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Chapters
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
 
 
 

Between the Darkness and the Light - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by Amanda Sichter
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 11

To: [email protected] xmen.com

Subject: {blank}

'Ro, mon amie, can you forgive us?

We did not want to leave you without a goodbye, but circumstances became pressing. Fleeing in the middle of the night seems to have become a habit of mine. At least, this time, I leave no bodies behind.

Azimuth asks if you would beg the Beast's forgiveness for her. She knows hewanted her to stay a little longer, to guarantee her health, and she wants him to be reassured that she will be well. She also asks that you pass along her profound gratitude to him and Cecilia.

Do not be concerned, my Stormy, that your last conversation with Azimuth is what drove us to leave. I know you too well to think that you deliberately set out to cause her pain. You had only the best intentions and Azimuth knows that and holds nothing against you. You just -- struck a nerve, that's all. Azimuth needs to believe her father was a monster because she's built all her defences upon that fact. If you take that belief away from her . . . Ah, I don't know why I'm telling you this, chere, you're clever enough to have worked it out yourself, once you got over your fright. I just wish there had been time to talk to you before we left. I begin to regret this sneaking away in the middle of the night. Strange sentiment for a thief, non?

Take care, 'Ro.

Remy

'I can't believe you did that to Lynch,' said Azimuth. She leaned her head back and wriggled her shoulders luxuriously as Remy's strong fingers slid firmly along the arch of her foot.

Remy dug his thumbs into the ball of Azimuth's foot, kneading the tension from it in long, slow circles. 'Gambit was -- distraught,' he said, and shrugged.

'You threatened to blow his head off, Remy.' Azimuth tried to sound angry, but the foot massage was making her too relaxed. 'I think it was an over-reaction. And I am *not* going to twist him so he forgets you did it.'

'It was only a suggestion,' muttered Remy, defensively.

'Not a very good one,' replied Azimuth and then sighed as Remy's fingers stroked down the outside arch of her foot. 'But I will talk to him -- try and explain why you did it,' she continued.

Gambit grinned up at her. 'Dat'll probably do jus' as nicely,' he said.

'Lynch likes you.'

'I know,' said Azimuth, and her face was touched with a small, shy smile. For some reason Remy didn't fathom, she still found it extraordinary that anyone could like her and her delight when they did was deeply felt.

Remy picked her foot up from his lap and dropped it to the side. He picked up her other foot and began to smooth his fingers along the underside, eliciting a shuddering stretch from Azimuth. 'How you feelin', chere?' he asked.

'Dreamy,' she responded, in a voice that matched the word.

'Non,' he laughed. 'I mean how you feelin' now -- 'bout what Stormy say?'

Azimuth opened her eyes and gazed down at Remy from her perch on the table in front of him. 'I'm okay,' she said, her voice gentle. 'She didn't mean any harm, Remy. She's just a little -- well, naive doesn't seem the right word to apply to Ororo, but I suppose we're all a little nave about some things. She understood what she'd done, why I was so afraid. I saw it in her, Remy -- she just had to calm down a bit and then she would have understood.'

Silently, Remy continued his foot massage, his thoughts pre-occupied as his hands gentled all of the tension out of Azimuth. When his fingers finally, softly, cupped her foot he said, 'I jus' wish we had time to see her before we left. Gambit sorry he make you run away with him, non?' He glanced obliquely up at Azimuth.

Sighing, Azimuth slid off the table and onto Remy's lap, curling herself sideways into his embrace so he could clasp her close. 'I understand, LeBeau,' she whispered. 'You couldn't stay, not after what happened with Rogue. I know why we ran away, Remy, I know why we made love so frantically. If anyone's a past master at trying to hide away from their own feelings, it's me. I understand.'

Gambit drew Azimuth closer, until she could hear his quickening heartbeat. 'I was so afraid,' he murmured. 'So afraid.'

Azimuth snugged in tighter against Remy, her hands clasping him close.

'What were you afraid of?' she asked, softly.

