Act Nine: The Kingdom
This is the sequel to my fic "Riptide in Eight Acts"
They are now called The Brotherhood. Riptide knows that he needs to get used to the fact that Shaw is dead, the Hellfire Club no longer exists, and under Magneto's leadership the name has been changed to The Brotherhood. With their new member Mystique – she never went by "Raven" anymore – having joined and Emma having been restored to them, the Brotherhood returns to one of Shaw's old headquarters in Argentina. Magneto, Emma, Angel, Mystique, Riptide, and Azazel are the members now.
Riptide had gotten used to the submarine, and had especially enjoyed the ocean liner given the exposure to the sea and air. He had also liked the sub partly because he knew Azazel strongly preferred the reclusiveness of the underwater haven; they had the best of both worlds inside their former headquarters.
But it is good to be back in Latin America as well. The old headquarters is spacious, well-stocked, and secluded. The continent does hold some ghosts for Riptide; it contains a familiarity that is both painful and comforting.
The Brotherhood has spent the past 24 hours readying their new/old headquarters, adjusting to Magneto, taking stock, and deciding what to do next.
One of the first things that Magneto does is spend time with his new team, familiarizing himself with their powers, trying to gauge their level of commitment, and wanting to learn their personality strengths and weaknesses. To that end, he meets separately with each Brotherhood member.
"You will need to meet with both of us at same time," Azazel says to the new leader. "Riptide can hear but he cannot speak."
"So, why is it that you cannot speak?" Magneto asks once the three men sit down in private, inside Shaw's former office. Riptide is impressed that Magneto addressed Riptide instead of speaking as if he weren't in the room or couldn't understand.
Most of the headquarters is underground, but Shaw's old office is in part of the structure that is above. A small window is placed in the center of the room, and daylight hits Riptide's face.
Riptide nods to Azazel, trusting his lover to explain it. He doesn't care if Azazel tells the truth or makes something up; he knows Azazel will handle it well.
Azazel decides that the truth needs to be told because he surmises that Magneto will sooner or later detect a lie. Emma must be, Azazel knows, eager to ingratiate herself with their new leader, and she could easily replay images from Riptide's own memories inside Magneto's head if she so chooses.
"Riptide is loyal and hard working henchman," Azazel begins, as always rolling the "r" in the name 'Riptide'. "You will not find better one. And his powers are very strong. One day he made mistake of questioning the direction that Shaw wanted to take us in. Shaw decided to make example of him - and he cut out his tongue. It was a punishment that did not fit the crime – it was far too harsh, but it tells you more about Shaw than about Riptide. I say again and I must insist that you understand: Riptide is loyal. He worked for Shaw for years and only once said something to question him. I would trust him at any time, and Emma will tell you same. Even Shaw trusted Riptide and he continued to rely on him very much, even after what he himself did to him."
"I see," Magneto says. "How do you communicate then?" he asks, looking intently at Riptide.
Riptide again nods at his lover. "He carries paper and pen with him," Azazel explains. "It works. And as you see now, he can hear just fine." Azazel pauses, considers, and then adds, "If we are in fast situation, in battle for example, then Emma sometimes talks with him in their minds – but we don't rely on this either because, as you see in last battle, Emma is not always able to be there. It really has never been problem though."
"How long ago did this happen? When Shaw took out your tongue."
"About ten months," Azazel answers.
Magneto looks at Riptide and says, "I see that you have another means of communicating, Riptide. Does Azazel often communicate for you?" Magneto then looks at Azazel and said, "I'd like Riptide himself to answer this one."
Riptide begins to write. "Azazel speaks well for me. He knows my mind and thoughts." Riptide's penmanship is neat although he writes quickly.
Magneto is silent for a few moments. He has just finished touring their current headquarters. He had observed that Riptide's room appears to be used for personal storage; even the bed had been covered with various materials, weaponry, and technical gadgets. Magneto had watched the two men a bit during the past 24 hours. There was not a lot to observe – just a few glances and the fact that they were always close at each other's sides. Their eyes revealed a few hints if Magneto watched closely.
