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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 21: A Glimmer of Hope

"Well...isn't this a pretty picture?" Marrow asked mockingly, the ever sly smile still toying at her lips as she looked down upon Storm.

Storm coughed and spit blood, glaring balefully at the younger Morlock as she paced around her like a cat closing in on its prey. "Come to gloat, Marrow?" she croaked, her cracking tone giving evidence the great strain it cost her just to speak.

"Any other time...? Absolutely," the Morlock replied, grinning as she finally stopping her pacing. "But not today. Today I said I would help, and I will." Marrow stepped aside to reveal the Morlock healer coming up behind her.

"But the team--," Storm began to protest.

"Will live or die without you, Wind Rider," Marrow interrupted. "Or would you prefer to die for your cause today, rather than wait a few minutes?" she asked almost casually.

Storm said nothing as she collapsed back onto the ground, allowing the Morlock healer to begin his work, and Marrow's cat-like grin grew even wider.

Nightcrawler looked to be in bad shape as Kitty crested the hill. He had only risen to he knees, no farther, and he held his head in his hands like a repentant sinner, as if all the woes of the world rested on his shoulders. Kitty hardened her heart as she approached, already phasing though he held no weapons, and...stopped...cold.

He had lifted his eyes to look at her, as if sensing her presence, and in their golden depths, she saw the soul of the man she had once loved like a brother. The soul of a man who cared beyond all caring, whose heart had once been filled with light and laughter. Tears streaked his blue furred face as he turned his eyes up toward her, and in his expression, she saw a depth of regret she could not even begin to fathom.

"Katchzen...," he whispered, his voice filled with thick emotion. "Mein Gott! What have I done?"

Even his voice was different, she thought, as she hesitated just a few steps away. Was it some sort of trick, she wondered, another of the Shadow Kings delicious torments whipped up for her benefit? Her dark brown eyes narrowed as she took in the measure of him.

"Don't come any closer," he gasped, holding out one hand to ward her away. "I..don't much longer I can keep it in check. I can..feel..the madness trying to claim me again."

Unable to help herself, she took a step forward as he spoke, his voice so filled with pain that she could not ignore it.

"No!" he cried, louder this time, and his hand came out more forcefully. "I do not want to hurt you Katchzen...ever...again." His voice broke, and she could see he was trembling, though with effort or emotion, she did not know. "Whatever the Shadow King did to my mind years ago is undone by Psylockes blade...for the moment. I remember...I remember everything," he gasped, the tears starting anew. "To love, my friends, please forgive me!" he pleaded aloud, raising his hands to the sky as if in supplication.

"Oh God...Kurt. It really is you," she whispered, kneeling down beside him despite his warnings. She was so stunned she didn't know what to feel, or even to think. All she knew was that this man who had once been like her brother, was at last almost whole again.

" came up here to kill me, didn't you?" he asked, his voice bereft of accusation. It was almost more of a statement than a question.

She was struck speechless. She had come up here expecting to confront a monster, and here instead was her dearest friend before her. "I...well...yes," she admitted reluctantly. "But that was that you're well again though...," she trailed off, unable to finish her sentence, unable to even comprehend what was happening.

" not, Katch-AUGH!" he cried out suddenly in pain, pressing his hands hard against his temples, as if trying to drive out the thoughts inside. "Already I feel it returning..I...can't control myself much longer..."

", if you're okay now then there's got to be a way to reverse the process--"

"Katchzen," he began quietly cutting her off. "Even if I could be cured, could you ever forgive me? Could anyone ever forgive me for the atrocities I have committed over the last two years?"

Kitty sat silently, having no answer for his question, but one lone tear rolled down her cheek.

"And...I could not forgive myself," he said, more firmly, as if that answered both of his previous questions. "You came up here to kill a monster...but that is not your cross to bear, my is mine alone."

She understood his meaning immediately. "Kurt, NO! You can't just give up! Not now! Not after you've made this step! Maybe we can get Psylocke to--"

"Kitty," he said solemnly, taking her by the shoulders and forcing him to look at her. "Go. I do not want you to have to see this."

"No, Kurt! I won't just leave you--"

"GO!" he snarled, throwing her away from him. "Or would you rather I tried to cleave your heart in two a second time?"

She could see the madness swirling within his yellow eyes, fighting for domination over his soul. He had always been possessed of such a noble spirit, holding honor and loyalty as the highest of his morals. He could never live with the cold-blooded murders that stained his hands now, despite the fact that the Shadow King was ultimately responsible for them. He could never bear the weight of the deaths that hung over his head. Kurt had been made for gentler things.

