Disclaimer: I don't own X-Men, or any other Marvel character. Warlock, Seraph, Lobo, Shift, and Hardcase are all my creations
A/N: Slight AU. This takes place approximately two months after "A New Beginning". Please read and review.
The Protector Saga, Part II
Creatures of the Night
Greenwich Village, New York
Doctor Steven Strange sat down at his desk with the day's mail. He had been expecting a book on demonology from a woman in Texas. It had been her daughter's. Apparently the girl had died over a year previously, and the mother had only recently gotten to looking into her daughter's effects. She had added almost as an afterthought that she thought her daughter had been interested in witchcraft.
Sifting through the mail, he came upon the book the woman had finally sent. Taking care so as not to damage the contents, he slowly opened the envelope. Taking a firm hold on the heavy book, he took it out slowly, to discover an ancient tome. It was old … extremely old. The cover seemed to be bone, dyed black. At the very center of the cover was a twisted, emaciated figure, its face a grotesque mask of horror. Bordering the figure, near the edge, were characters that may have been ancient Samarian at one time. Now though, the characters had been worn so that they were completely smooth in some areas.
Curious about the contents, he unclasped the lock, and opened to the middle of the book. This isn't an amateur's book, he thought as his breath caught in his chest. He had opened the tome to find a spell that would open a massive portal to Dormammu's dimension. Looking over the spell, he realized that though the book was not meant for amateur wizards and sorcerers, the magic could be done by someone with less than a year's worth of training. Flipping to another page, he gasped in horror. He had found a spell that could, in the right hands, leave every dimensional variant of the Earth open to the Evil One's Legions of Darkness. Every version of the Earth would become Hell, the collective souls of humanity forced to live out the rest of existence under the yoke of an evil no one had ever contemplated.
Realizing he had to do something about the ancient text, he decided he had to destroy it. Standing up, he accidentally knocked over the rest of the day's mail. Picking up the envelopes, he couldn't help but notice one being postmarked from Athens, Greece. The manila envelope was nothing to look at, but for some reason he was drawn to it. Picking it up, he could feel magic coursing through whatever was inside. Opening it, he was surprised to find what was inside.
It was a letter, written entirely in ancient Greek. In the top left corner, there was an intricate letterhead. It was an encircled, equidistant cross, turned forty-five degrees on its side. In each of the four spaces were insignias. One was a breaking wave, its crest rolling and driving down. The second was a massive cliff or a mountain, as seen from the very base looking up. The third was a massive bonfire roaring on a wooden pyre, embers flying into the air. The fourth was maybe a hurricane or a tornado, seen from above, massive amounts of debris circling an empty eye. As Dr. Strange read the letter, his eyes slowly widened, his mouth gaping in awe. It was impossible, he thought. They are only … a myth. Slowly placing the letter on his desk, he realized that he, too, would be involved in the coming events. He realized also that he would be going to Greece. He left his office, the haze of the stress of planning a trip suddenly coming over his mind.
This letter, which had so occupied the good doctor's attention, summarized, loosely translated to the following: "You, Dr. Steven Strange, Supreme Sorcerer of Earth, are being invited to join the ancient and highly revered Order of Elements. If interested, come to Athens as soon as possible. If you do decide to answer this letter in the positive, you will be contacted."
She awoke with a start, the end of the nightmare drifting into her consciousness, the dreamscape melting into waking reality just for an instant. She sighed contentedly when she realized it had just been a dream, and nothing more. She collapsed back into bed, sighing again, and let her heartbeat slow down. She noticed that her sweaty bed sheets had already started to cool. She tried to relax again, so she could hopefully fall asleep. She did not want to look at the clock; if she did, she would undoubtedly never get back to sleep.
It was then she realized it. Her sheets were sweaty. She listened for the air conditioner; the damn thing had probably gone out again. Hearing nothing, she shed her sheets, and stood up, ignoring her silk housecoat. She preferred the freedom of being nude anyways. Besides, she had always enjoyed showing off her feminine "blessings". There is nothing fake on this body, she thought proudly. She reached the thermostat, and turned the AC on, hearing the familiar, comforting sound of it starting up. She decided that since she was up, she might as well get a glass of water.
