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This story is No. 2 in the series "New World". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Daughter of Kandor. Son of Sunnydale. No home between them. Where do you go when you can't go home again? Caught between three worlds, Karen and Kara's journey continues...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > X-Men > Xander-Centered
DC Universe > Power Girl
WiseFR1815122,2503323071,91311 Oct 114 May 14Yes

Sparks on the Cold Hearth

Destination Unknown
by P.H. Wise
A Power Girl Crossover Fanfic

Chapter 3: Sparks on the Cold Hearth

Disclaimer: The DC Universe and its associated characters is the property of DC comics. The Marvel Universe and its associated characters is the property of Marvel Entertainment LLC. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Joss Whedon's baby. This chapter contains some dialogue taken from Phoenix Warsong #01. Marvel owns that, too.

The coffee shop was in ruins. Innocent people were buried in the ruble, some dead, some not. Laura clutched at her belly, trying to keep her insides on the inside while her healing factor did it’s thing. Watching as the black armored van with its soldiers who had taken Cessily peeled out, with Kimura - her former handler - still leaning out the passenger side door.

“KIMURA!” Laura roared.

“Another time, X,” Kimura called. “See you soon.”

A dark blur. A rush of wind. The van lifted into the air. The sonic boom arrived a few seconds after. The wheels spun without ground contact for a few moments. Then the van shook violently, dropping Kimura out onto the road. Then Karen lowered the van gently to the ground, this time on its side.

“... damn it,” Kimura hissed.

Laura was already charging. Leaped like a feral creature, trying everything she could to kill the woman who had brought her so much suffering, killed the people in the cafe, and then taken Cessily. Her claws couldn’t pierce the woman’s skin.

Kimura heaved her off, and she was back in a flash. Just in time to take a shot to the gut from what looked like a tranquilizer gun. She didn’t cry out. Not even when a wave of warm dizziness swept over her, and her limbs became sluggish. Another shot, this one to the neck. She could feel her healing factor fighting off whatever it was. She shook her head, struggled to rise. Something metal slid into place around her neck with a click, and her healing factor shut off like a light.

Laura looked up. Karen was helping Cessily out of the back of the van. The soldiers weren’t stopping her. Two were unconscious.

“I’ve just poisoned X-23,” Kimura announced, rising to her feet. “And that power-suppression collar around her neck ensuring her healing factor stays inactive is made of secondary adamantium. She’ll be dead in less than a minute without medical intervention.”

Laura glared. It was getting hard to breathe. Hard to move her head to glare at Kimura. “Blllsht...” she slurred. Her mouth wasn’t cooperating, either. She couldn’t swallow.

“Make your choice, Divine. Which of your friends are you going to save?”

Karen glared at Kimura. “My name’s not Divine,” she said, annoyed.

“Tick, tock,” Kimura said.

Karen looked at Cessily, then at Laura.

“Save Cessily,” Laura tried to say, but her mouth wouldn’t cooperate. Her vocal cords wouldn’t... she couldn’t breathe... she knew what she’d been dosed with now.

“NO!” Cessily screamed. “Save Laura! Don’t you DARE let her die, Karen!”

Karen walked Cessily over to Laura. The soldiers followed at a distance, none of them sure how this was going to turn out. Then Karen reached out and grabbed hold of the collar with both hands.

“What part of secondary adamantium do you not understand?” Kimura asked. “Are you really going to let your friend die while you engage in a futile test of strength?”

“She’s right,” Cessily said, “You’re strong, Karen, but you’re not the Hulk...”

Karen struggled, muscles visibly straining as she pulled on either side of the collar. For a long, terrible moment, nothing happened. … and then there was an awful ripping-metal sound, and she broke the collar in half, pulling each half away from Laura’s neck. Immediately, Laura’s healing factor kicked in, and the effects of the curare began to subside. She took the tiniest, smallest breath of air, and it was the sweetest she’d ever tasted.

“You were saying?” Karen asked.

Kimura stared, and in her eyes, for one brief moment, Laura saw a thing that she had never seen in Kimura before: fear. “What.”

Tension grew in the air. None of the soldiers wanted to be the first to move. Laura could smell their terror. She could move, now. Still sluggish, but enough to start getting back up to her feet. She was getting stronger by the second.

Laura broke the tension by unsheathing her claws with an audible ‘snikt’.

Karen’s stance shifted then. Her gaze hardened, her eyes no longer kind but full of judgment; her voice no longer soft but filled with quiet anger. “Here’s how this is going to work,” she said. “You help me tend to the people you hurt and then give yourselves up to the authorities, and I don’t hold you down and let X-23 here beat you to death with your own severed limbs. That work for you?”

“... uh... yeah, that sounds fair,” the soldiers agreed.

“Cowards and traitors,” Kimura hissed, producing a pistol. Before she could pull the trigger, Cessily batted it out of her hands with a limb reshaped into a club, and it went clattering to the ground.

“This just isn’t your day,” Cessily remarked.

Kimura cursed.

“... Anything I should know about her, Laura?” Karen asked.

“She’s immune to harm,” Laura said. “No force can penetrate her flesh. It’s annoying.”

Karen hmmed thoughtfully. “Immune to harm, huh?” A brief pause. “I still don’t like the idea of hitting a...”

Kimura reached for a dagger.

Karen cut off in mid-sentence. A split second later, she’d smashed Kimura’s face into the concrete sidewalk three times. Then Karen turned towards the soldiers, heedless of the sound of approaching sirens. “Get to work,” she said. “People are counting on us.”

It was then that Laura decided that Karen was useful to have around.

It was a little surreal, working with three soldiers from the Facility to get injured people to safety. Some they moved. Some they dug out. Some they left because the rubble on top of them was the only thing keeping them from bleeding out. Once more paramedics were on hand, those people were evacuated as well. Four people had been killed. Another five might live, if they were lucky. A dozen more who would have been smothered in the rubble were fine. And Cessily was fine.

Despite the grim work, Laura allowed herself the luxury of a smile.

Peter Parker awoke in a hospital room. That was good: after hitting WAY above his weight in that fight against Divine, he hadn’t really expected to wake up at all, so this was a definite improvement on being dead. Speaking as someone who had been dead (sort of - well, for like a split second, maybe), he figured he was in a position to know. Well, OK, he’d asked Jean Grey, once, back when the X-Men hadn’t been too cool to hang around with non-mutants. … which also wasn’t exactly a fair description. He was just recovering from being nearly killed, though, so he figured a few unkind thoughts were excusable. Still, he could have done without the way his everything hurt. “... Ow.” he said.

