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"Something In Between"

by JenX and Jinxo LAL

jenx2413@yahoo.com

jinxoLAL@aol.com

 

Story #6 of the PABO Series

 

 

Disclaimer: Generation X and its respective characters

are property of Marvel Comics. Used without

permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Jen

and Alison are original characters. If you wish to use

them, you must obtain permission from the authors

(we're generally very nice about this sort of thing).

Please ask permission before archiving this or any

other PABO story.

 

 

Hot, wet liquid streamed down my face and I was

completely helpless to the effects of my emotions. I

did not care anymore. I needed some respite from the

adrenaline tempest that raged within my blood. That

break refused to come.

Oh, God, I needed to talk more than anything else. I

had never done anything to her -- why was she

punishing me like this? Why did she feel a need to

close me in like some little island without any

outside contact?

I couldn't even talk to Jono. Something firm had been

wedged between my contact to him -- even with the

link, such as it was. I was locked up like some kind

of bloody prisoner.

Why wouldn't she let me talk to him?

It had to be Emma's fault. She had to have done

something. Emotion so strong it produced tears had to

at least call Jono's attention, and he wasn't

responding, and this wasn't natural; it wasn't right.

Oh, hell. It wasn't even a matter of sheer stupidity.

I liked telling her exactly what I thought of her. I'd

wanted to on more than one occasion and I was so glad

when I finally did. I just didn't think it'd get me

confined to quarters like this.

My eyes were still burning. I let the tears come. I

felt my body shaking with the sobs, I was crying so

hard.

Why did I care so much about this?

Because it was unfair. It was completely beyond

unfair. She'd *shut me off*. I had no way to vent my

frustrations. I had nobody to talk to. I thought I

might be violently ill, and soon.

Why was it they always went straight for the heart?

They didn't care so much. If they really cared, they

would just let me be. My well being didn't really

matter to them. I could just leave and they might play

worried for a while, but in the long run it wouldn't

matter so much.

I wanted to get out of here.

I didn't want to leave Jono behind. Or -- hell --

even Paige, for all she was so normal, or even Jubilee

-- she'd been such a good friend. So Jubes wasn't my

best friend -- I didn't think that "best" friends

really existed -- as far as titles were concerned --

beyond grade school, where friendships were formed

with pacts and secret handshakes and notes written in

code. But Jubes had always listened, even though she'd

had her own problems to deal with. And yes, even Paige

and I had been getting along better. I think she was

beginning to come to terms with "the Jono thing" and

saw me more as an actual person instead of a threat to

a defunct relationship. We were a lot alike in so many

ways -- obsessive perfectionism in our own rights, for

one -- and so different in so many other aspects. We

had a lot to learn from each other -- a lot I was only

beginning to see from a precarious friendship that, if

broken now, surely couldn't be mended.

Alison had been my friend for years. She would

understand my reasons for leaving if no one else

would, sure, but I doubted she would accept them

graciously.

And, of course, Jono -- such a mystery. I couldn't

leave him, and I would simply leave my reason at that.

It was decided: I would stay.

But what was staying worth when I couldn't even talk

to these people I held so dear?

I supposed this would be over with soon enough.

My nose was thoroughly clogged; I couldn't breathe.

In the dark, I reached blindly for the box of Kleenex

on my bedside table and found the flimsy cardboard

beneath my fingers. I used the tissue and threw it on

the ground -- no need to aim when I couldn't see the

garbage can anyway.

I closed my burning eyes. The rest of me was slowly

calming down. I was so lucky the adrenaline didn't

make me do something completely stupid or destructive,

like last time.

That was probably why I was locked up. So I wouldn't

do anything to hurt anyone else. Well, that was all

fine and good, because there was no sense in hurting

anyone else. Frost was the only one who deserved to be

hurt. Cassidy likely had a hand in it, too. But he was

indirect and subtle, where Frost was painfully blatant

-- I thought she was better than that. I mean, she was

a telepath -- she ought to have been a pro at mind

games.

Maybe she was, and I just wasn't noticing it because

she was so good at it.

Crap.

Tears flowed silently, plastering my cheeks with a

thin, sheer layer of wetness. I wanted my nose to

unclog, and all the tissues in the world wouldn't

clear these grossly filled passageways.

I wondered for a moment if Jono ever cried.

That was silly -- of course he did. Someone with such

pain as that had to cry sometimes. And my own pitiful

situation paled in comparison, but it still meant

enough to me. I didn't want to be isolated. I spent

most of my junior high and elementary years isolated.

I didn't need it imposed upon me now, when I was

finally beginning to form real relationships.

No, these were not real relationships -- these were

fictional and fake. These people didn't exist. They

were in a comic book. I was constantly forgetting

that. They were no more real than any other past

obsession was -- no more actual people than Fox Mulder

or Dana Scully.

For all I wanted to believe.

For all some part of me wanted to accept I'd found

something special here -- whether in Jono exclusively

or also in these friendships with Jubilee or Paige --

this other part was all too aware that they didn't

exist, not where I came from, and with Emma confining

me to my room, that non-existent part of my life was

throwing me so harshly back into a supposed "reality"

-- that of schoolwork and deadlines and superficial

responsibilities. My relationships had no part of this

reality. My music had no place there, either. I had no

piano in my room to play when things were harsh as

they were. Even my computer had been removed from my

room and taken to places unseen.

Now, more than ever, I not only wanted to believe,

but I needed to believe -- so desperately! -- in that

fictional reality of comics. I was an empath,

constantly aware of my powers. My aura could not now

be seen because of all my emotional interference, but

I knew it was there.

And if I closed my eyes and reached -- reached -- I

could still sense everyone in the dorm. Each girl was

in her own room, preparing for the night ahead -- or

so I would believe.

Or -- no, Jubilee was with Alison. And Monet was

already asleep.

Reach just a little farther --

Yes, there the guys were -- no, someone was not in

his room, but I couldn't place who. Probably Angelo.

Jono was where he should be, and Everett was too

responsible to be elsewhere past curfew. It was hardly

my problem.

I was only strong enough to tell that Jono was even

there. I couldn't see his actions or emotions, and

communication was out of the question, despite his

telepathy.

Maybe I wasn't even that strong, and I was imagining

things. No matter. My eyes wouldn't open; the heat

behind them seemed to have fused them shut. I could

feel my breathing grow deeper, the unconsciousness of

sleep invading my system.

Maybe that was a good idea. Even if I couldn't

negotiate with Frost and Cassidy, I still could talk

to everyone during class. I still had to go to class.

They couldn't deny me that contact with others.

I waited for morning. Sleep came to claim me.

 

The alarm screamed at me. Not wanting to face any kind

of day, I silenced it with a sharp slap atop its

plastic façade. The alarm subsided and was replaced

with REM, reminding me that "Everybody hurts …

sometimes." I glared at the evil appliance and pulled

the blankets over my head. It was warmer beneath them.

My eyes still hurt from last night's emotional

outburst. I did not want to get up. I would have to

deal with *Frost*. But for all I didn't want to face

the rest of the world, if I never woke up, I would not

see Jono and everyone else. And I had to talk to other

people. I needed them. I could not bear to remain

locked up, and school was my only way out of this, my

only means of communication with anyone.

And class had to be better than this.

*Anything* had to be better than this.

With that conviction, I turned on the light and

furiously rubbed sleep from my still-burning eyes. I

hadn't gotten enough sleep last night.

I moved muddily through the motions of getting ready

for class, skipping breakfast altogether -- not enough

time -- and made my way across campus to the

classrooms. It was not terribly cold out, but chilly

enough for May. The morning hour likely played a part

in the temperatures. I sincerely hoped it would warm

up later.

Cautiously, I made my way into the deserted hallways

and headed for the classroom. I was terribly close to

being late -- as close as I could be without actually

being tardy. Without a word, I walked to the back of

the room to my seat. I wanted to go back to sleep; the

light hurt my eyes, so I closed them for the few

moments before class started.

"Please take out your homework and pass it forward."

I didn't move. I had no homework. I didn't care.

I wanted to cut all my hair off. Get it real short.

And purple. That would be cool.

But that was completely beside any point there might

be. I sighed; my breath came thickly and easily.

Sweet, cold oxygen filled me -- more than usual, my

breathing heavier.

I just wanted to be able to talk to people, and I

couldn't, because I was nearly late, and there wasn't

any time to really talk. It wasn't as though I truly

had anything relevant to say, though -- it was more

the principle of the thing, and my ability to talk to

people also gave me a much-needed ability to vent my

frustrations, because they also couldn't stand Frost,

and since I couldn't have that, I was beyond

distressed.

Yes, I decided, I would live. I would get through

this day, and perhaps I could even attempt to reason

with Frost at the next available time. And if I were

lucky, she'd allow me some respite from the

restrictions placed on me.

I had a feeling, though, that I was only getting my

hopes up. Either way, it still enabled me to plod

wearily through the motions of the morning and its

classes until we were finally given a collective break

for lunch. We abandoned the classroom.

Jono hung back, expressing one worried glance before

I sent along /Yes! Need to talk!/ but my sending was

apparently ignored as he joined Paige for an excursion

elsewhere.

I sighed, disgusted with my own feeble attempts at

finding solace, but was surprised to find Jubilee

waiting for me. "Oh -- hi! I -- I didn't see you

there," I explained.

Jubilee grinned. "S'okay," she answered, shrugging

off my oversight.

I bit my lip and tried to laugh, but I found nothing

funny. "Frost has me confined to quarters," I

explained softly, quickly, to get my point across and

make absolutely certain there was no question as to

what had put me in such a terrible mood.

"Dude," Jubilee commented in amazement. "Way harsh.

What for?"

I let out a long breath of air and tried to think of

some way to explain just what it was I had done

without making myself look like the evil bad student

that I probably was. "I wrote her a letter," I finally

said, and started walking towards the kitchen, hoping

Jubilee would follow.

She did. "One of those like totally nasty

'I-hate-you' things?" she asked.

I considered that. "Sort of," I replied. "Well, yeah.

But I only told her the truth, and I didn't just come

out and say I hated her, and if I didn't write

something like this, then nobody would."

"Yah," she agreed. "Having a telepath for a teacher

is kinda like that. Ya can't do anything without them

knowin', and when ya do get found out, they always

know yer the one who did it and stuff, and then

there's like that weird fear of getting like totally

scrambled."

I had to admit I was feeling masochistic and useless,

so I truly wouldn't have cared if my brain were to

become fried somewhere in the process of my

punishment. I supposed that, in the long run, I

probably deserved it -- but right now, it wasn't fair,

because I was only being perfectly honest.

"I remember one time back when I was with the X-Men,

and Betsy was cooking -- totally weird 'cause she's

like the take out queen -- and it was like scrambled

eggs and everyone was like totally weirded out and

stuff 'cause she was in this majorly pissed mood and

she said that's what she'd do to our like synapses and

stuff if she ever found out we did anything to her or

her stuff again. But I didn't do anything then, well,

I didn't think so, 'cause I don't remember if I did

but I woulda remembered if I did, and 'cause I don't

remember I guess I didn't, but yeah I see what you

mean about like telepaths an' stuff."

"Well," I broke in, "it's not that I'm so worried

about getting scrambled." I had Jono's ever present

shielding to protect me from that, so even if I did

commit a scramble-able offense, Frost couldn't do

anything about it. "It's this grounding I hate. It's

like I can't have a life. Well -- I don't have much of

a life to begin with, but it's mine, and I like it, so

I'd like to at least keep what I have, you know?"

"Yeah," Jubilee agreed. "I know. It was the same way

with me and the X-Men. I mean, I didn't have like a

real 'family', but ya take what ya get, and they were

like so great to me. Still are, even, and I don't want

to get them taken away. I think I'd like, die."

That thought had never truly occurred to me -- but I

was so glad she brought it up. Jubilee and I were so

different -- and yet we still managed to connect on

the levels that really united people. I liked that.

And it made me feel better. "I guess it's the same

with you guys," I admitted, even though it really

wasn't, but there was something similar, in a way.

"You're my friends. I didn't have many back home

'cause I was 'psycho'." I could sense this

conversation was about to take a decidedly mushy turn

-- not something I needed just then. I just wanted

everything to be normal. Fortunately, the kitchen was

just around the corner.

I opened the door and found Alison, Everett, and

Angelo raiding the cabinets. Shortly after I arrived,

Frost entered through the door opposite me -- mild

~surprise~ registering before she neatly composed

herself, straightening her jacket and stepping into

the room with an imperial air. *What are you doing

here?* she demanded.

I squirmed uneasily. Her telepathic voice grated just

inside my head with an invasive pressure -- why did

she insist upon using it when she could just as easily

speak to me like any other person? She shouldn't have

even been able to use her powers on me; the link

protected that!

*You are to remain in your room,* she reminded me.

I turned to Jubilee for help -- or Alison, or anyone

-- but Jubilee had effectively removed herself from

the room (on account of Frost's presence, I guessed),

and Alison was following Ev and Angelo out of the

kitchen.

I was stuck. "Ms. Frost," I explained, as calmly as I

could, "how am I to attend class if I am in my room?"

Perhaps reason would work with her. I hoped it would.

"You are not to attend class," she informed me simply.

"Did I not make myself perfectly clear? Your

instructions were to remain in your room until you

were informed otherwise."

"But I'm hungry," I protested. "I need to eat."

Ms. Frost paused, contemplating some response and

likely some additional punishments for my breach of

conduct. "Fine," she acquiesced. "Fine. You may get

yourself something to eat, and then you will remain in

your room."

It wasn't much of a deal, but it was enough of one.

How was I supposed to know that I wasn't supposed to

go to class? I just figured I would have to. And I

hadn't even gotten to talk to Jono because he had gone

somewhere with that -- that Paige!

I took my sweet time procuring my meal, all the while

under Frost's watchful gaze that bore down on me and

itched something awful. She actually *followed* me as

I carried my sandwich and chips upstairs to my

room-turned-prison. This I didn't understand. On

nearly every occasion in which I'd been frustrated,

annoyed, or just plain mad, I'd retreated to my room

-- it had been a respite from the evils of Frost and

everyone else. Now, she used my own refuge against me.

I'd heard theories of what hell must be like -- that

gluttons were allowed to constantly eat, and gamblers

were allowed to constantly win -- and it would

eventually drive them mad. Of course, it was much too

late for me to go mad, but -- I just wanted to be let

out of here!

Fortunately, Frost didn't keep watch on me; she had to

teach afternoon classes. Theoretically, I could get

out of here and roam, but -- what? Someone stood

outside my door like a guard posted to prevent me from

escaping. The signature was strangely unfamiliar --

didn't I know everyone here? I opened the door a crack

and peered through the small opening to find that some

red and black mass crouched outside my door. The

girl's expression was vacant and bored; she, like I,

longed to be elsewhere.

I tried to broadcast ~peace~friendship~ because I knew

perfectly well that she could easily hurt me without

even trying.

Giving off a pale but warm ~curiosity~, her head

tilted upwards towards me. I could see my reflection

mirrored in her blue eyes which seemed too large for

her characteristically red face, almost like an anime

character -- eyes so large were terribly disturbing,

but not nearly as disturbing as the girl herself.

I tried to hide my nervousness as I smiled and waved

gently. She was almost ~perplexed~. "Hey," I greeted

softly.

She just kept looking at me, examining me with that

intent, childlike curiosity, never giving any

indication that she'd even heard me.

"Um … hello?" I tried again, but she still gave no

response. I was confused, sure, but I decided to let

the matter simply drop as an idea struck me squarely

between the eyes. "Hey … could you do me a favor?" I

asked. I didn't wait for her to answer -- I figured

she just wouldn't -- and I went to my desk, searching

vainly for a scrap of paper or anything else to write

on. I finally found an envelope and scribbled a hasty

message on it.

Jono -

I didn't get to talk to you earlier; I'm sorry. I'm

not there now because I'm stuck in my room -- grounded

or something. I tried contacting you, but it wasn't

working, and I think it's Frost's fault. --shrug-- If

you're not too busy after class, come visit, well, if

you want to, I'm not going anywhere. I'll understand

if you don't want to.

I really hate Frost.

-Jen

I tore the section of envelope that had the note on it

off, and folded it, writing Jono's name on the

outside. I bent down to Penance's level and asked,

"Could you take this to Jono, please?"

As before, she remained silent and inert. It was like

talking to a brick wall. She was truly starting to

thoroughly irritate me. I sighed audibly and went back

to my desk, searching for a roll of masking tape that

I was sure I'd left in there. I found it in no time,

and went back to Penance's side. "Hold still," I

instructed, ripping off a piece of tape.

I didn't want to be too forward. There was no reason

for me to simply grab her arm to tape the note to it,

and I truly didn't want to be hurt, and I didn't know

what would provoke her to attack. She seemed placid

enough in the few moments she'd been here, but she was

an unknown entity. I had to be careful.

With that in mind, I calmly told her what I was going

to do. "Okay," I explained, "hold out your arm. I need

you to take this to Jono, and I don't want it to be

all scratched up and destroyed. So I'm going to tape

it around your arm, where you can't hurt it, okay?" I

held out my own arm in demonstration.

She looked at my arm.

I sighed. This wasn't going to work. "Please?" I

asked.

She looked up at me, turned and left.

Fat lot of good *that* did. I tossed the folded note

onto the floor and fell back onto my bed.

- Alison -

I walked slowly to class, trying to keep my balance

and not trip as my feet refused to do anything but

drag along the ground. I was so tried all of a sudden,

and my head was starting to ache. I sniffled - no, I

was not getting a cold. Nope, no way. Absolutely not.

And that was that.

That problem settled, I made my way into the

classroom and sat down wearily at my desk. I noticed

that Jen wasn't there - was she late? But a moment

later when Sean began class and she still wasn't

there, I began to wonder if she was even coming at

all. I hoped she was okay, but pushed my worries about

her aside as Sean went to the board and wrote down an

equation, turning around to speak to us as I tried to

force myself to concentrate.

Easier said than done - as he spoke, my eyelids began

to drift shut and my mind began to wander. I tried to

make myself pay attention more forcibly; this was

math, after all, and it would be a good thing to pay

attention. He was reviewing conic sections today,

however, and I was already quite familiar with them.

Thus, that made it even harder to concentrate, and

what with my attention span's already diminished

capacity to function, I knew it would only be a matter

of time before I would begin counting the dots on the

ceiling tile. If this ceiling even had tile with dots…

"… and what would be the range and domain of this

graph?"

Oh, that was easy - it would be…

…Maybe that new Methos movie would be out; if I could

con Monica into going after sectionals, maybe I could

see it later. But Methos wouldn't be -

Huh? I blinked; the problem on the board was

different, and Sean was reviewing the equation of the

circle he had drawn.

"… so since x^2 + y^2 = 9, the radius of the circle

would be…

Slaughterhouse - 5 was a good book, but I really

wanted to read Timequake. Maybe I could start it in

homeroom, but I still had to read -

"… and this hyperbola would be at 5 on the y-axis

because…"

That webpage had been so cool - I'd have to go visit

it next time I went online. But I still had to -

"… so when you take the negative square root, you

find…"

Methos and Mac sitting around a campfire, talking in

the dark about -

"… y - 1 = (3/4)(x - 3), so the normal line to the

tangent…"

Swords coming at me were bad, I figured. But it was

so dark, everything moved so slowly, and I couldn't -

*CRACK!!*

What had happened? Maybe it was Blair's fault - he

could have accidentally tripped on something, or maybe

he knocked over the lamp and that was why it was so

dark in -

"Alison? Lass, are ye all right? Are ye awake?"

"Hunh?" I looked up from my desk - no, I was on the…

floor? Why on earth was I on the floor? How had I

gotten there?

"Alison, are ye all right?" Sean asked again; I could

hear intermittent snickers and whispers from everyone

else, most likely Jubilee and Angelo, as Sean reached

out a hand and helped pull me up into a sitting

position. I climbed to my feet, holding on to my desk

for support as the world I returned to seemed to spin

just a bit faster than I remembered. I was confused at

this point - really confused, in fact. What was going

on?

"What happened?" I asked, causing more whispering and

snickering to resonate throughout the already

too-quiet room. All I remembered was… Oh my God, I had

not fallen asleep in class. Had I?

"You fainted." Monet stated matter-of-factly.

"No…" I'd never fainted before, why should I now?

Sean looked at me, concern in his spinning features as

I gripped my desk for support. He felt my forehead and

his brow furrowed deeper. Ye've got a fever, lass." he

informed me. "Why don'tcha go ta bed for a while?"

Personally, I couldn't agree more. Bed seemed like an

extremely nice place right now.

 

- Jen -

 

I stared at the ceiling. I'd been staring at the

ceiling for the past couple hours, trying to fall

asleep for lack of anything better to do. All this

punishment would do would allow me more hours of

precious rest.

I wondered how long this would last. Would I be

allowed out tomorrow?

This was ridiculous. I was seventeen and a half, and

I shouldn't be cooped up like some kind of child. I

would be a legal adult in a matter of months; this was

just plain silly.

The knock on my door woke me from the half-asleep

state I'd entered. I turned on the light, put my

glasses back on, and answered the door.

Alison stood there, looking rather pathetic. Her

curly hair hung limply in her face, her eyes were

slightly puffy and red, and she radiated a

particularly miserable sentiment that I did not enjoy

sharing.

"What --?" I began.

"I'b sig," she explained, her speech impaired by her

condition.

"Oh," I answered, "I'm sorry. I'm grounded."

"Oh," she responded. "I'b sorry." She stuck her hand

into one pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of

paper, handing it to me. "Jodo wadded be to gib dis to

you," she explained.

I took it, deciding to read it later, after Alison

was gone. "So you're up here because you're so sick?"

"Subdig lige dat."

I laughed good-naturedly at her interesting vocal

patterns. Of course, she found it necessary to burst

into indignant self-pity. "You're lavig ad be!" she

exclaimed. "Why are you lavig ad be? I cad helb id iv

I tog vuddy.

I sighed, resigning myself to her strange mood -- I

wouldn't want it to rub off on me; I was bad enough as

it was. "I wasn't laughing at you," I assured her, and

kept talking before she could comment on the truth of

my statement or the complete lack thereof. "Are you

going to get some sleep? You should. And get some

orange juice. That would help."

"Yeah," she agreed, "I'b goig do do dat."

"Right now?" I whined. Of course, I wanted her to

stay and keep me company, but I didn't want to catch

whatever she had -- it didn't sound too good, and the

last thing I needed was illness on top of all of this.

"Iv I dode, I'b goig do vall asleeb ride here," she

insisted.

I sensed there was something more than just what she

told me, but I was hardly about to press the issue

since she seemed particularly crabby. "That wouldn't

be good," I agreed. "I'll see you later."

"Bye," she said, and left.

I was alone again. How odd -- my two visitors had

likely breached conduct by coming to see me, and Frost

had no way of knowing. I felt empowered, like I'd

beaten her. Granted, it was only Penance, who didn't

know better, and a sick Alison, who was allowed to be

up here anyway, but I couldn't help feeling victorious

over some evil that was most decidedly out to get me,

and it was a tremendous feeling.

I sat back down on my bed and unfolded the note from

Jono.

Jen, for some reason everything has not been working

right lately. I don't know why. I can't seem to fix

it. I will talk to you later, if I can, I will come to

see you. I miss you. -Jono

I couldn't help laughing out loud. I had truly

conquered the evil Emma Frost! I grinned like a

madwoman, refolding the note and stuffing it into my

pocket.