They are quite discrete, which Magneto recognizes because, of course, he himself had been forced to be discrete with a male lover too. But that is a path far too painful for Magneto to dwell on, and he instantly decides to put Azazel and Riptide's personal relationship out of his mind, other than simply making a silent note of it.
"Very well," Magneto says. "I want to talk about your powers and your motivations. What powers do you have and how have you used them? What were your goals as members of the Hellfire Club, and what are your goals now?"
The first part of Magneto's question is fairly straightforward and, of course, Magneto already has a good understanding of the answer. So Azazel's overview is simple: Azazel can teleport, he is very proficient in hand-to-hand combat, he enjoys old weapons especially knives and swords, he uses his tail as a weapon.
"How much control do you have over it? Your tail?"
"Full control. It is like another arm."
They review Riptide's powers next, which are also strong. Riptide isn't anywhere near as proficient in hand-to-hand combat though, so Magneto begins to think about how best to deploy him - as he will consider and ponder for each member of the team.
Magneto next turns the conversation to learning about the two men's goals and motivations, starting with why they joined the Hellfire Club.
"Humans have been torment to me for my entire life," Azazel begins. "I hate them. I joined with Shaw because he promised to exterminate them, and promised to create world where mutants reign. I cannot live in normal society because of the way I look. It has been like this for so long that I do not want to."
"Do you have any friends or family outside of the Brotherhood?"
Azazel laughs in reply. "No, Magneto, certainly not." He does not add that there is only one creature on the planet for whom he cares.
"What about you, Riptide? How did you come to join the Hellfire Club?"
Riptide grasps his pen and writes, "It is too long to write. Azazel can tell."
When given Magneto's nod, Azazel speaks for Riptide. "Shaw found him about five years ago. He was…how do you say…maybe 'petty criminal'…before. I think he joined partly to get rid of normal humans and partly for wealth and power."
At this, Azazel is not fully telling the truth as he knows that Riptide's motivations at first were largely along the lines of fear of being caught if he continued to operate alone, with wealth and power coming in second and third. Riptide is not sure that telling Magneto what Azazel thinks he wants to hear is the best idea now, but he doesn't strongly object to it either. Riptide does hope that Magneto doesn't have hidden mind-reading ability.
"You joined five years ago though," Magneto looks at Riptide now. "Why did you stay with Shaw all these years? Especially given what he did to you. And did your motivations change over the years?" He doesn't even look at Azazel and gestures for Riptide to write.
Riptide writes, again both quickly and neatly. "I stay with Shaw for the same reasons I first join. After what he did, I was too afraid to leave. I share your dream to get rid of humans." He does not think it necessary or advisable to mention the main reason why he stayed. By this point, however, Riptide believes that Magneto at least has an idea about the two men's relationship. Magneto seems as if he has a good intuitive understanding of situations and people.
Magneto appears satisfied. He then asks, "Do you have any ties outside of the Brotherhood?"
Riptide shakes his head no.
Riptide and Azazel are inside Azazel's room, which is really their shared room. Riptide has cleaned the room up a bit and given it a good dusting. It is neat but utilitarian, with one piece of artwork hanging on the wall. It is more spacious than their room on the destroyed submarine.
"What do you think?" Riptide scribbles, eager for Azazel's impression of Magneto following their interview.
"He is less experienced than Shaw," Azazel says. "Far more young. I don't know if he can lead us to victory, especially now that this Xavier has organized a team. But. He has same drive as Shaw, and he is very powerful. He wants Children of the Atom to rule the world just like Shaw."
Riptide nods and writes, "More reasonable than Shaw. Not a sadist."
Azazel looks at the paper. "I am not sure. Not sadist, but I think somewhat fanatic. And he won't be as cautious as Shaw. He is full of pain and anger and loss."
