Bethany’s Awakening, Part 3: Wary Acceptance, Weak Control
Location: Wizard’s Tower, Medical Ward
Timeline: Friday, August 27, 2010/Early Afternoon
Bethany flinched slightly at the release of the manacles. Then as Jon kissed her forehead, her eyes closed and she took in a deep breath, releasing it in a shuddering sigh. The tears didn’t stop immediately and a look of genuine confusion settled on the young woman’s features as she tried to figure out if she was really hearing things correctly, or if her brain was just trying to play tricks on her. Or were they trying to play tricks on her? The wounded brawler eyed the green- and gold-haired girl curiously, dubiously, for a moment, then blinked heavily before looking back up to Jon, eyebrow arched quizzically, her intense green gaze searching his eyes.
“They’re not Nexus? We’re not prisoners? They don’t want to do horrible things to us?” Bethany nearly begged for the answers to a few of the questions that had begun nagging at her mind. They had wanted her alive, and the girl shuddered again as she heard that eerily familiar, icy voice echo in her memory.
“They’re not Nexus, no,” Jon said. “I don’t think they would be so concerned about putting you back together if they were, luv,” he said. “And would I let them do horrible things to you?” he asked her, smoothing back her hair. “Are you okay now?” His thumb wiped away tears from her cheeks.
“I don’t know,” the girl admitted quietly, but didn’t elaborate. After a moment she continued on, that edge of fear still evident in her voice, though she was far more calm than she had been even a short time before. “Eva said they were supposed to take me alive. That they were all expendable, but I wasn’t,” Bethany whispered, and her face began to turn a livid green, starting at the base of her throat and spreading rapidly into her cheeks, though she didn’t seem to notice the sudden change in her skin color. “I think...it was Eva...I thought she was a ghost, but I remember her being there.”
The young woman looked back over to the redhead that had remained so quiet, her eyes squinting as she studied the older woman, then said quietly, yet rather confidently, “You were there. Right before I passed out. Was the woman in white armor real?”
“Eva?” Jon asked, looking between Bethany and the others. He didn’t know much about what had happened, having been unconscious through the whole thing. He only knew Nexus had shown up to claim Bethany.
Cam stepped forward and nodded. "Yes, she was real. She is a mutant and Nexus agent. We've faced off before, but she's never tried to take over my mind. She got more than she bargained for, and though she managed to get me shot, she didn't get her prize."
Abby tapped the screen on the wall behind Bethany's head to check her vitals then looked down. "Nexus is our enemy. We would die before we would let them take you. That's why we brought you here, to keep you safe, at least until you're healed. After that it's up to you."
Bethany seemed thoughtful for a few moments, then said softly, “Then I guess I owe you all thanks for saving my life, saving me from Nexus. So, thank you. I’m sorry that Eva shot you.” Her words were tinged with guilt over the fact that someone had gotten hurt trying to get her out of the mess that she had gotten herself into. She hadn’t wanted Jon to get hurt, and she sure hadn’t wanted some stranger to get hurt over her either.
There was another pause as she glanced to Jon, a haunted look in her eyes as she explained, “There was a woman there with Nexus. Her name is Eva Gideon. I haven’t seen her since I was eight years old. I was the only girl that was ever trained out there, you know that. Eva used to help mama...” Bethany said sadly, new tears flowing as she squeezed her eyes shut, her voice wavering at the mention of her dead mother.
“Eva used to help patch me up. She was one of us, one of the ones that changed. They said she was Nephilim, like me, said she bewitched some of the boys. They beat her so badly I thought she was dead. Her mama killed herself because of it. She loved Eva so much. Now she’s different. Scary. I don’t want to be like her, Jon. I don’t want to be a monster.” By the time she finished, Bethany’s voice was just barely above a whisper, her skin beginning to shift from the sickly green color that it had taken on to a garish turquoise blue that even ran up into the roots of her thick, pale hair.
“You’re not a monster, luv,” Jon told her. “You just focus on getting better.” He looked her over. “And getting this color shifting under control.”
At first, the girl nodded her head, giving Jon a tired but genuine smile, then once again her brow furrowed in confusion. Bethany took a couple of seconds then asked curiously, “Color shifting?” It took her another moment to make a mental connection and glance down at hands that were the color of the blanket laying over her, and her eyes went wide again. She looked to the red headed woman, then to the young nurse with gold and green hair, trying desperately to hold on to that focus that Jon kept talking about, which was at least a small testament to the girl’s resilience, and asked, “What? Why am I green? Okay, I thought the weirdness was over. What’s happening to me?”
Jon shrugged. He knew little about mutants beyond what the telly said. This certainly didn’t seem...dangerous, though, not what he’d been told Nexus had been established to combat. “I’m afraid I can’t help much with that, luv,” he admitted to Bethany, but held her hand reassuringly. “At least the color isn’t horrid on you, luv,” he tried to tease her.
