Location: Townsend Tower - Atlanta, Georgia
Timeline: The Year of the Apocalypse - 20 January 2012
Syn knocked lightly, then entered the room, asking, “How are you feeling today, Mister Harrison?”
Jon looked up from his book, glancing over at Cecily, who sat beside him. His leg was off to the side of the bed. “Hurt,” he said, his voice flat. “Agony, really, and the pills just make me loopy.” He put his book down and looked at the petite Asian woman. He was still angry about his leg, hurting from his link to Bethany, both emotionally and physically. “What are you doing to Bethany?” he asked.
“I can see if Seamus has any ideas that can help more with the pain. He’s reticent to give pain pills out too much, as addiction can cause other serious problems,” Syn offered, giving Cecily a slight smile of greeting. “And about Bethany.”
The diminutive administrator paused, then sighed softly, shaking her head as her gaze returned to Jon. “We’re not doing anything to her. She’s doing it to herself. When she woke up a couple of days ago, we explained what happened and she didn’t take it well. She’s not speaking to anyone, refuses to let medical staff go anywhere near her. She keeps herself burned down, requiring more time under intense light to keep her nourished. I was hoping that maybe she would speak to you, that maybe you could reach her.”
Jon nodded as Syn mentioned addiction. In fact, he’d barely touched his painkillers, despite the prescription. He knew about addiction and what it did to him. “I can try and talk to her,” he said.
Cecily returned Syn’s smile and signed, asking if she should leave.
“Actually, I’ll need to take him to see her. She’s in Danger Room Three,” Syn said, apparently not needing a translator. “She won’t come out, and she’s had them set it on a particular desert landscape that worries me, to be frank. A tall cliff where she just sits on the precipice, staring out at what used to be the commune. She insisted that they add the data that we recovered from her awakening, so it’s nothing but a wasted, burned out area.”
Jon sighed. “I know the place,” he muttered. “That means I have to put on the leg.” He glared hatefully at the shiny metal apparatus.
Cecily squeezed his hand. She signed at Syn, asking what a Danger Room was. Her movements were concerned, protective. But she went over and lifted the leg, bringing it to Jon.
“The danger room is normally used for training purposes, a chamber where mutant powers can be utilized safely, or suppressed if necessary. Holographic imaging is involved, quite real to life,” Syn explained as she watched Cece help Jon with the new leg. She walked over and took up the cane that was leaned against the wall, offering it to the man. “I know that you didn’t want to lose your leg, and I swear to you that Seamus and Matthew did everything that they could to try to save it. We aren’t gods, Mister Harrison, and sometimes we’re just as powerless as everyone else. You should know that by now. Bethany’s many brushes with death alone should have proven that to you.”
“Doesn’t make this any easier,” Jon muttered. “Might have been better off for all if you’d just let me go.”
Cecily gasped silently and shook her head, giving him a little slap and signing at him angrily.
Jon sighed and closed his eyes. “I… No, you’re right. I don’t mean that.” He took the cane from Syn and grunted as he stood up. His leg made a soft whisper as the hydraulics and servos took his weight. “This is way better than anything I have seen in Army hospitals,” Jon muttered, staring down at the polished chrome.
“Sean is a bit of a savant when it comes to computerized engineering. He’s been working on a number of projects, most of them geared towards understanding Tony Stark’s creations, if not an attempt at surpassing them,” Syn said with a small smile. “I know it’s not the same as the real thing, but I hope that you can get used to it quickly. Are you ready?”
“I suppose as I’ll ever be,” Jon said, limping along after Syn, his free hand holding Cecily's as the blonde walked with them.
When they got to the control room it was just as Syn described. Bethany was sitting with her back to the control room, on top of a high desert plateau, looking down on a patch of charred rubble and a glassy blast pattern on the desert floor far below. She put a gentle hand on the tech’s shoulder and said, “Lower the light levels to normal so that Mister Harrison can go in.”
“But ma’am, she’s been pretty insistent about not taking any visitors,” the tech responded, looking over at Syn with a worried look, then to Jon. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean, she’s been blasting off her powers pretty regularly in there. It’s like she’s trying to starve herself or something.”
