DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized
work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by
Marvel Comics Group, DC Comics and Chris Claremont. No profit
is being made on this story, which is (c) Tilman Stieve (Menshevik@aol.com).
You can download this and copy it for your entertainment,
but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers
on you. Please do not archive this on your website without
informing me first.
Not sure about this, but according to some people's rules
this story might be labeled "mature themes".
In an ideal world, dear reader, you would already have read
Year in the Life", "A
Day's Work", and "The
Time the Twain Shall Meet" (available on this website!)
before starting on "Lights
in the Dark", but there really should be no trouble
understanding the story on its own once you're past the prologue.
Lights in the Dark
The big man with the studded shoulderpads was shouting from
the top of the stairs: "Could you hurry up with the food
please, Cruiser really needs it!" The two girls turned
in his direction. The man, obviously someone with superstrength,
was very agitated. "I have to say, ladies," he told
the two owners of the cappuccino bar, "it would have
helped a lot if you'd told us about the bloody great cavern
you have hidden beneath your tavern. Surprises like that,
and the warriors who protect it, we could do without!"
The two women behind the bar quietly conversed, while the
busboy came up to the girls' table, bearing a mountain of
sandwiches on the tray on his left hand, three hot coffee
mugs on that in his right. The brunette couldn't resist asking:
"Somebody need a rescue?"
"Just the hired help," replied the young man, half
of whose head was shaven bald. "Who gets the latte?"
"My bookbag, please," came the reply, as if it
was the most normal thing in the world.
"Ohhhh-kay." The waiter was nonplused.
"Forget it, roomie," said the younger girl with
the straight blond hair, "absolutely no way, it's not
our problem. This homework's our problem. We don't turn it
in, we're history."
Conal set down the mugs on the table and withdrew, carrying
his food tray up the stairs. Hidden behind Kitty's hand, Lockheed's
snout appeared from her bag, and his long extended tongue
began to lap up the foamy caffelatte.
"I mean, we're risking trouble enough just being here!"
Illyana added for effect. When Conal Savoy was out of hearing,
she relaxed. She lowered her voice: "Well, 'roomie',
by the pricking of my thumb I'd say this is the place."
"Yup," replied Kitty Pryde, better known to the
world and its media as Shadowcat, co-founder and mainstay
of the British mutant team Excalibur. Quoting from the opening
scene of Macbeth, Illyana Rasputina had not simply
made a literary joke, she was obliquely referring to her supernal
senses. Senses she had developed as a young sorceress, raised
under the tutelage of the notorious Belasco, who had kidnapped
her to his daemonic Limbo and raised her for several years
as his pupil. Later she had defeated him and returned, only
to find that while she had grown to a thirteen-year-old, only
seconds had passed since she left on her native Earth. Using
the Russian codename Magik, she had joined Charles Xavier's
junior team, the New Mutants, but during a later adventure
that had taken them to Limbo, she found herself unable to
return to Earth. For years of her subjective time she was
stuck in the daemonic realm with its unpredictable time streams
and eddies. Only a few months ago had she managed to escape,
sneaking out under the coattails of a group of dimension-hopping
villains. Annoyingly, but not unexpectedly, she re-entered
her native dimension at a point somewhere in the middle between
the time she had left and the one where (when!) she would
have been if she had not traveled to Limbo that day. Back
then she had been less than a year younger than her best friend,
now she was Shadowcat's junior by about two. But what had
come as an even bigger shock was that everyone thought she
was dead. During the same adventure that had left her stranded
in Limbo, a pre-teen doppelganger of her, who must have been
created by one of the many time paradoxes Limbo generated,
arrived on Earth. She had contracted the Legacy Virus and
died within two years.
Kitty continued, she too keeping her voice down: "By
the features in this magazine I'd say you're right."
