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"The Resurrection Gauntlet"

The Resurrection Gauntlet

The sequel to "Death of a Dream."

The Enemy of My Enemy...
From the Grave
Into the Fire
Shifting the Ashes
Ghosts of Past and Present
Of Regret and Remembrance
Deeper into Darkness
Old Habits
Trial by Fire
The Downard Spiral
Life Incarnate

This story is in progress.

The Resurrection Gauntlet

Chapter 11: OLD HABITS

"I'm going with you," Siryn said stubbornly, placing her hands on her hips and meeting Magneto's angry gaze without backing down an inch.

"Theresa, you are still not well," he said, as if the matter were settled with that one statement and turned away toward the door.

"Just as you were not well when you joined the X-Men and led the New Mutants," she shot back, walking around, stopping in front of him and blocking his path through the doorway. "I never saw Magneto take as many hits as you did when you were with the teams. You weren't fully healed from your battle when Asteroid M was destroyed by Warlock, it took you over a year to come back, and still you never stopped fighting. Can you expect me to do any less?"

Magnus felt his resolve slipping as he met Siryn's eyes fully and saw the fire of determination burning within her. There was a reason he had always felt kinship with this girl ... woman, he mentally corrected himself ... she, too, had been led astray in her quest for heroism, followed down the wrong path, and made her way back time and time again. In the years following his finding of her and her return to the team, the kinship between them had deepened into something much more; a familial bond, of sorts. She had needed someone to look up to, to lean on for guidance so badly then ... the loss of her father, uncle, lovers, team, and everyone she had ever been close to had left her as alone as a frightened child. Just as alone and confused after his possession by the Shadow King, he had been looking for a bond, something to hold him and give him a place in this new world, something to help him identify himself again. His team of X-Men had been shaping up well, but the feeling of family that had always been integral to the X-Men was lacking for him, as it always had in the past. Siryn's demon had been alcohol, and she had given herself over to it completely after the Shadow King war, no less so than Magnus himself had given himself over to his insanity after Aushwitz. For her, he knew it was a constant battle against her addiction, but he himself had finally gotten lucky, if one could call it that. When Rogue had shoved Psylocke's stolen psi-blade into his mind, she had not only separated the Shadow King from Magnus, but she had set right in his mind whatever psychosis had possessed him, prior to that. Still, he hadn't been whole ... he'd always felt alone, even when surrounded by the X-Men, even when he had been friends with Charles ... the emotional bonds in his life had been sorely lacking since Magda had left him. So he had brought Siryn home, helped her kill her demons, and they had, strangely enough, each provided what the other needed.

It was strange to Magnus, when he thought about it. All of his surviving children had turned their backs on him at every opportunity ... not that he supposed he could really blame them, after what he had put them through. But that this woman, who was no blood of his own and had fought against him on more than one occasion, could look up to him as an almost parental figure and respect him ... it never ceased to fill him with a sense of pride that he imagined only a child of ones own could give. The kind of feeling he might have gotten from Pietro and Wanda, had he not been consumed by insanity at the time he met them. It was far too late, he knew, to repair the damage with them. Pietro had died virtually at Magnus' own hands when he had been possessed by the Shadow King, and Wanda had never forgiven him for either his treatment of her when she was younger, nor for his part in her brother's death. But with Theresa, he felt he had been given a second chance at fatherhood. His natural instinct was to protect her, keep as far from this battle as possible, but he could not deny her the path that he himself followed, no matter if he liked it or not. Besides, indomitable will was another thing they shared in common, and he knew that even if he stood solid on his decision, she would find a way to get around it. That, and he often found that he could deny her nothing.

"Not to mention," Theresa continued, not realizing that she had already won the argument, "I want to get to the bottom of just what exactly happened at the Alpha Flight base as much as you do. They were your friends, and students to a degree, but they were in MY care, under MY leadership when they died, and I'll see the person who did this to them dead before I rest." She folded her arms over her chest and drew her chin up defiantly, as if daring him to contradict her.

Magnus nodded once, holding back the faint smile that her expression inspired, once again struck by how odd it was that he should feel so fatherly toward her even though she had been a full-grown woman when he had taken her in. There was something so childishly charming about her in his aging eyes, and it had gotten right under his skin and into his heart, years ago. "Very well, Theresa. Get suited up. But you will stay as far from the fighting as possible unless we absolutely need you, on my order. Understood?"