Riptide writes, "Are not we all?"
Azazel smiles wryly at the note. He looks at his lover's face. No matter how many times he sees it, he's enchanted by it. One of his hands lightly cups Riptide's chin, and his tail strokes the side of his face. Riptide may no longer have a tongue, but he is able to press his lips, first against Azazel's hand and then against his tail.
"You think we should stay for now? See how it goes?" Azazel asks.
"Okay," Azazel says. "But I like having back-up plan too. I continue to work on…Plan B for us. Somewhere we can go if we have to, if we decide Magneto is not leader for us."
Riptide gives the signal they use to show complete agreement.
Riptide can no longer speak coherently but he can make sounds. His tossing, turning, and his verbal noise have again woken up Azazel. Azazel gently moves him, easing him out of the nightmare.
"It's okay. Is just nightmare again," Azazel says. 'Soothing' is not a term one generally applies to Azazel but his voice manages to convey concern. He has his arms around Riptide and is calming him down. "Shaw is dead. He cannot hurt you again. Is okay."
When Riptide stops shaking, he turns to reach for the pad of paper. Azazel shakes his head, having a good idea as to what Riptide will write. They have had many nights like this during the past 10 months. "Do not apologize for waking me. I do not mind; you know that."
The two men are still holding each other, Riptide finding strength and comfort in having Azazel's arms around him. Riptide eventually starts to move his hands down Azazel's body. Azazel chuckles. "You do not need to offer me that in exchange either."
Riptide vehemently shakes his head, and turns again to reach for the paper, but Azazel stops him. "No, I know, I know. You do not offer it as exchange; you want it too."
At that, Riptide vigorously nods. Azazel continues, his tail moving on Riptide's body, touching it gently, "Well, I am certainly not going to turn it down. And it will help relax you. It will put some better thoughts and feelings into your head." He begins to tongue one of Riptide's ears.
Riptide likes Mystique and has liked her from the start. He has yet another reason to be relieved about Shaw's death, because he knows that Shaw would have chewed her up and spit her out. She pretends to have a tough, scaly interior but Riptide instantly spots another tender-hearted person. Another gentle soul who has been forced or compelled to fight in a war they would not have chosen had they been dealt a different hand in life.
Riptide has had some time to get to know her. Magneto is doing as Shaw used to – consulting with Emma to plot out and plan their next move. Under Shaw's leadership, Azazel and Riptide had always been content to be henchmen – they hadn't had much choice either given that their input into decision-making hadn't been wanted anyway. And at least sitting back and letting Shaw and Emma plan everything had left Azazel and Riptide plenty of time to be together. And so it is again, now also with Angel and Mystique sitting back too, all four waiting to see what sort of orders will come down from Magneto and Emma.
Mystique, it appears to Riptide, is still trying to find her footing. It is not easy to strike up a friendship with someone when you cannot speak and no one – yourself included – knows any form of sign language. But Riptide was able to do it with Angel. Angel and Mystique knew each other from Angel's very brief stint with Xavier, and Angel helps facilitate Riptide and Mystique getting to know each other too.
Magneto apparently is taking a page from Xavier and having his team devote themselves to training, as he and Emma plan their next moves. Magneto has asked Azazel to oversee their training when Magneto himself can't be there. Thus, several hours a day are spent inside one particular room in headquarters, a room which used to be a storeroom but has been re-purposed as a gymnasium. Azazel spends time teaching the threesome hand-to-hand combat skills, an area in which Mystique and Angel are particularly deficient. Azazel is a good teacher – he wants his students to learn – but he is tough and needs to be told when they need a break.
Magneto is also taking another lesson from Xavier and wanting to recruit, something Shaw never focused on until he had to. Magneto has a few leads now but no new members of the Brotherhood yet.