“Green isn’t a horrid color for a lizard, or a snake, or even a cactus,” Bethany responded, her eyes still as wide as saucers as she glanced back to Jon. She was squeezing his hand with about as much strength as she had at that moment and as they watched, she began to go pale again, her voice shaky as she continued, “I’m not a lizard, Jon. I shouldn’t be green!”
“No, definitely not a lizard,” Jon smiled, keeping his voice calm and even. “Maybe it’s not...lizard green. Maybe it’s…” He searched for a comparison. “Orion slave girl green?”
Wide, worried eyes blinked a bit owlishly at the man that she so adored, her brow furrowing slowly in thought and no small amount of confusion. Strangely, the odd statement from Jon seemed to shut Bethany’s panic down and she tilted her head slightly as she eyed him, then said seriously, “I have no idea what you mean by that...”
Abby couldn't help but let out a small laugh. "Ignore him, he's being a boy. I want you to think about how you breathe, in 1, 2, 3, out, 1, 2, 3, slow and even. Just like your breath can be focused and deliberate, your powers can too. I want you to close your eyes, breathe, and find an empty place in your mind, somewhere that has no other function, no purpose, just...white noise."
The battered brawler looked back over to Abby, a worried look still etched into her young features. Jon had managed to teach her how to center herself for the most part, but she’d never really achieved anything resembling true quiet when doing so; her mind was never quiet, always moved, schemed, studied. Bethany looked away, staring at her oddly colored hands, then swallowed thickly and admitted quietly, sadly, the sharp edge of guilt to her tone, “The only time there’s white noise in my head is when I... um... fight. That’s normally not very pleasant. For anyone.”
Jon relaxed subtly as Aquata spoke. He gave Bethany’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze, staying near but quiet, knowing there really wasn’t anything he could do to help Bethany. He didn’t like feeling helpless, though.
Abby smiled, "You remind me of a lot of the others around here." She made a not very subtle gesture, using one hand to hide the other that was pointing deliberately at the headmistress. "Let's try this another way. I know you trust Jon, so I want him to help." She undid the restraints on Bethany's wrists and then switched off all the noisy monitors so the room was in a soft hush. She moved with calm, deliberate motions that telegraphed her every action to the trained fighter. She wasn't trying to hide anything and kept herself well within human speeds. "Let Jon cover your eyes with his hand, then place your hand on your chest, high up, so your finger touches the carotid artery like this." She showed on her own body with her own hand. As she spread her fingers a thin webbing could be seen low between each finger, nothing that would get in the way of her work but enough to be seen. "I want you to feel your heartbeat against your fingers, and the warmth of his hands on your eyes." Again her voice took on a subtle harmonic, vibrating on three different levels as she spoke. "I don't want you to focus on nothing. I want you to think of your cave, the sandstone walls, the slightly metallic smell when you're near the water, the crystals that glitter in the walls. I want you to imagine you are there, that this bed is just a bedroll on the floor of your cave. It's nighttime and the wind hushes softly in time with your breath, bringing you the sounds of bugs and other night creatures. Nothing too close, nothing to worry about, just you and the desert. Jon's on watch at the door so no one will get in. Breathe in and out, slow and even, just like you are trying to fall asleep. Your breathing slows, your heartbeat is just a soft thump... thump... thump... nothing too fast, nothing to fear."
After glancing at the redhead with a small, amused smile, the young woman rubbed at her wrists as she listened to Abby talk. While the restraints were soft, she had apparently done quite a bit of thrashing and the skin under her weirdly colored hands felt chafed. The girl watched intently as she was given instructions, though once in a while she would blink rapidly, as if trying to get something out of her eyes.
The thought of her cave made Bethany’s lip quiver slightly. That cave was her sanctuary, her escape, the one place that she had ever felt safe in the world. So much so that it had been difficult to share that secret, even with the one man that she trusted more than anyone. Iris had been the only other being that had seen it as far as she knew, and her presence there had even shocked the green-eyed girl, so the idea of strangers traipsing through it worked at her already frayed nerves. Looking up to Jon she asked quietly, nervously, rhetorically, “They’ve been to my cave?”
But the fighter in her pressed on and she took a deep breath, then nodded. She closed her eyes and tried to relax, but gasped, and they shot open again, staring across the room as though she was trying to avoid looking at anyone, muttering quietly, “That’s disturbing...” though didn’t explain what she meant. The weariness showed on the girl’s face as she closed her eyes again and as Jon’s hand settled over them she gasped and winced, involuntarily reaching for the place that Abby had demonstrated. There were plenty of parts of Jon’s body that Bethany had secretly admired when he wasn’t looking, but seeing the bones of his hand through her eyelids was a bit much.
“This is turning out to be a little harder than I thought it would be,” Bethany said with a sigh, but she forced herself to settle in and not fidget too much. Envisioning her cave wasn’t exactly a major chore on its own. It was her refuge after all, and she’d done it thousands of times, but with everything else going on, it was challenging. Still, after some struggle, the battered brawler’s breathing managed to settle into a steady, even rhythm and she even giggled self consciously as she realized that she was perilously close to dozing off again, whispering, “I’m gonna fall asleep...”
NPC Xander Carlisle