Back in my life
I used to be so happy.
Don't ask me why
I became so ugly.
Go back in time,
And try to find the answer,
But don't hope to find
What is now out of time,
All I see is a stranger who died
Back In My Life, De/Vision
CHAPTER 15: NEEDLE IN A BRUISE
Remy scuttled backward through desert sand like a crab.
The woman was a nightmare. A horror. Horns protruded from her head, sloped far out to either side before slanting smoothly backward to where the points almost touched. Half-moon reptilian pupils slit across narrowed fields of yellow as she looked him up and down, and her face was a twisted mask of mocking expression, caught somewhere between human and demon. Only her armored feminine figure and full mouth made clear that she was human at all, and that resemblance ended somewhere around her knees, where they bent backward like the legs of some kind of beast, ending in sharp-toed, cloven hooves.
A forked tongue flickered out at Remy through dagger-sharp teeth and she smiled.
"Gambit." The word hissed out, thick and slurred by her teeth.
"Eh…" He backed up another few feet, no smooth replies presenting themselves.
"Illyana?" Rogue asked.
The demon-woman tilted her head to the side, and her tongue flickered, as if in thought.
"I was called that once," she agreed after a moment. "Most just call me 'Mistress', these days."
"She's on our side, right?" Remy asked, looking to Rogue for confirmation. Rogue just stared at him, seeming at a loss, and when he looked back to the demon woman, she was smiling in a vague, slight way that could have meant she was feeling friendly, or that she wanted to eat him alive.
"She's not on anyone's side," Irineé said from his left. He couldn't see her face, but he could hear the stone in her voice. That didn't bode well. Not at all.
Irineé stepped forward and he could see the tension in her lithe body as she squared off against the demon woman—Illyana, Rogue had called her.
"Still haven't forgiven me, then?" Illyana asked, her tone light, her expression sly.
Irineé didn't deign to reply to that, and Remy twisted his head to look up at the younger girl, wondering.
"She's the reason you died." Irineé answered his unasked question without ever taking her eyes from Illyana, and Remy turned his head back toward the demonic woman.
"Dat true?" he asked, feeling rather absurd.
Razor sharp armor shifted back and forth on the woman's shoulders, and she cocked her head to one side. "More or less."
Remy blinked at her. "Oh."
"Karma," she saidas if that explained everythingand sighed, then shook her head. "This wasn't supposed to happen, you know?" she said, speaking as if to herself. "Divergent time streams," she spat with latent anger. "How you people manage to screw up my life and yours so spectacularly, over and over..." she trailed off and turned away, seeming disgusted with whole matter.
"Did you come here for therapy, or can we fight now and get it over with?" Irineé asked.
The forked tongue flickered; once, twice, and Remy braced himself for battle. And then the woman only laughed, turning back to them with a delighted expression that better belonged to a younger girl's face.
"Neither. This is the part where I make it all up to you, little one."
The world began to glow again.
"Gone," Madelyne whispered, dried blood smudging the lines of her mouth.
"How can they be gone?" the Shadow King thundered, and the others shivered and moaned all around her. "Gone where?"
Madelyne gave a small, tittering laugh, eyes wide and half unhinged.
On the flat expanse of ground spread out below them, around the stumps of buildings and the skeletons of skyscrapers, opposing armies surged like water rushing through a riverbank. They swirled with metal and electricity and fury, and screamed their defiance and faith at the sky itself, warriors given to one cause and one cause onlywhich one, only the Gods of this world alone knew. There was a moment of silence, like the calm before the storm, and then sound rushed to fill the expanse as the two met and clashed in a maelstrom of armor and mutant powers.
"Humans and mutants," Illyana explained, voice soft. "What few of them remain."
Even from here Remy could tell the difference. The mutants flew and ran and wriggled and crawled and the symbol of the Shadow King was stamped across each and every one, woven into spandex and makeshift armor and carved into skin. The humans heaved and cleft with flashing swords, dim sunlight glinting silver stars from their sharpened tips, and from somewhere among the throng of lunging bodies came the clattering sound of gunfire. But mostly, they died, falling to the ground in boneless heaps of flesh that bled out crimson all over the ashen ground.