Mystique and Angel approach Riptide one day, saying they need an excursion into town – just something to break up the monotony of the day, something fun – and they ask if he wants to join them. He nods, and Magneto grants approval as long as they are careful to be very discrete.
The three have eagerly prepared for their trip. Mystique does something she hasn't done since joining the Brotherhood – shapeshifts back into her "normal" teenage girl form. Angel is also wearing her best miniskirt and adorned herself with make-up; both young women are beautiful.
"Call for me at first sign of trouble," Azazel cautions before the three leave.
"You sure you don't want to join us?" Mystique asks.
Azazel simply gives her a disgusted look and walks away. Mystique blushes.
"Okay, that was a stupid question – I guess he can't go anywhere looking like he does. So, what is the deal?" she asks Riptide, once they are on their way and out of earshot. "Does he secretly wish he could come with us? Or does he really not want anything to do with the outside world?"
Riptide hesitates before writing. "Too much to write out. But I think he is used to not being able to live in normal society. Maybe he made himself prefer that."
Mystique reads the note. "I guess not everyone can shapeshift into a societally-acceptable form, huh?" she says.
"Don't feel bad, girl," Angel says. "Azazel's pretty cool and I don't think he's upset about your question."
Riptide enjoys his day on the town with the two young women, a day which goes off without incident. He has never really had friends like this, never really taken a day of purposeless leisure. His teenage years were spent on the streets and then he joined the Hellfire Club when he was so young. His one friend in the group was not one for going out, so a day spent shopping, taking in sights, drinking coffee and eating pastries at a cafe, and dancing is new for him. It is quite wonderful, if disorienting.
Azazel is still awake when they return.
"How was it?" he asks.
Riptide writes, "Fun. I like these girls. Nice to get out a little. But of course it's better to be here with you."
Azazel smiles. He then asks, "Did you remember to get food stuff you need? Stuff to make shakes? You are still too thin."
Riptide nods. He still has trouble with solid food, and they find that making various protein shakes is helping Riptide to take in more nutrients.
At last Magneto has planned out the Brotherhood's first move. Riptide admires the way their new leader has taken his time. A less thoughtful man might have just taken a preemptive strike against Xavier and his new "X-men" without forethought.
The Brotherhood is completing its final preparations before heading out. Azazel has already teleported in and out of the location so as to get a better feel for the lay of the land. Azazel now enters the vast storage room so as to sharpen one of his blades. Riptide is in there as well, and unbeknownst to Azazel, Mystique is also in the room but hidden by some apparatus.
"Magneto is still new to being leader," Azazel says in a low voice as he quickly but thoroughly sharpens the blade. "He is powerful but still not experienced. Hunting Nazis is not the same as this." He speaks this last sentence with particular emphasis, "Be careful, my love."
Riptide makes eye contact with his lover and nods, before they briefly press their lips together. Azazel then leaves the room to attend to other business.
Mystique steps back out into plain sight when Azazel has left the room. She looks like she desperately wants to ask Riptide something, so he scribbles a quick note. "Are you nervous about the mission?"
"No," she answers. Her voice is kind as she begins again, "I'm…I guess I'm confused. He called you 'my love' and you guys just kinda kissed…well, I guess I've noticed other things over the past couple weeks. Are you two….um, I'm sorry that this is none of my business. I guess it's not something that people ever talk about but…"
Confused on how to proceed, Mystique has let her voice trail off but Riptide is giving her a look and a hand signal that conveys she should go on and that it's okay to ask.
"I mean, you two love each other then? Like, the way a boyfriend and girlfriend do?" she finally asks. One could see the slight tinge of blush on Mystique's blue cheeks.
Riptide smiles and nods.
"Wow, that's really interesting! I heard of this once before – Charles was telling me something about it after he took some Sociology or Anthropology class or something. But I don't really know anything about it. So really, two men can love each other? And like…have sex? But how would you—" Mystique stops herself. "I'm sorry. I guess I'm getting way too personal. But, have you always been together? And how did you start up together; I mean you can't exactly go up to another man and ask him…well, I don't know, maybe you can." Mystique slows down, takes a breath, and says, "Sorry. Again."
