Enough for me: With joy I see
The different doom our Fates assign.
Be thine Despair, and scept'red Care,
To triumph, and to die, are mine.
(The Bard, Thomas Gray)
"Hank and I used to sneak into theatres without paying. We weren't
mall rats like Jubilee, but we knew the layouts of most movie theatres
well enough to enter by some backdoor. Correction: I did. Hank would
tag along with me. That was before he became all respectable and serious
anyway. "I even managed to convince Jean to come along on one of our
romps. I remember thinking," Bobby laid a hand over his heart to mimic
the motion of hope. "Finally! I have something to impress her with."
"I had a crush on her then," he explained. "Everyone of us did, I
guess. Although on that particular day, the guards refused to co-operate,
and we nearly got caught several times. Luckily, she managed to save
our hides with her powers. To say she wasn't impressed would be an
understatement. And as it turned out, the movie we crashed was such
a box office failure, both me and Hank fell asleep half way through
it. When we woke up, we found flashlights shining on our faces and
a bunch of furious ushers threatening to haul our asses off to the
"And where was Jean?" Emma's raised brow conveyed amusement, as if
she already knew the answer.
Bobby threw a look of mock hurt at her.
"Jean was nowhere in sight. We managed to talk ourselves out of trouble,
or actually Hank did the work for both of us. Well, he didn't really
talked in a way to make sense, he simply drowned them under a flood
of adjectives, conjunctives, whatyouhaveit, and we made a break for
it while they were trying to figure out his speech. Only to returned
to the mansion and find Scott, Warren and Jean laughing so hard they
couldn't stand upright."
The sound of her laughter caught his throat like the brush of a butterfly's
wings, fragile and precious. He faked cough in an attempt to disguise
it and looked up to see Emma peering at him, her fine brows drawn
up in a frown.
"Is everything alright?"
A smile came up on his face and he blurted automatically.
It gradually became obvious to him that she wasn't buying it, but
neither did she pursue the issue. The creases on her forehead remained
as her gaze withdrew from him and retreated back towards the direction
they were heading.
Bobby tried to fish for something to smooth over the awkwardness.
In the end, he latched onto a pensive thought, if nothing else but
to cherish the rare memory of her mirth and the fact that she cared,
he realised, for his welfare. That was too valuable to squander upon
the wake of another anecdote. And maybe its time, time to test the
waters, to find an answer for the nagging suspicions that she had
aroused in him.
The words, when they came however, sounded abrupt and halting even
to his ears and it took him a while to fit a conversational tone around
"For a long time, I felt as if I was in stasis, that time somehow
caught everyone else in its flow, but left me behind. Hank went on
to be a scientist, Warren took over his family business, Jean and
Scott got married…while I remained the class clown, playing pranks
everyone looked on with indulgence but didn't have the heart to tell
me to stop, to grow up. And then time caught up with me, and started
"Standing on the opposite bank now, a part of me don't know if I
should feel angry at how the people I consider my friends and family
had indulged and tolerated my jokes and had somehow prevented me from
growing up, from assuming my responsibilities. Even as the larger
part of me know that it was my own fault and that the payback if overdue,
was well deserved. But the one thing I know is this is not worth the
price I have to pay for."
Emma's mouth curled around a slightly bitter smile.
"I don't think fate, the universe, whatever you want to call it,
have your welfare in mind when it decides to play out the way it does,
"Maybe it didn't for my father, but someone obviously cared enough
to remind me I could be more, to drag me out of the rut I stuck myself
in. Cared in such a way that it turned out to be the least painful
of the lessons I've to learn."
It was the first time he ever talked about the issue with her, the
process of realisation that she had played such a crucial part in.
The admission came out easier than he had thought it would, and he
waited on drawn hopes to see what she would make of it.
For a while, Emma did not say anything. Her face was carefully void
of expression, but her laughter when it finally came, was no less
forced than his.
"Is that gratitude you're directing at me? Because I don't think
I'm qualified to accept it. No one will hold your hand and remind
you to read the correct road signs if you refuse to open your eyes
in the first place."
There was another lapse of silence as if she was considering her
"And to return to my point about circumstances not caring where you
stand as they unravel, that's not exactly a bad thing either. Self
awareness rarely leaves an indelible mark if it fails to shock. And
sometimes, the only way to get the message across is through the medium
of pain. To brand it in such a way that you'll never make the same
"And what doesn't break you, will make you stronger?"