"Is this our world?" Rogue asked, her voice thin and pale to Remy's ears.
"Perhaps," Illyana answered, enigmatic. "It depends on what you do."
There was another blinding moment of bright white light, then darkness, the suggestion of something darker, shadowyblack forms that giggled and detached themselves from shadow with clawed fingers and grinning mauls—and then they were… somewhere else.
"What was dat place?" Remy asked.
"Home," Illyana said, and Remy shivered.
"And this?" Rogue asked.
Earthen walls closed in, stalactites and stalagmites closing in like massive jaws to devour the space around them.
"This," Illyana said, drifting forward, "is where it all began."
Light illuminated the rocky ridge whereupon lay an inert body clothed in shades of crimson and deep purple. Hands were crossed in perfect peace over the gentle rise and swell of his chest, and his face was lent an almost beautiful radiance by the absence of awareness.
For a moment, Remy wished he could trade places with the man.
"Magneto," Rogue whispered, and immediately Remy denounced his momentary wish.
"This is when the Shadow King took him," Rogue continued, her voice sounding strange, and Remy turned to look at her.
There was something in her expression that made his stomach coil tight and his heart beat faster. Pain, like an icicle wedged between ribs, and though he couldn't have said why, couldn't have said how he knew, he knew in that moment, more than any other he had suspected since his reawakening, that she loved this man, too.
Well… what was he supposed to do with that?
"I can give you this moment," Illyana intoned, voice sullen and flat as it fell against the rock surrounding them. "I can allow you to take it all back. Make it so none of this ever happened. This time stream would wink out of existence… all would be as it should have been…" She trailed off and turned to them, the outline of her face a dark silhouette, white light illuminating only the curved plane of her cheekbone and her eyes… and those eyes… they were tormented. Too sad for a woman whose countenance held court in the home of demons and the Devil, Himself. Too filled with knowing.
"You can make it right again."
The statement was so final, so amazing in its simplicity and complexity, that Rogue took a step backward, emerald eyes flitting to meet Remy's for an instant.
"Ah don't…" She looked away from Remy, down at the ground, and then back to Illyana's shadowed face. "Ah don't understand."
But she did. Remy knew. He could see it all too well, written upon the frowning, confused, lovely lines of her face.
"Of course you do," Illyana contradicted, voice gaining harshness as she turned away, eyes hardening as they locked upon the tragic figure fixed upon the rock before them. "I give you the chance to make it so that this never happened at all. So that things can go back to the way they were meant to be." Illyana ventured another step forward, her eyes still fixed upon the man who lay like a corpse before them.
"You mean you want us to kill him," Rogue said, voice hard, and Illyana went on as if she hadn't even noticed.
"This wasn't supposed to happen you know. In a galaxy far from this one, a robot called Nimrod II will be discovered, his story and goals revealed by the scientists and psychics of that age. Not knowing what to do, they will send it back into space, where it will eventually land on earth, almost a millennia later, to finish the business it began here." Illyana's voice grew darker, more distant. "But it will return to a burnt out husk. To the skin of a world that was once beautiful and great, where only forests grow in the quiet left behind by the human soul."
"Where you found him," Rogue said, the words not a question.
"Yes." Illyana turned again, the reptilian slits of her eyes narrowing upon Rogue in the semi-darkness. "You can stop this. You must."
"Why do you care?" Irineé asked, her voice hard and accusing.
Illyana hesitated a moment, and a myriad of emotions that Remy could not put name to traveled across her face. "Because I must. Because I betrayed you. Because my brother lives in this world. Because my beloved Katya lives here, shaped and trapped into a form I would not have her hold." Her face struggled to hold the breadth of human feeling that she bore beneath the demonic features of her face; love, hatred, contempt and understanding. "Love demands sacrifices, and expects no less than everything."
