DISCLAIMER: Monet St Croix, Nate Grey, Jubilee are all property of Marvel. I am not using them for commercial use. Claudia is sorta my creation but sort of Marvelís as wellÖ go figure :)
The astral plane flared.
Suddenly in the plane there appeared an image of a tranquil beach. The waves lapped lazily on a shore of golden sand. The water was crystal clear and the sky above it was a brilliant blue. Two girls were playing in this lush environment. They had an identical appearance, both were beautiful dark skinned children with identical features from beautiful yet sad eyes to their flowing black hair.
The girls laughed and played. Their laughter reverberated across the empty beach. They seemed to be the only two people there. The girls ran up and down the sandy stretches and played in the water. They climbed the palm trees that dotted the beach and built sand castles in the sand by the water. Seabirds flew over them with their wings outstretched, multi-coloured fishes swam in the water.
It was paradise.
Suddenly the astral plane flared again and there appeared a young man.
He appeared to be in his late teens. He was rather good looking with brown hair with a grey streak through it. He had one blue eye while the other one pulsed with golden energy. He appeared to be rather weary yet he was also alert. He looked around as if he was assessing the situation.
"What are you doing here?" The two girls almost seemed to ask the young man simultaneously.
"Having a look," the young man replied.
"Well this isnít some tourist attraction you know. Get out of here," the young girls said imperiously.
"What happens if I donít want to leave?"
The girls both stared at him darkly.
Suddenly the astral plane shuddered and the beach scene disappeared.
Twin swirls of blue energy hurtled towards a ball of golden energy. The energies met and the astral plane shuddered again at the force of the battle. The energies struggled against each other for a while then suddenly the golden energy expanded and engulfed the blue energies.
The beach scene suddenly reappeared. The two girls lay prostate on the sandy floor of the beach while the young man lay dazed on the ground with his nose bleeding profusely. The young man looked around and tentatively touched his nose. He swore under his breath. He looked around. The environment was idyllic. It was like a paradise he had never known. He marveled at the beauty of the place. It was a sensation he had never experienced before. Then he saw the girls. He ran over to them. He felt very guilty. It was true that he had intruded on this private world on the astral plane yet he had been drawn to the emotions emanating from it. One of peace, calm, enjoyment. The young man had never felt anything like it in his life. From one reality to another he had endured pain, suffering and sorrow. Yet it all seemed insignificant in this place. However he had brought pain and suffering to this inviolable place. He fervently hoped that the girls were alright. He crouched down over the girls to check up on them.
And felt the full blow of a fist.
When the young man came to again, he saw a face peering over him. The face of a beautiful young woman.
"Am I dreaming?"
"Well in a sense yes."
The young man got up and looked at the young woman. She seemed to share many of the features that he saw in the young girls before. Yet her eyes were different. They seem to be older and wiser. While the young girls were pretty in a juvenile way, she was beautiful in a mature adult sense. The young man looked around. The young girls were no longer there.
"Where are those young girls I saw before?" he asked worriedly.
"They are goneÖ itís hard to explain. Are you alright?"
"Iíll survive." The young man rubbed his nose and saw the red liquid splashed across his hands.
"Is that just psionic blood or did that really happen?" the young woman asked curiously.
"It really happened. Always happens to me," the young man shrugged nonchalantly.
"Sorry," the young woman said. "I overreacted."
"No, it was my fault. It was stupid of me to enter someone elseís world without askingÖ itís impolite."
"Youíre the only person who has been able to do that to me."
"What you just didÖ itís a new experience."
"It wasnít easy. Youíre quite powerful yourself."
The young woman smiled.
"Well I know my capabilitiesÖ and this is the first time Iíve ever said this but your powers are definitely superior to mine," the young woman smiled slightly.
"These powers are a curse."
"Why do you say so? These powers are a gift."
"Even when these powers could kill you and they have brought you nothing but pain and suffering?"
"Your powers can kill you?"
"Iíve been told that I am so powerful that my body cannot handle it. I will die by 21."
The young woman raised an eyebrow.
The young man nodded.
"How sadÖ then again I have lived a life of privilegeÖ"
"Tinged with pain and suffering?"
"How did you know that?"
"Read it off your mind."
"Itís impolite to do that you know."
"Iím still learning."
"Well letís introduce ourselves. I am Monet St Croix. And you?"
"You donít trust me yet do you?"
"Sorry I find it hard."
"You owe it to me after what you did to me."
"OkÖ I am Nate Grey."
"Iíve heard your name somewhere beforeÖ I overheard Miss Frost say it on a phone conversation."
"Miss Frost? As in Emma Frost?"
"Yes, how do you know her?"
"Ummm I just doÖ telepaths always seem to know each other."
Monet gave him a look but said nothing.
"This is a really nice place," Nate commented.