But until he was able to come here -- until class let

out in a few hours -- I would still have to compromise

my situation and find some way to amuse myself without

any real means to do so. I'd made the mistake of

misplacing my notebook -- well, truthfully, I knew

exactly where it was: on the piano, where I'd been

composing yesterday. So naturally, I still wouldn't be

allowed to get it, even though writing was an activity

that didn't require any of those items I wasn't

allowed to have.

If the link wasn't malfunctioning, I could just ask

Jono to get it and bring it when he came. I sighed and

pulled the cover over my head, hoping maybe I could

sleep some more.

Of course, that was silly. Why should I sleep all

day? I really ought to try and figure out what was

wrong with the link -- if I could, of course. After

all, it wasn't as though I'd been locked out of my

powers.

Cautiously, making sure I didn't touch upon Frost, I

extended my mind in an empathic search, trying to key

in on Jono's signature. He was in class, just as I

figured he would be, if his ~boredom~impatience~ was

any indication. I couldn't communicate with him,

though -- not even empathically; I thought perhaps the

distance put a limit on what I could and couldn't do

with my powers. He had to know I was there, though --

so why wasn't he even establishing that contact that I

knew he could initiate? He was certainly powerful

enough, and his telepathy had to be able to reach that

far. It wasn't even very far, just across campus.

But I heard nothing. Not even an emotional reaction

at my presence. He didn't even acknowledge that I was

there. This was so stupid. I couldn't believe I ever

thought this would work -- this stupid, stupid

relationship, not just this idiotic link that wasn't

even working anyway. I couldn't count on anything to

work, especially when he'd just ignored me completely

this morning, again, like I wasn't even there, like

Paige was so much better and wonderful and I didn't

deserve this because I was quite obviously psycho.

Well, no. The psychosis wasn't what was truly wrong

-- it was just that Paige was better.

Well, fine. He could have her. He could just have

her, and that would be fine with me because he was so

much happier with her and I just wanted him to be

happy and if he wasn't as happy with me then I would

just let go and I'd be okay with that because it was

all for him anyway -- why should I care one bit about

my own happiness? It didn't matter. It didn't matter.

I really wanted my notebook now. I scrounged around

in my desk for that scrap of envelope I'd written my

note on, hoping the inside was clean. Fortunately it

was, and I ripped it cleanly along the edge, revealing

the pure white writing surface that lay before me. I

wrote small to conserve space, letting my frustrations

bleed onto paper in free verse.

The same sort of crap that Emma insisted I abandon

entirely, ready to conform to her ridiculous ideals. I

was not perfect and I knew that. I embraced that -- I

welcomed my human flaws openly, knowing they were part

of me just as were my talents. I didn't strive for

perfection. I was most certainly not Monet. Nor was I

the model student that Paige aimed to be.

Bloody Paige. Why did she have to even be here? Why

did she have to be so much better? She only served to

make things more complicated for me.

I stared at the envelope's inside, half-covered in

flat-looking pen strokes. I had nothing more to write,

nothing more to say. The empty paper was plain and

boring -- disgustingly white. So pure white it made me

sick.

I closed my eyes so I didn't have to look at its

blinding whiteness and felt a chill run through me. I

squeezed my eyes tighter -- tighter, scrunched my face

up as small as it would go, and scrunched my whole

body up as small as it would go, burying my head in my

knees and wrapping my arms all around myself, letting

my own warmth fill me up and cure the chill that still

abided.

I hated Paige.

I didn't just dislike her. I didn't just wish she

would go away and leave me alone forever and ever. I

hated her with such a rolling, flaming passion that

seethed throughout every ounce of my being, and that

coursed through my bloodstream with intense adrenal

rage like nothing I'd ever truly experienced before.

This was more than the simple jealousy I'd felt in

years past for any of the others -- more than any of

the other girls who had been so much better than I

was.

She was the pretty one. She was the smart one. I

could find no fault or flaw in her -- for all Monet

bragged her own perfection, she could hardly hold a

candle to Paige. She was the one who everyone adored

-- teachers' pet, everybody's friend, and above all of

that, she had Jono. I wanted to be rid of her. I would

find a way to be rid of her. I hated her.

I ripped up the envelope and scattered its confetti

all over the floor, bright white snowflakes falling to

the ground, then pulled the blanket back over myself,

hoping to hide far away from everyone.

My thoughts were interrupted, dismembered by a

demanding knock on my door. Dismembered -- that would

be a nifty way to get rid of Paige. I pictured her

with her legs and arms scattered as the paper on my

carpet, with her blood staining whatever was left of

her filthy shell, with her bones protruding

gruesomely, with her flesh torn where limbs had been

severed, and with her organs reduced to oily, fleshy

spots on the walls, painted with blood and --

*Jen, are you in there?*

Oh, it was him: the traitor. Reluctantly, I opened

the door he stood behind and returned to my bed and

its nice warm covers and images of death. I knew he

didn't really want to talk to me, so why should I

bother to pay him any mind?

Jono stood in the doorway, staring at me before I

could pull the blanket over my head. *Can I come in?*

he asked sensibly.

I looked to the floor, but nodded anyway. "I guess."

After all, I didn't want him to leave, and if he

didn't leave, he would have to stay.

*You guess?* he inquired. *What's wrong?*

Oh, dear, did it look like something was *wrong*? Of

course nothing was wrong. Nothing could ever be

*wrong*. Not here, not now, not with me. What a silly

idea. A sarcastic laugh escaped my lips, truly closer

to a cough than an actual laugh.

Jono walked across the room, extending a crisp white

envelope to me. I took it; my name was written cleanly

across its face in Frost's slightly angular hand.

*It's from Ms. Frost,* he explained.

I nodded. "Yeah." I could see that perfectly well.

"I'll -- read it later."

*Okay,* Jono answered, not really sure where to take

this next and apparently drowning in the uncomfortable

silence that followed. I had nothing to say to him --

nothing nice, anyway -- and if he had nothing to say

to me, then there was no reason for him to stay,

despite my earlier requests or my necessity for his

company. I certainly did not understand that

necessity.…

*I talked to Frost,* he offered.

I nodded ever so slowly, finally allowing the blanket

to fall. I knew perfectly well that I didn't need that

physical barrier when the other walls between us had

been built so high.

*She's worried,* Jono continued.

"Hah!" The burst of sarcastic laughter exploded from

my lips like a gunshot.

*No,* Jono insisted, *seriously.*

Keeping a skeptical eye trained on him, I crossed one

leg over the other and folded my arms in front of me.

This should be good. Frost was hardly one to be

concerned when she hated me. Fortunately, the feeling

was mutual, so I really had nothing to worry about --

aside from the lingering threat of fried brains, of

course, but I could expect no less from Ms. Emma

Frost.

*She's worried about you. And* -- he paused for a

moment to collect his thoughts before sending them to

me -- *and so am I.*

That was unexpected.

Was it? Didn't I accept his concern -- unexpressed

though it may be? Didn't I know what he felt, despite

his attempts to hide everything from me?

Yes -- I could at least admit that much to myself. I

knew -- but I couldn't possibly tell anyone of my own

emotions, simply because I hadn't a clue what they

were. I could guess, sure, but beyond guesses I didn't

know, because my own thoughts were so tangled with his

that I hardly knew where I ended and he began. That

was the way it was when he was so near to me.

I didn't need to ask to know that that was the very

problem he spoke of -- the very concern he had in

mind.

"But if you're so concerned," I asked out loud, "then

why were you so -- I mean, you just -- " I couldn't

find the way to express my worries; the proper words

refused to come, and I finally gave up, frustrated

with myself. I had no kind words to describe Paige,

and I didn't want to misstep and potentially ruin

those unexpressed emotions that he must have held for

me.

*Paige is a friend,* he explained. *She's -- well …

issues … needed to discuss. But that's between us.*

I looked at the floor, and chanced a glance back up

at Jono, as I smiled nervously -- though I couldn't

imagine why. Here was someone so truly beautiful, who

found in me something to worry about? It was hard to

believe.

*Just as this is between us,* he explained.

Right -- this. For all my understanding, I couldn't

be sure whether he was referring to some ambiguous

"this", such as some sort of real relationship that

obviously couldn't possibly actually be there, or the

link that still confused both of us. The former I

didn't have a clue about, but the latter -- well,

there were only two ways to really solve that problem:

either terminate the link, or learn to use it to our

advantage. But we couldn't do that. I couldn't.

Instead I gathered up bits and pieces of courage

which had been discarded earlier and collaged them

into one big lump that propelled me forward, allowing

me to ask the question that had been biting the back

of my head until I'd actually gone and asked it. "Why

did you shut me out earlier? I tried to reach you

during class -- I tried all day, but never anything.

Nothing worked."

~surprise~ *You did? I didn't hear you.*

For a moment I was certain he was lying, but I

brushed that suspicion aside, giving room to more

comforting notions -- like the truth. And the trust

that I wanted to believe in. "Well," I explained,

"later it was just empathic because, y'know, the link

wasn't working, and I was hoping you'd respond."

*Oh. I -- really didn't hear you.* He was quick to

continue in his explanation. *I know this must look

awful to you, but really, I'm not shutting you out. *

Despite the insistence that he could not possibly be

telling the truth, if only because it was so easy to

lie, I believed him. I couldn't imagine why I did –

perhaps it was because I needed something to believe

in, even if they were only small words. I could give

him that chance.

I glanced at the envelope in my hands.

A chance was all she needed, too, if she was sincere

in her desire to prove herself. It was all I needed,

too, if I wanted to prove myself to her, and show her

that I was a perfectly capable human being who was

unafraid to declare her position and stand in it

instead of this wishy-washy creature she'd made me out

to be. I was prepared to take on anything, and I

wasn't willing to let anyone get the better of me or

make me conform to everyone else.

Because I certainly wasn't anyone else, and it was

ridiculous of anyone to think that I ever would be.

And Jono was here -- here! -- and he'd even said that

Paige was of no consequence, and if he thought that I

was better, then of course I must be better.

I smiled to myself, sighed, looked at the floor,

looked back to Jono, and felt the smile creep across

my face again. It broke into an actual grin, which had

indeterminate origins but that much of it was hardly

important to me.

I expressed real ~gratitude~, and

~acceptance~happiness~friendship~. It was returned

with comfortable, warm emotions that cushioned my

doubts and fears, surrounding and enveloping them so

they might encounter oblivion.

There was so much I wanted -- he knew that perfectly

well. That simple, aching need melded with his own

necessities just as our emotions blended. It was

beautiful. For the first time, I could really consider

it truly beautiful. It was so much more than I'd ever

really thought it could be. I scarcely believed I had

done it myself -- I doubted I had; Jono seemed to have

just as much to do with it as I had, instead of simply

going along as though this had been done to him

against his will. That he enjoyed this made it all the

more curious, but I wasn't about to question it.

Instead, I reached out physically, clasping his hand

in my own. That single act did no more to actually

strengthen the link, but it seemed to -- so much so I

feared I would burn myself out with all the energy. I

closed my eyes to prevent the room from spinning

wildly around me, hoping that the world might stop

moving in circles.

I sensed Jono's ~concern~ instantaneously, and I

vainly tried to insist that I would be okay. I could

feel everything -- the raw power he somehow managed to

keep a rein on, barely controlling it for all it was

controlling him -- I felt this power above everything

else, tempting me so sweetly, begging me to use it.

That was silly, though -- I couldn't access a power

that wasn't mine to hold. I resisted that temptation,

beautiful though it was, and tried desperately to hold

my ground.

I could feel the power building up inside me -- for a

moment I saw myself through his eyes, felt my own hand

through his skin, heard my own thoughts through his

amazing, delicious power. It was like looking into a

hundred mirrors reflecting one another to infinity.

And then it ended.

The reflections, the strange passion, and the

knowledge of myself against myself stopped abruptly,

without warning. Everything was calm: the only audible

sounds were my own breathing and my heart beating

hollowly inside my chest. Between these shallow

breaths, I managed to force out words. "What --

happened?" I asked. I wasn't certain Jono would

actually know, but I hoped he would.

He didn't respond. Something caught inside my throat

and I tried to swallow it. "Jono?" I asked through the

lump; something burned my eyes. "Jono, are you okay?"

Still no response came. I tried to probe his

consciousness with the link, but it was as though

another wall had been constructed between us.

Light! Not again! Not now, not now! Frantically I

explored my options -- there was nothing I could

really do to help -- help! Had to get help!

I ignored the confinement placed on me and ran out of

my room to get someone. Nobody was in the hallway --

where was everyone? I tried to search for someone --

anyone -- and I thought I'd gotten a lock on someone

when some amazing force hit me from within my head.

It was purple, I noted absently before the pain

completely took over, pressing and exploding inside.

 

 

 

--- Jen ---

 

My head hurt. A steady throbbing pounded angrily in

the back of my head, spreading slowly to the front and

down my neck into the rest of my body. Desperately, I

searched the link for an empathic hand to hold and

found none.

Nothing.

I fell into a sick panic that didn't blend well with

the aching pain that threatened to consume what was

left of me. I swallowed deeply, feeling my breath come

shorter and the ache in my shoulders pressing from

within, like something longing to break free of these

restraining walls this body provided.

For a moment I felt everything: every mind in the

whole house, in the whole campus, and further --

spreading out until I was certain I felt the emotions

of every rational and irrational creature in the whole

of Snow Valley. And then it was gone. Not silent,

because I never heard anything to begin with, but

gone. Just -- just gone. My own emotions were as gone

as the rest of them, the world dead around my heart.

And the only thing I could have reached out to was

gone with it -- the telepathic link was -- it was

dead. Just dead. Not cut, not severed, not anything

like that. Just dead. Broken.

Under any other circumstances, the termination of

that which I held so dear would have certainly been

cause for saltwater to sting my eyes and fall to my

cheeks. But now the emotion that would bring tears was

as absent as the link it would have cried over.

I felt nobody. And nobody came, and nobody talked to

me, her feet echoing in dry footsteps on the hardwood

floor I sat on. She pulled me from the bench I

reclined against and propped my limp body against her

own, walking me down the hall and repeating my name in

my ear like an abstract litany.

"Jen? Jennifer, can you hear me?"

I nodded. I could hear just fine. I turned to the

nobody that helped me down the hall, the dark-haired

nobody -- Jubilee? What was she doing here? "I can

walk," I informed her.

Yes, I could walk just fine. And breathe, and talk,

and -- and I was here. But that was all. The bright

pink aura that I was so used to seeing around Jubilee

had also disappeared. I couldn't feel her. She might

as well not be there. She wasn't there. But she was …

how could she be if I didn't feel her? Or anyone? That

was weird. She must have been there. I could see her

fine.

She drew her hands from me, relinquishing her

support, since she realised I didn't need it after

all.

"Jen, are you okay?"

"Yeah," I said absently. I guessed I was okay. There

wasn't anything I could do, of course.

"Cassidy wants to talk to you."

There was something odd about her request --

something else I had to tell her -- right, some old

memory that tickled the back of my mind, reminding me

of some task I hadn't done. But I didn't know what it

was -- I t must not have been too important if I

couldn’t remember. "Oh. Okay," I answered. I let her

take me to wherever he was, down hallways to a vaguely

unfamiliar office space. "By the way," Jubilee began

as we walked down the hall, "aren't ya supposed to be

grounded or somethin'? Why's Irish wanna talk to ya?"

I had to admit I had no idea; I shrugged. "Dunno."

"But how come yer like so out of it and stuff?"

I shrugged again. "Dunno."

Jubilee stopped in her tracks and turned to face me

directly. "What is up with you? Everything okay?"

"Dunno," I explained. I truly didn't know. Why did

she think I did? I was only being honest.

I walked into the office. It was dark.

"Thank ye, Jubilee," Cassidy said from behind his

desk, his words hanging in the air just outside my

ear.

She left.

This was a pretty office. The carpet was a deep shade

of forest green with little spots of brown, and the

walls were almost raspberry colored. No, not

raspberry, more like cranberry … or currant. Yes, more

like currant, with richly finished dark cherry wood on

the desk and cabinets, and an eclectic collection of

tables and chairs, which were not necessarily

upholstered, and those that were didn't match. They

should have matched. Of course, that would've defeated

the purpose of "eclectic" altogether, wouldn't it?

Before any more could be said, the door opened

apparently of its own accord. Paige ran in with her

hair all messed up. "Mr. Cassidy?" she asked, her

voice small and rushed. "Sir, I -- I can't find Jono."

As soon as the words left her lips, she looked at the

floor, and I thought that through the blonde curtain

that hung before her face I saw her face flush

crimson. "I mean," she continued, trying to fix her

apparent errors (not that I saw any), "I mean I was

supposed to meet him over an hour ago. I've looked all

over the campus. I'm -- I -- I'm worried, sir." She

tried to smile but her face wouldn't let her.

"He's upstairs," I explained.

Paige's eyes went wide and then narrow and she looked

at me harshly, the hands at her sides curling into

fists. "What -- " she began.

"Paige, please, I'm sure he's alright," Mr. Cassidy

interjected, in an almost vain attempt to calm the

poor girl down.

I didn't understand why she was acting like that.

"Actually," I admitted, not sure I really wanted to

explain the situation to them -- but above all,

realising that I had to or Jono might not get better,

"he's not all that okay."

Paige tensed but said nothing, trying desperately to

remain calm under the circumstances and Cassidy's

watchful eye.

He looked to me, with his eyebrows in unusual

positions on his face, and said, "What I have to talk

to you about will have to wait, then. Why don't ye

tell us what happened?" He pushed the door open to let

Paige and me out as I led the way back to my room.

"Well," I began, "I was in my room, and Jono came in

to talk to me. And we were talking when … I don't know

… I blanked out, I guess, I don't remember what

happened next --"

Paige coughed.

"-- anyway, something purple happened and Jono wasn't

answering me or moving or anything. I don't know why.

He's probably still up there or something…."

"Sir," Paige began, obviously addressing Mr. Cassidy.

After all, I was not a sir. "Don't you think Jen's

story ought to be considered more closely?"

He turned to her. "I do nae think there's anything to

consider about it," he told her, and that made me feel

warm and fuzzy inside. I was doing something right,

and Paige was wrong. I smiled, and it hurt. But then I

remembered poor Jono still behind the doorway that was

coming up on my left. I pushed the door to my room

open and he was on the floor in the same position he'd

been in when I'd left. This didn't look good. I didn't

know how they were going to make sure he was okay.

They couldn't easily check for breathing or a

heartbeat like they could with anyone else, since it

wouldn't matter anyway.

Paige got an idea and knelt beside him, methodically

unravelling his bandages. The bright orange-yellow

fire that should have been there, that I expected to

see, had been replaced by a calm, pale blue glow. That

was strange. He should have been orange. I hoped he

was okay. He wasn't okay.

There wasn't anything we could really do for him,

either, except wait for him to wake up. He was going

to wake up, because he wasn't dead. If he was dead,

then the glow would be completely absent, and the glow

was still there, so he was going to be okay. But right

now he wasn't okay.

"He needs medical attention," Paige explained. "Do

you think it's safe to move him?"

I had no way of knowing whether it was safe or not,

so I didn't say anything. I hoped Mr. Cassidy knew

what was going on, though, because I certainly didn't.

"I cannae tell," he explained. "Both of ye watch him,

and note any changes. I'll be right back."

I didn't know where he was going and apparently

neither did Paige. I didn't like being stuck in my

room with her, though. She didn't belong in here. It

was my room. I didn't want or need her in here.

Silently, I willed her to find some reason to leave

and act upon it, allowing me my solitude.

Instead, she actually had the audacity to speak to

me. "Can you do anything?" she asked, her voice soft

and small.

"Why would I be able to do anything?" She was

confusing me. Maybe she was being confusing on

purpose. I knew she didn't like me much.

Her face twisted up and she made a funny noise. She

visibly swallowed before yelling at me. "You can check

him. Find out what's wrong. I don't even know if he's

still alive! You do!"

She was doing that confusing thing again.

"The … your … thing. Link. Check on him!" Now she was

talking louder, her hair flying into her face. She

made no effort to brush it aside.

"I can't," I told her, "it's all gone."

Her eyes went wide and her mouth started working but

no sound came out. "What's gone?"

"All the people," I answered. I couldn't explain any

better than that. All the people were gone. I'd known

they were there before, and now they weren't there

anymore. And the person who had been there even more

than any other, the person I knew everything for,

well, he wasn't there anymore, either. Nobody was

there.

"What are you talking about?" Paige demanded, her

hands in the air in front of her. She was talking

funny, stressing weird words, and I could have sworn I

heard some kind of accent creep into her voice.

"All the people went away," I repeated. "Him, too." I

added, indicating Jono. He didn't look so good.

Paige folded her arms. "Can ah hear this in English?"

I wondered what language I was speaking in if I

wasn't speaking in English.

"Are ya tryin' ta tell me that" -- she unfolded her

arms and brushed her hair behind her ears -- "that

your powers are gone?"

Powers? That was such a funny word. I didn't have any

powers. I was just Jen. Just me. Why would I have any

powers? "Yeah, I guess. But -- "

I was interrupted as Frost and Cassidy and all the

other students barreled into my room without knocking.

Mr. Cassidy and Monet and Everett took Jono away. I

didn't want them to do that. I wanted him here, where

I knew he was okay, and where I could keep watch on

him. Ms. Frost watched them leave, and with a glare

dismissed Paige and Jubilee and Angelo, who lingered

in the doorway, hoping to get in on the most recent

developments. She closed the door before turning to

me. "Would you mind explaining what in hell just

happened here?" she demanded. Her eyes were burning

me, and I couldn't look at her anymore without getting

hurt.

"I don't know," I admitted.

"Why don't you tell me what you *do* know," she

insisted icily, taking a seat in my desk chair and

crossing one leg over the other.

I sat down on my bed, holding a pillow in my lap. "I

--" I began.

"Take that pillow out of your lap," Frost instructed,

and I could feel the telekinetic energy sizzle in the

air around the pillow, ready to snatch it away from me

if I dared defy her order.

I set it on the bed beside me, swallowing. If I told

her just what happened, I would certainly get in

trouble, since I was veritably grounded. "I -- he was

visiting," I explained. "And we were talking, and he

just wasn't answering for a long time, and I went to

get help, and then, I don't know, Jubilee found me and

brought me to Mr. Cassidy."

"I see," was all she said, never taking her eyes from

me.

What on earth was I supposed to say to that? I had

told her the truth. Was there more to the truth that I

didn't know about that she did? "I --" I began again.

"You were under explicit orders," she informed me, a

definite edge to each word. "If I cannot trust you to

follow those orders, how am I ever to trust you? You

do not do as told in class. You do not do as told

outside of class. You don't seem to think the rules

apply to you. That may cost you your life one day,"

she explained. "I will not take that risk with you."

"Risk?" I echoed, not really sure what she was

talking about, but Ms. Frost didn't seem to hear me.

She didn't even seem to be aware that I had even

spoken.

"How do possibly expect to survive in today's

society? Have you forgotten the way the world works?

It is not kind to women. It is not kind to mutants.

It's especially harsh to someone who is both a woman

and a mutant. Judging from your escapades this

evening, I don't believe you've even opened the

document you should have received by now. I suggest

you do. And read it. Read it well. I would hate for

such an opportunity to pass you by." She turned to

leave the room.

