Timelined a few days to a week after Out for Blood
<Hope> When nightmares came, Hope had fallen into the routine of sneaking into bed with Shinobi, where at least she could find some comfort. Tonight, however, it was not nightmares that kept her awake, though she wished it were. Perhaps it was her intensive training and increased studies in preparation for graduation, but whatever it was, her powers had gone off the chart.
<Hope> Coffee, ice cream, brownie batter: nothing had worked to clear her mind from the countless voices. She had tried music, dancing, television, and, to her horror, reading. Nothing distracted her. She had practiced the shields she had used so often, but to no avail. She couldn't block out the voices and she couldn't turn the power off.
<Hope> Desperate, exhausted, and on edge, she had landed herself in the middle of the living room floor, her knees to her chest with her forehead pressed against them. Rocking slightly, she pressed her hands onto the sides of her head, trying to block out the noise in one last, futile attempt. "Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop," she whispered over and over.
<Shaw> He was fairly accustomed to Hope, and even Shinobi, being up at odd hours. It wasn't terribly hard to ignore them and go back to sleep, generally, but tonight he was unable to. After getting up and checking on Miriam, he heard her. Hope?
<Hope> Yet another mind in her head really shouldn't have bothered her, but she whimpered. No.
<Shaw> No? Little Stark, are you alright? Concerned now, he started up the stairs to find her.
<Hope> No! She couldn't stop herself from letting the sobs escape, holding her head tighter. "Make it stop!"
<Shaw> She was certainly easy to find, and he folded himself onto the floor beside her. "What's wrong, love?" Although, he had a good guess.
<Hope> "I can't make it stop. Just make it stop. Make it stop." She pressed her head against him, as if that pressure would help.
<Shaw> "Your telepathy?" He slid his arm around her, hoping the contact wouldn't worsen the problem, although his own shields were solid.
<Hope> "Yes," she whimpered. "It won't stop. I can't make it stop. And I know way too much about some guy named Andy's scrotum!"
<Shaw> That made Sebastian pause for just a beat. "Right. You want me to try to help you? You mustn't fight me."
<Hope> She paused to look up at him. "What are you going to do?"
<Shaw> "Stop it," he said, tapping her temple with a fingertip. Or, at least he believed he could, if she wasn't too powerful for him.
<Hope> She didn't like this, but hadn't she asked him to stop it? She sighed, frustrated, and nodded.
<Shaw> "You trust me, yes?" He wrapped her tighter, for the dual purposes of subduing her and comforting the panic he was beginning to sense around the edges of his own shielding as he prepared.
<Hope> This time, she didn't hesitate. She nodded once, briefly. She trusted him. She pressed her head against his shoulder.
<Shaw> "Excellent," he said, closing his eyes to focus. His own shields were layers upon layers thick, as he'd learned from one of the finest and most devious telepaths on the planet. Over the years, he'd refined those lessons hard-taught by Madelyne.
<Shaw> Within moments, he was inside her mind, extending his own shielding to her. "Better?"
<Hope> Silence. Blessed silence. She sighed with relief and exhaustion, nodding against his shoulder. "Yes. Very yes."
<Shaw> "It's probably for the best that we don't use telepathy to speak for now, since you need to learn to control and filter first." He just held her, giving her a moment to rest while he delicately probed her defenses, avoiding her thoughts, and other things. Sebastian's mouth twisted slightly.
<Hope> She just nodded, turning her head to rest more comfortably. "You won't catch me arguing. I was okay... and it just... It keeps getting stronger."
<Shaw> "Yes," he said slowly, and rubbed her back a little as he worked. "Your gifts are stronger than my own, little Stark. Just take a few deep breaths. It will help."
<Shinobi> Shinobi wasn't quite sure why he awoke, but when he reached for Hope and found the other side of the bed cold, he knew.
<Hope> Hope just closed her eyes and enjoyed the relief, letting Sebastian do whatever it was he was doing. She just focused on her breathing. "I can do that."
<Shaw> "Wonderful." He slowed his own breathing to encourage her to match him, closing his eyes again. "So, how do you shield, when you consciously do it, love?"
<Shinobi> He sat up in bed, realizing not only was Hope gone, but so was her presence in his head. Hope?
<Hope> "It's like... a bubble. Pushing out what I don't want. Or a force field. I don't know." Thinking hurt.
<Shaw> "Imagery is a powerful tool for a telepath, and some use bubbles, or, as you say, force fields," he smirked to himself at that. "Or a white light that surrounds you, or nothing but darkness. Brick walls, also..."
<Hope> "Closed doors... anything that is a barrier really." She nestled into him, calm and relaxed finally. "Thank you. For helping."