She pushed the slightly battered copy of Newstime towards
Illyana Rasputina. The gossip section featured half a column,
including a color photo of the happy couple, on the wedding
of Fire, a member of the Justice League, and Guy Gardner,
late of the Green Lantern Corps. Neither the bride and groom,
nor these organizations, existed in Kitty and Illyana's native
universe. By the printed evidence, they were on foreign ground,
in the home dimension of the foursome that had unwittingly
helped Magik to escape from Limbo.
After her return from her second exile Illyana had returned
to school, joining Generation X at the Massachusetts Academy.
Apart from the normal curriculum she concentrated on learning
to handle her sorcerous talents, trying to balance the dark
arts she had learned at Belasco's feet by apprenticing in
white magic with the Scarlet Witch. It helped that Wanda Maximoff
was now living in the Xavier Mansion, as part of the Avengers/X-Men
exchange program. During the fall break Wanda had taken her
to her own teacher, Agatha Harkness, and Dr. Strange was also
taking an interest in the young Siberian.
Kitty and Illyana were in Crossroads on the trail of Illyana's
'schoolmate', Jubilation Lee, who had recently disappeared.
That had happened around the time that Illyana had returned,
shortly after Jubilee had met with her old friend and, at
times, surrogate father, Wolverine. She had left a telephonic
message at the Xavier institute, but had been too excited
to notice that her unstructured account had been cut off,
leaving her message all but unintelligible. So now here they
were, acting as if they were 'ordinary' students from Jubilee's
school so as not to arouse suspicion, while the two headmasters
and two GenX'ers were unobtrusively posted in different places
"You're the sorceress," Kitty said to Illyana,
"so what do you think? This town or this café must be
some kind of nexus between realities."
"Definitely this house, Katya," said Magik, "I
feel it in my bones. It is entirely different from the vibes
I got outside. And you heard what big guy said about the cavern
beneath. I wouldn't be surprised if that cavern is a passageway
to ... somewhere else entirely."
"But the folks don't seem to keen on us snooping around.
Well, I guess we found out pretty much all we could as 'normal'
customers..." Kitty moved to rise. "Unless Jubilee
actually bothered to leave a message for us. Now you ask when
you pay at the bar, I'll go and have a look in the little
girl's room. That's always a possibility, and would be pretty
much Ms. Lee's style..." Actually, she had not met Jubilee
that often, but her reputation had a way of getting around.
Kitty had insisted on being involved in the investigation
because she felt a certain empathy for the young Chinese-American.
Like her, she had once been relegated from the X-Men to the
junior team, only Kitty only had to stay with the New Mutants,
while Jubilee's transfer to Generation X was permanent.
Illyana had no luck: the owners remembered Jubilee when she
showed them a photograph, but they had no message. But Kitty,
when she rejoined her, had a contented smile on her face.
"It was behind the mirror," she said in a low voice
as she slipped a small envelope into Illyana's bookbag. The
two friends proceeded towards the door.
"Hey, what's keeping you, Illyana?"
"Dunno, something's holding me back by the bag..."
She paused for a quick analysis. It must be that issue of
Newstime and the letter inside that did kept the bag
from passing back into their native universe. "Kitty,
could you come back in and shield me from view," she
whispered, "I want to try something."
Magik quietly summoned a small stepping-disk onto the threshold.
Lockheed suddenly took flight, his flightpath curving around
the disk as Illyana carried her shoulder-bag over it. She
was able to get outside into the free air with it, but when
she opened the bag, the contents had visibly aged. The paper
of the magazine had yellowed and crinkled, while the apple
which Illyana had brought along for Lockheed to eat was only
a small disgusting sticky brown mass.
"Damn," cursed Illyana beneath her breath, "guess
we'd better try to find another way to get Jubilee back..."
The two got into Emma Frost's limo, which was waiting with
its motor running and Sean Cassidy at the wheel. In the back
they were received by the White Queen, Synch and Husk. "Well,
let's have a look at the letter," said Kitty, "it's
addressed to all of you."
