The Karma Downs
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The steady hum of the monitor was reassuring. The beeps came with
the rise and fall of Graces chest. Sam leaned his elbow to the
table beside his chair and waited. The sheets that covered her pale
form were white, white as the tiled floor and the shining walls.
He thought shed hate that. Waking up pinned to the bed by
white, trapped, alone. So he sat, and he waited. There was a rustle
of fabric beside him as Jean sunk into the chair on the other side
of the table. Hey, she said, her voice soft and her eyes
tired. You should get some rest.
Ahm fine, Jean, he said, shifting to face her.
You dont look so hot yourself, if yah dont mind
I couldnt sleep if I wanted to.
Its all a bit much, isnt it?
She shook her head. Its all surreal. I found them, you
know. Scott and Bobby, in the Danger Room. Theyd managed to
knock each other unconscious.
They going to be all right?
Scott will. Hes awake already, though hes groggy.
Bobby... Its not just damage from the fight. His minds
so snarled up that its going to take me awhile to sort it out.
When... She paused, searching for the right name. When
Emma died... Jean faltered again and it was all Sam could do
to tell her that Emma wasnt dead, Emma was lying on the bed
before her. Her work snapped, Jean continued. I
could have sorted it out if she hadnt... All of us have some
damage, but Bobby... He was far gone already. She paused then,
and her hands formed fists on the arms of her chair before she smoothed
them out again. Im angry, but Im not.
Ah understand, he said simply. Ah understand completely.
I mean, Emma did these things, but if wed seen, if wed
We cant know, Sam said. It could have been
the same, and it could have been completely different.
She shook her head and looked over at Grace. Its eerie,
she said. How much the same and how much different they look.
How much the same and how different they are, Sam said.
Hank says that on the genetic level, theyre - they were
And how... And how is she...
Real? Sam asked.
Separate, Jean qualified. Her own physical body.
Ah think... Ah talked tah Hank, and Ah think that at first,
she was only half real, or not even as real as her powers could make
her. Shed needed to be someone else, so she was separate, but
it wasnt until she actually became her own, her self, the body
became just as real. And in the end, there wasnt really much
choice. Become really real, physically, or die with the Queen.
Jean nodded, her eyes tired as she fiddled absently with the worn
cuff of her sleeve. Does he have any idea when shes going
to wake up?
No. He thinks that it may be some sort of psychic fatigue.
Ah guess killing yourself always takes something out of you, but Ah
Jean shook her head. I cant. I cant, she
said. I cant go in her head. Not right now. You understand?
Sam sighed and sprawled in his chair, his heart aching. Ah
Jean started to rest a hand on his arm then stopped. Your
friends are going to be all right.
Ah know. Hank told me straight off, after the two of you had
examined them. But you knew that all ready.
The medlab certainly had been earning its keep that evening.
Your one friend, Jean started. The black girl.
A gamma class telepath. Ah know.
Gamma class empath, actually. Shes got a smattering
Pardon? Jean asked.
Her name is Angela.
She smiled. Thank you. I have... other things on my mind right
now. The four of them are taking this rather well, dont you
Sam felt a grin lift at his face. Theyre good like that,
he said, eyes somewhere else. We meet a lot of prejudice, so
we get to thinking that everyone whos not a part of the spandex
squad is like that. Thats as bad as thinking that all mutants
Jean nodded and lapsed into silence. You should go see them,
Sam. Theres a limit to how much even the most open of minds
can take in in an evening, and I think that Logans been hanging
around, keeping an eye on them for you.
Sam levered himself out of his chair, muscles and joints protesting.
I better get up there, he said. Eddie often liked his
men dark, strong, and mysterious. Logan fit the bill perfectly, and
Eddie tended to get flirty when he was anxious or uncomfortable.
By the time he reached the room where the others were, the look
on Logans face and the smirks barely hidden behind Sascha and
Kyles hands told him he was too late.
Sam padded down the hall. He couldnt sleep. Kyle, Eddie, Angela,
and Sascha were tucked away in empty rooms not their own, sleeping
soundly, and he couldnt find solace in his own bed. The verges
of sleep brought with them dreams of white and ice, and every time
he closed his eyes, he saw the Queen falling into the abyss, drowning
in her own eyes.
There was a hand on his arm and he spun, visions of the ghost in
the hall dancing before his eyes, but it was only Hank, the lenses
of the glasses pushed up on his head glittering in the dim light.
Couldnt sleep? he asked.
Sam shook his head, heart starting to slow. Hank nodded him sympathy
and guided the younger man down the hall. They just strode companionably
for a time.
Yah know anything more? Sam finally asked.
He could have been referring to Bobby, or Scott, or any one of a
dozen things, but Hank just shook his head. Shes shown
no change in condition. Her vitals are good, but shes just not
Sam shook his head.
What is it? Hank asked.
Just... Before, she had shut herself away completely from
who she was. Ah just hope that shes not...
