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"Death of a Dream"

Death of a Dream

Chapter 1: Homecoming
Chapter 2: Old Ghosts
Chapter 3: Strange Bedfellows
Chapter 4: Melancholy Memories
Chapter 5: Of Love and Betrayal
Chapter 6: Innocence Lost
Chapter 7: Of Friendship and Discovery
Chapter 8: First Blood
Chapter 9: Cast Out
Chapter 10: Revelations
Chapter 11: Of Love and Hope
Chapter 12: Stolen Lives
Chapter 13: Bad Dreams
Chapter 14: The Ties that Bind
Chapter 15: A Hero's Life
Chapter 16: Old Wounds
Chapter 17: A Time of Last Things
Chapter 18: The Final Countdown
Chapter 19: Battlezone
Chapter 20: Zero Hour
Chapter 21: A Glimmer of Hope

The sequel to this story is "The Resurrection Gauntlet."

Death of a Dream

Chapter 7: Of Friendship and Discovery

Alison Blaire lit another cigarette and watched as Bobby paced restlessly along the perimeter wall. She'd gotten to know him pretty well in the last two years or so, well enough to know that when he was in a mood like this, there was rarely any reasoning with him. She exhaled a cloud of smoke with an exaggerated sigh, and rolled her eyes in his direction. "So tell me again what it is we're waiting for here, Bobby?"

He stopped pacing for a moment, long enough to make a hush motion with his hand and stand, listening intently for any sound he might have missed while she was speaking. She shook her head and sighed again, leaning back against the cold, damp wall in resignation. "Earth to Bobby," she said, in a loud whisper. "Come in, Bobby."

Finally he walked over to join her, pacing in smaller circles in front of her as he chewed thoughtfully on his thumb. "I don't know what we're looking for yet," he whispered back. "But I'll know when we see it."

"This is about Gambit, right?" she asked, taking another drag from her cigarette and looking up at him.

He stopped in mid-pace cut her a sharp look before returning to the repetitive motion. "Yes."

"And what conspiracy theory have we concocted this time, Dr. Drake?" she asked with a flippant grin.

"You know, you didn't have to join me," he replied in a heated whisper.

"Hey," she spread her hands in a gesture of peace. "Just trying to lighten the mood a little."

"I know," he sighed, shoulders slumping in defeat. Normally, it would be him trying to lighten the mood, cast a little humor on an otherwise bleak situation. What was he doing here?

"Penny for your thoughts."

"I don't think they're worth that much, Dazz," he said, sinking down the wall to sit beside her. "This whole thing with Angelica and Gambit has me so screwed up I can hardly think straight."

"They have a thing now?" she asked, feigning surprise with just a touch of cynicism.

He cut her "that look" again, the one that said she was treading on his last nerve, "No, they don't have a 'thing'...yet. But Angel's got her sights set on him, that's for sure."

"And it's making you crazy, isn't it?"

He nodded, almost ashamed at his inability to deal with his own feelings. "The question is, why? I mean, it's not like Angel and I have ever had anything, right? I've been in love with her for a long time now, sure, but she never gave me reason to think that feeling might be returned. Why is it so hard to watch her go?"

"She's not going anywhere, Drake," Alison said, bluntly. "It's obvious that Gambit doesn't have any interest in her, despite the way he flirts. He flirts with all of us that way."

"I know." He ran a hand through his hair, gripping it by the roots and resting his face against his upraised knees. "She just refuses to see that. And it's going to get her hurt."

Alison shrugged. "So let her hurt, Bobby. Live and learn. You can't protect her from this life any more than Charles Xavier could have protected us. He wanted to, with all his heart, to be sure, but the thing is, every child has to grow up sometime, throw away the night light and learn to walk on their own. We can't truly live, or grow, unless we're free to make our own choices."

He stifled a bitter chuckle, cutting her a sidelong look. "You learn all that in Mojoworld, Dazz?"

"Part of it," she agreed. "Longshot's battle for his people's freedom taught me a lot about the things that are really important in life. But most of it, I learned right here, on this world, as an X-Man. Now, and then."

His expression softened as she mentioned Longshot. He knew how hard it was for her to talk about it, even after all this time. When the X-Men had sent out a rallying call to all of their allies, Dazzler and Longshot had been among the first to offer their help against the Shadow King. He wondered sometimes, that if they had known then what would happen, if they would have agreed so readily. Longshot's soul, so pure and innocent, had been a true feast for the Shadow King. He had taken great pleasure in twisting Longshot's motivations and turning him into an evil parody of his former self. At first, Alison had been unable to accept the change as irrevocable. She held hope for so long...longer than anyone would have thought possible. But in the end, she'd been forced to kill him herself, knowing that Longshot would have wanted it that way, if he had had any free will left. And he would have wanted her, only her, to do it. So she had performed what she rationalized as a mercy killing...but it had changed her forever. The carefree Dazzler of old, the songbird whose voice always carried hope and beauty, was gone forever, leaving behind an embittered shell. She had become a master at hiding her feelings, he thought. Maybe she didn't even have them anymore. Or maybe she just didn't realize that she did. Whatever the case, she was a stronger woman now than she had ever been...but the cost was so very high.

"Hmph," he mumbled, unable to think of anything to say.

"Cat got your tongue, Drake?" She grinned and ruffled his hair.

"How do you do it, Dazz?" he wondered aloud. "How can you laugh in the face of so much pain?"

She looked down at the ground for a long moment, then shrugged just slightly. "Because I have to, Bobby. I have to laugh, have to keep it at a distance, or else I'd start screaming and never stop." She flashed him a smile then, her expression changing like quicksilver in the moonlight. "Same could be asked of you, my oh-so witty pal."

"Hmph," he grunted again, keeping up the grumpy fašade for an instant longer before giving in to her infectious grin. "Yeah...I suppose." He chuckled and stood, turning to offer her his hand. "What do you say we head back to the mansion for a gallon of cherry vanilla ice-cream?"

"Yuck!" she made a face, taking his hand and rising. "Besides, I thought ice cream went the way of the know, along with grocery stores?"

He grinned and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Never doubt the magic of these hands, babe."

"Hey!" she shouted, wiggling out of his embrace. "That's cold!"

"You ain't felt nothin' yet, lightengale," he said, grinning as his form began to ice up.

"Don't make me fill you full of pinholes, Drake," she shot back, already aiming one of her light blasts at him.

A brilliant flare against the night sky from the west, stopped them dead in their tracks.

"What do you suppose...?" Dazzler began to ask, but Bobby was already gone, ice sled carrying him hurriedly in that direction.

Using her light powers to form a blast and send her shooting toward the flare, she arrived just after he did. "Bobby, what...," she trailed off, eyes following in the direction of his rapt stare.

The two stood wordless as they watched the gateway close around a trench-coated form, vanishing in an instant as if it had never been.

"What do you make of that?" asked Bobby, his voice tight with suspicion.

Dazzler shook her head, not quite believing what she had just seen. Bobby wouldn't know about that, she thought, he hadn't been with the X-Men then. But she remembered that power signature plain as day. How many times had Gateway transported she and the rest of the X-Men across the world in moments?

"I'd say Gambit, or his evil twin, is taking a trip down under," she replied dryly.

"To Australia? But isn't that...?"

She simply nodded, the ramifications not lost on her either.

They stood still as ghosts in the moonlight, staring at each other in silence.


Continued in Chapter Eight


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