She rolled her eyes as he managed summarised what she had said with
a cliché. But before she gave voice to her disapproval, Bobby pressed
"Because that's what I think you're doing. You can't protect the
kids from the problems they might face in the future, and you try
to come up with a failsafe solution. To harden their hearts by sticking
their weaknesses in their faces, humiliating them, making them resent
and hate themselves, before you destroy those weaknesses with training
and making them believe that nothing, not even guilt, can stand them
Anger flared in her eyes, familiar anger that Bobby had encountered
many times but now knew that it was never just directed at the offender
alone. It had puzzled him over the course of their forced interaction
how she was a victim of nightmares that left her stifling her screams
upon waking, a reaction so instinctive yet studied, it spoke volumes
for him. He remembered the stricken expression that had flitted across
her face when Mountjoy recounted the way her former students died.
The pain had been there, when she threw back a biting retort at him,
even though she had tried to conceal it. And it was the same pain
that was confronting him now, hidden behind a mask of fury.
"And what do you expect that I should teach them? To crawl into a
hole and die simply because life dealt them a harsh hand? That might
be your modus operandi, but I won't allow my students to fail. It's
not something you can ever understand. But they will not have that
In another time, those words might have hurt.
"I'm not challenging your methods Em, because you did for me exactly
what you'd do for your students. And the humiliation was easier to
bear than seeing my father dying in the hospital and knowing that
there's nothing I can do," Bobby's voice was soft but questioning
as he continued.
"But does the pain stop hurting when you try and sweep your past
under the carpet? Were the deaths of the Hellions another lesson that
you have simply conquered and put behind? Is it victory when you have
to convince yourself that your achievements are real, and not reminders
of the many ways your life has been such a fuck up? Or the many ways
you have failed the people who had meant something to you? Because
I can't. I can't tell myself what doesn't break me will make me stronger.
Not if it means I must force myself to forget certain important things,
things that I've lost to become who I am."
She did not answer him. Her eyes remained fixed on the direction
they were heading, and Bobby breathed a sigh of resignation. He had
no idea what he wanted to achieve. Practical necessity and sheer exhaustion
meant that they still held on to each other's hand as they navigated
along the rough passageway, but Bobby had felt her grip go limp by
degrees until it felt like a prisoner encased within his. It was as
if she was disowning the limb to sever what remaining connections
they had between them. If she didn't push him away, she made it clear
as if she had spoken that his observations weren't welcomed.
And he was running out of time. He had never felt the need to experiment
with drugs in his hormone-ravaged teens but like any curious boy,
he had made passes to penetrate the aura of mystery surrounding their
uses. Even so, PCP, or angel dust, he remembered, was one of those
drugs that had danger signs written all over it. It gave the user
near superhuman strength and endurance, inducing a sense of omnipotence
- the fantasy of any hot blooded young male perhaps - but it took
away as much as it gave, leaving the body wiped out and verging on
the brink of metabolic breakdown. The rush of artificial strength
that had allowed him to carry a thirty year old woman on top of sprinting
a hundred metre course in record time was rapidly dissipating, taking
his remaining strength along with it. Already, sweat was pouring down
his back in deluge quantities and he could feel his legs begin to
shake from the mere exertion of walking.
True to the blueprints that Mountjoy possessed, the walls of the
narrow service tunnel did an effective job of masking the stench from
the storm drain. The dull roar of water which had long since numbed
hearing told them it was probably working full time, clearing the
city's clogged arterial system of sewers long after the inhabitants
had gone to bed. They were proceeding along at a brisk walk now, the
fear of pursuit gradually fading away. Nevertheless, the slightly
higher pitch of their harsh breathing kept an uneven rhythm with the
alternating phases of darkness and light as they continued beneath
the sparsely spaced lamps that illuminated the way.
They finally crossed the threshold of a set of corridors marking
the structural end of the bank building, when both agreed unanimously
that it was safe enough to stop for a rest. Neither said a single
word, but tired bodies communicated better than speech. Emma's breath
came out as laboured gasps and the dislocated shoulder that Bobby
did his quack doctoring on ached with a vengeance. Leaning on opposite
sides of the concrete wall, both of them sank down to their knees,
grateful for the chance to close their eyes for a while.
