You know you have a muse when she makes
you do something like this to your all-time favourite character.
This falls best into the category of a What If...? I'm sure
you can work it all out by yourselves.
Disclaimer: They belong to Marvel - I am only perverting
them because my muse will eat me if I don't. I'm not making
any money, so suing me would simply indicate the legal system
is a joke.
He doesn't know why he is explaining himself. Too much had
gone, too many things had changed - but still he found he
needed to explain.
So he sits down beside her and tries to tell her what has
"Cigarettes will kill you.
That's what you told me.
That's what the Beast told me.
Everytime I lit up I was told that cigarettes would kill
me. I was chased out of the house like a child - or sent to
my room - or given yet another check-up as my own specialised
form of punishment.
Cigarettes didn't kill me.
You did that.
I loved you, you know. Loved you more than anything, more
than life, more than touching, more than thieving.
You betrayed me.
You left me in Antarctica and told me you didn't love me
and flew away.
I died that day.
I'm not speaking metaphorically, or figuratively, or even
poetically. I died that day - wrapped up in the warmth that
comes when you freeze to death and the last thing I saw was
the white of the ice and the snow that fell so gently and
killed me so easily.
Of all the ways I've died, I have to say it was the least
The first thing I saw when I came back was white - the white
face of Essex as he leaned over me, pleased that his latest
technique had brought his pet back to life. That's what I
am to him - his pet thief. He knew when I died and he came
down to Antarctica and found my body and took me back to his
labs and made me another body and brought me back to life.
He was inordinately pleased with himself.
He was not particularly pleased with me.
Essex taught me once that every soul has its asking price.
This time he taught me that every soul has its breaking point.
The worst thing about Essex being able to bring you back
is that it also means he's able to kill you.
He tortured me to death twice. When he brought me back the
third time, I was his. Utterly his, totally his. I will do
anything he asks, anything he wants so I do not have to feel
pain like that again."
Her emerald-green eyes look at him in horror, fixed wide
and staring. He laughs at the expression.
"I see your horror, chere. We all like to think we can't
be broken, that our inner strength will carry us through anything,
that we will overcome. But how long do you think you would
resist if you knew that even death is not an escape? If you
knew that every time you had died in screaming agony you would
be back and it would all start again and you would be killed
again in terror and horror and blood and shit and piss because
your body was betraying you in pain and fear - how long do
you think you would hold out?
I don't think your answer would be that different to mine.
I don't doubt he changed my memories as well. Oh, he didn't
take away the torture, there was no question of that. But
each time I was brought back I remembered less of who I was,
why I was there, why I had once been an X-Man. I remembered
your betrayal and that of the others, but the good times before
that? Very little.
And once he had made me his, he sent me out on his missions,
made me the leader of his little pack. I believe it was the
Morlock Massacre that made you hate me. I have shed enough
blood since then to make the Morlocks pale into insignificance.
My hands are red with the blood of hundreds, gene-jokes and
flatscans alike. If they don't fit into my master's plan,
I am the one who executes them."
Surprise and shock are on her features and for a moment he
feels obscurely ashamed, but the feeling passes.
"I've died since then. Died half a dozen times. Each
time he brings me back - each time he changes me. There are
memories that are gone forever - lost because they do not
suit him. Other things are changed as well. Somewhere along
the line, he took away my accent. I doubt I even know what
love is any more. Hell, I barely remember my name.
I ran so hard from him, chere, ran and hid away from him
in the hopes that I would never have to let Essex near me
again. I hoped that if the X-Men stood by me I could be free
of him at last.
You betrayed me.
You left me behind.
You gave me back to him and now I will never, ever escape."
He leans back and looks at the woman he once loved. His voice
is bitter, hard, icy-cold.
"Cigarettes will kill you.
So will love.
So will betrayal.
But a Marauder will kill you fastest of all."
He reaches forward and gently closes her green eyes, wipes
the trickle of blood from the corner of her open mouth. He
tries to close it, but the awkward position of her body means
it flops open again. He frowns, but does not try again.
He reaches out with a gloved hand and gently brushes her
hair away from her forehead. For a second he looks at her,
and then reaches into one of the innumerable pockets in his
black armour and pulls out a knife. With a gentleness he hadn't
expected, he cuts a lock of hair and twists it around his
He walks out of the ruined hulk of the mansion and into sunshine.
He hadn't expected that, thought it would be dark by now.
But the Marauders had taken down the X-Men in less than two
He lights a cigarette, using his power to do it. He inhales
hard, drawing smoke into his lungs and holding it there.
Cigarettes will kill you.
He hoped so. He hoped that if they did Essex would not try
to bring him back, that his diseased hulk would not lend itself
to cloning. Otherwise, he would live as long as Essex did
- and as far as he could work out, Essex was immortal.
He draws the smoke into his lungs again and looks down at
the lock of hair still curled around his finger. Auburn hair,
with a few white hairs among them.
He wonders why he did it - there is little sentiment left
in him now. He stares at it for a while and then makes his
decision. He will not remember it, he knows. He doesn't remember
many things now. Last time he came back he found a tattered
Queen of Hearts that he has no recollection of obtaining,
in amongst his possessions.
He holds the lock out in the air and touches the cigarette
to the end of it. It blazes quickly and then falls away into
When he looks up, Essex is walking across the lawn to him.
"All dead?" asked the doctor.
He nods. Essex's lips draw back from pointed teeth in a sharp
smile, but then his brows draw down into a frown.
"There's been a fire?" Essex asks, sniffing at
the air, at the sharp, unmistakable tang of burnt hair.
"Yes," he replies and rubs sensitive thumb over
painful fingers. "Only a little one. Silly of me.
"I got my fingers burnt."
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