"Understood," she returned with a salute, then smiled.

Magnus shook his head and watched her go, as unhappy with placing her in danger as he was happy that she would be at his side during the coming, almost certain battle.

Wanda sighed as she saw her father's face come into view behind the X-Men teams filing into the docking bay, wishing that she had stayed behind in New York. It made her very uncomfortable to be here, in the presence of the man who had done little more than impregnate her mother and made her life a kind of living hell for most of her youth. Certainly, she had heard Moira's theories years ago on Magnus' insanity, but the facts, if they even were facts, had little bearing on her feelings toward the man after the years of torment he had inflicted on her and her brother. She didn't hate him, exactly ... he had certainly come a long way since his recovery of being possessed by the Shadow King. In many ways, he was now a man she had never even known; a man she would have liked to get to know, had the wounds they had inflicted on one another over the years not made the distance between them unbreachable. Yes, she had overcome her fear of her father many years ago, but the oldest hurts still remained, and contact with him was no less painful now than it had been in the past. She wanted desperately to be anywhere but here.

A hand fell on her shoulder, and she turned, startled from her thoughts. "Oh, Lasher," she smiled at the younger man, her teammate and friend of many years.

The slight frown he wore did not lessen as she smiled, if anything, his concern seemed to heighten. "Something's troubling you, Wanda...," he said, leaving the statement open for her to finish.

She shrugged lightly, ducking her head away, red-brown hair obscuring her features as she answered. "It's nothing, really."

Lasher's gaze traveled over the room briefly, coming to rest on a man he had only just been formally introduced to, the same man Wanda had been watching with a troubled expression a moment before. "It's Magnus, isn't it," he asked with such finality that it almost wasn't even a question.

"My father," she replied, speaking the word with sarcastic emphasis.

Lasher nodded silently, his eyes still on Magnus as Wanda spoke, studying the man carefully. He had noticed the mans seeming lack of compassion, and that he rarely wore more than a frown to express himself. Yet his eyes did not differ from anyone else's in the way that they gave voice to the soul, so Lasher had taken to watching the mans eyes for reaction. And so it was that he was the only one who caught the look of pained longing Magnus gave Wanda as he passed her by, the same look he had been giving her since their arrival here.

"He still cares for you," he said after a moment.

Wanda fairly snorted with disdain. "Sure he does. That must be why he's tried so hard to be a good father all these years."

Lasher licked his lips, feeling his tongue grate against the texture of his skin like stone on stone, trying to gauge how to best phrase his next statement. "Wanda ... you know I think you're one of the bravest, smartest women I've ever known. You've always represented what's best in a hero, to me..." he trailed off, wrestling with the next words.

Wanda eyed him skeptically, waiting for him to continue.

" ... which makes what I'm about to say that much harder." He forced himself to meet her gaze as he continued. "For a woman so brave and wise, you seem to be so afraid and close-minded when it comes to your father. I know it is not my place to say so," he added hurriedly as he saw her anger rise up suddenly. "But I believe the man deserves another chance. He has done nothing but try to make up for his past mistakes since he was released from the Shadow King's thrall. I have read his file ... I know what he's done in the past, and I know that he has tried to atone for it more than once. I believe him at heart to be a good man, albeit one who was misguided and affected by an emotional disorder."

Wanda stared at Lasher in shock, hardly able to believe the words she'd heard come from his mouth. Then, her anger rapidly catching up and overtaking her, she found the voice to respond. "You know NOTHING of him, of what he did to me, to my brother. You have no right to even speak of such things, much less in his defense."

"Wanda...," once again, he struggled for words. "Please understand ... I don't say these things for him, but for you. Because you are my friend, and this is a wound you have carried too long without healing."

"What he has done to me is beyond healing, Jonathon. If you understand nothing else, understand that."

He lowered his head in defeat, having hoped to reach her with this tactic without angering her. He had known better, really, but they had been so close for so long, and he had watched her wrestle with the demons of her father and all the words they had left unspoken over the years, for far too long. She needed to find inner peace, some sort of balance with this situation, or it might eventually consume her and eat her alive. He had seen it happen to others, during his childhood in the Morlock tunnels, and he would not see it happen to her, would not let it happen to her without a fight. "You need to forgive him, Wanda, need to forgive yourself. You'll never be happy until you do."

"My brother is dead because of that man," she spat bitterly. "I can never forgive him that."

