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UXM #350 Aftermath

Stories by Amanda Sichter

"After Midnight"
Jean, crazed by grief and loss, takes to killing babies, and the X-Men must stop her. An alternate version of what happened during the six-month gap.

"All Creatures Great and Small"
The mansion becomes home to mutant farm animals. Don't ask -- just read it.

"And I Alone Am Escaped to Tell Thee"
The story of how Gambit became the Witness.

"Cigarettes Will Kill You"
Gambit explains to Rogue how he escaped Antarctica.

"Dealing with the Devil"
Gambit, trapped in Hell, tries to win back his soul in a blackjack match with the Devil himself.

"Hungry for Your Touch"
Before she absorbed Ms. Marvel and gained a second personality, Rogue's attitude toward her powers may have been very different.

"Love Lies Bleeding"
Gambit from the future has to come back to the present -- and kill Rogue.

Gambit explains what he wants in a relationship, and what's not working when he's with Rogue.

"The Princess, the Thief and the Tall, Stone Tower"
Once upon a time, a maiden fair was imprisoned within a stone tower, and only a thief could free her from it.

"Something Just Like Weeping"
Rogue gets married and finds that "normal" life isn't as nice as she'd hoped. Especially when it includes abuse. The sequel is "Dreams to a Reality", by Aimee Boling Sze.

elsewhere in Alykat's World:

A short, emotion-centered story wherein Bobby Drake and Bobby DaCosta get together. Slash.
(mature themes, sexual content)
(at (un)frozen)

"A Day at the Races"
Bobby and Hank try their luck at the racetrack, betting on horses.
(at (un)frozen and Stars & Garters)


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 happened.

"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 painful.

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 fingers.

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 hours.

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 ash.

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."


The End


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