Gone? Hank asked gently. Sam nodded faintly. Its
possible, but its certainly not likely. If that were the case,
then there would be some dip in her vitals - after all, she wouldnt
need that body any more. Or shed be awake with no notion of
who she was. No, I dont think that thats the likeliest
scenario. It could be that shes worn down, or it could just
be the snap of being really, truly alone. Shes lost the rest
of those personalities permanently, and from what youve said
shes had them almost since her mutation first manifested. It
must take some adjusting to, especially for a telepath.
Sam smiled weakly as they neared the observation room. He didnt
voice his other worries, for fear that giving them words would make
them real. He wanted - he *needed* to be there when she woke up, so
she wouldnt leave. He couldnt let her take off because
she was afraid of rejection, or getting hurt, or for his own good.
The observation room was intended for keeping an eye on multiple
rooms, or on just one patient without disturbing them. Hank, with
his wide, gentle eyes, let Sam follow him in, instead of sending him
back to bed. Three of the displays were active that night. Without
meaning to Sam felt himself drift over to the one that showed Grace
lying still, too still. He reached out and brushed the display with
his fingers, strangely disappointed that he only felt crystal beneath
his fingers. Hank made encouraging noises at the figures dancing on
the screen, but Sam couldnt make heads or tails of them.
The blue man moved on to the other screens, and Sam reluctantly
tore himself away. Bobby was lying in one, face bruised but cleansed
of blood. Hank was keeping him under until Jean or someone could do
something about the mess in his mind, the splintered and broken places.
Scott was displayed on the last one, head neatly bandaged, Jean curled
above the covers on the bed beside him. He was just in for observation.
There was a beeping from behind him, out of place against the normally
calm and ordered sounds and Sam spun around. Hank was an instant behind
Grace looked up at them from her screen, then averted her eyes and
continued to pull the sensors and electrodes from her hair and skin.
Sam was out the door in an instant. His steps echoed down the hall.
He was running as fast as he could but Hank was faster, and the other
man passed him as they cornered. The hall in front of them was empty
save for Logan, who was lounging outside the med area and flipping
through a magazine. He put it down at the sound of their steps, instantly
slipping into readiness.
Sam ignored him, just keyed the door to Graces room and waited
impatiently for it to open.
No ones come by here, Logan said as the door slid
open with agonising slowness. The bed was messed up and scattered
with sensors, but the room was empty.
Grace was gone.
Time passed. Christmas was an unusually restrained affair that year.
Jean searched with Cerebro but couldnt find a trace of her,
and she and Bobby started to piece back together the shattered pieces
of his psyche. Sam went back to the city, to Kyles for New Years,
half surprised when he was literally welcomed with open arms. School
started again, and finals passed in a fog for Sam.
Life went on, even when your mind held fast to a moment in time.
He missed Grace with an ache that while not all consuming, was never
far from hand, waiting around corners to jump on him when he least
expected it. Hed tell himself that it didnt matter, because
even if she hadnt gone she may not have wanted him now.
Things that were the same were different, and things that were different
were the same. There were times when he turned to talk to her, only
to find nothing but air beside him.
Life went on, and he lived through it.
Kyle and Sascha, Eddie and Angela, they sensed the change in him
more than even Jean did, he thought. Maybe because the idea of him
and Grace - Emma - was too much for his teammates to really wrap their
minds around. It boggled even him sometimes, but in her absence he
knew that he didnt care. Maybe it was better, for him to see
that he really did need her, than for her to have stayed and for them
to have drifted apart, have the fragile thing between them fray and
He missed her. And in the end, that was all that mattered.
There were snowstorms well into the new year. He walked out to his
truck with Kyle and Sascha one day in late February, collar of his
jacket tucked up tight around his ears. The world was white, and his
favourite jacket had been missing for quite awhile. His head was down
against the snow, so the first thing that he noticed was that Kyle
and Sascha were no longer walking beside him. They were stopped in
the flying snow, and she slowly shook flakes from her black hair as
he raised his head.
There was a single figure sitting on the hood of his truck, knees
tucked up to her chest. White and gold hair, flying, blending in with
See you later, Sascha said gently, and Kyle clapped
him on the back as they faded into the storm.
Sam took a slow step forward, eyes fixed firmly on Grace. She was
so pale she seemed a part of the storm and even with his gaze firm
he kept losing her in the snow. She had her arms around her legs and
her forehead to her knees and she looked up at his approach. He reached
out for her hands, only to find that they were bare. Her skin was
like ice. He hissed at that, pulled her from the hood of his truck
and to the ground. She left a space clear of snow behind her, the
red glaring against the white that coated the rest of it. How long
had she been out here? he thought.
Not too long, she said, her voice as numb as the wind
He led her to the cab of his truck, slipping around to the drivers
side when she slowly climbed inside. She moved like the storm was
in her joints. He turned the heater on as high as he could, shivering
as it blew cold air as it attempted to warm up.
