The Ties That Bind, part 6

Disclaimer: Dawn, Shrive, and Karen belong to moi and moi alone. So there.

Author's Note: Greetings one and all. Yes, you guessed it, it's another angst fest. Sorry, but real people ARE prone to a bit of depression now and again. And no, this is NOT a whole chapter of it, only a page or so, so don't get bent out of shape or anything. Again, I apologize, but it's oh so much fun to play God, yes? Mwa ha ha ha ha...


"Hey, Dawn, you okay?"

I turned around to discover Jubilee standing behind me, her hair in disarray from the strong wind still blowing.

"I'm fine," I told her. I had changed location to a cliff on the far side of the island, out of sight from the research center and still in the medical suit Moira had given me.

"D, it's been THREE DAYS," Jubilee said.

"I noticed," I said dully. I hadn't even 'slept' since the morning Gateway had talked to me, and the harsh wind and occasional rain hadn't let up once since then.

"The others are worried about you," she continued. "And Dr. M's still after ya to finish those tests, y'know."

"I know," I nodded, still staring at the frothing water.

"Dawn, you're startin' to creep me out here," Jubilee said, clutching her trench coat to her as the rain started up again. "Do me a favor and tell me what you've been doing using more then two words, 'kay?"

I sighed and pulled my gaze off the water. "Fine," I said. "How about this? I. Have. Just. Been. Thinking. It's no big deal. Is that sufficient?"


"Just... things." I picked up a stray stick and snapped it open, splintering it into dozens of sharp twigs. "Look," I said, picking up a shard. I held out the palm of my hand and thrust it violently into my wrist. "Watch the blood," I instructed her. Jubilee wrinkled her nose as blood welled out and said, "Um, is there a point to this, or did the hamster just fall off the wheel?"

"Look," I told her again, holding my hand out above hers. I cupped her fingers with a free hand and held my bleeding wrist above it. The blood slid down it and off of my arm, but disappeared before it reached her hand.

"All right, Jubes, you wanted and explanation, so here it is. Look at the blood. If you can even CALL it blood. It fades out as soon as it leaves my body, and it doesn't hurt very much, if at all, when I get stabbed. I'm not human anymore, Jubilee. I'm not even real now."

"Whoa! Wait a minute here!" Jubilee exclaimed. "You're saying just 'cause you can't BLEED you're not real anymore? Ex-CUSE me, but you're right here talking to me! You can think and feel, can't you? Sorry, I don't buy it. You're about as human as anyone can get, and a lot more then some people I know. And besides, you're alive, aren't you? Isn't that something to be at least a LITTLE happy about?"

"Is it, Lee?" I inquired, staring into her eyes. "My most powerful ability is gone. I can't contact Will anymore, or at least not reliably. Glenn is GONE, J. I lost him from my mind the moment of his death, and even in death I couldn't find him again. So here I am, dead at the age of fourteen and having no success whatsoever at finding my best friend, dead OR alive. Tell me, Jubilee, would YOU be happy if this happened to YOU?"

She didn't seem to have an answer for that.

Jubilee finally sighed and threw her hands over her head in a gesture of defeat. "Fine. Fine! If you don't want help then I won't offer anymore. I don't know WHY you're suddenly Ms. Angst '96, but one thing I'm SURE of is that you're NEVER gonna find your boyfriend sittin' on a cliff out in the middle of nowhere brooding 'cause ya can't bleed!" She turned away and crossed her arms.

I fidgeted slightly for a moment. She was right, and I knew it. I wasn't going to accomplish anything sitting around Muir and moping. With a deep sigh I slowly said, "Jubilee... I'm sorry I snapped. I'm kind of... y'know..."

"Aw, stop it," Jubilee grinned. "I know. 'Sides, I put up with ya when you and Glenn were fighting and wouldn't tell anyone AND when Vern possessed ya, do you really think I'd be put out by a little sulking?"

I smiled wryly at her. "Thanks, Jube," I said. "I think you're just what I needed to snap out of that little bout of depression. Only you would be annoying enough to make me wake up."

"Hey, it's what I do best," she said, shrugging, but a smile was dancing on the corners of her mouth. I guess she didn't mind being called annoying if she knew you didn't mean it. "Now come on," she continued. "Let's get you to Dr. M before yer blood runs out."

"Not necessary, really," I said absently as I sealed the wound back up. Little things like scratches didn't take much energy, it was the major damage that REALLY drained me. "I learned a neat little trick in the future. Kind of tiring, but in some ways it makes up--at least a little bit--for the loss of my medium powers." I got up--and both Jubilee and I gasped in surprise.

I was towering above her head by a nearly two-foot advantage, where I had been more-or-less even with her before. I was almost seven feet tall at the moment, though. This was definitely getting strange.

"Ummm... ya didn't have a growth spurt while you were sitting on that cliff, did you?" Jubilee inquired, her mouth hanging open as she stared up at me.

"Not that I'M aware of," I said, staring at my hands. "And to think my estimated height was supposedly going to be around 5'11." I took a step and almost tripped--my center of gravity was now quite a bit higher then before. "Obviously this is going to take a while to get used to," I frowned as I steadied myself on Jubilee's willing shoulder.