Rogue took another step backward and folded her arms over her chest, as if to protect herself. "We can't make that kinda decision. How can we?" she implored, her tone almost desperate, as if begging Illyana to take back the choice.
And Remy, for all his recently unearthed feeling for this woman, for all that he remembered and all that he admired and adored in her now, could not help but wonder if she avoided the choice for his sake, or for the sake of the silent man upon the rock… or both. And he couldn't help but wonder if he would love her despite the truth, no matter what it was.
Illyana's voice hardened as she descended upon Rogue. "Because you must. If you do not, the Shadow King will rule all in an empty world. Because this world will die, your children will die, your beloved and everything you hold dear will die, and you will have only yourself to blame for it in the short period of time before you die, yourself."
"It's not that simple!" Rogue snapped, her voice scathing hot as Remy watched that deep fire in her spark and come to life at last. And yet, she had no refrain, and Illyana grinned in the deepening darkness.
"You seek to save him… but you cannot. Magneto will never be the man you imagine him. Not in this universe, or any other. The man you want him to be only existed in this world for a short time, and shall never be again."
"Take us back," Rogue begged. "Just a little ways. Back to before the Shadow King claimed him this time. Or before he attacked us. If we had time… if we only knew…"
"Do you not understand, woman?" Illyana asked, drawing up her demonic form with unabashed pride. "This is not what was meant to be. Magneto wasn't meant to be possessed by the Shadow King. This world is a fragment, and echo of what could be. It is the darkest of pasts and futures, and you would choose this?"
"Rogue…" Remy finally found his voice, swallowing hard against the words that wanted to come. "Mebbe we should consider—"
"No!" she cried, vehement. "Remy…What happens to all of us if we do this? What happens to Irineé, and Jean-Luc?" she asked, her eyes pleading.
"Are they worth the price of blood that has been paid in this world?" Illyana asked.
"They are, to me," Rogue answered, and her voice was truth, and broken glass and fire and ice and everything Remy felt inside his heart of hearts that he could not, dared not, express.
"And you?" Illyana asked, turning on Remy with blazing eyes.
"I…" He met Rogue's eyes for an instant and quickly looked away. "I… don' know."
"Of course you don't," Illyana agreed, almost cooing as she mocked him. "Why, you don't even remember most of your life here, do you?"
"Enough t' know not to make deals with demons," he said, and met her gaze, unflinching.
Her pupils contracted again, thin, crescent moons of velvet black exploding with anger. "Then let me show you what you do not know, Remy LeBeau."
"No!" Rogue cried, leaping—
and then everything vanished in blinding light.
"So you came back for me? Even after what Ah did to you?" Rogue's voice shook a little with the question.
Remy saw himself within a chambera bedroom of immodest proportion and posh luxury—as he took a glass from her and set it aside, laying a hand upon her arm and meeting her eyes intently with his own.
And then he was inside himself, inside of memory, inside a dream, on the precipice, on the edge of a moment that would redefine his life forever.
"Yes, chere," he heard himself say, and his voice was soft, Mon Dieu, had he ever been this soft? "I came back for you. I couldn't blame you for leavin' me like dat…I deserved it, I knew I did. But now dat you an outcast from the group too… well, we birds of a feather, no? Difference is, I got an in dat you don't."
"Ah wonder if they'd take me back in now, too… after what Ah did…" she said, her voice distant.
"I'm only dere cause dey need more bodies, chere, not cause dey want me dere. You an' me, we got no home anymore." He pulled her closer to him, drawing her up against him. "But we still got each other, chere… if you want it dat way," he added, his voice growing low and husky.
"Remy…" she whispered, struggling to regain her composure. "Ah'm here 'cause ah got nowhere else to go. You… you got a second chance."
"Ain't no place in dis world for me without you by my side, petite," he whispered back, his lips barely an inch from hers. Looking for something forever gone, drinking it dry, taking this drug, and he didn't care, only knew he wanted her, wanted to be with her, no matter what it meant.
