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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 12: Stolen Lives

Gambit kissed Rogue cheerfully as he rose from the bed, smiling from ear to ear. "I tell you chere...dis de happiest I been in...," he paused, thinking hard. "...probably forever."

She smiled back, leaning up to hug him. "You sure you have to go, shugah? I got a little while before practice..."

He nodded, almost regretfully, hating the thought of leaving her even for an instant. "Have to keep up appearances, chere. Now dat I'm 'officially' part of de Brotherhood, dey expect me to bust my chops wit de rest of de new recruits," he rolled his eyes, obviously unhappy with the statement. It wasn't as if he had a choice, after all. If he meant to stay with Rogue, and he certainly did, then he would have to join the Brotherhood as a willing member. Or at least pretend to for a while...until he could get them out of here.

"Okay then, shugah, you go on. Ah'll see you tonight." She smiled and kissed him again, and he found himself amazed, both by her beauty and her love for him. And to think...he had almost lost her...

"I love you, chere," he said reverently, turning completely serious for a moment. "You can't imagine what dis means to me...what you mean to me...I never thought I'd have another chance, you know." He paused again, seeming to struggle with his next words. "I thought for sure I'd come back to find you wit Joseph, having forgotten all about me."

Her face fell as he mentioned Joseph's name, and he instantly regretted mentioning him. He had no idea why Joseph and Rogue had not ended up together while he was out of the picture, it had seemed a probable conclusion in his absence, but when he had found out that they hadn't, he hadn't even stopped to wonder why not. Now he thought maybe he should have. "Chere, I'm sorry..."

She shook her head, smile returning though it was more faint than before. "It's alright, Remy. That was a long time ago, in another world. He's been gone for a long time..." she broke off, as if uncertain how to finish her sentence, then shook her head. "It doesn't matter. He's mah past, shugah. are my present, my future."

He was relieved by her words, feeling something unresolved within him finally laid to rest, at long last. He was tempted to ask what had happened, he knew that Joseph's name was not counted among the graves at the X-Men's home, but he didn't want to spoil the mood anymore than he already had. "Your future husband," he added, hardly believing the words even as they sprang lovingly from his lips.

Her smile brightened, and she kissed him one last time before patting him gently on the backside and shooing him out the door. "Get on outta here now, before you're late and the Brotherhood decides to break our engagement...permanently."

She said it lightly, playfully, but he barely repressed a shiver, knowing how truly she spoke. His position here was still too tenuous to be letting things slip. With a final kiss of her hand, he turned and hurried out the door.

As the door closed behind him, Rogue's smile faded and she settled back into the pillows restlessly, her mind filled with visions of a young, white-haired man who had once been so kind to her.

Gambit's mood proved irrepressible as he made his way through the complex, his smile returning shortly after leaving the room. He would still make it on time, and his mind was too full of his potentially happy future to let any misgivings set in. Whistling happily as he picked up his pace, he never saw the three men who leaped from the corridor behind and opened fire on him.

In the citadel at the top of the world, a dark presence moved, awakened from its trance-like state. He had been concentrating on Rogue, or more specifically, the growing presences within her. The children were of particular interest to him, and he wanted to learn all that he could about them. Their potential power would certainly be useful to him in the future...still, it seemed he would have to wait until after they were born to learn more about them. Rogues psyche had always been incredibly hard to read with the Kree portion she had stolen from Carol Danvers, and he could not seem to pick up the children's budding thoughts through the static it created. Every now and then though, he caught a stray thought, or a particularly strong now.

The vision of a young white-haired man with a face so like his own had appeared unbidden within his mind, a projection from Rogue, he assumed. That was a face he had not thought about in years...why did it seem to trouble him so, now?

Within, he felt a subtle shifting of the psyche whose body he shared, a change in the flow of its normal stream of consciousness thought process. When he had possessed Magnus' body, the host had had little choice...there had been so little left of his brain he could not even have put up a decent struggle if he'd wanted to. Still, when he had entered Erik Lensherr's shattered mind, he had felt what little remained reach out eagerly, willingly, desperate to grasp hold of life in whatever form it could. The merging had been an easy success, almost flawless. For the last two years, he had inhabited this body with little to no conflict with its persona.

At first, Magnus had hidden himself deep, whatever pieces that were left of his psyche withdrawing below the Shadow King's level of normal awareness. There were times when he had even forgotten that Magnus was there. But as time had progressed, the disjointed thoughts that were Magnus had come slowly to the fore, making themselves known, and the Shadow King had known that he would have to integrate Magnus somehow, to establish peace between them. The host body worked best when it was happy with the joining, and a will like Magnus', even diminished as it was, could prove troublesome if he paid it no heed. So he had begun to allow for its slight influences, as long as they continued to serve his purpose. There were very few things which could urge the fragmented persona to assert itself and make its will known. Now seemed to be one of those times.

He could certainly understand why. Joseph had been something of an enigma to Magnus, and evoked strong emotion within the remains of his mind, but the Shadow King had never determined the basis for them beyond the fact that Joseph had been a carbon copy of the man, right down to his mutant abilities. Even when he had absorbed Joseph's mind, he had found no answers...the man never even knew who he had been. He had sprung to life from nothing, it seemed, and died ignorant of how or why. Well...not exactly died...

