2011-08-20: The Nightmare Ends


Rashmi_icon.jpg Tabitha_icon.jpg

Summary: Tabitha wakes up, free of Mindbender's influence, and Rashmi is there for her.

Date: August 20, 2011

Log Title: The Nightmare Ends

Rating: PG

Barnes Academy - Medical Center

//The name medical 'office' rather undersells what his, in essence, a state of the art, high-tech and extremely well stocked medical bay and treatment center. There are always orderies and nurses in attendance to handle minor injuries and a doctor is always on call for more serious problems. In addition to a locked medicine storage facility, there are modules for isolating patients, a (hopefully never used) cryogenic storage and stasis module for preserving life (or bodies) when the local team can't stabilize a patient and a pair of ten bed infirmary modules attached to the main area. Each bed and exam table is equipped with the latest Stark-tech diagnostics gear. //

All is quiet in the medical bay. Aside from a doctor in an adjoining office who is busy writing a report, there is very little going on; only one bed is occupied. Tabitha lies on her back, having been arranged that way by the nurses a couple of hours earlier, complete with restraints on her arms and legs. Previously she'd been on her belly. The information on the chart at the foot of her bed is succinct; severe damage to her back had removed most of the dermal layer and inflicted severe damage on musculature and spinal column, leaving the latter exposed. Apparent healing factor activation upon loss of consciousness. While power inhibitors might normally be used in such a case, they would have blocked her healing factor as well; the notes on the chart finish with a warning, that her mental state upon awakening cannot be predicted, and she may still be dangerous.
Tabitha moans softly; she stirs, but her eyes remain closed for the moment, as she mumbles something incoherent.

Rashmi has been sitting by Tabitha's bedside since she'd heard the girl had returned. Book in her lap, an empty cup of tea on the small table by the bed, the redhead has slipped into the vigil that her time at Xavier's made almost a habitual thing; when her friends were hurt, she would see to it that there was a friendly face to wake up to. The restraints, given a jaundiced eye, but considering the amount of devastation Tabitha had caused while under Mindbender's control, grudgingly accepted. As soon as Tabitha starts to stir, she sets her book aside, picking up a water glass and dropping a straw in. "Hey," she says gently. "You're awake… how're you feeling…?"

To begin with, there is no answer. Tabitha lays there, going through the process of coming out of a coma. Her eyes move beneath the eyelids, and then slowly flutter open. She stares upwards at the ceiling, and coughs softly. She lifts a hand to try to brush her hair out of her face; she gets only part way before the chain reaches full extension. The rat girl sucks in her breath, leading up to a panic; she flails her arms and legs, snapping the chains taught and actually making the bed wobble. Fortunately, it doesn't last overly long; she drops her arms back at her sides, and pants softly.
"…Rashmi?" she whispers at last, finally focusing her eyes on the Indian girl. "I…" She pauses, coughing raggedly after over twenty-four hours with nothing to drink. "Do you… know… who I am?"

"I should be asking *you* that," Rashmi says with a soft whisper, leaning forward once the girl's struggled have abated and holding the straw to Tabitha's mouth to sip from. "You thought I was a monster or something, the last time I saw you… I've been worrying pretty much nonstop ever since."

The doctor emerges from the office, and his labcoat flutters in his wake as he crossesthe floor in swift strides. He doesn't say anything at first; he merely examines the bio-readouts above Tabitha's bed. "What? But… in this reality that's not supposed to have happened." Tabitha's eyebrows crease. She puts her lips around hte straw, and doesn't remove them until she's drained the entire glass. "Thanks. I… but, Cheryl said we would be sent to an alternate reality… where Marvin never tried to subjugate the world." She pauses, and tries to sit up. "Shit! He isn't here is he?"
The doctor rests a hand on the rat girl's forehead, gently pushing her back down. "Just relax, young lady." His voice is gentle, as are his motions as he pulls back one of her eyelids and shines a light in her eye.

