**A/N: This is the collab effort between me and Ronoxym. We haven't officially chosen yet, but I'd like to call this collab: Lycoxym.
Anyway, this was his baby that he sent me February 1, 2014. It inspired me so much that I sent him a draft of my version of his tale; mostly some dialogue change to Willow. However, Willow sort of took over and went in a completely different way than he had originally planned, but he liked it. This lead to us collaborating on his story. I'm still not sure exactly how it's going to end, and he hasn't had the time to work on it. But I've been sitting on this for nearly a year, so I figured I'd at least post the part that sparked the collab in the first place. This is the (nearly) finished revision we agreed upon.**
For those following The Second Generation Begins:
This story takes place 2yrs after TSGB starts and contains a lot of major spoilers about Devon.
HOWEVER, while the backstory used in the story is spoiler-filled canon, the story itself is NOT canon.
AT THE CELL
Devon sat quietly as he stared at the wall of his cell; bored out of his mind. He again attempted to entertain himself by at least shape-shifting, but the power-inhibitor shackles kept him in his natural form. He desperately wanted to play with his fire – nothing destructive; just something to do – but they had taken his flint-tipped gloves away, and he had no way of creating any flames as he was. He growled in abject frustration for probably the fifth time in as many minutes.
Flopping on to his back, he scanned the ceiling. The faculty was up there; somewhere. He figured they were still trying to figure out what to do with him, but damn if it wasn't taking far longer than he expected. With a deep sigh, he slid off the cot and started pacing slowly around the room.
Why did you agree to come back, Devon? He thought to himself. It's not like you really thought they were ever going to trust you again. You ran off, and then the Brotherhood blew up the school. On top of that, they find out that you are off in cahoots with the enemy. Occam's Razor, moron. He rubbed his face and ran his hands through his hair. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. And to them, that explanation was "Devon's a traitor." Such an idiot to have ever thought they'd believe otherwise.
He hung his head as he slowly submitted to self despair. That was when he heard someone stalking down the hallway. He cautiously made his way over to the edge of his cell; leaning against the clear wall to allow him to see out farther. Suddenly, someone stepped into his field of view.
"Willow." He said quietly. "What are you doing down here? I figured if there was going to be anyone up there railing against me, it would be you." He glanced out at her and rubbed his jaw where she slugged him. "Especially after the way you reacted to seeing me in the hangar." He lowered his hand and looked out at her resignedly.
"If it had been anyone else, I would be up in the War Room, arguing against keeping you here. However, it seems that the leadership here thinks that I'm 'emotionally conflicted' in this one, so I don't get to be there." She sighed as she half-looked at him. "I guess they're right, you know. About me being conflicted about it." She paused, turning away and pacing for a moment as she collected her thoughts. "I really thought we had something, you know? I felt a connection with you, like we were kindred spirits or something." She turned back towards him, stepping up to the barrier with a surprising quickness. "Why, Devon? Why did you leave us? Was it really so terrible here? What could possibly be better about the Brotherhood than us? Or are you really just another psychotic jackass like- like my brother?" The last word clung to her throat like a hairball.
Devon reeled backwards, caught off guard by her sudden stream of questions. He recovered, blinking at her. "Is that what you really think, Willow? That I'm really that evil? I didn't know that the Brotherhood was as evil as I now know they are. When I left, it was to find answers. Answers that I was being refused here. There were people that knew the truth about me. Who I was, and maybe why I was..." He drifted off, looking away sadly. He still couldn't actually state that he was abandoned; couldn't comprehend why a mother would just drop her son on some church steps without even making sure he was found.
After a moment, he shook his head, snapping out of his thoughts. "No, Willow. This place was the first place that I actually felt at home, safe to show the world who I really am. As to my mental state, that's always debatable, but I promise you, I have nothing but the greatest of feelings for this school."
Willow glared back at him. "If this place is so great, and you love it so much, then why the hell did you leave? You should have just asked us for help! Did you really think that I would have hesitated for even an instant to give you all the aid I could have? That Chayse or Lia wouldn't have done the same?" She glared at him furiously. "You could have at least left a note, or a letter!"
"Now wait-" Devon jumped against the wall, but Willow stepped back and continued.
"You should have left something to let us know what the hell you were doing! Instead, we first thought you were-" She bit her lip and swallowed hard.
She refused to look at him, "We thought you were dead from the attack, and then we found out that you had abandoned us to those bastards! If you really cared so much, then why the hell didn't you tell me?" She finished in an explosive tirade, slamming her fists against the thick glass paneling.
