FT12, parts 7 to 10
Family Tree 12:
rating: pg, pg 13?
pairings: Xander/Tracie, Lili/Brian (sort of)
Disclaimer: I do not own anyone from the X-Men, movie or comics. I do not own anyone from BtVS. I own Willow's relatives (all but Ira & Sheila) and Zack and Brian Alvarez & his family.
Distribution: if I have given permission for the earlier Family Tree's, sure. Otherwise please ask first.
Willow felt better by the time they'd finished their morning run, and was even smiling as she walked up the porch. Her smile lasted right up to the point where she discovered that someone had thrown the deadbolt lock, shutting them out of the house.
"We got locked out?" Vic's voice had a bit of rumble to it, a sign that he was not amused.
Willow closed her eyes, trying to feel the shape of the lock. "Yeah... the deadbolt... and I think the little knob and chain. But hey, they're metal, maybe I can..." She concentrated, feeling the location of the knob, sliding it along the little track and pushing just a bit to unfasten it, hearing the soft clatter of it's fall, the chain rattling against the door.
Vic's hand rested on her shoulder, and there was a low murmur "good, good... now the other one" in encouragement.
Willow carefully felt for the shape of the deadbolt, trying to twist and push in the right directions for it to open, and for a moment, there was resistance before there was a loud click. The door swung open, and she saw Lili staring at the door from across the room.
"You... but the lock... You did that? Wow..." Amazement colored Lili's words.
Smiling, Willow nodded. "Yeah... I wasn't sure if I could, but it was all metal, and I've been working more for control than big heavy lifting, you know?"
Vic was looking back and forth at the two girls, clearly not having deciphered Lili's words. "She talks like you... no wonder you understood her."
Lili smiled as she tucked a lock of hair back, clipping it firmly with a dark purple star so that the red streak fell down the center. "It seems that everyone had weird dreams last night... Did it skip you two?"
Vic growled and stalked over to the back sitting room, more of a glorified enclosed porch, and sat down, apparently wanting to be alone.
"Umm... should I take it that's a no?" Lili had watched him, looking a bit skittish as he'd growled.
"Both of us had similar bad dreams. Exposure as a mutant followed by persecution and suffering. Repeatedly. It was part of the reason to go out and run." Willow felt an oddly uneasy sensation, as if she needed to sooth and reassure Lili that Vic was safe, that he wouldn't do anything dreadful here.
Lili sighed, hands searching for the other purple clip, which was dangling on the hem of her shirt. "I just wish I knew why everyone was having those dreams."
Willow reached out, plucking the clip from her cousin's shirt. "I have a guess. I think that either you or Chris is an empath, and projected last night, so everyone dreamed about the same thing, the empath's unhappy feelings and worries. I figure one of you, because it wasn't me, and anyone older should have learned a little about keeping their thoughts and feelings to themself, or at the very worst, nobody would be surprised by the collective dreaming thing, if that makes sense."
Lili nodded, taking the clip from Willow's hand. "So... I might be an empath? Wait, we don't know if Chris is a mutant. Or do you think..."
"We know you are. She's your sister, so there's a fairly good chance, although she might not be a mutant. You're both the right age. I'll have to write to cousin Erik and see if he has any ideas for an empath to learn control... he knows a telepath, maybe if he doesn't know he can find out. But that's a different topic. I think we should go drop in on Brian Alvarez tonight, and figure out what he's thinking. I can help you, we'll be just fine to get out of any trouble, and at the very worst, you won't be trying to guess what he's thinking anymore."
Lili sighed. "I'm almost not sure that I want to see him again. Shouldn't there be a way that he could have contacted me, if he really wanted?"
"Probably... but since he hasn't, we go find out why. And if need be, we kick his butt for breaking your heart, and after our chat with Brian, we come back here and have ice cream." Willow tried to keep her voice light, as if she wasn't watching her cousin struggling with heartache.
"I think we'll definitely need that ice cream. With chocolate sauce and sprinkles. Ice cream won't cure a broken heart, but..." Lili's voice trailed away, and her eyes closed, a single tear glittering in her lashes.
Willow grinned, resting an arm on her cousin's shoulder, feeling as if she needed to make sure Lili knew that she wasn't alone. "We can go buy all the ice cream and supplies this afternoon. You have people who care about you. We won't leave you alone and broken-hearted."