Dear Logan, Ms. Frost, Mr. Cassidy, fellow Xavier students,
Just a few lines of explanation. I tried to leave a message
on the machine, but the dumb thing cut me of. Now, where to
I hope some of you'll remember (cause your memory is'nt
what it used to be) the time our universe merjed with this
other one and we were set up as some kind of american gladiaters
to decide which was going to survive. I'm not sure you will,
becuase I did'nt forget about it only because I kept a diary.
I mentioned it on the machine, so I guess it's to late to
tell you not to read it. Maybe it'll help to get your memories
back. And you'll have seen all the juicy detales about me
and Robin, the guy who suddenly appeared on my bed and who
beat me hands down in our part of the contest.
Any way, last summer I suddenly got a chance to go to
Robin's realty + to see him again just after Logan + me met
in Crossroads. I did'nt know if I'd ever get another one,
so I took the plunge + got on a bus to Gotham (that's the
city where Robin lives - it does'nt exist in our universe.
I had to lerk around for a while, but it was only a matter
of time since Robin and his partner, The Batman (they allways
say 'the Batman', as if the 'the' had a captial 'T') go on
patrol every night.
So we met again, and of course Robin was bowled over seeing
yours truly (was there ever any doubt?). Not so the B-man,
who is a bit of a scientific whiz and got a bit antsy about
visitors from another dimention. He even took me to Crossroads
to try + get me to go back. But I could'nt get out of Robin's
universe. Not that I tried THAT hard. But we decided that
the caffé was accessible for visitors from your Earth, because
we found a recent 'Daily Bugle' there. Which means we MAY
have a chance to at least meet here and see what we can do.
How does my birthday strike you? In the meantime, I think
I'll try to make most of my chance to reaquaint myself with
Well, take care everybody. I'll try to be at Crossroads
on my B-day, it would be mucho appreciated if some of you
could be there.
JFK Airport, early in the morning. A battleship-gray Rolls-Royce
stopped in front of the terminal. The driver, a dignified
older man impeccably dressed in an old-fashioned three-piece
suit, walked around the car to open the door for his passengers.
An attractive young woman in a sharp costume got out, followed
by a big-framed, blue-furred man in slacks and a pullover.
"Thanks, Jarvis," said Dr. Henry McCoy, better
known to the public and the media as the Beast. "I'll
take the suitcase of our television reporter extraordinaire."
"Very well, sir. I shall return in an hour to pick you
up, then. Good bye, Ms. Tilby," he added to the journalist,
somewhat formally inclining his balding head, "and, as
I we won't be meeting until then, I would like to wish you
a merry Christmas and a happy 1998. Godspeed, Ms. Tilby."
Trish and Hank waved good-bye as Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers'
faithful butler, drove off in search of a place to park. They
walked inside to check in Trish's luggage and then sat down
together in a nook of one of the cafeterias over two nondescript
plastic cups of coffee. It had come as an big disappointment
for both of them when Trish had suddenly been assigned to
cover the latest crisis in Genosha, which put paid to their
plans to spend the holidays together with Hank's parents.
"Well, Blue," said the young journalist, "this
is a bit of a come-down from your folks' full Christmas dinner."
"Yes, Patricia, and that makes it three Christmases
in a row that we cannot celebrate together. And it adds a
certain esthetic balance, as last year we can't do it because
of my professional activities, while this Yuletide season
we are confounded by yours."
The year before that they had just separated (temporarily,
as it thankfully turned out) in disagreement over their professional
ethics. But both were too diplomatic to bring that up. Henry
McCoy, wearing his genius scientist hat, had wished to keep
the fact that the Legacy virus now also could be contracted
by Homo sapiens sapiens a secret. Trish had made it
a story in her news program, whereupon Hank had accused her
of personally betraying him and he and Charles Xavier had
attempted to fool the public into believing Legacy was still
just the "Mutie Plague." Which ultimately was a
stupid mistake, as other scientists were also researching
the virus and for a while the reputation of McCoy and MacTaggert
fell back behind some of the other teams when within the next
year it gradually emerged that Tilby's report had got most
of the facts right.