She had reclaimed ownership of the traitorous limb, retrieving her
hand back as if it was the most normal thing to do. Now Bobby tilted
his head as he reopened his eyes to gaze across the passageway, hoping
that the angle of his face would conceal the fact that he was observing
He saw how the constant furrow between her eyes and the lines around
her mouth that had so characterised the way she looked recently disappear
the moment she allowed the wall the assurance of bearing her weight.
Her skin was pale like alabaster, and the trails of dried blood on
her face stood in crusted relief against the smoothness beneath. Her
flaxen hair hung damp off her shoulders, darkened by sweat and the
melting patch of ice on the side of her head.
The sight of Emma Frost so dishevelled and fragile made Bobby's heart
quicken for some reason. He knew he looked at least as tired and disreputable
as she did and he had to go without the benefit of a shower for the
past few days. Licking at the cut on his lower lip, his tongue encountered
the days old stubble that was beginning to itch maddeningly. He would
have given anything for a shave and shower right now except for the
fact that the woman across him had somehow sapped away his instinctual
notions of self preservation.
His mind was so engrossed with sending him conflicting messages that
it took him a while to realise Emma had seen through his charade and
was taking her personal inventory of him. He levelled his gaze unwillingly
at hers, but all she did was raised a tired brow.
"You look like hell."
It was the first time she spoke after the strained conversation they
had before and he took it as a reconciliatory gesture. She must be
near the end of her tether if she could only think of using "hell"
as a verb to describe him. Feeling daring, he threw a quip back at
"Thanks. You aren't looking any better either."
They exchanged cautiously deprecating smiles before Bobby dutifully
forced his aching torso to stand up. Dutifully was the word. His limbs
were now trembling uncontrollably and he had to use the wall as a
brace against his weight. I can't. I can't fail now. He repeated to
himself in terror, while trying to sound like he had just come in
from a morning jog.
"Ready to move on?"
Emma nodded tiredly. She winced as she struggled to her feet, the
familiar spasm of pain settling back on her features.
The simple act of traversing the few feet that separated them and
kneeling down in front of her took an amount of willpower that Bobby
didn't know he possessed. Gently, he brushed against the hand she
was cradling her head with, expediently pushing it away with the aid
of gravity. She allowed him to examine the wound without protest,
leaning her head forward against his chest so he could untangle the
matted hair for a better look.
He saw at once that he had to administer to the bleeding again, it
was too dangerous to allow the blood to clot and seal the injury naturally
before they could find proper medical aid. He had seen the pool that
had gradually acquired the characteristics of a moat around her fallen
form when he arrived at the security station to know that her claims
of having lost more blood than this was most probably a bluff.
His hand coalesced into ice and he touched the end of a digit along
the wide gash, coating the swollen edges of skin with a delicate sheen
of frost. She breathed a sigh of pent up relief, a rush of warm air
down the collar of his shirt that tickled the fine hairs on his chest
and relaxed slightly. He had braced his hand on the nape of her neck,
under the silken cascade of blonde hair to steady her through the
operation, and now it had somehow slipped beneath her jacket collar,
allowing his fingertips the elusive taste of the skin on her back.
This close, he could smell her, the unmistakable scent that was Emma
Frost, masked as it was by sweat and anxiety. The temperature was
getting to be too hot for winter. All his senses engaged, locked onto
the slim, breathing body that was resting against him. She had her
face buried against his neck, seemingly content in the need not to
move. And it took another act of willpower not to tilt her head back
up so that he could learn the flavour of her lips and tease an entrance
beyond the barrier that guarded the expressions she had used to warn
him away for so long.
Oh God. With a shaken breath, Bobby realised that at this rate, he
was going to be running low on willpower pretty soon. He started to
pick himself up but was stopped by a hand that rested on his shoulder.
To his credit, he didn't give a start this time, but he knew if she
even remotely gave a sign that she was on the same wavelength as he
was, he wouldn't be able to stop himself. The idea that he'd probably
spend the rest of his life paying back for it afterwards didn't even
sound half bad all of a sudden.