Devon stared at her for a moment, sorrow etched across his face. He clenched his eyes closed; fighting his own emotions back. After a moment, he quietly spoke, voice barely above a whisper.
Willow rolled on to her tip toes and pressed her ear against the pin-holes used to communicate through the cell wall. She closed her own eyes in order to concentrate as she strained to hear him reciting best he could from memory.
"...I first came to this school, it was as a homeless criminal who had no intention of hanging around any longer than was absolutely necessary. Then I met you. You were the first person to have accepted me as I am, and not questioned it at all. Without knowing it, you gave me the greatest gift anyone could have given me. I had hoped that I would have longer to get to know you and become better friends, but sadly, it seems that is not in the cards for me. I pray that you didn't see what happened last night, but if you did, then please trust that it wasn't what it appeared. Regardless, know that I made decisions that I do regret. Also know that I wish you nothing but the best in this life, and I pray that we can someday meet again." He slowly opened his eyes. "That's what my farewell letter to you said. You know, the letter nobody seems to think I wrote."
"Letter." The word died as it drifted off Willow's tongue. It was part statement and part question. She shook her head as she knitted her eyebrows, struggling to comprehend. She lowered herself back down and stepped away from the wall.
"I also left my lighter with it, to be a sign to you that I had every intention of coming back to see you again." There was a poignant pause as he allowed his words to sink in. "You can't possibly imagine how much I was indeed happy here, Willow, but there was still the looming knowledge that the answers to who I am were out there. I had to know. All my life had led up to that." He stepped up to the barrier again. Willow looked at him, eyes watering.
"Idiot." She took a deep breath. It was loud and shaky as she fought back tears. "You're a friggin moron, ya know that? I wish I could believe you, Devon. God! You have no idea how much I wish I could. But, even if I did, I don't know if that would make it any better. Because, if I did believe you, if you really are telling the truth, then-" She stood silently wiping the first traces of tears away from the corners of her eyes as she shook her head. "Then that means that you just cowardly ran off to be some idiotic Lone Wolf instead of trusting your friends to help you. Or, because you couldn't handle what you were willing to do to Lookout just to get a breadcrumb of information about your past."
Devon slumped against his cell. There was now no doubt that Willow had seen him in the Danger Room that night. It was like a kick to the chest.
Willow seemed unphased by his deflated stance. She just pursed her lips and gnawed on the inside of her cheek. "I dunno, maybe it scared you to think that you'd be willing to do the same to any of the students here, even me." Her voice cracked as she implied that Devon would have killed her at Pyro's request if it meant finally finding out who he was.
"Willow." Devon tried to ease her thoughts, but he really couldn't think of much of a rebuttal. Maybe those were part of his reason for leaving; for writing her a letter instead of actually saying goodbye.
"No, you let me finish." She grew stern as she bit her lower lip and tugged her covershirt closer around her. "If you loved this institute so much, and cared for me so deeply, then that means you left because you couldn't stand how Professor Summers tricked you, or that he could have been right in not trusting you. Ironically, you're leaving did seem to prove him right."
"Willow, I'm sorry. I really am." He reached out, placing his hand on the clear wall between them; right over where she was. She pulled further away from his cell, too upset to allow him even that.
"How does any of that make what you did any better? Do you realize what you did to me? Do you realize that if you're not just some evil, twisted backstabbing traitor that you may have just made the past two years worse? Because I thought you died, Devon! The mansion came down and we couldn't find you!" She paused to recollect herself.
Devon wanted to hold her so bad; just to comfort her after causing her so much pain. Stupid friggen cell. He kicked it in frustration.
Willow flinched at his abrupt kick, but quickly averted her eyes. "We found four bodies in the rubble." She began to shake at the thought. "The faculty tried to shield us from the carnage, but I still looked. Even if I had to be in the Astral Plane to see, I still looked. Because I needed to know that it wasn't you."
"Willow, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I swear that I didn't know. I would have let you guys know I was alright. I would have come back. I would have checked to make sure you were alright if I had any idea. You have to believe me." Devon rested his forehead against the cold, glass wall and ordered himself to not cry. Not in front of her.
Willow turned from him and wiped her cheeks dry. "Well, we did eventually know you were alright. In trying to figure out what caused the explosion the faculty saw the footage of you leaving your room. The mansion blew up about a half-an-hour later. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe the accusations that you were somehow involved. But then there were comments about your past and how you were in and out of juvie all the time. Suspicions spread that you were somehow connected with The Brotherhood all along. Wolverine reminded the faculty of your street name; a codename you must have taken a liking to in order to keep it for The Brotherhood. Arson. A name well suited for the destruction you cause," she spat acidly.