<Shaw> "Indeed, although, personally, I've used walls. Lockboxes also have their place, to keep your secrets." He nodded, still rubbing small, soothing circles over her back. "You're welcome. This is just a temporary respite, for the moment, but we'll work on it."
<Shinobi> With no answer, he quickly got out of bed, calling her name softly. She wasn't here, and he started up the stairs.
<Hope> "The secrets are the most exhausting," she admitted softly. "They are like.. behind a wall with no door. No window. They don't exist."
<Shaw> "Yes, they are," he said with a sigh. "Especially so as you share a link with him, love. I did warn you of that possibility."
<Hope> "The benefits outweigh the exhaustion... usually." She sighed, closing her eyes and pressing her forehead against him again. "Usually."
<Shaw> "Well, with luck it won't be a secret in need of keeping much longer, but that's a conversation for another time. So, tell me about your bubbles."
<Hope> "They are bubbles. They do... bubbly things. And the stronger it gets... it's... like the bubble is leaking. And then it crashed in. It popped."
<Shaw> "So you're inside the bubble?" He heard Shinobi, somewhat surprised the boy had awakened, and turned his head to stare at the steps. "It would seem your paramour is missing you."
<Hope> That made Hope smile, opening her eyes again. "Oh, yeah. I'm inside the bubble."
<Shaw> "Perhaps you should acquire something a bit more substantial than a bubble then." Unconcerned with the footsteps coming up the stairs, he showed her how to build a wall in her mind, brick by brick, and mortared by will.
<Shinobi> He checked the rooms on each floor, barely keeping a lid on his panic.
<Hope> Unable to sense his panic, Hope was left to focus on the lesson in front of her. "Bricks hurt more when they fall on you," she joked with him, smirking.
<Shaw> "The idea is they'll hurt more when they fall on others." He returned the smirk. "It never hurts to lay traps."
<Hope> She smirked back at him, closing her eyes to focus better. "Yeah... clever traps." She could lay traps. She was clever!
<Shaw> It was unfortunate that he hadn't caught Monet in any last year. Pushing the sour thought aside, Sebastian noticed Shinobi first and raised a hand to shush the boy for now. "Clever traps, and thick defenses - these will keep your own mind safe."
<Shinobi> He saw Sebastian's warning and narrowed his eyes, climbing the last few steps lightly and crossing his arms. Why were they on the floor... like that? And why couldn't he feel her? What was going on?
<Hope> She nodded, eyes still closed. Since she couldn't feel Shinobi anymore, she wasn't aware that he was in the room yet. "And keep me from knowing too much about Andy's scrotum again, right?"
<Shinobi> Who the fuck is Andy? He shifted, more than ready to ask.
<Shaw> "Yes, precisely," he laughed, shaking his head at his faux son. Not now! "Stray thoughts from others such as that is what kept me at a distance from others for... well, years. Until I learned to shield properly." He gave Shinobi a pointed look.
<Hope> "I don't blame you for avoiding others. Plus the fact that most people suck," she pointed out, working on rebuilding her shields back up. It was about that time that she realized she couldn't feel Shinobi sleeping anymore.
<Shinobi> He was only partially satisfied by this explanation, and watched Hope closely. Her telepathy was causing her problems, that he knew, but he couldn't help her. At least Sebastian could do that much, he supposed.
<Shaw> "Many people do indeed suck, as you so eloquently say." He smirked at Shinobi.
<Hope> "That's me, queen of eloquent." She smirked, opening her eyes. The smirk faltered, seeing Shinobi. How long had he been there?
<Shaw> "Yes indeed," he chuckled.
<Shinobi> And there she was. He raised a questioning eyebrow. "Are you okay?"
<Hope> Not really sure how to answer that, she thought for a brief moment. "I think so. Now."
<Shinobi> He blew out a breath and moved over to the sofa, throwing himself down and giving his father a glare.
<Shaw> Sebastian just gave him a bland smile and stroked Hope's back. "As I'm sure you have surmised, I'm helping her with her shielding."
<Hope> "Which crashed horribly earlier," She rubbed her face, working on still putting the shields back up. "I got to learn so much about things I never, ever, ever wanted to know."
<Shinobi> He nodded slowly, gaze flicking between the two of them. It was very... intimate.
<Shaw> "Such is the danger with telepathy. Now, you should reinforce what you've built, love." He closed his eyes and concentrated, showing her how.
<Hope> Hope nodded, closing her own eyes again, mimicking what he showed her in her own mind.
<Shinobi> It was uncomfortable, watching them, and knowing... and unable to feel what she was thinking. More than uncomfortable.
<Shaw> "Yes, exactly like that," he said, drawing out the words.