Riptide writes. "It's okay. We have been together since Azazel joined the Hellfire Club. Maybe two years now."
"And you—" Mystique wants to ask more but she is cut off by Magneto's voice over the intercom.
"Ten minutes till we depart!"
Their conversation will have to wait.
Mystique doesn't have much time to think about it, but having just heard Magneto's voice on the intercom and thinking back to the time she had spent around her foster-brother Charles and Erik, she begins to wonder if she perhaps has seen something like this before. She also resolves to ask Angel what she knows about this topic in general.
Riptide takes a hit during the battle and is losing consciousness fast. Azazel teleports him back to their headquarters, and then returns an instant later with someone he knows who has medical training. It is the same man whose help Azazel had secured when Shaw had cut Riptide's tongue out.
The situation at first appears dire. The almost-doctor keeps telling Azazel he needs more equipment, and Azazel keeps teleporting away and returning with one item or another. The man works calmly and swiftly to stabilize his patient. He needs to remove a bullet, and Azazel assists him although the teleporter's hands shake slightly.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Brotherhood returns to headquarters too. They are safe and uninjured – but defeated. Magneto is trying to disguise his rage and disappointment. He checks in on Riptide just as the almost-doctor has been teleported back.
"How is he?" Magneto asks Azazel. One of Riptide's legs is in a partial cast and is elevated.
"He will survive," Azazel says, his voice now sounding calm and efficient. "He took a bullet to left leg, below the knee. It is fractured. Another bullet just missed his midsection...I think word is 'grazed'. It grazed his midsection."
"I am glad it wasn't worse. Does your doctor-friend know what he's doing?"
"Yes. And he leaves a long list of medicine and treatment. I will bring him back here often to check up."
Azazel doesn't think to ask how the rest of the mission went, though in the back of his mind he surely knows it was a flop. His main thought, however, is how much worse this could have been.
Riptide's recovery is slow but steady. He hasn't been able to leave the infirmary – although Azazel is willing to teleport him anywhere just for a change of scenery, both men know that would be inadvisable.
Riptide is playing a game of cards with Angel and Mystique.
"Did you know Magneto is recruiting?" Angel asks.
"He's got to. We wouldn't have gotten our butts kicked if we'd had more people," Mystique says. "We were totally outnumbered by a ridiculous amount. We may be mutants but we're not all-powerful."
"I hope whoever he recruits will be cool," Angel adds.
Mystique looks at Angel and then at the ever-silent Riptide. She wonders if Angel sometimes misses the team that is now called the X-men. She wonders if Riptide ever worked with a good group of people like the X-men before, ever had a leader he didn't fear.
The next evening, the three friends are again playing cards. This time ample alcohol is being enjoyed during the game and, the sting of their failed mission fading, they are in a more light-hearted mood.
"What is it with Azazel?" Angel asks, after losing a round of poker to Mystique. "He's so grumpy! I mean he's hot – I always thought he was totally hot – but he's grumpy!"
Mystique smiles. "I always thought that Azazel's hot too. So I guess that makes three of us," she says, looking at Riptide. "You don't mind that we talk about your – uh - boyfriend this way, do you?"
Riptide shakes his head as he places his cards face down and reaches for his pad of paper. He usually doesn't write much during their games, so he must really have something to say, Mystique figures. She observes that he slightly winces in pain when he moves to pick up the paper and pen.
As Riptide writes, Angel says, "Maybe Riptide's going to tell us why Azazel's such a grump. He should be happy that you're recovering, Riptide, instead of scowling all day and acting like he's got a toothache or something."
Riptide's note reads, "He's upset that the mission went bad and that I'm still recovering. He doesn't have a lot of patience. And since you both think he's 'hot', I have something to ask you."
