'If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark
Then I'll follow you into the dark'
- 'I Will Follow You Into The Dark' by Death Cab for Cutie
There was no sound.
Trowa stared at the side of the plane cabin, fingers absentmindedly loading bullets, one after another, into the clips. Sunlight striped the walls from the window, dust motes dancing eternally in the shafts of Quatre's hair. Click. Click.
Sound burst back into being, and the soft whispers of Duo's and Remy's conversation washed over him as a tide, and Heero sighed, tremulous and tender as Quatre's smile, from the back of the plane. He glanced back, seeing Logan bent over the thin, compact form, fingers feathering over the ridges of ribs, hungry mouth latched onto the side of his erstwhile leader's neck. Storm said nothing from where she was piloting the plane, X 23 perched beside her.
"Charles said that they've contacted the plane carrying the bomb. There are several fleets of Sentinels protecting it, though." Trowa set the gun aside, ignoring Storm's words, and began to oil the mechanisms of Quatre's javelins, treating it with all the care he had lavished on his lover during life.
The pain of love was gone now, obliterated in the wave of cold, focused intent. X 23 said something, pointing. The plane shuddered, shook like Quatre in the throes of climax, and began to descend.
Bobby McWilliams was a compassionate man. One had to be hard to ignore the sounds of the mutants pleading, the crying of mutant children ripped from their mothers' breasts, and McWilliams was not. He was the only ally the mutants had, and he performed his job with all the focus and drive he had lavished on the destruction of the Viet Cong that had taken his arm.
"Sorry, Scope." He smiled apologetically. "I can't get the collar off you now; don't have the keys yet. I can get you some ice cream from the mess, if you like?" The little girl, her pure white eyes gazing at him, nodded.
"I want icy!" McWilliams laughed, ruffling her straw-blonde hair with the prosthetic arm Trask had shelled out a couple hundred grand for.
"Well, I'll get one for you, and you can share it with the newbie back there, huh?" The boy huddled in the corner of the concrete room twitched as McWilliams's gaze landed on him, and said, his voice rough from screaming,
"There's something coming. Something… bad for Trask, good for us."
"What about me?" The boy regarded him solemnly. "I… I can't tell." McWilliams heard the lie, but dismissed it, going back out to the center of the compound, where a few frightened recruits milled about aimlessly. "Hey, get back in the barracks, kids," McWilliams urged, using his mild, fatherly aura to best effect. A few of them flashed quick, zealous smiles, and hurried into the low-slung building. McWilliams stared up at the sapphire-blue Nevada sky, searching.
A black streak roared overhead, banked, and came back, shrugging off the automatic weapons fire with ease. The jet began to land, and clouds boiled out of nothingness, covering the previously clear sky. Soldiers clustered behind him, semi-automatic weapons aimed at the door.
The door opened. Flame burst from within, and a thin, lean silhouette appeared in the fire, lone green eye burning with fire hotter then the one without. Shadows crawled from beneath the plane, morphed, stretched, and twisted into hunched, leering shapes, shambling forward as though just learning how to walk. A rank of men fell behind him like puppets without strings.
The green-eyed man leaped forward, eerily silent, and McWilliams felt a cruel, cold hand tighten around his throat. He scrabbled at the harsh grip, which suddenly twisted, a bright shoot of pain flowering from the broken vertebrae.
McWilliams slipped into shadow.
Logan was a hardened man, a hard drinker and lover. He had thought himself inured to all violence, all blood and sickness.
This, however, was a new kind of sickness, a pervading, awesome sense of wrong, of contagion spreading and blackening everything it touched. The four remaining pilots moved in eerie synchronicity, their movements coordinated and calculated. Or as calculated as they could be.
During the pilots' infrequent visits to the Danger Room, their movements had been graceful, cold and spare. But this- Logan ducked as a spray of blood spattered across his uniform from a man whose own shadow was crawling over his skin, choking and ripping- this was sheer brutality.
There was no grace, no precision. They moved silently, Heero disdaining the weapons he had packed in favor of using his hands- those hands ripped the jaw off a young man and, turning, he ripped the head off another- while Trowa impaled several on his lover's javelins and kicked them off, watching with dispassionate eyes as their guts spilled out. A few burst into flame from within and were consumed, screaming for mercy.