She had turned her face away, but the hand that had tried to reject
any connection with him before now trailed down to grip his arm, holding
him with an intensity that baffled him.
"No, it doesn't go away," she breathed, her voice so low he had trouble
making out the words. "You're right, the pain doesn't stop just because
you will it to. But after so long, it's natural to want an end. If
only it would end."
For a while Bobby had no idea what she was talking about, then he
understood. Biting down on his lip, he cursed at himself. Good
job, Bobby. Are you sure those weren't your balls dropping the bombshell
of a conversation earlier just to create this set-up? Are you such
a low life that you need a woman to depend on your strength to get
a hard on?
He felt utterly crass and disgusted by himself.
It was a gift she gave him, more special than the memory of her laughter.
It was a confession, but not one of weakness. It said to him that
despite everything she had gone through, her capacity to feel had
not eroded. But what was most important was how she finally regarded
him enough to make him a repository of that trust.
And now that he'd earned it, he didn't know what to answer her.
She did not once look at him. Against the weak illumination of the
tunnel, her profile was bleak looking. Bobby knew she did not need
his protection, but he was possessed by an overwhelming urge to take
away her pain and to wish that smile he fondly remembered back on
His hands were trembling visibly now, but he cupped her chin, gently
turning her head back towards him. Taking great care, he tucked the
stray strands of hair behind her ears.
"I need you to do me a favour," he said softly.
Her eyes met his finally.
"I don't think I'm going to be able to walk out of here without help.
And I'm not sure you can handle me as well as yourself when I become
a dead weight. I'm going to guide us towards the surface while I can,
and when I can't, I'll give you the instructions. Get out of here
and tell the X-Men where we are, then bring help if you can -"
"What on earth - , " she started to demand, then caught her breath
when she saw his eyes. Her hand was cool against his forehead as she
checked his temperature.
"Your pupils are dilated and you're running a fever."
He managed a smile.
"It's the drug, Em, only way I could carry you and run the way I
did. Payback's a bitch."
For a while, Bobby thought he saw something in her unguarded look
as she digested his words. Then her defences slammed back on again.
Struggling to her feet, she said brusquely, "Well, let's not waste
She said, struggling to her feet. Standing, she was taller of the
two, but the difference wasn't too great and he could put an arm around
her and still walk comfortably. Bobby had his hand braced against
the side of the wall to avoid putting too much of his weight against
her, but Emma didn't seem to notice. Her lips were pursed as she concentrated
on the task at hand, breaking the silence only when she had to ask
which turning to take. Occasionally, she would hitch his arm more
securely around her shoulders before trotting them down another faceless
But Bobby knew they were losing the battle. Lurking behind his consciousness,
he could feel Mountjoy's presence, a parasitic spectator he knew was
simply consolidating his strength, waiting for the moment to take
control of his body again. Bobby didn't want her to be around when
it happens again. And the further they proceeded, the more he despaired
of possessing the strength to expel his unwelcome tenant without somehow
hurting Emma along the way.
The first spasm of convulsions had hit without warning, clawing at
tendons until his muscles became helplessly rigid before leaving him
feeling as if his limbs had turned into water. For a few minutes as
he lay sprawled against the wall, he had to breathe in shallow gasps
as chest muscles and diaphragm contracted painfully against his lungs.
The confetti lights in his vision had dissolved into total blackness
before coalescing back into the dimly lit tunnel framing her hovering
face. She had his head cradled on her lap, the same way she had held
him in her office that day when he had found the courage to listen
to her and revert back to his human form against the fear of dying.
If only things were that simple now.
She did not say anything this time, except waited for him to indicate
that they should continue before she helped him back to his feet.
It wasn't a good sign at all if she kept silent while her eyes began
to possess a stricken look. And that was when Bobby realised the worst
was yet to come. That was when he decided that somehow, he had to
get rid of her, drive her away if that was what it took to prevent
Mountjoy from discarding his wasted body like a husk and taking control
His mind was racing as fast as it could through possibilities when
the sound of her voice broke in.
"Which way now?"
He stared around in bewilderment as they hit a four way intersection.
How many turnings has it been?
"Left - I think."
