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
"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
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 know...how 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 you...to Amanda...oh..my 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.
"You...you 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 before...now that you're well again though...,"
she trailed off, unable to finish her sentence, unable to
even comprehend what was happening.
"I...am 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..."
"Kurt...no, 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 dear...it 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
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
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
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
He felt her slipping away, and his smile grew. Now there
was nothing to stand in his way. He would reign as supreme
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. "Magnus...you've
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
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."
"But..how?" 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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