Gasp! What do you mean I have not updated in months! Surely, you don't mean I! Anyway, this chapter is dedicated dearly to three people. To Coldqueen, though she told me no one would care if I ever updated again. To Shira, for making me feel like I kicked a puppy when I didn't update. And to Alara -I probably owe her my soul by now, unless she doesn't follow through on a certain deal. Yeah. That's right. (Review!)
"I'm afraid, Mr. Worthington, that you are a very sick man." The news wasn't unexpected. Second opinions rarely held anything resembling shock. Still, he mused, as he listened to the doctor drone on about facts and treatments and the million maybes that accompanied any kind of serious illness, he had hoped for something else. Something better. He lifted a slow hand to cease the doctor's chatter.
"Perhaps we can talk options at another date." He smiled politely. "I'd like some time. Ironic, perhaps, but necessary nonetheless. If there's a bathroom I could use before I leave-" There was. The doctor showed him the way, and then excused himself. Worthington shut the door, locking himself into the little room. His reflection in the mirror was tired. He licked his lips and braced himself with a hand on either side of the sink. "What have you done?" He asked his image.
It had started as a game and escalated rapidly. One minute he was paying dollars for good laugh while a woman read his palm and the next- well, he was dying. God. He ran a hand over his face. The actual word struck like a whip. Dying. Soon-to-be dearly departed. He wondered what the funeral would be like. Huge, no doubt. There'd be movie stars and senators and random nobodies; people he adored, and people he despised. Some would cry, some would complain, some would take advantage. His shut his eyes.
It had started as a game and morphed into something else entirely. It had started with her. Weren't fortune tellers supposed to be old? Haggard, with crooked noses and moles in obvious places and a biting laughter that sounded as nails on a chalkboard to normal ears. They weren't supposed to be able to throw back their capes and show faces of bright, vibrant beauty. Lips red as blood. Even now, she sat in his memory, unchanged and haunting, like a Poe specter.
Warren Worthington III tilted back in his cushioned chair and lifted an eyebrow for his secretary. She straightened the bottom of her skirt and cleared her throat. "You've received a call. An untraceable number from Europe. Her. I think. Should I put her through?" The woman's face showed disapproval, and it was no question what answer she hoped he would give.
He leaned forward and his chair hit the grown with a cracking sound. He folded his hands and grinned. "Please do," he said pleasantly. His secretary let out a puff of a air and she turned sharply towards the door, shoulders high with tension. When she was almost out, he said, "Would you like to lobby a complaint before I take this call?"
She turned back to him, her pretty, clear face a mask of indifference. "I don't know why I would bother with that. Again. Ever since you've started your acquaintance with her, you've completely ignored all advice. It's like I'm not really here, not telling you, Warren, she's trouble. I don't know where you get off trusting her -you don't really like her, I can tell, and I know isn't love- but you do trust her. And me? I'm not the valued assistant anymore. Just the lady that files your paperwork. So no, I don't would not like to complain. Okay, Warren?" She handed him a fake smile.
"Katherine." He laughed. "I understand your concerns. But you are overreacting. To... everything."
She said, "Maybe you really can't hear me and it's not your fault... I could be a ghost." She faced the door. "What are the odds that I'll be able to walk through walls? Just...phase right through. Wouldn't that be something." Her heels clicked sharply against the tile as she made her exit.
"Don't forget to put the call through."
"Heaven forbid." Her voice died as the door shut after her, and Warren tilted back in his chair again. The blinds were open and he peeked through them. All the buildings beyond were impressive, all tall majesty and grace, but nothing like Worthington Towers. It was the base of an economic and political empire. He had to protect it. The choice had been made. The hard work, complete. He glanced over his shoulder at the engraving behind him. A golden dollar given as a confirmation of success, from the city to the family, marking three generations of brilliance. Warren Worthington III tapped his fingers against the wood of his desk, waiting, and then her voice finally flooded the room.
"Oh, W. Isn't it a beautiful day?"
He took a deep breath. Exhaled. "Only since I heard your voice, Candra."
Another morning came. Remy was still insane. That is, there was still a ghost in his life. And for the moment, she was tangible. She juggled a set of candles, each catch-toss-catch motion part of a smooth unending circle of grace. Her hands were white, good-sized and feminine. He wondered if the pallor was a reflection of her current undead status, or the actual color of her skin. "You're sittin' too close," she remarked casually. She placed her foot at the edge of his seat and kicked him back an inch or two.
He admired grace.
"Let's play Twister," Remy said.
"That ship has sailed. Ah'm not bored anymore. Ah can touch things." She frowned. "For now." And with that, she threw the candles towards Remy, who caught them because he could, and set them down on the floor. She stood up and walked to the door, her fingers closing around the brass knob. "Sometimes, Ah wish."
"For life." She stepped back. "Who killed Gen?"
"I- I don't know."
She nodded and glanced down. "Will ya help me find out?"
He didn't know how to answer. "Chere..."
"Ah just wanna know."
He knew. A blonde, with pretty eyes and a dark past. And her partner, a confused, possibly mad Cajun. That identification stayed on his tongue, unspoken. It wouldn't give her anymore peace of mind. Telling her would give him considerably less, he was certain. Remy rested his chin on his hands. "Rogue, I don't-"
"I do." She sighed. "I need ta know."