"Dr. MacTaggert's gonna have a field day with this one," Jubilee commented as she staggered a bit. "Want we should go back?"

"Might as well," I sighed. "Although I don't particularly care for being treated like a lab rat." We started off (a bit unsteadily, I might add) towards the Research Center.

"This is getting weird," I commented when we were about half way there. "I mean, first my hair and eyes turn blue, then I learn I can grow wings, and now I've grown several feet taller then I should have. Could things possibly get any weirder?"

"Sure they can," Jubilee grinned. "And they always do, too."

"Whoa!" I exclaimed smiling. "This isn't going to be another one of those 'When I was with the X-Men' speeches, is it?"

"You guys're never going to let that drop, are you?"

"Probably not."

"Then ya wouldn't mind explaining how I ended up in the remains of the hall table the first time I started one of 'em the third day you were at Xavier's, would ya?"

I snickered to myself. THAT had been funny. Jubilee had been attempting to tell me about the X-Man Storm and I had made one of my first clumsy efforts at telepathic manipulation, which had screwed up a bit and resulted in a rather expensive hall table being reduced to kindling. Oops. Well, I knew better then to do that now, because, not only was it extremely rude, it was also dangerous for an amateur to dabble around in other people's minds. I was actually quite surprised that I hadn't accidentally fried anyone's brain yet.

"Nah," I said, "I think THAT'S a story for later. Like, when we're forty." Jubilee laughed a little as we entered the complex and then thought of something.

"Speaking of age, when's your birthday?" she asked me.

"Well, um, it was actually about a week and a half ago," I told her.

"What? Why didn't ya tell us?"

"Well... I didn't really want anyone to make a big deal about it," I said, wrinkling my nose. "Besides, I was under quarantine, and I didn't want you guys to catch anything. That, and the fact that flaring powers are no picnic to be around."

"Well, you KNOW we're going to have to make it up to you, don'tcha?"

I groaned. "I was afraid you were going to say that..."

As we turned the corner I almost ran into Shrive, who was dressed in new jeans and a sweater. He eyed me curiously for a moment and muttered, "Hmm. You're a lot taller then I'd thought..."

"Pardon?" I said.

"Oh, nothing," he shook his head. "Dr. MacTaggert is waiting for you. I told her you were coming, and after she's done with you she can start on Karry."

"What?" I was confused. "You mean you waited this long..? I thought she needed immediate help from the way you were talking about her."

"I have my reasons," was all he would tell me. I frowned a little, wondering why he wouldn't tell me anything. But no, I didn't ask (because, lets face it, I probably didn't want to know) and continued down to the Med Lab. I pulled at the shredded sleeve and wondered why on earth I hadn't at least ASKED for some decent clothes when I had gotten back to Muir, or even before I had left in the first place. In retrospect, it had been pretty stupid to go to New York in a medical suit, but I hadn't exactly been thinking too clearly, either. Being ripped apart by a psionic anomaly tends to cloud your judgment a bit.

As I entered the Med Lab I saw Moira sipping a mug of her horrible coffee, which I knew of only because I had had it once when I had been feeling particularly down. Needless to say, that was one beverage I had never imbibed in again.

"Um, Dr. MacTaggert?" I said tentatively. "Hi again. You don't happen to know why I've gained about two feet of height, do you?"

Moira looked slightly surprised and said, "Occh, lass, ye startled me!" she said. "I've been waitin' fer three days fer ye tae come back an' finish yuir tests, an' Karen refused tae take any tests at all 'till ye returned." She took a good look at me and continued. "Mercy, lass, what've ye doone wi' yeself? Ye seem tae be quite a bit larger then I remember."

"No kidding," I said, looking down at her. Her eyes were about level with the base of my neck. "Any idea why?"

"Nae, but we can find out," she said, fetching a small piece of equipment and turning it on. "Jus' let me see here..." The little device flashed wildly for a moment, then spat sparks. Startled, Moira dropped it just as it sent up a short burst of flame, then went out.

"Oh, this is going to be fun," I said, observing the slightly charred little device.

"None o' yuir lip now, young lady," Moira scolded as she picked the thing up. "This'll be enough o' a trial as it is if the equipment keeps igniting like this without yuir sarcasm."

I didn't want to annoy her any more, so I kept my mouth shut as she ran several more tests on me. Two or three more devices shorted out in the process, but Moira never balked. She merely looked at the data with varying expressions. Finally she said, "Jubilee, please fetch Monet an' Jonothon, would ye? I'd like tae test a theory."

"Sure," Jubilee chirped, already halfway through the door. I wondered what Moira wanted to do, but waited patiently until Jubilee returned with the other two.

:Nice ter see yer back gel,: Jonothon sent. :Again.:

:Like you've never felt depressed before,: I sent, but I made the tone light to show that I was joking. Jonothon nodded and I turned back to Moira, cocking my head curiously.

