Angst? What・s angst? :)
italics = thought
Disclaimer: You might recognize a phrase
from the manga ・Neon Genesis; Evangelion・. I don・t own that and this usage
has nothing to do with that story, I just think it fits for what I have
・How often do we get the chance to just sit and be together?・ Jean asked her husband.
・Far less than I・d like...・ Scott answered.
The pair snuggled together under a quilt, although it wasn・t especially cold outside. They were watching the stars on their bedroom balcony. There seemed to be so many out tonight; every inch of the black sky was littered with sparks of diamond.
Cyclops was gazing into his wife・s emerald eyes when he said ・Beautiful, isn・t it?・
・Yes, it is-・
The two sighed and broke apart as Jean acknowledged the Professors call.
~Wolverine has had some sort of attack. I・m worried, but he won・t speak to me about it. Perhaps, if you try...~
~All right Professor. What happened?~
After he had related to her the story of the ・attack・, Jean broke contact and looked towards Scott.
・The fun never stops at the School for Higher Learning.・
・Professor Xavier should put that in the administrations brochure,・ Cyclops smiled.
・I have to go. The Professor wants me to talk to Wolverine.・
Scott looked away, the moonlight glinting off his visor. Jean didn・t think the two men would ever get along. They were teammates and she knew that each one would die for the other without hesitation... but drinking buddies? She thought that was asking a bit much. Scott knew that she loved him with all her heart, but there・d always be something between herself and Wolverine. A bond of friendship, attraction, love, anger, protection; she felt all of those things towards Logan at any given time.
・We・ll continue this later,・ Jean whispered, placing a hand on her lovers chest. She kissed him on the cheek and left him there alone, to gaze at the stars and consider the possibilities.
The woods surrounding the Xavier estate held a number of surprises, not the least of which was the man resting in the utmost limbs of his favorite oak tree. His raven-hued hair swept into wolfish peaks above either ear, and his face was ragged, as if chiseled out of granite by tired hands. Despite these features, and the fact that he was only a little over five feet tall, the most amazing thing about the man was his eyes. The blue orbs at times held the wildest rage, spearing all who dared near. At others, they showed a compassion and tenderness somehow exotic to his rough exterior. Their gaze was slightly humorous though as he looked through the branches at Jean Grey-Summers approach.
・They send you out here to make sure I wasn・t eatin・ the neighbors?・ Logan asked.
・Yes,・ she smiled. The red head squinted into the tree. ・Are you going to make me sprain my neck or are you coming down?・
・...Why don・t you come up?・
Always trying to start something, aren・t you? Jean sighed and did as asked. Like Xavier she was telepathic, but unlike him she was also a strong telekinetic. With a thought she was airborne and floating towards Wolverine・s eye level.
When she reached him, she looked around. The mansion could be seen through a break in the leaves. She・d never seen it from this angle before. She could see into all of the back and side windows and observe the mini dramas that took place inside. She could see Ororo in her attic, Beast fixing what looked to be a monster sandwich in the kitchen, The Professor trying to observe them obscurely through his study window... and Scott waiting for her on the balcony.
Jean had a breakthrough as she watched Logan gaze at the house. Wolverine, the ・consummate loner・, was watching his friends lives; observing all the little stories that played out between his teammates. He felt that he should be out here watching instead of in there, living. Wait- not just watching... but.... *protecting*? Protecting from *what*-
GET OUTTA THERE JEANNIE
With a start she realized she had been trying to scan Logan・s mind. It was disconcerting to say the least that her concentration could slip like that, even for a moment. Her mind felt slimy, as if she・d touched... tainted.
Something strange was happening to her friend. Almost as if...
Wolverine was watching her warily.
・Oh, I・m sorry, Logan. Sometimes you just think too loudly, I guess,・ she said, knowing it for a lie. Logan was one of the most closely guarded people she knew.
The look in his eyes told her he knew more was troubling her but he would wait for Jean to feel comfortable enough to speak her mind.
・Logan... we・re all worried about you. The Professor tells me you haven・t been sleeping well. And these mood swings... Care to tell me about it?・
He stared at her hard. ・No.・
X-Men report to the Blackbird at once. You will be briefed en route.
Jean sighed. That・s twice today that the Professor・s come between me and the men in my life.