There was none given.
Men's own shadows, given life, crawled onto them and tore them to pieces before flying to Duo's side, joining the wings of shadow that encompassed the open space that was now gleaming with blood. Logan and Storm stood silently off to the side, Remy and X 23 having left to free the prisoners, and watched, Storm's hand over her mouth as she fought to keep from heaving.
A golden lion burst from the roiling mass of black-suited soldiers and roared, the noise sounding like the voice of Hell itself. It shook its blood-dyed mane and leaped back into the fray, glorying in its battle against the new soldiers pouring into the compound. Logan closed his eyes against the sight of limbs, torn from their sockets, spinning freely in the air, and wished that he could close his ears against the wet cracking noises of bones shattering, the schloop-schloop-schloop of lungs and hearts thrashing in the open, the screams of the wounded and dying.
Semi-automatic weapons fired wildly, their bullets zinging through the air, only to meet Wufei's flames and melt in mid-air. A kid screamed from the entrance to the cages.
"What's happening!" Shit!
"Storm, go tell the Cajun and 23 to get those kids back inside, now! They don't need to see this." The woman, glad to escape the carnage, nodded and hurried away. Logan turned back to the grim spectacle, staring at the red tide that was even now lapping thirstily at the toes of his boots. As if from a great distance, he heard Duo's voice, high-pitched in denial and pain.
"Trowa!" The golden lion roared in shock and agony, the sound piercing. Logan steeled himself and waded into the mess, unable to understand why he couldn't find the massive feline. It was gold- easy to see- so why couldn't he find it?
Oh. That was why.
The lion's fur was no longer gold- now it was a sick brown, an earthy color that was yet unlike mud, its own special hue of rotted blood and decay. 'The amount of blood needed to cover him…' Blood dripped from each strand of the dark mane, blood ran like tears from the intelligent green eyes, blood streamed from the gaping hole in the beast's side.
The lion limped to the jet, shifting on the way so that it was Trowa Barton, skin painted with crimson and hair matted, knotted and dripping blood, clothes black with gore, who lay in the shadow of the plane. A shadow flew from Duo's wings to cover the wound and hold the blood within.
"You gonna be okay?" Trowa glanced at him and then nodded.
"Yes. I only need to live long enough to see Trask." Logan turned back to the fight, leaping in to take Trowa's place. Snarling wordlessly, the animal within lending its strength and knowledge, he fought his way through the swirling chaos, to stand back-to-back with Heero, feeling his claws slice easily through flesh until they reached bone; a bit of pressure- he was through, and the limbs fell to lie at his feet. There were a few balls of white light, the life that Heero stole, floating through the air to be absorbed into his lover's outstretched hands, lighting the dark, artificial night. 'The lucky ones…'
Someone screamed the order to retreat, and the black-suited soldiers fell back like a receding tide, leaving the wounded and dying behind. Duo, panting, limped over to them, his feet squelching every so often when he stepped on an internal organ made external. Wufei followed, cuts seaming his face and bullet wounds on his back seeping blood.
Logan glanced back at the jet, making sure that the last of the captives had hurried inside, before he nodded to Wufei. Wufei smiled, flames dancing in his eyes. He stretched his arms out, and fire burst from his fingertips, racing through the air with thundering roars. The fire leaped onto the buildings, twining around the wood and cement, burning hot enough to cook the air itself, and from there it expanded, melting concrete and splintering wood.
Wufei stared at the burning buildings with a strange sort of serenity on his face. Heero turned, grunted a few orders, and loped towards the only building that wasn't burning: the fireproof, bombproof bunker that Trask would be hiding in. The dark wings attached to Duo's shoulders flapped once, gently, and then collapsed on themselves, forming into a scythe, which Duo slung over his shoulders, hooking his elbows over it. Whistling, he strolled after Heero, braid flirting in the breeze made by the fire.
Wufei glanced at Logan, and Logan felt his heart freeze in his chest. There was nothing but hatred in those eyes, in the eyes of all of the pilots. A cold, remorseless, vicious hatred to those who hurt their own, hatred that went on and on and on until there was nothing left, hatred without bounds, without reason.