"Glad you like itÖ itís an illusion as you can tell but itís a place to escape the outside world."
"Iíve neverÖ seen the likes of a place like this."
"Well now you have. Surely you have experienced such a place in your life before though."
"A place that you feel total comfort inÖ like a home."
"Never," Nate said a bit sadly.
"I have time."
"WellÖ maybe later."
"Youíre really reserved arenít you?"
"YesÖ if youíve experienced what I have, you would."
"Cheer upÖ come on I have an idea. Close your eyes."
"Close my eyes?"
"Itís not polite to see a lady change."
Nate closed his eyes. He felt a white flash of light momentarily engulf him and then he reopened his eyes.
The two young girls were back.
"Come on," the young girls said in unison. "Revert back to your true form."
"Youíre not mentally seventeen. That I can tell. Give me a more accurate mental projection of yourself."
"Oh forget it." The girls waved their hands.
Suddenly Nate found himself in the body of a seven year old boy.
Nate panicked and tried to transform himself back into the adolescent version of himself. He could not. The girls giggled.
"This is our reality. We have *some* control over it," the girls smiled.
"What is this form for?" Nate asked.
"Weíre going to have some fun," the girls giggled.
"Youíve never really been a child, have you? Youíve never played games or had fun?"
"No I havenít. How did you know?"
"Womenís intuition. Anyways you are going to live the life of a child for at least one night. Letís play ball."
"How do you play ball?"
"Do you know what a ball is?"
"Those round things?"
"Yes, usually when you play with a ball you throw it and catch it. As prosaic as that may sound, itís actually quite fun."
"Whatís the point of it?"
The girls sighed.
"This is going to take a long timeÖ"
No matter how he built the sand castle it kept on crumbling! Nate was having fun here till they started to build sand castles. They had played with balls, kites, climbed trees and ran around. Nate began to truly appreciate the joys of childhood, something he had never experienced. However sand castles were just irritating. No matter how he built it, it kept on crumbling!
"Whatís wrong Nate?" one of the girls asked.
He pointed to his sand castle. Or at least what remained of it.
"Itís simple," the girl said. "All you need is a solid foundation."
Nate peered at the sand castle the girls were building.
"Ummm what is *that*?"
"Itís a 12th century style medieval English castle."
Nate looked puzzled.
"Donít worry about it."
"How can you get pleasure out of building sand castles?"
"Satisfaction youíve built something. Apparently boys get pleasure out of destroying their sand castles as well." The girls rolled their eyes.
Nate grinned and telekinetically knocked over the girlsí castle.
"BOYS!" the girls said in unison.
Nate looked longingly out at the ocean.
"You want to swim?" the girls asked.
"Ummm yesÖ one problem. I donít know how to swim very well."
"Donít worry, weíll teach you. Itís not that hard."
The girls tore their clothes off and ran into the water, shouting with pleasure. Nate followed in after them. He walked in the shallows and watched the girls splashing each other with water. Nate telekinetically sprayed water at the girls and grinned. The girls cried out in mock outrage and splashed water back at him. Nate looked apprehensively at the deeper parts of the water as the girls went further out to swim.
<Donít worryÖ you wonít drown to death in an astral ocean> sent the girls. <Get inÖ I hope you know how to swim in general>
<Good enough. Come in deeperÖ the waterís nice!>
Nate tentatively left the shallows and swam awkwardly.
<Try to use more arm action and use your feet more. Keep yourself up telekinetically if you have to>
Nate followed the advice. Soon he was enjoying the swim. He dived underwater for long periods of time and enjoyed the feeling it gave him. He saw the coloured fish swim by him and he peered at them as the schools swum by. He was entranced by the beautiful underwater world.
<I amÖ I keep on telling myself this isnít real>
<Itís real enough>
Nate lazily swum up to the surface. He started to swim back towards the shore. He gently pushed himself along telekinetically. He got out of the water and lay himself on the sand. The sun gently blazed down on his body. Suddenly he realised that he was back in his adolescent form.
<Why did I transform back?>
"Because I made it so," Monet said. Nate realised she was lying besides him in the sand.
"OhÖ how do you do that?"
"Well why donít you pick it out of my mind?"
"Itís *impolite*," Nate smiled.
"Good. Youíre learning the complexities of manners. And to answer your question, itís impolite to ask about a girlís secrets."
"Itís a secret?"
There was silence for a few minutes.
"This place is wonderful. I never want to leave here," Nate broke the silence.
"Well you can create your own if you like. You are a very powerful psionic."
"I couldnít create a place like this."
"I have never imagined nor experienced a place like this before. Itís beyondÖ imagining."
"Surely not. Have you not experienced a place like paradise before?"
"No. If you knew my life story, you would understand."
"Why not tell me then?"
"You donít want to lower your defences to me?"