"Are you going to tell me what we're going to do now?" I asked her. "No offense to anyone, but there's not much that they can do that I can't. At least psionically speaking."

"Maybe," Moira acknowledged, "but yuir skill's no' what I want tae test here. I want tae test a theory." She looked at Monet and said, "M, I'd like ye tae psi-shock her."

"Of course," Monet said. It was obvious she knew what was going on, but she didn't seem to care to tell me at the moment.

"Um, is anyone going to tell me what this is for?" I inquired nervously.

"We'll see," Moira told me. "Gently, M."

I jolted as I was hit by a weak bolt of psionic energy which disrupted my concentration long enough to scatter a few of my outer 'molecules', blurring my form for a minute. I quickly gathered them up again and tried to focus myself again. This all happened in the space of half a second, so it was barely noticeable to the others, but as 'in tune' to myself as I was I could sense every fiber of myself suddenly expand a little. I was about to ask Moira what it meant when she snapped her fingers.

"That's it!" she said.

"That's what?" I asked.

"I think I've discovered why ye've grown so much," she told me. "I'll have tae try one more thing, though. Jonothon?"


"Hit her. Medium strength if ye will."

I didn't like the sound of this.

:Brace yerself, gel,: Jonothon warned me as he pulled down the bandages on his face.

:I just hope I don't blow myself apart,: I mutter psionically, steeling myself against what I knew was coming. Jonothon hit me point blank with a strong blast of psionic energy, which threw me onto my backside slightly short of the wall. I felt the orange flames digging into my body, but, strangely enough, though they left a sting behind, I felt them filling me with new energy. I struggled to my feet and discovered I had grown another four inches taller.

"Errr..." was all I could say.

"As I suspected," Moira nodded, looking at the readings. "Yuir psionic form is capable of absorbing psionic energy, though some forms more then others. Jonothon's, being purer, is more readily absorbed then Monet's. So, when ye went up against Onslaught, a being of pure psionic energy..."

"I must've been absorbing the psionic residue given off by the entire city, including all the stuff Onslaught was throwing at me," I finished thoughtfully. "But why didn't I get bigger when I was doing it like when Jonothon hit me?"

"I suspect it jus' took ye a while tae metabolize all that energy," Moira told me. "Since ye dinna eat I wondered how ye're able tae hold yeself together without any outside influence. Now, I believe I have the answer. Ye seem tae be absorbin' all the ambient psionic energy and storin' it, like a battery. Unfortunately, this doesna make ye immune tae the effects o' psionic assaults, but it does seem tae give ye an energy boost in the process."

"Wonderful," I sighed, rolling my eyes. "It'll be oh-so-much fun to find some decent clothes that actually FIT me now. Maybe I should try out for a high-school basketball team..?"

"Dinna start wi' me, lassie," Moira frowned. "I'm sure we can find somethin' on Muir that'll fit ye."

I spread my hands. "Just so long as it's not another one of these med suits," I said. "If I don't get something decent to wear I think I'll kill myself."

:I dunno, gel, it looks okay on yer ter me,: Jonothon sent, looking at me with amusement.

"Jono, if I didn't know better I'd have sworn that was a joke," I said, cocking my head and smiling just a bit. Jonothon sent me a psionic equivalent of an innocent whistle and put his hands in his pockets. I think he and Paige had been good for each other; he was more open a sociable and she seemed less desperate to prove herself at every little thing.

"Will ye two stop playing aboot?" Moira asked, though a smile was flitting around her mouth. "Now, I'll see what I c'n find in yuir size while ye get a bit of rest. Ye havena slept in three days, aye?"

"Well, if you could CALL it sleep, yes," I nodded.

"Then ye must be exhausted," Moira said sensibly. "But if ye dinna mind, I'd like ye tae rest inside of a psionic containment chamber. I'd like tae get more data on yuir natural state so we c'n add it to yuir files as soon as possible. Would tha' be all right?"

"I guess," I shrugged. "Where is it?"

"Down the hall, third door tae the right," she told me. "Is there anything ye'd like in particular?"

"Anything but dresses or someone's costume," I told her. "Hey, do you still have my jacket?"

Moira frowned, looking thoughtful.

"Aw man, you didn't BURY me in it, did you?" I inquired, making a face.

"O' course not," she assured me. "I'm jus' tryin' tae remember where we put it."

Well, that was a relief. "Well, if anyone needs me, I'll be sleeping," I told them as Moira left the room. "See you later Monet--Jonothon."

"Have a nice rest," Monet nodded after a moment's pause. She furrowed her brow for a moment and then looked up at me with a touch of concern in her eyes, but I couldn't tell what it was for. I decided to sleep first and ask later, seeing as how I was actually starting to FEEL exhausted. I went down the hall and peered into the room Moira had indicated. It looked more or less bare, which was okay since I really didn't need a bed anyway, so I opened the door and stepped in. Upon giving the blank grey room a cursory inspection I sat on the floor and let myself quietly dissolve. I felt my consciousness, or what was left of it, anyway, slipping away...

And was plummeted into one of the worst nightmares of my life.

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