Mary Jane Watson-Parker was at his side in an instant, crossing the space between the chair where she’d sat watching over him and his bed in a split second and then she had him wrapped up in a hug that made his everything hurt a little bit more than it had before. He tried, but he couldn’t hug her back: he was in a full body cast. “Hi.” he said.

“Welcome back, Peter.” Tony. Tony was here. Looked like he had just walked in through the door.

“You had me worried,” MJ whispered into his hair.

“Had me worried, too,” Peter replied. “Anyone get the number of the naked chick that hit me?”

Mary Jane pulled back a little, gave Peter a look, seemed to think about it for a moment, and then rolled her eyes. “I’m going to assume you didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”

He blinked, then tried to nod, but couldn’t quite manage it. “... Oh. Good assumption. I meant that...”

Tony cut him off. “She’s been briefed, Peter.” MJ nodded in confirmation.

“Oh. Good.” Peter looked down at himself, taking in the damage, trying not to feel a rising sense of panic over the way he couldn’t actually feel anything below his waist. “How long was I out?”

“Over a week, Peter,” Mary Jane said. “You scared us half to death.”

Peter stared. “... Aunt May?” he asked.

“Been here,” MJ replied. “Watching over you. We’ve been coming in shifts.”

Peter nodded, then looked thoughtful, then frowned. “Hey, maybe it’s just the painkillers, but I can’t actually feel my legs.”

Mary Jane looked to Tony.

“We know,” Tony said. “When you fought Divine alone, and she... sent you through that tree, it fractured your spine in thirteen places. Reed and I have done what we can to repair the damage, probably saved you from total paralysis, but frankly, you’re lucky to be alive.”

Peter felt as though the floor had just fallen out from under him. “...What?” And then MJ had her arms around him, drawing him into another hug, and it hurt, but the warmth and affection he felt towards her in that moment overwhelmed any sense of pain.

“It’s going to be OK, Tiger,” MJ murmured.

“We have some ideas for a kind of cybernetic nervous system replacement, though,” Tony went on. “Give us a few years, and we’ll have you up on your feet again.”

Peter kept right on staring, a sense of incredulity mingled with anger rising within him. When he spoke, there was a hard edge to his voice. “Not to sound ungrateful,” he said, “But isn’t there a mutant kid over at Xavier’s who can cure any kind of injury just by thinking it?”

Mary-Jane’s eyes widened. “What?” She looked at Tony.

Tony shifted uncomfortably. “I’d prefer not to involve an unknown, potentially unstable boy who has limited control over his powers at best...” he began.

Peter felt his jaw drop open ever so slightly.

“That’s unacceptable,” Mary-Jane said, and there was a hard edge in her voice that Peter had rarely heard before, and only on those rare occasions when he’d made her REALLY angry.

“You need to understand,” Tony tried to explain, “The situation is complicated, and we don’t even know if the Foley boy could actually heal you. He might do more harm than good.”

“More harm than me being paralyzed for the next few YEARS?” Peter asked.

Mary-Jane’s tone was ice-cold, now. “Mr. Stark, I don’t know what kind of issues you’ve got with the X-Men, but if they’ve got a mutant with the power to heal my husband, the other option is ‘a few years of paralysis,’ and you’re not willing to bring him to even LOOK at Peter, then you’re not the man we thought you were.”

The tension grew. The silence grew, broken only by the steady beep of the heart monitor. And then Tony sighed. “I’ll make the call,” he said, and walked out of the room.

When the door had shut behind him, Mary-Jane released her icy demeanor, shook her head, and looked at her husband. “I don’t understand that man,” she said.

Peter looked down. “... He wasn’t this bad before the Hulk went missing,” he said.

Mary-Jane didn’t reply.

Construction was continuing on the Xavier estate. The refugee city taking shape upon that property had grown larger still, with new tents and new permanent construction, with the first dormitory having been finished three days prior. A thousand mutants had come here, and there were plans to at least double that number. As Karen, Cessily, and Laura returned, this time under heavy guard, a dozen soldiers moving with them, and Karen collared and shackled with the best power-suppression devices money could buy. … mutant power suppression devices, that is.

Once inside the gates, they were made to get out and walk, and Karen did so, glancing about at the new construction, at the sign someone had put up that said, ‘Welcome to Mutantville.’ At the O*N*E troops who swarmed across the area. “I think we made them mad,” she said. Cessily rolled her eyes.

It was night. The sun had set. The stars were bright. It was the last day of the full moon. To Karen’s eyes, the skies were full of light and colour. Every time she looked up at night, what waited for her was a panorama of unparalleled beauty. It was kind of distracting, actually. Though she was in high-tech shackles and a collar, Karen walked like she didn’t have a care in the world. Some of the residents of ‘Mutantville’ gathered to watch as the three girls were led into the estate, but when it became clear that nothing more was happening, they went back to their own business.

They were led into the mansion, down a few hallways, and into a meeting room where Scott Summers, Valerie Cooper, Ororo Munroe, and Emma Frost were waiting.

“You can release her,” Valerie said.

The soldiers moved to do so, but before they could, Karen pulled her hands apart, shredding the shackles like they were made of tissue. She reached for the collar, only to be interrupted by Valerie, speaking with a resigned tone of voice: “Miss Starr, please refrain from destroying our expensive power suppression equipment.”

She stopped. The guards exchanged panicked looks, then, at Ms. Cooper’s gesture, moved in and removed the collar. “Ma’am,” they said.

“Leave us,” she told them.

“With respect, Ma’am, this girl is...”

“Completely beyond the ability of six guards to handle,” Val said. “If she wanted to kill us, we’d be dead. Leave us. Now.”

Karen shifted uncomfortably. The way they were treating her... yeah, OK, so Divine had proven herself horrifically lethal, but still. She wasn’t Divine. She kept telling people that. Kept lying, really. But the truth was complicated. She didn’t need complicated. She needed something simple. Something black and white she could tell the nervous authorities: ‘I’m not Divine. Divine is dead.’ Even if it was a lie.

Everyone was looking at them. They didn’t look happy.

“What happened?” Scott asked.

Silence for a moment as Karen and Cessily exchanged glances.

“It’s my fault,” Laura began.

“Just tell us what happened, child,” Ororo said. “There will be time enough to assign blame later.”

They did. They admitted to sneaking out. Using the old Morlock tunnels to leave without being seen by the guards. The coffee shop. The explosion. The attack.

