SERIES DISCLAIMER: from here on in, this series will be dealing with child abuse and other nasty rotten stuff. (C'mon. If you've been reading, you must know it was going to happen sooner or later!) If you don't want to read about that, stop now.

Gen: BA3: Childhood Secrets Have No Importance


Tue, 18 Jan 2000


She scrubbed her fingers through short, blond hair and padded softly into the kitchen. There was a man there, sitting quietly and reading. Like all other men, he was large and bulky and just waiting to strike.

Her blue eyes shifted quickly, noting all the exits in the room before she started forward. Her movements were precise and careful, never bigger than they needed to be or more obvious then they had to be. She reached the refrigerator and opened it, watching the man the entire time. At the sound of the appliance opening he turned to look at her, and smiled. Her heartrate sped up and she grabbed at a carrot, the first thing she saw that was edible. He said something, but she didn't pay attention to what it was as she closed the door and hurried for the opening into the other room. Dangerous. Men were very, very dangerous. Even the men she knew were dangerous. Pistol was mean. There were no two ways about it. Oh, she understood why he was mean, and Enchantment knew that if she simply did exactly as he said then he was never mean to her, but the fact remained that he could, and would, kill people.

Vault was dangerous, too. Enchantment had seen him be completely brutal to people, without ever showing remorse. But she liked Vault a little bit, because he was always very careful with her.

Trace was . . . well, he was strange, Enchantment supposed. He was more like a girl, really. He hurt people, though, and he was a man, so Enchantment stayed away from him under principle. Azul wasn't a man, yet, but someday he would probably be mean, too. All men were.

Enchantment stopped her fast walk through the hall when she reached the family room. There was a television here.

Slowly, checking all the corners to be sure that there were no men lurking, Enchantment entered the room and sat before the strange black box. It was like a window, Enchantment often thought. A window to what happened outside. She leaned forward and touched a button, and the black screen made a popping noise and slowly came to life.

There were women on the screen. Women were interesting. They weren't as bad as men, but they weren't always nice, either. Constance, for example. Constance didn't like Pistol, and used to say that someday she would lead them and keep them safe. And Lynx liked Pistol, but said that Constance was a bitch.

Enchantment liked Lynx, even though she was mean sometimes. Lynx was nice to Enchantment. Lynx was strong and brave and kept Enchantment safe. Even when Pistol and Trace and Vault weren't around to help, Lynx made sure that nothing horrible happened to Chant.

Like the time the guard had tried to starve her into doing what he wanted. Enchantment had eaten Lynx's food until the guard gave up. And Lynx always made sure that the two girls got to stay in the same home. Enchantment didn't know how Lynx did it, but she did.

Yes, Lynx was definitely Enchantment's friend.

Enchantment gazed up at the television avidly, watching as it told her what things were like outside this new compound they had to stay in.

This compound was much better then the last one. So far she hadn't been hurt, and they were allowed to wander around and go outside, even. Azul said that they never had to do anything they didn't want to, but he had been told that by a man so Enchantment wasn't sure it was true.

"Here!" Azul said, panting, as he and Lynx ran in through the sliding glass door. "Eat this!"

Lynx took the odd looking object Azul handed to her and tasted it, then shook her head. "It's not edible." "Chant," Azul called, running toward her, "what's this?" Enchantment looked away from the television long enough to peer at what the boy held. "A remote," she said quietly. "It makes the channels on the television change."

"Oh, thanks," Azul said, and ran outside. "Lynx!" Enchantment heard him call. "I dare you to eat grass!"

"I already did that," Lynx called back. "You dared to me to day before yesterday, remember? It was good!"

Enchantment looked back up at the television, riveted. She remained still, watching, until the door opened behind her and footsteps came into the room.

Enchantment's back stiffened and she breathed as quietly as she could, hoping the man wouldn't notice her.

He did, and he sat down. Enchantment didn't look at him, desiring with all her heart that he would go away. She could see black and white out of the corner of her eye, and smell smoke.

"What are you watchin'?" he asked, a funny twist to his tone that changed his words and made all his H's disappear.

Enchantment tried to respond, she truly did, but she couldn't seem to make any noise come out of her tightened throat. The thought that he might hit her if she didn't respond entered her mind, making her even more afraid. Her face went pale, and she licked her lips. "Nothing," she finally managed to whisper.

The man didn't reply verbally, and Enchantment didn't look to see if he made any motion with his head. Enchantment's heart thudded painfully hard in her chest, sweat beading her forehead. Finally, the man got up and shuffled out of the room. Enchantment licked her lips again, breathing deeply and trying to still her heart.

"Hey, kids!" a voice called from the hallway. "Dom and Cable are leaving! Come say goodbye!"