Devon jumped away from the glass and choked down some vomit. Damn, he thought, she truly does hate me, doesn't she?
"Then there was the footage from the Danger Room." She peeked over her shoulder back at Devon before turning fully around. "I saw what you did in there. I was so intrigued by the idea of your first DR run that I made sure to set up shop in the observation deck. I watched the whole thing: wandering the desert, saving Penny, getting knocked out, waking up in what you thought was the infirmary before being convinced that you were going on an actual mission, going up against The Brotherhood again, and taking out Lookout once Pyro offered you info on your parents. It was a mean trick, but it seemed to seal your coffin well enough."
"I really wish you hadn't seen that." He shied away, ashamed at his behavior, but also growing angry at the reminder of the cruel misdirection. That session had ruined his life.
"I was so mad. I hadn't known you for long, but I thought I knew you pretty well. Even after the thing with Marge in the DR, I tried to come up with an explanation. But then you flee before the place blows? You had betrayed us to The Brotherhood and clearly didn't care about us any longer. My life for the past two years was hating you to no end. Vowing that I'd avenge Hedge. That I'd get payback for the other three lives you took. So, tell me Devon, if you are as innocent as you claim, how doesn't that make the last two years of my life worse?"
Devon looked bewildered by her question. He had figured that being innocent would always make things better, not worse. Willow didn't miss a beat in informing him otherwise.
"I just spent the past two years of my life hating you! Despising you! Having nightmares about you! I had a sickening sense of betrayal whenever I thought about you - even the few good times we had. I had emotional breakdowns and loathed my best friend for the past two years over a misunderstanding? That's supposed to cheer me up? I blamed you for the past two years for four deaths you had nothing to do with? That's supposed to lift my spirits? Do you realize how much I put myself through because I thought I was the one who drove you to it? I mean, I was the one who convinced you to try out the DR in the first place! If I hadn't suggested it to Wolverine then maybe you wouldn't have left. Now knowing that I just might be right about that fact is supposed to perk me up?"
She started screaming at him as she wept. "The amount of time I wasted hating my best friend. The amount of energy I dedicated to hardening my heart to you. The days of self-loathing because I thought I put you up to it, or because I'm still - to this day - pissed off at Cyclops for tricking you like that! You were the enemy! Cyclops was right about you, and he was justified in testing you in the DR instead of letting you betray us in the field. Yet I still hated him for such a horrible ploy. Then I felt guilty for siding with a foe instead of a professor."
She hung her head and her hair spilled from behind her ears, hiding her right eye. It was manic whenever Trish's hair fell in to her face, but it was sweet and a bit heart-wrenching when Willow's silvery-white locks drifted into hers. Devon just wanted to brush them away from her eyes, and help dry her tears. It pained him to the core that he caused her such grief.
"It's just easier on me if you really were the bad guy. So, just- can you just give me that?"
Devon had no clue how to respond. They stood in silence - Devon staring at Willow as she focused on her own feet - for a few minutes before she finally ran back out of the room. Just like when Devon left the institute two years prior, Willow didn't bother to look back or say goodbye.
Devon watched her race away, feeling completely helpless. God. What now? He thought to himself forlornly as he slowly walked back over to the cot. I always thought that finding out the truth would make my life better, but all it's done is mess everything up. He lay down and stared up at the ceiling, idly wondering if it was the same ceiling that Lighter had stared up at while she was their captive. Not that it really matters. He thought angrily. They will make their decision about whether or not to trust me soon enough. If they decide that it's too much of a risk to trust me, then I am going to have to get away before they decide that it's better to just turn my ass over to S.H.I.E.L.D as well.
He grimaced at that. It would mean that someone would probably get hurt if it came down to that. But, he thought vehemently, I'm damn sure not going back to jail. That's not happening. If they decide that, then I'll have to be the bad guy that Willow wishes I really were. Wearily, he rubbed his eyes and sighed. Whatever. I don't even care anymore. I thought they were all dead anyway; it's why I never came back. It's not like if I have to run away again I'll be any worse off than I was before. With that depressing thought, he drifted off to sleep.
**A/N: And that is where I left poor Ronoxym. Originally his whole story was going to take place at his cell. Now his short story is over 17pgs long and we're not even done yet. Heck, this part alone was 2900 words. All because Willow freaked out and ran off. Kept us a week or two to figure out how to get the two of them in the same room again, but we have it taken care of. I need to revise that one last time before publishing it. After that though, I have to wait for him to start writing again. Sorry, guys.**