Rashmi shakes her head, closing her eyes for a moment and letting out a soft sigh. "Tabitha… You were under control. There were these supervillains, Mindbender and Upgrade… they… well… made you think you were somewhere else, in another world… but really, you weren't. And Upgrade, she boosted your powers something crazy, I guess… You'd copy a whole bunch of people and use them all together. It was… pretty scary, hearing about it."

The Doctor continues his tests; the usual stuff, to make sure that there hasn't been any brain damage. "Clean bill of health," he pronounces. "That's quite the talent you have, Miss Jones." He scrawls some notes on teh chart, and leaves it in the pouch at the front of the bed, before wandering off again.
Tabitha pays little attention to the man; she just gazes up at Rashmi. Her ears lay flat against her head as she adopts a stricken expression. "But I… I thought I was fighting a supervillain," she whispers. "I thought… Timeslip told me I had to save the world. And Shane… and…" She swallows noisily. "You mean it… it was all a lie?"

Rashmi leans over, taking hold of Tabitha's fingers. "Timeslip was real…. sort of. Shane too, they're students at Xavier's. Timeslip… Heather… they were her parents. That was the world she'd lived in for most of her childhood, Tabitha… I'm sorry. But it *was* a lie, one Mindbender made for you so you'd do what he wanted. Same with the others."

Tabitha stares up, unblinking at Rashmi's eyes, listening to the explaination. When the other girl falls silent, she just stares; she stares, while her eyes fill with water, and the tears overflow to stream down her cheeks. "But it can't be!" she protests. "It… it can't be! It has to have been real. I fought them! Tony Stark was there, and he was giving me missions to do because he was hurt and couldn't do it himself, and… and everyone was turned into zombies, and… and I blew things up! I I fought and hurt people— bad people, and I tried to wreck their machines so they couldn't take over the world and I… I…" She pauses, and clenches her eyes shut. "…Did I kill anyone?" she whispers.

"I don't know," Rashmi whispers, her eyes tearing up as well. "But I know that you won't be blamed for it… not legally. You had no idea what you were doing, Tabitha, you *can't* be held accountable. I *promise* you that, and you *need* to understand and believe it. *THey're* the monsters here, not you. Not you."

"But I still did those things," she whispers. "I copied people's powers. I drove a fuel tanker through the gates to… to some place, I don't know where, and blew it up. I stole a police car and fired a G36 at people on Brooklyn Bridge. I loaded a Camaro up with propane tanks, drove it into a building, and set it off. I set Hell's Kitchen on fire." She weeps openly, till keeping her eyes clenched shut. "Why me?" she asks. "Why would they do this to me?"

"Because they wanted to use you," Rashmi says softly, looking over her shoulder at the doctor. "Sir… Can we get these restraints off, please? It's probably not helping anything at all, right now."

The doctor looks over, and nods his ascent. "She seems stable enough. The key is in a pouch on the back of the chart."
Tabitha finally opens her eyes, and tilts her head to try to look down at herself, to no particular success. "Rashmi?" she murmurs. "What do I look like, right now?"

Rashmi is silent, as she fetches the key, undoing the restraints with careful, gentle motions. "…..Tabitha, I… you look like I've always known you to." There's an inexpressible sadness in her eyes, as she says those words, an unspoken but heartfelt 'I'm sorry' beneath her words.

Tabitha waits while the restraints are taken off. She lies there for a long moment, before raising her hands, and gently touching her face, affirming what Rashmi has said. "I…" She sighs softly, and closes her eyes. "It's okay," she murmurs. "I think that was part of why I never questioned anything. They made me think I was back to the way I was before… this. And I really wanted to believe it… so I believed everything else, too." She props herself up with her arms, and sits up on the edge of the bed. "That night, when it first started. In the park. That was you, wasn't it?" She looks up, biting her bottom lip. "I tried to hurt you, didn't I? I'm… I'm sorry, Rashmi. I didn't mean to hurt you. Ever."

Rashmi shakes her head, getting up to wrap her arms around Tabitha's shoulders, hugging tightly. "I never blamed you. Ever. It's not the first time I've seen this kind of thing happen, y'know… A couple of times, it was other really good friends I had to watch do things they'd *never* want to do. So… stop, okay? You don't *need* me to forgive you… What you *do* need is to forgive yourself."