Enchantment turned and looked at the door, wondering if she really had to or not. She decided that, to be on the safe side, she would. Enchantment stood slowly, stalling the event as long as she could. When she reached the hall she padded softly down, stopping near the stair case and peering out.

Pistol and Trace were there, standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Vault stood on the stairs, running his fingers through his half head of straight black hair. Constance stood in the doorway to the room across from the kitchen, a man and Kitty beside her. Enchantment shrunk back against the wall as far as she could as two people, Amanda and a man, came walking down the hallway in her direction. Azul and Lynx ran past both of the adults, twisting around to keep from hitting the pair. Azul teleported just as it looked like he was going to run, full tilt, into Amanda. His teleport opened up on the other side of them, and he kept running without ever missing a stride.

Lynx skidded to a halt near Enchantment, smiling and standing with the other girl.

"I have a present for you!" Azul declared, stopping in front of Domino.

"Thank you," Domino said, smiling as she took a handful of grass from Azul. She shot a puzzled look at Kitty over Azul's head, but Kitty was smothering a laugh and didn't seem to know why he was giving Domino grass.

"There's a red and black bug-thing on that blade," Azul explained solemnly.

"Oh," Domino said, peering into the handful of green. She blinked and pulled away when a ladybug flew out, zipping past the man and Domino and out the front door.

"It got away," Azul said, disappointment in every line of his body. "It's probably going home to its family," Kitty said, laying a hand on the child's shoulder. Azul smiled, happy at that thought, and backed away from Domino and the silver haired man.

"Have a good trip, you two," Amanda said, smiling. "And fly carefully."

The large man with the star on his eye chuckled and waved as he headed out the door, Domino following. One by one the people filed out after the pair, still talking and wishing good-byes.

Enchantment remained inside, away from the men. Lynx leaned over and whispered loudly that she'd be back in a minute with something *cool,* then she ran out the door to say goodbye to Domino and the man.

Lynx reappeared a moment later, true to her word, and smiled at Enchantment. "You wanna see what I found? It's *so cool.*" Enchantment nodded, her eyes watching the doorway for any men that might return suddenly.

"Come on," Lynx said, starting down the hall and out the back door.

Enchantment followed silently as they walked through the field the horses were in and then out the other side, across a small stream and up a bank.

"This way," Lynx said, grabbing Enchantment's arm and tugging, pulling her up into a giant of a tree. They climbed quickly, Enchantment struggling to keep up with her rapidly ascending friend. Finally, they reached a branch that Lynx deemed high enough, and she shimmied out along the wood until she reached a gathering of leaves. "It's called a 'nest,'" Lynx shouted, picking it up to show Enchantment. "Birds live in it."

Enchantment nodded, clinging to the tree as tightly as she could. Lynx put the nest back, then gripped the branch and swung downward, dropping away and landing gently on the ground. Enchantment's eyes widened as she suddenly realized how far down the ground *was.* Her heart leapt to her throat, her knuckles turning white as she suddenly felt like she was swaying and about to fall.

Lynx turned and looked up at where her friend still sat. "You coming down?"

Enchantment tried to speak, but found that her voice had been stolen away. She shook her head with several jerky motions.

"You okay?"

Enchantment shook her head again.

"Come down!"

Another shake, one that felt as thought it would knock her from the tree.

"I'm gonna go get help," Lynx said finally. Enchantment nodded and closed her eyes, hoping to block out the terrifying sight of the ground so far below. Instead she felt as though she were suddenly falling, and she opened her eyes quickly.

It seemed like an eternity before Lynx returned. There was someone following her, but quietly.

"She's stuck up here," Lynx was saying as they came to where the tree was. "I forgot she's afraid of heights. I mean, there weren't very many high places back at Black Air. . . ." Lynx trailed off, sighed.

There was a *man* below. Enchantment's breath caught in her throat. She was trapped. She couldn't get down and there was that man, and everyone knew men only hurt people. And *that* man was one of the biggest. He had muscles all over and he moved like Pistol, quiet and sure and very, very deadly.

"I'm gonna come up there and get you, darlin'," he said with a rough voice. Enchantment tried to tell him not to, but she couldn't seem to speak. "Don't worry. Everything's gonna be fine," the man said, reaching up to grab at a branch.

Enchantment watched with growing panic as the man came up to get her. Almost, she gathered the courage to climb up farther, away from the man, but then she looked back down again at the ground and lost her precarious balance.

The man's eyes narrowed when she swayed, and Enchantment clutched tighter to the tree. She didn't want to make him angry. She didn't want him to come up at all. Her breath was coming in short gasps, barely clearing her lips before leaving her body again.