She gazed deep into his eyes for a long moment, thoughts and he could see the confusion, the conflicting thoughts there.
"Chere?" he asked, voice pleading.
And she lifted her lips to his, eyes closing as she gave herself over to the passion in her heart.
He stiffened suddenly, surprised, and she drew back. "It's alright, shugah," she whispered, pulling off her gloves and tracing the outline of his lips with one finger. "I can control it, now."
It was all he needed to hear. He grabbed her in a tight embrace, pulling her almost roughly against him and returning her kiss with a passion of his own, passion too long denied.
The world around them seemed to ignite and catch fire, and they gave themselves over willingly to the flames.
And he remembered this, oh yes. Suddenly, he remembered it ALL. Past merged into present and then into future and… and…
And nothing mattered but the momentary touch of her hand; nothing but the softness of her skin. And he was a man who'd spent a lifetime like a needle in a bruise, a lifetime spent avoiding the news, and he cared so much and he didn't care about anything else, ever, so long as she was here, beautiful and vibrant and naked and alive and touching him, holding him, breathing him and loving him and God, it was more than he'd ever imagined it could be, this joining of flesh and this feeling that was too large to hold inside either of them, and they really weren't aware of the trouble they were in, or the forces that were aligning against them even as they embraced and kissed and loved and discovered each other all over again inside and out. And they didn't know, and they didn't care, oh they didn't care, and Mon Dieu he was going to break, shatter into a thousand tiny meaningless fragments that only called her name and wanted her touch, and there was nothing in the world so much as this and he didn't know how he could have ever forgotten, and he was so thirsty, and God, he wanted to drink her down, slake his firing need, his aching want, and there wasn't enough of her touching him, never enough, and this was the sweetest, the best, the brightest, all the broken pieces of him that ever were all glued back together in just the right way so that he curved like a bright star against her, perfect and whole and the best man he could ever be, all right here in her arms, cradled right here in her arms, loved like a man, held like a child, held up so high, taken to the sky, taken in her arms…
This was everything. How could he have ever forgotten, even for a moment, what she was; what they were together?
Remy's eyes sprang open, and he saw without surprise that only Illyana stood before him now.
"This was the wrong place to bring me," he said, his voice soft and low, words sung like a deadly song.
"Wait and see," was all she said.
A rushing barrage of imagery as they defeated the Shadow King, years flying by with the deepening of love and devotion, souls on fire and a world in ashes, and still, love between them, higher love, lifting them above it all. A wedding in white, the birth of their children, surprise and awe and amazement just for this life that he lived, for this love that he held, for the simple being of life made flesh outside his body; his flesh, her flesh, all born of what grew between them.
And then, Sinister came, Illyana came, and everything that was part of him that he loved was threatened to be taken from him, and he had betrayed her, betrayed their love, betrayed her even as she lay unconscious in his arms, his words whispered like a last reverent prayer against her lips.
He was dying! Every cell in his body flared with a burning agony, turning flesh to smoking cinder. The pain was so excruciating that he could barely think past it, barely speak.
"ROGUE!"he called out in agony.
And then she recognized him, knew him, understood exactly what was happening. He felt her awareness return in an instant, like a jolt of electricity, fear coursing through her veins.
She was locked into him now, and he knew she felt the pull of darkness that beckoned to him. He felt as much as saw her watch in horror as his synapses winked out, one by one, like lights being turned off at the close of a business day, the blackness growing and consuming his mind.
"I got 'im, chere. You all…be safe, now…"
Tears rose in her eyes, and she grabbed hold of his tenuous thread of thought, struggling to keep it alive, to keep him bound to this plane.
"Too late, chere…too late for me….save de children. Tell…Magnus….he take care of you, now…love you chere…now an' always…."
