Ties Never Binding, part 8

Disclaimer: Gen X and Marvel stuff is Marvel's, the other stuff is mine.

Author's Note: I realize I'm twisting stuff around here, but I'm going to play with M's autistic behavior if no one minds. If you do, too bad, it goes with my plot (which I have found at long last!).

The Incomplete Puzzle

The next day we all got into Muir's official 'Blackbird', the Midnight Runner, with Kurt in the driver's seat. We figured we might as well go back to the Academy with the exception of Karen and Shrive, the former of which was needed to undergo treatment and the latter had stayed to keep her company. We had asked Verney if he cared to go home, but he had noticeably winced at the idea. I had to agree with him, though. Judging from my own father's reaction when he found out I was a mutant I could only imagine how Mr. St. Croix would react when he met the son who had accidentally murdered his wife and two daughters. Still, I could tell we were all wondering just how long it would be until Verney had to face reality and 'fess up.

"This thing is phat!" Everett exclaimed, gazing around the 'Runner in fascination.

"'Phat'?" I smiled, reclining in a comfortable chair. Everett shrugged and Jubilee shook her head, rolling her eyes.

"Nice to have you back, chica," Angelo said.

"Nice to be back, Ange," I nodded, still smiling. "Right now I just want to get home, though."

"Um, Mr. Cassidy?" Paige said.

"Aye, lass?" Sean said, looking back from the co-pilot's seat.

"M just kind of spaced out again," she told him. We all looked towards Monet, who was staring at the topology map she was holding. Sean had passed out one to each of us so we could learn to identify landmarks or something equally mind-numbingly educational.

"Acch, nae again!" Sean exclaimed, exasperated. "Verney, do YE know what's goin' on?"

"Um, Verney's asleep," I put in, indicating his drowsing form in the corner of the plane, as far away from the rest of us as possible. :I don't think you should wake him, sir,: I told him. :I don't think he's been sleeping very well.:

:Aye, well...: Sean looked at Monet doubtfully. "This canna go on," he said aloud.

"No kidding," Jubilee agreed. "If she ever does this in the middle of a fight..."

"But I thought she over this," I said, puzzled. "When I helped her fight Emp... um, D'Spayre's will that one night, I thought it was his influence that was making her space out. Maybe I can read her mind and find out what's going on."

As I sent my mind out looking for an entrance I heard Sean say, "Lass, I dinna think this is such a good idea."

"It's all right," I told him. "I've been in her mind before, and under the circumstances I don't think she'll mi..."

That was as far as I got before reality went all funny.

"D?" Jubilee said, waving her hand in front of Dawn's face. "Dawn, you all right?"

"I don't think so, chica," Angelo said. "Looks like the lights are on, but nobody's home."

"Acch, now BOTH o' them are doin' it?!" Sean exclaimed, looking into Dawn's vacant blue eyes. "This is JUST what we need right now..."

"Does she do this often?" Kurt inquired from the driver's seat.

"Very," Mondo nodded.

:What're they doin'?: Jonothon sent. Dawn had picked up a map herself and she and Monet each began to fold theirs identically, ripping it occasionally.

"Origami?" Everett suggested.

"Guys, we've got a BIG problem here," Jubilee stated unnecessarily. "I mean, if Dawn's in M's head right now and she spaced out too, what'll happen the next time?"

"I think we should worry about one thing at a time, aye?" Sean sighed. "I think it might be time to wake Emplate up. Maybe the lad's got some suggestions."

"Verney," Mondo corrected.

Sean looked embarrassed. "Aye, Verney," he said, almost apologetically. "Acch, this is going t' take a bit o' gettin' used to." He got out of his seat and went over to Verney, shaking him gently on the shoulder. "Wake up, boyo," he said softly.

"Nnnh... please, Monsieur Cassidy, I just have dozed..." Verney murmured in broken English, furrowing his scarred brow without opening his eyes.

"It's yuir sister, lad," Sean told him. "She's a bit..."

"Monet?" Verney said, waking up immediately. "What's wrong?"

"She's pulling her space cadet act again," Jubilee told him, jerking her thumb towards Monet, who was halfway finished with an elaborate origami house.

"And she's sucked Dawn into it, too," Paige added, jerking HER thumb towards Dawn, who was at the same step.

"D'ye know what's wrong wi' her?" Sean inquired. "She's been havin' these spells ever since she joined the team, an' we still canna figure out why."