"And yet, he would not have existed without that man, either. He's not a machine, Wanda. He may not have been much of a father, but he IS a father, and the loss of a child is something that no parent ever truly recovers from. Now imagine that you are that parent and you are the cause of your own child's death, even though you were not in control of your mind at the time. Could you ever forgive YOURSELF for that?"

"It's never seemed to bother him a bit."

Lasher noted with relief that her anger seemed to be fading a bit, hopefully having burned itself out or at least been distracted by his argument. "Why don't you ask him?"

Wanda stared at him as if he had suggested stripping naked and throwing herself from the top of a building. "Why don't YOU ask him?" she retorted hotly.

"I would ... if he were MY father," Lasher replied without hesitation, keeping his eyes fixed on hers.

Wanda's gaze slipped from his, coming to rest on the floor as she replied quietly, "He's never bothered asking me anything, why should I?"

"Because you both believe that neither of you will ever accept the other, and he has much more reason to believe that. He knows what he did to you and your brother was wrong, and he is ashamed of it. If he were not, he would not have looked at you like he did just now, he would not have respected your space and left you alone all these years since his recovery. He longs for your forgiveness, but he cannot come to you and ask for it, expecting to receive it. That's something that you must give freely."

Wanda squinted at him in silence, as if sizing up his words. He seemed to believe what he was saying so much, as if it were the absolute truth. She'd always known Lasher was an idealist, a romantic of sorts, but he sounded so sure of himself, so passionate. "Do you have some sort of empathic power I'm unaware of?"

"No," he smiled. "But I do watch people, you know that. I like to study them ... and I did study psychology for a few years back home at the school." He shrugged. "What can it hurt to try, Wanda? You might find the father you always wanted."

"Or I might just stick out my hand and get it chopped off, like every other time in my life."

Lasher shrugged again, still smiling as he turned to board the Blackbird jet, throwing his last piece of advice over his shoulder. "Wear gauntlets."

Wanda smiled darkly at the comment, then boarded the jet behind him, muttering beneath her breath. "You can bet your stony butt that if I did follow your advice, I'd be wearing an entire suit of armor.."

"Pardon me, sir, but is this seat taken?" Lorna asked without waiting for an answer as she sat down in the seat next to Bobby.

"Why no, it isn't," he joked back, slightly taken off-guard but glad that they were finally returning to their light-hearted banter.

They sat in silence for a few minutes as everyone settled in and the jet took off from the docking bay. Once they had achieved their altitude and leveled off, Lorna turned to Bobby with a much more serious look, her smooth, joking polish of moments ago completely gone. "Bobby...," she ran a hand through her hair rather nervously, smoothing it back from her face, hesitating as she searched for the right words. "We've been treating each other with kid-gloves for a couple of days now, and I think it's kind of silly, really. We've been friends for so long ... I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for what happened in the med-lab the other day. I should have never-"

"No, I'm the one who's sorry, Lorna," Bobby broke in. "I got carried away by memories and let myself slip. I should have been more responsible than that."

"Responsible for both of us?" she asked with just a touch of ire, though her smile softened the question.

"No ... I didn't mean to presume to be responsible for you, too...," he struggled for a few seconds more, then chuckled slightly. "Look, here we go, getting all tangled again. Can't we just chalk it up to being melancholy and let it go at that? I hate feeling awkward around you."

She hesitated for just a moment before nodding. "Of course we can. We've been friends too long to let a little thing like this get in the way." She paused again, eyeing him uncertainly, then asked slowly, as if gauging the words, "It's not like anything would have come from it, anyway, right?"

Too embarrassed by the subject to meet her gaze, he completely missed the intensity she was watching him with, waiting for his reply, completely missed the turmoil of emotion in her eyes. All he heard were the words themselves, the words that confirmed his own feelings; "nothing would have come from it anyway". He'd expected the blow, though that didn't make it hurt any less ... expected it so much that he missed the question beneath the question of her words.

"Right," he replied, nodding his head in agreement.

"Right," she said again, rising from her seat rather abruptly.

He finally turned to look at her with raised brows. "You going somewhere? You just got here."

"I ... have to help Magnus go over some of the maps we found ... I just wanted to get all this straightened out with you before we got into battle."

