The Resurrection Gauntlet
Chapter 7: OF REGRET AND REMEMBERANCE
It was insanity, Sinister thought as he reviewed the files
that the computer had pulled up. Bringing back such a being
could only spell Armageddon for this already faltering world.
And he could only assume that that was the intention of the
mysterious person who had sent this baffling message. What
else could it possibly mean? Someone was toying with him,
giving him a glimpse of their hand before laying their cards
out on the table and ending the game completely. For everyone.
What kind of maniac would be so arrogant and - Maniac,
he thought, his mind snagging hold of the word. Maybe he did
know what kind of maniac would dare, at that. Sinisters visage
twisted into a snarl, and his fingers dug into the lab table
with such strength that the metal buckled beneath his rage.
"Damn the fool," he swore beneath his breath, red
eyes lighting up like twin fires, almost blinding in their
intensity despite the bright lights of the lab.
"What's the matter Gambit ... can't sleep?" Madelyne
purred in her throaty, knowing voice as Remy passed her in
Considering, he turned to face her, red eyes flashing in
the semi-darkness as he studied the gloating expression she
wore almost constantly. As if she had some secret that gave
her ultimate power over every other being around her. He broke
the gaze and ran a tired hand through his hair, knowing that
he must have looked much worse than he felt, like an addict
who'd been too long without a fix.
"S'been a long day, petite, neh? Too much t' t'ink about
for me to sleep."
Madelyne smiled, an almost predatory smile, he noted, as
she sauntered closer to him, hips swaying provocatively. "I
agree ... why sleep when there are so many more ... exciting
things to do?" she asked suggestively, her voice dropping
to a husky whisper. She moved closer still to him, leaving
only a mere foot of space between their bodies, emerald eyes
fixing on his admiringly on his frame.
If she had been any other woman, Gambit simply would have
finessed his way out of the situation with his not inconsiderable
smooth charm. But with this woman, he thought perhaps a blunt
denial would work best to get the message across. And that
was if he was lucky.
He raised his hand to stroke his chin, as if in thought,
making sure that the wedding band on his left hand caught
the light. "Now chere, you know I'm a married man..."
"Yes," she replied, crossing her arms and looking
at him with raised brows, her whole demeanor, her very poise
set as if to say "and so what?"
"So den ... ," he said, beginning to turn away,
as if that settled the matter.
Madelyne laughed aloud. "What's this? Nobility from
the man who worked for Sinister and organized the Marauders?"
Remy stopped in mid-step, feeling his heart turn stone cold
at her insult. Of all the things she could have said, that
was the one that struck home the most. She really should have
known better. Madelyne might be dangerous, might even be able
to kill him, but he had never let good sense get in the way
of avenging an insult. Barely turning his head to the side,
his words were flat and cold as he spoke. "You know,
for all dat you have Jean Grey's face, you got none of de
Madelyne's anger rose like a flash-fire in mid-summer underbrush,
her green eyes flashing dangerously. Remy could almost feel
her anger like a living thing from five feet away, and he
allowed himself a small smirk for pushing her buttons as well
as she had pushed his.
"I could make you, you know," she sneered, her
voice turning harsh and ugly, such a dramatic change from
her normal seductive purr. "Reach right into your tiny
little mind and pull your strings like a puppet."
Gambit turned slowly back toward her, purposely leaning casually
against the wall, arms folded over his chest in apathetic
challenge. "You certainly welcome to try, petite."
Enraged, Madelyne pushed out with all her might, thinking
to at least render him unconscious and give him a raging headache
as she no longer had a taste for his more carnal instincts.
Shocked for the second time that day, she didn't manage to
recover from the wave of power that shoved her backwards,
and she fell ungracefully floor in a heap. Murder in her eyes,
she snarled like a wild animal as she leaped to her feet,
wondering where the hell this man had gotten psi-shields of
that kind of power.
Gambit merely continued to smirk, allowing himself a few
seconds of satisfaction as he basked in her hateful expression.
Then he let his arms drop back to his sides and pushed off
from the wall with his shoulder, turning away for the last
time as he strode down the hall. "Sinister fixed us up
good, non?" he asked over his shoulder with quiet sarcasm,
leaving Madelyne sputtering in rage and disbelief behind him.
"God Remy, you look like hell," Rogue observed
aloud as he stepped, almost staggering into the room.
"I got waylaid ... by a Mack truck," he replied
with a tired wink as he practically fell down onto the bed
beside her, thinking his statement had been fairly close to
the truth, considering Madelyne's overtures tonight. Turning
his face to one side so that he could look up at her, he smiled
faintly. "So how's dat glass jaw, ma chere?"
She frowned unhappily at the mention of her injury, the jibe
driving home the lingering feeling that she had screwed up
badly today. Raising one hand to touch the left side of her
jawbone gently, she nodded. "Sore. But Ah'll survive.