"You mean she didn't tell you?" Verney inquired, frowning. He glanced at Monet and Dawn as they completed their models.

"Tell us what?"

"Monet... is autistic."

"Dawn. Dawn, snap OUT of it."

I snapped awake and discovered Jubilee standing in front of my face, fireworks dancing around the tip of her finger as she waved it in front of my face.

"Um, hi, J," I said, rubbing my head. "What is it?"

"You've been out for THREE HOURS," she told me.

"What? Like asleep?"

"No, like *M* out."

I shook my head in confusion. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," I told her. Then I glanced at the elaborate paper structure in my hands and said, "Hey, where'd this come from?"

"Don't you remember?" Everett asked. "YOU made it."

"I did?" I said blankly. "I don't remember that, either."

"My fault, I'm afraid," Monet said, looking rather ashamed. "I should have told you all about my 'problem' before something like this happened."

"It's not your fault, Monet," Verney said softly from the corner. "It was--"

"Verney, please, this is hard enough for me as it is," she interrupted quietly. "I'll tell them when I'm ready."

Verney nodded his head silently, but there was a definite look of guilt in his eyes. I was still feeling confused about the whole thing, but I gathered that it had had something to do with me trying to read Monet's mind. I frowned a little. Was that how Monet felt when she zoned out? One moment you're awake and alert, and a moment later you zone back in and discover you've been out for three hours? How was it possible she was still sane?!

"But lass, why'd ye nae tell us when ye came here ye were autistic?" Sean inquired.

"I was... afraid, I suppose," she replied hesitantly. "Father left me more or less alone when he discovered I was having 'spells', but when I came here I did not know how you would react." Her voice lowered a level as she continued. " I realized that my handicap might put the team at risk, but I, selfishly, choose to ignore that fact. I... was more concerned about myself at the time, and when I realized it was a problem, I found I did not want to stop the lie." She lowered her head in shame and clasped her hands around her knees. "It was much like the lie of disinformation I started to keep you all from knowing Verney was my brother when we first met him. I believed that either one of these truths would alienate me from the team, so I denied them." She sighed. "I should have known better, I know, but much of our family sorely lacks social skills, so I didn't know what to expect. I'm... sorry."

We were all silent for a moment, and the only motion was that of Verney's hand moving to rest on her shoulder. Then Everett said, "Is that all?"

"What do you mean is that all?" she asked, looking to be on the verge of tears. "I lied to you from the moment I entered the Academy!" My empathy caught a deep, burning shame emanating from her, and the look on her face nearly made me cry myself.

"Stop beating yourself up about it, M," Jubilee piped up unexpectedly. "It ain't like ya killed anyone. So you have a problem, so what? I mean, it wasn't RIGHT to keep all that in, but we all like to have SOME secrets, right?"

"But most secrets have nothing to do with being related to homicidal parasites," Verney whispered, his voice edged with bitterness which was directed not at Monet, but at himself. I frowned again. Verney was still taking his possession by D'Spayre far harder then he would have had any of us know, but there was no way I could comfort him and Monet at once. I decided to make it a goal to talk to him later and added my voice of reassurance to the others'.

"Look, these guys didn't hate me because I kept the fact that I had Legacy a secret, remember?" I said. "Autism isn't dangerous, and it's not like you can help it."

"But it, is dangerous, don't you see?" Monet protested. "If I were to have a spell in the middle of a fight I could endanger you all."

"Then we'll find a way t' deal wi' it, lass," Sean said, sitting beside her. "Xavier's is all about helpin' mutants, handicapped or no. We'll nae turn ye away. We'll help ye deal wi' yuir problem."

"Promise?" she whispered.


Monet let the last of her facade crumble as she hugged Sean gratefully, crying tears of relief. I smiled to myself. It was going to be all right now.

The searing agony of fire licking her arms. The cold embrace of metal soothing her wounds, yet eating away at her at once. The terror of being consumed by the silver oblivion that was trying to help her heal. That was how it had begun.

The gentler, less permanent oblivion of sleep enveloped her. A comforting blackness surrounded her, shielding her from the certain insanity that would have followed. Then, harsh light invaded the healing, shoving her into reality. A dull chatter filled her mind, confusing her. The smooth metal became pitted and difficult, driving her ever closer to the brink of madness. That was how it had continued.