His thoughts were like quicksilver more than ever before, and he felt them sliding inexorably through her grip. For a moment, his entire life was laid out before her like a storybook, and he saw her look into the depths of it through tear blurred eyes, seeing herself, seeing their life together as he had seen it. And they were one, finally given the true union of soul in mind that they had only emulated in body. So entwined were their minds that he could no longer separate himself from her, their children from them, and the shared love between them all refused Rogue the option of letting him go.
He couldn't let her hold him. He wanted nothing more than to stay here, than to be in her embrace again, to know the sanctity and grace within her arms. But he couldn't stay, and he couldn't take her with him.
"Ah love you, Remy…"
He felt his mind tighten and release, and then he lost all sense of her…
"Always…" he answered echoingly.
His voice faded out, and the final light in his mind went black.
It was over.
Except that it wasn't.
"You died," Illyana said, studying him intently.
"Very astute, chere," he replied within the blackness of the nothing that used to be his mind. "You know, wit' a brain like dat, it's a wonder de demon world let you go."
Illyana gave the barest flicker of a smile. "It didn't let me go."
Green hills and misty mornings, and the saddest woman and two children he had ever seen. Black gloves over white marble stone, and there were roses, and tears, and a voice like an angel.
"She mourned you," Illyana said as they watched Rogue's figure vanish across the horizon into mist. "She never stopped mourning you." She turned to Remy and looked at him, eyes odd and strange. "Her eyes mourn you still, though they look upon you again."
"Love's a funny t'ing, chere," he said. He turned away, eyes fixed upon the horizon. "Not dat you would know."
Illyana only smiled.
Years rushed by again, and she was an fragile, aching shell, without him… without love… with only sadness to fill all the empty hours and empty spaces in her heart, and Remy could not stop himself.
"Dere must be somet'ing we can do."
"This has already all come to pass," Illyana said, and they swept by the sadness like a wake, Remy's fingers clutching empty air as they passed time by.
"Here," Illyana said, suddenly still. "Look. Listen."
"Rogue?" Magnus asked, his face a cacophony of confusion as the door slid open. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," she breathed as if in discourse, the words released in relief.
"Do… would you like to come in?" he asked, and his voice was baffled.
She did not answer; instead she slid her arms around his waist and pulled him in.
"Rogue…" he breathed, his voice caught between desire and knowing.
"Seven years, Magnus," she said, her eyes blazing truth, and Remy understood all too well the existence of anger in its wake. "Seven years, and you're alive. Ah've been chained longer than Ah can remember. Ah don't want to be chained anymore," she said, voice desperate, emerald green eyes beseeching his.
He closed his eyes, sighed as he spoke his next words. "I would not ask this of you."
"You don't need to ask," she said, and pressed her mouth to his.
"God, Magnus," she whispered, her syllables warm breath against his lips. "Ah can't believe Ah've waited this long."
He wrapped his arms around her and drew her to him, pulled her into the room, and she curled against him, eager and—
"Non. No more," Remy whispered, his voice ragged, his eyes shut tight. "I can't see this."
"But I thought you wanted to know, Remy," Illyana said, her voice smug and sly. "Don't you want to see what happened? All those broken memories…" she touched his head in a parody of caring, and he flinched away, marveling that this creature had ever had an ounce of humanity in her. "Humpty Dumpty… Don't you want to put them all back together again?"
"I was dead for seven years. She had de right to a life," he declared, voice angry and certain, so much more certain than he felt inside.
And still their romance played out before him. He could see her eyes, so bright, so alive, cheeks flushed, lips colored deep pink with passionate kisses and they whispered sweetness, breathing into the curtain of white hair that her fingers stroked—
He averted his eyes from the scene and hated. Hated her. Hated Magnus. Hated himself for being dead, for not being there for the last seven years when she needed him, when she wanted him, for all the nights she cried alone in an empty bed for him. Every broken piece inside him seethed and lunged and burned with the anger of the unfairness of it all, the stupidity of his own gamble that panned out to be nothing after all. He had risked his life, theirs, risked everything and gained them nothing but pain. He could still feel how much it hurt—his dying, her mourning—and he couldn't begin to grasp the magnitude of it all, couldn't begin to find the words.