For the longest time Remy was silent, only the thunder of his heart making him seem more than a statue to Azimuth. Finally, hesitantly, he answered. 'I was afraid,' he said, 'because I couldn' forgive her. It wasn' her fault, chere, and still Gambit couldn' forgive her. What kind of a monster does dat make me?'

'No kind of monster,' was Azimuth's reply. 'Just all too human.'

'All too human,' Remy echoed, bitterly. 'All too petty, and stupid, and *human*.'

Azimuth's hands fluttered over his chest, seeking to give comfort. 'She left you to die, Remy. It takes a lot to forgive something like that.'

'Sometime Gambit t'ink he ain' got de capacity to forgive,' Remy said, his voice anguished. 'I know Rogue dancin' to de tune of de lies in her head, and I still can' forgive her.'

'Why *do* you think she's got lies in her head?' Azimuth's curiosity was genuine.

Gambit shuddered beneath her. 'Rogue absorb people's memories,' he said. 'Gambit know how much time Sinister spent in his head, *tinkering*. Gambit know how good Sinister be wit' puttin' memories in de clones. Gambit know dat 'bout some t'ings he jus' can' get de words out.' Azimuth nodded. She remembered when Gambit had told her what had happened since she left Sinister. At least half of the story she had had to read from him when it seemed he just ran out of words. 'Gambit t'ink dat Rogue pull memories out of his head dat ain't de whole trut'. And Eric de Red -- he did somet'ing to Rogue's power, I'm sure of it. It didn' feel de same, Azimuth. It wasn' like before. It was like half a pull inside my mind, not de drownin' Gambit do b'fore when Rogue touch him. I t'ink Erik did somet'ing in dat place dat dampen Rogue's power, so she take Gambit's talent, but not his memories, so what she remember is jus' de mess she get b'fore.' Gambit sighed, a sudden hiss of breath through teeth. 'I don' know,' he said. 'Maybe I'm jus' makin' excuses, non?'

'I don't think so.' Azimuth's voice was thoughtful. 'I looked at that girl, Remy, and she was a mess. There were little bits of a hundred people floating around inside of her. If she's hearing voices in her head -- well, who knows whose voice it was or if she was making it up just to ease her conscience. She's clinging to her own reality by a fingernail, Remy, and I don't think it would take much to push her over. If she hadn't been trying to eat your face when I walked in, I'd almost feel sorry for her.'

Gambit laughed, a sudden, startled bark. 'Now dat's somet'ing I'd never expect to see,' he said. 'You and Rogue bein' friends.'

Azimuth slapped lightly at his chest. 'I didn't say I'd like her, LeBeau. I said I'd feel sorry for her. It's not exactly the same thing. No-one said I had to start liking your old girlfriends.'

Gambit couldn't stop grinning. 'No, no, dey didn',' he laughed and, turning Azimuth's head, he kissed her hard. 'Though you probably don' have to go round t'reatenin' all of my old team, either.'

Azimuth blushed. 'I only threatened Rogue,' she protested hotly. 'And Jean. Oh, and maybe Storm at the beginning. That's not all of them.'

'You only met five,' smiled Remy. 'You t'reatened t'ree of dem. And you try and smack de Beast's face in when you first meet him. Dat's not a bad effort.'

'Yes, well.' Azimuth wriggled in Remy's arms until he released his grip on her. 'Time to make my phone call,' she said, as she pushed herself to her feet.

Remy caught her hand, held it until she turned to look at him, to see the concern that was written on his face. 'You sure, chere?' he asked. 'You sure you up to it?'

Azimuth leaned down and pressed her lips to his forehead. 'I have to dothis, Remy,' she said, softly. 'I'll never know if I don't, and I don't think I could survive for long if I don't know. It'll be okay.' Gently, she disentangled her hand from Remy's and walked to the phone.

It astounded Azimuth that she could still remember the phone number. It had been so long since she had used it, so long since she had thought she would never have to use it again, and yet her fingers didn't hesitate over the numbers. She waited quietly through the rings until the phone was answered. She jumped when it was, so badly startled that she missed the opening words. All she got was, '--and how may I help you?'

