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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 15: A Hero's Life

Lasher yawned and stretched, the bright light of the morning streaming in through his bedroom window and waking him. He had stayed up far too late talking with Wanda, he thought, as the impulse to roll back over and bury his face in the pillow hit him. He had always been an early riser, though, and so, struggled to disentangle himself from the bed sheets as he sat up.

He rose and moved to the bathroom, turning on the water for the shower. As he waited for the water to warm, he paused to ponder his reflection in the mirror. Wanda's stories last night had been so wonderful, filled with beautiful, courageous heroes fighting for what they believed in. He stroked one grey cheek thoughtfully, wondering if he could have had a place among those legendary heroes. He was certainly not handsome by any stretch of the imagination; that came along with being a Morlock. The grey pallor of his skin was something he had retained since birth, a testament to his genetic mutation and the factor which had set him apart from his fellow man. Fortunately, he had been born within the Morlock tunnels, and so had never had to face the mutant hating world of the humans. No, when his first experience with hatred had come, it had been in the form of fellow mutants; a band of evil villains called the Marauders. He had been old enough then that his mutant powers of electricity had developed, and had wanted to stay and fight alongside his parents. But they had insisted he flee the tunnels with the other Morlock was the last time he ever saw them.

Years later, he had returned to the tunnels along with many of the other Morlock children, determined to reform their society and escape the reign of the Shadow King. After the first horrible battle between the X-Men and the Shadow King, the Morlock Marrow had returned to the tunnels to lead her people in the absence of Callisto. The first year he spent back in the tunnels had been quiet, uneventful, and frustrating as he tried to learn to control his mutant ability. The new society of Morlocks was not the family it had once been, now it was more like a gathering of people forced to live together in hiding, each staying separate from the other. He was at least fortunate enough that he could turn his power on and off, unlike some of his fellows, but he never found the opportunity to explore its many uses. As a child, he had always dreamed of being a hero, of fighting in the world above for the cause of good like the Avengers and the X-Men. He had always idolized their ideals, glorifying them in his mind until they had become something far beyond mere mortals. He had never met any of them, but their tales were legend, and he knew that the X-Men had walked among the Morlocks many times. Once or twice as a young child, he had even glimpsed one or two of them, but had never spoken to them. When they had returned to the tunnels almost a year and a half ago, asking for the assistance of any Morlock willing to join the fight, he hadn't hesitated. He had been the only one of his people willing to take the chance, to live the dream, and that had suited him just fine.

Marrow hadn't been too pleased with his decision, but in the end was without the power to stop him. His grey skin had ever been like a mark of Cain, but its stone-like texture made it very hard to pierce. It would have been hard for her to kill him from a distance, and with the X-Men on his side, she hardly dared to try. Or perhaps her time as leader of the Morlocks had matured her, he didn't know. He only knew that he had left and never looked back. And he, like Wanda, had never regretted the decision.

He had learned more about his power than he ever thought possible since he had been with the X-Men. They had surmised that his energy tendrils, comprised of electrons, were capable of a number of functions. One tendril was composed of positive energy, the other with negative energy. The potential effects of such a power could be extremely deadly, and the X-Men were taking their careful time in helping him develop uses for his power. Some of the less deadly things he found he was capable of were paralyzing another person by scrambling the electronic impulses controlling their body, scrambling their powers by hitting the central nervous system and temporarily 'frying' their brain, and simply rendering them unconscious through electric shock. He knew he had the potential to easily be able to stop hearts, and possibly restart a stopped one. The ultimate focus of his powers, theoretically, would be to stop the motion of a single atom, causing a massive explosion in a radius around the area. Those more dangerous areas of his powers were the ones that the X-Men seemed to be tiptoeing around, and he frankly couldn't blame them. It scared him to think that he could be capable of so much destruction, and not knowing the potential effects of such actions made him reluctant to try. But that was all right with him, he was happy where he was, and the level he had achieved so far. He had learned a great deal in his last year here, with the X-Men, and they had made him feel as if he were part of the family.

The rising steam about him pulled him from his thoughts, and he adjusted the water to a more comfortable level before stepping into the shower. He didn't really know why he bothered to shower, since his stone-like skin rendered him hairless and it really didn't need to be washed anymore than a rock would. It was a ritual for him, though, and he supposed it somehow helped to make him feel more human. At least his physiology was still humanoid, he thought. He possessed the normal body of any human, male 17 year-old, sans hair. It just so happened that his skin was hard as stone and about the same color. Which made for a very dull social life, he thought, inwardly sighing as he scrubbed the rough texture of his skin. Not too many women would enjoy the sandpaper-like feel of his skin against them. That was something he had accepted years ago, though, and he rarely dwelled on it. Instead, he tried his best to simply take pleasure in the company of others, finding conversation a good remedy for the loneliness that sometimes gripped him.