Emma looked down the long narrow tunnel that branched off towards
the left. The passageway seemed to continue without turning for the
first hundred feet at least, but the lightless gloom that enveloped
the way made it a hazardous guess at best. The stonework was considerably
older in this section, with dust visibly covering the surfaces of
"Are you -"
"No, I'm not sure," he interrupted. "But if you're gonna wait for
me to decide, I might end up telling you the way out is the way we
just came from."
She deliberated for a while before taking the route he singled out
with a sound of suppressed frustration.
"Why give a shit about what happens to me?" He demanded harshly.
"Why not just ditch me and get the hell out of here? It's not like
there are moral scruples to stop you."
"I'm going to do you a favour and chalk that down to the fact that
you're not thinking clearly at the moment."
Bobby wished his laughter didn't sound like the weak gurgle that
issued from his mouth.
"Since when does Emma Frost do people favours? Are you sure you're
not an impostor? Or are you playin' head games with me again? 'Cos
I'm gonna miss the ole Emma. She never did anyone favours, and she'd
kick them in the balls if they go so far as to think she would. If
you're the new her, are you gonna kick me in the balls after showin'
me that you care?"
He leaned against her heavily at this point, causing them to fall
into a heap once more.
Gripping the collar of his shirt, she hoisted him up to a sitting
"Listen to me, you son of a bitch. You're suffering from a PCP overdose.
And I'm laying bets you don't know what that means. Well, let me tell
you. Your body is going into systemic shock. Right now, you're running
a fever because that's an effect of the drug, but it's only a matter
of time before your body temperature is going fall to such an all
time low your ice powers won't even compensate for half of it. Those
convulsions you're having? You'd be lucky if you don't suffer from
a respiratory depression and stop breathing! We are talking about
the possibility of heart failure and brain aneurysm here. God damn
you, Bobby, I will not have your blood on my hands!"
Emma grabbed him roughly, trying to urge him back to his feet. But
he refused to budge, grinning at her with a maniac humour that strained
the muscles on his face.
"Thanks for telling me. I'll keep a diary on how many of the symptoms
I'm gonna display. Wouldn't want to disappoint you."
She stared hard at him, her eyes narrowing in consideration.
"No," Bobby forestalled her, suspecting her intent. "You don't wanna
to take control of my mind and force me to move against my will. He's
still in here."
He tapped a finger against the side of his head tiredly. The forced
smile on his face slipped like a crumpled mask. "And he's waiting
for you to make another mistake. He wants nothing better than to continue
what we wanted to do last night, except this time -"
"What do you mean we?"
In the dim light of the tunnel, he saw how her face grew pale by
There was nothing Bobby could do except to hold her with his eyes.
While his heart tried to grow numb, allowing his words to wash over
the agony of saying them.
"Does it surprise you? That I want to fuck you the way he does? That
I see you the way he sees you? You can't be that naïve, you know the
effect you have on men. Why would I be different from any other man?"
He trailed off, deliberately allowing his gaze to linger on her,
on her body. By now, he could see how the blood had drained completely
from her face.
God damn you too, Emma. Why don't you just go away and let me
carrying what remaining memories I have of us to my grave?
"Is that all?"
She asked finally.
Bobby's eyes widen in confusion.
"You're not telling me anything I haven't heard before. And I'm going
to offer you the choice again. Are you moving, or do I get us out
of here myself?"
"Did you not heard what I said? He's waiting for you to make another
mistake. He wants you to. And the moment I hit the floor, he's gonna
move into another body." His voice rose until it broke. "He will not
let you go, Emma. Your powers are too valuable to him. He wants nothing
better than to rut you like a dog, but he'll settle for using you
as his new host."
She smiled a smile that never reached her eyes.
"Well, then it's your job to make sure that doesn't happen, isn't
"So leave me and get out of here!"
"Has it ever occurred to you why he has never tried to assimilate
me along with you? From Bishop's accounts, Mountjoy has the ability
to contain and control up to five different people at the same time.
And should I, to use your words, ditch you and get the hell out, how
long will it take before he tracks me down again after he discards
your wasted body? If I'm as valuable to him as you think I am, it
won't take long. He would probably use someone I'd lower my guard
against to get close to me because I'd recognise his thought patterns
anywhere. I will not sacrifice any of my students to cowardice or
sheer negligence simply because the son of a bitch wants to fulfil
his meglomaniacal fantasies. If you think your paltry attempts to
drive me away in order to save one of us will spell the end of the
problem, think again."