<Hope> Hope smirked a bit, proud of herself. She kept up her reinforcement, not wanting her powers to slip to that level again. "Thanks.”
<Shaw> "Are you ready for me to withdraw?" He almost gave into the temptation to open his eyes to check on Shinobi, but he felt the young man's heartrate pick up and that was enough.
<Hope> Hope nodded, forgetting neither of them could see. "Yeah... yeah I think I got it."
<Shaw> "Excellent!" He slowly dissolved his own shielding around her mind, eyes popping open. Shinobi was glaring at him and his grin ratcheted up.
<Shinobi> A muscle ticced in his jaw. The old bastard was more than toying with him.
<Hope> Hope didn't move just yet. Without his shields around her, she felt the pressure pushing against her own. She kept reinforcing it, being sure it wouldn't break on her again.
<Shaw> His eyes locked with Shinobi's, he monitored her mental state. Are you doing well?
<Hope> I'm fine, she told him, relaxing again and opening her eyes to smile at him.
<Shaw> That's fantastic news. Eventually it will be second nature. It will just take some practice. Breaking the staring competition with his son, he moved away from Hope enough to see her face. Reforming your connection with Shinobi may tax your shields. I simply want you to be aware.
<Hope> She gave Sebastian a sort of half smile. I know. But she was going to do it anyway. At least she would once she was sure it wouldn't cave everything in to sustain it.
<Shinobi> They were speaking, and he had no idea what about. Perhaps he should just go back to bed. Sighing, he pulled his feet up into the seat.
<Shaw> I assumed that would be your response, yes. He smirked, checking her shielding for weaknesses.
<Hope> Hope may or may not have placed a trap that contained a memory of a naked Shinobi within it. She scooted herself back toward the couch, waiting for Sebastian to find that as she reached up and back behind her for Shinobi.
<Shinobi> The touch startled him slightly, then he lowered his legs and slid to the edge of the sofa, joining her on the floor. He slid his arm around her shoulders and turned his head to kiss her temple.
<Shaw> Sebastian pushed against her shields, pleased with the construction. She was always a quick learner, and he nodded to himself. Nudging an apparent weak spot, he received a most unpleasant vision and hissed, shooting her a glare.
<Hope> Hope smiled at Shinobi, pressing up close to him. As Sebastian found her trap, she lost herself in a moment of laughter. "So how are my shields holding there, dad?"
<Shaw> "You're clearly back to normal," he said with a smirk, unfolding and pushing himself to his feet. "That said, perhaps it's time I retire and leave you two alone."
<Hope> Snickering a bit more, Hope nestled into Shinobi's shoulder. She felt much more like herself, more at ease. "Hey," she told him softly, smiling.
<Shinobi> "Hey yourself. Better now?" He returned the smile, but felt the absence of their link keenly.
<Shaw> "Good night," he said, inclining his head. "If you need any more assistance, I believe you know where you can find me." With a knowing smirk, he started down the stairs.
<Hope> She nodded, stroking his cheek gently. "I miss you," she told him in a low voice. She missed that link just as much as he did, but wasn't about to just shove into his mind.
<Shinobi> "I just wish I could help you." He leaned into the touch, his eyes sliding closed.
<Hope> "You do help," she argued, leaning in and kissing him softly. "You help all the time."
<Shinobi> He didn't have an answer to that, so he tilted his head and deepened the kiss.
<Hope> Hope slid her arms around him properly, returning his kiss. She gently brushed his mind as they kissed, determined to reestablish what they had.
<Shinobi> This was exactly what he'd been missing, and he turned to pull her into his lap. You're okay now? His hand tangled in her hair and he broke the kiss to meet her eyes.
<Hope> Meeting his gaze, she nodded, stroking his cheek again. It was much harder with his mind too, but it wouldn't stop her. She pressed her forehead against his, swallowing hard. I'm okay now.
<Shinobi> Good. He brushed their noses together. I'm glad he could help you.
<Hope> She giggled softly, kissing him again. Me too. It was bad...
<Shinobi> Do I need to work on my shields too? Would it help? He stroked her cheek, prolonging the kiss.
<Hope> Well, you do, but that's a separate issue. She moved what little bit closer to him that she could. We both do. However... I didn't like not being able to feel you.
<Shinobi> No... I think it's what woke me up. You were gone. He wrapped both arms tightly around her and let out a shaky breath.
<Hope> Hope kissed his neck softly before nestling into it. I'm here... I'm here. And you're here.
<Shinobi> Now that we're both here, maybe we should go back to bed? He sighed, closing his eyes at her kiss.
<Hope> Hope smiled against his skin. Yes... yes I think we need a bed. For sure.
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