'Hello, yes,' said Azimuth and steeled herself. 'I was wondering if I could make an appointment to see Brian Cooper, please?'

'Mr Cooper is very busy,' said the officious voice at the other end of the line. 'I'm afraid he isn't able to make an appointment for at least another week. Can I ask who's calling.'

Azimuth had to close her eyes and her mind before she could say the words. 'My name is Felicity Cooper,' she said. 'I'm the sales manager for Kytek Computers. I would like to make an appointment to see Brian Cooper.'

'I'm afraid I won't be able to schedule an appointment for another week,' said the woman, again.

'I need to see him tomorrow,' said Azimuth, firmly.

'That's just not possible, I'm afraid, Ms Cooper. Maybe Tuesday next week?'

Azimuth took a deep breath. There was only one way she was going to get what she needed. 'I need to see him tomorrow,' she repeated, and nearly strangled on her tongue at the next sentence. 'I'm his daughter.'

'Hold on just a moment,' said the woman, and soft hold music began to drift from the phone. Azimuth wished desperately that she was in front of the woman, for then she could simply have twisted her into agreeing to the appointment. Now, she knew, the woman was going to see her father, and Azimuth could barely stand the thought. Finally, the voice came back on the line. 'He could see you tomorrow at 1.30,' it said.

'That's fine,' said Azimuth and terminated the call, quickly. Shaking, she buried her face in her hands and jumped when Remy came up behind her and touched her shoulder. Turning, she burrowed into his arms, letting him hold her until her shivering lessened and slowed.

'Can you do dis, chere?' Remy asked, softly.

'I have to,' Azimuth replied. 'I have to know.'

'I suppose you do,' Remy said and held her for as long as it took for her shivering to finally stop. He had to hold her for a very long time.

Azimuth smoothed her hand over her business suit. It felt odd to be wearing it again -- she had become used to wearing either her colours or casual attire. ~Or hospital gowns,~ she thought wryly. But the suit had got her into the building without being noticed and that was all that mattered.

The secretary she had spoken to the day before was looking up at her from behind her desk, her face a calm, smiling mask, but curiosity strong in her eyes. 'Mr Cooper is expecting you,' she said, and her voice was full of questions. 'You can go straight in.'

'Thank you,' replied Azimuth and walked to the office marked B. Cooper, conscious of the secretary's eyes following her. She tapped lightly on the door and steeled herself as the voice within said, 'Come in.' Biting back her nervousness, she opened the door and walked in.

The years had barely changed her father, a few more grey hairs, a couple more wrinkles, but still the face she tried so hard not to think of. Azimuth realised that she, too, would look barely changed to her father, a little leaner, her hair shorter. He didn't know anything about the things that had changed in her since she had left the family home. Azimuth was very, very grateful for that fact.

'It is you,' her father said, and waved her to sit down in the chair before his desk.

Azimuth sat and looked at him. A thousand thoughts went through her mind, but she couldn't think of a single thing to say. Finally she managed, 'It's been a long time.'

'Yes,' he replied. 'I had thought you weren't coming back.'

'You thought of me. I'm impressed,' said Azimuth, and then bit the inside of her lip to stop herself saying anything further. In all the time, all the long years, while her father had slowly been breaking her down into a person who was less than nothing she had never spoken back to him. Now she was close to real, close to a whole person, she wanted nothing more than to pour every bitter accusation out upon his head. But she bit her lip until she could taste coppery blood in her mouth and held back every acid-scored word so she could learn what she needed to know.

The look her father was giving her was steady, calculating. 'On occasion,' he finally said, as if admitting it was some form of weakness.

'I changed my name,' said Azimuth. 'I'm not the girl you made me any more.'

'Oh,' replied her father. 'What do you call yourself now?'

'Azimuth,' she said. 'My name is Azimuth. I'm not a Cooper any more. I'm not Felicity any more. I am Azimuth and I am a grown person now. I don't need you any more.' Azimuth's voice was fierce with emotion, but even she couldn't be sure what one. Her father had always filled her with conflicting feelings.

Cooper nodded slowly and then leaned forward. 'If you won't even use my name then I will find it difficult to still see you as any part of my family. You may not like being without some part of your inheritance.'