His fingers curled into fists, nails digging deep into flesh and drawing blood, and still, he refused to make a sound. His life, hers, his children's, all destroyed. Seven years of suffering… All for nothing. He had died, and she had mourned, and finally she had found happiness again… and now here he was; the prodigal hero, come back from the dead to ruin it all.
"You look like you could use a friend," Illyana said, sliding closer to him, insidious. "I can help you." Her breath was a warm, thick whisper against his cheek, and he could hear the coveting in it, the victory in it. "You can make it so that none of this ever happened."
He cut his eyes at her with all the blazing hatred in his heart, and he would have razed her to the ground had he been able. He might be broken, yes; bleeding, dying, crumbling, the wondrous breadth of his world only just discovered to watch it all die in the mere passing of seconds, and he would have given everything he had; his heart, his blood, his love, if only he could have set it all right—
But be damned if he would ever admit it to this woman.
"Take me back."
Illyana blinked in surprise, took an involuntary step backward. "What?"
And as the last temptation of Remy LeBeau played itself out otherwhere, Rogue was left alone to a temptation of her own.
Irineé was gone, had disappeared when Gambit had, and she didn't know what she was going to do about that, but…
The world... she could save the whole world. She'd seen the end of it all, knew that they could not defeat the Shadow King... and yet she still clung to her stupid, stubborn pride, and this terrible life they all had lived for so long. Remy... their children... she couldn't imagine letting it all go, and yet... how could she not? How could what she loved be enough to condemn the entire world to this horrible fate?
Magnus lay there, still and silent, just another stone set into a backdrop of many.
Is he… in there? She wondered, and reached out, her hand hesitating before quite touching the smooth stone of his face.
"Don't," she said aloud, forcing her hand to fall away. She and Magnus, side by side in silence again, never speaking a word of what they wanted, like the clever dance they'd woven throughout the last seven years. And there were a thousand things she wanted to say, a million more she wished she could do, but none of it was hers to give.
God knew she loved Remy, but somewhere in the wild, open fields of her heart, there was a place set aside, a quiet hearthstone where she sat alone sometimes and her dreams were of a white-haired man who'd been... what, exactly?
Friend, confidante, life-mate; husband and father in every sense of the word except the literal, drawn and bound together as surely as any two soul mates had ever been. Knowing him was like breathing, and they'd had so much time… nothing but time… side by side in silence as they stepped through the years, best friends and team leaders and politicians in arms. But never lovers. Not until it was too late.
She could save him now. Give him peace and passage, give him the life he had deserved and always wanted… everything he had always tried to give her. She could set him free and save the world, and everything would come unspun, like a fairy-tale in reverse… or a nightmare. And Remy wouldn't die, and she would never have had their children because she would never meet Remy again in a war-torn world, or join the Brotherhood, because she would never kill Cyclops, because the Shadow King would never have killed all the telepaths, and the record would play backwards and on and on with its warping tune until Remy's trial never happened and Magnus would sleep underground alone forever in a silent tomb, and she would never have that time with him, never meet him again and know him that way and fall in love, and neither of them would ever know.
"We wouldn't remember anything, Erik…" she whispered, voice echoing with an eerie resonance within the cavern. "We wouldn't know," she said, a tear slipping from her eyes and trailing down her cheek. "And the world would be okay again… and you'd… you'd be at peace. Wouldn't that…" Her voice broke, caught in her throat, and another tear fell to join the first. "Wouldn't that be all right?" she asked, her voice barely audible, even to her own ears.
But just outside of time on the other side of a portal, Remy heard it all the same.
It didn't touch him at all.
Not on the outside. The outside was cool, calm, collected, together. Inside, his mind fell apart, shards shattering into even tinier fragments and then sown back together against his will with all the sorrow and knowing that had come to pass.
She was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and she still took his breath away, even now—especially now. How can it be this? He wondered. How can it be now?
"I love you."