It wasn't until later that Willow had a chance to ponder her reactions. She had felt like she HAD to make Lili feel better. It wasn't just her normal desire to help, it was something else, this pull towards someone in pain and misery. The pull had lessened a bit when she'd comforted Lili. It was strange, and it felt a bit... off. She was starting to think that the empath was Lili.
As if a heart-broken teenager that had just been told she was a mutant wasn't bad enough, she could project her nightmares to others and created an emotional urge to make her feel better. Willow just hoped that the urge was the result of subconscious manifestation, rather than a deliberate effort.
Empathy had nothing to do with magnetics, did it? She didn't think there was a connection... so was it a random mutation, or was it coming from somewhere? How many of her relatives would turn out to be mutants?
Willow closed her eyes and tried to think about the plan to talk to Brian Alvarez, figuring that it would be less headache inducing than her questions about mutation patterns, the possible connection between magnetics and empathy, and the eventual mutant count of her relatives.
end part 7.
Everything felt a bit better after breakfast. Granted, Lili was still broken hearted and upset over Brian, but Willow had a plan. They would sneak over to the Alvarez house in the night, the twins, Willow, and Vic because he'd just follow them anyhow. They would find Brian, and ask him a few questions. They would get answers, which might not make anything feel better, but it would solve the questions and uncertainties. Answers, even unhappy ones, were generally better than having only questions.
Chris had come down, her hair raised into wild spikes. She settled into a chair, and looked at Willow, an eyebrow asking why everyone seemed to be in such a mood. But the discussion would have to wait until a bit later, when Willow's aunt wasn't lurking and hovering over.
"I had the most horrible dreams... and I have the feeling that you have an answer, cousin red. Spill." Chris asked as soon as she had the chance.
"I think Lili's an empath. We all had nightmares last night, the same sort of nightmares. That's just not natural. And since we know that she is a mutant..." Willow let her voice trail off.
"So... we all get to know how she feels? Really how she feels? Is that... that's sort of weird. Do all mutants do that? No, we'd have heard on the news..." Chris seemed to be thinking out loud. "You do magnetics. He's big and sort of scary and doesn't get old."
Willow grinned, leaning towards her cousin. "He's not that scary. And there's a lot of variety in mutant abilities. As for the whole 'surprise, you're a mutant' thing, it's sort of scary and sort of neat all at the same time." She paused, looking thoughtful. "As I can say from the lofty position of less than a month knowing that I'm a mutant. It's still sort of neat and sort of scary."
"Willow... what qualifies as scary if he doesn't? And why doesn't he?" Lili looked a bit puzzled, and as if she just might be wondering about her cousin's mental health.
For a moment, Willow just giggled. "Okay, I can see why people would find him scary. But... he isn't trying to hurt me or anyone I'm worried about, he doesn't radiate a feeling of evil nastiness, and he's doing his best to keep me safe. So, I don't find him scary. Scary was the six foot tall evil frog demon thing that wanted to eat me."
The response to that was a resounding 'eeew!'
"So, what's our plan, and will it make Mom ground us for the rest of our lives?" Chris smiled a bit as she sat down, the chair turned backwards so that she could lean her arms across the back of it.
"We go over there while it's dark, and after Aunt Em's asleep. Vic will go with us, so we'll be safe from anything nasty attacking while we're up to this. The, we slip into the house, to Brian's room and find out what in the world he's thinking. Then, we slip back out and figure out what to do next based on what he said. Probably while eating ice cream." Willow smiled just a little bit.
Lili gave a weak smile, as if trying to look calmer and happier than she really was. "Strawberry?"
Chris reached out, her hand touching Lili with a visible blue spark of static. "We can take him if he's difficult."
Rubbing her shoulder, Lili gave a little chuckle. "I'd hope the three of us... three of us plus Vic could take one teenage boy."
"I checked the freezer, there's strawberry and vanilla and butter pecan ice cream. Chocolate syrup in the fridge, and whipped cream. We can have all sorts of decadent ice cream." Willow had a near smile.
Lili smiled, her fingers twisting her hair. "So, not only do we have a plan, we have ice cream. This is looking better."