Hank had let his personal feelings of betrayal outweigh the
real problem of whether it was right to keep the news of the
new danger from Stryfe's virus a secret from the public in
order to prevent a mass hysteria that might vent itself against
innocent mutants, or whether it would be more immoral to keep
the public in the dark and thereby increase the risk of infection.
But a combat injury gave him plenty of time to think and meditate,
and on reflection he decided that there was something to be
said for Trish's point of view too. The public's reaction
was rather mixed. The more violently inclined had indeed intensified
their attacks on mutants, but in other sections Legacy consciousness
rose and led to calls for more funding of research into the
disease, the emergence of a rudimentary support network, and
to the collection of money to supplement the in many ways
insufficient public funding of Legacy research.
Hank eventually reconciled with Trish, and he only had to
grovel a little. He apologized for not taking her concerns
seriously, she promised she would make a more determined effort
to at least talk things through with him when she worked on
a story of similar importance, and then they no longer had
to use words for a few minutes.
Trish too apparently had thought of this, for after a moment's
reflection she smiled and answered: "Of course the balance
would be even prettier if by next Christmas we'd be together
on a more permanent footing..."
Hank's jaw dropped, and his plastic cup almost did the same.
Had he just heard what he thought he heard?
"Uh, Ms. Tilby, is this an oblique reference to some
form of rite of passage with view to some connubial arrangement
or maybe a form of concubinage, or is this hirsute Hankster
inferring too much into your parole?"
Trish had to smile at this very Hank-like utterance: "Why,
Dr. McCoy, no more than four syllables in a word? No, I think
you got my meaning just right. And what do you think?"
For an entire second the Beast was actually at a loss for
words, so Trish pressed on: "Or would you prefer me to
get on my knee and ask you to move together with me. Or maybe
"...marry you?" Hank quickly recovered his composure.
"As a matter of fact, I have cogitated on these matters
somewhat..." Ever since we started keeping toothbrushes
in each other's bathrooms it was hard not to think about them,
"Look, Trish, we've been through a lot of things, we
keep having fun together, we get menaced by superpowered homicidal
sociopaths together, you're not allergic to my hair..."
Trish took his right hand and stroked its furry back. Over
the years they had known each other his strange blue fur and
even his well-developed canines had become the most natural
things in the world to her, even though they were in fact
the legacy of an experiment gone wrong. Only in springtime
did she sometimes complain about him shedding hair and leaving
"...you're everything I would ever want in a female
of the human species. We've worked out our misunderstandings
and, ahem, disagreements, we're comfortable with each other..."
"...no longer have those inferiority complexes we used
to have about each other," she added. Hank remembered
the fears he had that Trish might ditch him after he had first
met her (conventionally) handsome ex-husband at that, but
noticed she had just said 'we' and 'each other' -- in his
own worries he had not taken into account that as a superhero-slash-scientific-genius
he could also put others in awe. He continued:
"...and learned not to listen to well-meaning friends
telling us we're too good for each other." Such as the
aforementioned ex who pointedly asked Trish what she saw in
'this blue-furred freak' or, more recently, Warren and Logan,
who did not bother to hide their displeasure that he got back
together with 'that back-stabbing bitch'. Trish held her own
in the exchanges ('excuse me for not unquestioningly accepting
the judgment of a man who did his best to kill a good friend
so that a mass-murderess could go on killing; but maybe I'm
prejudiced because Selene's victims were flatscans?'), but
the air still was highly charged whenever Trish and Logan
were in the same room.
"No, Patricia, the thought of spending the rest of my
life together with filled me with joyous anticipation, I only
never seemed to be able to find an opportune moment to bring
the subject up. And I was not sure what kind of an arrangement
you envisaged, since you have been singed, matrimony-wise."