"It's all right, darlin'," that voice came again, that *man's* voice. And it was close, so close he had to be right beneath her. Enchantment's nails dug into the bark of the tree, her foot slipped and she almost fell, but caught herself in time.

Then there was a *hand* on her *leg* and it was a large hand, and that man's voice was *right there.*

"It's okay. I've got you."

Enchantment sucked in a breath, her first real breath since she'd realized how high she was, and screamed.

The man below her removed his hand instantly, snapping something beneath his breath.

Enchantment stopped screaming, her breath once again coming in short rasps. She started to cry, and pulled herself into a ball as small as she could.

Beneath her the man was talking again, softly and calmly, but fear coursed through Enchantment's veins, making her heart pound furiously. She didn't want to hear what he was saying, and instead focused on her blood in her body racing past her ears. A hand reached up past her, grabbing the branch near her head and pulling the man's body up. Enchantment looked over with wild eyes, then struck out as hard as she could with her foot, crushing his knuckles. The man grunted as his hand released the branch, letting his body fall several feet before catching again. "Go away," Enchantment finally managed to sob as terror choked her.

The man went farther away, where her feet couldn't reach, and lurched up the tree through the branches until he was at her level. "Darlin', listen to me," he said softly, trying to catch her eyes.

Enchantment looked away and clung to the tree, her breathing coming faster.

"Can you get down yourself?" the man asked quietly.

Enchantment sobbed and shook her head. "Please leave me alone," she cried, knowing that this man could help her get down, but sure that he would hurt her then because she had kicked him and done something so stupid as get herself caught in a tree so that he had to stop what he was doing to get her. "Enchantment, listen to me, all right?"

She nodded through tears.

"I want to help you. I don't want you to be frightened or hurt. But I can't help you unless you let me."

Enchantment felt fear rip through her and shook her head violently.

"I won't hurt you," the man said. Enchantment shuddered, almost knocking herself off the branch, and looked up at the man. Men were horrible creatures who lied and did mean things to get their way, and she didn't believe that he wouldn't hurt her. "No," she sobbed loudly.

"If I wanted to hurt you I would have gotten up there and grabbed you," the man reasoned.

Enchantment kept crying, shaking her head. "Stay away, *please.*"

The man nodded silently and settled back in the tree, making himself more comfortable. "I'll stay here until you get down safely."

Enchantment shook her head, but the man wasn't looking at her.

The man neither spoke nor moved for a long time. Enchantment stopped crying, though terror still gripped her body. Lynx shouted at her to let the man help, but Enchantment would only shake her head. Finally, Lynx went inside.

Enchantment shivered as the sun started to set, the wind picking up and blowing coldly through the leaves of the tree. Enchantment looked down again, and shuddered. She gripped the branches tighter and tried to pretend she was only a few feet off the ground, but it didn't work.

"Can I help you?" the man asked softly.

Enchantment almost started crying again. She didn't want the man to help her, because then he might want her to do something for him, and no matter what it was it was never nice. "No," she stuttered, starting to shiver.

"All right," the man said quietly, though he was watching her intently. If he had been a woman, Enchantment would have thought he was worried. A few more moments passed before Enchantment felt the shifting of the branches, and she looked up in terror. The man was coming *closer.* Her face went pale and her breath hitched in her chest, and he stopped. With an irritated look that was quickly smothered, he took off his jacket and broke off a branch. Enchantment tensed, expecting him to hit her with the stick. Instead he wrapped his jacket around the end of it, then, bracing himself, inched it toward her.

Enchantment shivered, but didn't take the jacket. It wasn't until the wind sliced by again that she finally reached out carefully, afraid that at any moment the man would lurch at her, or she would fall from the tree. At last she had the heavy leather jacket in her hands. It was still warm from the man's heat, and she tucked it near her body. With careful, jerky movements she finally managed to get it on, then sat in the tree and clung to the branches.

More time passed, and Enchantment was still shivering with cold.

"Will you let me help you get down?" the man asked again, softly.

Enchantment started crying, but nodded, knowing she had no choice.

The man climbed carefully across the branches, not shaking any of the ones she was perched on. His big arm came around her waist, scooting her closer until her back was tucked firmly against his side.

Enchantment shuddered and almost threw up, her entire body tensing. The man swung downward with one arm, the other holding her in place, then down again. Enchantment's face was white, her breathing ragged as the man murmured quietly into her ear, trying to get her to calm down.

Enchantment made a tiny noise as the man's feet finally touched the ground. His other arm came around and wrapped around her body, turning her until she faced him. "It's okay," she heard him say. Enchantment started crying harder, afraid that now he would hurt her for being bad, afraid that he would hurt her for kicking him, afraid that he would be angry and simply afraid in general.

