The Karma Downs
by CherryIce

Chapter Eleven

“Hey! Sam!”

He peered over the heads of the students swarming around him. A single dark hand was raised and he made his way toward it, slipping between the bodies streaming from the lecture room.

Angela was leaning against the wall beside a fountain, books clasped in her arms. “Fancy meeting you here,” she said as he stuffed his books into his back pack.

“You were just in the neighbourhood?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Not really. The med buildings are on the other side of the campus.”

“You wanted to come and look at the freak?”

She sighed and shook her head. “Sam, we don’t care. I wanted to wish you a merry Christmas, because we only just realized that we don’t even know what your phone number is. And think about what you just said. You’re proving Kyle’s point for him.”

“Kyle is being a horse’s rear end.”

“You’re both being a horse’s rear end.”

He shrugged. “Ah’m willing to talk to him, but Ah don’t think he wants to talk to me.”

“Even if he did, he wouldn’t have a chance because this is the first time one of us has seen you in more than two weeks, since you flew off of his balcony.”

Sam rubbed the back of his neck “That may have been rubbing it in his face a tad.”

“Just a tad. It’s not every day that someone flies off his balcony.”

Sam grimaced. “How’s Eddie doing?” he asked instead.

“He’s coming along remarkably well. We took him in to the hospital and gave them some song and dance about a bar fight. They splinted his hand and kept him over night for observation. You’ve got free drinks at The Cuppa for as long as he works there, you know.”

He had suspected as much. Part of the reason he hadn’t gone back there. Accepting free drinks would have made him feel even worse.

“What happened to Grace?” Angela asked him. The students in the hall had thinned out quickly. Last day of classes before Christmas break and everyone was off home.

“Ah would have thought you’d have heard the story. Everyone else has,” he said, letting his eyes roam down the empty corridor. It still hurt. It hurt, and that surprised him. He kept thinking he had it closed off, but the closing didn’t work because things were still open, the possibilities telling him something he couldn’t understand.

“I’ve heard the story. What I want to know is what really happened.”

He snapped his eyes back to her. She was just looking at him, and her gaze reminded him of someone else’s. He blinked, trying to place it. Then he remembered Angela bursting into Kyle’s apartment, Sascha and Kyle following behind in confusion. She hadn’t been surprised to see Eddie lying there on the couch. “You’re a telepath,” he said. It reminded him painfully of another conversation that had started with that particular phrase.

She shrugged. “Gamma class, at best. I don’t even know if I qualify. My Grand’ma was a bruja. That’s all. I just... I just have something from her. Sometimes I know when my friends are in trouble, but not always. Once and a while I get a flash of something, something about a person or a hunch, but they’re so clouded by my perceptions that they’re usually useless.”


She paused, looking at him deeply. Her eyes seemed to look right through him but his mental shields were untouched. “There was something about Grace that wasn’t right. She wasn’t... She wasn’t quite *real*, if you know what I mean.”

He thought of Grace’s eyes, how sometimes it had seemed to him that there was a part of her that wasn’t quite there. “Yeah,” was all he said.

“It wasn’t anything menacing, not then. She was just slightly off. She...”

“She’d cut herself off from who she used to be,” Sam said. “She told me that she’d needed to be someone else so badly that she had, she’d become someone different.”

Angela’s eyes rested coolly on him. She didn’t ask him why Grace had remembered, or if the timing of her doing so and her disappearing were related. He supposed she could read it on her face. “Ah should be going,” he said.

“Merry Christmas, Sam,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. Her words were light but her eyes were troubled. “If you feel like it, stop by Kyle’s on New Year’s. We’re having a bit of a party.”

“Ah’ll try,” he said, but they both knew that he wouldn’t, not that hard. “Happy Holidays, Angela.”

He turned and headed towards the door.

“Sam?” She called from behind him.

He turned back. “Yeah?”

“Be careful, okay? I’ve had a bad feeling lately. Nothing specific or anything. It’s been building for awhile, and I’ve never had anything stay with me for this long. Just... Look out for yourself.”

Her eyes were troubled and he tried to smile. “Ah will. Ah promise,” he said. “Ah’ve got lots of practice.”

“Try to drop by some time, okay?”

He nodded and smiled again, but it wasn’t anything he could promise. “Look after yourself, Angela. And look after the horse’s rear, too. Eddie and Sascha can look after themselves.”

“I will,” she said and tried to smile.

He waved at her and turned back to the hall. She may have whispered something, but it was lost as his steps echoed hollowly down the empty corridor.