“I was down at Cerebra,” Karen said. “I heard the explosion, and then Cessily’s voice. I...” she clenched and unclenched a fist. “They needed me. I couldn’t just sit there.”

Valerie Cooper looked Karen in the eye. “So you decided that instead of alerting O*N*E to the situation, or even informing a teacher, that you would leave the compound yourself and intervene.”

“Er, yeah.”

Valerie sighed. “And you two … evaded the guards that are here to protect you, snuck out through ‘Morlock tunnels,’ and drew the attention of a dangerous criminal organization. Is there anything else I should know about?”

Cessily looked at Laura, then at Valerie, and said nothing.

“They needed help,” Karen said, “I helped. We saved some lives, and O*N*E took prisoner the woman responsible. Where’s the bad?”

“Unfortunately,” Ororo said, “The situation is more complex than you might suppose.”

“You’ve put us into a very difficult position,” Valerie added. “Me in particular.”

“No offense,” Karen said, “But aren’t you the lady in charge of the operation that’s put like the equivalent of a whole squad of mechanical death-machine burning crosses on the lawn?” A beat. “... I mean, if this weren’t a school for mutants, but a school for...” she trailed off, growing flustered. Then she steeled herself, looked Val in the eye, and said, “Military death machines. School grounds. Concentration camp. You’re in charge. I should care what you think why exactly?”

Scott and Emma exchanged looks.

“Miss Cooper is acting with the full authority of the Office of National Emergency,” Ororo said. “And therefore with the full authority of the government of the United States.”

“Again with the military death machines, school grounds, and concentration camp.”

“This isn’t any kind of concentration camp, Ms. Starr,” Valerie said. “I understand why you’d use the metaphor, but as satisfying as it might be as a cheap emotional cudgel, it’s inappropriate, offensive, and inaccurate. We’re here for your protection. We’re not here to oppress the remaining mutants.”

Cessily started to snort dismissively, then stopped herself.

“Something to say, Mercury?” Emma asked, an eyebrow raised.

Cessily looked uncomfortable.

“Go ahead,” Emma said.

Cessily spoke up, then, timid at first, but gaining confidence as she went on, “It seems like every time there’s a crisis, all your Sentinels manage to do is get turned off or destroyed. When the Children of the Vault attacked in the flying boat, what did the Sentinels do, besides nothing?”

“Or when Apocalypse came?” Laura asked.

“Or the Sentry,” Karen added.

“It’s not that simple,” Valerie said.

“I dunno,” Karen said. “It seems pretty simple to me.”

“Because you’re a child,” Valerie replied. “And I don’t expect children to understand how complicated the world can be.”

Now Karen was glaring. “Explain it me, then.”

“Ms. Cooper’s position here is tenuous,” Ororo said. “Her position is unenviable. She has always been a friend to the X-Men, and has done her best to mitigate the damage the O*N*E occupation has done. Her superiors are aware of this.”

“There’s growing pressure to crack down on what is seen as the lawlessness of the X-Men and their students,” Valerie said. “Every time you people ignore O*N*E protocols, my job gets more difficult, the refugees grow a little more resentful, and my superiors grow a little more unhappy. When the X-Men do it, it’s bad. It shows the refugees a double standard. They can’t leave the compound without an armed escort and subdermal tracking implants. The X-Men make a habit of leaving whenever they feel like it. But when the person ignoring the rules is the most wanted criminal on the planet, supposedly being held in cryo-stasis AND a telepathically induced coma because S.H.I.E.L.D. lacks the appropriate resources to contain the threat?”

There was a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. “... I’m not Divine,” she said. It wasn’t any more true now than it had been the first time she’d said it. ‘Complicated’ sucked.

“I know that,” Valerie replied. “Everyone in this room knows that. You might find this a little hard to believe, but the law is a little fuzzy when it comes to dual-minded extra-dimensional aliens transferring their extra mind into and taking control of the bodies of wanted criminals.”

Karen swallowed audibly.

“This is ridiculous,” Cessily said. All eyes went to her, but she didn’t back down. “She saved our lives, and you’re treating her like she’s done something wrong!”

“You’re right,” Emma said. “What Karen did wasn’t technically wrong. Irresponsible, perhaps, but morally defensible. It’s made an already unstable situation far, far worse, but she isn’t the one I blame for this. You are.”

Cessily reacted as if she’d been slapped. “Ms. Frost?”

Emma didn’t back down. “You left the school without permission. You snuck out through the Morlock tunnel to avoid the guards who are supposed to protect you. From your report, several people were killed in the explosion and subsequent attack. Why? Because you wanted coffee.” She shook her head. “You can’t be children anymore. Not any of you.”

“The stakes are too high,” Valerie said. “As is, I’ll be lucky to keep my job. I’m doing my best here to keep the worst of this away, from the X-Men and from the refugees both, but I can only push things so far.”

Silence. The beating of Karen’s heart - of every heart in the room - was loud in her own ears. “... What are we supposed to do?” she asked.

“Work with us,” Valerie said. “Things are bad, but we can still keep this from turning into a nightmare.”

It was all... complicated. She was starting to hate that word. ‘I was thinking we might try violence.’ Karen discarded the thought as soon as it occurred to her. Sure, she could destroy every single Sentinel. She could beat up the soldiers and dump them all into a big unconscious pile. Or she could kill them. Not that she would, but she had the ability. It wouldn’t even be hard. The problem she was having, besides the ‘I’m not willing to kill hundreds of people’ problem, was the ‘and then what?’ problem. She destroys the Sentinels. She incapacitates the soldiers. Government response teams move in. She brings to bear all the violence that she’s capable of - restrained as best she can - And then what? … she didn’t have an answer for that. She knew one thing for sure: that wasn’t what a hero did.

Truth. Justice. The American Way. It was the first time she’d ever really thought about those things without a touch of sarcasm or irony coloring her view. What did those things mean? What did any of it mean? What would Superman do?

… What would Buffy do?

She didn’t know the answer. Or if she did, she couldn’t admit it to herself.

Stark Tower. Kara Zor-L sat dead center on a plush leather couch across from its twin, a rectangular black coffee table between them. The floor here was hard wood. Behind her was a brick fireplace with a large picture of the original Avengers in action hanging from a nail. The room was a huge, wide-open space, multi-leveled, an all-purpose area for the members of the superhero team. Right now, Power Girl was seated across from a gorgeous brunette in a spider-themed outfit named Jessica Drew, with a gorgeous blonde in a skimpy black costume with a gold thunderbolt down the middle seated at her side named Carol Danvers.

“So,” said Kara.

“So,” said Jessica.

“So,” said Carol.