"Well weíre both naked in adolescent bodies you know. I think Iíve now seen what you have to offer," Monet smiled slightly.
Nate realised this. He flushed slightly.
"Anyway," Monet continued. "A paradise like this is merely an illusion. No such place exists."
"I agree with thatÖ but how could you come up with this then?"
"Itís just my imagination. This is a world I merely retreat to. Itís a pleasant fantasy, nothing more. I think it could become an unhealthy habit."
"I donít think soÖ"
"It prevents me from facing the real world. I retreat here when I canít face the world."
"Is that bad?"
"Yes. I have to be strong."
"IÖ just have to."
"This place is so pleasant though. It allows you to relax, to have fun. I think itís good to retreat here sometimes."
"Itís a weakness."
Nate looked at Monet.
"Well if you knew more about meÖ Iíd say that youíd be happy to have something like this to go to."
"Well why wonít you allow me to know you?"
"IÖ canít. I barely know you."
"How can I know you if you donít allow me to?"
"Why donít you tell me your story?"
"Itís tooÖ painful."
Silence reigned for a few more minutes.
Monet broke the silence.
"Itís ironic that two people hurt by the world canít even lower their defences to each other even when they are at their most vulnerable state."
Nate didnít reply. Instead he looked up at the sky, his golden eye pulsating.
"I have to go soon," Monet said. "Morning is nearly here."
Nate stood up.
"ThanksÖ you gave me experiences that I never had the chance to have before," he said softly.
"No problem. Weíre all children at heart. The world makes it so we have to act like *adults*," Monet said.
Nate smiled a bit and knelt down again. He took her in his arms and gently kissed her.
Monetís eyes snapped wide open. She struggled at first then relaxed as she leaned herself into his well-built frame. She felt their naked skin rub against each other in a provocative way. She felt their minds touch gently as their mouths were joined in a union of bliss. Suddenly the astral plane flared once again as Monet and Nate kissed. The image of them began to fade away and then vanished entirely.
Monet woke up.
The last thing she remembered was being in Nateís strong arms and the feeling of his warm, wet, sandy body against hers. Now she was here. Back in her dark bedroom. The sunlight struggled to get through the curtains that covered her window.
"Morning already?" Monet muttered to herself.
<Yes sister> a voice replied.
"What did you make of that, Claudia?" Monet asked.
<I enjoyed playing with him. I still think boys are icky though. Did you really have to lock tongues with him?>
"It wasÖ nice."
<I can feel your hormone levels surging Monet. Youíre not thinking rationally>
"I *am* an adolescent Claudia. Just because youíre still ten doesnít mean I am."
<Donít get defensive>
"Sorry. Iím trying to justify myself for feeling something for a boy."
<Itís naturalÖ you *are* a teenager and Iím only a ten year old girl>
"Why do I have to get weak now?"
<Being human is not a weakness. Unless youíre a lesbian, itís only natural to have an attraction to the opposite sex>
"Since when have you been the expert on human relationships?"
<Iíve been forced to endure Emmaís rantings in sexual education. While you blanked out into our beach, I was still alert>
"Well I can assure you I am not a lesbian. After seeing Jubilation Lee, any lesbian thoughts I had were instantly banished."
The two girls laughed.
"Laughing at yourself again, Miss Perfect? You should be in the loony bin," Jubilee called out from across the hall.
Monet tried to think of a witty comeback but dismally failed.
All she could think about was Nate.
Nate woke up.
It was dark and dusty where he was. He coughed. He looked around and saw the sunlight filter gently through the broken blinds. He stood up and stretched and did a quick telepathic scan of the area. Nothing out of the ordinary.
However his memories of the night were anything but ordinary. Nate smiled as he remembered his sojourn at the astral beach. There was something about Monet that was intriguingÖ that made him want to see her again. He could not stop thinking about her and he did not know why.
<Maybe itís love> he thought to himself.
Love. He had barely known her for a few hours. Yet he felt a connection with her, a sense of kindred spirits. Nate admitted to himself he found her very attractive and he liked the fact that it seemed that she did not want to use him. She saw him as something else not just as *that powerful psionic*. Nate felt sorry that he was unable to open up to her. He wanted to share his story with her but for some reason, he could not.
Nate sighed. He needed a real confidant. A friend. A lover.
Threnody, Madelyne Summers, they all seemed distant to him now. They all wanted to use him. However he left them behind. He was starting anew. Maybe she was the one. He could not stop thinking about her. He imagined her naked again, in his armsÖ no he needed to think about something else. Otherwise he would lose his control and literally all hell would break loose.
Nate looked in the mirror. His golden eye blazed with fury. Coagulated blood lay splattered all over his face as the result of his psychic battle with Monet.
Nate smiled to himself. It was not some bizarre dream, it really did happen.
His life did not seem pointless anymore. He had a purpose.
He had to find her.