Karen slept fretfully that night. She tossed in her bed, dreading the tests Moira was going to subject her to in the morning. She knew the doctor was trying to help her, but she could never forget what had happened the last time she had touched a machine. She shivered and wrapped her cold, metal arms around her self, some how still expecting to feel soft, yielding flesh where there was only a numb awareness. She was tense, the hollow buzz still filling her mind with static. She worried about the buzz, and how it was affecting her behavior, but she didn't have the will to fight it much longer.

Is this what it's like to be a telepath? she wondered, wrapping the blanket around her even tighter. How can anyone bear it? Alien thoughts, alien feelings... all of them flooding my mind. I don't know how much more I can stand.

She rolled over and buried her head in the pillow. Even on an island full of people she was all alone.

"Artie! Leech!" I exclaimed happily, jogging up to the two boys as I entered the Bio-Sphere. They looked astonished, but then they both grinned and ran up to me. As soon as Leech came into range, however, I felt myself began to fade out. Everett, however, handled the situation quickly by using his power to sync to Leech's and then using THAT power to cancel out the power nullification field the boy was generating. I scooped both of them up in my arms--I was now big enough to be capable of such an act--and hugged them tightly.

"How've you two been?" I asked, smiling at them. "I haven't seen you in a long time."

"Artie and Leech were sad when White Queen told us Dawn was dead," Leech said as Artie supplied images of he and Leech crying up in their tree house with Penance keeping watch. "Why is Dawn back?" Leech pressed. "Did White Queen lie?"

"No, Ms. Frost was right," I told them. "I did go away for a while, but I'm back now, and I hope it's for good."

Artie sent a scaled image of me before I had come back and another of my present stature side by side to make the comparison clear. I smiled and said, "Well, now I get bigger then I absorb certain kinds of energy," I informed him, needing no translation. I hugged them both again before putting them down. "Hey, where's Penance?" I inquired. Artie shrugged, as did Leech. Well, she had the run of the campus, so she could have been anywhere, really. I chatted with Artie and Leech for a bit longer, then reluctantly left to talk to Emma. I hadn't seen her in weeks, and the fact that she'd already lost an entire team of mutant before made it difficult to predict what would happen when I made my appearance. She had, of course, been told I'd come back, but it's one of those things you just have to see with your own eyes to believe. I slowly made my way to her office, wondering what I was going to say. Somehow 'hi' just didn't seem appropriate.

I knocked softly on the office door and was answered by a gentle telepathic consent. I opened the door and was greeted by Emma. She looked up at me from her desk, with tired blue eyes. A hint of astonishment flickered through them, followed closely by relief. My brain, of course, blanked completely.

"Um... hi, Ms. Frost. I'm back." I almost slapped myself on the forehead for stating the obvious. Emma didn't seem to mind, though. She rose from her chair and looked me directly in the eyes.

"It's really you," she said quietly, almost smiling. "I thought I'd lost you too... like the others..."

The Hellions, of course. I'd heard only two of her former students had survived, and the guilt she had been carrying around ever since was part of the reason she had agreed to become our teacher. I could imagine how it must have felt for her to think she had lost another student--even ME, though we had never exactly been the best of friends.

"Yeah, I guess it is me," I replied. "I'm sorry if I--"

"You don't need to apologize, child," Emma told me. "I'm... just glad you're back."

"Me too." I gave her a hug too, which she evidently had not been expecting.


She was silent, but she returned the hug, though a little awkwardly.

"I'll try not to do it again, Ms. Frost," I said when we released each other.

"Don't worry about it, Dawn," she said, wiping away what could possibly have been a tear. She cleared her throat and regained her composure, slipping back into the competent administrator mode and said, "Tomorrow we'll have to take you shopping for clothes that will fit you now. Unstable molecules will only stretch so far."

"Thanks," I said gratefully. "I... guess I'll unpack my stuff again."

"Go right ahead," Emma told me. I nodded and left the room with a smile on my face. Emma wasn't my favorite person, but at least we'd gotten over the rickety spot created when she had entered my mind without permission when we'd first met (the fact that Will had practically thrown her into a bookshelf hadn't helped that situation much, either) and I had a feeling things were going to be going much smoother between us now on.

Emma almost smiled with relief as Dawn left her office. She IS alive! she thought, slumping into a leather chair. Is it possible I'm somehow being allowed to atone for the deaths of the Hellions? Has she returned to enable me to make amends for the lives I've destroyed? If so, then how can I do it?

She thought for a time longer, silently trying to think--and not for the first time--of how she could make up for betraying the trust of the Hellions. The answer she arrived at was simple:

Protect the children--at all costs.

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