It was a little awkward.

Kara shifted in her seat, and the move dislodged a lock of her increasingly unmanageable, increasingly shaggy hair. It fell down over her eyes, and she took a moment to brush it aside. “So where does an invulnerable girl get a haircut in this reality?” she asked, with just a touch of humor in her tone.

Carol gave a slight smile.

“How invulnerable are we talking?” Jessica asked.

“I had a friend enchant a pair of scissors to do the job back home,” Kara replied, “But anything short of that just breaks. Unless you’ve got scissors made out of the same stuff as Wolverine’s claws.”

“You know, it’s a shame, you don’t actually find a lot in the way of adamantium styling tools,” Jessica said.

“Darn,” Kara said, and only barely managed not to laugh. “So you girls are Avengers, huh?”

The other women nodded. “As of yesterday,” Carol said. “I’m Carol. We’ve met before, but I never had the chance to introduce myself.”

“After the Stryker rally, right?”

“That was the second time,” Carol said. “First time was when you fell into East River. Unless that was your tagalong?”

Kara made a face. “That was Karen. … Does everyone know I was sharing my head space for three months?”

“Tony briefed us all on your situation when he said you’d be joining as a reserve member,” Carol replied. “I didn’t think we did reserve members anymore.”

“I’m Jessica,” Jessica said. “Or Jess.” A very slight smirk. “So you’re our new flying brick?”

Kara raised an eyebrow. “... Flying brick?”

“Winner of the superpower lottery,” Jessica said. “Like Sentry. Flight, super strength, nigh invulnerability, super speed, maybe a few more random powers with the word ‘super’ in front of them, the super-ability to squeeze that figure into that suit...”

Kara laughed, and even as she did, she heard the sound of footsteps outside the door. She looked up, looked through the door. Captain America was about to open the door. The door opened. Captain America walked in.

Carol noticed, and immediately rose to her feet. “Captain,” she said.

He smiled. “Hello, Carol. I see you’ve met our new reserve member.” He nodded to Kara. “Power Girl, right?”

Being reminded of the fact that she’d just joined these ‘Avengers,’ and by extension, of the reason she’d done so, erased Kara’s good mood. “For the time being,” she said.

He raised an eyebrow. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. Call me Steve.”

“I know who you are, Captain,” she replied.

Steve sent a questioning look Carol’s way, and she just shrugged. After a moment, Steve went on. “We’re working to get you and your sister legal identities and provisional permanent resident status. This isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with extra-terrestrials, or even natives of an alternate reality or timeline coming to live here. We’ll get it sorted out.” His tone was sure and confident, just a touch of sympathy, and even worse, it seemed like the sympathy was unfeigned. “Oh, I may need your help tomorrow. Sentry’s wife is... well, she’s not taking the news of what happened very well. I think it might do her some good to talk to you.”

Kara ignored his request. “It would be easier to accept your sympathy if you hadn’t made my joining your team a precondition for lobbying to have the charges against Divine dropped after Karen took over her body,” she said, her tone cold.

Dead silence. A beat passed. Then two.

“What?” The question was low, quiet, and intense. The expression on Steve’s face told Kara everything she needed to know: he hadn’t known. Tony Stark had done that on his own.

“Ask your friend, Mr. Stark, about it,” she said.

“Tony would never...” he trailed off. Would he really never? Once upon a time, Steve would have said ‘no, not in a million years.’ Now, though...

Carol and Jessica exchanged nervous looks. Then Captain America clenched his fist, unclenched it. “Ladies,” he said, “If you’ll excuse me, it looks like my friend and I need to have a talk.” With that he turned smoothly and walked for the exit.

Carol let out a breath. “... Did Tony really...?” she began.

“Yeah,” Kara replied, interrupting her.

Carol shook her head. “I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when Steve finds him.”

It was late, now. A still had come over the night. No sounds of construction came from the refugee area. No night birds sang. Even the insects seemed to have fallen silent. A few people yet walked the halls of the Xavier Institute, but their footsteps seemed loud in the silence. Even stirring in your own bed seemed loud in the silence.

The Cuckoos couldn’t sleep. They’d tried, but a group mind was a curious thing: one part feels something, the rest experience it, too, even if they’d rather not. Like Irma’s irritating crush on that boy-turned-girl.

*Is this a good time to bring up the fact that every time in the past one of us has fallen in love, she’s ended up DEAD not long afterwards?* Celeste asked, looking annoyed.

Irma sighed. *Not this again.*

It was an old argument now. One that they’d been having ever since the first stirrings of a crush had begun to grow. Each of them understood the argument. Each of them understood how Irma felt. Each of them understood how Celeste and Phoebe felt. None of that really captured it, though. Maybe it was closer to say that they all felt the way that Irma felt, and they all felt the way that Celeste and Phoebe felt.

*I’ve thought of a new argument for why you should stay away from her,* Celeste sent into their link. She was lying, of course, and the others knew it as well as she did.

*Liar,* Irma replied, though she hardly needed to.

A new emotion entered the link, felt by all three. Irritation. *If you two are going to keep me awake by fighting about something, can it at least be something not Karen-related?* Phoebe asked *This whole ‘our life is defined by who Irma has a crush on’ thing we’ve had going for the last month? Kind of sick of it.*

Both Irma and Celeste had the decency to feel bad about that one.

They tried going back to bed. Tried counting sheep. Tried counting Beasts. Tried counting the most boring thing they could think of (Professor Summers’ system of mental organization). They tossed and turned. That lasted about an hour. No luck. Finally, despairing of getting to sleep, they all three got up, rubbed their eyes, and headed out into the hall, Irma in her white tank top and blue drawstring pajamas, Celeste in her long sleeved purple shirt and striped boxer shorts, Phoebe in her mountbatten-pink tank top and denim shorts.

They passed Julian in the hall. He grinned when he saw them. “Well, hellooo, ladies,” he said.

“Drop dead, Hellion,” Irma and Celeste replied in perfect unison.

Julian’s grin didn’t waver. “Come on. You can’t sleep. I can’t sleep. Why don’t we...”

They turned and spoke as one, cutting him off mid-sentence. “These aren’t the breasts you’re looking for,” they said, giving him a slight telepathic push.

His face relaxed out of his grin, his eyes losing focus. “These aren’t the breasts I’m...” He blinked. Frowned. Glared. “Hey!”

They walked on without another word, none of them really sure where they were going, just... needing to go there.

‘They think they know you.’

In time, they found their way outside and across the silent grounds to the graveyard, and then to the graves of their sisters, Esme and Sophie. The missing parts of their Five-in-One, now reduced to Three.