Azimuth's laugh was startled out of her. 'Inheritance?' she gasped. 'As if I ever cared about anything that passed through your hands. Besides,' Azimuth settled back in her seat, 'I've already inherited everything I need from you.'

Mild interest flitted across her father's face. 'What's that?' he asked.

'I didn't lie,' said Azimuth, 'about being sales manager of Kytek Computers. The only thing I ever got from you, father, and I don't know how I picked it up considering the limited time I ever spent with you, was your business acumen. I'm worth more than you are now. Doesn't that make you proud?'

Azimuth's question was pointed, aimed specifically to try and draw a reaction from Cooper. She had always known, from when she was a little girl, that the thing that most impressed her father was a talent for business. Her eyes narrowed as she read him, read his reality, to try and determine if there was any feeling for her at all -- or if, somewhere, there was a twist, an inadvertent twist she had placed on him.

But he was smooth and bland as he leaned back in his chair and said, 'So you did well. You've been gone long enough. You should have done well.'

Azimuth's lips twisted wryly. She had been expecting some reaction, any reaction, from her father, but she realised how unlikely that was. It seemed she had been right in her assessment of him. He did not care. So she changed tack again, attempting to elicit anything from him, anything that would show that she had twisted him.

'A lot happened since I left home,' she said softly. 'I have a lover now. He's a mutant.' Through lowered lashes she watched her father, but there was no reaction other than a shrug.

'It's your choice,' said her father, and his voice was utterly indifferent. 'You want to fuck mutants, you go ahead.'

Azimuth allowed a small smile to creep onto her face. 'I do fuck mutants,' she whispered. 'Because I am one.' She hadn't expected to use that fact against her father, but it was her last great weapon to try and draw a reaction, any reaction.

There was none. Her father looked at her for a long moment and then said, softly, 'So you're a mutant. What's that supposed to mean to me?'

Azimuth looked at him, truly looked at him, and suddenly her smile broadened and she began to chuckle. He didn't care. He had never cared. She hadn't twisted him to create that lack of feeling. It was just that she had never mattered to him. Never mattered at all. Whether she was human or mutant he would have been happier if she had never existed. None of it had ever mattered.

That thought kept her laughing as she leaned forward in her seat and twisted as hard as she could. She was still smiling as she walked past the secretary, pausing only long enough to twist all memory of her appointment from the woman's mind. She could not stop smiling as she walked out into the street and headed for home.

And nothing of what she had done mattered at all.

She knew he knew she was there but still Azimuth pretended to sneak up on Gambit and he pretended to be startled when she slid her pale arms around his shoulders and kissed his ear with her pale mouth. His hands slid up over hers, imprisoning them against his chest, holding her gently.

'You okay, chere?' he asked.

'I'm better than okay, Remy,' Azimuth responded, and laughter bubbled beneath her voice. 'I'm happy.'

'So it went well? You sorted out your papa?'

'Sorted him out once and for all,' replied Azimuth. 'I'll never have to worry about him being part of my life again.'

Remy slid from beneath her hands like water, there, then suddenly not there. In the time it took Azimuth to blink in surprise and straighten up, Remy was standing on the other side of the chair, facing her. He looked relaxed, but Azimuth recognised the stance - fighting stance. She frowned at him and said, 'What's wrong, Remy?'

He tilted his head to look at her from suddenly unfathomable red-on-black eyes. 'What did you do to your pere, Azimuth, dat you don' need to worrty 'bout him ever again?'

Puzzlement leached slowly from Azimuth's face, to be replaced by something hard and unforgiving. 'What do you think I did?' she asked.

For a long moment it seemed that Gambit would not answer her, but finally he relented. 'You make him go out of your life forever, chere. What do you t'ink Gambit t'ink? I t'ink you might have killed him, neh?'

Azimuth laughed, a harsh bark. 'There's more ways to kill a cat than choking him with cream, Remy,' she said, and her voice was caustic. 'I didn't kill my dear papa, Remy. I just reached inside his head and I twisted him until, as far as he's concerned, he never had a daughter. You'd be surprised at how easy it was.' Bitterness laced Azimuth's last sentence until she nearly choked on it.