"But Ms. Frost," I protested, seeing the lapse in

her own reasoning skills, "Jono was here to deliver

that document. It's -- " I searched for it, hoping to

produce it as evidence to support my statement. I

waved it in the air once I'd found it, certain she'd

believe me now. "-- here. Right here! I have it."

"But you have not yet read it," she insisted.

"Jonothon was sent only to bring this to you. I see

now I've made a poor choice. In the future I shall

think what repercussions my choices may have. I

suggest you do the same." She left my room without

another word, and I opened the envelope jaggedly,

extracting the folded papers from within.

The document -- really a letter -- was composed

entirely in Ms. Frost's elegant handwriting, save for

the stationery heading at its top. I read it -- as

told -- though I expected no less than the same

lecture she'd just given me in person, and since my

reading was naturally forced, I certainly resented

every crisp word delivered.

I write this letter with a great deal of concern;

concern that I fear you will never see. I must admit,

I was surprised when you handed this letter to me. I

saw you writing it during my lecture on proper English

grammar yesterday, and I expected it to be tucked away

in a folder somewhere, or crumpled and tossed in the

trash. I never expected you to have the courage to

actually give it to me.

Still, you did so, and I suppose you deserve an

answer. Why do I spend so much time in your life?

Why do I hold you to standards and strictures that you

feel are confining, irregular, arbitrary, and unfair?

You might expect me to answer that "you remind me of

myself, when I was your age." But you don't. As

spoiled as I was, you are far more fragile than I was.

That you maintain any coherence over your own

thoughts is a marvel to me. Why? You're a female

American empath, maintaining a strong psychic link

with an unmedicated, clinically depressed British

male. I fear for your sanity, girl. Have you ever

considered that I just might have more experience in

the dangers of telepathic communication than an

untutored novice?

I worry about your ability to make a single rational

decision when the situation involves an emotional

response. When the link shows him being upset, rather

than finding out what's wrong, you pout, because he

won't, or can't, tell you freely. When you're upset,

you cry when he can't, or won't poke inside your head

to magically tell what's wrong. When one of you is

upset, both sit and mope.

Jonothon is not doing well. I have not heard Jono

pick up the guitar in weeks. When I confronted him on

it, he confessed that he feels intimidated by your

musical talent, and has apparently abandoned music,

feeling inadequate. Haven't you felt intimidated by

the piano recently? When you first came here, you

played constantly; now it's infrequent. Jono is

projecting his emotions, and you seem unable or

unwilling to block them.

I want to help you. I really do. I don't want you

to be unhappy, not permanently so.

And I will help you. Because I can, and because you

really don't know half as much as you think you do,

and you are less than prepared to face a world where

coldness, anger, and hostility are the rule, with few

exceptions.

You are wrong to lock yourself in with your fictional

heroes. They may lift you to new heights, or they may

betray you; they may wound your soul or teach you to

love, but they cannot touch you physically. The

creatures of this world can, and will, do all of the

above, and you cannot ignore them. You have such

false confidence. You think you know what the world

holds, so you clutch your leather jacket to you and

defy the world to come and break your spirit, knowing

that you, unlike the others, have the strength to

resist, to remain innocent and wise in the face of

humanity's press.

You are not the first psi-powered woman to think so.

You want to know when it will be your turn to make

the rules?

When you make it your turn.

You want to know why you have to write inside the

lines?

Because that's all they can see. And too many people

see a free spirit as a spirit that must be broken.

Especially when she's beautiful and female. Don't

write me a letter about molds, about society's

constraints, about seeing what's inside other people.

I've been fighting on this battleground you find so

abhorrent for half my life.

Why do I emphasize my gifts? Not just my psionic

acumen: but the outside, the body too?

As you say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And there's a lot of beholders out there, and if they

find your words, if they find your thoughts, if they

find your self ugly, they will take whatever beauty

you possess and destroy it. If they find you

pleasing, they will lift you higher than you dreamed

possible.

I know, I've been there. You haven't. How can I

convince you of this without putting you through the

horrors of what I've gone through?

When I was your age, all I saw for six months was

white: White walls, with even the staples where the

padding was held to the concrete were carefully

painted white. White coated men, with white, shaking

hands, their faces white as they realized what they

had willed themselves to do. And white noise, where

the pink sparkles used to be, as the cocktail of drugs

dragged at my brain, leaving me only able to gleam the

strongest emotions: Lust, Greed, and Hate.

When I was free, I looked around, looking for the

love, the tenderness, the joy, the emotions that I was

sure were missing due to the asylum. Nothing. Then I

supposed that it was the location. I was, after all,

homeless and living on the street, and that does not

encourage joy. So I attended my first Hellfire Club

meeting, and looked around. Surely one of these

people felt great tenderness, love, or joy. All,

again I found was Lust, Hate, and Greed, although

muted by a mild joy in material possessions.

So I made myself a persona, one to show the world,

and it welcomed me. The school you attend was built

with monies raised by my talents running

Frost Enterprises. And I have had to use my telepathy

a surprisingly few number of times to close a deal.

For the longest time, all I had to do was show some of

my legs, and CEOs would sell their souls to me, let

alone all of their stock options.

You think you are shattering my world? If I ever

feel that you're getting close, I'll send you home so

fast you'll swear it was teleportation. I am not

about to let you, or anyone shatter my world. I've

been shattered, almost more times then I can recall,

and put myself back together each and every time.

That's not true. I can recall every time, every

psychic cut, every iota of energy used in the psychic

surgeries on my own brain. All the pain. All of the

emotional drama, whether it was due to a misguided

attempt to use electronics to boost my telepathy, or

due to Fitzroy's attack, or due to relearning to use

my body after giving Drake his own back.

And it never shows. It doesn't, does it?

It doesn't show that I'm scared to death every

morning when I step outside my bedroom door. I'm not

a teacher, I never was. I can lead, and I can direct,

but I can't motivate you learn it for yourself.

I never learned how; why should I have learned? I'm

a much better administrator. But Xavier thinks of

himself as a teacher, when he's nothing more than an

overzealous general. And they pair me with an Irish

halfwit whose life story is full of beating the odds,

and expect me to keep you safe, and teach you to live

a happy life, when the odds are you will die, crushed

by the mass of humanity who are anything but human to

one another, or hunted simply because of your genetic

birthright, or die as some misguided zealot chooses to

attack the school. I can't train you to beat the

odds.

All I can do is resist training you students to be

another terrorist/anti-terrorist squad like the X-Men,

or X-Force. A well-adjusted bunch of mutants the

Xavier Academy turns out, hmm? Not one of them

outside of the original five have managed to live a

normal life amongst the humans, barring Colossus' time

without his original memories. Read the files

sometimes.

And perhaps you do have things to teach me. There

are colors to the world, more than black and white,

and my first students showed me that they could find

them. Your class shows me that perhaps I can too.

But not doing my job? You wrote:

"Over the course of this writing, I have shifted from

a mere rant to something that is specifically directed

at you, Ms. Frost. I should like to know what you are

going to do about it."

What am I going to do?

I'm going to throw away that ridiculous piece of

freeform poetry garbage that you turned in for your

last essay assignment, and substitute this in its

place. Congratulations. Your first "A" in my class.

But don't think it's going to be easy from here on

in. Don't think you can turn in reams of paper with

rants on them, bitching about every little

imperfection you find in this oh so imperfect world.

But if you can articulate your rage, define your

problems, and seek solutions to the pain, then there

may be hope for you yet.

Emma Frost,

Headmistress, Massachusetts Academy

CEO of Frost Enterprises

White Queen of the Hellfire Club.

 

 

I wiped the raw tears from the side of my face with

the back of my hand. I didn't think she'd be right,

nor did I think she'd ever evoke an emotional response

from me like that. Her words seemed to sing to me --

so much so I could scarcely believe she'd even written

them herself. I saw some other woman in that paper

than the one who insisted I follow her rules blindly.

She gave reasons for doing what she did, and for

feeling what she felt. I caught this wild glimpse into

Emma Frost's psyche, something so often blocked to me,

and she'd given that glimpse to me willingly, allowing

me to truly understand her.

I was really beginning to understand.

 

 

 

 

--- Jen ---

My powers weren't completely back yet. I knew that

much. I had no idea what had happened, not exactly,

but I supposed it was something like a blown fuse,

with too much energy coursing through my system --

more than I could actually handle. I thought I was

able to feel my own emotions, but I dared not try too

hard for fear I'd blow myself out again.

I hadn't been to see Jono yet. Not since the accident,

but I'd made a promise to myself that I would after

I'd eaten something. Because of the suddenness of the

accident -- I still felt terribly guilty for it --

nobody had made any dinner, and it was now nearly 9:30

and I still hadn't eaten anything yet. I made my way

into the kitchen.

I opened the refrigerator, found nothing of interest,

and closed it. I next opened the freezer and took out

something in a red box covered in ice flakes. It was

cold and started to stick to my hand. I put the box on

the counter and turned it onto its side with a loud,

icy clank. I did as the instructions instructed,

tearing the cover from the frozen meal and placing it

in the microwave for four minutes. As I watched the

box spin slowly in the microwave, I heard nobody come

into the kitchen.

"H'lo," I said, turning to see who nobody disguised

herself as this time. It was Alison, and her hair was

green. Right behind her was a grey nobody who was

saying things to her.

The microwave beeped just as Alison opened the

refrigerator. I took my dinner from the microwave and

stirred it with a fork I'd taken from a nearby drawer.

"Jen?" Alison called. No, not Alison -- she wasn't

here. Nobody. My dinner was hot; the steam came off it

in pretty waves rising from the thick noodles covered

with brown sauce. There was even a meatball. But there

were probably mushrooms in it. That wasn't good. I

would have to pick them out and throw them away. I

moved the noodles around with my fork and looked for

the mushrooms.

"Help!" Alison squeaked.

I glanced up. She was stuck to the refrigerator like

some kind of green-haired magnet.

"What?" I asked.

"I'm stuck to the refrigerator!" she said. She was

talking fast and loud like Paige was before. She

didn't need to do that; I could hear her just fine.

And I would understand her better if she talked

slower.

But she was most certainly stuck to the refrigerator.

"That's nice," I commented, and took my dinner to the

table. I stirred it again and found that there were no

mushrooms. That was good.

But I was getting cold. Maybe if I ate my warm food I

would be warm, too. Unfortunately, as soon as I

brought the noodles to my mouth, I found that they

were too hot, and I dropped the fork, causing sauce to

splatter all over my T-shirt. That would have to be

cleaned.

Abandoning my dinner, I proceeded to the sink,

passing the nobody that was still firmly affixed to

the refrigerator. She was muttering something under

her breath. I couldn't hear what she was saying. It

didn't matter.

I took a towel and soaked it, wrung it out, and

attended to the stain on my shirt.

"Jen, are you okay?" asked the green-haired nobody.

"Yeah," I answered, finding no need to look up as I

scrubbed.

"I'm stuck," she repeated.

"I know."

"Jen!"

I looked up at her sharp tone, which wasn't really

necessary. "Don't shout," I instructed. "It hurts my

ears."

The grey-skinned nobody snickered and played with his

orange yo-yo. It spun in circles around him, nearly

hitting the ceiling before coming back down and

quietly spinning by his feet. That was a neat trick. I

couldn't do anything with a yo-yo. Sometimes I wished

I could, so I could do neat tricks. It didn't matter

now, though. I was hungry and my head hurt.

I abandoned the towel, deciding the sauce would not

come out so quickly. My food was likely cooler now, so

I returned to the table to continue eating it.

It was brown and it was warm.

When I finished, I threw the package away and kindly

asked the green-haired nobody if she could retrieve a

cold Pepsi from the fridge that she was stuck to.

Instead of doing so, she gave me a level look and told

me, "Go away."

What, she didn't like me, either? I was thirsty, and I

couldn't get into the fridge if she insisted on being

stuck to it like that. But that was okay. Instead I

got a glass of water, and took it with me upstairs to

my room. It was getting late, and I wanted to go to

sleep.

(*Jen?*)

I thought I heard somebody calling my name, but

that was silly. There wasn't ever somebody. There was

only nobody, and he never called my name like that.

(*Can you hear me?*)

I thought I could hear him, but it would be even

sillier if I said that I did hear him when in

actuality I didn't really hear him. I ignored the

voice that couldn't possibly be there, and took my

glasses off and turned off the light. My room was

dark, and so was the ceiling.

(*I wish I could hear you, too. I hope you're

getting this. I don't know if it's working. It doesn't

matter if you do, I mean, I want this to work, but if

it doesn't I suppose that's okay, too. There's

something I want to tell you. No -- something I need

to tell you. But I can't tell you now. I have to tell

you in person. I'm getting better, Jen. That wasn't

what I had to tell you, but it's something, and it's

true. I'm getting better. That I can even talk to you

is proof enough of that. But then again, I don't know

if I'm talking to you, because I'm not sure if it's

working.*)

That voice talking to me started to sound

familiar.

(*I don't know what's happened, or why nothing

was working properly. I want it to work. I've never

had anyone understand me the way that she has. I don't

know if that's because of the link, or if that was

something that happened before the link. I wish I

knew. But I don't want to terminate it. That's odd,

isn't it? That I don't want it to end? The truth of

the matter is that I don't want to let go. I don't

want to lose her. She's different ... but I can't ...

*)

The voice faded. I wondered for a moment if this

was all just my imagination. It had to be. After all,

Jono wasn't really here, and I had no way of knowing

if he was really talking to me, since the link was

broken, and it probably wouldn't be repairing itself

anyway. It just didn't work like that. It was just

dead and gone, and I couldn't fix it.

Of course it wasn't really Jono. I turned over in

bed and pulled the blanket closer around my face.

 

 

--- Alison ---

I watched in not horror, but a kind of detached

disbelief as Jen walked stiffly out of the kitchen,

right by me as if I didn't exist. And even if she

could have otherwise ignored me, wasn't it kind of

hard to ignore a person stuck to the refrigerator?!

This was not fun, in my opinion. I didn't even know

how this happened - one minute, I was pulling open the

heavy white door to get a diet pop, and then next I

was plastered to the front like a huge green-haired

magnet. I did not want to be stuck to the fridge, and

Angelo was not helping in the least; in fact, he was

making things worse. He stood across the kitchen from

me, flicking his orange yo-yo inches away from my

face, wearing the biggest smirk imaginable on that

malleable grey face of his. And it was annoying. He

reminded me of my friend from back home, Jason. He

went nowhere without his yo-yo, and probably would

have stood there and laughed at me in the same manner

in which Angelo was now doing. Great. Just Great.

"So, how's it goin', Lorna?" Angelo asked,

emphasizing Polaris's name. Yeah, there was that too -

someone, most likely whose name began with a J and

ended with a "lee," had decided that it might be fun

to put green hair dye in Alison's shampoo and make her

end up looking like an incredibly short Lorna Dane.

Not exactly my idea of a hilarious joke, but obviously

certain other people found it as such. I had tried to

wash the dye out about three times now, and it was

definitely not working. If anything, I thought my hair

was now a brighter green than it had originally

started out as.

"Shut up, Angelito." I snapped back, wishing he would

take that yo-yo and strangle himself for all I cared.

My head hurt, my stomach hurt, I was still thirsty,

and I was not feeling particularly wanted or cared

about at this point in time. And I still didn't know

why I was stuck to the stupid fridge, like Joseph on a

bad day. Or Lorna, more appropriately. And I wanted to

get off this Georging appliance before Angelo got it

in his sick mind to go find a Polaroid camera. God, I

hoped he wouldn't think of that. I hoped that almost

as much as I hoped that I would become magically

unstuck from the refrigerator, just like I had somehow

become stuck to it.

This wasn't my mutant power, I reasoned. At least, I

tried to reason - I really wasn't quite sure what my

power was yet, although Emma and Sean believed it to

be telekinetic or something like that in nature. But

that wouldn't have gotten me stuck to the fridge,

would it? Why me? I silently questioned the orange

disk as it whizzed by my face yet again. I was getting

fed up with it, as I was with this whole situation.

Just like Jennifer blowing me off - that was so unlike

her. I mean, she wasn't that taken with Jono, was she?

I certainly hoped not…

"Angelo, stop it!!" I yelled, finally getting sick of

the stupid Georging yo-yo whizzing by my face every

two seconds. "If you're not going to get me off this

Georging thing, then either get someone who can or

leave me alone!!"

The yo-yo stopped, a bright pink tongue stuck itself

in my direction, and Angelo turned on his heel and

sauntered out of the kitchen, chuckling to himself as

he exited.

"Suit yourself, Lorna." was what I could make out as

his form retreated down the hallway. Well, this was

just great. Now I was still stuck to the fridge, with

no one to help me get off of it. Jen was off in la-la

land, Angelo was busy laughing at me behind my back,

and no one else cared. I wanted to curl up and go to

sleep right there, but that wasn't going to work,

seeing as I was plastered across the magnetic front of

the icebox.

The kitchen fell silent, save for the electrical

humming of the refrigerator. I was beginning to get

annoyed - how the George was I supposed to detach

myself from this thing, anyway? Eventually someone

would wander in, but -

My thoughts were interrupted as Everett walked into

the kitchen; he stopped in his tracks when he saw me

and I could tell he was desperately trying to suppress

his laughter. It wasn't working very well.

"Fine," I sighed, looking at the floor and probably

inventing a new shade of crimson. "Laugh - I'm sure

it's funny, so go ahead." I crossed my arms and sighed

again. Everett laughed a bit, but to my relief he came

over, still smiling.

"So you really are stuck," he confirmed, shaking his

head.

"Yes, I really am stuck. Do you think I'm just

standing here glued to the fridge because I want to

be?"

He smiled again, but grabbed my hand with both of his

and put one leg up against the white metallic door to

brace himself.

"Ready?"

"Sure … what …"

He yanked hard and although I stuck at first, after

about five seconds of tugging I finally came free. Of

course, this caused us to fly backwards and we ended

up in a heap on the opposite side of the kitchen.

"Thank you!" I said, exasperated but thankful to be

rid of the refrigerator nonetheless. My back was sore

now, and my head hurt, and I'd probably never hear the

end of this. But at least I wasn't stuck to the stupid

refrigerator anymore.

"No problem." Ev grinned and stood up as I tried to

drag myself off of the floor by grabbing the table.

"What happened?"

"I don't know! I was just in here trying to get a

pop, and suddenly I was stuck to the fridge. It wasn't

like a conscious choice or anything. I'd rather not be

stuck to any mechanical appliances, thank you very

much. And now everything hurts and I want to go to

bed," I whined.

Ev just stood there as I complained, and made no

effort to move as I stumbled out of the kitchen

towards the girls' dorm.

"Oh, Alison?" he called as I left.

I turned around and stopped to hear what he had to

say.

"Nice hair."

 

 

* * *

 

I managed to make it up to my room without meeting

anyone and I slammed the door shut behind me as I

walked over to the CD player and punched the PLAY

button. I turned to volume up nearly as loud as it

would go and "Enter Sandman" filled the room as I

flopped down on my bed and stared at my plain white

ceiling. I felt, well, pretty darn crappy. My back was

sore, my head was buzzing, I was tired, I felt

unwanted and like an object of mere amusement, and on

top of all that, my hair was green. This was not fun.

I wanted a reason not to get right up then and there

and jump off the roof of the dorm, and unfortunately I

could not find one. Great, maybe I should just jump

off. Maybe I'd get better, and then I could go off to

Seacouver to visit Duncan and Richie… Yeah, and while

I was at it, I might as well stop off in Cascade and

see how Blair's thesis was coming along, right? Sure,

Alison, you need some help. I suddenly missed Blair

and Richie and Jim and Methos and Duncan, and Joe and

even Amanda and Simon. Why? I was among Generation X,

practically the X-Men, and I missed Richie and Blair?

What was wrong with me? Wasn't visiting one form of

media enough?

But no one cared here, either. Did they? Well, Ev did

enough to get me off the stupid fridge, but that

wasn't enough. I wanted someone to care that I might

actually jump off the roof, but I couldn't think of a

single person who would. I got the feeling that Jen

didn't care about a darn thing right now - she was

just kind of floating off in her own little happy

world without a care or a concern or a worry in the

world. Everyone else had someone else to worry about -

Jono about Jen, Everett about Jubes (and how I was

going to kill her), Paige about Jono, Angelo about

Paige in some way, Monet about herself and Penny about

nothing - which left no one to worry about me.

I found myself getting off my bed and walking over to

the window and leaning out. Was this high enough?

Maybe just high enough so that I'd break my leg or

something. Then maybe I could take a rest, sit back

and just watch life for a while instead of being so

privy to its every whim. That was getting old, and it

was getting old pretty darn fast. Then again, with my

luck my mutant power would suddenly decide to be

invincibility and no matter how high the precipice I

jumped off, it wouldn't matter, and that wouldn't get

anywhere. Then again, I could always die, and then I

supposed I wouldn't really be anywhere either.

Well, then, this was going to get me far, no? I

supposed I should postpone jumping out the window for

a little while… at least until this next song was

over. I kind of liked it. I went back and sat down on

the bed again, sighing heavily and staring up at the

ceiling. So, what should I do in possibly my last

moments on Earth? Take some Tylenol - that was a

welcome option. But in that case, I would have to go

downstairs, and I really didn't want to do that.

Maybe…

 

 

* * *

 

When I woke up, I was very cold, and very stiff. The

room was dark, and upon inspection the glowing green

numbers of my alarm clock told me that it was 8:00 in

the evening. Great - that meant that I would have to

get up and face the world again. Let's just not, okay?

Regardless of my reluctance to even move, however, it

was cold in here. Shivering, I got up off my bed and

closed my window, which had been left open for hours,

if the clock and the absence of the sun were any

indication. Had I really fallen asleep? How long? What

time had it been last time I checked? I couldn't

remember. I went over and turned the power to my CD

player off, noting with some amusement that if I had

fallen asleep, which it did indeed appear had been the

case, it had been with none other than Metallica at

full blast in the background. Now, if that wasn't an

accomplishment, then what was?

Well, the fact that my stomachache had compounded

itself, for one. I felt horrible, more physically than

mentally now. Not that I didn't still feel like the

world's punching bag, but my stomach hurt more than my

ego right now, and I was willing to forego any

attempts at cutting myself off from human contact in

order to get some Pepto Bismol. Then maybe I'd come up

and consider the window again; but not until after my

stomach felt better.

I slowly made my way downstairs, wary of meeting

anyone on my way to the medicine cabinet in the

kitchen. Although most of the medical supplies were

kept appropriately in the med lab, the everyday stuff

was kept in a small cabinet in the kitchen. And

wouldn't ya know, the cabinet was over the

refrigerator. Great, just great - now how was I

supposed to get the stuff down? At least the kitchen

was empty, I thought, as I walked in and switched on

the light. My stomach hurt too much to find a chair

and all the phone books in the building to climb on

top of, and I still didn't want to get anywhere near

that refrigerator - I was not about to get stuck to

that thing again. I sighed and collapsed onto the

chair nearest to me, wondering how exactly I was going

to get the medicine down. I felt tired still, not

ready to do anything, and the pain in my gut was the

only thing preventing me from falling asleep again

right then and there. I wondered if I sat there long

enough and ignored it if then it might not be enough

to keep me awake. Who knew? Who cared?