Tears streamed down her face as she stared at him, a million emotions seeming to tear her soul apart all at once. She tried to speak, to tell him that she understood, but the words wouldn't come as easily as the tears. She heaved a choking sob and clasped a hand over her face as she turned and ran down the hill.

Kurt watched her go, and then turned, picking up one of his discarded swords. "Father, forgive me for all my sins," he pleaded as he turned his face up toward the sky, eyes closing as he raised the sword high into the air. He held the hilt with both hands as he turned the point toward his chest, and for a moment, the persona that was not his relented in its battle with his psyche. For a moment, Kurt was granted total peace, and if not for the bloody memories which tore at his heart, he might have even smiled. "Amanda, my love...forgive me...forgive me," he pleaded in a broken whisper, the tears slipping from behind his eyelids.

And then, Kurt Wagner, once again possessed of his own mind and soul, raised the sword to its highest point and brought it home...straight through his heart.

Psylocke fell back as Wolverines claws took her in the side, gasping in pain as a good portion of her flesh went with them. Already she bled from more than a dozen wounds, and though she had managed to land several good blows of her own, nothing seemed to stop him. Or even slow him.

She crouched defensively, bringing her Kitana up to guard. It was rare that she used her sword, normally she preferred to take out opponents with her fists and psi-blade, but against Wolverine, she would have little chance of doing that. She pressed one hand against her wounded side, trying to hold back the flow of blood that gushed forth from it, raising her chin high in defiance. She was unwilling to admit defeat even now, despite the fact that the wound was obviously mortal; she would fight until the end.

Wolverine closed in, and she let him almost reach her before she sprang forward with a loud cry, shoving her sword blade completely through his mid-section, her head almost leaning on his shoulder as she watched its point exit through his back. The only clear thought left in her mind was that she had missed his heart.

Wolverine stood there, letting her rest against him for a moment, both of them breathing heavily from the exertion of the fight. Despite what she had become, despite their differences, at least in battle they were both bound by the same Japanese traditions. They both understood what was to happen next, all that remained was how it was to be done.

"Make it fast," she whispered, leaning up to speak into his ear. Her consciousness was already quickly fading as more of her lifesblood spilled out onto the ground...soon she would be gone anyway...but not like that...not from a lingering wound. She would die clean, in battle, with her honor intact. What little she had left, anyway.

"Only for you, Betts," he whispered back, and a moment later she felt his claws pierce her chest.

And then there was only blackness.

Rogue could hear nothing beyond the roaring storm in her mind, all senses lost in its screaming fury. What had she been thinking? Thinking that she could control this monsters psyche? Now he would simply possess her instead, and nothing would change. Her sacrifice would be all for naught. And the children..oh...the children.

She could not even fight anymore, she could feel herself slipping away into darkness as the Shadow King became more real, became her. What would it be like, she wondered, to be a prisoner in her own body?

Storm finally rose to her feet on the battlefield, feeling only a little worse for the wear after the Morlock healers attentions. Quickly, she made note of everything happening about her, trying to see where she was needed most, and froze in place as her eyes fell on the happenings atop the hill.

Magneto was slowly rising to his feet, hand held to his head as if in pain, and even from here, she could see the fires of rage that burned in his eyes.

The Shadow King was smiling as he ingrained himself into Rogue's mind. He loved the powerful feeling of this body, it would serve him well. Though not as well Magnus' had, he had to admit, but that body was not likely to survive the battle. He flexed the new muscles and felt the strength in them respond. Yes, this would do well until he could back to Joseph's body at the citadel.

He felt Rogue's consciousness trying to retaliate, to push him from his ascension. With but a thought, he shoved her downward, pushing her to the furthest corner of his new mind. Arrogant wench, he thought, trying to contain the power of the Shadow King in her body. She really ought to have known better. There was almost nothing to bar his way; for all of Rogue's prowess and defenses in her mind, she was hardly practiced with using them. She had always avoided thinking too heavily about anything when she still could not control her power, and even now, she seemed to concentrate on their potential very little. Besides it was he who had taught her how to use her mind in the first place; taking out the defenses she had was nothing.

He felt her slipping away, and his smile grew. Now there was nothing to stand in his way. He would reign as supreme as ever.

Storm was after Magneto immediately, flying in like a bullet toward his form. Hoping to catch him off guard while he was still groggy, she inwardly cursed as she saw his eyes fall on her and his hand flex with the use of his power. Bracing herself for the impact with the ground, she gritted her teeth.

A moment later, she was surprised to find herself still floating in mid-air, encapsulated in a magnetic bubble and face to face with Magneto.

"We meet again, Storm," he rasped. "It has been a long time, hasn't it?" He looked at his surroundings with a questioning expression, as if unsure as to where he was or how he had gotten here, and it only took a moment for Storm to figure out why.