She leaned against the counter, drinking her water. From the kitchen, she had an excellent view of the rest of the flat. By London standards, it was massive. By any standards, it was lush, and expensive. In recent years, the only other place that she had seen that had been as lush as her present flat had been the mansion. But, it was on the other side of the Atlantic.
Though she didn't want to admit it, her thoughts made her feel homesick. Despite everything she had tried to do, her home was still across the pond. At times like this, she almost forgot why she had left. But, then she remembered: HIM. The bastard. She had always wanted him; always secretly yearned for him. And then, when he split up with his wife, everyone found out he was gay. Of course, he wasn't just dipping his toes in the pool to see how it felt. No, of course not. He was full-fledged, flaming, rainbow-flag-waving gay.
That was why she was here, away from her native country. But, this flat, it just wasn't home. And the dream she'd been having for the last month seemed to cement that. In that dream, she was in a dank, dark place, with no windows, and a strong smell of death and blood. She walked through tunnels of concrete hearing gunshots, explosions, screams, and roars of rage. Amidst that she heard two things: the scream of a girl, and the unmistakable sound of Wolverine bellowing in rage. Walking around a corner, she saw Jubilee in the arms of a creature with blue-gray skin, and black eyes. The creature had its claws to the girl's throat. In front of the two of them was Logan, a look of pure animalistic rage on his face. Then, suddenly, she felt a voice in her head speak to her: YOU WILL BE NEEDED. IF YOU DO NOT RETURN, THIS WILL HAPPEN. SHE WILL NEED YOU. As she dealt with the all-encompassing migraine that followed, she watched as Jubilee's throat was torn out, her mentor falling to his knees in anger and despair.
It was because of this dream that she was now considering returning. She returned to her bedroom, and sat down on the bed. She ran her head through her hair, and thought about what she was going to do. Should she return, or should she stay? That dream; it felt so real, as if it really was going to happen. And, for some reason she couldn't ignore it. Vaguely, she realized the dream was playing with maternal instincts she didn't even know she had. Finally, she made up her mind. She had to return. There was something with these dreams that she didn't understand. Maybe, just maybe, over there, there would be someone who knew what the dream meant.
With that, Emma Frost went to her closet and began packing. She was going home.
East Coast of Spain
Guillermo Diaz sat on the beach next to his best friend, Rafael Ortega. Rafael was currently listening to a football game on his headphones. Honestly, Guillermo thought, the man can't stop worrying about the game. He could understand how people could get into the game, how they could go to the stadiums and cheer for their teams. He, himself, loved the sport. But, Rafael had a problem. Namely, he was getting into serious debt with all the betting he was doing.
Rafael would bet on just about anything. He would bet on the scores of the teams, on who made the goals, and so on and so forth. Guillermo had even seen Rafael bet on the hairdo one of their team's more eccentric players would be wearing. It had become insane. That was part of the reason they had come to the beach for the day. They were supposed to get away from the sport.
But, Rafael had brought his little radio. His loss, Guillermo thought, eyeing the large number of attractive women on the sand. Until three months earlier, he had a girlfriend he had met two years earlier, during his first year of university. Three months ago, she had broken up with him, only to be seen less than a week later with the star center of the local football team. He was an incredible player, and was probably going to play professionally.
Even now, he still loved her. But, he had never been able to tell her his deepest, darkest secret. He was a mutant. He was a mutant who could heat and cool substances at will. That fact that he had never been able to tell her made him think that perhaps she would not have understood. That realization made him start to think that it was a good thing that they never carried their relationship to the next level.
She was the other reason he and Rafael were at the beach. He needed to focus his mind on other women, or at least, that was what he told himself. Right now, he was looking at a gorgeous woman not ten meters from him.
