The Ties That Bind, part 5

Disclaimer: Most of this isn't my fault. Honest. I'm only responsible for Dawn, Karen, and Shrive. Blame Marvel for the rest.

Author's Note: Hello again. I PROMISE there will be no more Onslaught after this chapter. There may be references, but that's it. I swear. Kind of. Hee hee!

After the Onslaught

Half an hour later, I flew beside Nate and Charles silently, surveying the amount of damage that had been done by Onslaught. It was horrible. There were small fires everywhere, scattered remains of Sentinels littering the streets, and screams of fear and outrage still echoed through my mind. I felt like crying as I saw parts of Manhattan collapse before my eyes.

"Onslaught... did all THIS?" I whispered in horrified awe.

"I'm afraid so," Charles said, his voice thick with regret. "This is what I have always feared would happen, and yet it was because of my own folly that this has come about. The heros of the world are gone, and there will be no one to fill the void."

"But surely the X-Men--" I began.

"No, child," Charles said. "I fear this will never be an option. The world saw us turn on our comrades in the heat of the battle. They do not know why we did so, but they will consider this the ultimate betrayal by mutant kind. All they saw was mutants stripping their world of heros that came long before any of us, and--Heaven help us--they will hold us forever responsible... for a world without heros."

I was quiet as Nate landed atop a sky scraper. I settled down next to them and looked across the charred ruins of New York.

"They were incredible," Nate said suddenly.

"Who?" Charles asked.

"The heros," he replied. "The Fantastic Four and the Avengers. They passed by me so briefly. I wish I had gotten a chance to learn from them. They could have taught me so much."

"You had no one like them in the world you came from?" Charles inquired.

"Not at all," Nate told him. "Maybe if we had... they might have made MY home a better place. God knows they made a difference here."

We let the wind blow to our faces as we faced the destruction before us, the sun set visible through the clouds of black smoke in the air. I sat on the ledge, dangling my feet over and towards the ground below. The panic of the city flooded my mind and I began to feel extremely depressed. I felt a gentle nudge on my mind and wondered if it was Nate.

:Hello?: I sent wearily.

:Hang in there, Dawny,: the thought sent in an almost unnoticeable whisper. :We'll be watching you... even if we can't... be... there...*: The thought faded out, and I recognized it too late.

"WILL?!?!?" I cried in desperation. So great was my surprise that I fell off the roof. I was so startled that I didn't even think to open my wings so I could fly back up.

"Dawn!" Nate exclaimed. Before he could use his TK to catch me a short, strong (but gentle) breeze swept me back up to the ledge and to safety.

"Will, come back!" I exclaimed as the wind faded.

"Who's Will?" asked Nate. "How'd you do that?"

"Will was my cousin..." I sighed, giving it up. "He died several months ago, but my powers could call him back. I burned them out weeks ago, though, so haven't spoken to him since. I thought... no, I KNOW that was him who saved me, but I can't get him back!" I lowered my voice to a whisper. "I miss him so much," I said. "I thought maybe I could get him back again, but no, I suppose I can't do that anymore. I probably never will again, or at least not consciously." I got up and spread my wings. "I need to find my friends now, Professor. I'll be seeing you both soon, I hope." I gave Nate and Charles a hug and stepped off the roof, flying away through the smoke filled sky.

Even though I was exhausted, I scanned the city for Verney and/or Shrive. I finally found them, and I could feel Verney's concern. Shrive, however, was calm and trying to assure him that I was all right. I felt relieved that they hadn't been hurt even though I Verney wasn't exactly a close personal friend and I barely KNEW Shrive. I could tell Shrive meant well, and behind all the mystery and strange, sudden flashes of precognition there was a genuinely nice person. I flew over to where they both were and nearly collapsed as I touched down.

"Dawn!" Verney exclaimed as I suddenly dropped out of the sky. "Are you all right?"

"Lemme... catch my... breath," I gasped, though I didn't really breathe anymore. I felt as though I was about to dissolve, but pulled myself together as best I could. I was about ready to pass out when I felt energy coursing into me. I got up slowly and wondered where it had come from. I didn't have much time to wonder, though, because Verney caught my arm and said, "Dawn, come. We must go back to Muir immediately. I can see you are exhausted and in need of much rest, if not medical attention. Dr. MacTaggert and Mr. Cassidy are surely worrying about us."

"That sounds like a plan," I agreed wearily. "I just want to sleep for the next week." I turned to Shrive. "Shrive, thanks for your help," I told him. "I was wondering... since you don't have any training, would you like to come to Muir Island with us? My teachers can help you hone your powers and train you..."

Shrive laughed. "Dawn, believe me when I say I have had plenty of opportunities to hone my powers," he smiled wryly. "Those sudden flashes of precognition don't occur often, they only happen when a temporal or spacial wildcard turns up." He closed his eyes momentarily and I sensed psionic energy of some form radiating from his general direction. "I WILL go to Muir with you, though," he said, opening his eyes. "But I have to stop by my apartment first. My friend needs far, far more help then I EVER will. Is that all right?"

