came with you..."
All right, so I hadn't been having a great time lately. Still, I probably shouldn't have done what I did next.
"VERNEY! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?! WHERE IS HE?!"
Verney materialized just as Vance was unplugging his ears, wearing an expression of mingled discomfort and apprehension. The polite thing to do would have been to very calmly ask him what he knew. Or at least try to keep my voice level while I was doing it. Either way, I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have grabbed him by the lapels and yanked him down to eye level while I was trying.
"Did you see Glenn?" I demanded.
"Yes," he replied immediately. "I would have told you, but you were unconscious. Please do not hurt me."
I blinked, then released him and tried to pretend I hadn't needed to. "Sorry," I said. "Er. Uh. What did he say?"
"That he needed to... think about some things. He said that you were to find him when you were well again."
"Find him? How am I supposed to..."
Dawn. Telapath. Psychic rapport. Ringing any bells?
"...Oh, right," I finished lamely. "Problem solved. Verney? Can you do me a favor?"
"You want me to chauffer you, I suppose?" he sighed.
"If it's not too much trouble..."
"No, I suppose I can handle once more. But wouldn't it be wise to wait for Monsiuer Cassidy?"
"Er..." I really didn't want to wait for Sean to administer the impending lecture. "No, I really don't want to bug him. And as long as I'm going to get into trouble anyway, why not?"
"I see your point."
Vance gave a half-laugh, half-snort. "You're all insane, the lot of you," he said.
I smiled at him. "You know, I'm starting to think I wouldn't have it any other way. I mean, what kind of life would it be without a little bit of insanity?"
Picture a boy.
He sits on a slight outcropping of rock at the edge of a river, leaning back on the palms of his hands. By his side is a knapsack full of the less-perishable kind of food, and a few sketchpads. He seems to be deep in thought.
Now picture a girl. She has appeared as if from nowhere, wearing a pensive expression and clothes a little too big for her. As she takes a step forward she disturbs the leaves, and the boy turns around. Their eyes meet.
The boy doesn't move. He waits for the girl to come to him. He listens patiently as she yells at him for leaving her, and speaks a few wry words when necessary. When her anger finally abates he smiles at her, and motions for her to sit next to him. She does, and only hits him once for the worry he caused her.
She rests her head on his shoulder, and he wraps an arm around her. They say nothing. Everything has already been said.
This is where it started, and this is where it will end. And, just for the moment, everything is all right.
Dear Mom & Dad,
It feels weird to write a letter, but since neither of you are mutants I can't really talk face-to-face with either of you. I asked Will how he thought this should be done, and he said to just do the letter and then burn it. I'm not really sure that letters can actually die, or that people can read their ghosts, but it's worth a shot, right?
I'm back at Muir Island now. Mr. Cassidy yelled at me. A lot. And when he got tired Dr. MacTaggert and Ms. Frost took turns, so it was more or less constant for three days. I don't think they agree with what I did, but Dr. MacTaggert sent along all the information Sinister asked for the day after I got back, so I guess they respect my decision.
The three people I stayed with (Grace, Derrick and Vance) were reimbursed for the property damage we caused when the Phalanx tried to invade. I'm not sure who does their insurance, but I think they use the same people who cover the Avengers. Go figure...
Jason's doing pretty well. He has this huge bandage around his neck where he dug into it, but Dr. MacTaggert fixed it up as best she could. She said it should heal well, and it's a miracle he didn't give himself brain damage. Karen says no one would have noticed if he had, which means she's feeling better, too.
Verney's gone back to Algeria with Monet for a while. He says he has to try to talk to his father, even if it's not likely to be very pleasant. M went to try her hand at mediation. I'm really, really glad I'm not her right now.
And Glenn's back. I figure Will probably told you, but it can't hurt to mention it again. He's... okay, I think, but the whole thing hasn't been easy for him. Sometimes he goes quiet, and I know he's still thinking things over. I know I still do.
A week or so after we got back, Glenn asked if we could put up a marker for Jefferey. Dr. MacTaggert paid for it, and she was nice enough to let us put it in her family plot. I know Glenn feels guilty about having Jefferey's body, but that's how Jefferey wanted it, in the end... still, we both agreed that he deserved something more solid than memories. Sometimes I put flowers by the marker.
On a more personal note, Glenn and I are taking things slow. Really slow. So slow they're almost going backwards. After all the crap we've been through lately we both figured we needed more time to get our own heads together before we started messing around in each others, so for now were back to being best friends. I'm not as disappointed as I thought I would be, but then, we still have the psionic rapport thing going. That helps a lot. We'll work up to things once we've both come to grips with our mutual problems, I think, but until then we're willing to wait.
And me? I don't know. I'm doing pretty good right now. Glenn's alive, Sinister's out of my hair, and I've got half my power back. It'll heal in time, Dr. MacTaggert says, and I'm not too eager to use it again any time soon. I'm not so sure I want to go back to Generation X. I like it there, but I'm not so sure I belong. I mean, I'm an actual trouble magnet. I swear I must have some kind of psychic sign slapped on my forehead that says "Attack me, I like it." I don't know. I tried to ask Will about all that "bloodlines" stuff he was muttering about, but he's not talking. I think he just likes having something to hold over me. I've been thinking it might have something to do with that Otherworld blood stuff Dr. MacTaggert told me about, though, so I'm going to check that out. Maybe I'll ask Captain Britain, if I can find him...
So basically, I'm on hiatus. After the last couple of months I'm kind of glad, too. I think I cause GenX more trouble than I'm worth. So what am I supposed to do now, start my own team? Hah! Just what this world needs: another team with an X slapped on it. Please.
I'll figure something out. I mean, I can't just stop. I've got all this power, and I seem to be drawn to where it's needed most. That's definitely a gift. Or something. With great power comes great responsibility, right? Well, I'm definitly going to use it. It may get me banged up, but it makes me feel better to help people than just thinking about how I might do it in the future.
There are bad things in this world. I don't think I could ever get rid of them all, even if I turn out to be immortal or something, but that's not the point. It's not a competition. It's the fight that makes life worth living. I know that now. You can't have peace without war, and you can't have happiness without pain. That's just the way the world works. Even if I was strong enough to wipe out the hate and fear of every mind in the world, I wouldn't do it. Peace is something you have to earn for yourself. That's what makes it worth having.
Anyway, that's it for now. I'll have to find Mr. Wisdom before I burn it. He'll either have a lighter on him, or I'll drag him along to have him use his hotknives. But for now... well, the sun's out, the sky's clear. It's a beautiful day to go flying. It's a beautiful day to be alive.
And I'm going to start living.
At least, until the next time.