Oh, the life of a superhero,・ she whispered as she followed Logan into the mansion.
Cyclops swayed slightly as the X-Men・s jet traveled through an airpocket. Bothered by the interruption, he turned back to the monitors and began the mission briefing.
・This news report aired live a few minutes ago on a local station.・
A screen came to life behind him. It showed a grainy image of a teenage girl fighting with a group of costumed people. The offenders were obviously mutant and the girl seemed to be more intent on avoiding them than hitting them. She ran ahead of the pack and the image was paused. The camera had zoomed in on her face. Her iris・ were white outlined in black bleeding into normal-looking pupils. The bones of her face seemed remarkably delicate, as if a strong wind would shatter her into a thousand pieces and her hair and eyebrows were white. She was a mutant, too.
Cyclops continued, all business. ・The hostile mutants have been identified as the new Dark Riders.・ His eyes flicked briefly to Wolverine as if it were somehow his fault. ・They・re our x-factor, we don・t know what they・re capable of yet. What Apocalypse wants with the girl is still unknown; we don・t even know who she is yet.・ He looked at each of them in turn. ・But whatever it may be, we can・t let them hurt her.・
Storm turned from the cockpit. ・We will arrive at the girl・s last known location in one minute.・
The gathered X-Men prepared themselves for the coming battle in their own ways. As Cyclops moved up to the cockpit, Phoenix sidled over to Wolverine. The Canadian was smoothing his mask over his face. She wanted to ask if he could handle the mission but decided on safer ground.
・Jubilee nearly had a fit when the Professor said she couldn・t come on this mission. She・s still probably pouting in her room.・
・Chuck knows what he・s doin・. She・ll get over it.・
She shook her head in agreement and allowed the ・mother・ tone into her voice. ・I think what happened earlier today is still bothering her, though. You scared her and that brush-off didn・t help matters. Believe it or not she really cares about you.・
He looked away during the beratement. It was bothering him, too. He・d have to apologize when the mission was over...
Wolverine was saved from an answer as the Blackbird landed smoothly. It was time for battle.
The landing was not lost on the mutants fighting below. Fighting was an odd term for it, though- it seemed to be more taunting than anything else. As if on cue, just after the X-Men touched down the fighting escalated once more.
Being the first one out of the Blackbird, Wolverine wasn・t sure if the others saw or not. He meant to file it away in his mind for later consideration but the action propelled towards him and all thoughts of oddities were forgotten.
The girl had erected some sort of force field, keeping the attackers at bay. There were five Dark Riders; the number gave the X-Men a slight edge. A male surrounded by heat mirage stared intently at the girl. Another had strange membranous wings and obscenely reminded Logan of a flying eel. One tall female just stood hitting the field, the blows hard enough to shake the dust and dirt on the ground. One horrid looking creature was a mass of living... void. Wolverine got the impression that if stared at long enough, a person would be lost forever in the nothingness of the fourth Dark Rider. The last, a female, simply stood to the side, watching.
His brief sum up took place in the time it took him to step out of the door of the mini-jet.
Logan smiled. *This is gonna be relaxin・*, he thought, and stepped up to the battle.
While the Dark Riders had an unrevealed edge, the X-Men outnumbered them slightly and had experience on their side. As Scott saw it, this would be an easy fight.
・Leave the girl alone!・ he commanded.
・Sure,・ said the woman pounding on the force field. ・We・ve got bigger fish to fry now, anyway.・
She changed mind awful fast- but Cyclops didn・t have a chance to complete the thought as the shimmering man turned to him. He flung both arms at the X-Man and the concrete warped and buckled under immense heat in a direct route to Scott・s chest.
Cyclops ducked and rolled and imagined going throughout life as a maimed burn victim when-
-the wave went completely around Phoenix・s telekinetic shield.
What? Don・t you trust me, lover? ~Always, Jean.~
Safe inside the confines of his wife・s protective bubble, Cyclops aimed and fired an optic blast to stun the man. It scored a direct hit on his chest- but he somehow remained standing. Scott fired again, and this time saw the reason why. The force of his blast was redirected throughout the man・s body, adding to the shimmer.