He nodded again, wishing that she would lift her head just a little, brush back the strands of fine green hair from her eyes so that he could see them, and smile at him. Then he shook his head to rid himself of such thoughts, knowing that they would get him nothing except more hurt and endanger their friendship once again. "Well, I'm glad you did," he said with a genuine smile, and in a way, he was. At least it wouldn't impede their communication anymore.

"Yeah ... me, too," she nodded, then hesitated for a few seconds before moving on down the aisle.

Bobby and sighed and threw his head back against the high-backed seat, feeling both relieved and more frustrated at the same time.

"So what's the deal with you two?" came a sly voice from behind Bobby's head, startling him so badly that he literally jumped up out of his seat.

"Thank God it's only you, Alison. You nearly gave me a heart attack."

"Yeah?" she asked with a grin as she kneeled up on her seat and rested her chin on the back of his chair, looking down at him. "Well I'm gonna tell the whole ship what I saw if you don't come clean."

He sighed again. "Lorna and I ... we almost ended up ... well, kissing in the med-lab the other day."

"And this is a tragedy?" she asked, arching one brow.

"No..I mean yes ... .well, not really. Ah hell ... I don't know," he said defeatedly.

Alison Blaire chuckled at her friend's confusion, recognizing it all too well. "You're in love again, you poor sucker."

"Well ... I guess you could say that ... but I've always loved Lorna, to a degree. It's just gotten stronger since we've been on the new team together."

"I see that. And I'd daresay it's mutual."

"You're crazy," he said, staring at her as if he believed what he had just said was true.

"And you, my old friend, are a blockhead, as usual," she replied, not unkindly as she shook her head. "It's so plain a blind man could see it. Listen to the two of you: 'Oh, I'm so sorry' 'No, I'm the one who's sorry', falling all over each other in your anxiety. It's a classic case of love."

"No way. Maybe for me, but not for her. I mean Lorna was involved with Captain America ... what could she possibly see in an immature guy like me after being with an icon like that?"

"You just summed it up right there, chump," she smiled, punching him lightly on the shoulder. "Cap's an icon, you're a man. He's a soldier, and soldiers tend to be more devoted to their job than to anything, or anyone else."

"I just can't see it," he said, slinking down further in his chair.

"You don't have to, Bobby. Just do something about it. If you two keep going the way you are, you're gonna let it slip right by you. I don't think I need to tell you what a precious commodity love is on this planet, these days."

"You really believe that, Dazz?

"You betcha."

"Then why haven't you ever..." he let the question trail off, not wanting to bring up painful memories. Longshot had been dead a long time, but then, so had Angelica, and it still hurt whenever Bobby thought about her.

"Fallen in love again?" she asked, finishing up the question.

"Um ... yeah ... ."

"I almost did, once, several years ago ... but he was in love with someone else already," she said, a bit wistfully.

"Really?" he sat upright in his chair again, his curiosity piqued. "You never told me about him..."

"Oh, he was really wonderful ... sweet guy, biggest brown eyes you ever saw, gentle, kind, giving, great sense of humor. Sometimes he was a bit rash, but that made him all the more captivating, somehow. He was so alive..."

"So if he was so great, how come you never mentioned him until now? I thought we were supposed to be best buds?" he asked, feeling a little betrayed by her silence all this time.

"Because he was you, blockhead," she said with a gentle smile.

He stared at her speechless, a million things running through his mind, at least a thousand of them he wanted to say, but all he could do was stare at her.

"So don't play the waiting game, old buddy, old pal, old friend of mine, because if you're too afraid to make that first step, someone else will come along and steal her heart." She gave him a last smile and squeezed his shoulder affectionately before slipping back down into her seat and out of view.

Bobby spent the rest of the two-hour trip in total silence.

Magnus spent most of the flight in silence as well, occasionally checking in with Kitty to make sure their flight path was continuing unhampered. The sky was gathering black clouds quickly, the further south they went, and Magnus mused rather ironically that there was indeed, a storm coming.

Gathered on the jet were some of the finest fighters alive; Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Polaris, the Scarlet Witch, Shadowcat, Colossus, Dazzler, Siryn, Lasher, himself ... his eyes roved over all of them in the main cabin. Some of the finest fighters alive, he was honored to fight alongside and even lead them, and yet ... he wondered. What could any of them, even combined, hope to do against a cosmic force of nature like the Phoenix?

Outside, lightning flashed and thunder bellowed distantly, a deep booming voice that seemed to echo Magnus' thoughts of despair.


Continued in Chapter 12


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