Her face softened.
"I know what you're trying to offer me, Bobby. And I'm touched,"
she added. "More than I can say."
Shrugging, she went on. "But if you truly want to help me, stop wasting
your energy burning bridges. I agree with you, I refuse to martyr
myself on his cause. But we stand a better chance of coming up with
solutions together rather than apart."
He laughed, a haunted look on his face.
"We aren't doing so well if you haven't noticed, Emma. You tried
to help me last night, and you almost lost. And he's listening, listening
every word you say. I don't - I can't - There's nothing I can do.
If you have any ideas, any plans at all, don't tell me."
"I know he's listening".
Suddenly, she looked straight into him, her blue eyes cold as flint.
"You think you have secured the upper hand, you fucking asshole.
But I'm going to destroy you, and it will not take any secret plans
or agenda. So I'll say it in your face. You think you know Bobby inside
out, you think you can dangle his strings and cut them at will. You
don't. Because I know him too, and I know him in ways only a telepath
can know. And when I'm done with you -"
She held him mesmerised with her gaze, and he was sure she was using
her powers to exert a weak hypnotic effect over him. Her words drew
incisions like a scalpel on his consciousness, drawing blood where
his parasitic visitor would feel them most acutely. And from within,
Bobby could feel Mountjoy surging to the fore, threatening to take
control again. He could feel his body giving way, his face attempting
to morph into Mountjoy's. In a moment of panic, he gripped both Emma's
shoulders and shook her hard.
"Don't, stop, stop. It's me," he gasped. "Don't - don't bait him.
You don't know -"
He knew he was hurting her, but gradually he saw the anger recede
from her eyes. She let go of a shaky breath, running an unconscious
hand through her hair. And winced as she encountered the wound on
"I'm alright," she said immediately, forestalling his intent to help.
He slumped back against the wall, too tired to argue with her.
"Let's get moving?"
He asked after a while.
As she helped him back to his feet again, she awarded him a smile
that set his heart racing. Then he recalled the words he had said
to her. How he had explicitly express the desire to violate her.
Suddenly, Bobby wished so badly that he could eat his own words now.
She had seen through his ploy like a beacon of light cutting through
the night mist like shrapnel. Living around telepaths, Bobby could
usually recognise the sensation when someone tries to invade his mental
privacy. The fact that he wasn't feeling his usual self at the moment
might pose a problem but however she did it, she had read him correctly.
And she hadn't said a single thing; neither judging nor condemning
She was so maddeningly practical at times. Yet on other occasions,
she wouldn't think twice of picking a quarrel with him over totally
"So why hasn't he tried to assimilate you instead of wasting his
time using me to blackmail you?"
Emma laughed, a sound that rasped with dry humour.
"You answered the question yourself, Bobby. He wants me, or rather
what my body can offer. Trying to rape me while I'm assimilated with
him would present more than a few logistic problems."
He looked at her incredulously.
"How can you laugh about something like this? When you know what
he would have done to you if he had the chance?"
"Because that is what most men want from me," her voice became flat.
"As I said, you didn't tell me anything I haven't found out for myself
ages ago. And before you pass judgement on my lack of moral character
thereabouts again, remember that his attraction to me is the only
reason we both aren't holding this conversation in his mind right
"I wouldn't dream of it."
That earned him a look that said little of the thoughts behind it.
The smell of old rot and mildew began to permeate the air, ancient
flagstones cut in precise geometrical squares seemed to stretch endlessly
ahead. A fine layer of sand covered the floor and coated the walls,
as if the stonework was rapidly decaying into dust around them. Their
footsteps were hushed and muffled, absorbed into the tunnel around
them, until they felt as if they were encased in a tomb, a chamber
carved out of bedrock, deep beneath the surface of the earth.
Emma covered her mouth with a free hand to ward off the growing amount
of dust in the air but to no avail. A smothered sneeze triggered a
small avalanche of stone dust from the nearby wall, exposing the blurred
relief of a chiselled cross. Strange letters were engraved within
"That's Latin," she exclaimed softly, studying the symbols. "From
the Bible, specifically the Book of Revelations. Where are we,
"You never cease to amaze me."
"What is this place?"