The tile was white even when they were gone, the light fracturing it into a thousand colours, and it kept the memory of Angela’s words. She’d left them behind because she didn’t understand them, left them for the tiles and the light and the colours from white.

I think this might be the last chance for all of us.

“Computer, end simulation.”

Bobby swung around as the Danger Room faded back in around him. Scott was standing in the doorway, arms crossed. He didn’t look pleased.

“I was kind of in the middle of something,” Bobby said.

Scott frowned. “You don’t have authorisation to be running that level of program by yourself. You’re not even supposed to be in here.”

“Aww. C’mon. I was just letting off a bit of steam.”

“Bobby, you know the rules. When the safeties are off, you have a spotter. You could have been hurt.”

“But I wasn’t. I can look after myself.”

“Just because you were lucky this time...”

“If it was Logan in here, or Cable, would you be standing right there, telling them this?”

“That’s different.”

“The thing is, Scott, you don’t think that I can handle it,” Bobby said, reaching out with the unfairness of it, his anger.

“Logan has a healing factor. Both he and Cable are much more experienced fighters.” Scott didn’t seem to notice the change in Bobby’s voice. It didn’t register on him.

[But how are you supposed to get the experience if he won’t let you try and improve in your spare time?] Emma asked.

“But how am I supposed to get the experience if you don’t let me train?”

Scott’s face was drawn. He didn’t see Emma, only it wasn’t Emma, it was the ghost in the hall, and the white that held her together was breaking and cracking, showing everything underneath and the wall behind her. She trailed her hand down Scott’s arm and he shivered.

“We can work something out, Bobby. You just can’t take the risk of being here by yourself.”

“You do it all the time,” Bobby spat. Emma passed between them, kissed him with phantom lips. She circled them, wrapped her arms around Bobby from behind. All he could feel was a slight coldness. “You do it all the time, Scott. You do it when Jean kicks you out of the boat house. You come here and you take off the safeties and you beat the shit out of holograms.” He didn’t know what he was saying, but the second it left his lips he knew it was right. He knew it by Emma’s laugh and the way Scott’s face tightened.

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you, Bobby, and now seems as good a time as any.” Scott’s body was tense but his words were even and Bobby wanted to laugh. Fearless leader, stretched to breaking. Not so perfect after all. Something inside of him screamed that this wasn’t right, that this wasn’t him, but it was buried beneath the ghost of lips on his neck. “You have issues with the way you’re being treated, fine. But this isn’t the way to do it.”

“Well, the other way wasn’t working either,” Bobby said.

[Make him see,] Emma whispered into his ear. Her words were a chill breeze against his skin.

“Bobby, I have never thought of you as anything less. Never. But the way you’ve been acting lately is starting to change my mind. You’ve been immature and out of control.”

[He’s jealous. He can see now what you are, what you could become.]

The something that had been telling him that this wasn’t like him was back again and it had a desperate quality to it. She’s just telling you what you want to hear. THINK!


“We joined at the same time, didn’t we, Scott?”


Emma’s hair fell around him, shimmering. It was a cocoon, a cloud, a shield. “I’m as capable as you are, Scott. We’ve been doing this for the same amount of time and you think better of yourself than you do of me.”

“That is not true, Bobby.”

“But it is.”

[There you go.] Reassurance flooding his mind. [Show him everything you are.]

“Fearless leader. You think you’re better than I am. You don’t think of me as an equal or you wouldn’t be down here chewing me out for something you do almost every night.”

Scott snapped. “Bobby, would you just listen to me for one goddamned second?” Bobby wanted to laugh. He’d make him break that layer, that thin veneer that held him separate, held him higher. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“For doing something you do. For doing something you do so many damn nights of the week. You have your distance, so you can talk down to me, even though I’ve been around for as long as you have. You think you can out fight me.”

Silence. “There are some things...”

[He’s trying to talk you down. Talk you down so he doesn’t have to see any more. See what you are, what you could be, because you make him less.]

“You do.” It was a flat statement, despite all the anger running through his veins. His blood was singing with it. He was on fire and no one would be able to put him out.

Silence again. Thin smile. [Smile from knowing he’s better. Don’t you want to knock that smile off of his face? He thinks he’s better. You know. You know otherwise. If he knows, then everyone else will know, too, because he’s the leader. He knows you’re less so they all know that.]

“Red Planet program,” Bobby snapped.

The world dissolved around them. Steel grid into red stone, antiseptic air into flying dust. Scott’s voice, commanding. “Bobby, I am not going to fight you.”