I buried my head in my arms on the kitchen table,

wishing the pain away. That didn't work, so I tried

forcefully willing it away instead. No such luck.

Screw Riggs and Murtaugh, I was thinking, when a sound

from over by the doorway caught my attention. I wasn't

willing to lift my head; I figured whoever it was

could just tell me who they were, if they cared to do

so at all.

"Uh… chica? Yo, Lorna?" Well, who else could that be?

Not lifting my head from the table, I managed a

"Mmf," or something considerably close. The footsteps

got closer, and I could practically feel Angelo

standing over me.

"Chica, you all right? You didn't come down for

dinner. We had pizza…" he enticed. Oh God, the very

idea of pizza was enough to make me want to throw up.

I remained silent, trying not to think about food and

willing Angelo to go away and leave me alone. That

wasn't working, either, but it didn't stop me from

trying.

Then I heard another sound. Like a "whizz, whizz"

that I soon recognized to be the sound caused by the

motion of a yo-yo up and down its string. Oh great,

not that thing again. If it even almost got stuck in

my hair…

"Goway." I decided to be slightly more direct this

time, given that my willing him away didn't appear to

be working.

"No." Now he just sounded indignant. Wonderful.

"GoWAY."

"NO."

"Thibbit."

There was a pause, and the yo-yo stopped moving.

"Thibbit? What is that?"

I nearly laughed - something which I didn't really

want to do, considering my present condition. It came

out more as a laugh/"ow", which Angelo found more

amusing than my original "thibbit."

"Stop it!" I whined into the table. "It hurts!"

"What hurts?" Angelo managed to get out in between

laughs.

"My stomach. Don't make me laugh!" I insisted.

"Well, did you take any medicine?"

"No." If I could have stuck my tongue out at him, I

would have.

"Well, why not?" Now he was starting to sound

condescending.

"'Cause." I knew that if I told him the real reason -

that I couldn't reach the medicine - he'd never leave

me alone even more than he'd never leave me alone for

my hair and my speech and my life…

"Why not?"

I remained silent, refusing to tell him. Of course,

this was almost more direct than admitting it, because

when he next spoke there was definite mockery in his

voice.

"Oh, I get it. You can't reach it, can you?"

"SHUT UP!!!"

He laughed. "You can't!"

"SHUT UP!!! GOWAY!! LEMMELONE!!!"

"Fine, have it your way." He walked out of there

slowly, banging that stupid yo-yo on as many cabinets

as he possibly could in the process. It was so

unnerving that I practically got up and followed him

out of there to strangle him with it myself, but I

just wasn't up to it. I just wanted to sleep, but I

wasn't going to be able to do that until my stomach

stopped hurting, and it wasn't going to do that until

I got some medicine, and I wasn't going to do that

until I grew another two feet. Where did Emma keep

those butcher knives again?

My arm inadvertently slid out from underneath my

head, and as it did so it hit something. I lifted my

head, wondering what I'd hit, since the table had been

cleared when I decided to use it for a very

inefficient pillow. And there, sitting right next to

my head, was a bottle of Pepto Bismol and a Reese's

Peanut Butter Cup.

I trekked back up the stairs, not really feeling all

that much better despite the Pepto Bismol. Of course,

I was amazed and almost flattered that Angelo had

gotten it for me; unfortunately, I still felt as sick

and worthless and unwanted as ever. I was just in one

of those moods, and no matter how nice or caring

someone was to me, right now I was stuck in my

worthless rut and not planning on digging myself out

anytime soon.

I groped through the hall, finally reaching the last

room and stumbling inside. The green numbers of my

clock glowed 1:57 AM in the darkness as I tripped over

a pair of jeans strewn across the floor. I crashed

onto the floor in a heap in front of my desk – this

was just turning out to be the most pleasant night …

As I climbed back to my feet, I hit the PLAY button

on my CD player, blasting Metallica I cared not how

loud, not caring what time it was or who might notice.

They didn't care about me – why should I care about

them? It seemed perfectly logical to me. I crawled

underneath my blanket, wishing I felt better, wishing

someone cared, wishing I was someplace else.

 

--- Jen ---

It wasn't that I didn't want to fall asleep. I did.

Very much. But I didn't really seem to have a choice

in the matter.

I was glad that Alison had chosen the room down the

hall. I was glad I wasn't someone's roommate. I was

glad it was time to go to sleep. I was not, however,

glad that Alison had chosen the ungodly hour of two

o'clock in the morning to veritably blast Metallica so

that the angry strains of noise could be heard

throughout the girls' dorm. If she didn't turn it off

within the next minute I swore I would march down

there and turn it off myself.

Sixty seconds passed without relief. I threw the

covers off and, sockless, stomped down the hallway to

Alison's room. Out of sheer politeness I knocked, but

my knock obviously couldn't be heard, so I opened the

door myself and explained into the dark, "I am *not*

going to Never Never Land!"

I expected the light to turn on in the few moments

after that, but it remained off. She couldn't actually

be *asleep*, could she? How could anyone sleep with

such noise? I had come to expect the odd from her, but

this went beyond even mere oddity. Naturally, I didn't

get it, but went to the CD player, which was glowing

in the darkness, and hit what I thought was the stop

button. Beautiful silence filled the room, though my

ears still ran from my close proximity to the

speakers.

"I was listening to that," a low, muffled voice

informed me.

She was awake! "How could you listen to that?" I

asked. "It's two AM! And that was *loud*!"

"Mgfff," she explained.

"Oh," I replied. "Well, then. Some of us are

trying to sleep." With that I turned and left the room

before she could counter my statement with another.

 

--- Alison ---

 

I poked my head reluctantly into the open doorway,

glancing around the office until I saw Mr. Cassidy

seated behind his computer, partially hidden from view

by a stack of files and papers piled high next to his

monitor.

"Mr. Cassidy?" I asked weakly, hoping to get this

overwith as quickly as possible so I could go hole up

in my room and shut out the world again. My nose was

only a little clearer since I'd woken up and my head

still ached with a ferocity; I wished the pain would

just go away for the millionth time as I heard the

clack of keys on the keyboard halt at my inquiry.

"Ah, come in, lass." Mr. Cassidy poked his head out

from around the computer. "How are ye feelin'?" he

asked as I sat down gingerly in one of the three

chairs across from his desk. He shoved the stack of

papers aside and came into full view as I sat there,

looking around the office and wondering why he'd

called me in there. I just wanted to be in bed.

His office was comfortably messy – not to the point

of total chaos, but with piles of papers here and

there on the floor and a few discarded coke cans on

the desk. One filing cabinet drawer hung open, some

its contents apparently missing, most presumably

present in the stack of files on his desk. This was

much better than Emma's pristine, painfully clean and

immaculately white office, I thought.

"Eh," I said, "okay, I guess. Better, but my head

still hurts and so does my stomach."

He nodded, concerned. "I'm sorry to have to call ye

out of bed like this, but Ms. Frost and I need to have

a brief talk with you and Jen about yuir powers. We

figured it would be better to do this together in one

session."

Oh, great. The words "brief" and "powers" did not

belong in the same sentence together. It just wasn't

possible. So they wanted to talk about our powers?

Then where were Emma and Jen? They must not be here, I

reasoned. I sighed, the air rushing loudly out of my

lungs as I contemplated the possible implications of

this "talk." This was definitely gonna take a while…

Just then, a curt knock sounded at the doorway and

Emma walked in, sitting down in one swift motion in

the chair closest to the side of the desk, positioned

more behind it than the one I was sitting in and the

last vacant chair, presumably Jen's.

"Good morning," she said, looking at first Sean, who

nodded, and then me.

"Hi," I managed. I looked around the room again for

lack of anything better to do, as Emma leaned over and

whispered something to Sean before looking at his

monitor and reaching over to tap some keys and read

some more.

She leaned back in her chair again and folded her

hands, addressing me now. "I assume Mr. Cassidy has

informed you as to the reason you are here?"

"Yeah." I nodded. "You want to talk about our

powers."

"Yes," she said. "We feel that both you and Jen have

now reached a point at which you need to begin to

learn conscious control of –"

"Hi – what's going on?" Jen poked her head in the

door before coming in and sitting down in the last

chair, glancing nervously at Emma before focusing her

gaze on Sean.

Emma sighed nearly inaudibly. "As I have already

explained, Mr. Cassidy and I would like to have a talk

with you and Alison about your powers. More

specifically, developing more control over them."

"But I don't even really know what my power is!" I

interjected. "Is it even telekinesis?"

"Actually," Sean began, tapping some keys, "we've

come to believe that yuir power is not based solely in

telekinesis, but a myriad of other things."

"Your power has no specific signature – in essence,

you have the ability to adapt to any situation," Emma

went on to explain.

Jen and I cast glances in each other's direction;

she silently mouthed "borg" before we looked once more

at Emma as she went on. "Your power is much like

Synch's, in that you can mold it into whatever you

require at the time. However, it differs in that you

do not need a blueprint to work from. You can change

the essence of your ability without the presence of

another mutant."

"Basically, lass, we're talking about something

on the level of Franklin Richards," Sean said.

"What?!" I asked, totally confused. That wasn't

possible – Franklin was like the most powerful mutant

on Earth. There was no way I could even be remotely

close to being on the same level as him. Next to me,

Jen was practically visibly radiating confusion as

well, but that was probably due more to the fact that

she didn't even know who Franklin was.

Sean, on the other hand, was nodded despite my

disbelief. "It's true – if ye can change your ability

into whatever you need it to be, you could be

virtually invincible."

Wow. That was insane – not to mention about as scary

as you could get. What if it got out of control? What

if I blew up the entire school? That would be very

bad…

"And that is why it is our duty to ensure that you

receive the proper training," Emma said. "You need to

be taught to consciously control this power, so that

you do not, in essence, 'blow up the entire school.' "

I nodded slowly, taking this in. Next to me, Jen was

obviously getting bored and restless. "What about me?"

 

Emma considered Jen for a moment before answering.

"Your powers are not something to be taken lightly,"

she finally said. "There's no way to truly train you

in the uses of empathy. It is a skill you must learn

to master on your own. You're the only teacher you'll

ever really have."

She turned back to me for a moment. "The same applies

to you. We can't truly train you in something so

variant."

"Aye," Sean agreed. "All we can do is help you become

conscious and aware of your powers – and eventually

you'll get that control."

I nodded, hoping that he was right. Control would

definitely be a very good thing. Jen bit her lip and

looked to the front panel of his desk; it seemed like

she didn't want to be here, didn't want to deal with

this. It was like she didn't even think this was worth

her time – like Emma and Sean didn't know what they

were talking about and weren't sincere. I, on the

other hand, thought the complete opposite of what she

radiated. I understood that it was different with each

mutant – you never knew what you were dealing with,

and though the general of learning how to control a

power was the same each time, each was specific and

every time they faced something new that they, in

truth, had no idea of how to control.

Jen sighed. "So what's this all about?"

"It's about taking responsibility – taking the

initiative to learn about your powers and not simply

expecting us to magically come up with the answer,"

Emma continued.

Sean nodded. "It's the same with any new student. We

know the basics of learning to control a mutant power

– but it's different with every student."

There! What had I just thought? "We've never dealt

with powers exactly like yours before," he went on.

"It's true your powers are like Synch's, but there's

still a big difference between what you do. Even with

a mutation as general as telepathy, each telepath's

powers are different."

"I can lecture you on grammar and history," Emma

added, "and Mr. Cassidy can inform you of the finer

points of mathematics and science. I can explain how

your powers work, the mechanics of the astral plane,

or a metamorph's physical-chemical instabilities and

how they are applied -- but in all truth, mastering

one's own power is best compared to artistry."

Artistry? Whatever – maybe she was just trying to

play mind games with Jen. Let them deal with that. I

just hoped that I would get to study with Sean rather

than Emma. I just wanted to get this control they were

assuring me I would eventually end up with – I had no

idea what I was doing, and I definitely wasn't

consciously in control of my powers. Up to this point,

they'd always just happened, without any conscious

attempts by me to muster them.

"We will begin working on a way for you to maintain

conscious control over them on Monday," Emma added.

"Mr. Cassidy and I will go over all your files this

weekend in order to devise the best method for you to

maintain this control."

I nodded, glad that I would hopefully soon have a way

to control all of this. That, I decided, would be a

whole lot less detrimental to my existence.

"That is all," Emma said, and I got up to leave.

I nodded, glad that I would hopefully soon have a way

to control all of this. That, I decided, would be a

whole lot less detrimental to my existence.

"That is all," Emma said, and Jen got up to leave; I

was right behind her.

"Thanks," I said, Jen said nothing, and we left. I

closed the door behind me as the white walls of the

outside hall greeted me. Jen was already walking

swiftly away, as if she had some prior engagement.

Either that, or she didn't want to catch whatever it

was that I had that was making me miserable. I walked

down the hall, headed nowhere in particular, just

wandering wobbily as my brain got used to the idea of

standing up after having been seated. It didn't seem

to be able to handle the idea, however, and I made my

way carefully back down the stairs to the deserted

kitchen, where I sat in one of the chairs by the table

in hopes of regaining my balance.

I hoped it would at least come back before this

afternoon – we had a training session in the Biosphere

later, and despite the fact that I couldn't yet get my

powers to work properly, I was still required to be

there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

---Jen---

"Psyche, watch out!"

I blinked, confused for only a moment before

Jubilee's shout registered as my own codename. I

wasn't used to being referred to as anything other

than my given name. Something heavy hit me on the

right; I fell onto the hard ground and hit my left

shoulder as I did so. The pain came from both sides –

on the left from my collision with the ground, and the

right from the lingering sting of impact. What had hit

me? I couldn't get up – well, I could, but I didn't

want to. It would be best, I reasoned, to hide among

the low foliage so as not to be found.

For a long time the only sounds were my own breathing

and heartbeat; the only sight the orange-green behind

my eyes. It was nice there – or would have been, if

not for the pain in my right shoulder. The breeze

washed over my too-hot body, cooling away the sweat

that soaked my red uniform. I concentrated on the wind

and the heat of the sun shining through the biosphere,

on the beating of my own heart and the rhythm of my

breathing. I could lessen the pain that way.

Footsteps crunched on the grass covering the ground.

I could hear them slowly coming closer. Had to

concentrate on my breathing …

"Jen, are you okay?"

That sounded like Paige. At that point I would have

rather faced Ms Frost before I faced Paige. I did,

however, open my eyes to show her that I was at least

alive. She bent over me, the sunlight she blocked

casting a golden halo around her head.

She simply stared at me as one might stare at a car

wreck along the side of the road before she extended a

hand down to me.

I reluctantly accepted it, pulling myself to my feet

to stare her in the eye. I said nothing.

"I'm sorry," she apologized.

What on earth was she sorry for? Making contact with

my pitiful unworthy hands?

Catching that sentiment, she clarified, "During the

exercise, I was husking and my, ah – " She knelt to

the ground again and picked up a bright yellow plastic

gauntlet – apparently the cause of my pain, which I

could feel becoming a bruise on my shoulder. "This,"

she continued, indicating the errant costuming. "I

meant to just leave it and get it later – like usual –

but I guess that's not what happened."

Of course that wasn't what happened. She'd thrown it

at me, trying to hurt me. She wasn't sorry at all. I

remained silent, trying to keep a tight rein on the

bitter resent I felt towards her. It would do no good

to emote now. As Paige fastened the gauntlet back onto

her forearm, I went ahead of her into the main

building, where I sensed everyone had gone for

debriefing.

I took my seat at a round table in the smaller

classroom, keeping my head low to avoid eye contact.

Paige was only a few seconds behind me; she sat in her

place, fully prepared to accept the information that

would soon come to her.

As soon as she was settled, Mr. Cassidy began the

report on our activities within the biosphere.

"Ye've all done an decent job this time. M, excellent

performance, as usual." I could feel her ostentatious

pride radiating, even though I'd done all I could to

block everyone's emotions from bombarding me. Mr.

Cassidy pulled up the replay of our session,

fast-forwarding until he reached what he was looking

for. "Okay," he began, studying the screen intently

before turning back to us, "Psyche, it seems we've run

into some problems here. What's wrong?"

The truth of the matter was that I'd been keeping to

myself, tired from the prior exercises and hoping I

wouldn't have to deal with direct confrontation. But I

didn't dare tell him that – I'd look like a fool in

front of everyone. Of course, I'd met my idiocy quota

for the day in the earlier attack by Paige's gauntlet,

so any further stupidity would go above and beyond my

recommended daily allowance. And anything I said would

inevitably come out sounding stupid.

Mr. Cassidy tapped his foot impatiently.

"Strategy, sir," I answered. With the way he

continuously went on about strategy during lectures,

it seemed like the best answer – even if it was a fake

one.

He raised his eyebrow skeptically. "Strategy," he

repeated disbelievingly before playing the tape again.

Onscreen, I disappeared from view, no flying yellow

gauntlet in sight. What --? I examined the replay

closer, but found nothing unusual.

I knew Mr. Cassidy wanted to say something – his

emotions were colored of impatience and restraint.

Instead, he called on Jubilee, who hadn't done much in

the way of participation besides crack her gum. "Do ye

have any suggestions?" he asked her. "Any thoughts on

what could have happened here?"

She shrugged. "I dunno."

"Ye saw something before," he explained. "Ye were

shouting out on the tape."

"I don't remember," she told him, bored.

"Sir," Everett interjected with one hand in the air,

"I think I saw something on the tape. Could you rewind

it, please?"

Still skeptical, Cassidy rewound the tape and played

it back again. Nothing happened. Nothing changed.

"There!" Everett exclaimed, standing from his chair.

Cassidy paused the tape, and sure enough, a bright

flash of blue light had erupted just beside my head. I

admittedly had no recollection of the event.

"What was that?" I asked, confused.

"I think it's some kind of energy signature," Everett

explained as Mr. Cassidy allowed him to continue.

"Probably telekinetic or psionic. But I couldn't tell

you its exact origin."

"Nice work, Synch," Cassidy complimented. "Can anyone

tell me where it came from?"

Without raising her hand, Monet launched into her

explanation. "Considering that it is, as Everett has

already noted, psionic in nature, it can only be

assumed that it is the act of one of our own

psi-powered individuals. However, Chamber is still

recuperating from his … incident, and Ms. Frost was

not in the area, nor was she participating. Variance

has thus far not exhibited any sort of psionic energy

manifestations – though it's not impossible, given the

definition of her powers. She, too, was nowhere near

the area. Thus, we can only conclude that the

originator of the burst is Psyche."

I'd sat through her explanations before, but this was

absurd. "What are you talking about?" I exclaimed. I

had done no such thing. I was not Jubilee; I did not

go around creating energy bursts.

Mr. Cassidy silenced me with a look, then nodded to

Monet. "Go on, M."

"As I said before," she continued, "the blast was

rather near to you, and your powers *are* psionic. The

chances of a completely foreign attack are relatively

slim – so slim, in fact, as to be nonexistent. It had

to be you."

"But I don't – " I protested, cut off by Mr.

Cassidy's raised hand.

"Are there any other theories?" he asked the class.

Nobody said anything. "Good," he said. "Get changed

and get some lunch. We'll meet in the main classroom

at 1:30. See ye all then." He watched the other

students depart.

I rose to leave, but again Mr. Cassidy's hand signal

kept me in place. Monet, as well, was retained.

"I dinnae want to keep the rest of class," he

explained before turning to me. "It appears ye've

reached a new level with yuir powers. I'll want ye to

discuss further training with Ms. Frost later, perhaps

during our break if she's nae busy. Until then, ye can

talk with Monet if ye're still confused." He left the

classroom, presumably to get out of that ridiculous

winged spandex costume. It was bad enough one teacher

wore her unmentionables around campus, that the other

had to wear spandex was mindboggling.

Monet turned to me. "I suggest you seek Ms. Frost,"

she said, and without another word she left the room.

I planned to take her advice after showering and

changing into some more comfortable clothes, all the

while praying I wouldn't cause some other blast like

that.

Ms. Frost was in her office, speaking at some length

to someone else in there. I wasn't sure when she'd be

out, but I waited anyway – I was at least in the right

frame of mind to talk to her. I hadn't a clue what I

was going to say; I had no prepared speech, no real

reason for coming, and no idea what was really going

on. The door soon opened, revealing Jono's tall, dark

shape emerging from the office.

He didn't see me; just continued on his way without

so much as an acknowledgement of my presence. Watching

him leave, I reached out empathically, but he'd shut

his mind off from me, his walls firmly in place. I

resigned myself to the fact that I just didn't matter

anymore and would have to get on with my life. I

pushed open the door to Ms. Frost's office.

"Psyche," she greeted. "Come in. Mr. Cassidy has

already informed me of the situation."

I nodded, taking a seat in front of her desk. "He

told me to see you."

"Yes," she agreed. "I've seen the tape; I am aware of

this unusual physical manifestation. I would like to

hear the events in your own words, though." She leaned

forward, propping one arm up on her desk and

apparently prepared to hear anything.

"Well," I began, "we were in the biosphere. Training.

And everything was going fine and normal when, I don't

know, Jubilee told me to watch out, and then I fell

because something hit me." I indicated my shoulder,

still in pain from the blast. Despite the discomfort,

I was apparently well enough to go about my daily

life. "I don't know how long I was down. Paige came

over to see how I was and told me that her gauntlet

had accidentally hit me when she was in the middle of

husking. I mean, obviously that's not the case,

because that isn't on the tape, but I don't know why

she'd say that."

Ms. Frost nodded slowly but remained quiet.

Her silence was unnerving. My mind drifted from her;

my eyes wandered around the too-bright white room.

There were no personalized comforts as any other

office would have: no pictures of friends or family,

no reminders scribbled across notes, no artwork

hanging on the wall – Ms. Frost's office was pristine

with all the ease of a hospital.

Why, I wondered, would she want to surround herself

with blanched sterility? Her letter had said she'd

spent most of her formative years in a white room –

why on earth would she impose such an existence on

herself when any normal person would want to run from

it? Why keep that reminder?

And what on earth had Jono been doing in here? I

didn't have a chance to even speculate; Ms. Frost's

voice broke through my thoughts to bring me back to

the situation at hand.

"As I'm sure you're aware, this comes as a surprise

to me. I'd imagined we'd covered the extent of your

abilities in prior sessions. Tell me, has anything

else … unusual … happened regarding your powers?"

I swallowed, thinking. There had been the boost

during the storm so long ago, and the recent erratic

behavior of the link … "Only that sometimes it works

and sometimes it doesn't," I explained. "And sometimes

it works more than it should."

She nodded. "That is to be expected – at least until

you've had further training."

"Of course," I agreed, perhaps a little too readily.

"But –"

She waited for me to finish my sentence. In all

truth, it was a silly observation, one that likely

didn't mean much in the long run, but one that still

bothered me.

"But everyone else seems to have better control than

I do," I admitted. "And all this new weird stuff is

happening, and it's –"

"Very frustrating," she finished for me. "I

understand. Psi-abilities differ greatly from other

mutations. You're expected to maintain your own

psychological stability while at the same time

attempting to gain control of these abilities. It's to

be expected that you would take longer to gain

control, by the very nature of your powers."

"So … " I ventured, "it's okay?"

"Perfectly acceptable," Ms. Frost assured me. "I

would be worried if you were progressing any faster.