A tic jerked at the muscles on his face.
"The maps didn't say, but this is the way out."
Bobby's last words dissolved into incoherence as another wave of
convulsions overcame him.
When he came to, he found his belt strap was clenched between his
teeth - she must have removed it and forced it between his jaws to
prevent him from biting his own tongue. Spitting the awful tasting
leather out of his mouth, he could see the deep indentures on the
"Thanks," he whispered tiredly.
She gave him a wan smile. Her hand, an independent entity, brushed
at his hair and forehead with feather like touches of a bird's wing.
They managed to haul each other to their feet again and continued
with painful steps down the tunnel. The passageway widened gradually
and very soon, they found themselves in a long fair size chamber.
Bobby was leaning heavily against the wall, no longer trying to cover
up his weakness when the reassuring surface suddenly ended beneath
his palm, causing him to grope wildly for a handhold. His hand met
dust, then a group of smooth objects that clattered noisily against
Beside him, Emma caught her breath and he forced his blurring vision
into focus. Dark alcoves had been dug from the sides of the walls.
Most of these contained a yellowish diaphanous substance that hung
off the bottom ledges like ancient cobwebs, disintegrating into bits
They were remains of cotton shrouds used to wrap the dead. He could
now see the scattered bones, their resting place disturbed by his
stumble. These bones weren't white though, they were yellow, age rapidly
camouflaging them against the earth brown of their dirt platform.
The skull, devoid of its lower jaw, was giving him a gape teeth grin.
Join us, it seemed to say. It's only a matter of time, so why not
now? The empty eye sockets yawned bored darkness, silent observers
of the old tirade against life. He knew those twin blackness were
trying to tell him something, perhaps about how to take first step,
the first step into the great beyond. Against the crass and loud voice
of the slacked jaw, the message they seemed to promise beckoned louder
because of its unspoken nature. He was willing himself to stare deep
at the pinpricks of light he was sure laid in the middle of the two
holes when a presence, a voice as if from far away broke into his
The presence expanded slightly, caressing the surface of his mind,
understanding something he didn't.
Are the hallucinations starting? Don't go down that path. Stay
He back-pedalled against the alcove with a jerk.
Her hands were cool on his temples, steadying him, and the presence
in his mind never once wavered.
"Is that you?" he gasped as his senses came back. "What are you doing?
He's still in here, it's too dangerous."
Her voice was calm, its low timbre reverberated softly within his
mind like the ripples of a stone's passage on the surface of a bottomless
I won't go too deep, and he's still consolidating his strength.
I'm not posing a threat to his existence. He's not my concern anyway.
Don't let the drug take control, Bobby. I know you're stronger than
that. Prove it to me.
His laughter stung him with its bitterness.
Ever had one of those times when it seems like you're holding
a conversation with yourself?
All the time, Bobby.
Her tone was light, but this close to her mind, he could sense the
pain within her.
Well, I've been having the same conversation with myself all my
life. How my inner resolve has to match my actions. That what I set
out in my mind to achieve, to believe in something entirely and subject
myself to it, because life wouldn't be worth living otherwise, just
aimless drifting from one point from another. But always, the flesh
is less willing than the spirit. What breaks I get, I get from needing
to prove to others, because I could never convince myself, I could
never prove to myself. Because I never had that something that I could
believe in entirely. No matter how hard I try. The dream of mutants
living in peace with mankind? That isn't my dream at all.
What is your dream then?
I don't know. But I might an idea now. I've spent all these years
living up to the expectations of others. And when I fail them, I feel
terrible. Because they have put in so much hope in me, and I'm so
scared of failing them.
The voice in his mind was soft and pensive.
That is a dream. It is a dream worth pursuing.
You think so?
Yes. Everyone gets their motivation from somewhere. Yours lie
in the regard you have for the people around you. There's nothing
wrong with that. When it all boils down, the person who lives for
himself isn't a better man than one who lives for others.
Here, her thoughts stalled. In the end, she summed it all up.
It's being able to get by that matters.
"Thank you," he said finally.
He looked at her. Her eyes were a paler shade of blue than his, and
gone was the myriad of defences he was so accustomed to seeing in
them. Bitterness, cynicism, mockery - the veils she used to protect
herself from the rest of the world had fallen away. The look she gave
him now was sober and serious, concerned expectation written all over
her unguarded face.