Words turn over like a soft sigh in his memory, kisses given in rain, fingers entwined and promises given. Forever and always, she says, and she binds his wounds and caresses the scars in the shade of memory,
He regained a bit of control as he heard her stifled laugh, his gaping mouth closing with a snap of finality. "You mean… I'm goin' to be a daddy, chere?"
pieces falling together rapidly now,
He reached for her hand and pulled it up just below his chin, eyes not straying from hers as he leaned down to kiss it and slipped something onto one of her fingers. "Rogue… ma cherie… will you make me de happiest man in de world an' marry me?"
a fusion of sizzle and twist and sear as they merge together,
"I love you as I have no other, an' as I will never love again…more even, dan I love our children…an' dat's why I'm willing to take dis chance for you, for dem."
vague and maddening fragments forming mezzotints and mosaics in tiled patterns he can scarcely comprehend and wants to even less,
"Ah love you, Remy…"
"Always…" he answered echoingly.
He feels like a picture, all tinted and plastic; not real, but with the patterns of reality painted across his breadth. Indelible, unchangeable reality, held frozen, time in a bottle, a boy in a doorway who only wants her in his arms, only wants her here in his arms…
"Seven years, Magnus… Ah don't want to be chained anymore."
not these fractured pixels and jagged ceramic shards of memory that cut as they fall together, breaking him to pieces all over again,
auburn hair fanned out on the bed, Magnus wrapped around her, loving her…
but it's not that simple anymore, hasn't been simple that in seven years, and it's his fault, his fault, his own stupid, irrevocable folly.
He hated it. He raged inside at it like a growling beast, teeth bared and growling, and it only stared back at him, unmoved. He hated it, and he didn't understand why it had to be this, had to be now… but he knew who he was.
Was that enough?
He didn't know, but as he stepped forward through the portal, Remy LeBeau knew he meant to find out.
Illyana watched him go and stood outside of time, waiting, wondering.
They had asked her why, and she had answered, but she hadn't told them everything.
Once upon a time, in another world, there was a little girl with blue eyes and golden hair who had a big brother named Piotr who loved her more than life itself, and she was happy, and human, and glowing, and so miraculously, so completely, alive.
Once upon a time… and maybe once again.
Broken and bruised, aching around the edges of his piecemeal memories and his wounded heart, Remy entered the cavern. It was calm, quiet, and yet the air tingled around him, moving over his skin as if with the electricity of anticipation. His mind curdled with the fullness of understanding, and the deepest core of everything he was felt shrunken, emaciated, dying by inches… and yet… and yet… there was something deeper; a sense of calm that drove deep into his bones and steadied his soul. There was a fated feeling to this, a finality in this moment, as if everything he had been, everything he was slowly becoming had converged in this very instant, and he stood on a precipice, an abyss stretching away endlessly beneath his feet, offering nothing but open air and bone shattering halts. The world yawned in blackness before him, and nothing was certain, except that nothing would ever be the same again.
"Sabine." Her name felt strange and somehow right upon his lips, whispered low and filled with confusion as it was.
"Remy!" She rose and turned to him, her face, her oh so beautiful face still streaked with tears.
And then she was in his arms. It felt like home and it felt like tragedy, and his mouth filled with all the bitterness of years.
In how many worlds, how many time streams had this moment come to pass between them? And how could either of them be the one to make such a choice, change the world and the lives of every living being in the universe? And then again… if not them, then who?
"Where did she…" She stopped, drew back a little and looked up at him, her eyes flickering back and forth as she gauged his expression. The momentary happiness of seeing him again faded from her face, and he watched confusion coalesce into worry and slip slowly deep into trepidation.
"What happened?" She asked as if she didn't want to know, but couldn't help herself.
"She showed me, chere." Bloodstained fingers reached out to touch her face, skimming lightly as he caught her eyes and held them. "Everyt'ng."
Her face bloomed with a thousand expressions, flowering and falling over and over again as she took that in.