He got a good look at her then, a really good look. Her eyes were
a faded, faded green, snow slowly melting from her hair. The snow
had fallen from the window when hed opened the door but the
storm raged outside. She was thin somehow, missing that something
real again, and her eyes were distant. She lifted her hands to the
heating vent, held her long fingers in the cold, blowing air. He caught
her hands in his own, gingerly, softly, waiting for her to pull away,
lean towards him, do something, anything, but she seemed not to even
notice. Her skin was like ice and he blew softly between their cupped
hands, trying to warm them.
He looked up at her and her eyes were trying so hard to not be there,
but they were, they were tied, and he realized that she was wearing
his missing jacket, the one hed slipped over her shoulders before
theyd left for Westchester all those weeks ago. Its
no good, you know, she said. Im still Grace, but
Im still Emma, and youve never been especially fond of
Ah never got to know her, he said. You never let
She shook her head, melted snow flying from her hair and dancing
across his skin. I needed them before. Whats to say that
I wont become them again? I needed them to be able to deal,
the Queen was right about that. I was never... I was never enough,
Sam. Not just by myself. I was never enough.
Then Ahll be the rest until you learn it for yourself.
And youll do it. You will.
She shook her head again and her eyes were almost frantic. This
cant be. Youre holding on out of loyalty, but in the end
all that will get you is miserable.
He saw in her eyes and her voice that she was desperate. She was
trying to push him away because she couldnt bear to end it herself,
and she couldnt leave it unfinished. And she needed it, god,
she needed it. She needed something real, something that wasnt
just another phase to be lived through. Ah told you once that
Ah didnt care what you were before, what youd done or
where youd been. Yah wouldnt ask me to go back on that
now, would you?
She shook her head angrily. You see? Its just respect
to the words youve said before. You didnt know then. I
didnt know then, and you couldnt have expected to have
to hold it to this. Youre paying homage to empty words because
youre too good and too honourable to do anything else. I cant
do that to you. I wont. Her anger was spent by the end
of it and her words petered to a stop.
He was glad of her anger, cherished it, because she was trying to
disassociate from everything so she could just let go and drift away,
and as long as she was mad she was held here. Ah wont
lie you, he said. Itll take some getting used to.
But Ah meant what Ah said then, and Ah mean it when Ah say it now.
Ah know who you are, and as much as you may hate that, it wont
go away. Youre not going to get off on passing this off to me,
because you do care. You could have left me, and Kyle and Sascha to
the Queen, but you didnt, not even thought you knew it would
probably get you killed. You want to get out of this without getting
hurt, but Ahm telling you now that thats not going to
happen, because Ahm not just going tah let you get away.
Her eyes were angry then, angry and the green started to slip to
gold, but she seemed more solid, more real. She wasnt as faded,
and she didnt seem to blend in with the storm outside any more.
Youre going tah get hurt, because life is messy. Theres
no way around it. And Ahll probably hurt you along the way,
because thats the other side of caring. Yah cant have
one without the other, but Ah can promise you right here, right now,
that Ah will never try to hurt you. Ah cant tell you
how this will end, but Ah can tell you how this will start,
he said. Itll start when yah give up the self pity, and
start to heal. Itll start when yah really let someone in, when
yah let yourself live. Not everything is Live Through This, but you
can make it that way if you try hard enough.
He waited for a blow, or a quick retort, but what he got was laughter.
She laughed with all the sadness of the past few months, and with
all the joy. He kept her hands tight within his, and he thought that
they were a bit warmer, a bit more substantial.
She smiled at him weakly, as if testing out an expression she was
none to familiar with. You said much the same to me before,
Well, yah didnt seem to have really heard me the first
She smiled that smile again, and this time it was somewhat stronger.
What was it you said? You ice a wound and it takes away the
pain, but you keep it there too long and it doesnt heal. It
just goes numb. You lose it.
Something like that. Yahve been icing your wounds for
I think... I think it was a period of grace. A time to rest
until I was strong enough to heal. She paused. I stood
at my own grave today, Sam. I stood in the snow and I fell on my knees.
I stood at my own grave and in the end I walked away. I dont
know who I am any more. Im not... Im not everything I
need to be. Im just me.
He squeezed her hands tighter once more, then gently kissed the
palms. He knew somehow that if he was to really lose her it would
be now, at this crossroads, and that this time it would be permanent.
Grace... he started, unsure of what else to say to keep
She squeezed his hands back and that something real settled very
firmly in her eyes. Her voice was thick and low, hoarse, and she looked
at him as if she expected him to bolt. My name is Emma,
she said, the words trailing easily off into the snow that surrounded
them, into the comforting cocoon of warmth now whiring from the heating
vents. He kissed her then, lightly. She tasted like snow and maple,
and her breath was warm on his cheek as she whispered one last time,
as if discovering something precious. My name is Emma.
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