"I guess..." I shrugged, wondering who his 'friend' could be. Shrive smiled faintly as Verney took both our arms and shunted us Between. Shrive looked impressed, but not surprised, which I found rather strange. Still, it IS hard to surprise a precog, so I guess it wasn't too unusual.

We arrived just outside an apartment door in a dingy section of town and Shrive knocked on the door. It opened a little, the all the way. The person who had opened it was a young girl, about my age, with silver hair and bandages around her arms. "Shrive? Who are these people?" she asked.

"Friends, Karry," he smiled. "Come on, we're leaving. We're going to find someone who can help you."

"All right," she said. She seemed a little weak for some reason, and had to lean against Shrive to keep herself steady. Verney looked concerned but shifted us back into Between. I settled back for a long trip.

A while later we arrived at Muir. We had made much better time going from New York then to it, but even so it was about three o'clock in the morning there. We arrived in the Med Lab, and I dreaded to think about what I'd have to tell Moira and Sean. Emma, thankfully, was still in Massachusetts, so I didn't have to worry about HER. That I was VERY glad of, because her lectures were the worst.

"Where are we?" Karen inquired, looking around the darkened lab.

"Muir Island," I replied. "Vern, do you think we should wake up Dr. MacTaggert or Mr. Cassidy?"

"I believe Mr. Cassidy might tend to be a little more understanding," Verney said. "Particularly at this time of the morning."

"Worth a shot," I shrugged. Even exhausted as I was I was still powerful enough to send a message to Sean. I concentrated and nudged his mind gently.

:Mr. Cassidy, wake up,: I said. :Verney and I are back.:

:Mmmumph,: he grumbled mentally. :Who's... Dawn! Ye're back!:

:Deja vu,: I commented absently. :But yes, we're back. A little tired, but basically all right. And we've got guests.:

:Acch, I probably dinna want t' know...: Sean muttered as he turned over in his bed. :All right, where are ye, lass?:

:The Med Lab,: I told him. :I'm going to break the connection now. If I don't, I think I'll pass out.:

:Fine, lass, I'll be there in a minute,: Sean said as I broke our link. I collapsed onto the bed and lay on my back for several minutes.

"Are you going to be all right?" Verney inquired. I noticed he had a vial of the genetic supplement open and was holding it up to his hands so he could siphon it.

"I think so," I replied. "I feel kind of fuzzy... I'm probably just tired."

"Dawn, your hair has become a bit... different," Shrive observed with a tired smile.

"Whu..?" I glanced at a lock of hair and discovered it was... well, it's rather hard to describe, but imagine those little heat waves that come up from blacktop being white and blue and you'd get a pretty good idea at what it looked like. My hair was only half solid, the rest slid through my fingers.

"This is kind of weird," I stated, not all that concerned for some reason. I was just too tired to get riled up about anything at the moment.

Sean came in, dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt and looking a bit drowsy. I didn't blame him, either.

"Morning, sir," I said, sitting up. "Um, these are Shrive and Karen."

"A pleasure," Sean said, extending his hand to Shrive. "Forgive me if I'm nae quite as chipper as usual, but I dinna usually get up at three a.m."

"Same here," Shrive nodded, taking his hand. There was at least a decade between the two, but it wasn't that apparent by the way they treated each other. I sighed and fell back on the bed, still exhausted.

"Are you okay?" Karen inquired.

"Just really, REALLY tired," I told her. "And I don't even know if I can sleep." I rolled over and closed my eyes despite myself. As soon as I did so, however, I felt the energy that made up my body begin to separate as I lost cohesion. I jolted awake and my body pulled itself back together. "Guess I can't," I muttered.

"Canna what?" Sean inquired.

"Sleep," I told him wearily. "I think if I do I'll disolve."


I relaxed my concentration and held up my hand, which began to dissolve. It was actually pretty interesting to watch, but I stopped when it got as far as my wrist. I concentrated and reformed my hand, but the strain was starting to wear me down and my entire outline began to blur. I glanced at a stray lock of hair that fell in my face and I noticed it appeared to be a mere streak of light with no noticeable individual strands. I wondered how long it would be until my whole body looked like that.

"You can sleep," Shrive told me after a moment of contemplation.

"But what if I dissolve and can't come back?" I asked.

"You don't need to worry about that," he assured me. "You'll exist as long as you're perceived by other sentient beings."

"You sound like you're reading a file," I frowned. "Where'd you learn that?"

"I'm... not really sure," he replied, looking a bit startled. "I think I'll read it somewhere, but I'm not sure where or when. It was a very vague impression."

I took a deep pseudo-breath and said, "Well, if you're sure I'll be able to come back I'd like to get some rest." I ran my hand through my former hair. "I'm so tired I feel like I'm going to pass out."

"Don't you think we should ask Dr. MacTaggert?" Verney suggested.

Sean almost smiled. "Nae at THIS time in the mornin', lad," he chuckled. "Nae if'n ye want t' live."