"By the Goddess," she gasped, blue eyes wide. "'ve returned."

The Shadow King was rapidly pushing his new mind toward consciousness, completely assured of his victory and already plotting the destruction of his foes as he did. With Psylocke by his side and no other telepaths available, they could never truly be rid of him, he thought smugly.

If anyone had been able to feel the surprise that came over him as two new consciousness' flared to life within him, they would have laughed aloud.

No...he screamed inside himself as he felt their touch, the powerful probe of telepathy that almost seemed to bury him beneath its wake. The thoughts were almost primal with their limited development, but the sheer power of them more than made up for experience. Who is arrogant now? His own voice mocked him from within. Wailing in anguish, Amahl Farouk tried desperately to cling to his mortal shell as the two children began to force him from it.

Storm, Magneto and Gambit all hovered over Rogue's body, waiting for some sign of life. No words needed to be spoken in that moment, they all knew the fate of the world rested in the vessel of this one, brave woman. There had been no change in her state for several minutes, thus, they were completely unprepared for what happened next.

With an inhuman wail, an almost intangible being was forced free from her body, rising into the air in twisting throes of pain. It was vaguely humanoid in shape, wisps of nearly invisible material swirling around in a maelstrom of agony, its face out of focus and constantly changing. But none of them needed to see its face to recognize its identity. Recovering from their initial surprise, they instantly turned on it, focusing all of their energy on destroying it before it could escape.

Storm's first lightning blast seemed to shatter it into a thousand pieces, while Gambit's charged playing card served to drive it even further apart. Magnus seized the opportunity then, using his magnetic abilities to move the pieces of its corporeal being farther apart and refusing to let them reform. Gritting his teeth, face set in a grim cast, he concentrated all of his considerable might on each individual atom, taking every single one and scattering it to the wind in a separate direction. Slowly, agonizing, with painstaking effort, his dismembered the beings corporeal energy body, ignoring the rapidly fading psionic scream inside his mind. When at last he began to unravel even the individual atoms, it faded altogether, dying out with a whimpering moan...and then nothing.

Sweating and shaking, the once and future master of magnetism sank gratefully to his knees, the effort nearly having drained him. With a faint smile, he spoke the words he had longed to hear for the past two years or more. "It is done."

Rogue stirred, groaning as a massive headache set in, seeming to seize her entire brain in its painful grasp. The first thing it made her aware of was that she was still alive, and rapidly following that was the thought that she could no longer feel the Shadow King inside of her. Emerald green eyes snapping open, she sat up suddenly, ignoring the sudden wave of pain it sent through her mind as she tried to focus on those around her. The first thing she saw was Gambit's smiling face, staring at her tenderly.

Throwing her arms around him, she was still trying to form the words when he answered her unasked question. "It's done, chere. He gone for good dis time."

"" she whispered shakily, drawing back to look at him. "Ah couldn't hold him...he had me beat."

"Something expelled him from your body," came a familiar voice from nearby, a voice she had thought never to hear again.

"Magneto?" she whispered in awe, turning to look at the white-haired man standing behind her, his rugged face as grim and handsome as she remembered. "You're alive!"

He nodded, the faint smile returning as she stated the obvious. "Yes, so it would seem. With the Shadow Kings essence removed from my body, my mind finally had the chance to regain precedence. Had he not joined Joseph's mental energy with my own, I might never have been healed...but now it seems I am a whole man again, at last."

She nodded, trying to take in the startling information he presented as he mind throbbed and seemed to twist inside her skull. With a faint moan, she placed a hand to her head. "Whatever he did to me, it sure packed one whallop of a punch." Distantly wishing that she were a telepath, she turned her awareness inward, hoping to seek out the source of the pain.

And in that very moment, it began to fade. With something like surprise, she felt the touch of two minds flutter against hers, their thoughts primitive and almost ethereal. Her awareness seemed to suddenly expand, and she aware of everything within her body; the pounding of her heart, the intake of breath through her lungs, the sound of blood rushing through her veins, the two smaller heartbeats of the children in her womb and their rudimentary thoughts. Dimly, she realized that she was seeing through their senses.

With a broad smile that lent beauty to her tears of happiness, she touched her stomach fondly. "I can feel them," she whispered, almost to herself. Telepaths, she thought, wondering at the feelings that word stirred within her; hope, joy, happiness...and just a touch of fear. But that didn't matter right now. Throwing her arms around Gambit, she began crying happily, for perhaps the first time in her life. "Oh, Remy, I can feel them," she whispered joyously.


Concluded in the Epilogue


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