She had wavy brunette hair that reached down between her shoulder blades. Her skin, a healthy light tan, glistened with sweat and suntan oil underneath the Mediterranean sun. Face-down, she had a pair of dark sunglasses covering her eyes, and was listening to headphones placed loosely over her ears. Whether she was asleep or not, Guillermo could not tell. But, as his eyes drifted over her perfectly toned legs, he was secretly glad this was a nude beach.
He looked over his shoulder to see the woman's boyfriend talking it up with a pair of girls he knew from university. The boyfriend, Guillermo noted sadly, was built like a tank. Even from here, Guillermo could make out the man's muscles as they rippled under his skin. He could probably run for Mr. Universe, he thought. He looked at his own body. He wasn't fat, not by any standards. But, despite playing football twice a week, he still had a small paunch just below his navel. He knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he could never look like the boyfriend.
His mind falling back to reality, he turned around and faced the water. After a few moments, it seemed to him that there was something moving just below the surface, maybe about ten meters out. Suddenly, he saw the top of a head, with close-cropped red hair. Slowly, a man's head appeared beneath the hair. It suddenly occurred to him that someone was walking out of the Mediterranean. His brows knitted in confusion. How could anyone do that? They could only do it if they were … a mutant.
Guillermo kept watching as the man slowly walked inland. His gait seemed almost as if it could not be stopped; it almost said that anyone that tried would be pushed aside. Finally, the man's entire torso appeared above the water. Guillermo looked on, awestruck. If the woman's boyfriend had been a tank, this man coming out of the sea was a walking fortress. Judging from his torso, the man had to be well over two meters tall. From his musculature, Guillermo thought the man probably had the world record for heaviest muscled man. As he watched the man's unwavering procession, he realized that he was headed straight for the gorgeous brunette.
"Hey, lady," he called as loud as possible. She didn't move. He looked out to sea to see the massive man in ankle-deep water. He realized he had misjudged the speed at which the man was moving. With his long, powerful, forceful strides, he walked faster than what most people did. "Hey, lady," he called again. He saw the man come closer step by step. Now, he was close enough to see the dazed look in the man's eyes, and to see that he was muttering something. "Damn it," he said, realizing that he would have to get to her to get her out of the way.
He began moving towards her, but even as he did so, he realized that she could never get out of the way fast enough. Picking up speed, he dove into the sand, and putting his hand beneath her abdomen, wrenched her out of harm's way. Rolling twice before they came to a stop, Guillermo noticed the woman's beautiful brown eyes just as he heard the massive man's thunderous step beside them. He looked up, seeing the tree trunk of a leg recede inland. He could just make out a monotonous American accent saying something in English. "I am the Guardian. I must atone for my sins."
He looked back down to the woman, and saw her eyes were now green slits, like a lizard's. She was a mutant. With the realization, he slowly got off of her. Before he could lift himself halfway, she pushed him away from her, into the sand. "What the hell do you think you're doing," she asked, her eyes aflame with fury. Instead of trying to answer her, he pointed to where she had been only moments before, and where there was now only a massive footprint.
She looked at where she had been, slightly dazed. In the place where she had been only moments before, there was a deep hole in the sand in the shape of a massive foot. Her towel had been utterly demolished. If she had been there, she realized, she would have been split in half. She followed the tracks of the gargantuan footprints, and saw an equally gargantuan man walking inland. She saw Giovanni, her boyfriend, looking after the man with contempt. She knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he was trying to figure out how to become as large as that man. She looked back at the young man who had saved her. He was still lying on the sand, looking up at her as if she was a Greek goddess.
"Hello," she said, kneeling. "My name is Maria. Maria Pacciano. I'm sorry I was so rude." She smiled, embarrassed. "I suppose I owe you my life."
"My name is Guillermo," he replied. "And you don't owe me anything. I was just doing what any normal person would do." He realized, only afterwards, he had referred to himself as not being normal.