If there is nothing else, I will meet with you after

your 1:30 session with Mr. Cassidy to ascertain your

potential with this new development." She turned her

attention to some papers on her desk, dismissing me.

I left the office and headed for the kitchen, where I

detected everyone else was – or at least, most

everyone else.

Alison sat at the table with her head in her folded

arms, as far from the fridge as possible. Jubilee

blankly scanned the refrigerator's contents like a

zombie. Everett appeared to be waiting for the

microwave to finish heating his lunch.

I pulled a chair up to the table. "Alison?" I asked.

"Is everything okay?"

"No," she muttered into her hands.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"No," she repeated.

Well, if she was going to be that way, I could just

go away. I grabbed an apple from a bowl of fruit on

the counter, then sat at the table again. "It's not

Everett, is it?"

Everett turned at the sound of his name and Jubilee

stopped staring vacantly into the refrigerator,

slamming it vehemently behind her. "What!" she

demanded.

Alison raised her head to glare at me with forceful

eyes. She didn't need to speak; her expression alone

conveyed the weight of her anger. "You are so dead,"

she informed me darkly, and rose from her chair.

I conveniently ran from the room, taking my apple

with me. I wasn't sure what time it was, but it

certainly couldn't hurt to be early for once, so I

began walking towards the main classroom.

Once I arrived, the analog clock displayed that it

was only 12:00 or so, and I had no desire to sit

around waiting for an hour and a half, so I left the

classroom and went to the music room. It wasn't so

much an actual music room anymore as it was simply a

classroom that happened to have a piano in it. Music

was no longer a part of the curriculum at the

Massachusetts Academy; the room had been abandoned.

The desks had been cleared, but a few chairs remained

scattered about the room and on the risers: carpeted

steps along the back wall where a choir would have

stood. It was actually kind of sad – the lack of

appreciation for music here. Jono seemed to

understand, but he hadn't been playing his guitar

lately. I had to admit that I, too, had become remiss

in practicing recently, and in an effort to correct

that, I sat at the instrument and stared at the keys.

But my heart wasn't in it. I really had no intention

of playing anything; there wasn't anything to play. I

was bored with music, and I wanted desperately to find

something that could lift me to the same heights as

music once had. Was the lack of appreciation spreading

to me as well? Or was I simply building an unwanted

tolerance to my passion? It was only slightly

unsettling.

I looked down at the black and white keys extending

to either side beneath my limp fingers. Halfheartedly,

I played a series of chords and then stopped, feeling

altogether pointless.

It wasn't just my music that was pointless. It was

everything.

What was wrong with me? Why was I feeling so out of

it? I sighed, my head crashing on the piano keys and

making a horrendous sound. I did it again. And again.

It started to make my head hurt, so I stopped – but

everything seemed so empty and plain.

I should have been excited about this new ability. I

should have been so happy about a lot of things – my

grades were up, I was getting along with Ms. Frost, I

was getting along with Paige – but even though so much

was looking up, I couldn't feel happy. I'd gained

these good things by being good – by being "normal"

and trying to fit in. Of course, that was what I

wanted: to fit in. But now that I did, I felt – empty.

And I didn't want to play the piano.

In this empty state I was susceptible to other

emotions that might come along – I soon sensed

someone's vague ~worry~ as he approached. I stood from

the bench and went to the door, anticipating an

arrival, but nobody was in the hall, so I retreated to

my bench and stared at they keys again. Before long, a

soft knock on the half-opened door called my

attention. I looked up to see Jono's dark outline in

the doorway.

I studied him for a moment, contemplating our

situation or the complete lack thereof in much the

same way I'd contemplated the piano keys. Back and

forth – never deciding what we were to each other. I

would have liked to rely on emotions rather than

titles, but that left so much room for uncertainty.

"Hi," I said softly, not sure where exactly this was

about to go.

*Hello,* he replied. *Busy?*

"Eh." I glanced back at the piano. "Not really." And

then back to him, outlined by the light in the

hallway. He took a few steps inside the room. "What

are you doing here?" I asked. "I thought you were

recovering."

*No,* he said, sitting beside me on the bench, *not

anymore. I'm fine.*

I gave him a purely skeptical look, the sort that

insisted I wanted to hear the truth.

*Frost gave me an 'evaluation' and all that,* he

assured me.

Ah – so that's what he was doing in her office. It

still didn't explain why he'd shut me out – and for

all I knew he wasn't doing it intentionally, some part

of me still took it personally. "What are you doing

here?" I asked. I imagined he'd like to spend his free

time alone, or at least with a friend.

*Well,* he began with the sentiment of someone who

didn't want to talk about what he had to talk about.

He shifted on the bench to face me. *Yer know I want

this just as much as you do,* he explained.

Light, no. If he had to start that way then I didn't

want to hear the rest of it. I looked back at the

keyboard.

*… but there've been some problems going on.

Technical stuff.*

Oh, Light, he was breaking up with me. And before

we'd even really started. I wanted to disappear.

*And yer know I'm not one to just go along with

whatever Frost says….*

Sets of black keys among white ones: two, three, two,

three, two, three …

*… but wot if it happens again? I don't want to be

anymore incapacitated than I already am.*

He sounded like Emma. I could hear her accents and

mannerisms in his psionic voice.

*I don't want to do this,* he continued, *but I have

to.* He reached for me, his hand on my shoulder where

my new power had stung. And he simply drained himself

out of me as I stared at the keys before and below me.

Two, three – black keys in a row. Two, three, two,

three, two, three, two, one. I held onto whatever

parts of him I could manage to salvage, as though my

meager power and my sheer force of will could keep him

there, inside my head with me, but the effort was

wasted. I couldn't expect to hang onto him like that.

Draining out … two, three, two, one … my voice was the

only one inside my head. I was not going to cry.

My resolution, however, could not be kept. In one

swift motion, I stood from my bench and summoned all

my courage – perhaps more than I really needed – and

feeling the thunder behind my eyes, stared down at

Jono: the reason I'd stayed here, the reason I'd

endured Frost and Paige and Monet and Alison, the

reason I'd managed to live this long. He was all this

and more, and he knew it, and he didn't want me

anymore. He just didn't want anything to do with me. I

refused to just sit back and watch, to just sit back

and accept it without question. I didn't want to hurt

him – but oh, Light, I couldn't just let this happen.

I wanted that force I'd felt earlier, the one that had

knocked me down, in the hopes that it might knock him

down as well. I let the rage fly. "Why the HELL did

you do that?" I demanded.

*I told you!* he insisted.

"With your contradictory conditions and Emmaspeak," I

said. "That wasn't you. This isn't you. What

happened?"

*I told you,* he repeated. *I'm sorry. I didn't want

to. I didn't have a choice.*

Now I wanted to cry. This wasn't right. This wasn't

like him. "You have a choice," I muttered darkly. "You

always have a choice. You're stronger than Frost.

You're stronger than me. You can control this. I can't

believe you'd do this."

He stood now, so that I had to look up to see him

properly.

I pushed my request into his eyes, forcing him to

understand my necessity. He was all I had; couldn't he

see that? "Please."

*I can't, Jen.*

His words hit deep and hard – so hard I thought they

might strike real tears. I bit my lip, but all control

was lost. "Why not?" I asked, hearing the shaking

desperation in my own voice.

*I told you already.*

I understood. I understood just fine. He didn't

really want this. And if he just wanted to –

No, I corrected myself. That wasn't right. He was

sincere; I could hear it in his voice, even if he was

trying to keep me locked out of his emotions.

*Maybe when you've got more control,* he suggested.

"More control," I laughed ruefully. "Sure." I knew

that day was a long way off.

*Jen – listen to me.*

I listened. Reluctantly, of course, but I did listen.

*I know this looks bad. I know this must seem like

I’m just doing wot Frost told me. Yer know as well as

I do that it doesn't – that I don't work like that.

But here – now – she had a valid suggestion. A

catalyst, really, to put in motion things I'd already

been planning.*

"You were what?!"

*Please, listen.*

I listened.

*You have to trust me on this one,* he said. *I – I

couldn't handle it. It's hard – never sure where my

own ... voice is, always getting these spare thoughts

from you – I just couldn't handle it.*

"So you're going to quit," I said flatly. It wasn't

really a question.

~helplessness~ *There isn't anything I can do.*

I just looked into his eyes, hoping to find some kind

of comfort, some reason to believe that the removal of

the link was for the best. He seemed to believe it

was. I wanted to understand him. I wanted to believe

him. He was the only person who had understood me in

the short time I'd been here – perhaps one of the only

people who had understood me in my entire life. Why

couldn't he grasp the simple idea that I needed him to

be there, especially at that point in my life, when

the blandness and normalcy of life was threatening to

collapse around me? In truth, I reasoned, I couldn't

be without someone or something to help and guide me

through my days, whether they were painfully normal or

positively earth shattering. Yes – I would live

without him in my head; I would survive another day,

and another day after that. But it wouldn't be easy,

and I didn't have to like it.

And as angry as I was – as much as the odd

complexities of this usually simple emotion rolled

beneath my skin – my need outweighed that feeling. My

need and something else, some stronger sentiment I

couldn't place. It certainly wasn't –

*I don't want to hurt you,* Jono explained.

How true was that? I wanted to believe him….

*I'm sorry. I have.* He turned to leave.

I couldn't stand it any longer. He couldn't do that –

he couldn’t just *leave*! Not now! "Where are you

going?"

*Where I can't hurt you anymore.*

I ran out into the hallway after him, but he was

gone. My anger finally overcame that softer emotion to

send me spiraling down into disgusting, tainted black

depths. What in hell had Emma told him? I could have

killed her. Screw getting along. She wasn't my friend.

We weren't supposed to "get along". And she had

seriously messed with Jono's head in some way or

another. I'd make her pay for that.

Furious, I stomped down the hallway, praying I didn't

run into Emma or Paige in fear I'd kill either one or

both of them. Because now I had a way, even if it was

less reliable than some other mutations. I had a way

and I would use it.

If only I could figure out how.

But that was beside the point. I kept going down the

hall until I reached the main classroom.

I couldn't go in there, of course. Jono was in there

– and if he weren't, he would be soon. And I couldn't

speak to him after what he'd done, even if there was a

perfectly good reason for it. Of course there was a

perfectly good reason, I reminded myself. But until I

knew what that reason was, until I knew exactly why he

felt it so necessary to kick me out of his life, I

would stay mad. What was this talk of hurting me? He

hadn't done that.

Sure he had.

That was the way these things worked with me. The way

they worked at all. Girl meets boy, boy hurts girl,

girl runs off screaming violently because she's not

worth it – then girl decides all men are such idiots

and becomes turned off of them altogether.

I was not made for this: this dating thing. That

ritual of society, it seemed, was created for

fabricated girls to shamelessly promote themselves and

their lack of sense in nature's vain effort to

propagate the species. Pity nature never realized the

system was wasted on the short of mind. She just kept

breeding stupidity.

And I, as a teenaged girl, was subject to her every

whim – all the chemicals racing through my bloodstream

in terrible amounts, never really balancing, and

giving rise to the emotions I held so dear. How

strange that the very feelings I prized so highly were

only the results of unusual chemical imbalances! It

appeared my empathy, too, was wasted. Such an invalid

gift. Like the sudden decline in my musical interest.

It seemed I could only be rid of this ugly emptiness

when I was angry – or when I was with Jono.

But now I couldn't even tell where he was. Light burn

it!

I went to my seat inside the classroom and waited for

class to begin.

 

 

 

 

--- Jen ---

 

Letters floated around, stinging in my head – letters

formed words formed sentences formed paragraphs formed

letters, unsent to old young people. I could never

articulate myself well – those were parts of people

who could have been me – I preferred to send notes and

letters. My past was littered with notebooks – with

the things I'd sent or merely intended to send. I'd

written letters to real people, to fictional people –

to adults and peers, to people I loved and people I

hated. Sometimes they got me in trouble; that's when

they took away my books – and sometimes they broke my

heart with their ridiculous ideals of love that could

never be.

And it seemed that's all I looked for now –

ridiculous ideals.

I felt obligated, somehow, to apologize for past

actions. I wanted to heal it, make it better – to fix

the past that couldn't be fixed, actions of so long

ago. And Paige was not the girl I'd hurt; she wasn't

any of the girls I'd envied – she was only one girl in

this day, who I hadn't ever really truly harmed or

scarred as I had those others – but she served as

adequate representation.

And with all the things I'd written lately, all these

things I'd sent – to Ms. Frost, to Jono – well, not

really – I wanted to do this. It was wholly

appropriate.

We both cried. Remember that, back at the movie we all

saw right after I came? I looked over at the end and

saw you crying, too. So was I.

I wish I could express myself better verbally. Pen

and paper tends to come easier than speaking

sometimes, when that emotion strangles me. It's hard

living with this power, yes, but I'm not asking for

pity.

I can't control what goes on in my head. If that

bizarre mechanism decides I feel some certain way, I

cannot stop that. And I don't understand why that part

of me would choose to adhere to someone already spoken

for, who likely doesn't return my sentiments. Why,

some wonder, have my emotions pointed to Jono, just as

yours have? I can't explain that. I don't understand

the way the mind works.

I could not send that. I had to find the words within

me that might convey my true emotions, but all words

seemed inadequate. There was nothing I could say to

her. If I could just *show* her what I meant – if I

could pinpoint these specific desires that were so

necessary: the need, the hope, the love … and if I

could find her, I might know how to do that

empathically.

My mind and heart were open, the energies flowing

freely. I felt people around school and just beyond.

Paige was not in her room studying – my power directed

me downstairs and outside – beyond the walls to the

biosphere. I entered the enclosure warily, not wanting

any further accidents such as this morning's. Sunlight

flooded the crafted wilderness, filtered through the

glass dome and painting all the foliage in hues too

intense to exist in a dimmer environment. The soothing

rays beat kindly on my shoulders and face, heat

welcome after the interior chill of the Academy and my

room.

I could sense her just through the trees ahead, could

hear a single repeated thwok echoing in a staccato

rhythm. I was only slightly worried about the

incessant thwok-ing, but figured she wasn't in any

danger. I sensed her just beyond a thick cluster of

trees, and I headed into them. Through an opening in

the branches, I saw that she had found a tennis ball

and was slamming it against the brick face of the

building repeatedly with a tennis racket. Though she

didn't look it, her emotions were plainly angry with

something, or at the very least annoyed. I didn't

really want to bother her now. I couldn't – she would

just get angrier with me, because I'd tried to do

this, and she didn't like me, or any of several other

reasons. It would be best to just go – just get out of

here before I contaminated her presence with my

idiocy.

I pushed ahead through the branches, suffering only a

few scrapes as I did so. I ran ahead, not caring

whether or not he was behind me – and feeling

particularly silly. Once inside, I began walking –

just fast enough not to look incredibly stupid.

I had the full intention of wasting several precious

hours in front of the television, but found that the

set was already on, its blue glare flickering

aimlessly in the late afternoon dimness that barely

shone through curtained windows. Nobody, however,

occupied the room, so I picked up the remote and

changed the channel.

"I was watching that," a muffled voice informed me.

I turned, remote still in hand, towards the sound of

the voice. "Alison?"

A blanket on the couch bobbed, the vague form beneath

it nodding.

I flopped into a chair across the room, glad it was

only her and not – not one of the others. "What'cha

watchin'?"

"Kmbmmlib," the even cloudier voice responded

slurrily.

I shrugged and asked if I could change the channel.

"Mm," she responded.

Poor girl. She was always sick. I changed the

channel.

"Hey!" Alison protested loudly.

I muted the TV. "What? I am bored out of my skull.

There is nothing to do. Cassidy's shopping on the

Internet, so I can't even read my mail. I don't fell

like the piano, and my CDs feel old, and there's no

way I'm going to even attempt conversation with anyone

else; I'll fall flat on my face no matter who I talk

to. I tried writing, but even that comes out with no

plot. My poetry sounds like some odd hybrid of Tori

and Emily Dickinson, the latter thanks to Frost's

attempt to bridge this rift between us through

literature. She's busy, too, so even if I wanted to, I

couldn't request a lesson – and I don't want to. You'd

think," I added after a careful pause, "that being

here would be infinitely more interesting." I sighed

and continued, whether she was listening or not. "I

mean, we're supposed to be superheroes in training,

right? There should always be something going on. Not

that I want any miscellaneous villains to show up at

our door or anyting, but Light, I'm so sick of being

cooped up in here."

The blanket rustled and Alison's still slightly

greenish head emerged. "Jubilee said something about

they're going somewhere tonight. Go talk to her if

you're so bored. I'm sick, and I'm watching Sam and

Al. I haven't seen it before, which is a miracle, and

I'd like to see the rest." She waved me away after I

turned the channel back to Sci-Fi.

I reluctantly left, and thought – out. I could

certainly go out, even if I wasn't sure where we were

going or what we were doing. It was so much easier to

go out when someone else decided what we were doing

instead of leaving the decisions to me, because I

could never decide.

I wondered if Jubilee had meant to ask me if I'd like

to come along, or at least mention that night's plans

to me. It would be horribly rude to just invite

myself, particularly if she didn't want me along.

Still, it wasn't as though I actually belonged, and I

would wind up feeling like an extra wheel anyhow. So,

I resolved, I might as well make the best of it. The

worst that could happen would be that I would have to

stay here all night, and even then I could find a

decent chatroom to hang out in – hopefully.

"DIE! DIE YOU EVIL SCUM!"

My search for Jubilee was apparently over, as her

familiar voice rang through the air – though I

couldn't imagine who she'd wish death upon so

fervently – besides Monet, and she likely wouldn't

lower herself to Jubilee's level.

I entered the next room to find her shoving Angelo

away – both had been seated before a television,

apparently playing video games.

"Hey," I greeted halfheartedly, and willed the odd

sound in the back of my head to be quiet, it was

Angelo, of all people, and I was not interested in

him; I was interested in Jono, and would remain so

even if that interest was not reciprocated.

Jubilee didn't respond, intent on her video game.

Instead, Angelo looked up, grinning like a madman.

"Back for more?"

I blinked, but ignored his remark and seated myself

on the floor, approaching Jubilee again. "So what's

up?" I asked.

"Nothin'," she answered. She apparently didn't want

to talk to me, so I just got to the point and kept

talking. "So, you guys are going out tonight? Where

you going?"

Angelo grinned at me. "You wanna come?"

Of course I wanted to come, that was why I was here –

but I certainly didn't want to be associated as going

with him, in particular. I wanted to go with the

group. "Yeah, I guess – where, and who's going?"

"Uhh …" Jubilee answered just as the TV screen

flashed and her character died for the last time. She

turned, then, and addressed me. "Goin' up to town,"

she explained. "There's this swing place there, had an

ad in the paper, cheap tonight. So far who's goin's me

and Ev, and Ange, and no way's M comin', and I dunno

about Paige or Jono 'cause Jono's like gone – "

"Gone?" I heard myself say.

"Eh …" she floundered, scanning the ceiling. I could

nearly hear her silently chastising herself for even

mentioning Jono's absence. "Uh, yeah," she concluded.

"He'll be back, don't worry – he does this. Y'know."

Sure. And he certainly wouldn't go out – he was just

not that sort of person.

"You still wanna go?" Jubilee asked hopefully.

Well, Jono wasn't why I'd wanted to go in the first

place, so why should it matter whether or not he was

there? His presence or lack thereof simply wasn't a

real deciding factor. It would be even better, I

decided, if he wasn't there, because I did not want to

be anywhere near him after what he'd done.

"It'll be fun," Jubilee added. "We're leavin' at 6.

If you wanna come I think we're stuck with the van –

y'know, the beat up one – 'cause it's already like

wrecked and stuff and Frosty thinks we'll like trash

her car."

"I'm driving," Angelo added.

Weren't they trying to convince me to go with? It

didn't matter, though, my mind was made up. I wasn't

about to stay in this place a minute longer, Jono or

no Jono.

 

A few hours later, I arrived in the garage, where

Jubilee, Everett, and Angelo were gathered, the latter

grinning in the driver's seat with his hands on the

wheel and the last remains of a cigarette dangling

disgustingly from his mouth.

Paige arrived just behind me, breathlessly

apologizing for her lateness.

What was she doing here? And where was Jono? Oh,

Light – I didn't think she would be coming. Didn't she

want to stay with Jono?

Ev nodded. "We can't leave until Mr. Cassidy brings

the keys," he explained. A good point.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. After all, Paige could

be tolerable when Jono wasn't around. It was just when

they were together – when he was gushing over her –

that I hated her so much. And, I realized, I'd only

hated her all the time because of that constant

reminder of Jono, and his thoughts that weren't about

me

She smiled. "Right. I talked to him earlier; he told

me to tell y'all to let me drive –"

"What?" Angelo very nearly screeched. "But I was

gonna –"

"Just what he said," Paige answered, shrugging. "Oh,

and Jono's coming, too, if –" She cut herself off

mid-sentence and eyed me apologetically.

I made it a point to avoid her look, pretending to

inspect the far wall instead. Somewhere between her

gaze and mine, thoughts surfaced – thoughts I didn't

want to think, images of Paige and Jono so comfortable

and so close and so relaxed and so very much in –

I needed help or I thought I would very well go

insane. "Be right back," I mumbled, and ducked out of

the garage. I hoped Cassidy wouldn't return in the

time I was gone; they might leave then ….

I ran across campus to the couch where I'd last left

Alison. She had to come with, or I'd suffer some

bizarre kind of mental breakdown on account of Paige's

very presence.

Alison was asleep.

"Wake up!" I insisted. "Please. You have to come with.

You have to. Wake up!" Before she even had a chance to

respond, I turned on the TV and turned the volume up.

She groggily emerged, looking awful. "Whuddya want?"

I didn't have time for this. "You have to come," I

repeated. "Paige is going. I'm going to go crazy. I

can't – with her – and Jono – he's not missing, he

coming, and my mind is going to like explode or

something and this is bad."

"And you want me to yell at so you won't yell at

Paige," she responded.

"No!" I insisted. That wasn't it at all. But wasn't

it? She was going to act like my muse of common sense,

my marbles, a reminder of sanity where insanity was

destined to prevail. And yes – a sounding board, an

aural punching bag. Someone I knew would listen and

understand. "Well … maybe a little."

Wisps of reluctant emotion wafted from her as she

gave in. "Fine. I'll go. When?"

"Now," I told her.

"Now?!" she echoed.

I shrugged. "They're in the garage. Paige's driving."

I bolted from the room and back into the garage, where

the rest of the students were piling into the old

beat-up van we'd been given permission to use that

evening. I joined them, noting that Jono was indeed

there, sitting in the front seat beside Paige, though

Angelo was now absent. I made no comment regarding

either observation, but did explain, "Alison's coming.

She'll be here in a few moments."

Paige shook her head. "No, she's not," she said, and

indicated the far side of the garage, where Mr.

Cassidy was speaking with Alison on his way out,

apparently informing her that she could not

participate in that evening's venture into the outside

world.

"What?" I asked.

"She's sick," Jubes muttered. "So's Ange. They're not

comin'."

Great. Just great.

 

 

This was so weird and beautiful – like stepping back

in time, even if only by decades. I had never been one

to go to dances back home, and those I had attended

had never been very fun – usually a group of girls

would include me in their circle, but I hardly knew

them and I knew they were only being courteous –

because nobody wanted to dance with them, either. And

I refused to be relegated to such a level, so I would

politely decline and stand around by myself, wishing I

had someone – because that's always what it ultimately

came down to, and there wasn't ever anyone to remind

me he was there and that he cared.