"Took a lil trip t'rough time," he explained, and fished out a ragged smile for her. "Remy LeBeau: 'Dis is your life', Charles Dickens style."
"Oh, God." One hand rose to cover her mouth, didn't quite make it all the way up, and fell away again. "Remy… Ah…"
"Shh…" He pressed a finger to her lips, and his smile, thin and fragile as it was, warmed for a moment. "No need t' be explainin' not'ing to me, chere."
And it could have been everything, the turning moment between them, kisses and exultations and the pure, simple joy of their true reunion shared. But he knew this music, knew that the path they'd set foot upon didn't end like that. Fairy tale endings and happily-ever-after's weren't for such as them, no matter how much he wanted to believe in them. There was too much that had come between them, too much at stake.
He took a breath. "'Sides, looks like we got bigger t'ings to worry 'bout right now, non?"
"Magnus…" she whispered, and her eyes glanced toward the body that slept like death upon the stone.
And still, even with all the courage he'd found, it took him a moment to find the words, to force them through the numbness of his lips.
"Do you love him?"
And he knew how much this hurtfor him, for her—how it tore at her heart. He knew she loved him, knew she always would, but there'd been someone else in her life, someone who'd been father and husband and lover and everything he couldn't be for the last seven years, and he had to know, had to hear it said aloud. Had to make it real, believe it somehow.
He stood silent, face carefully expressionless, breath caught in his chest like thin, bright wire, waiting.
"Ah… don't know… you were gone for so long, and then Ah… we…
"Do you love him?" he asked again, his face still as stone, his heart hardly beating.
"Ah…" she shook her head, eyes afire, and then slow, slow and steady, she turned her face downward away from him, bowing her head as if seeking penance. "Ah… did…"
"Still do?" he asked, almost insisted, feeling pain lance through his heart with the words. But they were truth, and he'd take the truth over a lie any day.
"Yes," she gasped, her voice a sob as she collapsed against his chest. "Ah do… so help me, Remy, Ah do, and Ah can't help it."
He sucked in air, took a deep breath, and took it on the chin, rising up against her with determination.
"Den we save him, non?" he asked, swallowing against the lump in his throat. "We save de world. Give up our lives an' hope for a better roll o' de dice." He tried to make himself sound sure, to tell, not ask, and love grew small within his chest, a tiny, frightened, dying thing that beat back in desperation against the arm that he wrapped about her body, drawing her close to where his heart filled deep with ice. Cracked and broken, barely beating, but enough to fire his blood. Enough to let him remember he was alive.
"Yes." She stilled, and tears streaked her face like tiny diamond rivers as she lifted her eyes to him, so confused and perilously frail as they begged his understanding.
He understood. He understood it all too well. Dead for seven years and you still manage to lose it all againthat's just how it goes, how the dice fall, how the cookie crumbles, and you had to be willing to give it all up because a man you hated went and got himself possessed because when everything fell apart, when it all came down to it, you were an X-Men and that's what you did. You gave it all up to save the world. You did the right thing. And you tried to deal with the fact that your wife loved that man and tried not to think that she might love him enough to sacrifice your children, your lives and the whole entire world for him, because, hell, you had to save the world anyway. You tried not to think about how much you loved her and you tried not to think about how much you loved your children and let it all go with a smile on your face and a song of martyrdom in your heart, because at the end of the day, that was your job.
And no matter how he writhed in pain, no matter how much he wanted and wished it to be otherwise, that was just the way it was. Here, at the end of the world, the end of it all, the least he could do was accept his fate with a little bit of grace and hope that maybe, just maybe, for one single moment in his smoking ruin of a life, he wouldn't screw everything up.
He didn't get a choice; not a real one. And maybe didn't get her, either, but maybe, just maybe, this once, he'd get something he'd never had.
Peace of mind.
How terribly noble of you, his mind remarked with searing sarcasm.
Fuck off, he returned succinctly.
He bowed to kiss Rogue's forehead, allowing himself at least that much of indulgence before setting her free.
"Le's do it, den."