Angel and Mystique exchange a look. "Well, ask us," Angel encourages.
Riptide writes quickly, as Angel cranes her head around to try to read the note just as it is being penned. "Do either or both of you want to sleep with him? He doesn't like to go for so long without sex. I really can't do it until I'm better."
Mystique's jaw drops and her eyes pop. Angel looks less shocked.
"Are you serious?" Mystique squeaks. "But - does he even like girls that way? And won't that upset you? I mean, I thought you two were a pair."
Riptide writes quickly, and this time it is Mystique who impatiently tries to read each word as it is written.
"I am serious. Yes, Azazel likes girls. He prefers men but he will go with a girl if he has no choice. It doesn't upset me. I spoke about it with him already. I prefer to see him happy, in a good mood. He can sleep with you but it wouldn't take away what he and I have."
"I am still in shock," Mystique murmurs. "I don't even know what to say."
Angel begins to smile. "I would totally do it. As long as you're serious, that you've talked about it with him and that it wouldn't hurt what you two have. Because I've seen you two and, man, I haven't seen a lot of love like that in my life. I wouldn't want to get between you."
Riptide writes, "It would not hurt us at all. It would be just until I'm better."
Mystique is turning over concepts in her head. "So…is he bisexual?" She silently wonders if that is what Charles is or was, and Magneto too. The idea that someone can love people of both sexes excites her.
Riptide writes, "It is like I said here," and points an arrow to where he wrote, "He prefers men but will go with a girl if he has no choice." He then adds, writing rapidly, "He likes beauty. You are both beautiful."
Mystique shakes her head and mutters, "I'm not." She then adds, "But is this something you would ever do? Would you sleep with a girl?"
Riptide simply shakes his head.
"Baby, if you're seriously okay with this, I'll go find Azazel right now," Angel says. "The man practically drips sex and I'm not about to refuse it." She hasn't slept with anyone since Shaw's death and is definitely missing sex.
Riptide nods emphatically. He then quickly writes, "Make him happy – he needs it."
Mystique furrows her brow. "Um, I'd do it too. I totally would. But…what kind of things does he like? I mean, no offense, but I don't want to take it up the butt." She then adds, "Sorry."
Riptide writes his response, "Just tell him what you like and what you don't like. He will respect it. He is a very good lover."
"Okay, I'm there!" Angel says, standing up.
"Me too," Mystique adds. Mystique so desperately needs to know that men find her attractive, and Riptide said that Azazel does. So she is not about to miss this opportunity, not for the world.
Both women kiss Riptide on his cheeks before heading out.
Several days later, a somewhat less-grumpy Azazel is in the infirmary with Riptide. The almost-doctor has just been teleported back home, and a pair of crutches has been acquired.
"Good," Azazel observes. "Good. That is enough for today."
Riptide happily makes his way back to the bed, and Azazel assists him into it. Riptide is glad to have been able to take a few steps and even more bemused at the appellation 'Nurse Azazel' which popped into his head. He hasn't yet told Azazel of his new nickname.
"I am very glad that you are able to walk. Even a few steps. It shows you will recover."
Riptide nods. During the past several days, Azazel has been assisting Magneto with finding potential new recruits and training those who do decide to join. When he is not occupied this way, he is in the infirmary with Riptide. They sometimes don't do anything more than sit together and hold hands, watching the small television together.
"How is your pain level today?" Azazel asks.
Riptide writes, "Better. Each day a little better. Today my side is a little worse than my leg. But okay."
Riptide's hair is slightly askew, and this worries Azazel because the other man is always so diligent about tending to his looks. Azazel locates Riptide's comb and gently combs his lover's hair. Azazel then sits back down next to him and again holds his hand.
Azazel has just come from a session spent training Magneto's new recruits. Riptide has only met them briefly but Azazel is getting to know them well. They are tough, hard men. Fellow mutants, yes, but not tender-hearted like Mystique or like Riptide. Azazel worries about how they might treat the beautiful man wearing the tailored suits.