I watched Jono and Paige take the floor. Though

tentative, they both seemed experienced as they moved

to the rhythm of the music. Other dancers spun around

them, couples and individuals and groups weaving

through one another, attempting unusual movements in

some dizzying cadence of arms and legs and hair and

time – other people floating across my line of vision,

but my eyes as well my powers kept a lock solely on

Paige and Jono. She was so beautiful. He had every

reason to love her as much as he did – as much and

more. I wanted to rip my eyes from her, to insist that

I did not have to watch her so intently, as though by

not looking at them together I could deny her

existence and – yes, merge Jono's world with my own.

What I wouldn't give to get inside his head as he

danced with her – to try and figure out what he saw in

her that set her apart from me. I could match it, or

at least try, and surpass it. I could be better – I

could be better than myself and certainly better than

Paige.

But there was no way I could cut in – they – Jono was

having too much fun.

Couldn't I get in her head, for only a moment, and in

that moment, feel what she did: his hands, his arms

around her, his eyes looking into hers?

Of course not. I wasn't even close to attaining that

kind of power. I was weak, and shallow, my gifts more

of a nuisance than anything else. Frost was wrong to

think they could ever really help. And even more wrong

in her assumptions that the link to Jono had been

making me unstable – in fact, I was worse without it,

if only because I had had it, and I had tasted that

kind of intimacy and now it was ripped from me.

And I'd known he'd liked it.

So why the hell was it gone now?

Paige was so pretty.

I resisted the urge to run to her and break her

somehow, fought the adrenaline that demanded I let

loose somewhere, somehow. Instead, I sought my guide –

but Alison wasn't here, either, she was stuck at home,

sick.

"I'm going to kill her," I muttered to nobody in

particular. "Not right away, no, but gradually, sort

of the way those awful cigarettes are going to kill

Angelo."

Nobody was paying attention to me. I didn't care.

This was the way things worked with me. How could I

feel so miserable when the music was so happy?

"She's so pretty," I went on, still referring to

Paige, of course. "Look at her. With him. I don't get

it. She's … too pretty. Too clean. Too perfect and

pretty. I wonder, what's wrong with me?"

"You do this," a voice explained from my left.

What? Nobody had been listening to me. What – who? I

turned , caught off guard, to find Jubilee looking up

at me. "You sit around and complain and stuff instead

of actually doing anything. We had this conversation

already, y'know – and you like, tried that stuff

before, just lettin' it happen and stuff. So it didn't

work. You still want him? Just go for it."

Her words sounded hollow in my ears. I was really

only half paying attention; my eyes had again focused

on Paige out on the dance floor. Maybe Jubilee had a

point.

I pushed through the sea of crowd, casting aside each

extra dancer until I reached my destination. They were

so close – so real – and Jono even more beautiful than

I'd ever seen him. So close – and so unreachable. I'd

set her on a pedestal, and when he was with her, he

became part of that unattainable vision, too high to

actually address on an equal level. I was lowly scum

next to them -–yes, even Jono, too, now, because he

was with her. And she was with him. Everything was

patched up between them; I was just some girl along

the way who served to strengthen their relationship. I

wasn't real; I was a plastic doll for the purposes I

served, and now that I was done with, I could be

discarded. I wasn't supposed to care anymore; they

were back together and I was out of his head –

So close – so real – like watching it live on TV –

Oh, Light – I willed myself to stop, but – to get

away before I did anything stupid or harmful in this

big crowd –

My feet slowly complied; I moved through Jell-O to

the ladies' room, the gelatin breaking and giving way

to water and air and I was running, aerodynamic, until

I hit escape velocity at the bathroom door and

lingered, stationary, in some twisted freefall inside

the ladies' room, staring blankly at myself in the

mirror.

My face wasn't red; I hadn't been crying or

exhibiting any other drastic manifestation of my

current emotional condition. I appeared, for all the

world, relatively normal, if a bit flustered.

I vaguely sensed someone approaching before the door

opened and Paige's pretty face appeared from around

the corner. Again, I resisted the urges that directed

me to kill her, or at least hurt her. That would make

a mess.

I pretended to touch up my makeup, ignoring her as

best as I could.

She applied another coat of lip gloss, stopped,

looked at me in the mirror, washed her hands, glanced

at me again, dried them, and then turned directly

toward me, her back to the wall. "I'm – Jen, you

seemed upset. Is something wrong?"

Of course there was something wrong, but I couldn't

possibly tell her that, because she had no clue, and

she was trying to be friends, and I shouldn't hate

her, I should be nice. "Yes," I told her. "There is."

She hadn't expected me to say that. Neither had I –

generally when someone asks if something's wrong, then

no, it isn't, but thank you for your concern and I

will be fine trying to maintain my sanity on my own.

"There is?" she echoed.

"Yes," I said. "I –" I began to explain, but found

the words I'd wanted to use would not facilitate

peace, when in truth I wanted this to pass easily

despite my cravings for blood. "I don't want to make

this a big deal," I decided, "nor do I want either of

us to get mad." Of course, it was already too late for

that, but the point was well-meant and well-placed.

She nodded slowly, seeking comprehension.

It occurred to me that anything I said, no matter how

well-put or thought out, would have no effect. She

obviously cared for him a great deal, and he for her,

and I would only get in the way of their happiness.

And I did want Jono to be happy. I would have

preferred that he were happy with me, but he wasn't,

and I would have to accept that.

After all, my happiness was trivial compared to his.

"Never mind," I concluded, "nothing's going to

change." I tossed my paper towel into the trash and

headed out to be miserable some more.

Paige stopped me with a delicate hand on my arm just

before I pushed the door open. "This is about Jono,"

she stated, "isn't it."

Was it ever about anything else?

I nodded. "Yeah," I admitted.

She smiled demurely and glanced briefly at the floor

before returning her eyes to mine. For the first time

I saw her pretty blue eyes sparkling even in the

bathroom's ugly flourescent lighting with –

friendship? "I know you're not gonna believe me," she

said, "but we're friends. Jono and me, I mean. I know

how it looks – yeah, we were – or thought we were –

somethin' once, but … " She shrugged, signifying the

relationship's apparent arrival in oblivion.

She was right – I didn't believe her.

As if she were empathic herself and picked up on

that, she continued. "Jen – look – ah – much as it

pains me to say it, he does care about you. If you

could hear the way he goes on about you – " She

signed, interrupting herself so that whatever she

might have said next was lost to her own mind.

I still didn't believe her. If he cared the way she

said he did, why was he with her now? And why had he

severed our connection?

"If you don't believe me, you can ask him yourself,"

she said.

"As though he would even talk to me," I muttered. He

wouldn't – not with her around, and certainly not with

all the other people around.

Paige's eyes unfocused on a distant dot far behind

the walls of the room, her mind clearly elsewhere. She

snapped back to reality a few moments later and said,

"He wants to talk to you."

I felt an eyebrow raise in even greater suspicion.

"So now you're linked to him."

She grinned. "Don't be silly. He's a telepath,

remember?"

If an Aes Sedai had answered that way it would mean,

'Why yes, Jen, I am indeed linked to him now, very

strongly and happily so, might I add.' But Paige was

no Aes Sedai, and she still felt relatively honest, so

I followed her out of the room and found Jono waiting

just outside.

I swallowed, and the action seemed to force my heart

into my stomach until it launched itself back into my

chest and pulsated faster than the lively music

clouding the air. "You – wanted to talk?" I asked

slowly, in a very small voice.

*Well,* Jono replied, *not exactly.*

As he took my hand, I felt his emotions pouring into

me, filling up my missing pieces – I looked behind me

for Paige, to see what she thought of all this, but

she was nowhere in sight. Still confused, in a

whirlwind of motion and emotion, I somehow found

myself on the dance floor, the rhythm sounding in my

skull until my beating heart complied with the music's

demands and fell into rhythm alongside the beat. My

feet moved of their own accord, my hands tangled in

Jono's; I could scarcely believe that old wish had

come true.

I didn't want to concentrate on the motions, but I

didn't want to step on his feet or screw up or

anything. Silent reminders carried from mind to mind,

and I let the music sweep me away – so I didn't care

any longer about doing what looked right so long as it

felt right. The song – the music ended and I returned

to the real world, breathless and excited.

Just before the high of activity faded – the high of

being with Jono, who apparently cared as much as he

had before, as much as Paige had said he did – the

next song began, its meter slow and its emotion real.

I glanced up at him, asking him without words if he

wanted to continue or sit out – and he responded

without words as well, his actions speaking as plainly

as any thought would, as his arms pulled me closer to

his body. I allowed my own arms to encircle his neck,

my face against his shoulder.

We moved together, almost as one, to the lilting

rhythm of the music. His hands held me – comfortingly,

banishing my demons – and I could not believe this was

real; I could not think of any place I'd rather be.

I wished time could stand still in that single

moment. I wished it could last forever. I wished I

could capture that instant and set it free when I

needed hope and comfort and love.

Love?

Something like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

--- Alison ---

"I don't wanna watch this." I complained, disgusted

with the complete lack of intelligent programming on

whatever channel it was that we had been watching for

the past hour. I was lying on the couch in the rec

room, still freezing despite the mound of blankets

that I had managed to pile on top of myself in an

apparently futile attempt to stay warm. This was not

fun, I decided. Very not fun.

"Well, neither do I." Angelo shot back from the other

side of the couch, where he was similarly lying

underneath a pile of blankets and pillows, drinking a

can of Mountain Dew and looking just as sick as I must

have at the moment. The rest of the student body of

the Massachusetts Academy had gone out and left Angelo

and me behind, due to our extremely non-well and

overall pathetic conditions. In other words, we were

too sick to go anywhere, and felt crappy enough that

we didn't really care at the moment. The only other

person on campus at the moment was Mr. Cassidy, who

was probably in his office shopping on the internet or

something. Whatever. Maybe he's buy something cool

this time…

"So change the channel." I said, hoping that

something better than the French drag racing we were

currently watching was on. Anything would be better

than this - well, almost anything. I wasn't quite to

the "anything" stage yet, but I was fast heading down

that road.

"Can't." came the reply. "The remote's on the table."

"So?"

"So, I don't wanna get it. I'm too sick. Comprende?"

"Si, you lapiz." I told him. I looked over at the

table on which the remote sat; it must have been miles

away from the couch, and I most definitely did not

feel like traversing the all-too-vast distance between

my pile of (practically ineffective) blankets and the

coffee table. "Well, neither do I. You stretch - you

get it. You won't even have to get up." I reasoned.

"Too sick to stretch."

"What?" The boy was just lazy, if you asked me.

"You heard me - I'm too sick. I don't feel like it.

You have telekinesis. You get it." he countered.

"Telekinesis? I don't even really have it, and even

if I could get it I don't know how to make it work!" I

complained.

"Well then, I guess we're just gonna sit here and -"

"Saints preserve us - what happened to all the

Mountain Dew?! I just bought a new case for Jubilee

this mornin'…"

Angelo and I glanced at each other and quickly shoved

the pile of empty pop cans underneath the couch as

best we could as Sean entered the room, looking

flustered.

"Do either of ye know what happened to all the

Mountain Dew?" he asked, hands on hips.

"Um… no." I answered.

"Sorry, didn't even know you bought any. We're too

sick to drink it anyway." Angelo added.

Sean nodded and sighed, seeming to believe for the

time being that there actually existed a state in

which one was too sick to drink Mountain Dew. Poor,

misguided soul…

"All right." he said, walking around us to the table

and picking up the remote. "Since neither 'o ye

appears to be watchin' anything, I hope ye won't mind

if I watch something else?" he asked, indicating the

cars racing through mud on the screen.

"No." Angelo and I both answered in unison. Sean

turned to the TV and changed the channel, switching to

a more mundane station to watch…

"I love Law & Order." he stated happily, sitting down

in one of the huge armchairs off to the side and

turning the volume up a notch.

"I hate law and order." Angelo and I noted, in unison

once more, as I contemplated all possible routes of

escape. Sean just looked at us, but after regarding us

for a brief moment, he shrugged and turned back to his

stupid show. As much as I didn't want to, I slipped

out from underneath my warm haven and grabbed the

topmost blanket, wrapping it around my pajama-clad

body and heading for the kitchen. Maybe I could escape

the evil lawyers in there. Angelo followed suit after

a moment, and we left Sean to watch his prized Law &

Order alone in the rec room while we were forced to

sit pitifully in the kitchen and suffer.

I sighed. As crappy and cold and achy and

terrible and downright sick as I felt, it appeared

that Angelo felt just as - if not more so - sick as I

did. Neither of us was having any fun, especially not

after having to evacuate the rec room due to our

mutual total aversion to Sean's show, and although he

hadn't said or shown a thing, he still seemed rather

amused with the fact we both hated it.

So we sat there in the kitchen, each at our

respective chairs across from each other at the table,

looking at the walls, ceiling, fridge, radio…

Radio - I remembered that my tape had been in there

from a couple of days ago; maybe no one had changed

it. I slowly got up and traversed the cold kitchen

floor to the boom box sitting on the counter, and hit

the EJECT button. Sure enough, my tape was still in

there. Good. Angelo eyed me suspiciously, and even I

was beginning to doubt my actions at the moment.

I mean, I had only gotten up on this whim - this

totally illogical, fanciful caprice that had popped

into my head, and even now I didn't know why I was

doing what I was doing. You know how you always ask

people why they do things, and they say they can't

tell you, that they don't know why, and you never

believe them? Well, I didn't know why I was doing

this, but somehow I did it all the same.

I swear, whatever happened next was not my fault.

Perhaps it was just something to do; maybe it was my

way of trying to cheer Angelo up. I couldn't explain

it. It just happened. I hit the PLAY button and Mr.

Jones began, filling the kitchen with its captivating

harmony. I made my way over to the table, and thrust

my hand in Angelo's face, sure I was already turning

red from doing I still knew not what.

"Hunh?" he asked incoherently, looking at me like I

was crazy as the music continued to pick up in the

background.

"Come on." I heard myself saying. "Get up, dance."

When he took my hand and used me to heave himself up

into a standing position, I think he was almost as

surprised as I was.

"I was down at the New Amsterdam, staring at this

yellow-haired girl…"

We made our way clumsily around the kitchen, and

finally began laughing as we both realized how

completely pathetic we had to have looked right then.

I thanked God that there was no one else home, save

Sean who was in the rec room watching his stupid law

show and who probably would've thought the sight was

equally as funny as we both did. Angelo whirled me

around as we danced our crazy movements to the music,

just letting go and somehow living in the moment.

"Well you know, grey is my favorite color…"

I laughed and twirled again, watching the room spin

crazily. This was kind of fun, even if I didn't know

the meaning of it and I didn't know what was going to

happen as soon as the music stopped or what was going

to happen later or tomorrow or the day after that. But

somehow that didn't matter - all that mattered was our

own little celebration right now, right here, as the

music played and we danced for no reason whatsoever

and neither of us cared why or even that we were both

sick with 102 temperatures or that we were coughing

and dripping and had red eyes and should really have

been in bed. That didn't matter, because this moment

was all that existed and it was more fun than I could

have had anywhere else on earth right then.

"I wanna be Bob Dylan; Mr. Jones wishes he was

someone just a little more funky, and when everybody

loves you, son, that's just about as funky as you can

be…"

We ended up doing a sort of tangoish thing, holding

hands and skipping around the room as best we could

while it was still slightly spinning, whether from

fever or Mountain Dew or even the experience I didn't

know. My mind was spinning more crazily than the room,

and I didn't know what to think or even feel outside

of dancing in this room with the haunting and

impulsive chords echoing in my head, running through

me and fueling the moment. I didn't know what we were

doing, what it meant or how I would explain this to

anyone - not that I was about to explain this to

myself, least of all anyone else. Oh God, how would I

deal with this once the song ended, what was I

thinking?

"Mr. Jones and me, we're gonna be big stars…"

The music faded away, and as we both stopped,

invigorated and exhausted both mentally and physically

all at once, there was a silence as neither of us

really knew what to do. I didn't think Angelo knew

what had just happened any more than I did, nor was he

sure of what to say any more than I was sure of the

words I was desperately trying to pull out of my

confused and spinning mind to try and break the moment

and explain it away, or at least do something because

I didn't know how long I could handle standing here in

silence just being in the room with him.

"My friend assures me, it's all or nothing; I am not

worried, I am not overly concerned…"

The next song on my tape started - a slower one with

soft undertones and the moment was back, flowing back

with the music as we both began to sway again with the

tempo, both feeling the chords resonate throughout our

minds and I was living in that moment again,

invigorated and confused and embarrassed and loving

every sensation, even as my mind screamed at me that

this wasn't me, why was I doing this and Jen's gonna

make fun of me or maybe she'll see something I wasn't

ready for her to see but this was nothing we were just

bored and dancing and why had I done this thank God I

had I love this but what am I gonna do when it stops?

 

 

--- Jen ---

I didn't want this to end – I didn't want to lose this

moment – but the last notes hung in the air, fading

away slowly – and the dance fading with them. I held

onto Jono, hoping that fate could freeze these last

few seconds, when everything was okay, and I didn't

need to worry about school or mutancy or life or

anyone else who would get in the way.

His arms held me tightly; my face against his

shoulder, breathing in the scent of him so beautiful –

until I felt his warm fingers on the back of my head,

an involuntary chill running along my spine from his

unexpected touch.

I opened my eyes and glanced around the dim room,

then up to Jono, his brown eyes looking into mine. His

voice gently crept into my brain, as though relaying

his message through mere images and sensations instead

of individual words. *It's time to go.*

I certainly didn't want to go. It couldn't be over –

not yet – but the lights were coming on around the

room, the people moving in herds out the doors, every

sign indicating that the time to abandon this world

had come.

I released my hold on him – though reluctantly – and,

looking at the floor, headed for the door. I could

feel him approaching behind me, and without warning,

without words, he took my hand and walked with me.

Wouldn't Paige be upset that we were together? Didn't

this bother her?

I tried to shove those thoughts from my mind – after

all, I had won, hadn't I? I'd gotten what I wanted,

and she'd willingly gone along with it – she wasn't

the least bit upset. That was odd – if I were in her

position, I would be furious. And I certainly wouldn't

tell her to just go be with some guy I'd been with, or

at least had the chance of being with, and obviously

liked a great deal.

Unless she really didn't care – but that didn't make

sense.

Maybe they just didn't want me to be mad, and so

conspired to make it look like he truly cared about me

so I wouldn't blow up in public.

But I had no evidence to support that – why not

simply accept it at face value?

The crisp night air was cool on my face and the stars

shone brightly overhead, silver paper cuts penetrating

the indigo sky. "Where's the car?" I asked softly – in

the only volume my voice managed to attain.

Jono wordlessly led me in the right direction, back

to the old blue van that was both empty and unlocked.

I climbed into the seat I'd occupied on the way here –

to my surprise, Jono did not take the seat in front

he'd had before, but accompanied me in the back.

And nobody was here but us. And it was dark. And it

was cold. And nobody was here – and my heart finally

gave way, my throat suddenly dry as I realized just

what was going on.

Or what would go on, under normal circumstances.

Apparently that hardly mattered – as I felt Jono's

arm pull me close to him, my head so close to his,

feeling the energy pulsating within him like a

heartbeat – it quickened as my own heart did. Thoughts

swirled through my head with ridiculous pace, worries

of how he'd react to my actions – what he was doing,

where this was going –

-- could I even do that?

I brought one hand down across his scarred cheek as

my other braced myself against the seat, and he didn't

move; he just sat so still and looked at me. I saw his

eyes, the life behind his eyes, and I knew that

somewhere behind them lived a soul – scared, and

apprehensive, and full of more emotions I wanted so

desperately to read.

-- oh, he was going to be mad, and Paige would kill

me even more than she would have killed me before, and

where was everyone and shouldn't they be getting back

soon?

Soft cloth brushed my cheek – oh Light, he smelled so

good – my soft, breathless lips met the ruined flesh

above his bandages and lingered for just a moment, and

his warm, cool fingers touched the back of my neck,

moving, touching, holding, gracing my own soft flesh,

down my shoulder.

Whatever happened to words?

They were inconsequential – or at least, unnecessary.

This moment was even darker than the last, rich with

the unusual physical contact.

I kissed him again – he didn't seem to mind the first

time – and again, as his spare hand rested on the side

of my face and his thumb, his fingers reached my

mouth, perhaps to deter me from mistakes.

I pushed through his hand on my face, pushed through

to him and his scent and his emotions. His mild

~surprise~ was unexpected – I found myself smiling as

I came so close to him again, laughing with disbelief

that this could even be real.

His feelings blended so easily, so readily with mine:

his quiet thanks and soft affection.

My breath came slowly, my joy real, and for the

moment I did not care about anything else. I wouldn't

want to be anywhere else.

Scattered voices floated through my thick emotion

from outside the van; the door opened –

"Whoa! Look at what's goin' on in here!"

Mortified, the blood ran cold from my face, and I

froze. As Jono's hands pushed me away, I blinked

suddenly, the ability to move somehow slowly

returning.

Grinning wildly, Jubilee stepped into the van and

seated herself on the bench seat in front of me,

folding her arms over the back of the seat. She

surveyed the situation on her own, looking from me to

Jono and back to me again, before finally deciding,

"Too cool. This is just too cool! I can't believe you

guys are like, actually finally together and stuff!"

She sank back into her own seat, still laughing and

grinning and repeatedly reminding us all that this was

"too cool".

"Both of you, let's just behave, hmm?" reprimanded

Paige as she got into the driver's seat and turned the

ignition. A crisp, aloof emotion drifted from her –

she was trying to distance herself from us, I

realized, trying to pretend that everything was okay.

"We've got quite a drive in front of us and I don't

want to be late. Buckle up and let's go."

We all complied, and the van drove off into the

night.

(*Remind me to have a word with Jubilee later,*) Jono

whispered into my mind.

"Hmm?" I asked, still shaking and embarrassed from

the rude interruption. The thought made sense just as

he clarified, (*About that.*)

Yes – yes, of course. That.

I stared out the window at the passing darkness – at

the shadows drifting past in the night, at the

headlights glaring from opposite traffic, and at the

quiet solitude night provided, despite my close

proximity to the rest of the people in the van. Jono's

warm hand rested on my own, reminding me that he was

there and he wasn't about to leave.

So this was it, I realized. No matter what had come

before – with or without the link – no matter who

still remained, no matter what feelings had come and

gone – this was it. I curled my fingers around his

hand and squeezed tightly, not about to let go.

 

* * *

I was almost asleep when the old van finally pulled

into the long driveway of the Massachusetts Academy. I

willed myself to stay awake, at least until I was in

my room.

"C'mon, you two, let's move," Paige's voice echoed

over my drowsiness.

Reluctantly I got out of the van – I would've

preferred not to move at all; sleeping in the van was

fine with me at that point. But I did as asked,

following Jono back into the building.

Through blurry eyes I was vaguely aware of Jubilee

and Everett staring through a doorway at something

else, but because of the way she'd treated me earlier

I refused to talk to her, and tiredness outweighed

curiosity, so I began to trudge upstairs to my room –

just before Jono stopped me. I turned.