“Wait,” Celeste said, looking down at the graves with a confused look on her face. “Irma, where - what are we doing here?”

Irma shivered. She didn’t have an answer. None of them had an answer.

And elsewhere in the mansion, Emma Frost’s dreams were filled with flames.

The next morning, as usual, Karen woke with the dawn. It didn’t seem to matter when she went to sleep. Without fail, the sun came up, and up she woke. On the plus side, it meant she could sleep in longer during the winter, and hey, that was rapidly approaching. It was the October eighth today, and a Monday, for all that was worth. Noriko was still sleeping. Probably would be for another half hour. Karen took the opportunity to get her showering done and then made a go at making herself presentable and doing basic maintenance, and grinning just a little bit when she thought about her date with Irma tonight. She was in the middle of flossing - an awkward activity for a Kryptonian under a yellow sun, but one she always made an effort to do anyways - when Noriko staggered in through the bathroom’s open door.

“...y’done?” Noriko mumbled, still not fully awake. She looked bleary-eyed, her hair mussed from sleep; still pretty without her makeup, but a ‘normal person’ sort of pretty.

“I’m done,” Karen confirmed, evacuating the bathroom in short order, shutting the door behind her.

The sound of the shower began shortly afterwards.

Karen dressed herself for the day, not really paying attention to the outfit she was choosing, putting on her costume, then her normal clothes on top of that. Her wardrobe had grown as a result of her trip back home, and then the side trip that followed. The sleeveless blue shirt she put on came from that. The brown shorts didn’t go well with the shirt, nor with the red and yellow design on it, but again with the not paying attention. Off she went, the memory of yesterday’s scolding from the teachers already settling into her thoughts, and her mood began to go downhill, and the day only just begun.

By nine thirty, she’d retreated to the library to sulk. Or read. One or the other. Xavier’s collection wasn’t anywhere near as fun as Giles’, but she found something eventually. Some old spell book. She’d been surprised to find it, actually. Hadn’t expected to find a thing like that here. A name was written on the inside cover: ‘Property of Illyana Rasputina.’ Karen had never had any particular talent for magic, but a book of spells was familiar, and that was comforting. She’d been staring at the same page for nearly ten minutes when she realized that Emma Frost was in the room, and watching her. She started in surprise, took a moment, recovered her composure, and then found her mood quickly souring again. “Did you come to tell me more about how I’m being childish, and that I can’t be an immature little brat anymore? Cause that was swell.”

Emma smirked, but Karen thought it looked a little strained, like Emma hadn’t gotten all the sleep she needed and was crankier than normal.

“But hey,” Karen continued, “I’m sure it’s no reason to be bitter. There are probably plenty of people who enjoy being told something like that after all they did was save the life of their friends."

"Are you finished?"

Karen thought about that, making a show of giving some consideration to the question. "I figure I've got another ten minutes of material,” she decided, “But sure, let's call it finished."

“Good,” Emma said. “There’s an official visit to the school tomorrow. A head of state is coming, and part of his visit is a meeting with you. A head of state who does not suffer fools gladly.”

Karen blinked. “A head of state wants to see me?” she asked, unable to hide her surprise. Not that she could if she tried. Stupid telepathy.

“King Namor of Atlantis.”

Karen looked a little incredulous. Sounded it, too. “Bizarro Aquaman wants to meet with me?”

“I dislike repeating myself,” Emma said.

“‘cause a Ms. Frost who has to repeat herself is a Ms. Frost who rewires my brain to make me think about sex every time I look at linoleum, right?” There was perhaps more than just a touch of sarcasm in Karen’s tone as she spoke, and when Emma looked her straight in the eye, so very not impressed, Karen tried not to be intimidated, tried very hard.

“Don’t sass the woman who can rewrite your brain at will, child,” Emma said.

Karen looked away, unable to hold Emma’s gaze. Yeah. Intimidated. “... Right. What do I need to do?”

Emma gestured to Karen’s mismatched outfit. “Given that becoming a woman clearly has not advanced your fashion sense beyond the most troglodytic of levels, I’ve taken the liberty of arranging some assistance. Miss van Dyne will be arriving shortly to assist you. I suggest you change into something less visually offensive before she arrives.”

Karen frowned, looking down at her outfit. “What’s wrong with what I’m...” she trailed off. She hadn’t realized she’d been wearing a Superman shirt. That was weird. Actually, she hadn’t realized there’d BEEN a Superman shirt in her closet. “Oh.”

The image of Emma’s form - a telepathic projection - vanished, and Karen was alone once more.

Ten o’clock in the morning, and Captain America was waiting. Power Girl still wasn’t sure what to think of the man. She’d done her research. Karen seemed to be content to sort of absorb the differences between this world and her home as they came up, but she was mostly confined to the Xavier estate: Power Girl didn’t really have that luxury. It still kind of bothered her that so many places she’d taken for granted just plain didn’t even exist in this world. Not having a Coast City, Central City, or a Gotham she could wrap her brain around. It was weird, but she could deal with it. But not having Metropolis? New York City being the big east coast city that everyone knew about? Sure, she’d lived in New York. The JSA operated there. She’d even headquartered Starrware there. But... no City of Tomorrow? New Troy just plain didn’t even exist? It was like learning that there wasn’t a sun in the sky.

There was something else, though. Something she couldn’t put her finger on. Something in the air. In the sunlight. In the water. She was on edge, and she didn’t really know why, and that bothered her. Granted it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as being a teenager again, but still.

There it was: Stark Tower, and the Sentry’s Watchtower above it. That was where they were to meet. In the home of the missing hero. … and for the home of a hero, the place sure screamed ‘supervillain lair.’ Maybe it was just the man’s mental instability at work. Either way, Captain America was waiting within.

So was the Sentry’s wife.

“... any word?” Lindy Reynolds was asking even as Power Girl approached. She could see the woman through the walls. Hear her, too.

Captain America shook his head. “There’s still no sign of him,” he said. “Not at the Xavier estate. Not anywhere else. Lindy, if he doesn’t come back from this...”

“He’ll come back,” Lindy said, and she sounded like she believed it. “He always does. Always. And look, we’re still here. CLOC is still here. And...” she shivered. “I’ve kept the basement locked. I know the Void isn’t still in there, but...” she trailed off, then tried again, “I know the Void isn’t still in there, but I... I... I can hear things down there, sometimes.”

“If he doesn’t,” Captain America began again.

“He will,” Lindy insisted.