Tabitha wraps her arms around Rashmi in turn. She squeezes tight, and nods her head. "Okay," she replies. "Okay, I…" She relaxes her arms, and manages a thin smile. "Well… it's over, at least. It's over. And I can go back home, and have my first bath in three months, and check facebook, watch a movie that any sensible parent wouldn't approve of, and… and just… just relax, for a few hours. Right?"

"Right," Rashmi answers, nodding with a gentle smile. "For a couple hours, anyway… Then you get to suffer the worst part of being in a SHIELD school… The after-action debriefing. It's going to be rough, Tabitha… you're going to need to remember and tell them everything that's happened to you for the last three months. But I *promise* you that you won't be punished for it. That much, I *know* for certain."

Tabitha nods slowly. "I thought that might happen," she mumbles. "I'm not looking forward to that. I suppose I'd better cry in the bath so that I won't while they're grilling me." She swings her legs out, and slips her bare feet down to the floor, straightening her hospital-issue nightgown as she stands. "How do you know I won't be punished? Did they tell you?" Her brow knits. "Or do you just… know?" Her tone doesn't suggest any lack of belief; merely curiosity.

"Because I know the *legal* side of it," Rashmi says with a chuckle. "Like I said; you were under the control of a pretty big-time telepath, Tabitha… there's no *way* you can be held accountable for your actions when you didn't even know what you were doing. Trust me… I've seen Ms. Walters build cases on that sort of thing often enough to be pretty confident on it."

Tabitha nods slowly. "OKay," she murmurs. "Thank you. I…" She attempts to thrust her hands in her pockets, just to realize there aren't any. "I won't get expelled, will I?" Her brows knit, and she looks up. "Oh… Shit! I, uhm." She blushes heatedly, the insides of her ears coloring as she does. "I know it's probably a lame thing to get worried about right now, but I've got no idea where I last parked my bike. I suppose I can kiss that goodbye too."

Rashmi winces, shaking her head. "Y'know… I have *no idea* where it could be. But it's worth asking if they can find it, I guess… If nothing else, maybe they'll be able to replace it… or, at *worst,* we can see about saving up to buy another one. C'mon, let's ge—oh! Um. I got your present, by the way… found it on the couch, um… that day. And… well… thanks, Tabitha. It really, *really* means a lot to me."

Tabitha shrugs her shoulders lightly. "It's just a bike," she replies. "I love riding it, but it's still just a bike. If that's all I've lost then I'm doing alright, I guess." She perks up at the mention of the present. "Oh! You got it? The Taj Mahal I made?" She manages to put on a proper grin. "I'm glad you liked it!" Her eyes brighten, restoring a measure of their lost sparkle. "Can we go back to our suite, now? I guess I've got to prepare for a shitstorm. I mean a debriefing."

Rashmi bobs her head, the return of Tabitha's good cheer bringing a broad smile to her own face. "Sure. You go take a bath, I'll make some curry, okay? I don't know how you guys lived… but it probably wasn't anything like good enough. Mami'd be cross with me if I didn't try to make sure you ate decently your first meal back, y'know?"

Tabitha practically melts at the promise of good food. "I've been eating what I could steal for the last three months," she complains. "Which generally involved your pick between nothing or cold McDonalds. I thought about picking through dumpsters a few times but never actually did it, because, y'know, gross." She coughs softly. "And I'm looking forward to sleeping in a bed again. The novelty of that isn't going to wear off any time soon."

"And clean clothes," Rashmi pipes up, as they exit the medbay. "God, that was all I'd wanted when I got home from Nigeria, a hot shower and clean clothes and a couple days to just cry until I couldn't do anything else *but* start getting my head back on straight…" Taking in a deep breath, she runs a hand through her short hair, letting it out quietly. "It's going to be rough on you, y'know… especially with school started up again. But you're gonna be okay, Tabitha. I know you are."

~ Fin ~

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