*Thank you,* he said. *I had a good time tonight.*

I felt myself smiling. "Yeah – me too." I wondered if

he would say –

*So --* he continued, *see you tomorrow. Unless

you've got plans already?*

I laughed. What plans could I make in this school?

"Not really," I answered. "Tomorrow." I didn't want to

say goodbye….

To my surprise, Jono's arms held me one last time

that night – or was it morning already? – and I

accepted his embrace, returning it and gently kissing

him once before separating and heading upstairs.

*G'night, Jen.*

I turned back to him briefly. "Night."

This was definitely good, I resolved as I finally

headed to my room. Definitely good.

* * *

Saturday morning arrived with memories of the previous

night still intact. I turned them over in my head,

hoping to recall every second and relive it over and

again. No such luck – there were fragments, beautiful

fragments, but most of last night's events slipped

through my head and let go.

I rolled over and looked at the clock. 10:32, not too

bad. A demanding knock sounded on my door, accompanied

by Jubilee's obnoxious reminder of the time. She

opened the door without warning and bounced brightly

into my room.

"Hey," she greeted. "Y'know, after you got up here

last night the rest of us found Alison and Angelo in

the rec room practically on top o' each other."

Huh? That didn't sound like Alison – the girl was

positively frightened of relationships; she would

never in a zillion years willingly enter into one,

much less amuse herself with the physical aspects of

one.

"Guess you weren't the only one gettin' some last

night, huh?"

Oh, yes – I had to remind Jono to kill her, didn't I?

I glared at her and asked kindly, "Would you please

leave so I can get up?"

She nodded. "Sure. Meet me downstairs in a coupla'

minutes."

What on earth was so important I couldn't just start

my day gradually? Still, I wanted to see Jono again,

now that I knew he would at least accept me with all

my bizarre faults and flaws – now that I thought he

might want to see me, too.

I dressed with that in mind – but not too far from my

usual style, and a few minutes later, met Jubilee

downstairs, as she'd requested.

She just kept grinning at me as I poured myself a

bowl of cereal. "They've been quarantined," she

explained. "Alison and Angelo. Or so says Banshee.

Y'know, I wonder just how sick they, like, really were

– or how sick they were only pretending to be." She

chuckled.

"Right," I replied sarcastically. "C'mon, Alison's

got a phobia. She changes the channel when there's so

much as a hint of romance on. She's the last person

I'd expect to fake sick to be with some guy.

Especially Angelo."

"Just tellin' ya what I saw," she clarified. "Anyhoo,

they're stuck down there – in the rec room – lucky for

them, huh? Rest of us are goin' to the mall, you wanna

come?"

"Eh …" I began, lazily turning over mini-wheats with

my spoon. I'd wanted to spend some time with Jono –

real time, not that apprehensive, cautious sort of

time our conversations had occupied. The tension

wasn't all gone, to be sure, but it was certainly not

as prevalent as before last night. If he still wanted

me around…

"Nah," Jubilee continued, standing and heading for

the fridge, "Jono's gotta, like, stay here, so you

prob'ly wanna stay here, too." She laughed, clearly

insinuating things that she shouldn't and had no right

to insinuate. "He can't go 'cause someone's gotta keep

an eye on Al and Ange – and he's the only one of us

who can't, like, get sick or nothin'." She shrugged

and opened the fridge door, instinctively reaching for

something within that wasn't there. "Hey!" she

exclaimed. "Where's all the Mountain Dew?"

I shrugged. "I don't like Mountain Dew," I explained,

thereby absolving myself of all suspicion. I had to

wonder, though, how she could possibly drink the stuff

for breakfast. That was just … wrong. "Hey," I asked,

catching her attention, "do you know where he is now?

Jono, I mean."

She scrunched her face up thoughtfully. "I dunno,"

she decided. "Basement? Or waiting on them already."

She jabbed a thumb in the general direction of the rec

room and shrugged. "Could you tell him to, like, yell

at them and stuff? For drinking my Mountain Dew? I

have this, like, feeling they, like, took it."

"I'll be sure to do that," I promised, mentally

adding that I would only after we'd dealt with her

appropriately for her actions and state of mind last

night. As well as this morning.

I empathically extended my senses into the area that

Jubilee had mentioned and found Jono's signature

somewhat near Alison's and Angelo's, the latter two

colored with certain discomfort. I waited just outside

the rec room door until Jono emerged. His emotions lit

up – upon seeing me? – but outwardly he showed no

change in emotion.

*G'morning,* he greeted.

I just smiled. "Hi. So, uh, I hear you're stuck

here?"

*… yeah,* he replied, if a bit belatedly, his eyes

scanning the floor. *Where's Alison's room?*

"Upstairs," I answered quickly, and immediately felt

stupid. Of course it was upstairs. All the rooms were.

But what he could possibly want with Alison's room…?

For a moment he just looked at me, as though

searching for something beyond my face, his eyes

scanning mine for even a shadow of reason. I knew he

wouldn't find it, so I broke in before he came to that

conclusion. "What did you need from Alison's room?"

He blinked, not sure where I was coming from, then

realized he was on a mission. *She wants these

'Sentinel tapes'. You got any clue what she's talking

about?*

I laughed, and that single action eased all or at

least most of the tension in the air. Of course – her

video tapes. The poor girl was one of the few rabid

fans of the UPN show "The Sentinel"; it would figure

that she would want to spend her sick day watching it.

Poor Angelo, he'd be subjected to several hours of

sci-fi cop show drama – hah! He deserved it!

"Yeah," I said. "They're in her room." I led the way

upstairs.

I had to admit I felt odd – going upstairs with Jono

so close behind me. And it was still so early in the

morning, or at least it felt that way. I worried that

I wasn't entirely awake yet, that my mind and body

would conspire against me to commit some sort of

bizarre crime I had nothing to do with. I hoped I

could remain lucid even in the midst of all these

fears.

Alison's room was the last one, at the end of the

hall. I opened the door and turned on the light and

searched empathically for the tapes.

*Jen – are you all right?*

Oh, Light – he was right behind me, and I wanted to –

oh, I didn't know – what was he doing here? – did I

really mind? – this was Alison's room!

"I'm fine," I answered, not turning to look at him,

just keeping my search for the tapes open, just trying

desperately to concentrate on that and not on Jono,

but he was there….

*You're shaking,* he observed.

I was not shaking, I was not shaking, I was so not

shaking …

"My powers aren't working," I explained softly.

A skeptical sentiment drifted from him. *Yes, they

are,* he said, and from behind placed both hands on my

shoulders in attempt to calm me.

A chill radiated from where he'd placed his hands and

all through the rest of me. I closed my eyes and took

a deep breath, cooler all around, and –

-- don't turn around don't look at him don't –

I kept my eyes forward. Yes, I could deal with this.

I could and would. I spotted a cardboard box –

presumably full of videos – out of the corner of my

eye and went to it. "Here they are," I announced. "The

tapes."

I lifted the box of videos and glanced inside. They

couldn't possibly need that many – one tape held six

hours, and they could only take so much of the same

show. Of course, one could never be too sure with

Alison…. "When do they need these by?"

Jono shrugged. *She didn't seem very urgent. Angelo

was still sleeping, I think – I don't usually pay much

attention,* he added quickly, as though I might accuse

him of taking notice of another guy's sleeping habits.

His unspoken bitterness was evident – the gift he'd

been cursed with now restricted him to the school, and

the worst part was that the restriction had been

placed against his will.

I wished there were something I could do, something

to make him feel better. But all I could do to appease

that frustration was stay here, and that was more for

my own purpose than anything else was.

He lifted the box of videos from my hands and carried

it downstairs into the rec room.

 

 

 

 

 

---Alison---

 

I woke up the next morning still freezing underneath

my pile of blankets, lying on one end of the couch in

the rec room. Sunlight streamed blindingly bright

through the windows, which were partially blocked from

my view by Angelo's red-socked feet. I felt horrible -

worse than I had last night, if that was humanly

possible. More cold than ever, and my head still hurt

and my sinuses felt like they were filled with cement;

my nose had decided to cease any and all function as

well. Wonderful.

I groaned and shoved Angelo's feet out of the way -

he merely "Mmfhwamm…"ed and continued sleeping, or at

least keeping up the appearance of doing so. Pulling

almost all of my blankets around me, I made my way

wobbily towards the doorway - it was impossibly far

away and the task proved rather difficult, seeing as

my head was swimming, my vision was swimming, and the

room was spinning like an out-of-control centrifuge.

I finally made it to the doorway only to find it

blocked off with POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS tape and a

hastily-scribbled BIOHAZARD sign taped to the door

frame.

"Huh?" I managed to get out, just as Jubilee turned

the corner of the hallway and came into view. She was

still in her pajamas: a pink shirt over too-bright

yellow shorts, her feet shoved into huge bear-feet

slippers.

"Ah, so the lovebirds awaken," she said, her eyes

lighting up as she saw me standing there.

"WHAT??!!" Actually, I did not even want to know, for

fear of having to kill her, or perhaps even massacre

the entire household.

"Oh, come on - you know what I mean… you and Ange,

way to go, 'chica.' "

"Jubilee, SHUT UP."

She feigned injury, but merely batted her eyes at my

threat.

"Don't even…" I went on, trying to think of something

with which to threaten her. "I will - "

"Sure, sure, whatever…" she said, not letting me

finish my sentence before apparently losing interest

in my obviously empty threats. "I know love when I see

it."

So she wasn't as smart as I'd thought she was, huh?

"JUBILEE!! Shut up! You're just -"

"Oh, come on! Sleeping on the same couch? That seems

pretty darned romantic to me…"

"Oh… UGH!" I crossed my arms and turned on my heel;

that obviously wasn't the best course of action, as I

failed to keep my balance and toppled backwards,

hitting my already-aching head on the door frame as I

went down.

"Oh… ow…" I moaned, managing to elicit a hand from

beneath my blankets to rub at the sore spot on my

head. This was gonna bruise…

"Hey, Al - are ya okay?" Oh, so now she was

concerned.

"I'm fine." I half-growled, wishing I could just go

back to sleep and start the day all over again. Maybe

if I'd woken up at 7:15 with a leak in my waterbed…

"I'm sorry - I'd help ya up, but you're quarantined

and all…"

Darn. It was Saturday, not Monday. There went my

chance for starting the day over. "Quarantined?" I

asked. I recalled no such quarantine - in fact, I

recalled no quarantine, period.

"Yep," Jubilee informed me matter-of-factly.

"Banshee's declared you two officially quarantined to

the rec room for at least the rest of today."

"Oh, great," I muttered, finally attempting to get

back to my feet.

"Yep, uh-huh," she continued," just you and Angelo.

In the rec room. Alone. For the whole day."

Did the girl honestly want death that badly? "Lee,

SHUT UP before I kill you. Slowly."

"Okay, but I'm only stating the obvious, ya know."

She held up her hands and backed away to what she

deemed a safe distance before turning around and

continuing on her original path down the hall, singing

softly and off-key to herself.

"And I-eyy-iii will always love youuuu…" *

"JUBILEE!!!"

 

* * *

 

Nearly an hour later I was sitting on the couch

sipping orange juice trying to ignore Angelo's feet -

man, that boy certainly took up a lot of room when he

slept - while channel-surfing with some moderate

half-interest. There was nothing on, despite the fact

that it was Saturday morning. I sighed, resigning

myself to the fact that Saturday morning cartoons just

weren't up to the same standards anymore. MST3K was

"Overdrawn at the Memory Bank", and as much as I loved

the show, I just couldn't take that movie any more.

Anything but that… well, that or the Neptune Men…

I finally settled on Power Rangers as an absolute

last resort, hoping to at least be able to make fun of

that awful Pink Ranger. Alas, she must have been on

vacation or something, so I was left with four rangers

and one heck of a crappy villain threatening to turn

all of Angel Grove's plants against them, or something

equally stupid and pointless along those lines.

*Gel?* The psionic inquiry startled me, and I turned

around in half-shock to see Jono standing in the

doorway. What was he, of all people, doing here? What

did he want? I was so not up to being ridiculed again…

"Hmm?" I decided to risk asking.

*Um, I was wondering if yer wanted me to bring you

anything? You know, like something to do? Some CDs?

Videos? Books?*

Wow - he wanted to help? I couldn't complain - I

still thought Jono would avoid me at any and all

costs, and I wouldn't blame him one bit if that were

the actual case. As I pondered his request, a sudden

thought struck me.

"Yes, please - that'd be great. Um, my CD case is on

my dresser - it should be on top, next to the lamp -

and could you get my box of video tapes? It should be

on the floor somewhere."

*Sure, be right back,* he said, turning to leave.

"Thank you!" I said, still surprised that he was

helping but definitely glad for it.

*No problem.*

While Jono was gone, I amused myself by pulling off

all the red fuzzies on Angelo's socks, which were

quite overrun by them.

"Mmf. Hey, chica, what'cha doin' to my socks?"

"Oh, so you're awake."

"I am now. What're you doin'?"

"Just pulling all the fuzzies off."

"What the hell are you watchin'?" he asked, poking

his head out from underneath his own mound of

blankets, where previously only his unkempt hair had

been visible.

"Power Rangers," I confessed, "but Jono went to get

some of my tapes, so in a minute it'll be something

much better," I went on to assure him.

"I hope so," he said disgustedly, just as Jono

reappeared in the doorway with my box of tapes and my

CD case. I thought I saw a shadow in the hall - was

that Jen? I waved, she appeared and waved back,

smiling slightly.

*Here yer go.* He handed the box to me as I made my

way over to the door carefully to accept it.

"Thanks again," I said, smiling.

*Sure. Hope you two feel better. Let me know if you

need anything else.* And with that, he and Jen were

gone.

"What's in the box?" Angelo asked, peering over the

back of the couch as I came back around to shove the

first tape into the VCR.

"Tapes," I said matter-of-factly, going for the

control.

"What's on 'em?"

I grinned. "The Sentinel."

* * *

"Hey, Chief - wake up." A soft voice cut into the

blackness I had unknowingly sunken into, accompanied

by a flutter of movement that worked its way into my

consciousness that I began to associate with the

outside world a moment later.

"C'mon Al, time to wake up." More movement. "My arm's

asleep; I'm gonna need it eventually."

Huhwha?" I asked, shifting my position, opening eyes

I hadn't even known were closed. I looked up into

Angelo's face, who was apparently trying to…

... get his arm out from underneath me. Oh GOD - I

rolled away, allowing him to get out from underneath…

oh boy…

"Oh geez, I'm sorry - I'm so - I'm sorry…" I could

feel my face turn hot as the involuntary rush of blood

to it began, turning me crimson against my will.

"S'okay Chief," he said softly, suddenly looking

down. He wasn't…No… He couldn't be…

"Chief?" I asked, hoping to change the subject.

"Yeah. Chief." He looked back up, smiling. "You look

like him."

I nodded, smiling a bit now, wishing my face wouldn't

take its own sweet time on cooling off. "Oh," was all

I could say.

"Yeah, good show. You fell asleep almost two hours

ago, though. I been watchin' it, though… good show…"

The crimson flushed my cheeks once more - had I

really been asleep for two hours? In front of the TV?

On - ? Oh BOY. But wouldn't he have woken me up or

something…?

And another thing - I usually didn't fall asleep

watching TV. That was odd; but then again, I'd never

fainted in class before, either. Besides, I was sick.

That must be it, I reasoned.

"What time is it?" I asked, wiping the final remnants

of sleep out of my eyes, all-too-aware that my face

was still hot.

"Almost lunchtime," Angelo told me. "You hungry? I

could get Jono and Jen to make us something."

I thought for a moment, consulting my stomach to see

whether or not I could handle food. I finally decided

I could. "Yeah, kinda."

"Good. Man, I want some grilled cheese."

"Grilled cheese?" I thought a moment. "Hmm…. I could

use some of that too. With tomato soup."

"Yeah," Angelo said. "That's what I need. Grilled

cheese."

--- Jen ---

*Frost said it didn't matter where we went or what we

did as long as we stayed on campus,* Jono explained.

*She made me set up a temporary connection so that

whenever either of them wants something all they've

got t' do is think it – so if I'm runnin' off, rest

assured it's not you.*

I laughed in spite of myself. "I'll keep that in

mind."

The scenery in the biosphere was just as pretty as it

had been before, though now a different radiance

infused the flora; the sun behind its glass seemed to

shine in private ceremony for only us. The shade of

the tree we sat beneath was welcome refuge from the

mild heat.

What on earth was I supposed to say?

Maybe, I reasoned, I wasn't supposed to say anything.

Maybe there was nothing to say. Maybe talking about

this whole thing was just dumb and unnecessary. Maybe

it was best to follow my own advice and rely on

emotion instead of specifics and details and titles.

For once, I should just quit worrying about what was

going through his mind – while the link had taken care

of that before, it wasn't there now, and could do me

no good. I settled myself closer to him and rested my

head on his shoulder. This was so ... nice.

No – it was better than just "nice". And yet I

couldn't shake the feeling that he didn't really care

about me, despite all the evidence to the contrary,

despite even the evidence that my Talent had allowed

me to perceive.

But I wouldn't complain – I couldn't.

*Jen?* Jono's voice echoed through my head, shaking

me from the faint web of dreams that had just begun to

claim me.

"Hmm?" I replied. I didn't want to move.

*Nevermind,* he said. *It's a silly question.*

A silly question – sure. "There's no such thing as a

silly question," I informed him.

He glanced to me, and I grinned back up at him, and I

caught the clear sentiment of ~amusement~ as his eyes

shone with laughter. *Of course not,* he belatedly

agreed, his eyes still carrying remnants of that old

emotion.

A moment passed as he contemplated the validity – or

lack thereof – of his question before it finally

surfaced in my own mind. *Why me?*

Why him? a small voice in my head echoed. How could

he not know why? We'd been linked – he'd seen my

reasons and my feelings – he knew all this already.

But I couldn't blame him for seeking confirmation ...

things gleaned through telepathic means were so often

of questionable truth. I couldn't be sure if I were

simply making facts up, filling in blanks with what I

hoped was true rather than what I knew was real.

Before I could answer him properly, though, he shoved

me off of his shoulder, dropping my hand as though I

was no longer important and had never been. Past my

initial anger at his sudden action, I glanced

questioningly at him for a moment before it registered

that it wasn't anything that I'd done. I stood and

followed him, though he seemed in something of a rush.

Almost, I noted, as though he wanted to get away from

me ... but I shoved that thought into an unused drawer

in my mind and caught up to him, never minding his

long, purposeful strides. Quiet anger seeped from him,

almost bitter in nature.

"What --?" I began.

*Angelo,* he informed me coldly, *wants a sandwich.*

Jono's boots thudded irritably on the floor.

A sandwich?

I lagged behind a few steps and remained at the

entrance to the rec room as Jono went in. He came out

a few minutes later feeling extremely ~disgusted~. *I

should make them make their own bleedin' lunch,* he

muttered – not necessarily to me, but rather to anyone

who cared to listen.

He stomped into the kitchen, apparently oblivious to

my presence. I sighed, following him in. "What did

they want?" I asked.

Jono opened up the refrigerator. *I can't believe

this. Why're they doing this?* He slammed the fridge

door shut and began searching through cabinets.

"They want sandwiches?" I asked.

*With tomato soup.*

I thought I remembered seeing some soup in the

pantry, where the bread likely also resided. "I think

there's some lunchmeat in the fridge," I suggested.

All in all, this was very odd. The soup was, in fact,

in the pantry. I removed it and followed the

instructions. By the time the pot of soup was cooking

happily in the microwave, Jono was still staring

blankly into the refrigerator. I knew he didn't eat –

so of course this was rather cruel – but he used to,

so he should have at least some idea of where things

were kept.

I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to do

this myself, and reached around him to get the

lunchmeat and lettuce.

*They wanted grilled cheese.*

Of course he told me now, after all the stuff was

out. I put it back and took out cheese and butter – I

was pretty sure you used butter on grilled cheese. I

knew my mom had made this before; I'd watched her. The

butter went on the outside, with the cheese on the

inside, and it all went into the pan.

The microwave beeped like a happy R2 unit and Jono

took out the soup – oh, Light, I thought he was going

to spill it – but the pot had made its way to the

counter without incident. Thankfully.

"Bowls're in the cabinet on the left," I said,

indicating the location in question.

*You want any?*

I shook my head and flipped the sandwich over. "I

hate tomatoes." The bread, I noticed, was not supposed

to be that color. Well, tough – they'd have to deal

with that. I wasn't about to make more. Perhaps they'd

believe it was Cajun-style grilled cheese....

I took out some plates and set the sandwiches on

them. The plates joined the bowls of soup on a cookie

sheet used as a makeshift try, which Jono managed to

carry into the rec room without spilling.

* * *

"They want what?" I exclaimed, dropping the last half

of my own sandwich on the plate.

*Comic books,* Jono replied grimly.

"Isn't it bad enough that we made lunch for them?" I

demanded. "I think they're taking advantage of us." I

resumed my lunch.

*Well, of course they're taking advantage of us.

Wouldn't yer do the same if you were sick?* Jono

asked.

Apparently he was forgetting that I had already been

sick – or at least indisposed – some time ago. "I did

not take advantage of you at all," I explained, if

somewhat indignantly. "I didn't ask for videos or CDs

or lunch or – or comic books." The last came out

oddly, as though it wasn't meant to be said. I had to

admit it was a little strange – what sort of comic

books did she expect me to get for her?

I sighed, burying my head in my hands on the table.

"Did she say what kind?" I asked, though muffled.

*She said you knew wot she liked. They each gave us

about $10 to spend there. I suppose they trust our

judgment.*

"I suppose." I looked up and considered the rest of

my sandwich, deciding to finish it. "Do you know where

we're supposed to go? Mall's kinda far ..."

Jono shrugged and consulted a piece of crinkled paper

he produced from his jacket pocket. *According to –

your friend – there's a shop in town that sells ...

that sort of thing.* He handed me the paper. On it was

scribbled a hastily drawn map of the surrounding area,

with notes in Alison's handwriting.

"Okay," I began, "how are we supposed to get there?"

Confusion passed across his eyes for a moment. *I

thought that was a map.*

What did that have to do with – oh. I laughed. "No, I

meant – transportation. They took both cars out, and

the other kids have the van." I grinned, shoving the

list and map into my own pocket. "Guess we can't go.

Oh, well. Why don't you break the news to them?"

*No,* Jono replied, *I won't.*

What?

*C'mon, let's go. You an' me both.*

He wasn't serious. He couldn't be. Only minutes ago

he wanted nothing to do with this little excursion,

and now he insisted that we go?

*There's plenty of cars and such in the garage,* he

explained, only a hint of deviousness creeping into

his voice.

Of course – I'd seen Frost's extensive collection,

but he couldn't just take one without permission! It

was too late to talk him out of it, though – he'd

already headed for the garage.

With great trepidation and enough fear to last me

several meetings with Frost herself, I followed

several steps behind. He finally selected one of the

many vehicles within – an unassuming compact car whose

keys were hanging conveniently on the wall. This was

too easy. Something definitely had to be up. Wouldn't

someone notice we were gone? Wouldn't we get in

tremendous trouble for this? Light – I was going to

die. I just knew it.

Though one comfort was crystal clear – if I was going

to die for these sins, so would Jono, and I could rest

easily knowing we would at least share similar fates.