"It's all right," the man whispered, his hand running up and down her back while he held her against his chest.

"I'm sorry," Enchantment sobbed, hoping it wasn't too late to appease this giant man. "I was so stupid and I won't do that again, I swear, I'm sorry," she said quickly, letting the words spill out so that he would hear them before he got angry. She felt his body tense beneath hers, and started crying harder. "I'm so sorry I won't ever kick you again, I'm just stupid and dumb and I didn't think because I don't ever think, I know and--"

The man pulled away from her as much as he could, taking her chin in his free hand and tilting her face up. "Hey. Listen. You're not stupid," he said sharply, cutting through her words.

Enchantment kept crying, knowing that now, whatever she'd done, she'd done it wrong and he was angry.

"You just got scared," the man continued, softer now. "That's nothing to be ashamed of. You're not stupid and you're not dumb, and anyone who says you are will have to answer to me."

Enchantment stopped talking, though tears were still spilling down her face. Her world had just been twisted again, and she didn't know what do to. "I'm sorry," she whispered, her mind racing. If he didn't want her to be stupid, then how did she make him not mad? "I don't have anything to give you, please don't--" The man cut her off again, and if he had been a woman Enchantment would have thought he looked pained. "You don't have to give me anything."

Fear cut through her body again, and Enchantment tensed. "Don't hurt me," she whispered pleadingly. "Please?"

"I'm not going to hurt you," the man said, pulling her head close and tucking it into his shoulder. "I'm not going to let anyone hurt you."

Enchantment's throat closed on fear. There simply wasn't anything he could do to her that wouldn't hurt her. She started crying again, her every muscle tightening until she felt as though she were going to throw up.

The man didn't say anything. He wrapped his big arms around her and rocked his body slightly, holding her close. "You don't have to do anything for me, and I won't do anything to you," the man said quietly. "You're not stupid. You were frightened. I just wanted to make sure you weren't frightened anymore. I didn't want you to be hurt in that tree. I'm glad you're safe."

Enchantment kept crying, confusion roiling through her mind. The man started walking, carrying her back toward the house. Enchantment buried her fingers in his shirt and sniffed on his shoulder, but eventually she no longer felt like she had to cry. Her stomach was still in knots, and she didn't believe the man, but he really wasn't hurting her. Her breath was coming in short gasps as they entered the house and headed up the stairs, up to her bedroom. Enchantment tensed again as he laid her down on her bed, pulling the covers down and then tucking them up to her chin. The man watched her until Enchantment turned her fear filled eyes up to him.

"Do you want me to tell anyone to come here? Lynx, or Vault?"

Enchantment shook her head, trying to keep her lower lip from quivering.

"Okay. I'm going to go downstairs. Do you want me to stay with you for a little bit?"

Enchantment shook her head quickly.

"All right. Come downstairs whenever you feel like it, or I'll have someone bring you some food later. Sound okay?"

Enchantment nodded, and the man stood up and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. Enchantment took a deep breath, listening intently to see if he came back. There was no sound from the other side of the door, though. Quietly, her mind still reeling from the events of that afternoon, she pulled the man's jacket tighter around her skinny body and ducked her head under the blankets.

"Is Enchantment all right?" Kurt asked as Logan walked into the room. "Lynx said that you and she were talking all afternoon, but then you carried her in. . . ."

Logan looked up at Kurt, his face hard. "She got caught in a tree."

"Ah. I'm sorry. I would have come to help, if I had known," Kurt said, letting the sentence trail as it was obvious he didn't have Logan's attention. "Logan? *Mein freund?*"

Logan shook his head and looked up, appearing as though he were contemplating something. "She thought . . ." he stopped talking, shaking his head. He turned to the cupboard and got out a water glass, going to the sink.

"She thought what?" Kurt prompted.

When Logan looked back up he had an almost tortured expression on his face. "She was terrified of what I was going to do to her." Logan slapped hard at the faucet, shutting it off violently. His next words were snapped, harsh, and not really meant for Kurt's ears. "God damn *fucking* bastards."

Kurt jumped as the water glass Logan held shattered, falling to the floor in little pieces.

Logan swore and looked down at his hand, watching as it healed.

"I'll clean this up," Kurt said softly, pushing gently at his friend's shoulder. "You go work off some anger. Or talk to the girl. Whichever you think will help more."

Logan hesitated, then nodded. "Thanks, Elf."

Kurt smiled slightly and watched Logan leave the room. Then he sighed, hurting for everyone, and turned to cleaning up the glass.

Note: I have pictures of the three clones (just sketches of their faces) so if anyone wants to look, just write to me and I'll send them. :)