A new voice spoke. Mechanical. Power Girl didn’t recognize it.. “Lindy, you have not been outside of this tower since the Sentry disappeared. This pattern of behavior is highly unhealthy. I asked the Captain to contact your family because...”

“Because he’s Captain America?” Lindy asked. “I understand. But I’m still not going to leave. I believe in my husband. He’ll be back. But I appreciate the gesture. From both of you.”

Power Girl landed, and walked into the sanctuary of the Golden Guardian of Good.

It wasn’t what she expected. It seemed so... normal. A kitchen that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a suburban home. A cheap, dubiously wooden table from ikea. Three black chairs gathered round it. A living room made for two.

The Sentry’s dog came to greet her as she arrived. Flew to greet her, actually, barking loudly, and the sight of a flying dog made her all the more homesick, even as she laughed, and scratched the little guy between the ears. A Welsh Corgi version of Krypto? Really? “What’s your name, boy?” she asked.

The dog cocked its head to the side, but said nothing.

“Normie!” a woman’s voice called. “Leave our guest alone.”

Captain America and Lindy Reynolds came walking out of the kitchen, and without the layers of building separating her from the woman, Lindy looked tired. The dog - Normie - flew to Lindy and made a few mid-air laps around her before settling back onto the ground. The Captain looked, well, about like always. There was a confidence in his bearing that... Kara let out a puff of air, the act blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes. The star spangled man looked like a man with a plan. “Captain,” she said.

“Power Girl,” Captain America said. “Welcome to the Sentry’s Watchtower.”

“Is this...?” Lindy asked.

The Captain nodded “Power Girl, this is Lindy Reynolds. Lindy, this is Power Girl.”

Despite the awkwardness she felt, Power Girl smiled, and put out a hand. Lindy shook it. It was obvious that it wasn’t something Lindy was used to doing, but she seemed to appreciate the gesture, at least.

“Lindy has some questions for you if you’re up for answering them, but first, I wanted to tell you that Tony was wrong.” Captain America met Power Girl’s gaze, and in his eyes she saw the image of a man who lived up to his convictions. “There’s no condition attached to you working with the Avengers. We could really use your help, but it’s not a precondition for anything: we’re going to help you and your sister because it’s the right thing to do, not because of anything we might get out of it.”

Kara nodded thoughtfully, and truth be told, she couldn’t help but be impressed.

He reminded her of Kal-El.

And then Lindy looked to Captain America, who nodded. Then she looked to Kara. “Please, Power Girl,” she said, “I need to know: how did my husband die?”

Power Girl felt a lump form in her throat. And she told her.

OK. She was here. Hot MILF-lady was here. Karen wasn’t going to make the same mistake she’d made in the other world when she’d met the woman. Wasn’t going to humiliate herself again. This time, she was going to play it cool.

Janet van Dyne walked into the room, and she smiled pleasantly. “You must be Karen,” she said, with just the right note of friendly warmth in her voice.

Karen looked up. Took in the sight of the woman. Her flawless exercise of fashion. Impeccable makeup choices expertly applied to enhance what she had (and what she had was a lot). Healthier than the alternate. Not so pale. And that same amazing It was the same woman, but even so... no, she was going to be cool. She wasn’t going to humiliate herself. Not this time. She tried to think of something clever. Stared. Stared.

“Gah...” Karen said intelligently.

An awkward silence fell. Then Janet raised an eyebrow. “Well,” she ventured, her tone vacillating between nonplused and flattered, “I’m glad to see I’ve still got it, even if it’s not the boys I’m bringing to the yard.”

Karen blushed. “... Sorry,” she managed. Cool. Clever. Not humiliating. Nope. Not even a... OK, so she couldn’t convince herself of that even in narration. Her sole consolation: ‘At least this wasn’t as bad as last time.’

Janet shook her head to indicate that she’d taken no offense. “Let’s try that again. You must be Karen.”

Karen kind of wished she could sink into the floor. “It’s nice to meet you again, Ms. van Dyne.”

Janet pressed her lips together at the ‘again,’ but didn’t ask, for which Karen was greatly relieved. “All right. Let’s see what we have to work with. I normally have people who do this for me, but in this case...” she shrugged. “OK. Take it off.”

Karen blushed once more. “... What?” she asked, trying not to sound choked.

Janet rolled her eyes. “The turtleneck sweater you’re wearing? So I can take your measurements?”

Oh. “... I knew that,” Karen said unconvincingly. She stripped out of the sweater, revealing a black tank top underneath with the word ‘GΣΣK' printed on it.

Janet gave Karen a look as if to ask, ‘... really?’ Karen shrugged uncomfortably, as if to say, ‘Really.’ Then Janet moved in with the flexible measuring tape, first wrapping it under the armpits around the fullest part of her bust, then under the breasts and around the rib cage, then around the waist, followed by the hips. A glance to Karen’s open closet and the presence of only one dress and no skirts was quickly followed by a check of the sleeve and the inseam. After each measurement, Janet tapped a set of numbers into a weird data pad she was carrying. While she knew that computer technology was better here than it was back home, but not as advanced as what they’d had in that other world. … but either way, it was hard to concentrate on a shiny computer tablet thingy with Janet van Dyne taking her measurements.

… Taking her measurements. Yeah, even thinking that still felt weird. Karen had never actually had tailored clothing when she was Xander, so her only experience with it was as a girl, and... yeah. Weird. Uncomfortable. Necessary evil.

“All right,” Janet said. “Now let’s have a look at your wardrobe. I doubt you’ll have anything suitable, but we can hope, and it will give me an idea of the sort of clothing you prefer.”

Karen nodded, doing her best to maintain her dignity. “Right. Clothes. Because, clothes.” She gestured to the closet.

Janet went to work. Very little was said until she was done, and it didn’t take long, with her pausing only to raise an eyebrow at the Power Girl t shirt and to comment on the dress.

“Well,” she said, “Whoever made this dress definitely has impeccable taste.”

Karen grinned. “If I ever see you again,” she said, “I’ll tell you that you said that.”

Janet stared at Karen. “Care to explain?” she asked.

Karen’s grin faded. “Er. Oh.” A beat passed. “Alternate universe. Alternate scientist you. It was this whole thing.”

“I see.”

“She was...” Karen began, trying to think of everything she knew about the other version of Janet, everything she’d learned from their brief meeting. “You. With wings and stings and...”

“Karen,” Janet said, “Don’t.”

Karen fell silent for a long moment. “You don’t want to know?” she asked at last.