"You sure it's not that you aren't sure yourself? Look,
Hank, I don't want to push you into a marriage if that's not
what you want."
"No, ma très ravissante Patricia, in that respect
Norton and Edna McCoy's little boy is quite old-fashioned."
He took both her hands inside his.
"Most charmingly so, Blue. So, when do we make it official?"
"No, first I have to do something..." Taking some
effort to loosen it, he slipped off his college alumnus ring.
Then, dramatically placing his paper napkin on the floor,
he got on his knee, held up the ring to her and solemnly intoned:
"Patricia Tilby, would you consent to marry me?"
"Henry P. McCoy, my adorable blue-furred jester, I was
about to ask you the same question."
As was his wont, Hank had injected a little humor into his
proposal, but it was a solemn moment. He rose as she pulled
him up and they silently embraced. As they joined in a lingering
kiss he could feel a tear rolling down her cheek and getting
soaked up by his soft facial hair. An elderly woman sitting
at the next table smiled at the couple and a passing young
man wearing an Avengers baseball cap gave Hank a thumbs-up
sign. And still their kiss continued, with no bigots around
to take offense (luckily!) and nothing to spoil their happiness
but the prospect of Trish's imminent departure.
When Jarvis picked him up about half an hour later, 'Master
Beast' wore an almost euphoric expression.
"I trust everything went well, Dr. McCoy?"
"It did indeed, Jarv old buddy, it did indeed."
Snow Valley, Mass., Dec. 20, 1997
Hope you are doing well in Scotland.
Sorry you're so busy with Excalibur that you could not
be with us the day before yesterday when we celebrated Jubilee's
18th B-day (or is that the 19th by American reckoning? i keep
forgetting) in the caff we staked out this summer in Crossroads.
(Hey, i just remembered, isn't that also the name of one of
these really cheezy old British soap operas?). I guess most
of the others preferred going there to passing through Limbo
to get to the universe where J.L. is now living. But judging
by all accounts I probably would be the only one who'd immediately
feel at home in her Gotham (grin).
We were quite a crowd: all of Generation X were there,
with both headmasters, plus Logan, Rogue and Ororo of the
X-Men. Jubilee had her boyfriend along for the ride, who seemed
a nice guy. He's about her age, but not as precocious as Ms.
Lee. However, they do seem happy as clams together (why you
Americans consider molluscs a standard of happiness is beyond
me) and Jubilee does not seem to intend to come back anytime
soon. And of course she would wait until she reached her majority
before she met with us on neutral ground. I think Ms. Frost
was tempted to make her return telepathically, but now she's
one of the good guys she's no longer allowed to do that.
In any case, we're not even sure if under present conditions
it is possible to travel between our respective realities
without complications (you'll recall the incident with my
shoulder-bag), so maybe it was best to leave things be. Jubilee
did not exactly choose a safe place for her new residence,
but she does seem to have made some useful friends and superpowered
mutants are not treated different from other super-types.
But not everything is wine and roses in Gotham -- Jubilee
puts on a brave face, but in an unguarded moment she admitted
that the Bat-Man's taskmasterly attitude at times had made
her yearn back for Sean and Ms. Frost.
It really was an eerie experience. I mean, this was the
first time I met her face to face, and one of the most harrowing
things she remembers from her time at the School is me (or
rather my younger self which had somehow gotten out of Limbo)
dying of the Legacy Virus. But why am I telling you that --
you went through the same thing, if not worse (you were a
lot closer to me and my younger self than she was). Talk about
feeling like someone is dancing on your grave (or, more appropriate
to you as the near-genius straight-A fiend, Intimations of
It will be great to see you again for the Holidays, even
if you'll doubtless room with your new boyfriend (you rat!);
still, it will be nice to finally get a chance to meet him.
See you soon,
Continued in Chapter
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