"I don't... think I have... much of a choice... just now," I said as I began to slip into the realm of unconsciousness. I caught a brief glimpse of Verney, Shrive, and Sean looking surprised right before I passed out.

Much later I regained consciousness. Sort of. I was still in the Med Lab, but I was in that state of just 'being' again like I had been when I had originally came back. I concentrated on solidifying myself again. This time my molecules made an almost audible whoosh as they re-arranged themselves. I patted myself to make sure I was all there and got off the cot. I stretched out and flexed my wings, which I carefully pulled in. I noticed I still had the outfit Moira had given me on, which surprised me. I wondered how I had done that when I heard a noise at the far side of the room. I turned around and discovered Monet entering the room. She was fully dressed, which implied she had known when I was getting up. Considering her power of 'knowing it all' this wasn't unusual.

"You didn't say good-bye," she told me when she noticed me looking at her.

"I didn't have the chance," I apologized. "But you knew..?"

"Yes," she nodded, walking over to me and sitting on the cot. I sat down next to her and she continued. "So much psionic energy could hardly be ignored." She looked at her feet for a moment and suddenly hugged me. "I missed you," was all she said.

"I missed you too, M," I said, albeit a little awkwardly. She HAD been opening up a little as she had spent more time with the team, but she was acting a little more child-like then I remembered.

"Did you talk to Verney?" I asked her.

"Yes," she replied, letting me go. "Dawn... thank you for getting my brother back. I missed him so..."

"It's all right," I told her. "I just did what needed to be done."

Monet smiled at me. "Mentor wants to see you on the roof," she told me.

"Really? I was sort of hoping I could sleep in or something."

"I doubt it'll be for long." She looked over at the cot next to me. "Who... are they?" she frowned.

I turned around and discovered Karen lying on the cot next to me and Shrive sleeping in a chair beside her, his arm placed on her hand almost protectively. Karen had a look of pain on her face, and Shrive looked worried even in his sleep.

"You mean you can't read them either?" I inquired.

"No," she admitted. "There's some kind of artificial resistance surrounding them. It's confusing all my scans."

"Mine too," I nodded. "But my empathy is getting through a little and neither of them seem to be a threat, mentally or physically."

Monet looked thoughtful. "This is a discussion for another time," she decided. "Mentor is waiting. I'll see you later." She left the room, her long dark hair trailing behind her. I sighed and got off the bed, straightening out the lab-suit, which was pretty beat up by that time. I strode down the darkened corridors and outside, where I stretched my wings out and flew up to the roof. I saw Gateway meditating on the roof as usual. I hadn't seen him for a long time, but it didn't feel like it. He turned around slowly and looked me straight in the eyes.

:Sit,: he sent simply. I sat down beside him, folding my wings. The wind blew my hair gently as I watched the sun glint off the water.

:Do you remember the omens?: he asked. I shook my head, not knowing what he was talking about. He sighed and took up his bull-roarer, which he swung around. I watched and saw images form. They seemed to be taken from my memories of Otherplace. I saw the sorceress Lodema before me and heard her eerie, whispered words.

"Darkness shall triumph, but you shall rise from the ashes of defeat. What you seek you shall not find, sending you again into a world of pain and bigotry. Remember things are not always as they seem, and you shall find allies in unexpected places. Shadows of your past shall find you again--if you desire to attain your true potential you must defeat them. Never lose your compassion, or risk becoming one of the enemy yourself. For every life you touch you shall gain power from the good you do them. And never forget, there are few things stronger in this world as the power of pure, unconditional love.'"

:Do you remember them now?:


:Keep them in mind. You shall need them.:

:Was... was that all?:

:No.: Gateway looked almost sad as he held out a small pin. :Give me your hand,: he instructed me. I did so, feeling nervous.

:What are you doing?: I inquired.

:Clarifying limits,: he told me. He sank the pin deep into my hand, drawing blood.

:Do you feel that?: he inquired solemnly.

:I...: I began, staring at my bleeding hand. :No. I... I don't feel anything. Anything at all. What... does this mean?:

Gateway looked pained. :You are memory given form, a soul given substance. You no longer have human limits, but are also missing many human qualities. Have you felt anything since your return?:

:I... I've felt fatigue,: I stammered.

:No. I mean hunger or physical pain.:

:N... not really,: I whispered mentally, in a state of shock.

:That is because you cannot. You are of the heart, and mind, and spirit. A spirit does not hunger nor thirst, and pain is of the physical realm.:

I clenched my bleeding hand and said, :Do you mean... I'm not REAL? I'm just a MEMORY?: I could feel a wind picking up and the already cloudy sky began to get darker as I verged on panic, but I barely noticed.

:What is--IS, Dawn-child,: he told me gently. :You are what you are. I am what I am. We can aspire to be no less.: He swung his bull-roarer around and disappeared, leaving me alone on the roof, my hand bleeding fading blood and the skies trembling with distant thunder.

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