It was true. They young woman looked grey and gaunt, as though the color had been drained out of her. Even her thick hair was grey and limp as she sat under a bright desert sun. “Do it. She won’t hurt him,” Syn said, with more confidence than she really felt. She then looked to Jon. “Do you want me to go in there with you?”
Jon shook his head. “We’ll be fine,” he said. “She won’t hurt us.”
Cecily worried her lower lip a bit, but she followed Jon’s lead.
Bethany knew that Jon was coming, but all that did was cause her more pain. “I said no visitors,” she said, her voice distant. She didn’t move from her position, still staring out at the grim scenery. “What do you want?”
“To see my friend,” Jon said. He grunted, and Cecily helped him to sit down on the ledge beside Bethany. “What are you doing, luv?” he asked Bethany, handing Cecily his cane.
“Does it matter?” Bethany responded, lowering her head and squeezing her eyes shut. Her jaw worked a bit, then her gaze returned to the blackened, glassy mark on the earth that she’d created just over a month prior. When she spoke again, her voice was just as lifeless as the color of her skin. “You should have let me die.”
“You know I couldn’t do that, luv,” Jon said, putting his arm around Bethany. “You mean too much to me.” He kissed her forehead. “Why do you want to die so much?” he asked quietly. “I have been where you are. It isn’t a healthy place to be. It’s when you need your mates the most.”
At first Bethany sighed softly at Jon’s attention, then she pulled away, standing up and putting some space between them. “I don’t exactly have a lot of friends, remember. And again, does it really matter?” she asked, giving a shrug.
She glanced at Cece, then turned back out to stare at the desert again, her feet right at the edge of the cliff. There wasn’t really anything she cared to say in front of the blonde. “I’m kind of surprised you’re still here. I figured you’d be hounding them for new identities and getting out of here as fast as you could. Though I suppose that losing your leg means you need more medical care than all that. I’m sorry about that. I wish...” Bethany’s voice trailed off, her arms crossing over her chest as she fell silent again.
“I’m alive,” was all Jon said. “And yes, I have a lot of physical therapy to go through...again,” he admitted. He stared down at the fall from the cliff. Getting up wasn’t going to be easy. “And Xander...well, he can’t really leave, can he? He’s like you.”
Cecily worried her lower lip as she looked between them. She signed and then backed away from them.
Bethany’s breath caught in her throat. “Wait, what? When did that happen?” she asked, seeming surprised and confused at the news about Xander. “So, you’re staying here, then?” she managed, her voice tightening, even though she tried to keep that new shard of agony out of her tone. Not only was she bound to Jon, now she had to watch him get on with his life with Cecily on top of it all? It was almost more than her already battered heart could take.
“When you saved Cecily’s life,” Jon said. “Xander went...I don’t know. Crazy. Called up a blizzard of some kind, practically a tornado. Threw us around. Cece and Talia got hurt, you and I were dying. But...I guess he saved us.”
Jon sighed as he watched Cecily wander away into the desert, though not out of sight or earshot of a yell.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. Xander was only just released. Zajic is still out there. Hell, Neville might still be in the country. Everything is up in the air now, but...this might be the place Xander needs to be, and Cece isn’t going to leave him. She’s probably safer here, too, anyway. So I guess you’re stuck with me, luv,” he said with a wry smile.
“No, I’m stuck without you, no matter what,” Bethany said, her voice soft, pained. “And this... bond. Dyami says that it can’t be broken. How could you do that to me? You already knew how I felt about you, and this just makes being apart from you even more agonizing. You really should have let me die. I was ready to die. It would have been better for all of us.”