[Doesn’t want you to get hurt. He think’s it’s a given he’ll hurt you. Show him. Show him what he doesn’t want to see.]

Bobby launched himself at Scott. Didn’t ice up. Just coiled his legs and leapt. Scott wasn’t expecting it and Bobby’s weight bore him to the ground. His hand took him across the jaw, pain exploding up his arm. It was a good pain, honest. It anchored him here. Scott grabbed his leg and rolled. They hit a wall of rock and sprang apart, coming up. There was blood trickling from Scott’s mouth and he wiped it away in wonder, staring at his fingers.

[He’s starting to see.]

“C’mon, Scott. Scotty-boy. You know you want to.”

Stared at the blood on his fingers. Emma traced a finger down the line bright on his face, leaving a trail of anger behind on the places she’d touched.

“Come on, fearless leader. Show the boy what you’re made of.”

Scott came at him then, face pale and thin, hands clenched. He hit him low, knocking them both to the ground. He was on top this time. He was heavier and he kept Bobby pinned to the ground. He hit him once, then again, and again, and again. Bobby’s head felt like it was hit by a train each time. Help, he wanted to say, but couldn’t. Help.

Emma was there again, eyes fractured beyond where he could see. [A gift,] she said, wrapping her hands across Scott’s visor. She pulled them through, wiped down, and he stopped. Stopped hitting Bobby, lost awareness. [A short reprieve.] Emma leaned down, traced a finger still slick with Scott’s blood across Bobby’s lips and kissed him hard. [Just so this is fair.]

Her lips were on his and there was blood moving between them. He could feel the ice in his veins flowing out of him, away. His blood and Scott’s cancelling out. Can’t pull ice against Scott, couldn’t get blasted by his ruby eyes, not until this fight was won. It was a hard, dark kiss, feeding off the blood and feeding into it, until the darkness was moving in him again and his anger was back, it was all he could feel, never mind the injuries his body was taking.

He growled and rolled, Scott flying from on top of them, skidding in the red dirt. He was on his feet in an instant, the paralysis gone. He’d left half the skin of his face and his glasses on the ground but he didn’t seem to notice.

Never hit a man with glasses, Bobby thought, only Scott had lost his glass so Bobby hit him as hard as he could. Scott moved with the blow, head down, catching Bobby at the side and throwing him back against the stone wall. His head snapped back and his vision swam. He slid down the wall out of instinct. Scott’s fist crashed into the wall where his head had been only seconds before. He realised what had happened when his hand hit stone and he kicked as hard as he could, catching Bobby in the ribs.

The air exploded from Bobby’s body in one gasping breath. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t, but he had to keep moving. He grabbed Scott’s foot when it came at him again and he pushed the other man backwards. Scott careened backwards, losing his footing on the uneven ground. Bobby was on him them, pinning him to the ground, pummelling. He hit him, hit him, drew back to hit him again but Scott’s arm came around from beside his body and he had only a second to see that in his hand was clasped a rock, because as Bobby’s fist hit the side of Scott’s head with all the anger in him everything exploded around him.

And he was sinking into a black that was really white only even the white wasn’t white.

Sam wandered the streets. The Christmas lights strung along the avenue did little to cheer him up. He didn’t want to go back to Westchester but he no longer had somewhere else to be.

Somewhere else to be.

His feet moved as his thoughts wandered and it was only then that he looked around to see that the buildings were familiar. It took him awhile to place them, because everything every where he looked was covered in a curious haze. Everything was dark and shadows seemed solid. Snow beneath his feet made no noise and the wind plucking at his coat was silent. A car passed by on the street, flinging spray into the air as he turned to look, but even the engine pulling it steadily along was mute.

He turned back to the street and it was as if his every movement was caught in amber. The lights in Kyle’s building were dim and yellow. Their warmth didn’t reach his skin. The elevator door slid open even as he cross the lobby and he stepped inside. He was the only one inside but the reflective surface was playing tricks with his mind because the ghost in the hall stood beside him and he didn’t recognize his own face.

It stopped at the correct floor and he stepped out into the hall. It seemed to span to infinity on either side of him. The dark carpet gave beneath his feet and the white walls seemed cloaked in grey. The door to Kyle’s apartment seemed to glow. He went to turn the knob but the door swung open at his touch. Light was strange in here as well, but there was something seductive about it, threatening and seducing. He had an instant and an eternity to notice Kyle as he stepped over his still body, spot Sascha lying half in, half out of the kitchenette. Her black hair hung over half of her golden skin, giving the look of something painted with sun and shadows.