Slowly Remy's expression changed, shifting from his poker face to sudden chagrin and then remorse. 'Azimuth, love,' he breathed. 'I'm sorry. I should never have t'ought . . . But Gambit t'ink maybe it all become too much . . . Ah, chere, forgive me . . . I only t'ink dat way b'cause -- if Jean-Luc did to me what your pere do to you den Gambit don' t'ink he could stop himself. I'd want - vengeance, love, so I t'ink maybe you take your revenge. I'm sorry.' Gambit's hand moved against his side as if he wanted to reach for Azimuth but was afraid to.

Azimuth cocked her head to one side, inspecting Remy slowly. 'I'm glad,' she said, 'that you realise you think that way because it's something *you* wanted to do.' Her voice changed, softened. 'I'm not you, Remy. Revenge isn't important to me. Happiness is important. Health is important. Life is important. Revenge is . . .' She groped for words. 'I will not be defined by the damage,' she said finally.

'What do you mean?' Gambit's voice, and face, had shifted back to neutrality.

'I look in the mirror, Remy,' said Azimuth, softly, 'and I see damage. Terrible damage. What my father did to me, what Sinister did, what I did to myself -- I've pieced myself together again, Remy, but you don't just get over those kind of experiences. Sometimes the damage screams at me. Sometimes, when you reach for me, when your eyes say you want me, sometimes I remember Sinister and Creed and Arclight and I want to run and scream and hide forever. In the mansion, locked in a room, helpless, surrounded by people who called themselves a team, who were hostile to me, I wanted to run away in the middle of the night, to run and run and run so they couldn't hurt me. But that is just the damage talking and I won't let it rule me. So I open my arms to you and I lay there quietly in my bed and laughed with the Beast and I fight against the damage every day. If I killed my father then I would have let the damage drive me to it -- and I will not allow that, Remy.' Azimuth's eyes were on Remy's face, and they were clear and grey and resolute.

Looking into them, Remy felt obscurely shamed, unworthy. 'Dat's been my problem, hasn' it? I let de damage rule me -- rule de way I see myself.'

Azimuth's steady gaze did not falter nor did she spare Remy. 'Yes,' she said, and her voice was flat and brutal. 'You carry as much damage as I do, Remy -- probably more. But you let it define you -- not always, but sometimes. I don't blame you for it, LeBeau, but that doesn't mean I can't see what you do.'

'I've committed so many crimes,' Gambit said, his voice laced with anguish. 'I've murdered, I've kidnapped, I've beaten. *I stood by.*' The last was a muted cry of despair and Remy's eyes blazed with the agony of impotence. Helplessly, his hands clenched into fists. 'I was so afraid -- when I t'ought you kill your papa -- dat you end up carryin' de same pain I do - dat you remember what you do and hate yourself for it. Dat's de blackness dat drowns me, chere. How can I not be defined by it?'

'I've committed crimes too, Remy.' Azimuth's voice was gentle. 'As many as you, as bad as you. I've tasted the memory of murder. I was too afraid to help you when you needed me so badly. I twisted people to suit Sinister's purposes. But I've forgiven myself for what I've done. I will try to make restitution for my past, but I won't let the memories rule my life. You've never forgiven yourself, not for anything you've done, not even the things you had no control over and it is killing you. We are not the sum of our crimes, LeBeau. We are the sum of everything we have done everything we have said, all that we've wanted or wished for or dreamed of. We're the sum of who made us, our parents, our friends, our lovers. It isn't just the crimes that define us, Remy, it is everything else as well.'

'I know,' whispered Remy, and held out his hands, pleading. Without hesitation, Azimuth went to him and slipped into his arms, holding him tight against her. Slowly her hands slid upwards until she was cradling him against her.

'I know,' repeated Remy, and his voice was full of horror. 'I know we're more dan just de sum of our crimes. I know we are everyt'ing we've done and everyone dat made us.'

'Dat's what I'm afraid of.'

 

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