The day seemed to drag on, myriad boring and trivial details filling the time. The grill-out was good, and there was plentiful food, more than enough meat to make Vic very happy, and enough kosher things that Willow had no problems either. She found herself spending most of the day chatting either with Zack when he wasn't trying to keep Lili distracted, or talking to Grandpa Dane about genetics and inheritance patterns, which he said went all wonky in mutants. He even promised to keep in touch by email, and had a few whispered hints for not killing the computer with her magnetics.
A small eternity later, they were slipping out of the house, the sounds of Grandpa Dane snoring in the lower part of the house, and Aunt Em or maybe Kevin from the top. At least the noise made it a bit less important to move silently. Soon, they were outside with nobody showing signs of waking up.
"We made it! This is... sort of exciting and creepy." Lili's whisper carried easily, making Willow smile.
"You haven't seen creepy until you've been out after dark in Sunnydale. Yeah, San Diego's dark, and the streets have stuff on them, but... no menacing feeling of impending doom, no threatening apocalypse this week, no demons intent on some big ritual sacrifice... This is nice." Willow smiled, stretching as she breathed in deeply of air tainted with nothing more sinister than pollution and smog.
There was a noise behind them, a clattering of broken glass and fragments of metal, and some growling, far deeper than fighting alley cats or dogs. After a few moments, silence fell.
Glancing backwards to see Vic emerging from a side alley, one hand brushing ashes from his chest, Willow sighed. "Although there are apparently some vampires here. I should have brought my stick."
Vic shrugged, his muscles rippling and his mane sliding over him, reminiscent of a lion. "Just minions. Not even particularly bright ones."
There was no further trouble for them as they made their way to the Alvarez house. Pausing to take stock of the situation, they looked at it, a two-story brick building, rising into the air very close to it's neighbors. Two cars were parked in the driveway.
"His room is the top one, on the left." Lili's whisper told Willow the last bit of information she would need.
Now, it was time to act.
end part 8.
It wasn't very hard to get to the little balcony on the second floor, a small upper porch that had a door permitting access to the main house. Of course, it was locked, which only made sense in a populated city environment. But Willow had already discovered that she could unlock doors with her magnetics. This one seemed simple, and in moments, the three girls were inside, Vic remaining on the balcony porch in case of trouble. The stepped into the house, Lili's eyes going teary with memories of happier times.
The door to Brian's room had a simple latch, barely even requiring a thought to open it. Softly, they entered the room, with Chris offering a hushed comment to Willow. "If you decided not to go to college, you could make a killing in burglary."
Brian was in his bed, sprawled mostly under the covers, his dark hair rumpled into strange shapes. One wall had posters of sports cars and jet planes, there was a desk with a lamp, a few model planes, and a picture frame, placed face down. There was a shelf of books, although it was too dark to tell what sort they were beyond paperbacks. Clothing was scattered in and near a laundry basket beside the door.
"He looks so peaceful." There was an odd wistfulness in Lili's voice. "How can he be so peaceful when I'm so miserable?"
Chris frowned, obviously feeling protective of her sister. "I can wake him up. Get a few answers from him then."
She reached out, one hand touching his bare shoulder. There was a faint scent of ozone, almost like when Ororo had called lightning, and a blue white spark jumped from Chris' hand to Brian's shoulder. He jumped, half rolling over, revealing his gray boxer shorts as he looked up with wide eyes.
"At least he doesn't sleep naked. That would have made this even more embarrassing," Willow couldn't help it, she was just so glad that she hadn't broke into the bedroom of a naked guy.
"What... Chris? You're... in my room." He glanced around, seeing Lili and Willow. He moved back in the bed, putting more space between himself and them, pulling the blanket around him. His eyes held fear.
Willow had a bad feeling about the outcome of this as soon as she saw that. Brian was afraid of them. If he was afraid, that couldn't be a good sign for the future of his relationship with Lili. But... why was he afraid? Didn't he realize that Lili was exactly the same as she'd been last month?
Lili looked at him, her eyes full of troubled, conflicting emotions. "Why... you didn't even call or email or anything. I know that you could have at least sent an email if you really wanted..."
"You... it's not the same anymore. I keep wondering what you're hiding, what's not normal about you." Brian's voice was low, a hesitant whisper.
Willow reached out, one hand resting on Lili's shoulder. "He's afraid."