Sick at heart, Logan watched as Wufei turned and followed the other two into the bunker where Trask was hiding, uncaring of the fires that burned and twisted into the cloudy sky, melting concrete. There was a cracking, and one of the barracks fell. He looked at Trowa, who sat with one hand pressed to the wound, holding the shadow bandage on, blood seeping between his fingers, head tilted back and a cruel smile on his lips.
Then the screaming started.
Logan finished talking to Chuck, and turned to see the pilots, grim expressions on their faces, dragging a squirming Trask into the compound. 'Oh, no.'
"Chuck, get the others into the plane."
"But they'll want to congratulate themselves on disarming-"
"Just do it! They don't want, or need, to see this." Trowa heaved himself to his feet, and limped over, holding four javelins in his hand. Chuck wheeled himself away quickly, herding Rogue and the others into the Jet. Logan glanced up, and sighed when he saw all of the X-men, noses pressed to the windows, watching avidly.
Trask screamed, and he turned back to see one of the javelins impaling the man's wrist, blood spreading, and he heard the noise of bone against metal as the man writhed. Another javelin, then two more, and Trask was spread-eagled, staked out under the merciless light of the sun, Storm having dissipated the storm clouds.
Heero knelt and injected a red liquid into the man's neck. "What is he doing?" Chuck sounded curious. "He's injecting him with his own blood, to keep him alive longer." His voice sounded distorted and flat even to his own ears. Trowa straddled Trask's chest, and lifted a razor to the man's face. The blade glinted, and Logan could hear Trask's pleading from where he stood.
The blade flickered, and Logan closed his ears against Trask's scream. Heero and the others walked over to where the two stood, immobile and fascinated. Logan wanted to howl his disgust, to ask Heero 'why?' And then his lover looked up at him, and he saw sanity returning to the blue gaze. Sanity, and horrible, crushing regret, filled with dark memories.
Logan opened his arms, and Heero came willingly, allowing the older man to hold him so tightly that Logan half-thought he heard Heero's bones creak. He sniffed, smelling blood and sweat, focusing on that familiar scent, but he could still hear Trowa working relentlessly, hear the people in the plane vomiting.
Time passed. The sun sank in the sky; Trask's screams died away to muffled moaning, and then to nothing at all. Trowa wasn't satisfied, although Trask had lost everything that made him human. The nose had been first to go, followed by the ears, then the fingers and toes, and now Trowa was methodically slicing the man's lips off. Blood stained the ground.
The sun began to disappear behind the horizon. Logan shushed his fragile lover, who was shaking in his arms, memories of similar tortures overtaking him, and stared at the pitiful spectacle.
Trowa was speaking now, his voice eerily calm and soft, as though he was discussing nothing more then the weather.
"It's surprising how fragile the human body really is. The eyes are but sacks of fluid surrounded by membrane; a little bit of pressure from fingers, and they burst." Trask's back arched as Trowa demonstrated. Logan could hear the sick noise from where he stood. Trowa continued, dispassionate. "The belly is nothing but meat; it breaks easily beneath one's hands." He dug into Trask's stomach, and steam gushed into the cold air. "And all that remains is to push your hand in and tug-" Trowa twisted his arm, and the man went from writhing to stiff as a board within a second. "-and you can learn how easily you can die." Bloody things slipped out to splat, wetly, onto the ground. Trowa's lip twitched, and he spat into the ruin of Trask's face.
Logan could hear the ragged breaths and heartbeat, the pause between each one growing ever longer.
And then, finally, there were no more breaths or heartbeat, and it was all pause.
Trowa threw his head back and stared at the sky, and Logan could smell the saltwater smell of tears, could see the shine of tear tracks trailing across the fine-boned features. Trowa's head turned, and the green eyes, swimming with tears, met his, before flickering over to Duo, who stood, wrapped in Remy's embrace.
"Take it off," he demanded. Duo nodded, gesturing. The shadow bandage twisted, shrunk, and was gone, allowing Trowa's blood to spill forth, dark red and thick: arterial blood. 'His arteries are torn?' Logan's respect for Trowa reached a new height. It was obvious that the man had been clinging to life through his hatred and sheer will alone; most people would have been dead within five minutes, if not less.