All right, time to change tactics. ・Storm!・ he called. ・Put this guy on ice!・
・With the ease of the falling rain.・ Storm hovered ten feet in the air, reminding Scott of her previous title of ・goddess・. She raised arms and face to the sky and dark clouds mauled away the sun. Lightning flashed as Storm rose higher-
-and was throttled aside by the forgotten eel creature. As flesh connected with flesh, an electric charge shot through Storm・s body. She was gripped by it・s claws and thrown to the ground. The gathered Storm was left to fend for itself.
"No!" Cyclops fired a strong bolt at the creature and sent it hurling off course. He felt the heat blast diverted from him again, this one stronger than the last, and chided himself for forgetting his attacker.
・Okay. Let・s fight fire with fire,・ he mumbled, a hand reaching for his visor.
But instead of touching metal, he clutched at his temple as he heard the scream.
Phoenix observed more of the battle than her husband did; it was part of her job. After securing Cyclops・ shield she turned to the others. Rogue and Gambit were tag-teaming (They did that a lot lately, she thought coyly) the ・Strong Woman・. She didn・t seem especially fast and the two Southerners were running rings around her. The blonde didn・t seem bothered by Rogue・s blows; that was cause for concern. The only damage that Gambit was doing was to private property within the battle zone.
Beast was warily circling the fifth Dark Rider, the ・Pensive One・. She just watched him calmly, as if he were some old TV show that she had already memorized the lines to.
Jean joined Wolverine beside the ・Void・. Across the field from them, Cyclops was firing his second shot at the ・Shimmering Man・.
・Together again, eh?・
As Wolverine charged the strange miasma of blackness, Phoenix went inside its mind. This procedure was highly irregular and potentially dangerous but she had a feeling that the fight would be over a lot quicker that way.
She expected a searing cauldron of hate, perhaps an inner void to match the outer one, even to learn that he was Sid Neyer from Jerkwater, Iowa. What she found however was none of those things; in fact, she found nothing at all. His mind was completely blocked.
・Hey, kid look out!・
Jean was jerked back to her body by Wolverine・s harsh grate. He was running full tilt toward the white-eyed girl. ・Take care o・ this guy Jeannie!・
He tackled her just before the telephone pole, loosened by Gambit and Rogue, toppled into where she had been cowering. She lifted her head from under Wolverine・s protective body and looked at him. Startlement was plain in her extraordinary eyes and face.
・You okay kid?・
Her doe eyes were suddenly saddened as her face grew determined. ・I・m sorry, Mr. Logan.・
In such close quarters he had no room to jerk away as her hands clamped on his temples. The teen began to glow a fuzzy white and Logan screamed as blood burst from his eyes, nose and ears. Jean reeled as she- and all of the others through her instinctual battle-formed link- felt his howl tear through the psychic plane. She knew what it felt like- so horrible a sound that no mortal being should ever have to hear or make it. It was a death cry.
In her mind・s eye she felt the scream subside and with her physical eyes she saw Logan slump in the girl・s arms.
Storms unconscious body hit the ground with a ・THWACK・.
And, as if on cue, the Dark Riders attacked.
The Strong Woman exhibited a quickness previously unheard of and grabbed Gambit in one hand, Rogue in the other. She knocked their two skulls together with a sickening crack. Rogue was left stunned, Gambit was bloody and broken; both were down.
The Placid One・s eye・s gleamed and Beast, who・d been in the process of leaping, simply fell, dead asleep.
The living Void・s coils seemed to enwrap an unseeing Jean Grey-Summers face. Her body barley struggled as her air supply was shut off for a moment. The telepath slumped to the ground, unconsciousness mercifully invading her mind.
With Jean・s shield gone, a stunned Cyclops was easy pickings for the heat shielded man.
Staggered by Wolverine・s shared anguish, the X-Men fell within one minute of each other.
Rogue found herself in a dark, warm place. She floated through fuzzy gray clouds, content. She was not bothered by the absence of herself until she thought of-
She jerked awake and pushed herself onto her feet... and wished she hadn・t. The Southern belle reeled as she stumbled for balance. Looks like that gal had us a few suhprises.
Gambit lay crumpled a few feet away from where she had fallen. Her heart stopped in her chest as she prayed to see the rise and fall of his. Rogue knelt next to him and held her breath. At first it didn・t seem-
There! Thank God! She grasped his neck as if she were a drowning sailor and he a life raft. There was a pulse but it was a staggering one. Gambit didn・t answer her calls to him.
