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I've not been reading the X-Men for a while, so I thought best to describe my story as being set in an alternate timeline. Historians out there, don't flame me! And hey, I love mail! E-mail your comments to: catharsis@mindless.com.
This story's a relationship piece on Iceman & the White Queen plus smaller parts for other characters.

Part 3

by Min

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

(Preludes, T. S. Eliot)

After finishing the business she had come for, Emma Frost took leave of the mansion that very day. Both of them parted to nurse whatever respect they still had left for each other.

She drove along the highway with a vengeance that attracted the attention of a police officer. As usual, Emma twigged his mind a little bit and he left her alone. But this time any satisfaction she might get from having her way was soured by the confrontation with Drake. A thought came unbidden and told her that she could have twigged Drake's mind the way she did with that idiotic policeman.

She quelled it harshly. Xavier had trusted her to take care of his young mutants, it wouldn't do to betray that trust and disturb any of his other precocious nestlings no matter how much she wanted to. She had, in previous instances, felt an overwhelming urge to take some of them down a peg or two. God, did they need it! It was a good thing that she was usually several hundred miles away from them and trips like today's were few and in-between.

Besides - she had thought better of him.

Emma thrust her foot down hard on the accelerator and the speed meter skipped a few notches. How dare he imply some ulterior motive to her intentions when all she wanted was to see how far he had progressed with his power? She had believed in his sincerity that other night and he mocked her trust by knifing an unhealed wound today.

He was like most other men she had met in her thirty-one years of life.

"Lass, the Icicle call'd ye. Just put down th' phone. Said somethin' 'bout wanting to talk to ye; he dinnae sound too happy."

"Do I sound happy myself?" She retorted Sean Cassidy, but it was a half-hearted attempt at sarcasm because it was sweetened by the fact that Drake had admitted he was wrong.

Not listening to anything else Sean had to say, Emma proceeded to her room in a happier state of mind. She was not going to call back, naturally, but she would pick up the phone and listen to his apology if he called again. Her magnanimity would allow that at least.

The phone rang again at exactly eight o'clock. She picked up the phone, expecting Drake's stammering voice but found Graydon Creed at the other end of the line instead.

"Mr Creed, what can I do for you?" She asked, her social charm covering up any trace of surprise.

It came again that night.

She had decided to retire early after ending the conversation with Creed on the arrangements of a meeting the next day. After the lights were put out, the darkened room was solely illuminated by the small moon that hovered outside. As threads of clouds drifting across the moonlight drew skeins of moving shadows over the furniture, her dream began to take form.

It was always the same. A detached part of her that could observe during the subsequent proceeding never discovered any slightest change in its execution. The essence of her fear was played out brazenly like music from a broken record, in exactly the same nuances and pitch. Even the colour of the cell as her eyes surveyed its imprisoning walls was the same deep, dark, red.

For any nocturnal hallucination to take command of the imagination vividly, it must find a source in reality. Part of this reality lay in a skeletal account of her childhood told to a few of her students when they spent last Christmas at Monaco. But like bare bones that spoke nothing of the muscles and the organs that powered the body, the simple tale held back discreetly the psychological gore for the preservation of human sanity and hope. Now, Emma whimpered in her sleep, a helpless prisoner of a nightmare that disregarded that sanity and hope.

In her night-dimmed vision, the cell glowed dark red; a monotone that was broken only by the outline of a locked door, traced in a sickly yellow light from the corridor. Its thickest emanation came through the gap near the floor; moving shadows the only indication that life existed outside the cell. She huddled in the far corner of a metal bed, grasping a much-frayed blanket with her fingers, toes and teeth. Eyes riveted to the shadows of moving feet, she resisted the temptation to cry out whenever one of them showed the inclination to stop outside her door.

Time defied the rules of its dimensions in such places. It crept slowly in most nights, like an insect that burrowed into the heart of a tree by the millimetres. But the moment it pleased, it hurried on, striking a soft core that led directly into the vitals. Then, it sat back and enjoyed.