"There is something I want to talk to you about," he says, in a low voice. He quickly adds, "We should be okay to discuss this; Emma is still examining one of the new recruits."
Riptide leans in closer since this sounds serious.
"I found a few places we can go to. One in particular looks good. It is very remote. But once we go, it would not be easy to ever return to this sort of life. And it is a…different sort of life. Your fancy suits and my Russian records would not quite work there. Do you want to go?"
Riptide fumbles for the pen and writes, "What do you want?"
Azazel takes a breath. He speaks rapidly and just above a whisper. "I think that maybe this life is not for you. Shaw cut your tongue out. You still have nightmares. I don't like Magneto's new recruits and I don't think they will be good for you to be around. And now you are injured badly. You're recovering but who knows what will happen next time? I am tired of seeing you get hurt," he says, with emphasis. "I could have lost you!"
Azazel pauses, knowing how fearful he sounds. "But - what do you want, Janos?"
Riptide likes the way Azazel pronounces his name. The "J" sound does not occur in the Russian language, so it is substituted with first a "D" sound, and then followed by a Russian letter that makes the sound of a "Z" and an "H" together.
Riptide writes, "It is the same as what I said earlier. Either way, as long as I am with you."
"You know I feel the same," Azazel says passionately. "I worry that if we stay here then things might just get worse for you. You are younger than me. I don't want you to have your life like mine – always fighting, fighting, fighting. Your body becoming a mess of scars, like mine. And the kingdom that Shaw first promised and now Magneto –I don't know if that is ever going to happen. Once I believed we'd have our kingdom and now I cannot say if it will ever happen before one of us gets killed. I am ready to stop fighting this war against humans." He then adds, "This might be a good time to leave, since Magneto has new recruits. And I don't think he is as vengeful as Shaw – I think he might just be okay if we are gone."
Riptide blinks, trying to digest this. "Can you really live with this? The whole time I've known you, you wanted so badly to get rid of humans. I thought that it means a lot to you," he writes. "I thought it meant everything to you."
"It used to," Azazel admits. "But I have found something that means more."
Riptide reflects, now that Azazel has left the infirmary. He thinks back on memories from long ago, starting from when he was known as Janos. His harsh father, his gentle Aunt. By falling for an older man, has he been trying to reconnect with the father who rejected him? Riptide thinks back to his days on the streets, a homeless teenager, dirty and hungry all the time. He remembers the day he first discovered his extraordinary powers. He would never forget that. He wonders how long he's been addicted to the sensation of power, the feeling that he is above others, wishing those in his childhood village could see him now. He remembers his first meeting with Sebastian Shaw. Many of his instincts had told him that joining Shaw's team might be a mistake, but Riptide had needed to join a group, needed protection, needed an end to the constant loneliness in this harsh world. And now there was this new world that Riptide inhabits, one where he is no longer able to speak and is forced to communicate through writing only. Now that Shaw is dead, Riptide no longer has mixed feelings about hating him. For so long after Shaw mutilated him, Riptide's main emotion was relief that Azazel still wanted him. Still - as it became apparent - loved him.
And then he replays the conversation he just had with Azazel. Perhaps it is time to write an entirely new chapter.
A remote rainforest, circa 1992.
The developers are frustrated. The rainforest brings a goldmine in terms of logging but there still remain a few segments they can't get to. It is becoming harder and harder to explain why certain sections are impenetrable. They have tried to capture their problems on film – to be able to prove what various workers have seen over the years. A red-skinned demon just appearing and disappearing randomly, removing or smashing their equipment at will. And later on, two smaller creatures with the same ability to appear and disappear in an instant, and both causing the same sort of havoc to their equipment. And the filming equipment they have used over the years to capture this on video always meets the same fate as their logging equipment.
They will have to accept that certain sections of this rainforest cannot be destroyed.