But I still didn't want to die.

My heart pumped wildly with this thrill. It seemed

like nothing to Jono – as though he'd done this

several times before, as well he could have – but the

experience was something almost deliciously obscene to

me. I wasn't a bad girl by nature; my evil side only

emerged when provoked, and even then she would do no

such thing as "borrow" Frost's car. I was rather

bland, actually, and sheltered, and good, with these

sickening ironclad morals. I suppose it was those same

morals that prevented me from doing anything – ah,

drastic – with the otherwise unassuming Jono – even

though my imagination was certainly active.

Once free of the school's boundaries, the car flew

along the open, tree-lined road. We were no longer

students of the Massachusetts Academy, no longer bound

to codenames by our abilities and genes – we were no

longer Chamber and Psyche; we were no longer Jono and

Jen, or even telepath and empath – we were simply two

free spirits who had managed to seek and welcome each

other throughout chaos and tribulation.

For the first time in a very long time, I felt

ridiculously happy. Joyous laughter bubbled to my

surface and I could no longer contain myself.

Jono did not ask – he did not need to – and actually

rolled down the windows to allow even more sunlight to

come in and warm the car's interior. I shot him a

query – he usually preferred darkness – but thought

better of it and simply grinned.

I turned on the radio, and wonderful, exciting music

filled the air, with a driving rock beat and wildly

emotional guitars. The music – though it came from a

radio and was not live – was filled with all the real

emotion that ought to come with music, and it

strengthened me. I didn't recognize the song, but

hardly cared. I doubted life could get better than

this.

That wonderful image, however, was soon broken when

words floated back into my mind, memories that warned

against our leaving campus. "Jono –" I began.

*Wot?* he asked – almost cheerfully.

He was too happy. I couldn't do this. I couldn't just

shatter his mood – and, I noted, I'd been the one to

bring him to such a state. Or had he been the one to

make me so happy? I couldn't decide – and it didn't

matter. I sighed, turning the radio up to signify that

whatever I'd meant to say wasn't important. I shoved

the guilt into a corner of my mind, where I hoped it

wouldn't bother me, and I prayed that we'd get back

before anyone else did.

Several songs later, we arrived in town, at the small

shop that Alison's map had directed us to.

We were going to be in so much trouble.

I trailed behind as Jono pushed the door open, and as

we entered I let out the breath I hadn't realized I'd

been holding. The store held more than Alison's prized

comic books – something odd tickled the back of my

brain but I shoved it, like that guilt I'd promised

myself I would ignore, into a corner and took the list

from my pocket.

These were arranged alphabetically, I noticed, and

picked up a few of the issues scribbled on the paper

in my hand. I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at a

lot of the cover art (Angelo's requests, I told

myself) – but then something from the remotest corner

of my peripheral vision struck me. Amidst the sharp

lines (and curves), stuck casually between bright

glossy covers, was a half-forgotten slip of washed-out

pastel artwork. Informing myself that I did not like

comics and never had, I gingerly tugged the book from

the shelf, reading the title scripted across its

cover: Kabuki. Hm.

I turned it over in my hand, finally deciding to open

the thing, and was greeted with the most beautiful

watercolor work I think I'd ever seen – certainly not

the sort of art I'd expected to find in a comic book.

It was chaotic – almost like my own mind, or random

Tori songs playing in spliced loops back and forth.

From the looks of things, it had a definite Japanese

influence.... I picked up three issues and hid them

within the pile of books for Alison that I'd collected

thus far.

I turned, looking for Jono, and found him standing by

the shop's door, waiting for me. I quickly made my

purchases, and then joined him by the car. "We're

gonna be dead," I informed him. "We're gonna be late

...."

*Don't worry so much,* Jono replied casually. *We'll

be fine. Hold this.*

He'd bought something, too? I took the bag from him

as he started the car, slipping the thick paperback

out into my hands. The dark, haphazardly photographed

cover certainly looked like the sort of thing he'd

read.... I shrugged and put it back in the bag,

preferring to glance through the soft colors of my own

purchases.

I'd only had time to page through the issues, only

beginning to read the first one in earnest, when I

found that we'd arrived back at the Academy. To my

relief, the cars that had been missing still were, and

nobody would ever know that we'd been gone.

Nobody would ever know.

--- Jen ---

Everybody knew, of course, that the best time to do

homework due Monday was on Sunday night – preferably

somewhere between dinner and X-Files, if possible.

Everybody, apparently, except the poor misguided soul

who decided that that was the perfect time to knock on

the door of the empty classroom I'd found to finish

that weekend's work in.

Ordinarily, I would accept such a break, but I was

almost done with that particular problem set, and I

wanted to actually turn something in for once.

Right, I thought sarcastically, and sent that good

student right back to where she came from, because she

obviously wasn't me. I allowed the Procrastination

Queen to reign and set aside the ugly homework. "Come

in," I called, purposefully putting the math book in

its rightful place – far, far out of sight.

The face behind the door, oddly enough, was Angelo's.

I'd expected Jubilee, ready to goad me more about my

relationship, or even Paige, attempting to forge a

friendship – anyone, really, but Angelo.

"Uh," I said, "hi – can I help you?"

He glanced at a spot near my feet, one hand rubbing

the back of his neck nervously. "I dunno," he replied.

"It's, um, never mind. No big deal. I'll go."

Okay, whatever… I closed the door, deciding that that

was most certainly bizarre.

A knock sounded again on the door before I could take

my hand from the knob, and I opened it again to find

Angelo remained. What on earth was up with this?

"What's going on?" I asked.

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and

now searched the hallway ceiling for inspiration.

"Alison," he admitted. "I mean, you know, you know

her, right?"

I had a vague idea of where this might be headed, but

I had no desire to assume anything; that would make me

no better than Jubilee.

"Yes," I replied slowly. "What about her?"

"Uh," he answered, glancing from side to side –

perhaps hoping she wouldn't find him in here. "C'n I

come in?"

I shrugged and stepped aside to let him in, heading

back to the desk I'd occupied before I was so rudely

interrupted. The poor boy oozed ~discomfort~

embarrassment~ as he finally decided to pull out a

desk chair and sit on it. "Okay, so, um," he said.

I could've sworn he'd already brought that point up

several times, but didn't comment. I simply sat there

and waited for him to explain what was going on.

"So, I, uh, Alison, right. What's – I mean, how can

I, I mean –"

"You like her," I deduced. How positively

enthralling! While she would never admit it, she

needed someone very much. I personally would have

thought Everett more her type, but he wasn't here, and

Angelo would do nicely. Almost anyone would do just

fine.

"Uh, yeah," he agreed, blinking in surprise. "You get

that from my head or somethin'?" he asked, indicating

his head as thought I might not be able to discern it

for myself.

"No," I replied. "I'm not a telepath. But no, I

didn't get that from your emotions alone – though they

are fairly obvious. Your actions are strong enough to

let everyone know what's going on with you." I

laughed. "It's no wonder Jubilee thinks you're up to

something."

He ignored that last comment. "Okay, so anyway, uh

yeah. How do I … y'know?"

I hoped he would clarify just what "y'know" meant

because I didn't know – not exactly, anyway – but I

certainly wasn't stupid, and would have to follow my

assumptions, much as I hated to. "You don't," I

explained. "She's not into that sort of thing."

Angelo's eyes widened in shock. "Y'mean she likes

girls? Oh, sh—"

"No!" I interrupted quickly. "I seriously doubt that.

I just mean she's … ah, very conservative regarding

those manners."

"Hmm," he hummed thoughtfully, nodding. "So then

what?" he asked, leaning forward on the chair.

I shrugged. "I really don't know," I admitted. "Talk

to her," I suggested. If he could do that without

tripping over his words …

"But," he sputtered, "but I – I mean, what'm I

s'posed to talk about? I mean, usually it's just …

y'know. Easier. But this is different."

I raised an eyebrow. "Different?"

"Yeah," he admitted, exuding ~discomfort~ again.

"'Cause I – yeah. 'Cause she's not just – I dunno.

Y'know?"

I wondered briefly if he could form a coherent

thought – or at least a phrase without the use of

"y'know". Doubtful, I decided. "No," I agreed, "she's

not 'just'. But let me warn you," I continued, my

voice firm so as to make sure he got the point, "if

you even think of hurting her I will hurt you back – I

don't care how tough you think you are. I've known her

so long, she's like a sister. So just don't."

Angelo raised his palms before himself and grinned.

"Got nothin' to worry 'bout, chica – I know just what

ya mean."

"Good," I replied.

"But – what do I talk to her about?" he asked again,

reminding me of his previous question. "I try and she

doesn't seem to get it."

I thought back to the days and weeks following my

arrival here. I'd met Jono through music, and our

shared interest certainly helped to support our

relationship – or at least it seemed to. "Is there

something you have in common?" I asked. "Some common

ground you can discuss?"

He appeared to think it over momentarily, vaguely

shaking his head. "Can't think," he replied.

Well, that was certainly an understatement. "Hmm," I

considered. "Just let the conversation flow. Start

with, I don't know, that show you were both watching,

or how bloody awful sick you were…."

Angelo thought about that, apparently decided on

something or another, and stood to leave, pushing the

chair back.

"Just don't tell her first thing right out about how

you feel," I cautioned. "You want to tell her

eventually, but right away might scare her." And if I

knew Alison, it would certainly scare her.

Angelo nodded and started for the door. "Thanks," he

said as though it were a mere afterthought.

"Welcome," I answered. "Not a problem."

I settled back into place, though just before the

door closed behind him, it occurred to me that he was

Jono's closest friend here – and wouldn't he have

something to say about me to his friends? "Wait," I

called.

The door lingered open, and Angelo turned in the

doorframe. "Huh?"

Maybe I shouldn't ask about this. Maybe this was just

a bad idea. What if Jono hadn't said anything? What if

I just made a fool of myself by asking? "Does Jono

ever say anything about me?" I blurted, and

immediately wished I hadn't.

"Uh…"

Oh, Light, it had been a stupid question. No – he

didn't talk about me, or maybe he did but it wasn't

the sort of thing I'd want to hear, nor was it the

sort of thing Angelo would want to repeat. I seriously

wished I could retract my words and just forget about

it, but I couldn't. "Never mind," I muttered.

Angelo shrugged and left. Great help he was…

I sat there for a few minutes more, glanced at the

unfinished homework that I ought to have been doing,

and decided that it wasn't worth my time. The clock on

the wall indicated that it was nearing nine, and if I

wanted to be on time for X-Files then I should get

going.

Across campus, the rec room had been disinfected and

cleared of all potentially germy items (including, to

Alison's horror, her videos), and now the student

population gathered around the television – with the

lights off, of course – to witness the paranormal

exploits of Mulder and Scully. X-Files was one of the

few shows we all held at least some interest in – some

more than others, I noted, glancing at Jubilee and her

fervent fangirlish expression. Perhaps it was because

we could all earn a File of our own – certainly

genetic mutants fell under the sign of "X" – in more

ways than one, I realized. And some of us, like Monet,

could be creepy even without mutancy.

I apprehensively took a place on the couch beside

Jono – this was what was supposed to happen, right? We

were together; I needn't fear rejection.

*Hello,* he said, then as an afterthought, *Missed

you.*

I could feel my face flush but smiled in spite of

that. I could feel Paige's glare on me even if she'd

effectively hidden herself in the dim room's shadows.

Jubilee turned around, the light from the TV

backlighting her eerily. "Wouldja quiet down? I don't

care if it's just, like, telepathy, we can still like

hear ya an' stuff. Some of us wanna watch, ya know."

Right – of course. I said nothing, as I'd said

nothing before, and hoped that maybe, just maybe this

once Jono wouldn't act so distant. These past few days

had been fun, but it seemed that whenever we weren't

alone he'd just close off from me. That bothered me.

Slightly worried, I glanced to his hand sitting

beside me on the couch, and took it in my own. He

glanced at me briefly, but remained silent, preferring

to let his actions speak as he squeezed my hand

tightly in return.

I knew that anything more than that, with other

people around, would be asking too much. Couldn't we

just leave?

Probably – but I couldn't ask him to come away, not

now and probably not ever.

The commercial break ended, and as the show began in

earnest I found myself caught up in its story. X-Files

was certainly enough to take my mind off the whole

situation, even if he was right beside me. It was

probably the only thing with enough psychological hold

on me to do so; I had been veritably obsessed some few

years ago, and though I was no longer quite so rabid,

I still enjoyed the series immensely. That this

episode was particularly riveting certainly helped.

When it was over, we each disbanded to our separate

tasks – except for the two of us, who simply sat there

like a pair of dolts.

Jono stared blankly into the distance.

I wondered what on earth was going through his mind.

I just wanted to be closer – physically closer – even

this short distance seemed too far. I closed my eyes,

envisioning what that might be like – I welcomed the

privacy of my mind sometimes, where he couldn't invade

on my visions – sometimes. More often I wished for the

link to come back.

*But it is,* Jono's voice rang through my mind,

reverberating in fuzzy dimness of unused corners of my

brain.

I blinked, completely surprised – and shocked – by

that statement. Back? But how could -- ?

He faced me. *It – never left,* he explained.

I felt my eyes instinctively narrow, my eyebrows

furrow. "But you –" I began.

*Not exactly,* he interrupted. *Frost wanted me to –

I – she was worried about you. So she called me in,

asked me if I'd remove it.*

I couldn't believe I word I was hearing. "You lied to

me," I accused darkly. "You lied. You said she didn't

put you up to this. I can't believe this." I felt my

head shaking wobbly on my neck, desperate breaths

coming shortly to my lungs. How could he? How dare he?

*Calm down, Jen – please, listen,* he requested, a

steadying hand on my shoulder, trying to keep me in

place, keep me from running.

"I will not calm down," I refused. "You said it was

your choice – you were going to do this anyway. You

said," I concluded. "You said."

*It – Jen, it was my idea.*

So I had every right to be mad at him. Good. At least

I was justified in my anger. I folded my arms and

turned from him, refusing to look at him.

*I wasn't lying when I said it was about that last

accident. Neither of us can control this. Admit it,

you can't – I can't, either.*

I wasn't sure what to feel.

*I did it so you wouldn't be hurt,* he explained

softly.

Oh, Light – he was appealing to that sensitive side

of me, and he knew I'd fall for it.

Well, I wasn't about to fall for it. "Well, you did,"

I told him. "You did hurt me."

*But I didn't do anything wrong!* he protested. *I

just don't want something awful to happen – to you. To

this. To us. Just – Jen, please.*

I felt his arms around me, encircling my neck as he

stepped close behind me.

My heart went so fast I thought it was simply

refusing to beat altogether. And my mind followed

suit, refusing to think properly – until it began

chanting in endless litany, "This isn't love, this

isn't love, this isn't love ..."

It couldn't be love – it was just a crush. An

infatuation. On accounts of both parties involved. It

just couldn't be – and yet, that I would even believe

it wasn't only proved that it was.

Wasn't it, after all?

I turned, slowly, in his arms, and wrapped my own

arms around him, holding him so closely – and he held

me, as though hanging on for dear life but so afraid

I'd break if he held too hard.

-- this isn't love, this isn't love, this isn't love

– the silent voice continued.

 

 

--- Alison ---

"Ev?" I knocked on the wooden door hesitantly, hoping

that he somehow wouldn't be there - that he would be

somewhere else, watching TV, studying, reading, doing

anything anywhere but here -

The door opened and Everett's face appeared in its

aperture. "Yeah? Oh, hi Al. Come on in." He opened the

door wider to allow me to enter, even as I desperately

wanted to leave, not entirely sure of myself and not

wanting to have to deal with this...

Despite what was goin on in my head, I walked calmly

into his room and sat on the chair he motioned to,

next to his desk. He closed the door and sat on the

bed, looking at me, his face searching mine for the

reason I had come. We were good enough friends that he

didn't prod as to my reasons - he knew that if I was

going to tell him, I would tell him on my own

eventually. I was so thankful to have a friend like Ev

here - Jen was, of course, my absolute best friend,

and always would be. Nothing could change that, and we

both knew that. And although I could always tell her

anything, this just wasn't something I wanted to

confront her with, exactly. She was too biased; I just

didn't want to tell her this... yet. Ev, on the other

hand, had always been there for me in the same manner,

but somehow, if I was going to talk to anyone about...

this... it was going to be him. He would understand,

he wouldn't take me through the... not exactly

ridicule, just necessary jokes and jibes.... that Jen

would have to, solely through the nature of our

relationship. Don't ask me why - I didn't want to talk

about this with anyone, actually, but somehow here I

was, sitting across from Ev, bracing myself to ask him

I still knew not exactly what.

"Um... Ev, can I ask you something?" I crossed my

ankles, swinging feet that didn't quite reach the

floor, looking at them as they appeared and

disappeared beneath the chair seat.

"Sure, Al. Anything. What's up?" His voice was so

soothing, so ready to accept whatever problem it was I

was about to burden him with. I silently thanked him

in advance for that. I couldn't believe he could still

stand me after all that crap I'd given him so long

ago, just after we'd first gotten here and I couldn't

even figure out what was going on within myself. Well,

he was about to get some more crap, special thanks to

Alison and her totally confusing brain...

"Well... I'm - I'm not sure what exactly I want to...

I mean, I shouldn't even be here... I - um, Angelo?"

Well, that sounded effective. If he could figure out

the method to the madness in those last

ineffectively-strung 20 words, that was.

"Oh," he said. I looked up; he was gazing at me, not

smirking or laughing, just gazing calmly at me. "I

see."

I nodded, hoping I wouldn't actually have to go on,

that he would get the point and explain this all to me

with no further effort - and therefore no further

embarrassment - on my part. Yeah, right. "I... I don't

know what to do."

"Do? Do how?" Great, so he did need more information.

Man, why couldn't he just synch with Jen or Jono or

Emma or somebody and get this directly out of my head

instead of me having to actually form coherent

thoughts, which obviously weren't coming out as such?

"Well... um... I mean, we got along fine before, and

then there was this weekend, and I... and he.... and

I... um...." Well, there was giving him a lot more to

go on. Way to go, girl.

"So you like him?"

Here came the red, heating up my face to a

temperature well beyond 98.6, flushing my skin scarlet

enough to match Penny's. I decided to concentrate on a

spot just in front of his feet, trying to get my mouth

to open in order to answer his question; but not

before I caught sight of him nodding slightly.

"Well," he began; obviously my lack of ability to

answer his question - not to mention to new pallor of

my face - was answer enough for him, and I think I

thanked about twelve different deities for that,

"you're going to have to tell him." No! That was not

what I wanted to hear! I wanted him to explain to me,

calmly and rationally, how to make this go away so I

wouldn't have to deal with it.

Or did I? I didn't want to ponder the consequences

that lay down that unventured road, the one that was

shrouded in fog and had a sign posted in front of it:

POINT OF NO RETURN. But something was tugging at me,

digging for my heart beneath my chest, pulling me,

begging me to disregard that sign. But I couldn't...!

"But... but I..." I sputtered, blinking and looking

up at Everett to see if he was actually sincere. "I

can't...! Ev..." I looked up at him, pleading. "How do

I make it stop?"

He eyed me, confused now. "Stop?" he asked.

I nodded desperately. "Ev, I don't want to feel...

whatever. Remember that whole Jono thing?" Dear Lord,

how could he forget?

He nodded, listening.

"It... doesn't work with me. I'm not that way. That's

how it is. And I don't want to be that way, either. I

want it to stop. Please. Tell me how." There. Now he

knew how horrible this was for me - that this was a

contradiction in every cell of my being, and that it

was going to rip me apart if it continued. I needed it

to stop, before something terrible happened, before I

betrayed my nature in a moment of weakness caused by

that stupid heart of mine that definitely could not be

trusted.

Ev was silent a moment, and then he spoke."Al, I know

you know this... It's obvious."

WHAT was obvious?! WHAT was I supposed to know? That

it was dumb to feel this way? Or was it obvious how to

stop it? Oh, I wished would just tell me how without

rubbing it in...

Ev smiled a bit, cocking his head ever-so-slightly to

the side, studying me as I squirmed in the desk chair.

It wasn't him that was making me uncomfortable - not

at all. It was my emotions, which were betraying my

trust and fleeing from their hiding place in order to

make my heart race and my vocabulary dead and my

self-image cringe in fear and yet marvel at the

possibilities... No, STOP IT!

"He likes you, you know. You have to see it, and if

by some odd chance you don't, I'm telling you now - he

likes you."

No, he didn't, why was Ev telling me this, was he -

"It shows in how he acts - he's nicer around you,

he... well, you know - you're there. But he likes you.

And Al -"

"What?" Please tell me how to make it stop, please

tell me you were lying two seconds ago...

"You're human, remember? Didn't we go over this?"

I felt like I was being drilled by a teacher, and

gave him a look that conveyed as much. I didn't mean

to hurt him, but... couldn't he see how this was

hurting me?

"I know you feel as though you're betraying

something."

I nodded fiercely. Yes, that was exactly it, and if I

did then when it all ended - which it most certainly

would (if it ever started, which I prayed it would

not) when Ange realized how dumb it was of him to pick

me of all people to have to go and like - I would wish

it had never happened, and I would rather have it not

happen in the first place and save me all that

Georging trouble...

"But, " he went on, "you know how you truly feel.

Better than I do, obviously. But if you want to know

what I think, then I'll tell you."

"Sure," I muttered. He already knew the problem now,

might as well hear what he thought before ignoring it

and going off to find some way to make it stop.

"Well, I think that you should talk to him.

Regardless. You two have been acting stragely, and I

know neither of you likes it. We all see it - "

Great, just great...

"- and no matter what, you have something to work

out. And you can sit here and tell me whatever you

want about defying yourself and everything, but Al,

you do like him. I know you do."

But why?! Oh God, just make me Vulcan now, please!

And why did humans have to blush at every Georging

word sometimes??

"And he likes you. I think you should do something

with that. Make an exception. But it's up to you, and

I honestly can't tell you what to do, other than sound

like a Disney movie and tell you to trust your heart

over your head sometimes."

I smiled at that, almost laughed. Well, now I was

back where I started, I supposed, not sure what to do,

but armed with advice leaning towards the direction in

which I did not want to go. Life was just too darned

confusing...

"Sorry I'm not much help," he said, even as I shook

my head, stood to leave. He walked me over to the

door, then stood in the doorway as I exited out into

the hall. He had helped, though in a way I couldn't

quite explain. Just boosted my confidence - into

what?! my mind screamed at me - and perhaps helped fan

the spark into something more. But I was not going to

do that, I assured myself. I'd find some way around it

- I would. My head still screamed at me to put it out,

smother this before it became a forest fire, and I was

going to have to deal with that, or something, but I

still didn't know whether it would be by providing

water or air.

"No, thanks," I said. "Really - thanks."

It was all or nothing, I told myself. And I would

have to decide which. All or nothing, because I could

not go on living with this something in between.

 

 

 

THE END

 

Authors' Notes: A bit of our actual selves has crept

into this particular chapter. Jinxo really *does* love

The Sentinel; if you also like the show she'd be more

than happy to hear from you (we like to think she's

one of the show's two rabid fans, perhaps you could

prove her wrong!) -- and Jen simply *adores* David

Mack's Kabuki; similarly, if you know what she's

talking about and are not already on the Kabuki List,

then do drop her a note. (PS Read Kabuki. It's

awesome. - Jen)