He ran his tongue over his teeth and tried to buy himself time. No spectacular idea appeared. "Rogue."
She leaned down towards him. "Remy."
"I can't." He couldn't.
"An' ya can't be persuaded?"
He shook his head. "I'm sorry." He was.
She glared at him, and then vanished. "Wait!" He jumped up. "Okay, I mean-" He groaned and then the door opened wide and Bella stode inside. She had a bag over her shoulder, and a short skirt that was really too short. He blinked, his mind readjusted. "Bella?"
"I don't have a lot a' time," She sighed. "Worthington called a few minutes ago-"
"He wants us t' have brunch." She slid the bag off her shoulder and shoved it into his arms.
"He wants t' have lunch. Wit' us?"
"Not us. Me." She twirled a long strand of hair between her fingers. "I'm like, Donna. We met a while ago. One crazy evening. It's a long story, Cher. Suffice it ta say, this whole necklace business is getting' more complicated than we imagined. I wrote a report, go over it, an' set up da cameras in here. I'm gonna try an' give us an in ta Worthington Towers. An' if it isn't too much trouble, I'd like your own report when we get back." She patted his shoulder.
"The chemical analysis o' da necklace?" She gave him a pointed look.
She studied him. "I don't know what's goin' on. But you're still my partner. Aren't you?"
His shoulders dropped. "Oui."
Bella leaned forward and gave him a brief kiss. "So set up da cams. We don't have much time. Get dat analysis done. Call Henri if y' have to."
"I won't." He insisted as she left the hotel room quickly. He wondered why all his females seemed to disappear in poofs of air.
And reappear. Rogue materialized to take the cameras off his hands. "Thank ya for agreein'," she said, like their conversation had never been interrupted at all. Don't worry. Ah have ideas ta get us started on the search." She offered him a genuine grin. Then it fell away. "How come ya need ta analyze my necklace?"
Through his considerable confusion, Remy managed a "huh?".
1950 Something -Several Weeks Later
"I wouldn't have come to you, but the doctors aren't proving particularly helpful with my problems. I fear my illness is of such a complexity that only a man of equal complexity can be of help. I was told you are more than proficient in both the natural sciences, and in, uh, supernatural practices." Warren stroked his chin. "I know this sounds absurd -I only half believe it myself." He moved his fingers to the bridge between his eyes and squinted. "But I think my illness is the result of a curse. Several months ago, I came into familiarity with a young woman who professed to be a fortuneteller."
"Familiarity. Can you elaborate?"
"After I'd been visiting her a few times, mostly for fun, though she did appear to have a certain knack for knowing, we became romantically involved. She was attractive, friendly. I was smitten, to be honest." He sighed. "But then the board, my company's board, was alerted to our relationship. They were less than pleased, to put it nicely. I was informed that CEOs could not be seen fraternizing with a fortuneteller, bad press and all."
"So you broke it off."
"I was enamored with the girl, but I couldn't risk throwing my place at the company in jeopardy. I built it from the ground up, it's like my child. So, yes, I broke up with her. She was furious. Talked about betrayal, and regret. She said I wasn't the man she thought, that I'd killed him with my greed, and how there was no sense my going on in the world without a soul. She muttered a few chants under her breath while she gathered her things, and vanished. I haven't seen her since. But, shortly after, I began to feel pain in my chest, and that's why I began visiting the doctors."
"Beautiful. Striking. Pale skin, dark hair, eyes that stare into your soul." He laughed, softly. "A penchant for dark clothes. She wasn't like other girls."
"I imagine not. Your female sounds familiar. There is a young lady, well known in certain circles as a new breed of witch. Young, attractive, possessing of remarkable skill and ability. Her only fault seems a fear of rejection, but it is a severe one. She is not forgiving. If the Scarlet Witch, Mistress of the Black Arts is indeed, your scorned lover you will most certainly require my help if you want to survive through the year."
"Wanda isn't a witch..." Warren said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Exotic, eccentric, yes, and maybe she tapped into something somehow, but there's no way-"
"Mr. Worthington, believe me when I say that Wanda Maximoff wrote the book on witchcraft in modern society. The good news is that you were right in coming to me. I can help you with this curse." There was a pause, as the shadowy figure leaned forward and dropped something onto the table between them. "Unfortunately, the price of removing this curse is, well, exorbitant."
"And the results?"
"Extraordinary. I warn you, however, once you decide this, once you leave here your choice cannot be undone. You may regret this moment, but the payment will be met as scheduled or you will find yourself in a situation more dire than you can imagine. Do you understand that? Is this cooperation what you truly want, Mr. Worthington?"
The wealthy young man felt his heart pound against his ribcage. He tugged on his collar. "I want to live."
"And so you shall. Tell me, how do you like this?" He inched the object between them closer to Warren, who picked it up. Even in the dark, the gold flickered like fire as he turned it in his palm. Too warm for Warren, who already burning up inside. He dropped it back onto the table and slid it away in one smooth, discreet gesture.
"You have fine taste, Mr. Essex. But I prefer silver."
And there we go. Hopefully the next chapter will come soon. Review! (Oh, and if you feel like I probably owe you a review of your own, just tell me. I'm behind, but trying to catch up).