Janet pressed her lips together. “I have enough regrets of my own without adding the might-have-beens of another life,” she said.

“Oh.” Oh. Oh, hell. “Sorry,” Karen said. “I guess I shouldn’t have... I guess I’m not making the best impression.”

Janet shook her head. “It’s all right. You seem like a nice enough girl, Karen, and I’m not going to hold your meeting an alternate version of me against you.” She gestured to the closet, then. “Nothing suitable, by the way. I’m not surprised. I think I can have a small selection ready before the Atlanteans get here tomorrow. How does that sound?”

Karen made a face. “... long as it isn’t humiliating,” she said.

“I don’t design humiliating,” Janet replied as she walked to the door, opened it. Then, in the hallway, she looked back and grinned. “I design fantastic.” And with that she was on her way, leaving Karen with a pile of every piece of clothing she owned on her reinforced bed.

Around noon, Karen’s stomach really started voicing its objection to her having skipped breakfast. She thought about ignoring it, but she gave up after about half an hour and made her way down to the cafeteria to forage for something to eat. One of the things she still wasn’t used to about being in this body was how different foods tasted. Not different from Power Girl’s body, though: different from Xander’s. Some things tasted better. Some things tasted worse. She wouldn’t have minded so much if it weren’t for the twinkies. She gave the dessert a mournful look as she passed by the vending machine on the wall. They just didn’t taste that good anymore. I mean, sure, they weren’t bad. They weren’t gross or anything. They just weren’t special. A few male gazes followed her as she went.

With one last mournful glance at the twinkies in the vending machine, Karen loaded her tray up with food and then joined Julian, Cessily, Santo, and Noriko for lunch. The cafeteria was practically empty like always, and full of light. The place had been built for more than hundred, but there were only twenty four. She figured that for the others, it probably felt even emptier than it really was.

“This whole thing is bullshit,” Julian was saying as Karen sat down. “Laura and Cessily got attacked in broad daylight. Why aren’t the X-Men mobilizing to track down the people that did it?”

“Don’t be stupid, Julian,” Noriko said. “O*N*E already caught the woman who did it.”

“Maybe,” Julian replied, “But what about the people she was working for?”

“What makes you think they aren’t?” Cessily asked. “I talked to Professor Summers and Professor Munroe this morning...”

“Are they really Professors?” Santo asked.

Cessily cut off in mid-sentence. Everyone looked Santo’s way. Santo blushed. “I mean, do they all have doctorates or somethin’?” he asked. “I know Professor Xavier does, but the rest, I’m pretty sure...” he trailed off.

Cessily rolled her eyes. “Like I was saying, they told me that they were doing everything they could to find out who was responsible for the attack. They’re working with the FBI.”

“Not O*N*E?” Karen asked.

Cessily shook her head. “O*N*E isn’t an investigaty-type, uh, thing.”

“‘Investigaty-type thing?” Noriko echoed, a touch of incredulity in her voice.

Cessily glared. “You know what I mean.”

“Hey, anyone seen Laurie today?” Loa asked from across the cafeteria. A couple sets of eyes went her way, Karen’s included.

It was Noriko who replied. “I think she went with Josh to New York,” she called. “They left this morning with Miss Pryde.”

“Oh,” Loa said, approaching the table. “… do we know why?”

Noriko shrugged. “Maybe someone was hurt? Maybe they’re on a date? I don’t know.”

“Hmm. Thanks, Noriko.”

“Any time.”

Santo’s rumbling voice broke in again. “Hey, why do we call Shadowcat ‘Miss Pryde’ and Cyclops ‘Professor Summers’ when they’re both teachers, and neither one has a...?”

Cessily rolled her eyes and cut him off in mid-sentence. “Left field, Santo. This is you, coming out of it.”

As Loa went back to what she’d been doing before, Karen frowned. “Speaking of people we haven’t seen all day, where are the Cuckoos, anyways?” An awkward silence fell upon the table. “... What?”

“Seriously?” Julian asked. “You didn’t hear?”

Karen felt like tiny alarm bells were going off inside her brain. “Didn’t hear what?” she asked.

“Identical triplets gone wild? Flying Cuckoos? Emma locking them all up down in the lab?”

“Everyone’s been talking about it,” Cessily said. “With your enhanced hearing, we all kind of assumed...”

Karen stared, eyes wide. At that moment, a new voice called out from the entrance to the cafeteria: “Super senses don’t count for much if you don’t pay attention.”

“Kara!” Julian and Cessily said in near-unison.

Power Girl approached with an amused look on her face, and sporting a new haircut. It wasn’t appreciably shorter, but it’d been completely cleaned up: no more shagginess. It looked good. Several male gazes followed her as she walked to the table.

Karen looked up. “Hey,” she said.

“Hey kids,” Kara said. Karen and the others all made a face at that, but Kara kept right on going, “Just here to drop off a little something I picked up for Karen.” She produced a pair of scissors. Karen had no idea where she’d been keeping it: her costume didn’t have pockets. “Did you guys know there’s a team called the Young Avengers?”

All eyes went to Santo, who blushed once more. “We heard,” Julian said.

Kara offered, and Karen took the scissors. “Scissors? Wait, you got your hair cut. How did you...?”

“Magic scissors,” Kara said, a touch of pride in her voice. “Courtesy of Wiccan.”

Julian, Cessily and Noriko exchanged dubious looks.

“Magic... scissors,” Karen echoed. “What do they do?”

“Cut hair,” Kara deadpanned. “Anyway, Karen, do you have a minute? I’m helping the Avengers with a couple things, and I only have maybe ten minutes to spare, but I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.”

“You want to have a talk?” Karen asked dubiously. “I was kind of planning to go down and visit Irma. We had plans tonight, and...”

“This is important,” Kara replied. “Can your visit wait?”

Karen thought about that, then nodded. “... Yeah, I guess it can.”

Cessily blinked, then exchanged glances with Noriko. “Right. Guess we’ll see you later, Karen.”

Power Girl led Karen away. Half a minute later, they were in Karen’s room, with the door shut behind them. “OK,” Karen said. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

“Er,” Power Girl began, “It’s kind of about your body.”

“What about my body?” A beat passed, and then Karen realized exactly what Kara was getting at. “... Oh.” Cue the embarrassment.

“I don’t know how much they taught you about...”

Karen blushed so deeply that even her ears seemed to turn red, and tried to cut PG off in mid-sentence. “I took sex-ed, okay?”

“... Kryptonian physiology,” Power Girl went on.