She looked back at Giovanni. He was looking at his biceps, trying to figure out the best way make them bigger. He hadn't even bothered to look her way. "Say, Guillermo, you wouldn't happen to know of a nice bar around here, would you?"
Danger Room Observatory
"Do you believe it advisable to let her know?"
"To be honest, I am not entirely certain, Henry," Professor Xavier replied. They were currently watching Kurt and Angela spar. Kurt had begun teaching her how to fence the day beforehand, and now, less than twenty-four hours later, she could nearly defeat him. It was astounding. But, the Professor thought, no less astounding than her incredible strength, and resistance to injury. They had discovered she was nearly as strong as Henry, and that her skin was almost like Kevlar. To top it all off, the blue energy she was able to produce from her mouth was equally as powerful as Scott's optic blasts.
But that was not what they were trying to decide to tell her. After testing her DNA, Hank found that it was not normal. She had an activated X-Factor, but there was something else. It was not until he had been able to isolate her X-Factor, and determine what it affected, that he discovered what was different. Like all other mutants, her X-Factor, once activated, caused another gene or genes to change, and caused the mutation to show. They still weren't entirely certain as to how this occurred. Like most mutants, Angela had only a few mutated genes (Logan was the exception here; he had so many mutated genes that Hank was still counting them). Her X-Factor and mutated genes coded for her energy blasts. This was all normal.
What was not normal was that he found that the genes for her wings, skin, strength, and possibly her accelerated learning ability were not affected by her X-Factor. In fact, upon further inquiry, Hank had found that these genes, and many others, were not even human. In the end, he came to the conclusion that Angela's mother had been human, but that her father had been something else. As to what, though, he had not been able to discover. The unknown DNA seemed to be closest to what he had on file on the Asgardians, but, even then, it was still too different to be close.
"She has been having nightmares, Henry," the Professor said. "They seem to be memories of what this Sybre had her do."
"So these nightmares are concerned with the violent undertakings that he so easily forced upon her?"
"Not only the violence that he forced her to perform on others Henry." The Professor had a mournful glint in his eye; almost as if what he was about to say was his own memory. "She dreams about what he did to her. He psychologically tortured her, Henry. He raped her almost every day; sometimes three or four times." He stopped, trying to compose himself. He would be lying if he were to say it did not upset him. "This went on for almost ten years. Even among us, I do not know if there is someone who can relate to this kind of pain."
"Should we tell her," Hank asked, after several moments of silence.
"Not yet," the Professor conceded. "She has had enough of a shock dealing with what Sybre had done to her. If we were to tell her now, she very well may have a mental breakdown." He paused. "It would be dangerous to let her know that we do not think she's entirely human."
Somewhere in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Jean woke up to the chilly darkness of the morning. She leaned over to look at the clock next to the bed. It was just past five. She lay back down in the bed, deciding whether to go back to sleep, or to make a cup of tea. She looked over to see Logan turn contentedly on his side, pulling her half of the blankets with him. The choice seemingly made for her, she got out of bed, and stretched silently.
She stood there for a moment, enjoying the feel of the cool air against her naked body. It was refreshing, invigorating. For a moment, she considered drinking her tea in the nude. No, she decided. It would be better to at least have something on in case it spilled. She started searching for her clothes, using her new found sense of smell. She could smell them, she found, but couldn't get a fix. After last night, she thought wryly, there's no wonder I can't find them.
Five minutes later, the only thing she had found was Logan's shirt. She didn't think she would be able to find her clothes without the light. And she didn't want to wake Logan. Deciding his shirt was better than nothing, she pulled it over her head, and found it came just past her hips. She walked out of the bedroom, towards the kitchen, relishing how their scents seemed to mingle so well.
She filled the tea pot, and ignited the stove. Putting the pot on the stove, her thoughts drifted to Logan, and the odd dreams he'd been having lately. His nightmares had decreased in their frequency over the past few weeks. He had been having them almost every night after their encounter with the … demons. Now, though, he was only having one once every other week or so. His insomnia had seemed to ease off somewhat, as well.