She heard the heavy tread first. They stopped outside her door, elongated shadows on the floor stretching out to touch a bed post. She shrank against the wall. A small sound escaped from her but the key grating in the lock drowned it out. As the door opened, emitting more of the yellow light, she began to cry, only then remembering to stuff the blanket into her mouth. The latter portions tasted saltier and saltier as tears drenched it and she sucked on the taste, resolving to feel only that sensation for the rest of that night. She would not know how far she succeeded. Salt from sweat assaulted her as her personal tormentor came in. There was a scream a corridor away, it was stifled quickly, by the owner who had let immediate fear get the better, the way she almost did.

The hairy arms, the liquor-stained breath and the shadowy figure that confirmed reality by its oppressive weight... She woke from the dream, in her nightmare, and felt sore and soiled beyond relief. There was a bathroom; she was a privileged tenant. Silence was given length by the emptiness of the cell, but a voice intruded. It was inaudible at first, almost like a murmured prayer, then became clearer.

"Don't want to be dirty, don't want to be dirty... grow up dirty. Be clean, clean... white clean...snow clean..."

The hot water scalded, and the bathroom fogged up with steam. She scrubbed until red spots grew livid on her skin and scrubbed some more till blood flowed.

"Clean! Clean!", the voice muttered savagely and scrubbed harder.

The soap dish stood empty. The whole cake was used up the first day it was issued. The clean ridges were scrabbled at in the search for remaining vestiges. There was no shampoo. She clutched her hair and sank onto the floor tiles. Hysteria might have ensued if not for the infinite relief at sighting a tub of toothpaste.

The white dress was resorted to again. The fabric was frayed from being worn every day but she felt triumphant because she felt clean. It was plain and sleeveless, with buttons that extended in a straight line at the front. The hem reached her ankles, the skirt was pleated in a simple zigzag fashion. It was the only white garment she brought with her. There were no stains, she made sure there were none. Cleanliness was her existence and she fought tooth and nail to preserve it.

And there was something else. Ishmael might contemplate the whiteness of the whale as a terrifying state of non-being; she understood only the need to embrace that state. Other colours might provoke responses of a constitution too drained of its resources and too brittle to sustain any instigation, might force her to confess that she had so little left within, but white, in white there was a reassuring blankness. With such a blank slate she could recreate and rewrite her life every night. Never mind that creation would become a repetitive process, she could do it all if there was always whiteness.

Tonight was just another one of those nights. The morning would soon return and drive away the nightmare. She needed only to wait for dawn. She would live to see an end to this; soon the horizon would loom close. It would be just a bad memory, a nasty aftertaste that faded with time. With all these resolutions in mind, she ventured boldly out of the bathroom in the attempt to take repossession of her existence when her dress ripped.

Emma woke up, sobbing. Why must it always end at the height of her helplessness, why would it never conclude with her leaving that hateful place and burning the building to cinders? She withdrew her fingers from her face and surveyed the room with its expanse of furniture, impeccable in their whiteness by the moonlight.

And shuddered, drawing covers tightly around herself.

Her mind wandered, seeking respite from the stifling room, from its shadowy and inanimate inhabitants. It had become a familiar procedure, the search for the warm and reassuring psyche of a sleeping Robert Drake, three hundred miles away. It was like a second home to her; she could trace out its intricacies as well as her own, after inhabiting his body for a period of only a day. She had despised his psyche once, laying the blame on his shallow personality and marveling over the ease of control she had exercised over his mind. Ironic that it was to be her sanctuary now.

"This is the last time," Emma spoke aloud to the room and knew very well that she lied. There would be other times as she drew from his psyche to nourish her psychological convalescence. He would feel the loss and crave for its return in ways that belied the true nature of the theft. She was safe from discovery but as she proceeded with the inevitable, a little voice that knew an inevitable better than she did, told her that there would not be a last time.

continued >>

Thanks to all you guys who have written me feedback! I'm dishing these few chapters from my store of ready-written parts but I'm writing some more slowly but surely. And oh, I had forgotten to mention that this story will contain some sexual content, some icky violence and some bad language later. Have I violated the three golden rules or what? So now you've been forwarned...

This annoucement deserves it's own line: Give me feedback, okay?

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