The med-lab healed most of the damage."
"Well," Remy replied, sitting up to kiss her injured
jaw tenderly. "Magnus took care of de femme but good.
She won't be punching anyone in de jaw ever again." He
paused, then added as an afterthought, "Least til Sinister
clone her again."
"It's never gonna end, is it?" Rogue asked with
a hopeless sigh. "We killed the Shadow King only to have
other tyrants rush to take his place ... Ah want so bad to
believe that we can put this world back together, make it
a better place, the kind of place our children might have
a future in. But we can't even protect them, much less save
the world," she said bitterly, clenching her pillow tightly
"Aw, chere. C'mon ... .," he said gently sitting
up fully and circling his arms around her. "You know
we'll find a way to help dem. We got time."
"But no options," she said, her frustration creeping
into her voice.
"Well...," Remy thought for a moment, a vision
of Sinister passing unbidden through his mind. Shaking the
image off with a shiver, he concentrated on the situation
and what few viable options they had. "Dere's Madelyne,"
he suggested, though not with much confidence.
Rogue snorted. "I'd sooner trust the devil himself than
that snake in the grass," she spat sarcastically, and
Remy supressed another shiver as the reference made him think
of Sinister once again.
Forcing the unpleasant thought away, he managed a genuine
smile, remembering. "You used t' call me dat, once."
"Yeah," Rogue agreed, smiling back as she thought
back to their early days together, then turned somber as a
thought occurred to her. "But this is different. She's
the kinda snake that bites."
"Oui," Remy had to agree after a slight pause.
"But she all we got right now, chere. We got to hope
she can be persuaded, eventually."
Rogue sighed again and leaned heavily back into his embrace.
"Ah guess, sugah ... but that don't mean Ah gotta be
happy about it."
Gambit nodded and remained silent, holding her tight in his
arms as he kissed the top of her head lovingly. He didn't
much like the thought of needing Madelyne either, much less
letting the woman near his children. But he could scarcely
afford to consider the only other alternative. He'd had enough
of Sinister in his life already to last him forever, and he
was in no hurry to experience the mans not-so-tender mercies
again. Any deal with the evil geneticist would be like a double-edged
sword: not only would Sinister get what he wanted, but he'd
make sure to twist whatever he gave in return in such a manner
that no one won but himself. That was Sinister's way. And
there was no way in hell Remy was going to risk losing this
woman that he loved more than life itself, or his children,
whom he loved just as fiercely. He had come too far, had too
much to lose and had too many people depending on him now
to simply throw away his soul. Had he had only himself to
be concerned with, he wouldn't have thought twice about it
... but his life had changed a great deal from his solo days.
And he loved it.
But if it came down to it, he wondered, could he let his
children die instead of making such a deal? He knew he couldn't
... so he would simply have to make sure that it never came
Bobby tossed and turned in his bed, unable to sleep after
everything that had happened tonight. Incredibly, the part
that bugged him most was the scenario between he and Lorna
in the med-lab earlier tonight. He mentally kicked himself
over and over again for letting something like that happen.
He should have known better. Sure she was beautiful, sure
he cared about her, but he really should have- "Ah, who'm
I kidding?" he asked the darkened room out loud. "One
look from her and I turned into quivering jelly. Who wouldn't?"
He sighed and rolled over onto his back, staring at the ceiling
disconsolately. Now he had probably ruined the friendship
he treasured so highly with her for good. She had been having
a weak moment, caught up in the memories of her youth, and
had let it sweep her away. He should have been stronger, should
have stopped her, but the truth was, he'd never truly gotten
over his feelings for Lorna, not completely. She had always
held a special place in his heart over the years, but since
they'd been on the team together, they had grown very close
as friends, and those feelings, much as he denied them, refused
to go away quietly. There was nothing standing between them
now, save the fact that she deserved far better than Bobby
Drake, he thought. And that was just it, he knew she deserved
better than him. Lorna was a woman capable of great passion;
she threw herself wholeheartedly into everything she did,
and in the years following the Shadow King's domination, she
had become one of the best soldiers this world had to offer.
She had grace, she had poise, a presence that could, at times,
make him feel like the callow boy he had been when he first
joined the X-Men.
He had felt the same way about Angelica, once, but he had
pursued her with good-humor, hiding the ache in his heart
as best he could, never expecting to win, and finally, suprisingly,
she had accepted him. Accepted him wholeheartedly and with
more love than he had ever thought possible. Their time together
had been short, but he had never forgotten a single moment
of it. The pain had faded somewhat after six years, but he
still missed her, longed for her sometimes at his side. And
though he knew Angelica would have wanted him to go on without
her, he shouldn't have let that need bleed out onto Lorna
He only hoped she could forgive him.