Lili looked at her, tears glistening in her eyes, one hand wiping at her cheek in an effort to remain calm. "But... nobody needs to be afraid of me. I'm just... Lili Stenner. I'm not dangerous, I'm not powerful... There's nothing scary about me."
Brian made a small noise, like a half-swallowed word. "I... I don't hate you. I don't want to be afraid of you, Lili, but... you're not the same. It's not the same. How can I know that you aren't dangerous, that you aren't hiding something terrible?"
Willow heard a small noise from the balcony, like wood splintering just a little. Vic must be listening to this. She was sure that he wouldn't be happy about it, was probably contemplating horrible, painful things to Brian. Softly, low enough that Brian wouldn't hear, but Vic would, she whispered " Now Vic, calm down. He's not worth it... they don't need to see him get mauled."
"But I am the same... And I can't do anything more than any other seventeen year old girl." Lili's voice was sad, almost broken sounding. Maybe she was realizing just how hopeless things were.
"It doesn't feel the same anymore." Brian slipped one hand out from under the blanket, still huddled there, away from them. He didn't quite reach out, but it looked like he wanted to. "I... I don't want to be afraid of you."
"Who are you trying to convince, Brian? Us or yourself?" Chris whispered into the darkness and Lili stood there, tears flowing down her cheeks as her hopes crumbled.
Lili turned away from him, stumbling towards the balcony. "it doesn't matter anymore. If he's wanting us to believe or him to believe... he's still afraid of me."
Slowly, the girls left the room, knowing that things had changed. Knowing that nothing would be the same as it had been last month. They left, nothing to mark that end of Lili's innocent dreams, her hope that things could remain the same.
It was Lili that pulled the door shut tightly, closing that part of her life behind them. On the way out, she looked over, a half smothered whisper emerging. "Strawberry ice cream sounds really good about now."
End part 9.
The trip back to the Stenner house was quiet. Chris didn't know what to say, and Lili was trying not to cry. They could feel Lili's pain and confusion swirling around them, almost thick enough to taste.
"You need to learn to hide that. To not project everything." Vic's low rumble didn't exactly interfere with the quiet, but it did put into words something the others were thinking.
Lili looked at him, tears glistening in her eyes. "How? How can I learn how to do that?"
Willow gave a small smile. "I can ask cousin Erik, although he might just say that I should talk... write to Charles. He's an old sort of friend that Erik has who's a telepath. He should have some ideas for you."
"Sounds... like more of a plan that I have. Are you sure there isn't a way to just get rid of the whole mutant thing?" Lili tried to keep her voice from quavering, even as the tears ran down her cheeks.
Willow shook her head. "Sorry, it's permanent. Facet of genetics, just like having freckles. But it's not that bad, you can sort of get used to it. And on the bright side, your ability won't kill your computer."
"No, I just get to know every time someone lies to me, and to share my nightmares every time I'm having emotional problems. Yay me." Lili sniffled at the end, the emotions to overwhelming for her to fight entirely.
They were quiet over their ice cream, the conversation being little more than a discussion of what toppings were superior, and the long effort that went into convincing Vic to have a banana split. He loved it after they finally talked him into it.
That night, Willow began her letter, which she would send to her cousin. She didn't want to tell him too much about Lili's situation, wanting to respect Lili's right to privacy.
I went to visit Chris and Lili over Labor day weekend, partly because Lili was having a few problems with her boyfriend lately. I thought maybe I could help her cheer up, and at the very least be a good listener, you know? But the problem wasn't something that any degree of listening or talking can fix.
Turns out I have mutants in the family on mom's side too. Lili hadn't even suspected. It's hitting her pretty hard, especially since Brian the turns-out-to-be-not-so-nice broke up with her. Thinks she's all scary now.
Any advice for helping an empath learn some control? She hasn't got any yet, and we all agree that control is good. So, any advice would be good? Or... umm, maybe I should just ask someone else? Anyhow, we're trying to help her calm down - Vic says hi, by the way.
So, I've been fairly busy getting not a lot changed lately. Sunnydale is the same old place, with the same sort of welcoming people. School is going... well, it's going. People aren't teasing me much anymore, they seem to be afraid I'll do something terrible to them or something. They're afraid of me now... and I hate it.
Your cousin Willow Rosenberg
End part 10. End One Family's Bonds.