Rogue punched her comm link perhaps a little harder than necessary. ・Professor?! This is Rogue. Remy・s hurt bad and Ah don・t know ・bout th・ others. We need evac now!・
・On our way,・ was the tinny reply.
As much as she hated to, Rogue turned from Gambit・s side to search for her teammates. She gasped as she saw the aftermath of the battle. Power lines sparked over a downed pole. Pavement buckled and was melted in several places. Small fires burned everywhere. Lightening flashed in the distance as Ororo・s conjured storm wreaked havoc throughout the town. And among the debris lay her family. The Dark Riders had disappeared. Movement off to her left caught her eye. Red hair swung over blue-covered shoulders. In the woman・s arms lay a uniformed figure. The sun glinted off of his visor as he was rocked back and forth. Back and forth.
・Jean? Are ya・ll all right? What happened?・
At first Rogue thought she meant Cyclops, the man cradled in her arms. But no- the only visible injury to him was a small burn on his left temple. She could see him breathing.
And then she remembered. Jean had connected them all as a habit at the beginning if the fight. Through it commands were given, strategies were relayed, and general conversation was carried. When the final attack came, Jean had acted as a human circuit breaker, feeding the others links. Rogue shivered as she recalled the anguished scream and the sense of instant... emptiness. When the telephone pole fell ...and
She felt tears stream down her cheeks as the dizziness she・d been fighting finally overtook her. She fell heavily to her knees and stared at the puddles of blood next to the pole.
・He・s dead and they took his body. Why would they take his body?・ Jean stared at Rogue with haunted, vacant eyes. Her face was completely expressionless.
Shock, her numb brain thought. She・s in shock.
・You・d better wake Hank up,・ Jean continued. ・He can help with the others. And besides, his snoring is getting a little irritating.・
Eve was frightened. The Dark Riders always scared her, especially before and after a mission. They were all so bloodthirsty, even under orders not to kill. It made her skin crawl when she thought of the things she had done with them.
The evidence of their latest deception lay on a gurney next to her. Eve found her hand straying to smooth back his hair. Her fingers trailed down his face, luxuriating in his rough skin. Eve jerked as she came into contact with the dried on his face. Echoes of The Scream reverberated through her essence.
He seemed so gentle, so kind lying there. Was this the same creature that she had only hours ago attacked in the most private of places? Eve knelt close to the inert form with a glance around her. They had left Void to watch him. He・d been given instructions to guard the body, but Eve wasn・t concerned. The Void was little more than an empty robot. He would do as told vehemently, but only what he was told. She thought it sad that a human being could be turned into something like that.
・I・m sorry, Mister Logan,・ she whispered. ・I didn・t want to hurt you like that. They never told me what kind of person you were...・
・...No one・s ever done that before. No one・s ever really... I just wanted to say thank you.・ She smiled. ・But don・t worry. You won・t-・
Her confession was laid to rest by a violent push between her shoulder blades. It came as such a surprise she had no time to put up her shield. She landed hard with a gasp as she bit her lip.
・No use talking to *him* ・First Child・, he can・t hear you.・ Without rising Eve knew it was Marta. The tall blonde used her title derisively at every chance she could.
Eve shivered as a horrifyingly painful numbness snaked inside her skull and spread slowly downward along her spinal column. Serenity. The deaf-mute let her feelings be known as she stared blankly down at Eve. Of all the Dark Riders, Eve was most afraid of her. She was able to control both the body and the mind of anyone with ease. She was also a telepath.
NYou did well, First Child. I never thought of using you as bait. Good touch. Her mental voice was just as distant and composed as was her outward demeanor.
"I didn't plan it! It just happened!" she nearly screamed. Marta appeared taken aback by her outburst. Eve had never done that before; normally she was very passive. Eve herself was a little startled at her vehemence. She whispered softly "...He saved me all by himself. I wasn't controlling him then."
She felt Serenity's affect wear off as she heard the two women head down the hallway of the plane. They might have lost interest in her but Eve didn't think so. Serenity probably filed away her outburst for examination and dissection later. She suppressed a shiver.
-YOU OKAY, KID?- Eve, hugging her knees by the foot of the gurney, thought wretchedly:
*No, Mister Logan. I don't think I'm okay.*