Leaning forward, he kissed her on the mouth. To his surprise, she
You're going to have to leave, Emma.
Her lips parted at his mild insistence and the taste of her mouth
was as exquisite as he imagined. He kissed her gently, his tongue
a timid visitor afraid of treading on forbidden grounds. She bit on
the offender, her teeth chastening him as if she echoed the sentiment,
but almost immediately she invited him in, drawing him deeper into
her mouth and rewarding his intrusion by sucking lightly on his tongue.
They kept at this, the gradual advancement into newer and newer grounds,
replying each other measure for measure until the world started spinning
and Bobby felt he would never want to let her go.
I'm sorry, but I can't have you staying till the end.
He slipped his hand behind her neck, bringing her into closer contact
with him. His other hand went up to stroke her left temple. Gently,
he increased the pressure of his thumb against the side of her face,
his fingers tracing the prominent veins there.
I can't let you see what is to happen. You are strong enough for
this, but I'm not.
With a heavy and reluctant heart, he drew away from her and dragged
himself up, joints visibly cracking while his fingers groped for handholds
in the wall. Emma looked at him in consternation and tried to follow
suit. Her knees buckled, her arms gave way as she fell back onto the
"Wha - what have you done?" She demanded in growing alarm.
"An old trick. I slowed down the flow of blood to your brain. Don't
try to use your powers if you want to stay conscious."
"Because it's got to end."
The smile he prepared for her cracked and shattered. In the absence
of expression, an infinite sadness filled his eyes.
"And you're not part of this particular end."
Moving away from her, Bobby gritted his teeth and forced each agonising
step towards the flight of steps he could now see at the end of the
chamber. He ignored Emma's frustrated shouts, concentrating instead
on staying upright, dolling out the strength he had husbanded carefully
against her knowledge.
After what seemed like a lifetime, he finally reached the submit
of the steps. An old iron door barred his way. He iced the ancient
hinges, braced his hands against the wall and kicked as hard as he
could. Luck served him. The metal, more brittle than steel, protested
under the impact. The barrier tottered before falling ponderously
with a resounding crash.
The beginnings of dawn filtered softly through the opening as he
stepped across the threshold into a small church.
You didn't say goodbye.
She reminded him telepathically, her voice cold and full of calculated
He projected back the memory of their kiss as a reply.
Go away, Emma.
He said into the prolonged silence.
I'm afraid you don't have the power to evict me from your mind.
Bobby leaned tiredly against the mosaic wall, considering. What did
he expect? If nothing else, his admiration for her flared. After what
he had done, being able to talk to him like that would have taken
tremendous effort on her part.
Slowly, he relegated her presence to the back of his mind, protecting
her behind the main weight of his personality while he tried to prod
Mountjoy back to consciousness.
The familiar abhorrent presence smeared itself over his thoughts
with alarming alacrity once it was summoned. It was stronger, much
stronger than he had recalled when he was the dominant personality
leading the way out of the bank. Now Bobby wondered how much longer
he could continue controlling his own body. Sheer willpower was the
only thing propelling him now, and when the time came for the flickering
flame of his consciousness to snuff out, he hope Emma would be able
to retreat fast enough from what remains of his mind.
Reading his thoughts, Mountjoy's presence surged and retreated within
Bobby's mental consciousness, testing out the boundaries and the strength
of his prison. Physically, Bobby could feel his body reacting in turmoil,
morphing back and forth between the two individuals. In desperation,
he transformed into his ice form, concentrating on the effects of
the instinctive change to anchor and affirm his presence.
Mountjoy drew back then. A snicker slowly permeated Bobby's mind.
As much as he had steeled himself against the interaction, Bobby's
mind felt like turning itself inside out.
She's a very astute woman and between us, old boy, nothing remains
a secret from her for long. She saw through my intentions as if I
had told her myself. But I'm afraid she's rather blind in other respects.
I think she's beginning to like you. Good job, Bobby. Now let us break
her heart, shall we?
Bobby shook his head slowly.
Emma can take care of herself. She always does. But this has nothing
to do with her. So let's get to the point.
He tried to ignore the reaction from the faint presence at the back
of his mind.
to be continued >>
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