She still goes by the name Angel. Despite the passage of three decades, she hasn't fully gotten used to the heat and humidity, so she wipes a bead of sweat off of her face before addressing her youngest grandchild.
"That's not quite right, the way you're holding it. Ask Granddaddy to show you the right way to use that bow and arrow."
Her granddaughter responds to her in English before teleporting off to see her Granddaddy, who is not to be confused with Grandpapa. The children and grandchildren all speak both English as well as the native tongue of the people who Angel, Azazel, and Riptide chose to live near and affiliate with.
Azazel and Riptide – as well as Angel who learned of their plans and begged to come with them – ended up getting a kingdom, though it is quite different than the one Sebastian Shaw promised 35 years ago. It is humid and lacking several modern conveniences, although the teleportation powers of Azazel – and now those of his children and grandchildren – allow various items to be procured, to ease their existence. Medicine, included much-needed bug repellant and mosquito nets. Foods they enjoy. Battery-powered electronics.
If their kingdom lacks modern conveniences, it doesn't lack for beauty. Angel and her makeshift family are surrounded by lush green forests, sparkling cool waters, and a life lived at a pace that demands nothing more than that it be enjoyed. She does rely on some of those conveniences that the teleporters bring – conveniences that have made the small group of mutants beloved among the native peoples here. Angel has always been glad that two of the three children she bore inherited their father's teleportation powers, as have four of the grandchildren.
Azazel provided half of the necessary biological components to create the three children, but Riptide was just as involved in their upbringing. The people who Azazel, Riptide, and Angel settled among also raise their children via an extended family, so the mutants' method fits right in. The three parents split the duties involved in raising the children. Riptide was best at cuddling and comforting them, and supervising their play; Azazel best at teaching them skills such as hunting, fighting, and controlling their powers; Angel was best at nighttime feedings and singing to them but later discovered she had a love of books so she also became best at ensuring they spent a few hours each day learning reading, writing and arithmetic.
The eldest is a blue-skinned girl who teleports and can shoot fire from her mouth. Angel named her Crystal, simply because it was a name she always liked.
The second child is a boy, another teleporter but one with a normal appearance and no other mutations. Azazel named this child, selecting the Russian name Vadim.
The youngest is a girl, who has the demonic features of her father including the tail, combined with her mother's wings. Riptide chose her name, deciding to name her after his aunt Dolores.
The grandchildren have an alluring mixture of their parents' and grandparents' mutations and a few new ones, though some of the grandchildren have no apparent mutations at all.
The grandchildren are sired by some of the native rainforest inhabitants. The three mutants settled near them and decided to live and work cooperatively alongside them rather than trying to dominate them. It has been to the benefit of both parties, since the natives have many skills that the three mutants lacked. They safely got Angel through all of her pregnancies, for example. The natives adore the three mutants and their offspring for keeping them sheltered from the outside world, as well as for Azazel's hunting prowess, Angel's ability to reach high into the trees, and Riptide's abilities to harness the power of the air and water.
Angel has always wished that Mystique had chosen to come with them, but Mystique wanted to stay in the fight. She wasn't ready to drop out. Angel never did learn of Mystique's own pregnancy, her trip to Germany, and her return to Magneto. So Angel doesn't know that her children have a half-sibling who ended up fighting against the Brotherhood and on the side of peace.
Angel still can't to this day select one driving reason that made her flee with Azazel and Riptide, other than a notion that she would never get the kingdom promised by Shaw either, and a general sense that Riptide and Azazel were two people she wanted to keep in her life.
And as for Azazel and Riptide, they are content here and still very much in love. They used to miss some of the modern conveniences and a faster-paced life – Azazel was right; Riptide has not had occasion to wear one of his suits for 30 years though he still stores a few in a trunk – but they have what they want and, more importantly, what they need. They learned that they were right too; they would be happy to live their lives anywhere, as long as they were safe and as long as they were together.
Feedback is a gift