White on the couch, only the white wasn’t true any more. Wasn’t true in her clothes or her hair or the whites of her eyes. It was shattered and changed because white was every colour in equal proportions and as soon as one got out of control, gained more influence it wasn’t white anymore and it wasn’t camouflage.

“Sam,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

She rose from the couch in a controlled, graceful movement, floating towards him. She ran a hand up his shoulder to play with the hair at the back of his neck and he couldn’t move. He didn’t want to move, only something inside of him was screaming. She wasn’t Emma any more, not with the coolness of her skin and her fractured eyes as she leaned in to slide a kiss across his mouth. She was the ghost in the hall and she was the Queen. She wasn’t his teammate and she wasn’t his sister’s teacher, she was the White Queen again, except she was only the Queen because the white was shattering.

“Shhh,” she said, whispering against his skin. “Your thoughts are loud. I have too many thoughts already.”

Everything, every movement was still molasses, still caught in amber and her touch was cool and expert. He found himself responding even though that part of him was still screaming. As she kissed him all he could think of was Grace and he couldn’t move. Sometime when he wasn’t paying attention they’d fallen to the floor and she was now pressed against him. “Shhhh,” she said again as she drew back from his face and moved her attentions lower.

Her face blurred and multiplied as she moved, catching in the amber and one of them stayed, looked up at him. Blue eyes, he saw. Sad blue eyes. [She needs you to submit] it said. Its voice was low and weak, as if from lack of use. [She needs you to want this. She]

/I had a little bird and her name was Enza/

[won’t rip up your mind and control your body. This is still you.] The face turned, shook and shattered, leaving him alone with the Queen and the singing voice.

Lips on his stomach and nails resting against his back.


Lips and tongue knew what they were doing. Nails promised. He couldn’t... The world was amber and he was caught.

He thought of nursery rhymes. Little Miss Muffett, she sat on her tuffett... Nothing echoed back.

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.


Something there. Nothing much. Sam tried with the last of his will to think of another, something, something to bring the voice back because he was loosing this battle fast and her lips were warm, so warm, like jungle air. Jungle air. Simulation in the jungle. He’d heard the voice then. He’d heard it singing a nursery rhyme, singing a lullaby. Rock-a- Rock-a- Rock-a

Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top.


The Queen stopped, shook her head.


“Shut up,” she whispered, hands to head. “Shut up. Shut up. Shutupupupup.” Her hair flew wildly as she shook her head back and forth, back and forth.



Sam felt the hold on his body loosen somewhat and he tried to call out. He tried to yell for help but all that came out was a muffled croak as his mind screamed. Jean would hear. Jean would know something was wrong.

“Nuh huh,” the Queen said, shaking her head. “You can’t get away. Jean’s busy.” She giggled and the sound raised the hair all over his body. “Busy busy busy. I wonder if she likes the present I left for her to deal with.”

Sam tried to scramble backwards, scramble upright, but the Queen placed a hand on his chest. It was barely any pressure at all but it paralysed him. “I can’t have you,” she whispered in his ear. “But there are lots of other ways to get even with the bitch. You won’t enjoy them as much, though. I could make you,” she said as the thought struck her. “I could make you enjoy them. Would you like that, Sam, would you?” She caught his chin with iron fingers and turned his eyes to hers. “Would you?” He was falling in her eyes as they fractured and spun. Worlds were in them, seducing, promising, and was about to say yes, agree to anything with pleasure when the door crashed open with a bang.

It sounded like a shot and broke him out of her eyes, shattered the amber that held him still. She hissed, her attention no longer on him. Grace was standing in the door, her eyes burning and whirling and her skin glowing white and he wanted to scream at her, tell her to go, to run, to get out of here but the sudden snap back to normal had left him depleted and barely able to remember how to breath. The Queen’s hand was still on his chest and it was burning hot now, not cool and impersonal.

Grace moved into the room, the door clicking shut behind her. Run, he tried to scream. Oh, God, Grace. Kyle and Sascha and now Grace. “Get out of here,” he managed to say. This isn’t her fight, he tried to add, but the Queen’s attention was no longer on him and Grace was moving predatorily around the room. There was something in their eyes, something in their faces and bearing that was screaming at him and he felt his mind fall numb as he recognized it, recognized what about Grace had always been so familiar.

The Queen smiled, and it was a beautiful, mad smile that shattered the resemblance between them. “Emma,” she said. “How nice of you to join us.”


continued >>

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