Karen stared. She wanted to say that she really didn’t need the sex-talk. She wanted to say that she wasn’t planning to sleep with any guys anyways. What she actually said was, “Gah...”

Power Girl seemed to grow even more uncomfortable. "This is just as embarrassing for me as it is for you," she said. Karen raised an eyebrow, and Power Girl reconsidered her statement. “... This is almost as embarrassing for me as it is for you.”

Karen thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “I’ll buy that,” she conceded.

“OK,” Power Girl said, “So you know how you get, ah, excited, sometimes?”

“I took sex ed, Kara. I know this stuff. I know all about the human reproductive system.” Karen looked down and grimaced. “Including some things that I’d sleep better at night if I didn’t. I’ve been a teenager before. I know what I have to worry about.”

Power Girl grew irritated. “You’ve been a male teenager. And human teenagers don’t have to worry about accidentally triggering their heat vision if they get aroused!”

Karen stared. “... uh...”

“Just shut up and listen, OK?”

Karen nodded faintly. “Shutting up. Listening.”

The next few minutes were perhaps the most uncomfortable that Karen had ever experienced. The basics were mostly the same, but some things... not things she wanted to think about.

“OK,” Power Girl was saying, “So through some weird fluke of convergent evolution, humans and kryptonians are actually biologically pretty similar. You could technically classify us as mammals. We could technically classify humans as... well, I won’t bore you with the details. Other issues aside, we’re actually equipped to theoretically be able to have sex with humans. But we’re not the same species. We’re not even related. So under ordinary circumstances, you can’t get pregnant unless you do it with a male Kryptonian. That probably won’t be an issue, but sometimes the higher powers get a little frisky with their ‘mystical pregnancy’ nonsense.” Her voice gained an angry edge when she mentioned mystical pregnancies. “If that happens, best way to deal with it is to rewrite history so it never happened.”

Karen stared, eyes wide, utterly horrified by the thought of pregnancy and herself in the same sentence. Then something occurred to her. Something from Power Girl’s past according to DC. Mystical... oh. “... wait, is this about Equinox?”

Power Girl looked confused. “Who?” she asked.

Karen kept right on staring.

“Right,” Power Girl said. “So the next thing you need to remember is, when you’re thinking about getting, um, physical, with a human? Don’t.”

Karen blinked. “Don’t?” she asked.

“At least, not without a room full of lamps that mimic red sunlight. Even then...” PG looked uncomfortable. “Higher molecular density. We’ve got two hundred and twenty seven kilos packed into this frame.” Karen still felt mortified, but she sucked at metric, and it must have showed in her expression, because Power Girl went on, “Five hundred pounds, Karen. You could bruise someone ridiculously easily if you aren’t careful. Or worse.”

Karen had never blushed as badly as she was blushing now, but she had a question. A very pressing question. Because... well, Irma. “Uh, not that I’m going to do anything, or have done anything, or... anything,” she said, trying to get to her point, “But just out of curiousity, what if you’re, uh, on the bottom?”

Power Girl smirked, as if amused by the idea, and Karen stared, wide-eyed. “Seriously,” she said, “Even under the effects of red sunlight, you’ve still got proportionately stronger muscle tissue. Everywhere.”

Karen nearly died of embarrassment. “... Can we have a different conversation now?” she asked.

“You don’t need to be embarrassed of your own body, Karen. There’s nothing shameful about it. I know it’s not going to be easy for you, but... sure. We can have a different conversation now.” A beat passed. “Oh,” Kara said, “Last thing: stay away from diet soda.”

Karen blinked. “Huh?”

“Not kidding,” Kara said. “Our bodies do not react well to the stuff. It isn’t pretty.”

“... Thanks.”

“So listen, I’m going to be working with the Avengers for a while, so I won’t be around as much, but if you need my help for anything, call me, and I’ll come.”

“Thanks. I... it means a lot.”

Kara drew her in and hugged her, then, and it felt strange, but good. Karen smiled, and hugged Karar back. “Thanks,” she whispered. Then, in a normal tone, “You too, though. If you need my help - with anything - I’ll come.”

It wasn’t until a minute after Kara had departed that Karen realized that a brand new government issued ID - a green card - was sitting on her bed. Surname: Zor-L. Given name: Karen. Planet of Birth: Krypton. Species: Kryptonian. A photo of Div... of herself. She wasn’t sure when it had been taken, but what surprised her was the surname. Starr was what she’d been going by. Zor-L? She didn’t know what to make of that, but it warmed her heart all the same. “Thanks, Kara,” she whispered to the empty room.

A minute later, Karen realized that she’d forgotten to ask Kara her opinion of the O*N*E situation, and kicked herself for it.

Down in the lab, things were... worse than Karen had thought. Full containment protocols were in effect. Every entrance was sealed. The interior air supply had been engaged, no longer bringing in air from outside. The reinforced bulkheads had slid down into place. Every sensor in the lab was focused on three blonde teenaged girls still in their pajamas. Celeste was crying, Irma looked thoughtful. Phoebe looked angry.

“Oh, God. Irma, Phoebe, I can feel you again,” Celeste said. “I thought...”

“Shut up, Celeste,” Phoebe snapped. They’d been telepathically cut off from each other for most of the day. In the same room but unable to be the unified consciousness that they were. One of Emma’s precautions. One which Emma had only just withdrawn.

*Phoebe, why are you--* Celeste frowned, and continued aloud, “You’re pulling your mind away? But... Miss Frost stopped blocking us from each other! Phoebe, why?”

“Because I’m tired of your whining,” Phoebe replied. Irma tried not to smirk, but couldn’t quite manage it.

Celeste sniffed, and wiped at her tears, but couldn’t quite stop. And then Irma was withdrawing from the telepathic link as well. “Not you, too, Irma,” Celeste said, sounding completely lost. “Please, don’t leave me alone. We’re the Three-in-One! I’m not even really ME unless we’re Three-in-One.”

“Something’s happening to us, Celeste,” Phoebe said. “And you want us to pretend that everything’s still the same? We were flying, and there was that... voice.”

“She’s right,” Irma said, looking down at the floor. “I don’t know if it’s always been there, or if it’s new, but I can feel it. There’s something in us. Something dark. Something... wrong.”

Phoebe nodded. “And we’re going to find out what.”


Author’s notes:
Well, this turned out to be the hardest chapter I’ve ever written for this story. I had to abandon the idea of this as a part two of the previous chapter. Not because it didn’t continue from where the other one left off, but because they weren’t really about the same things. Mercury Falling may give you a good idea of where it takes place in the X-Men storyline, but that isn't the story of this chapter.
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