Like last night...he smiled as he thought of Wanda. She had been so kind to him, almost sisterly. Humming happily to himself as he washed, he hoped that this would be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship.

Angelica Jones turned sharply as she heard the rap upon the door, her anger flaring again. "Go away, Bobby!" she shouted, not wanting to continue their argument from earlier.

The door opened slightly, and she stomped toward it, enraged. "What the he--"

"If this is a bad time, I can come back," Logan said calmly as he poked his head in. His black eyes were intent upon her, and suddenly she felt like a bug under glass, being scrutinized and examined from a distance.

" on in," she stuttered, caught off-guard by his appearance. Whatever he wanted, it couldn't be good. She couldn't remember a single time, in the year and a half that she had lived here, that Logan had ever come into her room. Hesitantly, she took a step backward and sat down upon her bed, looking suddenly much more submissive than the moment before.

It was all Logan could do not to crack a smile. Though he wasn't sure that her fear of him was good thing, considering that they were teammates, but he was extremely amused by it. Kitty and Jubilee hadn't even been fourteen when they had met him yet they had never been afraid of him, never let him intimidate them for a moment. All mirth faded at the thought of Jubilee, though, and his expression grew serious as he took the chair from her desk and sat down.

"So...," he offered, letting her squirm in the following silence for several long seconds before continuing. "Let me cut right to the chase." He pulled a cigar from his pocket and tapped it thoughtfully on the seat of the chair. "You and Drake been having a lot o' problems lately, from the look o' things." It wasn't really a question, but still he looked to her expectantly, waiting for her to answer.

She fidgeted uncomfortably, as if hedging, then finally nodded. There was no point in trying to lie or gloss over the fact. It had been painfully obvious to the entire household over the last several months. "Yes, we have."

"Care to tell me why?" he asked, though they both already knew the answer.

"Because...," she hesitated, not really wanting to discuss this at all, especially not with the grim leader of the team. Besides, he already knew the answer to that question. Why was he forcing her to go through it again?

"Confession's good for the soul, darlin'," he said, as if reading her thoughts. "That's what they always told me, anyway." He shrugged lightly, his tone perfectly in tune with casual gesture. But his eyes...those were eyes that had seen too much, eyes that made it clear they got what they wanted, that would not be denied, and she knew it.

Sighing inwardly, she continued. "Because of what went down with Gambit." It sounded lame, even to her own ears, and she cringed. Saying it out loud, like this, it suddenly sounded so petty.

"Mmm-hm." He grunted non-committally, nodding. "And you don't think he's suffered enough for it already? Poor boy's been kickin' himself ever since it happened. Even Storm has managed to forgive 'im." He tapped the cigar a few more times, playing up the ensuing, tense, silence for all it was worth. "So why don't you tell me what's really botherin' you?"

She stared at him like a deer caught in headlights, completely taken aback by the question. "But...but I already told you...."

"I ain't buyin' it darlin. This ain't about the cajun, it's about you. But, if you wanna lie to yerself, go right ahead. It don't matter to me either way. All that matters to me is that this team is whole and functionin' as a unit. And as long as you and the popsicle are fightin', that ain't gonna happen."

This time she was completely speechless. What could he possibly mean that she was lying to herself? She was so wrapped up in puzzling out his words that she was almost startled when he spoke again.

"You need to bury the hatchet with the boy once'n for all. It don't matter if you don't like 'im, but you gotta work with 'im. Continuing a pointless argument ain't good for the team," he said, rising from the chair and pushing it back under the desk.

"I can work with the team just fine," she said defensively, finding her voice at last.

He stopped in mid-stride toward the door, turning back to look at her with those spooky eyes again. "That boy would die fer you, Angel.....can you say the same?" The question had nothing to do with his former remarks, but still, he felt the need to make her aware of what she was doing. Of the pain she was causing, of the pain she was living in.

"I-I'd do the same for any X-Man," she responded weakly.

He leaned against the doorframe, cigar seemingly forgotten in his hand. "Look, I don't know much about your past, darlin', but I'm bettin' whatever was in it included a whole lotta hurt from someone you loved a lot. I see how you look at Bobby, how you act with him...there's love there of a sort, but more fear than anything. That's why you lash out against 'im so bad, cause your feelin's, his feelin's for you, they scare you silly."

She stared at him liked a frightened, cornered animal, completely defenseless in the face of his truth. Even if she could have responded, she couldn't think of a single thing to say. He was right. About everything. Vance's image, never far from her mind, rose up again before her.

Logan turned and pulled the door closed, pausing for just an instant before shutting it. With one last look back at her, he finished, "We all got crosses to bear, darlin'. But when you let 'em get too heavy, they have a way o' draggin' you straight to the bottom. Yer too good for that, darlin', don't let it happen."

He turned away and shut the door then, but not before he saw the tears in her eyes.


Continued in Chapter Sixteen


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