Trowa slumped forward, rolling off Trask's body to sprawl on the concrete, Trask's blood mingling with his own. The remaining pilots trudged over to him and knelt in the spreading pool of blood.
"Why is he dying? He doesn't have to die!" Rogue's voice was rising rapidly into hysteria. Logan looked up and saw all of the X-men had left the plane, most of them looking pale, sweaty, and nauseous.
"He's dying because he loved Quatre too much," he explained, embarrassed at having to talk about love. "He was only living to kill Trask, and now that he's done, he can die." Rogue began to cry, her nose becoming bright red. Logan wrapped an arm around her shoulders awkwardly, glancing over at the sad sight once more.
They were saying something, so softly he couldn't hear it. Duo laughed, and grasped Trowa's hand, pressing something into it. Heero murmured something, and Wufei retorted. Logan was reminded, for a moment, of how they had found these men in a way much like this one, gathered to say goodbye to one of their own. And now they were doing it again, only this time for good.
Trowa's chest rose; one bloodstained hand stretched up to the darkening sky; the hand fell limply back to earth, and the last breath of life in Trowa Barton rushed up to join the heavens.
Duo made an awful, choking noise, and threw himself on top of the still corpse, pressing his face into the neck that no longer had a pulse. Wufei did nothing for a moment, got up and sat down helplessly, and settled for rage, flames appearing in the air in answer to their master's grief, flames that outshone the appearing stars, flames as relentless as a black hole and as bright as the sun. Heero said nothing, did nothing.
Dimly, as if from a great distance, Logan heard Rogue's tears, heard Kitty's sniffles, heard Kurt's rosary clicking as he murmured his prayers for the dying.
And so, nearly twenty-four hours to the day, Trowa Barton joined his lover in death, satisfied that he had wreaked his vengeance.
Some Time Later…
"You're lucky, Kurt," Rogue said. "You're not rooming next to two nymphomaniacs who think that the answer to all nightmares is to have sex, very loudly and for as long as possible." The bed in the room next to hers squeaked loudly and banged on the wall for emphasis. Rogue rolled her eyes as Duo's moans and Remy's deep voice, speaking French with a smug tone, drifted through the walls.
"I thought the Professor did not allow lovers to room together?" Kurt said curiously. Rogue smirked. "I thought so, too, until Duo told me that he threatened him with Trask's fate if he tried to separate them. Apparently, Logan and Heero concurred."
"Ah," Kurt said wryly, "those two. They're not- how do you say?- nymphomaniacs, but they are always fighting. Always! I cannot sleep for them destroying helpless furniture. And when they are done fighting, they, too, have sex. I did not think that Logan would take such delight in 'teaching.' He certainly doesn't enjoy teaching us to defend ourselves."
Rogue sobered at that. "He doesn't like to go near the 'pyre tree', you know that."
"I would not," Kurt agreed. "The pilots are always there, talking to them. Wufei once nearly attacked Jamie for intruding."
"I think Jamie wished Wufei had succeeded when he saw what Pietro had planned for him."
"Pietro is rather protective, yes. I think he is very frightened of losing the one person who tolerates his need for reassurance. Wufei needs someone to protect, and Pietro needs to feel safe, so it works."
"Not always," Rogue warned. "They still have flashbacks. Heero broke Duncan's legs when Duncan touched him when he was stuck in a flashback. Logan, Remy, and Pietro can't always be there to bring them out of the flashbacks."
"It is better then the alternative. They would still be extraordinarily dangerous without the others to stabilize them," Kurt pointed out.
"True." Duo cursed, very loudly and fluently, from the next room. "Goddamnit!" Rogue muttered. "Okay, Kurt, here's what we're going to do to their room while they're out..."
A/N: And that is the end of Collision. A big thank you goes out to my reviewers, who kept me writing even when I wanted to stop. I realize that the romantic relationships were not fully fleshed out: romance is one of my biggest weaknesses, which is why I usually don't write it, and when I do, it's rather bad. Again, thank you to all my reviewers, and don't forget to leave constructive criticism.