“No,” Jon said. “It is not better for you to be dead!” His voice was emphatic. “I admit...I was a little out of it from pain and blood loss when Dyami offered, but all I heard was that I would lose you, and I couldn’t let that happen, Bethany…” His voice thickened. “You should know how I feel…”
“You’ve known how I felt for a long time now. Does it really matter? I’m too young, remember?” she asked, finally looking at him, her eyes swirling with those dangerous rainbows, her features sunken and hollow from draining her powers down to nothing, red from crying, her skin pale, ashen. “You made your choice, and that’s fine. All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy. I’ve always known that I’d have to suffer while you move on with your life.” She looked away again, back to the demolished area that was her doing, the only resting place that her mother would ever get. “Just go. I’m sure you’ve got better things to do than watch me starve myself, since this stupid program won’t actually let me hit the ground.”
Jon growled. He flopped himself over, nearly slipping from the cliff himself as he tried to get up, his cane just out of reach where Cecily had left it against a rock. “Damn it, Bethany!” he cursed at her.
“What?” she snapped back. Bethany watched Jon for a moment, knowing that he wasn’t in any real danger, then moved to pick up the cane and hand it to him. She helped him up off of the ground, then turned away again, moving back to the edge. “You have what you’ve always wanted. Go take care of her.”
“And why do I have to lose you in the process?” Jon asked Bethany. “Damn it, Beth, we’ve been through too much together!” He turned her roughly around to face him, leaning hard on his cane.
Bethany pulled her arm away from Jon, just as roughly. “You don’t get to tell me how I’m supposed feel. It’s like having that knife crammed right back into my ribs every time that I think about the two of you together. You know what that feels like! I know you do. And that pain is all that I feel anymore. How am I supposed to live like this? Especially now, knowing that it will never end!”
“How do you think I feel?” Jon yelled back. “You know how I feel!” He gestured between them. “You think this doesn’t kill me, too? I risked my life for both of you!”
“You’re all that I have left in the world, Jon,” Bethany said, laughing bitterly, her eyes still churning with that strange rainbow pattern. “When I went there with you, when I took that blow for her, I knew that it meant losing you. I welcomed death. You were going to leave anyway, so what the hell is the difference? At least you have someone to turn to when it hurts!”
“You...You’ll find someone, Bethany,” Jon said. “This...life doesn’t have to end. I’m not going anywhere now, not for a while.”
“How can you say that you can feel what I do? If you could, then you’d know that I have no desire to find someone else! That this freak of nature that you’re so afraid of does know what real love is! Even though it’s killing me!” She turned back to the cliff and continued, her voice dropping, trying to hide the pain, but failing miserably. “Just get out. Go live your life and be happy. You’ve got more important things to worry about than some stupid kid that fell in love with you.”
Jon sighed. “Just give it time, Bethany,” he murmured quietly. He put his hands on her shoulders and kissed the top of her head before turning to limp away from the cliff toward where Cecily waited, staring out over the desert.
Bethany waited until both of them were gone before lashing out at the room again, draining herself badly enough to drop her to her knees. She cried bitter tears, wondering why should couldn’t just do what Sean had said was possible; drain herself to the point that she just went away. She hunched over, hugging her aching stomach, put her head to the sandy stone, and cursed having ever been born.
“That could have gone better,” Syn said as Jon and Cecily returned to the control room, her voice concerned. The small woman sighed sadly. “I’ll have to have them suppress her powers. We can’t just let her starve herself.”
“I’m sorry,” Jon said sadly, watching Bethany. “I don’t know what else I can do.”
Cecily gave his hand a squeeze, looking sadly at the girl as well. She shook her head, as if trying to clear something away, and sighed silently.
Syn nodded. “You did what you could. Thank you for trying.” She glanced out of the window and shook her head. “Turn the lights up and initiate the suppression field. She’ll pass out eventually.”
“Aye, ma’am,” the tech responded, doing as she asked.
“Do you want me to walk you back, or would you rather do it on your own?” Syn asked, turning towards the door.
Jon shook his head. “It’s time for my daily torture,” he said, shaking his head. “I have to report to physical therapy.”
“Very well, the torture chamber it is,” Syn said, offering a small smile as she opened the door for them. “We’ll take care of her, Rook. I swear that we’ll do everything that we can to bring her around.”
“Thank you, Syn,” Jon said, limping away, his shoulders slumped.
Absynthe “Syn” Drake
Headmistress, Townsend Academy
NPC Xander Carlisle