Lorna's thoughts echoed Bobby's as she sat, watching over
Puck while he healed. What the hell had she been thinking,
walking away like that? Bobby must have felt like a complete
idiot after she walked out on him, and he surely had to be
angry, thinking that she had been playing some stupid game
with him. She bit her lower lip and frowned. Why was it nothing
ever turned out like she planned it?
She hadn't meant to try and kiss Bobby; it had simply happened,
as if it had been the most natural thing in the world. And
then, when Gambit had interrupted, she'd felt like a fool
for trying to force herself on him so wantonly. If he had
wanted her, he would have done something about it ages ago.
Besides, she had already thrown him away once, many years
ago when they were young ... why would he want to subject
himself to that again?
She sighed, blowing her bangs up from her eyes with the release
of air. The truth was, she had never completely stopped caring
for Bobby ... and he had grown up so much, turned into the
kind of man she could believe in, even follow had he the inclination
to take up the role of leadership. But she had screwed that
up years ago, unable to see the potential in him as a teenager.
She valued their friendship above any other, cherished it
in a way that was only made more special by her feelings for
him, which had grown in their time together here.
She only hoped he wouldn't stay angry with her for too long.
Illyana moaned fitfully in her sleep as a nightmare gripped
her in its merciless claws. Hands reached out from all around
her, demonic smiles above the arms in the darkness as they
grasped for her, whispering ominously.
She turned and ran into the darkness, almost blinded as portals
of light began to flash into existence all around her. Confused,
she didn't think as she leapt into one of the portals, only
wanting to escape. And then she was falling, falling endlessly
through time and space it seemed, finally hitting the ground
with a strangely painless thud as she struck the bottom. She
stood, heart pounding heavily in her ears as she listened
for any sounds of pursuit.
"Illyana," a low voice whispered from the shadows,
and she turned, remembering her Soulsword for the first time
as she drew it forth to combat this new menace. She recognized
that voice ... from somewhere. It raised the hairs on the
back of her neck for reasons she could not explain, forcing
her mind backward into the almost primal thought patterns
of childhood. Something here was very wrong ...
And then she realized. The eldritch armor that emanated from
the sword to clothe and protect her seemed twisted ... deformed
somehow. Reaching up with trembling hands to feel her forehead,
already knowing in some dim part of her mind what she would
find there, she nonetheless drew back in surprise as her fingers
came in contact with two, long metal horns. And then she realized
... both hands were on her head, so her sword was ... .where?
With horror, she saw it then, held up before her, coiled tightly
in her ... forked tail ...
"Welcome home, Darkchilde," Belasco laughed mockingly.
"Master?" Seera inquired meekly from the doorway.
She hadn't wanted to interrupt him while he was in such an
obvious foul mood, but she would only suffer worse later if
she didn't tell him what she had found, now.
In cold silence, he turned, ruby gaze falling on her with
such intensity that it made her shiver. Submissively, she
lowered her eyes to floor, waiting for him to indicate that
she should speak.
"What?" he asked in a voice so unnaturally quiet
that it sent chills down her spine. Swallowing against the
dryness in her throat, she forced herself to speak aloud.
"There is something you should see," was all she
said, having to wait only an instant this time before he nodded
Timidly, she sent the images that she had just seen moments
before into his mind. She didn't like it in here at all, his
mind was a twisted, dark, confusing maze, but she made herself
bear it, pushing down the queasy feeling in her stomach. She
was a telepath/post-cog, in the best sense that she could
categorize herself, and not a very strong one at that. She
got visions of importance sometimes, like newsflashes from
around the world, usually disasters, but only after they had
already happened. Once, before the war, she had fancied becoming
a news reporter, using her mutant ability to get the scoop
on every important story and rise to the top. But the Shadow
King had cut that career short, and now she found herself
a lackey to this terrifying man, Sinister. But at least with
him, she had relative safety, if not peace of mind. Sinister
remained impassive as the images paraded inside of his mind,
just barely hanging on to his temper as the story progressed.
By the end, he was gripping the metal arms of his chair so
tightly, Seera thought they might snap like kindling. Quivering
in quiet terror, she waited, praying for his dismissal of
her. She had never seen him so outraged, and the fact was
only made worse by the way he contained it. That made it even
more likely to be explosively volatile when he finally released
it. She practically ran from the room as he nodded slightly
toward her, glad to be away from his presence.
Sinister smashed his fist against one of the metal arms,
the light steel screaming in protest as it twisted, damaging
it beyond repair. "The Marauders," he whispered
angrily, still managing to keep the utter rage from his voice.
The game had gone too far, now. His old foe had finally overstepped
their bounds. No one, but no one, played at being Sinister.
Continued in Chapter
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