HOUSE OF MIRRORS STORY ARC

STORY SUMMARY: The many threads of the multiverse are ripe for the plucking. Pick a card, any card. Once. Twice. Pick another. It's a House of Mirrors. Enjoy your stay.

DISCLAIMERS: Marvel owns it all. I'm just twisting it around a bit.

CANONICAL NOTES: AU, sort of. More like, visits to some other threads.

LANGUAGE AND ACCENTS: Cajun French is courtesy of Heavenmetal (many thanks). I will attempt to reproduce accents in this story arc.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I never intended to start this, but a certain Cajun had other ideas. If this is frighteningly out of my norm, blame him.


Diable

- 1 -

Story Summary: The first thread in a House of Mirrors. Le Diable Blanc and the Angel of Death. What binds them together is more than meets the eye.

Canonical Notes: Set in an alternate thread of the multiverse.

Acknowledgements: Dedicated to Lucia de Medici, who I blame for turning my ears to this seductive Cajun devil.

Author's Note: So, all my good intentions of not posting this particular story arc over here so I won't be tempted to write it, as usual, whoosh! out the door. Hope you like.


"Everyone wants t' create de mos' powerful mutant in de world. Didn't y' ever wonder why?"

Slip, slap. Cards slide between deft fingers. Slip, slap. Fan out their faces, cut the deck, and shuffle again. Slip, slap. Pick a card, any card.

"Could've guessed 't ages ago, couldn' y'? An' y' didn't...What exactly y' so afraid of?"

Slip, slap. Those cards go sliding again. She holds her ears. "Stop it!" she hisses, but who is he to listen to her?

Fan out the cards, cut the deck, shuffle again. Slip, slap. Pick a card. Hold out their shiny backs. C'mon, chère, pick one.

Of course, she shouldn't listen to his snake charmer voice, gliding sinuously around her senses, teasing. Slip, slap. Shuffle the deck. Slip, slap. Cards sliding like his Cajun drawl crawling up her spine.

Pick a card, any card.

She shouldn't play this game. He's always gonna win. "Don't touch me, swamp snake."

"Ah, but where de fun in dat, p'tite?" Pick a card, any card. Slip, slap. Husky tones eating away inside her belly.

Shouldn't she know she'll never be able to resist?

"Took y' long enough, n'est pas? C'mere an' let dis one tell y' a story. Ain' like 'm goin' t' let y' forget."


- 1 -

~ DEVILS AND ANGELS ~

The World is Born Once


She should have known better. The ange cursed aloud from her bloody mouth. The grime of too many false attempts at escape had matted her hair with mud and bits of crumbling brick, obscuring white and auburn beneath brown and red.

The diable sat beside her, crouched, arms resting casually on his legs, gloved hands showing through his fingers here and there as he slid the cards in and out of his fingers. Slip, slap. Fan out their faces, cut the deck, shuffle again. His eyes—devil eyes, obsidian darkness, blackness, drown and lose your way if you wander in, blazing red irises cutting two circles across them—never strayed to the cards. He did not speak over the insidious, grating whisper of them sliding back and forth in his fingers. He was better groomed than she, his long brown trench coat clean and sliding over well-armored chest and thighs. Auburn hair soft and long, hung messily into his eyes. He did not always wear the plate of armor over his head. His skin was sun-kissed, shaded with five o'clock shadow along the jaw.

He was not grimy from well-intentioned, badly planned escapes. His exposed flesh was not limited to his face and the rips along a leather bodysuit. His voice did not rasp with the dry ache of thirst and ravishing hunger.

But both of them were red as blood.

Her fingers clenched. Silken leather, fitted to her skin. His gaze lingered on those hands before raking over her body again. She would have flinched away, but only anger flashed within those emerald eyes.

Slip, slap. The restless cards wove and threaded through his deft hands. She leaned back her head against the hard wall, pulling as far from the diable as possible. Metal clanked at her wrists. She did not get far. Her eyelids drooped, lulled with a pained exhaustion and the inexhaustible slipping, slapping, sliding of his cards.

A slow hiss escaped her mouth.

He did not ask what it meant.

Slip, slap. Fan out their faces, cut the deck, shuffle again. Pale skin covered the emerald eyes of the ange, sliding shut with the rhythmic sounds. Sliding cards, sinuous motion. Slip, slap. Shuffle again.

"Please," she sighed, then caught herself, caught her breath, and opened eyes with the agony of realizing she had let slip her plea.

Red and black demonic eyes burned intently into hers. Slip, slap. The cards slid through his fingers. He didn't touch her, didn't speak.

She turned away. Her throat worked as if she tried to swallow, and she coughed, leaning over to spit out blood.

Slap. The cards stopped.

Her muscles froze, tense beneath his unyielding gaze. She was still turned away from him, her pale, slender neck exposed where a blade had cut her suit. Her skin trembled.

A gloved finger traced over the edge of that silky skin, thumb rubbing gently the dirt from between the cords of her throat. She gasped and trembled, tried to scramble away but could only pull against the clanking chains, bound fast. He did not touch her with the bare fingers showing through the glove, only sliding, almost tenderly, the leather against her. Finally, he drew back.

"Please what?" His voice was a low, husky drawl that sent her shivering.

She whispered, "Please don't."

The moment lay without a breath. Her jaw tightened. No sound. No more would come from that slender throat.

Then, slowly, gratingly, the slip, slap of the sliding, rhythmic cards began.

Again.


Mystique would kill her. If Essex or this endless torture didn't first.