Was it that nagging presence of Magnus within him that caused his footsteps to turn toward the room beneath the citadel? Or perhaps, a morbid sense of satisfaction in his own work? He pondered his own motives as he walked through the darkened corridors, footsteps echoing hollowly around him. Taking out Joseph had never even been a question for the Shadow King. Of all the X-Men, of all the heroes in existence, Joseph had posed him the greatest threat. He could have matched Magnus in sheer power, if not experience, and the Shadow King had not been willing to take the chance of losing his perfect host body. Indeed, the young man had put up quite a struggle, turning Magnus' power back on him before the Shadow King had reached inside his mind and turned him off. He had stripped Joseph's mind then, absorbing all of his thoughts and making them part of him. There had been much knowledge of power there, still untapped because of his struggle to regain his memories. If left alone and given time to discover his past and unlock his potential, Joseph might have grown even more powerful than Magnus. His persona had meshed well with the host body and lent itself toward making Magnus' vessel even more indestructible. Best of all, he had never heard a peep from it, not even a whisper to give testament to its presence within him. He wondered sometimes if perhaps that was where Magnus' mind had regained its presence, by integrating Joseph's mind with his. If Joseph had been Magnus' clone, as many suspected, it would make perfect sense. The Shadow King had taken that into consideration before claiming Joseph, and had judged the young man as being too disjointed in his own thoughts to pose much of a threat, even if he merged with Magnus' remaining psyche. Even now, if the two of them were combined, they still did little to affect his will, and so, he rarely dwelled on it. But in moments like these, he found himself considering the possible implications thoroughly.

There were times when it was hard to tell his own urges apart from Magnus', they were so subtle and so much a part of him. Psylocke worried that Magnus influenced him far too often, especially in the case of Rogue...and he had to admit, that had it been his will alone, he probably would never have given her control of her powers and made her part of the Brotherhood. But he shared this vessel with another, and though it was mostly a phantom presence, it could be very annoying at times to deal with. He had more important things to concentrate on now that he had the world beneath his heel. He didn't have time for petty internal conflict. And Rogue had served them well so far. But Joseph? He had cared nothing for the man, beyond the purpose he could serve someday.

As he reached the door below, he paused for a moment, considering what lay within and again, why it should seem to trouble him so. He shrugged off the indecision and used his magnetic power to unseal the door, casting off the trepidation which certainly must be a lingering emotion from Magnus' psyche.

The light from within was extremely dim as he entered, but he floated past the illuminating switches without a second thought, completely fascinated by the miracle before him. It was a marvel of technology, really, he thought as he examined it. It had never ceased to amaze him every time he witnessed it.

Joseph hung suspended within a cylindrical tube that reached from ceiling to floor, any number of wires and pipes sprouting from its base like roots from a gnarled and twisted tree. The dim blue light from within the tube cast eerie shadows over his features, serving as the only source of light for the room. His face was nearly lost to the darkness, but what could be seen of it was peaceful enough in expression. Indeed, what could trouble a man without a mind? the Shadow King thought, wickedly bemused.

He had questioned his decision to keep Joseph after he had separated the man's mind from his body, but he had surmised that even as vegetable the duplicate could serve a purpose. After all, Magnus' body would not live forever, indeed, it had already seen better days. Joseph, on the other hand was young, and nearly an exact duplicate of Magnus, even sharing the same power. When Magnus' body had served his purpose, Joseph would make a nice replacement. The Shadow King had been careful only to strip his mind of thoughts and memories, leaving behind the pathways to access his power, just in case. And if, because his mind had been so completely wiped, Joseph proved useless as a host, Sinister could always clone another Magnus. It was producing a clone with identical powers that would be hard, and Joseph was convenient because his power still remained. It could be done though, given time.

He stood for a moment, admiring Joseph's still form behind the glass. His body was perfectly preserved within the case, halting his aging process completely and shutting down whatever rudimentary thought was left. He had no need for his brain to tell him to breathe, or to tell his heart to, Joseph was beyond all that now. He was captured forever outside of time in eternal youth...a living corpse. Truly, the Shadow King thought as he exited the room, suspended animation was a wonderful thing.

Psylocke couldn't believe her good fortune. In the space of a few hours, her plans had gone from dismal to right back on track. With the news that Rogue was pregnant, she had managed to convince the master that he could not kill the children's father. At least, not until after they were born. To do anything prior to that would endanger Rogue's state of mind. As delicate and mercurial as pregnant women's emotions tended to be, who could predict what the repercussions would be? It would certainly affect her ability to lead the Brotherhood, if not send her running straight back to the X-Men. Reluctantly, the master had agreed with her logic, realizing as she did, that if all continued to go according to Psylocke's new plan, they would only need Rogue for a few months more, anyway. And for this plan, she also needed the cajun quite badly...or his mind, at least.

She glanced at the console, noting the time and wondering where the object of her thoughts could be. The guards should have brought him in by now...her train of thought broke off as the door to the lab slid open.

"You're late," she snapped.

The guards shuffled their feet and looked at each other uncertainly, and after a moment she snorted and turned, motioning to the table nearby.

Obediently, the guards dragged in their captive, throwing him gracelessly onto the table and fastening the manacles about his limbs. When the last one was snapped into place, they stepped back and looked to Psylocke in silent question.

She nodded once, and they scurried from the room like rats from a sinking ship. A cruel smile twisted her dark lips, taking momentary pleasure in the fear she inspired before turning to examine her new captive. She paused only briefly, taking one sweeping glance over his form before grabbing him roughly by the chin and slapping his face in an attempt to wake him.

"Time to pay the piper, Gambit," she said aloud, her smile growing ever wider with each resounding slap.


Continued in Chapter Thirteen


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