But, lately, his dreams had been different. She sat down with her tea at the small dining table, the smooth wood cold against her bare thighs. Her thoughts turned to the new dreams that he'd been having. They seemed to be set in the Middle Ages, and centered on two lovers, from opposing kingdoms. The woman was tall, sculpted, with long red hair, and fair skinned. The man was tall, with short dark hair, and ruddy skin. He, too, was very muscular.
The two apparently fell in love despite their kingdoms warring against each other. The only dream that he'd had had been on a battlefield. The kingdoms' armies had been assembled, facing each other, on opposite sides of a massive plain that made up one of the borders of their realms. A cool wind blew out of the northwest, as a parley between the two armies was enjoined.
The first of the opponents were dressed in armor with elegant lines, designs etched into the metal. Their golden armor reflected in the sun, their swords gleaming with a malicious light. The woman with red hair rode on a horse next to her father. She, like the soldiers behind her, wore the same armor, with a sun centered in the middle of her chest-plate. A sword hung in a sheath on her horse's saddle. Beside her was their flag-bearer, the red banner flapping in the wind. The emblem on the banner was made of two scimitar-like swords, crossed over each other. The blades, in turn, were set into a royal blue shield. The shield, in turn, was set into the chest of a massive, burning bird of prey.
The dream ended there, but Logan had said that there was something about the other army that seemed important to him. He just wasn't sure what it was. Her reverie was broken there, as she heard Logan stirring in the bedroom. As he walked into the kitchen, she could see just by his faced that he'd had another dream. "Logan?"
"It was the same dream as before," he said. "But, I keep thinkin' I'm missing somethin'."
"But you don't have any idea what it is." It was more a statement than a question.
"No," he said. He looked up, and for the first time, actually saw her. "Yer wearin' my shirt," he said bluntly.
"Yeah," she replied, arching a delicate eyebrow. "What about it?"
"You know what that does to me," he growled slightly. His eyes had taken on a glint of their own, lust burning behind them.
"No," she replied, standing, the same glint in her eyes. "Why don't you show me?" She leaned against the table, allowing the shirt to ride up past her thighs.
- - - -
Sitting on Logan's lap, Jean rested her chin on his shoulder, their sex musk permeating the room. "I love you, Logan," she said contentedly.
"And I love ya too, darlin'," he replied, stealing a kiss as he looked into her eyes.
"Hey," she said standing. "Are you hungry," she asked. Before he could respond, she heard footsteps, heavy footsteps, coming towards the cabin. "Logan?"
"I heard it too," he responded, bending to get his pants. Jean threw on his shirt, moving quickly and quietly towards the bedroom. A few moments later, and several more footsteps, she came back into the kitchen, buttoning a pair of blue jeans.
"Any idea who it is?"
"No," he replied. "There ain't nobody that knows we're here." He looked at her just as her eyes seemed to glaze over. He had had the same idea, just as she had done it. He, too, was about to reach out with his telepathy, when her eyes cleared.
"I think they're looking for help, Logan."
"There ain't a civilized town around fer miles. Where would they be comin' from?"
"I don't know," she replied softly. The footsteps were now almost on top of them. They both looked to the door as a soft knock sounded from it.
"Is anyone here," a male voice from the other side of the door.
"Logan," Jean said. "They need help." She moved towards the door, Logan behind her. Be ready fer anythin', she heard in her head. Opening the door, she saw a handsome man with shoulder length blonde hair with an unmoving woman in his arms. She was quite beautiful, with dark hair, and pale skin; skin that was almost too pale.
"We need a place to rest," the man said. He gestured towards the woman in his arms. "She's been injured."
Jean was about to gesture for them to come inside, when she heard Logan growl beside her. Turning her head, she saw that his entire body was poised to strike, his fist cocked at his sides, claws ready to pop. Before she could ask him what was wrong, he spat out a single word, his lips bared in a snarl. "Vampire."