She wanted to scream with the irresistible, endless torment of those sliding cards, that mesmerizing voice crawling up and down the inside of her stomach whenever she dared to speak. But she couldn't. Speaking at all was painful, nearly impossible. Her gut had threatened to heave, but all she could manage was the deep, aching cough of the empty-bodied, weak-fleshed captive. Mystique would kill her if she knew her own daughter—daughter!—had botched a job so badly.

But at least...

No, don't think it. Thinking was worse than speaking. Feeling was worse than thinking.

She had not forgotten whose lair she now held occupancy in, that Essex was the most powerful telepath left alive—(Jeannie didn't count; Jeannie was dead to them, forgotten; and whatever in hell the Phoenix was, telepath didn't begin to cover that monstrous creature of fire and death)—or that the devil crouched beside her could read her emotions as easily as she could slide under his skin and make him hers—(or make him her, never forget the real monster lying within)—with just a touch, such innocent, painful, innocuous, insidious touch—or that the slipping, slapping, sliding whispers of his movements could just as easily be the ticking of a clock, sliding under her skin and the layers of her mind, slicing them open, flaying her emotions, bending them, shaping them... She wouldn't be the first.

They liked to pretend she was more unmalleable than she was, that her mind could not be shaped or her emotions tethered and bound, reworked, that somehow her chimera mind could save her.

She was not so naive.

And there went that slipping, slapping, sliding...

She hissed. It grated on her, wore away the smooth edges of her nerves. She felt sensitized and raw, like just one touch could shred her into a hundred million pieces that all the king's horses and all the king's men could never put back together. He never tired, never spoke unless she broke her deathly silence from a half-dead throat, just slid those cards between those fingers, bare and gloved, threat and seduction. He wore her raw.

Mystique would kill her. She held to that brutal harshness of her mother, cradled remembered lectures, biting, clawing, hooking words and barbs settled under her skin. They kept her feeling. They kept her alive. They kept the torturous breath rasping in and out of lungs too tired to want to go on, held her back from the inviting, deadening lull of cards sliding against her senses, bit holes into seductive whispers, frightening, drowning eyes—obsidian and fire, like phoenix wings, the ends of the world. She could not bring herself to look into those eyes. If she did, the battle, and thus the war, would be lost.

She remembered Mystique. Odd that. Brutality would keep her alive. It kept her from drowning.

And God, did she want to drown.


She came back to with a lull at the edge of her consciousness and stiffened, knowing what terror that meant. She sat up. No chains on her wrists, chafing, clanking, binding her to the devil nearby. The floor still cold and concrete, the odors of mud and her own blood still filled her nostrils. But the devil was gone.

She blinked at the bars and the red hallway, stained with other captives' bodily fluids as they were dragged across those reaches. She stared at the silent concrete floor, the empty walls, the dead stillness of the air.

He was gone.

It seeped into her slowly, then splashed her with the shock. She gasped for air. But what was this odd deadness about her senses? She clawed at herself, scratched until she felt blood and pain and trembling. She was alive.

Her weakened body hit the wall again. She caught her breath. Don't do too much. Just breathe. Her mind was clear once more, but the angel was not a fool. It would only be a matter of time before the devil or Essex or some other horrifying figure returned and the torments began anew. She needed to think, something she had done too little of before she took the job in the first place.

Calculated detritus of thought began to clink and tumble about the corners of her brain. She let them. Let them ring and make small noises, catch the attention of Essex if they so pleased. Her thoughts whirled like cogs and wheels in complex machinery, took on a faint hum and whir and the many-colored splendor of a thousand minds. The many-headed beast had awakened. Her chimera roared and began to hunt—and to feed.

A calculated risk that, but she was out of options. This time, she was ready when the footsteps thundered down that hall and the beast of Lord Sinister growled deep in his throat, blood dripping from clawed hands. She was ready when she saw the whisper of a coat and burning devil eyes in the darkness behind it.

Her throat still hurt. She did not whisper. Green gaze vulnerable in her dank cell, beneath her blood. Calling. The crook of a snake charmer, a lion tamer, for this beast was her lion and the devil her snake.

Come and get me, sugah, the chimera crooned.

The beast growled and lunged for the bars. The door swung open beneath his weight, and more clinking tripped about her brain.

Phoenix could ruin everything.

But what she wanted—just one thing to sate the monster lying beneath her skin, don't ya know, don't rip this covering ovah mah skin, 'cause, sugah, gonna rip out yahr soul—just a touch, an insidious, innocent, dangerous, innocuous touch.

Flesh.

The beast howled when he touched her. She took him into her mind, her chimera mind, roaring with him, feeling the fangs rip through her mouth, the claws stretch from her fingers. Muscle and sinew knit together. Life pushed through her veins. Battle-lust reddened her vision. She gave the beast to the chimera and the chimera roared, shoving away the feral beast's unconscious form, and dropped to a crouch against the concrete floor.

She growled, staring at the devil in the dark, blood dripping from her fangs, the residue of her own unbroken skin. The chimera rippled beneath her skin, harnessing the beast.

Slip, slap. The cards began to slide and whisper between his fingers. She fought the rising urge to rend him limb from limb. Slip, slap. Fan out their faces, cut the deck, and shuffle again. He was smirking at her, burning his devil gaze over hers, and then she remembered in panicked anguish, she could not let him capture her and turned away.

So close. Drowning, drowning.

She had what she wanted, didn't she? She was healed. With a sudden burst of rage, she flung the animal from her cell with a mere thought and uplifted hand. The beast barreled into the devil's feet, but he merely chuckled, low in his throat, cards slipping, slapping, sliding.

She could follow the beast, battle the devil, escape.

She was not so naive.

They stared one at another, neither meeting the other's eyes. And the cards slid through his fingers, across her senses, rubbing the smooth edges of her nerves. He wore her raw.